St. Lucia and Jane Byrne

I photographed a band called St. Lucia this week. Great band- very danceable. Three of the band members are jazz musicians, moonlighting as a dance-pop band. The next day, I drove out to the suburbs to conduct a video interview with them. After the interview, I offered them a ride downtown. They got in my car and we headed into the city. Stuck in a traffic jam, Patty the keyboard player, asked me a very simple question- “Why, when I looked down at the beginning of the show, were there about a dozen photographers, but when I looked down half way through the show, you were the only one still there?”

I laughed and explained that they were now my captive audience until we reached our destination!! I explained the 3 song rule. They had no idea why they did that, and thought that was stupid. They volunteered that they thought there were much better opportunities for great pictures later in the show. As she was talking, Jean, the singer was texting their road manager asking why they did that. Not sure if it would do any good, but we can only hope!!

Jane Byrne, the first and only female Mayor of Chicago, died yesterday. She was a great person and a walking photo opportunity! In August of 1979, The Blues Brothers movie had wrapped filming here and the guys were booked to play at Chicagofest (a festival that Jane had started on the Lakefront.).

Mayor Jane Byrne with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as the Blues Brothers at Chicagofest on August 3, 1979 in Chicago,Il.


John Belushi asked me to come into their trailer before the show, as the Mayor was coming to visit. He told me to be ready for anything!! As  I raised my camera to take a picture of the three of them, he placed his hat on her head and his sunglasses on her face. One photo and she was gone!! We all had a good laugh about the incident. I went home that night and developed the film, saw the photo, and immediately made about a dozen prints to bring down for press purposes the next morning. The press people for the festival sent one over to City Hall for the mayor to see. About an hour later, we got a frantic phone call from her husband Jay, asking that the photo not be sent out, as it was not dignified enough! So the image sat in my files until the mayors photographer released her version of the image (she was standing right behind me) about 10 years later. It has always been one of my favorite images, as I think it shows a human side of a powerful person. RIP, Jane.

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Microphone technique

Several years ago, I watched a multi part documentary on the History of Motown Records. One of the parts concerned the various people that Berry Gordy hired to teach his young bands how to deal with the entertainment world. There was an etiquette coach, to teach the artists which fork to use at the dinner table when they were being interviewed during a meal, and a choreographer to teach them how to move on stage. One of the lessons that they were taught was not to stand directly behind the microphone, but to turn it at a 45 degree angle during the performance. And to keep on turning it one way or another during a song so that the audience could see their faces. Also, when they took the microphone of the stand, they were told to move the stand off to the side so that it wouldn’t get in the way during their dance moves.

Too many artists today just stand behind the microphone, which makes for disastrous results especially on television show, which tend to keep a camera directly in front of the singer, and go in for extreme close ups. Earlier this week, I saw Bette Midler on the Today show, promoting her new album. During her performance, Bette (a total show biz professional) grabbed the microphone off the stand, and calmly moved the stand off to the side, so that she could do her dance moves with her backup singers. She must have watched the same show I saw!!!

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From Newsweek this week:

“There is no constitutional right to ignorance.

 And there is no right to be stupid about guns.”

The United States does not have a surgeon general in place (even with the Ebola thing going on), because the Republicans have blocked the president’s nomination because he has made a statement mildly critical about guns.

Ted Cruz has called him an anti-gun activist- where he has made his name as a crusader against Second Amendment rights (even though the 2nd amendment does NOT give anyone the right to bear arms!!!). As the article points out- Ted Cruz is a liar!!. Dr Vivek Murthy did not make his name as an anti-gun activist. Instead, he tweated out a post that guns presented a health care issue!!!!

Pick up the paper any day in Chicago, and see how guns present a health care issue. Any moron can see this. People being shot, hospitalized or killed regularly. Mothers losing their kids. Families losing their brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. How can anyone not say that guns are a health care issue!!!

The article goes on to say that Rick Scott, the Governor of Florida,  signed a bill into law that prevents doctors from asking their patients about guns in their homes. YIKES!! Wonder how much money the NRA has given him? Shouldn’t a doctor know if there is a firearm in a house with small children? Maybe the parents can be given lessons on how to keep their kids away from the weapons!! Shouldn’t the doctor of a mentally ill or suicidal patient, or someone with rage problems, be able to know if they have access to a gun around their house. Doctors should not have the power to confiscate a gun, but should be able to consult with a patient about life –threatening risks. They consult with patients all the time about dangers of drinking, sex,  and other dangerous issues. Why not guns? Because of the Second Ammendment.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The Supreme Court has now definitively held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that weapon for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Moreover, this right applies not just to the federal government, but to states and municipalities as well.

