Merle and Prince

Earlier this week I was laying on my couch, watching a cooking show on television, and reading the Rolling Stone cover story on the passing of Merle Haggard. The news cut into the show to tell the world that Prince had just died. What a week.

Merle was a superstar, a brilliant songwriter with a great voice and a commanding stage presence. He was one of a kind. One of the nicest guys I have ever met in this business.

Merle

 

Then there was Prince! I photographed him several times early in his career. It was always astounding to watch him on stage. He was a singer, a songwriter, a guitarist, a performer and a showman. He was one of the best I have ever seen at all of those things.

In 1982, he came to Chicago to perform at the Auditorium Theater. I was offered a photo pass, and having heard some rumors that Prince was not a big fan of being photographed, I hesitated, but decided to give it a try. When I got there, there was a note for me to come backstage to see his manager. When I got there I introduced myself, and he handed me an all access pass and said “Shoot whatever you want- just nothing from the stage.” OK then! I proceeded to have one of the best nights of photography in my career.

Prince- Aud

 

A couple of years later, I was asked if I wanted to fly to Minneapolis to photograph Prince’s birthday party. I figured there would be about a hundred photographers there, but maybe I could make back my airfare and hotel. I got to Minneapolis, went to First Avenue, and found that I was the only photographer allowed into the club that night. I still have no idea why this stuff was happening, but I wasn’t complaining!! I stood right in front of him and photographed for about 90 minutes. Those pictures became the most valuable ones I have ever shot!

Birthday

 

Later that year, I went Detroit for the kickoff of the Purple Rain Tour, and shot 6 shows at Cobo Arena. I then came back home and shot the next 6 shows at the Rosemont Horizon.

1984 tour

 

I only photographed him a couple of more times, but will never forget his incredible performances!! To this day I have no idea why I was the photographer picked to capture that part of his career! But, it was sure a fun time!!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Las Vegas

Just spent a day and a half at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas earlier in the week, working on a job for a sound company. Pretty depressing place to spend ANY time in!

I had to walk through the casino every time I went from my room to the site of the job. There I saw people who seemed to be holding out their last hope – playing against odds that they could not beat. Many people sitting in their wheelchairs, with oxygen tanks connected to their noses, smoking cigarettes with long ashes at the end of them, continually feeding the slot machines and pushing a button, hoping that a winner would appear on the screen. People sitting at tables looking grimly at their cards as they went over 21, and adding more chips to the pile in the center of the table.

Out on the street, which was blocked off for entertainment, Elvis was everywhere!

Las Vegas_263

People were taking pictures of tons of Elvis impersonators. Showgirls were wandering the streets, collecting money for people to have their picture taken with them.

Las Vegas_268

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took a detour the second day to go to the Mob Museum. It was good to know that a Chicagoan-the top Mob Lawyer, Marshall Korshak was the one that suggested that the Mob build a gambling city so that they could launder their ill-gotten gains through gambling!

Las Vegas_258

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was also good to know that even Elvis has to check his messages occasionally!!

Las Vegas_330

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Steve Miller

Steve Miller

Steve Miller gave a great press conference after being i9nducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this weekend!

He suggested that: “The whole process is unpleasant,” suggesting that it be “changed from the top to the bottom.”

He made reference to respecting the artists: “When they told me I was inducted they said, ‘You have two tickets — one for your wife and one for yourself. Want another one? It’s $10,000. Sorry, that’s the way it goes,’ ” he said, adding, “What about my band? What about their wives?”

A publicist tried to shut him up he responded: “No, we’re not going to wrap this up — I’m going to wrap you up,” he said. “You go sit down over there and learn something.

I have only had a few experiences with the R&R Hall, and they have always been pretty negative. At the grand opening ceremonies, we (photographers that had content in the hall) were asked to go to a side door where our names would be on the list. So a friend of mine and I went around to the side, where we found a pair of pretty incredulous guys standing there, because their names were NOT on the list as promised and nobody knew who they were. (They were Iggy Pop and Lou Reed). So we brought them in as our +1’s!!!

