One Hell of An Eye
The Official Blog of Mike Salisbury
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The middle of the ‘70s. The oil crisis was on full.  Car and Driver magazine called me.  The editor said, “The Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation is an automobile company started by entrepreneur, Jerry Dean Michael.   The Company’s flagship vehicle is the Dale, a prototype two-seater sports car designed by a Dale Clift,” he said.

Michael had told Car and Driver   “It is powered by an 850 cc air-cooled BMW engine which turns out 40 horsepower and would hit 85 miles per hour and get 70 mpg fuel economy.’

The Dale...

The Dale...

The editor said Michael had millions of dollars in backing from private parties and a 150,000 square foot assembly plant in Encino with over 100 employees.  Michael told him he expected sales of 88,000 cars in the first year and 250,000 in the second year with only a $2,000 price tag per car.  “Hot,” said I.

“Mike, get us pictures of the car and Michael,” said the editor.

I went out to the plant location….driving forever to nowhere.  Finding a crystal meth factory would have been easier — it felt like I was ultimately that close to Apache Junction.  Finally found the alleged factory somewhere east of Encino in the land of Nod.

Driving in a small alleyway between a bunch of rotting wooden chicken sheds I found a dirty yellow building that could be the plant. Not quite 150,000 square feet but it had walls, sad walls, and no chickens.

It also had no door and dirt floors.  Not exactly a ratty chicken shed, it was a filthy empty cattle barn that smelled of scam.

I wandered into emptiness.  In a far corner was something yellow, looking like a broken-off plastic airplane cockpit from a scary amusement park ride operated with a big long stick turning the circling mini-winged cockpits on and off by some three-time losing perv offender.

Under one bare light bulb, about three guys — not 100 — in lab coats wearing Clark Kent glasses and scribbling on clipboards were studiously circling this thing.  There was one rear wheel missing.

“By eliminating a wheel in the rear, we saved 300 pounds and knocked more than $300 from the car’s price. The Dale is 190 inches long, 51 inches high, and weighs less than 1,000 pounds,” had said Michael.

The inimitable Dale.

The inimitable Dale.

Apparently he had eliminated anything else that made this alien’s egg a car.  There was no steering wheel, no gas pedal.  No glass windows.

The clipboard guys left after their opening number performed for my benefit and I was left alone with the Geigermobile.  Knowing I shouldn’t, I opened the engine compartment hatch.  Well, hello.  The motor’s branding did start with B but didn’t follow with M and W.  It was Briggs followed by Stratton.  Like in your granddad’s power mower.

Then a roar of a real car motor came in from outside, justly enhanced by toots of truck air horns signaling the arrival of our host in a replica of the “Elvis the King’s” Lincoln, complete with gold monogram on the door.  It hit the stoppers.  Motor off.  I was on the passenger’s side.  But I saw the high-heeled, opened-toe pump hit the ground below the door edge and the top of the teased bouffant hair just over the door.

From around the front of the Lincoln, cigarette in hand, offering a shake with the other, all dressed in a pale yellow pants suit with the heels, came Jerry Dean, who, with a voice like Broderick Crawford, introduced himself:  “Hello, I’m Elizabeth.”

Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael aka Jerry Dean Michael

Jerry Dean Michael aka Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael; photo by Mike Salisbury

Yes, I thought, and I’m ‘enery the Eighth I am I am.

Miz Carmichael claimed to be the widow of a NASA structural engineer and a mother of five.  “She” was 6-foot tall, over 200 lb in weight, and also claimed to be a farm girl from Indiana.  In reality, Jerry Dean Michael was a transvestite, the father of those five kids, and had been wanted by the police since 1961.  It seems the Carmichael get-up was a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone disguise.

Jerry Dean Michael's mug shot.

Jerry Dean Michael's mug shot.

The next part I feel sort of guilty about: manipulating a subject to caricature them.  But I could not resist directing “Elizabeth” to stand in front of the Dale thing.  Legs apart, viewing the tire between his legs, hands on ample hips with that cigarette (see photo above!).

The company would ultimately prove to be a sham when Michael went into hiding with investors’ money.

He was eventually found working under an alias in a flower shop and was arrested.

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Comments:

Ha!  Great story on the Dale, Mike!  Darren M.

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I love your blog – thanks for sending to me.  You should take all of these stories and publish another book – I love this last one about the Dale car.  Hope all is well with you!  Jeanie S.

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Good! Thanks.  Bob G.

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You must write another book. Your life is too interesting to just leave on a blog….Rudi Lee

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Great balls on fire. Good story, Mike.  Robert P.

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This is absolutely hilarious and (wonderfully) creepy at the same time. That might be the most absurd car this side of the Fiat X1/9th.  It must be in a barn somewhere, or maybe the same barn where you photographed it.  I love your site.  Patrick C.

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God, Mike! You just jogged the mothballs in my head!  I guess my age is showing :-))  Lee L.

Remember her/him? Mike

Absolutely. And the picture.  Certain things leave vivid impressions.  Lee L.

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I’m a really busy guy with too much reading to do, but I can’t stop myself from burning some time reading these posts. Fantastic work, Mike!  Kevin D.

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“Yes, Bob, we’re really rolling here...”  Paul T.

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He said: “When you see one of my photos, I want you to think: ‘What a great shot of Janis Joplin,’ not ‘What a great Jim Marshall photograph’.”

Mike Salisbury, creative director; photographer, Jim Marshall

Mike Salisbury, creative director; photographer, Jim Marshall

(March 24, 2010) Jim Marshall, the photographer who captured some of rock & roll’s most unforgettable images including photos of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar at Monterey Pop and Johnny Cash flipping the bird at San Quentin, died in his sleep last night in New York. He was 74.

–Rolling Stone

Jim took great photographs. I knew Jim forever. I was there when he shot Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire at Monterey. Worked with him at Rolling Stone and West magazines. Respected him. This is probably the best known thing we ever did together: the marketing of “Janis. A Film.” A copy of this poster just sold at the biggest auction of classic movie posters. I didn’t get to tell Jim.

I was at Tony Seiniger’s motion picture marketing agency when asked to create this. The movie was all Janis Joplin. All her and her performing. I needed an image of her performing.  And I needed an image that was not a documentary picture but a portrait.  An image that said Janis Joplin. Not an event.

“…many of the pictures are offhand, documentary, off-hours, backstage shots with a very casual, grab-shot feel to them. JM says several times that his subjects ‘were just kids having fun,’ and in some cases you get the feeling that he was too.”

theonlinephotographer.com:  http://tinyurl.com/y4yah6g

I knew Jim had taken the most pictures of her. I called him. He had the shot I needed. It was Janis. It was her firepower at work but it wasn’t yet that sculpture I needed to make this film present itself as a movie. It needed some work.

Knowing Jim felt he was not a portrait photographer—he was a photojournalist—I didn’t know how he would respond.

Another of the series...

Another of the series...

He captured time and times. And he captured our stars. I wanted a picture of Janis the star. Looking for hours at all of his documentation of Janis, I selected the shot on the poster. I picked the one that had her face not blocked by her hand or the microphone, just her face. But it needed work to be the single focus image I needed. If you look at another image from that set used later as the cover on Jim’s book Trust, you can see the difference. The shot on the book cover is a Jim Marshal photograph. The poster is a star image.

“He has said that his photographs are his children, and I believe that to be true…”–Michelle Dunn Marsh,
Senior Editor, Chronicle Books:

http://www.chroniclebooks.com/blog/?p=4656

Now how do I tell the photojournalist Jim Marshall I am going to bring out the best in one of his children as a portrait?  “We will buy out all the rights and I will give you a first – a photo credit on a motion picture poster.” I said.  I don’t think either made any difference.

Jim Marshall surrounded (from right) by John Herald, Josh White, Jr. & Richie Havens.  1977 photo by Jon Sievert

Jim Marshall surrounded (from left) by John Herald, Josh White, Jr. & Richie Havens. Photo by Jon Sievert (1977)

“Despite a demeanor meant to scare people, those of us lucky enough to count Jim as a friend knew that he was a generous softie who probably gave away as many prints as he sold, and that was a lot…”  Jon Sievert


From Jim's book cover.

From Jim's book cover.

The work in progress...

The work in progress...

If you compare the photographs here, I have marked, in messy red, the changes.  I took the hair off her face, I untangled it from behind her, created more hair and a waist that was cropped out in the original; took out the mike stand, the trees, the cymbals and got the guiro out of her hand. I also flopped the image so I could have us looking into her, as well as to create room for a title to work typographically as a logo for Janis and her times.  And this was back in the day before Photoshop…just paint and a good eye!

The finished movie poster.

The finished movie poster.

Take a look at the finished product again:

In one of his last interviews, a chat with Rolling Stone last October, Marshall summed up his rapport with rock stars best when talking about Joplin: “You could just call her at home and be like, ‘We have to take some pictures,’ and she’d say, ‘OK! Come over!’ She trusted me and knew I had her best interests at heart. I only wanted to make her look good.”

Mike relaxing under French version of Janis poster.

Mike relaxing under French version of Janis poster.

Me too.

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Comments:

Mike: Thanks to writer/director, Alan Metter, for this blog concept.

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Everyone had cocaine. A lot of people had fast cars.  But Jim Marshall was the only person I knew who answered the doorbell with a gun.  x Lloyd Z.

Mike: And a knife. 🙂

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Thanks very much! Great stuff you have been sending out.  I checked NetFlix to see if they were distributing “Janis, a Film” and they were not.  Is there any way that you can get them to carry it?  Frederick D.

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BTW, thanks for puttin’ out a blog worth checkin’ out!  Overton L.

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