Tag Archive for: Los Angeles

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.

One Snowbound Step at a Time

08 Dec 2002
December 8, 2002

I am a Snow Curmudgeon™. I hate the snow. Well, I actually don’t hate hate it. It’s very pretty when you are inside looking out a large picture window with a fire blazing in the fireplace. It’s so quiet and peaceful.

Horoscope for December 8th

It could be like reliving my childhood when my children wake up to find the outside world completely white. Their excitement is unbridled and even infectious. It could be like reliving my childhood if my childhood included snow.

But I grew up in Southern California. Yes, we had snow every so often in the mountains above my house. And, yes, it actually snowed once on our street. The precipitation lasted all day and everyone got to build snowmen on the hoods of their cars. But, my early experience with the white stuff was mainly hearing weather reports stating the snow level to be 5000 feet above my head. Its distance was both alluring and magical to a young boy. It was a safety zone between childhood dreams and real world realities.

But now I live in a different world and a different climate, where dreams meet reality. Washington, DC is not Buffalo, NY (thankfully) but we do, on occasion get some accumulation. Thursday we got seven inches (just about 18 cm). And, given the lessons of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, I’ve learned it’s good to be prepared, even for these more benign weather-induced events.

We’ve got an ergonomically designed snow shovel. And this year I actually got to wear my LL Bean Gortex snow boots. Coupled with my Smartwool socks, my feet are cozy and my back is in good shape (see my reviews of both boots and socks from last season).

But this is where my good nature ends. When I have to actually leave my front door, I realize how deeply I have been molded (to say nothing of being motivated) by my upbringing. I shudder at the thought of having to slow down as I race out the door.

I have to interact with nature. And this is very alien to my L.A. experience (you will remember my various bouts with autumn leaves). As winter enters my life once again, I notice how long it takes me to don my coat, hat, scarf, and gloves. While others walk (and talk!) as they put on their winter gear, I must stop and think about what I am doing. I cannot carry on a conversation nor multitask while involved in this activity.

To go anywhere today I must first shovel my way to the driveway. Once there I must sweep the mound of snow off my car. It has remolded my sedan to look like a more visionary Audi TT (one of the few ethereal pleasures of this man-boy’s snow dreams).

With brush in hand, I begin. I am forced to slow down. The repetitive nature of the task leaves me room to think. And I wonder “why am I in such a hurry?” Being the amateur cultural theoretician that I am I begin to formulate my hypothesis.

Growing up in Los Angeles, I almost never had to consider the weather. Yes, we had “winters” of rain and relative cold (if you can accept 60°F/16°C as cold) but I never had to attend to the weather’s effects. I went about my daily business with regular speed, without thinking about it much at all.

Lack of definitive seasons has induced a sense of timelessness upon the region. Citizens don’t mark time in the same way we do in other parts of the world. And, therefore, it’s easier to think you are as you always were: young, strong, and engaged in your daily program—without interruption. This is why Los Angeles is so youth oriented.

If you are over 25 you are over the hill in Hollywood. The wisdom that comes with old age and many hard-earned experiences means little there. Remaining young, of course, allows us to believe we aren’t old. And the weather is our ally in this charade.

The seasons here have forced me to mark time. And as I brush the snow from my car I stop to consider the pace of my life. The snow is a gentle reminder of, rather than an impedance to my goals. There is nothing I can do to hasten my push forward at that moment. I must methodically and slowly attend to this task before I can move on to the next one. I am totally immersed in the process of existence and not the endpoints of my daily or even life-oriented ambitions. This is my experience now.

There is something special and important about being snowbound.

© 2001-2015 Jeff Gates ISSN 1544-4074