Shooter by Bob Dut - HTML preview

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For a brief while in his dusty civil service career, McGregor and his heavy glasses was the most watched man in England if not the world.

We shared manning the camera and recorder, my soundman running them for a couple of hours and changing with me when he wanted to have an hour or two at the pub down the street facing the Houses of Parliament.

The pub had never done business like it, from the moment it opened it till the moment it closed, it was crammed with reporters and TV crews We noticed Mr. McGregor come in, blinking diffidently over the top of his horn rimmed spectacles at the noisy mob of pressman.

The pub was crowded and seats were at a premium but one of our technicians happened to be just leaving and we called the Ministry spokesman over and offered him a drink.

ABC expenses were generous for things like this and by the end of his fourth or fifth free scotch, we all had got pretty friendly and McGregor’s guard had dropped.

He smiled benevolently at us lesser mortals.

‘There’s really no need for you fellows to hang around in the announcement hall, you could stay here at the pub.”


He grinned.

‘I always get warning of an announcement at least half an hour before I’m supposed to make it, give me the phone number here and I’ll let you know when one’s coming up.’

After that great arrangement, the war was covered in a very civilized manner. We’d get to Whitehall in the morning, check the cameras and the feed lines out, do the odd transmission to the early “AM” show in New York and then make for the pub.

We came back to the Ministry of defense for the catered lunches and wine and then once again the mass of pressmen would hi-tail it to the pub.

Now and again this pleasant life was interrupted by a call from McGregor.

‘I’m going to give a statement in about half an hour. Don’t Panic.’ He laughed.

‘You’ve probably got plenty of time for another pint so don’t hurry, I’ll wait for you if your not all ready.’

We loved him.


A Brief Holiday.

Sometimes it’s time to take advantage of working for yourself, normally the freedom people imagine one has, is a myth. Most times your hoping for another assignment before your money runs out but this time we’d finally made enough to take the holiday of our dreams.

I’d worked 84 days in a row with only one day off, most days getting up at 4am and finishing at 11pm or midnight. After the war was over we looked at the enormous ABC checks for the camera rental, overtime, double time,

“golden” time and my daily rate, hardly believing the staggering amount and decided for once to indulge ourselves.

‘Where in the whole world would you like to go to, Carolyn?’

We were like kids again, spending an unexpected gift from a rich uncle.

I was secretly hoping she’d say Australia but my wife plumped for her life-long dream of visiting South Africa, Carolyn had been writing to a childhood pen-friend there for years and had always longed for a sight of Capetown and the Veldt and it’s game parks.

Places the two teen-age girls had written about over the long years of their dreaming adolescence.

I regretfully put aside my ideas of seeing Australian beauties sunning themselves on Bondi Beach and drinking fantastic unknown varieties of wine, having “Shrimps on the Barbi” under the blazing clear skies of the land of the kangaroo and the koala bear and booked the tickets for Johannesburg.

It wasn’t really much of a sacrifice, I’d been to South Africa before on my way in and out of Rhodesia and had fond memories of my brief stops there.

One of the “perks” of working for a large US Network ,was the fact they had bureaus everywhere. I placed a call to Johannesburg and spoke to Jenny, the delightful and helpful ABC bureau manager and told her we were coming out to have a holiday.

Jenny and the abc bureau went out of their way to make sure our holiday was the greatest we’d ever had.

When we arrived in South Africa, she’d arranged hotels in Jo’Burg, Natal and the Cape, booked a private game park and suggested places to go we’d never have thought of.

The first night after we’d left Johannesburg, was spent up the coast from Durban in a hotel called the “Oyster Box” at Umslanga Rocks. There, under the stars of the Southern Cross we sat together on the long, warm Indian ocean beach sipping chilled delicious white South African wine, hearing the waves crash over the rocks and dreamed aloud in the moonlight.


We even went to Rorke’s Drift, in Zululand. Somewhere I’d always wanted to go to after seeing that wonderful Michael Caine film. “Zulu”

The small river crossing was calm, beautifully kept and empty.

The little outpost now, gave no clue to the fantastic defense it’s small garrison had once put up against the thousands of Zulu warriors that stormed down there after their stunning defeat of the British army at Ishwahlanda.

