Sheryl Crow, image control and the Fox Theater (of the absurd?)
Sixty miles east of Los Angeles is the city of Riverside, which is known for a couple of things in addition to having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Some of the state’s first orange trees were planted there back in 1871 and the local Fox Theater hosted the first screening of Gone With The Wind. The city is not a tourist destination and even folks like me, who live less than an hour away, have little reason to visit. In fact, I’ve been there only twice in the past ten years.
A few years ago the city decided to spend about $30 million dollars to renovate the Fox Theater and turn it into a state of the art performing center which would revitalize the downtown area and serve as the anchor to redevelopment. It opened for business a couple of weeks ago and last night it hosted it’s first concert with Sheryl Crow headlining. There’s only 1600 seats to fill and she didn’t quite do it, but the paper reported that it was a successful opening nevertheless.
The Press-Enterprise has been touting the Fox’s opening all month and this morning they had planned to splash photos’s of Sheryl’s performance on the front page so the community could feel a sense of pride in the new center. But there were no pictures to be seen…Sheryl’s contract forbid it.
I’ve worked with many musicians over the years and there have been more than a few who have tried to control their image by not allowing photo’s or recordings, and asking for final approval on interviews and such. It’s a throwback to the old Hollywood studio days where everything was tightly controlled to present the image that was needed to sell tickets and prevent scandal. Of course today with the internet, paparazzi, cell phone cameras and reality TV, you would think that performers would accept that in exchange for celebrity, they’d lose the right to control what people see or don’t.
Now I don’t know if Sheryl Crow has any idea about the rider in her contract prohibiting photos, or if it’s just a standard line put in by her management company. I do know that I wasn’t able to grab a picture of her from her website this morning because it wouldn’t let me…so I got it from Yahoo News. She’s a beautiful woman and I can’t see why she wouldn’t mind having her pictures shown in the news media and if she isn’t getting drunk, forgetting her underwear or crashing her car into a tree at three in the morning…what’s she got to lose?
On the walls of my office and in my desk drawer I have hundreds of pictures of myself with all sorts of musicians and performers acquired over three decades of working in the business. A friend of mine posts his in a folder on Facebook that he calls “Standing next to people who don’t know me” and it’s the obligatory music/film industry souvenir you get when attending an opening, release party or the backstage “meet and greet”.
The only person I’ve ever come across who demanded “control” on these types of photos was Paul McCartney. After an intimate lunch in the Capitol Record’s studio many years ago, I shook his hand and we each smiled for the camera. Usually you’ll get that photo back within a week or two , or sometimes if the artist wants to personalize and sign it, maybe longer. It took almost seven months to get the color 5X7 of me and the Walrus because it sat on the desk at his home until he could find the time to approve it. The thought of Paul agonizing over my five seconds with him and making sure there weren’t any crumbs on his lips or a misplaced hair is pretty crazy I think. But he was a Beatle and all, so it just became part of the experience.
I’ve got to go walk the dog and I don’t mean to rant about this…but it all seemed sort of silly to me when on the front page of the paper today they had a box stating why there were no Sheryl Crow pictures as promised. I think that made her look worse than if there was a crumb on her lip.