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Catchy title, huh?

A few years ago the good people over at Billboard called and asked if I would photograph Bret Michaels for their cover.  I was busy at the time and more or less scanned over the email while on set with another photo.  Through my terrible reading skills I managed to miss one big word…. NAKED.

In the past, I have photographed subjects such as the “naked centerfold” for Cosmopolitan, but they were always conveniently covered.  When I had my first pre-production meeting with Billboard I pitched the idea of Bret with a cowboy hat covering the goods while his hands gave his trademark “rock on” gestures.  Their response was, “that sounds great, but let’s get rid of the cowboy hat.”

I must confess, I had worked 5 straight days before the photoshoot, and flew in from Chicago only hours before the call time.  As tired as I was, I couldn’t sleep, not out of excitement, out of anguish that I would have to ask the former lead man from Poison to drop trou and smile.  On top of that I was planning on using one very complex lighting setup that would hopefully render me blind enough to not know what was in front of my camera so long as I could pull a sharp image.

We had 14 light sources, 7 packs, and just under 20,000 watt seconds of retina melting happiness.  There was so much light that when I popped each frame, the RGB in our vision separated….seriously.  However, I had dedicated that almost all of this photo would be out of camera as I didn’t want to stare at the Celebrity Apprentice that much on my monitor afterward.

By now you’re probably wondering how much of a prima donna Mr. Michaels was in this exposed situation.  In all honesty, they don’t get any cooler and more relaxed as Bret on set.

We had set up a couple bookends on the side of the set for Bret to go into to disrobe. Once he went into the makeshift room, we had nonessential personal leave set. One of the oddest experiences I have ever had came when he walked out of the room, holding a guitar in front of himself. He looked at me and said, “can I play you a song?” … I said sure and he asked my preference, to which I jokingly responded that I didn’t know his stuff that well. This resulted in a moment that will live in my memory forever, no matter how many therapy sessions I go to…… Bret Michaels singing, “Every Rose has its Thorn” to me in an empty studio… naked.

We drank, we laughed, we didn’t take ourselves seriously, and we got the shot.

Bret Michaels Naked Billboard cover