'The problem with shooting groups was the groups. They were obnoxious, excruciatingly self-conscious teenage brats. It was a bloody pain in the neck. But with the Lovely Linda, all this changed. . . Now their eyes were pinned on her.'
David Dalton, writer, photographer
Boys, men, dating, heart throbs, conquests, artifice, fashion, flirting - these were really not part of Linda Eastman's life. Horses were more important to her than boys for all her youthful years, then she was married at twenty, separated and a mother at twenty-one. She did not have a lot of girlfriends; girls and Linda had not much to talk about. She loved rock and roll and crawling around damp, dark, little ravines in the country near her house where the lilies of the valley grew.
'I'd lived in Arizona, and I loved Arizona. But I had a husband I was separated from, and a baby to support. So I moved back to New York. I used to think it was scary. I remember the first time I drove into the city, right after I got my licence. All that traffic, those buildings. Oh! Scared me to death.'
Linda's father, Lee (for Leopold) Eastman, a rich and brilliant lawyer famous for his rich and brilliant clients, would not support her when she came back east in 1964 after her brief, failed marriage (although, no one was going to starve, certainly not an infant granddaughter). Dad, still living in the town where Linda had grown up - Scarsdale, New York - now with his second wife Monique (Linda's mother Louise died in a plane crash in 1962), made patrician paternal noises: 'Get a job. Get an apartment. School didn't work for you. Marriage didn't work for you. No time for experimenting now, you have to make it work. Start looking.'
Lee Eastman was a universe of a guy. If you didn't know after fifteen seconds that his thoughts at any moment were leaping ahead of yours, your mind was second rate and your physical presence went into a kind of atrophy. He was an A-list guy - not socially, as on dinner-party lists, but with A-list brains, ambition, talent, a 360-degree lens built into his sensory mode. It was a shoulders-back occasion when he asked one to stay around a little longer. But I think he no longer had patience with Linda's lovely shoulders. He strongly suggested that she move thirty miles south, to New York City, and find an apartment and a job.
Luckily, there would be no argument about where this apartment was going to be. It's not as if there's a choice. 'Our crowd' (i.e. the Eastmans, younger and older) simply settle in the Upper East Side, where the doorman is the most crucial person in your catalogue of 'people who make life a little easier'. The stores sell extraordinary quantities of $500 dresses for five-year-old girls who will outgrow them well before the age of six; there are tangelos and minneolas (and sandwiches to go) at the two or three fruit stores on a single block. There are hardware stores that specialize in the screws and sprays favoured by women who carry $6,000 handbags and have more at home. There are hotels where people live for $40,000 a month, dermatologists who can always find $425 worth of unsavoury work to do in half an hour. These are today's prices, but only the figures are different from those of the 60s, not the quality of life. You find the finest dogs, magazines from the fashionable new cities on the Caspian Sea, and restaurants where either you are welcomed, and go a lot, or you are not welcome, and never go back. There are alternative doctors who find and treat parts of your body you never knew existed. Dealers deliver, of course, bearing beautiful inlaid mahogany cases with drugs graded by the colour of their vials; they might forgo an instant sale and tell you to wait a few days, if you can, because something is coming that T know you'll love'. There are reading clubs conducted by polymaths who put you through a season with The Golden Bowl, a sort of boot camp for stunning matrons of a certain age with pretensions. EVERYONE is smoking . . . cigarettes! One would think this was the vanguard of quitters, but it's really action-central for the I-don't-give-a-shitters.
Girls like Linda, with good backgrounds and no money, just assume this is where they're going to live - and, guess what, they somehow find apartments and become the alternative population of the neighbourhood. The further east you go, the fewer luxury dermatologists you find (but lots and lots of shrinks), and the streets aren't quite as clean as they were just a few hundred feet closer to Central Park. I wonder why that is. In 1992 Linda recalled:
I didn't have any money, and I didn't know how you did it, but I knew I was going to find a place for me and Heather on the Upper East Side. Maybe if I'd known the city better when I first started looking, I'd have gone downtown.
