Tony Viramontes Part 3

“It was the most talented and most beautiful that everyone wanted to make love to in the 80’s, so they were the ones who died.” Doomed by their beauty, their talent, their joie de vivre, damned for all the wrong reasons.

In two earlier posts I wrote about fashion illustrator and photographer Tony Viramontes and how meeting him changed the course of my life and that of many other people as well.

Tony Viramontes Part one is here and Tony Viramontes  Part two is here

Here is part three:

I was forced to leave Paris abruptly, you can read about it in part 2 of this story, so I went  to Milan in the fall of 1983 and opened my agency with Tony as my first client. While doing the rounds of the advertising agencies and fashion pr offices with Tony’s portfolio of mounted transparencies I met fashion pr Maggie Newman whose office Audience handled Adriano Goldschmied’s Genius Group. Tony was fast becoming an underground name in Paris but it took a few months for his Italian career to take off because the Italians were scared and put off by the ugly beauty and the strange models they saw in his book. “Mamma mia, che paura! “ they would say and sometimes do the sign of the cross like they had seen the devil in those strong, twisted, tormented and contorted features, silhouettes and expressions.  Nothing was tame about his work and Tony’s anti-models and muses evoked images of  the “Wild Side,” a dark, louche and dangerous place in sharp contrast to the elegant, measured and “per bene” Italian women they were used to seeing in the pages of Vogue.

In the spring of 1984 Maggie put a call through to Adriano because he was looking to advertise the Genius Group for the first time and as a single unit. The designers in the Group were Goldie, Goldie Italia, Goldie Junior, Goldie Shoe, Replay, Retour, Via Vai, Martin Guy, Hot Products, Diesel, Dieselito, Bo-Bo Kaminsky, Clothes On Fire and Ten Big Boys.  Adriano took one look at the portfolio and asked us, my partner Carlo Baccheschi Berti and I, to come immediately to meet at the headquarters in Treviso. At the now famous and very rushed meeting in May he told us that Tony was the perfect man for the job and that he wanted a “groupage” of the 15 brands for the September 1984 issue of Vogue Italia . Tony’s book was sent by Maggie to Franca Sozzani for overall approval and everyone agreed on the choice.

Adriano was looking for something unique, strong, bold and memorable, the September issue being the most important and read by everyone in the business. Tony told me to pass on the message that he wanted to experiment with a combination of Polaroids and illustrations, collage style…Adriano said without hesitation “Go for it! He can do whatever he wants.” We then had Adriano for another 20 minutes to iron out some of the creative and budget details and then he announced that he was off to a catamaran regatta in the Atlantic Ocean and would be uncontactable for the next month.

The meeting went sort of like this: “Adriano, where can we see the clothes to shoot ?” “Oh no problem, just call the Paris showroom, they have everything, all the new collections and they will be available to give you anything you need”…”Great!”

“Adriano…and the budget?” “Oh , anything you need, just tell me how much it will be and my accounting office will wire you the money in 24 hours, budget is not a problem….how many days shoot for fifteen totally different setups?  five days? Not a problem.”

“Adriano, and do you want casting approval?  Do you want to speak to Tony about the concept? How do you want to proceed?”

Adriano’s annoyed reply: “Look you two…if I hired Tony it’s because I trust 100% his vision so he can do anything he wants however he pleases. I just want to see the images on my desk when I come back in one month, not one day later or I will lose the pages and the advance I already paid.”

“Whaaaaaaaaaaa? In a month? But Adriano we have not even started production!  How can we budget this, cast this, style this and post- produce this in 30 days if we have not even started?”

“Well…then START!  Just leave for Paris this week and START  for God’s sake!”

“Byeeeeeeeee! Arrivederci!  I’m outta here! C-YA in four weeks!” And he grabbed a duffel bag with all his boat gear in it and right in front of us left the offices waving goodbye.

And start we did, even if we had never produced a big shoot before, three days later we were in Paris still trying to call the Genius Group showroom who had no idea what we were talking about: “Clothes? For the shoot? What shoot? The new collection? We don’t have anything from the new collection yet!” They told us over the phone.

