Sports Illustrated

First it was the Chicago Sun Times, now it is Sports Illustrated. This week SI fired their whole photography staff. The only thing I can equate this to is if the mid 90’s Bulls fired Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin! The Sports Illustrated photographers were the gold standard of sports photographers. Now they are going to be dependent on freelance guys (not bad for the freelance guys) and they will save a bunch of money from not having to pay benefits any more.

Brad Smith, director of photography for Sports Illustrated, spoke about the move Friday:

“There was a decision made through the company to restructure various departments, including at Sports Illustrated,” Smith said. “Unfortunately economic circumstances are such that it has cut the six staff photographers.” 

Photography has long been the lifeblood for Sports Illustrated, which boasts a number of iconic covers in its archives.

The magazine will maintain a photography department with editors and personnel like Smith still in place. Novak declined to comment about the magazine’s freelance budget. 

Oh well, another era ends. Jim Kirk, publisher of the Sun Times, says that photographs are not important to the newspaper. Maybe the Illustrated part of Sports Illustrated doesn’t mean anything anymore either.

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Minneapolis

Only I would make a road trip to Minneapolis in mid-January! Luckily there was a heat wave (high 20’s) and a good time was had by all.

The Minneapolis Photography Center asked me to jury an international Music Photography contest. About a month and a half ago, I received a link to a website with about 700 images to scroll through. Each image had a yes and a no button next to it. My job was to narrow it down to 75 and pick three winners and three honorable mentions. It wasn’t easy, as there was some great stuff. But I did it. They also asked me to exhibit some of my images, which they offered to print for me.

So Wednesday I flew up to Minneapolis, was picked up by Orie, the owner of the Center and given a tour of the place. YIKES. What a fabulous place. It is in an old warehouse building and it has three great gallery spaces wrapped around digital and photographic darkrooms with large format Epson printers. A membership gets you use of all that stuff, along with all the printing you need (at a square inch price). The rock and roll exhibit was wrapped around two hallways and a full gallery. It was spectacular. Most of the images were from Minneapolis photographers. They have a great scene up there. While I was there a study came up that stated that Minneapolis had the 5th best art scene in America (Chicago didn’t maker the top ten) and it showed in the exhibit.

Thursday night before the opening we had a panel discussion about the state of Rock and Roll photography. I was on the panel with two of Minneapolis’s top photographers, Stephen Cohen (who won first place in the contest), and Tony Nelson, moderated by legendary music writer Jon Bream. A lively discussion ensued. When Jon and I got there about a half and hour before the discussion there were a hundred chairs setup, and about 3 people wandering around. Uh-O!! A half hour later all the chairs were filled and standing room was filled also!!

Friday night was opening night. The exhibit looked fabulous. They printed my stuff on a large format Epson printer and screwed the prints to the walls.

ShowThe Rock photo exhibit was massive, covered two rooms. They spent all day cooking pasta and preparing salads. When the doors opened people started pouring in. All together more than 500 people walked through the two exhibits! All of the artists that were in the exhibit had name tags with one of their images printed above their name. Attention to detail!!! It was a great time with a great photo community.

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Genesis

In June of 1980, I was hanging out backstage at a Genesis concert when two guys walked up to me and asked me who I was photographing for. I told them I was a freelance photographer. They handed me a card and asked me to come and see them the next day. They were a small merchandising company. When I =brought them my portfolio, they got very excited. One of them picked up his phone and called the band’s manager at their hotel. He asked them if I could join the band on the road for the next couple of days and photograph their next two shows for use on some posters they were getting ready to produce.

This was pretty amazing, as I had never been on the road with a band before!!

So, I packed a bag and went out to the show that night. When the show ended, I was shown out to the bus, and soon was on the road with the band. It was kind of surreal, as I had never been on a tour bus before, and had never really met the band.

We reached Indianapolis that night and checked into a hotel. The next day I met the band in the lobby and we went to sound check. I started wandering around, being a fly on the wall and trying to not get in the way. After sound check, Phil Collins walked up to me and asked me if I played Ping Pong. I told him I played a little. At that moment, a Ping Pong battle erupted!! He was almost professional level, and beat me badly, but it was a great bonding moment. I shot the show that night, and we heade3d for Detroit, where another Ping Pong battle happened, and another show was shot.

The next morning, I flew home, got the film processed, and a few weeks later, I was called to the merchandiser’s office to see the final posters .

My first roads trip, and my first merchandise produced. All in all a great time.

