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Flatbush Flashback

I'm Ready for My Close-Up, Mr. Paul

When Paul Slimak, whom you may know as the Singing Nazi from the Beaver Street promotional videos, insists, in-character as Erich von Pauli, that you publish a close-up of yourself from your most recent photo session, you have no choice but to publish a close-up.

So, here's a close-up that in-house photographer Michael Paul shot the other day. I'm standing on the corner of West Street and Houston, in downtown Manhattan, waiting for the light to change and looking as if I'm about to tell you something--you've probably just asked me for directions.

As for the title of this post, it’s a reference to the famous line from the last few minutes of Sunset Boulevard, spoken by Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson): “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” And by the time Michael Paul (not to be confused with Paul Slimak, whom I call “Henry Dorfman” in Beaver Street) shot this, I was, after a hard afternoon of posing, more than ready for my close-up. Read More 
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Word and Image 3

This being 12/12/12 (12 + 12 + 12 = 36 = 9) and only 9 days before the end of the world (according to the Mayan Long Count calendar), one would think that an amateur numerologist such as myself would devote today's blog to numerology. But no, I'll save that for December 21, and instead return to the subject of word and image--because yesterday I did another photo shoot with Michael Paul, who last took my picture in October, in the East Village.

Because a writer's image can be more important that his words, posing for photographs is something I take seriously. The ideal, as I've said before, is the Harold Halma photo of Truman Capote that appeared on the dust jacket of Other Voices, Other Rooms--an image that made the young author a star and that people talked about more than Capote's prose.

Well, I don’t think I’ve yet achieved that ideal, and perhaps I’ll need to attend an elite modeling academy before I do, but yesterday’s session by the Hudson River did produce a number of promising images, including the one above. Taken at 4 P.M., on the walkway to the Holland Tunnel ventilation tower, with Jersey City in the background, this scenic bit of real estate, about ten bocks from where I live, was completely flooded during Hurricane Sandy.

What I like about the picture is the perspective, the dramatic sky, the curve of the walkway, and my thoughtful expression as I look south, towards the so-called “Freedom Tower” and the downtown Manhattan skyline. It’s a natural shot, in my natural environment, looking very much as I would on any other day.

Ah, but will it sell books? Read More 
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Word and Image 2

Here's another shot from my East Village photography session with Michael Paul. This picture, taken in front of Anthony Aiden Opticians on St. Mark's Place, is a reference to my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man. The art installation in the window is, of course, an homage to Andy Warhol and Lennon.

The four images of Lennon are similar to Warhol's well-known Lennon silkscreen, and the Campbell's Tomato Soup cans refer to the Warhol silkscreen that launched the pop art movement in 1962.

Lennon, who was once friendly with Warhol, seemed to have become irritated with him (and a lot of other people) during his “househusband” years—because while he was holed up in the Dakota, scribbling in his journal, Warhol was hanging around Studio 54, and his name was routinely appearing in gossip columns. Referring to Warhol’s early career as a commercial illustrator, Lennon had noted: I was an artist while he was still drawing fucking shoes!

Whatever the case, this is my favorite Lennon reference shot since the one taken in Mexico City on October 9, 2005, in which I’m wearing the same sunglasses. They’d both work well as Warholian-style silkscreens, I think. Read More 
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Word and Image 1

The idea that a writer's image is as important, if not more important, than his words is as old as the writing biz itself. One of the most famous examples of this is the picture that Harold Halma took of Truman Capote for the dust jacket of his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms. People talked about this sultry shot of the 24-year-old Capote reclining on a sofa more than they talked about his prose. It's the image that made the author a star.

I’ve always tried to portray myself as somewhat less scruffy than I am in real life. In general, if I’m posing for publicity shots, I wear a nice sport jacket, a good pair of jeans, and shoes rather than sneakers. And I’ve gotten some good results with this costume, notably the shot taken by Marcia Resnick that’s on the back cover of Beaver Street.

This week, Michael Paul, a photographer I’d recently met, offered to shoot me in Tompkins Square Park and around the East Village. So, I decided to try something different—a more natural semi-grunge look. I wore a jean jacket, a faded pair of blue jeans, an old pair of sneakers, and T-shirt. You can see one result above. I don’t know if it’s going to help me sell more books, but it is an accurate representation of how I’d look if you ran into me on the street. I’ll post another shot tomorrow. Read More 
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