Photographer Ed Foster Tells The Stories…

Las Vegas artist Neal Portnoy captured the essence of Ed Foster in this drawing.
This is the real Ed Foster.
Photo by Diane Taylor

Ed Foster once spent an afternoon entertaining the children of Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor so the couple could have some alone time.

During his service with the Air Force National Guard, Ed Foster and his Air Force buddies spent an entire evening as guests of movie star Dana Andrews.

When a friend opened a new nightclub in Washington, D.C., Ed Foster was the featured singer. He has perfect pitch.

Ed Foster spent a year as a teacher at the Carolina State School of Design in Raleigh, North Carolina. There he met architect Mies van der Rohe. One evening, Foster and van der Rohe attended an event where both men were drinking (too much). “That was the only time in my life that I was drunk.” recalled Foster. “I woke up the next morning in my bed and didn’t know how I got there.”

Ed Foster’s Monday breakfast companions include comedians Pete Barbutti, Dennis Blair and Shecky Greene.
Photo by Ed Foster

Ed Foster married a gal who initially wasn’t interested in “just a school teacher,” but who later took only five months to say “I do”. The marriage lasted 42 years.

Ed Foster introduced desk-top computers and word processors to a school on Long Island.

Ed Foster was a good friend of singer Joe Williams and his wife, Jillian. Today Foster is Administrator of the Joe Williams Everyday Foundation, providing scholarship money to students of jazz at UNLV. Foster’s Board of Directors includes Jack Jones, Clint Holmes and Naomi Mauro. UNLV chooses the scholarship recipients, but Foster organizes the fund-raising concerts.

Ed Foster has been a sculptor and teacher of art and photography. Today, wielding a cell phone camera or a Canon Full Frame EOS Camera, Foster is still a photographer. He is paid to take some pictures; others he takes for the fun of it.

Las Vegas singer Anne Martinez.
Photo by Ed Foster

Ed Foster lives in a four-bedroom home in the Centennial Hills section of Las Vegas. He ended a recent interview noting he would go home, feed his two dachshunds, Max and Molly, and then meet his date for dinner and a trip to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park to see the musical “Carousel”. He uses the Jewish term “shpilkes” to describe his energy level. “I can’t just sit still,” he says.

Ed Foster is 90 years old.

Maybe 90 is the new 60, as it seems to be with Foster. He says he has been fortunate in his life, except for the death of his beloved Julia in 2004. Today his health is good; he goes to a boutique doctor who takes good care of him, and he is out and about most days of the week. Many Mondays, he meets local icons Shecky Greene, Pat Cooper, Pete Barbutti, Dennis Blair and others for breakfast. Yep, they laugh a lot.

I talked with Ed last week. I had always wondered about the slight man with the white pony tail who is always taking photos when I am watching local entertainers. Thanks to a friend, I finally met Ed Foster and was charmed by him as a storyteller. He told me he had never been the subject of an interview, so……

Bob Anderson as Frank Sinatra.
Photo by Ed Foster

We met for lunch. Foster can remember names and dates like they were yesterday. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Thanks to the GI Bill, he was able to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts from Brooklyn College. His past includes singing, sculpting, photography and being an art teacher who became an early tech expert. He worked for the same school system on Long Island for 26 years. When he left the job, four full-time employees replaced him.

Ed gave up a singing career early on because the audience in that nightclub where he was booked wasn’t listening to him. They were eating and talking. “I was crushed,” said Foster. “I had been performing in the service on a stage with a big audience listening to every note. Later I learned from Joe Williams that he had the same experiences, but he ‘had to sing’ regardless of the circumstances. Singers who feel that way are the ones who make it. I wasn’t one of them.”

Anthony Hopkins and Ed Foster at an art show in Las Vegas.

