LAST HURRAH: Mall Rat

Like Farrah Fawcett in Dr. T & the Women, I jumped into the fountain at NorthPark. But she had permission.

By
the time I was standing in the fountain at NorthPark, my black suit
soaked, I knew the photographer was, technically, a stalker. But he had
bought me a couple of beers at McCormick & Schmick’s, and posing
for him seemed like the right thing to do.

It happened like
this: a guy named Wasserman from New York City sent me an e-mail. He
claimed to be best friends with a good buddy of mine, whom I’ll call
“Adam,” because his name is Adam. Big fan of my work, this Wasserman.
Adam had given him a book I’d done a few years back. Hundreds of copies
of this book still occupy an entire closet at my house, which irritates
my wife. “What are you going to do with all these books?” she asks
about once a month. She herself has a closet filled with nothing but
unused diapers and other baby paraphernalia, with the hope that she’ll
one day be pregnant again, but you don’t hear me complaining.

Anyway,
that’s not important. Wasserman had read the book, and he’d enjoyed it.
He said he was a photographer and liked to take portraits of
interesting people. For example, he’d done a series called “Hebrews Who
Hunt.” He pointed me to some of the pictures online, and I enjoyed
them. So when asked if he could take my picture while he was in Dallas
for Yom Kippur, I told him I was game.

It bears mentioning that
when I asked Adam about Wasserman, Adam said he didn’t know him. But
when Wasserman and I met to discuss how he’d execute the portrait, Adam
came along, and it turned out that they did, in fact, know each other.
Adam had been Wasserman’s volleyball coach about a decade ago. No big
deal. Wasserman had overestimated Coach’s affection for him. That
didn’t change the fact that he’d taken some excellent pictures of Jews
and taxidermied deer. And I liked his concept for my portrait.

You know that scene in Dr. T & the Women
where Farrah Fawcett loses her mind and frolics in the fountain at
NorthPark? The idea was we’d try something similar—only instead of
going naked, I’d wear a black suit and pretend to be diving for loose
change.

On the day of the shoot, we ran into trouble. Some
cops were having lunch at La Madeleine, which overlooks the fountain.
That’s when we—Wasserman, Wasserman’s assistant, and I—repaired to
McCormick & Schmick’s for a beer, to wait out the fuzz, and we
discovered that Wasserman’s Adam was a different Adam and only by wild
coincidence had my Adam actually known Wasserman. It was scary. But, as
I said, by then it was too late to accuse him of stalking me. He’d paid
for the beer. He’d come all that way (Yom Kippur or no). I was wearing
the suit.

Properly fortified, we returned to the fountain. The
heat had split. It was go time. Knowing that we’d have only a few
minutes before security shut us down, Wasserman and I had carefully
planned the operation. Our strategy: innocent bewilderment. “What? I
can’t be in the fountain? I’m so sorry. If anyone had told me I couldn’t get in the fountain—”

Into
the fountain I went. I lay down to ensure a thorough soaking. Then I
stood up and started counting change, while Wasserman darted about with
his Hasselblad, shouting directions so I could hear them over the rush
of the water shooting 30 feet above my head. A crowd gathered pretty
quickly. Two kids sitting on the edge of the fountain gave me the eye.
I learned later that a girl from the Godiva shop came out and asked if
it was a “fraternity thing.” Other onlookers were upset by the idea
that I was pilfering change, until Wasserman’s assistant assured them
that we’d brought our own change and that we’d never steal people’s
wishes. That comforted them.

As Wasserman was putting fresh film
in his camera, I spotted a mall janitor who appeared to be radioing for
security, so we decided to quit while we were ahead. The whole thing
lasted no more than four minutes. I climbed out of the fountain and
toweled off, expecting the authorities to arrive any second. Oddly,
they never did.

You hold in your hands the fruit of our little
adventure—or one piece of it. Wasserman? I think he did a fine job.
Good composition. Mostly in focus. Me? I don’t know. Perhaps not my
best work. If I were Jewish, I could have made this story a lot funnier.

Photo by Jon Wasserman

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