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)

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 Editor.
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.

I’m 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 liner.

But she 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.

Nonetheless, 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.

It was 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 would 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.

The 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.

Her oil-fired 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 steel side of the ship, and we stepped aboard this floating city. As a youth, I had worked as an assistant ship’s photographer aboard a cruise liner to South America. That ship, which I had thought to be rather large, could probably be stowed in the hold of this behemoth.
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, looking for 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 were abreast of the Statue of Liberty. I could also pause and take note of the opulence of my surroundings. The public rooms on this regal queen 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 seafarers were 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 our progress up the Hudson River to our west side pier. Several tugboats appeared and attached themselves to our sides. Our huge vessel 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 hour traffic.
“ Listen, kid,” Jack said. “There’s no point in fighting the traffic after working this hard. What do ya say we 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 Dempsey’s 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 paying.”
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 the place.
It was after 6 PM and the place was packed with people who were used to bending elbows with other notables. Jack was quite at home.
“ 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 from other 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 because he 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. Well, 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. But, Sully, the mean-spirited Night Photo Editor who never had any kindness in his heart toward me, bellowed into the ear piece on my phone when I explained that Jack had wanted to avoid the rush hour 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 columnist 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 for Jack A., the 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 of life.
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 main dining 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 in Portuguese. The 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 delicious 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 their guest.
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.
Dick Kraus



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