The Court reasoned that this right is fundamental to the nation’s scheme of ordered liberty, given that self-defense was a basic right recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present, and Heller held that individual self-defense was “the central component” of the Second Amendment right. Moreover, a survey of the contemporaneous history also demonstrated clearly that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Framers and ratifiers counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to the Nation’s system of ordered liberty.

Protecting your home does not mean walking around on the street with an unlicensed handgun and shooting rival gang members (many times missing their target and killing innocent children.

Please look at the interviews that I am doing (more to come soon) and try to think about what to say to these mothers about the rights of people to carry guns on the street!



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Jason Schwartzman

In February of 2002, my friend Dan called me from LA to tell me about a new band he was managing. They were going to be play at House of Blues, and he offered me a photo shoot. So I went down there and did a shoot with them in a tunnel connecting the venue with the hotel across the driveway. When we were done shooting most of the band walked back to the dressing room. One guy stayed and offered to help me carry my stuff back to my car. He looked kind of familiar- I soon figured out that he was the kid from the Bill Murray movie “Rushmore.”

Jason Schwartzman

We became friends, and the next year I was road managing Brian Wilson, and we were playing in LA. I invited Dan and Jason to the show, knowing Jason was a big Brian fan. After the show, I offered to bring him upstairs to meet Brian. His face turned white, and he told me that he was too scared to actually meet him! This from a guy who’s cousin is Nik Cage, and who’s mom is Rocky’s wife- Talia Shire. Also his uncle is Francis Ford Coppala! And he didn’t want to meet Brian. Then he tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if he could go up on stage and take the empty Diet Rite can off of Brian’s keyboard. My guess is that he still has it!

He has since quit the band and gone into acting full time- TV and film. This week a new film came out starring Jason and Elisabeth Moss. Here is a quote from Entertainment Weekly’s review:

“I can’t think of anyone under 40 who plays arrogant, self absorbed jerks more convincingly than Jason Schwartzman. I have no clue what the actor is like in real life, but if he is not a complete prick, he deserves an Oscar.”

So get the Oscar ready for Jason! He is one of the nicest guys I have met in this business!!

So, this past Friday, the Music Box Theater had a showing of Jason’s new film. He appeared after each showing to answer questions from the audience. So I asked his manager if I could meet up with him for a quick shoot. We arranged to shoot during the first showing of the film. Traffic delayed him, and he arrived right as he had to go on stage to answer questions. As he charged by me, he asked me if I could wait until after his question session. I had planned to shoot right in front of the theater, so he came back out as the first crowd was leaving through one door and the second crowd was entering through the other door. We stood in the middle of all of them to do photos while he signed autographs and did selfies with anyone who asked.

Jason Schwartzman at the Music Box Theater on October 24th,2014 in Chicago, Illinois.


Once again, one of the nicest guys in the business!!

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Jeff Garlin

Many moons ago, I had a friend who ran a modeling agency in Chicago. She used to arrange test sessions with upcoming models for me. On day she called ma and asked me to go to see a young comedian she was becoming friends with. We went to the show, and the comic was so funny I almost blew my drink out through my nose several times. After the show, I met Jeff, and he told me that he was moving out to LA to try to break into the acting world. He and my friend soon got married and moved to LA. Next time I saw him, he was on the Larry David Show, playing Larry’s manager. Still as funny as ever.

A few years ago, he wrote, directed and starred in a movie called “Someone to Eat Cheese With.” Really funny, but not so successful. This year he released a new film, which I had to buy as soon as it was available. It is called “Dealin’ With Idiots.”

I almost hurt myself falling off the couch- that’s how funny it is!! It is about parents and their little league playing kids. Jeff plays a famous comedian (type casting) who come home from the road to find out his kid sucks at baseball and would rather play soccer. He decides to research a film about the parents of the team (and the coach).

Because he is now an A list comedian, he gets an amazing cast to most likely work cheap. The include Fred Willard, Nia Vardelos, Bob Odenkirk,  Richard Kind,  JB Smoove, Timothy Oliphant, Gina Gershon,  and Jaime Gertz. They are all fabulous. Their interaction with Jeff is amazing, and the film is extremely funny. A must see!!!

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Digital or Non-Digital?

