My Chris Cornell Experience & Birthday Tribute

 

Greetings everyone and welcome to another edition of “The Outsiders Guide to the Inside of Hollywood”. This falls into the category of, wish I didn’t have to write. I’ve been trying for the last month’s and literally have started and stopped this blog over 50 times. Last May, we lost one of my favorite musical artist, Chris Cornell. Today July 20, would have been his birthday. Chris was a musical genius. His range and different styles of music was unlike anything at the time. The first time I heard of Soundgarden, was in 1990 when they were on tour with Faith No More”. I remember seeing an interview on MTV and hearing that voice. “That voice”, was so unique. The range of his vocals from Temple of the Dog, to Audioslave and his solo work to the unique and ground breaking sound of Soundgarden. The band had a sound unlike I’ve ever heard. Their songs were well written tales about overcoming obstacles and dealing with darkness, coming through to see the light and hope. The musical journey took everyone to a special place in their mind. Chris sang about personal demons but also stories of Love and hope.

Soundgarden, who was part of the Seattle Invasion along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and others part of the Grunge rock scene. At the time the rock bands who were dominating the Billboard charts and filling Arena’s were part of the 80’s hairband era. Soundgarden may have had long hair and considered themselves a Heavy Metal band, but they were defiantly not a hair band (Poison, Warrant, ect.). The first Soundgarden album I bought, was the band’s third studio album, “Badmotorfinger”. The CD featured a hard rocking in your face version of “Rusty Cage”. Several times live you can hear Chris dedicate the song to Johnny Cash, who covered the song in 1996. The album was fresh and exciting. There was one song on the album “Outshinned”, that stood out to me. From the opening thunderous chords to the rock anthem lyrics like, “I’m looking California. But feeling Minnesota.”

My first Soundgarden show wasn’t until 1991, when they opened for Guns N Roses in in Woster Massachusetts. The my second show was at Lollaloluza 1992 which featured Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Jesus and Mary Train, Ministry and Pearl Jam and Ice Cube. The band sounded great. Unfortunately they only had about 30 minutes to play. Thankfully I got to see them headline in 1994.

It was the bands 4th album “Supperunknown”, that had an important significance in my life. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and went on to win 2 Grammy’s for the singles “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman”. The album launched the band into mainstream popularity. In 1995, the album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. The album has been certified five times platinum by the RIAA in the United States, has sold 10 million copies worldwide and remains Soundgarden’s most successful album. Almost all the songs were instant rock classics. However, it was “Fell on Black Days” and “The Day I tried to Live” that had a direct impact on my life. The album came out on March 8, 1994. I bought it as soon as it came out and was the only thing I listened to for about 2 weeks straight. This time period was one of the toughest in my life. One year away from graduating college I was feeling lost and empty inside. I felt hopeless and was struggling with the question who I was and where I was going.

On a April 5, 1994, I was in Harvard Square at the House of Blues, drinking with my fellow alcoholic friend sometime before noon. I can’t remember which pitcher we were on when a guy came in and said he heard that Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain had died. It was before affordable cell phones and social media, so I went to the phone booth and called the local Alternative Radio station WFNX where the D.J. confirmed it. At first everyone thought it was a drug overdose like Cobain had a few months earlier. Then the news came out it was a suicide. At that point I lost my shit. Here was a guy with everything in the world to live for. As we know addiction has it’s toll on everyone but for him to commit suicide it made me feel like I could never go on. At the time I didn’t know it but I was having a major bipolar episode. I’m not sure how but someway I made it back from Cambridge to Boston. I was walking around the streets of Boston but had no destination. I ended up showing up late to a fraternity meeting, completely trashed instead of continuing to drink or doing something even worse. I don’t remember much about that day. I do remember waking up the next afternoon and listening to “The Day I tried to Live” over and over again. The opening lyrics. “I Woke the same as any other day Except a voice was in my head It said, “Seize the day, pull the trigger Drop the blade and watch the rolling heads”. I used the lyrics as a way to express ones self. It was about a month later where I started to write my first screenplay. Whenever I  write I  use music as a way to transform my thoughts and mentally turn into my characters.

1996 Soundgarden, returned to a very different Lollapalooza lineup than 1992.This lineup way far from the Indie bands that normally played. The New York shows at Randallas Island featured Soundgarden, The Ramones (final tour), Wu-Tang Clan, Rancid, Devo, Steve Earle, Cornershop, Melvins, Cocteau Twins, Screaming Trees and a controversial headliner Metallica. Metallica took a lot of heat for being the headliner since they fell into the Heavy Metal category. Like many other artists at the show Chris, talked about how much it meant to him to him to be on tour with The Ramones. Soundgarden sounded amazing. The band fed on energy from the crowd sang along with some of their lyrics. Sadly, the band broke up a year later, due to creative differences on where the band was going.

The next time I saw Chris perform was with Audioslave, The supergroup was formed in Los Angeles, in 2001. The band consisted of Soundgarden lead singer/rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, and Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello (lead guitar), Tim Commerford (bass/backing vocals), and Brad Wilk (drums). On May 6, 2005, Audioslave played a free show in Havana, Cuba.The band  became the first American rock group to perform a concert in Cuba, playing in front of an audience of 70,000. One thing different about this tour was unlike their first tour this one featured a few Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine songs.

