ALEX COHEN, host:
Back now with Day to Day. A few years ago, Patrick Borelli, a writer and comedian living in New York, wanted to put on a variety show featuring elderly performers. Only problem was, he didn't know any.
Mr. PATRICK BORELLI (Writer, Comedian): So, I put an ad in Backstage magazine, and I got probably over 100 headshots, and that actually ended up being sort of my favorite part of the whole show, was just flipping through these headshots.
COHEN: Usually, headshots are pretty straightforward photographs of an actor or performer's head - hence, the name. But the photos Patrick got, well, they were anything but straightforward. Those pictures inspired Patrick Borelli to team up with the guy who took his headshots, photographer Douglas Gorenstein.
Together, the two have put out a new book and Web site called "Holy Headshot!" - a collection of some of the most bizarre and often hilarious 8-by-10 photos I have ever seen. For instance, explains Douglas Gorenstein, there's Kitten Kay Sera, dressed entirely in pink, holding her dyed pink dog.
Mr. DOUGLAS GORENSTEIN (Photographer): In fact, her resume has a special note on it that says, Kitten's career is based around the color pink. She privately and commercially will only wear pink, and we admired that commitment.
COHEN: When Douglas Gorenstein and Patrick Borelli stopped by our studios, they told me they searched far and wide to find the 103 photos featured in the book.
Mr. GORENSTEIN: We posted ads in trade publications like Backstage, in which we got many headshots, and we also searched through agents' offices, casting directors' offices. All told, we looked at more than 50,000 actors' headshots and resumes.
COHEN: 50,000. How did you pick the ones for this book?
Mr. GORENSTEIN: We had a system where, if we looked at the shot and it took our breath away, if we had a visceral reaction to it, we knew we were on the right track.
COHEN: This collection includes plenty of things that are not the traditional stock headshot. Patrick, talk us through some of the real gems that are in here. What are some of the things you see?
Mr. BORELLI: There are sort of three groups of people. There are people who are professionals, who look, you know, really strange, and they milk it. Then there's people who live like in middle America, and they just don't know any better, and they send in snapshots of themselves in their bathtub or in, you know, strange positions. And then there's like the professional New York or L.A. person who just can - it's really sharp, and they're character actors, and they sort of understand that they're strange-looking. And there's kind of crazy people.
COHEN: Yeah, and really crazy people. I mean, there's a guy who is dressed from head to toe in rainbow feathers. There's the woman who's got the little, plastic, naked babies crawling on her face. I mean, as I looked at this book, I just kept thinking, what are these people thinking?
Mr. BORELLI: I think some of the people are thinking, I think this will be funny and get noticed. And then some people are thinking, you know, I don't really care. I'm just going to do this and, you know, I know that a traditional headshot is like a cheesy smile against a brick wall, you know, with a nice dress shirt on. And that's boring. What's smart about what a lot of these people did is they changed themselves. They went outside what is considered, you know, the norm of headshot.
COHEN: Doug, do you get a sense that this actually works for people, these people who've gone out and done the crazy shots, where they're posing with nothing but a trophy in front of their crotch or cutting off someone's appendages or whatever. Does that actually land people work?
Mr. GORENSTEIN: You have definitely limited your options when you have a picture of yourself holding guns and have a side picture when you're cut - where you're cutting off someone's finger. But if a casting director meets you and realizes that you are somebody who actually will not cut their finger off, and you could actually work with them, then they're - they end up being the perfect person for that part.
COHEN: In addition to these photographs, you also took some videos of some of the folks in the book, and I think my personal favorite on this one is Yenz Von Tillborg(ph) of Florida and Patrick, can you give us some visuals here? What does Yenz look like?
Mr. BORELLI: Yenz looks like a - if a hairdresser and a pirate ran really fast towards each other and then combined to be one being, you would have Yenz. He's got this really crazy sort of Machiavellian, sculptured beard. It's not even a beard. It's like weird lines all over his face that he - it's very intricate. And he's got a lot of make-up on, and he's staring you down like he wants to suck your blood.
COHEN: Let's take a little listen to the video that you have of Yenz on the Holy Headshot Web site.
Mr. YENZ VON TILLBORG: If you ask me, where could I put somebody like you? I think you could put me closer to Johnny Depp because if you - Johnny Depp is probably one of my favorites because he has so many faces, and I do, too. I see him as a very, very versatile actor. So, that's why I don't put me in a box because I don't like boxes.
COHEN: In a way, this whole experience kind of reminds me of "American Idol" and those folks who show up on "American Idol" that can't sing to save their lives, but they are completely convinced they they're going to be the next big star. Did you get that sense that some of these people really thought, I mean - does Yenz think he's really going to be the next Johnny Depp?
Mr. BORELLI: Yeah, I think a lot of these people, you know, some of these people have been doing it for a long time, and they really have a lot of hope. And I think that's what's really fun about the book is a lot of people assume, friends of ours or, you know, people that have bought the book, have assumed that we're making fun of them, but we're really - we love these people. And we've really realized, oh, they have something that is kind of different from what the average actor has.
Mr. GORENSTEIN: I was speaking with Yenz last night, and he said to me, he said, I have hope, and I have a dream, and if I don't do this and put it out there, then what am I?
COHEN: Douglas Gorenstein and Patrick Borelli are the duo behind the new book "Holy Headshot!" Thanks so much, guys.
Mr. BORELLI: Thank you.
Mr. GORENSTEIN: Thank you.
COHEN: You can check out a gallery of some of our favorite photos from "Holy Headshot!" Go to npr.org.