I was intrigued to have the opportunity to photograph Michael Moore, the famed icon of a citizen trying to get answers from powerful and elusive people.
Moore won his first fame as a moviemaker with a film that tracked with comic appeal his efforts to get past PR people and security men and interview then-General Motors Chairman Roger Smith.
So with the Lone Ranger theme from Roger and Me playing in my head I went off to find Moore and get some photos to illustrate a cover story for an Arts and Entertainment section story pegged to his new movie, Sicko, that focuses on the failings of America's health care system.
To photograph Moore, I was first told to go to AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington and wait. Outside, a busload of nurses also was waiting for Moore.
Then I got a call from one of Moore's publicists telling me to go immediately to the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. When I arrived, huffing and puffing after a half-mile run, a worried security guard asked, "Why are you out of breath?" I was wondering the same thing when I discovered that while I was sprinting away, Moore had met with the nurses and I had missed a perfect photographic opportunity.
Asked about the decision to send me to Capitol Hill, a Moore aide explained that what I wanted was a portrait, not casual candid shots. This was news to me. I would have loved to photograph him with the nurses.
Now, I found myself waiting, again, in a room where The Sun's interview with Moore was supposed to take place. As time passed, I got to know some of Moore's aides. One suggested that we use a flag as a backdrop for the photo; another instructed me on the type of photo I should take. A makeup artist named Susan stood in to give me light readings for a potential portrait shot I had set up. We waited.
Finally, Moore arrived with a dozen aides and security people packed around him. Almost immediately, Moore's people shoved me and said, "Leave now!" I found myself crushed with others in a small hallway, waiting for Moore to finish his lunch.
When we were allowed back in, Moore instructed me that a good photographer could get a good shot right away and that I should shoot only in the beginning of the interview. An aide said time was limited. It turned out to be the shortest sit-down interview I ever viewed. Moore said he had to go when a congressman arrived soon after the conversation started.
I told Moore's people I still needed one good cover shot. But when I asked him to stand by my lighting equipment, he looked at me and said, "No, I won't do that." He turned around and left the room. When I tried to shoot him leaving, his people told me to stop.
In desperation I followed him to a news conference and fought for position in a room crowded shoulder to shoulder with sharp-elbowed reporters and photographers. I got a few shots from the side but couldn't reach the front where I wanted to be.
In the end, it dawned on me that I may not have gotten a very good photo of Michael Moore, but I sure did learn what it must have been like for him to pursue Roger, the General Motors chairman.