The Celebrity Wing

from the Archives of 1995 Robert Altman

[Photo:Groucho Marx]

Groucho Marx

The Story

Jon Carroll (now a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle,) writer Michael Goodwin and I had recently departed the staff of Rolling Stone. Putting together a cover story for our new self starter Flash Magazine we arrived at LA's posh Bistro Restaurant and proceeded to have an enlightening lunch with the one and only Groucho Marx.

During the course of this interview I asked Grouch if there was any hope for our then leader, President Richard Nixon. He replied sarcastically and in pure jest that "the only hope for Nixon was his assassination." Well, this interview became quite popular and was republished in several other magazines. If finally caught the attention of the United States Attorney General's office. They proceeded in raising Cain by threatening Groucho, demanding a retraction and apology for this, by now, well known incident.

Well nobody leans on Groucho... so he hung up on them.

Whaddaya gonna do...arrest Groucho Marx ?

digital photography tips

Kirstie Alley

The Story

I met Kirstie Alley at a wonderful party in San Francisco and photographed her for San Francisco Magazine.This photograph was taken well before her success on Cheers.

My boss, Associate Publisher Mark Millan and I were absolutely taken with this loveliest of creatures. We were so bedazzled that evening with Kirstie, that we thought we were actually discovering the next great Hollywood Star. To me she looked like the young Lauren Bacall at the time when Howard Hawks' wife, Slim, discovered her.

Well, we ranted on, "how wonderful she was, what a great future she had, blah, blah, blah." Now this was all very nice, thank you, for Kirstie Alley, but she had other things on her mind for her two budding moguls in waiting.

Soon, from the center of this elegant party came a series of loud, deafening whacks from the hands of a very embarrassed photographer. Miss Alley had broken off the high heel from her shoe and had found herself an instant cobbler.

What's a gentleman to do?

[Photo: Joe Montana]

Joe Montana

The Story

Joe Montana was the best Quarterback to ever play the game. Period.

"Why," you ask? Simple.

Joe's had (a) enormous physical talents; (b) a phenomenal ability to read the field; and perhaps most important (c) he was a "closer" and could put the game away even under the most bizarre circumstances... but that's another story.

San Francisco's victory over the Dallas Cowboys in 1981 was an epiphanic moment in my life and I will forever thank Joe Montana and Dwight Clark. I thus became an avid, sometimes rabid 49er fan. Before the 1984 season had begun, I had a premonition that this season was going to be special. I convinced Ron Hagen, my then publisher at San Francisco Magazine, to assign me to the the Forty Niners. I had watched my friend and music industry peer Michael Zagaris now work as the Forty Niners' team photographer. Baron Wolman, my predecessor at Rolling Stone Magazine, was also to be found 'shooting' it up on this playing field.

Now I too wanted in... bad

Well, we won it all that wonderful year and I went to the Superbowl to photograph the sweet madness beside my team. As part of the afterglow we needed Joe's visage for a San Francisco Magazine cover story and made extensive arrangements for him to be photographed at my San Francisco studio. Suffice it to say- Joe never made it that day. New arrangements were made and we flew to Los Angeles, rented a studio and set about getting the job done. Now, in walks Joe and his business manager and the manager's wife. He was much taller than his TV countenance and definitely was born of "warrior" stock.

The problem was that this was not Joe's arena. Hmmm, never thought about that. I experienced a very uncertain subject (and I am being kind here.) My "warrior" had become a "worrier." So now I had this little problem, like how do I produce " Jostling Jousting Joe" for our magazine cover?

In a flash the solution came.

I walked up to Mr. Football who was now seated alone in the spot lit stage area and quietly whispered, "Joe, I want to do a great job here and I've never. been so nervous in my life."

Well, Joe looked up at me and said, "Robert, don't you worry 'bout a thing."

In a wink I now had the most self assured and playful subject one could ask for. Thanks Joe. The photo you see here was not the cover shot (we'll add that soon) but a special portrait I asked Joe to sit for.

Epilogue: Doing a Schick commercial the very next morning, Joe Montana met his wife to be, Jennifer.

More Celebrity Anecdotes

Please note that all of these photographs are Copyright 1999 Robert Altman, All Rights Reserved. They are made available for your personal enjoyment only. Any other use without the express, prior written consent of Robert Altman is strictly prohibited.

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