The Kiss That Saved Vanity Fair—Observations on Harry Benson’s New Documentary, “Shoot First”
July 7, 2017 - Bruce Helander
The somewhat mysterious and provocative title above does not refer to iconic works by Gustav Klimt and Auguste Rodin that are both titled “The Kiss,” or the infamous rock group by the same name, or even the celebrated film, “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” What the title does relate to is one of the most historically famous recognized smackaroos of the 20th century, a rare private moment between President Ronald and First Lady Nancy Reagan, shot at the White House and featured in Vanity Fair. It was 1985, and the magazine was having its challenges staying alive during a post-recession slide in newsstand sales, which demanded a quick decision by then-editor Tina Brown, a ‘sink or swim’ solution that appeared in the form of a stimulating cover story with memorable images provided by Harry Benson, one of the most prominent photographic journalists of our time. Benson, the respected raconteur of pictures and people with a reputation for nailing down a crucial shot that nobody else could get, saved the day and resurrected one of America’s leading publications.
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