Then, in 1985. I went to the induction ceremonies and was treated like total dogshit by the publicity department. I was given a seat in the balcony at the back of the room, and told that if I wanted to use the bathroom, I would need someone to escort me there (while leaving my cameras at my seat). Good luck with that! We were told that if we wanted something to drink, our press representative would have to get it for us. So I suggested that she bring a case of bottled water up to us (doesn’t help with the bathroom problem, though). She thought that was a great idea, and left to never return! So, luckily, we were sitting next to the O’Jays table and they felt sorry for us and ordered extra drinks for us during the event!

All in all, a bad experience that I will hopefully never repeat!

Thanks to Steve Miller for speaking out

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Supermensch

Saw another great film this week- Supermensch. Produced and dirtected by Mike Myers, it is the story of Shep Gordan, longtime manager of Alice Cooper. He was hanging in LA, trying to buy some pot, and someone told him to got o a certain motel. When he got there he found some longhaired guys hanging around the pool (he also found some pot to buy). Over time he talked the guys into letting him manage them, even though he knew nothing about managing. Worked out pretty good- he was soon making big money for them (and himself). He then started managing the incredibly unhip Anne Murray, who he also made a big star. Through his life, he also met (and advised) The Dalhi Lama, Michael Douglas, Sly Stallone, and started the craze of celebrity chefs and the Food Network!! Although I have photographed Alice many times, I have never met him, though I would like to after seeing this film.

My favorite quote from Shep is his philosophy on management, in three parts

  1. Get the Money
  2. Don’t Forget to Get the Money
  3. Always Remember Not to Forget to Get the Money
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time to find some snow!!

My picture of Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads has been in some pretty weird places since it was taken, but this one might be the coolest! When the UPS guy showed up, I knew exactly what was inside the long skinny box he was holding. When I opened it a big smile hit my face.

Snowboard

 

Too bad I don’t know how to snowboard. Oh well, it looks cool in my office.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Selfies

I was watching CBS News Sunday Morning last week and a short news piece came on that hit a nerve. The story:

There are more deaths from selfies than from shark attacks!       YIKES!!!

There were a few great quotes within the story:

We are obsessed with proving that we had experiences rather than appreciating them when they occur.

 We are losing the art of telling a story.

 Selfies are killing our experiences.

 We are outsourcing our memories to a cloud.

 Guns don’t kill people, selfies do.

This brought me back to something that happened this past January. During one of Buddy Guy’s shows at his club. As he does every night he was walking through the crowd with his guitar and microphone. About every third person was flashing their flash in his face, rather than revel in the fact that a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was about a foot from them! Buddy came to a table where a really cute woman was sitting, with an empty chair next to her. Buddy, never wanting to pass up an up close opportunity, sat down in the empty chair and started a great guitar solo. So, what did the woman do, when confronted with a superstar playing two feet from her and looking directly into her eyes?

Step number one: She turned her back on him!!!

Step number two: She got her phone out and took a selfie!!

So, looks like CBS News was correct. The experience was captured, she could put the photo up on her Facebook page, and she turned her back on a great personal experience!!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chip Hooper

I got my start in the business by befriending two guys that owned a string of record stores in Chicago called Flip Side Records. They were also concert promoters, and my deal with them was that they would let me into their shows in return for 5 prints of the best shot I got from the show (one for each of their stores). So a few days after each show I would show up at their flagship store with 5 prints. There was a kid who worked there that wanted to be a photographer. So I would hang around and talk film and developers with him. He always told me that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be in the music business or be a photographer (Or just eat deep dish pizza every day!!).

So, he started moving around the country, working for different booking agencies, and ended up in California. Shortly after arriving there we was booking a small band from Vermont called Phish and he soon became the king of jam bands, also booking the Dave Matthews Band. Meanwhile he was backpacking into the desert (or out to the ocean) each weekend with a view camera and a tripod to take some of the greatest photos I have ever seen!

As his two careers followed a parallel path, I would see him when he came to town and we would talk about photography (and pizza)- never about the music business. And his two kids, Max- who had gotten into Harvard and was a hoops prodigy, and Valerie, who was going to Duke.

About five years ago, I was working with my friends from OAR (who Chip also booked). I was standing backstage talking to some promoters from Chicago when Chip walked up. A big smile on his face, he asked me all kind of questions about photography, completely ignoring all the business talk around us. Then I had to go out to shoot the show. I came back afterword to find him, but he had already left, in search of the elusive perfect pizza. One of the guys from the band came up to me and told me that, in case I didn’t know, Chip had just been diagnosed with brain cancer. I emailed him to express condolences, and he told me he was going to beat it.

