Friday, March 14, 2014

Marion Barry & Me

This photograph from the January 19, 1990, Washington Post
appeared in the same edition as news coverage of Mayor Marion
Barry's arrest for crack cocaine. 

One might wonder how a young woman from Missouri could possibly hold a connection with the crack smoking, former long-term mayor of Washington, D.C. (1979-1991 and 1995-1999), especially on the day the news and pictures of his arrest splashed in papers and on televisions around the world. Marion Barry and I were the top items in The Washington Post that day--we shared the headlines.

The perfect storm of events began at noontime on January 18, 1990, when a group of my colleagues from HCR Management and Consulting gathered across the street at McPherson Park to eat lunch. The unseasonably warm January weather made it a “Great Day for a Picnic” as the headline above declares.

The Post photographer shot some photos and then asked for my name as I was the focal point of the picture. I provided it and never thought another thing. Unbeknownst to me, three blocks down K Street one of my best friends from my days at the University of Kentucky, Paul O'Neill, also decided to eat lunch at the park across from his office. The same photographer took Paul’s picture with friends and asked for his name. 

January 18 so happened to be the very night the married Mayor Marion Barry was photographed smoking crack
Mayor Marion Barry caught
smoking crack on a surveillance
video on 1-18-1990.
 with a former girlfriend in a snazzy DC hotel. The newspapers the next day featured pages and pages of grainy photos of the Mayor’s misdeeds the night before. The entire paper was news of the crack smoking mayor, a few ads, and guessed it, the picture I starred in “Great Day for a Picnic.”

A friend called to alert me that morning and I found my office copy of the paper and preened up with pride. How cool! My critical thinking cap, however, wasn’t on as I was basking in my own glory. I thought I’d pick up a few papers after work so I could send my parents a copy of the picture. The joke was on me when every single newspaper in the city was gone by 3 p.m. I managed to scrounge up a few pictures and this is the only one to survive the last 25 years. It is a great misfortune that a complete issue of the paper never made it back to Missouri because it is hard for people to believe that is really was just Marion and me in the January 19, 1990, edition of the Washington Post.

P.S. The story takes a humorous twist when my friend Paul (mentioned above), who I was in a small tiff with, called me at the office on January 19th. We had not spoken in two weeks. Rather than congratulating me on my picture, he gave me a tongue lashing about how HIS picture should have been in the paper. Paul told of getting his picture taken the day before and ripping through the Post to find his picture. And there I was laughing (at him, he says). He said seeing me in that picture was adding insult to injury. I replied that, no, it was poetic justice. We agreed to meet halfway and have never had an argument again!

Despite my trumping Paul O'Neill for the only non-Barry
picture in the Washington Post that day, we have remained friends
for over 25 years. No way Marion Barry can come between us.