CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE STUMBLED INTO "THE SHALLOW ZONE." WATCH OUT FOR THE ROCKS. SOME OF THEM ARE SHARP.
If you're looking for a blog with meaningful content on the important issues of the day, you've come to the wrong place. This is the shallows, my friend. Nothing but shallowness as far as the eye can see. Let someone else make sense of things. I like it here.

About Me

My photo

I love my grown children, miss all the dogs I ever had, and I cry at the drop of a hat, I believe in true love, destiny, fairness, and compassion. If I could be anywhere right now, it would be the ocean. My favorite city is New York, but I am always longing for London and craving more time in Copenhagen. I'm drawn to desolate places, deserted buildings, and unknown byways. I don't care how society perceives me as long as my gut tells me that what I'm doing is right. I am interested in paranormal things, spiritual things, historical things, and things that glow at night. I like to drink, I smoke when I write, I can't stand small talk, and despite my quick temper, I would rather kiss than fight. I'm selfish with my writing time, a spendthrift with my love. My heart has been broken so many times that it's held together with super glue and duct tape. The upside is that, next time, I won't be tempted to give away what I no longer have to give. But I will let you buy me a Pink Squirrel.
MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT
Not that there's any weight to it...
IN A WORLD FILLED WITH COMPLEX POLITICAL ISSUES, SOCIAL INEQUALITY, AND FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTY, I CONSIDER IT MY GIFT TO YOU, MY READER, TO OFFER THIS SHALLOW LITTLE HAVEN, WHERE NOTHING IS TOO SHALLOW, TOO INSIGNIFICANT, OR TOO RIDICULOUS TO JUSTIFY OUR ATTENTION. IN OTHER WORDS, IF IT'S NOT IMPORTANT....SO WHAT? NEITHER WAS MARILYN MONROE'S BRA SIZE. AND THAT STILL SELLS MAGAZINES, DOESN'T IT?
VIDEO OF THE MONTH

Monday, August 6, 2012

LOOK FOR HIM IN THAT ULTRA-DELUXE APARTMENT IN THE SKY: TV ICON SHERMAN HEMSLEY DEAD AT 74


It is with a sense of shallow (and yet sincere) sadness that I dedicate this brief post to an iconic face of 1970s American television who passed away recently...very quietly...and yet leaving in his wake a huge pop culture hole that isn't likely to be filled any time soon. I'm talking about Sherman Hemsley, better known, perhaps, as "George Jefferson", the one-time (black) thorn in Archie Bunker's side who, through his good business sense and sheer determination of will managed to move himself, his family (wife Louise and son Lionel), and his maid (yes...Florence!) "on up" out of Queens and into "that deluxe apartment in the sky" on the East Side of Manhattan (although the opening sequence of the show was actually filmed in Santa Monica, California).


SHERMAN HEMSELY...AKA "GEORGE JEFFERSON"

The Jeffersons, which began as a spin-off of All In The Family, ran on CBS from 1975 until 1985, and has the distinction of having been the longest running television series with a predominantly black cast in the history of American television, (Sorry, Good Times and Cosby!) Although at times controversial (George Jefferson used the terms "honky" and "nigger" during the course of the series), the show's eleven season run is a testimonial to its popularity with mainstream TV audiences, who, I assume, identified with Goerge and "Weezy" Jefferson not because they were black so much as because they were ordinary people who had managed to make good despite their humble beginnings. Plus George was sort of the Simon Cowwell of his day, never shirking from saying exactly what was on his mind, no matter where he was, or who the unfortunate recipient of his honesty might be.


HEMSLEY WITH LONG SUFFERING TV WIFE ISABEL SANFORD

Of course, Hemsley did play other roles besides the snarky and ill-tempered George Jefferson. Born in South Philly in 1938, and raised by his single mother (he didn't meet his father until he was 14), Hemsley dropped out of high school to join the air force, in which he served for four years. After being discharged from his military duties in the late 1960s, Hemsley left Philly for New York, where he labored as a postal worker by day whilst attending the Academy of Dramatic Arts at night. Hemsley's hard work and commitment to his chosen craft paid off. In 1971, whilst performing on Broadway in the musical Purlie, Hemsley received a call from TV producer Norman Lear, who wanted Hemsley to play the role of "George Jefferson" in his new sitcom...All In The Family. Although initially reluctant to leave Broadway, Hemsley eventually made the shift to television, a move which brought him fame and a new level of wealth, but which also, unfortunately, typecast him for the remainder of his career. Following the cancellation of The Jeffersons in 1985, Hemsley's work consisted mainly of appearances on TV shows like Amen and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, although a series of popular commercials for The Gap, in 2000, which reunited Hemsley with former TV wife Isabel Sanford, brought the pair a fresh burst of nostalgic appreciation. Hemsley was also a singer, performing an original song, "Dark Eyes", from his album "Dance", on Soul Train in 1992. In recent years, however, Hemsley, who never married and had no children, had been living in El Paso, Texas, where he had become something of a recluse, granting only one interview (video) since the demise of The Jeffersons, to The Archive of American Television, in 2003. In the interview, Hemsley said that playing George Jefferson "was hard for me", but that "he was the character. I had to do it."


