Last summer some friends and I went and saw Surf Guitar legend Dick Dale perform at the Hard Rock Live venue on the Las Vegas strip. I can't say I was a big fan of Mr. Dale's music but local favorite Franks & Deans (think of Green Day performing Rat Pack music) were the opening act and I'd been wanting to see them play live for quite some time. Honestly, the only song I knew from Dick Dale was "Misirlou" only because it was featured in the movie Pulp Fiction.
You know what? Dick Dale was awesome and put on one helluva show! For some reason I thought he'd be an arrogant curmudgeon but he was far from it. He was really kind, funny, humble and magnificent. He talked about how his doctors wanted him in a hospital and not out on tour, and how he told them that he'd "rather go out in an explosion of body parts on stage" rather than in a hospital bed. Funny stuff, kinda.
Throughout the show people had their cell phones in the air, taking photos and recording video—and many of these videos can still be found on YouTube. I had my trusty little Canon G15 with me and snapped a handful of shots, but I mostly kept the camera in my pocket because I was thoroughly enjoying the show.
It wasn't until months later that I reviewed my photos in detail and realized I had taken a rather cool pic of The King of Surf Music. It was a nice profile shot of the man strumming a final chord to a song, his eyes nearly closed as the last twang of his Fender Stratocaster rang-out. After some mild edits in Lightroom (converted to black and white, crop and contrast) I had what I thought could very well be his next album cover—or if he didn't live that long, at least a great photograph for his obituary and/or memorial service. I know that kinda sounds morbid but I try to think ahead.
Dick's official Public Relations person is also his wife, Lana. She's also his official agent, photographer, merchandiser, website administrator, and about six other things. I contacted Lana through Dick's website (a thorough yet modest internet endeavor) and included a small file of my photo and told Lana I'd send her the full-size version (and all the rights to it) and that she and Dick could use it however they wanted. All I wanted, I requested, was for me to send her two prints of the photograph that Dick could autograph and return to me. I volunteered to pay for the return postage.
I didn't think I was asking for too much, but boy, was I wrong.
Over the next few days Lana and I exchanged emails that left me flabbergasted and my mind fully blown. In a nutshell, I think what Lana was trying to say is that they (Dick and Lana and their "Music Attorney" who she kept referring to) have an absolute "no photography or video policy" during Dick's shows (even though everyone was doing it at the show I attended and the rule wasn't being enforced). To be more exact, my photo—although catching the essence of the man unlike any other photo I've seen of him—was null and void because I took it when I shouldn't have. If Lana and Dale agreed to use or market the photo, they would essentially be violating their own rules thereby making them hypocrites and liable to answer for their actions to their "Music Attorney."
And all that's just fine because that's some damn commitment and integrity if you ask me, but it's also a shame.
Lana went on to say how I couldn't post the photo on social media or use it anywhere else, and how basically, all I could do was print it out and hang it on my wall. Of course I know all this as untrue, as being a wannabe-semi-professional photographer for the past few years has taught me a few things. In short, I can use the photograph any way I want to as long as I'm not making money from it.
Here's the photo. I hope I didn't hype it too much. Maybe it's not as good as I think.
Dick wears this shirt a lot. Or has a lot of them.
So things kinda ended in a stalemate and I've given up trying, at least for now. Lana offered to send me an autographed photo of Dick (but not of my photo) but only after I sent her a letter saying I would not do anything with my photograph other than looking at it while it hangs on my wall.
A few weeks after this debacle of email exchanges I read that the Smithsonian Institute is taking photo submissions from concert goers for an upcoming book that documents the history of Rock 'n' Roll. Surely Dick Dale will be included in the book, or at least I hope he will be... because he should be in it.
I'm half inclined to submit my photograph to the Smithsonian but Dick and Lana would have to allow it's use if chosen... and unless their "Music Attorney" advises otherwise, I don't think that's going to happen. Should I send it in? Also, the rules for submissions state that photos must have been taken legally... but after looking at the hundreds submitted, I know they were taken in venues that have "No photography allowed" printed on the back of their tickets. It's a conundrum right?
As my buddy Mike said about the Hard Rock show, "Dick gave us some serious life lessons."
You can read the actual email exchanges (copied and pasted and unedited) by clicking here. With the benefit of hindsight, I was probably a little presumptive in my initial email to Lana, but hey, I was excited about the whole thing and thought it was a win-win for both parties. Anyway...