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Stars underdressed for a good purpose
If Anaïs Nin had a Nikon D3 and every celebrity in town on her BlackBerry, her photos would probably look a lot like those Deborah Anderson shot for the book, "Room 23."
Anderson, a photographer whose distinctive sensuality is located somewhere between classic French erotica and Helmut Newton -- is releasing a hefty coffee-table volume today filled with an impressive list of stars: George Clooney, Lindsay Lohan, Kid Rock, Sharon Stone, James Blunt, Cindy Crawford, Elton John.
But beware: This book probably shouldn't be left on the table with pubescent teens or lonely spouses in the house. Most of the men are in tuxedos and suits (except the ones who are partially undressed). And the women are in lingerie and slinky evening gowns.
It's a tradition of portraiture that dates to Max Beckmann, the German Expressionist. It's one in which the sensual charge comes from the juxtaposition of social formality and the erotic impulse.
There's a photo of Lohan standing on a bed with men at her feet. Another picture features Stone lounging in bed à deux with model Cheryl Tiegs. (Lots of Champagne and red grapes consumed at that shoot.)
Anderson, the daughter of Yes lead singer Jon Anderson, worked to bring together this collision of high-wattage stardom and piquant sexuality as a fundraising effort for Malibu entrepreneur and activist Diana Jenkins. Jenkins, who was born in Bosnia and lost a brother in the genocide there, has made a cause of helping to create an international legal framework that can bring war criminals of all stripes to justice.
A friend gave Jenkins a photo shoot with Anderson, who is well known in town for her erotic photography and whose work had given her an international reputation for classy sensuality. The two hit it off and decided that they had to do a project to benefit a cause that, as it turned out, they both had deep feelings about.
"Room 23" was the result. Anderson's concept was as simple, elegant and sexy as a good black dress -- a year in the life of an upscale hotel room.
Jenkins went to work providing the celebrities' contacts, and over the course of months Anderson worked out of a single suite at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills with a skeleton crew of assistants. It made for an intimate and unique perspective on these well-known personalities.
"There was a lot of personal interaction behind the lens," said Anderson, whose earlier work includes a book called "Paperthin," a contemporary take on 1930s-style Parisian erotica. " 'Room 23' allowed me the freedom to tell a story in vignettes."
The book will be unveiled tonight at an exclusive celebrity fundraiser at the very same Peninsula Hotel where the photos were taken.
Meanwhile in May, Anderson -- a singer as well as a photographer -- will release an electronic pop album called "Silence." The disc will feature images Anderson took of nude and semi-clothed subjects, including Tilda Swinton, Minnie Driver, Natasha Henstridge, Fergie and Pink. (Anderson also shot Pink's album cover for "Funhouse." And she recently completed a photo shoot of actress Lisa Rinna for Playboy.)
"My parents were always clear that we should pursue the highest form of creativity," Anderson said. "It's how we lived our lives. I was never told, 'No, you can't.' "
"No" wasn't a word that appeared frequently in Nin's vocabulary either.