For over 20 years, he's been telling them through the lenses of his still and video cameras, as well as pen and paper.
He's an author and co-founder of JDSA; an Orlando-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that connects people to unique, social organizations around the world. Dan served on the Board of Directors at A Gift For Teaching – Central Florida’s primary provider of free school supplies for teachers and their students in need. And has worked closely with several other nonprofits - both nationally and internationally - shooting their commercials, developing marketing and branding concepts, directing public service announcements and writing web-based content.
He has worked for national and international publications, photographing everything from the Egyptian pyramids and Normandy Beaches to the plains of Montana and islands of Hawaii. He writes for a variety of international travel publications and regularly contributes as a Guest Columnist for Tribune Publishing’s Orlando Sentinel.
As a network cameraman, he covered some of the biggest news stories in our lifetime, including 9-11 at ground zero, Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq. While with NBC News, Dan traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. In between, he covered politics and specials; traveling aboard Air Force One with Tom Brokaw, the Olympic Games in Torino, Italy and following Barack Obama's presidential campaign for the Today Show.
Delivering a wide array of marketing and entertainment-related products, Dan has sailed from Helsinki, Finland. Joining the launch team of the world's largest cruise ship – Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas – capturing daily "webisode" stories chronicling the 6,000 mile journey across the Atlantic. For four years, Dan and his team worked with Universal’s Public Relations and Entertainment Divisions along with J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore, helping document the creation of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Universal Studios Florida.
He was in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for the grand opening of Atlantis the Palm on Jumeirah Island, worked on episodic TV for A&E, shot behind-the-scenes on the set of feature films with stars, such as John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, and worked on national commercials with Tiger Woods.
Dan has also worked on international documentaries, satellite media tours, video news releases, and concerts around the world. The A-List of musicians he's worked with covers some of the biggest names in the industry, including Tony Bennett, Sheryl Crow, Aretha Franklin, N’Sync, Natalie Cole, Barbara Streisand, Janet Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire, The Spinners and Stevie Wonder. Dan also traveled with Aerosmith for their Honkin' on Bobo Tour in 2004.
As the co-founder of a 501C3 nonprofit JDSA (Just DO Something...Anything!) I partnered with Lighthouse Central Florida - helping tell the story of three extraordinary individuals. This video, played at the 2015 Emerging Vision Luncheon, highlights how donors continue to empower and impact the lives of Central Florida's visually impaired. The story helped raise over $100,000 for Lighthouse Central Florida.
To accompany a domestic violence article I wrote for the Orlando Sentinel (11 March 2012), I shot and edited this video for the Sentinel's web site. Captured with the Canon 5D, the piece (an "In-Their-Own-Words" story) features Carol Wick, Director of Harbor House, a Central Florida based shelter for victims of domestic violence, and her description of the R3 app – a social media tool created to help "Recognize, Respond and Refer."
In the mid 90's, as a staff cameraman and editor for NBC News in their Tel Aviv and Jerusalem bureaus, I was told a U.S. History professor (on sabbatical) was living in the Judean Desert with a tribe of Bedouin. The professor described a typical "Day in the Life" of the tribesmen, their history, their uniqueness, and how modern technology is erasing their very existence.
For nearly three years, I helped document the creation of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for Universal Orlando Resort's Public Relations Department. From offices on the back-lot of Universal Studios, my team and I helped create Electronic Press Kits, Video News Releases, and web-based content - including interviews with J.K. Rowling, and others responsible for bringing Harry Potter to life. When the day finally arrived for the stars of the movies to experience the attraction for the first time, I was there to capture their reactions.
Weddings are meant to be personal - designed to reflect the style of the individuals. Capturing the unique nature of each of the three Loews Resort destinations, this video showcases Hard Rock Hotel. We met award winning chefs, world re-known wedding coordinators, and all those who work behind-the-scenes to combine the brand's sexiness and sophistication, with Ben and Daphnie's passion and charm. The end result encapsulates the unique flavor of their "big day" in Orlando.
Sol Katmandu Park and Resort is the #1 Play and Stay family destination in Mallorca, Spain. It is the first “fun-inclusive” themed resort in Mallorca, with both accommodations and entertainment all right in the middle of theme park fun! The 4-star resort is located just 250 meters from beautiful Magaluf Beach, and includes exclusive character experiences in a unique story setting. Adventurous activities for all ages take guests through time to explore an upside world where yetis, zombies and mad inventions rule the play.