I had one hundred eighty bucks to spend on an apartment in the most expensive neighbourhood of the most expensive city in the world, but, you know me; I never thought normal.
I had the nerve to start looking in the 60s - nothing. The 70s -nothing. My chances were lousy. Then on 83rd Street I saw this doorman and asked about the building, and he told me about a woman on the tenth floor who was moving. She was in my situation, a mother and a child. It was an L-shaped room, and she had put in a little thin wall, so it became my tiny, tiny one-bedroom apartment, $180 a month [today an apartment like this would cost at least $2,000 a month]. I was scared, you know, I'd never lived in a city. I got my furniture from the Salvation Army on the West Side. Nice! I was leaving Heather with my stepmother in Scarsdale while I went on this quest. . .
Look, I liked rock and roll in the 50s, and nobody's parents anywhere could deal with that, certainly not my father and Monique. We were supposed to do well at school; he graduated from Harvard Law School. I can understand why you may have the same mouth and colouring as your parents, and hopefully the graces and curiosity that make them civilized, if they are, because you're surrounded by that. But I never understood how you were supposed to inherit their professional or religious or sociological preferences. Those are supposed to come from the world you live in, they're not in your genes.
That's the best thing you can do as a parent, and we've tried so hard; nice is best, then happiest, then comes fulfilled and good-looking and talented or even just ordinary, but nice is best, and I believe that may be the one thing, and SHOULD be the one thing, that you can pass on to your kids. It's certainly the one thing you must be above all. Even if all you can do is stick the both of you in an L-shaped room on East 83rd Street, come home exhausted, pay the sitter and be a Mommy until you pass out. But there's no place in that whole situation where 'nice' doesn't fit in.
Of course, that's Linda McCartney in 1992 talking about Linda Eastman in 1966. But I believe that her deepest values never changed, and although she was dismayed by her father's disapproval, she was in awe of him - he was her ideal of a 'cool' man then and always.
Linda had studied photography at a local arts centre in Arizona with a teacher named Hazel Archer, but most of her pictures had been of horses. She became fascinated with the art of taking photographs, and acquired a fine appreciation and knowledge of the work of the American greats, like Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams and Walker Evans. Living in New York, she spent lunchtimes at the photography exhibitions in the Museum of Modern Art, and was familiar, not surprisingly, with the European painting galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, just a few blocks from her apartment.
I remember a Sunday in the mid-1980s when she, Paul and the kids were staying at Stanhope Hotel, near the museum. My room-mate Michael and I had breakfast with them in their suite and then went over to the Met for a VIP visit, an hour before it was opened to the public. I said something about wanting to see my favourite really old masters and Linda gave me precise directions: 'Go through there and turn left there ..." I recognized her familiarity with those galleries and her love of the paintings hanging there - it was that of someone who'd been alone in New York City and knew her way around the town's great treasure troves. She obviously visited the Metropolitan Museum frequently, but that was in the years before I knew her. Because when we were 'best friends' we talked about rock and roll, subways and our other best friends - never about Van Eyck and co. It occurred to me that she'd probably been glad to say goodbye, for a while, to the fifteenth Century when she started her own life as an artist, which she really was, just about from the start.
The day in late 1965 that she met David Dalton in the lobby of the Hearst Building, where they both worked, but at separate magazines, was a crucial one. British, well-born, handsome and very, very smart, David had a 'shit job', like Linda's, at Harper's Bazaar, a fashion magazine for women who lived near golf courses in the suburbs of Houston.
'I absolutely hated it, it was horrible, I couldn't get up in the morning,' Dalton recalls - which could have been Linda talking, or me, or any of lots of people who didn't know what to make of their lives in the early and mid-60s.
