Meet&Greet #1: Heh heh heh, gotta smile for the Democrat.
Whenever you photograph anyone important, the client is a nervous wreck. I’ve never understood this. They are paying said VIP a large amount of money to speak, and sometimes to meet their important attendees after a speech. Yet, they are NERVOUS. I’ve made a career of keeping everyone calm: the client, the minions, the secret service — whoever might be in the room and in charge of the meet and greet going smoothly.
I, however, don’t get nervous for a meet and greet. I don’t know, most celebrities just aren’t that scary. They want to get in, shake some hands, and get out — usually for happy hour, to their suite, or for another plane for another meet and greet. They are more ADHD than I am.
Evening dawned at the Paris Hotel and Casino in sunny Las Vegas. Former President George Bush finished speaking on stage, addressing one of our oldest and dearest clients. How old is this client? My mom photographed for them when I was in middle school. I’m 45.
I’d set up the room for the meet and greet well in advance. A gray background with an American Flag, several minions of President Bush discussed in depth exactly at which angle the flag should be pinned to the background. Tape was on the floor, an X for the President, another for the participant. My lights were in place. Stanchions lined the perimeter of the room, guiding the attendees every step of the way. I stood on my spot, and the former President walked in. The participants ringed the room, all nervous. (And, all Republican.)
“Hello, Mr. President,” I said, “I’m Mike Gatty, your photographer. If you could stand here, the attendees will come in to your left, shake your hand, and exit to your right.”
“Young man,” said Mr. Bush (“W”) (rather snottily, I thought), “I have done this before.”
“I understand that, Mr. President,” I said, undeterred, “but you are going to stand here, the attendees are going to enter from your left, shake your hand (mimic shaking of hand), and exit (point stage right) to your right.” (smirk).
“Young man,” said the President (“W”), “you have done this before.”
“Yes, Sir, I’ve done you, your wife, your brother, your mother, and your father, so, yes, I have done this before.” (smirk– I can’t help it).
The former President looked at me, and gave his patented “W” smile where he looks just a little devious.
“Which of us did you like the best?” He asked in his Texan drawl.
I paused. I considered my options carefully. The participants were all lined up around the room. They were dead silent, listening to the exchange between me and the former ruler of the free world. Wondering, what would I say? (Holding their breath?)
“Um,” I said, “Sir, I’m a democrat.”
Silence. Then everyone gasped. Mouths hung open. Client, already nervous, was staring wide eyed.
President Bush, however, laughed. He laughed loudly. He CACKLED. And every time he shook hands with a participant he’d turn, look at me and say, “Heh! Heh! Heh! Gotta smile for the democrat, heh! Heh! Heh! Heh!”
Later the client said how much fun everyone had at the meet and greet, and how the former President later told the CEO of the organization that I was “a lot of fun. About damned time someone had fun at one of those things.”
Heh! Heh! Heh! Mr. President. While I might disagree (strongly) with your politics, you are a charming guy. But I’m still a democrat. (Smirk.)
The former President after informing me he “heh, heh, heh, have to smile for the democrat.”