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‘Gimme Shelter,’ Book of Celebs and Four-Legged Pals, Benefits Pet Orphans Charity at ChristmasTime

Pet Orphans Adorable Photos to Adopt Out Animals

By DONNA BALANCIA

Suzanne Allison Witkin, accomplished rock photographer, lives a double-life as animal advocate and president of the charity Pet Orphans. In time for the holidays, she produced a gorgeous hardbound book of photographs of animals and their human owners called Gimme Shelter. California Rocker asked Suzanne the important questions.

California Rocker: How did you get the idea to take photos of pets to help them get adopted?  

Suzanne Allison Witkin: Four years ago I started volunteering at Pet Orphans of Southern California. I brought my camera and took a few photos and shared them on social media and noticed that it helped the dog or cat look better, healthier and made adopters get a real sense of what the animal was like. After I noticed what an improvement it was, I began taking all the dogs and cats’ photos for the website and from there I just kept adding more. Besides, I get such pleasure from it. 

Gimme Shelter Courtney Cox

Courtney Cox and her daughter Coco – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: When did you decide to do ‘Gimme Shelter,’ your great book of these photos?

SAW: I wanted to do a book before I started taking photos of shelter animals. a few years before I volunteered I had an idea for a coffee table book with celebrities and their pets. But didn’t actually do the book until after I started to volunteer at Pet Orphans and decided to add the rescue pets as well.

Want to Adopt a Pet? Check out Pet Orphans 

Suzanne Allison Witkin, her book and a friend - Photo for California Rocker

Suzanne Allison Witkin, her book and a friend – Photo for California Rocker

CR: What are some of the challenges in photographing pets in a studio setting?

SAW: Getting them to stay still in the right lighting. Outdoor photos are easier but I like the portrait look of the studio photos better sometimes. It captures every bit of detail. I sometimes need an assistant to help. And they get bored quickly as well. Gotta be fast and make really silly noises to get their attention.

CR: What was the funniest thing that ever happened on a shoot?

SAW: I got peed on. 

Marilyn Manson Gimme Shelter

Marilyn Manson and Lily White – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: What was the most amazing thing that ever happened on a shoot?

SAW: A scared and aggressive dog bonded with me. She was shaking so bad and hid but finally came out and smiled and gave me kisses

Johnny Depp Pet Orphans Gimme Shelter

Johnny Depp and painting by Johnny of his Dog Moo – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: Do the photos of the pets actually help them get adopted from Pet Orphans?

SAW: Yes, in fact, more rescues and shelters are trying to get better photos and videos of the animals at the shelters. Lot’s of adopters are afraid of the animal if they look sick, dirty or scary. Or they can’t tell what the animal looks like.

Check Out Pet Orphans’ Facebook Page for Cute Animals

CR: Who are the people behind Pet Orphans, board members of course, but who is the person who started it and why?

SAW: There were three women back in 1973 and one of the women found a dog by the freeway. After that, they started to rescue more and made their homes into a small rescue. A short time later, they raised enough money and wound up getting a facility donated to them. They started a 501c3 charity and 46 years later, Pet Orphans is still around and saving many lives. Sadly the last remaining co founder past away a little over a year ago. She took me under her wing and made I became president 2 1/2 years ago. We have five board members, some new, and some have been with Pet Orphans many years.  The three founders were Diane A. Scripps (1928 – 2015) Virginia M. Haley, and Lorraine Neikirk (1927 – 2002)

Gimme Shelter the book

Gimme Shelter the book is available for the holidays – Photo for CaliforniaRocker.com

Pet Orphans is open Monday-Friday 12 PM to -4 PM and Saturday and Sunday 12 PM to 5 PM. The address for Pet Orphans is 7720 Gloria Avenue in Van Nuys. Call (818) 901-0190 or visit Pet Orphans online at PetOrphans.org or at Facebook.com/PetOrphansofSouthernCalifornia.  

To buy a copy of Gimme Shelter go to the Gimme Shelter Book website.

To support Pet Orphans or adopt a pet go here.

