The Truth About RedheadsSunday, December 18, 2016
The Truth About Redheads
Guest Blog by John Lekich
Alex and I share an affinity for redheads and, especially, redheads with freckles. As his photographs suggest, redheads can never be confined to a single mood, temperament or stereotype. This has always been a truth worth celebrating, despite the fact that popular culture often insists on reducing them to a garish cliché.
I thought I knew the truth about redheads long ago. As a kid, I used to look for clues about the opposite sex by reading my twin sister’s favourite comic book. A series called Millie the Model, which featured the romantic misadventures of three impossibly curvaceous glamour girls. There was Millie (the kindly blonde bombshell) Toni (the sensible brunette) and Chili (the conniving redhead).
It was the tempestuous Chili – named, no doubt, after the red-hot pepper – who fascinated me the most. She was always trying to steal Millie’s boyfriend, a rather dense fashion photographer named Clicker. Chili’s dresses – which never failed to feature dangerously plunging necklines - always seemed just a little tighter than Millie’s. You knew that if Chili ever managed to scheme her way into the darkroom with Clicker, he wouldn’t stand a chance.
When it came to redheads, I was all too happy to drink the Kool-Aid. Growing up, I was convinced that they were a one-way ticket to the flames of hell. I had an epiphany when I developed a cinematic crush on the gloriously freckled Myna Loy, who played the loyal wife in many vintage movies. In black and white, Myrna’s hair photographed as a restful auburn. But when I read that she described her hair as “carroty”, I never looked back.
As a young man, I developed a secret crush on an older redhead. In addition to being kind, friendly and totally unpretentious, she resembled a heady cross between a Vargas girl and Barbie’s best friend Midge. I could never manage to say more than a few words to her without blushing.
Vargas Midge and I were both taking a summer writing class at the university. It was the early seventies and most of the class consisted of pot-smoking hippies who could be surprisingly smug. When the course ended, I was reluctant to attend the requisite house party because pot always makes me sneeze.
Hoping to see Vargas Midge, I went anyway. Everyone was sitting in a circle in the dark, the air heavy with smoke. I couldn’t stop sneezing. When I was offered a toke, I politely declined. The fellow next to me rolled his eyes and sneered: “You think it’s going to rot your brain?” This was greeted by a few hearty laughs, a couple of sage nods and one “Right on, man!”
Embarrassed, I made my way to the door. Just as I was about to leave, I bumped into Vargas Midge who was making her way into the party. She could see I was upset and asked what was wrong. When I managed to explain between sneezes, she took my hand and said: “Let’s get out of here.”
When I asked where we were going, she said: “I’m taking you to the White Spot for a hamburger.” I followed her red hair through the dim light and spent the rest of the evening smiling instead of sneezing. Regretfully, I could never work up enough nerve to tell her how much I appreciated her freckles.
Addendum - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
John Lekich is a diehard romantic. This lovely essay by him is romantic in spades. This time around I feel contrariwise. I have in my files countless romantic, striking portraits of ravishing redhaired women including two ex-Canadian politicians, Alexa McDonough and Grace McCarthy. But I think that my portraits of former Ballet BC dancer Lauri Stallings will strike a nice contrast to Lekich's essay.
Both Stallings and I set out to disprove the cliché that ballet dancers (and modern dancers, too) are swans who jump effortlessly, don't do heavy breathing, don't sweat and even though they are women they don't have periods, etc. We wanted to show the female dancer as a woman. I took these in one session and we promised to other to have more sessions. Unfortunately, for me, she left for Chicago and now has her own dance company in Atlanta.