Spirit of ’77: Brad Elterman Shows His Candid Photographs of Rock Stars in L.A.

Duran Duran at the Riot House, 1981
(© Brad Elterman)

In 1976, photographer Brad Elterman walked into the backstage green room of the Roxy, the famed club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, to find Bob Dylan standing around with nothing to do. So he took his picture. But there were a few others at the infamous Hollywood bar that night, including the folk singer Ronee Blakeley and a young actor who wanted to meet Dylan. His name was Robert DeNiro and he had a new movie out called “Taxi Driver.” So they all got together, Elterman took the photograph, and it ended up in People magazine.

Since then, Elterman’s pictures have appeared in every major rock magazine, galleries across the world, and a coffee table book called “Like It Was Yesterday.” He’s taken many iconic photographs, like the shot of Brooke Shields sticking her tongue out with Gene Simmons in KISS makeup, or a young Michael Jackson in his cherished sequined vest, or Joan Jett flipping the bird with both hands while grinning wildly at the camera.

And now he’s sharing his pictures once again. Last night at Kana Manglapus Projects in Los Angeles’s Venice Beach, Elterman unveiled an exhibition of never-before-seen photos of LA during the excess of the 1970s. “Factory 77” features a bevy of perfect pictures, many of which portray megastars not posing, just being natural. There’s Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta engulfed by the crush of newfound fame at the premiere of “Grease.” In another, a gaunt David Bowie is walking into his studio at 6:00 a.m., smoking in a pageboy cap, red hair spilling out from underneath. There’s Duran Duran lounging in a white convertible at the Riot House. And, perhaps most memorably, there’s Ringo Starr, using a secret key to get into the Roxy for a Bob Marley show as John Lennon and Yoko Ono look on.

For Elterman, it’s a tribute to a lost era and a reflection of the fact that his particular expertise and talent may never be of use again.

“They thought the camera was a novelty,” he told WWD. “Today, everyone is armed with an iPhone and can beam a picture around the world, but this was an age before p.r. and management controlled the imagery.” 

And, sadly, not only is the age of physical film dead and gone, so are many of the icons captured in these photograph — John Lennon and Michael Jackson, to name two. So, relive the Roxy and all its long lost rock stars at “Factory 77.” The exhibition runs until September 10.


Click on the slide show to see images from Brad Elterman’s “Factory 77.”