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Photographer Marion Ettlinger

Ettlinger's portrait photography appears on many book jackets. Over the years her subjects have been Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, William Styron, Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates, Sue Miller, Sarah Vowell and many more. A collection of her portraits, Author Photo: Portraits, 1983-2002 has just been published.

11:34

Other segments from the episode on November 7, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 7, 2003: Interview with Boy George; Commentary on Uncle Tupelo; Interview with Marion Ettlinger; Review of the film "Love Actually."

Transcript

DATE November 7, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Boy George discusses his life and career
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli in for Terry Gross.

The British singer Boy George was a pop star in the 1980s. With his band
Culture Club, he had such hits as "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" and "I'll
Tumble 4 Ya." His music was somewhere between pop, soul and reggae; his look
was somewhere between male and female. Culture Club fell apart in 1986 and so
did Boy George who was trying to kick a heroin habit. He cleaned up, but
didn't re-establish himself in the States until the film "The Crying Game."
His version of the title song rang under the closing credits.

Now he's starring in "Taboo," an autobiographical musical, set in the decadent
fashion-centric world of '80s London. The show includes some of the hits Boy
George recorded with Culture Club, including their biggest hit, "Karma
Chameleon," which topped the charts in the States in 1984.

(Soundbite of music)

BOY GEORGE: (Singing) Desert loving in your eyes all the way. If I listen to
your lies, would you say I'm a man without conviction, I'm a man who doesn't
know how to sell a contradiction, you come and go, you come and go?

Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma, chameleon, you come and go, you come and
go. Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dream, red, gold and
green, red, gold and green.

Don't hear your wicked words every day, and you used to be so sweet, I heard
you say that my love was an addiction, when we cling, our love is strong.
When you go, you're gone forever, you string along, you string along.

Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma, chameleon, you come and...

BIANCULLI: Terry spoke with Boy George in 1995.

TERRY GROSS, host:

You know, when I first saw you perform, I wasn't sure whether the drag was
just a way to get attention, you know, and you actually, like, went home and
put on khakis and a shirt and tie or whether, you know, you really enjoyed
dressing in drag and always had.

BOY GEORGE: Well, when I was a teen-ager, I started dressing up. When I
discovered David Bowie, that was my kind of extravagant style began in Culture
Club, and I did come and look like that most of the time. These days, I'm
more likely to go home and put on a pair of baggies, you know, because I like
to have a distinction between what I do on stage, and there is more of a
separation now than there used to be. I was kind of trapped in that image for
years. I couldn't bear to let people see me looking normal. Now I don't give
a damn.

GROSS: What's changed for you that you don't care now?

BOY GEORGE: I guess I'm more comfortable with my physical appearance without
the armor, without the drag. So there's more of a balance, and it just makes
dressing up more fun, you know, because it's not something you have to do as
an obligation.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Now were you into style before you were old enough to go to
the clubs?

BOY GEORGE: The first line in my book is, `When I was a little boy, I wanted
to be Shirley Bassey.' So I've always been attracted to style and dramatic
gestures, and I grew up with a fascination for all things different. I used
to watch those Busby Berkeley movies on TV on Saturday, and I just always
loved glamour and pizazz.

GROSS: And when did you start to try to become that?

BOY GEORGE: I guess around the age of about 11 years old, when I started to
really get into pop music. That was around the time of the glam scene, so
there were people like David Bowie and Marc Bolan, all sorts of fantastic
performers. And that's when I really started getting into it.

GROSS: Now when did you start to sing?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I always used to sing along to pop records. I used to walk
around the streets with a transistor radio to my ear, and I learned all the
words to every pop song you could imagine. And so I was always singing all my
childhood and all through my teen-age years. And people used to say, you
know, `You have a good voice. Why don't you try and become a singer?' But it
just seemed so out of reach when I was a teen-ager. And when punk rock came
along, it really opened the door for people like me because prior to that, you
really had to pay your dues and spend years on the road, and punk kind of
kicked down the door and turned everything upside down.

GROSS: So what was your singing like, you know, during the punk era?

BOY GEORGE: Well, my first band was called In Praise Of Lemmings. So that
kind of gives you an idea of what kind of--and we had this song which was
called "Mask."(ph) And I was really influenced by Siouxsie and the Banshees.
I was a big Siouxsie Banshee fan. So it was kind of very droney kind of
(singing) `Make a mask for me,' or that kind of deep baritone-type stuff, and
very suicidal. But I seem to have snapped out of that.

GROSS: Tell us the story of how Culture Club got started.