 

CaliforniaRocker.com Nabs Four Finalist Nods for Arts and Entertainment Awards by Los Angeles Press Club

By JOHN DALY, CaliforniaRocker.com

HOLLYWOOD – CaliforniaRocker.com, a music industry website and fanzine published by Donna Balancia, received four National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards finalist designations, it was announced by The Los Angeles Press Club.

The finalist selections all came in the area of photography: Three images were in the Action Photography category and one finalist selection came in the Photo Essay category.

Suzanne Allison Witkin scored a Los Angeles Press Club nod with her photo essay, "On Tour With The Hollywood Vampires" - Photo courtesy Suzanne Witkin

Rock photographer Suzanne Allison Witkin scored an LA Press Club nod with her photo essay, “On Tour With The Hollywood Vampires” – Photo courtesy Suzanne Witkin

“Our work reflects our commitment to the highest quality music journalism,” said publisher Donna Balancia. “Our independent website and fanzine strive to give up-and-coming as well as established musicians a voice amid the overwhelming coporate clatter.”

Winning Images: Hollywood Vampires, At The Drive-In

CaliforniaRocker.com, which first went live in 2014, dominated the photography categories, with photographer Suzanne Allison Witkin scoring for her Photo Essay called “On Tour With The Hollywood Vampires.”  The project included a diary with exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos of Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, Joe Perry and all of The Hollywood Vampires.

Los Angeles Press Club Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In leaps into the air during a performance at the Hollywood Palladium - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In leaps into the air during a performance at the Hollywood Palladium: A winning image – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

 

California Rocker Dominates Action Photos

CaliforniaRocker.com also scored a record three finalist designations in the Action Photo category. The photos, taken by Donna, captured Fishbone’s “Flyin’ Jay” Armant launching himself into the audience at The Roxy Theatre; Cedric Bixler-Zavala of the band At The Drive-In leaping into the air at The Hollywood Palladium, and the 80-year-old Dick Dale, “King of the Surf Guitar,” revving the audience with his upbeat music.

Los Angeles Press Club Suzanne Allison Witkin captured images of The Hollywood Vampires on their historic tour - Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison Witkin for CaliforniaRocker.com

Suzanne Allison Witkin captured images of The Hollywood Vampires on their historic tour – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison Witkin for CaliforniaRocker.com

 

Los Angeles Press Club Keeping Journalism Alive

“We are honored to be selected as finalists for the National Arts and Entertainment Awards,” Donna Balancia said. “The Los Angeles Press Club strives to keep journalism alive. We too not only support independent journalism, but through our stories and images we also help musicians at a time when the music business is extremely challenging.

“CaliforniaRocker.com has the best reviewers, writers and photographers in the music world working together with us, and we are delighted with the finalist designations.”

Los Angeles Press Club Fishbone image has been named a finalist in the action photo category of the National Arts and Entertainment Awards - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The remarkable ‘Flyin’ Fishbone’ image was captured by Donna Balancia at The Roxy Theatre – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Legendary Alice Cooper Goes from Kid’s Playhouse to Fantasy Springs and Still has Time for His Golf Game

Review of Alice Cooper at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

Alice Coooper - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons for CaliforniaRocker.com

Alice Coooper – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons for CaliforniaRocker.com

By CRAIG HAMMONS

The first time I saw Alice Cooper was in the gymnasium of Cal State Fullerton in 1969. He was on the bill with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.  Spirit was the opening act.

The only real prop he had at that time was a small kid’s play house that he would go inside and stick his head out the window and sing “Nobody likes me.”

There have been a lot of changes over the years and now this is a big-time rock and roll show full of lights, dancers, costume changes, snakes, monsters and guillotines.

Alice had a legion of fans that came out to this desert oasis to see the man who has entertained them for most of their lives and showed us all that rock and roll can still be fun.  Alice once said “From the moment I leave my house or hotel room, the public owns me.  The public made Alice Cooper and I can’t imagine ever turning my back on my fans.”  Alice is a true master of his craft and takes it to a level that cannot be matched.  He has influenced many but no one can touch him.

Alice Cooper: A Really Big Show - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Alice Cooper: A Really Big Show – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Hitting the Links

When I was checking into the hotel I saw a group of golfers who had just come in from playing 18 holes.

