Thursday, April 25, 2013

View to a Shill

New Turd
You can fool some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time, but any photog worth his weight in camera batteries will smell your bullshit from across the crowded conference room. Oh, he’ll keep his mouth shut. But a little while later, he’ll chuckle in disgust as the the dumbest crumb that fell out of your pie-hole comes to rest at the top of his timeline. Pretty soon, said soundbite will echo across the High Valley Homeland or Quad-City Metroplex or whatever else the promo guys decided to call those six wasteland counties no one else wanted. My point is this: if ever you find yourself leaning into a podium and tap-dancing around the truth, keep a careful eye on the man behind the camera. Chances are, he’ll tell you what he thinks with only an eyebrow or two.

Unless, of course, he’s under thirty. TV news shooters born after ’83 will no doubt be so absorbed with their iPhone app, that you could belch a soliloquy from ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ and they’d never once look up from their Instagram feed. If that’s the case, you’re safe until some night-side editor stops hating his life long enough to isolate that moment where your upper lip starts sweating. Consider it a professional courtesy. Better yet, put it out of your mind altogether and just stick to the script. That way, you’ll never catch of sniff of dissension from tripod row. The newbies won’t look up from their friends list and the lifers won’t blink Morse code messages your way. Remember, Nixon LBJ knew he’d lost Middle America when Cronkite questioned the war in Vietnam. You can avoid your own political quagmire if you lay off the hooey when those old photogs in the corner start to sneer.

It ain’t like they can help it. We unplug any facial restraint shortly before we remove their souls.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Walking Dread

Bill and Ted Once we trim those hedges behind The Lenslinger Institute, we're slapping up a statue of the great Stanley Roberts. I figure hippies will hike in from both coasts to take a piss on it and we can charge them a fee to leave with their reefer. But if I was a bleary-eyed Phish fan, I'd stay the hell away from anything that resembled Mr. Roberts. After all, dude eats Trustafarians for breakfast. For as long as anyone in the Viewfinder BLUES break room can remember, this oak tree of a bloke has been boldly exposing 'People Behaving Badly' for KRON in San Francisco. Since that part of Cali appears to be the ass-hat capitol of the world, Stanley works in a target-rich environment. But it can't be easy. Just last week in Berkeley, he ran afoul of two dred-heads who took time from not bathing to protest the presence of Stan's camera.

The resulting clip is kinda quick, but who needs background when you got Otis and Moonbeam?  That's what I've come to call the duo who question Stanley's right to stand on a public sidewalk and point his camera at what was clearly an unemployed dog. This didn't set well with Bill and Ted, Beavis and Butthead Otis and Moonbeam. Having spent the morning rolling in sheepshit, the pair invaded Stanley's personal space, his lens nearly fogging over from the stench of dung-crust and day old Patchouli Oil. If that weren't bad enough, twenty seconds in a third greasenik lost his damn mind and tried to pull Robert's camera from his considerable grip. The effort was unsuccessful.  Stanley kept his camera, got mountains of press over the silly incident and laughed his ass off a few days later when the three - ahem - 'men' were arrested. As for Stanley, he suffered a sprained back and a damaged camera, but it didn't stop the Big Man from expressing himself...

 "For the record I am fine, outside of a sprained back. I refused to go down without a fight and I used equal force to defend myself, in other words I got my licks in too. Hey I'm from Philly what would you expect?" 

Nothing less, Stanley, nothing less...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bedtime for Bonzo

Chimp Exam
“If at anytime, we yell ‘get out’, get out!”

“Don’t worry’, I told the zookeeper as I squeezed into a pair of coveralls two sizes too small. “ I’ll be vapor by then.”

The lady grunted behind her surgical mask and turned, leaving me on the loading dock to wiggle into wardrobe. Why is it every time I get to go deep, I gotta do so lookin’ like a mental patient? I once toured the world’s most humid aspirin factory wrapped head to toe in protective gauze. I rode along with forest rangers as they lobbed fireballs into acres of bone-dry woodland. They made me dress like the grown-up from Curious George. And now I was gonna get clinical with a somewhat sedated chimpanzee, but only after a certain inseam cut my package in half.

“Mask. Gloves. Let’s go.”

Inside, no fewer than eight anxious young humans gathered over an examining table. Once I wedged an opening in the wall of overalls, I finally laid eyes on the patient, and got more than a nose-full. Sprawled out on his back, the adult chimpanzee looked to be sleeping off a bender. All around him, masked figures poked and prodded. One smeared gel across his furry chest, another studied the grooves on his fingertips. Me, I settled into my viewfinder and free-rolled. Letting the time-code spin, I zoomed in, held a shot for ten seconds and found another one. A pungent funk fell over the room and I couldn't decide whether it was the inert simian before me or my own stinking breath beneath the surgical mask.

That’s when the monkey moved.

Okay, so a chimp isn’t a monkey, but taxonomy goes out the window when the sleeping beast before you starts to stir. The vets and zookeepers (hard to know who was who behind those masks) reacted calmly, shsshing in his ear the way a parent might do with a murmuring baby. It wasn’t the first time I witnessed the conviction of the zoo’s caring staff. Nor was it the first time I eyeballed the exit that day, just in case our not so little friend woke up with a sudden thirst for cameraman throat. The chimp was no threat, of course. Any of the masked staffers around me would have gladly garroted me to a pulp had I so much as bled on their majestic beast.

I tried to remember that as I rotated around the table, taking careful note not to trip over any electrical cords and plunge the room into some kind of post-apocalyptic abyss. With my luck, I’d come to in the grizzly pit as a strangely sentient pack of black bears argued over who got to nosh on photog liver. Just as that daydream got really weird, a throaty rumble snapped me back to reality.

Every human in that small room suddenly stepped up their movements, except the one zookeeper who’d been leaning against the wall the whole time, cradling a shotgun. That dude never moved, but the hirsute hominid on the table sure did, raising his powerful arm and growling deeply as the coverall crew pushed equipment out of the way and closed in around him. Sensing a closing shot in the making, I backed up to the wall and fished my wide angle lens out of its pouch. If they were gonna manhandle the animal out of the room and into a cage before he started singing show tunes, I was gonna be there to record it. Or so I thought.


‘Wonder who that could be?’, I thought as I tightened my wide angle into place. That’s when one of the female keepers reached over and damn near pushed me off balance.


I half-stumbled out of the room, wondering what ever happened to “get out!” By the time I did get out, I was laughing from behind my mask. I hadn’t meant to wear out my welcome, but I was one shot away from a perfect ending and the lure of said resolution held me in place, no matter how many testy veterinarians or waking apes there were in the room.

At least I know my place on the food chain.