Category Archives: News

The Kiss Tweeted Around the World: Cinderella Kiss from Tristan Rogers aka Robert Scorpio of General Hospital

I’ve always been the one behind the camera. On the Edge. Arrogant. Confident. With a Devil May Care Bad Attitude. National Award-Winning Photojournalist.  #2 in my news sequence Graduating Class at Kent State University. Top Photojournalist in the school… The resume sounds good and I have all the stories and adventures to boot but there was always an enormous cost to my achievements.

I wasn’t there for my brother, Robert, to save him from suicide.  I was so focused on keeping my grades up and on my own survival that I missed the desperation in his voice that night.  When others were out partying I was studying.  Hoping for that golden future promised. I interned at top newspapers and got a full-time job right away.  I put out 5 resumes and got 5 interviews while others put out hundreds.  I picked a gritty local paper to work for and felt I could take on anyone. I had to work harder and be better so that the awards I won would cover the isolation I felt as the only women on the photo staff.  I had to be tough enough to see past the hazing and survive in the ultra competitive take no prisoners abusive news environment where you were only as good as your last picture.

But this lifestyle took a toll. I saw too many horrific things.  Some days were so bad I would cry in my car all the way home. In 1995 on the way to cover a plane crash for a local newspaper I was a victim injured in a three car hit and run crash involving a Drunk Driver. It took me more than a year to get off disability, another three years to get off most of the meds and another ten years to get out of debt. More crashes and more injuries over the years took a toll but I always bounced back. It got to a point where it just wasn’t worth it any more.  I decided to walk away.  I did freelance magazine work for awhile but the contracts were only worth the lawyers I could pay to enforce them. My clients would take a one time use payment and make it a forever we own this use.  I tried being a nanny and teaching preschool, VPK, Kindergarten.  Rewarding and loved the kid’s but car crash injuries always took their toll.

In 2014 a glass van whipped out into the path of my car. It was like a bomb went off. I remember lying in the middle of the street with a doctor and nurse working on me and firefighters cutting off my clothes and I just knew no matter what happened I was not going to let this destroy my life. I was left with a choice: I was told that I would need five more surgeries to help repair the damage to my body. This was after already having an aircast on my foot  for months, enduring countless painful therapies along with numerous shots and invasive procedures.

Five more years of pain and recovering from surgeries that no one could guarantee would fix me.  This was more than I was willing to do. Instead I chose to have a stem cell procedure in hopes that that cutting edge technology can help.  The effectiveness still remains to be seen.  I still deal on a daily basis with varying levels of chronic pain. Now I own a vintage toy store.  The kid’s call it T’s Toy Heaven. It’s lots of fun but as always the car crash injuries are sometimes unsurmountable.

Chronic pain and the financial cost of dealing with it does something to me that I don’t like.  It takes away the laughter side of me.  This past year I made a decision.  I would make the most of moments that matter.  My New Years resolution was Fun and Hope.  That change of attitude which I still struggle to keep positive has already made so much difference.  I started doing things I never would have done before.  Supporting causes of those who like me have also had cancer scares.   I found a group that combines fundraising with the most amazing celebrity events I have ever attended.  Sandyovarian.org

This leads me back to the part about getting kissed by Tristan Rogers a.k.a.  Robert Scorpio, the fictional former Police Commissioner of Port Charles, a character on the TV show, General Hospital.  My first cop crush.  Role Model.  Back then when I was a kid rushing home from school and then work to watch the show, I didn’t even realize it. That this larger than life character chock full of charm, adventure, romance and integrity would have such a drastic lifelong influence on me.

How Robert Scorpio treated people on screen set an example for me that didn’t take root right away as I dealt with my own demons and the anger surrounding my brother of the same first name’s death.  The tenderness of his affection with onscreen daughter, Robin, and wife, Holly, as well as the stand up way he took care of his friends and then later his ex, Anna, helped to make him such a beloved character that he almost seemed real.  He also upheld the law in a way that made sense.  The dramatic way in which he and his tv cop wife were honored as killed in the line of duty WSB agents I didn’t see until many years later.  I saw it years after I had begun my own journey to honor those real police officers who did make that ultimate sacrifice.