What could you do to be part of what was interesting? And make a living at it? Play an instrument, which I couldn't, work in a boutique, which I wouldn't. I hadn't thought of being a photographer, but someone told me to just get a single-lens reflex, learn about f-stops and shutter speeds, focus, and press a button. So I got a Pentax, and started photographing groups whenever and wherever I could. Because classic languages, and painting, which I'd studied, went out the window when the English bands started happening. Rock and roll had become the real focus of my life.
So there I was, with my camera, waiting for the elevator to hell, when this beautiful blonde girl, also carrying a Pentax, started asking me questions about photography. She wanted to know everything. 'If I don't learn to do something well,' she said sort of sadly, 'then what's to become of me?' She bemoaned the pointlessness of her life, but with tremendous energy. She was Sleeping Beauty . . . just around the corner the blazing path of pop life awaited! I identified with her yearnings, plus I was a boy and she was definitely a girl one noticed.
'Linda was educated, smart and hungry,' David Dalton wrote in Gadfly magazine, shortly after her death.
But she was sleeping a lot, snacking on Ritz crackers and hors d'oeuvres from the deli and was in a fog of low level depression.
I was going that night to Steve Paul's club the Scene, where Atlantic Records was having a party for the Rascals, for 'Good Lovin',' which had gone to #1. I'd convinced someone in the Atlantic publicity department to let me shoot the 'trade shots,' you know, the group and Ahmet Ertegun, the dapper and inscrutable president of the company, all posing for 'Billboard,' that kind of stuff. So I asked Linda to come with me, and she was bursting with enthusiasm. A rock and roll group, the coolest club in town, and I'd be using a strobe light, and thereby unlocking one of the mysteries of the universe, for this incredibly excited, energetic girl, who had never taken pictures with anything but natural light.
She met me at the club in the early evening, record company party time, and that's when it struck me how different she was from the other denizens of that sprawling basement on 46th Street off Eighth Avenue. She was dressed in a striped long-sleeved t-shirt and an A-line skirt down to the knees. Nighttime fashion in New York's hip boites then was mini-skirts, silver foil sheaths, pop art, net stockings, heels, jewelry, much makeup, and carefully crafted hair.
Linda looked every inch a WASP (even though she wasn't), and she dressed with the studied bad taste that elite WASPS aspire to. They had whole stores devoted to this strange phenomenon: Peck & Peck, Best & Co., B. Altaian. It was a bizarre cult of exclusive dowdiness. Vassar girls dressed like this, rock and roll girls didn't. For a while, she was using the wonderful name of Linda See - it was the name of her ex-husband, an anthropologist in Arizona to whom she'd been briefly married, and from whom she'd been recently divorced. He was the father of Heather, born in 1962.
Linda's divorce from Mel See wasn't finalized until June 1965, exactly three years after they were married, although they had stayed together ftjronly about twelve months.
In the beginning of 1966, Linda stopped using her ex-husband's name and became again Linda Eastman. 'I once heard someone make fun of that name [See] - they thought I called myself that because I wanted to be a photographer, like Mr Dose the druggist and Miss Stitch the seamstress from Happy Families or something. I hated anyone thinking I would be so cute as to do that, so I went back to Eastman. No one had believed that See was a real name anyhow, and it had been mine for such a short time, I thought it was best to ditch it.'
Back at the Scene with the Rascals, Linda was almost more excited about the strobe attachment than about being so close to the 'big time'. By the end of the evening, she had convinced David to let her try it a few times. Once having mastered electronic illumination, she tucked it away and used it very rarely. She liked a soft natural light, and it became part of her modus operandi as a photographer not to set off flashes when capturing a subject. If the focus and composition hadn't been perfect, her portraits might have been a bit flat, but they were the opposite. Shades of grey jumped off the page, colours were either elegantly cool or very intense, but, most of all, people turned themselves beautiful, still, arrogant, innocent, just for her camera.
