Friday, December 2, 2016

I'm Just Wild About Harry

The scene at The Carlyle Hotel for the after party for "Harry Benson: Shoot First." 10:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, December 2, 2016. Yesterday was a beautiful, mainly cloudy day in New York with temperatures in the high 50s. Although everyone was dressed for December, most were not very cold in such temperate weather. Toward late afternoon, the cloud cover had the color that reminds one of snow coming. It wasn’t and it did not. Although the weathermen predicts that it will get colder in the next few days and some of us will get a glimpse of snow.
Winter has arrived on Lexington Avenue.
Last night at the Beekman Theatre on 66th and Second Avenue, the Cinema Society hosted a premiere screening in New York of “Harry Benson; Shoot First,” a documentary on the life of the great international photographic journalist Harry Benson (who is celebrating his 87th birthday today). 

I’ve known Harry’s work – and you probably do too, no matter your age – when he came to America time with the Beatles when they first appeared on Ed Sullivan in 1964. To many of us who were born in the fourth and fifth decades of the 20th century, grew up on Ed Sullivan and his Sunday night variety show at 8 o’clock on CBS sponsored by Lincoln-Mercury. Television was still a special event in American life.  Sullivan, a famous Broadway columnist for the Daily News, hosted an old time show that featured a variety of talent from singers, dancers, Broadway musicals, opera stars, ballet stars, Las Vegas and Borscht Belt comedians. All on the same show. The talent was timely, and it was one of the ways America kept up with the world of entertainment.
Entering the Beekman Theatre for the screening of "Harry Benson: Shoot First."
All in one hour you see a live clip of a current Broadway musical, a five minute ballet number with Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev, famous comedians who were still part of the nightclub circuit; acrobats, ventriloquists, Sophie Tucker, and Elvis Presley. Elvis made the big time, as a legitimate entertainer and rock star when he first appeared on Ed Sullivan. About eight years later, the Beatles coming to America, where their song “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” was Number 1 on the charts, was a major career indemnification for the Fab Four in the world.
Harry working the press line.
Harry mock "shushing" JH.
Harry reluctantly posing in front of his movie poster.
It not only established them as a major American entertainment act. It also was a life changer to a fifth man in the Beatles party whose career was ignited by the trip. And that was Harry Benson, a Scotsman who as a Fleet Street photojournalist in his early 30s had been assigned the job of following the Beatles on their first American tour.

His photo record of their appearance produced several now classic photos of them.

This documentary — a story of a man at the center observing life before and around us, goes into the theaters a week from today (December 9th; it will also be available through Netflix) – records the journey of this man’s life behind the lens. It’s been entirely an adventure. His subjects were many of the last century’s most famous figures, as well as the world at large.
Director Matthew Miele and Producer Heather Silverman introducing "Harry Benson: Shoot First."
After the screening last night (the film is 90 minutes), many in the crowd – many of whom have been Harry’s subjects and Gigi and his friends – moved over to the Carlyle where the Cinema Society was hosting a cocktail reception for a few hundred.

It was a wonderful film, and we'll tell you more about it on Monday morning ...
Entering the Carlyle Hotel for the after-party.
Gigi and Harry Benson.
Harry with Edwina Sandys.
Harry with DPC and Chris Meigher.
Gigi with Cristina Cuomo and Kerry Kennedy.
Iris Love and Harry.
Harry with Neil Leifer and his fiancée Chantal Foret.
Harry Benson with his assistant Jonathan Delano.
George Kocis, Taki Wise, and Etheleen Staley.
Harry with Kerry Kennedy .
Eileen Judel congratulates Harry.

Contact DPC here.