People: Life After Dark
Famous People, Photographed
A review by Adrienne Miller
Can you get, like, paid to go to parties? If so, I must look into this line of work. I mean, what else do the people in People, Roxanne Lowit's lush, gloriously produced (as are all books by this publisher), unputdownable book of photographs do exactly? Having one's picture taken at a party is obviously a big achievement in this particular world. In fact, having one's picture taken at a party seems to be the only achievement in this particular world. And no doubt about it, Lowit's subjects actresses, actors, supermodels, countesses you've never heard of, drag queens and socialites look, to steal a word from Andy Warhol (whose picture appears four times in this book), great. The women are buxom (except for Fran Lebowitz), luminous (except for Fran Lebowitz) and have smiles from here ("here" being Manhattan) to New Jersey ("New Jersey" being from where lots of them certainly escaped). They look as glad as an ad. Exceptions: Fran Lebowitz, Lou Reed, Todd Solondz, Johnny Depp, Miles Davis. It was a brave photographer indeed who asked to take Miles Davis's picture at a party circa 1986. And Lowit does seem to be an intrepid soul. At an Elton John concert in Central Park in the seventies, she snuck backstage, got onstage, and snapped a picture of Elton John in that Donald Duck outfit that can still only be described as disturbing.
Lots of the people in People are gone now, dead from AIDS or drugs: Robert Mapplethorpe, Jean Michel Basquiat, Tina Chow, Michael Hutchence, Keith Haring, Halston. Flipping through the book, I kept wondering what all these people in all these pictures were thinking about. I kept wondering if they could possibly have been having as much fun as they wanted Lowit (and us) to believe. Maybe famous people don't really have that much more fun than we do? Wouldn't it be pretty to think so?
Adrienne Miller is the literary editor of Esquire.
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