BOY GEORGE: Well, I was in this band called Bow Wow Wow, and they threw me
out. But I had the bug. I'd been on stage. I'd gotten a kind of taste of
it. So I started to look for my own band, and that's really how it happened.
I just rang around, and then once I got a couple of members of the band, we
started to look for other people.

GROSS: So one of the co-founders of the band, John Moss, who, you know, was
the drummer, you were lovers with him for a long time.

BOY GEORGE: We were lovers pretty soon after we met, and John was the kind of
driving force behind the band, you know, getting things organized. He was a
real sort of go-getter type person. So he was the kind of practical force
within the band. And we kind of fell in love within about three months of
meeting each other, and that's really what made the whole thing so exciting.
But as we got more and more successful and our relationship kind of fell
apart, you know, the pressures of being successful and jealousy, immaturity.
I mean, it really kind of wore us down.

GROSS: In your book, you say that you actually wanted people to know that you
were gay, but John didn't want you to reveal that.

BOY GEORGE: Well, John didn't want people to know about us...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

BOY GEORGE: ...and our relationship because on the one hand, he felt that the
media, if they knew, might try to interfere and write bad things about us.
And I guess also there was a lot of fear on John's part because he wasn't very
comfortable with his sexuality. But as far as I was concerned, you know, I
was out of the closet at 16. My parents knew when I was 16 years old. So it
was very frustrating for me to be kind of living in limbo, almost living a
lie. I mean, obviously, the way I looked and the way that I behaved I think
made it quite clear to a lot of people what I was. But I was sitting on the
fence, and it was a very difficult thing for me to do.

GROSS: What advice did your record company give you when you signed?

BOY GEORGE: My record company never ever gave me any advice about my
sexuality. Nobody ever interfered. I think people don't want to talk about
it. The general attitude in the business is, `I'd rather not know. You know,
if we don't talk about it, it doesn't exist.' I mean, I never had any of
that. I mean, no one in my management or in my record company ever said, you
know, `Don't say.' They just didn't talk about it.

GROSS: Oh, let me play the record that was your first hit in the States. I'm
going to play "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me." Was that your first hit in
England also?

BOY GEORGE: It was our third single, but it was our first successful record.

GROSS: Do you want to say anything about writing this song, how you feel
about it now?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I guess in those days, I was a bit of a victim, and this
song is kind of woe is me. You know, it was a song about John, all about the
fact that, you know, he wasn't sort of giving a hundred percent to the
relationship and he wasn't being honest with himself. So I guess it has a
certain poignancy.

GROSS: OK. This is Boy George, Culture Club, singing "Do You Really Want To
Hurt Me," their first hit in the States.

(Soundbite of music)

BOY GEORGE: (Singing) Do you really want to hurt me? Do you really want to
make me cry? Precious kisses, words that burn me. Lovers never ask you why.
In my heart, the fire's burning. Choose my color, find a star. Precious
people always tell me that's a step a step too far.

Do you really want to...

GROSS: I thought it was interesting in your book, you say that at some point
you realized that all the fans that surrounded your house and that really
wanted to get close to you, it wasn't so much that they cared about you, they
cared about being close to fame, being close to celebrity.

BOY GEORGE: Well, I can only kind of relate it to my own experiences as a
teen-ager. You know, I used to stand outside David Bowie's house, and I used
to go to radio stations, and I used to, you know, try and touch him and scream
as he came out of the building. And I don't really know why I did that. When
I think about it now, I think, `How ridiculous,' but I guess in some way, I
related to David Bowie. He was somebody a little weird. He was bisexual and
knew I was gay. So he was kind of like a god to me. He was a kind of
release, an escape. I don't know if that's true of my fans, but I think a lot
of the girls that were kind of into Culture Club and into me, I think they
really recognized a certain frailty and a certain vulnerability in me, and I
think that's what was the attraction.

BIANCULLI: Boy George speaking with Terry Gross in 1995. He has a new
musical called "Taboo" about his rise to fame in '80s London.

More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's interview with flamboyant '80s pop icon
Boy George. It was recorded in 1995, the year he released his first album of
songs with unambiguously gay lyrics including this song "Same Thing In
Reverse."

(Soundbite of music)

BOY GEORGE: (Singing) How does it feel, what do you do when he's all alone
with you? Do you kiss him, hold his hand? Who's the woman, who's the man?
Is it twisted? Is it sick, Mother Nature's little trick? I don't have to
feel no shame, in God's image I am made. Your brother doesn't understand how
you could love another man and your poor father thinks we're cursed. It's the
same thing in reverse. It's the same thing in reverse.

GROSS: Now how does it feel to sing songs now that acknowledge that you're
gay?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I guess all my songs have, in a way, been sort of gay love
songs, in a sense. In the past, they were kind of ambiguous.