Those who lived their real life the way Robert Scorpio did on TV.  My journey to document those family tragedies took many years and encompassed so much emotion.  But everything came full circle when I had the unique opportunity to meet Tristan Rogers in person at the fundraiser last week. Thirty-four years after I first remembered him on my TV screen.

I got to observe this iconic man’s kindness to a fan in a wheelchair when he called her grandmother on the phone personally. I saw him patiently sign autograph after autograph for hours. His demeanor with fans.  His humor when he laughingly told the audience how he was able to cry on cue by thinking about the salary he made performing.  What truly revealed the kind and compassionate man that he is was the lengthy discussion we had as he fortuitously for me was seated next to me at dinner.  After asking everybody at the table their names and a little bit about what they did we got to interact just like normal people would.  Well as normal as you can be speaking to an icon of your childhood.

“Oh My God,” I said. “Do you have any idea what this feels like sitting next to my childhood hero?”

Tristan just smiled and took it in stride just as he probably has done his entire career.

We talked about everything from Barbies to his early start in acting. He likes to say he was not that good in the beginning but Gloria Monty must have seen then what we all know now. That this character she created was not that far off from the man who walked in to play him.

But I think the thing  that touched me the most this day was what he said in response to when I told him how nice that was-the phone call he made to that fan.

I didn’t write it down so I will just paraphrase as much as I can. He looked me in the eyes inches from my face and said this… When you have the opportunity to do something that really makes a difference in someone’s life you should do it. I just felt that it was the right thing to do.

We continued talking about what had happened to me with my injuries and someone asked me if I ever got married. I said no I was engaged once but he left because he couldn’t deal with my medical problems. Tristan’s face looked surprised and sad. He lightened things up by saying something like you know what you need is a man to take you away for a great weekend. We all laughed and then talked more about Barbies. Turns out he owns a collection and I offered to help him  figure out the value of it. He asked me for my business card which I gave him. I don’t know if you will call but it felt nice to be appreciated for what I do.

As we lined up to get pictures with Tristan before he left to go to the next table one girl asked if he would kiss her on the cheek for the photo which he obliged. I kind of laughed and said wow you’ll have to start kissing everybody now. I really didn’t think he heard me and I don’t know if you did or not. I certainly didn’t expect anything. I was just really happy to be there and meet you. I posed for a picture with you and I thought that would be it.

“Look at me,” Tristan said.

I turned to look up at him and he kissed me on the lips.  And held it for probably about 10 seconds so that The Kiss could be in the photograph. Robin (Cohen) told me later that this unnerved her so much that she was shaking and almost didn’t get the picture. I mean who would not want to be kissed by Robert Scorpio? And now I learned what it’s like. Magic. I felt like Cinderella at the ball getting kissed by the handsome Prince Charming. But what impressed me the most was that this kind man knew full well what it would mean to me and wanted to do exactly what he had said earlier. It just felt like the right thing to do.  Perhaps that is why to this day he is one of -if not the- Most Loved Character and real person who graces the screen on daytime television.

I felt like I could have listened to you speak for hours about the stories only you could tell.  Maybe someday I will get another opportunity to speak with you.  But most importantly maybe we should all take a life lesson from you Tristan Rogers.

Make a difference. Do what matters. Touch someone’s life in a positive way whenever you have the opportunity.  And remember that no matter how dark you may be feeling in one moment there is always the possibility of a light at the end of the rainbow.   Thanks Tristan for being that light for me.

No Time For Seatbelts

I was pulling out of my apartment complex very early one morning when I saw smoke coming up from the trees across the street. The fire trucks had just arrived and there was a flurry of activity and smoke swirling up from back in the trees of the wooded area.  I felt a sense of dread.  It was a gut feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Onlookers seemed frantic.  I feared the worst. 

 ‚ÄúChildren in car‚Ķ‚ÄĚ I heard.

