Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Executive Derision

These are my fingers.While it doesn’t warrant a full-on Schmuck Alert, the recent collision between reporter Wendy Saltzman, Dekalb County CEO Burrel Ellis and his rather frazzled Public Information Officer was a gret big exercise in AWK-Werd! Seems the elected official didn’t want to address Saltzman’s ‘tough questions', so she showed up at a meeting and executed a near-perfect ambush: blocking his egress, demanding answers and keeping her cool. The result was an awkward waltz in which the intrepid reporter got no new answers, yet exactly what she wanted. Depending on which side of the lens you call home, her performance was the very definition of gauche or Democracy in Action. Me, I’m just glad I didn’t have to shoot it. Earning my stripes at the Dawn of COPS left me well equipped to storm the gates, but ever since William Shatner stopped hosting Rescue: 911, I’ve felt the need to ratchet my glass past happenstance less and less. Besides, if I wanted to be accosted by a woman with a scarf, I’d rush whatever bunker Stephen Tyler is hiding in and take my chances. Until then, watch my back would ya? That PR lady’s got a broach and she’s not afraid to use it!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blades of Glory

Helicopter Rescue Training 1Should ever I find myself stranded on a far flung stone, riding a rooftop or simply sucking seawater, I hope like hell it's in North Carolina. That's because my home state has a crack squad of action figures ready to pluck me from the edge of peril. Yesterday I was among a half dozen journalists permitted to tag along as pilots and paramedics took turns giving each other a lift somewhere above Badin Lake. It was not a bad way to kill a couple of hours. Then again I'm always up for an early drive, a dizzying visual and time with fellow photogs I don't yet know. I only wish I'd gotten the name of the two Charlotte shooters I chatted up in the back of that Colonel's pick-up truck. You'd think after hunkering down under swooping choppers, we'd exchange business cards or something, buy everyone had their hands full of heavy glass they didn't own...

It's a bird, it's a plane... 2Besides, one interloper I recognized. Jennifer Moxley, she of News 14 Charlotte, greeted me with, "Hey, you're that guy with the blog..." She then reminded me of a conversation we'd had outside a federal courthouse four years ago as we both waited for some fallen lawman to emerge in handcuffs. I grinned at the remembrance, but then promptly had to duck and cover - lest the National Guard Blackhawk hovering above me kick up enough forest shrapnel to cleave my fool head off. That's about the time the photo was taken, proving that, while I have walked away from two close scrapes, the encounters have scratched my psyche. Thus my curious posture, a sign I'm more than ready to run should the roaring war-bird directly overhead decide to take a drop a deuce. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a chiropractor to harass...

My neck is killing me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Drafting Danica


I do hope Danica Patrick is ready for what a NASCAR career will bring. Not only will she have to master restrictor-plate racing, she'll have to trade paint with the likes of Kevin Wrenn. Better buckle up! El OCho's premiere sports shooter is a wiry brute; tenacious with a Capital T, competitive to the point of bloodshed. Why, in certain camera corners he's known as The Siler City Assassin! That's why when this Orlando Sentinel photo surfaced, I had to laugh - for if NASCAR's It-Girl is gonna outrun Wrenn-Dawg, she'll need a faster car, a richer sponsor and quite possibly, a restraining order.

Boogity-boogity...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Size Flatters...

Pan DownI always knew our modern fancycams would appear ludicrously huge one day. I was wrong. They already do. Case in point: In the attached photo, it appears I'm balancing the engine block of a VW bus on my shoulder. In fact, it's just my axe: a slightly battered Sony XDCam that I know better than some rooms in my house. For nearly six years now I've dragged the damn thing around with me - so much so that when I dream at night, it's usually stuck to my imaginary face. As field cameras go, it is an apex predator and with it by my side, there's no deadline or live shot I cannot slay. Were the camera a guitar, it'd be a Fender Stratocaster with SRV etched on its surface. Yes, you could say I love this electronic recording device - in much the same way other men love automobiles, power tools or football teams. Too bad I'll soon lose her...

No, I'm not hanging up the lens to pursue professional table-tennis (not yet, anyway). But a smaller, lighter, weaker rig IS in my future and until I get in the business of buying TV equipment (instead of just transporting them across county lines), there's not a lot I can do about it. Besides, I think I'm ready. A diminished lens will be harder to use. What used to be accomplished through mere muscle memory will now require three levels of computer menu maneuvering that I will no doubt fat-finger for the first year and a half. But it will no doubt be Hi-Def, a format I've foamed at the mouth over ever since WRAL put 'em on the street so many moons ago. What's it matter that it's made of blended polymer? Or that every other press conference will be as soft and bouncy as that famous shot of that Branch-Davidian compound the ATF torched in Waco... And outside of every sports shooter I've ever met, who really cares how big your unit is? Okay, so trading in an shoulder-mounted cannon for a plastic pea-shooter is a little emasculating, but as the father of teenage girls, that's a concept I'm pretty familiar with...

