The Most Beautiful Morning Ever

Winter of ‘78.Hasselblad

I am sleeping off last night. A quiet deliberate knock awakens me. Mom’s voice in a stage whisper: “Uncle Bill is on the phone.”

My clock says 6:15.

I get myself vertical. I make it to the kitchen and pick up.

“Steven? (He always calls me Steven) “Have you been outside yet?” He sounds like he’s twelve.


“Get dressed and get your cameras. I’ll be there in five minutes.”

He is there in five minutes. He lives around the corner and he drives a 300ZX (Uncle likes his cars). I’m half-way to the driveway when I feel thousands of ice-cold needles poking my face and hands. My lungs are crystallized. I am glad to have my trench coat. I open the door. Uncle Bill leans across the seat.

“Go look up the street.”

I do as I am told. I take shallow breaths. It is remarkably cold. My eyeballs feel cold.

As I clear the pine trees in our yard my breath catches for a different reason. To our north, above our housing tract, the San Gabriels are covered in snow. I see them so clearly – like I’ve never seen them in my life.

Something has happened overnight. It wasn’t rain or wind, but something else. The drop in temperature, the dryness of the air – both – has cleared the air in Southern California of decades of accumulated pollution.

We drive to the harbor. On the way, Uncle Bill describes what it was like growing up when the smudge pots from the orange groves used to be the problem. But following the war, the orange groves were sold and developed. The oily, sooty smoke from those grove heaters was replaced by smog.

We arrive at the harbor and drive around looking for a specific angle. When we find it, we park and unload our gear. We deploy tripods and mount our cameras. We began shooting. I use 35mm Nikkormats, he shoots with his Hasselblads. The image is striking – downtown Long Beach backed up against the snow-covered San Gabriels. You would have thought it was Seattle.

It is still the most beautiful morning I’ve ever experienced.

The Night Marty Feldman Almost Ran Me Down on Sunset Boulevard

It is 1980. photographer-16022_640

KUCI DJ Patrick Zetterlund and I are shooting the Sunset Strip on a Friday night. Between us we have several cameras. lenses and a bunch of film.

Our line is that we’re from a Swedish magazine. Patrick is Swedish, so that’s easy. I’m half Swedish on my mother’s side. I have blonde hair and blue eyes. We decide he’ll do all the talking and then ‘translate’ for me into Swedish. I know how to say ‘thank you’ in a reasonable accent.

We start shooting traffic as the sun goes down, doing some time exposures of head-and-tail lights on color slide film. We’re breaking down our tripods when a Porsche Carrera passes us at a ridiculous speed, followed immediately by a white Highway Patrol Trans Am. We follow the tail lights as they disappear around the bend.

Our next stop is Tower Records. Patrick pitches the manager our story and the guy swallows it like he’s at a Smörgåsbord.

We roam the store taking pictures of the customers looking at records, at the staff waiting on customers, and cover the store. We’re about ready to leave when the manager says “I bet you can get some really good shots from on top of the counter.” I almost blow it by jumping directly up next to the register, but manage to wait long enough for Patrick to ‘instruct’ me in Swedish.

We move up the Strip, shoot the exterior of the Whisky A-Go-Go and walk the line, taking shots of all the punks waiting for the show. Then we return to the other end of the Strip to finish at the Roxy and the Rainbow Grill. We park on the street and walk back to the Roxy. There isn’t much going on. We wander across the driveway to the entrance to the Rainbow.

We are talking to the valets, trying to find out if there are any celebrities inside when a dune buggy comes flying up the driveway. I turn to find Marty Feldman driving at me wearing a ball cap with moose antlers. I dive out of the way just in time. As I pull myself to my feet and try to get my camera into shooting position, Feldman stumbles into the Rainbow.