I joked to the attendant that I bet Alice will be out on the course today and she said “He just finished up about an hour ago” and that was at 10 A.M.  Not many rock stars can golf before breakfast and then rock before dinner.

Tonight Alice Cooper would welcome us back to his nightmare full of monsters, madness and mayhem.  Anticipation was running high as the Alice look alikes, families and hardcore followers of the master of shock rock were ready for their idol to take the stage.

The curtains were a close-up of Alice’s eyes.  The lights went down and the voice of Vincent Price came on introducing the “Black Widow.”  As the curtains dropped, sparks started flying and Alice draped in a black hooded cape was front and center.  Just his presence on stage made us minions feel we’re not worthy.  Alice Cooper came fully loaded with his triple guitar attack of Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen and the mighty Nita ‘Hurricane” Strauss.  Off went the cape and he went right into “No More Mr. Nice Guy” prowling the stage like a venison of the deep.

‘Under My Wheels,’ ‘Billion Dollar Babies’

Rockin' the Casino with Alice Cooper - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Rockin’ the Casino with Alice Cooper – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Alice kept the pace lively reaching into his bag of tricks bringing out some classics like “Under My Wheels” and “Billion Dollar Babies.”

They spend no time in between songs talking to the audience.  This is a well-oiled rock, well timed rock machine full of energy and chemistry.

Alice may be the main attraction but the rhythm section of long time bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel kept this wild rock and roll train roaring down the tracks.

Alice brought out his boa constrictor Julius Squeezer to help him sing “Is It My Body.”  I once saw his boa constrictor get sick and throw up on stage.  He must have had stage fright.  Next came “Woman of Mass Destruction” that led into Nita’s fierce guitar solo.  She is a force of nature shredding the fret boards with her long blonde mane flying in the breeze as she finishes to a huge ovation.

‘Doctor Alice’

During “Halo of Flies” Glen Sobel’s drum solo mesmerized the crowd with skill and intensity.   But before we knew it good old Doctor Alice was back in a full length, blood splatted lab coat, gas mask and strapped to an electrical gurney that ignites into “Feed My Frankenstein.”   Entering stage left is a giant monster roaming the stage while everyone tries to stay out of its way.

Alice Cooper - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Patriotic Alice Cooper – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

The show only slowed down once when Alice came out and sat down on a trash can to sing one of his beautiful power ballads “Only Women Bleed.”  He was later attacked by a frightening naughty nurse who gave Alice a shot and put him into a straight jacket to sing the “Ballad of Dwight Fry.”  As he is later lead to a giant guillotine and beheaded at the end of the song.   The crowd eats is up and the band goes into “I Love the Dead” with an audience singing along.

Alice who is a member of the Hollywood Vampires then paid tribute to some of the rock and roll legends we lost this year.

Gravestones of David Bowie and Lemmy were on stage as the band ripped into intense versions of “Suffragette City” and “Ace of Spades” with bassist Chuck Garric on vocals.  It was a great gesture from a master showman and made for a very memorable moment in the show.

Now the energy in the room was at an all-time high as they kicked into two of rock and rolls biggest anthems “Eighteen” and “Schools Out.”   With confetti, bubbles and giant balloons flying, Alice then introduced the band and only once did he ever break character when he said “playing the part of Alice tonight is me.”

For the encore, he brought out Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to beat each other up until they finally kissed during “Elected.”   Alice wearing a red, white and blue jacket in front of an American flag backdrop said “we got problems all over America and personally, I don’t care.”  This two hour, 25-song set full of energy and excitement left the crowd filtering out into the casino happy and proud to be a fan of the one and only Alice Cooper.

EXCLUSIVE: On Tour With The Hollywood Vampires: Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp and Joe Perry on a Mission

The Hollywood Vampires Bring Rock ‘N’ Roll to the World

vampires-johnny-depp-bruce-witkin-suzanne-california-rocker

Johnny Depp about to take a bow following a Hollywood Vampires show. Fellow Vampire, Bruce Witkin, is to his left – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Witkin

PHOTOS AND STORY
By SUZANNE ALLISON

HOLLYWOOD – Touring with The Hollywood Vampires — those legendary rockers Alice Cooper, Joe Perry and their pal Johnny Depp — is much more than merely playing concerts.

