Henry Diltz was at Stax of Wax in Malibu yesterday, hanging out, selling signed copies of his iconic photos, and most importantly, shooting a picture of me. Yes, that’s right, I have a Henry Diltz original to go along with my Pattie Boyd. The only downside is that I can’t stand looking at photos of myself, so I can’t hang them around the house. But hey, at least I get to throw up a photo on Facebook with “Photo by Henry Diltz” on it.
All boasting aside, I did do a short piece on this event prior to it happening, and if you love music, you should have been there yesterday. Why? It’s not just about the pictures, it’s about the stories behind the pictures. Sure you can read about it elsewhere, but nothing beats chatting with a true master of the art of photography and hearing first-hand the stories involved. Take Morrison Hotel for example, the iconic image of The Doors sitting in the front of a hotel in Los Angeles with “Morrison Hotel” emblazoned across the window. I’ve heard the story of the shoot before, but when you get some one-on-one time with Henry, the story never gets old; quite the contrary, little bits get added to it. Either that or I have a terrible memory.
Henry recounted for me that with this particular shoot, Ray and Dorothy Manzarek had been out driving around in Downtown Los Angeles and had happened upon this tiny little hotel nestled within the squalor of Skid Row. Ray made a mental note of it and told Henry about it, and then Henry got the whole band together for a photo shoot. When they got there, Henry went in and asked the hotel manager if he could pose the band behind the window for the shoot, to which the manager responded with a firm “NO”. Now, take a look at the album cover again. Do you notice that little light right in the center of the photo? Right above Jim Morrison’s head. Henry did too. It was the light from the elevator, and it meant one thing: The manager had left his post to attend to some other business. I guess he had never heard of The Doors, and probably didn’t care.
Realizing that they had the lobby to themselves, Henry hustled the band inside, got them posed, and took the shot. Just like that. If you’re like me, you’ve doubtless stared at this album cover hundreds of times, maybe thinking how ironic the whole thing is. Hearing the story in person though, is priceless. It was at that moment I said to Henry, “I’ve photographed two of The Doors,” and then immediately realized that Henry was there too; we were both standing side by side shooting the same show, the tribute to Ray Manzarek at The Fonda last February. Life can be funny that way. One day you’re reading about someone’s legendary photos, the next day you’re in the pit shooting alongside of them. Not that I’m comparing myself with Henry Diltz in any way; he really has very few peers.
I hate to leave any establishment empty-handed, especially an establishment that’s selling twelve-inch vinyl discs. I think it’s part of any music lover’s civic duty to patronize a record store, so I purchased a hand-signed print. You may have seen it around. It became the cover of Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s first album, and it too has its own story, but I’m not going to tell it here. You’ll just have to go to one of Henry’s shows, or the Morrison Hotel Gallery in West Hollywood. Remember, it’s part of your civic duty!