It Came From the National Enquirer

28 Dec 2014
December 28, 2014
John Carpenter and Adrienne Barbeau

John Carpenter and Adrienne Barbeau at the Playboy Mansion, early 1980s. © Jeff Gates

I don’t know what happened to Antonio Bay tonight. Something came out of the fog and tried to destroy us. In one moment, it vanished. But if this has been anything but a nightmare, and if we don’t wake up to find ourselves safe in our beds, it could come again. To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water, into the darkness. Look for the fog.

—John Carpenter’s The Fog

I’ve had two careers in my life: teacher and federal web wonk. But, I’ve had many, many jobs. McDonald’s garbage man and french fry maker, mailman, wedding photographer — you know, the jobs that often filled in the space and my pockets while I was trying to make a go of it. One of the more interesting fillers was photographing for the National Enquirer. Yes, that National Enquirer.

It was the 1980s. My friend, Donna, a writer who, like myself, was trying to forge her own career (she went on to become a well-respected writer) wrote for the Enquirer. It paid well and kept her on her toes. She often enlisted our group of friends to help out on her inquiring adventures. Oh, there was the rumor that President Reagan’s son, Ron, was a ballet dancer (and, with it, the 1980s innuendo that he must be gay). Perfect fodder for the Enquirer (the first part was true; the second not).

One day, she needed someone to photograph the actress Cindy Williams (of Laverne & Shirley fame) in Cleveland Amory‘s room at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Amory, a writer as well as a critic for TV Guide, was also an animal rights advocate. And my friend wanted me to photograph Williams and Amory for a publicity shot for Amory’s Fund for Animals. I was nervous and excited. As an art photographer I wasn’t used to the pressure of getting a good shot for publication. In fact, my artistic sensibility had recently gotten me fired as a photo printer for Joe Weider‘s Muscle magazine in the late 1970s. The images, I was told, were too good and not fit to print.

I got the shot and an Enquirer stringer picked up the undeveloped rolls of film. That was it, except for getting a fat check for an hour’s work. I was hooked. After the shoot, my friend and I went to lunch at a Hollywood eatery. There sitting next to us was actor David Soul. You might remember Soul for his 1976 number one hit “Don’t Give Up on Us.” What!? You weren’t even born yet? Well, maybe you might have seen him on TV Land, starring in that 1970s series Starsky & Hutch.

The Enquirer had just written a story about Soul’s arrest for beating his seven month pregnant wife and my friend leaned over to me and said, “If I can get a statement from him, I won’t have to work for a year!” She walked up to him and asked. Let the record show he declined, albeit with a salty profanity thrown in for good measure. She quietly backed away as she came to terms with having to work the rest of the year.

A few months later, Donna called and said she was going to a party at the Playboy Mansion and did I want to come along. It was work for her and I brought my camera. This is where we came to meet slasher king John Carpenter and his first wife Adrienne Barbeau, star of his horror film (and now cult classic) The Fog. I don’t know why the Enquirer never needed my photos (more than likely, there was no story there). And, going over some of my old negatives yesterday I spied this one of Carpenter and Barbeau. I had never printed it before.

Soon thereafter, my time with the National Enquirer started to fade. They asked me to photograph Sally Struthers (from All in the Family) in front of her personalized license plate that said “Tacky” (because she thought personalized plates were, well, tacky). But, they told me I would have to say I was from some other publication because Struthers hated the Enquirer. I refused. Even as a young turk, I had my ethics. So instead, they told me to go to a pre-school and take photos of children making funny faces. Well, that seemed within my ethical boundaries. I found a Montesori school in upper class Santa Monica but when I realized I was going to have to get permission from every parent, I wondered just how successful I would be. After all, it was the National Enquirer. What parent was going to allow their child to be photographed by that rag? Every parent signed. And, after that job, I called it quits.

I was born in Hollywood and this is my true Hollywood story: not quite film noire nor sensationalist like The Black Dahlia murder mystery. But the fog engulfing my own Hollywood years has lifted.

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