Thirty five years of photographing actors, models, celebrities, corporate folk, and anyone else who’d pay me, gives me a certain bag of stories that seem “normal” to me until I start telling my friends “what happened in my studio today.”
Take, for instance, the case of Sonny Stiletto. I’d be comfortable wagering that wasn’t his birth name but that’s who he was when he walked into my studio. He actually didn’t “walk” into my studio – he swaggered in. Webster defines “swagger”, when used as an adjective, as “denoting a coat or jacket with a loose flare from the shoulders” and that’s a good description of Sonny. Starting at the top, his hair was lubricated to the point of one molecule away from dripping and it was jet black like shiny plastic. His cheeks remained sucked in the entire visit so I feel confident he had super glued them to his molars. He nose was Roman straight (geometrically speaking) and his lips pursed permanently in duck fashion.
“Yo, Michael, how you doin?” he nodded.
“Great Sonny, pleased to meet you. What are we shooting today?” I smiled.
“I need some pichas. Some good pichas, ya know, to like, get some work or sumthin, ya know?” he pursed.
“OK…pictures you want, pictures you got. Let’s go through your wardrobe” I interpreted.
So we pulled two wadded up shirts out of a grocery store plastic bag and chatted about which one brought out his eyes best. Were we going to settle on the shiny dark black cotton shirt (shiny from being ironed too hot), the charcoal black, or the shiny black silk? Sonny preferred the shiny black silk because it “looked good” and showed off his gold chains nestled in his chest hair. Since that was what he wore in, I figured it was a favorite anyway.
I have learned over the years when someone asks me what I think that they really aren’t interested in what I truly think. The REAL question is,”Try to guess what I think and then agree with me!”. I have also become fairly proficient at reading the air, so I felt rather confident in choosing shiny black silk. He nodded approval when I said I thought that shirt would bring out his hair also.
After twenty minutes of rearranging his hair to EXACTLY the same position it was when he walked in, we started our shoot.
He stood in front of my camera and proclaimed, “Yo Michael, dis here is a good picha. Shoot dis”
So I did.
He unbuttoned his skin tight jeans and hung his thumbs from the waist band, gave his lips and extra purse and then swaggered,”Den how ’bout I give ya one of deez!”
So I took that photo also.
What I need to interject at this point is that during our entire session he was perseverating about the recent demise of a relationship with a girl in New York. I’d shoot a few frames and Sonny would say something about that puzzling breakup, then he would return to “Shoot dis”, and off we’d go for a few more frames. I will condense the two hour conversation to my favorite passages.
Sonny,”I don’t know what her problem is, ya know. What is her problem?”
Me,”You got me, Sonny”
Sonny,”I mean…I got a normal penis, ya know. So what is her problem?”
Me,”Don’t know, man, that’s truly a mystery”
Sonny,”What does she want anyway, ya know? I got a normal penis!?”
Sonny,”You know what’s wrong with women dees days, Michael?”
Me,”Not a clue, Sonny, do tell”
Sonny,”Their minds are fuckin degenerated. Dat’s it, ya know. I think it must be the smog or sumthin, ya know!”
Me,”Ah…it’s the smog… got it.”
Sonny,”You know what, Michael, I got an idea”
Sonny,”You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna tell ya what I’m gonna do. Here’s what I’m gonna do!”
(Why Sonny felt compelled to let me know in three different ways that he was called to action, I have no idea, but I was on the edge of my seat.)
Sonny,”I’m gonna get me a couple of dikes. Yea – I’m gonna get me a couple of dikes. Den they can move in wif me, and I can watch them, and they can watch me, den they can do my laundry!”
I must say I was stunned. Even for the likes of Sonny Stiletto, this “idea”, left me absolutely speechless.
I stammered,”Wow…well, I’ll be anxious to hear how that works out for ya there, Sonny!”
Somewhere deep (admittedly not that deep) inside me I wanted him to attempt to implement this boneheaded plan. I could just see the headlines in the newspaper:
“Disenchanted Lesbian Couple Hangs Stiletto”
“Gay Couple Throws Stiletto Out Window”
“Dead Stiletto Found Sonny Side Up”
What disturbed me most I have to say, is knowing that somewhere in the world, Sonny has most likely, reproduced and little Stilettos are running around saying,”Shoot dis!”