Monday, August 14, 2017

Billy Jack - the Candidate

Does any of this sound familiar?

Billy Jack is a "half-breed" American Navajo Indian,[2] a Green Beret Vietnam War veteran, and a hapkido master.  Jack defends the hippie-themed Freedom School and students from townspeople who do not understand or like the counterculture students. The school is organized by Jean Roberts (Delores Taylor).  More…

A group of children of various races from the school go to town for ice cream and are refused service and then abused and humiliated by Bernard Posner and his gang. This prompts a violent outburst by Billy. Later, the director of the Freedom School, Jean, is raped and an Indian student is then murdered by Bernard (David Roya), the son of the county's corrupt political boss (Bert Freed). Billy confronts Bernard and sustains a gunshot wound before killing him with a hand strike to the throat, after Bernard was caught in bed with a 13-year-old girl. After a climactic shootout with the police, and pleading from Jean, Billy Jack surrenders to the authorities and is arrested. As he is driven away, a large crowd of supporters raise their fists as a show of defiance and support. The second movie -  “Billy Jacks trial” went on for as long as the campaign.

As it happens, there were two Billy Jack movies on the SonyMovie channel this afternoon. And why were those movies of interest to me?  Well, there are those times when my Presidential politics were more colorful than the usual; candidate establishes credibility, raises money, builds a campaign, and runs for office. But he was not a traditional writer, producer or film maker,  “Billy Jack”, Tom Laughlin, was not a traditional Presidential candidate.  It was never clear how found his way to me.  Maybe he heard about the time we ran Lee Iacocca for President.  Of course, Iacocca was not happy about our campaign. But we raised $50,000 and got terrific press and even better, we were only allowed to build a campaign if the candidate didn’t agree to be involved  And, be assured, he did not agree.

The campaign had no money. They expected me, (me the entire political staff),  not to want any money.  That was not going to happen.  I designed a campaign strategy and made some suggestions.  They were nice, if somewhat delusional, people. He still thought that as Billy Jack, he would be recognizable, and have an automatic following.  He thought his Q rating remained off the charts. They agreed with nothing I thought they should do.

Their expectations of me became very complicated.  As the consultant, the driver, the scheduler and the person most likely to underwrite the campaign financially, there came a point when it was impossible to continue to work for them.  Them being Tom and his assistant, not his wife.
Anyway, David and I took them to the White House, where we still had friends who pretended to know who he was.  And that was the last I heard about him until I read his obit.

“Tom Laughlin, the actor, writer, director and producer who created the “Billy Jack” movie series of the 1970s, a low-budget fusion of counterculture piety and martial-arts violence that struck a chord with audiences and became a prototype for independent filmmaking and distribution, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 82.”

The obit also mentioned that he changed the way Hollywood movie distribution was done. And that he made 80 million dollars on the Billy Jack movies. He was relentless as well as rich.  He could have paid me and an entire staff if he had wanted to do that.  His intention was not to run for President but to get info for his remake of “Mr. Smith goes to Washington”, of which there is a trailer but the movie never got released. And ended on this note “Blah blah blah.” He later became an outspoken environmentalist and antinuclear activist and sought the Democratic nomination for president on several state primary ballots in 1992, 2004 and 2008. I was the campaign staff in 1992.  After I left the “Not really” Billy Jack Presidential campaign, I created chickens for the Clinton campaign — which was a much better, and much more fun to do.  We’re just sayin’….  Iris

Friday, July 28, 2017

Your MOM!

In our youth my eight aunts never let a opportunity pass to present us with words of wisdom.  Aunt Fritzy and Aunt Helen were persistent in their advice about how we presented ourselves publicly. As an aside, there were no warnings to the male cousins, just the girls.  Some of my favorites were “ never forget your background and breeding,” and another was, “it doesn’t matter how inexpensive your jewelry was because it all depends on who is wearing it”.  The other  item of particular interest presently is that in my family the pet names for body parts were incredibly colorful, but not until the past two days did I realize how colorful they were.  The pet for the vagina was “mooch.”

Moving on, if you are the kind of person who, when you used bad words, your mother would threaten to wash your mouth out with soap, or if you aspire to be a human rights advocate, do not turn on tv, go on your computer or read the news today. The Mooch’s profanities were off the charts, and Trump decided to forbid TransGender individuals to serve in the military.  We knew all the time that the senior administration was peopled with racists and bigots,  but when I hear some of their rhetoric,  like this statement is followed by “he’s playing to his base,”  I am seriously  discouraged by the fact that his base is 35% of the voting public — this means 35% of this country (you may remember it as “land of the free and home of the brave,  are also bigots and racists.)  That,  as some say, “stops me in my tracks.”  Some of them are even my friends. Geez. Let’s change the subject this is too depressing.

Yesterday a few of my college girlfriends came to spend the afternoon, evening, and morning in N.Y.C.   We have known one another for more than 50 years.  We do not talk everyday or even every month, but we have kept our connection since we were seventeen. People change and so who knows what our lives have been like, but one common element is that we have all lost our mothers.  Some of us more recently than the others, but that kind of loss doesn’t go away.  Mothers and daughters, is a never-ever and uncomplicated relationship.  Some of us have daughters and my guess is that those relationships are not uncomplicated either. As you can imagine, there were many questions asked and answered.

One thing we talked about were 3 options when you are dealing with adult children and probably more. You could offer to  help them cut down the tree.  Or you could offer advice, this time you make suggestions about how to use a saw, but only if they want you too. The third option is to say, “you had a hard week, I’ll cut it down myself.”   My tendency is to rush in and  do it myself rather than wait for my child to do it. I operate much faster than most people.  And it appears when I want something done, I’m usually the only one who cares about it.  Like cleaning off the counters in the kitchen.  Or cleaning out the fridge, making the beds, and keeping the dog  food bowl, and water dish filled.  If your children  are sloppy as children, they most likely will be slobs when they grow up. But at some point that is no longer your business. If you do everything for them they will never be able to do anything for themselves.  As parents we want more for our kids than we had. We convince ourselves we are always doing the right thing. For example,  when we told them they were ‘fantastic,’ we never let them lose, and we fought many of their youthful battles.  Ha, Then we wonder how  we produced a generation of entitled kids. And God only knows what their kids will be like. 

Back to my college pals, all have kids and one confessed that her mother never let her do anything. So when she had children she never told her kids what to do. When we all lived in the dorm we spoke to our parents maybe once a week and only if we could  hot wire the pay phone in the hall. They didn’t expect anything more than that one call.  We didn’t  expect much from our parents, except maybe a check. What do our kids expect from us?  See how you do answering some questions.  What was the favorite thing that your mother did?  Did you like as well as love your mother?  How did other people feel about our mom?  What do you see of your mom in yourself. My mother always sparkled, which was often an embarrassment. Her style was flamboyant.  She was pretty funny sometimes but her sense of humor was questionable. However, she was busy so  she let me do anything I wanted to do — short of something dangerous. Which was never out of the question. 

What do you think Trump children think about the chaos and profanity. Maybe they don’t care or they are numb to it. Maybe they should wash their father’s mind out with soap. Or maybe they are so entitled that they are just having fun being in charge of the government without knowing anything. Oye, If they didn’t care about pussy, we can be sure they don’t care about the Mooch.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, July 23, 2017

No Problem!

Exactly when did people start saying “no problem” instead of 'you’'re welcome?'  I am not surprised when I hear, 'no problem' from kids, but it is curious when you hear it from adults who you know were taught to say “you are welcome.”

What does “no problem” mean. I.believe it's worth exploring. Kind of like kibitka, unless it's not like kibitka. It doesn't surprise me that you don't know kibitka, unless you played dictionary and then you would know everything. A kibitka is an old Russian wagon. However, one night in a serious Dictionary game I defined it as “a miraculous recovery. “ 
Yiddish speakers will tell you that one of the most remarkable things about the language is that the words sound like what they are, like kvetch -- where  you often elongate the middle “eh.”  Let’ take that trip down “let’s pretend memory lane.”  Someone does something nice for you.  Say a gentleman holds your chair when you are  about to sit. (Yeah, like that will ever happen).  You say thank you. He says, “no problem”. You say:
“If it were a problem, would you have still done it?”
What exactly would have made it a problem?
Honestly, if I had thought it would be a problem I would have insisted you not walk all the way over here, stood behind my chair, waste 20 maybe 30 seconds of your precious time to pull that chair back, pause, and push the chair back in.
4.  You are a thoughtful person. Thank you.

