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Gone to the Dogs

My friend, Niza Knoll, has an art gallery in the Santa Fe Arts District in Denver.  Knoll Gallery is a fantastic array of creativity and is emerging as one of the best galleries in Denver (in my humble opinion.)  Each year Niza does a juried exhibit featuring art on dogs.  Gone to the Dogs 3 opens this Friday, August 19, and runs through September 17.  I asked Niza why she does this particular exhibit each year.

“I grew up with dogs and always loved their company when I came home.  They give us unconditional love.  They fill an empty spot in my life.  I like being needed.  It always fascinated me that a creature so different than us can connect with our feelings and moods and be able to live with us.  I have always connected more with people that like dogs or cats so I thought it would be fun to share my love for this amazing creature with others.  It really has been lots of fun and I have met some great dog lovers.”

A couple of springs ago I was fortunate to have an exhibit at Niza’s gallery and I had a couple of dog photos that I took on display.  The chihuahua on the sidewalk was taken at Union Square in San Francisco, California. I loved how this pampered pooch was in complete lockstep with her owner. She was a little diva of a dog.

The other photograph was taken in Talkeetna, Alaska.  Talk about a dog and master looking alike. What characters!

Hope you can make it to see Niza’s show.  Her gallery is at 915 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, Colorado, 80204.  The Denver Dumb Friends League will be there with adoptable dogs so maybe you’ll come away with art and a pup to love.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.

To see more photographs visit Vicky Collins Photography.

 

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Prostitution in Perspective

When I was a senior at St. Andrew’s Priory in Honolulu I was selected by my high school government class to spend a week at the Hawaii state capitol observing the legislature. My assignment was to select one bill under consideration, research it and follow it through the session. I chose the effort to legalize prostitution. At the time, Hawaii had a very active sex industry. My school was close to Hotel Street where the ladies of the night did business.  The bill eventually died (I don’t recall whether it was in committee or if it actually got to the floor) and prostitution continues to be illegal in the 50th state, as it is in all states except Nevada.

Prostitution, Mustang Ranch, Nevada, Reno

Prostitute at the Mustang Ranch outside Reno, Nevada

Recently I revisited the subject of prostitution for a story I’m working on for HDNet World Report.  What got the report off the ground was Senator Harry Reid’s speech before Nevada’s legislature on February 22 in which he called for “an adult conversation” about ending legalized prostitution throughout the state.  Prostitution is already against the law in counties with more than 400,000 people, which includes Clark County (home of Las Vegas) and Washoe County (home of Reno.)  Senator Reid said that Nevada would be more business friendly if the state finally eliminated legalized brothel prostitution from the rural counties as well.  “Nevada needs to be known for innovation and investment,” Senator Reid said, “not as the last place where protitution is still legal.”  As you can imagine, his comments have stirred up quite a pot.

The point of this blog is not to rehash the morality of the world’s oldest profession, nor is it to discuss the economic impact of brothels in the rural areas of the state, or make the case that legalized prostitution seems safer and smarter than its illegal cousin.  The point of this blog is that this journey opened my eyes to the humanity of women who do this kind of work.  Before I criss crossed Nevada visiting brothels I had a predictable response to prostitutes.  They were messed up and misguided.  Who could possibly do this kind of work?  Why would anyone sell their body to a stranger unless they needed the money to finance a drug addiction?  They must have a crushing amount of baggage that would lead them to this lifestyle.  And, of course, many do.  But the ladies we met in the rural and suburban brothels that dot the landscape were attractive, smart, friendly, savvy, confident and defied stereotypes.  Most were not fallen women without other options.  Many were educated and had goals in mind.  They were wives and mothers.  This was a means to a different end.  And at least in the brothels, pursuing their careers as independent contractors, they were confident and satisfied.   Now I’m certain the lives of women who do this illegally, on the streets, is much more dangerous and seedy. But in the safety of the legal brothels we found women who do this with class and dignity.

