Celebrity culture in the 1970s and 1980s, through the lens of an award-winning photojournalist.
As a young photographer working in Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, George Rose had his shutter finger on the pulse of the Hollywood scene, documenting film premieres and award ceremonies, arena concerts and Sunset Strip nightclubs. From Oscar-winning actors and filmmakers to punk rockers and porn stars, this stylish book presents visual highlights from the New Hollywood renaissance, a golden era in movies, music, and scene-making. Reflecting the excess, drama, or humor in each subject, Rose's rich black-and-white photos capture famous faces and personalities of the day, whether Jack Nicholson or Debbie Harry, Truman Capote or Little Richard.
"Blessed with an uncanny instinct for being in the right place at the right time, Rose was always where the action was, as if you'd transplanted Weegee from the 1940s-era Bowery to the 1980s-era Sunset Strip. As this gallery of photos attests, whether Rose was in a tiny room at the Chateau Marmont or at the edge of the stage at a sold-out show at the Forum, he could always capture a revealing or unguarded moment." Patrick Goldstein, from the foreword
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About the Author
GEORGE ROSE has been a photographer for the Los Angeles Times and a freelance journalist for Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek, and other national publications. Today, he does PR for wineries in northern California, while continuing to photograph and exhibit his work. He lives in Sonoma County, California.
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HOLLYWOOD, Beverly Hills, & OTHER PERVERSITIES
POP CULTURE OF THE 1970s AND 1980s
By GEORGE ROSE
TEN SPEED PRESS
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Foreword WHEN I STARTED WRITING for the Los Angeles Times, the best advice I received from my elders about how to get my stories on the front of the Calendar section had nothing to do with anything they teach in journalism school. "If you want to get good play," I was told, "make sure George Rose takes the photo."
On staff at the Times from 1977 through 1983, Rose was the go-to photographer for capturing the raucous edges of punk rock and showbiz culture that made Los Angeles a melting pot for nearly every new permutation of pop culture in America. Traveling light-he rarely used any lighting besides an on-camera strobe-Rose became the master of what he called "the five-minute portrait shot."
Blessed with an uncanny instinct for being in the right place at the right time, Rose was always where the action was, as if you'd transplanted Weegee from the 1940s-era Bowery to the 1980s-era Sunset Strip. As this gallery of photos attests, whether Rose was in a tiny room at the Chateau Marmont or at the edge of the stage at a sold-out show at the Forum, he could always capture a revealing or unguarded moment, be it a playful grin from Richard Pryor, a brooding stare from Robert Redford, or a lascivious pose from Queen's Freddy Mercury. Thousands of photographers cover the Academy Awards every year, but it was Rose who captured Dustin Hoffman backstage, slyly holding his Oscar in front of a giant Oscar statuette-at groin level-giving the illusion that the statue had grown a glorious golden penis.
At the end of the 1970s, Los Angeles was full of tumult, some inspired by the Raging Bull-era of the New Hollywood, some sparked by the burgeoning punk scene that swept the local music clubs. When I came to town in 1979, fresh out of college, I was amazed to discover that you could go out every night and never catch up to all of the action, whether it was a mesmerizing new film or a noisy new band headlining one of the dozens of clubs that had sprung up all over town.
There was a raw, infectious energy in the air, inspired by a sense that the cultural world was shifting under our feet. Adventures were to be had-morning, noon, and night. I remember tumbling out of the Hong Kong Cafe, a popular punk club in Chinatown, half deaf from the loud music, and walking straight into a local gang fight, actually seeing a knife glint in the light of the moon. Flashes of danger were followed by moments of enchantment. After a long evening at the Whisky a Go Go, I went home with one of the waitresses, only to suddenly stop the car as we wound up into the Hollywood Hills, startled by the sight of the glorious art-deco apartment Elliot Gould inhabited in The Long Goodbye. You couldn't even have a midnight tryst without being bedazzled by the sight of a striking location from a Robert Altman film.
In the same way that Rose learned to be quick on his feet as a photographer, I learned to go with the flow as a reporter. Arriving for an interview with Harry Dean Stanton at his house one morning, I found him in his bathrobe on the roof, communing with spirits only he could see. Inside, the house was full of empty bottles and debris from a party that had clearly only ended a short time before. In the kitchen was Stanton's pal Jack Nicholson, still going strong, making coffee with a couple of remaining revelers.
Wherever I went, I'd bump into Rose, who'd do almost anything to get a photo, whether it meant braving the mosh pits at punk clubs or hanging out of a hotel window. His best work is all here, from a Bible-toting Little Richard to John Travolta with a spit curl to a moody portrait of X punk queen Exene Cervenka. We also see Phil Alvin of the Blasters, backstage at the Whisky a Go Go, in the midst of a mad rockabilly holler that seems so timeless it could just as easily be Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun Records in 1957.
