THE BLOG

Head-on Collision with a Ford

07/14/2014 11:08 am ET | Updated Sep 13, 2014

It was one of those puff-piece New York Post assignments that landed in my lap once in a while back in the day, and that was fine by me -- no crime, no chalk outlines on the street, no survivors to interview.

Instead it was Eileen Ford, the force behind the supermodel phenomenon, introducing a crop of young models to the world at an outdoor press conference in Manhattan.

All I had to do was slap together a few clever sentences to go with the pictures. Piece of cake.

Until I saw the photographer the Post had sent to cover the job -- a bearded, beret-wearing artist named Michael Norcia.

I don't use the word "artist" lightly. You knew his work before you saw the photo credit -- his pictures jumped off the page.

There probably wasn't a better lensman in the world than Norcia, but he considered himself a serious news man, and this job did not fit his definition of news. He was grumbling even before he took off the lens cap.

The young girls stood in a row with Eileen Ford, and the other photographers were clicking away, but Norcia didn't like what he saw.

The girls seemed stiff and awkward, so Norcia -- a perfectionist, even on jobs he considered silly -- took one of them aside for a solo shot.

He asked her to lean against a pillar, and tilt her head back -- seductively, you could say. Then he started clicking away.

"That's it," he said. "That's it..."

Eileen Ford saw what was going on, and she went ballistic.

"What does he think he's doing?" she screamed. "This is NOT a cheesecake photo session!!"

In a heartbeat, I went from reporter to referee. This happened a lot when you were on assignment with Norcia.

"I'll talk to him," I assured Eileen Ford. Norcia was oblivious to the drama until I got in his ear.

"Mike," I whispered, "Eileen Ford doesn't want cheesecake shots."

Norcia's big brown eyes widened, and he responded as he always did in situations like this.

"Oh, what the ----!" he said, in a voice not to be mistaken for a whisper.

Eileen Ford's jaw dropped. In her world, this kind of language was an even greater offense than using the wrong fork.

"What did he say?" she gasped.

I went back to Eileen with uplifted hands. "Mrs. Ford, he's a terrific photographer, but he's temperamental," I said. "Believe me, he's going to make the girls look great in tomorrow's paper."

We all calmed down. We got the job done, and everybody was happy with the photo spread in the Post.

I bring that day up now because Eileen Ford is dead at 92, and I realize that blowup she shared with Michael Norcia on the streets of New York is one of the great things about this city.

Two people from totally different backgrounds -- Norcia from the streets of Little Italy, Eileen Ford from a world of privilege -- weren't really so different after all.

They were both passionate, and passionate people are going to clash from time to time. Truth is, it's kind of fun when they do.

Michael Norcia died eight years ago at age 59. I wish I believed in heaven, because in my idea of heaven everybody is in their prime, which means Eileen Ford would enter as the young model she once was.

And my old friend Norcia would be waiting for her at the Pearly Gates, camera to his face, saying: "Tilt your head back...that's it..."

Charlie Carillo is a producer for the TV show "Inside Edition." Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/baileywalk