- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

Amateur photographer deluged

HILTON HEAD, S.C.

Richard Holinski’s phone won’t stop ringing. It seems as if every time he picks it up, the voice on the other end has a different accent.

German. British. Minnesotan. He’s heard them all in the past couple of weeks. And they all want to know: “Are you the guy who took that picture of the alligator ringing the doorbell?”

“That picture” has been all the buzz since June 2, the night Mr. Holinski captured with a telephoto lens the image of a 6-foot-long alligator standing on its hind legs at the front door of a neighbor’s house.

Apparently the smell of teriyaki chicken that Robert and Roslyn Loretta were grilling in their back porch lured the gator from a nearby lagoon. Minutes later, the Lorettas heard a knock on their front door.

When they looked out the window, there was the gator, its claw inches away from the doorbell.

Mr. Holinski was watching a local news broadcast when his photo aired. Two newscasters making small talk between segments began debating whether it was real.

“I said, ‘Aw man. They’re calling me a liar,’” Mr. Holinski joked. “I’m really amazed that a picture can get you that much attention.”

Indeed, attention galore. The photo and story have been picked up around the world — from Melbourne, Australia, to Bombay to London — since the Island Packet ran an article on June 7.

Famed radio broadcaster Paul Harvey covered the story Thursday. Two American tabloids, the Star and the Sun, have picked it up. It’s even appeared in the Electric New Paper in Singapore.

On www.islandpacket.com, the story had logged almost 28,000 page views by Friday night. A total of 5,455 page views occurred on June 7, the day the story ran in the newspaper. Fifty Web sites posted links to the story.

“This is my 15 minutes,” Mr. Holinski said. “The amount of attention has been overwhelming. It seems like it takes something you don’t see every day.”

The attention has been a bit much for the Lorettas, too, whose phone also won’t stop ringing more than two weeks after the gator incident occurred, Mrs. Loretta said Saturday.

“People keep calling and calling,” she said. “It was just an alligator. We’re ready for [the attention] to go away.”

Mr. Holinski hasn’t been taking much money for the photo. He asked the Packet to donate money to a local animal charity instead of paying him. For him, it was all about the picture.

“I didn’t take it for the money, I took it for the shot itself,” he said. “I was in the right place at the right time.”

But the shot has changed his identity in his community. Neighbors have treated him like a celebrity, in some sense.

“I’m the alligator man,” he laughed. “My wife wants me to get a license plate that says that.”

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