Brad Elterman: Cool photographs of celebrities from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s (PHOTOS).

When Celebrity Photography Was Cool

When Celebrity Photography Was Cool

Behold
The Photo Blog
Dec. 14 2014 10:23 AM

When Celebrity Photography Was Cool

I was hired by Nippon Phonogram Records in Japan to do this sess,I was hired by Nippon Phonogram Records in Japan to do this session of The Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie at her San Fernando Valley home in 1977. Her identical twin sister Marie, pictured on the left, immediately caught my eye and I insisted on her joining the photo shoot. The stunning blonde in the center is a teenage Vickie Ronald who was in my class at Van Nuys High School.
I was hired by Nippon Phonogram Records in Japan to do this session of The Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie at her San Fernando Valley home in 1977. Her identical twin sister Marie, pictured on the left, immediately caught my eye and I insisted on her joining the photo shoot along with Vickie Ronald who was in my high school class.

Brad Elterman

Growing up, Brad Elterman’s father wanted him to follow in the footsteps and become a dentist. But like many kids growing up in Los Angeles in the late 1960s and ’70s, Elterman was far more interested in the booming music industry. It was a time when there weren’t as many agents and publicists surrounding rock stars and Elterman—who was clearly precocious—managed to locate, and meet some of the people he admired.

He also wasn’t afraid of taking their pictures. Elterman would then sell some of the images to American music magazines such as Creem or Rock Scene, but was only able to get around $5–$20 per shot. Not terrible for a teenager, but not exactly a dentist salary. He heard a rumor that many of the European and Japanese magazines were willing to buy photos for much larger sums of cash so, when he was 19, he hopped on a plane and flew to Europe.

“My first stop was London. I had just photographed David Essex and the Bay City Rollers and I told the first editor I spoke to while calling from my s--t hole of a hotel room that I had pictures of Kiss and Queen and they said come right over. I had an enormous bag of photos with me and they said great, we’ll take this one and this one and this one and the first editor paid for my flight.”

I wanted to go to Japan with The Runaways, but my parents would ,I wanted to go to Japan with The Runaways, but my parents would not let me leave school. One of my greatest mistakes. So finally in 1979, I went to Tokyo with Leif Garrett. There were all these Japanese fans all over the place following us in taxis. So much fun!
I wanted to go to Japan with The Runaways, but my parents would not let me leave school. In 1979, I went to Tokyo with Leif Garrett. There were all these Japanese fans all over the place following us in taxis.

Brad Elterman

I remember thinking to myself while I was taking this photograph,I remember thinking to myself while I was taking this photograph that this would be a memorable moment. Everything just clicked. The setting was the Tropicana Motel in 1978, which was a must-stay for all of the up and coming bands back in those days. It was a real dump, but everyone loved it.
I remember thinking to myself while I was taking this photograph (of Joan Jett) that this would be a memorable moment. Everything just clicked. The setting was the Tropicana Motel in 1978, which was a must-stay for all of the up and coming bands back in those days. It was a real dump, but everyone loved it.

Brad Elterman

I was hanging out backstage at a Rolling Stones concert when I s,I was hanging out backstage at a Rolling Stones concert when I spotted Farrah Fawcett with Ryan O' Neal. The rumor going around, at that time, was that they were dating. Farrah, Ryan and his kids, Tatum and Griffin were on their way to their seats in the VIP section, just off the side of the stage. I approached Ryan and asked for the photo. He totally blew me off and just kept walking past me. Suddenly he turned around and said to me "No one ever asks me if they can take my photo. Since you were kind enough to ask, go for it, but just one photo," Ryan said. I sold this photo (his kids Tatum and Griffin are also in the shot) over and over again. It made about $5,000 - a fortune for a B/W photo back then.
I was hanging out backstage at a Rolling Stones concert when I spotted Farrah Fawcett with Ryan O' Neal. The rumor going around was that they were dating. I asked Ryan for the photo. He turned around and said, “No one ever asks me if they can take my photo. Since you were kind enough to ask, go for it, but just one photo.”

Brad Elterman

In 1976, my good friend Michelle Meyer worked the guest list for,In 1976, my good friend Michelle Meyer worked the guest list for The Roxy and called me with a tip-off that Ringo was on the guest list for the Bob Marley And The Wailers showcase that evening. Ringo did show up and he brought some friends, John Lennon and Yoko. I was pumped up for days on this encounter!
In 1976, my good friend Michelle Meyer worked the guest list for The Roxy and called me with a tip-off that Ringo was on the guest list for the Bob Marley and the Wailers showcase that evening. Ringo did show up and he brought some friends, John Lennon and Yoko.

