Michael J. Fox is on the cover of TV Guide this week. Reminds me of a nicer time in celebrity photography.
In August of 1986 one of the greatest moments of my life, my photograph of Bruce Springsteen was chosen to be on the cover of Newsweek. My neighbor, at the time, was the music critic of the Chicago Sun Times. He suggested that the paper do a story about “Chicagoan gets the cover of Newsweek”. So they sent a photographer to my house to take a picture of me holding up the magazine. It ran in the paper the next day. Later that day a phone call came in that started one of the greatest two weeks of my celebrity journalism career. It was an assistant to Paul Schrader.
He was in town directing a film titled with the title of a Bruce Springsteen song. He was a big Springsteen fan, and he wanted to meet me. So the next day I drove to the set of “Light of Day”, starring Michael J. Fox, Joan Jett and Michael McKean. It was the story of a brother and sister who form a rock band while their mother is dying.
There were a lot of scenes of the band playing in clubs, and Paul asked me if he could hire me to shoot stills on all the music scenes. I made my usual deal to own the photos and be able to license them to the film company for publicity use. Paul explained to me the Hollywood deal that celebrities have. The bigger the celebrity is, the higher the number of photos that the celebrity gets to disapprove (Example: Sly Stallone only has to approve one photo from a shoot. Conversely, a minor celebrity can only disapprove 50% of the photos from a shoot.
So, the next day I showed up to shoot. I already knew Joan. It was great to see her. Next I was introduced to Michael, who was a big star at the time (In the 1% approval category). He started asking me all kinds of rock and roll questions, and made me promise to tell him if he was doing anything wrong on stage. The next day I showed up on set with the photos from the day before and a magnifier. Joan approved all of her photos. Then came time to get Michael’s approval. I got ready to have all of my photos unapproved. He looked at a few of them, handed them back to me, and said “These look great- can you make me some copies. They are all approved.”
Made my day. In the following year, I had the cover of 16 Magazine every month for a year with pictures of Michael! Every time I saw him after that, he gave me a hug and remembered the movie set. I think the word to describe him is Mensch!