Not pretty enough...

I have gotten angry now and then and said mean
things, but this wasn't one of them. However, I do screw up like this
once in awhile.

Like once I was photographing a resort hotel in Scottsboro, Arizona,
near Phoenix. One of those super-posh establishments that cater to the
very rich from big northern cities, who escape the winter cold at home
by means of incredibly expensive vacations in Arizona.

That day, I was setting up a picture of their banquet buffet. Fancy
gourmet food sculptures prepared by highly paid high art chefs, and
the hotel wanted some shots of it before it got eaten by hungry
guests. Among other things, I was a pretty good food photographer.
It's a specialty I had learned from one of the dozen or so real
masters of that art, and the hotels and restaurants always had me do
things like that, naturally, just at dinner time, when I was already
ravenously hungry, and there was all this mouth-watering delicatessen,
ice sculptures with frills of shrimp and crab claws etc. and I
couldn't even have a little snack.

So I had big spot lights putting highlight accents on the food, in a
great hurry because the 5,000 Watt spotlights melted the ice if I
wasn't quick, my head under the dark cloth focussing an 8 x 10 view
camera, and all stressed out, when the remarkably beautiful girl who
worked on the buffet line asked, "Would you like me to pose in the

The hotel didn't want people in the picture. There was always a legal
issue, models had to be contracted and paid and all that. It was all
too complicated to explain in the time available, so I said, "No,
you're not pretty enough."

I meant it as an obviously ridiculous comment. One of those intended
and fully expected to be understood as exactly the reverse, because I
thought she was gorgeous and truthfully would have liked to ask her
for a date, but actually thought she was too beautiful to be
interested in me. She didn't say anything, and I went on with the
job, finished up, and went to the regular restaurant for my own meal.

Next evening while I was setting up another picture, a man walked up
and accosted me about hurting his daughter by telling her she wasn't
pretty enough for the picture. He was serious and very angry. I tried
to get him to let me talk to her and explain, but he utterly refused,
even though I think I convinced him of my true intention.

That was way back about 1963, yet I still think about it now and then
and cuss myself out. Kennedy was shot in Dallas a week later, but in
my universe, 1963 is the year I stupidly hurt that nice girl's feelings.