My friend Bob got a call last Friday from a friend who wanted to know if he was interesting in having his 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III used in a photo shoot. He said sure, and asked me along.
The shoot took place on Miami Beach, but not on the beach itself. We drove up to a side street a few blocks west of Collins Avenue and 71st Street a little after eight. It was a perfect morning, and since the shoot was scheduled for 8:30, we had some time to clean up the car, wipe down the tires, and make sure it was ready for its close-up.
Right at 8:30 a black Lincoln limo pulled up, and a middle-aged guy got out. He introduced himself as Bruce Weber. I’d never heard of him, but apparently he’s one of the top fashion photographers in the business. He admired the car, and then, as his entourage of ten or so showed up, they got ready for the shoot.
It turns out that this was to be for Ralph Lauren jeans. The models – two guys and a girl – were the type you’d see in spreads in Vogue or the New York Times Style supplement. One guy, in a blue RL blazer, tie, and jeans, had a retro 1967-style prep school haircut that gave me flashbacks to boarding school. The other guy was a buff Beach-Boy type with short blond hair doing a James Dean in a tight white t-shirt, jeans, and a jean jacket. The girl was a striking beauty; tall, willowy, with long blonde hair and a face that looked not much past eighteen. The entourage swirled around – a make-up guy, two or three guys acting as shaders for the camera lens, a guy holding a big circular “bounce” card to get the light right, a guy holding and loading another camera, and, apparently, one guy just to carry around the portable stereo that was playing the right mood music.
They started off shooting the preppie and the girl walking, running, sitting, pouting, then switched to the beach boy posing on a mid-1970’s Triumph motorcycle modified for the dirt track (the cycle, not the beach boy). He went through a variety of poses, including ones with the shirt off (proving that he was a Nair-do-well), and looking playfully tough on the bike. Then they picked up and went across the street and around the corner to do so shots in front of a storefront. We stayed behind to keep an eye on the car and the bike.
When they came back they did some more poses with the preppie and the girl, this time with a rented puppy. Just as there are modeling agencies for people and cars, you can also rent out a cute puppy for a shoot.
Then they got to the car. Preppie did a variety of poses: leaning on the driver’s door, sitting in the driver’s seat, blazer off and jean jacket on, jean jacket off, sitting in the driver’s seat with the door open. Then came the girl’s turn; sitting in the passenger seat, posing over the back seat and the folded top looking slightly naughty, sitting with her feet gently on the dash. By the way, life on the street was going on on this Sunday morning; cars and pedestrians passing by, but no one seemed phased by it. I guess they do a lot of photo shoots on Miami Beach.
By 10:30 we were done. Bruce Weber thanked us, his assistant Elizabeth had Bob sign some forms – insurance, permission waivers, etc. – and gave him a very nice check for his trouble. He gave her his card for the car club and we told her we have any variety of cars that would be suitable for commercial shoots, including, I added, a pristine 1995 Mustang GT convertible, red with white leather interior.
So next winter when the spring collection of Ralph Lauren jeans shows up in your fashion mags, look for the classic blue 1967 Austin-Healey.