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 idiosyncrasies 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 (Retired)

Last month I wrote about “Stick” (Dick Yarwood) and me and our adventures covering the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco where Walter Mondale  became the nominee for the upcoming presidential election.

One of the reasons that Yarwood and I were chosen was because we had an earlier experience with Mondale. Several month before, I was on my way to a piece of crap head “shot and real estate” assignment when the local radio news reported that Democratic Presidential Candidate Walter Mondale was taking a week off from his busy campaign schedule to spend a working vacation at the beachfront home of a friend in the posh Long Island village of Southampton. I called the Photo Desk to see if they knew about it. My editor said that he didn’t and told me to head right out there to sit on that story. He also said that he’d send Yarwood, to work with me. That was great. The two of us work well together. There’s no ego between us, and we always hack up an assignment so that all bases are covered. Sometimes I get the prime location and sometimes he does.

I got there first and parked my car on the road in front of the mansion on Dune Road. There were high hedges in front, ensuring privacy for the occupants. There was a wide gravel drive at the east end where anyone coming or going would have to pass. That’s where I set up with my cameras. I carried two Nikons (film, back then); one with a 35mm lens and the other with a 300mm.
A young man with close-cropped hair and an earphone stuck in one ear walked out the drive and strode towards me. He was speaking into his wrist as he walked and I instantly knew that he was one of the Secret Service agents assigned to protect the candidate. By the time he got to me, I had my press credential in hand. He scrutinized it carefully, comparing my face to the photo on the card. I explained that I was assigned to cover Mondale as long as he was here. He said something into his wrist microphone and then told me what the response was from someone inside the house. He said that Mondale would not grant any interviews or hold any press conferences while he was here. He had told the traveling press corps that had been dogging his footsteps throughout the campaign that they could take the week off. He was planning to sequester himself and his family at the beachfront mansion in order to re-charge his batteries. Because of this commitment, he certainly wasn’t going to allow the local media any advantage.
Be that as it may, I explained to the agent, I and another photographer were assigned to stake out the house. The agent shrugged and said that there was nothing he could do about that, but cautioned me to stay off the property and not to interfere with anyone coming or going.
When Yarwood arrived, I told him what I had heard. That didn’t faze him. He said that we would have a nice summer week in The Hamptons, and we should take advantage of that.
The first thing we did was to book rooms at a nearby motel. We had spoken to our desk and were told that we would be spending the entire week here. That meant that we would need some clothes and toiletries. The office said to buy what we needed and expense them. Ah, those were the halcyon days of newspapering. So, we purchased some shorts, tee shirts, socks and underwear as well as some toiletries. And, we also bought a couple of beach chairs, a cooler, some ice packs and some soft drinks. Yarwood knows how to stake out a subject.
We camped out in front of that house for the entire week; sitting in our beach chairs and chatting with curious passers by. The local cops patrolled the area and we became friendly with them. Every so often, I would walk around to the beach side of the mansion to see if the Mondales were there enjoying the sand and the surf. As word got around that we were there, some other media started to show up, but none of them committed to the story like Yarwood and I. We even got friendly with some of the Secret Service detail who told us how annoyed Mondale and his wife and kids were with us since they felt that we were holding them virtual hostages in the house. The Mondale teenagers did come and go from time to time and we did get pictures of them. We were even invited to join them and the Secret Service detail when they played a game of softball at a local schoolyard. But, we never even saw the candidate the entire time we were there.
So it was only natural for Newsday to include us in the crew that covered the Democratic Convention a few months later. As you read in the first installment of this saga, we were stymied in our efforts to do our jobs. However, that didn't prevent us from having a great time.

Then there was another time, at an earlier National Democratic Convention in New York City. Jimmy Carter was looking for his party's nomination for a second term as President. Newsday sent four staff photographers to cover the action inside the arena at Madison Square Garden. There were other shooters assigned to cover the demonstrations and activities outside on the street. Yarwood and I were among the shooters inside.

The different locations were split up between us, when the floor action began. Yarwood drew the floor spot just to the left of the speaker's dais. Another photographer drew a similar spot just to the right of the dais. A third man roamed the floor, shooting delegates and floor demonstrations. Because I was the only one with a 600mm lens, I won the raised camera platform right in front of the dais. We all had radios and were expected to communicate with one another if one of us saw something. We all worked together like a well oiled machine. We were seasoned veterans and there were no egos to contend with. It didn't matter to us who got the shot, as long as the paper and our readers were well served.