The tour gives people in Europe and the U.S. a chance to see musicians from an era that, like the vampire itself, is pure legend.

One would think all those egos couldn’t fit inside any of their many tour buses that hit the highways.

‘Regular Joe’ Vampires

Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp and Joe Perry - Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison

Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp and Joe Perry – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison

In reality, while like any vampire, these guys live for the night, they actually each have a down-to-earth persona when in their group travelling from city to city.  They’re professionals on a mission, devoted to each other and to their fans.

The Hollywood Vampires just wrapped up a European tour and now it’s on with the U.S. tour, to bring the famous rock show to people living in upstate New York to the West and everywhere in between.

Alice Cooper ‘School’s Out’

Alice Cooper takes center stage with the Hollywood Vampires - Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison

Alice Cooper takes center stage with the Hollywood Vampires – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison

Music is a very personal experience for the fans and they love to see Alice, whose Billion Dollar Babies and School’s Out were among the top albums of all time.  It’s an opportunity for fans to see musicians who are not only legendary but brought a new type of Rock ‘N’ Roll to the world.

“They’re just as great today as ever,” ticketholder Bobby Smith of Northern California said.

“I’ve always wanted to see Alice Cooper and I’ll finally have the chance.”

From Guest to Collaborator

Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper - Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison

Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper with Bruce Witkin in background – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison

Smith isn’t alone.

Across Europe fans clamored around The Hollywood Vampires, hanging over the rail to hand them something to sign, to touch them, or just catch a glimpse of the rock idols.

The Hollywood Vampires came to know each other when Alice worked with Joe and Johnny. Alice had guest musicians on a record and the guys went from guest artists to collaborators. That’s usually the way it works, of course, but this is a supergroup of very large proportions.

Johnny Depp and The Kids

Longtime friends, Johnny Depp and Bruce Witkin - Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison for California Rocker

Longtime friends, Johnny Depp and Bruce Witkin – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison for California Rocker

Johnny brings movie star fame to the show, but he started out in music before nailing the life-changing role on the 1980s TV hit show 21 Jump Street.

He’s built a successful film career that includes the “Pirates of The Carribbean” films. But Johnny’s first love was always music.

He was in a band called The Kids with fellow Vampire, Bruce Witkin.  I know because I was there — as Johnny’s friend and I ended up marrying Bruce.

The Hollywood Vampires Record

Bruce Witkin consults with Alice Cooper - Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison for California Rocker

Bruce Witkin consults with Alice Cooper – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison for California Rocker

The Hollywood Vampires released the self-titled album and toured to promote it. The fans love the album and that’s something that makes the guys happy.

But for the guys it’s really about the fans. It’s amazing to see the reaction of the fans across the country when they see Alice Cooper or Joe Perry.

We take it for granted because we live in Los Angeles and we get to see the big names. But The Hollywood Vampires played county fairs and smaller venues where they brought the music to the masses. The fans are so excited to see these cherished Rock N Rollers in person because their music means so much to so many.

It’s music from an era that may or may not endure with the advent of EDM and computer generated sound dominating music creation today. What the Hollywood Vampires bring is a glimpse into the workings of the the guys who are the cornerstone of rock music.

Hangin’ With the Vampires

vampires-johnny-depp-alice-cooper-suzanne-california-rocker

Johnny Depp wraps his arms around legendary musician Alice Cooper during a Hollywood Vampires show – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison

And the Hollywood Vampires enjoy the interaction with the fans. They prefer playing the smaller venues — the smaller the better and that’s because it’s more intimate and they like the more personal performances.

With all these guys who have such a dynamic background and type A personalities when it comes to music, they all admire each other and it’s pretty rare.

That’s not to say each of The Hollywood Vampires don’t have their own individual quirks.

Junk Food Lover

Joe Perry made it a successful show every night - Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison

Joe Perry made it a successful show every night – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison

Alice Cooper is a an admitted junk-food lover and his favorite candy is Red Vines.  When he’s on his own tour, his wife and daughter are almost always with him and he tries to get in a few rounds of golf where he can.