We also put in call after call to the accounting office in Treviso and the so called allotted budget of unknown quantities was nowhere in their books, so basically we were in Paris to shoot a huge campaign with no time, no clothes and no money: Great! I thought.

Tony was thrilled; he loved working in chaos, he enjoyed the drama, the tension.  We spent hours in his studio trying to figure out what to do, how to cast, style and shoot the job and Tony came up with a great but expensive idea: You will rent the biggest Polaroid camera in Europe, there are only 3 in the world and I will shoot these huge photos and will fuck around with them and it will not matter that we don’t have clothes since you won’t see them anyway ….I just need a bunch of very strong faces, some good bodies, a young kid for Goldie Junior and that’s it.  Little did it matter that he did not know how to operate the thing since it came with a technician. We got busy and started calling Germany to try to get the machine delivered in time. It was all rush rush rush. Tony was thrilled that after years of taking small Polaroids of his models he would be able to do his first ever photographic shoot with the biggest camera in the world, with no client around to breathe down his back, and no time to get into too many annoying details.

Since we could not afford a hotel room we moved into my friend Florence Maeght’s home and turned it into our offices. It became a nightmare for her, the phone ringing day and night as we cast a bunch of “real” people from agencies like Quasimodo who represented odd and unusual types, but not finding the models we needed Tony called his friend, model agent Cyril Brulé who also helped us. I ran around Paris looking for clothes to use in the styling. We had brought huge suitcases full of wardrobe and props from Italy just in case: my mother’s 1960’s Nehru jackets and turbans from Asia, some Andalucian flamenco hats, matador pants, bright stretchy fabrics, cummerbunds, ties, pleated silks from Michel Leger and a bunch of tube knits in every color bought by the meter from La Soie De Paris in Belleville, these could be shortened, lengthened or scrunched up as needed and we ended up using them on most of the models, girls and boys alike.

Every piece of clothing that you see in the campaign belonged to us, except for an old Bob Bo Kaminsky man’s blazer and a canvas sailing jacket in bright orange and denim that we salvaged from the showroom.

In the end we cast Christine Bergstrom who was a friend of mine and modelling for Jean Paul Gaultier, Nick Kamen, Paul Hendrix, Lisa Rosen and Catherine Mathis’s young son Ian.

The shoot was a nightmare to say the least, Tony had never done anything of such magnitude and it was chaos, we had no schedule, he told all the models to turn up at the same time on the same days everyone got bored and got into trouble, we could not afford a stylist so I ended up doing the styling with my own clothes, the camera arrived only 1 day before the shoot and Tony never had the chance to meet with the technician who then took an instant dislike to him anyway and they ended up fighting all throughout the shoot, one of our models whose name I will not say, started taking drugs and went ballistic because she had to wait for so long while Tony figured out how to shoot everyone else, so she ended up locking herself in one of the empty studios at Pin Up where we were working, yelling that she was going to set the studio on fire if she had to wait one minute longer….she also wanted her dealer to come on set and was desperate for a fix. The studio assistants had to break down the door and pull her out of there, we then called her agency and she was carted away  howling like a wildebeest and sent back to the airport. Nick Kamen, our gorgeous and super sweet male model, ended up assisting Tony too, often butt naked because he was in many of the shots, either in a tube top with no underwear or just simply naked….Nick Kamen then went on to star in the famous Levi’s laundrette commercial, with no clothes on of course. On and on, the shoot dragged on for three nightmarish days and nights but the worst was to come. Our models, clothes, Tony and our small test Polaroids started disappearing.  I was so tired and hallucinating from the lack of sleep but not to the extent where I did not know who or where my team was. After confronting Tony on the last day in a huge screaming row I discovered why: a well-known french art director and contributing editor was shooting at the same time with Tony and for an Italian magazine, in the studio building just one floor down, it was Machiavellic!  No one in their right minds could have plotted a more perfect but twisted coup and right below us, one floor down, thinking they could get away with it .

