It appears I don’t throw anything away. When I was writing Leaving Cleveland, I went through my old polaroids of people who I photographed before handing the camera with film to the photographers I was assisting. The above image is the actual polaroid from the Henry the Eight Shoot Eats Ice Cream, taken in 1981….that is 41 years ago!!!!!
In the book, the protagonist, Sam, really begins his photo assisting career with ” Johnny Strand the Photo Man” a high end commercial photographer who smokes a lot of pot.
In Chapter 7 I”m ‘Enry the Eighth I Am, Johnny business is tanking and is trying to figure out how to turn it around. Sam is about to lose his job, which would be the end of the story but, Jenny ( Johnny’s photo rep) tells Johnny if he can come up with a great test image of food, she may be able to snag the Burger King account ….the Burger King morphs into King Henry the 8th eating ice cream, iconic.
Reality Check: For those unfamiliar with the freelance life of a photographer, it is a life of peaks and valleys. Never knowing where and when the next job is coming wondering how you are going to pay the fixed expenses. In the commercial photography world the expenses are high and so are the rewards. The trick is to string enough jobs together to stay afloat…It is not a career for those with ” thin skin.”
Excerpt from Chapter Seven from book Leaving Cleveland out in the world March 2023.
©2022 Steven H. Begleiter
I’m ‘enry the Eighth I Am
Everything Johnny said about the job proved true. Long hours, demanding clients, and a lot of unwarranted despair. My day started at 8. Johnny would walk in at 8:30 with blood shot eyes, smelling of Jasmine, humming some Reggae tune and looking very happy. By lunchtime his glow was gone and in need of replenishment. Our lunch orders went out at noon to the deli downstairs. This was when Johnny absented himself, to reappear an hour later just as the sandwiches arrived, his glow back. That’s when Jenny, his rep, would arrive and join us and we’d sit as a team around the oak table and eat.
“Hey Johnny, how’s it going?” Jenny would ask. She was slender, mousy brown hair, a beauty mark on her right cheek and always dressed in a tight-fitting button-down shirt tucked into a long black skirt, which highlighted her narrow waist. She’d have on her signature scarf, always very colorful, meticulously tied around her neck. She was from Patterson, New Jersey, and had a thick Jersey accent.
On my first day at the oak table Johnny asked her, “Any news about the Burger
She smiled and said, “It’s between you and Tom Brody, but the art buyer said she liked the fact that you shoot other things besides food. I think you need to set up a test shoot of something with food that I can take over to her by the end of the week.”
“Like what?” Johnny responded, his mellowness unmellowing.
“I don’t know. You’re the creative. You come up with something,” Jenny said.
Johnny put his head down on the table like a child taking an afternoon nap in school. For five minutes we all just stared at him. Suddenly he raised his right hand with his forefinger pointing to the ceiling.
“Let’s photograph Henry the Eighth eating ice cream.”
“Genius!” Jenny exclaimed. “That will combine your talent with people and food.
Who can we get to play Henry?”
“Get the Funny Face catalog,” Johnny commanded. “They owe us a favor and I think there are few models there that will want to do this.”
Jenny pulled out the catalog and Johnny flipped through its pages. After about ten minutes he slammed his fingers on a headshot and declared, “Tom Lang, he’s perfect— belly, beard, and all. I will get Ong to style it. Call Barbara and see if she’s available to help.”
The studio was instantly abuzz. Jenny was on the phone convincing Barbara, a food stylist, that doing this photo test would help her career. Johnny was on his way to the elevator. Turning back to us, he announced, “I’ll recruit Ong.”
Jenny got off the phone and looked at me.
“We are on! We got the model. We got the food stylist. And now we cross our fingers and hope Johnny convinces Ong to do him a favor.”
“What’s she like?” I asked.
“Johnny met her about five years ago and it was love at first bite. She moved into his apartment the next day.”
“So why wouldn’t she do him a favor?” I asked.
“Because she is about money and is not into doing favors unless there is money involved.”
“Because she is Ong!” Jenny said coldly.© Steven H. Begleiter from his upcoming book ” Leaving Cleveland” available to the public March 2023.