There are a few changes in my world. About a year ago, Newsweek announced a groundbreaking new direction. They were going to stop printing their paper edition and go all digital. This caused me to go to the Apple store and buy an iPad, mainly to read Newsweek! It was great for a few months, until my subscription ran out, and their software did not allow me to renew. So after about 25 years of reading Newsweek every week- Newsweek no more!!

About a month ago, an email came into my inbox saying that they were going to start producing a print edition again! Maybe the paperless world wasn’t so great after all. So I re-subscribed and all is well with the world. The magazine is printed on a pretty cheap feeling paper, but the pictures look great, and the articles are pretty long form and detailed. All in all a good deal!!

Last week, I got my latest issue of Macworld in the mail with a notice on the front that this was the last print version, and starting with the next issue, it could only be found online. Here we go again!! We will see how that works out for them. I still like paper, and laying on the couch reading a magazine. Guess that makes me an old man.

On another note, my friend Steve Dahl, who denounced radio pretty regularly over the last five years, is returning to radio!! He is keeping his podcast, while doing a four hour afternoon show on WLS-AM starting in early November. His radio show will be streamed on the net, and his podcast (including all the swearing) will now be a well financed operation. Kind of an embarrassment of riches, as we will now have about five and a half hours of him each day. Lets see how his genius fills that much time. I have no doubt that it will all be great.

So I guess the question now is- digital or non-digital? I hope we don’t start hearing about people shooting film again!!!

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Steve Dahl

I met Steve Dahl in 1978. The promotions guy at his Radio station (The Loop) asked me to meet him after one of his morning shows and take some pictures of him for publicity. We became friends and I have been photographing him ever since. He is the guy who invented talk radio (Howard Stern has admitted that he listened to tapes of Steve and copied his style). Over the years we have heard Steve have a vasectomy on the air, argue and make up with Janet, his wife, and raise three kids on the air. I photographed him with his first son Pat, when Pat was about three days old. Pat is now in his thirties, with two kids  of his own.

About six years ago, Steve went of the air and started his own Podcast network, charging $9.99 a month to listen to his life unfold in public. He has always said that anything that happens to him is fair game to go out on the air (or internet).

About five years ago, he started a process of reconciling with his father (he left home at 16 to start a career in radio, and became estranged with his family. Roger, (his father) started appearing on the podcast and came to Chicago many times to see his family here.

Two weeks ago, Steve announced that his father had terminal cancer, and he was going out to California to be with him in his final days. Thus began two weeks of some of the most amazing broadcasts that I have ever heard. These last two weeks should be enshrined in the podcasting hall of fame (if there was one).  Part heartbreaking, part hilarious, Steve documented the process of a loved one dying, and how someone reconciles with a parent in his last days. It was breathtaking. Every afternoon, I went to iTunes and downloaded that days podcast and listened as his father slipped into a coma, as Steve tried to navigate the business of dying (the doctors, Medicare, the paperwork). We listened as Steve arranged for his father to be brought home to die in his own home.

This last Friday, Steve started his podcast by saying, “My father passed away this morning at 6AM. Janet (his wife) told me that I owed it to my audience to produce a podcast today.” There were more tears in my eyes than when my own parents died.

One more reason that Steve should be considered one of the greatest air personalities of all time. I am proud to be his friend.

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John White

Sometimes you enter a world where you find that (as Garth and Wayne said) you are not worthy. That happened last week when I saw an astounding exhibit of photographs at the Gage Gallery on Michigan Avenue in Chicago until December 20th.  John White is a longtime Chicago Sun Times Photographer, who, based on Jim Kirks logic, was fired a few years ago and has been freelancing ever since.  From Wikipedia:

White was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Photojournalism in 1982 for his “consistently excellent work on a variety of subjects.” He was selected as a photographer for the 1990 project Songs of My People”. White has also won three National Headliner Awards, was the first photographer inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame, was awarded the Chicago Press Photographer Association’s Photographer of the Year award five times, and, in 1999, received the Chicago Medal of Merit.

WOW. Good thing Jim Kirk was smart enough to fire him! Can’t have people like that working for your newspaper!!!!

For more info:

John’s exhibit is a career retrospective, including photos of Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandella and many everyday people from Chicago. They are all beautifully displayed, with a caption book to carry around with you when you are looking at them. Each one is a small masterpiece of finding and capturing the “decisive moment.”

