My somewhat odd almost encounter with Anjelica Huston & Annie Leibovitz

Back in August and September of 2011 virtually my entire crop was destroyed at the very worst time by the floods associated with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. It was a devastating loss that put me in an even deeper financial hole.

In mid December I got a phone call from world famous photographer Annie Leibovitz’s location manager Ernie. I had helped Ernie a couple of times over the past couple of years find farm type locations in the area for some Leibovitz shoots. Ernie is a really nice guy. He lives somewhat local and knew a little about the weather disaster we suffered a few months earlier. He said that he was looking for another location for a shoot Annie was doing for Vanity Fair and said this time I could receive a modest payment for using my farm. I drove him around and he found a spot he liked very much and said that the next day or two Annie’s very large crew would come out to do the shoot. I asked Ernie what the subject would be about this time. Back in the fall of 2005 she did an elaborate shoot in the black dirt based on the Wizard of Oz with Natalie Portman look alike Keira Knightley as Dorothy, which ran in the December 2005 edition of Vogue see:

Ernie said this time the subject was Anjelica Huston and the shoot was for a profile of her and her new show on NBC called “Smash” for Vanity Fair.

On December 16th a very large crew arrived to work on the location for the shoot. They arrived early in the morning. The crew were pretty cool. A mixture of artist types and working stiffs.




It seemed that Annie wanted puddles on the road in front of the field so I helped them make puddles. They had a tank which we filled with water at my house which I transported to the location in my brother’s pickup truck. And when that didn’t do the job they got water out of the one ditch and hauled via seed buckets that I provided. I didn’t do that, thank you. I just watched. It was quite cold that day. So much so ice was forming on the water on top of the ditches, making the puddle creation job even more difficult.



As I said, the crew had no buckets before I arrived but I gave them some and they worked for a couple of hours in the freezing cold scooping water out of the ditch and hauling it to the road to make puddles. So right before Annie Leibovitz and Anjelica Huston left Leibovitz’s huge bus where they spent the majority of the day and arrived on the scene to start taking pictures my dad comes down the field with our John Deere tractor to do some field work. I can tell he’s going to drive on the road and ruin all the puddles these guys literally made by hand by driving right through them. The poor crew dudes nearly had a heart attack. I had to wave him down and tell him to drive around. He wasn’t pleased but I was a hero to the puddle crew!

Also on the scene eventually was the location scout for Vanity Fair. I think she might have been in the bus all day as well. She was a nasty person that made me feel like dirt scraped off her shoe. More on that in a bit.

Now here is the deal, I didn’t just rent out my farm to them, I helped the crew out much of the day and hung around. I wanted to briefly meet Huston and Leibovitz if possible. I didn’t have a huge entourage with me, it was me, just me. I had some materials related to our destruction that past season and my efforts to get disaster aid passed. I was hoping at the very least to briefly meet them and if possible pass that material along. Leibovitz had just done some shoot in Washington DC and obviously has some connections. Any help would be extremely useful to our cause. When celebrities grip on to an issue sometimes it gets traction and moves forward.

Well, Huston and Leibovitz arrived at the very last minute to start shooting. For the 7 or more hours that the crew had been working in the freezing cold to make puddles and set up some heat and the lighting Huston and Leibovitz caught up with each other (evidently they are old friends) in the extremely large bus. I’m sure they wined and snacked and had a grand old time. Much to my surprise Leibovitz didn’t inspect the scene a single time as it was being set up.

When they finally arrived on the scene they briskly walked past me without acknowledging me. But they did it in a way to make it clear to me they knew who I was. Hey, they are artists and had a job to do. I get that and did not expect them to stop at that point and introduce themselves to me. I quietly hung around in the very background. But it was made very clear to me I was to stay there. In fact the jerk from Vanity Fair actually said to me something to the effect of “I’m responsible for that very generous check you know” and then directed me to back up a few dozen feet and stay out of the way. There was absolutely no reason for her to say what she said, nor the way she said it. Even though I wasn’t in the way. It was also made clear to me I could take no pictures of Huston or Leibovitz. These are the only two I was able to sneak:


Out of respect for Leibovitz’s location manager I did not publish any of these photos on my Facebook page or on Twitter until the article in Vanity Fair hit the newsstands in February.

At one point I was told to back up because I was “distracting” Anjelica with my bright yellow suit.

(Here is what I was wearing, my normal work garb, which is a bit “loud”:)


After a few minutes the Vanity Fair location person told me “Anjelica was still very distracted” by me. I found it odd since I was a number of feet away, in the midst of a large crowd of crew persons. So I offered to remove my overalls if they were that distracting but I was instead directed to hide myself in my brother’s pickup truck.

You read that right.

Bottom line, there was no I way I was going to be able to meet, let alone talk to Liebovitz or Huston. I was so treated like the “99%” and they were obviously part of the “1%” and the two shall never mix.

