Egret in Black and White

I photographed this egret at a nearby rookery a few years back and never did anything with it. Like so many photos, as you continue to shoot more and more, older works sometimes get buried and forgotten about. Originally shot in color, I finally decided it worked better as a black and white. Here is the final results.

You can see more of my work by clicking on John Greco Photography.

Egret in Black and White CW (1 of 1)

Gene Palma: The Street Musician of Taxi Driver

gene-palma-street-musician-1971-CW-001Anyone who has seen Martin Scorsese’s 1976 neo-noir classic, Taxi Driver, will remember the short scene with Street Musician Gene Palma. It’s one of those little bits that remain with you long after the film ends. Palma’s slickly combed shellac like black hair and red makeup made him a unique figure on the streets of New York back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Palma would flip his drumsticks banging out his music on drums, vending machines or anything else that was available in the Times Square area. Palma’s big dream in life was not only to play like Gene Krupa, he wanted to be Gene Krupa.

Some years back I posted on my Twenty Four Frames Blog, a photograph I took of Palma one afternoon while photo hunting on the streets of New York. Though with only one photo and a couple of written lines from me, the post has become one of my most popular, engaging and informative with many people posting their own memories of Gene. The comments by various contributors were most informative and told part of the drummer’s story of which little is known. I felt the comments deserved more exposure, so I  thought I would incorporate some of them here, giving credit where credit is due.

Palma’s film career was short. After Taxi Driver he appeared in the John Ritter starring Hero at Large for which he was paid $30. He received  $172.50 for Taxi Driver. According to IMDB he had a small part as himself in the documentary  Not a Love Story: A Film about Pornography.

 In a February 1981 article from the Lakeland Ledger, Palma said, he plays in the street five days a week and could make a living do that. In the winter, he needed to find other work. It was too cold for him to do his tricks with the sticks.  I have posted the Lakeland article here so you can read it direct instead of me rehashing it. My thank to Shawntok for providing the original link to the article.

Gene DePalma (1 of 1)Below are some of the many interesting comments that were left on my original post. They fill in a few holes in the life.

Again with the memories. I feel like Forest Gump when I read your New York based posts. I used to see Gene in Times Square often back in the ’80s. During that same period, I worked at a coffee shop on 6th Avenue and 57th Street called Miss Brooks and Gene came there often; really nice guy, but that hair smelled like hell. – Michael A. Gonzales – Writer

I moved to NYC in June of 1970 and began working in a small ad agency on the top of 580 5th Aveune (47th street). I was previously an amateur drummer and played some R&R in college, etc, and was the biggest Gene Krupa freak on earth (saw him perform live twice before his young death at 64 in 1973). The ad agencies in those days had dozens of deliveries back and forth from “stat” houses (long before computers). Stats were hi quality b&w copies of existing artwork needed to make new ads. Our office was on the top floor of the building and shortly after I began the job, several times a week I found myself riding the elevator with a curious delivery man from one of the stat houses. He would hold those large flat rigid stat envelopes in two hands, and endlessly play the most astounding cadences with his finger tips, right there in the elevator on the backs of those envelopes. Over and over again I was blown away, crippled by what I heard, since I actually recognized dozens of his riffs. Krupa, Belson, Hampton, Rich, you name the drummer, he was right there keeping up with them. In the two years I had that job (1970-72), I must have ridden in the elevator 40-50 times with this mystical man who never said one word to anyone, never made any eye contact and was totally oblivious to the effect he was having on the people who stood with him in those elevator cabs. Imagine how astounded I was four years later when completely out of nowhere, that wonderful guy miraculously appeared on screen as I sat idly watching Scorsese’s epic Taxi Driver! So yes, I can testify that for at least a couple years, Gene Palma delivered stats to New York ad agencies, but all the while his entire being was simultaneously consumed with breathtaking drum cadences. Bravo to Scorsese for bringing this wonderful personality a little immortality on the big screen. – Michael Adams

I remember seeing gene back in the early 80s when I use to cut out of school and go to TS . When I first saw gene he scared the daylights out of me. I found an article on Gene Palma in the LEDGER dating back to February 12th 1981. A reporter spotted gene in Atlantic City and interviewed him. I don’t have the link but if you google ” Gene Palma wants to be Gene Krupa ” I guarantee you will find it – Gary

