By John Pfeiffer for The Aquarian Weekly
Mark Weiss is living proof of the American Dream. From humble beginnings as a scrawny kid hawking concert photos out in front of Madison Square Garden, to regal treatment by rock androll’s royalty, there are probably very few photojournalists that can tell the story that he hasexperienced firsthand. From the boardrooms of major label giants to the private, fantasy-fueledjets of the world’s biggest entertainers, Mark Weiss has traveled the world to capture ourheroes in their moments of glory. But just like the struggles he experienced in the beginningmoments of his career, Mark Weiss is well aware of the plights and misfortunes of many in ourcommunity.
He’s taken his role as illustrator to give back and assist those that need it most. And like hisfamous subjects, he has the powerful visibility to make a difference for those who truly needour help. Weiss has been involved in many charitable events, and some of those are basedright here in Monmouth County.
Lunch Break is a community organization that started from the humble beginnings of a smallgathering in Shrewsbury in 1983. They met to discuss local hunger needs and were committedto helping community members who found it difficult to provide even bare necessities for theirfamilies. Later, the Reverend Terence Rosheuvel arranged for the group to use the basementof the Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in Red Bank where the group began to serve hotlunches. In 1986, Lunch Break opened the doors to its current facility in Red Bank.
The involvement of rock and roll photographer Mark Weiss began several years ago, and hehas since become an integral proponent of the program, the people and the effort put forth togive back to individuals that need help now. He has raised $30,000 over the past two yearsand is involved with creating an art program.
But Weiss hasn’t stopped there. Donating his iconic photographs to aid in the cure forParkinson’s disease, he continues to push that theme with the Light of Day organization byimplementing photography auctions over at charitybuzz.com.
Mark took a few moments out of his hectic life to discuss his involvement with Light of Day andLunch Break, the intricate details of his career, and the people he cares most about.
Mark, I know you are heavily involved in charity work. What led to your localinvolvement with Red Bank, New Jersey’s Lunch Break program?
Throughout the years, I had been donating my photographs to various charitable organizationswhen requested, but never knew quite where or how the funds raised would be used by theorganizations. I wanted to be more hands on and develop a working relationship withwhomever I was involved with to see the benefits first hand.
I first became aware of Lunch Break—the soup kitchen in Red Bank, NJ—in October of 2011.They had their annual Gala, and I read about a shortage of food in their pantry. After a littleresearch and meeting with Gwen Love—Executive Director of Lunch Break—and her staff ofhard-working volunteers, it was a no-brainer. I am so proud of the rewarding relationship thathas developed and grown each year and thankful for their willingness to implement some ofmy ideas. I began that first year by donating a photograph from some hometown heroes, BonJovi, from theSlippery When Wetalbum cover shoot I did in 1986, which was auctioned offalong with a signed guitar from Jon.
And now you are involved with donating a 30-plus collection of signed photographs fortwo different online auctions in the fight against Parkinson’s disease. Care to go intodetail for us?
In 2011, I was asked to donate a few photos to the Light of Day silent auction which I actuallyshot in 2010. Since then, I have returned each year to the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. Ihave been proud to donate additional photographs, mainly because I have been blown awayby the selfless support of local and established musicians. When asked this year, I thought,“Why not use the power of Charitybuzz online auction and donate the proceeds of my ‘FeelsLike The First Time’ campaign for Light of Day?”
There are over 30 classic photos from the ’70s and ’80s on the auction block, all signed by theartists. Two of the photos included are featured performers at this year’s Paramount show—Southside Johnny and Gary U.S. Bonds. A pair of tickets will also be offered to the sold-outLight of Day Winterfest 2015 “Main Event” at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, NJ.Headliners include LaBamba’s Big Band with Southside Johnny and Gary U.S. Bonds. Thiskicks off the first of two auctions benefiting the foundation in its global battle againstParkinson’s disease.
The photos being auctioned off for Lunch Break and LOD are not only signed by you,but also by the artist. Are these considered rare historic pieces from the past?
When I came up with the idea, I wanted it to be something special. My idea was to have theartist sign six photographs of the same image from the first time I photographed the artist. Itook a little poetic license, so it could have been the first time I photographed them live, orbackstage, or in the studio.
The photographs have a story behind each one, which I share in the description on the site.Alongside the photos up for auction are shots of the artist signing the photographs. All can beviewed on the website, and I continue to get additional photos signed as I cross paths with theperformers. I am constantly adding to the collection with new and different images of “firsts”from the artists. I plan to do this for decades to come.
I know that between your assistance and the dedication of the folks at Lunch Breakyou’ve raised substantial past monies. What’s the goal for this current event?
