Sunday, August 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Madonna...and thanks!

My photos of Madonna in the National Enquirer, (top) and Paris Match, (bottom)
Valentine’s Day, 1992.

I'm on assignment for the Associated Press staking out Jose Canseco’s house in Coral Gables…along with some of Miami’s finest journalists. Canseco was arrested the night before for ramming his wife’s car in a fit of ‘roid rage.

He’s out on bond and holed up inside his house.

We want him to come out so he can tell us his side of the story and let us get some pictures. He’s having none of that.

It’s going to be a long day. Boredom starts to set in.

But someone has a copy of the N.Y. Post and I pass the time by reading it.

A tiny 4-line item on the gossip page catches my eye. It says that Madonna is in Miami to shoot pictures for a new book that will deal with her “sexual fantasies.”

Suddenly, I’m not bored anymore.

Jose finally emerges at 6pm just as all the TV stations are going live. We get the pictures and leave.

The next day I head over to Miami Beach to look around and see if I can spot Madonna…doing anything.

I come up empty-handed and drive home. I decide to take the afternoon off and drive to the beach on Key Biscayne.

I pass by Vizcaya and at SE 32nd Rd. I see a hand-lettered sign that says ”CREW” which usually means that some sort of production is underway. An arrow points right and that’s where I go.

I drive slowly down Brickell Ave. looking right and left when I come upon the gate to a large waterfront house. The front lawn is bustling with activity and I spot what appears to be a topless woman.

I get out of my car and creep up to the hedges. Still not sure what’s taking place.

They appear to be setting up some sort of shot. I peer at the scene through a 300mm lens mounted on my Nikon and see a topless blond woman wearing nothing but high heels and a black thong with a cottontail attached.

A dozen people are scurrying about---the photographer, Steven Meisel and his assistants, grips, make-up and hair people and a few bodyguards.

I have stumbled upon Madonna’s Miami photo shoot.

I start shooting, almost sure that they’re going to hear me and come outside the gates and beat the crap out of me.

But I get the pictures and hurry to a one hour lab to get them processed. I call my agency in New York and they tell me to Fed Ex the film that night.

I have the first photographic evidence of Madonna’s new book “SEX” that won’t be released for another 8 months.

My film arrives in New York. The next day my agency scrambles to make prints and by that night they are on a Concorde to all of the European photo agencies.

The pictures are marketed in each country to the highest bidder.

In England, the tabloid SUN outbids everyone and within a few days my pictures are in print. Soon the pictures are the talk of Europe appearing in France, Spain, Italy and Germany.

In the U.S. the National Enquirer wins the rights to the pictures and prints them in the centerfold.

The gossip columns start printing items on my coup and two weeks later the word finally reaches the Miami Herald. A photo editor calls me and says they are doing the story and do I happen to have a picture or two I could let them have?

I explain that publications all over the world have paid thousands of dollars for the rights to print the pictures and I add that I’m pretty sure the Herald’s not willing to fork over that kind of money for my images. He agrees. Conversation over.

Pretty soon papers and magazines are doing stories on me and how I got the pictures. One writer says that I made a million dollars from the pictures. Not even close. But I did very well.

Anyway, I just read on the Washington Post website that Madonna is turning the big five-oh this week.

So if you’re reading this, Madonna, let me wish you a very happy birthday.

Oh, and by the way, thanks for everything!

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