After a hugely successful show in Cuba, the band headed home to Los Angeles (Cornell was now living in LA). The band decided on doing another free show to celebrate the release of their latest album. The band would perform an outdoor concert on Hollywood Blvd. that will be broadcast on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” The band hit the stage in front of Kimmel’s studio on Hollywood Blvd. The street was closed for the concert that attract some 10,000 fans. The concert areas was behind wire fences and was suppose to only be for contest winners and the studio audience. The band was to play material from its new album, “Out Of Exile,” which was scheduled to be released May 24. Unlike most Kimmel, shows band was set to play a set and not just 2 songs like most guests do. The band sounded great, opening with “Your Time Has Come”. The crowd was full of energy. However, outside the gates everyone was watching the show on a huge screen. The crowd pushed it way to the gates. About 20 minutes into the set, the band broke out the Rage Against the Machine classic “Killing in the Name”. Fans were so excited they started moshing (slam dancing). The police saw it as a riot. Then the gate barrier tumbled. Then the riot squad i riot gear showed up. The police looked like Stormtroopers (latest Star Wars film opened that night) marching through the crowd. Then Chris got on the mic to tel the crowd that the show had to stop. Cornell then played one last song. The show ended with no other problems. The band released a third album, but broke up later that year.

I did have the chance to see Chris solo several times. One of those shows I was registering voters for Headcount, in the Bay Are for the 2008 “Projekt Revolution” tour.
Cornell was featured on the Main Stage of Linkin Park’s “Projekt Revolution” tour. The highlight was of the evening was Cornell dueting with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, performing Temple of the Dogs” Hunger Strike”. My next show in 2010 was a real special show. It was advertised as a solo acoustic show at the Troubadour. This was the second performance in what would be hisSongbook series. The show featured just Chris and an acoustic guitar. Chris played songs from Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog. He also played some of his favorite songs ranging from Elvis Costello, John Lennon The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. The crowed was packed and even included some celebrity guests. I ended up running into actor Tom Hanks and his wife as I left the show.

In 2010 Soundgarden, got back together with a tour that sold out the Forum in LA. The band sounded just as good as they did when I first heard them. My first and only official time photographing Soundgarden was on the Red Carpet at the Avengers LA premiere. Chris’ s kids had walked the carpet and sat on motorcycles that were on the carpet.

Out of all the shows I have been to I feel that my favorite show was At the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California in 2015. The tour was a co headlining tour with Nine Inch Nails. Chris and the guys knocked it out of the ball park. They blew Nine Inch Nails away at that show. The energy from the bands was the most intense I have ever seen of them. Chris looked happy and healthy. His vocals hit all the high notes. Sadly as I saw them walk away not realizing that would be the last time I ever saw Chris.

On May 18th, the Chris was found dead at the MGM Grand Hotel in Detroit.  I was in shock. But the real shock was when the information came out that it was a suicide. Cornell had a wife and young children. Soundgarden was on tour at the time. The only thing I could think of was all of the fans. Especially the ones like me, who had used his lyrics as our therapy. His songs helped us feel that we were not alone. As soon as I heard the news I flocked to his Twitter to see if there were any signs of even depression in his tweets. He seemed happy and looking forward to some family time. Vicki Cornell didn’t believe that her husband would actually take his own life. She blamed the anti-depressant Ativan for the singer’s hanging suicide. Sadly we will never know.

If you are having suicidal thoughts talk to a friend, family member or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

 

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Photo by © Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

 

 

 

 

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Why Film Festivals are more important than ever – Santa Barbra International Film Festival

Greetings everyone. Welcome to my first blog of 2017. My blog is not like all the other blogs out there. My blog is based on personal experiences I’ve had covering events as a photographer, filmmaker and fan. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the entertainment industry ever since acting in local theater when I was a child. Out of all the events I cover my favorites are film festivals. I fell in love with screenwriting after attending the Boston Film festival screening of ‘Reservoir Dogs” in 1992. What I love about festivals is not just seeing a film before it’s released, Q&A’s with the filmmakers and celebrity tributes. In this age of straight to cable, streaming services and pay per views, there still isn’t anything that can take the place of seeing a film on a big screen at a theater. Sadly because the amount of money it takes to put on a festival the number is now decreasing. Without sponsors, volunteers and customers a festival can’t survive in 2017. This is my first in a series of blog’s about film festivals and why they are more important than ever.

32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival – “Charged” Opening Night Film

This blog is filled with highlights from months 32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The festival featured many of the 2017 Oscar nominees and winners. The festival kicked off with a documentary about a chef Eduardo Garcia, who Charged with 2400 volts of electricity, Eduardo Garcia lost an arm, ribs, muscle mass and nearly his life. The film was very powerful. At times it was hard to watch in the beginning with the severity of his injury. His rebirth and new look on life and returning to his profession was powerful. After the film the festival had an opening night party eating and drinking from food supplied from local restaurants.

Maltin Modern Master Tribute – Honoring Denzel Washington

The second night of the festival was actually one of the most anticipated. Denzel grew up in Westchester County, like myself. I have literally grown up on Denzel from Carbon Copy and St. Elsewhere. His performances in Glory and “Training Day” won him Two Academy Awards. I personally feel “Malcolm X” and his current film “Fences” are his two best performances. Denzel arrived in Santa Barbra and started signing autographs for the fans across the street from the theater. He then did some interviews and walked the red carpet. The press line was crazy with a large number of photographers driving from Los Angeles and high school student reporters. After his quick appearance on the carpet he headed into the theater for the tribute. The tributes are always my favorite part of SBIFF. You can see a movie anywhere but where can you find out stories never told before and see a career highlights. Denzel’s tribute was amazing. Seeing where he started and what path got him to where he is today was a real special moment. As happy as I was for Casey, the best performance of 2016 was Denzel’s “Fences”.

