The Undercovercabby

Don't walk away

In 1981 I landed a job most teenage boys would have killed for, I started work as a photographic assistant at a model agency in Heddon Street in the West End of London. I had landed, the place was knee deep in women, tall elegant women who smelt overwhelmingly erotic. The agency was run by an ageing Jewish photographer called Steve who had a flimsy association with the American Air Force. He was an alcoholic who’s wine intake was extraordinary, he would start shortly after he arrived at lunchtime and as the afternoon moved into evening his grasp on the job in hand became more and more slippery. Part of my job was to get in early to develop his photographs from the night before and I could generally tell what time of the evening each roll of film had been taken.

My boss was a short energetic little man called Roy, he was my parents next door neighbour and so I knew all about him. His infant son thought he lived at the Cricketers, a pub in Hornchurch which by coincidence was one of the many pubs my Dad also spent lots of time inside. Roy liked women, beer and money and was no good at managing any of them, he had a little posse of similarly minded mates and these were the people I also would begin to associate with. Life had changed abruptly, I had left a job at The Press Association in Fleet Street for this, Roy had waited for me in his orange Mini van outside the building and driven to Heddon Street, I clearly remember the feeling of liberation throwing my bag in the back, climbing into the passenger seat and being whisked away to the West End leaving the 9 to 5 behind me and with it my ambitions of becoming a press photographer. I felt no fear just excitement at the prospects ahead of me. First stop was the pub of course and I inevitably got completely plastered having to stagger back from Roys favourite pub The Clachen in Kingly Street Soho. Roy had an ability to function almost normally after a skinful that I hadn’t come across before, my Dad was also a heavy drinker but he couldn’t have covered it up like Roy did. We arrived at the studio, the door opened with a loud bleep and as we walked inside the reception area I began to realise that this was going to be a very different experience to anything I’d had before. Roy showed me around the studio and the dark room, he had built the tanks where the films and photos would go through the chemical process himself and he had bought lots of photographic equipment which all stood proudly awaiting the big switch on, just like the Christmas lights in nearby Regent Street. A bearded overweight man dressed a little too casually walked into the room, Roy introduced us and I shook the already unsteady hand of the pornographer of Heddon Street.

To be continued …..

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