GROSS: I'm trying to think, you know, in your lyrics in the past, was it
always, like, a you instead of a she or a he that you were addressing?

BOY GEORGE: I think it was general, you know, and we kept it ambiguous. The
first time I ever recorded with Culture Club, the first demos we ever made,
were for EMI Records, and a song called "Eyes of Medusa" was one of our first
songs. And in that, I sang, `He loves me, he hates me,' and there was a whole
incident where the engineer stopped me and said, `You're saying he.' And then
the whole band had a big discussion about it, and we decided that it would be
better to not alienate people. So in a way, what I've done is gone back to my
original way of writing and just written from the heart, really.

GROSS: You write in your book that you became trapped in your own image. You
had had a lot of different styles before you really became famous. Was the
image that you had when you became famous one that you were expected to keep?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I don't think I was expected to keep it.

GROSS: I mean, were you expected to keep, like, that hairdo and that outfit?

BOY GEORGE: Well, it kind of worked, so it was--I mean, the look that I had
in Culture Club was a kind of watered-down look of all the looks I'd had since
I was a teen-ager.

GROSS: Describe it.

BOY GEORGE: Well, it was the big Hasidic hat and...

GROSS: I never thought of it that way.

BOY GEORGE: Well, it was actually a proper Jewish hat that I wore...

GROSS: Really?

BOY GEORGE: ...which was a present from John. It was actually a
(unintelligible) hat and then I wore it with sort of dreadlock braids with
ribbons, and my clothes were kind of psychedelic and baggy. Not really
women's clothes, kind of blowing the boundaries, I mean, kind of androgynous,
if you like. I mean, I didn't wear breasts. I wasn't really trying to be a
woman. I was really contradicting all those sort of rigid ideas of what is
male and female.

GROSS: What about the image of the rest of the band?

BOY GEORGE: Oh, I did terrible things to them. I mean, I made them wear
things that they looked absolutely ridiculous in. Once I made Roy have white
dreadlocks, which was a pretty hideous look. And then there was a time in
Japan when I made them all wear these kind of very tight, sort of laco
shorts(ph) with clip-on suspenders. That wasn't a particularly favorite look
of theirs.

GROSS: Now...

BOY GEORGE: I was very bossy. I mean, I used to--I guess because they were
kind of quite straightlaced, so I used to try and spice them up a bit and make
them look more interesting.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. When you came to America and you had become a star here and
you started doing television shows here, shows that you didn't know, it must
have been an interesting experience. Like in your book, you write about being
on "Live" with Regis Philbin and what a disorientating experience that was.
Could you tell us about that?

BOY GEORGE: Well, when we arrived at the show, I couldn't believe all the
audience were wearing flared trousers and wide lapel jackets and big, funky
colored shirts, you know, and we looked like space aliens. It was, like, so
bizarre because we seemed like to be from another planet.

GROSS: Now you did "Solid Gold." And I thought it was really interesting.
You wouldn't let the "Solid Gold" dancers share the stage with you
because--why?

BOY GEORGE: I thought they were tacky, to be honest with you.

GROSS: Well, I have to agree with you.

BOY GEORGE: I mean, I felt that that whole setup of "Solid Gold" was a bit
'70s, and we were all about doing something modern, something revolutionary,
and I just thought that they jarred with our image.

GROSS: So you really had the power to say, `Sorry, you can't use your own
dancers on the show'?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I said, `You can use them but just not behind us, thank
you.'

GROSS: So...

BOY GEORGE: I was a bit of a tyrant in those days, and I used to really pull
weight a lot. I used to really get very uppity about things, and I would
refuse to do the show. I would just simply say, `Well, if they're on, we're
not,' you know? And, of course, I got away with it a lot of the time.

GROSS: One year when you won a Grammy, you said--well, why don't you repeat
what you said.

BOY GEORGE: I said, `Thank you, America. You've got style and taste and you
know a good drag queen when you see one.'

GROSS: Now how did you decide to say that?

BOY GEORGE: It just kind of flew out of my mouth. I mean, it wasn't like I
sat down and planned to say it.

GROSS: Oh, you hadn't?

BOY GEORGE: Oh, no, not at all. I mean, a lot of the things I say kind of
just burst out, you know. And I remember after that, I was told that a lot of
the people from CBS Records who I was signed to at that time had fallen off
their chairs and were, like, weeping and, you know, kind of dying in shock on
the floor. So I was quite pleased about that.