I was devastated. Adriano Goldschmied had insisted that he wanted the exclusivity for the shoot and since it was Tony’s first time taking actual pictures instead of just pure illustration, he did not want him to publish any editorial anywhere else in the world with the same concept for 30 days after the publication of this groupage.  I went downstairs, tore the studio door open and yes, up on the wall were all our Polaroids, two of our models, some of my clothes, and worst of all Tony and the art director on the seamless, directing the next shot.

I went over to them and asked what they were doing even though it was clear to me. Tony looked sheepish and ran away and I faced the art director whose idea this was telling him that he could not do this, we would all get sued by Adriano and what he was doing was illegal. The verbal exchange got out of control and I had to be restrained by my partner and the studio assistants because I was ready to hit him in the face …..I guess I was not a passive aggressive type and where I came from brawls were the real deal: with fists and throwing punches and not running away like a little girl.

I was so angry and scared and this event ruined the magic of the shoot for me and everyone else. I sadly learnt not to trust Tony, he was his worst enemy and seemed oblivious to the dangerous situation he had gotten himself into, in fact, not only it was dangerous but it was also disloyal, unethical and unprofessional. Maggie Newman and Adriano Goldschmied  had entrusted us with a very big and important job, they had believed in us and had rooted for us, and Tony was double crossing them, betraying all of us just because he wanted so desperately to be in that Italian magazine as soon as possible and did not want to wait one month for the Genius Group embargo to be over.

These are some of my Polaroids of the shoot.

Below: Lisa Rosen for The Genius Group September 1984. Polaroids by Tony Viramontes.


Below: Lisa Rosen for The Genius Group September 1984. Polaroids by Tony Viramontes.



Below: Clockwise: Christine Bergstrom, Carlo Baccheschi Berti, Tony Viramontes, Lisa Rosen. The Genius Group September 1984. Polaroids by Tony Viramontes.


Below Ian Mathis for The Genius Group September 1984. Polaroids by Tony Viramontes.

Below: The finished Genius Group campaign as it appeared in Vogue Italia  September 1984.

Tony had also started doing heavy drugs and on two occasions, one in spring 1983 and another in the summer of 1984 I went with him to get a check up at the hospital near his apartment on the avenue de Saxe. His hair was falling out in big bunches and he had a nasty looking open sore on one of his legs. The doctors gave us their opinion in french and I translated to Tony. They blamed stress and his unhealthy food and drug habits. AIDS had not come into the picture yet, in the sense that we had never heard of the word. But Tony, unbeknown to us, was already sick and also sleeping around with his entourage of muses, models and assistants..

When we finally returned to Milan, broke but with some stunning pictures in our hands, the first thing I did was was to warn Adriano and Maggie of what had happened. Adriano called me crazy and probably thought I was on drugs too because how could such a thing happen? This young little agent was accusing Italy’s biggest magazine group and fashion editor of theft, industrial espionage and disloyalty? Pazza!

The insanely beautiful groupage came out at the end of august 1984  in Vogue Italia and so did Tony’s other editorial in a separate magazine, two days later as I had warned. And the shit hit the fan in a big way. I will not go into details because I prefer to talk about other more creative and positive things but the ensuing scandal was very ugly .

The publication of the Genius Group campaign brought a flood of work and requests for editorials. Valentino commissioned Tony the massive Haute Couture special Jubilee portfolio consisting of dozens of pages to appear in the  Vogue Italia  Couture issue in the winter of 1984. Off he went to Rome to live for a month in a suite at the luxurious five star Hotel De La Ville, entourage in tow to live the dolce vita at the expense of Valentino. His favorite models, assistants and muses flew in by Concorde of course, some for just a few hours, for one magnificent dress, and others never left and squatted the suite for weeks on end. I was horrified when I came to visit him while he was working, there were empty room service trolleys everywhere, a tangled mess of clothes and suitcases all over the floor and ink spots on the walls and carpets, but the illustrations he did for Valentino made the brand very modern and were probably the most beautiful he had ever done, most likely because he was so inspired by the exquisite dresses.

Valentino’s office sent us a lawyer’s letter demanding that Tony pay for the repairs of his hotel suite and the massive room service bill. I don’t blame them. Tony worked up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and produced hundreds of unique illustrations for Valentino for a very small advertorial fee, so I guess he thought he could get away with anything. He also partied hard at night and some of the private and intimate parties we were taken to during those years in Rome could compare to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Saló, or the 120 days of Sodom. Nothing seemed to shock Tony though.

