FRED MCDARRAH WAS MY NEWSPAPER HERO
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.