In a conversation last week, Frank Sinatra’s name came up. I am reminded of two situations that I was in involving the Chairman of the Board.
Situation #1. In the 1980’s there was a summer festival in downtown Chicago called Chicagofest. Six stages, great talent on all stages for 10 days. The main stage tried to satisfy all of Chicago, so along with the Cheap Tricks and Doobie Brothers of the world, the promoters tried booking acts for a wider audience. That is where Frank came in. The day of the show, I was told that the Mayor of Chicago was coming down to meet Frank and that I had to take her picture with him. YIKES!! About an hour before the show, the Mayor showed up and was escorted to a trailer dressing room backstage (Frank was in the next one down the row). And then the negotiations started: Would she go to him, or would he go to her?? Their people discussed this for about 30 minutes, until Frank was brought into the conversation. Being the charming ladies man that he was, he jumped up, walked to her trailer, knocked on the door, and invited her outside for a photo opportunity. Moral of the story: They should have asked him first thing!
Situation #2. There is a beautiful theater in downtown Chicago called the Chicago Theater. It reopened in Marchof 1988, and the opening night headliner was Mr. Sinatra. I was called by Newsweek Magazine to shoot the show. I didn’t think that a theater opening in Chicago was national news, but an assignment is an assignment. The morning of the show, I figured out why Newsweek wanted the photos. The world famous brilliant journalist (my tongue firmly in cheek) Kitty Kelly was about to release her biography of Frank and Newsweek needed a new photo of him. So off I went to the show that night. There was a local publicity company working for the theater, and all the photographers were informed that, as per Mr. Sinatra’s personal publicist Lee Solters, photographers were allowed to photograph the first song onl and could not get closer to the stage than the tenth row. The publicist also let out that she had met Mr. Solters earlier, and that he was a god to her. So shortly before the show started we all trooped down the aisles and got ready to shoot. As the lights went down, all the rich people from the first ten rows started gathering in the aisles to get to their seats, completely blocking our view. The first song ending with not a single photo taken by any of the photographers. The publicist shooed us all out to the lobby, where we expressed our displeasure. Her response was- It is Lee Solters- he is a legend. I can’t ask him for more- I guess you guys are all out of luck. Just then, I spied Lee walking across the lobby. I asked the publicist if I could go talk to him. Her reply was “Go ahead- it won’t do you any good.”
So, I handed my bag to a fellow photographer and walked over to Mr. Solters. I had met him once, but he didn’t know me from Adam. I explained the problem, and without even asking me who I was shooting for (although Newsweek would have carried some weight) he said, “ What’s the problem, go in and shoot another song.” I explained that he should come over and explain to the local publicist, who, when informed of this, had a look of total amazement on her face. We all went in and shot a song, and when we got back to the lobby, Mr. Solters asked us how we had done. We all thanked him and told him that we had done fine. He then told us “If you need more, go in and shoot another song.” (Which we all did).
That is what a good publicist does!!
On another note……Last week a friend of mine went to the Black Eyed Peas show in Chicago. He called me the next day to ask me why I wasn’t there- I explained that I don’t go any place to shoot 3 songs! All the best stuff happens later in the show. He then told me that about three quarters of the way through the show, Fergie rose up from under the stage on a platform with Slash (From Guns and Roses) and they did two songs together. He noticed that there were no photographers shooting that part of the show.
I Googled the event and found an out-of-focus UTube video, but no still photos! Guess that wasn’t an important enough event, even though Slash has a new album coming out with Fergie singing on it!