By Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (Retired)

First of all, her name isn’t really Boop. This is a moniker that we all kind of pinned on her.

Second, I want to apologize to Boop and to my readers for what may seem to be an unusually harsh description of her. I would have liked to have been more compassionate, but when push came to shove, I couldn’t see how I could have done it any other way, given her role at the paper.

It seemed as though Boop had been there forever. She was there when I started in 1960 and she was still working when I left in 2002.

She was a young spinster in 1960; a single woman who lived with her mother and was devoted to her care. When I retired in ’02, she was a senior citizen spinster, who now lived alone since the death of her mother, several years before.

She was short and stocky with a round face that looked like it was shaped out of putty. Her clothes were frumpy looking. Boop was frumpy looking. She was frumpy.

And, she was the Fashion and Beauty Editor at Newsday. She was the one that thousands of our female readers turned to for beauty and fashion advice.

When I first started working with Boop, in the 60’s, Newsday was still a rather small, regional, six day a week tabloid. We weren’t invited to cover the big fashion designers and their shows in Manhattan. So Boop used to glean her stories from fashion mags and then she would put a local spin on them. She would interview the buyers from some local department store to see what our readers were buying. Then she would get one of her cronies to model these clothes for us. I can’t describe the torture that inflicted on our stalwart staff of photographers.

These “models” had no talent, whatsoever. They had no style. They had no grace or charm. Most of them were North Shore matrons who were every bit as frumpy as our Fashion and Beauty Editor. We would have to photograph them in their homes, since, at that point in time, we didn’t have a photo studio worthy of the name. So, there we were, in their furniture-filled living room, without any uncluttered background to showcase the dress. While the matron “model” was dressing, we would set up some lights in the least busy area of the room. When the “model” was ready, we would ask them to strike an attractive pose. You know what I mean. I’m sure that you’ve seen the models in “Mademoiselle,” “Elle” or “Vogue.” Those lovely, slim girls would pose provocatively; adjusting their sinewy bodies to best show off the lines of the dress. Our “models” would stand stout and defiant with both stout and defiant legs firmly planted on the plush living room carpet and their flabby arms folded across their ample bosoms.

“ Please, Mrs. Cadwalader,” I would plead, “turn your body to the left and extend your left leg slightly forward. And lightly place the fingers of your left hand upon the back of the sofa.”

Mrs. C would frown at my audacity in suggesting that she change her stance. She would shift her frumpy frame but nothing she did would help out in any way. I would attempt to distort my frumpy 6’ 4” frame to illustrate what I had in mind. I didn’t object to looking like a fool if it would result in an acceptable photograph. I would struggle and sweat to try to get a graceful line to appear in this woman’s body as I contorted myself into what I imagined a real model would look like. But, since neither Mrs. C nor I had any hips, it was a comic farce resulting in futility. I would do the best that I could under the circumstance.

Years later, when Newsday gained prominence and stature as a 7 day a week newspaper and our circulation grew to make us the 7th largest daily in the country, we began to cover fashion events with the best of them. During Fashion Week, that seasonal event where all the major designers held showcase fashion extravaganzas in the big ballrooms of New York City’s top hotels, I would often be assigned to the early coverage of each day, since I was the early photographer on duty. While I detested getting up before dawn and facing the arduous 2 or 3 hour drive from Long Island to Manhattan in the crush of rush hour commuter traffic, I usually got to attend a designer’s breakfast which at least offered some good coffee, scrambled eggs and a flaky croissant. Then I had to fight for a decent spot along the runway in order to get good angles on the fashions as the models strutted down the path between fashion photographers in the front and fashion writers and buyers in the rows behind.

I always tried to get a seat near Boop so that she could signal me whenever a design appealed to her. She would always suggest that I just shoot everything that came down the runway. Then we could print up every negative and she could select the shots that she needed. Well, that wasn’t going to happen. That was just too labor intensive for me. I would be shooting three or four shows each day and that meant hundreds of negatives for me to develop, caption and have the darkroom crew print up so that she could choose two or three for each show. And then, only one or two pictures might appear on the Fashion Page. I told her that she would have to let me know which ones she might write about and forget the rest. My biggest problem was that I had to write some kind of description of the clothing for each caption so that she could match it up with her prose. I am amazed how much I learned about fashion terms. I learned that light purple might be lilac or mauve. I learned the difference between chenille and crepe.

I would have to bang off a couple of quick frames while the model was in shooting range and hopefully was kind of facing me; then drop the camera onto its neck straps and grab the pad and pencil on my lap and scribble furiously before I got the nod that Boop wanted the next model coming down the line.

That was also a major bone of contention between us. Frequently, Boop would wait until the model had reached the end of the runway and had her back to me before she would say, “I want that one.” Sometimes the model would be disappearing behind the stage curtains when she would tell me. I kept telling her that she had to give me longer lead times if she wanted me to get her shots. In her defense, though, I have to say that she was often too occupied with writing her notes to realize that the next fashion would be one that she wanted.

Well, at least I was getting some of the top models in the country in my photos.

We photographers really hit our stride when we moved into a new building where we had a huge, state of the art photo studio. Now the Fashion Editor hired professional models and had the designers ship their goods to us so that we could do a creditable shoot in our studio, with terrific looking backdrops and hi tech lighting. Now it was pure joy to shoot fashion and if I wanted to ask the professional model to extend her leg, she knew just what to do and I didn’t have to contort my ungainly body to show her what I wanted. In fact, most of the time I would simply explain to each model that I had my lights set up to best show off each dress if she turned to the right or left. Then I would ask the model to strike a pose and when she saw the strobes go off, just switch to another pose. These girls were pros. They didn’t need any distracting directions from me. It might take six or eight shots before I felt comfortable with what I had. Then she would trot off to our dressing room to change and the next model would be in place. The shoot went quickly and it saved the company a considerable amount of money in modeling fees.

But, by then Boop was no longer the Fashion and Beauty Editor. She had been relegated to covering Senior Citizen features and other light stories. Now, we had a Fashion Editor, an Assistant Fashion Editor, a Stylist and an Art Director, all dedicated to the Fashion Pages.

Sometimes it was tough for the photographers to try to please each of them. I might get the Assistant Fashion Editor telling me to change the backdrop for the shot of the pale yellow chiffon dress. She would suggest something in maybe a lime seamless paper backdrop. I would tell her that the dress would blend in with the backdrop.

“ But,” she would protest, “the lime will make the yellow stand out.”

“ We’re shooting black and white film, here,” I would explain. “Think in terms of gray. You”ll get light gray on light gray.”

When we started using color film, that problem went away.

It could get unpleasant when all the chefs were in the kitchen. There would be conflicting orders and every one of them thought that she was the ultimate chief cook.

The Fashion Editor would always get upset because I would usually expend only six or eight shots before dismissing the model for the next shot.

“ Joe always shoots four or five rolls of film on each shot.”

“ Well, I’m not Joe,” I would answer. “If I feel that I have enough good shots, I’ll move on to the next one. If you are dissatisfied with what you get on your desk, feel free to complain to the Chief Photo Editor and he’ll send Joe to all your assignments.”

I guess she never did, but that didn’t stop her from ragging on me every time. Actually, Joe was one of my heroes. I thought that he was the best photographer on the staff. But his style and mine were different and while I learned many good tips on photography from him, I never learned to keep shooting after I felt that I had the best shots I could make already on film.

Those were the times that I missed Boop.

Dick Kraus



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