Those smiles of relief are on the faces of photographer Raeanne Rubenstein and reporter Roger Jackson because they're finished with this week's cover. Basketball editor Larry Keith came up with the motif, based on Archibald M. Willard's painting, The Spirit of '76. Willard painted perhaps a dozen versions, one of which was sold last Saturday for $150,000; but Jackson and Rubenstein produced the version on our cover.
The cover had its genesis in Curry Kirkpatrick's story on Virginia's Ralph Sampson, DePaul's Mark Aguirre and Maryland's Albert King (page 34). In hopes of leading their teams to the NCAA championship, the three stars had turned down the prospect of big bucks from the NBA. As Keith and Jackson wondered how they were going to link the players pictorially, Keith said, "In a way, these guys are patriots," and suddenly he had a vision, of drummers, a wounded fife player and the smoke of battle.
Rubenstein had 10 days to find costumes, gather props and shoot the photo. Fortunately, she had prepped by turning up the CAUTION, STOP and ROAD CLOSED signs that surrounded five defensive virtuosos in a feature picture in our 1979 college basketball issue. And that year Jackson, who once studied to be a Catholic priest and retains considerable powers of persuasion, was charged with coaxing the defenders into fitting another road trip, for the shooting, into their schedules.
This year he had to make fewer calls, but each one took a little longer. Rubenstein couldn't come up with ready-made Revolutionary War costumes for the three tall men, and Jackson had to instruct the players by phone in the measuring of inseams and sleeves, relaying the figures back to her. One costume company, hearing what the job entailed, offered to make the outfits for $4,000, but Rubenstein got the Eaves Costume Company to do it for $600. (The firm hopes to defray the rest of the suits' cost by renting them out.) She hired an artist to render a convincing blend of dawn light, mist and gunsmoke for a background and sent an assistant off with a truck to buy 600 square feet of sod. The turf was spread on the floor of Rubenstein's Manhattan studio, most of it grass side down, this being a battlefield not a golf course, and then she drove to Central Park to collect rocks, twigs and leaves for the finishing touches, which she subsequently returned to the park.
December 1, 1980
Jackson got the big three to the second-floor studio on time, and the 5'2" Rubenstein was waiting at the door. She had to stop Aguirre and King four steps from the top in order to shake their hands—Sampson was a five-step man. At 7'4", he would balance the scene at center—center drum, that is. The 6'7" Aguirre would play left drum, and King, at 6'6", would be the fife player.
The picture hadn't been planned for the cover, but Keith didn't have to push very hard to get it there. As he says, "Raeanne took our idea and made something really special."
So did the Eaves Costume Company, which is presumably counting on Sampson, Aguirre and King getting themselves invited to a number of masquerade balls.