Below: Tony Viramontes illustrations for Valentino Haute Couture. 



Apart from his illustrations Tony was also working more and more with photography and the best magazines in Europe started giving him free reign: ID, The Face, Arena, Jill, Lei, Per Lui: Everyone wanted a piece of Tony. As he evolved in his style he also perfected the team around him: Stylists Ray Petri and Susann Guenther, make-up and hair artists Paul Gobal and Way Bandy,  made his vivid dreams possible and helped him in many ways. Sadly Paul Gobal overdosed on a job, one of the many tragic deaths around Tony’s now celebrated life and another event that marked me for the rest of mine. His work for The Face, in close collaboration with Ray Petri, Barry Kamen and Mitzi Lorenz , helped define the Buffalo style period of the 80s, the period that The Face was considered to be at it’s peak. Ray Petri passed away in 1989 aged 41. AIDS got him too.

Below: Some of my Polaroids of one of those shoots with the amazing make up by Paul Gobal. I do not remember what magazine they were for.

That winter Adriano approached us again to commission the second Genius Group advertising groupage . Since the no-clothes  formula had worked so well the first time around, he decided to let us do it again, a whole advertising campaign that showed no product, only image.

Because Tony was now shooting and publishing his brightly colored images everywhere, the brilliant Adriano asked for something very different, something that no one else had. And that is how the monochromatic campaign was conceived. Off we went again to Paris to produce the enormous shoot and this time Tony only wanted unknown faces so he sent me and Nick Kamen to scout the nightclubs in London looking for original faces he could use.  The kids we ended up using were unique : Scarlett Napoleon Bordello, Mimi, Rudy, Ben Shawl, Walter Schupfer, haute couture goddess Violetta Sanchez who was a friend of mine from my SYL Haute Couture internship time (read part 1 and part 2  of this story) and one more blond scraggly kid called Christophe. Rudy worked in a circus and Scarlett was a nightclub host, Mimi had a huge mass of blond curly hair that was like a living sculpture and her skin was milky white and transparent.

We shot in a secluded studio this time, Studio Rouchon, on a closed set: a cavernous empty studio that felt like the inside of a cathedral. It was the studio they used for shooting cars. There was a wide seamless and some wooden stands and nothing else,  just dark empty space. I brought some bits and pieces from the Genius Group showroom for the styling but mainly we used tight Spandex unitards and leggings, for both the girls and the boys and for film we used Polapan 35 mil film which allowed us to be able to look at the results immediately and it was also the particularity of that film: the eerie black and white grainy results. Such a pity that it has been since discontinued.

It was a haunting moment. In the same way that the first Genius Group had been wild and chaotic, this shoot was intimate and focused. Tony knew what he wanted: totems made of bodies, hair, skin tones, black, grey and white…nothing more. When I look back at those I am still amazed by how he achieved such strength over  so many shots without diluting the effect.  There is not one single boring picture and they all worked fluidly as a whole . The make up was extravagant and for one close up of Scarlett the make up artist spent the whole day attaching little men dangling from chains from each single eyelash, on another he blended Mimi into Scarlett like a living statue made of  driftwood.

Below are some of my Polaroids from the shoot, they are shots of the tiny 35 mil frames developed in the studio, so the quality is a bit rough. From left to right: Mimi, Rudy, group shot, Walter, Rudy, group shot,Violeta, Ben,Violeta, Christophe. All Polaroids by Tony Viramontes for Genius Group January 1985.

Below: Scarlett Napoleon Bordello and Mimi. Polaroids by Tony Viramontes for Genius Group January 1985.

Below: Rudy, Christophe, Scarlett, Mimi, Ben and VioletaPolaroid by Tony Viramontes for Genius Group January 1985.


Below: Scarlett. Polaroid by Tony Viramontes for Genius Group January 1985.

