(Spoiler alert – This entry has the word nipple in it.)
It must have been sometime in the late eighties and I was sitting in my office listening to an awful new single by a female artist whose name has long slipped from my memory – but for the sake of our tale we’ll call her Veronica. There was not one redeeming feature about this piece of music and someone had asked me to write a video concept for it. I’m not known for my discerning tastes when it comes to the music I choose to do videos for – I am after all someone who found good reason to shoot not one, but two Vinnie Vincent videos – but I had to draw the line somewhere. I decided I would have nothing to do with this atrocious piece of music.
The phone rang. It was my rep Anne Marie:
“Have you listened to that Veronica track yet?”
“Yes, it’s crap and I’m not going to write on it.”
“Oh dear. She’s involved with this rather big Hollywood producer and he wants to meet with you to discuss some ideas.”
“I don’t care if it’s Bob Evans. I’m not interested.”
“It is Bob Evans!”
Well this obviously changed my perspective on things completely. Perhaps the chorus would grow on me, maybe inspiration would strike if I could hang with Bob, perhaps Bob would love the video and want me to shoot a movie for him. Next stop Hollywood I thought – and anyhow a chance to visit Mr. Evans legendary digs was an opportunity too good to miss. What could possibly go wrong?
That very afternoon, with Anne-Marie at my side we motored to a halt outside Mr. Evan’s gorgeous house in the hills. A flunky ushered us through the quiet and beautifully appointed house, across the garden, and into the screening room that lay beyond. I’d read about this holy of holies and I dimly recalled that Mr. Evans would sit here watching the dailies of the Godfather movies and Chinatown. I’d even heard it suggested that some rather spectacular goings on had taken place in this very room. Wow! This was really cool.
We sat at a round table and waited. Soon a gaggle of people walked across the garden towards us and some introductions were made and I made the acquaintance of Mr. Evans and Veronica and, as I recall, I started to pitch a few ludicrously humdrum ideas their way. In the middle of my singularly unimpressive spiel a tall, handsome and well-dressed, grey-haired man wandered in from the garden. He stood back from the table, listened as I droned on, and then moved forwards, sat down and told us all: “I have an idea for Veronica’s video.”
“Ah, yes,” said Mr. Evans. “Why don’t you tell Nigel your idea.”
It appeared the handsome stranger had an accent but his English was very good and he was soon immersed in his subject. His idea could be usefully distilled into the one liner: Voyeur with telescopic lens on his camera watches as a sexy young girl (Veronica) returns to her apartment, undresses and sings her song while he takes photographs. In the middle of his pitch the man started getting into the details with all the fervour of relgious fanatic who’s certain he’ll be hanging with Jesus sometime one evening next week. “Veronica is this beautiful young woman and what better way to apreciate a beautiful young woman than to see her naked?” Veronica said nothing. “She takes off her dress and we notice that she is wearing six inch heels as the camera pans up her stockinged leg to find her undoing her lacy, black garter belt.”
“Blimey, I thought this is a bit racy for MTV.”
He continued. “Panning further upwards we will sense her nipples poking through her bra as she turns away and takes it off. We see her breasts reflected in a mirror across the room.”
Now any one of my ex-girlfriends will be happy to tell you about my rather particluar fascination with black ladies underwear, garter belts and six inch heels and incidentally I’m sure they would all roll their eyeballs and tut-tut while they spoke. But, despite my interest in the stranger’s detailed description of how this mute young woman across the table was going to undress for us, I was becoming increasingly worried about spending more time talking about an idea that was simply unbroadcastable on MTV. I was about to interupt and say something along the lines of: ” Who do you think you are pal? This sounds like the cheesiest rip off of a bad Helmut Newton photo shoot that I can think of – couldn’t you come up with something more original than that?”…when Mr. Evans opened his mouth and uttered these words: “And of course Helmut would take the photos of Veronica that you would then use in the video. Wouldn’t you Helmut?”
The tall stranger smiled at me and nodded.
Extract from a pic by Helmut Newton showing 6 inch heels
Helmut Newton died on Friday when he crashed his car into a wall while leaving the Chateau Marmont where he was staying. As far as I know Veronica’s record was never released and Helmut’s video concept never came to fruition. That was the only time I ever met Mr. Evans.