The exhibit is part of a yearlong series of shows documenting photojournalism in Chicago, which will end next year with an exhibit titled “Chicago Reader in Black and White”, a collection of photographs taken by Reader photographers in the days when the Reader meant something. It will run from June 4 to August 28 of next year. So, at that time I will have some photos on the same walls as John White. I am definitely not worthy!!!

On another note, I have been working on a video project all summer. The beginning of it is here. More will be added to it as it is finished. It is sad to say that this could become a never ending project!!

Please let me know what you think, and pass the link around to anyone you think might be interested.

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David Bowie

There is a new David Bowie exhibit opening in Chicago next week. I got this email a few days ago:

I’m a reporter with Chicago putting together a timeline of David Bowie’s time in Chicago ahead on 9/23, David Bowie Day here in the city. I was hoping for permission to use this photo on my timeline. Is it alright if I include it with attribution to Paul Natkin? Is there anything else you can say about the photo or the show this was taken at that isn’t included in the description?


Tanveer Ali   Data Reporter and Social Media Producer | Chicago

I didn’t see it for a while, so the guy decided to call me. He asked the same question. My reply (kind of automatic these days) was:

Is there going to be any payment for this?

His reply:   Oh no! We don’t pay for pictures. But we can give you credit.

I then asked him if he got payed to work at the website. His response was a moment of silence. I then politely declined to let him use the photo and he hung up.

The most disturbing part of this was his offer to “Feature” my photo on their site in return for photo credit, as if I should jump at the OPPORTUNITY to be featured on their site.

I guess I should be  proud to have my photo used for free!!

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Jack White is an Asshole!!

Just got back from Farm Aid 2014

A great concert, with great food and a great cause. Woke up in the morning and went down to the lobby for some breakfast. I was told at breakfast that nobody would be allowed to photograph Jack White. Oh well, plenty of great music anyway.

The day started with one of my favorite pictures of the day. These three artists, Jamey Johnson, Carlene Carter and Gary Clark, Jr represent the scope of talent that the day was going to produce.

Jamey, Carlene and Gary_001


The day was filled with great music. Here are a few of the highlights:

The show started with Raelynn Nelson, Willie’s grand daughter. She is really cute, walked on stage with a ukulele in hand, and proceeded to blast the crowd in the face with a great version of Bad Reputation. Joan Jett would be proud!!!

Raelyn Nelson_012










A little later, Delta Rae put on a gospel rock clinic. Four great voices, brilliant percussion and great harmonies. I think they are all related somehow. They kicked some ass!!

Delta Rae_041Lukas Nelson_033















Later another Nelson -Micah (Willie’s son) led his band through a set of spacey jazzy stuff. Great musicianship. Willie’s family business will be good for a long time to come.

A short time later Lukas Nelson, the heir apparent to Stevie Ray Vaughn played a great blues rock set. He spent a lot of time either in the air or rolling around on his back on stage!!

Then came the high point of the day. Gary Clark, Jr. brought the crowd to it’s feet for about 40 minutes of amazing, passionate blues. His mom and dad came down in the pit to watch the show, and his mom sat there with a big smile on her face the whole set. His skill and talent are boundless.

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The Preservation Hall Jazz Band played a half hour of great New Orleans jazz, with two crazy tuba players careening around the stage.



Then it was time for Jack White. His so called publicist decided that no national media would be allowed to shoot, only local papers. So it was time to go eat!! So my friend Ebet and I, the official Farm Aid photographers, went backstage to eat while every other photographer in the place went out into the crowd to shoot what they could. I listened to a few songs, decided that he sucked, and walked away. Someone needs to tell him that when you agree to play at a benefit concert, it is not about you it is about the cause. He destroyed any chance for Farm Aid to get any publicity out of him being there, and made it all about him rather than what Farm Aid is about.

The show ended, as usual with sets by the four board members. Dave Matthews, accompanied by Tim Reynolds, played a spirited 40 minute set. John Mellencamp played three new songs from his upcoming release, including one backed by the Preservation hall Jazz Band. Neal Young was his usual self, calling out a Senator from North Carolina by name from the stage for voting the wrong way in the Senate. He ended with Rocking in the Free World, backed by Lukas and Micah Nelson.

john Mellencamp_123Dave Matthews_015




















Neal Young_088Willie Nelson_047

Willie closed the show, with most of his family on stage with him. He played a great version of Milk Cow Blues, with Gary Clark, Jr. Trading solos with Willie, Mickey Raphael (Willie’s great harp player) and David Amram on Penny Whistle!


A great time was had by all, a lot of money and awareness was raised for a great organization!!


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