Asya, Donna's Ranch, Wells, Nevada, Paul Beban, HDNet World Report

Asya with HDNet World Report Correspondent Paul Beban at Donna's Ranch in Wells, Nevada

We met Asya at a small rural brothel called Donna’s Ranch in Wells, Nevada.  She had been working illegally on the street for years with a pimp who eventually dumped her.  Asya cried when she told us how painful that experience was.  But she chose to better herself.  She was sweet and chatty and enjoyed flirting with the truckers over the CB radio.  She smiled and batted her enormous false eyelashes and said she loved her life.  Asya was going to do this for two more years then wanted to start her own jazz bistro in her hometown of Houston.  She said it would be “groovy.”  Her friend, Simone, was a pretty blonde who had finally escaped the streets.  She said she had so many arrests that she would be in prison if she was busted once more.  She was happy here with a big huge laugh and strong opinions.  She loved to help in the kitchen and fancied herself a good cook.  She was saving to buy a house and was proud to be paying her taxes and contributing to social security.  “I do my part,” she said.

Demi, Emily, Mustang Ranch, Nevada, Reno

Demi and Emily at the Mustang Ranch outside Reno, Nevada


At the Mustang Ranch outside of Reno we met Demi.  “This is not my first passion, believe it or not,” she told us.  Demi became a prostitute to get through college and now owns a fashion boutique with her mother in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Her goal is to open one in Los Angeles.  “This is a means to an end for me to create my own life.”  Emily, stood out in a crowd.  She had cascades of platinum blonde hair and a girly dress and once made $84,000 in a month.  She was living with her grandmother and son in a car before she came here.  “I have options.  I just choose to do this as my option.”  She loves her job and her enthusiasm was palpable.  Both wanted me to know how empowered they felt and how proud they were to be Mustang girls.

Finally, at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Dayton, Nevada near Carson City, we met Paige and Brooke.  Paige is a 19 year old, new to the business.  She is studying nursing but hopes to become a physicians assistant instead.  She had the body of an athlete and said she participated in all sports in school.  She spent her free time trying to perfect pole dancing in the parlor and was very good at it and completely comfortable with the television camera.  And then there was Brooke.  She is a household name for her role in HBO’s series “Cathouse” and was featured in Hustler.  She was beautiful, smart and articulate.  We figured she has a career as a politician or lobbyist should she ever change course.  She came here of her own accord.  Wasn’t cutting it financially in Illinois working with adults with developmental disabilities and figured she would try something new.  “I’m using my best asset that I have been given which is myself,” she proclaimed.  Was this her long term career? “No.  I think I’m more of a free spirit than that.  When this is not enjoyable, when it’s not fulfilling, when the wind changes I’ll change with it.  Right now this works for me.  I’m having a good time, I’m making a good living, setting up a good future for myself, able to have the choice to do whatever I want.  And how lucky am I turning 30 to be able to say that.  Really.”

Paige, Brooke, Moonlite Bunny Ranch, Dayton, Nevada

Paige (L) and Brooke (R) at Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Dayton, Nevada

This was one of the most interesting immersions of my career and I came away from it with the realization that many of these women, at least in the legal brothels, are comfortable in their skin and see this as a career like any other.  They are not ashamed and seem to have a good time and they are able to look at the men who come through their doors with compassion.  Many prostitutes, believe it or not, go on to become nurses.  It was an eye opening week for me.  Each of these women made it clear to me they were doing this of their own volition.  They were in charge of their lives.  They were calling their own shots.  You can meet these young women on HDNet World Report on April 12.  See if they don’t make a big impression on you too.

For more on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.


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War and Remembrance 2

Following my Veterans Day post, the conversation continues with Ben Coker, Jr. of South Carolina about war, service and our commitment as Americans.  Hope others will join the dialogue.  Will keep posting as our back and forth continues.

Dear Mr. Coker,

Thank you so much for reading my blog and for your incredibly thoughtful comments.  Part of the reason I write is to leaving something for my children to discover someday and to dialogue with people like you, at least virtually.  It is always a great pleasure when someone shares their thoughts and stories with me.  Would it be OK with you if I posted your letter on my blog?  To tell you a bit of the backstory that led to my blog post, I was born in 1958 in Hawaii and was a child during the Vietnam War.  Although soldiers were coming and going through Hawaii, the war and the protests were really on the periphery of my life.  It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco in my 20’s that I realized how oblivious I had been and had a sense of the toll and outcry.  I learned about the service of my father (he was a Polish Jew who lost his parents in the holocaust and fought the Nazis in the Polish underground and Army) in a short memoir he wrote and by reading Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation.”  I finally understood why my dad jumped if you woke him suddenly or why he didn’t want to talk about those years.  He never shared his experiences until shortly before his death.  Like other veterans of his era, he stoically moved forward and kept the pain inside.  Mostly I grew up in a world at peace and was honestly surprised when I learned my son has to register with Selective Service when he turns 18.  I had no idea.

