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 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
A LENS DIMLY
JACK AND THE QUEEN
By Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (Retired)
Not every character in my past was a Newsday Photographer. There
are still a few more of them about whom I will write. But it’s
time for a change of pace. Let’s talk about some of the editors
and reporters who made my early career so phenomenal.
There was Jack A. He was the City Editor when I was hired. He was
the number two man in the pecking order in the newsroom, just under
the Managing Editor. Jack was responsible for assigning stories
to the reporters and making sure that the copy was in on time.
At the time, I had little to do with him, since I took my orders
from the Photo Editor, but I would run into him in the City Room
from time to time. He was short and squat as well as bluff and
blustery. He had a friendly, round face and he seemed to be well
liked by the newsroom staff.
But, as the paper grew in size and prestige, new office politics
came to bear and new stars began to ascend. Jack was offered an
opportunity to write a weekly column and Newsday had a new City
I had been with the paper for about two or three years when this
took place. One day the Photo Editor told me to go out to the Newsroom
and see Jack. I would be working with him the following day on
a story for his column and he wanted to fill me in.
I found him at his desk, busy on the phone. He cleared off a corner
of his desk while he continued his conversation, and beckoned me
to sit. When he hung up, he told me what the next day’s assignment
was about. He was doing a column on the US Customs Service. I was
to meet him at The Battery at the tip of Manhattan Island, at about
6 AM. We would board a pilot boat that would be taking a harbor
pilot and several Customs Agents out to meet the Queen Mary.
talking about the original Cunard Line’s Queen Mary.
Not the new QM II that sails today. That original Queen was
truly a royal in her heyday, and she stood for everything
British. She had served Cunard well as the epitome of seaborne
luxury throughout her service on the trans-Atlantic run.
She had been converted to a troopship during the years of
WW II before being refitted back to her role as a luxury
grew old and doughty compared to the competition and was eventually
retired from service. Today, she is berthed in Long Beach (CA)
Harbor and serves as a tourist hotel and museum.
at that time she was still held in awe as few ships matched her
in size and luxury of service. She was The Queen Mary.
still dark when I met Jack at the pier on the Battery. He introduced
me to the head of the team of Custom Agents who
be working on The Queen that day. I was told that I would have
the cooperation of the agents but there were certain precautions
that I would have to take as I made my photos. The passengers
were entitled to a degree of privacy and if there were any
in my photos,
I would need to get their permission if I showed their faces.
I could handle that.
pilot boat picked us up and as the sky brightened, we made
our way through the choppy waters of New York Harbor. When
we passed the lightship that marked the entrance to the harbor,
I was able to pick out the gray smudge on the horizon that
was Her Majesty’s Ship Queen Mary. The smudge became
a shape and soon the shape evolved into the massive hull
of the huge trans Atlantic liner.
steam boilers were powered back so the ship just made headway
as our small boat came alongside. We tied
up to the boarding platform that jutted out from the massive
the ship, and we stepped aboard this floating city. As
I had worked as an assistant ship’s photographer
aboard a cruise liner to South America. That ship, which
I had thought
be rather large, could probably be stowed in the hold of
As the ship picked up speed we were escorted to a large luggage
room where passenger baggage was stored, and the Customs people
began their work. I busied myself photographing the agents
as they went through hundreds of suitcases and travel trunks,
whatever it was that they were looking for. I listened as Jack
asked some questions of the agents and I photographed them
as they worked and responded.
After a couple of hours of this, I followed Jack up to the main
lounges where the passengers waited to be questioned by
Customs Agents. I could see out of the large windows that we
abreast of the Statue of Liberty. I could also pause and take
of the opulence of my surroundings. The public rooms on this
of ships were tastefully appointed with dark wood paneling
and intricately carved moldings. Marble busts of the ship’s
namesake, Queen Mary, as well as any number of noted British
placed in strategic places. There was no denying the noble
heritage of Britain and the sea.
With the permission of my subjects, I photographed passengers
filling out customs forms and answering questions politely
asked of them
by Customs Agents. I soon found that my photographs were beginning
to look the same and I knew that I had made more than enough
shots to accomplish my mission. I stepped out on deck and watched
progress up the Hudson River to our west side pier. Several
tugboats appeared and attached themselves to our sides. Our huge
was nudged sideways into our berth; heavy lines attached us
to the dock, and there we were, secured to Manhattan Island.
