Jacko's Doc and the Ultimate Stage Mother

Spaced City

He Shot Michael Jackson's Doctor
Forgotten photo earns big bucks, but not for the photographer

By Richard Connelly


Conrad Murray

Thomas Nguyen is an office administrator for a Galleria-area doctor. For the past 17 years, he's also been a part-time photographer stringing for the Houston Chronicle's zoned editions, mostly on weekends.

As with most zoned editions, a lot of the work can entail taking shots of ribbon-cuttings at local businesses or "grip & grins" with awards and giant checks being presented.

Three years ago, he took an utterly unremarkable shot of a local doctor opening his new clinic. It turned out to be a photo seen around the world.

That doctor was Conrad Murray, opening his Acres Homes Cardiovascular Center. When he was implicated in the death of Michael Jackson, media outlets everywhere needed a picture of him. Now.

There were none to be found, except the ones Nguyen had shot.

"Apparently the guy likes to keep a low profile, for obvious reasons," Nguyen told Hair Balls.

The Houston Chronicle had just one shot from Nguyen's session; rumors are it's made a ton of money in licensing fees by people using it.

Nguyen, not so much.

"Unfortunately, there are no extra royalties for me," he says. "At first it was exciting to see my picture everywhere, but then it kind of sunk in that I wasn't getting anything for it. But I double-checked the contract, and that's what it said."

He was able to dig up some unused shots and sell them to outfits such as the New York Daily News and the European Pressphoto Agency; one sale was "in the four figures," he says.

The Chron did give him a bit of a bonus, too, but nowhere near what he might have made if he owned the rights instead of the paper.

Does he remember anything about the photo session? "The only weird thing was that he [Murray] kept us waiting for 20 minutes, even though he knew we were coming," Nguyen says. "It wasn't like he was seeing patients; he was just back in the office by himself."

While Nguyen obviously would like to have cashed in a bit more on the experience, what he's gotten is, in a large sense, "found money" — income from some obscure assignment three years ago.

"It's unbelievable that I'm tied in a way to one of the biggest news stories of the decade," he says. "You shoot so many functions, and all of a sudden this happens."


Cooper's a Trouper
Seven months pregnant and still dancing onstage

By Richard Connelly

What were you doing when you were seven months pregnant? (Question intended for women only.)

One thing you probably weren't doing: scrambling madly to stop a wildly leaking roof only minutes before you were going onstage for a 90-minute bout of dancing, singing and dashing around.

Tamarie Cooper, Houston's favorite comedienne, recently semi-revived her old Tamalalia series with The Tamarie Cooper Show: Journey to the Center of My Mind (In 3-D!) at Stages Theatre. It's the same type of raucous, demanding show she's done in the past, except this time she's toting around a supporting actress, a soon-to-be daughter named Rose.

And on one Friday night, when a cold front brought some vicious storms downtown minutes before the curtain, Cooper and her cast were scrambling to minimize the damage. Eventually three rows were blocked off, much to the dismay of some of the sellout crowd.

"It felt like we were back at the Axiom," she tells Hair Balls. That former rock club had the structural quirkiness you'd expect from a former rock club, but apparently Stages isn't much better in a stiff rain.

We knew the new show was partly about being pregnant, but for some reason we thought Cooper had already had her kid. So when she came out onstage visibly bigger, we assumed she was wearing a prosthetic baby bump, and weren't impressed with the fact she was not only dancing but staying onstage for just about the full 90 minutes without peeing.

Talking to her after the show, we found out how wrong we were.

"The doctor says it's fine as long as I don't get too flushed," she says.

Hey, there's got to be an acting award in this somewhere. If not for her, then for Rose, for not kicking her mom's bladder too much during the show.


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