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The Fan

What would the artist be without the fan? While going through some old Aerosmith photos the other day, I came across this image that I took in 1982. There is some dedication to their favorite band!! Those days are gone. One almost never sees this kind of display in 2015! It seems that the audience just sits there waiting for the band to deliver. There is hardly any passion anymore!

Aerosmith at the Rosemont Horizon on November 24th, 1982 in Rosemont, Illinois.

 

That being said, the passion is on full display at Buddy Guy’s Legends this month. Remember, this is January ion Chicago!! The fans start lining up at about 6AM to grab the available tables- first come first serve. Buddy doesn’t come on stage till 10:30 or 11PM. The audience sits there for about 1`0 hours, eating and drinking and listening to music. They all know each other.

The three standouts in this arena are two guys named Mike, and their friend Ron. These guys have been to about 90% of the Buddy Guy January shows for the last 20 years!!!! Some might say that they are a bunch of whack jobs (and they would probably be right) but they are also smart guys with responsible jobs. One Mike is a real estate appraiser, the other fixes heart lung machines in hospitals around the area. Ron is a podiatrist. They not only come to almost all the shows, but they sit down front from start to finish and listen!! (except when they give up their front row seats so that someone else can feel a little joy).

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It seems that fans like these guys are in short supply these days. Any artist would be happy to have guys like this around!!!

Buddy Guy_0181

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Dixie Chicks

In August of 1999, a road manager I knew called me and asked me if I would like to come to New Orleans and photograph the band he was working with. They were called the Dixie Chicks, and they were playing at the Superdome, opening for George Strait. I didn’t know much about them- I kind of thought they were a country version of the Spice Girls. But, I will go to New Orleans for anyone, so I flew down there and called the road manager from the lobby of their hotel. He suggested that I put my luggage in his room, and wait for them on their bus, which I did.

Soon, the girls jumped on the bus, and immediately started a conversation about my career, all based on the fact that they had looked at every page of my website. I was very impressed. When we got to the Superdome, they had to immediately go into a meet and greet. I played a fly on the wall, and watched them spend one and one time with every person in the room. I was even more impressed.

Dixie Chicks

Then they hit the stage, and my being impressed went through the roof. Man, they were great!! Great musicians, great voices and some great songs. When they got done playing, they asked me what I thought, and I told them I was officially a fan. They gave me the keys to all their rooms, told me to pick the one I liked and bring the rest to the front desk, as they were heading out. They dropped me off and headed out into the night. As they left me at the hotel, they invited me to the Chicago show the following week.

About a year later, they put out a new album, called “Fly.” They flew me down to Nashville, and I took pictures while they shot a series of television commercials for their first big headline tour. The commercials were hilarious, showing them mistaking a bidet for a drinking fountain, dropping a purse in the middle of a fancy hotel lobby and having about a hundred small shampoo bottles and soaps spill out, and jumping out of the back of a limo to pump their own gas. One of the first singles from the album was a song called “Goodbye Earl,” a story about an abusive husband, and how his wife dealt with it. Very controversial for country music, but it became a hit very quickly. So, they shot a video in Hollywood, and flew me out to shoot around the video. I spent two days in the Hollywood Hills with the Dixie Chicks, Dennis Franz,  Lauren Holly, Jane Krakowski, Adrian Pasdar and Michael DeLuise. Two beautiful days and two really cold nights in the Hills made for the #1 country video of the year!

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Dixie ChicksEarly the next year, they flew me to Winnipeg, to begin 4 days of shows across Canada, pictures of which appeared in ads and tour merchandise. I have followed their careers since then and have thoroughly enjoyed their music through the years whenever I went to photograph them. It is nice to see they good guys win!!

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Tipper Gore

In 1985, Tipper Gore, wife of vice-president Al Gore, along with other “Washington Wives” formed the Parents Music Resource Center to suggest to the music industry that they develop “guidelines and/or a rating system” for recorded music. In August of that year, hearings were held in front of Congress. Among others, Frank Zappa testified “the PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretation and enforcement problems inherent in the proposal’s design.”

So, one of my clients, Playboy Magazine, asked me to illustrate an article they were doing on the subject. They wanted as portrait of Frank, showing what would happen if the PMRC won. Frank was making an appearance at the “Limelight,” a club in Chicago. I arranged a quick photo session. I bought a quart of milk and a package of Vanilla Wafers, brought all of my stuff down there, set up a white background and wrapped a small box with white paper. I placed the milk and cookies on the block and waited. After a while, Frank was ushered into the room, laughed at the plan, sat down and a great shoot happened.

Frank Zappa at the Limelight on November 7, 1985 in Chicago,Il.As Frank got up to leave, a drunk guy barged into the room and asked to also be photographed. He looked vaguely familiar. After I photographed him (He asked for it) I asked someone who the guy was. It was Rob Lowe!!!

