But then, the home team caught a break. We were hanging out at Lovewell's house — bummed-out, Dianaless, and facing a pressing deadline — when the phone rang. "Get down to Edgartown harbor," a voice said.
We raced out the door, hopped into Lovewell's pickup truck, and sped downtown. Within 30 seconds, we had hired a motorboat, sworn the captain to secrecy, lugged Lovewell's bucketloads of photographic equipment (and my rinky-dink 35mm) aboard, and pushed out to sea.
Diana was a guest on a classic wooden yacht owned by a local businessman. Lying in wait — literally, on our stomachs, cameras pressed against the railing — we watched the princess climb into the yacht's wheel house, decked in a navy baseball cap and an American-flag sweater. Even from a distance, there was no mistaking it was Diana. Her eyes and smile gave her away.
The yacht began to leave the harbor, and we motored cautiously alongside, separated by about 200 yards. It was thrilling, but we needed to get closer. We instructed the captain to pull tighter to Diana's yacht, which he did with great gusto, swinging the wheel and cackling like an Ahab envisioning a guest spot on Hard Copy.
But our Ahab was a little too excited, and he swung a little too close. The crew aboard Diana's yacht spotted us snapping away and started to hightail it out of the harbor. Diana, annoyed, scurried below deck. A smaller motorboat was dispatched to cut us off and prevent any more photographs. The whole thing got ugly fast, and Lovewell and I, feeling a bit guilty by now, bailed out and headed back to port — much to Ahab's dismay.
Still, we got the shot. Lovewell nabbed the princess seated in the wheel house — smiling, fashionably dressed, very Diana. Sick as it sounds, his were the most sought-after photographs in the world. (My own shots, sadly, came out looking like the Loch Ness monster driving a go-cart.)
When the Gazette hit the newsstand, the snappers rushed into our office and began a bidding war for Lovewell's photographs. It resembled the floor of the stock market: paparazzi barked on telephones to editors overseas, asking how high they'd go for the first Diana-on-the-Vineyard pics. Needless to say, our editors were pretty pissed; journalism, this was not.
Lovewell managed to sell his princess images to several publications in Britain, Australia, and the US, and even I found a sucker for my Loch Ness photos. I balked at revealing the location of Diana's house (in the interim, we had found out where she was staying), despite a tabloid offer of $1000 cash, but I didn't stay on the high road for long. A day later, Lovewell and I were featured on Entertainment Tonight, right after Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley's honeymoon.
It was our 15 minutes of embarrassing, slightly tasteless fame — all at the expense of a princess trying to have a holiday.
This weekend, as I watched the images of Diana's car wreck and the reports of paparazzi chasing her and Dodi al-Fayed through the Paris streets, I thought a lot about that week in 1994. I called Lovewell on the island. He kept insisting that we'd chased Diana differently, respectfully.