Rock gods in South Florida

Pho­tog­ra­pher Larry Singer cap­tured the stars

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - ART - By Phillip Valys

The first time pho­to­jour­nal­ist Larry Singer met fu­ture rock ’n’ roll roy­alty, he was wan­der­ing back­stage at the now-de­funct Pi­rate’s World amuse­ment park in Da­nia Beach, search­ing for a woman named Alice Cooper.

“I thought he was a chick, man,” Singer re­calls. “I’d never seen the band be­fore.”

Singer, hired as a stringer for the Chicago rock magazine Cir­cus to pho­to­graph an Alice Cooper con­cert, found the man born Vin­cent Furnier in a dress­ing room at the end of a hall­way in De­cem­ber1971, drink­ing beer with band­mates, his eyes framed in spiky ringlets of thick, black grease­paint. When Singer no­ticed the Alice Cooper stage cos­tume — skintight stretch pants un­der­neath a lace- up leather vest — he felt too in­tim­i­dated to meet the rocker, and turned to leave. But Cooper, who had a yen for am­a­teur pho­tog­ra­phy, had spot­ted Singer’s Nikon and Le­ica cam­eras, and barked for Singer to stay.

“[Alice is] in full drag, and he yells af­ter me, ‘Hey, what do you want? ’” Singer re­calls. “I dug my press pass out and gave him an en­ve­lope of color prints from a re­cent Who con­cert I shot, and he said he liked them and I should stay. Mye­goin­flated to roughly the size of Mon­tana.”

Speak­ing at the art gallery Stu­dio 18 in Pem­broke Pines, Singer ticks off the names of 1970s and ’80s rock lu­mi­nar­ies he has pho­tographed at a rapid clip: U2. Ed­die Van Halen. Bob Dy­lan. Bruce Spring­steen. The no­to­ri­ously shy Ritchie Black­more. The “late, su­per-great” Chuck Berry. The late, “amaz­ing” Gregg All­man. But with Cooper, Singer says, they bonded over pho­tog­ra­phy, spawn­ing a friend­ship that would last years. Later that evening in 1971, Singer would cap­ture one of his fa­vorite in­ti­mate mo­ments: Cooper sip­ping a can of Bud­weiser, his face fixed in an ex­pres­sion of mock anger, in front of a tin­sel-cov­ered Christ­mas tree.

“Rockin’: The Story of Rock ’n’ Roll”

Where: Stu­dio 18 in the Pines, 1101 Poin­ciana Blvd., in Pem­broke Pines When: Open­ing re­cep­tion Fri­day at 9 p.m. Ex­hibit closes Aug. 2 Cost: Ad­mis­sion is free. Con­tact: 954-961-6067 or go to PPines.com/Stu­dio18.

The im­age is on dis­play in Stu­dio 18’s rock ’n’ roll-themed group ex­hibit “Rockin’: The Story of Rock ’n’ Roll,” which will open to­day. The Oak­land Park-based pho­tog­ra­pher’s 17 images, the cen­ter­piece of the show, are strik­ing dis­patches from South Florida’s con­cert scene when the re­gion was lousy with big-ticket bands whofired up the Hol­ly­wood Spor­ta­to­rium, the Sun­rise Mu­si­cal The­atre and Pi­rate’s World, where Singer pho­tographed most of his rock leg­ends.

“Peo­ple who were soon-to-be rock stars, I had all this ac­cess to,” says Singer, 70, an Air Force sergeant in Viet­nam who stud­ied jour­nal­ism at Broward Com­mu­nity Col­lege. “It wasn’t some grand plan. I was just a poor, lo­cal boy, not some NewYork hot­shot with a $2,000 cam­era. I worked a deal to give the Pi­rate’s World con­cert pro­moter copies of my pho­tos for free, and he let me back­stage any time I wanted.”

Most of Singer’s anec­dotes from those1971-1984 Cir­cus years, which here­calls with near spir­i­tual rev­erie, are united by com­mon themes: bizarre en­coun­ters, dan­ger­ous split-sec­ond de­ci­sions and ob­scene amounts of drugs. There was the time, ac­com­pa­nied by Cir­cus free­lance writer Jim Es­pos­ito, when Singer snuck his cam­eras into a 1981 Rolling Stones con­cert at Or­lando’s Tan­ger­ine Bowl (the last-minute opener: Van Halen). The show banned pho­tog­ra­phy, but Singer had taped a cam­era lens to his back and stuffed film rolls into his un­der­wear. Whense­cu­rity frisked him, they con­fis­cated his lens and handed it to a teenage girl who worked the Lost and Found booth. The girl, bored and dis­tracted, gave Singer his lens back.

Dur­ing the con­cert, Singer cap­tured Ed­die Van Halen strik­ing a midair pose one sec­ond af­ter he leaped off his brother Alex’s drum riser. That im­age is now on per­ma­nent dis­play at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Michael Edel­berg, Stu­dio 18’s cu­ra­tor, de­scribes Singer’s photo- graphs as “his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments.”

Edel­berg orig­i­nally thought Singer’s pho­tos de­served a solo ex­hibit, but de­cided “Rockin’” should be a more am­bi­tious look at South Florida’s rock ’n’roll hey­day. The show fea­tures more than 100 pho­tos, paint­ings and sculp­tures by 16 artists, in­clud­ing Ken David­off, a pho­to­jour­nal­ist who cap­tured Ja­nis Jo­plin, Mick Jag­ger, John Lee Hooker and others at the 1968 Mi­ami Pop Fes­ti­val.

Other tributes in­clude Ray Lozano’s “The 27,” a gui­tar sculp­ture built from clay and mir­ror shards, the ti­tle a ref­er­ence to the glut of in­flu­en­tial rock­ers who died at age 27. Also in the ex­hibit is a 1979 dress re­hearsal photo, do­nated by Barry Gibb’s pub­li­cist, of the Mi­ami-based Bee Gees pos­ing arm-in-arm on­stage at Eb­bets Field in New York. Four more vin­tage pho­tos, on loan from Glo­ria Este­fan’s pub­li­cist, showthe singer per­form­ing un­der twin­kling lights with Mi­ami Sound Ma­chine mem­bers.

“You can’t cel­e­brate South Florida mu­sic with­out Glo­ria Este­fan,” Edel­berg says. “But ev­ery­one here is an icon.”

LARRY SINGER/COUR­TESY

Larry Singer got this pic­ture of Ed­die Van Halen in a 1981 con­cert at Or­lando’s Tan­ger­ine Bowl.

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