He would have said, 
“You are welcome” indicating that he was happy you acknowledged his kindness.
“No problem”, meaning, it was no trouble and I enjoyed being kind. Or “it was my pleasure”.
Hey, just one moment. I really like, “it was my pleasure”, meaning I enjoyed showing you a bit of kindness in these crazy days when people are likely to be mean, nasty or incredible selfish.

Are you trying to figure out what I am talking about but you’re not quite there? Stick around because we are going for a wild ride.

Why is it that when you put “THE” in front of something it is supposed to make it more important or significant.  Take for example when someone refers to Yale, as “The Yale”  does that change your entire perception of the importance of the school?  Who knows, but people name the towns in which they live in the same way.  Like “The Caldwells” or their cousins “The Oranges”. Today we saw a sign for “THE Yorks”.  Are they related to “the New Yorks” or did they break off from the family centuries ago and go north.  Geography is something we don't study anymore. Not that knowing where The Caldwells are will ever change your life, but the “THE” is the issue.  Suppose we called Trump, “The Trump.” how would that make you feel, more or less intimidated?  Not that he needs much help trying to intimidate folks, but do you think you would like “THE” Trump more or less than you do now.

Back to “My pleasure.”  This morning when I got up I wanted to call Carl Wagner. These were the best conversations ever because he would be dazzled by the sheer incompetence of the White House and he would explain it in a way that made you feel foolish about not seeing that for yourself.  These are the times I feel at my loneliest.  Like when I want to call Steve Daley for a laugh about the political insanity. Aunt Peppy for a recipe, or my mother to impart some of her ridiculous wisdom, (never throw anything at a pregnant woman because the  mice will eat your  clothes). Or Ronnie Wilde to get me out of trouble. There is no longer anyone to answer the call.  The list goes on.  Sorry for that moment of poignancy amidst all the insanity.

To tell you the truth, it is impossible to comment on what happens everyday, every hour.  For six months he has called the NYTimes fake news and then he gives them a two hour interview  where he says he shouldn’t have hired old “lock her up”.  Then late yesterday he was checking to see if he could pardon himself and his entire family. Huh? What does it all mean.  It gives me a headache just trying to keep up. What will happen today? Will we discover there was  a ninth person at that infamous meeting.  I figure in a few weeks we will find out that the meeting was so big and foolish it was held in a circus tent where all the clowns were active participants.


Gee wilikers. (What is a wiliker)?  Oh, now I remember.  It is a word used when you are totally out of anything else to say, like THE END.  No problem.  We’re just sayin’…..Iris

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Here! Frisky!! Hear! Frisky!!

Last night my brother called to say Richard Jones, our next door neighbor 55 years ago  sent him a picture of our old dog Frisky.  Wow. Frisky. When I got up this morning I couldn't wait to get to the computer. Frisky, oh Frisky, there were tears in my eyes. Ok we only had Frisky for maybe two weeks, but I loved him without conditions. But when I looked at the pic I thought, who was this cute black puppy who was clearly going to grow up to be a monster. Frisky was a collie. We got her from the Marazities who lived across the street from Aunt Fritzie. Actually, that may be how he got the name. We substituted Frisky for Fritzie.  Jeff texted me to  insist that the black dog was Frisky.  I called my cousin Stevie, who also got a puppy from that litter. He confirmed that we got collies and almost immediately gave them to Helen Costello, who was kind enough to take them and who knows where they went from there.  Stevie also shared that when Aunt Fritzie asked  my cousins Honey and Marty how big their Great Dane was going to be, they said, ‘not too big.’  This was clearly a lie, but they didn’t live in Boonton so they thought she would never see it.  There is no way she wasn’t going to visit Honey (who was, after all, her daughter) , who was pregnant. Imagine her surprise when she opened the door.


                                                                Jeff's dog Cooper

Neither my mother nor any of her seven sisters liked pets.  In fact, my mother never called Frisky a puppy or good boy, or sweetie.  She referred to them as animals who should get away from her. It was one sentence.  “That animal needs to get away from me.”  My dad was a little more tolerant, but he was always working in New York and the time he got home, Frisky was outside in his dog house.  We were lucky if they let the puppy in the house, which did not happen frequently.  My mother would say, “Jewish people weren’t good with animals,” and that was that.  Whenever there was something she didn’t want to do -m “Jewish people didn’t do it.”   He was better off with Helen Costello who was Catholic.

Frisky was not our only pet.  There is no way to answer the question, then why did she let us have a parakeet names Tweety. (Awwwww). Tweety was an average animal (my mother’s description), who played nicely in his little gage.  Jeff  and I were responsible for cleaning the bird cage and feeding our little Tweety.  It is unclear when it happened, but Tweety’s behavior  became erratic.  When a parakeet is unusually frantic, and won’t stop tweeting, you know there’s a problem.  So at least my mother thought there was a problem.  Off to the pet store with the bird to discover what the problem was.  Turns out, Tweety had a nervous breakdown.  Jeffrey insisted he did nothing but he was too young to remember exactly what he did with Tweety.  From that time and maybe until I went to college there were no pets allowed,  except fish which were still animals, but not intrusive.  Also they all looked alike and could easily be replaced with another identical fish.  But children know.

Speaking of parakeets, David’s cousin had a parakeet which, when let out of the cage, flew on it’s side.  Can you picture a side flying parakeet. Eventually it got confused enough to fly into a wall.  Who wouldn’t?  David’s pet history was much more reasonable.  His parents called his puppies by their actual names.  They had the usual problems, Poor Sweet Baby and Schuster - aka - the Black Dink, were a part of their family. They might not have been allowed in the children’s beds, but they weren’t relegated to the outdoors full time.


                                        At the Burnetts: Billy Whiskers naps with Dagmar

Oh, eventually Honey’s Great Dane went to live with Frieda, (a very very close friend of my mom’s  (like a sister, but liked animals). Lillian, who lived with Aunt Frieda happily agreed to feed and walk Shreddney Vashti — the Great Dane.  Lillian was about 4’8”.  In reality, that meant that SV walked Lillian.  It was pretty colorful to watch, and we did.  Tina and I watched until we laughed so hard we cried  as SV dragged  Lil around the blocK.  You may know that Great Danes are not the healthiest of dogs. SV died young and Lil was heartbroken but they never got another animal. Jewish people just don’t do that. Tyrone - One of America's Great Puppies
My first puppy was a rescue dog, named Sherman, who used to sit under a desk and bite people who came to our house or got into our car — if he was already inside.  I couldn’t take him when I got divorced because I lived in a car. However, when I bought my house in DC there was an irresistible Soft coated Wheaten puppy who was irresistible and insisted I adopt him. Earnest La Lekish de Q, was a wonderful friend. Unfortunately, I was allergic to him so he went to live with a wonderful family in New Jersey.  Which brings us up to date until Tyrone.  Tyrone Baloney never leaves me alone. Ty is a mixed breed, part Bichon part Poodle. He is the best puppy you can imagine.   It was not my plan to buy a puppy when we were looking for the kind we wanted. But then the owner was carrying this little white frizz ball with two black eyes around the store, and that was it.  The Groman kids, me and Jeff,  love dogs. Jeff has had a number of mixed breed big dogs and I small shaggy friends.  It turns out that having a puppy is exactly what Jewish people do.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Tyrone - at an early age....


Earnest La Lekish: having a studious afternoon --



Pay No Attention!!

More laugh riots,  or riots of laughs.  Complaints are not on my list of everyday behavior, however, when I went to the hospital to have the staples removed from my head, I was carrying my walker, which does not have wheels, so I can walk faster without it. By the way, the nurse said they remove the staples with a staple remover like you have in your office. They do and I have the pics to prove it.

