Access Is Not Always DeniedMonday, November 04, 2013
The facebook (note it has to be in lowercase) ambulance chasers were out in full force after Lou Reed’s death. They pointed at all kinds of obituaries. Some pointed at favourite songs or wrote about the man’s importance in music.
The best obituary I read was not really one. In November 3d’s NY Times Sunday Review, Tony Lioce (describing himself as a bartender in San Francisco) wrote, When Backstage Was No Big Deal of his experience of frequenting a hall on Berkeley Street in Boston where a post Andy Warhol Velvet underground performed. It seems they “would do a few nights a couple months. You’d pay three bucks and hear them play two long sets.” Because the hall had no backstage Lioce had instant access to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. The frequency of their interactions meant that even some years later Lioce was able to approach Reed.
The lovely piece ends with something that has been in my mind for a while as I watch my 16 year-old granddaughter’s turmoil at home and at school.
That was the last time I saw him, other than from a seat in a theater. What made me sad wasn’t so much that my own days of hanging with him were over, but that those days seemed to be over, period, when a kid like me and a genius from whom he had learned so much still had a chance of having a real good time together.
The 21st century as far as entertainment is concerned could be defined as one with two words, “access denied”.
I will not boast here of the many artists, musicians, actors, police chiefs, directors, etc I have photographed and even broken bread with as many of those people are now dead. But back in that 20th century I had access. I still do this century but it is a different access that I would categorize as even more exciting.
After Ballet BC’s Tilt a few weeks back I took my granddaughter Lauren, 11, back stage (it is very easy you simply open the door) to meet up with dancer Thibaut Eiferman. We had a nice chat
I arranged to photograph Emily Molnar and dancer, choreographer Margie Gillis to pose together for me wearing my mother’s red shawl for my red shawl project. It was fun to face the two divas (Molnar said, "Alex you are a diva, too."
Last week I met up with Art Bergmann before his concert at the Biltmore Hotel and we discussed our mutual liking for Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.
Every time I go to a play in Vancouver I get to go backstage (it is very easy) and I talk with the actors or directors I may have photographed.
There is access in Vancouver to local musicians, actors, directors and writers. You have no idea how easy it is.
Just a few days,ago, sitting on the front row at a concert of Colin MacDonald’s Pocket Orchestra I wast next to Vancouver composer Jocelyn Morlock (whom I have photographed a few times) and we compared notes on the quality of the music (very new music) we were listening to. I felt most lucky and privileged.
At intimate concerts in nice homes of Marc Destrubé’s Microcosmos Quartet this year I have had the pleasure of talking to individual members. It is so much fun to be able to do this. Violinists, violists and cellist put one their pants one leg at a time.
You don’t have to meet up with Lou Reed, or Iggy Pop or Lady Gaga to experience that sense of excitement that one feels at being next to the real thing. No favourite video of Lou or Iggy shared in facebook (notice that it is written in lowercase) can match the experience of being just two feet away from Art Bergman, his guitar, and his microphone on stage. The sound is loud and it is not coming as an MP3 file on earbuds. You leave the concert with a steady buzz in your ear (not good, but good nonetheless).
As I watch my granddaughter, 16, work once a week as a teller in a supermarket and her grades in school slide, I want (but I can't and I don't) to tell her that if she persists in this and does not plan for a Plan B, her life could be monotony, drudgery and by age 30 she will be an old woman.
Photography gave me unlimited access in the 20th century and it still seems to work a bit in this century. As a conscientious worker, let’s say as a plumber (and making very good money) I would probably (I am not sure if this smacks of condescension) not want to meet Ballet BC dancer Thibaut Eiferman or talk to the delicious Lindsey Angell after a performance of Velvet in Fur, backstage after a performance at the Arts Club Theatre.What has replaced watching Archie Bunker in this century?
I am afraid that a complete dependence (addiction perhaps) on texting, facebooking and looking for odd videos in YouTube or far from salient factoids on forgettable celebrities while ignoring books could lead to a boring and sedentary life where the idea of perhaps talking to an anonymous rock bassist in a seedy back stage would not be seen as an exciting possibility.