The day of the shoot arrive. I hired one of the best fashion stylists in LA to gather a large variety of wardrobe, and we began the arduous process of selecting attire for the cover and inside spread. After about an hour of weeding through the wardrobe, Michael couldn't find anything he was crazy about. I started to panic. His eyes lit up when he noticed the white suit that I was wearing. He said, "That's the look I like, do we have anything like that?" We didn't. Time was fleeting. I was concerned about having enough time to execute my cover ideas. I indicated that we were about the same height and build and if he would like to wear mine. That was exactly what he wanted. Fortunately for the session and the time involved, the suit fit like it was tailored for him.
We had decided prior to the session that Michael would have a tiger cub in the photograph so we had a selection for him to choose from. He loved a six week old cub but was very squeamish about letting it get to close to his face because of possible scratches. Throughout the session I had to get Michael to forget about getting scratched, and to focus his attention on me and my direction.
During breaks Michael would stand in front of a full length mirror and practice continual spins. I was privileged to get a personal preview of those legendary ones that are now so familiar to us all. He just would come alive in front of that mirror. It was fascinating, because he had such a shy and subdued manner throughout the photo session, but in front of that mirror, dancing, he was electric and that was the first time that I realized that I was witnessing something very special.
For lunch he ordered a special meal brought in from a vegetarian restaurant on 3rd Avenue, which was his favorite in town. In fact, a few months later Michael hired that chef as he personal cook for his home and his touring.
I was commissioned by the Shooting Star poster company to create a portrait of Tom Selleck for worldwide distribution.
Tom was living in Hawaii at the time, shooting for Magnum, PI. I flew to his home in Hawaii. The house was very beautiful, like a tropical paradise. I knocked on the door and the maid indicated that Tom was running late from the studio. She told me to make myself comfortable, and I asked her if it was okay for me to look over the house and property in order to establish a location and background for the portrait. She invited me to go wherever I pleased. I wandered the tropical grounds with a beautiful pool, incredible flowers, a spectacular waterfall and outlined three perfect locations and went back inside to wait for Tom. Tom arrived very shortly after that. He was larger than I had expected and had a very strong presence about him, almost bigger than life, and very much the star quality that he and his highly-rated show portrayed.
He was very polite and very apologetic for being late and indicated that we should move to the kitchen. He said that he had heard of my reputation as a very creative artist, and felt very priveleged to have me create this artwork, and made it a point to stress his respect for me, reminding me that I was the artist. He reassured me saying, "Whatever you want me to do is totally fine with me." He reiterated, "I want you to do whatever you want. You are the artist and I respect your talent! So what would you like me to do?"
I proposed my first idea: to stand him in front of the waterfalls, flowers in the foreground, and take advantage of the setting sun's light. We were to trying this scene with a couple of different wardrobe changes. Without a second's hesitation, he said in a whiny voice, "Naaaaah I don't want to do that...but you are the artist so whatever you want to do it's okay with me! So what would you like me to do?"
I felt a bit confused by this remark, especially after he had expressed his confidence in my ideas, but I still had two more ideas to propose. I described the second idea to Tom in detail, which I felt was even better than the first. He reacted in the exact same tone as before: "Naaaaaaaah I don't want to do that, but listen you're the creative artist so whateger you want me to do that's fine!...so what would you like to do?"
By now I was wondering if this was all just my imagination...so I took a deep breath and proceeded to explain the third idea. Immediately he responded, "Naaaaaah I don't want to do that! But whatever you want to do is okay with me!"
My face was white. I felt the blood draining. I was confused, bewildered, and hoping this was all a joke. Perhaps this was a hidden camera and I was being plunked? I once again held my composure and I responded in a very quiet tone, "Tom, I'm totally confused, you express to me with conviction three times that whatever I want to do is okay with you, and then I express myself and you say 'Naaaaaaaah...I don't want to do that'...can you tell me what's going on?"
Without hesitation he then said "Maybe we should do this another time!" This was not an option for me. The trip, my time, and all the expenses involved were costly, and I had no logical explanation for all this confusion.
I felt the only way to handle and salvage this production was to ignore this very bizarre situation and take charge. So I stood up and said in a very authoritative voice, "Let's go over your wardrobe!"
To my astonishment, and almost as if I was his commanding officer. He stood right up and said "Okay!" and led us to his closet to make our selection. I was dumfounded but relieved, and pretended not to be surprised by his willingness. We went up to his closet and he said, "Listen, you choose whatever you would like me to wear, that's fine with me. You're the artist and you know how you see this."
I responded, "How about using this top and these shorts?"
And to my disbelief, the same exact words were started, "Naaaaah, I don't want to wear those...but you're the artist..." I went through this one more time with the same response...no exaggeration, "Naaaaaaaah." I handled it in the same manner as before. I selected kahki cargo pants and kind of a hunting shirt, and suggested that we move on to the location. Tom responded with a positive "Okay!"
I positioned Tom behind some flowers and about ten feet in front of the waterfall. As I was starting to compose, he jumped forward because his pants were getting a few drops on them, and he ran into the house. He emerged with a pair of kahki shorts and went back to his position. I proceeded to show him a Polaroid which he loved and approved. I proceeded to create the composition, and we were finished.
All things said and done, I made it out of there with the finished product.
The poster company was extremely happy—so happy that they printed thousand more copies than originally planned. Just before the finished posters shipped, Tom Selleck issued a cease and desist on the distribution, claiming that I coerced him into wearing shorts which he found unflattering. They also happened to be the same shorts that he wore week after week on Magnum PI....go figure! Just as quickly as the posters were withdrawn from distribution, he dropped the law suit with no further explanation. To this day the poster is still the largest selling poster in history,...and I'm still confused.
MAKING OF "THRILLER" / MY 5 DAYS WITH DALI /
TOM CRUISE NICOLE KIDMAN WEDDING / TOM SELLECK / VIVIAN
@2013 DICK ZIMMERMAN ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 727-224-3527
flight had such incompetent pilots, he had them immediately fired and had his own plane
flown back to New Mexico to pick us up and return us intact to Los Angeles.
Dali shook my hand warmly and Gala kissed me on both cheeks. I was finally getting the warm reception for which I had hoped, and even more. They were very gracious and treated me like a family member. That evening, Gala invited me to stay and the round-faced servant took my things up to one of the bedrooms. The next day, Gala gave me a personal tour of the Dali Museum in Figueros which was due to open that week. On another day, Dali allowed me to watch him paint in his studio. I considered it a great honor since, I had been told, the invitation was rarely extended and then, only to special people. I quietly sat, five to six feet behind him, as he painted a spoof of a Norman Rockwell self-portrait, where the artist is depicted
leaning to his left and looking into a mirror.
I've heard it said that behind every successful man there is a woman and, at the back of Dali's studio against the wall, sat Gala. From her position I could hear her making grunting sounds, approving or disapproving, as he applied each brush stroke. Seeing the oneness of their relationship, I realized the importance of my assignment.
The servant motioned me to proceed toward the couch and left. Sitting upon it were a man and a woman, neither of whom took any notice of me. The woman, wearing a white chiffon dress, sat calmly reading a book. The man, sitting to her left, was resting his hand on the top of his gold cane, looking off into the distance. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to be standing in the presence of Gala and Salvador Dali, but they said nothing, almost as though I wasn't really there. The longest minute of my life passed. Speechless, I started to wonder if what I was experiencing could possibly be a dream. I decided to make an effort to speak and introduce myself. "Hi, I'm Dick Zimmerman. "I'm here to recreate your wedding photograph." Dali glanced up at me and immediately went back to his book. Gala looked annoyed and just grunted. They didn't care that I was there, it seemed. As for me, I was finally meeting my idol and had expected a warm welcome - not an unfriendly attitude. I spoke again,"It's a pleasure to meet you both." I received no response from either of them that time - not even a grunt. I felt awkward, just standing there, so I decided to sit in one of the chairs facing the couch. As the silence continued, I became more uncomfortable and wondered how on earth I would ever be able to accomplish my assignment. A few minutes later I heard the doorbell ring and, suddenly, Dali sprang from the couch and ran down to answer the door. That seemed odd to me, after all, he did have servants, but his action wasn't very surprising in comparison with everything else I had experienced since my arrival. Dali returned escorting two very pretty women, one blonde and one brunette, who were wearing low cut dresses. One woman had her right breast totally exposed and the other, her left.
He brought them over to me and said, "This is Deeek."
My first real encounter with art was when I was five years old and my father took me to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. After wandering around, with my father acting as tour guide, I stood, transfixed, before Salvador Dali's "Crucifixion" and I was so stirred by his genius that I refused to leave that spot.
Through the ensuing years I took many trips to that museum and spent countless hours gazing at the creation, which influenced and molded me creatively. In the summer of 1973, I was commissioned to re-create a portraiture of Salvador Dali and his wife Gala for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. For me, the assignment was the opportunity of a lifetime, to meet and photograph my idol. The experience was equivalent to meeting the likes of my idols, Rembrandt or Da Vinci.
I accepted the commission without hesitation.
From the airport I hailed a taxi and had only to say, "Take me to Salvador Dali's house." I arrived in the late afternoon. The house, rectangular, wider than it was tall and painted solid white, was built into a slope facing the road and the beach beyond. When I looked up I saw a confirmation that the house could belong to no one else. Perched atop the roof made of concrete and painted to match the house, a distinctive symbol of surrealism was displayed - an egg - ten feet tall. For me, being there, in front of Dali's house, was surrealistic in itself. I could hardly believe that all I had to do was walk up the steps and
ring the bell attached to the white wooden door.
I took several deep breaths and finally overcame my feeling of overwhelm enough to go toward the house and ring the doorbell. A round-faced woman in her late forties or early fifties answered. She wore a pastel pink dress with a white apron and her hair was pulled back into a bun. The simplicity of her clothes, humble and unassuming, was not at all what I had expected. After I told her who I was, the woman turned and guided me up a narrow arched stairway. The front part of the house was on a lower level than the back and although we had gone up a long staircase, we were at ground level in an outdoor courtyard. The courtyard, also white, was decorated with a large number of colorful stuffed animals including a golden boa, at least fifty feet long, whose body wove in and out of the ceiling and whose head rested on the back of a large, overstuffed, peach colored couch. Above the couch on a sort of concrete awning, stood the enormous egg.
THE 50th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY PORTRAIT & MY 5 DAYS
WITH SALVADOR DALI & GALA
THIS PAINTING WAS CREATED AS A TRIBUTE TO A GREAT ARTIST...IT'S A MONTAGE CREATED FROM THE 3 INDIVIDUAL PORTRAIT SESSIONS THROUGHOUT OUR 15 YEARS.
OIL ON CANVAS @COPYRIGHT 2013 DICK ZIMMERMAN
Later on in the evening after I created the exclusive wedding portraits of Michael and Lisa, I went back to Donald Trump's suite at the Trump towers, where Michael and Lisa were staying. The purpose was to go over the photographs with Michael. It was about midnight, and the maid who let me in asked if I could wait a few minutes for Michael. About a half hour went by. I was walking around the dimly lit suite and waiting, and happened to notice that there was a man leaning on a column in the main living room. He had a mustache and a beard. He had been watching me the entire time. I figured that he was a security guard, and that I would ask him where Michael was and how long it would be. When I got about two feet from him, a slight smile came to his face followed by a huge laugh. It was Michael, wearing a disguise. He was enjoying just watching me. This gives you an idea of his practical joke and playful side.
As Michael was hired by Steven Spielberg to narrate the ET story, Michael insisted that Steven also hire me to create the album cover and the inside poster. That evening after the session was over and the film developed I went over to meet with Michael to show him the results of our co-create. It was about one in the morning. Michael opened up a bottle of wine for him and I. After going over the film and after he relaxed and we got comfortable, he proceeded to be very candid with me with regards to the media and their ongoing negativity regarding himself. He had just completed an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer on a tour of his Neverland complex, and felt he was extremely candid with her. He indicated even after that was aired, they found ways to degrade him. With tears in his eyes he said, "I really don't know what to do any more. I don't know how to handle the media any more. Everything I say they twist and make me look bad. I don't know what to say or do any more." What impressed me most about this meeting and our in depth conversation was his most important statement to me, that he was extremely concerned about the welfare of the children and their future existence on this planet...That statement was how I will always remember him!
The following are a few of my personal thoughts and observations I would like to share. As having had the opportunity to be close to Michael during some very private discussions as we worked and conversed together off and on for those 12 years. I do feel that I have a sense of who he really was.
AT A RESTAURANT
Two or three months after the Thriller Album was released, it was number one on the charts and Michael was the number one celebrity in the music world. My wife Patty and I were in a restaurant in Hollywood having dinner. This particular restaurant is popular with celebrities and was Michael's favorite restaurant as it was mostly vegetarian.. Hollywood personalities are more aloof and very rarely go out of their way to issue a personal goodbye when leaving a restaurant. We noticed Michael was sitting far across this packed restaurant in a corner. I wanted to say hello, but I didn't want to bother him while he was eating.
About an hour into dinner, I felt a gentle little tap on my shoulder. I turned and saw it was Michael. Rather than exit through the door which was near his table across the room, he had wound his way through the packed tables to come to say hello! We shook hands and very sincerely, in his quiet, shy way, said, "Thank you for creating my very beautiful album cover." I was impressed that this man, the top celebrity of the period, had gone out of his way to cross that crowded room to personally thank me. All the eyes of the restaurant were on us, but I didn't care.
The photo session lasted about 6 hours with three different set-ups and no particular problems out of the ordinary. I was very impressed with Michael's diligence as had someone from his production company using a counter to count every click of the camera to make sure that he saw that every frame was presented to him once finished. This spoke elegantly as to his constant and detailed
professionalism. At the days end, we said good-bye, and arranged to meet in a few days to go over the results.
About four days later the photos were ready and we met at the recording studio on Beverly Boulevard. Michael was in the middle of finishing up one of the tracts, so I set up my light table and spread out the transparencies so he could see them all at one time.
THE ALBUM COVER
Michael walked out of the studio into the reception area where my presentation was set up. He was in a very good mood. He looked over the transparencies and was very excited and pleased with what he saw. He said "There are so many good ones here, how can I ever make a decision?" He told me to hold on a minute, and then ran back into the studio. After a moment, he came back out with Quincy Jones, who was producing the album and was evidently very respected by Michael. Quincy took one look at the transparencies and with a confident smile, without any hesitation, pointed to one, and said "That's your cover, Michael!"
I was totally impressed by that decision as that was the fastest I have ever seen anyone select a final transparency for anything, and it was a good choice. Michael was extremely happy. Quincy was happy. CBS was happy. I was ecstatic, and judging by the fact that it is still the highest selling album in history, I can say without doubt that it was the correct choice and the world was happy." It has become an artistic icon. Who would have suspected that the click of the camera, 1/60th of a second, would create the unforgettable image it has become in history.
THE CREATION OF THE "THRILLER" ALBUM COVER
Michael Jackson left behind the indelible footprint of a giant talent whose artistry changed the course of music history. He is mourned by millions in every country on earth, and he shall be sorely missed. And now that is silenced. We are left with his memory and fortunately with his music.
Throughout the years of 1982-1994, I had the unique privilege of having three exclusive portrait sittings with Michael. The first was the Thriller Album, the second was his narration the ET Album for Steven Spielberg. The third were the exclusive wedding portraits with he and Lisa Marie, that were eventually distributed world wide. During these years, I was very fortunate to have had some very personal conversations and came to know him on a level of intimacy that gave me insights into his character that impressed me deeply.
Michael Jackson was a brilliant, creative performing artist. We spent many private hours together creating and conversing during the years I worked with him. I am sharing these thoughts.
