A Look at Celebrity, Through the Eyes of a Paparazzo
If it was happening in New York in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, John Simone was photographing it. A fixture of the downtown club scene, it’s safe to say that Simone has seen it all…and then some. From million dollar parties to outlaw events under the Brooklyn bridge, his lens captured an era in New York history that will not come again. In the drug-addled, debauched, around-the-clock party that was New York at the end of the last century, club kids mingled with movie stars, who mingled with models and designers and artists and drag queens – and Simone was there to document it all.
Now he is revealing what it was like to be there, both as an observer and a participant, in a new book, co-authored with Simon Lea, called “An Interview with Johnny Paparazzo.“
Simone worked as a journalist and photographer for some of New York’s best known underground magazines, as well as more mainstream fashion and art periodicals. Later, his photos were shown in gallery exhibitions throughout the world. His work took him to celebrity haunts, private parties, illegal after-hours clubs and everywhere in between. Along the way he got to know some of the most famous people in the world, and many who would later become famous. He was there for the “Club Kid Murder” case, which saw “Party Monster” Michael Alig sent to prison, and which marked the beginning of the end of the heyday of New York City nightclubs like The Limelight and The Palladium. And he was there at the beginning of careers that would later become legendary, with a knack for photographing those who would go on to become household names.
In “An Interview With Johnny Paparazzo,” Simone reveals secrets and gossip, but also provides insight into a time and place that few people had the chance to experience. The photographer formed lasting relationships with many of the famous faces he shot, and it is the revelations about those relationships that are the most fascinating part of this new book. Text is accompanied by Simone’s unique art/documentary style photographs, in a graphic novel/ interview format.
Among the famous and infamous that the book covers are: Michael Jackson, Joey Ramone, Tom Cruise, Elton John, L.L. Cool J, River Phoenix, David Bowie, Sting, Kate Hudson, Iggy Pop, and Naomi Campbell.
The graphic novel format lends itself well to the short, conversational and gossip-y stories contained in this book. Funny, slightly scandalous tales told to Simone by celebrities like Mena Suvari, who opened up about the circumstances of her conception after a drink or two. And touching, revealing stories like the one Michael Jackson told Simone about running away from home as a child.
“An Interview with Johnny Paparazzo” was released on January 22 and is sold exclusively on Amazon. For more information, visit the book’s Facebook page or its page on Amazon. And for more on the fascinating life and work of John Simone, and the story of how he went from unknown Canadian wannabe to house photographer at New York’s hottest clubs, magazines and galleries, visit his photography/design website.
A Look Inside the Book
Gallery: Nightlife and Celebrity Photographs by John Simone
(click for larger image)
All photographs above © John Simone
E.T. Carlton is a freelance writer and content marketing specialist. She has a particular interest in both photography and New York City history.