by Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (retired)

Smiley was a classic.

He was a legend long before I came to the paper. He never wore socks, even in winter. And they say, he never wore underwear. His cameras always showed the strain of neglect and lack of care, but, they always produced superior images. It started with the old 4x5 Speed Graphic, down through several Rollie's and finaly some Nikon F's. He was a crusty soul with rugged good looks and a gruff manner, but as far as news photography was concerned, you could always count on him to come back with a good photo. Smiley was straight out of Damon Runyon.

Once, a long time ago, when I was night photo editor and he worked the late shift, I got a call from him, an hour before his shift started.

"I'll be a little late" he said. "I'm in the emergency room."

"What happened?

"Oh, I cut my finger on my lawn mower, but I'm ok and I'll be in as soon as I can."

He showed up about 40 minutes late, and the middle finger on one of his hands was swathed in bandages in a mummy wrap kind of fashion.

"What is that?" I asked.

"Oh the damn mower got clogged with wet grass and I lifted the deck to shake out the clumps and I cut my f@*%##! finger off."

It was off at the 2nd joint and this was before micro-surgery could put it back. I told him to go home, but he insisted on working his full shift, plus the 40 minutes that he was late.

Smiley's forte was sports. Being the late man, he usually wound up with a Yankee or Mets game in summer or a Knicks, Nets basketball or Ranger or Islander hockey game in winter. But boxing....that's where he really shone. There's a huge blow-up of one of his classic boxing shots that hung in the main hall at our paper for years. It was a Frazier-Ali (although I think the Champ was still known as Cassius Clay in those days) Heavyweight Championship fight at Madison Square Garden in NY City. Ali/Clay won the fight with a powerful right to Frazier's jaw and Smiley caught the full impact in his photo. The timing couldn't have been better. Ali/Clay was grimacing from the effort and his gloved fist had just made contact with Frazier's jaw. The impact threw the sweat off of Frazier's head and the electronic flash froze each drop in sharp detail. I love that image and have tried in vain to duplicate it whenever I had to shoot a rare boxing assignment . I never had the exquisite sense of timing that Smiley had. I was always a fraction of a second too soon, or too late.

But, these images didn't come without a price. Whenever I had to assign Smiley to a boxing match, I had to endure 20 minutes of griping about his seat assignment.

"Another f@*%##! boxing job! +&%^##@, I suppose I have the same f@*%##! seat that I always get. The f@*%##! seat is right in the corner and it's bad enough that I have the f@*%##! pole in my way, but everytime the f@*%##! fighter comes back to his corner between rounds, he spits in the bucket and usually misses and I have to wipe the S&*%%$ off my camera. Then the manager swipes him with a rancid sponge, and I get a f@*%##! shower."

He had a point. I saw him when he came back from the fights, and although he certainly wasn't a stylish dresser, he looked as though he had gone a few rounds with the winner.

So, one night I cornered our sports editor. He was the one who arrainged for Smiley's credentials and seat assignment at The Garden. I told him what Smiley had told me and I vouched for his accuracy while asking for a better location for him, next time.

"Why should I go to all that trouble?" was the answer I got. "The son of a bitch comes back with fantastic photos every time."

Go figure.

Dick Kraus



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