We have decided to entertain ourselves by communicating in Trump speak.  For example, David will ask me if I’m hungry, and I respond, “Yes I am, unless I’m not.”  Try it as an answer to any question you are asked, like “Do you want to go for a ride?” and the response is, “Yes, of course, unless I don’t.”  Simple questions are easy but complicated questions not so much.  Like how do you feel about the State Department eliminating the Office of Human Rights and the office that deals with Cyber communication. Bet you didn’t know that, but if we are not going to have human rights in this country (as judged by the collection of “voter fraud” info) why should we be fussy about it in other countries?)  How do you even start?   Or, how about this one. We are no longer going to sell arms and supplies to the Syrian opposition because the Russians don’t want us too.  Are you stymied yet?

There are black and blue marks on my body that are seriously frightening. My arms and legs are the color of a ripe plum, which is nice on a plum but not on an actual persons body.  Enough whining! 

If Donald Trump thinks the NYTimes delivers fake news, why did he do a sit-down interview with them.  It may be that he no longer has any touch with reality.  This may be the only explanation for his erratic behavior.  If I were any of his playmates it might be time to “head for the hills.”  The most colorful element of all this Presidential “faldiraw” (is that how you spell silly?),  is that the news media (aka “fake news”), is starting to laugh at this unPresident.  Here’s what I know. The most effective way to get a response from any person in power is ridicule.  When we crafted the chicken campaign or the duck campaign the idea was to make fun of the opposing candidate — in a respectful way but always with humor. Hence the 6 foot chickens during the Clinton campaign and the big duck with the “release your taxes” song.  If the DNC had stayed out of the duck effort during the Trump campaign, it would have been successful. Take a look if you want a good laugh - 
https://youtu.be/z7dJMGdR1gw

During a Presidential campaign the people who are involved often have severe personality change.  Everyone wants to be the last one out of the office because they 1. Don’t want anything important to happen in their absence. 2. They don’t want to be perceived as slacking off.   As a result, they get tired and testy and most importantly, they lose their sense of humor.  Unfortunate, because if you don’t have a sense of humor about politics, you will drive yourself and others nuts.  You have to be able to laugh.  And when you start laughing, it is easy to see the faults of your opponent. Whatever plans you have to defeat your opposition, are more likely to succeed if it has a point, and is funny. 

No kidding now, I am afraid for our children. This President, who has lost touch with reality and who has no moral core, thinks nothing about eliminating environment protection laws led by anti-science people, programs for children, women, and the elderly (of which i am fast becoming) and agreeing to compromise the U.S. position in the world in order to make our enemies happy.  It would be interesting to be privy to how his mind works.  How does he get from A to Z without ever acknowledging L, Q, and W.  If I were looking for one sentence from a movie to best describe  what everyone in this great country should remember would be from “The Wizard of OZ”.

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” 

Liars and idiots and fears, Oh My!

We’re just sayin’….Iris

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"I Have Done More Than....."

“I have done more than any President, unless you count the other Presidents who did more.”
“And my inaugural crowd was bigger than any other President, unless it wasn’t.”
“I have put more people back to work in mines, unless Obama actually did that. “
“I have no relationship with the Russians, unless I do.”
“My son would never do anything illegal, unless he did.”
“Americans should produce & buy products in America, except me and Ivanka.”
“Meetings with the Russians means nothing, unless it might.”
“Oh it’s so easy to disavow what the President does, except when you can’t.” 

What exactly does the President do during the week?   Most days he has nothing on his schedule. Does he sleep late and than wake up for a pithyless  tweet.  OK THERE IT IS, the President tweets. But what else?  He has been absent for the healthcare negotiations.  He has been unavailable for questions about the cruelty of the Medicaid cutbacks, except he thinks its “mean” — but not “mean” enough to actually get involved  His lack of involvement with the American people, (other than rich people) is stunning. 

Is there anything we can do?  Probably not. Although if the behavior of sonny boy and sonny boy in-law leads to their security clearance taken away, it presents a serious problem for the President, who has only family as his confidantes.  What the hell was Sean Spicer thinking today when he spoke about the infamous meeting being about adoption. (He is incapable of thinking).

I call on every clear thinking American to look at the history of embellishments and lies, to insist the President step up to the plate and tell the truth. With that said, it is unproductive to keep piling on with all the stupid, politically uneducated, vile crap from the White House. It makes it easier to accuse the media of being fake news.

Donald Trump is a danger and a political idiot but the truth is the Democrats seem incapable of doing anything about it.  We need a Democratic leader (if you know one, send me contact info ASAP!)   Obviously, we need to be able to answer a few important questions and change the rhetoric.

Let's not ever use the term "entitlements" again to speak of Soc. Security.  We need an alternative, whether it be specific, like "earned income" for years of hard work, or more general like "human decency”, or "the right thing to do.”  We need to address the lack of humanity in the things the Republicans want to eliminate, like programs for children and the elderly, clean air, water, public education, you know the list.

We need a health care plan that replicates the health care bill the Congress gets.  It puts us in a place where we can pose the question (more elegantly "why do YOU deserve it but UNELECTED Americans don’t?")

We need to craft a paper about who the Democrats are or should be.  They are not people who repeal first and worry about what happens later.  I think we waste our time talking about the fact that Trump et al are morons, rather start talking about "US" as the alternative.  Who are we? I think the George McGovern,  “what it means to be a Democrat,” would be helpful.

Attacks on the media, and the intelligence and security agencies is very stupid. How do we embrace them... and the veterans in a real way. 

It would be terrific to put together an unlikely strategy group, people who are unrecognized “leaders."   This does not include the present DNC leadership because there is none. We don't need to spend anytime debating present legislation or what they have done.  True  leaders travel their own road with their own ideas.  The big question is, how do we create jobs HERE for people -- how do we train our workforce for the future. How do we fulfill the promises of future care for those who have paid into the system for decades?   It's not enough to just make a list of past Democratic accomplishments, no matter how important. We need to talk about what we want the future to look like for our children and every child who is growing up in this country.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Monday, July 17, 2017

Me Thinkest Not

It’s not funny to have an injury of any kind but as I have said many times, you have to have a sense of humor about life and whatever it brings. Last Friday, when I was about to walk Ty, I missed the last step and went down.The wall my head went into won the battle.  My cousin described it in ballet terms, which was very funny, but I went to the hospital, stayed overnight and they put six staples in my head.  My ankle looks like an elephant trump — not like the President he’s a horses ass. Anyway there were cute male nurses and young doctors in the emergency room so it was fun to be there.  However, they insisted on taking me to go to a room. Not as much fun, but nice people.  It was an overnight observation that  took an extra day because releasing me took another day.  When we got home David plugged in the heating pad and all the lights went out in the house and it appears, in the entire neighborhood.  David went out and looked around. There was an accident somewhere, lines were down, and 2500 people were denied their light.  Obviously, it wasn’t a heating pad, but that was also funny.  This morning we went to the orthopedist.  Oh, I forgot I was getting around in an office desk chair with wheels, that was also funny.  Especially when David let go of the chair and I started to roll backward.  “It’s Ok” I said, “It will stop when I get to Joan’s.”  (My cousin who lives at the bottom of the hill.)  Moving on, a bit of a not good pun, The Doc gave me a boot for my ankle and hooray, I can get around.  I’m fine, just a little tired from pushing myself around in an office chair.   

NPR and PBS both printed or read the Declaration of Independence and the reaction from Trump supporters was that it was liberal garbage from the fake media.  Who are these people that never took a history or civics class.  OMG.  There are so many Trump supporters who don’t  understand what Medicad  is. What it means  to them, their children and elderly parents.  They don’t get that Medicare is not an entitlement, that it is earned money for working so hard during their working years. It is hard  to write about this guy without calling him names.  And that makes me sad because during all my years in politics and government I always respected the Presidency… I didn’t have to like the President.  But Trump doesn’t respect the Presidency so how can anyone else?

This is going to be an eclectic blob. 

