Thursday, December 13, 2012

A True Story of Yellowstone, Cameron Diaz, WPBT, and one Small World

Sometimes, thing happen in our lives that become the stories we tell over and over. They are the unplanned, unexpected things that happen because we were in a certain place at a certain time. Some are momentous events like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. Most are small personal moments that others in the area may not have noticed. I’m sure we all have a few of these in our past.

One of mine happened in Yellowstone National Park in 2004 and took a twist two weeks ago. I’ll explain.

My wife and I were on vacation. It was the first trip to Yellowstone for both of us. We were knocked out by the scenery and the wildlife and the geysers, etc. I was packing the brand new digital SLR I had bought with this trip in mind, so I was being a picture taking fool. On the third day we happened into an area of the park named Hayden Valley. The valley is filled with rolling green pastures set between craggy grey mountains.

Near one parking area we saw a group of bison that included a few baby bison (which is more fun to say than “young bison”). There were also a couple of trucks at one end of the parking lot with what looked like a film crew buzzing around. Both the wife and I spent some time in the TV business, so we were more interested in staying out of their way than gawking, so we parked at the other end of the lot and I got out to take some pictures of the bison.

In front of our car was about 5 feet of walking area before a slope dropped down about 8 feet to the meadow. I was standing about 2 to 3 feet from the edge where I felt like someone walking past me could easily go behind me to avoid the slope or disturbing my shot. Well, the TV crew had decided to set up in the meadow off the far end of the parking lot from where they had parked which meant that they would be walking past me and my wife who was still in the car.

For a reason that I would find out much later, they all decided to walk in front of me. There was no hesitation or apology from a single one. I now think this was done out of spite, but not spite for me, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Not being one to take this without a fight, I looked for a break in their line and stepped forward at the first opening forcing the remainder of them to go behind me or tumble down the hill. Problem solved.

So I take some time snapping a few bison pictures and then notice the crew filming this one guy in a blue jacket and I think I should get a shot of them since they were now a part of our vacation. I take a picture, check the picture for exposure, make an adjustment and come up to take another shot. That’s when the head of a ‘lady’ from the crew fills my lens as she’s walking my way. I look around my raised camera and say “excuse me” with some irritation. That’s when things started to get interesting.

She starts to tell me that I can’t take pictures of the crew when a park ranger comes out of nowhere and tells her that she can’t tell me what I can and can’t take pictures of and that it is my park as well as theirs. Now I’m intrigued as to what I’ve stumbled upon. I think, “Who is that guy? It’s obviously someone important, otherwise why would they object to my taking pictures?” The guy looks kind of like a balding, overweight Alan Alda to me. He is surrounded by a girl dressed like a roadie, a guy with a still camera that looks out of place and various other members of the crew. I take a couple more pictures, especially of the star and the crew for later identification.

By now, another member of the crew is wondering why the lady, who is now standing beside me, is not stopping me. They are filming, so he can’t yell to us/at me, so he waves his arms like he’s trying to stop a plane from landing and I wave back in my best mocking style. My wife told me later that there were some big dudes behind our car talking into microphones in their sleeves and acting a little aggressive. I never saw them. The park ranger sees the escalation of tempers and says “That’s it. You have to go.” But she didn’t say it to me. She said it to the film crew.

By now, my wife is getting a little worried and asks/tells me to get in the car. We are left to wonder what had just happened. Who was that guy and why were they so pissed off at me? We laughed and put our book on tape back in the player. The book happened to be Phillip Margolin’s “Ties that Bind” which features a preppy gang of three men who grow up to control a town. In the book, the gang was known as the “Vaughn Street Glee Club.” We immediately named the film crew the “Hayden Valley Glee Club” and spend the rest of the day trying to figure out who that guy was.

Well, we ran into the HVGC the next day at a location were wolves were supposed to be visible. We didn’t see any, but as my wife stood among other tourist, some of the film crew members walk past and one tourist says “there goes Cameron Diaz.” Neither of us is real up on pop culture, so my wife asks “Carmen who?” To this day she still has to double check herself to say Cameron instead of Carmen. (I later find out that they were filming “Trippin’ with Cameron Diaz” for MTV) So we finally figured out what the big deal had been the previous day and we never saw the Haden Valley Glee Club again. Well, that is until two weeks ago.

On the first night of the World Poker Blogger Tour weekend (which would take a whole other post to explain), I made a trip to the Excalibur to meet and play poker with the man who had put together our Tough Mudder team for the September Lake Tahoe event ( but had to drop out due to a work related opportunity. I won’t mention his name, but those who read this and know him will recognize him in the photo below. I’ll call him Nick. So I meet Nick and the blogger crew that was with him and we fill up a new table to play some hold ‘em. As we chat, I mention that Paula Broadwell (Petreaus’ ex) lives in my neighborhood and I had gone over to her house to see the FBI raid and the news crews and paparazzi which led to the story about the Hayden Valley Glee Club and the time I was mistaken for a paparazzo. That’s when Nick turns and asks me if Cameron and crew were filming “Trippin’”. Well, it turns out that Nick was a member of the crew. Once I returned home and pulled out the old pictures I knew that Nick had been the guy that was ‘waving’ me off.

Here’s the best of the old pictures from that day. Nick is in there as is Cameron Diaz hiding her face in her jacket collar, the guy I thought was the star (Tom Murphy), and BMX pro Mat Huffman with his back to the camera. It is now a classic for me.


So Nick has gone from a villain in my mind to a really cool guy. I hope he gets a laugh out of the picture and this story as he’s reading. I can understand how folks in this line of work would loath the paparazzi as parasites on their work, thus the hostility toward me that day in 2004. Two weeks later, Cameron and her boyfriend Justin ‘beat up’ a paparazzo and took his camera which made tabloid headlines. I may have come close to being that paparazzo. I’m glad Justin wasn’t there.

If there is a moral to the story, it is to keep in mind how small the world is getting and to treat people like friends in your future. They just may be.