Walk This Way
Galella had a relationship with Jackie Onassis that might charitably be described as fractious. The former First Lady became an obsession for the photographer, and his behavior could be seen as bordering on predatory. Jackie O. eventually sued, getting a restraining order that was to keep him 150 ft. (46 m) away, though he broke it repeatedly. When this was reduced to 25 ft., Galella took to carrying an oversize tape measure around with him so he could pace out the distance. “Why did I have an obsession with Jackie?” Galella wondered. “I’ve analyzed it. I had no girlfriend. She was my girlfriend, in a way.
But Galella’s obsession paid off, at least photographically, with his most famous shot,Windblown Jackie. “I call it my Mona Lisa,” he’s said. This arresting photo was taken on Madison Avenue in New York City in 1971: Galella jumped into a taxi to follow Onassis, taking the shot when she looked around as the driver honked his horn. It’s now an acknowledged masterpiece, proof positive that the line between art and obsessive stalking is as thin as the photographic paper it’s printed on. “I don’t think she knew it was me,” ventured Galella. “That’s why she smiled a little.”
Truman Capote reclines with a louche grandeur, or perhaps plain old drunkenness, at legendary nightclub Studio 54 — which he called “Cinquantaquattro” — flanked by Kate Harrington, left, the daughter of Capote’s then lover John O’Shea, and actress Gloria Swanson. Capote died of excess six years after this photo was taken — to which his bitter rival Gore Vidal supposedly quipped, “Good career move.”
Screen legend Sophia Loren points out her prominent eyes at the premiere for Doctor Zhivago at the Americana Hotel in New York City in 1965. Producer Carlo Ponti had originally intended to cast Loren, his wife, as the movie’s heroine, but director David Lean argued that she was too tall for the role — and that audiences would never believe she was a virgin
Defining a Decade
Roy Halston Frowick, left, a.k.a. Halston, was one of the most famous designers of the 1970s, single-handedly defining the minimalist draped fashions that lit up Studio 54 for a decade. If he designed it, then Bianca Jagger, center, Liza Minelli and every other starlet would wear it. Halston also came up with the legendary and often imitated pillbox hat that Jacqueline Kennedy — as she was then known — wore to JFK’s 1961 Inauguration. “You’re only as good as the people you dress,” said Halston. Which made him very good indeed.
Calling the Shots
When Ron Galella bugged Marlon Brando one time too many in June 1973, the star of The Godfather and On the Waterfront punched him in the jaw, not only breaking it but also knocking out five teeth for good measure. But Galella was hard to keep down: he simply left, had his jaw wired up and was back shooting that night. With both a photographer’s instinct for what makes a good photo and a celebrity’s instinct for what makes good press, the next time Galella shot Brando, he was prepared — he wore a football helmet.
Crazy for You
Sean Penn had infamous run-ins with the paparazzi from the day he met Madonna. One such incident in 1987 — the same year this photo was taken — led to him being arrested for assaulting a photographer on a film set. Penn was sentenced to 60 days in jail; he served roughly half that time. “I still think photographers should be lashed out at,” said an unrepentant Penn in 2007. “They should be put in a cage where you can poke them with a stick for a quarter.” Penn and Madonna, in matching sunglasses during the second year of their four-year marriage, ooze an effortless cool — even if Penn’s sneer is plain to see.
The Way You Make Me Feel
Michael Jackson and Brooke Shields are snapped in a car on the way to a Grammy Awards after-party in 1993. Jackson had just received the Legend Award from his sister Janet — mere months before a storm of child-abuse allegations would irreparably tarnish his image. Shields met Michael Jackson in 1978, when she was 13, and their relationship seemed more innocent than the others that would subsequently be synonymous with the singer. Speaking at his memorial service in 2009, Shields summarized in words what Galella had achieved with this photograph: “Both of us needed to be adults very early — but when we were together, we were two little kids having fun.”
King of Cool
In 1973, Galella flew to Jamaica in pursuit of Steve McQueen, who was shooting the prison-escape movie Papillon. Anxious that photos of his relationship with new girlfriend — and later wife — Ali MacGraw didn’t make the tabloids, McQueen granted Galella 10 minutes of precious portrait time, provided that he caught the next plane off the island. A bargain surely well worth making.
Fifteen Photos of Fame
Bianca Jagger defines elegance as she and Andy Warhol attend a New York gala in 1978 in honor of George Cukor, director of A Star Is Born and My Fair Lady. Warhol would babysit Bianca’s daughter Jade at his studio, the Factory, while Bianca — now a human-rights activist — took her place among the jet set. “I love Mick and Bianca,” said Warhol, “but Jade’s more my speed. I taught her how to color, and she showed me how to play Monopoly.”
Above and Beyond
Elizabeth Taylor is one of Galella’s favorite subjects, and in 1969, he paid a night watchman $12 to be locked in a rat-filled warehouse on the Thames waterfront in London for the weekend. The reason? The warehouse overlooked the Kalizma, the yacht Richard Burton had bought Taylor. Galella was apparently so close, he could hear the couple arguing (they were in the midst of their first marriage at the time). “They never spotted me. Never,” he proudly remarked.
The two most famous pop stars in the world went to the 1991 Oscars as each other’s date, taking up front-row seats and many inches of newsprint. Galella caught this shot of them arriving at Spago in West Hollywood for talent agent Swifty Lazar’s after-party, one of the most famous and exclusive events in town. But according to People magazine, Madonna spent the evening canoodling with Warren Beatty, while Jackson paid his attentions to Diana Ross.
Here’s Looking at You
When shooting, Galella doesn’t look through the camera’s viewfinder but instead makes eye contact: a technique rewarded by Warren Beatty in this 1979 photo. “I don’t do paparazzi anymore,” confesses Galella, who is now 79. “I can’t run — I have arthritis in my legs.” But the casual artistry to his work lives on, and his photographs fix the famous and the beautiful into eternal youth — and sometimes eternal irritation.