Cotton Candy @ The Amusement Park –
I had arrived in Dallas after driving 1,500 miles from the northeast to start a new job as a young Art Director at an agency that was getting a lot of press at that time. They had a really good-looking client roster that was growing by the month, so the agency had an energy of excitement about it. The weather was sunny, the sky was bigger than I had ever seen before and the landscape was covered with Farah Fawcet look a likes that were as friendly as they were beautiful. DALLAS TV show was king and Texas BBQ was a nice change from the Halukies.
I was quickly adjusting as my writer partner and I had become great sidekicks featuring Dallas as our backyard playground. We had our pubs, our clubs and our regular sporting trips to the Texas Rangers.
We had finished a series of TV concepts we sold to our client featuring talking rabbits for a line of salad dressings and were preparing for the shoot in NYC. But first I had to shoot salad dressing labels for product testing. Since my knowledge of the local food shooters were zero our agency Creative Coordinator, Arlen, hooked me up with one they had used before.
Their studio was located next to the Fair Park, home of State Fair of Texas. I arrived at 8 am with my layouts and hero products under my arm. It was a Friday and I was looking forward to ending the week with a simple shoot. I opened the door to the single floor dwelling of the rustic Texas style studio walking down a long hallway of cowboy art, sculptures and old dusty stuff hanging on the walls accented with the odor of pancakes on the grill.
As I exited the hallway there were three small stages each setup with a 4×5 camera loaded and ready to shoot, giving me the impression I was in good hands. I noticed two very large men in farmer over-alls and tattered white t-shirts wearing sneakers eating pancakes and eggs off a large plank table. They asked if I was hungry, as they stood up to introduce themselves as Bob and Don, each one over 6’4″ and 300+ pounds. I passed on the offer as they sat back down to finish breakfast. I inquired about the props when they politely pointed towards an open doorway while pounding down more pancakes. This was very unusual; shooters would normally have a long table full of prop choices to review with a stylist when you arrived. But I just shook it off thinking certainly this is not normal, even for Texas, and walked into the room with shelves and shelves of stuff.
After an hour of prop fishing I found props that needed to be stained. I worked my way back to the kitchen area and asked if they had wood stain. Don got up and came back handing me a can of stain when I asked, “You want me to stain this?” ” Can you have your prop person to do this?” They looked over their pancakes and Don said in a tiny gentle voice, “you want me to do that?” I nodded yes. While Don was staining the props, Hee Haw Bob, whom I deducted was the rep., discussed the salad options while I watched their food stylist incorrectly slicing cucumbers and I asked her.” how long have you been doing this?” “My first time, I’m the secretary that answers the phone,” I smiled and just walk away muttering, “so this is Texas.”
Looking over the three sets I asked Don, the photographer, how he was going to set up the lighting. He replied “you can set everything in and move the lights where you want?” I stood there staring at him for about a second or two and reluctantly said with a slight chuckle, “ok.” Never did this before; most shooters would never let a client put their hands on a set let alone the lights. As I begin to prep the three shots, I had the food stylist building a hero salad to replace the stand-in salad once the shot was ready. Hours had gone when the agency AE Ashley arrived, a young really smart guy that quickly noticed things looked a bit odd and asked “why are you lighting the sets?” I began to layout the scenario that felt like a scene out of SNL. I looked past Ashley’s shoulder and I saw both the Hee Haw Boys now eating a salad out of a large bowl that looked a lot like our hero salad, but I shook it off thinking no way that could never happen, not even in Texas.
It was now 2 pm and the first setup was ready to shoot, when I called Don over to click the shutter and asked him if he would bring the hero salad with him. They both gave me a blank look and said “ahhh,” when I said, “you ate the hero salad didn’t you?” They gave me the guilty nod yes then comically lumbered over to the food stylist and started making a new one. Ashley and I looked at each other as if to say, “This isn’t happening,” but it was. Now by this time our Account Supervisor, Henry arrived and Ashley gives him the scoop, Henry mumbles, “I think this is goanna be fun.”
We finished the first and second setups when both the Hee Haw Boys came over to me and started to belly bounce me between them while giggling and asking if I wanted a beer. Mean while Ashley and Henry just sat there in stitches as the Boys opened a Texas size fridge filled with, what else, Lone Star Beer. I immediately grabbed a much-needed six-pack and began to work on eliminating reality.
At 10 pm we took our last shot and Henry had already left. Ashley and I were about to leave when the Hee Haw Boys asked us to stick around and have turkey dinner with them. We looked over at each other in disbelief, and asked “turkey?” Yep, it was 10 pm and the Boys had a turkey cooking in the oven. We politely declined and walked outside both feeling like we had just starred in a reality comedy production produced by Mel Brooks and the Hee Haw Boys.
We each gave it Four Stars and laughed our way to the closest neighborhood bar.