Dan Fong's a bona fied shutterbug. Watching him saunter about last night, mingling with guests, with a camera slung over his shoulder during a sneak preview of ARTRock -- an exhibition featuring his celebrated rock and roll photography over the years, which opens tonight at La Rumba before moving over to Rockbar, where his portraits will hang throughout the month of December -- you got the sense that he's never too far away from his camera.
From the sound of it, Fong's used to looking at the world through a lens. After all, the guy's been capturing candid images like the ones on display last night since before classic rock was thought of as, well, classic -- both on tour with the Doobie Brothers and through his association with venerated concert impresario Barry Fey. Even without saying as much, it's clear that Fey was instrumental in helping facilitate Fong's photograpic endeavors, judging from the fact that the photographer opted to include a candid of the promoter taken less than a month ago at his induction into the Rockbar Hall of Fame.
While that full-color snapshot was plainly posed, in contrast, the other images on display -- primarily black & white -- are more of the fly-on-the-wall, caught-in-the-act variety. And there's a story to go with each one, Fong offers.
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As I admired one of his prints, which features a series of candid frames depicting Keith Moon and Jon Entwistle playfully cavorting backstage after a gig, Fong enthusiastically regaled me with a story that involved Roger Daltry clobbering a would-be assailant after the drunk, belligerent goon showed up at the singer's door spoiling for a fight. At the time, Fong says, he was cooking for frontman -- Fong's family reportedly catered frozen, Chinese take-out long before such a thing existed -- when Daltry picked up a bar stool and smashed the guy with it. Daltry and his entrourage then proceded to stomp the cat into the carpet.
That was a different time, Fong noted wistfully, a bygone era when backstage amenities consisted of some folding tables and a few tubs of beer, when rock stars were rock stars rather than pampered princesses with a mile-long rider. Indeed. Those days are long gone. Fortunately, Fong was there to document a lot it for the benefit of those of us who've only heard stories about the glory days when art and rock were one and the same.