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.
THROUGH A LENS DIMLY
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,
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.
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.
Yarwood could have pulled that off.
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