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From The Vault Of Art Shay: Politics Makes Strained Bedfellows

By Art Shay in News on Jan 11, 2012 8:00PM

(Legendary Chicago-based photographer Art Shay has taken photos of kings, queens, celebrities and the common man in a 60-year career. In this week's look at his photography archives, Art shares with us some of his favorite political shots over the years.)

When I was a young reporter for Life magazine hunting for picture stories, I was well aware of the seasonal nature of our world. Summer was, without doubt, the silly season. Idiots out on the water were always doing something picturable. Sex was year round as a good subject. Someone was always fucking up — the happy victim of the week. One up-and-coming starlet with a story ready to go had put out for the photographer in LA when he told her it was up for a cover, but the story limped along low on the list. Furious, she hocked her agent with so much talk of her once-again sacrifice of her virginity, he went to New York and hit a big editor, Wilson Hicks—a very serious and religious man—with a tiny additional push, joking about the price the starlet paid.

It was male complicity, rampant at the time, meant to speed up the story. Hicks, who had displaced the starlet's cover with a GI in recognition of that week's big event—Pearl Harbor—blew up and killed the starlet's cover for all time. And rusticated the agent for his ploy.

So much for lobbying .

Food and Sports were prominently in the mix: the first rollerskating hamburger joint ladies; the Notre Dame line at Mass praying to murder Tulane foreshadowed Tim Tebow. Theater? Of course! Movies? Yes!! How many times did 50 go into 20? Many. Cul-chah, ah yes, for we-uns born or bred as inter-lect-youalls. The kid novelists, chess champions, music prodigies.

But because our founder-owner Henry Luce was a serious man (with a strong right wing), we worked looking over our left shoulder carefully. One Saturday, at deadline time, the Great Man, unbeknownst to the edit writers, slipped into the hot editing seat, to work on headlines as he did in the early days. The writer had headlined a serious Chicago story capriciously, aiming his wit at a friend on the copy desk who he knew would change it to something inoffensive. But he had reckoned without Mr. Luce at the helm. Luce saw nothing wrong with the headline, so that issue of Life bore a spurious but accurate anti-vivisection caption: "Illinois Sure Loves Its Pussy."

Here, in this silliest of all recent election seasons, are some of my own forays.

If you can't wait until this time every Wednesday to get your Art Shay fix, please check out the photographer's blog, which is updated regularly. Art Shay's book, Chicago’s Nelson Algren, is also available at Amazon.