(c) by guest blogger Michael Stern

As I went about writing my first book, several stories didn’t make the final draft. I didn’t agree with my publisher at the time but I did appreciate their experience and perspective in these situations. Since there are not enough stories (and pictures of course) to fill another book I’ll bring them into the light of day for all to wonder and be amazed by here. (:)) They involve sex, drugs, fisticuffs, music and water. “The Great Flood” is named so because it involves literally tons of water.

Picture me on a Saturday night in 1980, dateless, shirtless but not hopeless. I was in my custom studio in my custom B&W darkroom in my  first studio in Hollywood. Right on Hollywood Blvd it was. I was printing client portfolio pieces and had been at it for hours when I decided I needed some fresh air and time to people-gawk. My first studio was a cooperative arrangement on the second floor of the F. W. Woolworth store on Hollywood Blvd. The upstairs lobby fed into five individual studios on the second floor. There was a jeweler, an interior decorator, a product designer and two photo studios. It was fun times and one I will always cherish even when it turned out in ways I would have wished otherwise. (I’ll get to that in another blog: tension, fisticuffs and sorrow)

As I’m walking down the stairs, I hear yelling and rattling of the metal security gate that was closed for security reasons (it was Hollywood on a Saturday night) before I went up to print. It was a fireman. I go down to investigate and he tells me what happened: the ceiling of the Woolworth store had collapsed from the weight of a tremendous amount of water that had broken through and flooded the area directly beneath. The reason the fire department showed up at all was equally amazing: two drunks had gotten into a fight and one had punched the other through one of the plate glass doors of the store. When the police and paramedics showed up to investigate and provide first aid, the cops noticed all the water, the collapsed ceiling tiles and all the damage to the women’s lingerie section of the store. They in turn called the fire department.

They asked if I knew where was the water coming from. I had a good idea. I had been in my darkroom for several hours before I took that first break. The water had been running for hours as I was flushing prints so they would be free of chemical residue. The second floor drain pipe was clogged at the point where it joined the drain pipe that connected to the drain pipe for the store. It was quite a scene, broken glass, water, damaged goods and many missing ceiling tiles. The store had been closed for several hours so there was no one around to see  or perhaps the problem develop. If it hadn’t been for those two wonderfully impaired and stand-up LA citizens, who knows how much damaged would have been caused?

My first reaction was am I covered? I figured I was but a bit of panic set in. Turns out the owner of the building took full responsibility for the problem as there was a clause in the lease that specifically stated that the building owner was responsible for those types of concerns. I was insured and it would have probably been covered but I didn’t have to find out.


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