Thursday, August 27, 2009

May 5, 2000 -- The Crappiest Place on Earth

One of the photographers who regularly shot the Runaways was Barry Levine, who also took memorable pictures of Kiss and Tina Turner, among others. I met Barry in 1976 at a Hyatt Hotel in Chicago when we opened at the Aragon Ballroom for the band Angel. I had been paying a visit to the guys in the band (the Runaways were, unfortunately, staying at some really crappy hotel in a seedier part of the city), and as I was leaving I ran into this guy who was carrying around a large box of photographs. I asked to see his work, and he showed me pictures of Kiss and Angel. When he found out I was in the Runaways, he expressed interest in photographing us, and I introduced him to the band. Barry ended up shooting more pictures of the Runaways than any other photographer, including our Queens of Noise album cover and a large number of exclusive spreads for Poster, a swedish magazine devoted, as its name suggests, to posters of rock bands.


Queens of Noise cover by Barry Levine
click to see a larger version

Music Life cover by Barry Levine
click to see a larger version

Barry became our unofficial band photographer as well as a good friend. One day, Poster magazine approached Barry about doing an exclusive spread on the band and Barry decided to shoot us at Disneyland. So Barry drove us all down to Anaheim and we paid to get into the park. First stop was at one of the administration buildings to pick up a pass to do a commercial shoot. Well the woman responsible took one look at Joan's leather jacket, which was covered in pins and symbols, including a large swastika, and not only refused us permission to take photos, but asked us to leave the park. Which was pretty funny considering that Joan, at least as far as I could tell, didn't even know what a swastika was or why anyone might find it offensive. We were getting ready to leave when I asked the Disney woman if we could stay and take pictures if we all bought and wore Disney t-shirts. After a difficult bout of thinking and consutation with three other Disney employees, the woman gave us permission and we wandered over to the closest concession stand to buy t-shirts. But in keeping with our rebellious natures, we bought childrens shirts, which were, to say the least, tight.


1976 -- engaging in "lesbian behavior"

We went into the park and Barry started snapping pictures of us walking around and going on some of the rides. After a while we noticed, however, that there were a few people in suits following us around and keeping an eye on us. All of a sudden, as we were walking along outside of the Matterhorn with our arms around each other's shoulders, the suits surrounded us and demanded we leave the park immediately. When we asked them why we had to leave, they said we were engaging in "lesbian behavior," which was against park rules. Several years later, Disney would get sued for discriminatory policies against homosexuals and its policies would be found to violate people's civil rights. But in 1976, Disneyland still had such a strong bias against homosexuality that young girls were not allowed to dance with each other when bubble-gum pop bands played the park at night, and five young girls could not put their arms around each other in a show of friendship.

And they thought we were the Nazis?

Footnote: Disney has long since changed its policy and was, in fact, the first Hollywood studio to offer health benefits to same sex partners. Disney's change in policy brought it under fire from the moral majority and Disney has, to its credit, stuck to its guns and maintained its policy.

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