James Stewart In ESPN The Magazine’s Music Issue

Photo: ESPN The Magazine

James Stewart has long been motocross’ ambassador to the “mainstream.” His outgoing and likeable attitude, spiked with the right amount of confidence, has brought the attention of numerous media outlets that are typically more focused on stick and ball sports. So it comes as no surprise that Stewart would be the motocross rider best suited to be a part of ESPN The Magazine’s “Music Issue”, where he mimics Rick James’ 1981 album, Street Songs.

Stewart portraying James is not a stretch. During downtime in 2008, Stewart picked up a wig and the Fender guitar trophy he was awarded for his win at Glen Helen, fired up a webcam, and turned into “Rick James Stewart.” The video was a hit and Stewart ran with his new alter ego, using it in various Supercross opening ceremonies and additional YouTube videos.

The photos from the EPSN shoot are eerily close to the originals. Stewart is decked out in skin-tight black pants and jacket, knee-high red boots, and a braided wig that is identical to James’ hair. The women in the background, along with their arresting officer, received the same transformation and when pieced all together, give the image the look of city streets in the 80s.

We wanted to know a bit more about the shoot, so we called Greg Hatton of James Stewart Entertainment for the back-story.

Greg, how did James get involved with ESPN The Magazine’s Music Issue? 

ESPN came to us. They were piecing together something that was going to be similar to the Bodies issue, which showed all of the athletes naked so that you could see their form. This one is centered on music, because every athlete you see on the line at Supercross and motocross, as well as in every other sport, is listening to something to pump them up. They wanted to recreate famous album covers and they knew about James and his deal with the Rick James videos he made years back. Red Bull pulled us in, too, because the concept was something that was going around and they were asked if they had any athletes. The talked about James’ video and how he is somewhat famous for it, so they decided to recreate the album cover. James is one of 15 athletes to be part of the recreations. You’ll see James’ cover, Ryan Lockte as Nirvana’s Never mind cover being the naked baby in the pool, CHICK is Katy Perry, and a couple of football players as Run DMC. On ESPN.com, you can see all of the pictures from all of the shoots, and a few made videos that go through the shoots. He talks about the project in the video and the magazine goes on sale February 8th. 

How was the photo shoot at Universal Studios? Was it a long process or did it go by quickly?

It was pretty gnarly, because it was the real deal. When James made the video, it was just he and Raddo at the house, but this was a real production on the back lot of Universal Studios. They made the outfit for him and hired actors and actresses to fill out the other roles. They recreated the whole scene, just the way they do in movies. They had all of the lighting up and watered down the street so it was wet. When they told us it was at Universal, we were like, “Oh, okay.” We were dealing with ESPN, so it was top-level.  Because we had to be at the test track the next day, we went straight from the test track and did it as the sun was going down. We did it then packed up, went home, and got back on our program. It didn’t really affect anything and they worked with us on it.

See The Full Photo Series From ESPN The Magazine