A $50,000 electric bill? The cost of cooling L.A.’s biggest houses in a heat wave? When a Los Angeles Times photographer called a $1.95-per-hour private-home contractor last month to do an update on a house he had photographed on that hot summer day, he got more than he bargained for. “He took that picture of the house for $200,” said the contractor’s wife, who has been hearing about the photo from friends without knowing the photographer’s name. The photographer also got a $2,000 surprise—and had to sell it. For this week’s installment of “How the Times Got It Wrong” (Aug. 25, page 4), we took a tour of the photos.
Dennis Hof, a L.A. Times copy editor at the time of the original picture, said he was standing on the sidewalk at 1125 W. 3rd St. on July 25, 1971, waiting for a friend, who was late due to a traffic jam, to arrive. He turned around when he saw a man on the corner carrying a camera bag wearing a leather jacket. “I said, ‘Is that you?’ He said, ‘Nope.’ I asked, ‘Can I take a picture of you?’ He said, ‘Nope.’ I said, ‘I need the picture because it’s not raining and I want people to know that the guy is really cool.’ “
“He gave me his phone number and the date of the picture,” said Hof, who went in and took a photo with the man, who he said he had never met and didn’t recognize. The man, Hof added, did not identify himself. He said later in a telephone interview with us that he had not been paid for the picture. “I got an interesting reaction out of the man,” Hof added. “I could tell by the way he was acting. I said to myself, ‘How the hell do I even go to this guy and tell him that I have a nice picture of him?'” Hof went inside the house and showed the man the photo, which he said was taken in the hallway through the living room. “He said, ‘I’ll take it.’ ” Hof took the picture back to L.A. Times photographer Bob Smith, who was at the paper that day to do a feature on Hof’s work (Times photo, p. 1).
Dennis Hof, who has been a copy editor at the Times since