Archival Pigment Print
Signed and Numbered by the artist
Edition of 50
11x14", 16x20", 20x24" or 30x36"
Cat lady. Those two words conjure up an image in most everyone’s mind, I assume. In my mind’s eye, I see cats everywhere, a smelly house, a dirty bathrobe, open cans of food, cat litter on the floor, and an oblivious woman at the center of it all, surrounded by her babies. It’s sad, it’s funny, and it is universal.
Well, what about a cat dude? A man with a bunch of cats? Maybe that is even funnier. Maybe the cat dude considers himself somehow above the cat lady, in the food chain, so to speak.
The words above are how my mind works when I am coming up with a picture. When Vanity Fair asked me to photograph Martin Short, I started thinking about scenarios I could put him in that bordered on the absurd, but still had a twisted reality to them. Sure, Marty’s humor is broad, but there is a more surreal aspect to his work than a lot of broad comics. I wanted to find situations where he could play the straight man, rather than having him over-emote or do something that veered to far into shtick.
I usually come up with several ideas that fit together in a general way, and then once I have a list, I start honing it down to a logical few ideas that can work in a single day. After looking at all my ideas, I liked three: Marty as the cat dude, Marty stuck in an elevator with Vegas Showgirls, and Marty as a new age guru in Malibu. Now I just had to convince the magazine to pay for it all, and convince Marty to actually agree to the ideas.
I did a phone call with Marty, and when I got to the point of pitching my ideas I felt the same twinge of fear I always feel. Somehow the ideas that I sketch out on paper and that seem so good in my mind can sound cheesy when I hear my voice describing them on the phone. But sometimes you get lucky, and you have a great subject who puts himself totally in your hands. And, you have to remember that Marty was the guy who pulled his pants up to his nipples and greased his hair into a spike on national television, so my ideas were tame in comparison. It was the perfect storm: a subject who trusted me, a magazine with a budget, and a bunch of cats and Vegas showgirls. Give ‘em enough rope, as they say. Ain’t photography grand?
Of course, when you decide to make a picture of the cat dude, you have to remember that you are going to need a lot of cats, and they come with a lot of trainers. And those trainers are all cat ladies, the very folks I was spoofing for the picture. I don’t think they were too enamored with my idea, but heck, it’s a job. Getting the cats to all do their action was not easy, and the cat in the cupboard kept jumping out, which tried the cat ladies patience. The cat in the litter box did not want to stay there, which also frustrated the cat ladies. And the truth is, you can’t train a cat. I’m amazed we got what we did, given the fickle feline nature.
When I started editing the pictures, I realized that in any picture where Marty was making any kind of face, or interacting with the cats at all, it became too much. I think Marty’s casual indifference is the secret ingredient to the picture, because it makes the scene seem real. He managed to embody this picture in a way that made me realize he was the perfect subject for this idea.
Oh, and no cats were harmed in the making of this image.
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