It has been a difficult few weeks what with losing another dear friend and having my dearest tootsie in the hospital (My cousin Deb), so I have been a little distracted which may explain my klutzy behavior, or it may be I’m just a klutz.  And speaking of klutz’s, how does anyone think that Trump, his kids, and his friends, are operating on the level with the American people.  People wanted a change but this?  Deception, lies, and incompetence?  He has been in office for some 25 weekends and has spent all but five at his properties.  One at Camp David.  Being in DC is part of the job description. There has never been a commuter President. Yes, for years President’s didn’t have the ability or lack of moral core to stay at luxury resorts every weekend, but doesn’t his constituency kind of wonder what’s real about this guy.  This week is his “Made in America” week.  But neither he, nor Ivanka, nor any member of the “fam”  have their products made in America.  It’s such a farce.  How does he do this stuff and keep a straight face. He actually thinks that “the bigger the lie, the likelihood of people believing it, increases.”  Me thinkest not. Maybe people who have a moral core and are capable of analytical thinking don’t actually know how to  achieve success. Is this what we what to teach our children, lying works better than the truth? Me thinkest not. Truly, sometimes lying is more advantages, but the right thing to do?  Me thinkest not. Maybe if you are among the rich you think there is a dispensation from telling the truth.  Me thinkest not.


Me thinkest many things. Not all of them correct, but all of them meant with the best intentions and hopefully filled with humor.  We’re Just Sayin’….Iris

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

On July 4th, 2017

I think it struck me when I saw a reference to "it's 241 years since the Declaration of Independence...." and it freaked me out a little bit, as I remember with great clarity the Bi-Centennial, and the verve and energy which accompanied so many events of that year (duh... yea we're talking 1976.) I was in the first year of working with Bob Pledge and our new agency -- Contact Press Images' official start date was in April '76 I think, and at that point the world was still our oyster, as magazine photographers. The marketplace of photojournalism was so different from today: there were magazines (for me, principally Newsweek & TIME) who wanted to beat the competition every week, and they had both pages and budgets with which to try and do so. It meant that if you came to an editor with an idea that was even remotely serviceable, and it could result in a story or more importantly, in the raising of a story from 'ordinary' to 'color act,' the money would be there for you to give it a go. And the money was always accompanied by enthusiasm, the kind of enthusiasm for the work which I think they try to imbue in students at J-school (I never went.. so it's just a guess.) Working with those TIME and Newsweek correspondents was usually a treat. They were smart, well-informed, savvy about how to act in weird places, and very often well connected, so you didn't spend too much of your precious time just trying to get your bearings on the ground.

By contrast, the technology available to us was so much less sophisticated than today's world as to seem almost laughable. This was the period pre- cellphone, pre-internet, pre-computer, pre-cable tv. Our cameras shot film, and when you looked at the back of your camera, the most you would ever see would be the end label from a Kodachrome box to remind you what film was inside. The one thing we never left behind was a small Sony shortwave radio. With your little Sony (and for some reason, as the technology kept changing and smaller radios would appear on the market - my Sygma pal Jean-Pierre Laffont would always have the tiniest, most compact of shortwaves) you could bring in BBC World Service ("... at the sound the chimes of Big Ben, it will be 19 hundred hours, Greenwich Mean Time....") or VOA (Voice of America) and find out what was actually happening in the world. Very often, as happened several times in Iran during the Revolution, I would hear about something on BBC that was happening five minutes from my hotel, and would never otherwise have known about it. ) Keeping in touch on the Sony was the one lifeline you had when you were otherwise in some colorful but remote place (Quetta, Ayers Rock, Canon City Colorado...) making pictures for a future day.

I remember being in Tokyo in late June, and into early July of 1976. The night of July 4, I'd gone to a disco with some journo friends, and we got back to the hotel very, very late. Even now it feels like it must have been 3 in the morning or so. Back in the room, I flipped on the TV (which had all of about 4 channels), and watched the Tall Ships sail at their inordinately slow pace through the New York harbor. It was far more a still picture than it was a dynamic "tv" image. Yet it was the culmination of all those pre-BiCentennial events and celebrations. Standing in a hotel room in the middle of the night, watching a scratchy b/w image on tv seems, in retrospect, like such a different time ago. It was as if the age of film was its own kind of an age of innocence, and once the digital image, and its many creators were unleashed upon society, things would never be the same. Everyone with a phone is a photographer. And there are still some actual photographers roaming around the world taking photographs with the incredible current crop of digi cams. And while we try to keep and maintain all those digital pictures, there is something still a little disruptive about NOT having negs and slides - things you can hold in your hand - physical manifestations of our photographs. I don't really expect to be here in another 41 years, though you never know, but I suspect that the love and joy we had for our pals Kodachrome and Tri-x from those years at the end of the 20th century will have transformed yet again into something that none of us photographers can even ponder. I sure hope it's as much fun as I've had these forty one years. We're just sayin'...   David

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Adieu Carl Wagner

There is no good time to lose a friend. Sometimes you know they are sick and have a warning. Other times it comes from nowhere and your response is simply screaming “Oh My God!” as many times as possible because you don’t believe it is possible for that person not to be around, or even more disturbing to know you will never see them again.  For people who have worked primarily in Presidential politics and because we usually see one another every four years, you think it would be easier.  The time apart  doesn’t make us love one another any less, it’s just a reality.  We sometimes lose touch during the four years, but when we see each another, it’s like no time passed.  With Carl Wagner it was a little different.

With Carl, everything was different.  (“Coulter, Coulter  what is your 7/8?”) — don’t try to figure it out. If you know, you know, if not,  just move on).  Carl was a wild man. Not in any negative way — although there were people who didn’t like him. But he had not time for negative people or negativism about anything he thought would work to move a campaign forward. Not everyone thought he was a genius, but the few of us who did were always anxious to hear his next idea. And inevitably we would somehow wind up involved.   No matter how nuts.

A few months before the campaign season, which was shorter for us dinosaurs, then it is  now, he would call me, we would meet for lunch and he would start in the same way “So what are we going to do for this next campaign.  There were usually a few would-be candidates who had announced.   If not, Carl would still know who they would be. We would go thru his list of potential Presidents and he would muse about their capabilities. One year he managed to convince me I should work for the actor (Tom Laughlin)  who played Billy Jack.  One year we decided that since we didn’t like anyone,  we would run Lee Iacocca —without his permission. Lee was not happy.  In fact he was adamant about not running.  But you could only work for candidates who were unannounced. We raised substantial funds and spent it on lovely lunches and dinners where we talked about what might have been.  Then he convinced me to work for Ross Perot — just to see what it would be like. It wasn’t like a campaign. They picked me up in a limo and put me up in a nice hotel.  After 10 hours I quit.  We always had a great laugh — at  my expense.  

In 1992 we decided that we should coordinate all the Democratic Primary Debates,  We called ourselves Debates 92.  We convinced the  Networks we had total access to the candidates, and the candidates believed we had total access to Networks.  With the help of Eric Sklar and Sara Farnsworth we hired our own people to represent each candidate so consequently, for once,  there was no  personal staff drama. OK The candidates almost came to blows, but that was no big deal.  We had such chutzpah. 

Back to the 70’s briefly. Carl was gorgeous.  Every woman in every campaign was smitten.  Once when we were in Philadelphia I had to share a room with him. It was so intimidating, I went to sleep at 8pm and ignored any meeting I was supposed to have. I shared that  story with him at some point and he said, “that’s why we’re still friends.”  His wife was amazing and Alex (his daughter was breathtaking.  When we learned that the Alex on MSNBC (and now CBS)  was “our Alex” we all carried on like she was ours.  Carl was so proud.  We talked about how brilliant she was, and of course, how she had Carl’s street smarts. He did admit she was much nicer than he was.  But nice was not something we looked for in a Carl campaign — when he was thinking it was always fascinating. Yep, sometimes he was a God and sometimes he was an asshole because he wouldn’t take care of himself.  


