Hot! The Starr that made everyone smile

Stick your neck out like a turtle? Yes, a turtle!

I met Steve Starr about 7 years ago, shortly after my youngest son was born. I wasn’t too happy with the course my career was taking, so I was working to establish myself as a writer with my own blog.

Steve told me at that first meeting that he really admired my work; I should do more of it (and use his photos) but I shouldn’t call myself a “blogger“. Why, because he hated the word blogger. At that moment, I knew I liked this man. He was honest, kind and always just a bit fidgety when he would speak and fiddle with his camera trying to keep watch for the next photograph he would take.

But I never imagined that Steve and I would become such good friends. Steve caught me off guard at that first meeting when he asked me to pose for him. The pose alone set Steve apart from the rest of the photographers who usually worked the events with me.

The pose was Steve’s art.  He knew the first time I posed for him that I felt awkward. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. Steve patiently directed me to stand in front of a long black curtain in the corner hallway near the restrooms (so as not to be too near the party). he wanted to help me feel more confident, and it worked.

Carmen C Rivera

My very first picture taken by the late, great Steve Starr- Copyright Steve Starr Studios, used with permission 2013. All rights reserved by the Estate of Steve Starr

He edged forward and wiggled his index finger in front of his face, gesturing for me to lean forward. In his raspy voice, ordered me to turn my shoulder slightly and then said: “I’m gonna take your picture!” It was the funniest way I was ever asked to pose in my life. It was wonderful. He cared, not only how I looked but also how I felt in front of his lens. I smiled the first real smile I had in a long time, and he had made it genuine.

Steve wanted everybody to be happy while he was capturing their images, and he succeeded. That was Steve’s real art.

My time with Steve was too short, but I am grateful to have been a part of his spectacular life. I was fortunate enough to help him when he published his ode to glamorous Hollywood, his book “Starlight Studios”.  He called me his “International Hostess” although I never understood it because I was born and raised in Chicago. But that was Steve, marching to the beat of his own drum. Plus no one else could ever claim me as international ever again.

We’d complain together, we’d plan together and once we even traveled together to his beloved Miami. I miss the late night phone calls, always after my bed time, to our schedules for the upcoming weeks’ event.

Thursdays“, he would complain, “Everyone wants to throw their events on Thursdays”, he would say weekly.  He swore every event planner had it out for us since they insisted their event be on Thursday. [They all still hold all the events on Thursday, Steve, they all still do…]

And I really miss those times when he encouraged me to write. He would push me just at the moment I thought no one cared. But Steve cared. He said his pictures needed a place and he appreciated me for using them. I appreciated him more and I’m glad he knew it.

Photo by the great Steve Starr

Picture taken by Steve Starr – photo copyright Steve Starr Studios, used with permission 2013. All rights reserved by the Estate of Steve Starr.

Party people from all around the city knew of dear Steve Starr. He was dubbed Chicago’s Celebrity Photographer by some of the local publications and was adored by almost everyone else for his quick wit, commanding attitude (stick your chin out like a turtle coming out of his shell” he would say), his determination to get his “perfect shot” and his adoration for anyone who appreciated his work.

Steve loved beauty and saw beauty in everyone he shot. More often than not he would spend hours at a time to (slightly) touch up and send individual pictures to whomever he photographed, sometimes as late as 2 and 3 a.m. Steve wasn’t in it for the money; he wanted people to like his pictures and just say thank you.

The day Steve Starr left our world; he died while planning his dream showcase. It was going to be the ultimate presentation of his more than 40 years of capturing Chicago’s finest and 12/12/12 turned out to be a memorial to Steve’s work over the years It was work filled with genuine smiles like the one he gave me that first time we met. I felt the need to eulogize him even if its been one year later. I was never able to do it last year when he passed. It’s one of the many stories I’ve told him that he would’ve loved to see right here.

Thank you Steve, I miss you and I love you and I thank you for always encouraging me and helping me to smile the right way again. 

During our trip to Miami Beach for the Latin Billboard Awards, 2012 - Photo by Carmen C. Rivera

During our trip to Miami Beach for the Latin Billboard Awards, 2012 – Photo by Carmen C. Rivera

Check out a few Steve’s “selfies” with some of the people he loved to be around (pictures by Steve Starr used with permission of his estate- thank you Adrienne- I love you).  


Steve’s selfies – Copyright Steve Starr Studios, used with permission 2013. All rights reserved by the Estate of Steve Starr.



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  1. What a wonderful story and the writer behind it. Xo

    • Thank you Miss Adrienne! I truly appreciate the generosity of you and your family and love that we are friends! <3 U

  2. Beautiful piece, Carmen!