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Anecdotes: My 40th Birthday Party

My 40th birthday party invitation.

My 40th birthday party invitation.

It’s been more years than I’d like to remember, but when I do think about it I always give out a big smile since it was one of the best parties I’ve ever thrown; and I’ve thrown some damn good parties. It was for my 40th birthday, and I wanted it to be memorable so I rented out Rockefellers in Houston. It was a great place to go to hear well known bands and solo singers that wanted to play in a smaller venue.

Renting Rockefellers for the night was expensive, so I struck a deal with the owners. I offered to shoot some pictures for them and I also explained what I was going to do for the invitation. They loved the idea so much that they wanted to create a poster and use my 53′ Caddy for their own advertising. Needless to say I had no problem with that, especially since they were going to give me the entire place for a third of what they would normally charge for a Saturday night.

My idea was to take my 1953 black Cadillac convertible and park it in front of the building. The final invitation was a poster I sent out to all my friends working at the advertising and modeling agencies, and design studios. Well, when I did a tech scout and placed my car in front it was boring, and just wasn’t working. My next idea was to park it perpendicular to the building, but to do that would take hiring two cops to stop traffic while we shot. With a four hour minimum for each looking at me, I just couldn’t see putting good money out that should go to the bar!!!

I decided on a “gorilla shoot” (I’ve always been of the notion that it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask permission). That’s when you go on a Sunday night when the traffic is the lightest and just go for it. First we put lights in all the windows of the building and I had two assistants with a walki-talki so that when I had my car in position, I would have them fire the strobes while the shutter was open  and I was recording the building on the outside and mixing it with the ambient light in the dusk sky. That was the easy part.

The hard part was next. As fast as I could (since I didn’t have any police for traffic control), I turned my car around in the middle of the street so the building would be right behind it.  I jumped out, set up my tripod and started shooting. After checking a quick Polaroid, I was able to get off three exposures before the police showed up with red lights flashing.

The young cop was reasonably nice when he walked over to me and said, “Just what the hell are you doing? Are you nuts blocking this major street?” I explained what I was doing and he again said, “Well, you’re done doing it, now get this damn car out of the street. I’m writing you a ticket, but I have no idea what to put down”. I knew that was my moment. I told him that if he wouldn’t write me up, I’d like to invite him to the party, and by the way, I’m sending an open invitation to all the modeling agencies in town.

“Really?” he said with bulging eyes. “models?”  I said yes and that all the best looking women in Houston will be there. “Ok, I’ll be there. Can I bring a friend?”. I told him yes, and with that he started directing traffic so I could get my car out of the middle of the street.

In case your wondering, he and a friend did show up, and from what I remember they both left with new found friends.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com and check out my new 2014 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. My first one so far is my “Springtime in Paris” workshop in May. Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.


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    { 2 comments… add one }
    • Tom January 15, 2014, 5:04 am

      Great photo and great story!  Still have the caddy?

      • Joe January 15, 2014, 8:09 am

        No, I sold it years ago. I was having it detailed at a car wash when a guy walked up and said he had a thing about Caddy’s and was I interested in selling it. I threw out a price thinking it would scare him away, and he bought it that day with CASH!!!


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