There were more Victoria crosses won by Rorke’s Drift’s defenders during the remote battle, in that tiny corner of the British Empire than any other in the long fighting history of the British army.

Two monuments marked the place. ..

One spelled out the ranks and the names of the British and Natal volunteers.

The other, the Zulu monument, had no names.

Just a tribute to the hundreds of brave Zulu warriors who’d lost their lives as they came up against the stunning volleys of the British bullets that stopped their advance.


Then onto Cape Province; a tipsy tour of the vineyards and it was time to go back to London and pick up a camera once again and earn some money.

It goes pretty fast when your working for yourself.


Prince Charles.

They’d built a copy of Joseph Paxton’s famous Crystal Palace in Dallas and called it the “Infomart”. The Texan’s had even imported some of the original brickwork and a fountain that was salvaged from the Victorian structure after it was damaged by fire in 1936 and they’d invited Prince Charles to officiate at the opening.

When the Crystal Palace was built for London’s great Exhibition of 1851 the building was plagued by hundreds of pigeons who spattered the exhibits and the tall formal top hats and the elegant dresses of it’s visitors.

Something had to be done if the Exhibition was not to be a failure.

Finally Queen Victoria summoned the greatest man in the land, the Duke of Wellington, to solve the problem.

The “Iron Duke” harrumphed, cleared his throat and thought for a while.

“Hawks, Marm!’

Within a few days the introduction of the birds of prey cleared the building of it’s unwelcome visitors and the exhibition was a success.

There were no hawks or pigeons to trouble us at the Dallas “Infomart”

What there was however was the Mayor of Dallas who’d arranged himself facing the network cameras and all we were going to get was the back of Prince Charles’s head as he shook hands with the cities dignitaries.

I put on my best British upper crust accent.

‘Mr. Mayor, much as we would like to see you and your council, we’d really prefer seeing his Highness and not just the back of his head.’

Texan’s may think they rule the world but they will give WILL give in if you push hard enough, especially if for some reason you sound English.

It seems somehow, we’re the only ones the Texan’s respect.

The Mayor hastily re-arranged the cameraman’s view.

Later that morning, Charles, met Texas’s own Royal family. “The Kilgary Marching Band.’ A long stemmed, mini-skirted collection of small town, pretty Texas girls.

The band had played all over the world, flashing their lovely long legs and enrapturing audiences with their dazzling performance.

We grabbed one particularly gorgeous seventeen year old for a camera interview after Charles had spent a long time chatting with her.

‘What did the Prince say to you?’ The Texas girl was still dazzled by the Royal attention.

‘Gee, I just don’t honestly remember, Guys.’ She giggled. ‘That’s the second most wonderful thing that ever happened to me in my life!’ Talking to the Prince of Wales of England......Whoowwww!’


We looked intrigued. She was so young and unspoiled, we had to ask what was her first.

She looked amazed at our question.

‘Being chosen for the “Kilgary Marching Band” of course!.....

We turned off our cameras and left a seventeen year old girl with her dreams and the right priorities.

I always had a soft spot for poor old Charles, what with his dreadful Father and a demanding, cold family, the poor man never had a chance.

Charles would have been a lot happier with that Texas girl with the pretty legs and avoided having to listen to the bagpipes every morning at Balmoral!



(Italian top Dress designer)

I’d taken my wife and son to Rome on a cheapie long weekend, got through a London air travel “Bucket Shop” ( cheap airline tickets at last minute.)

While we were there, my wife Carolyn, bought a couple of nice blouses for about 7-8 bucks each and after we’d got back, wished she’d bought more.

A couple of months later, shortly before Christmas, I got sent there by ABC News. The Pope assassination story had flared up again, this time tying it to the Soviets. My soundman and I spent hours outside the Soviet Embassy trying to keep my camera dry and getting soaked, taking

“significant” pictures of cars going into and out of the Embassy. It seemed to be the Monsoon season in Rome that month, it rained all the time and we were outside every day. In usual US Network fashion, ABC had hired

“Stretch” Mercedes limousines with drivers to take our sodden bodies and equipment back to the posh hotels we were staying at.

