FanPost

Shooting Stars

Given the rather glum current state of affairs (at the time this was posted), here is a light-hearted diversion only indirectly related to the Spurs.

Recently, I read Part 3 of "LatinD Tours the States" for the first time. The account of LatinD and JRW taking photos at the Alamo reminded me of an assignment I had for Kellogg's during the 1996 NBA All-Star Weekend, which was here in the Alamo City. For those of you who have never been in a city hosting the All-Star Weekend, the entire city, not just the arena, turns into one big media circus. The playoffs, as with an All-Star Weekend, will inevitably bring both media folk and basketball fans to our fair city who are less than familiar with our local laws and customs.

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"There are some buses going around the city, and even fake trolleys with internal combustion engines and no rails."
- LatinD

I was hired by Kellogg's to take photos of Grant Hill with Tony the Tiger. (Yes, you read that right.) When the Kellogg's PR rep first called to ask me if I would be interested in the assignment, I really didn't want to do it. It was already a very busy weekend. Like every other photographer in town, I was heavily booked without much wiggle room for the unforeseen contingencies that occur when working on-location assignments.

Also, I wasn't thrilled with the idea of having to alter my schedule just to have the opportunity to photograph Grant Hill. Not that I have anything against Grant Hill, mind you. But with my Spurs photo experience under my belt, not to mention having photographed numerous other well-known people ranging from artists to politicians, I'm not easily impressed with celebrity.

The Kellogg's rep was desperate. I have no idea how many other photographers had already passed on this assignment. Every time I told her, "Thanks for the offer, but I really couldn't add another assignment," she would remind me that I really would be photographing Grant Hill, and "wouldn't that be a great opportunity?"

She kept me on the phone long enough for me to realize the photos were actually with Tony the Tiger who would be present as a person in the Tiger mascot suit and not added as a cartoon character in post-production. I finally decided it didn't matter who else would be in the photos with Tony. She was desperate, after all, and the fee was worth altering my schedule. There are a few celebrities that are just plain GRRRRREAT! (Okay, I have to admit it, if it was David Robinson with Tony the Tiger, I wouldn't have thought twice about taking the assignment.)

The shoot was scheduled for late in the afternoon early in the All-Star Weekend at Trinity University's gym. The photos were for a trade publication article on whatever anniversary, something like the 90th, of Kellogg's.

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The main entrance to the William H Bell Athletics Center at Trinity University

The morning before the shoot I got a call from the PR rep asking if I could add a couple hours to the assignment because they had also made arrangements for me to photograph Tony the Tiger with Cheryl Swoopes who was in town promoting the WNBA, which was set for its inaugural season the following summer. I again had to make a last minute rearrangement in my schedule to do it, but Cheryl with Tony was a shoot I was eager to do. Cheryl and her husband were staying at the Menger Hotel next to the Alamo.

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The Menger Hotel is known as "The most haunted hotel in Texas."

I met Cheryl, her husband, the Kellogg's rep and Tony the Tiger in the Menger's lobby at the scheduled time. Suddenly, I realized I hadn't been told where these photos were going to be taken. The Kellogg's lady said she wanted to do them in front of the Alamo. I almost had a panic attack realizing none of these people knew anything about San Antonio much less the Alamo.

I told the rep we couldn't do them in front of the Alamo because photos including company mascots or logos were illegal there. She was very insistent, though, that that was where we were going to take these photos. Nothing I said would dissuade her. I had already learned from our initial phone conversation how hardheaded and persistent she could be.

We began walking from the hotel to the Alamo. I was literally in a sweat, not because of the air temperature (it was a beautiful, crisp San Antonio February morning), but because I was sure I was going to end up being arrested and in jail before this was all over. Although, now that I stop to think about it, being led into police headquarters with Tony the Tiger in handcuffs next to me could have been a media event unlike any other.

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The iron fencing in the wall we passed on our way to the front of the Alamo
didn't help ease my mind regarding the possibility of our being arrested.

We arrived in front of the Alamo and were greeted by the two Alamo Rangers that are almost always outside the entrance when the Alamo is open. Suddenly, the Alamo employees emerged seemingly on cue from the building and asked if they could have their photos taken with Tony the Tiger. The rep agreed probably thinking that would buy her leverage to do the actual photo shoot there. I took probably twenty frames of the various employees with Tony the Tiger.

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Even on a quiet afternoon, there are always groups of people in front of the Alamo.

After taking the last of those photos, the Kellogg's rep asked Cheryl to stand next to Tony the Tiger so I could begin the photo shoot. As soon as Cheryl and Tony were side by side, one of the Rangers stepped in between them and me. He explained to the rep that it was against the law to do photos that included a company mascot, even one with the stature of Tony the Tiger, with the Alamo or any part of it in the background.

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The Alamo Rangers are quite friendly and will put up with a lot while they are on duty,
but don't mess with them.

The commercial photo rights of the Alamo are a complex legal mess issue involving the State of Texas, the City of San Antonio and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The "no mascot or company logo" law is a part of it that is always most strictly enforced.

A rather heated discussion ensued between the deputy and the Kellogg's rep. She tried to argue that it was an open, public location, but the deputy prevailed. I stood back ready to disappear into the crowd if it looked like things were going to get out of hand. The deputy was remarkably patient but firm, not exactly the stereotypical gruff Texas lawman.

We ended up taking the photos of Cheryl and Tony the Tiger in the Menger's atrium, which for me was a better location anyway. It definitely made it easier for me not having to deal with the gawking crowd. The hotel staff was fully cooperative in keeping the few people in the lobby at a distance.

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Teddy Roosevelt (obviously an early predecessor of Gregg Popovich)
recruited the Rough Riders at the Menger Hotel Bar.
I'm fairly certain they all wore spurs and he rejected all the mavericks.

The photo shoot with Grant Hill at Trinity University later in the afternoon was about as routine as a commercial photo shoot can be especially given the personalities involved.

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Sams Gymnasium at Trinity University
Grant Hill and Tony the Tiger posed for the photos on the foul line at the far end of the court.

A lot of people think this type of work is very glamorous. I hate to burst your bubble if you're one of them, but there is little glamour in it at all.

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The moral of the story: You don't mess with Texas. And to quote LatinD, "Remember the Alamo, or else."
And you better not even THINK about messing with the Alamo.

Author's note: The reason I haven't included any of the photos from this assignment with this story is because Kellogg's owns all publication rights to them. You don't mess with photo rights, either. I have used a few recent photos of the Menger Hotel, the Alamo and Alamo plaza here just to add some visual interest.

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