Sunday, April 6, 2008

Farewell Mr. Heston

I had the privilege to photograph him in Indianapolis for Eli Lillly and the ultra cool folks at Creative Street. We shot at a mansion rented for the occasion.

We had a shot with him on a stairway, slowly walking down as he spoke to the camera.  It was a long narrative from the script, requiring him to pause, gesture, and inflect just the right way at just the right times. First shot of the day, first take of the scene. He absolutely nailed it on the first take. Perfect. The director kind of squeaked "Uhm, OK. Let's get one more take, just for back up." He then told us that he was relieved because his knees were completely shot from a lifetime of playing tennis.

He regaled us with stories about Cecil B. DeMille, Orson Welles, and other serious Names from his career. We learned about his marching with MLK when that was a very risky thing to do. He said he still grieved for MLK and the lost promise of a life too short.

While he was casually visiting with the client, in-between takes, I moved in to get some candids. When he became aware of my shooting, he stopped in mid-story and turned to me. Very calmly and politely he said "Sir, I would ask that you kindly refrain from photographing me right now while I am visiting with these fine people. After we are done here, I will be more than happy to pose for you." But he said this in his natural Moses voice. It was all I could to squeak "Yes sir."

He could read a recipe and give it gravitas.

It so happened that we rode to the Indy airport together. It was so cool to watch the sky cap and everyone else just freeze in awe when they recognized him. He was unfailingly polite and respectful to all.

I will always remember him as a man of dignity and grace. We have lost a real class act.

My portrait of him, autographed by him, is one of my most prized artifacts of my career.


Brent Nicastro said...

Yes, old Charleton felt terrible about MLK being shot. So terrible that he dedicated much of his adult life to making it possible for any crazed racist bigot in the USA to get his hands on a weapon in order to do the same thing to someone else.

Clem Spalding said...

Yep. These are my readers.