On the Friday edition, Howard Beck welcomes legendary photographer George Kalinsky, who will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame next month. Kalinsky, the official photographer for Madison Square Garden since 1966, shares stories from his time with Knicks legend Willis Reed, as well as Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali and others.
Howard Beck: You got the job at the Garden in 1966. What do you remember about how that came about? Did you have any inkling at the time that this is something that could almost literally last a lifetime and take you to so many amazing places, literally and figuratively? How did the start of this come about?
George Kalinsky: I think my career actually started in 1966. And I ran into Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali, who was Cassius Clay at the time in Miami, where I was I was interviewing for a job as a sports cartoonist or a political cartoonist for the Miami Herald. And I had to think about that twice.
Anyway, the Miami Herald wanted to hire me as a sports cartoonist and political cartoonist, and I was just debating with myself, with my family, if this is something I want to do by coming down to Miami and living in Miami. Which is not a bad place to live. And anyway, I followed Cassius Clay into the gym and Angelo Dundee stopped me. He said, "You can't come in unless you pay a dollar." And I had this camera around my shoulder, which I basically only took for pictures that were of my family. And, it just came out of my mouth, I said, "Angelo, I'm the photographer of Madison Square Garden." And Angelo said, "O.K., comedian, come on in." So that's how I got into the gym. And then I had my one camera, which was a pretty good camera.
I went to Pratt and I needed a good camera to photograph my designs that I was making at Pratt. And so I knew how to work the camera pretty well. And so I took pictures of Cassius Clay working out. I thanked Angelo for letting me in to have this wonderful opportunity to photograph people who are famous. I never photographed a famous person before.
So I left the gym and I drove to where my motel was and I saw on the news that Cassius Clay was doing something newsworthy. So I pull out my roll of film that I shot in the gym to the Miami Herald to the photography department, and they put one of the pictures over to the wire service. And the next day, one of my pictures is all over the world. So this is 1966. I thought to myself, This is something I can do and that you can have fun at. And I certainly went at it pretty quickly because the next day by having one of my pictures all over the world, I was a big deal. So I went to John Condon, who was the PR director of Madison Square Garden Boxing. And he said, if you can come to me with one roll of film, I have the "chutzpah" to hire you. And that's exactly what he said.
He said, if you have the chutzpah to come to me with one roll of film, I have the chutzpah to hire you. And that's how I became the photographer for Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks, the Rangers, and eventually two million pictures later, I feel so thrilled and honored to be in the Hall of Fame.
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