GROSS: Did they say anything to you afterwards?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I think--and I say this in the book--up until that point,
my sexuality had been kind of hovering in a huge question mark. And by saying
I was a drag queen, I was kind of saying I was gay. So it really did change
things for me after that. I mean, it kind of signaled a kind of almost
like--you know, it was like--almost like the end of Culture Club because
people had always wanted to see me as this kind of sexless, inoffensive,
exotic doll; and suddenly I was sort of being sexual and being provocative,
and it really freaked people out.

GROSS: So did it change your audiences' reaction to you?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I did hear that there were kind of college debates about
what I actually meant. You know, people did take it far more seriously, you
know, than was necessary. But I guess in those days, you know, it was quite a
shocking thing. I mean, now you have drag queens on every kind of, you know,
movie you can see, and they're on the TV all the time. But at that time, I
suppose people found that shocking, you know?

GROSS: You started using drugs after the band caught on. How did it change
your personality when you got involved with heroin?

BOY GEORGE: Well, I think drugs really help you to escape, and a drug like
heroin is almost like a womblike drug, you know? You're just completely cut
off from your feelings. You don't care about anybody or anything, and you
almost have this kind of superior air about you that is, you know, hard to
imagine unless you've done it.

GROSS: You know, in your book you say that on tours you got into, you know,
destroying expensive hotel rooms...

BOY GEORGE: No, never.

GROSS: Oh, that's what I thought it said. No?

BOY GEORGE: No, never did anything like that.

GROSS: OK.

BOY GEORGE: You know, when I was a kid, I used to get very upset watching
Laurel and Hardy bust up these houses. It used to really upset me. I would
never ever do anything like that. I mean, that's something--I guess, you
know, coming from a quite poor family--you know, my mother really had to kind
of scrape to get by, and she was very house proud, so I would never ever bust
up a hotel, ever.

GROSS: I'm really glad. I just think it's so spoiled to do that.

BOY GEORGE: Oh, I've never done...

GROSS: I hate it when rock stars do that.

BOY GEORGE: Oh, no, I've never done that. Oh, no, no. Not me.

GROSS: Now...

BOY GEORGE: Ozzy Osbourne, but not me.

GROSS: ...how did you end up kicking heroin?

BOY GEORGE: Well, unfortunately, I lost two very close friends of mine, and
that was a real sharp shock because I realized if I carried on, I'd be next.
And certainly, you know, I had the world's media on my back. I felt like
almost a rat in a corner. You know, I really didn't have any choice 'cause
everybody was saying, `Please give up, you know? Pull yourself together.'
And as I say, you know, losing my friend Michael and my friend Mark was really
what I needed, and I'm sad to say that, you know, because there's not a day
that goes by that I don't think of them, you know...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

BOY GEORGE: ...and wish I could turn back the clock, wish I could have done
something, you know?

BIANCULLI: Boy George speaking with Terry Gross in 1995. Let's hear his
rendition of "The Crying Game" from the 1993 film.

I'm David Bianculli. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BOY GEORGE: (Singing) I know all there is to know about the crying game.
I've had my share of the crying game. First, there are kisses. Then there
are sighs, and then before you know where you are, you're sayin' goodbye. One
day soon I'm going to tell the moon about the crying game, and if he knows,
maybe he'll explain...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Profile: Uncle Tupelo's brief but successful stint as a band
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, in for Terry Gross.

Not many bands have managed to ignite a new rock movement and break up four
years after their first album comes out, but Uncle Tupelo did. In exploring
the reissues of their four albums, Ed Ward tells the story of the band who
made alt-country a household word, in some households.

(Soundbite of music)

UNCLE TUPELO: (Singing) Down here where we're at, weather changes, that's the
way it goes. Sometimes it snows when everything's wrong. Sometimes it snows,
but when it does, it doesn't last long.

ED WARD reporting:

Sometimes a band is in the right place at the right time. That's what
happened to Jeff Tweedy, Jay Farrar and Mike Heidorn, three high-school
friends from Belleville, Illinois, who started playing together in 1984, and
five years later, had become a fairly successful local attraction. They
started out playing, basically, their record collections, but soon started
writing their own material. They found it went over well enough that they
were touring as far as St. Louis and Indianapolis, opening shows for local
and national acts. Taking some random words on a piece of paper, they came up
with the name Uncle Tupelo, and a friend immediately drew a sketch of an aging
Elvis, sitting in a chair with a can of beer and a TV remote to go with it.
They recorded some homemade cassettes to sell at gigs, and pretty soon, CMJ, a
tip sheet for college radio, was championing them. They were just one of
hundreds of bands with essentially the same story, but there was something
different about them.

