Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Larry King and the Baby Photos

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LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, for the first time on TV, we see the photos of probably the most famous baby in the world today. And we meet the editor who spent hours with this baby’s famous parents. What was that like? What were they like?

It’s all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Good evening. We’re here with our special guest — Neil Kramer, the features editor of Citizen of the Month. He’s in Los Angeles, having spent an enormous amount of time admiring, observing, and photographing Su Lin, the new baby panda cub at the San Diego Zoo, as well as spending time with her well-known parents, Bai Yum and Gao Gao. How did you get this unique opportunity?

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NEIL KRAMER, EDITOR OF CITIZEN OF THE MONTH: It’s incredible isn’t it? I had been in touch with the giant panda parents for quite a while and finally they called me and said I should come down to the zoo. I spend hours there and I had unprecedented access to their home. I was able to go in every room. No door was closed to me. It was unbelievable that Bai Yun and Gao Gao let me into their private life like that. It was absolutely something that I was so excited to be a part of.

KING: Did you expect to be at the panda exhibit all day?

KRAMER: No actually. I expected to only spend an hour or two, and then, you know, the shoot just kept getting more and more interesting and we all were having such a great time.

KING: The photo you used on your blog looks like an emotional shot for Bai Yun and Gao Gao, any particular reason the way it was shot that way and why you picked that for the main photo?

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KRAMER: Yes. That’s a fabulous story. I was at the favorite spot of the family, which is called Panda Village. The sun was setting. The baby panda was looking straight at the camera. Bai Yun and Gao Gao were looking down at the baby and I shot that picture. And, at that moment, everyone became a little bit emotional because we knew we had it. That was definitely going to be the blog photo. There was no question about it.

KING: The grandmother I understand got emotional, huh?

KRAMER: Yes. Gao Gao’s mother was looking at her granddaughter and her future daughter-in-law to be and she started to cry. And then all of us started to get really emotional. And, Gao Gao was fighting back the tears. We talked about that moment later and he said he just — it was all so much and the beauty of the place. It was incredible.

KING: Feeding the baby that giant piece of bamboo was that photo — set up?

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KRAMER: No, the baby was hungry, and the sun was starting to set and she just felt like doing that and it was a great moment.

KING: Gao Gao said this to you about fatherhood. “My whole life I always wanted to be a father.” Was that evident in the way he was?

KRAMER: Absolutely. I was so happy to see this family all so happy together, hanging out together, so comfortable with each other. They just are happy. They’re smiling all the time. They love to tell stories. They’re a very warm and open family.

KING: What was it like for you the first time you saw Sui Lin?

KRAMER: Well, I walked up and I saw this beautiful woman holding this adorable baby and then Gao Gao standing next to — and they’re all waving at me and they’re so excited that I was there. And the baby looked exactly to me like Gao Gao. And I just couldn’t wait to hold the baby, which I did.

KING: I love this photo. Of mother and daughter.

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KRAMER: That is a beautiful shot. You can see how happy they all are and the baby… as you can see lifting her head. She’s gorgeous.

KING: Is that baby as happy as she appears?

KRAMER: That baby is smiling and cooing and giggling. It’s a really happy baby, yes, it is.

KING: A quote from Bai Yun, “The moment the doctor handed me Su Lin, I was just ready. The feeling is indescribable. All I can say is the moment I looked in her eyes I felt like Mom.”

KRAMER: Yes.

KING: What kind of mom is she?

KRAMER: Bai Yun is an incredible mother just the way she holds that baby and looks at — that baby looks at her. They have such a connection. She’s very hands on. They have very little help, you know. Actually, they’re very — they’re a very normal family. I mean what you read in the zoo promotional materials and then when you see them it’s just there’s no connection. It’s just this great, happy family. I can’t — I can’t stress enough how normal the whole thing seemed and I know I was with the biggest attraction in the San Diego zoo. But I keep coming back to the fact that, you know, when they’re holding their baby they’re like every parent in the world, you know, doting parents.

KING: Is Bai Yun a Buddhist or is she becoming one to please Gao Gao?

KRAMER: I really don’t know that, Larry.

KING: Did you discuss that at all?

KRAMER: I did not discuss that at all, no.

