By Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (retired)

I think that I can be excused for not remembering dates. I recently celebrated my 71st birthday. Oh, Hell...I never was much for remembering dates when I was younger. But, I do remember incidents.

Take, for example, The National Democratic Convention in San Francisco. I don't recall the year, but I do know that Walter Mondale was nominated. OK, so I just looked it up on the Web and it was 1984. Our Photo Editor had picked four of us to cover that event. It was to be Ozier Mohammed, Chris Hatch, Dick Yarwood and myself.

Well, politics was not only being played out in San Francisco, but in our own newsrooms, as well. A new AME 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 men had their own agenda, which was to try to make the other look inept. And the photographers were caught in the cross fire.

It didn't take us long, once we arrived at the Mosconi Center where the Convention was being held, to realize that we had no credentials. Well, we had credentials to get us to the press rooms, 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. 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 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 uneccessary overtime. You guys get outta here."

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 bull pen 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 saw horses, shouting questions to celebreties 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 them.

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 you as you walked past. All the best shops and businesses had booths and they handed you gifts. There were several floors and on each level someone was trying to feed you or stuff a gift into the shopping bag that you had received when you 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 in.

"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?"

Dick Kraus





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