Friday, August 27, 2010

Hell on the Telly

Paul Martin
It’s not every day you find your doppelganger ‘cross the pond, but that's precisely the case with one Paul Martin. Seems the UK freelancer is a self-made cameraman, a nosy bloke who bought his own TV gear long before he knew how to use it. That was fourteen years ago and since then Paul’s documented more trauma, froth and spectacle than one Englishman should be allowed to talk about. Lately, he’s been been doing just that and the results have been the most buoyant cameramanifesto since that guy who used to chase around Benny Hill with a Panaflex let loose with the mammaries - er, memories. But I digress, something you’d probably expect from an unschooled American like myself. Not Paul Martin. He’s erudite, traveled and snarky beyond compare. But take note: He ain’t the Paparazzi. In fact, he was nowhere near that Paris Underpass the night Diana died...
Listen up people. I was at home in bed with the Missus that night in Hampshire. And she can vouch for me. Although as she is fond of reminding me, nothing earth shattering happened that night that she can remember. Although I have learned to live with what some members of the public think of us, it still rankles with me that while hurling abuse in my general direction, they are often carrying a newspaper, or following said abuse, will walk home, switch on the telly and watch the news.
Sounds like some reactions are universal.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tents of Resentment

Presser Stupidity 3Soooo, you've got a big corporate announcement coming up - a groundbreaking of such earth-shattering importance even those stoners from the local free weekly will show up on time. Trouble is, your CEO has all the charm of a bus stop urinal. One he starts thanking his cronies, plants wilt, the punch goes flat and well-rested photogs fall asleep on their feet... OOH! I know! Why not rent a big-ass tent, shove everyone underneath and let the camcorders roll! That way, no matter what metaphor the Big Guy mangles, no one will be wiser - since he'll look one of those Dateline interviews with the dude who sold out The Mob! FUHGEDDABOUDIT!!!!

Presser Stupidity 1Okay, so I'm being a wee facetious. But it's hard not to be when you see the same lame set-ups again and again. Have the PR folks who orchestrate these mistakes ever seen a television? Are they secretly trying to sabotage their superior's need to be on the news? Do they all cite chapter and verse of that best-selling book "13 Ways to Eff Up Your Presser"? I truly do not know. But of this one thing I'm sure: Press conferences should be direct, pithy, clear - NOT opaque mistatements riddled with visual enigmas. That and some cat in a power suit is making w-a-y too much coin to produce this kind of off-broadway satire.

Presser Stupidity 2To be fair though, we TV geeks aren't gonna put too much of the highly-scripted tripe on the tube anyway. In fact, I'd say 96 percent of what comes after the speaker clears his throat ends up on the cutting room floor. Maybe that's why the Public Relations schlubs seem to go out of their way to blot out the sun with their keynote speaker. Throw in a mult-box with a built-in hum and you have the top two reasons those photogs back there keep rolling their eyes. That and their casing the refreshment table for any signs of surplus muffins. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put the finishing touches on my latest pamphlet "The Lenslinger Institute's Guide to Eye-Bleeding TeeVee".

Next time: "Hey, this spot in the factory features demonic screeches, brackish backlight and fresh green ooze every sixty seconds. Let's put the podium HERE!"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Cos and I

Bill Cosby Death StareBill Cosby's career is so diverse, so storied, so divine -- there's something for everyone. Some still thrill to his pioneering turn on I, Spy. Others tout the cosmic significance of Leonard, Part Six. Many more fell for the treacly plot lines of that 80's powerhouse The Cosby Show. Me - I'm a straight-up Fat Albert Fan. What can I say - something about the Saturday morning cartoon spoke to my seven year old self. The junkyard jams, the urban verve, the way MushMouth always sounded like he'd just ingested Heroin ... I never missed an episode and since I wasn't careful, I very often learned something. So you can imagine how stoked I was to share some air with 'The Cos' himself. He was in town today, speaking to students at Bennett College. I was but another glass-handler, hanging on his every utterance. Surely we'd get a chance to talk over old times...

Bill Cosby at Bennett College 1Well...No. As a card-carrying member of the Photog Nation, I can't very well interrupt the press conference to tell the man how much I dug that Bet Your Life debacle, can't insist he riff on A Different World, can't ask him to sign the collection of Jell-O shots I just happened to have with me. Okay, I suppose I could, but such a move would prove me to be an absolute tool. We 'slingers gotta keep it all in focus. If we lose our cool in the presence of greatness, we won't be asked to cover anyone more famous than that sanitation worker who croons while he manhandles your cans. Thus, I kept my head in check as the lovable curmudgeon held court. Sure, I wanted to ask him what that thing on Dumb Donald's head was, but I didn't dare. See, I learned a thing or three about celebrity watching Simon Cowell jones for another smoke on the set of American Idol - namely don't get in between a snarky Brit and his next pack of Kools.

Bill Cosby at Bennett College 2What that has to do with the good Dr. Cosby I can't really say - other than I know when to give a famous guy his space. In today's case, it was about three and a half feet. That's how close we media vermin got to the podium after Brother Bill warned the Bennett Belles about the inherent perils of Hoochie-dom. Yeah, he worded it differently, but his essential message was this: Have respect for yourself and others will too. As the father of girls, that's a sermon I can get behind, though I'd probably rephrase it as "Act like you got some sense". In fact, I found myself nodding in agreement as Cosby chastised the all-female student body for allowing themselves to be ogled by lesser lifeforms. Make no mistake: Bill Cosby has no use for the dudes drinking 40 ounces on the corner. In rather frank language, he warned the gifted young women of Bennett not to cheapen themselves by association, let alone get knocked up by some cat with his slacks hanging off his crack. And he did it all while keeping the room in stitches. How cool is THAT?

Okay, not as cool as an autographed Jell-O Shot - but still, pretty cool.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reach for the Beach

Jockey's Ridge, NC
A deep dip of the lens to WRAL's Richard Adkins, who last week reminded me just how boss the view is atop Jockey's Ridge at dusk. Was it. My family's scamper up the East Coast's tallest sand dune was the perfect way to top off a long weekend on the Outer Banks. The visit was long overdue. Fact is, the last time I stayed in Dare County without a hurricane, my wife couldn't get in the hot tub 'cause she was pregnant with our first child. That child is now learning to drive and it was with special pleasure that I let her test out her new skills on famed Highway 12 - the road to Hatteras. Once there, we trekked to the top of a certain striped beacon, before scrambling down to do all sorts of touristy things. An early morning raid on the Wright Brothers Memorial, a lunchtime stroll through the North Carolina Aquarium, Dinner in Duck -- we crammed a lot into just a few days.

Pittmans 2010Still, for my lack of money the highlight came on the very last night, when we all ascended Jockey's Ridge and attempted to fly one high-dollar kite. Along the way, we encountered more tranquil Yankees than can be found in a New Jersey Hookah Lounge. See, we locals usually frequent different beaches, leaving the Outer Banks to a flood of Northerners with bulging wallets and clipped accents. There on the Ridge, a rather rude lady from Massa-CHOO-setts awoke from her seafood coma long enough to guffaw at my use of the word "Y'all". I let her laugh, before gently reminding her that, considering our current coordinates, SHE was the one talkin' funny.

"Y'all come back now, ya hear?"