(Soundbite of music)

UNCLE TUPELO: (Singing) Oh, dear, the hearts of men are failing. These are
latter days, we know. Great depression now is spreading, God's word declared
it would be so. I'm going where there's no depression, to a better land
that's free from care. I'll leave this world of toil and trouble, my home's
in heaven, I'm going there.

WARD: Somehow, Uncle Tupelo had latched onto something deep in America's
roots, as the title song of their first album, "No Depression," shows. It's a
Carter Family tune from the '30s that they learned from the New Lost City
Ramblers, a folk band of the early '60s, delivered with a passion that spoke
to their young audiences as much as the more conventional stuff they did.

(Soundbite of music)

UNCLE TUPELO: (Singing) What's going ...(unintelligible) walking about, would
like to change your point of view somewhere, but I feel my patience slipping
away. Looks like it's ...(unintelligible) burned down, stop messing around.
Don't want to go to the grave without a sound, and it's all (unintelligible)
rest, not to ...(unintelligible).

WARD: The connection with CMJ had gotten them invited to the magazine's
yearly convention in New York, where a tiny Boston label, Rockville, had seen
and signed them. On the heels of their first album, they toured extensively
around the country, and by mid-1990, when they appeared in Rolling Stone's New
Faces issue, they'd begun to amass a serious fan base. As every indie band
had to do, they spent most of their time on the road, so that it wasn't until
the middle of next year that they returned to Boston to record a second album.
This would, they decided, be all originals, to show that they were serious
songwriters.

(Soundbite of music)

UNCLE TUPELO: (Singing) Climbing out the window, tripping (unintelligible)
when we get back. Don't tell me which way ...(unintelligible) what
(unintelligible) it's my heart, it's ...(unintelligible) gun, but it's
unloaded now, so don't fire. Climbing out the window...

WARD: "Still Feel Gone," as the album was called, featured a couple of
outside musicians, most notably, Gary Louris, from their area's other
successful band, the Jayhawks, on guitar. He filled out the sound on record,
but it was the trio who kept on the road, eating up the miles in their van.

During this period, they played the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia, and
R.E.M.'s Peter Buck came backstage to congratulate them on their performance
of an old Louvin Brothers song.

(Soundbite of music)

UNCLE TUPELO: (Singing) Do you fear this man's invention that they call
atomic power, we all in great confusion ...(unintelligible) know the time or
hour when a terrible explosion may rain down upon our land, leaving horrible
destruction, blotting out the world ...(unintelligible). Are you, are you
ready for that great atomic power? You'll rise and meet your Savior in the
air. Will you shout or will you cry when the fire is from on high? Are you
ready for that great atomic power?

WARD: Buck was the first fan who'd known where the song had come from, and
the band instantly decided among themselves that he should produce their next
album. This one, they decided, would be mostly acoustic and, in a way, that
was good because Mike Heidorn, newly married and with a full-time job now, had
decided to quit the band. The material would be half originals and half
traditional or older material. And astonishingly, the band punched out the
entire album in a studio near Buck's house in Athens in less than a week, a
feat commemorated in its title, "March 16 to 20, 1992."

The connection with R.E.M. also drew attention and, having proven themselves
as performers, songwriters and record-makers, Uncle Tupelo was courted and
signed by Sire Records not long afterwards. With new drummer Ken Coomer
already on deck, they added a bassist, John Stirratt, and
multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston, who played a bunch of country instruments.

"Anodyne" the Sire album, was to be their last. Recorded in Austin, Texas, in
the spring of 1993, it had cameo appearances from steel guitar virtuoso Lloyd
Maynes, and the spirit of Texas music himself, Doug Sahm. It also featured
some of the most personal and bitter lyrics the band had ever recorded.

(Soundbite of music)

UNCLE TUPELO: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible) on your own where you
(unintelligible) and where you're going. I know these things
(unintelligible). ...(Unintelligible) dreams that never ...(unintelligible).
I couldn't help you then, I guess I can't help you now. ...(unintelligible)
pleasure, pleasure is way out of hand. The time is right ...(unintelligible)
Chickamauga's way out there, solitude is where I'm bound. I don't ever want
to face those tears again. I don't ever want to face those tears again.
Appalachia...

WARD: Not long afterwards, Jay Farrar left the band, and Jeff Tweedy took
several of the remaining musicians and started another band called Wilco.
Farrar's band, Son Volt, lasted a few years; he now records solo. Wilco, of
course, made 2002's astonishing "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" album, and Farrar's
album, "Sebastopol," is one of my favorite records of recent years.

Uncle Tupelo gave a new vocabulary to American rock, and each of its two
leaders went on to bigger and better things. Not all rock 'n' roll stories
have sad endings.

