Ken Honey - A Gentleman With Coin Tricks Up His SleeveSunday, February 27, 2011
|Kodachrome, Dorothy Stratten & Bruce Allen|
Ken Honey the stringer for Playboy who discovered Dorothy Stratten, Kim Conrad and Pamela Anderson died on Thursday. He was 86. In the late 70s I used to sun myself in Wreck Beach and I would often see him. He believed (rightly) that no young woman would talk to him if he would suddenly show up with his Hasselblad in hand while wearing clothes. So he would carry his clothes around one of his arms where he had a bag with Playboy paraphernalia including playmate shots he would have taken in the past.
His technique was simple and disarming. Many of the pretty young women he was after, as candidates for playmates, often owned a dog or were on the sand with a friend who had a dog. He would begin by enquiring about the dog and he would mention how cute it was. Honey had a genuinely pleasant smile and usually that was enough to coax the young woman to pose for him.
I was a much younger man. I was not to know then that some day I would be writing this from the point of view of a man much older than Honey’s age then as he was 54. I saw him as a viejo verde (Argentine Spanish for a dirty old man). The fact that I was 38 and also wanted to snap photos of the same women was just fine as I was much younger! Stupid I was!
In actual fact, none of the women I ever photographed ever got anything more from me than some 8x10 prints and the dubious honor of posing for an unknown. Those who posed for Honey had a good chance of making money.
I knew one woman who had that ambition. Her name was Lorian and she smoked custom made Sherman cigarettes with an elaborate holder. Lorien was lovely and she had a sexy mezzo-soprano voice. But she had a problem. She would often tell me when Honey was in the vicinity, “He has photographed me a few times but I know I don’t have a chance. My breasts are a bit droopy.” Eventually Lorien answered a newspaper ad that read “Wanted, buxom blonde to serve as artist’s model.” She went to Victoria and the last I heard she had married the painter.
Three years before, I had taken some snaps of his most famous playmate (Dorothy Stratten) - famous in the end because of the woman’s murder and subsequent suicide of her partner. When I saw her in Bruce Allen’s garden I heard many a journalist say stuff like, “They have brought Stratten here to announce the launch of a Prism record as if anybody would care."
From the point of view of a photographer that cover was important as it had been taken by Fred Herzog and the art director of the record was James O’Mara who was a very good photographer in his own right. Herzog did not have any releases for the “punks” of his photo so O’Mara hired a detective agency that secured the necessary photo credits.
I took many pictures of Stratten but there was one in particular that made her look like a tragic swan (I saw it as that just months later when she was killled). That picture was not used and subsequently lost by West Magazine who followed Stratten’s death with a profile on her. I remember getting a call from the editor, Paul Sullivan, who told me, “We did not use the picture but we will pay you as if we had.” I shouted at Sullivan (the first and last time I ever shouted at an editor) and told him, “You are going to pay me $1000 for it because I cannot re-take it. She is dead!” They paid.
I have to close this stressing that age has a way of making one not only change one’s mind but also make one feel guilty and stupid for opinions that were out of line. Can I simply dismiss them as the stupidity of youth? I don’t think so.
When Honey would walk nude, but with his shoes one (perhaps he did not like the feel of sand on his feet) I would often comment that he looked like a pervert. I looked at him with derision and contempt. If he were alive today I would apologize and point out that he was a very good photographer and that his style was unique to our city and province. Perhaps the folks at the Vancouver Art Gallery might just want to re-think what is photographic art and have a retrospective on Honey’s photographs.
No matter what many might think, Ken Honey helped put our city on the world map. That it involved women with little on should make no difference as how we judge this man.
Kelly Tough & Playboy