Those of us who considered ourselves  friends of Carl’s loved him, envied  him, trusted him, counted on him, and worried about him all the time.  Those who were his friends knew we would hear from him or he would also call us back.  He was the first person in my phone contacts, so every time I butt dialed, it was to him.  And he would simply say, “I guess it’s that time to get together” …. and we usually did.  Trouble simply wasn’t as much fun if Carl was not a part of it.

I will miss you my friend, try to rest in Peace, which we all know will be difficult for you.  We’re just sayin’.. Iris

Friday, June 23, 2017

Re-Looking At the Election



This was written right after the election and we were still being optimistic about the disaster of Trump.

Boy was I wrong! 

What we never guessed was that he is  going to destroy the government.  That's what he wants to do.  And because none of his people know anything about the government, they are likely to achieve their goal.

January 2017
This morning when I awoke I had a number of messages that asked, “What do we do now?”  It was impossible for me to reply because my first thought was to get up and go teach.  Last night on my way to walk Tyrone I had a terrible fall.  It’s all OK but my second thought was to take an Aleve.  At about 3:30 am, while the TV played and replayed the polling map. Here’s my real polling question.

Podesta made his speech and Hillary called Trump to concede, it was like watching “Theater of the Absurd”.  But when I went to class. with the sensational students— who always have incredibly millennial  insights,  and I felt better.  In addition, I have always said “if you don’t have a sense of humor, you don’t belong in politics  — or any business.”

We elected a President who appears to be a racist, a sexist, is vile in his rhetoric and awful in his beliefs. beliefs, and has no moral core. We all need to make sure that Trump is called out on all the horrible things he intends to do.  Under no circumstances should we just let it go.  In his victory speech he reminded us that what he has done over the last year was, to create movement, not a campaign. Trump touched something in the “Lost and forgotten” electorate.   Hillary will win the popular vote, but Trump takes the Electoral College.  i’ll get back to that when I finish ranting.

In answer to the question what should we do now?  My first thought is to forgive all the pollsters for being wrong.  ALL the pollsters were wrong but with the exception of Wisconsin and Michigan, the pollsters were within the margin of error.  That doesn’t make me feel any better but given all the variables that impacted on the results of the election, they need to be forgiven.  The question is, why were the Hillary pollsters not able to see what was happening.  Were they not able to predict a diminished electorate and an off track GOTV operation. Blame is pointless. 

What were the variables about which i speak? The Bernie Sanders fans were still very angry.  The millenials  did not jump on the Hillary machine.  They didn’t like or trust her. They didn’t care that she would have been the first woman President. Older women cared, but it wasn’t enough of a reason to get out and vote. Generally, both Republicans and Democrats were exhausted from the campaigns, the commercials, the media, the telephone calls, and the arguments with their opponents, friends and family.  People just wanted the whole thing to go away. And it has, except for the damage to the stock market and my soul.  I don’t think that in my lifetime there will be a Woman in the White House. We leaned that women can still be abused, physically and mentally.  There will still be men and women who work to take away from us the decisions about  control of our bodies, , we will not make as much money as our male counterparts, decisions about the people we love must have religious boundaries. And there is still a glass ceiling everywhere we  look.

OK that’s the bad news.  The good news (and you need to consider these all together.)  Trump was a Democrat a few years ago.  He believed in choice and promoted women in business.  He never thought he was going to win, but being the most important person in the world appealed to his egomaniacal power hungry personality.  He has forced Democrats to to look at the Democratic party with new eyes , that are looking for a Party and Candidates who are young smart, determined, and as my friend Hillary said — look like America. She won the popular vote, so we know there are people who have a moral core.  The good people who say they will  leave the country should absolutely not consider that.  We need people who are morally outraged. 

And the best news , government is not a business. They don’t work the same way. Trump  knows nothing about the ,bureaucracy so he will have a hard time getting anything done.  The Republicans and Democrats in Congress are not happy about him.  They are afraid of his power and what will be his inability to get stuff done. They like the status quo.  We will all be OK, but  only if we are vigilant and active in monitoring what he does that will affect our lives.  And it doesn’t matter if it’s a wall, health care, immigration, racial bias or for that matter any bias.

There are nearly 10,000 politically appointed jobs in the government.  The new administration must place people in the jobs.  Trump didn’t run the kind of campaign where there were people who could fill these positions.  He has no clue.  It will be a mess — but only in DC. You know how the US government shuts down for weather but it doesn’t matter to anyone else in this great nation. That’s what the chaotic government transition will be. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Loss of Two Friends

Two of the people I loved unconditionally passed away during the last month. Sure there are lots of people you may love, but not without boundaries. People who, no matter what they do or say, will always be in your life, even after they leave this earth and, as they say in “Hamilton,” — “go to the other side.”   Going somewhere after you die is a concept that makes me happy.  Ending relationships or even being separated from good friends make me sad. No one enjoys being sad so goodbyes are not what I do. Shalom is OK because it is not as permanent. It is more hello and goodbye, more “I’ll see you again.”

It seems like yesterday but the first time Sara came into my life was in 1972.  The McGovern campaign. Everyone in the world claims to have worked in that campaign. But at the time we were a small number of people and so we knew names and often we had the chance to meet the actual person.  Sara was never anything but an actual person.  Over the years we kept meeting one another at airports, campaign headquarters, or events — some glitzy others absolutely ordinary.  But when Sara was around nothing was ordinary.  Nothing.


In 1976. after I moved to DC, which was where Sara lived, we saw one another all the time.  But the time I always ask about was when we were at a fundraiser for someone or something. Politics then as not the same as it is today. When the “Carter” people (staff, media, and Secret Service) moved to DC, we didn’t need to make new friends because all our friends came with us.  Fun was easy to find. even if was dangerous. In  politics there were often situations that could be considered dangerous, but that’s another story.  Anyway, Sara was a hoot.  We were at a party for who knows what, and I was there with a campaign friend named Gabriel Guerra. Sara did not pause for a second, as soon as she saw us she yelled, “Does your mother know you go out with Puerto Ricans?” Gabriel and I dissolved into laughter. The mostly Hispanic crowd took a beat for a quck moment and then did the same. Sara did not have a bigoted bone in her body.  She treated everyone, regardless of race, culture, religion and sexual presence with the same respect. The only thing she found intolerant were people who were bigots or who spewed  bullshit.  At 98 Sara was still working and I think she was still driving.  Or at least pointing the car in the right direction and stepping on the gas.  

The happiest I ever saw her was at her son’s wedding. The second happiest was on the podium with Hillary Clinton to celebrate her success. Many of her obits, and they were numerous, described her as the woman who drove Hillary to Arkansas and told her not to marry Bill.  Hillary didn’t listen. Which was unusual because all of us always listened to Sara.  She was so smart, savvy, and knowledgable.  Excellent plain good instincts and common sense.  But being Hillary’s friend was certainly not all of whom she was.  She was not religious but she belonged to a Temple and went to Services.  She was a advocate for women, children, peace and so much more.  It was always terrific to see her at her apartment, a meal, an event or on an adventure.  For example, we often went to some middle of nowhere IKEA for meatballs — and it truly was an adventure.  Although there are lists of things she could teach you, or issues in which she was interested, the lists weren’t who she was. Saraloved  her kids, big beautiful jewelry, my Mothers golden sneakers, and a great meal.  You simply can’t describe Sara in a page, an essay,  or even a book.  The simple fact is, I loved her complexities and her simplicity.  

There are people still in my life with whom I went to Nursery School and High School.  Ronnie was someone with whom I went to high school and who has been in my life since we were thirteen. We met in some class and he made me laugh about who knows what.  Making someone laugh is always a good start to an ever lasting relationship.  As with most high schools, there was a clique, but ours was bigger than most and included boys.  Joyce, the woman who he married, was also a close high school friend.  My house was two blocks from the school and because we were all kind of the Principal’s pets, we went to my house for the study halls we had before and immediately after lunch. That gave us hours to go to my house, have lunch and watch soap operas. Ronnie taught me how to drive cars that had automatic and stick shifts.  Once he was satisfied that I knew what I was doing, there was the Ronnie test.  He took me in a car with a “stick” where?  On a hill.  We pulled up in front of a giant hole and told me I needed to pull forward or go in the hole.  He confessed that he would not get me out. We both celebrated my victory with ice cream at a local hangout.  He then took me to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get my license, which I did. Once I had my license, he allowed me to drive his new Edsel, (a car which was a total disaster), all two blocks to my house for lunch. Something terrible always happened.  In fact, one day the door fell off and we carried it into the lunchroom. Ronnie didn’t get angry.  He never got angry. Maybe at the kids a few times, but it never lasted.  Over the years we celebrated births, weddings, holidays, children’s birthday parties and meals, together.  His kids were a year older and a year younger than my son, so the kids became friends as did my much younger daughter.  

