We had curator Juju Sorelli ask her good friend Brad Elterman a few questions on how they first met, their upcoming Runaways show, and Joan Jett and her love of hamburgers.
Juju: Do you recall how we met up? Brad: Yes, of course, we met at a Helmut Newton exhibition in Los Angeles. I saw this sort of eccentric looking person who looked like a member of a French rock band and I asked if you spoke French; the rest is history. You convinced me to go to UCLA Extension's film directing school, which I did and we ate tremendous hamburgers at Muso and Frank in Hollywood. Lots of fun! That is what life is all about: having fun.
Juju: How did you meet The Runaways? Brad: Two words, RODNEY BINGENHEIMER!! He was the mayor of The Sunset Strip and one of my best pals. He told me very early on to photograph The Runways. He actually introduced me to Kim Fowley, their legendary producer. Kim was this very powerful and colorful figure. He was so smart and incredibly funny. I had never seen anything like him, his apartment, or his entourage. I loved it. He believed in me and set up my early photo sessions with the girls. He was there at many of the sessions and he would run everything, all I had to do was snap the photo. I was too shy to give them any direction. He would shout out stuff like: ‘Work it!’, ‘Teenage hustle!’, ‘Do the dog!’, ‘I am God!’, ‘Teenage boys in Japan will masturbate to these photos!’ and then he would turn to me and yell out ‘Brad Elterman Keep Urinating!’. That meant take more photos.
Juju: So what did you do with the photos? Brad: This became a job for me and around 1976 I wanted to get my own apartment and move out of my parent’s house. This meant I needed to sell the photos. I had contacts with Music Life a major magazine in Japan. I had been sending them photos for a few months, but they did not publish anything. I tried again and this time with my Runaways photos, the editor, Haruko called to tell me how much they loved the photos and would publish them and I would actually get paid! I sold them tons of Runaways photos and the girls became big stars in Japan. I sold the photos to magazines in Holland and Germany too. Kim was over the moon as all of this press helped him with a record deal and the start of an international fan base.
Juju: Were you intimated by Kim? Brad: I should have been, but I was not. He was such a larger-than-life figure, I was more intimated by the band. Kim and I are still friends today. I saw him recently.
Juju: Any gossip you can share about the girls? Brad: If I did, I would take all the stories to my grave but I really do not have any juicy stories. They would always fight with each other. Joan had no time for that and she would sit back and just tune up her guitar. Besides the Sunset Strip, I would run into them at The Sugar Shack, a cool teenage nightclub in the San Fernando Valley.
Juju: Are you surprised by all of the interest the Runaways have been getting after more than 30 years? Brad: Yes, young people are fascinated by them. It was the real thing, those girls all did it for the love of rock and roll.
Juju: So where have these photos been for the last, almost four, decades? Brad: Boxes in my garage.
Juju: What do you enjoy the most when you show your work? Brad: Meeting the cool young fans is what keeps me going. That is the big picture.
Juju: Does Joan like hamburgers? Brad: Yes, very much so. We ate them all the time at Dukes, the cool diner at The Tropicana Motel. We would scarf those down and then eat a frozen Snickers Bar. One day Joan ate a club sandwich and I took a photo.
The Runaways exhibition opens this Friday January 9th at Poppington Gallery NYC.