Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Creem was chock full of photos... yes they PAID US! for use...very professional and everything! Everyone wanted to have a byline in Creem, whether for their photography or writing; the money was completely beside the point. Being in Creem was a badge of honor. It WAS rock n roll through and through. It was the magazine in which Lester Bangs, - love him or hate him, he was the bard of the rock n roll generation - wrote most of the stuff that made him notorious.
Creem's mascot Boy Howdy, the R Crumb drawing, adorned fake beer labels and bands lined up to be a Boy Howdy feature every month.
The book's publication will be celebrated this coming weekend in Los Angeles, and I'm going to be at the party, as it is sharing the festivities with the book party for Punk 365, in which I have a few photos (in the book AND in the gallery where the party is being thrown). It will be most fun to see Creem honcho, its long-standing photographer and now historian Robert Matheu signing books! Although he's a Detroit native, Robert moved to LA around 1979 or 80 and we ran alongside each other at shows and he quickly became one of the familiar faces behind a camera at rock shows.
You saw this in Creem
I am proud to say that I've had several photos published in Creem over the years (they're peppered throughout this post) and I've been IN a photo in Creem as well (September 1978 on the Backstage page to be exact).
It was at this Whisky A Go Go show when David Johansen played with his solo band (that featured Syl Sylvain from the Dolls) that I brought my friend, photographer Herb Wrede (RIP) backstage to meet David. Herb wanted to take a picture, but David didn't feel like doing the magazine pose... so he said, "only if she's in it too!" So, I sat next to him, and he tipped his wine glass to the camera. I cast my eyes downward, although I smiled... and a couple months later... there we were... in Creem's Backstage page with a caption reading: David Jo relaxes at home with the Mrs. Decor courtesy of the NYC Subway... for the photo was taken in the graffiti-scrawled backstage room.
The graffiti covered walls backstage at the Whisky
I don't have a scan of that photo right now (I'm on the road), but if you are a Creem collector, go look at it: September 1978.
That photo was like a double-edged credibility sword for me. For the people who didn't get that everything Creem wrote was humorous, they thought I was indeed Mrs. David Jo, and on several trips to NYC, I got past the velvet rope and into a lot of VIP rooms and hardly ever paid to get into a club because people thought I was one of the privileged... on the other hand, Cyrinda Foxe (RIP) saw that photo and was none too happy about David being photographed with someone that was being referred to as his wife... because she was his wife, although they were divorcing and she was imminently going to marry Steven Tyler. Twenty years later, Cyrinda told me that... when we first met, she thought I might be that girl... and I had to explain to her the whole Herb Wrede story... thankfully, she understood. She said, "Well, its CREEM... WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?" If you knew her, you can hear her saying it.
You saw these, above and below, in Creem
By far, the three people in punk rock with whom my photos in Creem are associated are Billy Idol, Joan Jett and Stiv Bators. While Billy knew how to take a photo opportunity when presented, Joan and Stiv were friends... the three of us were friends who spent time together. Joan and I both lived on San Vicente, on either side of the Whisky a Go Go, and if she wasn't throwing a party, I was. Stiv was often there to say, "If we take this photo, Creem will publish it." And so they did!
You saw this in Creem
Many years ago, well before I started making my monthly treks to Detroit, I made a pilgrimage to the Detroit suburb of Birmingham to visit Creem headquarters. It was probably that trip that got me all confused about driving in Detroit, because I drove all the way from Greektown (downtown Detroit) to Birmingham on Woodward Ave. I had no idea that Detroit's streets were designed in a wheel/spoke thing. I always believed that Woodward ran east and west, and it does not - it runs north/south by northwest. (I am currently experiencing a similar direction/navigation problem in Memphis... Union goes east and west and I always feel it goes north/south.)
You saw this in Creem - Phil Lynott & the Plimsouls
Anyway... I visited Mecca way back when because I had been invited to by the person who was my complete and total idol back then, photo editor Charlie Auringer.
The Creem editors were visiting Los Angeles in the Spring of 1979 and were staying at the Sunset Marquis hotel, where the Boomtown Rats were staying. The Whisky, my employer, was promoting a very special Boomtown Rats show at the Coconut Grove room in the Ambassador Hotel (that's the place where Robert Kennedy was assassinated, and its no longer standing). It was a pretty big deal, that show... its kind of all a blur to me, because all I remember was that the band were in town for several weeks, and that I shared a birthdate with the drummer, Simon Crowe (April 14) and there were celebrations for both of us... and during one such celebration that took place in the daytime, I met Charlie Auringer.
The Creem crew as well as the Boomtown Rats were sunning themselves by the pool. Blondie and Bruce Springsteen were also staying at the hotel at that time...
I know this is like a scene from a punk rock Forrest Gump but that's what it was like back then! No one was famous yet by the way! So, various Creem people noted out loud that the hotel was a hotbed of Creem photo opportunties, especially since Rats pianist Johnny Fingers always wore his pyjamas as if they were street clothes, and somehow, we got to talking about the Sid Vicious obituary page. Even though I was on pins and needles meeting Charlie Auringer, I did have the wherewithal to thank him for such excellent placement of my photo (below) in Sid's obit. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he told me how compelling he thought the photo was.
You saw this in Creem - leading Sid's obituary
Ever since that meeting, I have taken great interest in the information provided by the background: the street, the traffic, the passersby, etc. when taking a photo. In addition to trying to capture the emotion and gravitas within a person...that is, letting their humanity and their soul shine through their image, I also started paying much greater attention to the context and the information of their placement in situ.
I would start to hear Charlie's comments and advice when I was shooting a situation with other photographers around.
To me, when shooting this, it was more important to capture the mirror behind Stiv and Dee Dee Ramone than to have the straight-into-the-camera angle...for a variety of reasons ranging from the composition of a tableau the way Caravaggio might frame the shot to the being able to possibly see who else was in the room in the mirror in that cinematic way mirrors are included in establishing shots.
And in this shot of Belinda Carlisle with the guys who would become The Joneses, I was definitely going for all the information that room and scenario provided... Belinda was actually the least important element in the shot at the time... the boys were more important... but ultimately, the sum of the pieces makes one great whole!
And for that, I will always thank Creem.
Congratulations to my old pal Robert Matheu and Creem on the publication of their book. You can get it from Amazon.com of course. Make sure you visit Creem online!