There were times when we disagreed. During the Viet Nam war, he served while I protested. We knew if we had a conversation about it, we would have a fight, so we didn’t talk about it. Nothing was worth jeopardizing our friendship. We talked about everything but the war. He was always there — good times and trying times. There was never a time he said No. When I got arrested (another story) in the middle of the night. he came to get me out .  He was always for me, as well as all his friends, the one call everyone made when you had only one call.  He always had a smile on his face and a toothpick in his mouth.  And though it appeared to be normal, he only liked one kind.   After he went to the other side, my cellphone broke, and even in death he rescued me, when I used his “flip phone”.  He didn’t need all the crap like they have on smart phones.  He just used it to talk to people.  He thought he was smart enough.

Ronnie and Joyce were married for a  long, long time. They were always together because he did the cooking and all the shopping. Joyce got confused with too many choices.  The other day, I got out of bed and turned around to see a still sleeping David.  Wow, I thought, what would I do if the was no longer there — forever.  And we don’t spend every day together. At this point in our lives, having invested so much time in our marriages, I cannot even come close to imagining what the loss must be for Joyce.  

We try to talk everyday. But I am reluctant to tell her that as time passes it will get  better.  It will get farther away, and she might start to live her life without him, but the loss is so great, none of us, especially Joyce, will ever get over it. 


And  so goodbye my dear friends. I am confident I will see you on the other side.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The Cain't Mutiny

In the realm of you couldn’t make it up.  We are a the Palm Beach Airport and I see this woman about 150 feet away pushing her bag in a wheelchair.  She lifted the rope, got into the handicapped line, took her bag off the wheelchair, got into the chair, and waited for a Jet Blue attendant to push her on to the flight. Don’t strain thinking about any of this , there will be pictures.  It was the worst line getting ready to board we had ever seen.  The Jet Blue staff was trying to clear the line and everytime he said, “we need this area cleared”, people who were blocking the way just looked at him, as though he was speaking Cantonese, and never moved an inch.  There was one elderly couple who tried to board early.  They were sent to the back of the line, which they didn’t do. They got out of line and stood on the side. Despite their pleas for mercy, they were rebuffed —over and over again.  We boarded before the issues were resolved. MAYBE  they got on, and maybe they didn’t.
for clarity's sake, it was the woman on the left
“And it’s going to be really really good. You’ll see”.  This seems to be Trumps favorite thing to say — it doesn’t matter the issue.  Everything will be "really really good”  Speaking of good, Melania now has an official White House portrait that looks like  a Glamour Magazine cover.  Never mind, there’s so much else to talk about why should I bother picking on Melania.

Back to the flight.  We are sitting at the airport prepare to be inconvenienced by the Trump visit to what has become the southern White House.  He goes nearly every weekend to play golf and host a head of State.  Here’s a question.  Is a foreign head of state happy to be hosted at Query-Lago (changed the name because it is a question) or are they insulted not to hosted as an official and t the White House?  This is a real question for which I don’t have an answer.

Many people have suggested that Drump (because that’s the way he makes me feel) should be impeached. This doesn’t “really, really” help.  Even if he is impeached he gets to stay in office. Remember Bill Clinton was impeached.  So that is not a solution.  Other people have suggested we should just “lock him up”, with his friend Flynn. At night hey could sing each other lullabies about what they could have done to eliminate the government if they hadn’t been arrested.  It almost sounds obscene — well, right at this moment in history, it is obscene.

So what to do?  You remember the film ,”The Caine Mutiny”. If not go see it on Netflix.  It is about a naval captain who is totally insane, so the crew  mutinies.  That’s what need so happen.  We have a lunatic at the helm and he needs to be “locked up”, “locked away”, taken away from the ship of state.  There is no problem finding reasons why this should be done.  We could start with all the lies. We could move to governing by tweets.  We can go on to discuss his inability to understand foreign policy which might lead to a war with North Korea or Syria, the choice is yours.  Or we might discuss abuse of human rights, the freedom of the press, immigrants, or the 36% approval rating.  And on and on and on….

But who takes the first step toward this mutiny?  By all rights it should be the media, who report the fake news.  Or it should be the Congress, who know that this lunatic doesn’t know what he’s doing.  In the end, it will have to be the people who are suffering the decisions he has made.

David always says that the anchors on the local news are simply playing at being journalists.  In the same sentence we might say that Drump is merely playing at being President.  Never forget “All the worlds a stage, and the people merely players”. Someone bring down the curtain.  We're just sayin'....Iris

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Road Warriors - Then and Now

When we had the energy to work on Presidential campaigns, and it does take energy -- at least the way we did it-- which was without any help, we called ourselves Road Warriors.  We had no assistance, no money (unless we raised it ourselves), never a guarantee of a place to sleep, or an idea of where we would go the next day. We washed our clothes in a bathtub because we never knew how long we would be anywhere. If we ever talked with HQ it was in a phone both, jangling a handful of quarters, quarters which we probably had to raise on our own.  You might say, “it was the best of times and the worst of times”.  We had limited expectations of what the campaign could provide. And we were grateful when there was any assistance provided from “National HQ”. 

Imagine how surprised  I was when NBC annointed the traveling staff, covering the campaign, “road warriors.”  Which by the way, they were not.  They were young, smart, journalists, who travelled with the campaigns.  This road warrior got paid, they knew where they were sleeping, were never out of touch more longer than an iPhone touch, and the networks made sure they were fed, because they were members of a union, maybe two.   In addition, they knew that after the campaign they would have a job for which ever network they represented. This was certainly not the case for campaign staff warriors. First your candidate had to be victorious. Then you had to compete with every other campaign staffer who also wanted a job. Everything you did in and round the campaign was truly a battle.

“Advance people,” the people who travelled ahead of the Candidate, were responsible for everything that happened to the candidate from the time the candidate arrived at an event to the time they left. It didn't matter what kind of an event. Everything from  checking sound and lights, to flushing toilets for the Press.  Picking up Press and Staff luggage and making sure it got where it needed to be.  These new so-called “road warriors” never battled more than an angry press secretary.

Maybe I should be pleased about the continuation of the label. But somehow the“warrior”part is only for people that were at odds with just about everyone with whom they had dealings, except other Advance people. Everyone hated them/us, or at the very least found us annoying, That includes other campaign staff like the State coordinators, directors and fund raisers. Because we did battle for the candidate, and the candidate ultimately depended on us, far more than desk staff or local political people.  We had access to the Candidate. Usually close proximity. We briefed, advised, and made on the spot political decisions.   Some of those responsibilities are no longer the job of the advance person, but they still remain responsible for doing "the battle".

Anyway, how about that Sean Spicer and where is Kelly Anne?.  The President came into office without one day of government experience and surrounded himself with people who also had no experience. You cannot drain the swamp if you don't know how the government works. It's not like the private sector, where if you are the person in charge, everyone has to listen and obey.  Nope. We should all be grateful for this. Except he can sign an executive order which might just destroy the environment and other treasured resources-- or freedoms, or people's lives.

Thinking is depressing. We all need to concentrate on the the tasks that make us happy and the people we love with the knowledge the President must be absolutely miserable not being able to get his own way.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fifty Years On....

