Capturing The Photographs Worth A Thousand Lyrics (And Some Stories)

June 13, 2009
By SCOTT CRONICK - Staff Writer
Mark Weiss spent years photographing rock stars and other celebrities. A collection of his photos is on display on Saturdays through June 27 in the Boogie Nights Rock & Pop Art Gallery at Resorts Atlantic City.Mark Weiss hung out with Drew Barrymore, fished with Motley Crue's Vince Neil, laughed with Cheech & Chong in their underwear and had Jerry Garcia blow pot smoke in his face.Ahhh … the life of a rock star. But Weiss isn't your normal, run-of-the-mill, stage-jumping musician. He's a photographer. Walk into his first public exhibit, on display at the Boogie Nights Rock & Pop Art Gallery at Resorts Atlantic City any Saturday through June 27, and his photographs don't just appeal to the eye, they tell stories. expired domain list And Weiss is right there to elaborate, appearing each weekend to share his tales. Each of the different walls throughout the gallery represents a specific time or genre for Weiss, whether it's the '70s classic wall that has concert pictures of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones or the heavy metal wall with Van Halen and Metallica. It's never easy becoming a big-time photographer, and Weiss certainly had to hustle to get his breaks. The Newark native and Atlantic Highlands resident actually got his start illegally, paying off security people to get into concerts, sneaking lenses into shows inside his boots and sweatshirt and then selling the images. "I would go in, and when the lights went out, I would jump the barricade to get close to the show and then unlock all of the seats so the ushers couldn't get to me," Weiss said. "Then the lights would go on and Zeppelin would come on and I would shoot the whole show from 10 rows back, which is better than being in the pit and shooting up. I would stay up all night and develop pictures, and then a band such as Zep would play five or six nights, so I would go back and sell them in the parking lot for a buck a piece - bootlegs. I had to run from the cops and everything." Things didn't always go smoothly for Weiss. "I got arrested at a KISS concert in '77 - I was like 17 or 18 years old," Weiss said. "I'm in jail, and I said to one of the cops, 'Can I just leave?' And he said, 'Well you have to go through protocol to get released, and then if you want your pictures back, you have to come back and appear before a judge. I was like, 'Keep the pictures. Just don't tell my mom.'" That arrest, however, led to Weiss becoming more aggressive. He went to Circus Magazine, one of the leading rock magazines in the '70s and '80s. "I talked to the secretary, and I think she liked me because she thought I was cute or whatever, and she got me in to see the art director, Al Rudolph," Weiss said. "He gave me some advice and said, 'Come back when you think you got something. So I went to Aerosmith and Ted Nuge nt at Giants Stadium in 1978, and it was the time Aerosmith wouldn't let anyone photograph them because they were all drugged out. So I snuck my lenses in and got some killer shots. Two weeks later, I got a call from Circus asking if I had any shots of Aerosmith. I brought them down and they didn't seem too excited about them and told me to leave them. A month and a half later, I go to the newsstand and see the Beatles on the cover with an insert on the cover that said something like 'Stephen Tyler Super Exclusive Centerfold.' I was like, 'That's my shot.' I opened the centerfold and saw my name there. I cried. They paid me $125, but I would have paid them." Eventually, the industry noticed his talent, and Weiss was working on everything from concerts to publicity shots for "The Robert Klein Show," where he met his first celebrity, The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia. "Jerry showed up and was chilling, waiting for Robert to interview him, and I said, 'Hey, want to go up on the roof and shoot some pictures.' He said, 'Sure,' and he grabbed his case and we spent about 10 minutes together. I love it because the case is all tattered with burnholes and the Dead sticker on it. It's an iconic image. I didn't get high with him up there, but he did. I think he blew some smoke in my face. But I didn't want to get in trouble. " Weiss' first official shoot was at Peter Frampton's house in West Chester, N.Y. At the gallery, you can see the photo that was sent as Frampton's publicity shot around the world in 1979, with Framption in shorts, petting his dog, Rocky, next to the doghouse. Weiss began getting tons of gigs, including some for US Magazine, including rock spreads for ZZ Top, Van Halen and Cheech & Chong. "Basically we had an hour or two to shoot them, and I said, 'We have to do something here,'" Weiss said about the stoner celebrities. "I said, 'Do you mind taking off your clothes?'" And they had this skit with the dogs, so they took off their clothes and got on all fours on the bed. The headline was 'Dynamic Dopers.'" Perhaps Weiss' biggest claim to fame was his album cover for Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet" album. Featuring a buxom brunette in a wet yellow T-shirt, the album was released and eventually pulled off shelves for being too risque. "It was the time when the (Parents Music Resource Center) was really cracking down, and 100,000 or 200,000 copies got out," he remembered. "Then they pulled it because of the pressure. When you look at it now, it's nothing. A picture like this would be an ad for a bubble gum company." Weiss' photographs caused other controversies, as well. "I went with (Twisted Sister's) D ee Snider for the Senate hearings with the PMRC and my pictures were flipping by as I was taking pictures of Dee, who was talking, and they were saying, 'Who can think of Ozzy stabbing Ziggy (the doll) in the head with blood coming down?' And I'm thinking, 'That's my idea. But what about Bela Legosi and all of that. They are just movies.'" Even Weiss' first album cover caused issues for Twisted Sister's "Stay Hungry." "We shot a lot of stuff with the whole band, and then they left and I asked Dee to stick around to do some solo shots, maybe for the inside jacket," Weiss said. "So I went down to the deli and saw this bone, and got it and threw it at him during the shoot. He grabbed it and went crazy with it. When the record company saw it, they picked it for the cover. I think the band almost broke up over it." That led to many more covers for KISS, Dokken, Christina Aguilera and - his least favorite - Air Supply. He even shot a baptism for Bon Jovi, shot Richie Sambora and Heather Locklear's wedding and has been Ozzy's photographer since 1980. "My first photo shoot with him was for the cover of Circus," Weiss said. "It was supposed to be a black-and-white, small picture for a story on rock's most athletic performers. As a joke, they gave it to Ozzy. And he came in with boxing gloves, boots and a tutu, and it ended up being the cover. When it came out, Sharon (Osbourne) was pissed. But it generated so much publicity, they ended up liking it and booked me for more stuff with him. We're very close." Along the way, Weiss has met his share of egomaniacs ("Mariah Carey was a primadonna") and jerks (Glen Danzig wouldn't perform one night if Weiss was in the building after a photo shoot), but the photographer says most of his subjects have been great to work with. For now, Weiss keeps working hard and is enjoying showing off his photos in Atlantic City, where his mom, Rita Weiss, lives. "I never had a show, so this kind of gave me a deadline," says Weiss, who was asked to do it by Boogie Nights co-creator and fan Dave Pena. "It was a lot of work doing it, but it will be fun when I start selling some stuff. (Art ranges from $400 to $5,000). If they are willing to spend even $100, it's flattering that they want to put it on their wall or give it as a gift. For me, it was never about the money." Photographs by Mark Weiss When: 6 p.m. to midnight, Saturday nights through June 27 Where: Boogie Nights "Rock & Pop Art Gallery," inside Resorts Atlantic City on the dining level between The Ballroom and Capriccio. Cost: Admission is free, and all prints and originals are available for purchase.

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