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Amsel’s Lost Art: SAHARA...and Brooke Shields' 17th birthday bash!

SAHARA was an exotic adventure/racing drama starring Brooke Shields, set in the African desert in 1928. It was a rather ambitious, big-budget film for its time – a particular rarity for the producing team of Golan/Globus, known for their lower-budgeted schlockbusters – and it had some strong talent behind it. (The music was by Ennio Morricone, and English actor John Mills had a supporting role.)

Not related to the 2005 film of the same name starring Matthew McConaughey, it had a reportedly troubled production. The film was finished in 1983, but given only a limited release the following year. Audiences and critics paid it little notice, but I found it rather handsome looking, and one of the better Raiders of the Lost Ark knockoffs from that time.

Richard Amsel had done a number of sketches for the film’s poster, but the campaign was ultimately won by Drew Struzan – whose rising career made Amsel take notice.

Above: Some of Amsel's unused sketches for SAHARA (1984).

I’ve heard that Amsel and Brooke Shields were friends in real life. Judy Goldman recalled a story where they attended Shields’ birthday party:

“Richard got invited to Brooke Shields’ 17th birthday party. And he called me up and asked me if I would go with him, and... I didn't even have a dress, I had to borrow a dress, a formal dress,” Judy laughs. “And we went and at it it was at the Water Club in Manhattan, it was beautiful. And it was a really nice day and we were outside for cocktail hour, and then we went in and had an amazing meal and we were sitting at the table with Jim Henson and I think his daughter, and it was just a lot of fun.”

Judy then showed me a small photo of Shields, given to them at the party.

Above: The tiny photo Richard and Judy received at Brooke Shields' 17th birthday party.

“Oh, everybody got a photo of Brooke Shields,” Judy said, smiling. “This was our little gift, and it was nutty, it was fun.”

“That's great,” I laughed. “Her 17th birthday! My god, that’s like –“

“It was a looong time ago.”

“So young!” I exclaimed. “And it’s like, all these grown people going to this 17-year-old’s birthday, you think you’d get arrested!”


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