Getty Images Partners With Patrick McMullan

Famed photographer recalls the circumstances of 'Archival' Milton Berle shot.

The newly minted Patrick McMullan Collection on the Getty Images website is divided into the categories of Entertainment and Archival. Assets will continue to be added as part of this exclusive new syndication partnership, but one image that immediately jumped out to FishbowlNY when perusing the shots taken by McMullan, who has been photographing nightlife, fashion, celebrities, events and more for decades, is the following shot of Milton Berle.

Berle, born July 12, 1908 in New York City, passed away in 2002. He was the first major American TV star, signed in 1951 by NBC to a 30-year contract. Decades later, he would cap off that span as host of Saturday Night Live.

“This picture was taken backstage at Charles Busch’s Dressing Up extravaganza at Town Hall in New York in June, 1994,” McMullan tells FishbowlNY. “I had heard that Berle was being kept as a surprise performer for the show and I really wanted to get a photo of him. I used my all-access pass and general niceness to get the opportunity to get a quick one-on-one photo with “Uncle Miltie.” Although I could tell he was nervous, getting ready to go on stage, he was funny and charming all the same.”

It’s all great: the dangling earring; the clutter on the dressing room table; the smiling tuxedo-ed man in the background. In fact, the juxtaposition of Berle in drag and the smiling man in the background brought to our minds the famous final scene of Some Like It Hot, the classic film directed by Billy Wilder, who died the same day as Berle in 2002.

Photo, used with permission, copyright: Patrick McMullan/Getty Images