Monday, December 26, 2005

You Can't Do That Anymore

The Airport Incident

I can't remember how many bands I escorted through airports, helping them get on their planes, and taking pictures of the whole thing.

You just can't do that these days - you can't really get beyond the first phalanx of ticketing counters unless you have a ticket and boarding pass for a flight. Of course, it is for security, but it wasn't always that way.

This photo was taken at Los Angeles International Airport in May, 1978. Billy Idol had just completed a brief promotional tour in the United States for Chrysalis, who had released the Generation X record. Pleasant and I spent quite a lot of time with Billy on this trip and I documented just about everything we did with him - including delivering him to the airport for his return trip home to London.

Looking at the negatives from Billy's last day in L.A., I am suprised at the number of photos I was able to take inside the airport. I know I felt like it was an event of Beatle-mania proportions and I would be stupid not to photograph the next big pop star's every move...well, I guess I was proved right to a certain degree. Generation X, while tops in our punk rock world, were nothing compared to the international superstar that Billy Idol would become. Can't you just see that certain "something" in his bearing and demeanor? He's probably 23 years old in this photo, but he's a fully formed pop star...

So what's happening here? We are Billy's entourage - Brendan, Pleasant and me behind the camera. There's this woman... I can't remember who she was or why she seems dead-set on telling Billy something. I forgot all about this til I was organizing my negatives and stumbled upon this photo that is all about the glances between all of us. She wasn't a fan, she wasn't a Hari Krishna (obviously)or any other regular airport hanger-on, but she did understand that Billy was SOMEONE, and she had something to tell him. I don't remember if that bag Billy is carrying was a bag full of his stuff, or if it was something that woman in the foreground gave to him. He doesn't have that bag in other photos from the airport...I'll have to ask Pleasant.

I guess I sound old and melancholy...but you just can't do this kind of thing anymore. Even if you were part of the official touring party, you probably couldn't photograph your friends and colleagues in the airport the way I was able to photograph Billy Idol. You wouldn't be able to just tag along to the airport with a visiting pop star unless you were working for Rolling Stone or some other big glossy magazine, and then again - probably not then either. People like their privacy, no matter how much they need the press.

Yeah - it was really really different in the 70s...this was all new... bands had to be marketed differently...it was the beginning of all things indie...and it was fantastic to be part of the groundswell that helped to change things. I'm sure someone knew what they were doing, but it sure as hell wasn't me. I feel like "Forrest Gump" with pop culture and history just passing in front of my lens...

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