He did for a while, but last week it got him. But before he died, he seemed to have touched so many people that tributes kept on pouring in, including a full page in Sports Illustrated (he would have loved that- he didn’t even like sports- just Max’s basketball exploits)

One of his last acts was also one of his greatest. He was confined to a hospital bed, but was invited to attend an awards show where he was going to be honored as “Agent of the Year.” But he wanted to see his kid play one more basketball game. So he got himself to Detroit (in the hospital bed) to watch Max play one more time. ESPN has a video online that has gone viral. If you can watch it with dry eyes, you have ice water in your veins!! http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=14856372

The Sports Illustrated article is especially great:

http://www.campusrush.com/oakland-grizzlies-basketball-max-hooper-father-chip-1645951848.html

Chip passed away last week and will always be remembered as possibly the nicest guy in the music business. I would like to remember him as a great photographer who also happened to be possibly the nicest guy in the music business.

http://www.chiphooper.com/www/index.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Wrecking Crew

Another movie review. Last night I watched a movie about the best band to ever be put together. The catch is, 99% of the people in America have never heard of them! But…99% of America have heard them in one form or another. They were called the Wrecking Crew; a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles in the 1960’s who played on almost every hit record of the era, from Frank Sinatra to the Beach Boys, to the Captain and Tennile! My favorite statistic in the film is that Hal Blaine played drums on the Record of the Year for 7 years in a row in the 60’s!!! These guys worked every day, sometimes 4 sessions a day, to make some of the greatest music of the rock and roll era. They were all men, except for Carol Kaye, the greatest bass player on the planet. The joke was that if there was sexual harassment in those days, she and her lawyers would have been millionaires. (It was a joke).

A quote from Bones Howe, producer and engineer:

“Never say no until you are too busy to say yes.”

 They worked so much that sometimes they didn’t even know what records they were on. There was a section where they went in and replaced all the musicians on a Gary Lewis and the Playboys session (They were actually the Playboys). They felt guilty about it until they saw the actual Playboys watching them work, and then thanking them for making the record so good.

There was a moment when Nancy Sinatra snuck in to the end of one of her father’s sessions with Wrecking Crew musicians (after the “real” musicians left) and recorded “Something Stupid” talking her father into dueting with her. It was her first number 1 record!

The stories go on and on. The film is a must see for any music fan!!!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

George Lucas

Recently George Lucas decided to put up a ton of money to build a Star Wars museum in Chicago. WTF????? Chicago has no connection to Star Wars, but San Francisco didn’t allow him the site he was trying for. Chicago seems ready to give him a piece of land on the lakefront- for free!!! The initial plans call for possibly the ugliest building ever constructed in our city (Known for it’s great architecture). A judge has stepped in, and the project may be declared illegal, as it is on park district land. We can only hope!!

Museum of Death_001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently spent a few days in New Orleans, wandering around the French Quarter, and I came across a museum that fits in perfectly with the New Orleans vibe! It includes Jack Kevorkian’s original death machine, among many other cool exhibits.

 

Maybe George Lucas should take note!!! That’s how to fit a museum intop a city!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Vanity

Back in the early 1980’s, I photographed Prince- A LOT. His opening act was usually a group called Vanity 6, three scantily clad women (I think the 6 stood for the number of almost bare breasts on stage!!) They weren’t great but they put on a great show.

In 1986, Vanity, the lead singer of the band, put out a solo album and came to Chicago to promote it to radio. I was asked to ride along in the limo (longest limo I had ever seen. Just me, Vanity and the record company guy we were riding with. He was trying to explain to Vanity that we were meeting a bunch of radio guys at the fanciest, most expensive seafood restaurants in Chicago for lunch, conversation and photos.

Vanity on 4/3/86 in Chicago, Il.  (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

She did not seem in any way interested in fancy seafood. She just sat looking out the window. All of a sudden, she started jumping up and down, pointing and yelling Mickey D’s- Mickey D’s!!!

Heading for the most expensive seafood place in Chicago, she directed us through the drive through (no small task- A masterful bit of driving) so that she could order a fish sandwich and fries. I never knew if she was fooling with us or not, but it sure was funny!

Vanity (Denise Matthews) passed away this week at the age of 57.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment