I was raised in a house heavy with disease and unfulfilled dreams. My mother, sister and I lived with my maternal grandparents who died in slow succession from disparate, yet equally debilitating and humiliating illnesses. As a child, I had to be silent and to tip-toe, always praying never to disturb. No dancing, singing nor artistic tantrums for me. “Shush” was the word most often heard chez Schofield; medical treatments and funeral arrangements the commonest topics of hushed conversation.
So I kept my feelings closeted, and secretly devoured everything glamour- and Hollywood-related that I could find: James Bond novels, books on Art Nouveau, Alphonse Mucha, Art Deco, Erte, Edith Head, Isadora Duncan, Biba, Givenchy, Ossie Clarke, Norman Mailer’s Monroe biography, everything about Elvis, Ann Margaret, Barbarella, The Valley of The goddamn Dolls…I had a subscription to Vogue by the time I was eight and I proceeded to copy all the exquisite couture gowns; hand-sewing mini-me versions for my beloved Daisy Doll (who, by the way, was usually costumed by the iconoclastic designer, Mary Quant – how presumptuous was I? ).
|Jerry Hall 1975|
A very strange and creative child, living a double life under the roof of an unimaginative and over-burdened mother who could not quite fathom her youngest’s arcane reading habits, nor why her diaphanous underpinnings would suddenly disappear from their lavender-scented habitat, only to be miraculously reincarnated as tiny bespoke doll clothes. I was equally obsessed with Norman Parkinson and David Bailey’s iconic Vogue editorials of those mythical glamazons, Marie Helvin and Jerry Hall. Because the Seventies referenced the Thirties, and Thirties Hollywood was my gateway drug, fashion-wise. Chiffon, silk, bias-cuts, tea gowns, turbans, bugle beads, satin, feathers, liquid jersey - these were my chosen opiates, in a world meekly offering me drab denim and burgundy polyester.
But dear reader, all was not lost for this repressed and glamour-obsessed tyke, for my father and his model slash artist girlfriend, Sally moved to Los Angeles. After several years
|Sally Marr 1975|
My sister and I finally visited California in 1977. My father and Sally lived in a glorious apartment (no prosaic 'flat' this) on the penultimate floor of the Colonial House on Havenhurst, which is an example of golden age Art Deco perfection made concrete. I nearly died on arrival, only to discover that Bette Davis lived in the Penthouse. Bette fucking Davis! And one evening we saw Lyndsey de Paul and James Coburn in the elevator. In 1977 this was HUGE as she had just represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest and was radiantly blonde and elfin. Google it, children. Naturally, Sally drove a 1969 silver-green E-Type Jaguar, and the household was completed by a snooty Borzoi named Boris who was perhaps the most beautiful (and brainless) canine ever to paw the earth. He even had his own agent.
|Our family: 1978|
Even I, a mere country bumpkin sensed there was something special happening in West Hollywood during those drowsy, halcyon days. It truly was a Bohemian place, welcoming to all creeds: gay, straight or otherwise. Dad and I would walk the dog along Sunset Boulevard, the heady air scented with honeysuckle, night blooming jasmine and the odd illicit whiff of marijuana, while gleaming convertibles cruised stunning transvestite hookers. Dad knew all “the girls” by name, and I was immediately smitten by their outrageous glamour and cheeky humour (still am!). Boris loved them too and gave each carefully sequined crotch a respectful sniff. In West Hollywood, everyone was creative, everyone was most definitely stoned, but it resembled a Utopian village filled with beautiful actors, musicians, writers, painters and directors, all of whom smiled and welcomed me in. The perpetual late summer sunshine bathed the world in a treacly and hypnotic golden glow, all set to the distant throb of a dissolute disco beat.
Then come September, I would have to return home. Cue the ugly, cheap comprehensive school uniforms, the endless drizzle and the incessantteasing. I would retreat into my shell and hibernate, endlessly reliving those hot summer nights in my fervid, teenaged brain.