One day we finished a little earlier and I thought I’d use the time to do a little Christmas shopping. We had a delightfully smooth Italian who knew everywhere in Rome as our driver so I thought I’d ask his advice.

‘Luigi, I’d like to get a really nice blouse for my wife, do you know of anywhere I could get one?’

He thought for a moment and pursed his lips,

“There is a place, I know, not too expensive, Signor. He has beautiful garments!’

His hands caressed the air, he sounded so enthusiastic about the shop we were going to. I could already see the beautiful blouses in my mind, they sounded exactly what I had been looking for.

I should have know what I was letting myself in for when we stopped near the Spanish Steps, which is an extremely fashionable part of Rome.

The store was closed but our driver rapped on the door, a pretty girl came to the door, took one impressed look at our long sparkling Mercedes limousine and a few seconds later the store was opened for us and we were ushered in with welcoming smiles.

A pretty assistant came to my aid, she showed me blouse after blouse, they were really lovely and so was she and I choose a wonderful looking, gray, white and lemon striped one.

‘Do you have a plain white one as well? ‘


The girl seemed a little surprised at me asking for another but she quickly found a very fashionable looking one for me.

I passed over and signed my American Express card, pleased I’d done my shopping so easily.

Peter my soundman looked at the blouses enviously, Another one for me and I paid for it’

My soundman Peter looked in the bag.

‘Those are great, I wish I had my wife’s size with me, how much did they cost?’

I passed my Amex slip to him, Peter looked puzzled at all the zero’s,

“Their 40 bucks or 400 each, no that can’t be, this Italian money is for the birds!.’

He shook his head, the label on the bag “Valentino’s” meant nothing to us crass males.

My wife handled all the bills that came in when I was abroad, had been convinced I’d been secretly keeping a mistress in Rome until Christmas arrived and I gave her the two blouses in their Valentino bag as her present.

‘Do you know how much those cost?’ She grinned.

I put on a brave front.

‘Never mind that, do you like them?’

Then I got curious,

‘How much did they cost each ?’

Carolyn looked at me with a grin.

‘Eight hundred and forty dollars!’

I tried to pass it off saying,

‘It just shows how much I love you.’

We’d been married for twenty five years, my line didn’t work, she knew me too well!

‘Haven’t you heard of “Valentino”, he’s a top world designer !’

We looked at each other and burst out laughing, it wasn’t every wife that go two “Valentino” blouses for a Christmas present but it was two days of my pay up the spout!

After that I always worked out the price before I bought something but Carolyn still has the blouses and they still look wonderful!


New York Beggars

We were in New York City doing a magazine item on the “The great Omar” who held classes in a large loft on “How to beg successfully.” .

For some reason “Omar” was dressed from top to bottom in black with a ski mask covering his face. There was a strange collection of people there in his class, ranging from several well dressed men and women, to some, who looked scruffy and unkempt.

“Omar” stressed that politeness always paid off and so did persistence,

It wasn’t worth it,’ he said, ‘to keep on trying with someone who had any resistance to hand-outs, you should just move on to the next “mark” ‘

We took the prettiest girl in his class to a busy New York intersection to watch her at work.

We’d placed a radio mike on her. Myself and the rest of the crew were several stories above on the roof of an airline office listening in on the mike’s receiver.

We watched fascinated as she approached people, smiling prettily and telling them she was 50 cents short of her subway fare home, asking if they could help her. Many brushed past but still were rewarded with a sweet smile but many more fished into there pockets and came out with a dollar bill or a handful of change.

The girl worked constantly and extremely hard in the two hours that we filmed her. At the end of the time, she’d collected over a hundred and twenty dollars. She later told us one of the difficult things about her job was carrying the pounds of change that was thrust on her as the passers by swarmed past her..

She worked only five days a week, in the mornings when people were going to work, lunch time and going home time. In a normal week she could collect somewhere between a thousand and twelve hundred dollars. She rarely worked at weekends, except when an expensive dress had caught her fancy and then she worked the shopping crowds on 5th Avenue.

There was another man, who’d been fired from his brokerage house and at lunchtime and going home time, he’d haunt Wall Street, asking for money for a meal as he was hungry. Many of the people he approached were his former colleagues or people he’d met at conventions and meetings.


