Tales of Hoffman


She wouldn’t want me telling you this — the first thing to know about Roni Hoffman is that, unlike some of us, she tends toward the taciturn. In fact, after more decades together than we’d ever admit, I’m still hearing new details of her story.

But it’s a helluva story.

Her boyfriend was among the first of the dubious breed that came to be known as rock critics. You see, back in the day, there were these things called daily newspapers and each one had a middle-aged guy who wrote about jazz and that’s who the dailies would send to cover rock concerts, often with laughable results, at least to rock fans. But along came a publication called Crawdaddy, the first real rock magazine, a year before Rolling Stone. Sandy Pearlman wrote for it. And so did Roni’s b.f. Which meant that at 17 she got to hang out with Jimi Hendrix backstage at a club in Greenwich Village, and later to attend the press conference atop the Pan Am building where, in a publicity stunt, the nascent guitar god had just landed in a helicopter. She was at the Dom on St. Mark’s Place when the Velvet Underground played, and a 17-year-old Jackson Browne opened. She was at Patti Smith’s first poetry reading, before Lenny Kaye strummed along on guitar, and then backstage at the Bitter End when Bob Dylan stopped by to pass Patti the torch as rock ‘n’ roll poet laureate.

Jim Morrison put his arm around Roni’s shoulders and a joint in her mouth. Mick Jagger just put his arm around her shoulders — though the occasion happened to be a birthday party for a raging drunk Norman Mailer, who put his hands all over her. She dined with Lou Reed at the writer Lisa Robinson’s apartment. She and her b.f. shared a house with the Blue Oyster Cult, back when those metal pioneers were called the Soft White Underbelly. She met the young Iggy and Alice Cooper and Marc Bolan of T-Rex and such monumental rock elders as Muddy Waters and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. She was at the celebrated Rock Writers Convention in Memphis in ’73, where the original lineup of Big Star, Alex Chilton’s band, played their one and only gig, and on the infamous Hells Angels boat ride around Manhattan, the same year, where she got to know Jerry Garcia and Bo Diddley, both of whom performed, and where she witnessed the Angels preparing to throw overboard a smarmy young local-TV reporter named Geraldo Rivera. She was in the room when Epic signed a raggedy-ass outfit from SUNY/New Paltz called the Dictators, who would then make the first-ever punk record. An undergraduate Gary Lucas crashed on her couch, a dozen years before he captained Beefheart’s Magic Band and an over-served Lester Bangs passed out in her armchair, a dozen years before he overdosed.

Her kids think of her as their unassuming mom. Little do they know.

Roni was, and is, an artist. She paints and draws (and today also teaches painting and drawing). But she always had a camera, and knew how to use it, and at some point her writer friends, when they needed pictures, started to ask her along to interviews and concerts and parties. They liked her and knew that, unlike a lot of those ego-tripping shutterbugs, she would be, well, quiet and always get the job done. So she has a lot of unique photos. At the same time, she missed a lot of unique photos. She says that it just seemed kind of rude to whip out your camera while chatting with a new friend, even if that friend turned out to be Jimi Hendrix. But then it was precisely that sense of consideration that made writers invite her along in the first place.

And anyway, who knew these young musicians would soon be dead? Or immortal.


I first met Roni in the Village on West 4th Street. Yes, “Positively 4th Street,” if that’s not too cute for a rock ‘n’ roll love story. If you know us, you can skip this next part because I’ve told it a million times. But it really is a true story, even if it’s also a little cute. I was in Jimmy Day’s bar with a couple of friends when a couple of chicks caught my eye through the picture window. I ran outside and grabbed one by the arm and asked her to come have a cocktail. To which she replied: “Get your hands off me!” Whereupon the two chicks, one with a fresh tattoo halfway up her forearm (back when tattooing was illegal in New York!), continued briskly east on 4th, while I backpedalled in front of them. I tried various forms of begging and pleading and got only silence in return. Finally, I asked: “Where are you girls going?” And the girl I had grabbed took the bait.

“The Bottom Line.”

The Bottom Line was a club, the music industry showplace in NYC in the mid-seventies, the place where Bruce Springsteen would launch Born to Run (we were there) and Elvis Costello would launch My Aim Is True (ditto). Having worked as a latter-day rock critic, I knew most everybody in the music industry. So I’m thinking, bingo.

“Hey,” I offered, “I can get you in free.”

“How can you get us in free?” she asked.

And I proceeded to explain how that night’s performer, a “new Dylan” by the name of Elliott Murphy, was on RCA Records, and I was good friends with the publicist at RCA and blah-blah-blah. And she said flatly:

“We’re already getting in free.”

Incredulous, I asked, “How are you getting in free???”

And the get-your-hands-off-me girl replied: “I’m a photographer, and she” — pointing to the newly tatted Helen Wheels — “is a singer.”

“What’s your name?”

“Roni Hoffman.”

“Roni Hoffman! I sent you a check last week. I’m Robert Duncan, from Creem.”

So the girls came in and had a few cocktails, and one of them stuck around for more decades than we’d ever admit.

