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He Might Be the Most Influential Director You’ve Never Heard Of

In these early days of MTV, the aesthetic for videos was up for grabs, said Rob Tannenbaum, who co-wrote “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution” and is an occasional contributor to The Times. He explained, “Devo wanted them to be avant-garde films; Duran Duran wanted them to be Patrick Nagel-style reveries; Marty Callner thought videos should be funny, which proved to be a more durable concept.” He added, “He understood, early on, that videos could be about more than amusement — they could be about branding and even mythology.”

To be sure, they were also about scantily clad women (MTV once gave him a note that his video for the Scorpions’ “Big City Nights,” had too many women in bikinis) and hair, lots of it. As much as anyone, Callner created the visuals for the era when rock was dominated by flowing, feathered locks. The secret auteur of the genre known as hair metal was his hairdresser wife of 40 years, Aleeza Callner, who blow-dried the heads of the members of Whitesnake, Poison, Kiss, the Scorpions — not to mention Sam Kinison and Jerry Seinfeld.

After a career directing television that tapped into the raw American id, Callner, who said he hated the objectification of women “even though I can’t say I wasn’t culpable,” is now looking at an unlikely new idea. He’s planning a festival called “America’s Wedding” in which 2,000 couples would get married at the same time in Las Vegas.

For now, he is focused on “The Hall,” which Netflix aims to make an annual tradition. Callner, who once directed a tribute to Lenny Bruce, said that the influential stand-up received the fifth most votes, and hopes he gets inducted in a future show.

Asked if it ever bothers him that his work is so much better known than he is, he said what mattered to him was the final product. “I didn’t become a household name,” he said, in front of a beautiful view of the water, “but I did become the highest paid television director in Hollywood, and the reason is: I made people a lot of money.”

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