Terry O'Neill, 55, was brought up in Heston, London. He worked as a jazz musician before switching to photography at the age of 20. Since then he has travelled the world, photographing its most beautiful and important people. He has been divorced twice, has three children and lives in Mayfair.
DOUG HAYWARD: It was the Dorchester, 1963. Peter Sellers was being photographed by Terry, and I came along to do some fittings and we said hello. He had this little steel case with all his equipment, and he was always darting about. If I was in the shop he'd poke his head in and say: 'I'm off to do Rex Harrison at the Connaught,' and an hour later he'd be back - 'I'm doing Ava Gardner at South Street, see you after that' - and that's how it was. Everywhere you went, there he'd be, darting about with his little steel case, getting in and out of taxis. And we became pals.
The Sixties was a time when everybody seemed to know everybody else, everyone was always in a hurry, doing something, rushing off. The story of the Sixties is an interesting one. There was opportunity, and we all sort of rushed at it and tried to pack in as much as we could before someone would put a hand on your shoulder and say: 'Come on, get back to where you came from.'
In those days a lot of American films were made here, and Americans had no preconceived ideas
on how things should be. I mean, most Englishmen would only go to Savile Row for suits, and they'd want a mature person to fit them. I was only 30. I used to fit clients in their homes, which is much more relaxed, and that's how I met a lot of people. A crowd of us played football every Saturday in Hyde Park. It was my ball, so I picked the sides. Terry was the nippiest little winger. Some of the players were really good, Jimmy Tarbuck, Tommy Steele, Ian McShane.
What I've always liked about Terry is his incredible enthusiasm. I'm the absolute opposite. I always anticipate disaster. He's up and alert. He's the greatest chatter to women I've ever heard. Women adore him, and he photographs them beautifully. I suppose, if you assume that professional photographers all know how to light and
operate the camera, it's the person who gets someone to relax quickest who gets the best shots. He has a wonderful effect on men, because he makes them laugh. He has
He likes to go out. I've been going out for 40, 50 years - there's not much out there I find attractive. If you're not having a good time by midnight, don't go chasing it. I mean, I'm not going to meet anyone stunning. But he's always optimistic. I suppose we balance each other up as friends. Mondays I go round to him for dinner. He's become a very good cook, everything is beautiful, candles on the table, and then we sit and watch football. I like to stay in. I'm obsessed with EastEnders. It's taken over my life. If I go out, I tape it. I find it very interesting. They're all angry all the time.
Terry opens up; I'm very closed. I don't talk to people about problems because I feel basically that I know the answer and it's my business to resolve them. He helps in his way: he's supportive, he's around, he keeps in touch - we're great 'phoners'. He loves to plan his day. We have lunch two or three times a week, and he'll say, 'I've got to be careful what I eat because I'm going out tonight.' He's so ordered.
We never discuss work. He doesn't photograph me, and I don't make his suits. I think Terry dresses very well. I made him a suit in 1963, oatmeal corduroy, but he doesn't like hanging about for fittings. He likes to see one hanging up, try it on and walk out with it.
Terry has got this sort of pixie
quality - there
is an innocence about him. You can't be angry with him. For anyone who doesn't know him, I'd say, be prepared for a lightning bolt - and lock up your daughters.
TERRY O'NEILL: We met at the Dorchester in 1963. In those days
we were always bumping into each other. We had the same clients,
all the Sixties people - Sellers, Stamp, Michael Caine. One thing led to another, and we went out to dinner one night. That's how the friendship started.
It was a very different world then, artistic heaven. Money wasn't the most important thing, we were just so glad to be able to express ourselves. When we went out there'd be eight or 10 of us. We all worked together, and there was no difference between a photographer, actor, tailor, boxer. We were all from the poor side of the tracks, and we didn't expect it to last. We thought, maybe a couple of years, then we'd have to get proper jobs.
Doug was very handsome. He has lost a lot of his hair now, but
he was a very handsome bloke, always his own best advert in his beautifully tailored suits. He had loads of girlfriends. We both love beautiful women, although I'm probably more open about that than he is. I'm always very keen that he should approve of the girl I'm going out with. What's important is that we don't fall for the same type - that's where the friendship could have fallen apart. He was a really good social organiser - he arranged the Best Bread and Butter Pudding Contest, the Best Legs Contest - Peter Sellers won that. On Saturdays a dozen of us would have lunch at the Arethusa and then watch the game at Chelsea. Then Doug started the Mount Street Marchers Social Club. We played football in Hyde Park, and that really cemented the friendship - he always picked me first.
Doug has great theories about football; he's got theories about everything. They call him the Buddha of Mount Street. You wouldn't believe the number of people who go to him for advice. He's probably the best-loved man in London. I hope I've taken some of his wisdom on board. He's very astute. I'm emotional. I'm too giving - I love everybody, and that's not always a good thing. His great wisdom comes from keeping his cool. I'm very outgoing; he holds things in. His pain is a very private thing. Maybe twice a year he'll bring something up, and then the door will close again.
In many ways we're opposites. I'm the wild one. I like going out and having fun, Tramp, San Lorenzo - he likes staying in. He's got this thing about EastEnders: he's obsessed with it. I think we're only here once, and we should enjoy ourselves. Doug is very frugal. He'll book nine months ahead and get the cheapest air tickets. He doesn't spoil himself the way I think he should. I suppose he's just sensible, but I can't see the point. It's never been a bone of contention, though: we just have different natures.
When it comes to clothes we're total opposites. Doug has a very English look; I like to follow fashion. I've never thought to ask his advice - maybe that's overconfidence, not asking your best friend who's a tailor. We never discuss work. I talk to him every morning on the phone, and we have lunch most days. Mondays he comes round here. If Doug wants something, he wants it now. He's just re-done his whole flat in a week. That's his way. Where the home is concerned I'll sit for weeks wallowing in indecision.
If Doug died I don't know what I'd do. He's family. He's helped me through every crisis in my adult life. The most dramatic instance was when I was married and living in America in a not-very-happy situation. I'm not at all the suicidal type, but one morning, around 5am, I really felt like topping myself. I'd stopped photography, I was living in the film world where I didn't want to be - Bel Air is like living in a grave - I had two failed marriages, and I felt my whole life had been a failure. I was in total despair and very drunk when I called Doug. Whatever he said to me just pulled me round. Next to my kids he's the closest person to me.-Reuse content