Most of the people he asked, hurriedly thrust five or ten dollars at him, mentally crossing themselves.‘There but for the grace of God go I.”

was obviously on their minds while they worked in the precarious financial world.

He knew his technique couldn’t last for ever and in his spare time he earnestly discussed with “Omar” new ideas for raising money.

My favorite beggar, however, was a dear old lady who looked like everyone’s white-haired grandmother. Armed with a large sketch pad, charcoal and a small seat she’d settle herself by the side of a busy bus queue, picking out a likely target and start to sketch, She’d smile benignly at him and say,

‘You have such an interesting face, dear, I couldn’t resist it.’

She’d chat merrily, much to the target’s embarrassment and then casually mention she sold her sketches for just $5 to help pay her for the cost of the materials as she was on a pension. If he didn’t bite she’d nudge him a bit more, saying, if he couldn’t afford it, she’d make a gift of the sketch to him.

By then, of course, by then the whole of the queue had heard the exchange and he’d fumble in his wallet and hurriedly thrust the five dollars into her quavering hand. Her hand really did quaver and the old lady couldn’t draw at all, her constant rubbing out and corrections, made the sketch grubby and awful, bearing no resemblance to her victim.

By the time the bus arrived, all he wanted to do was get away, he didn’t want the sketch and he ignored her suggestion that he should stay and catch the next bus as she hadn’t quite finished and she was sure she’d get it right this time.

She told me smugly, she always connected, made a very good living and hardly ever had to finish a sketch. The one’s showing on the top of her pad before she flipped the page to start drawing her victim, were drawn by a nephew who attended art class and were designed to draw the suckers in. She was lovely!

A couple of days later I was coming out of a New York shop and was approached by a very polite beggar asking for a dollar. I grinned and said I was the cameraman at “Omar’s” the other night.

He laughed,

“Ooops!” He grinned from ear to ear and went down the street to the next store..


Feature Films.

I worked on a few but never really went after them.

To me, hopping around the world at the drop of a hat or the jangle of a telephone call or the insistent sound of my beeper, was much more exciting than standing around all day dealing with the artistic temperaments of film stars and famous directors.

Sometimes however, when things got tough and the bullets were whizzing around me or I was surrounded by a hostile crowd, I wondered if I’d made the right choice but after hearing this story I was convinced I’d chosen correctly.

I met a couple of feature “Props” men one night in a London “Film”

pub. We sat swapping stories, me about my adventures, them about the film they’d just finished working on called “Tora.Tora! “ which was about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

They told me the hardest thing about the making of the film was to get enough real “Zero” attack fighters.

There were very few Zero’s left in the world at that time until someone found a deserted Island in the Pacific where the Japanese airforce had run out of parts and abandoned their fighters on this remote island airfield.

The film company did an aerial reconnaissance and found dozens of

“Zero’s” on the island, most of them still intact and nearly airworthy.. When they landed to pick them up, they ran into a terrible problem with the insects who’d learnt to love human blood during the Japanese stay and had been deprived of it ever since they’d left years ago.

The pickup crew got eaten alive, they dosed themselves with “Raid”

and “612” Nothing worked! They just couldn’t work there.

The final solution was they got a large oil drum, filled it with a combination of all the repellents, till it became the most virulent mixture

“known to man”, the crew wore goggles over their eyes as they got in and ducked deep under it’s surface and then they could work for several hours, stripping the planes down and carrying them to the ship before the effect wore off and the bloody insects started biting them again.

The mixture was so strong that when they finished their shift on the island, they all had to have oil massages as the repellent had removed all their skin’s natural oils. As you see it’s a glamorous job making films!


Hunger strikers

I was in Londonderry, Northern Ireland covering the “Hunger Strikers”

story. My soundman and I were called out after midnight each night to cover the nightly rioting in the “Bogside” Catholic area of Derry.

That time I used to smoke those long thin Dutch cigars,


[Don’t you love that name?]

I’d smoked about 4 cigars already, the tension of filming the petrol bombers and trying to avoid the rubber bullets that were flying around began getting to me.

