November 03, 2010

The Stain

By Wolynski © 2010

In my career as a photographer I had many adventures, met a lot of people, photographed a lot of stars. Then I changed careers... This is one of the funniest things that ever happened as a photographer.

It was the the late 70s. I'd been in the US for 3 years and now I was freelancing for the Hyatt Regency - in Cambridge, Mass (Boston really) - they'd call me to photograph conventions.

One day I was shooting a convention, when one of the hotel executives tapped me on the shoulder and said he needs to borrow me for 15 minutes. Olivia Newton-John was in the hotel and we needed to take a shot of her in the Presidential Suite and then a group shot with her and all the top hotel brass. But we only had 15 minutes, because the guests checking into the Presidential Suite were already pulling up.

So I gathered my equipment and we rushed to the Presidential elevator. Olivia was already there - we were introduced and I remember a very firm handshake. Six executives, Olivia and myself piled into the elevator. The executives were tickled pink - Olivia had just done "Grease", she was one of the biggest stars in the country and everyone was thrilled to bits.

The Presidential Suite was gorgeous with a spectacular view of the Charles River. But we had to rush - the guests were already checking in. The executives decided to pose Olivia by the grand Presidential bed, next to the night table with the beautiful lamp.

Just as I was about to take the picture, the director of the hotel said wait, the bed looks much better when turned down with the rose and the mint on the pillow. So a maid was summoned and the guests downstairs stalled.

The maid pulled back the bedspread, turned the blanket over and gasped. Everyone gasped and gathered round the bed not quite believing their eyes. Right in the middle of the bed was the biggest, ugliest brown stain you've ever seen - someone had taken a dump in the Presidential bed and housekeeping did not catch it.

Everyone stood there dumbstruck. I decided to break the ice and said "So... are we ready to take the picture?"

The director spun round and clamped his hand over my lens "Don't you dare, don't even think about it. And stop laughing, this is not funny." I bit my lip, trying not to giggle. Like hell it's not funny, it's hilarious.

Just then we hear a loud shriek and look over at Olivia. She couldn't contain herself any longer - she's now doubled over in laughter, tears streaming from her eyes, her make-up running. So this sets me off and we're both howling while the hapless red-faced executives are running around like headless chickens. This is not what they had in to mind to impress Olivia Newton-John with.

Sheets were changed, staff were fired, the photos got taken. On the elevator ride downstairs Olivia and I were both biting our lips, avoiding looking at each other in case we both burst out laughing again.

She saved my ass that day. Had I been the only one in fits of hysterical laughter I would've been fired. Thank goodness I wasn’t photographing Diana Ross - she’d swoon and been carried out on a stretcher.

And I figured out how nobody noticed the diarrhea in the Presidential bed. A guest probably had an accident (Elvis?) and was so mortified that they made the bed very carefully and went to sleep in another bed, like it wasn't them. The maid in the morning assumed this bed had not been slept in.

Wolynski is a photographer and former comic who lives in Las Vegas.

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