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Not ready for their close-ups

April 02, 2006|Pat Jordan | PAT JORDAN pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor that ultimately was wiped from his record. He is working on a book about his father called "The Gambler's Son."

I WAS DRESSED PERFECTLY for my mug shot, which may have been part of the problem. I wore a lovely silk-and-rayon, short-sleeved Tommy Bahama shirt. Very understated. A muted pumpkin color with a tasteful palm and an ibis on the back. My good faded jeans, a little tight, and my $2,500 ostrich-skin cowboy boots.

I looked like a South Florida personal injury lawyer, sans ponytail, dressed up to look like a South Florida smuggler, which, like I said, couldn't have helped matters. I was not pleased with my mug shot.

The officer who took it was no Bruce Weber. He gave me no direction -- as in "a knowing smile, now luv, insouciant. Oh, that's wonderful" -- other than an obscenity. And the lighting! My god! Overhead fluorescent!

I look positively criminal, which, I guess, technically, I was. The lighting dragged down my features. It cast terrible shadows across my cheekbones. I wasn't fashionably trim; I was criminally gaunt. Even my salt-and-pepper beard turned scruffy and disreputable, despite its recent trim with a No. 2 attachment on my Wahl electric shaver.

No wonder I didn't smile. Why would I, after spending six hours in the felony holding tank of the Broward County Jail in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., just because I was carrying a CZ-85, 9-millimeter, Czechoslovakian semiautomatic pistol loaded with 15 Cor-Bon hollow-point bullets in the Fort Lauderdale airport? Which is where the story of my mug shot begins.

I was supposed to meet Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, at the airport and take him out to dinner for a story I was writing about him. My wife, Susan, came with me. It was she who had insisted we meet Franklin at his gate (this was pre-9/11), which was why I threw my shoulder bag at the X-ray machine, forgetting, of course, that my CZ-85 was inside it until I heard the shouting begin, "It's a gun!" and ... oh, well, the rest is history.

I was handcuffed by two pleasant sheriff's deputies who couldn't have been more solicitous. "We know it's an oversight," they said. "It happens twice a day, but we're sorry, we have to arrest you, FAA rules." They drove me to the jail, took off my handcuffs and signed me in while we stood in a small, glass-enclosed room. I smiled my insouciant smile at a pretty, blond female officer. She put her hand on her holstered gun and said, "Is he being incarcerated? Then re-cuff him."

Inside the jail, I was strip-searched, then fingerprinted. I scrubbed off the ink so I wouldn't get it on my Tommy Bahama shirt. Then I was tossed into a holding tank with 15 other felons, all of whom looked as if they had dressed that morning in anticipation of a night in jail. Filthy cutoffs. Ripped T-shirts. Flip-flops. I went over to a bank of telephones to call Susan to bail me out. A skinny black kid looked me up and down, and then said, "What you in for, bro?"

"Concealed firearms."

He smiled. "Cool. That's cool. Can I get you a coffee?"

It was my lesson in jail hierarchy, where the most dangerous criminals are rewarded with the utmost respect. I looked like a smuggler or maybe a cool hitter. A firearms charge deserved respect from my fellow criminals, at least, but not the officer who took my mug shot.

I stood up against a black sheet of paper under those unforgiving fluorescent lights while he aimed his camera at me. He glanced at my arrest report. When he saw my crime, he began to laugh.

"You're the [expletive deleted] tried to take a gun through airport security?"

I started to explain -- my wife's idea to go to the gate, I'd forgotten my gun was in the bag -- but he cut me off.

"Shut up. Turn to the left." Click. "Now the right." Click. "Now face me." I faced the camera, tried to smile, but I couldn't. It got worse: The soft collar of my pumpkin-colored Tommy Bahama shirt barely made the final frame.



The criminal met the camera almost as soon as the photograph was invented. By 1848, in Birmingham, England, police were using daguerreotypes (perfected in 1839) to capture prostitutes and thieves for the ages. The idea matched the 19th century's love of category and collection, and for a while, its theories that by comparing criminals' eyes, chins, foreheads and ears, one could determine the physiognomy of crime. That didn't pan out, but never mind. The best use of police portraits may be as a time capsule -- the famous, the historic, the curious and the infamous, all captured front view and side view. The mug shots included here are taken from "Booked: The Last 150 Years Told Through Mug Shots," by Giacomo Papi, just released by Seven Stories Press.

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