We had pulled over and stopped on the side of the road.  I grabbed my friend‚Äôs camera off the seat and jumped out quickly.  The first shots I took were of a female firefighter coming out of the woods carrying an injured little girl. Another male firefighter came running out of the woods behind her carrying a baby boy limp in his arms.  I took pictures as both firefighters tried frantically to resuscitate the boy and save the girl. Both children were dressed in their pajamas.

‚ÄúSTOP TAKING PICTURES!‚ÄĚ she screamed at me. 

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My House is Blue

I have spent some quiet time thinking lately about what has been happening to the Red, White and Blue that is the fabric of America.  Our country is a unique beacon in the world with rich resources that are as appealing today as they were to Chris Columbus the visitor who some give credit to discovering America.  The country where the infiltrators wiped out the native people of an entire continent.

We are the current caretakers.  We must not be naive and think that our beautiful country belongs to us without our soldiers guarding our outside borders and our police guarding the interior.   Every breath we take on this continent cost someone else their live.  The elusive thing we call Freedom could be taken from us if we let our guard down.  If we allow outsiders with their Trojan Horse agenda to seep and creep into the fabric of our society.  Lets protect our house first.  Our Family of all colors and races and the Blue and Green that protect all of them.   If visitors disrespect what we stand for, if they choose to threaten what we live for or  if they build a network of enemies within our own borders who want to kill us then they must leave.  Like a guest who has stayed too long and disrespected us.  They must leave.

We must stand our ground on this: ¬†We welcome you if you are safe but if you have come here illegally or with death intentions, well, as Lebron would say….NOT IN MY HOUSE. ¬†My house is Blue.

In Picking a President Paradigms take Precedence

In our country of melting pots, we all speak a different English.  Some call it Mars and Venus. Others call it Ebonics and Cracker.  You may even call it Bling and Ghetto. Whatever the differences you should be aware that your personal circumstances, experiences and biases determine your interpretation of the things you hear, see and do.

It is in the way you see the world, your personal or group paradigm that determines how you and others interpret the data that makes you feel safe or scared in all circumstances. ¬†It is in the translation of that data that gives us our common sense or gut feeling even if we don’t even speak the language.

It is the interpretation of that combination of body language and verbal comments that have led me to want to vote for Donald Trump for President of the United States.  Here is why:

I see an influx of many who are different who come to this country. ¬†While I believe in diversity and also helping welcome newbies, I do not believe in anything that I feel would jeopardize our national security. ¬†Unfortunately, there are many who have entered the USA illegally or without having been properly vetted. ¬†You wouldn’t let a stranger live in your home and risk your children’s lives so why would you be okay with those same strangers bypassing our military and police system of safety? ¬†They may live in your neighborhood, shop at your store or be in your child’s school. ¬†is it that far fetched to imagine a parent being a suicide bomber? Think about it. ¬†We are only as safe as the protections of safety that are infrastructured around us. ¬†Sure we are not A PERFECT SYSTEM. ¬† However, if we don’t put safety first it is the most vulnerable of our society who will be the easiest victims.

Cleveland’s Savior Came in the Name of the King

They came from Thailand and Australia and around the world and maybe even from the ends of the earth.  I came from Jacksonville.

Former Clevelanders and Believelanders made their way in droves unrivaled¬†to see the transcendental transformation that Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team built for my hometown. The World Championship that seemed¬†Biblical in proportion. ¬†The magical and memorable reversal of fortunes for a city forever¬†ridiculed¬†for a trash-covered burning lake, ¬†an unappreciated and neglected police department and a kidnapping-serial-killer surplus all within a few zip codes. ¬† All In became an Earned to a greater Cleveland area where it truly seems that Nothing has ever been Given. ¬†It took the Love of one man for a city and its people and their reciprocation¬†to make the Impossible Dream Come True. ¬†A perfect team in a perfect year on a perfect day for a perfect parade for all the world to see and remember. ¬†A white cloud of hope and victory replacing the black cloud, the curse that had been my city’s legacy.

As the gods continued to align, they shone on the underestimated Cleveland Plain Dealer staff as they performed a Pulitzer Prize Worthy Quality performance as well.  From photos to stories to headlines to unprecedented distribution by every member of the inside staff, they Delivered.

