I first met the legendary model, singer and phenomenon Bebe Buell in the early 70s when she was still with her then boy friend Todd Rundgren, the hyper talented multi-instrumentalist and music producer. One day she unexpectedly rang the doorbell of my house just off Kensington High Street in London (still affectionately known as Abingdon Hall). I was surprised to see this a very beautiful young blonde and her tall accomplice on my doorstep, she was so full of beans that sparks literally flew off her. “ Hi Clive I’ve come to show you my model book” she said while she and her gentleman friend confidently ambled through the door. As they came in I immediately recognised Todd. At the time I was really into writing music myself and I also had a large guitar collection hanging on the wall, a beautiful Gibson and a Fender Telecaster took pride of place. Todd looked at them, he was a quiet and softly spoken guy and walked around saying to no one in particular “ Wow some of these are really great”.
Meanwhile Bebe showed me he book and gave me her model card. “ Clive I really love your work and would love to do a shoot with you” she said in her charming American way. I replied that I would see what came up and would be in touch, I was impressed by her fresh clear beauty. However at that particular moment in time I was more focussed on talking to Todd as I really enjoyed Runt. The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1971). After they left I called the guys who played in my band and told them that I had just met Todd Rundgren and that he seemed like a really cool guy and that he had been standing in my house with his American model girlfriend
A few weeks later BB rang more doorbell again “ Hi Cliver (that’s what she always called me) just thought I would pass by and say hello”. I was busy with a shoot at that time sorting out all the logistics so I politely asked her if she could come back in a few days. A few days later in the early evening Bebe rang my doorbell again, this time she came in, some of my friends where hanging around playing guitars and getting a bit stoned (this was when I still smoked before I became a teetotal Buddhist). BB never indulged, but we all spent the evening together. When everyone had left she was still there, I offered her the couch to crash on, or as it was late to call her a cab. The choice was hers. I called her a cab.
The next day she reappeared late in the morning, we went out for breakfast together and walked around London, this was the point when it felt like there was a bit of a spark between us. A few days after that walk, I asked her if she would like to do a shoot with me for British Vogue. She jumped into the air and hugged me exclaiming, “Yes Cliver that would be so fab” We shot for Vogue and started seeing each other not long after and we had some lovely rock n roll times together. There was no drama between us but after a while she want back to the States. We are still great friends to this day and did some great work together. These pictures have really stood the test of time and her natural beauty and spirit shines through.
One day she rang me and said she was pregnant, I congratulated her and asked who the father was, but she was not ready to say. I later was told she had a baby with Steve Tyler from Aerosmith, the beautiful Liv Tyler. We joke now that she went from Arrowsmith to Aerosmith. Sometimes when I am in LA or New York, and people meet me for the first time that say” Are you anything to do with Aerosmith. I say no, but it’s a long story”. As Liv grew up and started modelling and then acting, Bebe and Liv would visit and I photographed them both a few times. I later shot Liv for the De Beers campaign when Susan Farmer the art director for De Beers couldn’t find a model, at that point I suggested Liv as I knew she was in town with Bebe and we shot a beautiful campaign together. Bebe and I have always stayed in touch, she’s so fab and still being Rock’n’ Roll and making her own music which I had a feeling she had always wanted to do and just shine her own light on her own terms. It’s great to see she’s doing that, listen to Bebe Buell – Ghost of Truth Here.
Just to say that the make up for Bebe was done by the very amazing Barbara Daly, who I have always loved working with. Barbara is a star in the firmament of the make up artist Universe.
- Clive Arrowsmith is shooting stunning images, staging exhibitions and is as passionate about photography as he was when he first pressed the shutter at The Paris Collections. He is available for global media opportunities related to his work and photography generally. Bespoke prints from Clive’s archive are also available by special request, for any enquiries (email Eugenie here). Clive’s book Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty & Portraits is available here and Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 is available here