Archive for August, 2010

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Rockin’ With Raphael Saadiq….And PBS?!

August 28, 2010

Right this minute I am watching one of my favorite shows…maybe second only to “ON THE SCENE.”   Well,  I’m also nuts about CBS Sunday Morning. Oh, and I’m partial to “Private Sessions” on A&E.

“Live From The Artists Den” is on PBS tonight.  They’re replaying the Raphael Saadiq concert, who happens to be one of my favorite singers. He became famous when he was in Tony! Toni! Tone! and then went solo.

“Live From The Artists Den” is the best new show on television as far as I’m concerned. They have full concerts taped in unconventional  locations (multi camera and great in-the-moment photography) with break-out interviews with the artist.

All of you who’ve enjoyed watching me, and what we do with ON THE SCENE can imagine this is just the kind of show I would dig.  I want to publicly give props to the creators and producers.

I can say this because it never airs the same time as ON THE SCENE!

Oh, that reminds me…a new ON THE SCENE episode is coming your way in September and we’re breaking the mold on this one…AND..a special ON THE SCENE treat also coming this fall to be announced soon. I’m excited about this one because I’ll have the chance to talk directly to everybody about why this project has transformed me,  personally and professionally,  and what I hope it has given to our audience.

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Tiger Woods: Love The Buck, The Wife Not So Much

August 26, 2010

Today at a press conference Tiger Woods was asked repeatedly  if he still loves his newly ex-wife, Elin. He didn’t answer it. Said it’s “sad” and it’s all about the children, now.

I don’t care if he loves her or not.

The question I want to ask him is: “What do you love?”

Not who

I have watched the Tiger saga closely, and I am completely convinced that when it comes to Tiger Woods he loves money more than anything else. He loves golf second. And next he loves the reality that a lot of women, no matter how trashy, will make themselves available for sex on demand because of the money and fame that the golfing and endorsing and polishing of a public image we know now was all a lie, has afforded him.

From his high school girlfriend to his harem of mistresses, they’ve all said he is cheap and self centered. They are not the pinnacle of credibility, I know, but there is a pattern here.

Tiger’s life is not about  who, it’s about  what and  having and  getting. His beautiful wife burnished a likeable, devoted family man image and there is nothing corporate sponsors and advertisers like more than that.

Because that’s what the public wants to believe. When the public buys your image, they buy the product you’re paid millions to pitch. And Tiger knew that.

And I want to ask Tiger this: If you had to give up the money, but in return you could live with your children, have a wife you love and wouldn’t sleep around on, would you do it?

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Art In The Unexpected Made My Day

August 22, 2010

What I love about New York City, what I love about my life, and what I love about art, is how they can all converge in an instant.

And that gives me a spark sometimes when I need it the very most.

I had one minute, just one minute, before a business meeting was to start Saturday on 11th Street in the East Village. But before stepping into an office building there, I noticed an artist who I’d never seen before on that corner. He’d set out little paintings, mostly figurative, minimalist pieces but colorful and dozens of them. They captured my attention because I wasn’t expecting it and the work was so vibrant and diverse…from abstracts to animals to human faces.

I stopped to glance for the one moment I had to spare and then was off to the meeting (a tv thing, we had  a lot of brainstorming and ground to cover and more later on this as things develop).

As the meeting wrapped I said to someone, “there’s this guy across the street with his paintings, I can’t get it out of my head, I’m going back over there, now.”

An early afternoon crowd had started to swell checking out all of the paintings leaned against the brick wall of a vacant building. I clearly wasn’t the only one interested. I asked him his name, “Teofilo Olivieri. You stopped by a while ago, didn’t you?” He’d noticed that I had taken notice of his work.

“Did you paint all these yourself?”

“Sure, I’m painting right now, I got a paint sponsor so they gave me the paints, mostly acrylics,” he said showing me a large bag filled with tubes of paint next to the new piece he’d been working on.

None of the paintings was on a regular canvas, no meticulously framed and matted art here that nicely matches the couch. God, I hate when someone’s criteria for a picture is that it “really goes with the pillows.”  How about something that has spirit and soul and life and a story in its own right?  Or maybe those qualities don’t “go” with the living room.

“What are you painting on?

“Whatever I find, you know.” He pointed to different pieces as we walked.

“This here is the top of a wood barrel. And these are old book covers with all the pages out. This is a scrap piece of siding from a house. This is a floor tile. Oh, and these two, they  go together actually. They’re the side panels of an old drawer. See the notches on the end?”