Several weeks later, Playboy called me to add to the assignment. Ice Cube’s manager asked if he could be included in the article. So I went to the hardware store and bought three rolls of electrical tape- Red White and Blue. I flew to LA, drove the rental car to Ice Cube’s house, sat in his living room eating ice cream bars and watching “Raising Arizona” his favorite movie. When the movie ended, he asked me what the plan was. I was praying that he would like the plan. When I explained it, he smiled and said “Lets go for it!!” So I taped his mouth closed with Red White and Blue tape, and proceeded to shoot!

Ice CubeThese were two of my all time favorite portraits!

 

 

 

 

 

Rob Lowe

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Public Enemy and Anthrax

In June of 1991, I got a call to hang with my friends in Anthrax while they shot a video in Chicago with Public Enemy for the song “Bring the Noise.” This was a new version of the Public Enemy song recorded in 1988. It was one of the best collaborations between a rap band and a heavy metal band, and it was decided that they would record the song in Chicago. So, I met them in the morning and followed them around throughout the day. This included one of my finest moments, when, at lunch Flavor Flav inquired, very loudly, what he was holding up. It was a piece of  lox, which he had taken from the table where it resided next to a platter of bagels. So, I walked over and showed Flavor Flav how to make a lox and bagel sandwich. He declared it very tasty!

Public Enemy-Anthrax_01

 

Later in the day, while filming in a playground, I was sitting on a bench between Chuck D. and Anthrax’s bass player Frankie Bello. As we sat there a fire broke out in a building across the street. Chuck looked over and said “I wonder how long it will take for the Fire Department to get here.” This was in reference to a song on PE’s latest album, titled 911 is Just a Number, which says that 911 is answered much slower in the ghetto. He was right. The entire porch burned off the house before the fire truck got there.

Anthrax and Public Enemy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short time later, Frankie leaned over and asked me a crazy question. “Do you know Madonna?” YIKES!! I told him I didn’t but I knew people that knew her. So he told me that he wanted to audition to be her bass player. I told him to send me a package of his work. When I got it I sent it to the Madonna camp. Several weeks later he got a letter saying they liked his playing, but weren’t looking for someone at that time. He still talks about it to this day!

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Bobby Keys

In 1989, I was invited to tag along on the Rolling Stones Steel Wheels Tour of America. My first day on the tour is the one that I describe as one of the most hectic days of my life:

Wake up in Chicago

Cab to the airport- fly to Boston.

Cab to the Ritz Carlton- call the road manager from the lobby.

Go to his room- get my passes and I am asked to leave my luggage in the corner of his room, with the supplied luggage tags affixed. Head to the lobby to wait.

One hour later a bunch of vans pull up. I am told which van to get in. A caravan heads out to Foxboro, where I shoot my first show as the official Stones Tour photographer. I am handed a set list and told to pack up and be in a van behind the stage before the final song starts.

A caravan of vans following a police escort leave the venue as fireworks explode overhead and head to the airport.

Drive out to a private plane and climb the stairs for a trip to Birmingham, Alabama.

All that in about 15 hours.  Etiquette says that the band gets on the plane first, then the entourage. When I get on the plane, people are scattered all over. I am standing there wondering where to sit, not wanting to look like an idiot. There is a small table about halfway back in the plane. Sitting at the table are Bill Wyman and Bobby Keys. Bobby, seeing my distress, motions me over and invites me to sit with them. He starts asking me questions about my life and how I got to be there as we took off. Bill, whose job seemed to be watching out the window to make sure the wing didn’t fall off (he hates flying) didn’t say much throughout the flight. As we were making final approach to the Birmingham airport, Bobby turned to Bill and said, “Hey Bill, do you remember when you guys opened up for my band here in Birmingham?”

Bill looked at him like he was crazy, and Bobby explained that on one of those famous package tours in the early 1960’s, he was headlining a show playing sax behind Bobby Vee, and the Rolling Stones were one of the many opening acts. I decided that I was now at Rock and Roll fantasy camp for the next three months, and hung with Bobby as often as I could. A nicer guy you will never meet. Through three Stones tours, he was always smiling, happy and playing great.

During one of those tours, I got a call on the road from my friend Jay, who was producing a record for his band, The Insiders. He wanted to know if I could ask Bobby to play on a song on their new record. I said I would ask, not expecting a positive answer. But of course he said he would be delighted!! I met him and his horn in the lobby of the hotel on our day off in Chicago, and we headed to Jay’s studio. When we got there, and everybody was introduced, he went in to play. A few minutes later, as posted on Jays Facebook page, he came out and said “I am very hungover!” “aw man, if i put that thing in my mouth and blow one more time my head will explode”. He asked to come back the next day (a show day) and we made the trip again. He of course played great, and made a bunch of people very happy.

