Wednesday, July 23, 2008

George of the Jungle

Kyle's Ride Pit Stop at Victory JunctionThere was much to take in last Wednesday at Victory Junction Gang Camp: a phalanx of glittering motor-sickles, their well-heeled riders and lots of chronically ill children and their grateful families. I moved through the pack, happy to be on the hunt. Then again, it's impossible to be in a lousy mood on this particular patch of Randolph County. In 1999, the first family of Nascar turned 72 of their rolling acres into a place where sicks kids from near and far can come to forget their troubles. It's a powerful place and I check my crusty facade at the front gate every time I go there. Looking around, you get the feeling other folks do too. But I wasn't there to people-watch. Or maybe I was. With Kyle Petty and a couple hundred other generous souls making their annual charity ride pit stop, it was my job to record some famous faces.

George Vaughn at the officeTrouble was, I didn't know who those famous faces might belong to. Sure, there was Kyle himself. I found him first, surrounded by young admirers - some of whom even knew he drove a race car. A few feet away, I found his Dad. Richard Petty is, of course, an deity of sorts around here. He's the only man I call 'King' to his face and mean it. Swamped by fans, he never acknowledged my lens but he did allow me a few other photogs to stand under the shadow of his ubiquitous cowboy hat. After that, I was on my own. For a moment I thought I spotted Tony Stewart signing autographs - only to realize it was some other stocky white guy in ballcap and perma-stubble. Dejected, I turned around to see a giant smiling black man chatting up his own fans. Not knowing who he was, I shot video of him anyway. A few minutes later someone told me it was Herschel Walker. 'Who's Herschel Walker?', I almost asked, but decided to keep my mouth shut and man-card intact. A few minutes later, I noticed a couple other lenses pointed at a rather normal looking lady. I joined them of course, unaware the woman was supermodel Nikki Taylor. Funny, I didn't see any cape....

Eyes of a LiferBut of all the well-known countenances I encountered last Wednesday, only one prompted me to dig out my digital and pop off a few frames ... this guy - George Vaughn. A fabled photog here in the Piedmont, George was gathering newscasts back when I was playing with my Evel Knievel action figure. Long before I became a lenslinging fixture at the North Carolina Zoo, he and Rod Hackney were profiling its many exhibits and winning awards doing it. Along with a few other elder statesmen of the local news scene, George recorded decades of stilted reality under the dynasty of The Deuce. And of course, he was there. But as we've learned, years of exemplary service aren't enough to earn a lenser any tenure in this business and a few years back, George left the logo'd life. Now. however. he's back in the viewfinder, using his powers for good instead of evil and, once again, winning awards in the process. This alone brings me great joy, for it's awfully hard to age gracefully behind the lens. But watching George case the joint the other day, I reallized, it's not impossible.

1 comment:

Oreo said...

Weaver must have been sooo jealous.