The subjects of my photographs are often taken aback at the fifteen seconds of fame they often come into when the photos and story about them are distributed nationally and in some cases worldwide. Such was the case with “Rick” (not his real name–I’ll explain).
Rick had a heavy smoking habit and like many people he decided it was time to quit. After several failed attempts, Rick decided to take one last drastic measure.
The chain smoker would chain (cable) himself to his house for a specified several weeks after which he assumed he could return to society without feeling the need to light up.
He removed all tobacco and tools he might be able to use to release himself and instructed a friend to check on him, bring him food and to not…under any circumstances…listen if he asked the friend to release him early.
Rick had enough cable that allowed him to walk around his house freely, sit on his porch and for safety, even walk some distance from the house should it catch fire.
So, with his non-chained up dog as his only companion and a telephone as his only link to the outside world, Rick began his self-imposed Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde sort of confinement until the nicotine demons were gone.
A few days into the “period of therapy”, the local news media got wind of the story and from there a national news outlet decided to follow by sending a reporter and me to get photos.
The story moved across the national wire and then went worldwide. That’s when Rick’s fifteen seconds stretched to fifteen minutes of fame and not all of it was pleasant. Radio talk shows called to interview him and check on his progress. One particular talk show from Australia would call every day not caring that their live mid-day program call came in the middle of the night for Rick.
His new-found fling with fame turned particularly sour when the host of one show made sucking sounds as if he were inhaling smoke from a cigarette and asked, “Does that make you want to light up?” Rick said he could hear laughing in background.
In spite of the rudeness Rick endured because of his temporary celebrity, he wanted to capitalize on it and maybe extend it for another fifteen minutes. He pitched story idea after story idea to me mostly about his passion for dogs and training them. As noble and appealing as dog stories are, there just wasn’t an angle I could see that would call for pitching the story to an editor.
Unfortunately, the public’s taste is more for the somewhat bizarre nature of his attempt to kick the smoking habit. It is for that reason I did not use his real name.
John S. Stewart