Tuesday, April 30, 2013 | 2:37 p.m.
Andy Warhol and Steve Wood
It’s been 30 years since British royal photographer Steve Wood shot a portrait session with pop art prince Andy Warhol that I helped orchestrate. I’d forgotten that I was there in Deauville, France, when the exclusive photos were shot. Now they are being shipped to New York for an exhibition sponsored by Andy’s Interview Magazine, and Steve tells me that with a little luck, they’ll come to Las Vegas afterward for a second gallery showing.
The late Manhattan restaurateur Elaine Kaufman and I were at lunch with Andy. Both of us were regulars at her literary East Side Manhattan restaurant. Steve was my photographer at the Deauville Film Festival when I interviewed the late Lana Turner for the opening week of “Entertainment Tonight.”
We met in the restaurant Lucien Barre on the Deauville boardwalk and persuaded the always-reluctant Andy to do the photo shoot. At the time, Steve didn’t realize that he’d shot a great personality prize, and the photographs remained in his files unseen for three decades. They came to light last year when Steve had to prove that he’d taken them to satisfy a rival photographer’s bet.
Now the photos are en route to be shown to the public for the first time next month at a Manhattan exhibit titled “Lost Then Found.” The candids show Andy in various poses, including one of him with a giant sunflower almost as tall as him. Andy was 58 when he died in 1987.
Thirty-two years ago, Steve was shooting 35mm slides and not on digital cards of today: “They literally gathered dust for three decades. When I got back to London with all of my pictures from the festival, I only chose the film stars that the newspapers and magazines wanted. I didn’t bother with any of the others.”
Steve is still a good friend to this day and is regarded as one of the world’s top fashion photographers. He told me: “He was very relaxed. It was a spur of the moment decision. Normally, he would have turned down any photo requests, but he just felt comfortable far from New York in a very relaxed setting.
“It was an easy shoot — just very instinctive. Andy was very straightforward to work with; he trusted me to direct him, as I wanted to show him at his best. I knew I had to keep him in the shade and shadows and not out in sunlight.
“It was only last year when a food photographer friend in London jogged my memory drawing a parallel between my studio loft space and that of Warhol’s.
We got talking, and he refused to believe I had ever met the man! So I began the search through my files marked ‘W,’ and the images were rediscovered.”
Interview, which Andy launched in 1969, is sponsoring the new exhibit, and if there’s a great public reception, Steve tells me that he will try to have the photos here for a second showing.
Interview Editor Christopher Bollen told BBC News Service: “The fascination of these found photographs lies in the fact that just when you think all sides of Andy Warhol have been seen and mined, a rare intimate window opens on the legend.
“These photographs reveal a different Warhol than most of us have ever witnessed. It’s a testament to the photographer and an opportunity to reassess Warhol’s bearing as one of the most influential artists of the last century.”
Andy was regarded as the leader of the celebrity pop art movement, and his images of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Campbell’s soup cans have become high-priced items. His 1963 painting of “Eight Elvises” in gunslinger pose reportedly sold for $100 million.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.
Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.