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
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).
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
A LENS DIMLY
STICK AND ME
By Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (Retired)
I love San Francisco. It’s one of my two favorite US cities;
the other being New Orleans. I would never want to live here, though.
I’m here with my lady, on vacation and my legs ache from
walking up and down the steep hills. And even though it is the
middle of August, I am reminded of Mark Twain’s quote, “The
coldest winter I ever experienced was the summer that I spent in
San Francisco,” or words to that effect. But, the city and
its environs are charming and the people are the friendliest that
I have ever encountered.
As I travel through the city, it brings back fond memories of an
earlier visit. It was about this time of year, back in 1983, and
the Democrats were holding their National Convention here to select
a candidate to run for President. Walter Mondale was considered
to be the frontrunner.
Editor had picked four of us to cover that event. It was to be
Ozier Mohammed, Chris Hatch, Dick Yarwood and myself.
Earlier in his
career at the paper, Dick Yarwood was known as “Stick” because
he was rail thin. Many years of good living have since
negated that nickname.
was not only being played out in San Francisco, but in our own
newsrooms, as well. A new Assistant Managing Editor
for Graphics had just been named and he decided to turn the Photo
Dept. on its' ear. He brought in a new department head, but he
neglected to fully remove the old one. Which made for some very,
very interesting times. The old department head was sent to the
west coast to direct the efforts of the photo team out there,
while the new man ran things back on Long Island. Each of these
their own agenda, which was to try to make the other look inept.
And the photographers were caught in the crossfire.
Once we arrived at the Mosconi Center where the Convention was
being held it didn't take us long to realize that we had no credentials.
Well, we had credentials to get us to the pressrooms, but nothing
to get us onto the floor where the action was. Both of our leaders
blamed the other. From Day One, we battled the frustration of dueling
leadership and tried as best we could to get onto the floor, one
way or another. Most of our coverage was done on the fringes, outside
of the Convention Center. During the day, Yarwood and I covered
the NY Delegation and the candidates when they were on the streets.
Hatch did what he could at night, trying to get the flavor of the
event from the edges. Sometimes he got a rotating floor pass and
managed to get onto the floor for some pix. Mohammed was assigned
to cover Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was a long shot candidate. The
frustration level kept getting higher as we were assigned more
and more non-pictures for non-stories, just so that our leader
on the scene could show that he was running things well in the
field. But, our leader back at the paper kept screaming that our
photos didn't match the stories and they had to run wire art.
Along about the third day of this circus, I had been given an early
assignment to cover the NY caucus breakfast, and Dick Yarwood had
some other ridiculous early job. Then we both covered a couple
of even more inane jobs and we got to the bureau around 3pm. We
dropped our film at AP to be processed and reported to our leader.
OK", he says. "You two started early, so you can take
off for the rest of the day."
We stared at him in disbelief. Tonight, Mario Cuomo, the Governor
of NY State, was to make the keynote address. We kinda thought
we should try to get something on that, and we stated our beliefs
to our noble leader.
" No. I don't want to run up any unnecessary overtime. You guys get
I started to try to explain to him that we were both exempt from
overtime and that we came out here to cover the damn convention,
and what the hell was this thing about overtime, anyway?
Yarwood was standing behind the boss as I was stammering for words,
and he was wig wagging his arms and pointing to an envelope in
his jacket pocket and running his finger across his throat in an
effort to get me to shut up.
Our leader sensed something going on behind him and turned, but
not fast enough. Yarwood said, "OK, Boss. We're out of here."
As we left the bureau, Dick pulled the envelope from his jacket.
It was addressed to our Publisher, who was out here with his
crew of editors and journalists. The return address was marked "Willie
Brown, Speaker of the Assembly, State of California."
I saw this on Dave's (the Publisher) desk." he whispered into
my ear. "I read that Brown is throwing a big bash down at
Fisherman's Wharf for all the visiting brass, and this must be
Dave's invitation. He'll never miss it, and you and I will be
there. If they don't want us to work, then we'll play."
I sputtered in disbelief, but the more I protested, the more Dick
convinced me that this would be our crowning glory. We would go
out in a burst of flames like a comet entering the atmosphere.
After all, the way things were going at the paper, our future didn't
look all too promising. So, he reasoned, why not play the game
to the hilt. And with that, we went back to our hotel to shower
and change for the big party.
We arrived at the Wharf early to case the place. Across the street
from the entrance was a bullpen for the press. Network and local
TV had live cameras and big floodlights set up. Radio and print
reporters and photographers lined up behind the police tape, shouting
questions to celebrities and political figures. We wondered if
our publisher was back at the bureau watching TV and wondering
why he wasn't invited. And what would he think if he saw two of
his lowly minions walk into the festivities and present their invitations?
We toyed with the thought of flagging down one of the stretch limos
that were discharging their high powered passengers and offer the
driver twenty bucks to drive us around the block and drop us off
at the door in front of all those cameras. But, we though better
of it, and just merged with the incoming guests and entered with
The place was a cavern and there were well-known bands and rock
groups playing music everywhere. The top restaurants in the city
had tables set up and were pushing plate upon plate of their specialties
at us as we walked past. All the best shops and businesses had
booths and they handed everyone gifts. There were several floors
and on each level someone was trying to feed us or stuff a gift
into the shopping bag that we had received when we entered. We
brushed shoulders with stars of the entertainment world every time
we turned around. Some were guests and some were there to entertain.
It was a long and glorious night. The next morning we reported
to the bureau to begin our day. Our leader greeted us when we walked
" You guys look beat. Someone said that they thought they saw you
on TV, last night. At Willie Brown's party."
Willie Brown's party!!!" I replied. "Don't be ridiculous,
Chief. Yarwood and I had an early dinner and went to bed. What
d'ya have for us today?"