Saturday, January 05, 2008
in which they look shocked and run away
I mentioned that right before I broke my leg I'd been having a swell time. A big part of the fun was the Stride Gum Photo Booth. Marketing and Promotion departments are increasingly edging their way into our daily (and nightly) lives, and as we grow less tolerant of the wiles of advertising, the boys and girls at the drawing board have to get more creative to get our attention.
Such is the case with the Stride Gum booth, a creative way to brand bar patrons with the knowledge that Stride is "the ridiculously long-lasting gum." There it sat, at the back of Little Bar. (If you click on the link you can see the place Bubs calls "The scene of the crime." The dance floor is just outside the frame, to the far left. And see where it says "Drink my soju"? Don't.) We thought it was a regular photo booth and couldn't wait to go inside. I'd had a rough day, which my appearance reflected, but you only go around once and there's not much that can keep my mug away from a camera, even when I know the resultant photo will look like a mug shot. To me it's a no-brainer. Even on my best day, there will be far better looking people than I am. Far uglier, too. So why worry about it? One day I'll be gone. I'm leaving plenty of documentation that I was here.
That's my attitude, but not that of a lot of people, I know. One of my would-be favorite photographs was taken when I was about 5 years old. I am standing in front of a church, next to a car, wearing a faux fur hat, a gray winter coat, and the look of someone who is glad church is over because she's got other things to do. I'm holding my grandmother's hand, but little can be seen of that fact. My grandmother cut herself out of the picture and threw her section away almost immediately after the shot was taken. She died in 1980, days before my 14th birthday. Nearly 28 years later, I am the one at a loss for her image.
My grandmother chopped herself out of almost all of the precious few photos she allowed anyone to take. I don't know what her reasons were, but I do know that many people are camera phobic for their own reasons. Here in LA you can get almost anybody to jump in front of a camera. This is a place where most of us came to do just that, even if we claim we didn't. So I can see why the people at Stride thought to put one of their photo booths in the back of an LA bar. Pass out some tasty long-lasting gum. Let people play around in the booth. Hand them free age-progressed photos of themselves to cleverly illustrate the gum's longevity. Wait. Free photos? Yes. Free age-progressed photos? Oh hell no.
That was the fun of the night, watching people stroll up to the booth, all happy and ready for their close-ups, Mr. DeMille, then watching them balk at the idea of seeing themselves writ old. Everybody, and I mean everybody, turned into my grandmother. I've never seen people run from a camera so fast. No one in Los Angeles wants to get old. EVER. Given the choice of being young and stupid or old and wise, bring on the plastic surgery and the lobotomies. The Bubs and I were laughing because even men wouldn't go in that booth. When I said I think my photo is kind of neat and gets me excited about growing older, the girls operating the booth said I'm the only person who's ever said that, and that booth gets around. I'm not surprised.
What does surprise and tickle me is that the folks at Stride thought the good citizens of Los Angeles would find wrinkles amusing. If they were really on their game, they would have come up with a special camera that ages people in reverse.