A few weeks later David Dalton, now having associated himself with the start-up rock magazine Hullaballoo, was moving into the music business for real. 'My speciality was setting up rock tableaux, with groups like the Shangri-Las, with little stories going on in the frame ("Is she really going out with him?" being whispered by three girls in the background, while Mary Weiss stood in front, as though they were really performing "Leader of the Pack"). Guy groups were harder to manipulate, and quite a few from England seemed to me to be real working-class wise-asses. Like the Animals, to whose shoot on the Hudson piers I'd invited Linda.'
The Rascals had been OK, but they were a mostly Italian-American rock band from New Jersey. The Animals were from Newcastle, not exactly members of the British nobility, and as wise-ass as they came. Their music was gritty and soulful,, and Linda was a great fan. We were all fans of 'We Gotta Get out of This Place', which was a signature song of its time and, what's more, the group had been adopted by a very hip, very decadent New York crowd. There were parties in their honour in penthouses where you wouldn't think they could get past the doorman, and in sleazy hotels on West 45th Street where sailors, prostitutes and black-sheep offspring of some of America's richest families lived in places like the unbelievable Hotel America, sex and drug centre of the then interesting Times Square area. (Oh, Linda never went near any of that, but she did like to hear about it.)
Dalton continues with the story of him, Linda and the Animals down on the docks.
I found a very thick length of rope used for tying up ocean liners, and made a knot at one end. I had the Animals straining to burst through the circle of rope. Not a profound metaphor, but graphic.
The image was just OK, but when I looked through the lens, it was fantastic. I mean the way those Zen Cockney masters like David Bailey and Michael Cooper did it. Then I worked it out. It was Linda. She had figuratively magnetized the group and it had done wonders for the composition. Streams of energy poured back and forth between the feral animals and Princess Linda. After I'd shot the picture, Linda asked if she could take some informal pictures of Eric Burdon and the boys. While she was snapping some very tightly framed pictures of Eric, he turned to me and confided a passionate interest in photography. Funny y that he'd never mentioned it before.
The problem with shooting groups was the groups. They were obnoxious, excruciatingly self-conscious teenage brats. It was a bloody pain in the neck. But with the Lovely Linda, all this changed. Photographing a yobby group like Tommy James and the Shondells was usually full of problems. Now their eyes were pinned on her.
So were Dalton's, by the way, and he and Linda were soon going out together - he was absolutely the first cool man she'd dated since she left her husband. It wasn't love - they were, in many ways, too similar to really excite each other - but why not? It was easier to be a couple in those days than it was not to. 'My mother adored Linda,' he says, 'and of course that was one reason to be suspicious of her as a girlfriend.'
For some arcane political reasons, Hullaballoo was not invited to the Stones boat ride, and Dalton needed pictures badly for his magazine. Thank God for Linda. As I've noted, although she was officially carrying a camera as a representative of Town and Country, she was actually shooting for Hullaballoo, and I was to get the rejects for Datebook.
As we know, Linda accepted an invitation to meet Mick Jagger at Jerry Schatzberg's party, although her date for the party was David, fortunately, and always, a most courteous and easygoing guy. When Dalton, . the day after the boat ride, saw her pictures, he was awed. 'It was astounding! They looked like real photographs, whereas mine had always looked like the out-takes. She had a sense of framing the thing. I don't know why this was. I went to art school, I studied all this shit! But she intuitively had it. You have to work in nano-seconds in photography, you can't sort of think about something, because by the time you've thought of it, it's gone. With me, it was always an act of luck or fate, but she had an instinctive sense about it and she loved doing it. She was so food, and the guys totally behaved. Her work was by far better than anything I'd ever done with a camera, even though I was "teaching" Linda about photography.' Dalton immediately gave Linda carte blanche to present herself anywhere as 'a photographer from Hullaballoo magazine'.