The massive crowd of 1.3 million fans -celebrity, native and gangsta- crowded the city to celebrate their hometown heroes in person.  Shirtless JR, Kyrie and Iman, wrestling-championship-belt bedazzled Love, crowd-walking Mo and Rolls-Royce convertible throned Lebron,  (with his newly franchised presidential protection detail),  led the rest of the not-so-familiar famous members of the Cleveland team through the sometimes fan-blocked path in the streets of a confetti-gold downtown.

The eternal glow also enveloped the embattled Cleveland Police Department officers encompassed by Homeland Security Special Forces Detail as they served and protected all.  Even little lost children came to them.

It ended with a grateful and comfortable Lebron and company inviting his newly-noticed international family to celebrate in traditional locker-room style. ¬†Fortunately, the 500,000 people transported to downtown via an all day $5 ticket on over-capacity RTA trains weren’t that angry when they couldn’t find their way home. ¬†My brother and I were among the tens of thousands of other stranded travelers who walked out of downtown 9/11-style from a five-hour-long parade spent in the homestyle heat enduring no loaves, no fishes and no water shortly before shots rang out. ¬†It was one for the record books that memories are made of.

 

 

One Orlando, One America

I just couldn’t wrap my head around the tragic unfolding of events in Orlando last weekend, so I got in my car and drove two hours to ¬†the place some call the happiest city in the world.

As I watched the neatly manicured lawns of the neighborhoods pass by my window, I thought of how small the city seems when you get away from Disney and the amusement park area.   In the Sodo neighborhood, that spans several small city blocks near one of the outdoor malls, I was again surprised to see the size of the tight-knit, usually quiet walking community. The place where some stores are open 24 hours and neighbors check on neighbors, that was caught up in the worst mass shooting by a lone gunman in US History.

The bar at the center of the tragedy, Pulse Lounge, was at the end of a small road called West Esther Street, ¬†close to a fire station and a few blocks from a children’s hospital that became instrumental in caring for the injured and saving lives during and after the gunfire. ¬†Resident Donald Ato recalls having a pleasant short conversation on his birthday with one of the victims as the unwary patron left a car parked on the street across from his home and ¬†walked down to the club that fateful night. ¬†After the tragedy the car remained for days.

As FBI, local law enforcement, and other state investigators combed through the crime scene,  removed bodies, and went through a complex but organized system of identification and family notification, a large entourage of media with their vans, huge transmission satellites, and tents blocked off roads outside of the police-taped area.

Less than five miles away, located next to another outdoor mall, was a second sidewalk tribute with heart balloons, notes, and candles marking the location of the other headline shooting tragedy to come out of Orlando last weekend: ¬†The Voice star and Adam Levine favorite, Christina Grimmie, was shot by another lone gunman as she eagerly greeted autograph seekers after a well-received concert in a little converted theater called The Plaza. ¬†This just one night before the mass shooting. ¬†I walked up to the door and saw a¬†sign that read no concealed weapons are allowed on these premises. ¬† As I approached the makeshift memorial to yet another young life lost that weekend, Sophia Sullivan, age 9, and her grandmother, Susan, arrived to pay their respects. ¬†She placed balloons and read some of the messages, and then the two told me they had been at Christina’s concert. ¬†Sophia had wanted¬†to stay for an autograph, but her grandmother said no, and they left moments before the fatal shooting.

Sophia told me she wanted to come so that she could make sure Christina’s loss¬†wasn’t overlooked in the shadow of the Plush Lounge headlines.

As I spoke to more people, both those present at these tragedies and those who came in for the cleanup, ¬†I was left with two questions: ¬†Will love ever overcome hate? And in places where guns are not allowed, how will we¬†protect ourselves? ¬† Long after the ringing of the victims’ unanswered cell phones has gone silent, I hope we will remember that life is finite and love is endless.

I hope we’ll also remember-and appreciate-that ongoing efforts to keep us safe are a full-time and dangerous job undertaken by many who tirelessly spend¬†their whole lives in that endeavor, and that they do so in an environment often totally hidden from view.