Last time I saw Gene was in 2002-2003. He was living in a special adult home on 8th ave in Chelsea next to a Burito place called Blue Moon Cafe. I had numerous conversations with Gene over a period of 8 years. Nice man. Good drummer. Liked pastrami. Ate the middle out of pastries. Carried a small suitcase with a pressed suit and shoes inside along with coloring books given to him by Jehova’s witnesses. – Paul Corrigan

I met Gene in the Early 90’s while living in Chelsea. I would see him walking around the neighborhood with his leather jacket and briefcase, head tilted down. I always wanted to photograph him and would say hello when I could. One day he invited me up to his apartment in ’95…I have a half of a contact sheet in the archives somewhere. He was always a kind fellow and a charismatic guy. We took a few photos that day.

btw Mr/ Fisher ‘s photo is exceptional, thank you for sharing that. I am so happy this post exists as well, I was too thinking about Gene and wondering is he is still around. – Robert Adam Mayer – Photographer

Used to work in orange Julius while attending BMCC in 1972 or 73, the one on 7th ave. and 47th, later on 42nd street, that was some experience in gritty Times Square, lemme tell ya. I saw Gene several times around that area, I was a young immigrant, utterly fascinated by this character playing the drums on anything. I was floored when I saw him in taxi driver, then I would see him on the streets, more people around him after the movie came out. That hair, jet black, tinted, seemingly, by a gallon of dye. To me, he is the background music while I remember the TS of that time. – Joe

Does anyone remember a short film involving Gene that ran on Public Access channels in the mid to late 1980s? It chronicled a couple of young people who took an interest of Gene and tried to get him off the streets and into some assisted living program (unsuccessfully I might add.)    – Michael

Saw Gene in June ’77, after having watched Taxi Driver six times (in the theater). Was really thrilled to see the featured drummer on a Manhattan street corner during my first visit to NYC! He had a hand-written sign saying, “as featured in the movie, Taxi Driver. My traveling companion, Ray, and I wondered about his life so we actually followed him one night during our seven day stay. – jrh1254

There are more comments and a few more links on the original post which you can find here.

My thanks to all those who commented and shared their experiences with Gene.

 

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Hail, Hail Chuck Berry

 

BerryEarly rock and rollers like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis have made claim to the title of king of rock and roll music, a title usually associated with Elvis. However, if there one rocker who can make a legitimate argument for the title, it was Chuck Berry.

berry1Unlike anyone before him, Chuck Berry wrote about and spoke to teenagers. Songs like School Days, Sweet Little Sixteen, Roll Over Beethoven, Rock and Roll Music, You Never Can Tell, Reelin’ and Rockin’ and much more addressed the world of America’s youth. Berry’s music, along with new film stars James Dean and Marlon Brando helped create the teen market as a dominant financial force to be reckoned with. While adults brushed aside the teen years as a phase that one would grow out of, the world of rock and roll said it wasn’t just a phase, it was a new world order where the youth market would emerge as a not just an economic force, but political and racial. White teens were listening to Chuck and other black rock and roll musicians. They purchased their records, made friends with blacks and found the world wasn’t going to end. Berry did not do it by himself of course, but he was an important spoke in a wheel that was just beginning to get rolling.

Across the Atlantic in England during Berry’s early days, a group of wannabe rockers heard Chuck’s music and knew that was the world they wanted to be part of. One of those young kids was John Lennon; another was Keith Richard. Lennon once said, “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, it might be ‘Chuck Berry’.” Early Beatles recordings paid tribute to their idol with cover versions of Roll Over Beethoven and Rock and Roll Music. One of Lennon’s greatest honors was performing with Berry on the Mike Douglas Show back in 1972.

 

After hearing Chuck Berry’s music, a teenage Keith Richard knew what he wanted to do with his life, play the guitar like Chuck Berry. In 1986, for Chuck’s 60th birthday, Richard assembled a backup band that included Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, and Robert Cray for a birthday tribute concert in Chuck’s hometown St. Louis at the Fox Theater. Fortunately, it was all filmed and preserved for us to see. Released in 1987, Chuck Berry: Hail, Hail Rock and Roll, directed by Taylor Hackford is a must see.

Thanks, Chuck and long live Rock and Roll!

