Willy Landels Editor of Harpers and Queen called me and said, “Can you have lunch with me tomorrow at Cecconi’s restaurant?”
“Okay Great. I said, “What’s happening?”
“I want you to go to the Bahamas, see you tomorrow at 2pm, don’t be late.”
I arrived at Cecconi’s a very exclusive restaurant in Burlington Gardens in London.
“There are some wonderfully eccentric people living in the Bahamas, I’d like you to do some portraits and a fashion shoot. Our publisher Jocelyn Stevens lives there and has a beautiful estate in Lyford Quay and will give you anything you need while you are there. I think you will have a lot of fun. Oh and please do, do a portrait of Jocelyn while you are there.”
Willy also asked me to come up with a concept. I had been reading a lot about Egyptian mythology and was particularly fascinated by the falcon headed Egyptian God Horus . This fascination had begun after reading the Egyptian Book Of The Dead and taking acid with my assistant (affectionately known as The Wasp) at a friend’s manor house in the country, where I saw a vision of Horus. The owner (who was an eccentric aristocrat) locked us in the library after dropping acid himself. During this particular incident, as the acid kicked in to full power I said to The Wasp (Chris Denny) “Why don’t you lie down and I will take out your soul (Ka in Egyptian) and have a look at it and then put it back.”
The Wasp’s face paled at this suggestion and he fell to his knees and said, “Please Cran (as he called me), no, no spare me, please do not do this.” I kept saying to him apparently “Don’t worry it’s fine, I know these things, I’ve read the book.” Even in my compromised state I could tell he was becoming hysterical and decided that before he became insane I better calm things down, which I did with a large bottle of vintage Hine Cognac, which I found in a cupboard and administered to The Wasp. After we glugged down the cognac, we then ravaged the vintage spirits collection, which we found by the light of a candle, as there was no electricity. He then said to me “Phew that’s better!” in a rather pathetic tone and bathed in sweat, “When you asked for my soul, you changed into that Hindu Monkey God Hanuman.”
The last thing I remember is that conversation as we both drifted along in our respective dreamscapes only to be lulled into wakefulness by his Lordships valet bringing us in coffee and alien forms which turned out to be croissants. “Goodness Clive that was strong dope,” said his Lordship as he floated into the room. “No, Toby,” I said, “ That was LSD.” “Oh really” he said, before drifting off to play tennis. The wasp and I looked at each other in quite disbelief as the croissants continued to morph on the plate. Once we had come down we left the manor house and drove through the early morning mist to London. We both had accumulated a massive hang over; The Wasp turned to me and said, “Oh, that was a close one and we haven’t even got to the Bahamas yet.”
When I arrived home my then wife Rosemary looked at me and said “Where have you been, you’ve been gone for two days?” I didn’t know how to explain what had just happened but I did my best, explaining what I understood of the previous two days. I then drew her a picture of the head of Horus and showed her the Egyptian Book of The Dead and asked her if she would make a life-sized mask of Horus to take with me on a shoot to the Bahamas as she was and is a very talented artist. A week later she completed the magnificent mask of the head of Horus and I flew to the Bahamas with it.
We stayed at a beautiful hotel apartment once we arrived on Paradise Island, which really was idyllic in those days, the air was warm and balmy, the sea was a clear azure blue and the sky was cloudless and full of stars at night. Our party included myself, the model JJ, my assistant Morris and the lady writer (whose name escapes me) I’m so sorry.
We were invited to dine at Jocelyn Stevens estate for supper and I photographed Jocelyn the next day in his scuba gear, as he was a massive diving enthusiast. I will never forget the sight of him emerging from the sea spitting out bits of coral and sand, “Sorry a wave caught me and pulled me down.” He mumbled. I captured this portrait of him leaning against the wall of this incredible beach house. He was a strikingly handsome man and is Cara Delevigne’s grandfather. Jocelyn was a noble handsome and kind man who I liked a lot and was a great help in my career.
I said to him, nothing exciting seems to be happening on the Island I need an exciting story for the magazine. He said “I know you need to go and see the Clapps, they are roasting black cats (allegedly) and into voodoo or something,” he laughed “Why don’t you go and visit them, I’ll arrange it. I’m sure they would love to meet you”
He went back into the main house to get changed, while I sipped a fresh lime coconut cocktail, laced with white rum on the beach. I started to notice that when I drank in the mornings I would fall asleep in the heat of the afternoon so we resolved not to drink until the sun went down, this unfortunately did change after we met the Clapps.
Jocelyn spoke to the Clapps and they sent a boat for us, which arrived that evening. It was a stunning luxury motor launch with an immaculately dressed driver called Washington. I noticed that he was soaking wet and I said to him “What happened?” “He smiled a wide and knowing smile “I’m sorry but I got a bit stoned and fell in the water” “Stoned” I said “You mean you can get weed” “Yes, he replied in a quiet voice, I can get you anything but don’t tell anyone.” We became firm friends for the rest of my visit. On arriving at the Clapps house, which was on the other side of the Island, we disembarked at their stunning dock house and Washington led us up the winding path to the top of the hill where the beautiful Clapp residence was poised against a darkening sky.
On our way to the house I noticed various strange dragon and monster statues, dramatically lit from below and also that there were speakers hidden in the palm trees making strange animal noises and eerie sounds. The lady journalist gripped my hand and Morris said “Maybe they really are into voodoo” and we all laughed nervously. I said, “ I think we all need a drink.”
At this point we arrived at the main house confronted by heavy double doors that were medieval and Venetian in style, they slowly opened to reveal an ancient but somehow futuristic scene and the striking figure of our hostess, the exotic Martika Clapp, “Welcome” she said in a husky faintly Cuban accent and directed us into the beautiful dining room where we were presented with champagne cocktails. The staff were very attentive staff and we were told that dinner would be served in fifteen minutes. After a wonderful dinner we were invited to stay. I said that we had a shoot early the next morning and that I was concerned about how we would get to the small islands, “where could we get a boat?” I mused. “Use ours’ said Martika and we all stayed.
As Dawn was breaking we went down for an early breakfast of delicious hot coffee, grilled fish and pastries. Then we set off to the small islands set in the crystal sea with Horus head in tow as the dawn came up. I shot JJ with Washington our Captain wearing the Horus head until it started to get too warm and the light became too harsh.
Back on the boat we lunched on a fabulous picnic that Martika had kindly prepared for us as we found our way back to the Clapp dock house.
That evening we had another tremendous meal and party with Martika and Sam Clapp, until the early hours where everyone enjoyed various substances. We had been so wonderfully treated that I asked Martika how I could possibly thank her. “Take my portrait’ she said in her vibrant and husky cuban tone. We all stayed the night yet again and I photographed the exotic and generous Martika in her mirrored ceiling bedroom, which was full of Venetian art, furniture and fittings. It was an incredible palatial space and at the time I had no idea what was behind the wealth and opulence of the Clapps and I still don’t fully understand.