Their very passionate and public intimate embrace juxtaposed against a fierce-looking team of riot police made the news photograph completely unforgettable — at least to me, as well as millions of others around the world.
They appeared to be locked in truly unrestrained, utterly surprising and spontaneous passion, depicted lying on the pavement amid the broken glass, arson fires, tear gas and the heavily geared riot police.
Sigh. It now appears that the photo that instantly went viral on the Internet captured less an act of total intimacy than of consolation — at least according to the couple and family members.
According to news reports, the couple, identified as Alexandra “Alex” Thomas and Scott Jones, an aspiring actor, only felt terror and feared for their safety.
Speaking to the a newspaper, Thomas and Jones, who were photographed in between police lines at the Vancouver riot following the city’s loss of the Stanley Cup hockey final's Game 7 on Wednesday night, described a very different scenario than what we thought (and I hoped) that we saw. According to the couple, it was an innocent act, propelled into the spotlight thanks only to a well-timed camera.
“We were struck by police shields, pushed to the ground and I was just very, very frightened,” said Thomas. “Everything happened so fast, faster than we could ever imagine it could happen.”
Jones, 29, and his girlfriend had been watching the game at a friend’s house downtown when they first heard there was a disruption. They decided to go see what was happening.
“We wanted to go down and see for ourselves but it was crazy,” said Jones, a Perth, Australian native on a working holiday in Vancourver. His girlfriend is a Canadian. “We didn’t know where we were supposed to go. We wanted to get out of there and we ended up in the line of police marching forward.”
Thomas said she doesn’t remember the exact sequence of events, but knows she had been struck by a surge of police and was on the ground. Jones was also struck and, while on the ground, was trying to keep her calm. “I just wanted us to go home safely. It was unbelievable that it was happening and all I wanted was for us to be safe,” he said.
Jones said he remembers that his girlfriend was very stressed out and all he could do was help her out.
“Nobody was getting out of the way. It was all of a sudden they charged us. Very strong-handed and we were in one spot. The only thing we could do was try to stay calm and try to get up,” he said.
He said he talked to her and tried to calm her down by kissing her, then helped her up.
Their now infamous smooch, captured by Getty Images photographer Rich Lam, was the perfect paradoxical photo. At first, many wondered about the kissers' identity and if their kiss was possibly staged. (The Internet is notoriously skeptical, particularly about love.) But once the smoochers were identified by name, the Internet fell in love.
Suddenly, their embrace amid the chaos in the streets made for a touching photo. Jones is seen on top of Thomas, kissing her, as shield-laden riot police keep the violent protesting Canucks fans at bay. (I had thought it was a lot more intimate because the kiss appeared to be quite deep, and her clothes were also askew, exposing more than a little bit of flesh.)
Thomas said bus closures downtown meant the couple weren’t sure at first where to go. They walked to the train station and took a train out of downtown.
The next day, the couple was shocked to see their experience had been captured on film.
“When I first saw it, I thought, ‘No way, that’s not ... I can’t believe that’s us,’ ” Thomas said. “Then I looked some more and realized that is us. That’s a very revealing picture of us.”
Thomas said the response from her friends and family has been overwhelming.
“When I saw that picture I couldn’t believe it and then I looked at it more and realize it’s quite artistic and really something beautiful,” she said.
[Above: Jones and Thomas enjoy a laugh over the incident.]
On Friday morning, Jones spoke with his dad, Brett Jones, by Skype in Australia after his family first identified the couple when the photo was seen worldwide.
“How’s that for making love, not war,” the father declared on his Facebook page, telling the world that the famous Romeo in a Vancouver riot picture was his son.
“He lay down next to her to comfort her. She was crying and he just kissed her to calm her down,” Brett Jones said.
Even as a young boy, his son demonstrated his “gentle side for other people. I’m not surprised he would comfort Alex,” Brett Jones said.
Thomas, who graduated with a degree in environmental engineering from the University of Guelph, works in Vancouver on the Zipcar street team and as a technician for the FreshPure reverse-osmosis water-filtration systems in Whole Foods grocery stores.
Jones and Thomas started dating shortly after the young aspiring Australian actor arrived in Vancouver. Since leaving acting school in Melbourne, Jones has mostly been bartending, as he has been in Vancouver, but he did get one standup comedy gig in the city.
Comedy performance is “his passion,” said Brett Jones. “He has a natural ability to make people laugh.”
Brett Jones can see that the couple’s now-iconic photograph may follow them for the rest of their lives, for good or bad.
“Relationships do buckle under that pressure unless you have the ability to be very centered. Even if it wasn’t Scott, the guy who took the picture captured a moment in time that is iconic.”
The couple is leaving in a few days on a trip to California before Scott Jones heads back to Australia.
Brett Jones has no idea how right he is, iconic and then some! As per the unspoken and time honored rules of the Internet, the famous photo must now be combined with other pictures — and the more unlikely the better.
Thus: Who knew Jones and Thomas were on the scene of O.J. Simpson's car chase down the 405?
...And they were in Baghdad in 2003 when the Saddam Hussein statue was toppled?
...Theirs is the kiss seen ’round the world, and thanks to the Internet, it's also timeless.
I must admit that I MUCH prefer to hold onto my interpretation of what was happening in that photo in my mind’s eye. In point of fact, I have already unaplogetically banished the actual truth of the event entirely, and am continuing to enjoy the surprisingly arousing image of a very bold young couple having satisfying and quite public sex literally in the very middle of a violent no man’s land. Here's to fantasy.Yes!
— The Curator