Page 10 - Photography


                  More Celebrity Photos



Sometimes an opportunity comes out of the blue. One evening a young reporter at BBC Radio London, John Waite, asked if Roger would like to photograph Sir Yehudi Menuhin. John, who later became an award-winning presenter on national radio, was going interview the celebrated violinist at the Royal College of Music and wanted a picture to mark the event.

'I was glad to,' says Roger, 'because the violinist was elusive and unlikely to agree to a portrait sitting. Menuhin was always pressed for time. He once stunned a radio presenter by dashing out of a studio before the end of a programme because he had an appointment elsewhere. The only way I could catch him was while John was making the recording. It was essential to avoid flash because that would disturb the proceedings. So John and I found a bright hallway with large windows and the interview was conducted there in a pool of light (above) while I took my pictures.'

The legless wartime air ace, Sir Douglas Bader (left), also proved tricky to handle. 'We met   at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon,' says Roger. 'Sir Douglas disliked having his picture taken and was snappy and impatient. I can see why the German air force feared him. One must make allowances, though. His injuries left him in constant pain and he showed great courage throughout his life. Sir Douglas lost both legs in a flying accident in 1931, but overcame his disabilities and returned to the RAF in 1939 at the start of World War II. He was one of "the Few" and fought in the Battle of Britain. He was an heroic and legendary figure so I was lucky to photograph him. More to the point, I was able to take some good shots so it was worth the hassle. As luck would have it there was a painting showing the fighters he flew in the background, so this made an ideal setting for his portrait.'

Bishop Trevor Huddleston, the anti-apartheid campaigner, presented another challenge (left). 'He
was busy and had his mind on other things,' says Roger. 'I went to see him on a cold winter's day at his mission in Stepney in the east end of London. Bishop Huddleston was holding one of his surgeries when I arrived and I had to compete with a continuous flow of visitors. Initially I took some pictures by flash in a waiting-room. But we were soon interrupted and Bishop Huddleston went off to talk to the new arrivals.

'I used the time to search for a more interesting setting than the waiting-room. The house looked rundown - slummy even. But the paved garden out the back looked promising. A whitewashed brick wall and plants would provide an unobtrusive background.
It was freezing. The air was damp and grey clouds filled the sky - a typical November day. When the bishop reappeared clouds of white vapour spurted from our mouths as we talked. I rapidly took some shots. There was no time to lose as more visitors were waiting and we were shivering in the cold. Hardly a word had passed between us because of the rush. Father Huddlestone was friendly and co-operative, but the constant interruptions put a barrier between us. It was some years before I developed a technique for taking good portraits when time was limited.'

Conversely the aeronautical engineer and inventor, Sir Barnes Wallis, had endless time and patience (left). He designed the bouncing bombs that destroyed the German dams during World War II and the bombs that sank the battleship Tirpitz and wrecked Hitler's rocket sites. Sir Barnes also designed the R100 airship, which crossed the Atlantic, the Wellington bomber, and the swing-wing aircraft. He posed happily at his drawing board, surrounded by models of the aircraft and airships he had created, and later agreed to more pictures in his garden. Sir Christopher Cockerel, who invented the hovercraft, was equally amenable.

'Despite his waspish reputation the historian A. J. P. Taylor proved easy to work with,' says Roger. 'So did the philosopher Sir Alfred Ayer, the author Lord David Cecil, and the English architect Richard Rogers who designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Lloyd's of London building and the Millennium Dome in Greenwich. The Olympic runner Sebastian Coe and Olympic skater Robin Cousins were crisp and businesslike.

'Henry Cooper, who towered above me (left), was England's most popular boxer. He won 40 fights and was the first to earn a knighthood. On one occasion he knocked down Mohammed Ali. When I photographed him Henry was surrounded by people so it was impossible to pose him properly. The solution - take a close-up of the head. Henry looked straight into the lens and I clicked the shutter. The result - an instant portrait.'


Roger photographed Carol Thatcher at the start of her career while she was conducting an interview in a radio studio. 'She had the same direct stare and determined look that distinguished her mother the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher,' Roger noticed. 'It was eerie.' Roger also caught James Bond actor Roger Moore at Pinewood studios, and the actress Claire Bloom when she came to BBC Radio London. The Oscar-winning actor and director Richard Attenborough, who starred in films diverse as Brighton Rock, 10 Rillington Place and Jurassic Park, was spotted speaking at a political rally. And Roger photographed the entertainer Gracie fields in her sunlit garden on the Isle of Capri.

The actor Jack Warner was also pictured at home (left). Jack was best known for his portrayal of a London policeman in the TV series Dixon of Dock Green. 'He played the role for 21 years and still received fan mail, including a letter from Field Marshal Montgomery,' says Roger. 'He started life as a variety artist and one of his specialities was imitating Maurice Chevalier. Placing a straw hat on his head Jack gave a remarkable imitation of the French singer and actor. He changed in front of my eyes. One moment he was this plodding London policeman, the next a twinkling French singer.'


Jack Warner was his 80s and had given up his TV role as PC Dixon, but still continued his cabaret act on stage. 'He said audiences usually came round when he imitated Maurice Chevalier. His largest audience was in Korea where he performed in front of 3,000 troops. "I never tell a dirty joke," he said, "but I know when to tell a risqué story and it wakes them up a bit!" Jack was ill when I met him and looked deathly white. But once my camera appeared he perked up, the years fell away and he looked much younger as he performed.'

Comedians Arthur Askey (left) and Dickie Murdoch also invited Roger to their homes and were a delight to work with. During World War II millions of listeners enjoyed their morale-boosting radio programme Band Wagon.
Arthur was tiny - only 5' 2" tall - but lived up to his reputation as Big-hearted Arthur. He could make any joke, however bad, sound funny.


The diminutive comedian Charlie Drake and zany Freddie Starr agreed to have their portraits taken. Freddie was eccentric and inspired one of the strangest newspaper headlines in history - 'Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster.' Roger secured a good character study of the actor Alfie Bass when he put his head round a door at an exhibition. And he twice photographed the West End actor and star of the TV series Father, Dear Father Patrick Cargill - once in a studio, and whilst he was servicing his Rolls-Royce in a garage. 'He had the bonnet open and look annoyed,' says Roger. 'Something was wrong with the engine. Nonetheless, Patrick allowed me take his photo despite my inopportune arrival.'

Then there was Mr Teasy-Weasy, the celebrity hairdresser (left). 'You meet some strange people when you have a camera in your hands,' says Roger. 'One of the strangest was Teasy-Weasy. He was a big figure in the 1950s and '60s. He trained Vidal Sassoon. His real name was Raymond Bessone and he ran a salon in Mayfair. Teasy-Weasy used to pace up and  down. If a customer spoke to him he would throw out his arms and exclaim, "Madam, can you not see that I am meditating!"


'A newspaper asked me to photograph him. Teasy-Weasy was demonstrating his art in a Richmond hotel - a sort of hairdressing concert in aid of charity. People paid 5s - that's 25 pence in modern money - to get in and the place was packed - standing room only. It was a strange evening. You had all these models sitting in chairs. Teasy-Weasy glided up and down performing magic on their hair and the audience applauded. Afterwards I took his photo with what in those sexist days was called a dolly bird. The young blonde had the classic '60s look and resembled one of those spaced-out bimbos wandering around in Antonioni's movie Blow-Up. In his heyday Teasy-Weasy attracted huge publicity, especially when the actress and sex symbol Diana Dors paid him £2,500 to fly to the USA for a shampoo and set. Comedians made jokes about him and years later there were references to him in Monty Python and Red Dwarf.'
 

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