My Life in Travel: Terry O'Neill Mourns the Concorde, Laments LA and Celebrates Dubai

by The Telegraph, March 14, 2018

Terry O'Neill, the famed photographer of the Sixties, recalls star-studded flights via Concorde, staying on palace grounds in Brunei and why Dubai is like an Arabian Las Vegas. 

The seaside was always the highlight

...of my summer when my mum and dad used to take me to Bournemouth when I was a kid. We used to stay at a guesthouse near Sea Road, Boscombe.

I was put off swimming

...for life after I nearly drowned as a child during one of our holidays there [Bournemouth]. I stepped over a breakwater when I was aged about three, and it was so deep my mother had to rescue me.

I’ve always got to be doing something

...when I’m away. The one thing I really hate about holidays is not having anything to do. That’s why I take a load of books with me when I travel.

Hugh Hefner’s Chicago mansion was an eye-opener

...on my first trip across the Atlantic in the Sixties. I stayed there to do a photo shoot of Hef and shot him on his bed. He worked at night – maybe that’s why he was always wearing those silk pyjamas.

I sounded like Michael Caine all the girls at Hef’s mansion – and they loved me for it. Michael had shot to fame in the film Alfie around this time and they used to come to my door every night and say: “Hey, Terry, will you talk to us? Talk like Michael!”

I stayed in the palace grounds Brunei, south-east Asia, which was the furthest I’ve ever travelled. I visited the state for five years on the trot to take pictures of several singers including Elton John, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown who had all flown out there to perform for the Sultan of Brunei and his family. It’s a beautiful country and I was put up in the palace grounds – what else could one ask for?

Dubai is like an Arabian Las Vegas’s an amazing place. I visited a couple of years ago to shoot the opening of a gallery and it is my most luxurious travel experience. The plane I was flown in had a bathroom the size of my kitchen, with a shower and just about everything but a hot tub. On arrival, I was ferried around in a limo and put up in a glitzy hotel.

One of my most famous photographs

....was shot at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, which is my favourite hotel. I took a picture of my then girlfriend [and later wife] Faye Dunaway sitting by the hotel pool, with the morning papers strewn around her. She’d won the Oscar the previous night [for the film Network in 1977].

I fell in love with Los Angeles the Sixties on my first trip there. It was the greatest place going at the time and the light there reminded me of the south of France. I lived there for a number of years but it has grown so much since.

Cars have killed it for me LA now. You can hardly move because of the traffic – it takes you all morning just to pop out to buy a pint of milk.

Paris is the most romantic city

…and my favourite after London. But if you want to take your special someone for a romantic weekend, it’s got to be Paris every time with its river, restaurants, architecture and museums. Whenever I visit I always try to say hello to the Mona Lisa [the painting in The Louvre museum].

I miss flying by Concorde

...every week – something I did often when I got divorced from my first wife [Vera Day, the actress] and moved to America after marrying Faye Dunaway [they were married from 1983-87]. I really missed my kids, so I used to fly back to England once a week to see them.

I used to see everyone who was anyone

...while flying on Concorde. It was an incredible plane. It only took three-and-a-half hours to fly the Atlantic. It’s a shame it’s gone.

Concorde: 40 fascinating facts 

I don’t enjoy flying much as I used to as it’s a lot more stressful than it used to be. So I recently bought a little place near Falmouth, in Cornwall, which my [now] wife Laraine and I like to visit for the weekend whenever possible. It’s a beautiful part of Britain to visit all year round. For me, nothing beats going for a stroll by the sea on a sunny day.

Next time I travel abroad

...I’ll avoid the hassle by doing what my mate Johnny Gold [who used to own the nightclub Tramps] does – get someone to pick up his bag and take it to the airport for him, so he doesn’t have to lug it around.

I’m too old to visit Australia

...but I’d love to one day if I could. My last trip abroad was to Barcelona, where a big retrospective of my photographs opened this month.

Terry O’Neill is in the documentary film My Generation, showing in UK cinemas today. His latest book When Ziggy Played the Marquee: Bowie’s Last Performance As Ziggy Stardust (published by ACC Art Books) is out now.

Interview by York Membery


This article was from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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