Dan Beckmann appears to be an average guy living a common life. That is, until he begins to share his extraordinary collection of surprising stories. He finds adventure the way he finds friends – everywhere. Through his witty, lighthearted and entertaining tales, he reminds us that the best things in life are free, that extraordinary adventures are always waiting just around the corner and that it’s never too late to laugh your way to the finish line. No matter where you are in life, there are people around you who help you step up, step over or step to it – even if you’ve stepped in it!
Dan’s been writing books since he was six years old. His first novel, I Went Tinkle in The Toilet, was a collaborative effort with his illustrator and imaginary friend, Grover. The two were a literary tour-de-force. Often times crayoning their way through four novellas a day, ending only when the crayons became nubby, or it was time for bed. How’d I Get Here? And Why Am I Stealing M&Ms From Air Force One? is Dan’s first solo effort. Aside from being a newspaper guest columnist and a travel writer, Dan also pens pithy emails to his home owners association. He is recommended by 4 out of 5 people who recommend things.
2:34 p.m. May 5, 1961. Alan Shepherd makes history. Blasting off atop his Mercury Redstone rocket, he's the first American to make a suborbital flight.
On the ground, watching as NASA answered the Soviets' call to join in the space race, were thousands of journalists. One of them, a 27-year-old cub reporter for NBC News, Jay Barbree. Unbeknownst to Jay, and the rest of the world, it was the start of another historic event. One less visible, but still remarkable.
There are records of all kinds in the history books of American culture. In sports, there's Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, and Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors in golf. Records are meant to be broken. But Jay holds one that can't be touched. Ever. It's a physical impossibility.
After Shepherd's flight, Jay watched the launches of Grissom, Glenn and the rest of the Mercury astronauts. He was there for the Gemini flights. All of them. Then came Apollo. He covered every one of those, too. He reported on the launch of the first space shuttle, carrying John Young and Bob Crippen into space. And he saw the last orbiter clear the tower this past July. In all, Jay watched 135 shuttles take to the sky — 166 manned launches total. When all was said and done, Jay could rightfully say he was the only journalist to have covered every manned space mission.
This year, with the shuttle fleet retired, and after little more than half a century in front of the camera, Jay thought of turning the studio lights off for good. Retiring from NBC News. Then he came to his senses, deciding to "stick around," he says, for future launches.
Fifty years has allowed for plenty of memories — the books he wrote, the friends he made, and the dinner we once shared with Neil Armstrong. There are moments he won't forget: his many "scoops" like Project Score, and the fact he was one of 40 finalists selected as the first journalist in space. Then, there are the moments he can't forget: Columbia, Challenger, and the Apollo 1 fire that claimed the lives of three astronauts, one of them his good friend Gus Grissom.
I had the privilege of being Jay's cameraman, working with him and his producer, Dan Shepherd, for nearly 10 years.
"How're my Dans today?" Jay would say, bounding into the bureau with a thunderous, southern Georgia drawl. With a spring in his step like a 20-year old, he'd take command of our makeshift Launch Control Center. "How long is this assignment?" I'd ask Dan. "Long," he'd always say, slowly. The three of us would laugh, then get straight to work.
The brownies Jay's wife, Jo, made before each launch allowed Dan and me to secretly hope for a glitch in the countdown, causing a scrub, so more brownies could be made the following day.
Jay asked me to help research his last book. He gave me credit in the front, and put my picture in the back — correctly putting two N's in my name. Not even my mom does that.
I wasn't with Jay when the last shuttle took off, having left NBC a few years before. I tried catching a glimpse from the parking lot of my Orlando office, but the cloud cover made it impossible. I ran inside to watch Jay on TV, as he covered the mission from the desk I once helped light. I won't be with him for the next launch, either. Whenever that is. But if he's on television, we'll all be better informed because of it.
I think about my friend a lot these days. And I wonder. Will he really sit at his desk in that NBC bureau for the next one? Or will he change his mind, sleep in, and not even bother to watch that familiar plume rise into the sky he's stared up at for so long? No, he'll want to cover it live. Because that's what makes him come alive. He'll feel that news bureau shake again. The rumbling of the floors during liftoff, and the rattling of the plexiglass windows, as the rocket's engines soar toward the heavens. Once more, carrying astronauts into space.
I never got to see DiMaggio swing a bat, but I did get to see Jay Barbree. And now that he's "sticking around," more can enjoy watching a rare journalist documenting a fleeting human era, for our benefit and for the record.
Dear Florida Donald Trump Supporter,
I'm sure you remember when our state became comedic fodder in 2000. Jokes about hanging chads and our math skills had the entire world laughing at us.
But I pride myself on being a Floridian who knows how to count. And I've lost count of the number of times your candidate has spewed racist and bigoted remarks.