But I bring all this up for two reasons. The first is that, after much cajoling from friends like Mike Lemme, I finally convinced Roni to go through these anonymous cardboard boxes I knew were buried deep in a funky shed at our house. I knew because, periodically, a publisher or record company or movie studio would call in search of a rare photo they had heard she might have — for instance, the Almost Famous folks wanted a certain Lester shot and Rhino Records wanted the only performance photo of the original Big Star for that band’s box set — and Roni would disappear for an hour or two to dig around in the shed and through the boxes and, some of the time, would turn up the priceless picture in question. Only some of the time, because being a photographer more focused on painting and drawing, she had never really bothered to fret about which magazine or record company or errant rock critic had returned what set of negatives to her back in the day.

And anyway, who knew these young musicians would soon be dead? Or immortal.

But I convinced her to begin reclaiming her past for the modern era, and for the kids (who are not really kids at all anymore), and to make some digital noise. Have a website, for her art, as well as her photos. And though some of the scans had to be made from contact sheets or ripped prints and some of the other pictures are gone for good (and some never got taken), finally, she does.

So the first reason I bring all this up is to convince you to check out

The second reason is that, ten months after we’d met, more decades ago than we’d ever admit, I married the girl I grabbed on 4th Street. And Sunday’s our anniversary. And I just wanted to say I love her. Still. So, happy anniversary, Hoffman. I’ll be home soon.

Work + News

This way to health insurance

Today marks the launch of our first campaign for Covered California as part of a five-year, $400-million effort to help all Californians get the health insurance they need.

female presenting person wearing teal shirt and white e.l.f. branded face mask, holding orange pumpkin while sitting inside pop-up vehicle with purple sparkly wall behind her with the words

e.l.f. 2020 Halloween activation

Duncan Channon’s LA team kept the halloween spirit alive by bringing a spooky holiday pop-up straight to beauty influencers’ homes.

Female identified person with short-cropped brown hair, holding a baby to her chest. DC and Covered California Logos overlay the image on left and right, respectively.

Covered CA on Adweek’s cover

DC is thrilled to announce that we were awarded the five-year, $400-million Covered CA account. We are resolute in helping at this crucial time when more Californians need coverage than ever.

“They can’t take your ballot”

At a time of unprecedented voter suppression, the mission of Vote From Home 2020 is more essential than ever. Our new “Suppress This” campaign helps them get ballots into the hands of disenfranchised voters of color. You can help, too.

CBS x Alfred Coffee · Emmy Awards

DCLA partnered CBS Studios with Alfred Coffee to reach Emmy voters and garner support for Star Trek: Picard. The timely work tapped into the diversity and inclusion central to Gene Roddenberry’s original vision.

Beautyscape influencers launch e.l.f. collection

It’s a beautiful day at DCLA with the launch of the e.l.f. Cosmetics Retro Paradise collection — the new collection from e.l.f.’s Beautyscape winners Alissa Holmes, Diana Curmei, Elicia Aragon, Jessa Green and Valeria Loren.

Two female presenting teens are at a table in a school library. One female with dark curly hair is sitting down with her back to the frame. The other is standing over the table with SweeTarts gummies in both hands and smiling.

SweeTARTS' Be Both is back

After the sweet success of last year’s 'Be Both' launch, SweeTARTS is doubling down on the campaign to Gen Z with brand new work in market now — and more to come in 2021.

Nicotine equals brain poison. Two images in a grid. Image to the left is the campaign example featuring two male presenting teens with their heads down smoking a vape pen with a copy overlay that reads Nicotine equals brain poison. The right image is the gold Clio award on a black background.

Nicotine = Brain Poison = Clio

Our work for CTCP has awakened parents to the teen vaping epidemic and won a slew of awards in the process (not nearly as important, but nice). The latest is that most venerable of ad accolades: the Clio.

Female presenting influencer posing for the camera in a sleek white blazer and leather black pants. She is confident and raises her hand to perfect her long brown hair that is styled in a middle part and she's wearing make-up that accentuates her strong features. She's in front of a mirror with a table with SGX NYC products.

SGX NYC · #hairgoals

SGX NYC wanted to increase awareness around winning two Allure Best of Beauty Awards and reinforce the brand’s positioning with cost-conscious consumers looking for premium products. We hit the bullseye with three well-known #hairgoals influencers.

Birds eye view over a male presenting young adult on the fire escape playing a guitar. Next to him is a notepad and pen and lush green plants creep into the frame. He appears relaxed as he plays his guitar.

Citi · Citigrammers

Citi wanted to increase awareness and favorability on social media, particularly within the music and dining categories. We assembled a team of influential visual artists to create the sort of shareable content the brand couldn't.

A grey-blue background with a circle of screenshots of various people speaking in a video conference call. In the center of the screenshot is text in white text letters that reads “Work Together.

Million-dollar talent from Upwork

To support COVID-19 projects, Upwork is donating a million dollars of time from their network of independent professionals. And who better to tell us about it than the pros themselves?

Diverse group of individuals and posing for the camera during the Coachella Music Festival. They are all self expressive through their make-up and fashion choices. Their individuality shines through as they each pose in their own unique way.

e.l.f. Cosmetics · Coachella

e.l.f. wanted to launch Beauty Shield, an all-new skincare line powered with antioxidants and SPF to help protect your skin against environmental aggressors. DCLA provided the perfect testing ground.