After this second shoot and the ensuing success, mentions and awards that came from everywhere in Europe and Japan, we started a strong season of advertising campaigns in Italy: Montana, Jenny, Complice, more Valentino, album covers for Duran Duran, Janet Jackson etc but I was never to see the fruit of my hard labor and of my special relationship and collaboration as his friend, agent and producer of so many years because a new Italian agent was on the prowl and without giving it a minute’s thought poached Tony away from me, promising him the moon and the stars and taking away my clients and jobs a couple of weeks before we were to shoot. Tony never called me to discuss this new situation and severed the relationship. Sadly for Tony their collaboration ended badly as I thought it would and the new Italian agent held on to Tony’s money and clients, and thereafter never payed him.

I was heart-broken and stunned. I never heard from him or saw him again despite the many calls I made to Paris.

A couple of years later I found out he had been sick and had passed away. I only regret one thing and that is that we never met again. I guess we held on to our grudges for too long instead of just sweeping them under the rug and moving on . I never got to say goodbye to him and he will always hold a special place in my heart. The first artist I ever represented, the mischievous bad boy, the shit-stirrer,  the ruthless friend or enemy, the drama queen, the genius artist but also the man who supported his entire family in LA without ever complaining, the generous pygmalion, the unique mentor .

I learnt a lot from him and in particular to be ruthless and uncompromising with your vision and artistic instinct. I also learnt what it took to create magnificent images and the sacrifices it involved, as an artist and towards his teams and friends who were there for him.

I am really looking forward to the book’s release next tuesday 22 october 2013 at OFR  where Bold, Beautiful and Damned by Dean Rhys Morgan will finally get its Parisian moment.

copyright fashionsphinx.com


10 responses to “Tony Viramontes Part 3”


    Thanks for the mermories.

    G E N I U S !

  2. Paul Hendrix says:

    I picked up my copy of Bold, Beautiful and Damned over the weekend. The photo quality at first glance looked up to par, however alot of the original sketch guidelines have been removed save for a few. On the ones that were left, you get an amazing sense of Tonys peripherie in his drawings. I left alot of those beautiful lines alone when I.

    I was so sad that Dean Rhys Morgan made no attempt to contact me in Los Angeles when he did his research for the book. And that he added fictitious quotes to my lead page in his Men’s section.

    I feel that was such a huge mistake in Dean’s research on his subject matter. It was very short sighted as a researcher and writer. And it was an injustice to Tony and the readers in not opening up a key channel of information during the Studio’s big rise to success.

    And it was a real disservice to myself for Dean to write about me using false quotes, as if he researched and interviewed me, which he did not. And his information in the quotes were incorrect and made up.

    Since Dean researched in Los Angeles and I live just a few miles near where Tony’s family lives… perhaps 5 miles. And I live maybe three miles from where Tony is interned. He could have easily located me.

    Dean used a small part of an interview of me that was published for Tony’s first Lei photo shoot ( I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the Per Lui shoot that came after, however, feel free to correct me). I had actually wrote the bio, but Tony rewrote it as his fantasy about me. So, had Dean interviewed me he would have learned this information was not true.

    I had already been a successful international fashion model for nearly 2 years before I met Tony, having completed huge campaigns, covers and runway shows. Tony wanted others to believe he discovered me and that I was an independent actor. Though I had actually done some small film projects, they were mainly commercials, music videos and industrials.

    But I had worked with some big photographers and was a quick study on any set. Also I loved the use of hats and props, way before meeting Tony. I always had shots of me holding or smoking a cigarette or cigar, either in my book, in head shots or editorials… like the 8 page editorial in Italian Mondo Uomo photographed by Fabrizio Ferri ( this even though I don’t actually smoke).

    Tony loved that look and I started seeing that in alot more in his work. We would hang out in his studio after work sessions and I got him to try smoking cigars, which he didn’t like. He’d smoke cigarettes and I’d play along.