In Trump we will Trust

Ever since I was old enough to lick an envelope or slide a curled up George Voinovich information card ¬†between the knob and the door of each house on the streets of a westside neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, I have been involved in political campaigns. ¬†My father, Hugh, a long time Republican supporter, had the benefit of six kids to help. ¬†So my childhood was filled with picnics where I¬†met lots of candidates along the way. ¬†When I grew up and became a photojournalist for newspapers I was no longer allowed to participate but covered all the campaigns even riding through Cleveland in a limo¬†as part of Vice President Dan Quayle’s motorcade.

When I moved to Florida as a journalist the paper I worked for considered working on campaigns a conflict of interest although they themselves endorsed party candidates.  After leaving newspapers behind and working for magazines and private clients around the world I was again drawn to the familiar territory. However,  I had the benefit of twenty some years of covering campaigns.  This year that path led me to try to be a Florida Delegate to the Republican Convention this summer in my hometown.

I thought back to my high school civics class about how we elect a president.  I remembered thinking how delegates were ordinary citizens who were elected to represent us and fulfill the role of placing our vote in the ballot box for our selected party candidate.  Then something called the Electoral College would then again do the same thing at the final level to choose POTUS.  I barely remember much else from that class but I do recall that I had an idea in my head that in a Democracy each of us had a vote and our votes collectively counted.  Somehow with the happy ending that we the people elected the president of our choice.

So when I was told that the delegates were chosen as a perk for specific volunteers within the Republican party I still sent my application Fedex overnight as required to Tallahassee and waited with just a little bit of enthusiasm.   Then I and the present 35 out of 40 other applicants met at a closed door meeting to pick the delegates in Jacksonville.   Only registered Republicans were allowed to enter and cel phones were checked at the door.  I was told that each of us would be given a chance to speak publicly to the eight chair people who would be choosing the delegates.

After every applicant spoke the eight people voted. ¬†A specific party member collected their index cards and took them in a back room. A few minutes later he came out and said “Ander Crenshaw.” ¬† ¬†Thus the first delegate was chosen. ¬†I couldn’t help but wonder why they didn’t just open each index card and read off how many votes were for whom. This same process happened five more times with four of the board members basically being elected by themselves. ¬†I thought for sure the former military officer who had worked the makeshift morgue on September 11th, 2001 at the Pentagon would be chosen. ¬†I hoped I would be too. ¬†Instead the additional person to round out the six was a former elected official. ¬†I overheard two women behind me say something like if this is how the Republican Party runs things no wonder¬†no one wants to join them anymore. ¬†I left that meeting with the feeling that although these people chosen would probably do a good job as delegates, it was definitely predetermined who would go based on their allegiance to the Republican Party and not necessarily their obligation to the voters of Florida. ¬†I also felt that when they got to the convention they¬†were not going to pick Donald Trump if they could help it.

Ironically I got a call this past week asking me to donate $75 to the Republican Party. ¬†I said I have a wait and see attitude. I want to see if the American people’s vote counts or if a back door decision denies the voters their choice. ¬†I recall a conversation I had years ago with a Washington beltway insider. ” No matter who is president the same people run the country,” I was told.

I will be in Cleveland to see how this all really plays out, but I wanted to end with comments I remember from two of my Kent State University professors. ¬†If you don’t want to be in the newsroom on election day get out of the business; and It’s not what you look at but what you see that matters.

Happy Voting.

 

 

 

One Indivisible with God, Locals and Luck Lived

My heart skipped a beat yesterday as I heard the news that yet another American police officer had been shot in the Line of Duty. ¬†This time our thin blue line turning red was local. ¬†He was one of our off-duty undercover Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers who had his son in the car with him doing a normal routine in America: a parent on the way to dropping off his son at school before going to work. ¬†But today he saw something on the road that caused him to make a traffic stop. ¬†Call it his gut or just good police training and instinct.¬†According to JSO he¬†went into action and first grabbed his tactical vest and put it on. ¬†The ¬†five shots that sprayed his windshield hitting him and barely missing his son in the passenger seat were real. ¬†Real bullets in broad daylight on a normal local American street. ¬†The officer shot nine shots back apparently missing the suspect who fled the scene and was apprehended a short time later.

