Photo-David Crosby...with mouse over - version 2

David Crosby

(Place mouse over photo- Photos © 1999 Robert Altman)

June 25, 1999
San Francisco

This is supposed to be a column of my current doings but it seems the last few installments draw upon the past and tie in with the present. Here's another...

Several months ago I was attending a birthday party for Dr. Albert Schweitzer's daughter. She was being feted by her longtime friend, mine too, host Dr. Eugene Schoenfield. We're all on his sail boat in Sausalito.

The item- I am below quarters schmoozing with Chronicle columnist Leah Garchick and her husband Jerry when I spot a talking TV set. I zoom in on a long ago Rolling Stone magazine cover of musician David Crosby.

"Hey, that's my shot!" I bellow.

No one ever asked me permission to use this for Tee Vee and of course I was never compensated. Am I concerned? You bet.

On further inspection I get that is part of VH1's very successful series "Behind the Music." So successful that while I was in London there was a news story about how "Behind the Music" not only buoyed and saved VH1 but re-launched several dormant bands and even bumped entire sales across the board. The formula is classic Shakespeare: the Star soars; then inevitably tailspins into complete ruin; and finally, taaaa daaaa- resurrects and saves self. The perfect formula. Crosby is VH1's consummate poster child.

Turns out that this wasn't live television after all but a tape. Gene was Crosby's personal physician and VH1 interviewed him for this show. (Hey- a little self-promotion at your own party never hurts, right? Just look at your web host fer gawd sakes!)

Leah and I kind of agree that "they" (the powers that be) 'know' what they're doing. I write this one off as VH1 has become a good personal client and Rolling Stone has always been. Still...

Slow dissolve...six months later... Last week I received a request for the licensee rights to another photo of mine that appeared in the interior of Rolling Stone (I learn there is a difference between Covers and interiors...huh?)...a shot of Crosby's mate Graham Nash. It is for a Cameron Crowe film project. Interestingly, Cameron was an incredible writer for Rolling Stone way back when. So, there is legal precedent for getting the artist's permission...and a willingness to pay him a licensing fee.

So this led me back to my contact at VH1 who checked her records and said that Rolling Stone assured them that they had the exclusive rights to the cover and they would grant permission to republish on television. Hmmmm....RS asks for no fee but they do get free publicity as they are mentioned vocally and the masthead is largely visible. They also receive 'special thanks' in the epilogue credits.

Hey! What about moi?

So far, my last contact was with the Rights and Permissions Coordinator at Rolling Stone-Stephanie Adams. Unfortunately she turned out to be a living doll. She did go out of her way (quieted me down she did) and sent gifts-

As far as whether I'll ever see compensation for this puppy...I'll probably write this one off for the good of public relations. You see, in those early, wilder days, no paper was ever drawn handling redistribution. From now on though Adams assures me it will be my call. Whoever said being an artist was easy?

Self Promotional Plug:   If you get A & E on cable TV look for a show on the American Biker Culture. The working title is "Wild Ride." Start date- August 29- 1999..from the Hollister "Wild Ones" incident of the 50's to Forbes/Elizabeth Taylor cycle fascination of the 90's. I am a talking head along with the likes of Peter Fonda, Hunter Thompson, Peter Bogdonovidtch, Ken Kesey, etc. 'splaining the 60's (of course.) My area of expertise- Altamont.

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