It’s just a metaphor
NB: This was originally posted to Open Salon in December of 2009. I was on assignment from Legacy Books to shoot the event in appreciation and thanks for the bookstore hosting a prior book signing and promotion event for my own book, Dallas Iconography. Legacy then was granted permission to use my photos for their own promotional purposes. Some of the text tense isn’t relevant as Legacy closed within a year of the event described. A sad loss for the community, it was an exceptional place.
Also, the title is a common reference for photographers on a gig. I saw no one who wished her harm, and I certainly didn’t either in spite of my personal thoughts about her—which were not part of the work that I was doing on site.
Legacy Books is the largest independent book store in the country. It’s a mecca for the local bibliophiles. A sleek and modern masterpiece of layout and design, the store seems to welcome you to spend your time in guilt-free leisure.
Café Carina is inside the store, a coffee and espresso and sandwich bar with free Wi-Fi and a fully tricked out demonstration kitchen—a demo kitchen! Legacy brings in a lot of cookbook authors who display their finesse and allows them to prove their books. You can browse, have a sandwich in the cafe and then browse some more. It will take some time—and that’s ok, you have time.
But it’s not just the store that makes this a wonderful destination, it’s really about the people that work there. When was the last time you went into a major chain big book box and felt like you’d found a long lost friend in one of the attending staff members? From Teri Tanner, the on-site managing partner, to the part time student stocking the shelves, the employees are proud to be on an exceptional team. They make the store an oasis of culture. Ask any employee what they’re currently reading. It won’t be a manga graphic novel—probably.
I was delighted when my publisher said that I was scheduled to have a book signing at the store. I was not disappointed—it was a great experience. I didn’t sell many books, but it was fun to be there. They invited me to come back just before Christmas to do another signing.
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This past Friday, December 4, a juggernaut rolled into town. I didn’t see the bus—it was abandoned I think in favor of a string of SUVs. The bus is a myth of sorts anyway since it’s been leaked that Sarah doesn’t actually travel on the bus, instead opting to jet around on a medium sized chartered plane. Her support staff are on the bus. See our own LuluandPhoebe’s exposé on the bus/jet hoax here.
Sarah Palin and her entourage descended upon the cozy comfort of überconservative Collin County. I had asked the folks at Legacy Books at my own signing if they wanted a photographer “on staff” to shoot the event. I offered a no-fee license for them to use the images in print or online media in exchange for attribution. They said yes!
This was not to be a political event for me. Since I was going to be wearing a store badge that would grant me better access than even the print, photo and video journalists that flocked to the store, I had to present a detached professional mien. I came to neither bury Sarah nor praise her—I was a face obscured by a camera—a glass and metal proboscis in khaki pants.
Security was tight. They had the head of the Plano SWAT force in plain clothes standing next to the signing table. There were other ex-military folk at strategic locations. I was scrutinized with hard stares. Luckily, I had an orange ribbon around my neck with an attached name tag. I was in like Flint and beyond the barriers. I was spun around once by one of the security people, a woman who looked like she could beat me up in a nanosecond. “Are you a journalist? You’re going to have to move back on the other side of the chain…oh, sorry, you’re with the store. Never mind.”
It was a fun gig. I didn’t have to subscribe to the running commentary in the crowd waiting to see her, nor refute anything. But I do have some thoughts that have coalesced in the intervening days since the event. These are somewhat random:
- I don’t think the event was for Sarah to connect with her fans as much as it was for her fans to connect with her. It might be a minor point, but that’s the impression I got. That is, the people were ushered by the table very rapidly. The music was amped up enough to drown out most conversations (the music was themed for the event—Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and the like).
- “Hi,” “What’s your name?” and “Thanks” seemed to be about the extent of the chitchat from Sarah at the table. And even though the fans were rushed through, they didn’t seem to mind. They got their 15 seconds next to their own personal rock star.
- Sarah did not respond in any way to the constant refrain of “If you run in 2012, you got my vote.”
- There was a dais, a platform, outside the front door of the store set up with a microphone with speakers nearby in case Sarah wanted to make some comments to the crowd. She chose not to. In fact, she made no general public statement and was not available at all to any of the journalists present. Reporters were not allowed to ask questions and were kept away from the signing desk. There was one reporter I talked to who was very frustrated. She was from Agence France-Presse working on another story in Colorado. She asked the AFP if she should attend the booksigning here and they gave her a go-ahead. She left with nothing more than interviews with store personnel and some patrons.
- Sarah signed about 1300 books. 1000 tickets were sold for the event. If you didn’t have a ticket—the cost of which was the same as the book—you couldn’t get in line. The ticket got you a book and a place in line, there wasn’t any additional charge.
- She usually asked for the name of the patron, which led to some confusion. While she was furiously signing the books handed to her and then pushing the book to another handler, she never wrote anything but her own name. People wanted “their signed copy,” but there was no “their” there. The signed books were shuttled to a pile that the customer had to walk to. This was done to keep the line moving—and it had to move since there was a three hour allotment for those 1000 customers.