The stop was near a train track and apparently some of the altercation took place on that active railroad track.  So when the officer was shot and called for help local residents did just that. With a train coming in the distance they helped move the officer and his car out of the way and provided first aid while waiting for our fire department and a medical helicopter to arrive to transport him.   As they should.

He is in critical but stable condition but will have a long way to go back to normal.

And so do we. ¬†You see it has become open season on cops lately with our current president’s apathy toward law enforcement. ¬†And that to me is personal. ¬†Throughout the last 20 + years here in Jacksonville I have had numerous ride alongs with many JSO officers. ¬†I have also gotten to know many of them through political campaigns and day to day life events. ¬†Many I am proud to call my ¬†friends. ¬†They are good people trying to make a difference through their life choices every day in Jacksonville. ¬†They have earned my trust. ¬†Together with our local military they are part of our first line of defense team that do their best to keep us safe. ¬†A difficult task this day in this week just after wrapping up the second workplace shooting incident.

Shootings that drive home to me in this season of presidential campaigning and terrorist attacks that the only one who has spoken in support of keeping us and those I most care about safe has been Donald Trump.

In Freedom, We The People Are Still Enslaved

I watched the Grammy’s last night. ¬†Two moments stood out to me. ¬†The first one was the moving tribute to recently deceased Glen Fry by his ¬†Eagles surviving band members. ¬†We know their names and all their iconically beautiful music as well as Don Henley’s history of fighting for his musical rights and copyrights legacy. ¬†But what I especially noticed last night is nowhere was there a name of the photographer underneath the beautiful photograph of him encompassing the stage at the end of the performance. ¬†Why? Because the majority of photographers do not own the rights to keep their name on their photographs or the royalties made of from them. Even today if you want to sell your items on an app called OfferUp they have a clause that reads: ¬†” …with the OfferUp Service. By submitting or posting User Content (their insulting name for photographer’s intellectual property), you hereby grant to OfferUp a non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, sell, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display the User Content, and your name, company name, location and any other information you submit with the User Content, in connection with the OfferUp Service. ¬†(the right to sell your own stuff on their internet line). ¬†The use of your name or any other User’s name, likeness, or identity in connection with the OfferUp Service does not imply any endorsement thereof unless explicitly stated otherwise. We also have the right to disclose your identity to any third party who is claiming that any content posted by you constitutes a violation of their intellectual property rights, or of their right to privacy.”

Their predatory Terms and Conditions go on and on and I’m sure most “users” (We the People) have never really read or understood what we are signing over to them or even cared. ¬†I chose to begrudgingly continue to sell my tables, chairs and other unneeded belongings that clutter up my life on their website but I will still protect the many documentary photos I took of real people acting out their lives within the view of my camera lens.

When I protested to the company their response was that they would show me how to delete my account if I don’t like it. ¬†A sure sign that we as Professional Photographers (one of the few creative arts national awards that have no television audience) have lost the war. ¬†The online sites have now become the new slave owners of tomorrow replacing the many newspapers of today.

Which brings me to the second moment that stood out to me. A pie chart photo-graph of a penny with the tiny portion cut out representing the miniscual amount of royalties collected by songwriters and performers for their craft when streaming online. ¬†I heard the¬†artists pleading for their musical art to remain a viable professional career for the next generation. ¬†NO ONE is listening. ¬†Even though the U.S. Copyright Office still seems to be the tiniest and busiest office in our nations’ Library of Congress, ¬†the Silicone Valley Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg descendents still bathe in the unholy ¬†ill-gotten gains from royalties they have siphoned off the backs of the free world billions of creative artists intellectual property around the world. ¬†They are sooo rich that they give away all “their” money that they have collectively created all creative “Users” out of. ¬†No wonder Kanye West wants a loan from Mark Zuckerburg. ¬†Royalties are for everyone who creates content even those billions of housewives who are just posting a nice picture of a table in the their home they want to sell. ¬†And the billionaires should stop stealing them.

Maybe Donald Trump can address this disparity in trade too.