BIANCULLI: Rock historian Ed Ward lives in Berlin.

Coming up, photographer Marion Ettlinger. A book of her photos of authors has
just been published.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Marion Ettlinger describes how she prefers to
photograph her subjects
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Marion Ettlinger is famous in the literary world for her book jacket
photographs. Now she has a book of her own, a collection of her portraits
called "Author Photo." Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, Ann
Patchett, Edmund White, Robert Stone, Cormac McCarthy, Richard Russo and Sarah
Vowell are among the many writers she's photographed. She's known for her
brooding, introspective portraits. Ettlinger started photographing authors in
1983 when she was hired by Esquire magazine to do portraits of 45 authors and
journalists who had contributed to the magazine's 50th anniversary issue.
Terry spoke with Ettlinger last year and asked her if there was a unifying
look to her work.

Ms. MARION ETTLINGER (Photographer): Well, the most important aspect that I
strive for in a portrait is that the person is present in the portrait, that
they are there. And it's extremely interesting when I review my contact
sheets at various times and there are 30 images in a row that are virtually
identical in terms of the pose and the setup and everything, and the
variations really might come from the most subtle expressions in the face of
the person. And in one frame, they're there; they're utterly present, and the
next frame, they're kind of not. They're just--they've drifted. And that's
not to say that drifting can't also be something that is lovely and that you
want to use, but that sense of presence is really key to me.

And also, especially with authors, I like to bring out the effect and to make
them look smart and soulful and maybe sexy.

TERRY GROSS, host:

Well...

Ms. ETTLINGER: And often, the first two might just, you know, make the third
one a certainty.

GROSS: Why sexy? Why does a writer need to look sexy?

Ms. ETTLINGER: They don't need to look sexy, but I guess if you're in the
camp that you find smart and soulful sexy, then they just will.

GROSS: Now a lot of your photos of writers, the writers look very kind
of--the men look kind of hard-boiled; there's a certain drama about the women.
What if a writer shows up and they're really just kind of shlumpy, you know?
And to really capture the essence of this person would be a photograph of a
shlumpy-looking person.

Ms. ETTLINGER: Yeah.

GROSS: What are you going to do? Are you going to go for the shlumpy, or are
you going to, like, rework it so that you've got that drama or the
hard-boiled? Do you know what I mean?

Ms. ETTLINGER: Well, maybe I can't go from shlumpy to hard-boiled, but I
think even the shlumpiest of us have our better moments, and that's what I'm
looking for.

GROSS: And, I mean, how do you find it?

Ms. ETTLINGER: You know, you just look for it. You just--like, you know,
some people in their prephoto nervous state might say, `Oh, you know, I'm
really not photogenic. Trust me,' and, you know, want me to know that. And I
understand that because, you know, I think there is such a thing as
photogenic, and I think a few people have that. But I think most people don't
have that. In other words, what I'm trying to say is that being photogenic is
not required because I think everybody can be photographed well or not so
well, and if you're photogenic, well, that's just like gravy. But you know,
anybody can be photographed, the best version of themselves. Even a shlumpy
person has a range.

GROSS: Let's look at some of the photos that you've taken. You have a photo
of Truman Capote in which he's in profile and looking up. It's a very odd
angle, and his mouth is kind of turned down into a frown. Talk about that
pose.

Ms. ETTLINGER: He--it was a shoot for a magazine, and he consented to do the
shoot with the request that the office of the magazine, which was Esquire, by
the way, would inform him three days before the shoot and remind him that this
was happening, two days before the shoot and remind him, the day before and on
the day. And so they did that. I was on the road, and they kept up with me
and telling me that he was with the program except for the day of the shoot
where they couldn't get hold of him. But they said, `Go ahead, go anyway.'
And I went there and knocked on the door and there was nobody home.

And I went away for a while, and when I came back, I was driving up the
driveway and a car was coming out of the driveway. And we stopped and rolled
down the windows and a friend of his--I believe it was Jack Dunphy--said,
`Hello.' And I said, `Hi, I'm here to photograph Mr. Capote.' And he said,
`Good luck,' and he rolled up the window and drove away. So I went, `Hmm,
that doesn't bode well.'

And I drove up to the house--and this was early on in my work life, as I might
have mentioned. And as I was getting out of the car, Truman came running and
screaming out of the house, waving his fists in the air like--it was very
cartoon style--and screaming about this was the wrong day and he can't be
bothered with this and Esquire, you know, why'd they send him such an amateur
and, you know, pretty much terrorizing me.

