Yesterday morning I had no idea that my phone would ring with a call for a last-minute photo shoot.
I thought I'd spend my morning in the same way I often do: coffee, yogurt, granola bar, on an exercise bike in front of the TV while going through e-mails and getting ready for a day of work and cruises in the evening.
But the phone rang, and the request was made.
I have to admit that it was the kind of thing that a gondola owner loves to hear.
"We arranged to have a prop gondola brought in, but when the photographer walked in and saw it, he shook his head and refused to shoot it."
I envisioned a photographer with skill, attitude, and an expert eye for things.
I also imagined a truly awful mock up of a gondola.
As it happens, both were true.
Turns out they walked in with a canoe that had a fake ferro on both ends - and by "walked in" I mean that two guys just carried the thing into the room.
After the photographer's response, I'm sure they walked right back out.
While on the phone we hammered out some of the details, I determined that I could drop everything and make it happen, and by last night the boat was parked in front of my house.
One of my most capable gondoliers, Konnor, arrived first thing in the morning and we washed and loaded up. Well, he washed and did most of the loading, while I spent a lot of time on the phone and planning the driving portion of our adventure.
Trailering can be a breeze, it can also be a nervous affair.
Because the freeways in Los Angeles are terrible in some areas,
and my trailer was in a foul mood,
the trip to the location was stressful.
We ended up at this amazing mansion in the Malibu area - one where a lot of things have been filmed with famous people of all types.
And while that's neat and interesting, I found the roads to be about as tight as some I've seen in small Italian hillside villages.
Eventually we were able to back the trailer into place and with the help of several stage hand types, we pulled the gondola off the trailer by hand...and stuffed the front end of it right through a doorway into the house.
Yes, it was on purpose, and no, we didn't do any damage;
not to the doorway, the landscaping, or the expensive curb-like wall that we had to send it over.
Big sacks of potting soil turned out to be a great solution to the problem of the curb/wall. We stacked them up on both sides, laid a sheet of plywood over the top, and rolled the gondola along that platform using a series of boat fenders. Konnor said we were moving the boat "like Egyptians".
It worked, and in a short time we'd managed to get ten feet of the boat in the room before we reached "critical width" and had to stop.
The photographer went to work, setting up equipment I've only seen on a few past shoots - top of the top camera and lighting gear. The laptop computer showed each snap and the images were surreal; more surreal when they brought in the smoke machine. As if that wasn't amazing enough, next the animal handler ushered in a live leopard! Yes, I said "leopard" - the big cat with an amazing pair of spotted pajamas.
Really, I'm not exaggerating here.
This beautiful (and dangerous) animal jumped up on the bow of the gondola, rubbed her face on the ferro, and that photographer (the one with skill, attitude, and an expert eye for things) shot some truly remarkable photos.
It was certainly one of the most unusual image combinations I've seen.
At some point I hope to share with you the particulars of the shoot:
the product being marketed, the photographer, and of course the finished product, but for now all I can do is share the story of the shoot.
We pulled the boat out of the door and got her back on the trailer without incident.
I was happy to discover that we'd done the whole thing without damaging any sprinklerheads and the curb/wall was untouched too.
They say "there's nothing new under the sun", and while that may be mostly true, on the drive home I realized that today we did something that's probably never been done before, ever.
We put the bow of a gondola through the door of a Malibu mansion, and put a live leopard on the deck. I can't wait to see what the final result looks like in print.