Retro-futurist Nostalgia

Rainbeaux Interview with a Vampyre tribute, 1975

Update Nov. 2014 on excerpt from An Interview with Bill George

Bill George entered hospital with pneumonia a year ago and has not been heard from since.  jd

December, 2012





Actually Bill, I think what we are talking about today is some form of Nostalgia for RetroFuturism. something closer to  a naive simple scare.   Why simple?  We had Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror. Stardom had meaning in a pre-Warhol context and viewers did not idolize mere unthinking unwatchables.


An international transformation of pop culture toward things ” Goth” happened. A life style includes Fetish Clubs,  post punk statements using tattoos and body piercing,  and Basic Bondage.  Costume design is a coded message. Movie genres have  become inseparable from life environments.


So called Genre Literature  from its beginnings as pulp with a few visionaries like Lovecraft, Poe, or Philip K. Dick inspire films on the scale of Blade Runner and the audience grows exponentially.  In 1977 George Lucas began the transformation to what we see today from his galaxy far, far away.   Upscale marketing strategies took over and todays teen soaps have scrubbed vampires and clever narratives of precocious cute practitioners of witchcraft successfully drawing huge box office.  Off the map post production budgets armed with CGI techniques.replace human improvisation, actual locations, set design and cinema skills.


Perhaps we are moving toward friends working together who share a passion for making film without a huge corporate structure and heavy investment,  Amusement and parody, freedom to experiment play their parts as well. You Tube Viral success may be enough?   Though we still have a cult of personality, the audience that asks “how did they do that?” may be all but gone, since answers found most often are: Why its The Digital Wonderland!  Fans are informed techies, critics who talk the talk.  This does not mean a loss of interest in behind the scene antics. Perhaps it means less individual auteurs producing,.and more post production effects with a stunning refinement of digital applications giving gloss to super home movies.   Dali would admire all the tools we now have to become surrealist movie makers.  Still, we wait for authentic break away visions to inspire us.


HBO style horror deals being made by Werewolf directors with CEO Zombies may be our current aesthetic production paradigm, but my pet theory is that the clues are still in Literature,  The Comic Book has evolved toward the Graphic Novel and can even provide a story board but we end up too often feeling  numb and dumb, as if letting others do our thinking for us.   As shadow replaces substance we are learning how to entertain while informing one another.   But how  to make an honest buck is more than ever the  great challenge.  For me, there is still no substitute for great writing, be it big budget big screen film Event with A Master in control or TV series as art.


I use the term Fantastika to cover the whole field,  includes Space Opera, Apocalyptica, Steam and Cyberpunk, and just about any subgenre you discover a name for tomorrow. The brilliant literary critic and novelist Paul De Filippo cites the term in his review column called The Speculator.


But you asked me about photographing actresses for Fred Clarke’s Fanzine, Femme Fatales.  Okay, but I think we need a glass of wine.  In the beginning . . .


She’s like a Rainbeaux . . .


Oliver Stone did not invent the sixties contrary to popular belief.  Some of us actually survived, but not without the era leaving a lasting impression.  Rainbeaux aka, Cheryl Smith despite her natural presence, and being the embodiment of a Preraphaelite beauty, did not.  She lived in walking distance of my apartment in Laurel Canyon, an area of Los Angeles in the hills above Sunset Blvd. marked by a mythic structure called Schwab’s drugstore and lunch diner, where Lana Turner was said to have been discovered.

We met by chance at the Country Store, a rustic log grocery with a few pine tables outside– where locals picked up a six pack , lunch meat and a loaf of bread on the way home or sat outside to watch the slow traffic snake up the hill toward their forested dwellings– we were very young and conversation was easy.  She invited me to hear her band nearby–I followed her a short distance and soon she was sitting behind her drum set, tossing her long blond hair, and smiling pleasure. A delicate flower child with her see- through lace and ribbons pounding a rock and roll rhythm was unforgettable.

I told her I would like to photograph her some day and she said fine.  A couple years later, she had made a few movies and I contacted her from West Hollywood, where I had an apartment above a garage and slept in a prop coffin I had purchased at the close of a small theatre musical version of Dracula.  I had bigger vampires to fry.  I was obsessed by a galley proof of a book an insider friend had brought me: Anne Rice’s first novel of the undead, “Interview with The Vampire.”  My plan was to illustrate the novel’s story with friends as models.  It was an era of easy access to talent and beauty if you were able to “go with the flow.”


Beside a make up girl, I had a stylist who provided flowers, an eccentric lighting designer,  two vampire girl models, an American actor and a French Male model who spoke no English, and Rainbeaux, our darling victim, as Claudia. It was to be the first studio style photo shoot I produced that was genre, and personal, with a distinctly Romantic style using my Nikons loaded with color transparency for tungsten spotlights . Bloody Marys were served in Brandy Snifters and we were all terribly creative and grande.  Rainbeaux projected an understated mortal fear as she was seduced and transformed by our Louis and Lestat.  We were all seduced by her professionalism and quiet charm..  She stayed in character, which created an atmosphere that carried the event.  Her talent was a natural outflow of self expression.  .  She was not ego or vanity driven..   If her future held darkness which I did not see, it was the fate shared by sensitives who do not find the quality of protection needed to nurture their gifts through the permutations of the Game..


12/12/12  Response to Bill George.

I am pleased that you share my excitement about seeing my Rainbeaux photos in print after all these years. I can only say that I never anticipated she had anything less than success as an actress in her future.  Unless you lived the era, it is probably difficult to project the pitfalls and the twists of fate involved in exposure to the forces of fame, without being surrounded by benign and protective friends and advisers. We all remember Star 80.


You may find the story of what happened to that first photo session interesting.   We agreed that the vampire theme would soon catch fire.  “Interview with The Vampire” was released as a novel and became a best seller.  There was buzz about a movie.  Rainbeaux was happy with the idea of taking the photos to Playboy and pitching the idea of an erotic feature with Rice vampires to photo editor Marylin Grabowski, whom she personally knew.  I thought we needed representation to be taken seriously, and as coincidence would have it, I met agent Carl Parsons at a party given for his client , actress Suze Tyrell.  He said he was a personal friend of Ms. Grabowski and offered to take a set of photos to her. Later, when  I picked up the slides I was admitted to her office and was treated cordially. Marylin said she liked the idea, knew Rainbeaux from her film work, and would get back to us.


“We will get back to you”  I later learned, was a top multi-use phrase in Hollywood lingo.  It is a tactic designed to keep you from going elsewhere, to give you hope, and make you crazy while what is really happening is unfolding.


In this case, staff photographer Philip Dixon shot Marylin’s Interlude with the Undead for the Twentieth Anniversary issue of Playboy, which also featured an interview with Marlon Brando.   Ah, another coincidence.

I of course contacted our agent Carl and asked him what he could do.   “It’s now public domain, Jan.  If you think I am going to jeopardize my relationship with Marylin for an unknown photographer, guess again.”


Of course I can look back and understand how naive my view was of what it takes to succeed — yet I cannot help but recall the fine and talented artists I have seen cast aside over the years to celebrate what is often the victory of mediocrity.


And that Bill, is your back-story on my Rainbeaux photo shoot.

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