Despite his comments, CNN released a national poll showing Trump ahead of his GOP rivals by 20 points, and a Quinnipiac poll shows him narrowly defeating Hillary Clinton in Florida during a general election matchup. These polls are suggesting support in great numbers. And since he's offended nearly everyone, I'm wondering who you — the Donald Trump supporter — really are.
Are you in the military? Then, are you comfortable with the way he spoke about John McCain? "He's not a war hero!" Trump said, sarcastically. "I prefer people who don't get caught."
Perhaps you're Hispanic. If so, do you agree, as your candidate does, that Mexican immigrants are drug traffickers and rapists? What about his plan to deport more than 11 million undocumented people in this country? That's the size of Ohio, by the way.
Are you a woman? Were you not the slightest bit offended when he ridiculed Carly Fiorina? "Look at that face," he said, according to Rolling Stone. "Would anyone vote for that?" How about his insinuation that Megyn Kelly of Fox News was too overly flushed with hormones to be nice to him during a debate? "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever." Later, Trump clarified his remarks, saying he was referring to Megyn's nose. Oh, those darned stereotypical hormone-driven nosebleeds.
Maybe you're African-American? Which, then, do you feel most proud of in regards to your candidate? The way a Black Lives Matter activist was treated at a recent Trump rally — being kicked and punched? Or the way the candidate you support handled the situation, claiming he "should have been roughed up." And do you believe his claims that blacks commit the majority of murders of whites, which he retweeted from a neo-Nazi's twitter account?
Are you a Muslim? Forget about falling in line and adhering to Donald Trump's notion of your being required to register within a U.S. government database. How do you feel about his "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" proposal?
Perhaps you're disabled. Then does your support mean you give him a pass on mocking New York Times journalist Serge Kovaleski and his physical disability, which limits his mobility?
Are you Asian? He mocked you, too, at a rally this past summer. "We want deal!" he imitated, complete with facial expression and hand gestures.
Are you a billionaire? Trump has "billions and billions of dollars," as he keeps repeating, as if that's the basis for one's success. Which means, I suppose, Mother Teresa simply wasted her time on this earth: a handmade Sari instead of Valentino? She could've made billions if only she'd marketed herself better. What a failure, huh?
Maybe you are a fact-checker? Then have you held your candidate accountable for his unsubstantiated claims that "thousands" of American Muslims celebrated in the streets after 9-11? Or validated his fear mongering, using inflated numbers of Syrian refugees the president wants to allow into our country?
So help me out here. Are you willing to support "Making America Great Again!" by causing a great divide among Americans and the rest of the world? Are you excusing his inflammatory rhetoric as a justifiable response to political correctness run amok? I agree that Donald Trump, in the beginning, was an entertaining alternative. But where's the amusement in the avalanche of sexist and racist comments from someone campaigning to be our commander in chief?
The biggest concern we have today is the threat of ISIS. The war in Iraq helped create that organization. And Florida's recount debacle set it in motion. If Donald Trump ends up in the Oval Office, I prefer Florida not be responsible for putting him there. We already shoulder enough blame for placing George W. Bush and his legacy in that position. And I can't remember that president ever saying anything nearly as offensive.
This month, my daughter will be able to buy herself a drink in a bar while using her real license.
As a teenager, every April 16, Lauren would reminisce with me over a cup of coffee. We'd talk about our past trips, and dream of places yet to see. Flipping through our photo albums, Lauren would laugh at her consistently inconsistent hairstyles, while I laughed off my consistently receding hairline.
By the time I was 21, my adventures could be counted on one hand with fingers to spare. Lauren was on her third passport by age 10.
I dragged her everywhere: the top of the Eiffel Tower for breathtaking views and claustrophobic tunnels through the pyramids. We cruised along the Nile and kissed the Blarney Stone. As a teenager, she walked the beaches of Normandy, and as a little girl, placed a crayon-written prayer in the cracks of the Wailing Wall.
I tried pointing out the importance of what she was experiencing at such a young age. But it would have been easier to teach my cat calculus. One day … I kept saying to myself. One day, she'll get it.
That "one day" happened recently.
Lauren lit up my phone with a text message rivaling the length of a Stephen King novel. "1 of my art profs has us studying museums — NYC's Gugg & Paris' Louvre & d'Orsay." I was happy she was sharing with me. Happier still, texting was not yet a major at her university.
Like a Kerouac scroll, she continued without punctuation. "You showed me that art in those buildings in those cities!"
It wasn't the project that had her so intoxicatingly excited. It was her realization of what scientists throughout the centuries have called the "ah-ha!" moment.
