To mark the passing of Hugh Hefner I’m reposting this from years gone by. RIP Hef. Lord knows you’d need some rest by now. 😉
So let me tell you the story.
I get a call from a BET producer on a Friday night asking if I can go shoot an event for her at the Playboy Mansion the next night. It might come as a surprise to most people but the Playboy Mansion is the site of innumerable charity functions. I’d been up there before. Swam in the grotto pool. Blah blah blah.
But never, slow my rapidly beating heart, had I ever been there with a camera and a press credential.
So of course, I say yes! The problem, however, is that at that time in my life my health was absolutely miserable. So when the next day dawned blisteringly hot, I was both sick and apprehensive.
To get to these things at the Playboy Mansion you have to shuttle over. Actually they’re full-sized buses and you usually depart from a giant multi-level parking garage somewhere else on the Westside of Los Angeles. That was the case when I had my significant and dubious girlfriend of over three decades drop me off at the parking garage.
And I was still feeling very bad. And it was hot as Hades. I gave her strict instructions to be ‘on call’ cell phone on because I knew there’d be a long wait in a smothering parking garage and that I’d probably bail even before the first bus departed.
That was at 5:00 pm west coast time. Girlfriend didn’t hear from me again until near 1:00 am, when she found me lying on the sidewalk where she left me, drenched in sweat, with an absolutely stupid semi-permanent smile plastered on my half-crocked visage.
Yes. I was there a LONG time. I went through three or four different types of event photography all in one night. Red carpet. Long lens daylight candids. Available lowlight shooting. Standard event flash photography with the SB-800 and the 24-70 f2.8 Nikkor.
Lot of great stories. Met a lot of great people, believe it or not.
A pair of young female reporters for an online publication that covers charity events hooked up with me on the bus over. I guess this is when you know you’re getting old and harmless as a guy and maybe just a little pathetic. One of the girls was LOVELY. For a lot of the evening she carried my heavy camera back pack around for me. Are you kidding me? Nice girl, definitely not from L.A.
At one point in the dusky part of the early evening, after sundown but when there’s still some light in the air, and of course there’s plenty of lighting at the event, a heavily geared up Canon shooter came up to me while I was shooting with the 70-200 f2.8 Nikkor. This is in the early days of the D3. He was very irritated with me for some reason and he says, “You know you’re not getting anything with that lens in this light?”
That was right around the time the picture at the top of this post was taken. And this one.
I’m linking to a Flickr slideshow of the images that ended up being used not by BET but another publication. They might appear a little soft in the slideshow as they are only 800x on the long end. It’s the entire gallery of ‘safe’ images.
But I’m also including below a definitevly NSFW slideshow of images that have never been seen by anyone but myself. These are of body-painted girls and when I say NSFW I really mean it! These are not your father’s body-painted naked girls here.
It’s the Playboy Mansion. What’d you expect?
Ali was my idol growing up in the 1960s. He gave me the confidence to be who I am. And to fight, something I had to do a lot of as a kid.
I met him after the Oscars show in 1997 the night the film When We Were Kings won an Academy Award. My mom and I stood across the street from Mortons in a large crowd. Before getting into his limo, Ali crossed the street to the crowd. He wasn’t in good shape even then. When he got to us I embraced him and told him he was my biggest hero as a youth. I then asked him to shake hands with my mom. She stuck out her hand and he brushed it aside and stooped down and gave her a warm hug. We both were in tears. Much love to Ali. He will live forever.
I had a video camera that night. I recorded Ali and George Foreman from across the street in West Hollywood. I had taken my mother to a spot near an Oscar after-party just to give her a thrill. I had no idea that Ali would be there.
When Ali came across the street I continued to record him but when he got close I just let the camera drop. I only have audio of our encounter on tape somewhere. I call him ‘champ.’ I remember my mother is sobbing. She tells Ali, We always loved you.
A decade later I was in Phoenix, AZ. photographing a WNBA playoff game. It was an exciting night anyway. One of those unfortunately rare magic evenings in the WNBA. Incredible playoff atmosphere. I’m on the baseline. Suddenly there’s a roar from the crowd in the U.S. Airways Arena. Muhammad Ali and his wife are in the building. They are on the big screen. I look up and I’m just taken away. An already incredible evening has just gone through the roof.
I look around to see where he is. Where is this person who has meant so much to me in my life? How lucky I am to have crossed paths with him yet again. I look up to my wife (then girlfriend) in the stands. She points behind me. I turn completely around on the floor and there he was, sitting no more than six feet behind me. All I could do at that moment was raise my camera.