Thursday, 17 March 2011 After I became a professional photographer, Alexei Sayle, the Liverpudlian comedian and writer, was the first famous person I got to know quite well.
In 1980, my 'Skinheads' photography show had gone to Exeter University and the night I went down for the opening, Alexei played a gig there.
He went down extremely badly that night, because all the students took him at face value. At that time, his stage persona was that of a cockney wide boy, in a tight mohair suit and a pork pie hat, and a lot of his act was aimed directly at the students themselves. So eventually he ended up by just standing on stage hurling insults at them.
Afterwards we got talking and I immediately warmed to the guy because he was the complete opposite of his stage persona.
Off stage he was thoughtful, softly spoken and quite charming. And extremely funny. A few months later I got commissioned to photograph him by the Face magazine and we became friends. This shot from that session was later used on the cover of his first book ‘Train To Hell.‘ I also shot the cover for his 1985 record 'Didn't You Kill My Brother' where we parodied the famous David Bailey shot of the Kray Twins (when I can find that one I’ll post it here too).
People often say that off stage, comedians are rather dour and depressing characters. I've photographed many and seldom found that to be the case. I think it's a bit of a tired cliche. In my opinion, it's just about the last thing you could ever say of Alexei Sayle.