Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Place Called Vertigo

Talk about a bookended weekend; Friday night was all about the Who supporting a cause they felt was worthy: Samsung. Tonight, U2 came out to support a different kind of cause -- a gallery opening in Chelsea of photographer Anton Corbijn's work. You'd have to be in a hole not to know Corbijn, at least by his style: High-def, deep-grained (mostly) black and white portraits (and plenty of videos) for, among others, rock's reigning royalty: U2, REM, Depeche Mode. So not only was Corbijn coming to the opening, at the Stellan Holm Gallery on West 24th -- but so were the Edge and Bono.

I got there about a half hour into what was announced as a three hour event (no longer than 8pm, since the band (I think) are playing at Madison Square Garden). Since nothing ever starts on time, and certainly never starts on time when musicians are involved, I figured a half hour would make sense. In a way, I was right -- unlike the others who got there early, I only had to stand around about 15 minutes. (Some people had been there since 4:45. In another way, I was badly off, because the small area around the very small gallery was choked with people, and the bodyguards were getting testy. I asked where the press list was, and learned that the gallery was already too full to allow for more people. Since they were hardly the fire department, I located someone else in the press and asked if they had the PR woman's phone number. She didn't. I said, I did, if she had a cell phone. So we called PR woman and got ushered in. As Ferris might say, so choice.

Unfortunately, the gallery was quite small. There was a wide-ish open lobby area ringed with portraits; half of the room was clogged with the photo pit. Guards wouldn't let the group advance past the narrow hallway opening at the back, which led past offices and into the main gallery room, which was only marginally wider and pretty full. (I walked down the hall at one point looking for the can; I could have sworn I saw Dave Gahan, of DM, in one of the offices thumbing through a book.) I had it in my head (and had been told by the PR woman) that I could chat with the band for some quick quotes, and stayed up front in the photo pit. Hence, the photos I landed -- these are actually mine, mostly taken by holding the camera aloft over the heads of the real paparazzi.

I stood next to a redheaded woman with an MTV microphone, and a reporter from OK! magazine; someone from the competition also arrived (at least, I think she's with the competition, I've seen her before). There was grousing. And then everyone arrived in a flash of bulbs and a thrusting of the photographic pit. Lots of shouts of "Bono! To your right! Anton! Edge! Bono! To your left!" (Not me, by the way.)

In truth, I didn't think there was much point in pursuing the band for interviews; if it happened, great, amazing, fine. I mainly wanted to say hello to Corbijn, whose office I used to work in. When I was doing work-study in England in the early 1990s, my intership was with the music video firm State. That was where I met the Sundays, Ultra Vivid Scene, Inspiral Carpets and even Tina Turner -- worked on all their videos. That was where I also learned just how cliquish the whole thing was and how unlikely it was I would do it for a career. Still, it was fun. I only met Anton once -- he was always off doing scouting for a Depeche Mode video; this was just after his "Enjoy the Silence" clip was getting so much play. He came into the office one day, expansive and adorable, this Dutch whirlwind. He handed everyone a bottle of Champagne. Which I thought was The Coolest Thing Ever. So I wanted to re-introduce myself, thank him for the drink, and then get a few quotes.

That's Anton in the scarf, in case it's not completely obvious. He still has this open, friendly face, just less hair. But it was all not to be. After the band passed through the lobby and into the narrow hallway, word came back: They needed time to chill before interviews, so out to everyone other than interview press. (So I got to stay.) Then, about five minutes later: The band wants to see the exhibit, so everybody out. They'd invite us back in later.

After ten minutes of standing across the street with MTV Girl, nearly getting run down by traffic and Lizzie Grubman-ed out of existence, then watching some Famous Person with Curly Hair dash out of a black sedan to squeals and then into the gallery, I decided I had better things to do, and got cupcakes over at nearby Billy's. All in all, a decent evening.

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