Somewhere, in the middle of her iPhone novella, Lauren was saying, "I got it!" She got that traveling had enriched her in ways not previously realized. She now saw, for the first time, being there meant something. That presence really does make a difference.
Traveling, for me, has always been an evolving art form — creating new ways to find the comfort in the uncomfortable, or the extraordinary in the ordinary. While I was perfecting the craft, I rarely recognized the dividends. I knew I was being changed, but couldn't see the relevance. I felt myself being formed, but the shape wasn't recognizable.
John Lennon was right: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." When Lauren left for school, the plans were no longer ours. The world of individuality had opened its doors for her, and she ran through them without knocking. We didn't drift apart; we sailed past one another on hurricane-force winds. Her urge to take off, trumping my need to control and hang on.
We didn't need phones — or even proximity — to argue. Our angry voices echoed across cities. Texts were sent in ALL CAPS. Phone calls went unanswered and, eventually, dialing stopped altogether.
We drank coffee separately last April 16. I sent a text while looking over our photo albums. She responded in a nice, but sterile way.
The two of us haven't traveled together in awhile. School and work keeps Lauren from going too far from home. At least that's what we tell each other. In truth, Lauren prefers me in tiny doses, enduring my company with an air of guarded tension.
And while we're no longer sailing past each other, our boats are moored in different ports. We've shared many adventures together. But no journey has been this long or difficult.
Wrapping up her text, Lauren ended with a compliment I didn't expect, "I'm an art major because of a world you opened up for me."
And there it was — my "ah-ha!" moment. A dividend I could finally see. Traveling had done more than enrich us individually. It had been bridging us together all along. Crossing continents had connected me to other people and to myself, but now I saw it connecting me to my daughter. And she saw it, too.
This April 16, we'll share coffee over breakfast and a beer over dinner. She'll thank me for her gift, and I'll thank her for her company. Before she leaves, we'll hug and say, "I love you" like we always do. We'll turn and walk away, unsure as to when, exactly, we'll see each again.
Our bridge may still be under construction, but we have the tools to build it and an adventurous spirit to cross it. Who knew the architectural plans of our bridge would be drawn in our travel docs?
It feels good turning a new page in our lives. Thanks, in part, to our passports.
I've always been skittish of those who begged for money on street corners. "Don't make eye contact…maybe this vagrant will go away." I'd say to myself. Keeping my windows rolled up, I'd lock the doors, and hope for the light to change. "Where do you live, anyway?" I'd say under my breath, more of a comment then a question. Slowly… despondently, the man would pass by my locked fortress. I'd lift the phone to my ear, pretending to be on a call. Dehumanize them in my mind, and I don't have to care.
Recently, I caught a green light and passed a homeless guy at breakneck speed. As he got smaller in my rearview mirror, something clicked. I paused, and began to think about where he really might live. "What if he lived inside his own locked fortress?" I thought. Not on a street, but in a car? And what if he wasn't alone? What if he had a family in there with him?
It turns out it wasn't a "what if" question at all. It was a "where?" And the "where" seems to be everywhere. It's all around us. I was driving around in what thousands of families in this country are forced to call "home."
"There's this thing called NIMBY-ism." Brent Trotter, President of the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, told me. "It means, Not-In-My-Back-Yard." The problem is, it's already there - a "third-world" emerging right under our noses. And even when we see it, we don't recognize it. "You don't recognize it, because homeless people look just like you and me." Trotter said.
Not recognize it? Surely, Brent was mistaken. And looking, "just like you and me?" Was that some sort of joke? I don't look like a homeless person - I look, well…I look, normal.
Most of us are just two paychecks away from being homeless. It's an alarming statistic. Even more disconcerting, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is the poverty level for a family of four has dropped to just above $22,000 a year. Causing homelessness to not only be a prevalent problem in our country, but a real issue in our own community.
In Seminole County last year, the recession forced Jennifer and her son, nine year-old Christopher, to move into their car.
Driving from lot to lot, they'd sleep in the seats of their cramped, 2003 Ford Focus. Christopher sprawled in the back with a blanket that used to fit his bed. Jennifer stayed in front - keeping watch throughout the night. She cranked the car's engine for heat, using gas that cost money she didn't have. The trunk became their closet, the glove box their drawer.
They brushed their teeth in Wal Mart bathrooms, and took showers in the storeroom of a local business owned by a friend. They sneaked in before the store opened - embarrassed to be living out front. While Jennifer worked, Christopher spent the day alongside classmates who never knew there was anything wrong. Homework took place at the public library, dinner at a fast-food restaurant then back to the parking lot: "home" for the night.