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Outstanding Performers of the Year Award

Up next was my third and final tribute to “La La Land”, of Award Season. SBIFF honored Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling with the Outstanding Performers of the Year Award. The two posed for photos together and apart for the press after signing autographs for the fans outside the theater. Both looked amazing on the carpet. The tribute part of the evening showed highlights of both of their careers including clips from the three films
they did together. During the conversation part of the evening you could clearly see how much chemistry they have together. After the tribute was over “La La Land” director and fellow Oscar Nominee Damien Chazelle, presented the two actors with their Awards.

Virtuosos Award

One of the cool things about the festival it has always welcomed talent of all ages with the Virtuosos Award. Virtuosos Award honors a group of talent who’ve distinguished themselves through breakthrough performances in film that past year. In many cases they are smaller independent films. The 2017 Award Winners were Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Hidden Figures) Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Fences), Janelle Monáe (Moonlight, Hidden Figures), Ruth Negga (Loving), Dev Patel (Lion) and Aaron Taylor Johnson (Nocturnal Animal). Everyone looked spectacular. The carpet had that Gala / Award Season feel to it with the women dressed in high fashion. This was another packed night on the carpet and in the photographer pit. There was one part of the night that was unexpected. Due to the amount of photographers on the press line, I was forced to shoot from the second row. Luckily I brought a two step step stood that I stood on. Oscar Nominee (and winner), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), appeared with his 8 1/2 month pregnant wife on the carpet. After that, Mahershala, walked by himself. As he got to my area, it looked like he was saying something to me. I though he might have not been happy with my flash going off directly at him from an elevated level. Then I saw him get really excited and seemed like he was pointing at me. With all the noise coming from the carpet I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I just smiled and nodded. He continued pointing at me. Then I finally realized he was reacting to my yellow Golden State Warriors, 73 Win Sweatshirt. I didn’t find out till later that he was from Oakland. I gave the thumbs up. Then instead for moving to the next photo station he walked away from his publicist and the carpet. He started to walk towards the photographers pit. He then leaned into the area and gave me a high five.

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Cinema Vanguard Award Honoring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams

Up next was the Cinema Vanguard Award Honoring “Manchester By The Sea” actors Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. What made this a special night was that both actors live a very unHollywood life style out of the public eye. The actors walked the carpet together and separately. Casey was dressed in a black suit. He still had his salt and pepper thick beard that he had at the Globes and Oscars. After walking the carpet and doing interviews with video people the two walked into the Arlington for their tribute. The actors were showcased in video clips from their entire careers. I must admit. Michelle Williams was the reason I use to watch “Dawson’s Creek”. Of course, Michelle has gone on to be one of the best actresses in recent memory. The two sat on couches next to each other for their interviews. You could tell how genuine both were. Williams shared an adorable personal moment when she spoke about how happy her daughter was she was actually winning the award unlike other spoke about her daughter who was happy to hear that she was finally getting an award instead of losing.

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Montecito Award – Honoring Isabelle Huppert

Another tribute for an Oscar nominee was the 2017 Montecito Award, Honoring “Elle” actress, Isabelle Huppert. Known as the “Merrill Streep” of France. Unfortunately she walked right by me and my photo area without even looking. Luckily I had a wide lens to shoot from other stations. I must admit I was relieved she didn’t win the Oscar. She also lost my Spirit Award vote. That doesn’t takeaway from the fact she is an amazing actress who has been in over 100 films.

American Riviera Award Honoring Jeff Bridges

My final event of the festival was actually the one tribute I wanted to see the most. Not many people can be recognized by two words that are not their name. The recipient of the “American Riviera” Award was “The Dude”. “The Big Lebowski”, may have been one of my favorite Jeff Bridges films but it wasn’t my first. He first appeared in my universe in the 1982 film “Tron and kiss Me Goobye”. However, it was the 1984 film “Starman” was my favorite of his 80’s movies. Jeff appeared in the film along with one of my first celebrity crushes Karen Allen. Of all his films, last years “Hell or High Water” might have been one of his toughest challenges. Like all his other roles he mastered the complex portrayal of a Sherif on his way to retirement looking for one last hurrah. Jeff spoke for over 2 hours about a lot of the stories that were behind the scenes. One of the most surprising parts of the evening was to find out that Jeff’s dad, Lloyd Bridges, pushed him into acting and away from his desire to be a musician. It actually took 10 years for Jeff to start feeling comfortable acting. The Santa Barbara actor was in a joyous mood. After the moderator stopped talking about Lebowski, he tried to move to the next film he was discussing. Jeff then made him go back to Lebowski, he then brought up an really interesting hypothesis about one of the co stars roles in the film. Asking if “Donny was real or just a figment of imagination. Another special moment came when Jeff spoke about his longtime wife (who was sitting right by me) and how in love with her he is. One thing is for sure, we can all look forward to seeing Jeff playing all types of characters he brings to life.

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The 2017 festival featured more than 200 films from across the globe; as well as screenings, industry panels & education programs. You can view the 2017 award winners here: http://variety.com/2017/film/news/santa-barbara-film-festival-2017-award-winners-1201984675.For more information on the festival you can go to SBIFF.ORG. Additional photos can be found, with a article by journalist patch.com entertainment journalist Beau Behan: http://patch.com/california/malibu/photos-2017-santa-barbara-international-film-festival-wraps

Thank you for checking out this blog.Don’t forget to support local film and music in your city. Now more than ever they need your support.

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Dead and Company Live at the Toyota Amphitheatre Wheatland CA. 7/29/2016

It was just over a year ago in Chicago, the Grateful Dead wrapped up playing the last notes of “Attics of My Life, as a farewell to their fans. The band consisted of the remaining core 4 of Bob Weir, Mickey, Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Phil Lesh. The band Celebrated 50 year’s of the Grateful Dead Dead, with 5 shows, 2 in Santa Clara & 3 in Chicago. The shows were called “Fare Thee well”, as this would be the final time the core 4 would play together.

Shortly after the shows, there were rumors that some of the members of the band were forming a super group. The news brought joy to Deadheads, that the band they love would still be playing the music they loved, so deeply. What they didn’t know was who was going to take on the nearly impossible task of replacing Jerry Garcia. Rumors also had Mike Gordon (couldn’t be in the band due to his busy schedule) from Phish replacing Phil on bass. The rumors would be confirmed in late August. The super group would be formed under the name Dead and Company. The band would consist of 3/4 of the core 4. Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann. The guys would be joined by John Mayer, on guitar, Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band) on bass and keyboard player Jeff Chimenti (Furthur/Ratdog).

Fans were stunned and critical of a pop singer joining the band and singing some of Jerry’s songs. However, after last years shows, Deadheads are singing a new tune. The band seemed revitalized and after a New Year’s Eve show in LA last year when Mayer, at the end of the final song saying the band would see them next year. Questioned critics, who thought this would be a one time tour.

Dead and Company’s 2016 Summer Tour, was held at a combination of stadiums and amphitheaters. That train headed North, for the final 2 shows of the Summer Tour. The first Northern California show, was at the Toyota Amphitheatre, in Wheatland,California. The crowd was in a festive mood being a weekend and the second to last show of the Summer Tour.. The venue (near Sacramento) was packed hours before the start of the show. The parking lots were filled with Deadheads of all ages.

The band hit the stage and started jamming into “Uncle John’s Band”. The band harmonized beautifully with Bob and John both taking turns at singing. The crowd was in a joyous mode when they went into “Tennessee Jed” with the crowed singing the chorus. “Easy Wind” was followed by another crowd favorite “Ramble on Rose.” Being born in New York City this song has always had a special place in my heart. Bob’s vocals were strong. The next song, “Row Jimmy” would normally fall into the slow jam category, but the song reaches a new level with Mayer’s vocals and guitar playing with Bob. “Looser” was up next with Bob handling the vocals. The first set ended with the band’s only hit single, “Touch of Grey”, with Bob and John taking turns on vocals. Once again, the crowd had a blast singing along. After finishing an amazing first set, Bob walked up to the microphone and said if you weren’t registered to vote you should head over to Headcount (you can register to vote here: https://www.headcount.org), at Participation Row and register to vote.

The Second set, started with another slow jam song “Lost Sailor’. The tempo picked up as the band played “Saint of Circumstance”. The crowd sang along to the lyrics “Sure don’t know what I going for, but I’m gonna go for it for sure.”

The band played “He’s Gone” originally written, about 
the disappearance of Mickey Hart’s father, who was acting as the band’s manager, with a good deal of money. The song was famous for the two lyrics “Like I told you, what I said, Steal your face right off your head.” and “Nothing left to do but smile,smile, smile.” Next up was “China Cat Sunflower was followed as it should be by I know you Rider. After drums and space the band jammed into “New Speedway Boogie”, from the bands 1970 Album “Working Man’s Dead”, was followed by “Morning Dew”, another Jerry song, that Bob sang lead vocals on. The tempo picked up again with another transportation themed song. “Casey Jones”. The band returned for the encore with acoustic guitars and closed a magical night out with “Ripple”.

One thing is for sure. Anyone who thought Dead and Company were just another Dead nostalgia group and that John Mayer was the wrong choice, were proven wrong. Dead and Company is proof that not only will the music will never stop, it also has gone to new places for a new generation to enjoy. To purchase this show and the entire Summer Tour go here: http://livedead.co/live-music/0,14553/Dead-and-Company-mp3-flac-download-7-29-2016-Toyota-Amphitheatre-Wheatland-CA.html

Set List
Dead & Company 
Friday July 29,2016
Toyota Amphitheater
 Wheatland, California

Set I

Uncle John’s Band bw jm
Tennessee Jed bw
Easy Wind jm
Ramble On Rose bw
 Row Jimmy jm
 Loser bw
Touch Of Grey bw jm

Set II 


Lost Sailor bw >
Saint Of Circumstance bw >
He’s Gone bw jm >
China Cat  Sunflower bw
I Know You Rider bw jm >
Drums/Space >
New Speedway Boogie bw >
Morning Dew bw
 Casey Jones jm
E: Ripple bw jm

 

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Dead & Company at the Toyota Amphitheatre in Wheatland California 7/29/2016

© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

 

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Dead & Company at the Toyota Amphitheatre in Wheatland California 7/29/2016 © Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

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John Mayer Dead and Company © Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

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Bob Weir and Mickey Mickey of Dead and Company.Dead & Company at the Toyota Amphitheatre in Wheatland California 7/29/2016 © Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

 

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My Silicon Valley Comic Con Experience

Greetings everyone. Welcome to another edition of “The Outsiders Guide to the Inside of Hollywood”. This blog is once again going to be different from my normal ones. It’s not about a Hollywood Premiere or a concert; it’s about another phenomenon all together. What do you get when you mix together popular culture, entertainment, technology fans and a bunch of fanboys/fangirls? The answer is…Silicon Valley Comic Con. SVCC was the brain child of Steve Wozniak and Stan Lee. The convention’s goal was to combine entertainment and technology fans in one place. The Apple computer co-founder Wozniak, did many interviews including a walking tour of the main floor while being interviewed by a news women. By adding the technology piece, Wozniak, created a very different kind of gathering, which really sets it apart from other comic related conventions.

Silicon Valley Comic Con 2016 – Day 1

The convention kicked off on Friday March 18th, with a Red ribbon cutting with Steve Wozniak, Stan Lee and Christopher Lloyd. The Opening night event was, “An Evening with William Shatner.” I arrived at the convention early, so I would be able to walk the floor and checkout the artists and merchants. Like Comic Con and WonderCon there is a main floor that is packed with everything from collectibles to artwork. One of the coolest things you can find at these conventions are autograph booths with everyone from celebrities from the present and some favorites from the past. I arrived to find out there were no posed photos. William Shatner, was signing copies of his new book, Leonard. I watched as I saw a number of people of all ages freaking out about meeting Captain James T. Kirk. One of the people from the staff let me take a few candids of him signing autographs.

An Evening with William Shatner

I headed to the room where Shatner, was going to be doing his event. No surprise that the room was totally full by the time the event started. Shatner, walked on stage to an enormous applause. The crowed was filled with fans dressed as their favorite Trekkie character. One of the interesting things about this convention was that with the exception of the “Back to the Future” panel, there wasn’t a moderator. Shatner spoke about taking his Harley and driving from Chicago to Hollywood, where he hoped to find work. For the second part of the program William took questions from the crowd, who had lined up by a microphone. The most touching part of the program was William, answering a question from a child about his friendship with the departed Leonard Nimoy. Shatner, spoke about having an argument with Nimoy and his despair about not speaking before his death. It was truly a special night seeing an icon in such a personal moment.

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© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

Jeremy Renner Panel Day 2

On Saturday was the day filled with panels. I decided to cover the panels on the main floor. I was glad I walked the floor on Friday because the convention floor looked like grand Central Station at rush hour. The first panel was an appearance from Avenger member, Jeremy Renner. I have to say out of all the events I attended Jeremy seemed to be so happy to be at the event. Renner, seemed to really enjoy having no moderator leading the conversation.  You could clearly see how much he loves his fans. He even gave some good advice answering a question about going into acting saying, “If you could do anything else, do it”. Jeremy was so into connecting with his fans that he went 10 minutes over his scheduled time. He even said that he “felt bad knowing that fans had questions he didn’t get to answer.” He posed for Selfie’s with fans and even hugged a woman who said it was her birthday. After the panel Jeremy headed downstairs for photo ops and autographing signings.

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© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

Nathan Fillion Panel

Next up was an appearance from “Castle” star Nathan Fillion.  The actor spoke about his TV and film career. Besides being on a hit television show many people know him as Captain Malcolm Reynolds, in the television series Firefly and its feature film. Nathan took questions from his fans. Nathan charmed the crowd with his sense of humor and told tales about cutting and pasting Joss Whedon’s head on his private parts to cover up during one of his naked scenes. Nathan Fillion was actually one of the reasons that I attended the convention. My sister is a longtime fan of his, so much so that she purchased the VIP package which included a photo with the star and an autograph signing. After meeting him she told me, “He’s always been my “Big Damn Hero” and I’m so glad that meeting him in person did not shatter my love for him as an actor and a human being. He comes off as kind and silly and that’s exactly who he is. His boyish charm is contagious. He really made my weekend.”

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© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

Back To The Future Panel

The final panel/conversation was a “Back to the Future” reunion with, Lea Thompson and Christopher Lloyd in attendance. The actors spoke about the film franchise and it’s affects on them. This is rumored to be one of the last live events Michael J. Fox, would be attending. The room was packed to capacity. All eyes were on Michael, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991. He continued to work and didn’t go public about his disease until 1998. Michael showed me what bravery is. He gave great insight about the film series and his life during his panel. At times you couldn’t see symptoms of his disease, which sadly has worsened. That didn’t stop him from taking part in this reunion. To learn about the Michael J. Fox Foundation (charity for finding a cure for Parkinson’s) check them out here: https://www.michaeljfox.org

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© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

The three-day convention/show ended on Sunday with signings and a panel from Icon Stan Lee. The convention brought in 60,000 guests. The weekend was filled with celebrity appearances, science/tech discussions, and panels with award-winning authors, displays with comic book artists, cosplay contests (fan’s dressed in costumes they make) and more. “We couldn’t be happier with the turnout at our first Silicon Valley Comic Con—from passionate fans to engaging exhibits and talks,” said founder Steve Wozniak. “Version 2.0 in 2017 will be even better. The convention was a huge hit for the fans, artists and the city of San Jose. Congratulations to Steve Wozniak. He took a major risk and it paid off. I guess we should have expected it from Woz.

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© Jonathan Scott Shensa Photography

Thank you to my sister who helped capture the event. Thanks to everyone at the Con who put on a great event. Don’t forget to support local music, films and artist in your city.

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My Drew Barrymore Experience Blog

Greetings everyone! Welcome back to ” The Outsiders Guide to the Inside of Hollywood”. If you are new to this blog it’s different than others you may have read. My blog’s are about my experiences I’ve encountered, with celebrities or the personal effect they had in my life. Some as you know I’m a professional photographer. Long before I ever picked up a camera I’ve been a Fanboy. One of my favorites actresses since I was young is Drew Barrymore. Today is Drew’s 41st Birthday. This blog shares some of my personal experiences I had trying to meet her. I will also explain how she was apart of what made me take up celebrity photography.

Why I love Drew

One of the things that I love about Drew, is like myself she always speaks her mind. She is not influenced by what others think. She isn’t afraid to try new things and take chances. One of those chances was a film she acted in and produced called “He’s Just Not That Into You”, in early 2009. I was driving in Hollywood near the Chinese Theatre. I saw the street was closed off and decided to park and see what was going on. It turned out to the premiere of the film. Across the street from the theatre, a large group of fans gathered. I asked a cop why they were here when you couldn’t see anything that was going on across the street at the Red Carpet. He told me they were hoping the celebrities were going to come across the street to sign autographs (before selfies).

This was the first time I was at a premiere in the fan section and since I’m not a collector, I didn’t have anything for them to sign. Instead I ended up taking photos with my point and shoot camera. I didn’t get photos of Drew, but I did of many of the stars. I didn’t know it at the time but that was the beginning of my celebrity photography chapter of my life.

A few months later I got my first photo a candid headshot of her coming out of the “Whip It Premiere. Two years later I was at the Grey Garden’s premiere and got a candid shot of her touching the fans hands. When she came by to my spot I got caught in the moment and did not get a close up.

AFIFEST 2009 and the Butter Machine Incident

Next on my attempt list the “Everybody’s Fine” premiere art of AFI Fest 2009. I had waited on the side of the street but none of the stars came in my area. We were told that Drew would not be attending. After 20 minutes of nothing going on I started to walk towards Hooters, to eat something. After waiting for a few hours and not getting any pictures I thought the evening was over. Someone asked if I’d like to see the movie. I was overjoyed and thanked them. As I started to walk into the theatre a car pulled up and out popped Drew who headed quickly to the carpet for some pictures. Completely star struck and in a gaze I went to the refreshment stand. Not thinking I’d get in and not having anything to eat I felt lightheaded. It was the night before the Yankees last World Series victory, so I was wearing my Yankee hat and jacket. A fellow New Yorker started talking to me. After a brief conversation, I ordered my popcorn and soda. Normally for premieres the food is free but since it was a festival it wasn’t. I walked over to the butter machine and found it to be leaking like a faucet. The other theatre butter machine was directly across from a ladies or single person bathroom. The machine barley had been refilled and was dripping. I started to pound on the machine for the butter to come out like I was Rocky Balboa , the door opens and who walks out and has a front row seat for this was of course Drew. She gave me a look and a quick smile. Feeling embraced I headed to try and find my seat. As I walk by I’m almost elbow-to-elbow with the film star and fellow New Yorker, Robert De Niro. As an usher starts to show me to my seat who is escorted in-front of me again but Drew. The movie was a very serious one but at that point all I could think about was that I was in a theater with Drew Barrymore only a few rows away and my only thought was let me get out of here before I embarrass myself again.

Drew’s Book Signing’s

Since then I’ve had the pleasure to briefly meet her on two occasions at a book signing’s, in LA and San Francisco. I though she was very down to earth and kind. she even signed my friends kid E.T. doll back in. At her conversation at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco in 2015, she spoke of many of her roles, that she played in the past.  You could clearly see that, her most cherished role is motherhood. Like many of us in, the 40 club. She already has reinvented herself several times. Drew talks about her life in her amazing book “Wildflower”. http://tinyurl.com/zj2wb7s

It has been so interesting watching Drew, as her career evolves from a child and teenager taking on those issues. Now grown up taking on issues that affect all of us. She takes on those issues personally and professionally. She has become a major businesswoman. Showing once again, how she is like a chameleon. For more information, check out Drew’s Flower Beauty site. http://www.drewbarrymore.com/

Thank you for checking out my blog.

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Don’t forget to support independent Filmmakers and Musicians in your city.

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Dave Grohl’s Birthday Bash at The Forum and My Personal Foo Fighters Experience Blog

Greetings and welcome to a special Edition of The Outsiders Guide to the Inside of Hollywood. This blog is dedicated to Dave Grohl, who turns 46 today. Most of us my age first got to know Dave as a drummer in the iconic band Nirvana. When I first heard Dave, was not only not going to play the drums in his new band, but sing, I was skeptical. However after hearing the Foo Fighters debut CD and the second one The Colour and the Shape, I was hooked. I was a child of 80’s heavy metal and to be perfectly honest, I got more into the Foo’s than I did with Nirvana. It was in your face kick ass rock and roll. As much as I dug the band, I didn’t get to see them play live till moving from New York to California. in fact my first Foo Fighter show was actually an acoustic one.

Foo Fighters at Neil Young Bridge School Benefit 2000

One of the best things about living in the Bay area is that ever October we have the Bridge School Benefit to look forward to. The all day concert is an annual, all acoustic, non-profit charity event held every October at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. All proceeds directly benefit the operations of The Bridge School. non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that individuals with severe speech and physical impairments achieve full participation in their communities through the use of augmentative & alternative means of communication (AAC) and assistive technology (AT) applications and through the development, implementation and dissemination of innovative life-long educational strategies. The show was going to be one of the bands first time playing an all acoustic set in front of 18,000 people. The show was held at an outdoor amphitheater. Unfortunately it rained and poured on the crowd myself including. When the band hit the stage Dave, joked with us saying they were use to this since they were from Seattle. The bands 7 song set included See You, Learn to Fly, Next Year, Ain’t It the Life, Monkey Wrench, Everlong and This Is a Call. The band sounded amazing like they had been doing it for years.

Foo Fighters 2005-2009

That acoustic performances turned out to be a preview of what was soon to come. After seeing the band at KROQ’s weenie Roast in 2005 and a surprise solo acoustic performance by Dave solo the next year, I attended the final night of the bands acoustic performance Foo Fighters at the Pantages Theater on 8-31-06. The show was recorded and the album Skin and Bones was later released. After a few more KROQ and Bridge school shows, I followed that up with the bands 3 hour performance in the pit from Oracle Arena in Oakland, in 2009. I was sure that would be my all time favorite Foo Fighter shows. Boy was I wrong.

Dave Grohl’s Birthday Bash at The Forum 1/10/2015

Last Saturday night, once again in a down pour of rain, I headed to The Forum, in Inglewood, CA for what was billed as a Secret Show. Tickets for the concert went on sale 48 hours before the event. I remember thinking what is so secret about a show that was posted on Facebook and Ticketmaster in advanced. When I got to the newly refurnished arena, there was tons of buzz going on. The merchandise was selling a Dave’s Birthday Club T-shirt. The people in back of me were saying that black Sabbath was opening the show. The band sent out a message saying to get there early because there was no opener, so I knew that was just a rumor. I entered the arena to my VIP area seat and heard from one of the Chase representatives (now own the Forum)that this was going to be a great show because it was Dave’s Birthday show. What made the stage set up so cool was that it was in the round with a moving stage. The bands instruments were stacked close together making it feel like an intimate club not an arena. The stage kept circling alike a carnival ride making sure everyone had a chance to see the band play from all angles.

The show started with the band taking the stage but not starting with music. Instead Dave told everyone it was going to be a long night and it was his birthday (his actual Birthday is 1/13). We were then informed that he had a ton of friends who would be playing together with the band. The first special guest star was Paul Stanley from Kiss. The band launched into “Detroit Rock City” followed by “Do You Love Me”. After Paul left the stage Dave asked the fans if they wanted to hear Foo Fighters music. As the opening chords to “All My Life” started the crowd went into a frenzy. Next up was “Rope”, “The Pretender” and “My Hero” where the crowd sang along with the band to the chorus.

The next three guests were an odd pair. Jack Black and lead guitarist and vocalist Kyle Gass of Tenacious D were joined onstage by Slash. After Jack sang Happy Birthday, to Dave balloons fell from the top of the Forum. Dave then said there were suppose to be more balloons. Seconds later the stage was covered in them. Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins sang Queens “Tie Your Mother Down ” Led Zeppelin “Immigrant Song” was next.

My personal highlight guest of the night was Alice Cooper dressed in a High School Lettermen’s sweater sang “Schools Out” and “I’m Eighteen”. http://tinyurl.com/oe3x9so More of Dave’s friends included Zakk Wylde who did perform Black sabbath’s N.I.B.Fairies Wear Boots. Zack was a madman on guitar and sound like a 1970’s Ozzy. LA legend Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction played “Mountain Song” and covered The Rolling Stones “Miss You”. The guest stars and band looked like they were having the time of their lives. you could see why the foo Fighters have become one of the best live rock bands in the country. After that the Foo’s played “Something From Nothing” “This Is a Call” “Best of You”

The other major surprise was what Dave called a Bucket List Jam with David Lee Roth who sported a new shaved bald head look as he danced around performing Van Halen 1984’s classic “Panama” http://tinyurl.com/pfqxseq followed by “Ain’t Talking About Love”. The bands classic “Everlong” could have closed the show, but Dave had one more friend to welcome to the stage. It was one of Dave’s close friend and influences Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister. For the final song “Let It Rock” (Chuck Berry cover) Slash and Zakk Wyld came back for the final jam and song of the night.

Bands always say this is going to be one of the greatest rock and roll night’s. that was an understatement. This was not a concert it was an event that could have been held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Thank you to Dave and everyone that made this One of the greatest rock and roll shows I’ve ever seen. Thanks for letting your fans share this historic night with you. If this was how Dave was going to spend his 46th Birthday, one can only dream of what his 50th will be like.

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Thank you for letting me share my experience with you. I can only hope I made you feel like you were there. Don’t forget to support local bands and films in your city.

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My Robin Williams Experience and the Personal Demons We Shared – Blog

Greetings everyone. Welcome to a Blog, I wish I never had to write. The Entertainment Industry lost an Icon, on Monday. Oscar winning Actor and Comedian Robin Williams lost his long bout with depression, on August 11. The 63-year-old actor, was found dead in his Tiburon home in Marin County, California, by his personal assistant after committing suicide. The news took a while to break, but when it did it consumed everyone. An immediate outpour of love and appreciation for Robin, could be seen all over television and the internet world wide from the White House to the Middle East. I even came over my camera shyness and was interviewed, by KCAL 9’s Kristine Lazar, at Robin’s star on the Walk of Fame. “He was a genius; I mean, how many different roles did he play and different characters,” said Jonathan Shensa, a fan of Williams. “He had that down-to-earth feeling where you just felt like he was one of the people in your neighborhood.” (my part is about 1:30 in the outpouring of love video part) http://tinyurl.com/lp53utp

Like many people my age, Robin, first landed in my universe as the lovable television character, Mork from the planet Ork on Mork & Mindy. The show ran for only 4 years from 1978-1982, but still has a place today in many peoples hearts. Thanks to video and syndication a new generation of kids have been able to fall in love with the show. I remember being so upset when the show ended it’s tevelvsion run on ABC. Robin won four Golden Globes, playing Mork.

