Tuesday, April 3, 2018

News from the West Coast

I took this photo at 7:30 am Monday morning, having awakened, surprised, by the heavy snowfall going on.
Tuesday, April 3, 2018. On Monday’s Diary – written the evening before – we noted that the weatherman had forecast some snow for later that evening.  By midnight there was no sign of it. Yesterday morning I woke up about 7:30 to see what I caught in this photograph of the avenue. It looked like the heaviest storm we’d had, and it was really coming down. By noon it was melting, and by six last night, there were just a few remnants hugging the curbs. The forsythia is blooming still.
Same hour, looking north on the avenue. For a while it looked like this was going to be the big one.
But then around noon (looking south from 83rd Street), the black of the roads had returned, it was already melting.
News from the West Coast. Bob Schulenberg sent me a message over the weekend that Bob Stone, the fashion photographer who was in his heyday in New York in the 1960s and 1970s, died in his sleep on March 13th  at his home in the Carmel Valley.  I met Stone — as he was always referred to, separating the “Bobs” for clarification — through Schulenberg all those years ago. The two Bobs had met and become friends when they were both at UCLA.
Bob Stone.
Bob Stone took this photo at my house in Los Angeles in mid-1991. He told me he was doing a series of portraits and would I be one. It so happened that this was a very difficult and unhappy time in my life for a variety of personal reasons, not the least of which was my professional future. All of that was distracted by the actual shoot. He set a folding screen with a small hole in it through which he shone that light on my face. The light on my pantleg was natural, from outside (it was daytime), but the mood was created by the pinhole lighting. I'm sitting on a parsons table and that's little Rum Rum, the Jack Russell snoozing by a leg.
Stone took this of my niece Susanne Columbia who was then living in Venice about the same time I was living out there. She had been pursuing an acting careeer. She later returned to New York, her hometown, and today is a highly successful real estate broker.
Bob Stone with his sister, through the years ...
Fashion photographers in New York in that era were the top of the lot in the fast changing/cool social life of the city.  For the rest of us it was immortalized in “Blow-Up,” the 1966 film starring Vanessa Redgrave, David Hemmings and Sarah Miles. Produced by Carlo Ponti and directed by Michelangelo Antonioni who co-wrote it with Tonino Guerra, based on a short story by Julio Cortazar, it was a sensation.

The main character played by Hemmings was inspired by David Bailey, the Swinging '60s London fashion photographer, as he worked with the top models of the day (Veruschka and Jane Birkin in the film).
David Hemmings in “Blow-Up."
It was the era brought to the fore by men such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Melvin Sokolsky, William Helburn, Francesco Scavullo, Jerry Schatzberg, to name only a handful. From the outside looking in, theirs was a life as fast and glamorous, maybe even more glamorous than the models and the movie stars they photographed.

It was a world that Bob Stone — born and raised in the then small San Fernando Valley town of Burbank  came to after majoring in Art at UCLA.

We asked Schulenberg to recall the early days of  Stone’s great career. These are his recollections ...
Bob Stone's portrait of Bob Schulenberg.
Stone gave me my first sketchbook to document my time in New York City. If it hadn’t been for him I wouldn’t have 50+ years of “documentation”! I got him started in photography and he started me on my own life work. Reciprocal friendship!

We’d met when we were students at UCLA. I was sharing an apartment with Paul (Bartel – another UCLA friend) in an apartment next to Suzy Pleshette on1154 Hacienda Place in West Hollywood. Paul and I were working on a comic theater piece for Alan Sues (remember him on “Laugh In”?) and there was an on running funny bit with a model, Merlene Marrow. 

I knew Bob was interested in photography, as was I. I’d previously shown him Avedon photographs from his book, “Observations” with commentary by Truman Capote, and I told him that I had the idea of shooting Merlene a la Avedon in a grubby, dirty alley in Venice Beach (which had not yet gentrified). Bob had a better camera than I did — a Rolleiflex — and I persuaded him to join us and lend his camera, that it’d be fun and interesting.
Bob Stone's photograph of his favorite model, Merlene Marrow. 
Bob picked me up and went down to Venice to photograph Merlene. Once there, he surprised me with the range of his interest. He’d already built an enormous scrim to hold over Merlene to filter and soften the bright coastal sun for the camera. I held the scrim and Bob hit the button. I could see that he was hooked. That moment with the Rollei and Merle in Venice Beach was the beginning. All his life he told me Merlene was his favorite model.