Their clothes were never dingy. Jennifer didn't push shopping carts along sidewalks, and the Nike's Christopher wore were purchased at a thrift store. They didn't look like typical homeless, because there's nothing typical about it.
Throwing change into the Salvation Army kettle is but a drop in the bucket. While the holidays may be over, the destitute are still out there. Homelessness isn't a seasonal problem. And homeless people are just that: people.
Brent issued a challenge: run towards that which disturbs me. And while I may not be running at an all out sprint, I am moving in that direction. I realize now, not only has the face of homeless changed, it's becoming all too common. And it's not just about giving change – it's about changing the way I perceive homelessness and those enduring it.
It starts with one person - one person changing their mind, so their heart can follow. I changed my mind about what homelessness looks like, and that's changed the heart of the matter for me. I'm hopeful others will follow. "Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world." Anthropologist, Margaret Meade said. "Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."
There’s no shortage of entertainment for travelers and families coming to Central Florida for work or vacation. What you may find surprising, though, is the growing list of interesting activities couples can do together.
The “Mad Men” mentality of yesteryear, where society dictated activities based upon on the type of chromosome one carried, no longer applies. Sure, there are things couples still enjoy doing separately. Few men have yet to embrace the indulgences of a good foot soak and nail buff. But couples coming to the area are not only finding more and more things to do together, they’re finding enrichment while doing them.
Truffles and Trifles in College Park has been an Orlando institution for over 30 years. What started as a cooking class, attended primarily by women, is now a sought after date-night event. “Ten percent of our customers were men that first year,” says owner and award-winning chef, Marci Arthur. “Today it’s about half.” And there’s more than just food getting hot. Over the years, 24 couples have gotten married after meeting in Marci’s kitchen. Today, all of them are still together … heating it up at home. Near Disney in Celebration, U Can Cook offers classes for both children and adults. At Downtown Disney, Portobello’s chef Tony Mantuano teaches couples how to cook classic Italian dishes. That’s amore!
More and more families and couples are golfing together, and Orlando offers so many family-friendly courses, from Disney's 9-hole Oak Trail Golf Course to golf schools like the Brad Brewer Academy at the Rosen Shingle Creek.
Skydiving used to require a perfectly good plane and a testosterone-driven and death-defying leap through the clouds. Now, everyone can experience that thrill—indoors—just a few feet off International Drive, where I-Fly Indoor Skydiving creates true free-fall conditions. “We have couples and families of all ages flying with us every day,” says Nick Romeo, National Sales Director of Tour and Travel at I-Fly. “Moms and dads aren’t just watching their kids, they’re keeping up with them.” Couples and families aside, businesses big and small are jumping in, as meeting planners book flights for team-building exercises. “The office staff is becoming more adventurous.” Says Romeo. “Women kick off their heels for sneakers. Men take off their jackets and put on casual shirts. Everyone gets a jumpsuit, and we get them airborne.”
For those seeking greater heights, The Orlando Eye, a 400-foot observation wheel also located on International Drive, offers breathtaking views of Central Florida from a birds-eye perspective. A variety of experiences and packages are offered for families, convention goers, corporate events, private parties and couples. Service animals are permitted, wheelchairs are allowed and for each paying disabled guest, a caregiver can be brought along free of charge. But one of the most talked about packages being offered is the VIP Experience: a 30-minute romantic sunset flight with champagne and a personal host. The gentle journey, inside fully enclosed air-conditioned capsules, takes you far above the busyness below, delivering spectacular sights in all directions.
For couples searching for unique experiences in Winter Park, The Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Opening Night Party delivers. With the opening of each new show, the audience gets to dialog with the director, costume designer and other staff. It’s a half hour, very relaxed Q&A session allowing the audience behind the scenes insights of the show. “The perception that only women drive our ticket sales is not true,” says Melissa Braillard, the theater’s director of marketing and communications. “We’re seeing more and more couples every day. Our first Opening Night Party three years ago … only 25 people showed up. Mostly women. This past January, when we opened 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' we had over 150 at the party. Most were couples.” The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group are other fun theater options for couples.
Central Florida continues to blend cultural lines with a variety of options: from zip lining over alligators at Gatorland to tastings at Quantum Leap Winery downtown. And for those who love the outdoors, there are manatee tours in Sanford, hot air balloon adventures over Celebration, horseback riding in Ocala and kayaking at Kissimmee’s Paddling Center on Shingle Creek. All of which are seeing a wider cross section of couples having fun together.
Oh, and about that mani-pedi. Go with your significant other and exfoliate your cares away. Your arches and cuticles will thank you.