While carrying a gift-wrapped Apple computer, Steve Jobs followed Sheff into the Dakota to meet Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon for Sean’s ninth birthday. Later that evening, she watched Jobs teach a fiercely focused Andy Warhol how to draw on Sean’s new computer. Then, a giddy Warhol pulled Keith Haring away from party guests to show him the circle he’d created.
From his living room in Big Sur, Ansel Adams’ nightly ritual consisted of toasting the sunset with martinis while scanning the horizon for the elusive green flash. Sheff also watched his technique for developing negatives inside the dark room of his studio. Continue reading
In 1984, her investigative piece, “The Betrayal of John Lennon,” earned a National Magazine Award nomination. After John’s murder, his personal possessions such as diaries, clothing and videos disappeared. Sheff interviewed suspects and uncovered other rip-off schemes. While on assignment, Sheff was threatened, trailed and her hotel room ransacked. Continue reading
Sheff introduced Peter Weir to Robin Williams, which lead to their pairing in Dead Poets Society.
Sheff met Muhammad Ali in Las Vegas after his defeat by Larry Holmes at Caesars Palace. The next day, she recalls Ali shuffling around his suite in slippers with his head down. The smell of turnip greens (his favorite) and cornbread filled the air. Sitting next to Ali on the couch, the years of sustained trauma were clearly visible: dull brown eyes, halting speech, and softness overcoming toughness. Yet his aura of greatness was steadfast.
Sheff got a photo credit in People for John Entwistle. The Who’s guitarist reluctantly agreed to the interview in his hotel suite, but refused to pose for the magazine photographer. In those days, no photo shoot would be a deal-breaker for the piece. When Sheff offered him Groucho glasses with a large fake nose, Entwistle eagerly donned the disguise and let her snap away on her personal camera.
On assignment at Corcoran State Prison, Charlie Manson made voodoo signs at Sheff from behind bars. She also witnessed a solitary Sirhan Sirhan walking head down in the empty exercise yard under mandatory isolation for his safety.
Sheff’s assignment for People was a profile on the, “newly clean and sober,” Sly Stone of Sly and the Family Stone. While en route to dinner, Sly pulled out a blowtorch and a pipe from his red tool chest and started freebasing in the passenger seat as she barreled down the 405 listening to his greatest hits on the cassette player.
After several celebrities, such as Steven Spielberg and Gwyneth Paltrow, received stalker threats and suffered break-ins, Sheff accompanied LAPD on a stalker arrest. Her story featured the special stalker prosecuting unit created by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. Continue reading
Who knew Wayne Gretzky, The Great One, developed his hockey skills in childhood with a rolled-up sock tossed by his grandmother. Continue reading
At Sugar Ray Robinson’s funeral security guards kept hundreds of media outlets from entering the West Angeles Church. A mix-up occurred, and Sheff was herded on stage with distinguished guests: Jesse Jackson, Don King, Berry Gordy, and Mike Tyson. Luckily, Rev. Jackson’s eulogy enraptured the audience, so no one questioned the blonde sitting front and center.
During an interview with Sugar Ray Leonard, the welterweight world champion, complimented Sheff on her perfume and revealed a peculiar trait: he buys the perfume he likes on his wife or her girlfriends and wears it himself.
Sheff once arrived at Billy Joel’s house in a chauffeured Rolls Royce. The car was John Lennon’s favorite and Yoko Ono had arranged the move as a practical joke. Having a Playboy journalist show up in a vintage Rolls shocked even a superstar like Joel. That night, after Joel boiled Long Island corn and sliced fresh tomatoes for dinner, Vicki danced in the August moonlight sparkling off the Long Island Sound while Joel played the piano and sang (in a quasi-Lennon voice) Imagine. Continue reading
Sheff left her appendix and Michael Douglas behind after an interview for Playboy in the South of France where he was filming the sequel for Romancing the Stone. Coming out of anesthesia, the first thing Sheff saw was a gorgeous bouquet of flowers in her room from the star. Continue reading
Geoffrey Rush, a veteran Australian stage actor who became an overnight film star after the success of Shine, told Sheff that he washed three shirts in the bathroom of his suite at the Nikko Hotel rather than pay $15 each for laundering. That extra $45 meant he could spend more time on the call home to his wife.
Sheff stepped over Robert Rodriguez’s friends bunking in his hotel room at the Sundance Film Festival after he landed a distribution deal with Columbia Pictures for El Mariachi/ Desperado. The young filmmaker accepted the studio’s hefty per diem in order to feed his friends.
When Jimmy Stewart, opened the door of his Beverly Hills home, Vicki introduced her 7-year-old son, Nic, and explained the no-show babysitter dilemma. Gloria, Stewart’s gracious wife, whisked Nic off for cookies and milk in the kitchen and a game of fetch with their golden retriever in the backyard. Stewart zipped through career highlights, and focused mainly on his new passion: Saving Elephants. The actor had dedicated his remaining years to raising awareness of the endangered animal. He wore a button: “Only Elephants Should Wear Ivory.” While saying goodbye, Stewart unpinned it and fastened it to Vicki’s jean jacket. It’s a keepsake she still wears. Nic, a film buff, honors his childhood encounter, but when a Stewart film airs, the memory of his dog is clearer than the actor himself.
Diving into the pool at Caesar’s Palace to observe a tuxedoed Paul Anka sitting at a sunken grand piano, camouflaged oxygen tubes dangling nearby, while a soggy photographer took promotional pictures with a special underwater camera.
An exclusive interview with Alfred Peet about the regrets and sacrifices he made while building his groundbreaking Peet’s Coffee and Tea and the betrayal after selling it.