Fri Dec 16 04:39pm EST
On June 15, 2011, Vancouver burned. The riots that followed Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final turned parts of the British Columbia city into chaotic scenes of looting, arson, violence and clashes with overwhelmed police.
It was there, amidst the anarchy, Alex Thomas fell to the ground and was too frightened to move. It was there that Scott Jones, her Australian-born boyfriend of six months, climbed on top of her and kissed her to comfort her as riot police marched around them.
Photographer Richard Lam preserved that moment in the most iconic image from the riots, one that became an instant sensation around the world and was recently named Esquire magazine's Photo of the Year.
It was a singular, beautiful moment — which is something Jones has had to explain to the couple's fans since they became The Kissing Couple of the Vancouver Riot.
"Just about everyone has asked us to recreate the photo," said Jones, speaking from Australia this week to Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy. "It was just in the moment. It would be just so cheesy for us to do it again. Why couldn't someone else do it again in all the riots going on around the world?"
Today, Jones and Thomas share a flat in Melbourne, having relocated there during the summer. "We had always planned to move," he said. "The picture was taken about three days before we planned to leave Vancouver. We were going to holiday in California for three weeks and then leave for Australia."
It was in California that they began to reclaim their anonymity, following a whirlwind of media attention after their identities were revealed. The photo ended up on Jones' Facebook page, after a friend recognized him and tagged him in the image. His sister saw the connection and contacted the media. Jones' father, a motivational speaker, publicized that his son was indeed part of the "kissing couple."
At first, Jones and Thomas were reluctant to say anything about the moment. "We weren't sure if we should say anything," he said.
The couple spoke with Lam before going public; finally, they decided to meet the press to clear up some of the misconceptions being passed around about them and their kiss.
"All of these stories started coming out … people were just making stuff up. Like I wasn't really her boyfriend, stuff like that," Jones said.
There were also claims that they had staged the kiss. "I know where that came from, because apparently there had been another photo that was staged," said Jones. "But once we came out with the story, and there was video footage … it was a little hard to fake. But people were so adamant."
They did a slew of print, radio and television appearances, including a satellite linkup with the "Today" show on NBC. They were instant celebrities, hiring a manager named Max Markson to handle media requests and explore any financial windfall from their accidental fame.
"Then we went to California. And we were anonymous again," said Jones.
After California, the couple moved to Australia, where they were met with more media attention. "Everybody who knew us had seen the picture and recognized me," recalled Jones. "We didn't know if it was going to carry on, or if Max had anything in store for us."
The local fame lasted only a few weeks; today, Scott Jones and Alex Thomas are random citizens, albeit ones with an extraordinary tale. The couple plans to return to North America at some point, as Jones would love to visit New York City and Thomas has family back in Canada.
Thomas, who graduated with a degree in environmental engineering from the University of Guelph in Ontario, is doing water management work for Yarra Valley Water. Jones said he's managing a bar called The Green Room located in Back of Chapel. He's yet to have a patron stagger up to him and give him grief for the kissing photo. In fact, it rarely happened this year.
"We had one random guy who came up to us in San Diego who saw us on TV. And then a lady in the airport," he said.
His standup comedy career is dormant at the moment, although he shares some comedic thoughts, videos and images on his Facebook page — where he jokingly refers to himself as the "Riot Romeo."
Didn't their surreal adventure last summer provide ample material?
"I think looking back on it, it might be a funny situation. But it wasn't a particularly funny moment," he said.
Jones, who said he and Thomas don't have wedding plans yet, hopes the moment is a lasting one.
"It would be good if it's a photo everyone talks about. If the photo carries on. That would be quite special," he said.
"To me it's very hard to judge. There's nothing else really to compare it to. The photo means something different to everybody, so it's hard to say if it'll mean something in time."
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