KING: Was that a condition of the blog post or not?

KRAMER: Oh, no. There were no conditions at all, no, no, no.

KING: Neil Kramer, you pulled off a coup.

KRAMER: Yes, to see a baby like that… born… from a mother… and loved by parents… it’s so special nowadays to see that… so unique and amazing…

KING: Thanks, Neil.

KRAMER: Thank you, Larry.

(based on CNN transcript of Larry King and Vanity Fair editor Jane Sarkin “discussing” the Suri Cruise photos in Vanity Fair)

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Love Songs

27 Comments

  1. This is why I spent four years studying journalism, and then after a few years abandoned it to become a PR writer. At least now I’m honest about what I do–I don’t have to pretend this is news. My buddy Mike, still a journalist, covered the panda baby story at The National Zoo (our panda is BETTER than yours!) and wrote several tongue-in-cheek pieces for my blog about it. (Archived under the Topic “Mike on the Bottom”)

    As for Suri–I think she looks like a panda with all that black hair. Do you think she teethes on organic bamboo shoots?

  2. congrats on your interview!!!
    you must be thrilled, that baby sure is alot cutier then the other baby girl that has been in the news lately.

  3. Larry is sounding much more coherent than usual…

  4. Oooo. Baby panda. Cute.

  5. Tom Cruise has a daughter?

  6. I didn’t know you guys had a panda, too… I clearly live in a Butterstick-centric world!

  7. I think baby Suri wears a wig better than that baby panda, however!

  8. What does it say about me to admit Citizen is my primary source for breaking news?

  9. Was it just me or did those pandas look a little like Tomkats?

    Those pandas sure know how to get attention – first they were jumping over couches on TV and screaming about their relationship and upcoming baby and the next minute they were in seclusion wondering why everyone was trying to gawk. Genius.

  10. As always, I’m impressed by your range.

  11. If any story deserves mocking, it certainly is all the attention surrounding baby Suri and parents!

  12. neil, neil, neil… i can’t believe your crack reporting skills didn’t uncover one key piece of information: the reason it took so long to unveil the first photos of suri. my hunch: the same reason zoos don’t let visitors see newborn pandas… BECAUSE THEY LOOK NASTY! startling photographic proof seen  (note:  link didn’t work)

  13. i love how you were able to prolong the sunset so that it seems to have lasted about 5 hours. those incredible amazing shots were were worth it. but i want to know about the decor. have they kept up an asian influence in the desing reminding them of their home, or have they sold out and gone crate&barrel?

  14. I’d love to have that much contact with a panda. They’re so cute!

  15. KB — Yes, I did see what you are talking about. But let’s keep that our little secret. No one really wants to see that. Now, back to the cute pandas —

  16. What a sweet family. Let’s take it literally and accept that humans aren’t the only ones with culture, interpersonal relationships and bonds. Anything else is so 17th century.

  17. your readers deserve to know! newborn pandas are blind, bald, nasty mole-rats. cute, nothing!

  18. pandas are relevant. celebrity babies and just babies, and therefore relevant only to their parents.

    thanks for putting some prime snarkitude into my afternoon!

  19. Yes, the real baby photos kind of freaked me out. Consider this a “docudrama.”

  20. I teared up a bit. Possibly over the state of our society- but either way I was moved.

  21. Very creative, Neil. I can’t beleive you thought that up. Well, I sort of can.

  22. Neil’s journalistic style: Watches eating shoots and leafs.

  23. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think.

  24. Neil…I LOVE YOU! That was hysterical

  25. The only picture of a blind, bald, nasty-looking mole rat I see in this blog is the one of Larry King.

    Nice panda pics.

  26. Yay! Now that I’ve had my smile for the day I can finally go to work. 🙂

    You should do more interviews, Neil.

  27. The food plays an important role in man’s life. This is the basic nsesceity of the people in order to survive and to become healthy and strong. Providing ourselves with adequate and nutritious foods will help our body’s immune system healthy. The food contamination is an alarming issue most especially to the part of the parents. Of course they don’t want to take risk the health condition of their children because of this. And it can give us a financial burden because if the kids intake a contaminated foods, you have to rush them in the hospital and the medical bills for us can be a major blow in our budget.

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