FRED MCDARRAH WAS MY NEWS­PA­PER HERO

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS - JOHN BELK­NAP JC CREATIVE DI­REC­TOR

I WAS a high-school stu­dent in Amer­ica dur­ing the 60s. Stuck out in the bor­ing ’burbs, I was fas­ci­nated by all the in­tel­lec­tual and mu­si­cal fer­ment fizzing away in New York’s Green­wich Vil­lage. My school some­how had a sub­scrip­tion to the left­ist Vil­lage Voice news­pa­per, which I de­voured ea­gerly ev­ery week. As ed­i­tor of my high-school news­pa­per, I watched care­fully how they used th­ese won­der­ful black and white pho­tos, each one with a bold credit: “VOICE Fred McDarrah”. I thought, how cool is that guy, tak­ing pho­to­graphs of all the stars of the time.

I made it to New York City by 1971. While go­ing to New York Univer­sity, I also made damn sure I got my­self a part-time job just up the street at the Vil­lage Voice. I went right up the nar­row stairs to the top floor and in­tro­duced my­self to Fred, who grunted and got on with his other job at the time, which was lay­ing out the pa­per. At the Voice, ev­ery rad­i­cal move­ment was pas­sion­ately de­bated, like Viet­nam, fem­i­nism, and gay lib­er­a­tion. Edi­to­rial meet­ings were shout­ing matches, with star writ­ers like Nat Hentoff and Richard Gold­stein on the verge of hit­ting each other, as were Fred and Ge­orge Delmerico, the art di­rec­tor.

Fred, not re­ally rad­i­cal him­self, but al­ways up for a laugh, just kept tak­ing good pic­tures: solid, nofrills jour­nal­is­tic por­traits that went straight to the point. The prints al­ways had that rough black border that be­came the Voice’s house style.

While work­ing there, I joined a band play­ing in the 70s CBGBs mu­sic scene, and also wrote for the Voice mu­sic sec­tion. One was a first-per­son piece, and Fred took my pic­ture for it. I couldn’t be­lieve my pic­ture had that credit on it.

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