What has me conflicted, Mr. Coker, is that we seem to wage war for the wrong reasons these days.  Everyone stood together in WWII.  It was a righteous response to tyranny.  These days I’m not so sure.  You have a son in Afghanistan so maybe you can help me with this.  We fight to bring democracy to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan so moderate Muslims around the world can know of freedom, even as we oppress and distrust our Muslim citizens here at home.  We respond to 9-11 by going into Iraq to fend off a rogue leader and search for weapons of mass destruction that don’t exist.  We don’t consider how this will effect the people there and how painful the transition will be.  We boost Pakistan and Afghanistan while the leadership harbors our enemies and Osama Bin Laden thumbs his nose at us.  And we fight for nations with incredible records of human rights abuses and expect our participation will change the culture. If my son goes to war I want to believe in the cause with every fiber of my soul and I want him to believe in it too.  I guess I don’t feel confident that our leaders are taking us down the right road these days.  That’s why a call to duty scares me.  The other thing is that I don’t see a safer world for our troubles.  It seems we have fewer freedoms at home and a more unstable world.

If you would like to continue sharing more thoughts with me I would really appreciate your point of view.  I don’t feel castigated at all and with your permission I’ll put our back and forth on my blog.  This world needs a lot more people who are willing to dialogue through these kinds of things and I feel privileged to have a chance to do so with you.  Warmest regards to you and Polly and your brave son.  Best, Vicky Collins

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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On The Shoulders of Giants

Vicky Collins and Larry Hatteberg

In the room were the legends of photojournalism.  Darrell Barton, Larry Hatteberg and the memory of Bob Brandon.  There were also hundreds of others who had been influenced and inspired by the man we gathered to remember.  I did not know Bob Brandon.  I worked with him only once.  When he died in December 2009 I was struck by the outpouring of accolades for him.  I had no idea he was so inconic and respected.  I went to his memorial service to learn more about this master storyteller.

They say a man is known by the company he keeps and among Bob Brandon’s closest friends is a man who, more than any other, has influenced the storyteller I am today.  I met Larry Hatteberg when I came to Wichita, Kansas in 1981 to be a news producer at KAKE TV.  Prior to that I was a production assistant at KRON TV in San Francisco.  Part of my job description was to make coffee.  I had never produced a show.  I was as green as could be.  At one point Larry told me I reminded him of Jane in “Broadcast News.” 

I made so many mistakes in my early days as a producer but one of the smartest moves of my career was to study how Larry Hatteberg crafted stories.  Larry taught me to write to pictures and natural sound.  He showed me how to be intimate with subjects and respect them.  Even if he was interviewing a dirt poor farmer for “Hatteberg’s People” he never condescended and always listened carefully to what they had to say.  Every person he met could inspire and teach us how to live a better life.  And when he edited he laid the pictures and sound down first then added the words to finish the piece.  Larry did this in a two minute story or a documentary.  Pictures always led.

The enduring legacy of Larry Hatteberg, Bob Brandon and Darrell Barton is they set the standard for television storytellers and continue to raise others up to be the best they can be.  They teach and inspire and the room today was full of their students.  While we all socialized, Ben McCoy, one of the finest photojournalists I know, came up to Larry to shake his hand.  We all stand on the shoulders of giants.  I’ll never know what Larry Hatteberg saw in a scrub like me.  Maybe he recognized talent that I didn’t see myself.  I will forever be grateful that he let me hover over his shoulder and watch him work.  He continues to be one of my greatest mentors and today I finally told him so.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Points from Poynter

As a young television producer working at KRON TV in San Francisco I had the opportunity to attend a weeklong seminar at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida.  It was one of the first times I was able to explore my craft with other like minded professionals and learn from some of the best in the business.  Among them was Rod Prince, one of the brilliant producers of NBC Network News who I eventually had the privilege to work with.  That week fired me up like no other and the skills I developed remain with me to this day.  The Poynter Institute is an amazing place to grow.  With the economy in a meltdown it is getting more difficult for aspiring journalists to get a first break.  A mom on the lacrosse field told me her soon to be college graduate was very discouraged by the prospects and another would be broadcaster decided to abandon television news altogether for a career in public relations.  Here is an article by the Poynter Institute’s Jill Geisler on why people should still hire journalists.  It speaks to the virtues and the myriad of abilities of those who report the news.   

http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=34&aid=160112

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.