    But Dean skipping over the fact I was a veteran international model underplayed Tonys demands for top quality subjects. He wanted to work with big league talent, guys with great structure, great looks that were either successful or had the potential to be successful. In fact there was a great, great international model who Tony illustrated when he first arrived in Paris, before me. The model was Fred Souza. Fred had those perfect “Viramontes” qualities: strong jawline, big lips, big ears. Fred was in his late 30’s and was doing every campaign. He was huge. He sat for Tony a few times but not long enough for Tony to really complete the work. And Tony was I think too shy to convince Fred he needed him to stay longer. Fred would have been the first Montana press invitation model, but Tony couldn’t get his sketch completed. And it’s funny, I was getting cast on jobs as a younger version of Fred. Unfortunately, Fred had to leave the business as one of the first big time models diagnosed with aids.

    Fred Souza was not one of Cyril Brule’s models, which I wonder is why he was never credited in Tony’s book. That’s a shame, really. Whoever, deleted that information discredited Tonys keen eye on his early men.

    And that’s part of a bigger story, for another time perhaps… How Tony was ahead of a new style of portraying models, more as “reality” then beauty. Again, this was on the cutting edge of fashion.

    What Dean also missed out on was how Tony hired me to work with him early on, when he started getting busy.

    My intentions when I went to Europe as a model was to study fashion advertising. I had been studying advertising design at a small local college that didn’t have a majors program, and the opportunity to go to Europe was “on the job” training.

    So I met Tony and he was sketching me alot. And Tony and I got along great. We would just hang out at his studio, he’d do some sketches of me, we’d look through fashion magazines, look through illustration books, go to book stores, art stores, buy art supplies. We developed a great friendship early on.

    And Tony liked the fact that he could hang out with this “butch” straight guy who treated him as a straight guy. Most outsiders thought of Tony as gay, which is false! And I don’t think Dean really reflected that properly. Tony was bi sexual. He had a long standing afair with a woman in Paris while I was working at Studio Viramontes.

    Tony had a strong desire to also be looked at as a “butch” straight guy. And he enjoyed that “straight guy” companionship we had. It was your hollywood style bromance. And yes, Tony might have been infatuated with me. But he never once acted inappropriate or tried to come on to me. Because, there were few people where he could feel comfortable in their presence being the straight roll other then possibly his family, which he enjoyed.

    And we kicked ass working together at Studio Viramontes. Tony had a super fast pace when he was in the zone. And I knew how to keep up as his hired hand. I understood the process very well. I’m a hard worker, a fast learner and loved being thrown into all the situations that came up with the work.

    Tony wasn’t really just an illustrator. He was a conceptual artist. And he was the creative director of his company. And when he hired me, I was expected to keep up in every way. Of course I was not an illustrator, but I knew art and fashion. So I started out as his assistant but was very quickly doing the work of an art director working under a creative director. And if this was an ad agency there would have been easily five people doing the amount of work that we were doing.

    I remember Franca telling Tony at dinner in Milan after the Per Lui job… don’t ever let Paul go Tony. And she looked at me and said that again, Paul don’t you leave Tony.

    But Dean insinuated in his false interview with me that “my eyes had been opened too much”, as if I left because I couldn’t handle Tony, or because of Tonys drug addictions, or the crazy atmosphere at the studio.

    Dean was totally wrong. (Damn, all Dean needed to do was look up my name in the L.A. phone book.)

    Yes, watching Tony getting hooked on drugs was heart wrenching. And seeing him developing his premadonna tantrums and fits were very disturbing too, although there was always some humor to be found there.


    The hardest thing for me to deal with, and I’ll say it where others have skirted the issue… was that Tony had a psychological problem with paying people. He did not like to handle money, and he did not know how to handle the responsibilities of it in a business… meaning accounts payable and accounts receivable. He avoided his responsibilities with it. And he just wouldn’t pay me. Luckily I maintained my agent Cyril at Paris Planning, and was getting paid on my other campaign and runway clients. But much of the work I did with Tony I didn’t get paid for… The Goldie tee shirt campaign, which sold like crazy. I didn’t get paid for the Valentino campaign, the Montana press show invitation. I mean, these were big jobs.

    So to explain to Dean Rhys Morgan why I left…

    I was tired of spending my own money as petty cash constantly for the studio and just having to write it off.

