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|| News Item: Posted 2005-01-03

Leading Off: Changes
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Ron Taniwaki looks over prints he has collected as he packs up his Manhattan Beach apartment he lived in for over 20 years in preparation for his move to Denver.
I'll admit it. I haven't been quite myself lately.

No, it's not just post - Luau depression, though it might have a little to do with it.

This month marked a couple of big changes in my life and I've been mulling them over. And over. And over.

I guess I always get a little sanguine as the Holidays near, mixed with a bit of the excitement I feel when buying gifts for friends, family and colleagues. I LOVE Christmas music so usually when the calendar passes Thanksgiving, my iTunes playlist of choice is a collection of Christmas tunes culled from various CDs I've accumulated through the years. I find the cheery music keeps my "spirits bright" --- as a matter of fact, Aaron Neville's fabulous rendition of "Let It Snow" is blasting out of the computer speakers as I type this on New Year's Eve.

But even Marilyn Monroe's campy version of "Santa Baby" and The Beatles' cover of "White Christmas" (to the tune of "Ticket To Ride") didn't keep my spirits up for long.

In mid - December my best friend in LA moved back home to Denver. And a couple of weeks later my boss at USA TODAY retired.

I know, I know ... they didn't die. There's e-mail. Instant Messaging. I could cash in some frequent flyer miles for God's sake. And I could just pick up the damned telephone!

I dropped by my buddy Ron Taniwaki's little apartment in Manhattan Beach a week before his big move and watched him pack up. Anyone who has been to Ron's place knows it always looked like a nuclear warhead went off in it. But this time amid the stacks of shipping containers and rubble there were things I hadn't taken much notice of the countless other times I had been there.


Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Ron Taniwaki looks over his apartment as he packs up for his move to Denver, a "Peanuts Christmas" playing on the television.
And I guess that's what touched off my state of mind ... and this column.

Anyone who knows me and Ron knows that our relationship is unique, sometimes we're more like an old married couple than close friends. Neither one of us can EVER be wrong ... at least not in the presence of the other. We have the same tastes in lots of things (thank God not shirts!) but we're complete opposites in others --- he likes curry, I can't stand it; he LOVES the ribs at Dr. Hogly Wogly's Tyler, Texas BBQ, while I prefer the brisket; his political leanings are more to the right and mine are ... well, a few degrees to the left.

But one thing there was for certain: when I needed something he was there.

When I came up with the wacky idea of a workshop, it was Ron (and his employer Nikon) that stepped up and gave me a place to hold the first one. When we outgrew that in year two, he was responsible for us taking The Luau to the Manhattan Beach Marriott. And as they say, the rest is history. (Yes, it was Ron who came up with the "luau" theme and the Hawaiian shirts.)

When I mentioned to photographers here in LA that Ron was finally making his move back to Colorado I got responses like "Wow, who's going to pick up the dinner check from now on?" Hopefully these guys realize that Ron meant more to So Cal photographers than a free meal or two.

His largesse extended way beyond Sports Shooter and the Workshop & Luaus ... last minute equipment loans, donations to schools, contests, local organizations and events were numerous. And sometimes unrecognized and mostly under-appreciated.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Ron Taniwaki packs up his apartment for his move to Denver as a "Peanuts Christmas" plays on the television.
Yes he was "Bert's Evil Twin" - evidenced by the huge "Super Soaker" that was stuffed into the top of a trash bin outside of his apartment the evening of my last visit. But he has a big heart and most of us know his bark was worse than his bite.

Who else would go out with me at midnight for a bowl of ramen? Or drive 40 miles to try the dumplings at a new restaurant I had just read about?

* * *

I went on loan from the tiny Visalia Times-Delta to USA TODAY in early 1987. One of the first people I met was Director of Photography Paul T. Whyte.

Intimidated ... what, me?

Hell yes I was! This is the guy that staffer H. Darr Beiser told me they called "The Sarge".

But after the first couple of weeks of uncertainty and a bad case of the jitters (what the hell was a kid from a 22,000 circulation newspaper in the San Joaquin Valley doing working the news desk in Washington D.C.???) Paul made me feel welcomed and needed.