Brad Elterman

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From there, Elterman traveled to Holland, Germany, and Switzerland, speaking with the editors of magazines and selling even more images.

“They had never been to Hollywood and wanted to know what it was like. I had no idea what they were saying and they were smoking cigarettes and speaking Dutch and they said all right we want these photos would you take $3,000 for these, we’ll give you cash. I almost fell out of my chair and I said, yeah, I think I can manage that. When I called to tell my dad, he said, OK, maybe there’s something to this.”

In response to the global hunger for images of celebrities, Elterman ended up founding two photo agencies. In 1980, he opened California Features Agency, the first celebrity photo agency in Los Angeles, and then, in 1992 he started Online USA, Inc., one of the early digital agencies that he eventually sold to Getty Images in 2000.

Right: I received a phone call from the editor of Superteen maga,Right: I received a phone call from the editor of Superteen magazine to do a photo shoot with this unknown sixteen-year old actor, Matt Dillon. She asked me to call Vic Ramos, his manager, at some hotel and set it up. I called and the next day Vic and Matt showed up at my home. Vic read a magazine and I took some photos. No hair, makeup, or stylist. No over-produced sets or publicists getting in the way. I shot this with just one strobe head. That was the way film stars were shot back then. I ran into Matt at Barfly about fifteen years later. He did not have a clue who I was, nor did he care. He also walked off with the girl whom I had just met in the parking lot that evening.
Left: In 1975, David Bowie’s publicist turned down my request for a photo pass. I had a tip that he was having a late night recording session, so I cut school, got there really early in the morning, and waited for Bowie to emerge. When he walked out at 6 a.m, all he said to me was “good morning.” Right: Superteenasked me to do a photo shoot with this unknown 16-year-old actor, Matt Dillon. No hair, makeup, or stylist. No over-produced sets or publicists getting in the way. I shot this with just one strobe head.

Brad Elterman

Right: Somehow I got into the GREASE party on the lot at Paramou,Right: Somehow I got into the GREASE party on the lot at Paramount Studios in 1978. Every star in town was there and I was right in the middle of it. There I was right in front of the stars of the film, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. They kissed right in front of my camera!
Left: Brooke Shields stuck out her tongue at the photographers at this Blondie party held at Fiorucci in Beverly Hills. This is exactly what the magazine editors wanted: an animated photo of a famous rock star and an international celebrity. Right: Somehow I got into the Grease party on the lot at Paramount Studios in 1978. Every star in town was there and I was right in the middle of it. There I was right in front of the stars of the film, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. They kissed right in front of my camera.

Brad Elterman

Although he worked with other photographers, it was Elterman’s images that people wanted. His library of candid imagery of celebrities is often considered to be the epitome of cool not only for the people in the images but also the Elterman aesthetic.

“Part of the reason it’s so cool is because there wasn’t an enormous proliferation of images from back then,” Elterman said. “Having a camera was rare. When I was hanging out with the Ramones, they were like ‘Cool, Brad has a camera.’ Everyone is so guarded today. The pictures I took and like to take are kind of a chill idea of life imitating art, the stuff that normal people do.”

Michael Jackson's record company held a gold record party inside,Michael Jackson's record company held a gold record party inside a bank vault in Beverly Hills in 1982. Michael's good friend Tatum O'Neal was there too. At one point Michael danced with Tatum. I never saw Michael again.
Michael Jackson’s record company held a gold record party inside a bank vault in Beverly Hills in 1982. Michael’s good friend Tatum O’Neal was there too.

Brad Elterman

Muhammad Ali was and is possibly still today the most famous and recognizable person on the planet Earth. Even if you lived in a mud hut somewhere, you knew Ali. I vividly remember when he walked to his seat at the Forum because the entire 18,400 guests and VIPs at this event stood up and applauded his arrival. It was truly a moving experience. I stood nearby for as long as I could to get this shot. It was not easy with all the security guards around, but by now I was a seasoned pro dealing with publicists and security guards. Nothing was going to stop me from getting this photo! Seated next to Ali are his wife Veronica, Dr. Jerry Buss, his lovely date, the former Mayor of Los Angeles, the great Tom Bradley and his wife Ethel. Many years later, Jerry Buss invited me to a boxing match at the Forum. Seated near me at ringside was Ali, now much older and ill. I shook his hand and, for the first time in my life, asked for an autograph.
I remember when Muhammad Ali walked to his seat at the LA Forum and all 18,400 guests stood up and applauded. I stood nearby for as long as I could to get this shot. It was not easy with all the security guards. Seated next to Ali are his wife Veronica, Dr. Jerry Buss, his date, former Mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley, and his wife Ethel.

Brad Elterman

David Rosenberg is the editor of Slate’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.