Not long after he moved in to the little house in Beverly Glen that my father had bought for me and my brother for our college days. Bob turned the second closet-sized bedroom into a darkroom and we started taking pictures together. Schulenberg & Stone! 

It was a more innocent time. I was doing graduate work at UCLA and also working part time at Duncan Vail, an art store in Beverly Hills. One day a beautiful model, Kathy Patterson came into the store and I hit on her to come pose for us. She came to Beverly Glen and we shot her, Bob and my second real model.
Kathy Patterson.
I set about trying to get someone interested in our high fashion photographs, but no one in 1959-Eisenhower era Los Angeles needed Richard Avedon-style photographs. We were getting discouraged.

In December of that year, Paul went back East to spend the holidays with his family in Montclair, New Jersey, and I gave him a set of our best photographs to show his father who worked in advertising.
Bob Stone's photo shoot of filmmaker Paul Bartel and Patty Sauers in NYC in 1961. Paul and Patty, along with Stone and Bob Schulenberg, all knew each other from UCLA. Patty had grown up in Los Angeles where her father Joe Sawyer had a long and very successful film and TV career playing supporting roles. Patty was also a gifted actress although she was not impressed by her own talent.
Bob and Paul in a photo booth.
The following morning was a beautiful day in Beverly Glen Canyon, and the phone rang. It was Paul calling from New York. He said, “My father wants to talk to you.”

Bob Stone's photograph of Bob Schulenberg on the stage at the Unicorn Coffee House on the Sunset Strip. We'd built a rudimentary set, 1959.
Waiting for him to come on line, I was thinking that Mr. Bartel had some ideas of what we could do with out photographs. He did. He told me that he had an advertising agency - he was the President of Ellington & Company that would soon become West, Weir & Bartel,  

He said that since I was also an artist he’d like to offer me a job as an art director at his agency and since Paul was in New York and our friend, Barre Dennen was already living there, he wanted to fly me to New York to visit and take a look at the agency to see if I wanted to accept his offer.

I was stunned. There was no question. I’d have to leave Los Angeles, and Schulenberg & Stone. There was no alternative! I ended up moving to New York. Stone finished up at UCLA, got some experience working in Los Angeles, and then Mr. Bartel invited him to move to New York as the agency’s staff photographer.  He did.

Paul’s portfolio included hundreds of photographs first for Vogue and then Harper’s Bazaar during a thirty year career in New York. Given complete creative freedom, Bob produced many vivid and original photographs of women’s fashion as well as portraits of well-known people. He also did advertising campaigns for accounts such as Revlon, Saks Fifth Avenue, I Magnin, General Motors, Clairol, Elizabeth Arden and Macy’s. 
Possibly Bob Stone's best-known photo. In Vogue’s book of People & Places, this cover photo of Lauren Hutton and an Avedon of Babe Paley are theonly full page photos in the book. Hutton told Bob this was her favorite Vogue cover.
Anjelica Huston lighting up a Cartier lighter in the October '72 issue of Vogue.
Anjelica Huston again in '72
Diane von Furstenberg.
Bob Stone's photograph of Beverly Johnson, the first African American model in Vogue.
Pat Cleveland.
Stone with Barbara Minty in a photo booth (inset). And in the country. She too was one of his cover girls, and the love his life. She had another path, and later married Steve McQueen.
Cheryl Tiegs in a Diane von Furstenberg two-piece pantsuit, for Vogue.
Stone with Rita Moreno after or during a Harper's Bazaar shoot. And with Liza Minnelli after another shoot for Bazaar.
Another “Love" of Bob's, Maret Halinen.
Bob as a model in Paris with Wallis Frankin and Pam Barkentin Ehrenberg in a photo by Bruce Laurence.
 

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