Hemsley strutting large in "Purlie" on Broadway in 1972

Sherman Hemsley died of apparent natural causes at his home in El Paso on July 24. He was 74.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

ETHAN RUSSELL: "THE CIVILISED EYE OF AN UNCIVILISED ART FORM" GETS INTERACTIVE



ETHAN RUSSELL: CLASSIC ROCK'S CLASSIC PHOTOGRAPHER

Okay, so in case you're not up on the latest selection of interactive rock and roll photography books making headlines this week, "An American Story: It's Your History. Help Write It", the interactive photography compilation featuring the work of famed rock photographer Ethan Russell is now available for iPad, iPhone, Nook, and all Kindle devices. And in case you don't happen to have any of the aforementioned products with which to view the "iconic" images captured by Russell in his fifty-year plus career as a rock photographer, you can glimpse a sample of what awaits readers by visiting this link. Before you do, though, I thought it might be interesting to revisit some of the rock and roll moments that served as the basis for the book's fascinating imagery. Because there are some incredible moments behind the photographs that make up this noteworthy collection by the only photographer to have shot album covers for the three bands that comprise what is, essentially, the holy trinity of classic rock and roll bands...namely, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who.


JOHN LENNON AND YOKO ONO, WEYBRIDGE, ENGLAND, 1968: "JOHN CALLED ME UP ONE DAY," RUSSELL SAYS, AND THE REST IS PHOTOGRAPHIC HISTORY

Born in Mount Kisco, New York on November 26, 1945 and raised in Manhattan and San Franciso, Ethan Russell became interested in photography at an early age, but didn't pursue it professionally until he graduated from college and relocated to England. After settling into a flat "decorated with psychedelic posters" in London, he embarked briefly on a writing career whilst working part time as a photographer in a home for autistic children. In 1968, when he was 23, Russell was introduced to Mick Jagger, who, after seeing Russell's work, invited the "lanky Californian" to accompany the Rolling Stones on tour. From 1968 to 1972, Russell served as the main photographer for the band, a position which allowed him to capture images of the band members during some of their most intimate moments. Russell's photograph of Brian Jones, draped over a statue of Christopher Robin (one of the characters in A.A. Milne's "Winnie The Pooh" ) as he brandished a gun was published shortly before the musician's death in 1969, creating a minor maelstrom for Jones, who had already reaped his share of bad press for a number of other, equally ill-considered displays of bad taste, including the donning of a Nazi uniform in which he posed for photographs taken by his then girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg. Even so, Russell's photographs of the Stones during that period in their career, some of which have never been published before now, are considered to be some of the most compelling images of the band ever committed to film. But the highlight of Russell's association with the Rolling Stones is probably the photograph which adorns the cover of their 1969 album, "Through The Past Darkly (Big Hits, Vol. 2)", which the photographer dedicated to Brian Jones, who had been found dead in his pool earlier that year. Russell's photographs were also used on the cover of "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones In Concert", which was recorded during the Stones' 1969 tour.


RUSSELL DEDICATED THE COVER PHOTOGRAPH TO THE RECENTLY DECEASED BRIAN JONES

1969 was also the year that Russell met the Beatles for the first time. The band members were already familiar with his work through his association with the Stones, but it was the their road manager Neil Aspinsall who first approached the photographer, inviting him to Twickenham Studios where the band were recording tracks for "Let It Be", which would turn out to be their final album. Russell's individual photographic portraits of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, which adorn the album's cover, have become an important part of the band's mythology, seen by some as a symbol of the increasing personal and artistic distance between the four band members during the making of the album. Especially since, uuntil that time, the Beatles had always appeared as a unit on their album covers. Russell was present as well when the Beatles performed as a band for the final time on the roof of Apple studios, the only photographer allowed access to the band during that historic event. The resulting photographs capture heretofore unseen nuances of the occasion, most of which were never accessible to the public prior to the release of Russell's interactive book. Looking back on the experience for the benefit of his readers, Russell says that it's hard to believe that he was the sole chronicler of the Beatles' farewell performance. "If I had done it today," he says, "I'd have 15 assistants and 50 cameras. And it was me with no assistant and two cameras."


