Your iconic photographs are on display in an exhibit called “Visions of a Magic Time” at the Hilton | Asmus. Is there anything about a particular photo you took that makes you smile because you know what’s going on behind the camera?
CARINTHIA WEST: Quite a few. The one of Mick [Jagger] and Linda Ronstadt is a favorite of my own pictures just because I know he was thinking naughty thoughts, and she was thinking romantic thoughts. Say no more.
PATTIE BOYD: There is a photograph I took in India when we were meditating with Maharishi [Mahesh Yogi]. The Beatles were writing music for “The White Album”. They were all pretty friendly and it was a creative time, but I’ve got one shot of Paul [McCartney] and John [Lennon] sitting together. John is just looking at Paul, and Paul is making some sort of face, and I just wish I knew what had been said! There is something going on!
HENRY DILTZ: A lot of the photos I took were taken on adventures. For album covers with a group we would try to get out of town away from girlfriends, managers and telephones. We had no cell phones in those days, so we’d go spend the night in the desert, go somewhere far away from town and spend a day or two and have a real adventure. You could get some great pictures that way rather than just standing in a studio with lights.
From dinner parties with royalty to being friends with music legends, what has been the most memorable drink you’ve had?
PATTIE: The first time that I came to America with [former husband] George Harrison. We stayed at the Plaza Hotel and we were 21-22ish, and I had my first margarita. I couldn’t believe it! It was the most delicious, most fantastic drink and to have it there in this glamorous setting with George… it was beautiful. It was fabulous.
HENRY: In the early ’70s I was on the road with Dan Fogelberg, a guy from Illinois. We were playing Detroit, and Glenn Frey from The Eagles was there. After the concert, we went back to the hotel and the steakhouse was closed. Their manager, Irving Azoff, made them open the steakhouse and we all went in for dinner. Dan ordered a bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild. It was about $150 [at the time]. So we opened it, tasted it, and it was pretty good. We ordered another— that was a little better— and then we ordered a third one. I mean really fine wine, like the most expensive wine.
CARINTHIA: I remember being in Chicago with Mick Jagger and Ahmet Ertegun, and the whole point of being here was to go to these little blues clubs all over the downtown area. We’re talking the mid-’70s. They were looking for musicians to go on the tour that they were about to do. We went to one of those clubs and the little door slid open. They look in and they let us in and we had whiskey sours. I had never had a whiskey sour before. Now whenever I come to America I do. It’s a symbolic drink.
PATTIE: Same as how the margarita is for me.
Looking back, what would you tell your 2o-year-old self?
HENRY: Relax. Let the universe decide; don’t worry about it so much. What’s going to happen is probably going to happen. Enjoy it. Life is a play, an adventure.
PATTIE: Don’t do it! [Laughs]
CARINTHIA: Look out behind you.
At what age did you truly feel like you knew yourself?
HENRY: A couple of years ago. [Laughs] There’s an Indian guru named Swami Satchidananda and I read his book often. He says it’s school. Life is a university, and we’re all in different grades learning in a process of becoming self-realized. He said the best thing you can do is realize that you’re a student and you’re the only student and everybody else is your teacher. If you do that it becomes very interesting.
CARINTHIA: More and more as you grow older you grow into yourself so you don’t give a damn at certain points, within reason.
PATTIE: I thought it would be when I was 30, but that came and went. You don’t make the same mistakes— you sort of hold back because you know, “I’ve done that one.”
Pattie, as the inspiration for George Harrison’s “Something” and Eric Clapton’s “Layla,” what can you say about love? Do you believe in having more than one soulmate?
PATTIE: I think you can have several soulmates, and I think you just mustn’t ever be afraid because you won’t die in love. You might have a broken heart, but that can be repaired.
HENRY: It’s part of the learning process. Some people find a soulmate and they’re happy all of their lives, but some people [don’t].
PATTIE: It’s luck, isn’t it?
Have you ever had a horrible date?
CARINTHIA: Someone who didn’t respond to my fabulousness [is a horrible date].
PATTIE: I don’t know. I’ve only been on a couple of dates and the second one was George [Harrison]… he responded!
Why do you consider the late ’60s and early ’70s a magical time?
HENRY: Things were changing; things were new. It was kind of a renaissance and a flowering of singer-songwriters. The nation in the early ’60s loved folk music, and then The Beatles played “The Ed Sullivan Show” and all the folk groups said, “Well we want to play that kind of music.” So they went out and traded their acoustic instruments for electric. It was the new era of singer-songwriters. I mean Frank Sinatra never wrote any songs, Elvis Presley never wrote any songs, but then you suddenly had James Taylor, Paul Simon, The Beatles, Paul, John and George… everyone started writing their own music. That was a new thing.