And then as I was quivering, he said, `Start now or get out of here,'
basically. So I went, `OK.' And standing there, I just started to photograph
him; and the first frames are him just glaring at me. So maybe to relieve
myself from that gaze, I asked him to turn in profile. And he turned in
profile, and as he did that, he started to do this extraordinary thing where
he just started to lift his head and raise his chin, and he started to look
truly magnificent. And I suppose I murmured some words of encouragement, and
he continued to do that and held that. And I took the rest of them that way,
and when he heard the last shot being made, he said, `That's it. Goodbye,'
and walked back into the house.

And the great art lesson that he taught me was that--well, prior to him, I had
only known courtesy, cooperation and all kinds of nice stuff, and I just
assumed that those things were crucial in order to get a good result. And he
taught me that that's not necessarily true and that if you go with what's
happening, something much more interesting and more beautiful might happen as
a result of that.

GROSS: Sarah Vowell, you took her author photo.

Ms. ETTLINGER: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And this is a very tight close-up of her face. She's kind of like
surrounded by darkness, but her face is illuminated, and it's a very kind of
sober, almost grave expression on her face. And whereas her writing is very
funny and her writing is so much about being, like, neurotic and nerdy, and
her look is so different in this photo than her sound or, I think, than her
image in person.

Ms. ETTLINGER: I had never seen her before she entered, and I had a very
specific image of her in my mind, which was not what she looked like at all,
just even in terms of being fair or dark and all that. I have always detected
a dark side to Sarah's work despite her incredible wit and her offbeat take on
things; and in person, I found her a very serious person.

GROSS: So that's why you wanted to go for that more serious look?

Ms. ETTLINGER: Well, I think, in general, my work has a somber quality to it.
And it's true, and in the case of somebody who's written, you know, a
hilarious novel, then I try to get that twinkle or levity in the eye, but it
didn't quite happen with the photo of her.

GROSS: I think one of the most difficult things for somebody who's getting
photographed by a professional photographer for a publicity shot, for a book
or whatever other reason, is that it's almost like a fashion shoot in the
sense that you're almost like a professional model. You have to be there
posing sometimes for hours.

Ms. ETTLINGER: Right.

GROSS: Off and on for hours. And if you're not a professional model, that's
really quite a strain to be under the gaze of a camera for that extended
amount of time and to have any sense of focus or affect after that.

Ms. ETTLINGER: Are you speaking from personal experience?

GROSS: Well, I am, actually. I've had to take--not for a book, but I've had
to take publicity shots and...

Ms. ETTLINGER: Right.

GROSS: ...I just find it exhausting and trying. And I'm not good at smiling
on demand, so if a photographer says, `OK, smile.' I mean...

Ms. ETTLINGER: Well...

GROSS: ...sure, I can make those lips move, you know, in the imitation of a
smile, but it's really not going to be very convincing.

Ms. ETTLINGER: Well, I don't permit smiling. So that--let's get that
straight.

GROSS: Oh, you don't even permit it. Tell me about that.

Ms. ETTLINGER: Well, I mean, I guess I don't--although, you know, when I look
at my contact sheets, eventually something will have happened during the shoot
that makes a person laugh or smile, and it's a thing of beauty, of course.
But what I'm going for--see, I feel like that is a lovely thing and perhaps
has more of a place in the history of the person and more of a personal photo.
But I think for something, like, kind of going for more of a, I suppose,
iconic moment or image, I feel like a grin kind of, in the best sense of the
word, distorts the face and distracts a little bit from the structure that I'm
so interested in.

Now that's not to say that--I'm trying to save the photos from grimness most
of the time. I do like them to be serious. But that doesn't mean that I
don't welcome, like, levity and wit and all those good things to come through
the face, but I think they can come through just fine short of a big grin. I
think they can come through the musculature of the face and--it's corny to
say--but through the eyes and just in the expression. And that will happen,
hopefully, during the course of the shoot when somebody feels slightly amused
or something. And if it's not there, I might add for a drop of it if I need
it for a certain thing. But I never say, `Smile.'

BIANCULLI: Marion Ettlinger, speaking with Terry Gross last year. A
collection of her book jacket portraits has just been published, called
"Author Photo: Portraits, 1983-2002."

Coming up, David Edelstein reviews "Love Actually."

I'm David Bianculli. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New romantic comedy "Love Actually"
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Richard Curtis wrote for the British TV series "Blackadder" and "Mr. Bean"
before he wrote the romantic comedy films "Four Weddings and a Funeral,"
"Notting Hill" and "Bridget Jones's Diary." He makes his directorial debut
with "Love Actually," a romantic comedy with innumerable strands and a huge
cast of English and American stars. David Edelstein...