Favorite Authors: Tony Hillerman

tony-hillermanNew Mexico is a state my wife and I have visited and photographed many times over the years. Returning after one of our earliest trips, a co-worker introduced us to the work of author Tony Hillerman. Hillerman is best known for his Navajo Tribal Police mysteries featuring Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Hillerman’s in-depth knowledge and appreciation of Navajo culture are superbly detailed in his work. Above all, they are all great reads.

hillerman2Hillerman was not the first mystery writer to introduce a fictional Native American detective. However, he brought a new depth of understanding and revealed to many how sophisticated the Navajo nation was. His first novel in the series, The Blessing Way came out in 1970; eighteen books later, his last, The Shape Shifter, was published.  Hillerman’s novels are so well versed in the Navajo ways they are used as educational tools in Navajo schools.

hillermanSome years later, in 2008, during another one of our trips to New Mexico, we stopped by a local bookstore in Albuquerque’s Old Town. We were on the hunt for a couple of Southwestern flavored mystery novels to read on the plane ride back home. We asked the proprietor if any new Hillerman books were coming out. We mentioned how we have not seen one in quite some time. He sadly informed us that Hillerman, a steady visitor to his store over the years, was seriously ill and he doubted there would be any more books forthcoming.  We learned a short time late Tony Hillerman died in Albuquerque on October 26, 2008.

    Hillerman’s career as an author has roots going back to 1963 when he, with the blessing of his wife, enrolled in the graduate program for creative writing at the University of New Mexico. He received his master’s degree in 1965. He wrote a collection of essays on life in New Mexico called The Great Taos Bank Robbery as his thesis. His work was so well liked he was asked to stay on and teach journalism. [1]

MoonWhile still working in the academic world he wrote his first novel, The Blessing Way, featuring Joe Leaphorn. It was published in 1970. The book became a finalist in the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel.[2] Hillerman continued to write but it was not until the publication of his 1986 book, A Thief of Time, that he became a bestselling author.

Tony Hillerman was born in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma on May 27th, 1925. The youngest of three children, he served in the Army (103rd Infantry Division) during World War II earning himself a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart after being wounded in 1945. After the war, Hillerman attended the University of Oklahoma where he would meet his future wife, Marie Unzer. Between the years of 1948 and 1963, he worked as a journalist for a variety of newspapers including the Morning Press-Constitution (Oklahoma), Borger News Herald (Texas) and The New Mexican (Santa Fe) where he became the paper’s top editor.

Four of Hillerman’s novels have been turned into movies, one a feature film and three made for television.  The first film, The Dark Wind, was made in 1991. It was co-produced by Robert Redford, a Hillerman admirer, and directed by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris. Lou Diamond Philips starred as Jim Chee and Fred Ward as Joe Leaphorn. Sadly, the film had a troubled history and never saw a big screen release in theaters. It did make it to DVD. Redford called it “ill-conceived” as well as miscast in what he hoped would be the start of a series of films based on Hillerman’s work.

SkinwIt would take Robert Redford more than ten years and a different direction to bring three more Hillerman novels to the screen; the small screen. Skinwalkers (2002) premiered on PBS and became the highest-rated program of the year for the network. The film starred Adam Beach as Jim Chee and Wes Studi as Joe Leaphorn. PBS quickly agreed to do two more Hillerman based films, Coyote Waits and A Thief in Time. The three films complement the novels and are an excellent way to extend the pleasures of Hillerman’s tales.

In 2013, Anne Hillerman, Tony’s daughter,[3] published her first novel, Spider Woman’s Daughter, a continuation of the Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn series along with Chee’s new bride Bernadette Manuelito.  Anne’s second Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn novel, Rock with Wings, was published in 2015. Anne’s third novel in the series, Song of the Lion, will be published  this coming April. Sad as it is that Tony Hillerman is no long with us, it is good to know the series continues.

Netflix is currently streaming the  three PBS films under the title, Skinwalkers: The Navajo Mysteries. It come across as a three part TV series but it’s not. They are three separate movies

Notes:

[1] Stead, Deborah, New York Times, Tony Hillerman’s Cross Cultural Mystery Novels, August 16, 1988.

[2] Tony Hillerman Country Website.

[3] Anne Hillerman previously worked with her father on the non-fiction book, Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn