NEW JERSEY: If you were a child or a teen in the 1970's and 1980's, many nostalgic images may come to mind, The Brady Bunch, mixing and drinking Tang, telephone booths, Star Wars, Bubble Yum, Atari, of course the big hair, fashion exploding, Tiger Beat and MAD Magazine...
Most of today's rock and roll icons made their fame in the 70's and 80's. So naturally most of the best rock songs in history were born then, songs still in demand today by bands like the Rolling Stones, Guns n' Roses, Kiss, Queen...
It was a time before electronic on demand gadgets. There was something everyone did to hear their favorite song. It was called 'wait'. It was the days of staying tuned into the radio waiting for your favorite song, maybe even calling in requests. It was a time of saving up money to buy the record and then maybe more waiting for your favorite entertainment magazines to hit the newsstands. There was no searching it up on the internet, it was before the internet time period began.
Two of the hottest entertainment magazines of those decades were Circus Magazine and Rolling Stone. Flipping through the pages to look for your favorite rock star and seeing who the monthly centerfold would be, was an anticipated event for many teens who repurposed the pages as wall paper in their bedrooms and basement hang outs. There was one guy who captured those images in a way that no one else did. That guy is iconic rock and roll photographer Mark Weiss, or as many call him today; The Weissguy.
Weiss, who now lives in Rumson, NJ, and is a father and grandfather, is about to celebrate his 60th birthday. When you are in his company it's like time stood still and he just walked out of the 70's and 80's rock era. He's forever young, an artist who is always evolving, with an eye on the next project. He has vision.
Weiss is sort of like a blend of watches; TIMEX, Swatch and Apple together. Using new technology and techniques today, with his inspiring history, Weiss has a new art form that he's co-developed with partner, FOX 5 anchor Steve Lacy... More exciting details to come on that later in the article, after a little background on Weissguy's journey...
TAPinto Holmdel met for the initial interview with Weiss at iconic Bell Works in Holmdel. He clearly stood out as someone with a story, wearing his signature bandana across his head and dressed in rocker black. After grabbing coffee, a casual tour of the main floor began with Weiss randomly in a 'charmed Weissguy way' having serendipitous encounters with like minded artists and technology folks from cutting edge companies, like VYDIA where Weiss met VP of Product Management, Jenna Gaudio and the two hit if off with their love for music.... Next Mark stopped at an OasisVRX demo where he engaged in virtual reality experiences taking him to the top of skyscrapers and under the sea. Salon Concrete owner Christine Zilinski and Weiss took some fun pictures together using Zilinski's unique concrete design space (which Weiss had an appreciation for) as the frame. Bell Works event manager Jennifer Garrabrant spoke with Weiss about the transformational and unique event space at Bell Works, a canvas perfect for an exhibit like Mark's. Fashion designer Lauren Farrell made a connection with Weiss showing him her fashion Pop up Shop in the atrium of Bell Works... and Weiss enjoyed the Fresh Market at the Bell Works Farmer's Market where he browsed the retailers.
He has a way about him that connects with almost everyone he meets on something they can collaborate on or learn from one another... He's interested and inquisitive, always. What was planned to be a one hour meeting lasted almost 3 hours with him taking on another 4 meetings along the way...
After finally ducking into a quiet empty space, an interview with Weiss began with going back in time to 1972 when he was a 12 year old boy living in the Lakeridge development in Matawan, NJ. He was a kid with high aspirations to be an astronaut... Mark has a voice perfect for narrating and he makes you see his life unfold in pictures, just like a movie when he talks.
Weiss comments, "I attended 7th grade at the Carl Sandburg Middle School and we had a very cool planetarium. We were learning about the Apollo space program, and I decided I was going to be an astronaut. The school also had a dark room for developing photos."
According to Weiss: In the spring of 1972, he wanted to make some extra money, cutting grass for $5 a lawn. He noticed a neighbor's grass was really long, so he knocked on his neighbor's door and when he answered Weiss asked if he could cut the grass. First the neighbor said he didn't need anyone to cut it and Weiss pointed out with a smirk that it seemed like he did because the lawn was so high. The man hesitated and then according to Weiss, with a smile the man said, "I'll tell you what if you mow my lawn for the whole summer, I will give you something instead." The man left and came back with a 35 mm camera. Weiss didn't know anything about cameras or photography but he commented, "I thought the camera looked really cool and looked like a million bucks, and so I was all in."
A deal was made on that spring day that changed the life path of 12 year old Weiss in ways he could never imagine. According to Weiss, he mowed the lawn about 4 or 5 times and the man gave him the camera. It was a Bell & Howell, Cannon FP. Weiss went to the photography teacher at the Carl Sandburg Middle School and asked him if he would teach him to develop film. "I made a makeshift dark room in my parent's bathroom and started to develop paper into pictures and it was amazing to me. I loved taking pictures of my dog Domino and my brother Jay, and had fun taking my first selfies. To me as a kid processing the film was really magical, I'd put in a blank piece of paper and an image would appear like magic."
Fast forward to 1975; Weiss comments, "The first concert I brought my camera to was Eric Clapton at the Nassau Collisium. My brother brought me for my 15th birthday. I had to sneak in the 35 mm camera. We got seats in the third row, perfect for taking pictures. I took some really great pictures of Eric Clapton, that I still sell at galleries today."
Weiss started to sneak into concerts with his camera and comments, "I would take the 'party train' in from Matawan Station, to Penn Station. It was a packed train and one big party. I was able to get into concerts with old ticket stubs, holding them so they looked like new tickets. When I got to the guy that ripped the tickets I would give him a few bucks to let me in with the bad ticket. I continued to get right up to the stage and take pictures from the front rows. In 1976 I shot Queen, Aerosmith and Peter Frampton. Then I began selling 8x10 photos for a buck a piece out of my locker, at Cedar Ridge High School and in front of concert venues."
One weekend in 1977 when Mark was 17, something pivotal happened when the band Kiss was in concert 3 nights in a row at Madison Square Garden. Weiss comments, "I snuck in the first night to the concert and took some amazing pictures of Kiss. Then I went back the second night to stand outside the Garden and sell my pictures of Kiss. That led to my being arrested that night and thrown in the back of the paddy wagon, with the bootleg and t-shirt sellers to the local precinct...They confiscated my photos and told me if I wanted them back I would need to go to court."
After the arrest Weiss decided to try to get his photos into magazines. He went to the offices of then leading rock magazine Circus, to see if they wanted to buy any of his pictures. He made friends with the secretary Maryanne, who got him a meeting with Circus' Art Director Al Rudolph. Weiss comments, "Rudolph sat with me, and said that he liked my photographs but told me that Circus only printed Kodachrome film with a flash to get vibrant colors of the musicians...."
Weiss continues, "A few months later I snuck my camera into an Aerosmith concert with Ted Nugent and Journey at Giant Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. It was general admission so I slept outside in line to be one of the first to get in close the next day. I brought 3 rolls of Kodachrome film, one for each band; mission accomplished. About a month later the secretary Maryanne at Circus called me and asked if I had any photos from that show, so I dropped them off. Then later in October of 1978 the secretary told me to go look at the new issue of Circus on the newsstands. I rushed and picked up a copy, the Beatles were on the cover. I went to the centerfold and I couldn't believe my eyes! It was my photo of Steven Tyler. There was also a Nugent picture that was mine in that issue... It was a moment I will never forget."
Weiss said he got paid $100 for that issue's contributions, and from that time on, Weiss' photos were regularly published in every Circus issue for years to come. At 19 years old, the ball started rolling for Weiss. He was getting to know the publicists and managers and getting photo passes to do jobs regularly. He became a staff photographer for Circus. Then Van Halen hired Weiss to shoot some shows on their 'Fair Warning' tour. Around the same time Aerosmith also hired him and he was shooting for Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne...and a new band emerging from New Jersey called Bon Jovi.
When asked what his favorite photo of all time is that he took of a musician, Weiss answers that it's the one he took during the famous Ozzy photo shoot when Ozzy wore the pink tutu. See video below to hear Weiss talk about the highlights from that photo shoot.
VIDEO: Weissguy on Ozzy in the pink tutu:
A recent quote from Ozzy Osbourne commenting on Weiss, "I've known Mark Weiss since he was a teenager. He was relentless in his pursuit of art. Mark would knock on my hotel door all hours of the day and night wanting to take photos. He definitely had and still has that rock and roll spirit."
Before long Mark Weiss was traveling around the world with the most famous rock and roll groups of the time. Weiss was shooting for Circus and Faces Magazines, "I was the guy the record companies would hire to shoot their publicity photographs and album covers. I did the Twisted Sister Stay Hungry cover which was a huge success, selling over a million copies, and everyone started calling me to shoot their album covers. Cinderella's Night Songs, Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet... I became friends with the bands and started touring around the world with them."
That was the beginning of a highly successful career for Mark Weiss that spanned decades.
Faces Magazine gave Mark an MTV assignment where he became MTV's photographer shooting stars like Madonna... and he worked for US Magazine meeting Rick James and becoming his photographer at his peak when the hit song Super Freak came out... Weiss was at the historic PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) Hearings in Washington DC, the US Festival, Live Aid, Moscow Peace Festival in Russia, and the list goes on.
When Circus went out of business, the owner Gerald Rothberg called Weiss and told him to come and pick up his pictures if he wanted them and gave back all the rights to the photos to Weiss. Weiss now displays for sale the photos online and in galleries.
Today Weissguy has a lot of projects in the works including a very cool partnership with Steve Lacy co-anchor of FOX 5 News at 5pm and 10pm. Lacy reimagines select photos of Weiss' to create into large posters, augmenting and enhancing the original photos with a silk screening process. See this clip from Good Day New York about the Weissguy & Lacy collaboration:
Lacy comments on working with Mark Weiss, "Mark's body of work is staggering. If you need a shot, not only does he have the artist, but he has dozens of iconic shots to choose from. He has shots that he's forgotten about that would be the centerpieces of anyone else's portfolios. Sometimes when I dive into his archive I feel overwhelmed. It would take me several lifetimes to complete all the pieces I have in mind. Mark and I met years before we collaborated on our art project, and in addition to being, in my opinion, easily one of the greatest rock photographers ever, he's also a standup guy who I feel tremendously lucky to consider a close friend. In Mark's line of work in addition to his eye as a photographer, it's all about developing relationships. That he is still close to the artists he photographed long before they became superstars speaks to who he is as a person....Mark had a magical way of being where everything was happening before everybody else."
It seems Mark still carries that magic everywhere he goes...
Weiss' daughter Adele comments this about her dad, "My dad is the most selfless, hardworking individual, and loves living life to the fullest. One of my favorite things about my dad is spending time with him, he’s always ready to have a good time no matter what day it is. He always says 'you’re never working a day in your life if you’re doing something you love.' There is no one else I would rather go see a live band with, it doesn’t matter who’s playing or whether it’s at a tiki bar or the Madison Square Garden, we know how to have a great time! I grew up playing ice hockey my whole life. I was the first female to make Middletown High School South’s varsity ice hockey team and pursued my hockey career at SUNY Cortland, playing division III. My dad was one of my biggest supporters along with my mother, Susan and brother, Guy. He would come to my games with his camera and take photos of me that I will cherish forever. My favorite rock photo that my dad has taken is the Twisted Sister “Stay Hungry” album cover with the singer Dee Snider holding the decrepit bone. Ten years ago my dad took me to a video shoot of Dee’s son Jesse Blaze Snider who just started a band. My dad had an idea to give the bone from the “Stay Hungry” shoot to Dee and have him pass it to his son passing the torch “bone” to his son. This album cover is hanging right in his office and I always have a flashback on that great day! I would say the best rock memory I have of my dad is him taking me to the Black Sabbath final concert at PNC Arts Center. We went to sound check and as my dad, his lovely girlfriend Michele, and I were walking in we hear, “Mark Weiss is here, Jersey’s own”.
For more details on WeissGuy and Lacy and watch them together on videos visit WeissguyLacy.com
Weiss has been working on a book over the last five years that is slated to come out in the fall published by Simon and Shuster. It's full of interviews that Weiss gathered from all of his touring with the best rock bands in history. So the magic continues....stay tuned for something new soon from the Weissguy... next up a movie?
You can purchase Mark Weiss' photos at rocksceneauctions.com/mark-weiss/
For more info on iconic Bell Works, the Metroburb located in Holmdel, open to the public it's a great place to work, dine, shop, party, exercise and unwind...a mix of innovation, culture and technology, where serendipitous connections and new beginnings happen...click here.
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TAPinto has permission from Mark Weiss to use all photos and videos in this article.