Willy was a darling of some of the best designers the world has ever seen and worked with iconic photographers during one of the most exciting eras in fashion history. Her face has graced every major fashion magazine on the planet that was in circulation during this time period. This month Willy takes us behind the scene and shares a very special and personal story on meeting her husband on a Moroccan photo shoot with Helmut Newton. And yes she is still married to her Spanish love :)
It is still 1967, November to be precise and I am booked with Helmut Newton for 3 weeks in Marrakech, Morocco. There were several different jobs to be photographed, some that were commercial and some editorials for the Observer, which was a color weekly. For part of the publicity pictures I was booked to shoot with Kecia Nyman and for 3 issues for the Observer I was booked to shoot by myself.
To be in Morocco was already a wonderful thing. I love Morocco and Marrakech. It is just so amazing! The smell of herbs, especially the cumin which I love, and there was cooking everywhere and Oh my… all these incredible beautiful things in the markets...
For the first job we were staying in the Hotel Mamounia, the best hotel to be in at that time. After a week we had to change hotels because that job had us booked somewhere else and after another week we went back to La Mamounia where we stayed until the end of the three weeks. It's just wonderful to be on location with nice people in such a fairytale place. Great dinners and lovely evenings.
June, Helmut's wife, was there, along with a whole crew of French people that were taking care of the publicity. One evening after dinner they decided to do a séance and talk to the dead. They got a Ouija board and after a while I just got the inspiration to act like Helmut's mother and I changed my voice and said in German: “Ach meine kleine Helmut, ich liebe dich so”... and wow! Helmut freaked out because that is apparently how his mother used to call him... so funny, he was totally believing it and me too because I don't know why I said it.
When we were not working Kecia and I would investigate the Souks full of antiques and curiosities, especially the materials called my attention because I am one of those people who makes my own clothes. One early evening when Kecia and I were going around, a young man approached Kecia who was waiting for me at the door of a pharmacy while I was at the counter buying something, and asked her if she and I would have a drink with him and his friend. Kecia said "no, we are in company" and the young man left. I had not seen all this but she told me…
Later that week when I was by myself in the Souk buying lovely materials, a handsome young man came up to me and asked me bluntly in which Hotel I was staying and I was so surprised that I answered and told him the name of the hotel, he said thank you and disappeared. I thought it was funny and he looked really nice. Anyway, we finished the publicity pictures and the Fashion editor Liz Smith came over from London to do the Observer editorials. Liz Smith was an editor with a very good eye and she always hired the best photographers like Newton or Guy Bourdin... The clothes were wonderful, the weather perfect and all went well. For the second shoot Helmut wanted to use for the pictures he was preparing, 2 young attractive looking guys with an Afghan dog that he had seen around in town. So he sent someone to find them and ask them if they would pose in the photographs he was going to take the next day. They would and so the next day while I was getting ready in the small bus we used for changing, they knocked on the door and there he was, my future husband!
Little did I know at the moment but there he was, actually there they were but at the moment I only saw him when he introduced himself as Salvador, sat himself beside me and offered me a peace pipe with Kif which we smoked together. I thought he was really funny and saw he was the young man who had asked me in the Souk in which Hotel I was staying!
The fact is that the 2 men and the dog called "Ruby" were from Spain and were spending some time in Marrakech and now they were here posing for Helmut Newton, although they did not have any idea who he was. Sitting beside him in the first picture made my heart beat faster and the vibrations were strong.... Now we have these far out pictures of our first meeting which I treasure.
Only very recently I found the original magazine on eBay and was able to get it and the pictures you see here are the pictures from that day!
Later that day we all got together for drinks and they got paid for the job they did so Helmut gave Salvador a stash of money and said to him, “count it" (Helmut is very precise with money ha ha) but Salvador just looked at the stash and said "looks good" and put it away, I really liked that and everybody was laughing. After the drinks we went dancing and being in his arms made me melt... but the real thing that blew me away after all were his drawings which he showed to me the first day when we, Kecia and I, went to visit Salvador Maron and Alejandro Vallejo Najara in their Hotel. I always had, and have a great love for painting and as a teenager I glued pictures of paintings and painters in my schoolbook while most girls would have their favorite movie stars ...so when I saw his work, I was sold. To this day I am full with admiration for his art.
But back to the story...
The very next day I was doing the last pages for the Observer and to make a long story short, I did not go back with the crew to London after that, but to the chagrin of Helmut I stayed in Marrakech! They could not believe I was not coming back and my agency kept calling because I was booked for months ahead as a lot of my pictures, like the Vogue cover by David Bailey and the French Elle with Helmut Newton in Canada. Other Vogue pictures by Helmut and some newspaper articles had just come out to so they tried very hard to have me come back!
Salvador and I stayed a few months in Morocco in a small hotel where we had rented a room and had white doves flying around and musicians would come and play music for us. We would stroll around, we bought 2 horses and all together were completely in love. At some point I did have to go back to London because they just had made window dolls of my image and they were to be introduced to the public, and Helmut Newton was to do an editorial for Vogue of me and my dolls… “If she does not come”, he said, “I will break the heads and photograph them like that”. I don't know if he would have because I did go to London and we did the series for Vogue.
Salvador went with me and we were so well received, stayed in a great Hotel, The Crown Hotel I think it was and had a lot of fun. From there we went to Hamburg, Germany for an interview with Florentine Bapst and pictures by Bockelberg... but let’s keep that for next time. Love and Peace dear friends and see you again in the new year.....
PS. All pictures are by Helmut Newton except the picture in black and white where Salvador and I are together (my all time favorite), which is by a Moroccan friend.