THE FIRST MEETING
When I first met Michael Jackson at a recording studio on Beverly Blvd. in Hollywood, he was three quarters through completing what would become the largest selling album in history. CBS records told me that there was another photographer in the running to do the project.
Michael wanted to personally meet both candidates before deciding who he wanted to work with on the album cover package. I now know, after having worked a substantial amount of time with Michael on other projects, that he needed someone who was at the top of his profession, wasn't egotistical, and was trustworthy and creative. Most importantly he needed someone who would treat him with delicacy and consideration, who wasn't threatening or offending.
My first impression of Michael as he slowly and carefully moved through the studio doors where our meeting would take place was that he was taller and thinner than I had expected. His hand shake was very delicate with hardly a squeeze, and I was very conscious to return the same.
As we talked, Michael would ask me questions in his gentle voice about my likes and dislikes. I could tell from the way that he posed his questions that I was being evaluated. That's when I first realized how important it was to Michael to work with the exact kind of person that would make him feel comfortable. Our meeting lasted about forty five minutes and we parted with a cordial good-bye.
THE CALL BACK
Three days later I received a phone call from CBS Records saying that phase one was over and now Michael wanted to come to see my studio and look at the quality of my photographs. My studio entrance has a loud buzzer, but instead there was a very gentle knock at the door. Rather than have my secretary answer the door, I wanted to answer it myself. I wanted Michael to know that I was real and approachable and also wanted to avoid anything that may have had the potential of creating an uncomfortable situation for him.. Evidently I passed the test as I received confirmation two days later from CBS that Michael had selected me to do the honors, and the album shoot was scheduled to take place in two weeks.
My fee from CBS was to be $4,000.00 - which was very good back in 1982 (and just about top dollar for an album cover). During the next two weeks I had meetings with the creative heads from CBS and Freddie Demann, Michael's manager at that time. The purpose was to create a visual direction for the album that everyone agreed on. I presented various ideas that I wanted to execute which were all agreed upon.
Dick Zimmerman Oil Portraiture Artist
This is the first portrait I created with my contemporary Realistic technique. I painted it in 1983 and throughout the years it has become very special to me, it's become an iconic symbol that represents my overall viewpoint on art. It is my Mona Lisa and a symbol that represents and communicates the direction of what originally inspired me to focus on portraiture since childhood. I thought it was appropriate to display this explanation for it, as this has become a symbol for where I have come from and the the quality and direction that I have resolved to maintain.
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in London, an unusually sunny one. I was strolling down Kings Road, looking forward to a relaxing day. I noticed, strolling in my direction half a block away, an unusual face coming towards me…she had an innocence and a look right out of the renaissance, an image I simply had to capture on canvas. I asked her if anyone had ever painted or photographed her, and in a very shy she responded with a sheepish “No!”
Capturing a Classic BeautyI asked her if she would give me an hour of her time at my studio which was just around the corner, and she agreed. I quickly called a friend who was a makeup artist, and within 45 minutes I was able to capture this image which became the cover of British Vogue Magazine. What followed was quite remarkable, as this cover became a launching pad for her, inciting several top magazines, ad agencies, and cosmetics companies to seek out her image, and within six months, she became the top beauty model in Europe.
Creating the Oil PaintingThe painting also helped launch my career to the top, and became a representation of my art. So when I decided to develop my mixed media Portraiture, I felt it only fitting for Vivian to be the first image I would transform into my first Z Portraiture painting. Today, it has once again became an icon for me as it represents the exact direction that defines and signifies portraiture for me.
@2016 DICK ZIMMERMAN STUDIO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED / 727-224-3527
TOM SELLECK PORTRAIT
MJ IN MAKE-UP
DICK ZIMMERMAN VIDEO TAKEN
TO THE "THRILLER" PORTRAIT
After five days of enjoying Dali and Gala's hospitality, and no sign from either of them that we were going to do the photo shoot that I had been hired for, I packed up my gear and made ready to return to London and my normal life. I said my good-byes and was waiting in the courtyard for my taxi to arrive when Dali entered with Gala, both wearing their wedding costumes, and said, "Deek! Now!" I couldn't believe that they chose that particular moment. I felt as if they'd been testing me the entire time I had been there, all the way up to the moment of departure.