I had to wait for Jack to finish his interviews with the Customs
people, who were now able to spend more time answering his
questions. By the time we stepped down the gangway to the pier,
it was almost
5 PM. It had been a long day and now we were faced with the
prospect of a long ride back to our Long Island office in rush
Listen, kid,” Jack said. “There’s no point
in fighting the traffic after working this hard. What do ya
have a drink first?”
Hey, I was the junior man on this team. Who was I to say no?
Since my car was parked way downtown at the Battery, Jack hailed
a cab and the next thing I knew, we were entering Jack
Bar. Dempsey was a famous heavyweight boxing champion who
had opened this popular eatery after retiring from the
ring. It was THE place
to see and be seen; especially if you were a sports figure,
a local politician or an entertainment celebrity.
Jeez, Jack. This is gonna be a little rich for my blood,” I
whined. “This is way out of my league.”
Don’t worry, kid,” he assured me. “You ain’t
I was somewhat assuaged, but still a bit leery, As we walked
into the huge bar area, I realized that my shabby sport
jacket and wrinkled
slacks didn’t quite match the casual elegance of
It was after 6 PM and the place was packed with people who were
used to bending elbows with other notables. Jack was quite
Hi, Harry. Howz it goin’, Liz.” We elbowed our way
to the bar and Jack greeted and was greeted by many people,
some of whom I recognized as columnists and sports writers
New York City newspapers, as well as some ball players
and movie stars.
He threw a twenty on the bar and ordered a couple of scotch and
waters for us. I took a sip and told Jack that I had better
check in with the Night Photo Editor who would be fuming
would be wondering why no one had heard from me all day.
This was an
era before cell phones, two-way radios or pagers and we
had a very strict policy about checking the desk at regular intervals.
I suppose that I could be excused for much of the day because
I was aboard ship and had no way of contacting the office.
the mean-spirited Night Photo Editor who never had any
in his heart toward me, bellowed into the ear piece on
my phone when I explained that Jack had wanted to avoid the rush
and we were having drinks at Jack Dempsey’s.
Sully exploded. I quickly told him that I would be on my way
as soon as possible and hung up before he could answer.
Jack was talking with Walter Winchell when I returned to the
bar. Walter Winchell!! Holy cow! He was THE legendary syndicated
who was known around the world. I was introduced and I
mumbled something. After Winchell left, I mentioned to Jack that
my Photo Editor was unhappy that I hadn’t returned to
the office right away.
F--- him!” Jack said. “Where do you want to eat?”
Eat? I can’t hang around the city and eat. Sully will go
ballistic,” I said.
Jack calmed me. “Will you stop worrying. You’re with
me and I’ll take care of it. Let me call my secretary and
have her make reservations for us at The Four Seasons.” He
asked the bartender for a phone. He told his secretary
to make the reservations and to specify that they were
Newsday Columnist. Hmmm. It began to dawn on me that this
was going to be a freebie.
He waved his goodbyes to one and all as we exited Dempsey’s
and caught a cab downtown to the Four Seasons. I halfheartedly
offered to pay for this cab ride but Jack told me to put
my wallet away and not bring it out again. I liked this kind
The Four Seasons was a new restaurant in the city. It featured
Brazilian cuisine. When Jack mentioned his name to the
host at the desk, we were escorted to a prominent table in the
room. As soon as I opened the menu I became immediately
grateful that I wouldn’t be expected to open my wallet.
First of all, the items on the large and extensive menu were
prices were marked in US Dollars. Many, many US Dollars.
Jack scanned the carte and told the waiter, “Tell the Chef
that we would like a sample of some of his favorite dishes.”
And thus began a parade to our table of waiters bearing dishes
laden with steaming mounds of fabulous food, most of which
was unfamiliar to me. All I knew was that it was spectacularly
and that I would never again have the opportunity to taste
such food again.
We couldn’t possibly consume more than a sample taste from
each dish. When we were sated, Jack called for the check.
The Maitre d' appeared and informed Jack that it was the honor
of the restaurant
to have such a distinguished columnist such as he to be
Ah, yes. It’s good to be the king.
Jack put me in a cab and paid the fare for my trip back to the
Battery to retrieve my car. It was almost 11 PM as I made
my way back to Long Island on trafficless roads. Sully had
left for the
night by the time I got back to the office, so I didn’t have
to endure his venom. The story wasn’t for the next day’s
paper, so I just souped my film and left it to be edited
the next day.
I was really beginning to enjoy my role as a news photographer.