Meanwhile, Joe would never touch a Red Vine – he’s the opposite – he’s health conscious about what he eats,  and he’s an avid sun worshipper. He brought along his wife Billie and they adore their pup, Bella. Joe takes such good care of himself.  He has a daily regimen, he watches his weight and he watches what he eats.

Focused But Relaxed

legendary-joe-perry-suzanne-allison-vampiresJohnny loves to read and practice guitar. Bruce is the musical director always trying to improve the show.

Tommy Henriksen is the one who makes everyone laugh, keeping the good feelings going, and Robert Deleo has some impressive dance moves. Matt Sorum, the drummer, was planning to bring his French Bulldog with him on the U.S. portion of the world tour, I know he spends lots of time with her.

But as much as these guys enjoy each other, they really love their audiences.

And to some people it may seem like this rag-tag band of ritzy rock stars are on the road to get their last licks, but that’s exactly why the tour is so important.

Representing An Era in Music

The Hollywood Vampires - Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison

The Hollywood Vampires – Photo © 2016 Suzanne Allison

The Hollywood Vampires tour represents a rare opportunity to see our popular culture in action.  These musicians are treasured and they are loved by the fans overseas as well as in here in the U.S., where the music started.  It’s gratifying for the band.

The Hollywood Vampires bring these valuable musicians and their music out to a younger generation. The young people, so inundated with electronic music and digital production need to see and appreciate music made by the masters.

 

Shep Gordon, Mike Myers Talk ‘Supermensch’ at Landmark Theatres

Shep Gordon California Rocker

Shep Gordon, photo courtesy Supermensch

LOS ANGELES — Shep Gordon didn’t want to have a documentary done on his life.  But it took an operation to change his mind, along with 15 years of begging by Mike Myers.

“I didn’t see the value in it but over the years our relationship developed to a place where I had total trust in him,” Gordon said of Myers who produced and directed the documentary Supermensch.  

The International Documentary Association screened Supermensch at Landmark Theatres in the Westside Pavillion and Myers and Gordon were on hand for a question-and-answer session following the film.

Fame is a dangerous achievement, Gordon reminds us throughout the film.  As the manager for everyone from rockers like Alice Cooper and Blondie to celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, fame is something Gordon knows well.  Both he and the director of the film take the topic seriously, calling fame the “toxic waste” result of being successful.

WATCH THE SUPERMENSCH TRAILER HERE

Gordon and Myers got to know each other through “Wayne’s World,” and Myers said he became interested in Gordon, a guy who stayed out of the picture to let his clients have the spotlight.  Many years later — and after Gordon suffered a life-threatening injury and was lying in the hospital — Myers said “Now do you want to do it?” and Gordon responded: “Yes!”

Jimi Hendrix California Rocker

Jimi Hendrix suggested Gordon become a manager – photo courtesy of Supermensch

While there was subsequently some hemming and hawing a few weeks after he was back on his feet again, Gordon finally went along with Myers’ dream project.

Myers said Gordon is his mentor and is a “fascinating progressive capitalist and ethical hedonist.”  The onscreen interviews prove he’s also a great storyteller with a lot to say.

“I’ve always felt honesty is what gets you through anything,” Gordon said. “I realized in my occupation, I could really hurt people and I would tell them.  A consequence of celebrity is fame and it’s very hard not to hurt yourself.”

Gordon points out all the friends and clients he’s had who have been victimized by the pitfalls of fame. Fame has cost people relationships, sobriety, and in many cases, their lives.  Neither he nor Myers understand the more recent trend of trying to just “become famous” without the creative aspect behind it.

“Celebrity used to be a celebration for achievement,” Myers said. “But it is a declining currency.  It’s a serious problem when the goal is to be famous.”

Gordon said whether you’re a singer, actor, poet or chef there’s a rejection factor most people won’t live with.   

He told the audience to embrace every rejection and to always forge ahead, because after all, he said, “It only took 12 people to start Christianity.”

— By DONNA BALANCIA

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