I frantically unpacked my equipment, set up the lights and, sweat pouring down my face, did a twenty minute shoot in about five minutes - shot a full roll of film and completed the assignment I had somehow managed to forget about. Yet another lesson on time from the man who was intrigued with the concept.
As I was leaving they invited me to be the exclusive distributor of Dali's work in England. I'll never forget the surprised looks on their faces as I replied,
"Thank you for the offer but I could never mix business with pleasure."
Despite the fortune that I could have made, the venture would have turned that precious and intimate experience into just another business meeting. That time I was the teacher and the lesson was mine.
Whenever I'm back in New York I still visit the Metropolitan Museum and gaze in awe at "The Crucifixion" knowing that I had been in the master's presence, or was I?
It's still so unreal!
Unfortunately, every time I brought up the subject of the wedding portrait, Dali changed the subject. I didn't want to press the issue and risk irritating my host, so I stayed on as a guest and one day led to the next with no photo session in sight. I finally resigned myself to the idea that I would ever take those wedding photos. I decided at this point that, if I merely stayed there to experience a few days in the life of the most eccentric genius of our time, it was OK with me!
Every day, after lunch, people would start to drop in - actresses, models, artists, the idle rich - visiting, dining and drinking wine. He seemed to be friends with everyone. On occasion he'd take all the visitors, and me, into town by taxi to his favorite restaurant where his usual table was always reserved. Every night was a social event. Not only did Dali paint and sculpt, but he also designed jewelry, clothes, silverware and you-name-it.
Dali was constantly creating.
In December of 1990 I was commissioned exclusively to create the wedding portraits of Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman.
The wedding was to take place on Christmas day in Telluride Colorado.
Two days prior, Tom Flew me and my assistant from Los Angeles to the wedding site in his private jet, in order to check out the location and to work out the compositions and lighting. The flight was very smoothly--Tom's pilots were extremely professional. I had only been on two previous private flights, but I felt relaxed. Telluride had a landing strip on top of a mountain about two miles up. It was like landing on an aircraft carrier, one minute you're looking at the mountains, and the next the bump as the wheels are hitting the runway.
I exited the plane for the shock of my life as the 40 below tempter hit my face--absolutely the coldest temperature I have ever felt.
The log cabin was very cozy and I was extremely relived to feel the warmth of the fire place's well as a warm welcome as Tom introduced me to Nicole. She was a lot taller than I expected. Her hair was very curly and her face like a porcelain doll with freckles.
Tom was a very gracious host and told me to help myself with any food or drink. He was very friendly and what I felt most interesting was his energy...lots of it! If something needed to be done he would handle it in a flash. Here's a great example of Tom in action that I will never forget:
That evening we were having a great time decorating the Christmas tree when we realized that Tom was missing. Nobody knew where he went.
We finally found Tom outside the house, rescuing a woman whose car was stuck in a snow bank. He was shoveling her car out of this snowbank outside in just a flannel shirt in -40, amazing!, without thinking of himself or his warmth he just reacted to someone in distress and that was that! So for me it of course it was instant admiration...there was no celebrity super star ego on board, just a guy wanting to do what was needed to help!
The Big Day
Looking at their faces, I stood, shook their hands and muttered, "Hi, nice to meet you." With that said, Dali returned to his place on the couch, picked up his book and continued to read. The women turned around and sat in two chairs facing me on my left side. I sat down, feeling dazed and confused. Nothing seemed real to me anymore. No one spoke for at least five minutes. Finally, one woman put her breast back where it belonged and the other did the same. At that point the blonde one came over to me, smiled and whispered in a Spanish accent, "You have passed the test!"
During the entire ordeal, Dali and Gala had been watching me, sizing me up, deciding what kind of man I was. They had wanted to see my reaction to the different situations they had set up and I had met with their approval. What Dali and Gala would never knew was that the mere fact of being in their presence had been so surreal to me, I couldn't have cared less about two naked women! Dali and Gala were now on their feet and smiling at me. "Welcome to our home!" they both said.
