My Reunion with Christiane F
Brad Elterman reconnects with the mysterious and reclusive Christiane F. for the first time since 1981.
An early photographer of American punk rock, Brad Elterman captured many of the greatest musicians of the 70s and 80s at the height of their beauty and talent. Le Reve is a column that follows the photographer on his continuing adventures. Brad has been living the dream for decades, and he still takes photographs every day and stocks the swimming pool at his Bel Air home, Villa Le Reve, with beautiful women, artists, fashionistas, and cultural luminaries. In this installment of Le Reve, Brad reconnects with the mysterious and reclusive Christiane F. for the first time since 1981.
Christiane F. in Berlin, 2015 (all photos by Brad Elterman)
It has been 34 years since I last saw Christiane F. at our photo session on Hollywood Boulevard in 1981. She was flown from Germany to Los Angeles to promote the massively popular cult film based on her life, and I was some kid with a camera on assignment for a German magazine. As I recall, her English was a bit limited, but the film's director, Uli Edel, was there to help. I remember seeing her at the Rainbow with my pal Rodney Bingheimer after our photo session, but then she was gone. She flew back to Berlin, and 34 years passed very quickly.
Christiane F. In Hollywood, 1981
Many younger people have asked me about that photo session over the last couple of years. They all say the same thing: "oh, so cool." Personally I find all the admiration a bit puzzling, considering the book and film were about a teenage heroin addict who sells her body for dope.
Thanks to some lovely friends, I was reconnected with Christiane once again, this time in Berlin. We dined and spoke about friends from back in the day. Christiane still had the same laugh, the same smile, those stunning cheekbones, and her remarkable love for life.
I wanted to connect with her again through the camera as I did during our youth. I didn't want to ask her any personal questions, because all of that stuff has been documented over and over again. I wanted to connect with her as a friend and not a reporter. Just like we did back in '81.
The photo session took place on the last day of my Berlin stay. It was a rotten, nasty, cold and wet Berlin day, something that Berliners are accustomed to. A far cry from our first session in sunny Hollywood, but no one cared.
We drove out to one of the remaining pieces of the Berlin wall and walked around with Leon, Christiane's ten-year-old Chow. School kids and tourists took iPhone photos of themselves in the background while I shot one roll of film with my pocket camera.