Allow me to state this, over the years I have met with a number of celebrity types and high level politicos and this was the first and only instance I was ever made to feel like I was dirt to be scraped off a shoe, or something beneath worth. The only time. I got that feeling as soon as they walked past me to get to the shoot location. I was able to talk to Huston’s personal assistant and give her some info on my $150,000 for a 50lb bag of onions on eBay ad and the whole situation on how our valley was destroyed and how we are trying to get disaster aid.

She was actually very nice. I told her I’ll be going down to Capitol Hill and any pressure Hollywood types could add to the politicos would be extremely helpful. She said she would pass the info on. Who knows if she was jerking me off or not. Probably so. Who knows. I never heard back from her or anyone connected with this shoot.

Again, they are artists and had a job to do. I get that. I didn’t really expect them to say anything to me prior or during the shoot. But would it have killed them to say hello to me and maybe even, God forbid, thank me for the location and the help I provided them all day after they finished the shoot? I mean, could they have not taken 2 minutes as they returned to the bus to say “thanks?”  And to do it in a classy way, not by reminding me how much they paid me to use the location? Yes, rub it in to the dirt farmer who lost his entire crop a few months before and who was now in deep debt with no clue as to how he was going to survive how your “generous” check secured the location.

Again, Leibovitz’s location manager is a nice guy and a class act, as was the rest of her crew. They treated me very nicely and were quite outgoing and friendly.

But they are obviously part of the “99%” too.

Here is a link for the article online as well as the photos from the magazine. As Eve has said repeatedly, it really is a very beautiful picture. You have to hand it to Leibovitz, she is very good.

As I have mentioned multiple times previously my campaign to raise funds for an editor will be featured in an upcoming episode of the new Crowd Funder Show.

What is the Crowd Funder Show and what does it mean to appear on the show? According to their website:

The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability. Each episode focuses the spotlight on six or seven inspiring projects and personal goals that give the viewing audience insight into the campaign, its principal, and the reason(s) why it should come to fruition. The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability.

What is so neat about their crowd funding method, versus Kickstarter’s, is that it is not “all or nothing.” Further, the rewards are much more exciting. Again, from their website:

Viewers can choose to support the projects they watch by contributing directly to the campaign website or by calling a toll-free number. The Crowd Funder Show rewards contributors with sponsored gift cards for the same amount of money they contribute, up to $100. Supporting people and their projects has never been easier so it’s no wonder you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of something special. The Crowd Funder TV Show is an interesting, inspiring program that highlights human ingenuity and co-operation.

When you go to my page you will see locations once can choose from for the gift card include: Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot and Toys R Us. So, if you plan on doing any shopping at any of these locations anyway you are essentially donating to my cause for free. A total win-win!


The Great Muckville Blog Free Bloomin’ Onion Essay Contest!


Back on Sunday December 8th it was formally announced that Iowa would play LSU in the Outback Bowl and that night I launched a campaign on this blog and on Twitter for Outback to give me a free Bloomin’ Onion for being a 4th generation family onion farmer who is also an Iowa alum!


A mere 6 days later, after a handful of blog postings and a number of tweets I was followed by Outback on Twitter and contacted on Twitter. Not only did they agree to give me a free Bloomin’ Onion certificate, they actually gave me 6 so I could give the others away on my blog!



On December 23rd I gave the first certificate away to my dad, because he said he wanted to go to Outback and try a Bloomin’ Onion, since he has never had one. So, since he is my dad and does a lot for me, I gave one to him.


For the last few weeks I have struggled though with how I would give away the remaining 4 certificates. Trivia questions are easily solved via Google and didn’t seem all that interesting to me. Then, while sitting in bed and fighting off a headache it hit me … an essay contest!

So here is the deal … I convinced, via social media, Outback to give me a free Bloomin’ Onion! You need to do the same to me … hence …

The Great Muckville Blog Free Bloomin’ Onion Essay Contest!


In no less than 500 words and no greater than 1,000 you need to, in a humorous or creative fashion, convince me I should award one of those free certificates to you! Specifics:

Contest run date: January 2-31

E-mail your essay to: Please include your snail mail address so if you are a winner I can mail you the certificate.

All 4 chosen winning essays will appear on my blog!

So, get those creative juices flowing and e-mail me those essays!

Since I am in the midst of my Crowd Funder Show campaign to fund an editor for my memoir … I had to mention it!

Please support my Crowd Funder campaign for raising funds for a professional editor for my memoir. For every dollar you contribute you get a matching dollar for dollar gift card from places like Best Buy, Sears, Home Depot and Toys R Us, amongst others.

Can you support a small family farmer who does public policy work by getting his memoir ready to be published?

My dad, the “Fred G. Sanford” of the neighborhood and his onetime CSI investigation

The following below is an excerpt from my unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.”


My dad in March of 2012 got a new, HD TV and a new entertainment center to house it, so, he decided to sell the old one. My dad is the “Fred G. Sanford” of the neighborhood. He is constantly selling crap along the highway … next to my house! The problem … he is starting to attract human vermin. You have to see some of the “people” (notice the quotation marks) that pull in here to sample his wares. Holy crap … half the time they are refugees from any “Mad Max” movie or “The Hills Have Eyes.” This isn’t next to his house … it’s next to mine! But, he just loves to sell stuff, it’s in his blood.

