Recently Jennifer and I were talking about places each of us have been.  She had traveled to Germany in the mid-1980s to visit her brother who was serving in the Army.  Interesting that the European countries where I have been, she has not visited and vice-versa; I have not been to Germany.  I would love to tour the country of my fore-fathers.  During this discussion I said something about how small the Statue of Liberty looked the first time I saw it.  I asked if that was her impression as well.  She responded, “I have never been to New York City.” I thought she had been there but apparently she had not.  I went on to describe my impressions of the famous statue in the harbor that welcomes people to America. 

We were crossing the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge on our way to Manhattan when I first spotted the icon.  It was so small; I had a hard time believing that this was the Statue of Liberty.  The year was 1987 and I was on a freelance video production job for a Paul Harvey Special for the 200th anniversary of the American Constitution which was going to air on NBC.   This production was sponsored by Second Baptist Church in Houston.  We turned to enter Battery Park which was near the tunnel we had just exited.  There were three of us on this trip; I was the new guy, so I carried and set up the camera and tripod.  John was the camera guy; he operated the broadcast camera.  Charlie was the producer; he was the money guy and took care of making sure our next stop was covered with film permits etc.  John and Charlie did most of the driving in the rented van from Philadelphia where we had filmed the Liberty Bell the day before. 

After parking the van, John and I were un-casing the camera and other equipment while Charlie bought tickets for the three of us to take a boat out to the Statue.  John wanted a moving shot of the Statue as we approached on the boat so I set up the tripod where he would have the best view.  Once we locked the camera down, John powered it up and set the filters and adjusted the white balance, he was ready to start filming but the boat turned – the statue was now on the other side of the crowded boat.  He un-clipped the camera, I grabbed the tripod, and we worked our way through the crowd.  Since we were closing in on the dock where we would step off the boat, John decided to get what he could by filming shoulder mounted.  Just as he pressed the record button, another boat passed so our deck started to rock back and forth.  So far all the shots we attempted to get of the statue were no good.  Our luck changed once we were on the island and could take our time finding the right shot.  As John was filming I was shooting stills with my Nikon.  The stills would be used as cover shots for any edits that might be needed.  Back at Battery Park before I cased up the camera, I took some random shots of the downtown buildings on Manhattan for cut away shots in the edits.  One of the camera’s pans you could see the twin towers.  I had no idea at the time how special those towers were.  In fact, I don’t recall seeing them without looking through the camera.

We got the footage we needed for the TV special, and it was a success.  Charlie passed away in 2002.  John moved to Nashville, and I hear from him occasionally.   That trip holds a lot of fond memories for me.  Some of the highlights for me on that trip were: While setting up to film the Liberty Bell, we had access before the hall was open to the public for the day.  The guards removed the stanchions so we could get a good shot.  I put my fingers in the crack of the bell, something the public could not do since they could not reach the bell.  Later that day we were escorted to the bell tower where the bell hung when it was cracked.  We climbed up into the tower and could see most of Philadelphia from that vantage point.  Another time was at George Washington’s house at Mount Vernon, we had access to the entire house before it was open to the public for that day.  I sat at George’s desk while John and Charlie walked the house trying to decide the shot they wanted. Another time, I was alone with the actual Constitution, not the duplicate the public sees, in the Archives while Charlie and John carried the video equipment in from the van.  The reason I was not carrying equipment was they did not want me to get sweaty since I was going to be in that video scene.  Another fond memory was John wanted a shot of the Lincoln Statue at the Lincoln Memorial, but we did not have a film permit for that.  A guard stopped us to ask to see our permit.  John responded that the $40,000 camera was his personal camera and he wanted to get a video to show his dad.  I don’t think the guard believed him, so he said, “make it fast.”  John started filming but there were pigeons that landed all over the statue.  I wadded up some paper and threw it at the pigeons to make them fly away.  That is when the guard made us leave.  If we got any video of the Lincoln statue, it was only a few seconds.  Another time we stopped for lunch at a Taco Bell, so John got the camera out and did a slow pull away shot of the bell at the top of the restaurant as if it was the Liberty Bell.  Back in Houston the Executive Producer saw that short clip and said, “So, how much did this shot cost me?”

My time in New York was only a few hours.  We were there to get video then on to the next place for more video.  It was a whirlwind trip, but one I recall with fond memories.  Maybe one day Jennifer and I can go to New York City and tour the Statue of Liberty as tourists.  We plan to do some traveling when we retire soon so it is possible we can make such a trip.