Walter Payton

Don't let this gruff exterior fool you. Walter Payton was the ultimate prankster. (chicago Tribune file / October 23, 2013)

Twenty-five years ago, the Chicago sports landscape was ruled by three men: Michael Jordan, Walter Payton and Andre Dawson. And in January 1988, the magazine Chicago Times pulled off a greater feat than having them all in the same city. They got them all in the same photo. It was such a big deal that TV stations showed up in droves.

If you've got $8,000 burning a hole in your pocket, you can buy a signed print at the David Leonardis Gallery in Bucktown. The photographer is Chicagoan Marc Hauser, whose resume includes Jimi Hendrix, Julia Roberts, Woody Allen and the famous Bigsby and Kruthers mural featuring Dennis Rodman. RedEye tracked down Hauser at his Chicago studio to get the lowdown on the Jordan-Payton-Dawson shoot.

Tell us how that shoot came to be.

We got a call from this magazine, Chicago Times. They said they wanted me to do a cover story, a portrait of Michael Jordan, Walter Payton and Andre Dawson. And I said, "You're gonna get those guys all together?" They said, "Yeah. We're doing it because it's for charity. The poster's going to be sold for $25 each." So I said, "Sure. Put it together and I'll be there." Every news crew from every station was there. It was like eight TV cameramen shooting while I was shooting, behind me in a circle. I should have gotten a picture of that shot.

I wanted to do a picture of them in their street clothes, but the client wanted them in these tuxedos. They all went in the dressing rooms, and when they all got out, Jordan says, "I think Walter should sit down. He's the old man." And Walter started laughing and says, "I'm faster than you, Jordan." And then they start laughing back and forth. Whatever-his-name is never said anything. Andre Dawson. He just stood there and said, "Where do you want me to stand?"

Then Walter, I'm looking through the camera, and I go, "Hey, where'd Walter go?" and suddenly I felt a big grab on my ass. I looked back in the camera and he was there again. I've worked with him before, and that's something that he does. It's just a joke. He's a prankster.

Was he pranking the other two guys?

Just Jordan. Jordan and him were pranking on each other. The whole thing about "Old man," you know. "You're gonna need a wheelchair pretty soon." Jordan says that to Walter. "I got lots of years to go. I'm just starting." Walter by that time was done playing. He was the jokester. He did the most talking out of everybody. He kept saying, [yelling] "Come on everybody, smile! Come on, look at the camera!"

So Payton was able to get up out of the shot, and get behind you …

Yeah, he'd pinch me, and then go like this [makes faces]. He was trying to get everybody to smile big. So he was going like this [makes faces and waves hands] behind me, giving me horns, going back and forth. He'd pinch me, go around, sit down again. There are pictures of him hugging Jordan from one side, and then he'd get on the other side. He was the energy.

What was their impression of Dawson?

He was kind of ignored. But they both were saying, "You're the quiet guy, but you're as up there as we are." He was just as big as them. All three of them in one room is like every award you can win in sports.

It was just amazing energy in the room. Everybody in the room was in awe. Everybody. They just couldn't believe that these three guys were standing right there. When you photograph some of these people—you know, all of these people are just regular human beings just like me or you. But they have a history. They have a thing about them. There's an aura, I'm telling you. There's an aura, a glow, an intensity when they're there. They're in the room. When Walter Payton is in the room, you know it.

But as I said, you saw the respect they each had for each other. That was one thing you saw. Even though they joked around a lot, Michael Jordan had respect for Walter Payton and Walter Payton had respect for Michael Jordan, and Walter Payton and Michael Jordan both had respect for Andre Dawson. … They knew how great Andre Dawson was. He didn't have the press and the coverage and the schmaltz that was around them, like Walter and Michael did, but he had the essence of, you know, the greatness.

Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. @readjack

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