As the convention moved into the third day and the speakers were more high profile and the action started to heat up, our responses picked up steam. Now we had to keep our eyes glued to our viewfinders, looking for a speaker to gesture while making a salient point that might be the next day's headline. We had to scan the crowded floor, looking for delegates with unusual signs or funny hats that became sidebars to the main story. We could feel the tension building as the Convention really got down to business.

"Hey, Krausie!" I heard in my radio earphones. "Look over to your left. No, not on the floor. Up higher. No, no, higher, up next to the tv pool camera position right next to the dais. Right next to Tip O'Neil."

It was Yarwood. I searched the area where he was assigned, looking for his distinctive thatch of white hair. Stick had been a tow headed child but his hair turned abnormally white early in his youth. You would think that he was albino, but he wasn't.

I finally spotted him standing next to the pool tv camera. He saw me recognize him from my elevated platform and he waved.

"What the Hell are you doing there? That's supposed to be a tv only position," I said.

"Yeah, I know," was his answer. “I conned my way past the Secret Service agent by telling him that I was shooting stills for tv, and the tv camera guy didn’t care if I was up there with him, as long as I didn’t get in his way,”

He was just a few feet from the speakers' position and just about eye lever with them. He could fill his frame with a head shot with an 85mm lens.

"Wow! Way to go, man," I told him.

"Yeah," he said. "But, I gotta duck out of sight now so no one sees me up here. Don't let any of the other shooters know that I'm here or they'll get me thrown out."

I assured him that his secret was safe with me. He kept out of sight most of the time, but he would emerge when there was an important speaker, and his shots were outstanding. Even better than what I was getting from the center platform with my 600mm.

At one point, Danny Farrell, one of the NY Daily News' top shooters, walked over to me and asked, "Hey Kraus, isn't that Yarwood up there in the tv pool camera spot near the dais?"

I took a look. "Nah," I said. It can't be Yarwood. They aren't allowing a still photographer in that spot. It's for tv only."

"Well, it sure looks like that white haired son of a bitch," Farrell muttered.

"Well, I see someone with white hair, but they wouldn't let Yarwood in there. It's probably someone from the tv crew shooting some stills for his scrapbook."

Farrell went back to his camera position scratching his head and grumbling that he wouldn't put it past Yarwood to finagle his way up there.

That night, after a late dinner, I mentioned to Stick that his cover was blown. He shrugged and said that he knew that it was a crap shoot and it would only be a matter of time before he was booted from the spot. It happened a day later, but I don't think it was Danny Farrell. I'm sure that photo editors around the country noticed that Newsday was running some wonderful speakers' pictures from an angle that their shooters weren't getting. Yarwood was visited by Convention Security and was escorted off the floor. But, not before he scored several coups.

I think the best one was having Congressman Tip O'Neil shoot some photos on the speaker's stand for Yarwood. While Stick was shooting from the tv pool camera spot, he was elbow to elbow with O'Neil, the Democratic Speaker of the House, who was Chairman of the Convention. A railing separated the two men. Both O'Neil and Yarwood were bored by the lengthy oratory that was taking place and they struck up a conversation. Yarwood is every bit as loquacious as the affable Irish Congressman and they hit it off. O'Neil was an amateur photographer and started talking to Yarwood about his cameras. Yarwood handed the Congressman one of his Nikons with a lens and told him to go ahead and try it out. O'Neil clicked off a few frames and liked the feel of the camera. So, Yarwood suggested that O'Neil hold onto the camera and shoot some of the more important speakers from his even better viewpoint. O'Neil did and Yarwood asked if it would be ok if Newsday ran some of them. O'Neil said ok, but suggested that they use Yarwood's credit line to avoid any backlash.

Several of Tip O'Neil's photos made the paper the next day.

Only Dick Yarwood could have pulled that off.
Dick Kraus



Contents Page

Contents Page Editorials The Platypus Links Copyright
Portfolios Camera Corner War Stories  Dirck's Gallery Comments
Issue Archives Columns Forums Mailing List E-mail Us
 This site is sponsored and powered by Hewlett Packard