I have often said that my early career as a staff photographer took place in a context that could only
be described as Runyonesque. I am, of course, referring to the renowned newsman, author and screenplay writer, Damon Runyon. He was born in 1884 and died in 1946. His stories were peopled with odd-ball characters, the most well known of whom were the gamblers and minor hoods in the stage play, which later became the movie, "Guys And Dolls."

As a newspaper photographer from the 1960's through 2002, I met many a character who fit the Runyon mold. Most of them were my associates at Newsday (Long Island, NY).

Over the next few months, I will introduce you to them. In many instances, I have changed names in the fervent hope that I not be thrashed for having exposed their idiosyncracies to the world. It is not my intent to ridicule or criticize anyone. The antics and the events about which I write did truly take place. Time may have dimmed the exact dialogs but I write these journals depicting these people as accurately as humanly possible. I hope that you will find them as interesting and as zany as did I.



By Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer

Jimmy was a sweet little man and had been a fixture in our darkroom for as long as I could remember. He was a pretty good printer, back in the days of b&w film and chemical darkrooms. But, he didn't posses much in the way of imagination. He would tie his fingers into knots trying to hold back some detail in a face that I had spent a good deal of effort making into a silhouette. He also had a strange habit of wrapping his right arm behind his head and scratching his left ear. And although the man was imperturbable, he would give out with a short "whoo-woo!" when the mood struck. Because he was imperturbable, he was the favorite target of our Photo Dept. jokesters, Bill Senft and Don Jacobsen. They never did anything unkind or vicious. As one of them said, "I just want to rattle Jimmy's cage."

Bill owned a boat and would often go fishing in the bays before starting his afternoon shift. One day he brought in an eel he had caught. Eels are hardy creatures and can survive out of water for some time and this one was still lively as Bill slipped him into the print room hypo tray while Jimmy was out answering a call of nature. Everyone waited anxiously, trying not to snicker, as Jimmy returned and went into his darkroom to continue printing. He was back out in a few minutes and with his right hand scratching his left ear, he announced to those assembled in his slow, measured tones, "There's an eel swimming in my hypo tray. Whoo-woo."

Some years later, Don brought in one of those flasher buttons that fit into the socket of Christmas tree lights. As the button warms up it alternately opens and closes the circuit causing the string of bulbs to blink. I don't know whether this guy stayed awake nights thinking of ways to "rattle Jimmy's cage", but when Jim was out of the darkroom, he waltzed in and screwed the device behind the bulb in Jimmy's enlarger. Again, everyone waited while Jim went in to print. Within a few minutes he was back out, complaining to the Night Photo Editor, "There's something wrong with my enlarger. The light keeps going on and off." And of course, the left hand and the right know. "Call Maintenance," was the editor's reply. And that's what Jimmy did. Joe Palmisano came down with his tool belt and Jimmy took him into the darkroom to show him the offending machine. Of course, by this time, the flasher button had cooled down, so that when they turned the enlarger light on, it stayed on. Jimmy uttered a couple of "whoo-woos" and Joe Palmisano gave him a funny look and went on his way. I don't have to belabor this story. You can all guess what happened. It took several trips to the print room by Maintenance before someone finally unscrewed the enlarger lamp and discovered the flasher button. Unfazed, Jimmy scratched his ear; said "whoo-woo" and went back to work.

Dick Kraus



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