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The photo spread that has the city giggling

Wednesday, Sep 1 2004
Image Consciousness

Readers of this month's Harper's Bazaar will find, tucked into the perfume ads, the embarrassing photo spread that's being tittered over in all the finer salons of San Francisco. "The New Kennedys," the headline gushes, and over the next eight pages you can see Mayor Gavin Newsom and his wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, striking various glamour poses: grimacing from a desk in City Hall; grimacing from a pool table at Tosca; grimacing from a rug in the Getty house. Why, everyone seems to be asking, would they do such a thing? What could they possibly have been thinking? To get an idea, we consulted Patti Wood, the ubiquitous Georgia-based body-language expert, whose work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Star magazine, and Us Weekly. "The first thing we're gonna have to say is that these are highly stylized, posed photographs," she says, "so there's much less information than there normally would be. But because people give off so many cues in a photo, there are still some telling items."

Here are a few:

Photo No. 1

"They are standing with a barrier between them in that photo. Now, I think that's absolutely fascinating that they allowed that to happen, that they didn't want to be seen as a unit. So even the choice to let the photographer put them in that position, or if they chose that position, is very, very telling of their relationship. When you're reading a photo, you're looking for what would be normal, and how far from normal are the people you're viewing. This is very abnormal. Typically, when you're standing with a spouse that you haven't been married to very long, you're not going to allow a barrier between you. You wanna be as close as possible. It's interesting they have the desk -- they have work in between them. Having said that, we see he's facing fully toward the camera, and she is angled, slightly, toward him. So she's putting a little bit more into the relationship than he is, symbolically.

"What I do like in the photo is that he is leaning slightly toward her, and they're holding hands. But there's a lot of stiffness in his body. He is not comfortable in any of these photos with her. He doesn't even look like he's with her in this first photograph. It doesn't look like he's attracted to her at all. There isn't a sexual connection."

Photo No. 2

"One would think this is highly sexual, but here's a really telling thing: Look at how far back that outer leg is. Normally, that leg would be brought in closer to her, both in a sexual way and in a protecting way, to kind of anchor against her, and it's not. Plus, his body is arched up and away from her. His hands aren't clasping around her. She's not leaning back into him, and in fact that arm is stretched back away from him. You see her hand is more interconnected with his, so, again, that shows the symbolism: I want to make a connection with this man.

"Their heads are far apart -- they aren't leaning in toward each other. If there was tenderness, if there was sexual affection, the heads would typically naturally just move toward each other, even in posed photographs. It's almost harder to keep them apart when you're physically that close.

"It has that outer appearance of a highly sexual photo, but the details show that it's not a passionate or sexual thing. I would say they wanted to be seen as a sexual couple; that's why they did this. What's fascinating to me is that it's posed to look sexual, but when you look at it closely, it's not. I can't believe they agreed to have this photo taken."

Photo No. 3

"It's interesting that she chose to wear something that's low-cut and sexually revealing. That's an interesting choice for somebody whose husband is in political office. It's provocative. You're showing the sides of the breasts, rather than the tops of the breasts. It's very, very sexual. I also like the symbolism of the open door that she's standing in -- sexual, again."


"He's not comfortable being photographed. And he's not showing, or he didn't choose to be seen showing, a lot of tenderness or affection or connection.

"She's a strong woman. She's a lawyer, so I feel like she can make choices of her own and not be affected, like a model would be, to take certain poses. I find it fascinating that she appears very, very comfortable to be seen as this sexual being, instead of wanting to be posed with her husband. It's an interesting choice for her career, as well.

"What's happening in your city is that these [photos] have created an iconic image of them as a couple. The rest of their lives they're gonna be seen for that one photo, the one on the ground. It's ... interesting that that's their choice. What a choice." (Tommy Craggs)

Julia Child Is in Heaven, We're in Voice-Mail Hell

When Julia Child died a couple of weeks ago, we were plunged into despair, even though she'd lived an adventurous, successful, and long life, leaving us two days before her 92nd birthday. (Billy Wilder was 95, and we're still pissed.) We turned to the media for solace, reading innumerable tributes in newspapers and magazines, off- and online. We were pleased to learn that the Food Network was changing its weekend lineup, featuring not only shows she'd been on, but also an hour of Child reminiscence from chefs and food writers. And we were thrilled to hear that PBS was going to air a long-in-the-works American Masters biography of Child on the Wednesday or Thursday night after she died. ("Check your local listings.")

We went eagerly to the KQED Web site, where some serious clicking yielded exactly ... nothing. We called KQED, told the operator that we had a question about TV scheduling, and were transferred to Viewer Services, which triggered an automatic voice-mail loop that started, we thought, with a somewhat self-pitying tone ("... due to recent reductions in staff, there are only two of us available ...") and went on -- to our increasing wonder and amusement -- and on and on, for more than two minutes, an eternity in voice-mail terms. "You might also find our Web site very helpful ...": Uh, no, we didn't. "If, in other words, you don't actually need any live help ...": Uh, yes, we do. And on and on.

Once we got through to a live person -- which, despite the critical staff shortages, happened the second the recording ended -- things went much more quickly. No, KQED wasn't running the American Masters Julia Child documentary during the 48-hour window PBS was offering it. Why? Because it was Pledge Week. Wouldn't Pledge Week viewers relish a first look at the Child documentary the week after she died? Wasn't Pledge Week, with its live announcers and constantly interrupted scheduling, perfect for this sort of thing? If the Food Network could respond within the week, why couldn't KQED, where The French Chef, well, had not been born, exactly (that would be WGBH), but had lived and flourished? This was Julia "I made PBS what it is today" Child we were talking about, and this is San Francisco, center of the food universe; to whom might we indicate our displeasure?

Our Viewer Services staff representative was singularly uninterested in our questions. It was Pledge Week, after all. We didn't get out our checkbook. Q.E.D. (Meredith Brody)

About The Author

John Mecklin


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