Just don't ask me to downsize my career goals. They're already pretty diminished.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Head of the Glass

Man Behind the CurtainI've said it before and I'll say it again: live shot viewers get robbed! All they see are attractive telecasters pretending to be alone. What they don't see is what happens just out of frame. Pantomime, feats of contortion, crowd control ... that and a whole lot more goes down on the far side of The Fourth Wall. But it's not like we're hot-doggin' back there. YOU string together a mobile studio in under ten minutes while someone counts backward in your ear and sleet ricochets up your nose. You can do it all right, but like lottery tickets, leg warmers and ladies' night, going LIVE(!) under duress reveals your true character. Me, I'm fine - until some infernal contraption inside the truck craps out and I devolve into a pissed-off pre-schooler. Hey, we all have our weaknesses. Mine just happens to involve an unhinged reaction to dying batteries and dirty weather.

Other photogs I know handle such snafus far better - utilizing grit, precision and just a wee bit of histrionics. What can I say - we're communicators! Just not the kind you're used to seeing on your TV set. That's a shame really, for with all that's going on behind the scenes, reporters often have the best seat in the house. Electronic meltdowns, emergency tapectomies, even the occasional pee-pee dance... yes, those known as 'talent' see it all. Don't believe me? The next time you're watching some pretty reporter prattle on from the middle of nowhere, get really close to the screen and peer deep into her eyes. Chances are you'll catch the reflection of a techie - a burly, surly shape wrestling with an epilpetic light stand, dozing at attention or fending off some who somehow showed up with a list of shout-outs. Of course, all photogs are not created equal. Some seethe, others putter. But the real pros take all that strife in stride...Take my pal Matt up there: he'd been standing in cold rain for the better part of an hour when I snapped this picture and still he radiates mirth and understanding. Of course, that IS the same look he gets just before he rips somebody's lips off...

And you'll never see it coming....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gerald Hege: Back in Black

Gerald K. Hege, Esquire 2Hey, I'm no stylist, but I did find Gerald Hege's new look arresting as he sauntered past me into the Davidson County Board of Elections building the other day. Black jeans, a matching Henley, all cinched together by a collared pair of shades and a high-waisted motorcycle jacket. Why, he looked fabulous enough to win back his jurisdiction and drop-kick Steven Segal all at the same time. But then, the former Sheriff of Davidson County has always had an eye for fashion: the broad horizontal stripes he made his chain-gangs wear, the sickly pick paint he slathered on jail cell walls, the sleek black 'Spider Car' he tooled around town in... Nope, no one ever accused this fallen lawmen of not having any style. But Hege saved the real savoir vivre for he and his men. High-laced combat boots, jet black fatigues, questionable epaulets. Hell, I once saw set up a roadblock on I-85 while wearing a camoflauge onesie, spats and a pith helmet! Okay, maybe I didn't - but with Hege's tastes, it's not outside the realm of possibility. He's always been that kind of pop icon with a paramilitary flair... You know - like Michael Jackson!

But unlike the King of Pop, Gerald K. Hege couldn't avoid prosecution. In 2003, authorities charged the self-styled crime fighter with 15 felonies and suspended him from office. Rumors of embezzlement, nepotism and all kinds of false pretense swirled around Hege until the man with a "No Deals" sign on his office door accepted a plea agreement, eventually pleading guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice. I was outside the courthouse that day and as a (somewhat) humbled Hege emerged from within, I knew it wouldn't be the last time we heard from this oh so controversial constable. At the time, I was just coming to terms my writing compulsion and in a way I hated to see him go. Six years later, my biggest literary regret is that I never gave this larger than life figure the Lenslinger treatment. Well, it looks like I'll get that chance after all...

'Cause Hege's Back (in black). Now a convicted felon who's no longer allowed to carry a weapon, the man who wallpapered his office lobby with self-congratulatory press clippings finally has the street cred to truly be the bad boy he always claimed to be. Since he left office in disgrace, the city of Lexington has gone back to being known for barbecue, a sedate replacement has rid the department of any inappropriate bling and all the TV stations have shuttered their Davidson County bureaus. As a fan of civil liberties and skeptic of all things hillbilly-ninja, I breathed a sigh of relief when Hege left office. But as a newsman and satirist, I wept openly. I've met some real doozies in my day: ghetto preachers, rock stars, shackled wackos... but I've never run across anyone like him. A master showman, cocksure politician and self-avowed enemy of the criminal element, Gerald K. Hege has the grapes of an ape and an ego to rival that other polarizing figure I've chased down a few hallways, Simon Cowell. Now that he's trying to get his old job back, all the Piedmont's a pundit. 'Surely the good people of Davidson County won't re-hire that felon!' I hear them say. Perhaps not, but I've eaten lunch in enough swine dives around Lexington to know his supporters are just as rabid as his detractors. Whether or not this latest move is his first step to redemption or merely a failed footnote to his tarnished legacy, you can believe one thing: Gerald K. Hege will plot his comeback with swagger, menace and panache...

I just hope he doesn't start rockin' that Smokey Bear hat again. That's a hard look for anyone to pull off...