Snapshots: Memories of Dusty Springfield, 1965

By  Ian & Lauren Wright

Ian Wright took this photo of Dusty Springfield with a shovel in 1965.

Ian Wright took this photo of Dusty Springfield with a shovel in 1965.
Dusty Springfield, born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’ Brien April 16, 1939, was to collect a lot more nicknames during her career, including “The Queen Of The Mods, “The White Negress,” “The Queen Of  Pop” and “The Diva Of Divas.”

The title of her debut album sums up the Dusty I knew best, A Girl Called Dusty. She was the giggly girl with a beehive hairstyle and panda-eye makeup that thousands of teenage girls copied. She rose to become “The greatest white singer that there has ever been,” said Sir Elton John.

Dusty was always up for a photo opportunity. The first time I met her was in December 1965 on a freezing evening outside the Fiesta Night Club in Stockton-on-Tees in the northeast of England. That day a huge blizzard had hit the area, and local authorities could not cope with drifting snow. My editor sent me to the nightclub to photograph Dusty for a piece in the evening edition to say her show would go on in spite of the weather.

I arrived to find the nightclub staff shoveling a path to the entrance. To my amazement, even the evening’s star act was spreading salt, encouraging the troops, occasionally stopping to sign autographs, nipping into the club to purchase a tray of “hot toddies” to keep up everyone’s spirits. All the while, a beautiful collie was playing in the snow. When the workers finished shoveling, they filed back into the club; the dog followed Dusty. The dog didn’t belong to anyone present and had no collar but was well-groomed, healthy and well-trained.

Dusty immediately nicknamed the collie “Orf,” short for orphan. We did a photo story about Orf in morning edition; alas, no one came forward to claim her so she remained at the club all her life — well looked after by the staff.

Later I was busy photographing Dusty backstage, where she maintained an open-door policy, with people in and out enjoying her hospitality, consisting mainly of her favorite tipple — sweet Portuguese Mateaus Rose wine which was very fashionable, not for its taste but for the great design of the bottle and beautiful label. She kept everyone in stitches changing wigs, which were beautifully coifed and displayed on Styrofoam heads with labels — Cilla Black, Shirley Bassey, Sandie Shawi and Lulu. Dusty tried each wig on while doing spot-on impersonations of each of their namesakes.

Dusty was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1999, the same year she was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Too ill to receive the award at Buckingham Palace, the Queen made a special dispensation to present it four weeks early. It turned out Dusty was Her Majesty’s favorite singer. She died of cancer March 2, 1999.

About Ian Wright

Regarded as “The Man Who Was There WHEN,” Ian Wright’s fabulous 50-year career as a celebrity photographer began in 1960 as a 15-year-old junior photographer for “Teenage Special” a new supplement to a newspaper in the northeast of England.

Too young to drive, Ian strapped the heavy plate-camera equipment to his bicycle, pedaling to local ballrooms, theaters and nightclubs, photographing emerging pop stars and celebrities. “Photograph everyone on the bill; you never know who’s going to become famous and keep all your negatives,” was the brief given by his editor, the now illustrious editor/publisher, Sir Harold Evans.

Consequently, teenage photographer Ian Wright was unwittingly on hand to photograph the creation of the Swinging ’60s. From his first picture, for the “Teenage Special,” of Ella Fitzgerald in 1962, to his last of Elton John in 1979, Wright photographed everyone on the scene. His intimate back-stage portraits show eager young performers unsure of whether they would flop or ascend to fame and fortune. Some fell into obscurity while others ascended to indescribable success. Five became Knights of the Realm, and many died too young.

You can view his collection at: http://tinyurl.com/Swinging60s

Or contact Ian directly at ian.wright.photographer@gmail.com

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