Why I’d make a terrible papparazzi

17 07 2008

I just can’t do it. Even when I have all my pro equipment with me, I can’t bring myself to stalk someone famous when I spot them (and I’m apparently really good at spotting them…even when they’re wearing their “disguises.”) Now, if I’m hired to photograph an event where there are celebrities in attendance, that’s a whole ‘nother situation (see my recent assignment in May to cover a political roundtable at the National Press Club here and here.) But stealth photography? I’m as bad at that as I am at math (and that’s pretty bad, trust me on this). I worry too much about the possible rejection. If they reject or dismiss me, I’ll then have to boycott all their movies and tv shows as a show of defiance. I’ll have to go out of my way to hex their autobiographies at Borders. I just can’t go there. I’d rather just lurk, whisper, scheme, and sign up for Stealth Photography 101.

JOHN BRUCE — interior designer for TLC’s “While You Were Out”
Picture this…a hotel in Baltimore about 4-5 years ago…my photographer friend Ed and I are there to photograph a conference for the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a)…in the lobby I pass a slightly-built man, long hair, dark glasses (as always!), slumped on one of the oh-so-hip contemporary sofas. I glance at him, think to myself he looks mighty familiar, then glance away and see the “While You Were Out” truck parked outside of the hotel. I glance back at him. It’s interior designer John Bruce! He doesn’t notice me noticing him. He’s too comfortable, slumped in his incognito-ness. I have a full bag of cameras, lenses, flashes, etc. Everything an annoying papparazzi would need. Do I go over and introduce myself? No. (For one, I do not remember his name—this is what flashed in my head after I saw him, then the truck, then realized why he looked familiar: Dan-Jumbo, something orange (I later remember it’s Stephen Saint Onge), and envisioning how upset I would be if I ended up with designer Hildi Santo Tomas decorating my room, gluing 7,000 silk flowers all over my bathroom walls.) I just did a search on that episode and one commenter wrote, “I remember that flower-bathroom fiasco. I personally would’ve taken that staple gun and fired a few brads into Hildi’s forehead.”

Whew…okay, back to the famous incognito slouching guy…do I pull out my camera and fire off a quick one without permission? No. I simply whisper (excitedly) to Ed, “That’s a designer from “While You Were Out! See the truck there?” Ed does not know the show, so he is singularly unimpressed. Trust me, it was him.

And speaking of DAN-JUMBO…
Michael and I went to one of those National Home Shows in Chantilly a few years ago and saw Andrew Dan-Jumbo, the hunky carpenter on While You Were Out. I didn’t want to push through crowds just to see him, so I discovered a hole in the nearby exhibitor curtains that I could safely view him through! No camera on hand, not even a point-n-shoot. Trust me, it was him.

And still on the subject of home shows—
SUSIE COEHLO, designer/entertainer/tv personality

Michael and I met her at one of those same home shows and she autographed a copy of her recent decorating book I had brought with me. I think her appeal to me at the time was not so much that she was a decorating/entertaining expert, but more that she was once married to Sonny Bono many, many years ago. Why do I know this? I just do. Was I a Sonny Bono fan? Not so much. But it was still cool to meet her. Do I have proof? Yes, in the form of her signature in some book somewhere in my library. A photo? Nope, no point-n-shoot and no cell phone at the time. Trust me, it was her.

RICHARD CHAVIRA—”Carlos Solis” on Desperate Housewives
I have already prepared a rather long blog posting on this celebrity stalking incident. I spotted him (hidden behind dark glasses, of course) at the San Antonio Airport at the end of Easter weekend this year. It’s reasonable to assume it could be him because, a) he’s from San Antonio, and b) his father lives there. This upcoming post will detail how I called three different people (repeatedly), had one of them use imdb.com to discover his real name just in case I got bold enough to ask for an autograph, attempted to appear nonchalant, pretended to learn how to use my cell phone, coughed each time the shutter clicked, and almost missed the gate change for my flight! As soon as I can figure out how to get the photos off my new cell phone, I will report back to you. Trust me, it was him.

JIMMY FALLON—Saturday Night Live
When Michael and I were at Reagan National Airport last Monday waiting for our plane to board, a dark haired, 30ish, (wearing sunglasses, of course) man walked past me with a camera on one arm and a bag on the other…sauntered right by and the minute he passed me, I immediately thought, “Saturday Night Live!” I turned to Michael and asked, “who is that guy who does the SNL news with Tina Fey? He just walked by me!” Michael said, “Kevin Nealon.” No, not old SNL. New SNL. I jumped up and watched him walk down the corridor. I racked my brain trying to think of the name. He came back by and I reconfirmed it was him (there was never a doubt in my mind, though). He walked over to the food court and bought a drink. Two teenage boys stopped him, handed him something, and he started writing. They were smiling. Clearly it was him. Who stops a total stranger to ask for an autograph? What is his name what is his name SNL name Tina Fey name name. He headed back our way and I pointed him out to to Michael when he passed within four feet of us. Michael confirmed his identity. I whispered, “I wish I had my camera.” Michael replied, “You do. An expensive Nikon with lenses and flashes and CF cards. And a point-n-shoot in your purse. And your cell phone, too.” As we were walking down the ramp to the plane, I went through the names again. Kevin, Tina Fey, James, Jimmy. JIMMY FALLON! Trust me, it was him.

So, all I have to show for the above celebrity sightings are three “trust me, you had to have been theres,” an autographed decorating book, and a few photos of Carlos trapped in my cell phone.

I’ll dig up a so-so cell phone photo of me with Paul James, HGTV’s The Gardener Guy, one of my favorite fellas! And yes, he is exactly as you would imagine him. Personable, extremely funny, and very cute (and he put his arm around me in the photo, tee hee).

Years ago, I photographed political consultant James Carville when he was the featured speaker for a National Pest Control Association convention (don’t know the correlation there). These photos were taken when he was a) running Clinton’s campaign, b) had more hair, and c) before he was married to Mary Matalin. And yes, he is just as hyper in person as he appears on tv. I used a fast shutter speed. Want to see the photos? Please say no. I would have to dig really deep to find them.

Somewhere in my archives are a few slightly out-of-focus prints (shot in pre-digital times with a crappy disposable camera through a chain link fence), of John Denver waving at me from his Winnebago next to the Lincoln Monument at a Fourth of July concert in 1985 or 86. Trust me, it was him.

Oh, and do remind me to tell you about meeting Shirley McClaine, Dick Cavett, Leo Buscaglia (got a hug from him!), Erma Bombeck, Art Buchwald, Lana Turner (and her large Swedish bodyguard), Leroy Neiman, and Richard Simmons (a hug from him, too!)—and getting (almost all of) their autographs at a book buyer’s convention in Dallas a few decades ago. Do I have photos? No. You’ll have to trust me. It was them.