On a recent mercurial Portland weather afternoon I met up with the handsomely bearded Byron Beck, Portland’s best-known media gadfly, at the outdoor seating area of North Portland’s brand new up-scale convenience door Green Zebra. Why this location? Because, “It’s in the neighborhood” smiles Beck, referencing this series, his episode being the purpose of the meeting. Bryon is a longtime Kenton resident, and he’s clearly feeling neighborhood pride with the opening of the new store. Chatting under the heaters between brief, intermittent bouts sunshine and rain, Byron points across the street to the offices of his family veterinarian, Christine Fletcher. Over the past decade she has cared for seven beloved members of the home Byron shares with his partner, Juan Martinez. Now just senior cats, Madison and Jefferson remain, and Byron knows he’ll be spending even more time with Dr. Fletcher as his kittys age. Byron shares that Fletcher authored a series of young adult novels — revealing the depth of his connection to her after many years.
The adorable puppy in the photo? That’s an adoptable with the Pixie Project, who ran into Byron at a recent event. Sparks of infatuation were seen twixt Byron and the pup, but this day the lucky canine went home with another family.
Conversation with Byron changed as often as the Portland weather that day. I’ve known him for many years, while this man is a veritable fixture on the Portland business and social scene, he's incredibly reticent to discuss his personal life. Pondering that question aloud I ask, “Who IS Byron Beck?” He answered briefly . . . and sweetly.
“I’m basically a shy guy for someone who goes out every night, sometimes two or three times a night. I don’t want people to know about the private Byron Beck.”
Still, he began to flow, albeit modestly. About how he came to be one of the most visible media personalities in Portland, Byron said simply, Hard Work. With 20 years’ experience in print journalism — working with editors and mentors who helped shape the standout personality he would become. Like so many these days, Byron now straddles the gulf between “Old” and “New Media” — his Old being the The Downtowner, The Oregonian and Willamette Week. His New Media includes Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and again Bryon is reigning supreme. How often is he publishing? “All day, every day. There’s never a moment when I’m not connected.” And what does he like best about his self-created career? “Daily I get to promote Portland and showcase the people, places and things that I love.”
It’s been five years since his most well-known stint as a columnist and editor at Willamette Week became a recession casualty. What does the crystal ball show? “As long as I can continue to have fun doing what I’m doing, provide value and be good at what I do, I’ll continue doing it,” he says. “New opportunities come and go all the time.”
Byron pauses in the conversation he’d rather not be having to point out that while we’re talking about him and his career he also has a partner who is active in the community. Juan Martinez is Development Director of Basic Rights Oregon, an organization leading the fight to achieve marriage equality in Oregon. Says Byron: “It’s my turn to be by his side now.” There is much work to be done, and Byron and Juan are active leaders in the gay rights movement.
And the photos? What’s up with all the photos at byronbeck.com, and how did he come to be “The guy with the camera?” “The whole reason I started taking pictures was so I didn’t have to be in them,” he says.
So what does a "shy guy' social media public figure do for his 50th birthday? If you're Byron Beck, you hand out white T-Shirts proclaiming, "I'm Byron f*cking Beck." The shirts were an instant hit, and popped up all over town. Ah, but there's more to the story . . . "The truth is, it's the answer to a question I get asked a lot and don't really have any other answer for. "How did you get so lucky in life?"
"I'm Byron f*ucking Beck."
And there's your answer..
A final quick note. Byron’s featured shoe is the Ruby Red Sneaker, his one-size-too-small prized possession. Still, on they go once a year, for the annual Red Dress Party, where hundreds of men and women descend upon the year’s venue in their finest red attire. The shoes also give homage to Byron’s favorite movie of all time, The Wizard of Oz, at the mention of which Byron quips “There’s no place like home,” and is off to prepare for the evening ahead.
About our Sponsor
Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years. In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance, this year Dec. 9th at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare. Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood.
Marty Davis is a Portland writer and event photographer. She live in North Portland where is she closely watched over by Shasta, a bossy Aussie Shepherd. She is herded on a daily basis.