Helen Mirren, Los Angeles 1997.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


Sometime in the early '90s, I was in LA with the journalist James Brown.  Again I found that I'd been booked to stay at the Riot House (mentioned in the previous entry).

One early evening I went into the bar to wait for James to come down from his room, so that we could go out and get dinner.  In those days the bar there was small and rather dreary.  There were only two other customers in the place.  A guy sat at the bar and Little Richard reading in one of the booths.  It sounds odd now but seeing Little Richard around the place in those days wasn't that unusual, since he lived there.  I didn't run up and ask for his autograph or anything, I just assumed he wanted to be left in peace.  

So I sat next to the guy at the bar.  He was quite a friendly, chatty bloke and, after asking me where I was from etc., he said to me in a low voice "Hey, you know who that is over there, it's Little Richard.  Why don't you go over and get his autograph?"

I said "I really don't think I want to bother him" but the guy was insistent.

"He really doesn't mind, he does it all the time" he said.

So, after being badgered a bit by this bloke, I did as he suggested.  I walked over and asked Little Richard for his autograph.  At which he pulled out some religious paperback, from a bag, signed it and gave it to me.  He seemed rather pleased to have been asked.  Apparently in those days, he always gave one of these little religious books away with every autograph. 

Just about this time, James turned up. 

I thanked the guy at the bar for his tip and me and James walked out.

When we got outside, as we were waiting for a cab James said to me "You know who that was a the bar don't you?"

"No" I said.

"That was Bobby Womack."

This isn't simply another excuse for my name dropping.  I mention this incident because it shows just how pleasant and humble some very famous people can turn out to be.  Bobby Womack for one.  He's almost as big an icon as Little Richard.  He never told me he was Bobby Womack. Or for a moment suggest I might want his autograph too.

God only knows what I did with that book.  I'm not really an autograph hunter.  I never have been.

I was searching for another photograph taken in and around the Riot House to illustrate this piece but couldn't find one.  So I've used a photograph of Helen Mirren, taken at the Chateau Marmont a few years later.

The Chateau Marmont is only a few blocks East down Sunset Boulevard but it's a far more upscale and discreet hotel than the Riot House.

Helen Mirren was tremendously good fun.

When she was asked if she’d mind if we photographed her in the shower, she didn’t bat an eye. Afterwards, she and I went for an ice cream at the Double Rainbow on Melrose.