February 3, 1936 – March 24, 2010
Jim Marshall was coming to New York to promote his latest work, Match Prints, so I doubled up on vitamins, because hanging with Jim was hanging with a cyclone: he was disruptive, unpredictable and unstoppable; full of heavy objects but mostly air, and you couldn’t take your eyes off him. He also shared the developmental attributes of two-year-olds unable to ration their new-found abilities: Jim would say anything to anyone at any time, love strangers unconditionally, exhibit startling generosity, express little interest in moderation of any sort and play “Look at me!” for hours at a time. Frankly, I couldn’t wait to see him.
Everyone has Marshall stories. Yes, he hung up on me; yes, he called the brightest guy in our office a numbnut and hung up on him, too, but so what? He did that to everybody. Over dinner, the subject of civilian firearms came up (Jim was a big fan), and something stupidly led me to get in his face with, “Oh, yeah? So how many people have you shot?” Unfazed, Jim answered, “Two.” He could shut you up. Jim’s indulgences in sex, language, substances and most manly things make Sly Stallone seem positively delicate.
I arrived for the book release party not knowing Jim had passed away earlier in the day. Longtime friends John Varvatos (our host), co-author Timothy White and Anthony DeCurtis, who wrote Match Prints’ introduction, unanimously declared, “Jim wouldn’t have wanted to get in the way of a party.” So, along with condolences, John circulated drinks, anecdotes and a bottle of scotch to be swigged by the assembled Who’s Who of photography. Danny Clinch (who also graced our latest photography issue with his work) treated us to a few minutes of his intimate Marshall documentary-in-progress, scenes in which Jim photographs Bruce Springsteen—typical and simply wonderful. Jim shoulda’ been there. Really.