Mustache and Member’s Only


I’ve said this before, possibly to the point of irritation but three decades go by pretty fast.

Two thousand thirteen marks 30 years since I stared in the journalism business.

mustacheThat would have been February, 1983.  The Soviet Union performed two underground nuclear tests, “Thriller” went number one and stayed there for 37 weeks, Wayne Gretzky set an NHL all-star record with 4 goals in 1 period,  there was an apocalyptic snowstorm on the eastern seaboard and I was spending evenings drinking margaritas at Charlie Brown’s in Ventura while wearing a black, Member’s Only jacket, acid-washed Jordache jeans and high-top, LA Gear sneakers.

Also, 27-year-old Steve Jobs appeared on the cover of Fortune along with a story about how he “gets his jollies” making great computers. At that point the Apple II was showing it’s age and the Lisa had yet to come out.

My first day as a news photographer was February 7. Ventura County was experiencing torrential rain storms and although I thought my first day on the job would be to tag along with the Oxnard Press Courier’s chief photographer David Crane, I was told to “go get some rain art.”

They may as well have asked me to surgically separate conjoined twins.

I didn’t want to get wet so I shot maybe a half roll of Tri-X pan from the window of my well-rusted-out ’74 Ford Econoline van. Of those images I had maybe one frame that was only slightly out of focus of a man raking leaves in his Colonia-area neighborhood in the middle of a downpour.

They put that photo on the front page the next day.

It had my name beneath it.

It didn’t matter that the photo was fairly soft since the Merigraph wax plating system turned the half-tone dots to mush anyway and the ancient Goss letterpress they had at the time was among the worst in North America.

Black and white photographs reproduced in the Oxnard Press-Courier circa 1983 were more like blobs of black ink with patches of newsprint showing through giving the impression of a silhouette that you could occasionally distinguish as recognizable shapes.

I don’t have a print or a clip of that first published photo or any from the next year or so. But once I started getting things in focus and relatively well-exposed I started saving outtakes and some first and second prints made in that darkroom in downtown Oxnard, which are now disorganized in Kodak boxes that live in the rafters of my garage.

I say all this now because recently I was up there looking for some old photos of my mom that I wanted to scan for mother’s day. To get to them I had to move a couple of those Kodak boxes and I pulled a few things out of one marked “prints 85-86″ in black, grease pencil.

Here’s a few of those original images which were transmitted to the Associated Press during 1985.


Lyle Alzado died of brain cancer in 1992 at age 43.


The “Wheeler Fire” burned 120,000 acres above Ojai in 1985.


This image ran in double-truck in Life Magazine in March, 1985. This is the original “AP Laserphoto” transmitted from our newsroom.


Rescuers finally pulled this woman out from beneath a boat after it capsized off the coast of Oxnard. The boat was battered by surf for over an hour before a tow truck could pull it to shore and lift it. This woman’s young son died just minutes before she was rescued.

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About tgapen

I'm a photographer, editor, designer, art director, writer, webmaster and Photoshopper and I'm a student of HTML5, CSS3 and Rock n Roll guitar. I live in the burbs of Los Angeles and used to commute 10 hours a week to and from various jobs at L.A. newspapers. Now I ride all the way to the beach and play in InDesign and Photoshop all day. Three cats has now become two, no kids. The moon is my planet, I love rain, good, strong coffee and the sound of a Gibson ES-335.

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