Well, a few days after he had the stand sitting alongside the road, on a Sunday morning thieves stole it. “I have a clue, 3 small white stones,” he says. Someone cue “Who Are You” from “CSI.” My dad called the police, the Town of Warwick police, who actually came and took a report. The office didn’t offer up much hope for recovery. My dad though was not to be deterred, he launched his own investigation. He called virtually everyone in the neighborhood, asking them if they had seen any suspicious vehicles driving around. One neighbor said they might have seen an unusual white pick-up truck. How did that fit with the white stones he recovered at the crime scene? He wasn’t sure.


He then decided to do a new tact … public shame. He made two signs and put them out by the highway. One said “Who Stole TV Cabinet?” and the other “SHAME ON YOU!” Oh superb, we now had those kooky signs along the road, attracting even more attention. You should have seen the Facebook posts from friends about it. I was mortified, but my dad was not budging.


But you know what? The signs worked!

About three days later, as we were eating dinner I got a knock on my door from a guy that looked my age, maybe a bit older … he said “my son took your TV stand on Sunday … I think there was a misunderstanding.” The guy was a bit apprehensive. I could tell he was trying to gauge how angry I was going to be. So I started laughing a bit, which eased the tension on his end.

I said to him, “oh, it wasn’t mine. It was my dad’s. He’s the ‘Fred. G. Sanford’ of the neighborhood.” The man replied, “Well, my name is Mark, (shakes my hand) and I sent my son to take a look at it on Sunday. I was on my way to church. Well, he just took it. He thought it was for free. He didn’t see any signs.” I replied. “Well, it was for sale, there was a sign next to the plows.” “Oh, yeah, my son saw that, but he thought it was just for the plows. Well, how much is it?” he asked.

I told him in reply I wasn’t sure but asked him to hang on a minute. “Let me call my dad. He’ll come right over. He’s going to love this.” Mark nervously said,  “Okay. I just want to make it right. You see, I drove by on my motorbike on Tuesday and saw the sign that said ‘Shame on you.’” I burst out laughing and told him “that’s my dad. He did call the cops about it. And found some stones as clues. And talked to the neighbors who saw a suspicious white pick-up who told him that drives by every day. I think he was on stakeout today.” “Is your dad going to be as cool about this as you are?” “Oh yeah.”

So my dad pulls in at that moment … laughing. My dad said, “I had some wine with dinner so I drove here thru the black dirt.”

Mark then repeats the story and my dad repeats his crime detecting skills.

Mark asks “So how much did you want for it?” My dad responds with “well … $100 or best offer.” Mark responds with “Okay.” My dad says “make it $75.” Mark counters with “how about $80?” My dad says “deal!”

My dad tells him, “I was staking out for the white pickup truck today because I was told it goes by every day.” Mark said, “well, mine is gold so I guess I was in the clear.” He paid my dad, we all laughed and Mark went on his way.

My quite intelligent son who suffers from short term memory loss now has a NYS Driver’s Permit … LOOKOUT!

Yes … today, my son #1 caleb got a 95% on the written permit test and has been awarded a NYS Learner’s Permit to drive … on the highway no less.

I say he suffers from short term memory loss because frequently I ask him to do something … like take out the garbage or clean the cat litter boxes and he looks at me, nods his head, says “uh huh” and then goes back to what he was doing, ignoring my request.


It was my first trip to a DMV in something like 29 years … I now know why I have not returned in so long of a time. They make you go through the initial line twice, then take a number like you are asking for cold cuts at the deli counter at Shop Rite. While we waited a very scary woman kept staring at me with big bug eyes … I should have gotten a picture. Instead, all I got was one shot of the deli counter number.

When I got home I took a ride with my dad and told him Caleb passed the test:

Me: “Yup, Caleb passed the permit test.”
Dad: “What? First I hear of this.”
Me: “We literally just got back.”
Dad: “I didn’t know he was going.”
Me: “I told you yesterday … well he has it now.”
Dad: “Good, he can drive the 3rd AC-G and hook the onions with us on Monday.”
Me: “That’s the spirit!”


Dad and Meredith

So, this is the 4th story I have been interviewed by new, intrepid YNN reporter Meredith Zaritheny (see: )

It is now the third story she has interviewed me on the farm. And now the 3rd time my dad has gotten a good look at her. After the first story on the farm, which took place during the late winter in early March she was all bundled up and my dad didn’t really get a good look at her. Afterwards he said to me, “she’s too short, I’d throw her back.” I replied with, “what is she, a fish.” And my dad replied with, “yeah, she’s no keeper.”

Well, after the last 2 stories, after he has gotten a good look at her up close, his position has changed. He chatted with her multiple times on Friday, and told some of his basic stories and jokes.

Later, after she left and as he and I were on our way to spray our onions he said:

“That Meredith, she’s something else … if something happens to Gracie (my mom) I’m going to be giving her a call.”

Now, will this eventually translate into something he couldn’t get from her predecessor, Elaina Athans, a hug? Even a “full hug,” with a pat and a sway?