Like a few of my colleagues (David K, are you listening?) this year marks a rather major milestone for me as a photographer.  I came into photojournalism the same way a lot of my friends did: I signed up for the High School Yearbook, clueless about what the photo staff did, but became completely entranced when I saw that first 8x10 sheet of Medalist come to life in the Dektol of Mr. Blackham’s darkroom.  That was junior year of High School, and I got the bug.  I began shooting almost everything, and within a few months was trying to sell pictures at the local weekly paper (which my cousins bought the next year, and kept me on in what became my first and only “Staff” position.)  Basketball games were a good chance to try and shoot the first half, then drive quickly downtown and hope that the Salt Lake Tribune might a) care about that game and b) not having their own photog there, actually buy one of yours for $5 (and give you your exposed film back), give you a fresh roll of film, and then to top it off, put your name next to it in the paper.  Hailing the next day’s paper to see what it looked like was one of those exciting moments which I came celebrate both the pain and joy of in the magazine years.  
I went off to college in 1964 armed with my supposed smarts in advanced math, with the idea of building Moon rockets for NASA. But my math skills seemed to have given way to my photographic eye, and even though there were no photo classes at Colorado College, I shot on my own, sold weekend prints to the drag strips I would frequent (when you sold 20 pictures at a buck each, you realized that twenty bucks was a pretty good haul for a weekend in the early 60’s and a chance to have your ear drums blown out by a AA/S Automatic Hemi.  Talk about fun!





the Grateful Dead  June 1967 - New York

Spring break of Junior Year, this was 1967, I bought a cheap (as they were then) United Air Lines ticket to New York, and spent a week trying to find a summer gig in the city.  In those days there were tons of classified ads in the Times  Help Wanted for Studio Assistant,etc., and while I did see a couple of them, that wasn’t my main aim.   My aunt had a good friend from Kansas City who had come for dinner the Sunday before I left, and as it happened she had an old pal, Ruth Lester, whose job it was to look at portfolios off the street for LIFE magazine.  A quick call was made, and I was invited to come see Ruth, showing off my pictures (which were, frankly, pretty lame….) in an attempt to get some kind of  summer gig.  Most of the magazines that did hire college kids limited their applicants to PhotoJ majors - usually from Missouri.  But I met a few contacts - friends of friends, who would call a photographer and ask if they would see me. (Steve Horn at Horn/Griner.  Katherine Abbe, are two I recall.)   I so remember the kindness that was paid to me, and have honestly tried over the years to return the favor to young photographers who want to talk about the business.  
Ruth was very welcoming, though I remember being so damn up tight on the 29th floor of the Time Life building, where LIFE Edit offices were.  Looking around you could see names on office walls who you had only ever seen on a page in the magazine.  She had, she said, nothing, but offered to call the Time B/W Editor (in the late 60s, the magazine could only use color with a couple of week’s advance, and so most pictures were in black & white, and that is what they spent most of their time working on.)  The Editor, Barker T Hartshorn was a jaunty New Englander, who I recall (Arnold I’m sure will correct me) wearing a lot of bowties.  In his charge was a large room of office cubbies, staffed by the women researchers (in those days, “Women” were the “Researchers”… it was one of those last (?)  bastions of male chauvinism) including Alice Rose George, Michele Stephenson [who became Photo editor twenty years later], and the unforgettable Evelyn Merrin.  “Bo” Hartshorn, as he was known, was very welcoming, and for reasons I have never truly understood, apparently saw in me someone who could eventually be of worth to both him and to the Magazine.  I briefly met Charlie Jackson, who was the overall editor in charge of pictures, and working with him, a  youngish editor named Arnold Drapkin, who was still a kid.  I left the building that day with no idea of what had transpired, other than I knew I’d been in the TIme-Life building, and that was pretty damn cool.  It was another three weeks later that I received the letter from Charlie Jackson offering me a 3 day per week internship at $85 per week.  How could I beat that?!  Couldn’t.  I can still remember the feeling of anticipation as I walked in from school the day the letter arrived. My  mom had placed it on my bed, the blue tinted envelope with the TIME logo sitting almost helplessly on the brown corduroy bedspread.  I don’t know if I ever opened a letter with such excitement.
I spent the summer in New York (for a month), Washington DC under the tutelage of Wally Bennett, the TIME staffer ( 6 weeks) and back in NY for a couple of weeks at the end of the summer.  I still had another year of college to go, but I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to work for a magazine.  Space, page size, and of course the attention that came with something which reached 25 milliion readers every week.  
My first few days that summer were a bit dodgy.  There was really nothing set up for me when I arrived in New York on the morning the 6-Day war started, so they just cleared one of the extra desks and that became my space.  There were still a number of NYC daily newspapers, and each day as they made the rounds, the papers would pile up on  my desk. I wondered, as I sat there in my coat & tie, my huge “everything I own in it” camera bag next to me, when I would have a chance to do something.   Sometime late in my second week, as I was about ready to give up in despair, Michele Stephensen, whose cubbie was just around the corner from my desk, gave a yell…”David!”   I sprung to life, grabbed my bag and asked her what was up.  “There is a new President of J Walter Thompson… Dan Seymour… he’s leaving town in half an hour, so get over there and see if you can make a portrait…”   I hauled ass out of the building, found a cab on 6th avenue, and sat nervously as the cab went almost no where in the slow sluggish traffic.  I hopped out, grabbing my WorldsLargestCameraBagWithEverythingIOWNinIT and ran the last half dozen blocks.  I was shown upstairs to Seymour’s office , panting like a race horse, and as he talked on the phone, shot about 30 frames on my one roll.  He hung up the fone, I shot the rest of the roll, him looking at me with the expression of someone who feels his wallet has just been lifted, and that picture was what ran in TIME  “The Weekly Newsmagazine” the next week.   I had to make a real decision. Michele (whose mom, as it turned out, had gone to high school with my mom in Salt Lake) asked me that most important of questions:  “Do you want the credit line to be Dave or David?”   It took a few seconds to react, but I decided that it was, safe for Facebook, the last time I would be known as Dave.  That next week became very collegial as many of the magazine’s regulars   -  David Gahr, Peter Polymenakis, and Burt Berinsky, among others, all said something nice about having my “first picture” published.  
Every week there was an adventure of some kind.  Photographing private aircraft for a story on General Aviation,Vietnamese business women touring the states, etc.    And one day, I had another of those over the cubbie-wall screams for my name  — this time it was Linda George.  She had another of those “get down there NOW!” jobs.  There was a band playing a free concert in Tomkins Square Park in the East Village (decades before it was remotely gentrified) and please get down there and make some pictures.  I was not exactly the greatest of rock & roll trivia experts, but young people who I’ve met over years still can’t believe I’d never heard of The Grateful Dead.  I arrived as they were playing in a small bandstand, and with several hundred devoted listeners having taken lunch off to hear them play.  I hopped on stage, and to me Pigpen was THE guy to photograph.  He looked as if he’d been there a half dozen lives already, and made for a good picture. At one point a young boy, probably lost from his pals (or mom?) broke out into tears on stage in the middle of a song.   I’m sure he ended up making it home ok, but it made for one of those pictures that you remember. Not because it’s a great picture, just because it’s a kind of weird moment.   Who is that guy?  He would now be in his mid or late 50s, and somewhere, I’m sure, has a very distinct memory of freaking out at the Dead concert.   
Fifty years is a long time to be doing anything, and I have to admit that had it been anything other than photography, I probably would have moved on.  I’m still kind of sorry I didn’t drive dragsters or work on the Saturn V  Apollo rocket program.  I studied Poli Sci in college, but have never run for anything other than one semester as Kappa Sig Grand Master.  You never really know where life will take you, but as long as you are able to be open to the things which present themselves you can make a life which won’t be full of regret.  I keep thinking that from the Class of ’46 —-   Donald Trump born June ’46, George W Bush born July ’46, Bill Clinton August ’46, that I, born in September ’46 should have really been the next President.  It would have made for a helluva lot less “Fake News,”  progress might actually have been made on a number of social challenges, and boy, would the pictures that the White House photographers make be damn good, or what!?  I don’t really  feel that bad about missing out on being POTUS, and I feel lucky and honored that I have seen as a witness with a camera so much of what has gone on in our time - in a hundred countries - over the last fifty years.  What better wish can a photographer have hoped for, other than, of course, ‘don’t fuck up.’   We’re just sayin’… David





Wednesday, March 15, 2017

About the Gossip, And the Baby

Sometimes the best laid plans….. Guess how I spent a few days and nights last week?  You won’t guess. Well, my niece went into labor, in the morning.  We figured nothing much would happen until late in the afternoon. But late in the afternoon nothing was happening.  She made the decision that she would have an epidural so she wouldn’t be in any pain.  She spent  most of the day texting.  What else would a millennial do.  When Jordan was born we played Yatzee and Connect Four until I  had a reaction to the 2nd epidural, felt the life rushing from my body, and I had to have an emergency Caesarean section.  When Seth was born it was an unmedicated back labor and it felt like a Mack truck was running me over every few minutes.  What a joy.  They say a woman forgets the pain of childbirth — that’s a lie.  A woman decides to be medicated for her second birth.