Rose never knew how much time he'd have, so he learned not to dawdle. His introspective portrait of Susan Sontag, her eyes blazing and black, was made in two minutes flat. "I could've spent hours with her," he says. "But I was looking for one moment, one expression, not twenty. I was cocky enough to think I could get into a room, put the subject in the situation I wanted, and get the definitive photo in five minutes or less. Sometimes I'd visualize what I wanted, to achieve before it happened. I'd see the light, I'd say, 'I want you to stand here' and, bing-bang, I'd get the shot."
Rose was at his best working with Robert Hilburn, the Times' longtime music critic, who took Rose on a host of assignments. In the office, they were full of mischievous banter, like a pair of old vaudeville comics. But Hilburn admits it took a while to find the right equilibrium for their working relationship.
"With George, you didn't just have a photographer, you had a partner, and we sometimes clashed," Hilburn recalls. "I knew what the story was and I'd say to George, 'Take this shot,' because I thought it would fit the story. But George was only interested in the great photo. We'd get into arguments, but he had a process and you had to respect it. He had a game plan, which was always to get the best picture."
Hilburn came to appreciate that under Rose's affable exterior lurked a deep reservoir of artistic ambition. "George was the first photographer I was around who wouldn't let the paper or the reporter set his agenda. No one else had his seriousness or sense of purpose. He was always pushing to get more."
Rose came to the Times when newspapers were still in their glory days. He never wore a tie and never went to bed until long after midnight. "A lot of the older guys took me under their wing by teaching me how to drink," Rose recalls. "Starting at around 4 p.m., we'd begin with screwdrivers in the back darkroom." At night, the guys would often meet up at Dan Tana's, a popular hangout for musicians almost next door to the Troubadour. "You'd walk in and see someone like Bruce Springsteen right across the room," says Rose. "After I'd finish an assignment, I'd show up there at midnight for dinner."
The Times had a great reach. A lead story in the Sunday Calendar was a publicist's dream. But when it came to visual arts, the newspaper was something of a stodgy institution. Despite being at the height of its economic power-during Rose's day it had sixty-five photographers on staff-the Times saw photography as a news medium, not an artistic one. Many of the wonderful photos in this collection-the one of Sontag, the one of Hoffman with his Oscar-never made it into the newspaper. Nor did a waggish photo Rose took of David Lee Roth in concert, his crotch apparently crammed with Kleenex, which makes him look like a campy Cowardly Lion in a roadshow production of The Wizard of Oz.
"The paper made an effort to collect the news, but it often didn't run it," says Rose. "This was pre-USA Today, old-school journalism, where the paper was oriented to the stories, not the art. A lot of the best stuff just went into the files."
The photos that did run sometimes ruffled a few feathers. Rose took a series of pictures of Mary Tyler Moore in 1979, then at the peak of her career. The one that ran in the paper showed every wrinkle in her face, not to embarrass her, Rose insists, only because the ink from the printing process blotted on every line in her face.
"She went on The Tonight Show the night after the photo ran and complained that this photographer from the Times had tried to make her look bad," Rose recalls. "But it was simply the paper's printing process, which was our Achilles' heel in those days. I've never been one to make a fool out of people. That's not my style."
How times have changed. Today the best way to sell a picture is by snapping a starlet getting out of a limo without any panties on. Rose's photos take us behind the celebrity facade, but with a sense of grace that's out of fashion in today's brazen era of paparazzi stalkers. "I always wanted to blend into the scenery, to not call attention to myself," he recalls. "I liked to hang back in the shadows and shoot my pictures."
It's telling that perhaps the best example of Rose's canny instincts as a photographer isn't represented by a celebrity photo, but by his coverage of the 1978 Malibu fire, a conflagration fueled by Santa Ana winds that destroyed hundreds of homes in its path. The next day, the front page of the Times led with one of Rose's dramatic photographs, which he managed to get to the paper by deadline by having a helicopter land on Will Rogers State Beach to pick the film up.
Rose braved smoke and flames to get the best shots of the fire. But his real inspiration, as with so many of his showbiz photographs, was about being in the right place at the right time. Most photographers would have raced up into the canyons, where the winds were blowing the hardest. But Rose headed up the Pacific Coast Highway and got into position near the beach. He somehow knew what every good firefighter in Los Angeles knows-when the Santa Anas are blowing, the fire always goes to the ocean.
Rose trusted his instincts. He let the fire come to him.
- Patrick Goldstein
Excerpted from HOLLYWOOD, Beverly Hills, & OTHER PERVERSITIES by GEORGE ROSE
Copyright © 2008 by George Rose. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsContents Foreword by Patrick Goldstein....................7
Working the Hollywood Night Shift....................10
Behind the Scenes....................170