It's pretty common knowledge in the Rumson-Fair Haven area that The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, has a home in Rumson.
It's also a given that, like any other resident of the area, the is likely a staple in his summer's end routine. Yes, just like any other Rumsonite, Springsteen has been known to frequent the fair.
And, just like any other townie, he roams the grounds, barely noticeable, casually clad and entourage-free. People, accustomed to routine Bruce sightings around town, usually just smile, say "Hi" and let him go about his fair business, which has mirrored that of the typical fairgoer — hanging with family and friends, getting kids on rides, grabbing a bite to eat, winning a prize or two and just plain roaming.
His kids, however, have grown since this editor last saw him at the fair. It was sometime around circa early 1990s when I showed up, as a reporter for now defunct The Courier weekly, to take some fair photos to go along with a story.
Those were the days when papers were cut and pasted by hand with a hot wax machine, all photos were black and white and there was no such thing as digital — it was all about film, darkrooms and a point-and-shoot camera. So, it was not easy to get a quick shot of anything, much less catch up with Bruce.
You'd run into the office after an assignment, hand a roll of shot film to the head (and only) photographer and hope that what was on the roll was printable or, maybe, actually good.
Reporters weren't really expected to get great shots. They were just sent out with that point-and-shoot in hand to get anything printable and save the paper money. Hmmmm ...
As luck really did have it that one time in 1993, I arrived on the grounds to volunteers' whispers and subtle peering around corners. "He's over there, Elaine!," Mrs. Lang said, pointing. "Who?" I asked. "Bruce, Bruce Springsteen!" she whispered emphatically, as if he could hear.
Every corner I turned, yet another friend of my parents' was frantically motioning and telling me, "Over there." Well, after making it around the grounds full circle and out of breath, I stopped in front of the merry go round and rested on the railing.
Having given up on the Boss chase, I started snapping shots of kids going round and round on the merry-go-round. As I peered through the lens, I shifted focus and found The Boss right in my view on the other side of that fancy point-and-shoot. So I gasped and quietly — or so I thought — snapped, politely leaving his little girl out of the shot.
The ancient flash cube atop the camera flashed like a beacon from the fire truck flashers as it made a loud clicking noise. Springsteen turned to look and I, like a sissy in a Halloween spook house ... ran. Yes, I ran. Why I just didn't stay put, say hello and chat with him, I'll never know. Well, maybe I do.
I remember thinking for a split second — before I tore across the grounds — that there was something scarily embarassing about the amateur look of that point-and- shoot. It just ruined the ol' Lois Lainey image for me.
So, I opted to stay on the opposite side of the and attempt to photograph some of the sights, resolving that I would not even mention the photo that I was almost certain didn't even emblazon any kind of image on the film.
I went into work the next morning, camera in hand. Rewound the film and left it on the photographer's desk as I muttered, "fair pics."
"Thanks," he said. "I'll have a contact sheet for you in a few." Yes, those were the days that the first glance you got of your photos was through a loop on a lit desk in a sheet of thumbnails.
A few minutes later, I heard some good kind of expletives emanate from the darkroom: "Holy ... Oh, my God! This is great! Hey we have our front page shot! Springsteen at the fair!"
Yup, I guess the eye had it, clunker camera or not. I did it. And I'm still embarrassed that I ran. That's the story ... well, the a picture worth a few words anyway. Sorry for the funky flash, Bruce. And, who's the guy in the background with the glasses and the glare?
Well, I'll see you — and maybe Bruce — at the fair!