And that last one really got my attention. Companion pieces, figurative and allowing for imagination,  just 11 by 4 inches, the dimensions of the little wood drawer that they were in a former life, now painted a rich forest green with the image of a man on each, one in profile, one head-on with a crown and the words, “I Am King.” Hard for me  to describe properly, but intriguing to look at.

“I’ll take both of these,” and handed him the cash.

“Thanks so much, man, I think these are cool, too.”

“When will you be back?

“I don’t know, they’re turning this building into a restaurant in about three weeks they said,  so I’ve got to find another spot.”

I’ll have track him down.

The paintings are in my living room, now. They remind me of how this enterprising artist took whatever he found on the street or in the trash, painted it in his own vision, and brought it for the world to see and to sell for a small price to earn his living.

That is what art is. Creating from whatever is at hand and making it the best possible representation of our vision. That is what I admire about the artistic spirit. That is why I am more passionate every day that interviewing artists of all genres and bringing their stories to the world through television is my gift and I’m grateful to have it. In fact, that’s what television is, at least in my career…creating with whatever ideas and interviews and stories I can enterprise to put on the air for people to make their own interpretations. And if it leaves them even a little inspired, that is the greatest joy I can feel.

Artist Teofilo Olivieri, whom I met by chance on a New York City street corner,  gave me inspiration on a day when I needed it.

Oh, and the paintings match nothing in my living room. Perfect.

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Interviewing Paparazzi Legend Ron Galella Of “Smash His Camera”

August 13, 2010

I had a fascinating afternoon. Fascinating. I interviewed Ron Galella for ON THE SCENE.

In my  last post I wrote about seeing the documentary “Smash His Camera,” which is about Galella’s relentless pursuit of celebrities, especially Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor during the height of their fame. He once hid in a rat infested London warehouse for three days waiting for Taylor and then husband Richard Burton to board their yacht docked on the Thames River. His exclusive photos were seen round the world.

I just had to interview him. The film is one of the best documentaries on the culture of celebrity ever made, and Galella is the poster child for everything the public loves and hates about paparazzi (they can’t stop looking at the photos while at the same time complain there’s too much intrusion into the lives of the rich and famous.)

Galella is charming, has a much better sense of humor than most people I’ve known in his line of work and his stories of the lengths he’ll go to get a shot are extraordinary.

He’s been sued, countersued, won some, lost some, and had a few teeth knocked out and his jaw cracked by an angry Marlon Brando. Galella has been punched, pushed, and insulted by the very best. And he never backed off. He only became more famous.

Those pictures taken over the past four decades are now his “gold” as he calls it.  Sales of the prints to collectors and to publications have paid for a mansion in the suburbs where I interviewed him that is wall to wall with photos of the most famous faces of the 2oth century.

He doesn’t shoot much these days, he’s around 80 years old.  Some critics think his work will be forgotten in 20 years time when the stars he shot fade into memory.  Galella disagrees. But then it’s not the approval of critics that ever got him anything… but the disapproval of those suing, punching, shouting, dodging celebrities who called him out by name, that made him famous. And that’s just the way he likes it.

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“Smash His Camera” Documentary

August 4, 2010

I saw the documentary “Smash His Camera” at a theater in New York on Saturday.  It’s the story of photographer Ron Galella. Depending on your point of view he’s either an artist and pop icon,  or an over-intrusive opportunist.

I think he falls somewhere between the two. I cannot agree with his tactics of bribing security guards and forging press passes, certainly. But there is an energy, spontaneity, and artistic quality to his photographs, especially his black and whites and I admire the fact he never “went digital” and continues to develop film in his own dark room.

For the better part of a decade he followed Jackie Kennedy after she was First Lady and living in New York, snapping away. She despised him, once telling her secret service agents to “smash his camera,” and she took him to court twice, getting an order for him to keep his distance.  Marlon Brando punched out five of Galella’s teeth. He was a fixture outside Studio 54 photographing the aftermath of debauchery…his portfolio  is replete with shots of drunken and high celebrities crawling into the night.

Galella was at the doorstep (sometimes quite literally, behind the bushes) of the biggest stars of the 70s and 80s. And he became known  in his own right while relentlessly chasing fame. Other people’s and his own.

It’s a fascinating, funny and revealing documentary about the culture of celebrity and how it exploded in the 1970s in some part, at least, the result of Galella.