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.

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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!!!

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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!!

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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.

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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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Some stuff

A group of photographers met at my house last week to discuss the future of the business. Not much was concluded, except that it is becoming harder and harder to get access, much the less make a living at this business. This all stemmed from a Facebook post by a Chicago photographer who was treated like crap at the Pitchfork Festival earlier this summer (No surprise- the guy who runs Pitchfork once told me that photographers were last on his list of things to care about when running his festival.) As he is a noted jazz musician in town, I wonder what happens when he needs photos for his publicity purposes??

So, the Facebook post describes the hordes of “Photojournalists” in the pit, many of whom work for  blogs who don’t pay them, and shoot with iPhones and iPads.

We are going to continue the discussion, and work on putting up a website so that communication is easier to manage.

On another note, a friend of mine was recently asked to photograph an aging rock star in New York for a magazine that we both work for who doesn’t pay much, if anything, for photographs. When she arrived at the venue, she was told that there was no photo pas set aside for her, as the artist does not allow any photographs. Someone form management came out to talk to her, and explained that the artist does not like to see photographers in front of him. She promised to be discrete, and the manager told her that she could shoot the first three songs. This agreement was finalized half way through the third song!! The manager then threw up her hands and told the photographer to do whatever she wanted, as long as she was not seen by the artist.

On yet another note, as I am writing this there is a great festival happening in Chicago. I called the promoter earlier in the week to ask about getting a photo pass. They emailed me back a spread sheet with photo access rules per band. There are two artists on the bill that I have never heard of.

One is Valerie June, the other is Sylvan Esso. Both have a first three songs, no flash rule. Valerie is now on the Concord label- guess they put that rule in. Sylvan Esso is a pop duo from North Carolina on an indie label. Guess they don’t want people to take good pictures! I for one turned down the photo pass. Only four of the eleven artists had no restrictions, and all the headliners were very restirictive. Hope there is something good on television this afternoon!!

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Don Pardo

Back in the early 1980’s, I was asked by a radio station in town to come down and take some pictures at a morning show promotion in a bar at 8AM. The guests of honor were Art Fleming (Host of Jeopardy) and Don Pardo (announcer of Saturday Night Live, Jeopardy, Price is Right and many more). Of course, the radio station told me that they didn’t have any budget, but would pay me in commercials.

I agreed, and they wrote out some commercials that the two guys read on the air. Then a woman that worked at the station cut them into a 30 second answering machine spot and gave me a tape.

I put it on my answering machine and it remained there for about 20 years! I am still amazed at the number of people who were impressed by two  television people doing an answering machine greeting for me.

Dom Pardo died last week at the age of 96.

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Jackie Robinson West

There is only one major league team in Chicago this summer. It is not the Cubs- It is not the Sox. The Cubs are, as usual, mired near the bottom of the league, fighting with the owners of buildings across the street about letting them watch a really bad baseball team from their rooftops.

The White Sox have three good players, and are also near the bottom of the league. They have a slugger, (Adam Dunn) who strikes out about 3 times a game, Only their rookie Cuban sensation can hit the ball, and they continue to lose at a momentous pace.

Then there is the only major league team playing right now- The Jackie Robinson West little league team, who are playing today to win the WORLD series! One more game against South Korea, and they are the world champs. These kids are 11 to 13 years old. When one of them (the coach’s son), went to high five the other players on the team after they beat Las Vegas yesterday, he couldn’t reach their hands, even jumping as high as he could. He made a major error in the first inning yesterday, but kept his head up and played great the rest of the game. The superb shortstop, who was forced to pitch in the last inning to preserve the win, got in trouble in the sixth, then started a beautiful double play to end the game and send them to the final game.

These guys haven’t reached puberty yet, but most of them say that the best part about playing for the championship is meeting girls. At a time when kids are being shot on the street every day, these kids bring some pride and positive excitement to Chicago.

The parade will be Wednesday. I hope one million people come out to cheer them down the parade route.

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This weeks Sports Illustrated has a remarkable article by Steve Rushin, documenting the 60th Anniversary of the magazine. He follows the career of Vin Scully, the amazing announcer for the Dodgers,  a team owner, an agent, and the guy who started ESPN. He follows them through the last 60 years, equating their careers with the sports world..

Toward the end of the article, he explores the phenomenon of the “selfie.”He quotes Hugh Lurie, who says that there have been more photographs taken in the last year than in the entire history of photography!! He goes on to say:

Because people are now photographing- I shudder to think what they are photographing- everything and nothing. No interaction is deemed to have actually happened unless someone has a photograph to prove it. I think this is odd, and I think that it may be starting to alter the way we think about each other and the way we think about general day-to-day social interaction.

Rushin goes on to cite David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, who took a selfie of himself with President Obama to fulfill a contract with Samsung to promote their phones.

So last week I was photographing Mexican Folk Pop singer Lila Downs. There were three photographers in the pit, myself and my friend Brigette, and  a young kid who obviously didn’t belong there. During the first three songs, he continually crashed into me, and several time hit me on the head with his camera- not on purpose- he was so excited to be there that he could not concentrate on what was going on around him. I never once saw him actually take a picture! So I sat down to wait until he left after the third song. At the end of the song he came over and sat down next to me, held out his camera, and asked me to take a picture of him with Lila in the background. I refused, telling him that that was not a very professional thing to do. He responded that he was just there for fun. I walked away, and he soon left. Guess they will let anyone in the photo pit these days.

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