My Hollywood summers continued until I was 16, when I left school to start my own
fashion career in London. After a slow start,
I did make a go of modeling and was lucky enough to not only travel the
world, but also to work extensively with one of my idols, the great mentor and
artist, David Bailey. Awestruck as I was in his presence,
those Bailey shoots were the highpoint of my photographic career, where
grubby commerce was left behind and pure creativity blissfully took over.
|The author by Bailey for Vogue|
I loved London in the early eighties, also Paris and even New York, but always at the back of my mind was my golden, Hollywood dream. Its siren song was strong, and I finally made the move west in 1986, from New York where I’d been feverishly studying The Method in the Village.
Sally and my father had split by this point, but on arrival, I stayed with her on Sweetzer at El Mirador, another exquisite Art Deco apartment, then shortly after, I moved into my Dad’s larger version on Sunset and Doheny Drive. I dove headlong into the culture, and soon I was enrolled in acting classes and driving lessons and meeting many other like-minded young people, all chasing their own magic-hour version of the Hollywood dream.
And the girls – these rare beauties – yes, of course there was Christy and Cindy and Tatijana, but what of the other girls? The real girls: Jade, N’Dea, Misha, Fabian, Janelle, Kat, Lola, Lisa Ann, Lisa Marie. The list goes on, such wild, stylish
beauties – their only artifice, a slash of scarlet
lipstick and an omnipresent, sticky lip-hanging cigarette; their natural bodies
devastating in cinched black vintage cocktail gowns from Aardvarks, or upscale from Maxfields with ripped fishnets, high-heeled boots and their
boyfriends’ leather jackets. Such
cool girls – their beauty unsullied by Botox and filler, just a little tired and dissolute from
having too much fun - their wild, teased hair in a perpetual state of
And boy, did we have some fun. There was Botswana – Sean and Maria's tiny boite on Sunset where I first encountered (and secretly fell hard for) that troubled young genius, Robert Downey Jr; the after-
hours, Compton BBQ joint BJ’s, which one entered through a swiveling bookcase, and
which served groovier sustenance besides its special sauce to us nefarious
night crawlers; my 25th birthday party at a historic, haunted
mansion which was gate-crashed by Malcolm McLaren and whence he quietly played
the grand piano all night, while chaos, B-Boys and drag queens spun all around
him, this supernaturally calm force of cool. Boys and Girls
and the infamous blue drinks where we played psychedelic charades with baby
Bryan in shadowy corners until way past dawn. The week that Big Audio Dynamite slayed The Roxy and every rock-star in the known universe came to bow down and pay
homage – and the mad after parties we had at the Hyatt House (at least I think we did – although little is remembered).
Helena’s in Silverlake – eternal king of cool, Jack Nicholson and Boy Toy, Madonna's club where I was laughingly thrown out for misbehaving with a certain member of Pink Floyd (you know who you are!); and of course, our royal leader, Prince’s surprise after-show gigs, which will ever go down in funk history and with which he continues to grace us to this day. All Hail the King.
Yes, Los Angeles was cool then, and Downtown was the final Frontier. The corporations and the condominiums had not yet taken over, and we all jitteringly cruised Sunset and Melrose in our classic cars, the jasmine-scented night air blowing through our high-teased up-do’s while funk, Hip Hop, reggae and soul mix-tapes by Mike, Matt, Rick, Jon or Duff blasted from our soon to be ripped-off stereos. Yes, Los Angeles was cool once.
And what of my lady now? Now she just makes me sad. Like watching an ex-lover or a close friend distort her beautiful features with plastic surgery, in a dangerous attempt to slow, or deny the natural aging process; El Lay is bright and hard and shiny and desperate, lousy with anorectic, "enhanced" octogenarians, and with scarily entitled teenagers, all gagging for a reality show, no charisma nor talent evident in their lifeless eyes.
Was it always thus? Was my romantic love for her just that? An infatuation? A cinematic projection of all my childhood dreams made manifest, and then somehow chemically altered? I don’t know. But it’s no place for a Hollywood ending, which is what I’m now looking for. Fame used to be something magical that was bestowed upon the truly gifted and dedicated, but now it's a cheap, black-market currency available to anyone with an Instagram account, a video camera and an equally desperate lover.
Andy Warhol was right of course. In the future everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes. Well the future is now, and ain’t it grand?
The thrill is gone.
The thrill is gone.