I last saw him earlier this year when the Stones came through town, and he greeted me with a hug and a smile.

Bobby Keys passed away this week after battling cancer and liver failure. He was 70 years old. He will be missed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Recollections

Yesterday, I went to the David Bowie exhibit at the MCA in Chicago. Some great Mick Rock photographs, and a bunch of stuff from Bowie’s junk drawer. All in all, not very interesting. It reminded me of some good times. In 1989, I was on tour with the Rolling Stones on the Steel Wheels Tour of America. As we were flying into Los Angeles, one of the managers joked to me that I had my work cut out for me with a backstage celebrity parade coming up over the next four days!

So, over the next four days, I photographed some of the greatest film stars of our generation with the Stones. The first day Jack Nicholson came up to me , put his arm around my shoulder and said “ I am going to stick with you. That way I know I will get my picture taken with the Stones!!  YIKES!!!!! Over the course of the next four days, I photographed Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas, Barbra Streisand, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and David Bowie. Three of the more surreal moments of my life occurred during those four days in LA.

  1. I found myself playing team billiards backstage one night. It was Keith Richards and I playing against Ron Wood and David Bowie. They kicked our asses!!
  2. The second day of the stand, I was asked to set up a photo backstage with The Rolling Stones and Guns and Roses. SURE no problem. I almost completed that task. I got a bunch of the Stones and four out of five members of G&R. (Slash was “Sick” and couldn’t be disturbed. But I got most of them.
  3. At a party after one of the shows, I was sitting at a corner table with a few of the tour publicists (both from the New York/New Jersey area) when Bruce Springsteen and his wife Patty decided to come and sit with us! What do you say to a legend?? Not a problem, as he started the conversation, wanting to know what the Stones were like!

Stones Collage

All in all a pretty productive week in the City of Angels! I think it resulted in 2 full pages in People Magazine the next week. And some great memories.

 

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A couple of things

Foo Fighters

I have been watching the Foo Fighters “Documentary” series for five weeks now with a certain degree of amusement. The premise is that they go to a new city every week, unload all their equipment into a recording studio, and Dave Grohl go off to discover local musicians, interview them, and then on the fifth day, he sits down and writes a song, using quotes from the interviews. They then record the song, and play it live in the studio to end each show. They include one of the musicians from the interview sessions, to add some local color. In Chicago, it was Rick Nielsen (not really from Chicago, but close enough). In Austin, it was Garry Clark, Jr., turned down in the mix so you couldn’t hear him. In Los Angeles, Joe Walsh added an amazing guitar solo, while the Foo Fighters stood around with their mouths open in amazement. All of this is accompanied by Dave Grohl screaming into the microphone, singing his mostly inane lyrics.

This week, the city was New Orleans, possibly the greatest musical city in America. They interview all of the right people- Dr. John, Allan Tousaint, Cyril Neville, George Porter, Jr. Most of the show centered around the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Preservation Hall (Where they were going to record). The drummer of the PHJB even invited the Foo Fighters to his house for dinner and a jam session in his living room. Finally the time came for the band to play their song at the end of the show. All of these amazing musicians, and not a single one was playing on the song!! I think I saw Dan Auerbach, guitar player for the Black Keys, playing. I guess he was hipper than some of the hippest guys on the planet. It would have been really cool to see Dave writing with Allan Tousaint, or Dr. John playing piano on the song, or the cool PHJB rocking their tubas and other brass instruments with the Foo Fighters! Maybe then the song would have been GOOD.

Dale Ernhardt Jr. Jr.

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Friday night I was hanging with Dale Ernhardt Jr. Jr., a couple of cool guys from Detroit. During our interview with them, they were asked what has changed in the music business since they started. They pointed to one of my cameras and said “The music business is like the photography business. You don’t need one of those heavy cameras any more- Just an iPhone. In music you just need a computer and a few microphones.” Pretty depressing, but true. When the interview was over, I told them the story of Peter Frampton asking to see someone’s iPhone who was sitting in the front row taking pictures all night long. He then wound up and pitched it into the balcony. They though that was hilarious!!

So…toward the end of their set, one of the guys asked someone in the front row if he could see the pictures he had been taking all night. The guy proudly handed his phone over, and Josh put it in his pocket and told him he would give it back after the show! Pretty funny.

 

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