Comments & Curiosities: Photojournalistic excellence

I knew it.

I never lost faith. I knew that if I waited long enough, we would get a hook into the city of Bell story, and on Tuesday morning, we did.

That was when former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, who is presently between engagements, was arrested at his Huntington Beach home and got to do the perp walk from his front door to a police car waiting to whisk him away to the Los Angeles County Jail, which is not a good place to whisked to.

Yes, I know. Everyone is worked up over Rizzo's base salary, which was just under $800,000, plus add-ons, which put him on track to make about $1.5 million a year. But you gotta admit, Bell got a lot of city manager for their money. If you break it down by the pound, it's not that much.

When Rizzo got the fateful knock on his Huntington Beach door, a news photographer managed to capture the moment that all of Bell had been waiting for in one of those classic, perfect-place-at-the-perfect-time shots that news photographers dream about. It shows Rizzo being led away in cuffs by a couple of burly investigators from the Los Angeles district attorney's office.

Rizzo looks totally and understandably bummed, head bowed, eyes down.

And who shot the homerun pick? Daily Pilot photographer Scott Smeltzer, that's who. How cool is that? Like any good shooter, Scott has a nose for news and a lens for the truth.

"When the call came that Rizzo was being arrested at his Huntington Beach home, I quickly jumped in my car and headed for the address I had been given," Smeltzer wrote in the Pilot's "Photo Of The Week" feature.

But it didn't take Scott long to realize that the address he had been given was wrong.

"By the time I got to his actual address, I was certain that I had missed the shot," Smeltzer wrote. "Fortunately for me, I got there just in time."

Two thumbs up, Scott, way up. Your shot may or may not win a Pulitzer, but I predict it will win something big, maybe a couple of something bigs.

But aside from the great pic, since it is my job to notice the things that normal people don't, what struck me was that Rizzo was sporting that excellent orange hair color that older guys and California governors seem to favor for some reason.

And let me ask you this. Am I the only person in the world who thinks that Robert Rizzo is a dead ringer for Martin Short's startling overweight and painfully obnoxious fictional character, "Jiminy Glick," the "entertainment reporter" who knows nothing about entertainment or anything else? I hope not. It's hard to explain Jiminy Glick if you haven't seen him, but Martin Short has forged a good chunk of his career from doing the wildly overweight, frighteningly eccentric character that has no brains but more chins than the San Francisco phonebook.

Scott's great pic also got me to thinking about all the other great news photos that have seared themselves into our collective memory. Everyone has their favorites, but I suppose it depends on your age and your background as much as it does on the picture. A few of my picks would be Harry Truman holding up the 1948 "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline from the Chicago Tribune, the "Victory Kiss," Alfred Eisenstaedt's 1945 classic of a sailor in Times Square planting a big smooch on a nurse during the celebration of VJ Day. Two interesting footnotes to that very famous shot: the best we can do is refer to the impromptu couple as "the sailor" and "the nurse" because in the pandemonium of VJ Day in Times Square, Eisenstaedt didn't get either one's name.

In the 60-plus years since that day, scores of men and women have come forward claiming to be the sailor or the nurse, but no one has proved it beyond a doubt. Eisenstaedt also said that he followed the sailor down the street as he kissed a number of women, but ironically, the nurse captured forever in the famous shot was the only woman who slapped him.

I'd also vote for the shot of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald dead on live TV in the basement of the Dallas Police Department, and I've never gotten over the 1985 National Geographic cover shot of the Afghan girl with the soul-piercing blue eyes. The girl's name is Sharbat Gula, and the photographer's name is Steve McCurry. In the same vein, but 50 years earlier, is Dorothea Lange's haunting Depression-era photo of a weary but proud mother, Florence Owens Thompson, with her three ragged children clutching her while shyly turned away from the camera.

So there you have it. Robert Rizzo and Jiminy Glick, Alfred Eisenstaedt and boldly romantic sailors. Will Scott Smeltzer's shot join that long list of photojournalistic icons? Don't know, but if you ever get arrested and dragged off to an arraignment, try to get Scott to shoot it. You'll look really good. I gotta go.

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