Christina Berlin has been around magazines, newspapers and photographers all her life. 'When I saw her pictures of the Stones the next day, they were unbelievable,' she says. They were terrific; they were better than any pictures of the Stones I'd ever seen. I said: "Linda!!!" She was excited too, she was jazzed about it. Because she knew she got them. When we left that boat she knew she had a lot, she knew she had pictures.'
The Rolling Stones had not all been jumping for joy at this chance to meet the press and have their pictures taken in such a lovely, nautical setting. Charlie Watts thought this was the silliest thing he'd ever been asked to do, tried to pretend he wasn't even there and was impossible to communicate with. Bill was, er, pleasant. But it was Brian and Keith with whom the two women hung out, as one would expect. And between Linda and Mick, there was something going on.
All the girls, now women, who hated Linda for marrying Paul McCartney, would hate her all the more (if they'd also been fans of Mick Jagger back then - well, there must have been a few of them) if they'd seen the instant fit they made that day. Bear in mind, Mick has seduced hundreds, at least, of girls by now; there's no one he can't have (you can add a lot of boys, gay and straight, to that realm of possibilities). Habitues of New York's hotter nightspots (and no doubt London's and LA's as well) were likely to know quite a few girls who'd had sex with Mick Jagger. The size, shape, feel, taste and smell of every part of his body, and what he did with those, was practically public knowledge. Brian Jones was in that league as well. In fact, you had to turn over rocks to find people who had not had affairs (if something that takes place in a phone booth in under eight minutes can be described as an affair) with Brian Jones.
Linda was so eager to escape from, among other things, the New York courtship rituals and the guys she was 'supposed' to be hooking up with. An attractive young woman in the 1960s with the time and energy to look for sex and/or companionship (you didn't even need much time and energy; it was the 60s) could find it/them easily, certainly in the major metropolitan areas. If you didn't mind being asphyxiated by certain colognes (what was it then? Canoe), waiting until he folded his pants and being a good listener when he started babbling about soybean futures after he came, you were going to get some. But Linda hated that stuff. 'Ewww, boys who use Mennen and Old Spice! Why would boys want to smell floral and powdery? That's what I like about San Francisco, I don't think they even sell that stuff out there.' She couldn't handle the dating game, she preferred real frogs to the kind that she got fixed up with AND she was the mother of a girl who was barely three and a half when I met her. Not only do maternal duties take most of your time that's left after work, but somehow men do not whistle at young mums and their drooling darlings. What ordinary bachelor wants to get involved with a family?
Still, I am told women have strange longings within them, that they certainly don't hate ALL men and that they rather like being made love to when the weather outside is frightful. And there are mirrors. Linda knew she was sexy - she just didn't know how to make it work for her. Until along came the boys in the bands.
David Dalton remembers bringing Linda to Schatzberg's party at his Studio/residence on Park Avenue South. At one point she came up to him and said, 'Mick Jagger wants my phone number. What should I do?'
'I suppose she was pretending, for my benefit, that this was the first time Jagger had come on to her,' Dalton says. 'I told her, "Sure". I was much more impressed than jealous - my respect for the Stones was almost religious. If Mick Jagger had chosen my date from that whole crowd to flirt with, it was like an honour.'
‘MIKE AND ME - PHOTOGRAPHED AND WRITTEN BY LINDA EASTMAN', published in the March 1967 issue of Hullaballoo, has to be taken for the quasi-fiction that it is, although it is clearly an important artefact in the history of Linda's we and career, and a milestone in the history of rock and roll fan magazines. In the story, Linda runs into a 'distracted, uptight' Mick Jagger at the party; he tells her, 'I have to get out of here.' He then suggests that ‘we all' go back to the hotel, although we never find out who that 'we' included. They talk about music and Mick's life, call a radio station to request something by Otis Redding - which, don't you know, turns out to be ‘Satisfaction', an 'ironical little coincidence'. After a while, Mick gets very tired and Linda decides, 'I'd better say goodnight and let Mick get his beauty sleep. I thanked him and he promised to look me up the next time he was in New York.' Linda leaves the hotel, taking note of the groupies still waiting outside for a glimpse of 'the fabulous Rolling Stones'. The end.
