How Bailey changed my life in a flash! When Nicky Haslam joined David Bailey on the photoshoot that transformed fashion, it was the start of his very own wild adventure
Next week’s BBC4 drama We’ll Take Manhattan tells the story of David Bailey, his muse Jean Shrimpton and a fateful Vogue shoot in New York that helped to change the face of fashion photography. Also on the trip was their best friend, interior designer Nicky Haslam. Here, he reveals how the adventure changed his life, too…
David Bailey was everything I wanted to be. I fell in love the moment I first saw him working as an apprentice at fashion photographer John French’s studio.
He was so beautiful and charismatic, and had this shaggy hair and leather jacket. I had grown up in a 17th century country house and been to Eton. He was an oik, and I wanted to be an oik.
Meanwhile, he longed to meet a few toffs. I knew Cecil Beaton and people in that world, so we soon became firm friends.
Icons: Aneurin Barnard as David Bailey and Karen Gillan as Jean Shrimpton
We sort of traded personalities. I am still the only person allowed to call him David — everyone else calls him Bailey.
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Legends: David Bailey, Lord Lichfield and Nicky Haslam at the Berkeley Square Ball, London in 1979
The BBC film evokes this excitement about youth, which there had never been before. It felt as if we were having a breakthrough and the fact that everyone disapproved of us only made it more exciting.
One day David and Jean got a commission to go to New York for Vogue and they said: ‘Why don’t you come’ I was thinking about opening a nightclub in London and wanted to see how they did it in New York, so I bought a plane ticket.
Sitting next to me on the plane was Lady Clare Rendlesham, Vogue’s fashion editor, who is played as a frightful snob in the drama by Helen McRory. In reality she wasn’t awful, just surprised by everything we did.
Helen rang me while researching her role and there is one aspect that is right in her portrayal. Clare blinked a lot and you can see that in Helen’s depiction.
Small screen drama: Bailey's life with Jean has been made into a BBC show entitled We'll Take Manhattan
David and I were wearing leather jackets, black trousers — you couldn’t get jeans then — and pointy boots for the plane journey. And we had what was considered long hair, while Jean was in a kinky leather dress that laced up at the back and thigh-high boots.
Clare was worried we would not be allowed through immigration because we looked like Beatniks. There were all these riots going on in France and I suppose she did have a reason to be worried. If England was staid at the time, imagine what America was like.
But we got through Customs and the shoot — the main focus of We’ll Take Manhattan — began. Watching a preview this week really took me back to those happy days. It’s quite extraordinary how evocative it is of that time in our lives; we were really shaking things up.
Style upon style: Gillan and Barnard cut a dash as their characters in the new show
David is played by the actor Aneurin Barnard and his resemblance to the real man made me gasp. It’s incredible. There are certain times where I thought he was David. He moves like him and kisses Karen Gillan, who plays Jean, exactly like David used to: in a sort of lunging way.
His cocksure charisma and bossiness are certainly true, though I don’t think David is as downright rude as he appears on the film.
Beauty: Jean Shrimpton in an early Bailey shoot
When he is being aggressive it is always done with charm. He is never nasty-aggressive. Back then, David was so charming he could seduce you in half a second.
I like Karen Gillan’s portrayal, though Jean never pouted as much. And she was a lot less aggressive than she appears in the drama.
Jean was always a placid person. You sometimes wanted to shake her just to get a reaction. She was as pliable as Plasticine.
I remember she would say: ‘Oh Bailey, do I have to wear these clothes’ And he’d bark: ‘Yes!’ And so she did. He sort of moulded her.
This shoot made Jean’s career, as David really showed off her immense beauty. It’s hard to understand exactly what makes a perfect model, but she always had this sort of unsexy sexuality. Nothing was ever overt with her.
Much of the drama in this show comes from how this was about the older and aristocratic generation versus the newcomers. It shows Clare having constant rows with David and throwing tantrums when she didn’t get her own way.
But it’s a cliche — they have turned her into a baddie when she wasn’t. I don’t think Clare was appalled by the photographs being taken; she was more astonished and surprised. She did believe in youth, but she wasn’t used to what David was doing.
He was opening her eyes to this young vision of fashion photo-graphy. All of his pictures were done in surprising locations — not the glamorous ones she had envisaged. One had Jean behind wire fencing, while in another she was in a gun shop.
Resemblance: Nicky Haslam says Aneurin Barnard has many similarities to David Bailey
Up until then hardly any fashion shoots were done on location. Even a few years later, when I did a fashion shoot with some models on a punt on a river it was considered unusual.
And what David did on that shoot — which was titled Young Idea Goes West — was photo-journalism mixed with fashion.
Clare helped to get the pictures into Vogue; they were not really liked at all. In fact, soon after they were published David stopped working for Vogue.
Although they are now regarded as seminal in changing the face of fashion photography, it took some time. It’s not like suddenly everyone started doing similar things.
Classic: Playing a model will come as no problem to Karen Gillan whose career began posing for the cameras
But David brought something to fashion journalism that no one had done before.
At the end, the film shows the legendary American Vogue editor Diana Vreeland welcoming David and Jean with open arms once they finished the shoot, but that did not happen until at least a year later.
David and I both have Clare to thank for that. She was appalled I didn’t have a job and introduced me to some people. I never came back from the New York shoot because I got a job in the American Vogue art department.
And when Diana became editor at the end of 1962, I asked her to meet David, and she adored him immediately.
David and Jean became regular visitors to my New York apartment. They still liked to shock. I remember the astounded look on people’s faces when Jean showcased the mini-skirt at a restaurant I took her to in New York.
But increasingly they started visiting me separately, and then Jean left David for Terence Stamp. I think the romance had come to a natural end. He had moulded her and needed a new aspect to his life.
We were all moving on, though it is nice to be reminded of that special time we shared.
n We’ll Take Manhattan is on BBC4 next Thursday at 9pm.