Photographer Matthew Rolston recalls Interview Magazine’s heyday

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Andy Warhol co-founded Interview magazine in late 1969 as a “clever way to receive invitations to screenings and meet celebrities in society and entertainment,” writes art director Charles Churchward in the book “Hollywood Royale.” It was also, for Warhol, a way “to express his ongoing obsession with the idea of fame.”

Along with striking photography, the core of Interview was interviews, by celebrities of other celebrities, then a radical concept.

Interview fast became the bible of cool, and every aspiring musician or actor craved being featured on its cover.

In 1987 Warhol died, but Interview continued until it closed last week amidst dramas including staff being kicked out of their SoHo offices, lawsuits over unpaid bills, and accusations of misconduct against a stylist.

Despite its problems, Interview’s closure was a suckerpunch to many, including DnA contributor Jenn Swann, who wrote her first article for Interview, in the issue that would be the magazine’s last.

Born after Interview’s heyday, she explains why the magazine mattered, with its deceptively simple Q & A interview format, and the glamorized portraits that represented a “total reimagining” of the celebrity interviewees.

One of the artists responsible for this “total reimagining” was Matthew Rolston, the Beverly Hills-based photographer and video-maker who has shot many famous people for all the top glossy magazines.

But he got his start at Interview with an assignment to shoot Steven Spielberg, while still a student at ArtCenter.

Now he’s published a new book, “Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles.” Edited and curated by David Fahey of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Hollywood Royale is filled with his highly glamorized 1980s images, among them Madonna channeling Marlene Dietrich and Michael Jackson regal in crown against corinthian columns.

The book includes several of his shots for Interview, such as a youthful Spielberg; Cyndi Lauper in a towering, jewelled headdress; Cybill Shepherd and Isabella Rossellini, both porcelain-skinned and luminescent; and Don Johnson with slicked back hair, dressed for polo.

Matthew Rolston. Cyndi Lauper, Headdress, Los Angeles, 1986 © MRPI (Courtesy Fahey/Klein, Los Angeles).

The images represent his interpretation of 20th century glamour, which he says was invented and reinvented by movie star photographer George Hurrell, high-fashion photographer Helmut Newton and the painter and curator of celebrities, Andy Warhol.

Rolston talks with DnA about the “classic break” at Interview that launched his career; about his first visit to the Interview offices, where he witnessed Andy taking a lunch meeting with Nancy Reagan and the band Duran Duran, and about what made the magazine cool.

“The magazine probably never made a dime,” he says, adding that relative to the towering New York publications like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, “it was countercultural.

It had an unspoken but very present gay aspect... and a true love for Hollywood glamour -- in an ironic sense, in a postmodern sense.”

It was also “nowhere near the scale of what we have now in terms of photography, celebrities, social media, selfie culture -- none of that existed.”

Matthew Rolston’s career as a celebrity photographer began at Interview magazine, which announced last week would close. Photo of Matthew Rolston by Davis Factor.