PATTIE: What I think is interesting is that Henry can talk about his side of the pond in America, and on our side it was a huge awakening of creativity in all of the arts areas, so not just photography but painters and filmmakers too. TV commercials were getting really good, really cool. Later on, a lot of the TV directors became movie directors. People were writing great poems and books. Fashion was really cool. Suddenly a normal skirt length became short and naughty and raunchy. We could go as far as we wanted— total freedom in all areas.
Would you give the same advice today on how to take a great photo as you would have given in the ’70s?
CARINTHIA: I think it’s changed in little ways because of course we used film then. Photographing, photographing, photographing, it was all getting better and better, and then you ran out of film. It was the end of the roll. And what’s interesting is quite often the best shot of the film is the last one.
HENRY: Your eye gets into it more, you get warmed up, the person relaxes more. People say most people don’t like their picture taken. I always just take pictures right away to get over that and say, “Wait about a half an hour and you’ll be so bored that you’ll look like a Vogue model. You couldn’t care less.” Then you’ll get real [personalities].
PATTIE: When I was modeling I remember there were photographers who would pretend they had film in their camera at the beginning and shoot, shoot, shoot until you’re really getting into it and then they put the roll of film in.
Henry, I read that you attribute your success to knowing how to just hang out. Is that true?
HENRY: I was a [folk] musician before I ever picked up a camera. Half the life is hanging out [whether it’s] in a recording studio, in a bus or an airplane, an airport, backstage. A lot of it is waiting and I was comfortable doing that. I didn’t have to rush in and start clicking away. I could just take my time. I knew that eventually interesting things would happen. I’ve seen professional photographers like, “Okay, I’m here. I have to get this picture and get on, so let’s go and get over there.”
PATTIE: And they’re so distant from the band or the people they are shooting. They are like an alien coming in.
How important is gaining trust with an artist before photographing them?
CARINTHIA: Essential. Also, you need to live up to that trust because it is a privilege. It’s a privilege to photograph an ordinary person on the street, a flower seller or anyone who allows you into their aura and their sense of themselves. You have their trust to not necessarily make them look beautiful but to make them authentic. I think of that in the gallery. I’m surrounded by friends looking down and I almost feel responsible in a silly way that they’re presented nicely and well. That’s just me. I don’t know if it’s true for you?
PATTIE: There is something extraordinary about walking into a gallery of your own photographs and thinking, “I know every one of these [people] intimately.” It’s warming. But you know if you go to certain countries like Morocco, women don’t like to be photographed and they put their hands in front of their faces and cover themselves and in Africa they believe that if you photograph them you’re taking their soul away. You have to be careful.
Since we’re at Virgin Hotels, do you have any favorite stories about your friend Richard Branson?
PATTIE: I did a charity event in London at the Royal Albert Hall. I got a lot of bands to play and it was fabulous. The whole evening was sort of ’60s inspired, so of course I was wearing orange tights, the shortest shorts and very high heels, a feather boa… the whole look and it was fun. I had to go on stage because I was one of the people who helped organize it and Richard appeared from nowhere and just picked me up! I couldn’t believe it! I was thinking, “Oh my wig! My tights!” I had a big curly wig on as well. He seizes the moment.
CARINTHIA: You are very lucky there was no pool nearby because his favorite trick was to throw people in the pool. He’s a superman. I see a lot of him in Morocco because he has a hotel there and I have a house there. He comes out and does lots of charity events and polo events. We consider him one of our finest. He does a lot of good things for a lot of people.
PATTIE: I had dinner with him a few months ago at a friend of mine’s house who is great friends with Richard. This is a great hotel! I am loving it, really. This was fun and it did help with a little mimosa!
CARINTHIA: It has his energy, doesn’t it? Very opulent. It gives great lobby! I was sitting in the lobby last night and I’ve never seen such glamorous women and such good-looking guys going upstairs to the roof bar.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
PATTIE: I think Donald Trump! [Laughs] I am joking…
CARINTHIA: I’d love to see Keith [Richards] drink another one, he’s given it up these days. My grandmother. [We’d drink] Schnapps.
HENRY: I’d love to have a drink with John F. Kennedy. Have a beer or whatever. Interesting question. I’ll be thinking about that the rest of the day!
CARINTHIA: Have a Cuba Libre with him.
HENRY: That’s right! And a nice cigar.
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