Sticking to his roots |

Sticking to his roots

Cliff Thompson

Six days a week he’s a private security guard anonymously working the graveyard shift watching over homes and businesses in Edwards.

But for a few days a year he engages in a second career in which he quickens the pulses of millions of women as a model for romance novel covers. His hunky image will appear on numerous paperbacks on bookstands later this winter.

Martinez, 36, seems curiously disinterested in the image-is-everything modeling lifestyle, as well as the pleasures and opportunities it provides him.

With all the perceived glamour and transcendent distraction of his image-conscious modeling career, he finds more fulfillment in a far different venue. He works with a nonprofit foundation he founded to help American Indians, and he volunteers his time for the county’s Juvenile Diversion program. Modeling has become a tool he uses to help him do other things.

“If you get caught up in that fast-paced lifestyle, you’re not being true to yourself,” he says. “What you do and what comes out of your mouth means everything.”

“It’s amazing what people imagine my lifestyle is all about,” he adds. “I work six days a week on security and volunteer spare time with the Juvenile Diversion, a program for troubled youths.”

The program offers youths an alternative to prosecution by taking responsibility for their crime by signing a contract involving community service, restitution, an apology letter and other vehicles.

His Mountain Child Foundation focuses on the needs of American Indians on the Wind River Reservation. He says he’s been adopted by the tribe.

“David isn’t your typical male macho model,” says friend, aspiring romance novel writer, and part-time public relations person Cynthia Helwig of Wynantskill, N.Y. She says she met Martinez last year at a Romantic Times Magazine cover-model competition in Reno, Nev.

“Whatever he does he does for the tribe and people, not for self-gratification,” she says.

Helwig has accompanied Martinez on his trips to the reservation to do research on a historical novel about American Indians.

“He went into a grocery store and charged hundreds of dollars on his credit card and filled up the cupboards of the chief’s house,” she says. “He’s an angel in disguise.”

Helwig says Martinez wants to provide a positive role model for children who have no dreams.

“He’s a very private person who doesn’t want anyone to perceive he’s doing this (modeling) for glory,” she says. “He wants nothing more than to be a positive role model for the children who tend to fall between the cracks.”


With a career that may seem like every man’s fantasy to some, filled with beautiful women and hundreds of adoring fans, it is proving far less so. Martinez says he had to adopt a stage name – David Sabastian, using his middle name – after he discovered he was being stalked. He says he’s had wealthy women ask him to sire a child with them, but has refused.

He’s more interested in traditional family values and helping youths than pursuing the role of a hunky model pursued by hundreds of women. On the model front, he’s been there, and done that, and having traveled the country on photo shoots for Bennetton.

At 5 foot 10 inches and 180 pounds, he’s too short for the potentially lucrative runway modeling, where people with lanky frames and above-average height are the norm. But the camera – and romance novel readers – like his image.

Late last month, for the second time in two years, he competed in Reno at the Romantic Times Magazine cover-model competition, placing second and earning the Reader’s Choice award. The competition brought him plenty of modeling offers and some cash, most of which he is donating to his foundation.

Contest winners get photo-shoot opportunities at $150 per hour and residual compensation for photos that are reused. He won’t reveal what he makes from his modeling, but he does say the money is welcome.

Martinez’s looks belie his Spanish and Ute heritage, and he accents them with straight, shiny, long and black hair. That fits the genre for romance novels about American Indians.

“He’s got the look,” Helwig says.

“I was a trailer park kid, growing up in Avon,” he says.

After graduating from Battle Mountain High School, he couldn’t wait to get away and headed to Florida with a girlfriend. He wanted to escape the small-town life of Avon, where his dad was police chief and everyone knew everyone else’s business. Seven years ago he came back to Eagle County.

“You’re the one’

Martinez says he wanted to learn about his roots but also give something back. He began to visit Indian reservations in Utah and Wyoming. There he learned about spirituality and became involved in the Native American Church. It was the curiosity about his roots and a persistent old woman that led to his involvement in modeling for romance novel covers.

One night when one of his security job shifts ended at 3 a.m. he headed to Wyoming and stopped at the only restaurant open in Walden, for a cup of coffee.

The aging coffee-shop owner, who was an avid romance novel reader, took one look at him, pointed a gnarled finger and proclaimed: “You’re the one.”

Martinez’s quizzical look caused her to continue:

“You’re the one I read about,” she said.

She was talking about a romance novel with a lead character whose appearance Martinez perfectly matched. He shrugged it off, consumed some coffee and engaged in small talk, then continued north to Wyoming.

But he continued to stop at the coffee shop on his regular trips north, and the owner continued to encourage him to compete in the annual competition.

“It took three years before she convinced me,” he says.

His first competition was last year, when he placed second.

“When I first got there, I was scared shitless,” he says. “There were 1,600 screaming women.”

During the eight-day contest, he had more than 500 photos taken in theme costumes and attended dozens of functions with barely enough time to eat.

“It was crazy,” he says.

Unlike most of the competitors, he decided to spend some time with each of the hundreds of adoring women.

“All they wanted was a minute or two of my attention,” he says.

The experience left an indelible impression, he says, and when he returned from that first contest, he had 16 modeling offers.

“I didn’t respond to any of them,” he says.

Instead, he preferred to stay involved with his volunteer efforts. He now has an agent that helps sift through the offers. He recently was offered a part in a movie, something he says he is considering doing. He remains cautious, he says, because of the predatory nature of the business.

“The entertainment industry will rip you apart,” he says.


Martinez’s main focus, however, remains helping youth.

“Nothing is more important than trying to be a positive role model for those kids before they are lost in our society,” he says.

Martinez says he has been given second chances in his life by law- enforcement officers and appreciates what that did for him.

He says he’s concerned budget cuts imposed by Gov. Bill Owens have heavily impacted juvenile programs, however, and that’s why he has donated his time.

“Our destinies are picked for us,” he says. “Mine is to help kids.”

Martinez says he is donating 75 percent of his contest earnings to the Mountain Child Foundation, keeping the remainder. He says he adheres to his traditional principles, at times refusing to model with his shirt off.

“I don’t want to do something that would make my parents ashamed,” he says. “People forget what’s important in life. I’ve turned down a lot of modeling gigs because I won’t do what they want me to do. I shoot straight from the hip.”

In some photo shoots, the line between modeling and pornography is difficult to discern, he says. Most of the other contestants, he says, have entertainment backgrounds as dancers or escorts.

“There is no line between entertaining and pornography.”

“I have to show kids that you don’t have to sell yourself out to get what you want,” he says. “You need to go down the middle where conflicts will pull equally on both sides of you.”

What about romance?

And how does this romance-novel icon feel about romance itself?

“It’s dying,” he says. “We don’t follow through with what we want in life. Before we know it, we’re 40 and still trying to live an 18-year-old’s life.”

Martinez says he gets 20 e-mails a day on his Web site, mostly from women who have met him at the contests and elsewhere. He even gets donations of money from them for American Indian causes.

He has a girlfriend and a relationship, which he says has recently become more serious.

And marriage?

“I just want to get married once,” he says.

What will he do as he ages and his looks no longer suit the camera? He’s not sure yet, he says, but he intends to keep on helping troubled youths.

“They’re the ones who will be taking care of me when I get older,” he says.

For more information about the Mountain Child Foundation, visit

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or

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