I think I've learned a pretty valuable trait over the last few years.
Let me preface that first by telling you that I was a relatively shy kid; a wallflower at most junior high dances who kept to myself in fear of saying or doing something that I perceived would be monumentally unforgiving in the echelons of high school politics.
Like most of us, I slowly came out of that post-adolescent shell, and now find myself able to carry on conversations with total strangers while I wait in a line at my grocery store.
But one thing of which I've always remained cognizant is someone's privacy. I've always thought it presumptuous to barge into someone's business or their sociologically-sound three foot bubble. Do ya know what "bubble" I'm talking about? That space that's inherently mine? It starts at the tip of my nose and extends out about thirty-six inches; I'll give you permission to enter it once I know you're not a stark-raving lunatic or the halitosis that you may be suffering from could render a nuclear warhead moot, knocking it out of my airspace by merely being near your biohazardous breath.
But, as a photographer, I've learned that sometimes social conventions need to be ignored if there's an opportunity to get a great shot or experience something unique.
When I shot Bill and Hillary Clinton in 2008 I threw conventional wisdom out the window. I went up on the stage, uninvited, and decided to try and shake his hand and snap a few images. I mean, what's the worst that could've happened? Other than the twenty or so secret service guys that could have tackled me, smashed my camera, and tossed me in the pokey it seemed like a smart thing to do.
And it worked. No secret service anal probes were forthcoming, I met the ex-president, invaded his three-foot-bubble, shook his hand and got some great closeups.
I've adopted that mantra ever since and have passed on that wisdom to my son: nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Go for it. Even if you think the girl you want to go out with is out of your league you still owe it to yourself to ask her out. If she shoots you down at least you tried. And if she does? Fuck her! Who does she think she is to deny herself the greatness that is you?
So I attend a local comedy club a few times a month. I've struck up a relationship with the club manager. I've shot about a half dozen comedians in the last year. I usually e-mail their website in advance and attempt to make contact a few months before they make their way to Cleveland. We talk on the phone and I'll set up a shoot with them while they're here on a four-day weekend.
I've had some fun, got to meet some big names in the comedy world, and have taken some great photos.
But Thursday night was a little different.
Dave Foley from "Kids in the Hall," "Newsradio," and the lead voice in Pixar's "A Bug's Life" was in town. My buddies and I went to the show, looking forward to a beautiful night out, even though Opening Day was Thursday and about a million people had converged into Cleveland to watch the Tribe fall to Toronto in what has just hit the record books as the longest Opening Day game in major league history.
So we saw his act. Dave killed; his comedy stylings are right up my alley. His act carefully meandered form topic to topic and hit many of the same issues that I relish: atheism, politics, and the lack of pubic hair on most women.
Apparently, when he first got married a few decades ago the jungle bush was still in fashion. After his second divorce a few years ago and re-entry into the dating world, the bush had all but disappeared. He, like myself, feels that it's kind of strange to be going down on a smooth hoohaw; almost like you're banging a kid. And that's kind of creepy. I miss the hirsute '80s. Not the jungle bush mind you, but the Playboy-circa-1985-bush that is sorely a thing of the past, like laserdiscs, Circuit City and a relatively-sane GOP.
So I met him after the show, took a few photos with him, and then my buddy Jeff asked him if he wanted to join us for dinner. I was a little reticent to get that personal, but he said he was hungry and would love to hang out with us.
Twenty minutes later we're in the Greenhouse Tavern ordering dinner and bullshitting about how he got hired as the voice of the lead ant in "A Bug's Life."
Within minutes the conversation turned away from showbiz and into politics. We then segued into religion and how we atheists are the most under-represented people in our society. We agreed that I would never have a shot at a political office in this country because of my whole stance on God. I got a Dave-Foley-knock-the-rock for that one. We ate wings that were baked in duck fat. Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and "Blazing Saddles" entered the discussion. The manager came out and gave us on-the-house expensive ice cream and custard desserts. We drank a few more beers and then headed over to Flannery's and the stickiest, most disgusting floor I've ever walked upon. Opening Day had taken a toll on the linoleum and my footfalls felt like strips of velcro were attached to my feet.
So we drank some more, he gave us his cell phone number and we ended up leaving him in the company of a few other Clevelanders with the reassurance that he would get back to his hotel room unmolested.
As we stumbled back to the parking garage one of the guys admitted that Dave was a regular guy, just like us. Of course he is, except the fact that I don't get residual checks from Pixar or royalties from "Newsradio" reruns or DVD sales. All kidding aside; he's totally down to earth and a very likable dude.
All in all it was a great night: my buddy Jeff was all smiles, Todd had a good time, and I was content that there were other people in the world that held the same beliefs that I did. I forgot to mention that a hot twenty-seven year old with awesome red hair asked me for my number.
And I even got my Bug's Life blu-ray case autographed.