Photographer Gabrielle Crawford photographed icons such as John Lennon, who became a great pal, and Barbra Streisand, who did not.
One of her most joyful encounters with the late Beatle was in 1966 when he had a part in one of Crawford’s movies.
“Michael and I shared a house in Germany with him while they were filming How I Won The War,” she recalls.
The black comedy starred Crawford as a bungling Army officer and Lennon in his only non-musical role as Musketeer Gripweed. It was for this character that he first wore the round glasses for which he became known.
Gabrielle says: “John wasn’t in very much of the film and Michael was, so I had hours and hours with him wasting time.
“We led a very private life in a field behind the villa where we were staying. We talked about life – he was interested in mine and I was interested in his.”
The lush vegetation surrounding the villa reminded Lennon of Strawberry Field, a Salvation Army garden near his childhood home in Liverpool. It was during breaks in filming that he wrote Strawberry Fields.
She adds: “We also spent time on a beach in Almeria, in the south of Spain, where he worked on the song.
“I was experimenting with a fish-eye lens and captured John playing his guitar.”
The stunning image of Lennon, sitting on a beach strumming away, is from Gabrielle’s personal collection and has never before been published.
“The tall guy is Antony, the chauffeur/bodyguard, and Maureen, Ringo’s wife, is in the frame too,” she says.
During their time as housemates, Gabrielle would join the Beatle on trips to his favourite record shop in Hamburg, where their biggest challenge was avoiding being mobbed by his fans.
“You would have to lie in the back of his great big Rolls-Royce with blacked out windows,” Gabrielle recalls.
“He would leap out with his security man and me, and rush into this shop – which had been closed for his arrival. We would then spend hours looking at new artists.
“John was curious about everything. He was a very gentle person. I found him quite insecure, actually. The person I knew wasn’t brash, he was just like anyone else, all these stars are. It is only us that turn them into something they’re not.”
Such is their importance to Gabrielle, that publicising the exhibition is worth the price of breaking her lifelong aversion to publicity.
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