Author Joan Didion once said, “Writers are always selling somebody out.” And while some do, writers simply choose to accentuate the positive. I think writers are much like photographers in that we expose what we want others to see or know about our subjects. We can manipulate the public’s perception about someone, which is why it is always shocking when some scandalous story about an apparent squeakily clean celebrity becomes breaking news.
In August 2016, I wrote about my favorite subject matter, actress Clara Bow — the reason I moved to Boulder City — for this newspaper. The “It” girl was often the subject of tabloid “truths,” and only half of her story was told by the photos that accommodated the headlines.
Bow ran from her Hollywood life, tried to outrun the headlines, by settling down at the Walking Box Ranch, which is about a 40-minute drive from Boulder City and 7 miles west of Searchlight.
As I’ve dug for subject matter linking Hollywood and Boulder City together over the past few years, what I have discovered is there are many ties, including the writers and photographers who stay behind-the-scenes, that can be connected to the past of both cities.
Bryan Haraway is one of these behind-the-scenes ties. Born and raised in Boulder City, the photographer-turned-musician has had his work featured in Time magazine, Forbes, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, Billboard magazine, Getty Images and Playboy magazine. Haraway spent the majority of his life capturing the success of others who falsely sold onscreen perfection. His work reflected his observant nature, even if it was perverse and often baffling at times.
It was through our ties to Hollywood that Haraway and I came into contact with one another. As he embraced his roots to write and work on his upcoming record from the comfort of his hometown, while taking time out to record in Nashville, Tennessee, Haraway invested in our community. He is the current owner and operator of Sudz Coin Laundry on Boulder City Parkway.
I’ve gone from writing buzz-worthy PR copy to helping locals with their books as a ghostwriter. Our common bond to stay within our trades but away from the headlines always feels very Clara Bow-esk as we enjoy coffee-consuming sessions at the local Starbucks.
It’s there that we openly talk about our Hollywood talent subject matter. We can exchange the dirty details of who they really are versus who the public thinks they are, and it goes no further than the edge of the tables where our lattes sit as silent witnesses.
In our linked lines of work, Haraway and I had to make sure the dirty details of our famous clients’ human condition didn’t make these celebrities look ordinary.
Rather, it was the false absence of any reality that we created that let them look extraordinary.
Haraway and I are in Boulder City for a reason. While our work paths often take us back to Los Angeles and the world of entertainment, celebrating authenticity is what we — and the many others who work in show business but live here — crave.
In the 1930s, Margaret Bourke-White was another famous photographer who came through Boulder City. She was taking pictures of Hoover Dam, and it was her work that inspired the dam’s official photographer, Ben Glaha. She loved real things, and her work expressed this.
And musician-turned-photographer, and also one amazing writer, Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe, shares the same tie to our city. Sixx has captured our city and its neighboring landmarks during his band’s two residencies at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.
His work is based on capturing the truth about people through the lens of the camera. The raw emotion and sometimes despair is not only refreshing but will be available to see in person very soon. Sixx, with Leica Camera, is setting up a gallery show of his photography work in Las Vegas.
The dates and location will be announced shortly as the event has only been teased on his Instagram accounts, which are @NikkiSixxPhotography and @nikkisixxpixx.
While Haraway, Bourke-White and Sixx’s photography work captures life in and around Hollywood on a national level, it’s the small-town touches reflecting our city’s true and genuine nature that I find very inspiring.
Grant Turner of The Dillinger Food & Drinkery proudly displays Tsvetalina Stefanova’s photos, forever capturing a moment in time of local drummer Sandy Nelson’s life. Jack’s Bar and Grill’s wall is decorated with photos of fun times with local residents Neil Shannon and Marci Gibson.
Haraway and I might have spent our careers editing out some of the harsh truths of our Hollywood clientele with the purpose to make them sparkle and shine, but it is here that we both feel truly among stars.
Tanya Vece is an entertainment and music writer who resides and volunteers in Boulder City. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @hollywoodwriter.