THE BEATLES FINAL PERFORMANCE ATOP THE ROOF OF APPLE STUDIOS IN 1969

Russell's relationship with The Who began when he traveled with the band when they went on tour in England in 1971. According to Russell, he was a passenger in a car driven by Who guitarist Pete Townsend, with whom he had been discussing ideas for the cover of the band's upcoming "Who's Next" album. As they drove past the English countryside ("at about 120 miles an hour", Russell recalls) he spotted "shapes" in a field and suggested that they stop to take some photographs for possible use on the album cover. "Everybody turns around and we walk out onto this slag," Russell recalls in his book. "I look up after a minute and Pete's pissed on it. I started taking picture. The others couldn't piss, so we filled old cans with water and dumped it on the thing. I took maybe 14 pictures. Today, I'd take about 400. It was nothing like today. No art directors. No stylists. No nothing. It was off to the record company in two days." The photograph of Pete Townsend and company pissing (and pretending to piss) on the unidentified stone structure became one of the most famous album covers in rock and roll, garnering praise not only from rock fans, but from the members of The Who as well. Pete Townsend has described Russell as "the civilised eye of an uncivilised art form---rock and roll." The positive reception Russell recieved for the photograph led to further work with the band in 1973, when his photographs were used on the cover of "Quadrophenia". In 1988, Russell's work was featured once again by the band, on the cover of the 1988 "Who's Better, Who's Best" compilation album.


WHO'S NEXT: THE STAINS WERE MOSTLY WATER, BUT THE PHOTOGRAPH WAS GOLD

Of course, Russell's career as rock and roll's premier photographer wasn't confined to shooting album covers for The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and The Who. He shot three album covers for country rock star Linda Ronstadt, one of which, for her 1976 album "Hasten Down The Wind" features the singer on the beach outside her house in Malibu with a horse and rider sillohuetted in the background. "She was self-conscious about her new level of wealth," Russell recalls. "Still, she earned it. She could sing like an angel, or the girl you were dying to date." As he prepared to take the photograph that would eventually be used for the cover of "Hasten Down The Wind", Russell says, Ronstadt got nervous and said "Don't shoot. You'll scare the horse." Luckily for Linda Ronstadt fans, it was too late. Russell had already taken the shot.


THE ALBUM COVER FOR "HASTEN DOWN THE WIND" CAUGHT RONSTADT ON THE FAST TRACK

Another rock star whose image was captured by Russell's ready camera was Jim Morrison, the controversial and unapologetically eccentric lead singer for The Doors. Russell says that he "didn't really get" Morrison's energy at the time, finding some of his interactions with the media "a little petulant", but admits that he has more appreciation for him now. "Jim Morrison didn’t leap off the page for me when I saw him at London’s Roundhouse in 1968," Russell says. "...for whatever reason that night, I didn’t get it." Looking back now, though, the photographer thinks that it might have been that "Morrison was a "little out of step with the 60s...he took the longer view...if your words live after you, I think it's fair to say that you have succeeded in life." Words...and photographs. And when it comes to photographs, Russell's portfolio boasts more than a few candidates for pop culture longevity.


JIM MORRISON: RUSSELL SAYS HE DIDN'T REALLY "GET HIS ENERGY" AT THE TIME

One of Russell's most famous photographs, in which a surly-looking Keith Richards is shown standing beside a poster emblazoned with the words "Patience Please. A Drug-Free America Comes First" as he and the rest of the band waited to be allowed into the United States after having been detained in Canada due to concerns about the Stones' drug use, has been touted by some as the defining image of the Stones guitarist. But it is another, less well-known known image of Richards that the photographer himself believes captures the true essence of the man behind "Satisfaction" and "Gimme Shelter."


"PATIENCE PLEASE": THE PHOTOGRAPH MANY CONSIDER THE BEST IN ROCK AND ROLL

The "Patience Please" photograph shows an image of Keith "in wolf's clothing--or sheep's clothing. really", Russell says. Instead, it is a photograph he took of Richards in 1969 that he considers to be the best he ever took of the Rolling Stone. "...Keith Richards is this picture right here," he says. "That's Keith Richards. We're in the basement room at Stephen Stills' house. You're just so close to Keith. Everything about the picture works for me. It's the intimacy and the fact he's so engaged with the music and that tiny Fender amp, and a drink at 11:00 in the morning."


"REALLY KEITH": KEITH RICHARDS AT STEPHEN STILLS' HOUSE IN 1969

"An American Story. It's Your History. Help Write It" contains over 250 previously unpublished photographs of rock and roll's elite, as well as concert footage, a recording of Richard Nixon's "Silent Majority" speech, and Bruce Springsteen's "Point Blank." In keeping with the book's title, readers are invited to visit Russell's blog to add their own stories and experiences and comments. But for those who love rock and roll, the book is more than just an opportunity to look at previously unseen photographs and reminisce about the artists whose "iconic" images have been captured by Russell over the years. In her foreword to the book, Roseanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, whose photographs are also featured, sums up the importance of "American Story" with the following lines: "An ambitious, startling, game-changing book about (Ethan’s) life and our times. It is a work writ breathtakingly large, assembled with an enormous heart and an intellect to equal it; meticulous, personal and universal. It is a venture utterly new but so evolved it feels like it has always existed.”


ETHAN RUSSELL AND ROSEANNE CASH: ONE MORE IMAGE IN THE EVER EVOLVING "AMERICAN STORY" THAT IS THE HISTORY OF ROCK AND ROLL