Anyway, enough about my traumas, there was still no action in the evening.  At some point, after 12 hours of labor, you are exhausted from the contractions and just want it to be over. That doesn’t always happen. For whatever reason, with group practices, the doctor you like is not always the doctor who is with you during the labor.  There are some doctors who think a woman has unlimited tolerance for pain and she can just keep having contractions for hours and hours and hours.  The doctor she liked was pretty much absent through the whole labor. By 9am, she was no longer amused by what seemed would never be over.  Maybe because I was an older mother, and Jordan was in jeopardy, we all made the decision to have a Caesarean.  But some doctors are just shortsighted.  Who knows?   I’ll get back to that in a minute.

By this time all the aunts, cousins and friends were a wreck.  How long could this go on?  Since you asked, I will tell you — for 20 episodes of Season 5 of “The Gossip Girls”. This is an older series, I think about 2013.  It is horrible.  The acting is awful, the people are disgusting. There is not a character with any redeeming qualities. The story lines are simply stupid.  So who watches hundreds of hours of a television series that is so horrible?  People who are fascinated by clothing.  You cannot believe the wardrobe. Even as teenagers these kids wear the most incredibly fabulous outfits.  They are so wonderful I was able to sit through hours and hours of the most annoying shows ever written, and ever on TV.  But I couldn’t stop.  My viewing  was relentless.

Back to the birth.  Which happened without incident — other than the interminable labor. Anyway,  in the end, she gave birth to a big beautiful healthy girl baby. And as my cousin said, it was fine, but just  like giving birth to a toddler.  And we are all delighted.

Random thoughts about nothing…

If you want to cook chopped frozen kale, be aware that your kitchen will be covered with bitty pieces of kale and it will take forever to clean it up.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Holga Moment

When former Ambassador Joe Wilson ended up on the White House ‘shitlist’ for having dared speak publicly about his report on the lack of uranium shipments to Iraq, he and his wife became the toughest interview in the country.   She - Valerie Plame - was still working in Langley for the CIA as an analyst, and the disclosure that she was working for CIA, by columnist Robert Novak, caused a huge brouhaha as Washington found itself trying to figure out who had blown her cover.  (Eventually it became known that former Under Sec. Richard Armitage had been the one who told Novak.)   It was October of 2003, about a year after Wilson’s Niger trip, and some days after she had been named in Novak’s column.  In theory, divulging the identity of a CIA employee could be a chargeable offense.  Everyone knew WHO Valerie Plame was, but since she still worked for CIA, and no pictures had been published, no one knew what she looked like.  It was an odd juxtapostion for modern journalism.  I had called USNews to see about having them back me to photograph Joe Wilson (and of course having their backing to do so would probably make it easier for me to get to him.)    The conversation with Jen Poggi, the editor started with  something like (“…you need me to photograph Joe Wilson for you…”)  and Jen agreed it was a great idea.   Within a couple of days it was arranged:  “arrive at the Wilson home the following morning at about 8, and you’ll have about an hour…”  

I pulled my car in front of their house the next morning, grabbed my motley crew of gear (Speed Graphic, Holga, and Canons) and was greeted at the door by Mrs. Wilson — Valerie Plame —  in a morning robe. She was getting their young twins ready for the day, and invited me in to the house.  We passed through the kitchen, and I schlepped my gear into the family room, which faced east, and was happy to see the first hard rays of sunshine coming through the trees, and lighting the room nicely.   I’m an available light guy.  And when what’s available is good, I’m all for it.  I set up the tripod and Speed Graphic, and made sure the Holga had a roll of film, before checking my Canon’s to be sure they were charged and ready. 

Joe Wilson came in, we made small talk, and as I often try to do, just began shooting a bit while we were chatting.  Anything you can do to take the subject’s attention off  “being photographed” helps. Usually.  He was pretty easy.   We talked, I shot, we talked and I shot some more.  This was in that period of the early 2000s when on almost every job I had, I tried to shoot at least one roll of 120 b/w in my Holga.  The camera is an odd duck. Imprecise, uneven, full of light leaks, and occasionally a lucky surprise.  I use the Stroboframe quick-release plates on all my cameras, and it makes using a tripod pretty easy.  You can undo one camera and slam another onto the quick-release in just a few seconds.   Normally I would save the Holga for the last bit of the shoot, once I had a feeling that I was covered.  The thing about a Holga, as opposed to any digital camera, or even a film camera like a Hassie or Rollei, is that you have to manually wind, and take note of the next frame number.  It’s like that first Brownie Holiday camera you had when Ike was still President.  You would just wind the film till that next number came into view in the red window on the back then be ready for your next picture.   A great, uncomplicated, efficient way of moving to the next shot.  So, once I got shooting with Wilson, I may have been talking with him, but my eye was concentrating on the numbers on the back of the camera.  The numbers on a roll of Tri-x are pretty visible, but it’s easy to accidently wind past the next number if you aren’t careful.  In an era of 15 frames-per-second on the modern digi cams, the Holga is more like — in high speed mode — about one frame every ten seconds.

I shot, and wound, and shot and wound, all the way through a roll of film, hoping that in the roll might be a good portrait the magazine could use.  We finished, and I packed up, and headed to the US News lab, where I dropped my film.   Later that afternoon I came back to the photo office to see how the pictures looked, and was absolutely jolted to see in the middle of the Holga roll, a frame of Wilson looking into the camera, and behind him, in what was an obviously accidental moment , Valerie Plame in her robe, looking as if she’d started to head upstairs for something, thought better of it, and was about to turn around and head back to the kitchen.  To make it more interesting, she seemed to be in a kind of quizzical stance.  It was one frame.  One Image.  All of a sudden I realized I had a picture I hadn’t bargained for.  We talked about it at the magazine, and everyone decided that since she was still a CIA employee, and since she hadn’t been ‘outed’ visually, that maybe we shouldn’t run the picture. (This story didn’t rise to the level of the Pentagon Papers, or I’m sure we would have.)   The decision bounced around the building, and in the end, they went with a more standard portrait, by standard I mean his wife wasn’t in it.  I called Joe Wilson, and told him about the picture.  He said it would be trouble for them if the picture ran, and we made a gentleman’s agreement not to use the picture until she was no longer under the CIA umbrella.

Even a few months later, at “contest” time, when I talked to him again, Wilson said it would be problematic if the picture became public.  It wasn’t till later that year, once Valerie had left the government, and the Wilsons did the full scale Vanity Fair treatment, did I realize the ‘deal’ was no longer on.  By then, USNews wasn’t really interested in doing a story on the Wilsons and the pictures came back to me and my agency, Contact Press Images.  TIME, on the other hand, was running a story, and they hopped at the chance to use the “one frame.”   It ran nearly two pages, and became one of those pictures which I was happy to have my name on.  When news breaks, and hitherto unknowns become the news headliners — think Monica Lewinsky for one — there tend to be a zillion pictures of them, yet seldom anything of real visual or journalistic interest.  I was lucky this time around.  Sometimes taking your eye off the target — especially when you have to watch those numbers roll across the red Holga window — gets you where you want to be.

photograph ©2017 David Burnett/Contact Press Images