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Grey Villet felt himself challenged  to break through the masks of fame to reveal what it meant in human terms. In pursuit of a personal celebrity to match  that of the rock group, "the Beatles", Charles Manson had directed his followers in a series of vicious "Helter Skelter"1968 murders  that had shocked the world but made him famous.    Villet photographed Manson on New Years eve in 1987 at San Quentin where he will spend the rest of his  life. By focusing tightly  on his eyes in this single image, he captured   a reflection of  the dark spirit that  resided deep within him.

Liz Taylor achived that personal celebrity, and basked it during the 1961 Oscars. The image, however was less about her than about the impact of stardom on those who live in its shadow.


sammy davis jr. sings

In this 1955 photograph, Sammy Davis Jr. was sweating a comeback at New York's Copa Cabana two years after a near fatal accident had cost him an eye.  Davis considered his talent a weapon that enabled him to fight the prevalent racism of the l950's. "Being a star" he once said "made it possible for me to get insulted in places the average Negro would never hope to go to get insulted."

fred astaire dances

Grey Villet regarded  Fred Astaire shown here rehearsing for a television series in l961 in which he partnered with dancer Barrie Chase as the quintessential professional, one whose celebrity was the product of continuous hard work and self discipline not unlike that he demanded of himself.
Top left: Charles Manso 1987, San Quentin Prison, Top Right: 1961 Oscar night, Liz Taylor and admirers, Lower Left: Sammy Davis Jr. makes a comeback at the Copa Cabana in 1955, Bottom Right: Fred Astaire rehearses in 1961

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