Robin also brought one of my favorite characters to life in Robert Altman’s “Popeye”. It quickly became one of my all time favorite films from my childhood. To this day I could never see any other actor in that role. Robin, was a character actor. What a character he was. He never played the tall dark and handsome roles. Every character was different. I loved Robin so much that his 1982 Film “The World According To Garp”, was the first rated R movie I ever saw. I remember loving the movie but was crushed by the ending. The film showed me, that not every movie has a happy ending.

As the years passed I enjoyed many of his roles. He had a way of bringing humanity to every character, he played. He always seemed like a down to earth guy. He never had an ego. The cool thing about Robin, was he never played the same character. He didn’t play it safe and wasn’t afraid to take chances (“1 Hour Photo”). The one word that could never describe him was ordinary or boring. Robin was a master of playing characters with mixed emotions. He was always believable. Who else could have played the roles and deliver a dramatic and comedic performance, with the films subjects that dealt with everything from kids with Caner (Patch Adams) to the Vietnam War (Good Morning Vietnam). My all time favorite film was the one that won him an Oscar. Robin played Dr. Sean Maguire in Gus Van Sant’s “Good Will Hunting”.

Neil Young’s Bridge Benefit XIV Oct. 28,2000

One of there coolest things about living in the Bay Area, is  Neil Young hosts a special all acoustic concert at shoreline amphitheatre at mountain view. The Bridge School Benefit is an annual charity concert held in Mountain View, California, every October at the Shoreline Amphitheatre. The concerts are organized by musician Neil Young and his wife, Pegi Young. Proceeds benefit the Bridge School, which assists children with severe physical impairments and complex communication needs. The artist line up for the show was a music lovers dream. Unfortunately it poured all mooring and the lawn section at the venue looked like the mud pits from Woodstock. The show featured Tom Petty, Dave Matthews Band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, Foo Fighters Tegan And Sara and  Crosby Stills, Nash and Young. At one point the stage hands, were pushing the water off the stage as the sound people desperately tired to get the nests bands equipment set up. Instead of playing video highlights of past years and information about the school, we heard a familiar voice. It was Robin, who was a surprise guest. “I just spoke to Noah and he says the ark should be ready shortly”. We were then treated to a 15 minute Stand-up set.

My 5 seconds meeting Robin at the “Old Dogs” Premiere in 2009

The only time I photographed Robin was at the very begging of my photography career. I didn’t start my photo career on the red carpet or with any kind of credential. I started off with only armed with a point and shoot camera. I would hang out in the fan sections with fans, collectors and other independent photographers, hoping the actors would sign autographs in the fan area so. When Robins film “Old Dogs”, premiered in Hollywood in 2009, a friend and I went down to Hollywood. It was a really strange night. This was the first premiere that John Travolta was attending since the tragic death of his son Jet. When Robin arrived, he did make it over to the fan section to sign. I was able to say a few words when he got to my area. He seemed so happy to meet his fans. The crowed took photos and got autographs. Even though they were short for time he didn’t rush through the area, before hitting the Red Carpet. Couldn’t have imaged that that would be the one and only time I’d see him.

 

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My personal Struggle and Why I’m Mad at Robin

You know what? Fuck this! I’m mad as hell and I’m going to tell you why. Like Robin, I was able to beat addiction in the past. I’ve also battled depression for most of my life and had many thoughts of suicidal at times. When my friend told me the news of Robin’s passing, I assumed it was a heart attack or a accidental drug related death. I knew he had been in rehab twice recently. I figured he lost the fight, that so many others have lost. When I heard he took his own life. It was inconceivable. He was loved by his family, friends and millions of fans. I have been in that dark place. I’ve hit rock bottom but swam My way back to shore more than once. Robin, should have know how this would devastate his family. Celebrities have so much power.  They affect and have an influence is the average persons life. It’s also a huge responsibility. That is one of the reasons I’m alive today to write this Blog.

Back in April 1994, I was with my fellow alcoholic manic depressive friend. We had been drinking hard since early that mooring, when the news about the death of Kurt Cobain, was rumored. We didn’t have cell phones, or Facebook, so I headed for a pay phone to call the local radio station. After the death was confirmed, I headed in a downward spiral that almost took my life that day. When the Average Joe or Jane, feels hopeless, like there is no hope or a way out. When someone like Robin takes his own life, it could literally drive someone over the edge. If just one person committed suicide after or the days after Robin’s passing, that is too much! Actors and musicians are more than entertainers. They are our lovers, friends and at time therapists. When I was at my darkest moments, I’d take Metallica’s “Fade To Black” out of the CD played and put The Grateful Dead’s “Touch of Grey” song on. There’s a line in the song that goes, “I will get by, I will survive”! I started expressing myself by becoming a Screenwriter. My ability to escape into a world that I have control of the outcome. Through film and love of music I learned how to cope and how to dream of a better life. This is why I’m alive, to write this blog, today. Not everyone is so lucky. If you or you know someone who needs  help, call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273- TALK (8255) or talk to a friend, family member or your spiritual leader. You are not alone and there is no shame in asking for help.

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