Monday, March 1, 2010

The Tale of Gordon T. Allen...The Video Cowboy

Back in the Stone Age, when I worked in TV news, I was surprised when I answered a call to the newsroom and a man speaking with a drawl said, "Hi. This is Gordon. I've got video of a shooting in Crack-of-my-ass County. Ya wannit?"

He was referring to Clackamas County. It was the weekend and we had no other big stories. I told him to bring it in. Gordon was a stringer--a freelance television news photographer, who primarily shoots breaking news that happens while the rest of us are sleeping.

What was so much fun about the Gordon videos was not the breaking news, but the b-roll, or extra video that they contained. It would not be unusual, for example, for him to bring in a video of a house fire, at which a marijuana grow operation was also discovered, and Gordon would crack a joke to the officials on the scene, "Hey, anybody got a pipe?" He also loved cats, so he had to get the obligatory shot of the pet that escaped.

And then there was Thelma.

Thelma was his rubber companion that went everywhere Gordon's specially- rigged video vehicle went.

One of the anchors I worked with used to say his worst fear was that at his passing, Gordon would be hovering overhead with his camera. That anchor remains alive.

Gordon shot video of the first babies of the new year. I can only imagine how the mother's felt, seeing Mr. Thelma getting video of their first moments with their newborns.

I've been wondering a lot lately what happened to Gordon T. Allen, roper-in of news, and one of the unforgettable figures in my life.

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