DAVID EDELSTEIN reporting:

Writer-director Richard Curtis is brilliant at many things, but his genius is
for characters who humiliate themselves. He is the bard of embarrassment. He
gives us a universe of blurters, men and women who come out with how they
really feel, then freeze, mortified at what they've said but bound to stammer
on. Left alone, they curse themselves for being fools, but they do it again.
That's why we love them, especially when they embarrass themselves in the name
of love.

"Love Actually" is a festival of embarrassment, and appropriately enough, it's
half delightful, half embarrassing. The title comes from the old Troggs song,
"Love is All Around," and the movie's original title was "Love Actually is All
Around." It begins with a prologue in which Hugh Grant spells this out over a
montage of people in airports hugging, and it ends with a montage of people in
airports hugging. All told, there are more hugs per square inch of celluloid
than in all the Christmas movies in all the world.

There's more everything in this movie, more stars, more cameos, more crises,
more climaxes. There are nine love stories, with a couple of sub-love stories
branching off, and they all run concurrently, and sometimes interlace, but the
plots don't really illuminate one another. This is more like a giant echo
chamber in which love songs are poured into the gaps like treacle.

I can't possibly tell you about every actor, plot and cameo, but Hugh Grant
does his usual adorable, English `aw shucks' thing, as the new bachelor
British prime minister who's promptly smitten by Martine McCutcheon as a
radiant working-class aide who everyone but him thinks is too plump.

Emma Thompson is the PM's sister. She and husband Alan Rickman have settled
into a dull middle age, but he's contemplating a fling with his eager `hotcha'
secretary, Heike Makatsch. Rickman works with Laura Linney, a love-smitten
American whose sometimes violent schizophrenic brother, umbilically connected
to her via her cell phone, makes other relationships dicey.

Colin Firth is a cuckolded novelist who heads for a French villa and tumbles
for his Portuguese cleaning lady, Lucia Moniz. Neither speaks a word of the
other's language, but the subtitles tell us they're reading each other's
minds.

And Liam Neeson is a grieving widower whose Haley Joel Osment-like son has
become obsessed with a girl in his school.

These and other plots are rendered deftly, but Curtis' need to move things
along at all costs results in a lot of emotional shortcuts, and some of the
serious threats--the schizophrenic brother, the grieving husband, a reference
to 9/11--feel cheap and exploitive. There is, fortunately, a comic wild card,
a burned-out rocker called Billy Mack, whose last-ditch attempt at a
number-one record is a variation on "Love is All Around," with `love' replaced
by `Christmas.' Billy is played by the sepulchral Bill Nighy. That's spelled
N-I-G-H-Y. You'll know why he owns this movie when you hear this scene, set
in an exurban radio station.

(Soundbite of "Love Actually")

Unidentified Actor: (As Mike) Billy, welcome back to the airwaves. New
Christmas single cover of "Love is All Around."

Mr. BILL NIGHY: (As Billy Mack) Except we've changed the word `love' to
`Christmas.'

Unidentified Actor: (As Mike) Yes. Is that an important message to you,
Bill?

Mr. NIGHY: (As Billy Mack) Not really, Mike. Christmas is a time for people
with someone they love in their lives.

Unidentified Actor: (As Mike) That's not you?

Mr. NIGHY: (As Billy Mack) That's not me, Michael. When I was young and
successful, I was greedy and foolish, and now I'm left with no one, wrinkled
and alone.

Unidentified Actor: (As Mike) Wow. Thanks for that, Bill.

Mr. NIGHY: (As Billy Mack) For what?

Unidentified Actor: (As Mike) Well, for actually giving a real answer to a
question. Doesn't often happen here at Radio Watford, I can tell you.

Mr. NIGHY: (As Billy Mack) Ask me anything you like, and I'll tell you the
truth.

Unidentified Actor: (As Mike) What's the best sex you've ever had?

Mr. NIGHY: (As Billy Mack) Britney Spears. No, only kidding. She was
rubbish.

EDELSTEIN: Billy Mack finds love, though not with Britney Spears, and not in
the way you expect.

A couple of other stories end grimly or unresolved, and there's one in which
love stays unrequited. But the prevailing tone is fairy-tale, with a
character's sadness and aloneness a prelude to some magical act of communion.
Curtis' other movies climax with a hitherto hesitant lover making a mad dash
to the airport to stop the beloved from getting on a plane. Imagine four or
five mad dashes and a host of intercut public declarations, all with the most
god-awful music pouring from the screen.

I love Richard Curtis, but can't help but feel that the bard of embarrassment
could use a touch more shame.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for FRESH AIR and the online
magazine Slate.

(Credits)

BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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