The Irish police delighted in trying to hit cameramen and a couple of us had already got nasty injuries.

I was just looking forward to getting out another cigar and having a relaxing smoke in the midst of all this madness, when one of the rioters, wearing a black ski mask and carrying an Armalite rifle and an unlit petrol bomb, came up to me.

“Do you have a light Mate? I’ve forgotten me matches.’

I hastily told him I didn’t smoke, visions of tomorrow’s headlines saying “ABC crew helps petrol bombers” filled my mind and I thought of the New York’s network head office reaction.

“I thought I saw you smoking, Boyo?”

He looked nasty and unpleasant at being thwarted, not someone to hang around.

“Not me Mate! Never touch them.”

I hastily moved away from him as he went around from crew to crew.

He went away puzzled, none of us smoked, all the crews were non smokers for that one


I was dying for another cigar, all that night but I didn’t dare light one.

Then I thought.

“What the hell!” and gave it up. I never smoked again after that night.

We went out in Londonderry’s “Bogside” every night and filmed the rioting. rubber bullets, petrol bombs and stun grenades were becoming normal, as was the almost daily hi-jacking of our rented car.

We decided that next time they asked for our car at gunpoint we’d make a film item of it.


We’d been there for almost two hours before the inevitable group of ski-masked gunmen came up and demanded the keys of our car.

‘Sure. take it.’

We didn’t care, it was Hertz’s problem, we’d get another rented car tomorrow, this was the way of life in Northern Ireland and tonight we could always hitch a lift from another network back to the motel.

As usual the IRA kindly let us unload our camera gear from the trunk, it was almost a game now and we both knew the rules.

I looked at the three masked gunmen.

‘Any chance of doing a piece to camera about this ?’

My soundman grinned at me, we both knew the correspondent was extremely nervous and even on a good day, took dozens of “Takes” before we recorded a good one.

‘Sure, Boyo.’

It was Ireland and it was mad and the gunmen weren’t in any hurry, they watched intrigued as we setup the tripod and fastened the neck mike on our reporter.

‘Go ahead!’

Our reporter cleared his throat nervously

‘One, two, three....”Tonight, is a typical night in Northern Ireland, reporting the news! We’ve been held up at gunpoint and had our car hi-jacked...’

His voice tailed off, wondering how to describe the three thugs who casually held their machine guns as they watched the mechanics of TV


‘One, two, three... Tonight is...’

He tried ten stuttering times but couldn’t get it right, we gave up and turned grinning to the IRA gunmen.

‘Why don’t you just take the dammed car ?’

There was no one there, they’d given up in disgust and gone looking for an easier target.

That night, for once, we actually rode back to the motel in our own car.

Covering the daily story of the IRA Hunger strikers was strange, as each one starved himself and died in the Maze Prison, violence would erupt on the streets and we’d rush out to cover it.

Finally one night I’d gone to bed after a large supper and a couple of bottles of wine the phone rang.

‘We’ve just got word Frances Hughes just died, get out there and get what you can!’


The voice on the phone was our Belfast based producer and he’d just heard from a contact in the infamous “Maze” prison another hunger striker had died.

Our driver was already awake and the car was humming and we piled in our gear a raced over the bridge to the Catholic “Bogside”

For the first time we got there too early.

When we arrived there was a small crowd of IRS supporters who’d only just heard the news about the death.

We were greeted with enthusiasm. For some reason the Catholic side felt that the American networks were on their side against the British and the Protestants.

Quickly the crowd grew and was pushed in front of them, a dangerous place to be when there were petrol bombs and police rubber bullets flying.

Then all to quickly the R.U.C arrived ( The Royal Ulster Constabulary) and formed a line opposite us.

The R.U.C. had no love for us cameraman and reporters.

We showed the brutality of the police when they were dealing with a crowd.

A friend of mine had his leg bone shattered by an “accidental “ rubber bullet when he’d been covering another riot.

“Rubber” bullets aren’t made of rubber, instead they’re made of a hard plastic then can kill or blind you if they’re aimed at the face.

The supposed theory of using them is to aim them at the floor in front of the rioters so they bounce up and go into the crowd.

The reality of how they were used was to fire directly into the crowd and if a c