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When I first met Rudy I thought he might be missing an eye. It was a pirate party for a mutual friend and as we were talking I noticed his pirate eye patch didn’t really look like a costume eye patch at all. The leather looked like it might be grafted into his skin. The more I looked at it, the more I wondered whether it was some sort of well applied prosthetic or maybe some horrific eye gouging accident. I knew Rudy did theatrical makeup so later when I noticed him working at a local costume shop with both eyes intact, I was pleasantly surprised.

We became friends immediately. At the costume shop he honed his airbrush skills and worked on learning magic so that he could demonstrate it to the customers. I would pop in to buy various things for my shows and we always had something fun to talk about. The costume store had been around a long time and still had it’s old catalog of costumes to choose from mixed with 8 x 10s of local performers in a giant 20 inch thick portfolio. As the shop went digital, they disposed of all the old printed pictures as well as the entertainer’s pictures. I noticed that one of the pictures had been rescued from dumpster. Mine: and it was hanging on the wall in the magic department. “Why is my picture on the wall?” I asked when I walked in. With a sarcastic smile Rudy said “Bill, you inspire me”.

Rudy had a look on his  face that makes you not sure if you want to be complimented or mad because you’re being mocked. I decided to go with option one.  It would always feel a little weird seeing my picture next to the disappearing rabbit boxes and red sponge balls, but it was such an old picture, it didn’t really look much like me anyway. One day Rudy quit the shop and decided to make his living as a full time artist. I came into the store and noticed my picture was gone. It had finally found it’s way into the costume shop dumpster. It was a bittersweet moment.

A month passed and I needed some help with my new airbrush. I had clogged it and knew nothing about how to fix it. Rudy invited me by his place to perform the needed surgery. He had been cleaning out the garage to turn it into a workspace. This was no normal workspace, though. My picture was hanging next to the latex molds. The photo I had thought was probably in a landfill somewhere in Galena Park somehow had survived another mounting. Really? I asked Rudy why he still had my picture. “Bill, you inspire me”. Was it more sarcastic or less sarcastic than before? Hell, maybe it was there to scare away cockroaches. Who knows? I let it go.

A few months passed and I threw a big party at my home. Rudy and his girlfriend were among the throngs of party revelers Someone had found a giant 24 inch tall 80s retro picture of me from Glamour Shots hidden behind a door and set it up with candles around it. It was funny to see people kneeling in front of it like it was Buddha or something. In all the craziness of the party I never even noticed that the giant photograph had disappeared. Until, of course I, I saw it on Facebook.

Rudy had just created some new face molds and had gotten a lot better at developing casts and creating props. He had a short video that he had tagged of his shop and recent work. For some reason I had been tagged. At the very end of the video the camera panned to the photo. My photo.I hadn’t done anything with that photo in years, but it was not my proudest moment. With hair that looked like a cross between Patrick Swayze and Rex Smith, and clothes from the Breakfast Club, here I was being displayed in all my 80s glory for the world to see. The gig was up. Rudy had indeed drawn first blood. I suddenly realized that I had been victim to a mockery spanning over a year. I had to get that picture back!

Every time I stopped by Rudy’s place the picture was nowhere in sight. His girlfriend confided that he hid it from me and that she was not allowed to give up it’s location. I would go to the workshop and casually look in all the nooks and crannies. The game was afoot. I was determined to find my picture and have the last laugh. I would find it, film something and tag him in it on Facebook. I had a plan….

Then Rudy threw his first party. Him and his girlfriend Maddie, had a new place and they invited me and a lot of strange artist types for an evening of celebration. I knew he was going to slip up. He would forget. His guard would be down.I asked some of his friends if they had seen my image. They informed me that Rudy had hidden it from me and they weren’t allowed to tell. Frustrated in a game in which I was constantly outfoxed, I sat down on the couch and tried to think of a plan. That’s when I saw it. I did a double take. Could that really be what I thought it was? Oh yes. Someone had created a doll of Rudy. Down to the wolverine haircut he sported and the sarcastic smile, there was a mini-version of Rudy sitting innocently on the couch.

I’m not a kidnapper, but that night Rudy disappeared from the Campos household. As I made my way back to the car undetected I laughed the laugh that winners laugh. He had captured my queen, I had taken his king. I had the collateral to get my picture back if I really wanted it. Did I really want it though? Had I secretly been enjoying the video clips of a photograph I would have never shown in public? I was just happy to know I had taken Rudy’s mini-me. How can you replace a mini-me?

So the question you might be asking is this: Why is a travel writer telling me a dumb story about a doll and picture that no one would even look twice at in a garage sale? I’m glad you asked,reader. After his abduction, Rudy has become the most traveled doll in the world. He’s been to Dracula’s castle in Romania, climbed the Eiffel tower, held by a beautiful woman in the Ukraine, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. Rudy has been photographed with Buddhas in Sri Lanka, put in a tourist shop in Bulgaria and even been seen in front of volcanoes in Central America. Today, Rudy is about to cross the Greek/Turkish border in Cyprus. He’ll travel through Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo. He’s going to Istanbul today, but it’s his third visit. He’s over it.

You can see Rudy’s photographs on my Flickr page. You might have to do some looking around through the numerous albums. He’s almost more difficult to find than Waldo….

Here’s Rudy in Bruges:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yf5oZOSGPyU