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.

Dale Ernhardt Jr. Jr._0004

 

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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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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Guns

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!

http://natkin.net/films/gunviolenceproject/

 

 

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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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