There were several others that helped make the adjustment from small town to national newspaper easier ... Darr and Walt Calahan come quickly to mind as well.

But I'll never forget standing by the huge light table in the middle of the photo department one night with Paul and we were watching the World War II flick "Tora, Tora, Tora". I needed to get back to my desk but on the screen a Japanese Kamikaze was heading for an American ship, I began walking away and said "Go get 'em dad!" ... Paul looked up at me and burst out laughing.

A couple of years later when I applied for an opening for staff photographer at USA TODAY, he told me after my interview that he knew he wanted me to work for him after that "Tora, Tora, Tora" laugher because had decided that night I "was all right in his book."

Photo by Dana Bowler

Photo by Dana Bowler

Robert Hanashiro hands his retiring Director of Photography at USA TODAY Paul Whyte a Tommy Bahama shirt at the 2004 Sports Shooter Workshop and Luau in Redondo Beach.
Paul was the kind of boss where just a stern look from him or a simple "hey" got the message across ... usually that I needed to tighten things up a bit.

A lot has been said and written in the management manuals espousing that a boss can't be "friends" with the people that work for them. But Paul proved that was erroneous. He could be tough ... he was after all "The Sarge" ... but he was also someone who understood a photographer's concerns and idiosyncrasies. And most importantly, a photographer's need sometimes for a life outside of photography.

He was patient. He taught me how to be a professional photojournalist and treated me as one. Yes I worked for him ... and there were many times when he pointedly reminded me of that ... but he also thought of his staff as his "family" too.

There are not a lot of bosses out there these days like that.

I brought Paul out to the Workshop & Luau 2004 last November to give him a first-hand look at how I spend my "free time" away from USA TODAY ... and I presented him with a Hilo Hatti's Hawaiian shirt as a very small "thank you".

Since then, Paul has been a huge advocate of the Workshop & Luau, encouraging me to continue holding it. I told him I'd make him a deal: If he "volunteered" to help me with it in the future I would bring it back sometime soon.

I had a huge smile on my face when I talked to Paul on the phone on his last day in the office and he told me he showed up to work in shorts and ... a Hawaiian shirt.

A good friend moving away and another retiring signals more than the obvious I guess. I suppose what I am feeling is not just the uneasiness of change, but also that I'm just getting older. But I cranked up the Christmas tunes, remembered that Sprint calls are free after 9 pm and Paul's got a place on the lake where he says the fishing's pretty good.

* * *

And since we're on a sentimental trip ...

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Bert, Ron and Dan MacMedan have dinner at Ron's favorite So Cal BBQ joint, Dr. Hogly Wogly Tyler, Texas BBQ before his move back to Denver.
Usually on New Year's Day I am sitting in the sunny endzone at the Rose Bowl, Ron on my right and SI's Peter Read Miller on my left. The weather this year was sort of fitting, cold, cloudy with a threat of rain all game long ... because no Ron and no PRM.

Ron of course was in Denver this year because of the move back to his hometown ... while Peter was recuperating at home after suffering a "tripping penalty" perpetrated by his dog causing him to fall and fracture his leg. Ever the trooper, Peter was in bed, with the leg propped up on pillows, watching the game on TV and plotting a way to make it to the Orange Bowl in a couple of days for the National Championship Game.

* * *

This quick "end-of-the-year" edition of the Sports Shooter Newsletter features New Year's resolutions from many of our Sports Shooter Family.

We also have a belated report on the brawl between members of the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons fans from Duane Burleson.

So who shot the best sports photographs of 2004? Details and deadline information for our annual contest is also in this issue.

So sit back, adjust the brightness on your monitor, turn up the volume of that new CD from Texas Boogie and enjoy Sports Shooter v. 74.


As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Anne Ryan, Rick Rickman, Joe Gosen, Peter Read Miller, Rod Mar, Vincent Laforet, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Photodude, Scott Sommerdorf, Reed Hoffmann, Eric Risberg and Bob Deutsch.

Special Thanks: Duane Burleson and Darren Carroll.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at

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