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Santa Barbara photographer snaps iconic picture for Hollywood couple

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Every picture tells a story. One captured in Santa Barbara of a Hollywood couple tells two. It also includes all the drama you’d see on the silver screen.

Mike Eliason was a photographer for the former Montecito Life newspaper when he took the picture.

"It was a rainy afternoon and I was all but 18 at the most maybe 19,” recalled Eliason.

On the other side of the camera, Barbara Marshall, remembers the private conversation she and her husband were having when their picture was taken. "We had no idea how we were going to get out of it or how we were going to make money again.”

It was a rainy day in Montecito in January 1985. And along Santa Barbara’s South Coast, rain is front-page news.

“So most newspapers when there’s some kind of weather they want people in the rain or in the elements,” said Eliason.

“We went outside it was pouring rain," said Barbara Marshall. "And we thought, well there’s nobody here and we look terrible. You could see I have like a knit hat on. I never wear hats. And had no idea we were going to have our picture taken. And I had no idea it was going to be on the front page of next day.”

Mike Eliason is Currently a public information officer for Santa Barbara County Fire Department. And when he was a teenager he worked at Montecito Life while attending Santa Barbara City College.

“You go to where the people are," said Eliason. "So I was out here at [Butterfly Beach], here looking for someone. And there was really no one on the beach. And I looked down the pathway and here they came walking towards me.”

What Eliason didn’t know, who those people were that walking towards him 200 yards away. It was the director of "Happy Days" and "The Odd Couple", Garry Marshall, along with his wife Barbara.

Eliason said there was a lot to go to snap the perfect picture. "Trying to make sure that the exposure is right and drop off the depth of field. So all of these little things that you’re trying to go through in your head in a millisecond while you’re trying to still frame the picture and somewhat come up with a compelling image.”

“I think if he had taken the picture from down below there and had just gone off it wouldn’t have been the front page of the paper," said Barbara Marshall. "It wouldn’t have been exciting or something that you would keep. But he kept coming closer until he recognized Garry. And that was the moment he was so nervous, he was so scared. ‘Oh my God,’ he said. ‘I’m so sorry. Oh Mr. Marshall I’m so sorry.'”

Eliason also didn't know why the marshalls were there. Or why their faces were wet from tears rather than rain.

“We left home," said Marshall. "Left our kids at home with our housekeeper. And went to Santa Barbara to cry and try to gather our thoughts about our financial situation we had just discovered two weeks before Christmas.”

Barbara said their business manager got them into a bad property deal in Pasadena, costing them more than $6 million dollars, $15.5 million in 2022 money, and nearly bankrupting them.

“Garry, I needed to cheer him up. But it was a hard sell,” said Barbara.

The picture Eliason snapped, captured a major turning point in the Marshalls' lives. They were trying to figure out how to solve their problems while staying in Hollywood. Garry began doing more movies, starting with "Beaches", then "Pretty Woman". And like a Hollywood fairytale at the eleventh hour, they were saved.

“A man walked into the backdoor of Garry’s office," said Barbara Marshall. "He said, I hear you have some property you’d like to get rid of. The day after that was the day we were signing for bankruptcy.”

To celebrate, the Marshalls found themselves back in Santa Barbara for a sequel.

“We got all dressed up neat and clean and smiley and she took the picture," said Marshall. "It was a nice bright sunny day and we were all very happy. And we had to have that picture. So those two pictures sit in my living room.”

The first picture is so important to the Marshalls, it became the cover of Barbara’s new book talking about her life in Hollywood, including those hard times.
And for Mike Eliason, he too has a new book out and he still capturing Santa Barbara’s stories, one picture at a time. 

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Scott Sheahen

Scott Sheahen is a reporter for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Scott, click here.

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