Linda certainly didn't write it; writing was simply not something that she did, at least back then. But she and a couple of hundred thousand women who were then teenage fans of the Rolling Stones sure do remember 'mick and me'. It was the ultimate fantasy; by taking his picture you know him well enough to talk to him at a party, well enough to go back to his hotel room with him, where he pours out to you the story of his life. Linda remembered that story too, it kind of haunted her. She remembered it well enough to insist, 'I did not write that damn thing!' when I asked her about it many years later. I said 'Didn't you write it?'
'No.' I said.
The first person to know of Mick's interest in Linda was naturally Chrissie Berlin. As soon as they got off the boat, Linda revealed, 'I think Mick really likes me. I have a kind of date to meet him at Jerry Schatzberg's party. Can you babysit for Heather?'
Recalls Christina, who is now going to narrate the wonderful and revealing story we might call 'Linda Goes to Her First Big-time Rock Party',
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I was absolutely agog that he found her so attractive. I mean, here I am with three-inch eyelashes, falls [hairpieces], make-up, mini-dress, not the most gorgeous person in the world, but I made an effort - and here's Linda, El Slobbo, and Mick absolutely went bananas over her. You know, she was a very sexual woman, sort of like Simone Signoret or something like that. She didn't give a damn, and after the fling with Mick she developed ways of letting men know that she found them attractive. 'I think he likes me' was always her way of saying there was a mutual attraction. Anyhow, of course I was glad to babysit. That way I'd get all the dope.
So four days later I went to her apartment, and there was the ubiquitous chefs salad in the fridge for me - American cheese, iceberg lettuce and packaged ham, along with Heather's bottles.
I made her change clothes. I said, 'Linda, look, you natural is one thing, slob is another - you don't have to get up like you're going to the prom but, for God's sake, you've got a date with Mick Jagger.' She was in a skirt and a white blouse, no bra, no make-up. I said, 'Do you have any make-up? I mean ANY makeup??' She said that she thought she did have a little bit somewhere, and went into this messy bathroom and started rummaging around.
She couldn't find the mascara, and it was such a tiny New York bathroom, with one of those lightbulbs on a clip that you light your basement with clipped on to a towel rack. I had some mascara and blusher, and I told her only the bare rudiments were necessary, just a little something. I made her put on a bra, and we found a decent black dress in her closet, and I made her .put some earrings on. She was fighting me all the way, but I kept saying, 'Trust me, you'll thank me, if not for yourself then for everyone else at the party. My God, you're still representing Town and Country, you know, so please.' So she did, and she went out.
She left around eight o'clock. I fed Heather, I watched television, I was determined to stay up until she got home. I was dying to know what had happened. And around five in the morning, a dishevelled Linda walks in, with this little secret smile on her face. She said it had been great, and thanks a lot, and that she was absolutely exhausted. She was pretty cool about it, she wasn't one of those people who'd go into extraordinary descriptions of what it was like. She made it pretty clear that it was private.
I understood Linda. She was totally devoted to her daughter, and at the same time had no sex life at all after her marriage ended. Then she got on this very heady trip. Everything was working for her, the photography, the men, the whole thing. It was ego-building, and that was so much what she needed then, to feel productive and desirable, free to live a whole new kind of life.
We can giggle about earrings and bras, but what was in progress was one of the most remarkable make-overs, professional and personal, of the times - and these were times when make-overs were happening with felicitous frequency (cf. the Beatles themselves, Bob Dylan, Janis, all the people who came from nowheres-ville and propelled themselves to the very pinnacle of the culture).
Said Linda about that watershed week: 'That is when my life really began - when there was no father or husband watching over me. Photography saved me. It was like, wow, there is life after death. I became, at last, a really free spirit.'