WORN BY MJ ON "THRILLER"
BELONGING TO DICK ZIMMERMAN
TOM CRUISE & NICOLE KIDMAN WEDDING PORTRAITS
One day Dali was trying to decide which of five alternate designs of a ring to use in his jewelry line. He asked for my input and listened carefully to what I had to say about each design in a way that made me feel like he thought my response was important. Later, a delivery boy came to the house and Dali asked him which of the five rings he liked best. I saw the boy's surprise and pride at being asked what he thought. Dali treated everyone around him like a special and important person.
Watching him interact with others, made me grow and expand creatively. My most special moment with Dali took place on the third day of my visit, when I had the unique and intimate experience of sitting alone with him in his courtyard, philosophizing about life. He told me his greatest fear - death - and his greatest inspiration - Velasquez. He gave me a lesson on words that sound like their meaning, such as butterfly, which he pronounced "buttaflyeee" and then motioned into the air to show it flying away. We talked about how his fascination with time had affected his art and had inspired the depiction of surreal, melting timepieces. I wished my father could have seen me there in the company of that great man. I started to get the feeling that I was dreaming again and pinched my arm hard to be sure that the experience was real. With Dali looking into the distance and thinking about life, I was able to get a rare, unposed photo of him. I raised my camera and squeezed the shutter to capture that most precious memory. I was never certain if he was aware of the fact that I was invading his private world or not. The moment was unique since the photographs normally taken of him were overly posed, with lips puckered and hand on cane, locking others out of his world. In that one instant I learned the value of time and the importance of capturing a special moment on film.
The next day I was ready for the portrait sittings. The guests had all arrived, the ceremony was very nice and the various compositions that I created came off with out any problems--even the portrait of the entire guest list with a composition that I felt had to be shot outside. I had set up the composition inside with a rehearsal of everyone in an assigned position. So that when we moved outside in -40 degree weather, they would all know were to stand and in 45 seconds I was able to capture and complete that composition before the frostbite set in! When it was over Tom told me he was very thankful for my smooth professionalism and the event had come to its end. Mission accomplished!
A Brush with Death
What was to follow would be the most terrifying experience of my life.
The takeoff from the short runway atop of the mountain went according to plan, and incidentally the only way to take of from that aircraft carrier was to pull up the emergency brakes while revving the engine, then releasing the brakes for a quick takeoff. This was a scary experience, but routine for the pilots.
We were in the air for about ten minutes when there was an enormous rush of heat and smoke from the back which instantly filled up this tiny eight-seat Learjet. The four passengers were hysterical, there was smoke everywhere and the window cover slides were also melting. There was an emergency siren going off and the pilots who were a couple of feet away were on the radio, shouting "Mayday, Mayday!"
When you encounter something so incomprehensible and so life-threatening, it's funny to see the different ways in which other people face it. The four other passengers were screaming hysterically that they were going to die!!! My assistant was sitting quietly and looking petrified. For me, the situation was so unreal--I felt as though I was watching a movie. Believe it or not, I was not really scared. I felt as if there was nothing really happening, and that combined with the fact that it felt like a movie led me to feel that it would somehow work out in my favor and anyway. As it was, I had no choice but to sit there calmly and go with the flow, even though I felt so unreal and unready to die at that time, but I was secretly preparing myself for the possible end.
In a life threatening situation such as this, time feels distorted and moves differently. And before I could focus on the seconds, the pilot made an emergency landing in an old deserted airport runway in New Mexico. He had miraculously spotted the runway and just went for it! I don't even remember this miracle landing or the time involved as my thoughts were so busy going over the highlights of my life, but somehow we landed safely.
We shortly found out later that when landing a Learjet, it is necessary to discharge the pressure in the engines through a valve release, but our pilots neglected to do this, so instead the built-up pressure was released and backed up into the plane shortly after takeoff. When Tom found out about this almost disaster he was furious that a charter