Julia and Ed Foster made a permanent move to Las Vegas in 1994 after a few months renting in Las Vegas to see if they liked it. “We were tired of New York winters, and my wife admittedly enjoyed the gambling,” he said. Following the move, Ed saw an ad for a photographer to take pictures of real estate. He got the job, learned his way around the Las Vegas Valley, and word of mouth worked in his favor. Even today, Foster regularly photographs interiors for a local staging company, Design Source Interiors. “You know staging makes all the difference when selling a place,” he adds.

Ed Foster now administers the Joe Williams Everyday Foundation. This Joe Williams photo is by Ed Foster

And in his spare time…Foster loves to attend entertainment in and out of town. His photographs are typically gifts to the entertainers involved, although some photos used for publicity then result in payment. Mostly, if Foster is invited to a concert or hears that one of his favorite entertainers is performing in town, he’s in the audience.

Along the way, Foster can tell stories about many of the entertainers he’s met. Way back, when he was a teacher and spent his summers and weekends working at Grossinger’s Catskill Resort, lots of entertainers stopped by. And yes, he says, Elizabeth Taylor was gorgeous and Debbie Reynolds was delightful. Dana Andrews was a wonderful man, says Foster. “We were in a California restaurant, in uniform, and the maître d’ came over and asked if we’d like to join Andrews for dinner. He was charming and apparently always willing to support service men. He even gave us his home phone number if we ever needed his assistance. Foster met Bryan Cranston in Las Vegas, was charmed by him as well, and as a result went right home and “binged” on his show, Breaking Bad.

UNLV Jazz Professor and founder of Las Vegas Records,
Uli Geissendoerfer.
Photo by Ed Foster

Foster will occasionally take out his cell phone and speed through what seems like hundreds of photos of entertainers to find the one that illustrates a point.

Though Foster knows many people in the Las Vegas valley, he spent his most recent birthday in New York with his son, David, and three grandsons. He says he has gotten dividends on his family investment. His son is a graphic artist with Yahoo and has a Beatles tribute band. A grandson is also an entertainer and the handsomeness of his grandchildren, he says, means they definitely take after his late wife Julia.

As lunch ended, Foster repeated again how lucky he has been. He also took a cell phone photo of me. He said he would send me the photo “after he did a little work on it”. Apparently, though my story subject was a complete delight, this interviewer needed a bit of perfecting.

Comments

8 responses on “Photographer Ed Foster Tells The Stories…

  1. What a wonderful article. I learned so much! He’s 90? OMG, would never have guessed that!

    His photos are beautiful but my one complaint: he should include the name of the subject. I know a lot of the entertainers but not everyone. (I’ve mentioned this to him in Facebook posts.)

    Great job, Diane.

  2. Ed Foster has given so much of his time, energy and many other ways to suport the entertainment of Las. Thank you Diane Taylor for the wonderful article & insight to the man seen everywhere with his camera..

  3. One of the most generous people I know. My admiration for this man goes way beyond the words I can express. An artist, a Las Vegas icon and the most energetic person I know. Love him and all he does for the entertaining community. We all owe him for his continued photographic support and work to promote live entertainment. The most “alive” person I know. Love him.

  4. I first met Ed and his wife Julia in 2001. I had moved into a house where he was my neighbor three doors down. A chance meeting at the mailbox and suddenly they invited me to dinner in their home. Whenever we now have parties he always shows up with his camera and takes photographs of the attendees. He is incredibly gracious with his time and talents. He’s been a good friend for almost 20 years and you wrote a great article about him. Thanks. -Bob

  5. Ed is a gifted photographer and happy to say an old friend. Learned lot about him that we didn’t know.
    Great article,
    Ron

  6. What a fascinating individual. Believe you captured his unique personality and creativeness more than his photography alone would suggest. Truly an interesting and captivating mini-biographical sketch. He probably has enough material to warrant a book. Great capsule of his life Diane. Thanks for making it so.

  7. I was very happy to read the article about Ed Foster. He led a very interesting life and I love his photos!
    Thanks for the article, Diane. It’s always nice to read about people that you see almost everyday and to hear about their lives.

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