It has only been a couple of months since the last auction I did for the annual Lunch BreakGala, which raised $15,000. I will be more than happy if we raise even half of that for Light ofDay. I have never done auctions this close together, as it is usually an annual event. I knew Ihad to try. Knowing any amount would be worthy and not discounting the importance ofawareness raised by reading a story in theAquarianor on the web is a key factor, and onewhich will be beneficial to the Light of Day.
Who would you say is your all-time favorite subject to photograph?
Ozzy! (Laughs) What can I say? He is the Prince of Darkness? (Laughs) He is a very funny,charismatic and cool guy. In 1981, I had an assignment to shoot him for the cover ofCircusMagazine. I went to his hotel room to set up a background and after I was all set up… no Ozzy.Then I heard a yell from the bathroom, “I’m in here, come on in.” Reluctantly I peeked in, andthere was Ozzy sitting in a bubble bath with a grimacing look on his face smoking a cigar. Igrabbed an empty bottle of Dom I found in the room, and I put it in his hand. It was the firsttime I photographed Ozzy.
I was lucky to tour the world with him as his photographer. I have known the kids since theywere born, shooting Kelly’s first album cover in 2002. I had the privilege to shoot Jack’swedding a few years ago in Hawaii. I also shot the cover for the last Black Sabbath live DVD,Gathered In Their Masses. It’s been quite a ride with Ozzy and continues to this very day.
Speaking of Ozzy, how did you happen to play matchmaker for both him and Skid Row?
After a photo shoot with Ozzy at my studio in NY, Sharon asked me to go with her and Ozzy toLong Island to check out a guitar player—needless to say he was definitely not the guy. My lastwords to Ozzy and Sharon were, “I’ll keep my eyes open.” Next day, I called up my high schoolbuddy Dave Feld and asked to meet me at a club in NJ called Close Encounters in Sayreville,NJ. I had no idea who was playing, just wanted to hang out and have a drink. Dave was notinterested in meeting me—I told him, “Well, I’ll be there if you change your mind.” Long storyshort, I didn’t go, and he did. When he went there, a local band Zyris was playing. Dave toldme about this kid still in his teens. I heard the tape he made and thought he could be acontender.
I told him to bring him to my studio in NY the next day when Ozzy and Sharon were coming byto approve photos. Dave brought Zakk [Wylde] in, and we waited about 10 hours. Ozzy nevercame by because he had spent the night drinking with famed wrestler Andre the Giant until hepassed out. I ended up taking some photos of Zakk that day and taped it to his demo tape andleft it at their hotel. Sharon called me as soon as they landed back in London and told me theywant to audition him. A few weeks later I flew out with Zakk. The rest is history.
A few months later in June of 1987, I got married and sent an invitation to Madam X, a band Ishot the previous year. Towards the end of the night, Sebastian [Bach] got up and jammed withZakk. Then me and my best man, Dave Feld, joined Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot on the stagefor a rendition of “Bang Your Head.” Dave Feld was friends with the Skid Row guys who werelooking for a lead singer, and he told them about this guy [Sebastian] from my wedding. Theyflew him in; we all met at Mingles in Sayreville, NJ, the band played a few songs and Skid Rowwith Sebastian Bach was born.
What advice would you give to young music photographers looking to follow in yourfootsteps?
To stand out, you need to develop relationships with the musicians and managers to get youexclusive access behind the scenes. You need talent but more importantly you need peopleskills to get into their world and have them trust you, so you are there to capture those magicmoments. My advice is to be the squeaky wheel but knowing when not to cross the line andwhen that door opens make sure it doesn’t shut. If you don’t ask, you won’t get. I have alwaysfelt privileged to be allowed to document their lives so intimately and I have never taken it forgranted. As the late great Ronnie James Dio professes in “Rainbow In The Dark,” “We’re just apicture—we’re an image caught in time.”
What else is in play for Mark Weiss in 2015?
This summer I plan on releasing my first book entitled The Decade That Rocked. The book willbe more than a photo book. It is a detailed recollection of the 1980s—the pivotal era inrock/metal music and mayhem depicted through my photographs along with over 100interviews of the artists that ruled the decade. I plan to promote the book extensively with toursand galleries and fundraising opportunities as well.
OK, let’s put this to bed. You know them both… Who is the better guitarist, KeithRichards or Jimmy Page?
It’s a tie! Keith Richards for his bluesy old school rock and roll and Jimmy Page for hisinspirational fusion of rock and theatrical mystique.
To see Mark Weiss’ photographs being auctioned off for Light of Day, go tocharitybuzz.com/lightofday and weissguygallery.com. For more information on the Light of Day Foundation, go to lightofday.org.