- I saw one black gentleman in line. I don’t remember seeing any other minorities present. It was not a diverse group, the color spectrum was almost completely homogenous.
- Patrons had to drop all personal items, bags, coats and jackets and anything carried into the store at a bag drop. They were instructed to not take photos and to keep the line moving. Some customers ignored the camera injunction once they got through the line and some distance away on their way out, but even that made the handlers antsy.
- You could not bring your own copy of Going Rogue to be signed. You could only get one or two books for yourself purchased from the book store.
- Palin’s mother and father, Chuck and Sally Heath, and her Aunt Katie attended. Todd and 20-month-old Trig were standing in the background for most of the three hours. Trig appeared to want to be elsewhere and was often seen to be struggling to get out of Todd’s arms.
- Sally Heath, Sarah’s mother, admitted that she had not yet read the book. “No one’s even given me a copy to read on the bus,” she said. (See LuluandPhoebe’s link above for info on the bus hoax.)
- Sarah was very gracious. She looked everyone in the eye. She smiled at every person that came by. Everyone felt like they had a personal connection to her in the less than 15 seconds allotted to each.
- She seemed a bit tired, though that did not diminish her high wattage smile. Her eyes were a bit bloodshot. (I was using several very good lenses. You can see a 100% crop— full actual size—here.)
- Most of the event centered around people having a good time. There were only a few negative comments about “the other side.” Except for the live broadcasting conservative Christian radio talk show host going on and on about “the haters” (libruls), there really was only a couple of instances when people were not concentrating on their love of Sarah.
- People waited in freezing weather for hours upon hours. Just before Sarah arrived, a group of VIPs were escorted to the head of the line. They did not wait out in the cold. Several reporters were seen talking to the them. I asked one of them later what the criteria was for being a VIP and he mentioned that one gentleman was involved in the Bush Library, about to begin construction on the SMU campus in Dallas. It appears that the VIPs had some sort of connection to the party apparatchik. The person the reporter talked to declined to say who pulled strings for him.
- Everyone—I mean everyone—when leaving the signing table had a big, big smile on their face. The people at the signing loved Sarah and it was obvious they had a great time.
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Okay, I took photos. I’ll present some of them here. Probably more than you want to see, surely more than you need to see. I’ll leave it up to you to interpret what they mean and keep my captions to a minimum. Let me mention again that the regular staff at Legacy are an amazing group of caring and kind people. If you’re anywhere in the DFW area, you should hajj your way over there.
David Lutz, 24, on the right with his father said “She’s just so real. You don’t have to peel back layer after layer to understand what she’s saying.” David was first in line having staked out his position at 10 pm the evening before—13 hours before Sarah showed up.
Really, a delightful person. Her giggle reminded me a bit of Tequila and Donuts (yes, I’ve met the Divine Ms D).
Mike Gallagher, the aforementioned radio talk show host and sometimes substitute for Hannity on Fox, live broadcasting the event and author of Surrounded by Idiots: Fighting Liberal Lunacy in America.
Yay! The doors are open! Oh wait, it’s still two hours before she shows up. You know those Disney rides where the attendants open up a section of the serpentine line to give you the illusion of movement? Actually, it was still freezing cold outside. Everyone was so happy to get warm. They only let in a few hundred at a time though.
This was the “holding area” for people wanting to use the restroom. The signing took place on the second floor and the restrooms were on the first floor. They had bathroom passes (!) so they could get back in line on the top floor.
Finally, Sarah arrived.
Part of the Palin entourage included a photographer. She was using a wide angle lens that included both Sarah and the patron. The customers were given a card with a web address to see the pictures, with the option to purchase and the funds going to SarahPac.com. The card included this caption: “Thanks for going rogue with me today! Let’s stay in touch and stand up for our nation together.”
One mother, Stephanie Shaffer of Midlothian brought her son, pictured above, and placed him on the signing table. Truett, 21 months, was wearing a shirt that read, “Don’t blame me: I can’t vote till 2025.” It was the most time that Sarah spent with any of the patrons and mentioned that their boys should get together and play. That was arranged, and it happened right in front of the photographer’s pen. The cacophony of shutter releases was startling. Shaffer was delighted. “I’ve got butterflies.”
A Sarah Palin look-alike, Marilyn Phillips drove up from Glen Rose, about 100 miles southwest of Plano. She brought along her 8-week-old grandson Tripp. She even researched what kind of glasses Sarah wears and bought her own Japanese designer Kazuo Kawasaki frames. They go for about $400 without the lenses.
A friend mentioned that she’s probablly using a Bumpit™.
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Thanks to Teri, Kyle, Jeremy, Becky, Robin and all the Legacy Books staff for welcoming me into the store and making me feel like part of the team.
all images copyright © 2009 by barry b. doyle • all rights reserved
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