Grip and Grin – Tupac, Snoop, Rodman, Will Smith, LL Cool J, Jenny McCarthy

• “Oh, before you go – one more thing….”

• What really goes on backstage. Smile.

• Before selfie sticks, one was at the mercy of the photography skills of the passer-by who was asked a favor. And it showed

This post pretty much only exists because this picture, which I’ve posted before on Facebook, hasn’t appeared before now in Reporter on the Road – and one of my nephews absolutely loves it and was bugging me to get it in here.

The story behind the picture is that there is no story. Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg were just posing with me and my extraordinarily talented talent booker and producer at CNN, Shari Mesulam. It’s at one of the countless awards shows I covered for ABC News and CNN. Little in the way of actual news comes out of the backstage area of these TV specials (Grammys, MTV VMAs, etc.) but many, many grip & grin photos are captured for posterity.

(l to r) Yours truly, Tupac Shakur, Shari Mesulam, Snoop Dogg a.k.a. Calvin Broadus, Jr.

At a quick glance, you might think Mr. Shakur and Mr. Broadus are throwing gang signs at Shari and me, but a closer inspection shows Tupac is just pointing out the pasty-faced ones in the picture and Snoop appears to be modeling some bling on freakishly long ring- and pinky-fingers.

You’ll also notice my hand on Tupac’s shoulder in a gesture of close friendship that I had no business making. I am beginning to see why a friend of mine, Debbie Ward, has a thing about hands on shoulders in group photos. Drives her crazy. Whenever she sees it — or is herself taking or posing in a shot of two or more people — she raises a holy stink: “No hands on shoulders! Hell-LOW!”

For no particular reason, here are several more of these grip & grins. Look for hands on shoulders.

( l to r) Shari, Felix Firmaintt, me, Dennis Rodman, Steve Machalak

This may have been at a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame dinner at the Waldorf Astoria. I’m not sure in what capacity the NBA and pro wrestling star was there. You can tell what a shrinking violet Rodman is. The shy little guy was keeping his sequined outfit from reflecting the strobe flash and ruining the picture. This kind of thoughtfulness was likely a foretelling of his future consideration as Ambassador to North Korea. We just didn’t realize it at the time.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will Smith, with (I’m not sure) his co-star, Alfonso Ribeiro who played Carlton Banks? [Update: It is, of course, DJ Jazzy Jeff, I am informed by those with better recall.]

With LL Cool J

This is probably from the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, where LL Cool J won Best Rap Video for “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Look! We’re gripping! Technically, a “grip & grin” photo involves hand-shaking. And sometimes a trophy or giant check. I’m using the term for lack of a better one. “Gather & grin?” “Stand & smile?” “Shoulder & shutter?”

I should also point out that often, my employer – most notably ABC and CNN – would badger me to get shots like these for publicity purposes. Honest. It wasn’t always all about me, me, me . . and getting my picture taken with celebs. But sometimes it was.

Yep, that’s Jenny McCarthy, former Playboy Playmate of the year-turned anti-vaccine activist. Luckily, I had the right antibodies in me at the time and was immune to her charms. But I sanitized my right shoulder afterward, just in case.

And this one. Can you guess who she is?

I had a secret crush on her. Well, my wife at the time knew about it, so it wasn’t so secret. If you can identify her, write it in the comments section of this blog (“Contact”), or on the links in Facebook or Instagram.

For some other awards show backstage photos:  More Divas


2 thoughts on “Grip and Grin – Tupac, Snoop, Rodman, Will Smith, LL Cool J, Jenny McCarthy

  1. I enjoyed reading this post. What an honor to be mentioned in your blog. I also do not like exclamation points, so I choose not to include one. Your public service of spreading awareness of hands off of shoulders in photographs is sincerely appreciated.

    P.S. I do not know who the brunette is. Nice shot of the two of you. : )

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