    And I know it hurt Tony when I left. I think Cyril throught I was letting Tony down. Other people thought I was crazy for leaving while things were really hot. But that just wasn’t right, him not paying me. And I had to draw the line. And by the time I left Tony was a heroin addict and I could see the inevitable. I left before the worst of Tony came out. So I was able to preserve the fond memories of us hanging out in his studio while he was a friend, fun to work and hangout with and a really sweet guy.

    I moved to Milan and then worked between Milan, London and Paris for three additional years after leaving Studio Viramontes. Tony left Europe before me.

    I moved back to Los Angeles permanently in 1988 and worked my way up as a fashion stylist and fashion editor, working freelance on jobs for Rolling Stone, Ray Gun and ASR before landing a job as Managing editor for Downtown Fashion News. By that time I had commissioned over 14 covers, numerous ad campaigns including Nike. And hired young up and coming talent including a 16 year old Angelina Jolie for one of my editorials. One of my coveted achievements was commisioning the first American fashion magazine cover representing a woman of color.

    My life and career has continued on an amazing path. Most people would believe I’ve experienced the career lives of 10 people. ( And I’m not done yet.)

    While I was working in publishing I could see a recession coming and took film and television classes at UCLA. From there I was able to successfully transition into the film and television industy which is where I am today. I’ve worked on many cutting edge film formats including IMAX and was an early pioneer of 3D film, having written and produced. I’ve worked on special effects for award winning high end commercials. And I helped pioneer a genre of American television called “Reality” through the use of Avid Editing Systems and am a member of the Screen Editors Guild.

    But as Dean Rhys Morgan misquoted me in Bold, Beautiful and Damned… that working with Tony was “much more fun then being on the beach”… Not really. If you play it right you can have both. I am living within walking distance to Venice Beach, and I work really close to home. Also, what kept me sane all that time working with Tony was that I always kept an apartment in Manhattan Beach, California where I relaxed and surfed in between many seasons at Studio Viramontes.

    Ironically, one of the first sketches Tony did of me is the body sketch that Dean Rhys Morgan is selling as a poster.

    • How interesting to read Paul’s comments about the book itself and the writer.
      I actually did speak to Dean on the telephone yet he chose to ignore what I told him – particularly that working with Tony was great to begin with but that he became very, very difficult. (Incidentally, like Paul, I was never paid for the Genius Group campaign.)
      I suspect it wasn’t what Dean wanted to hear. Instead he wrote about me in a thoroughly insulting style, and one which entirely contradicts Tony and his choice of models. Dean even got my name wrong!
      So even if Dean had bothered to try to find and speak to Paul there’s no assurance that the truth would have been included in the book. But it’s shockingly lazy that he didn’t try!

      I personally feel Dean has done a disservice to Tony because of his own sloppy research and workmanship, and that’s a great pity because it’s a pleasure to see Tony’s work celebrated in what could be a fabulous book.
      A lost opportunity. What a shame.

  3. Paul Hendrix says:

    I met Tony within weeks after he moved to his new studio in Paris. I was introduced to him by Cyril Brule who rep’d me at Elite/ Paris Planning. Tony and I hit it off immediately. We both had similar fearless personalities when it came our work. And I also possessed the butch physicality that inspired Tony in his illustrating. He invited me over to do illustrations which energized him and kept his skills tuned up. Because at that time Tony was bored, doing print illustrations for Hanae Mori. Earlier I had met Claude Montana through Cyril and was put on hold for Claude’s mens press show. And then one day, Claude sent over a men’s outfit to see if Tony would do an Illustration for an Italian manufacturers commission. Tony drew an illustration with me and Claude loved it. That helped me land the Montana campaign. And then Tony drew my face for the Montana press show invitation. Before the Montana press show Tony landed a trial job with Goldie, to do some sketches. And he started picking up other jobs.. like the Galleries La… and Printemps jobs. He asked me if I would help him part time at the studio. He knew I was an ad major in college and we had mutual friends. Within a short moment Tony’s career blew up. And mine was blowing up too. Working with Tony was a juggling act for me. And there were sacrifices made, expecially on my end. As people close to Tony knew, he could be quite demanding. And he was not the organized type. But I stuck out my commitments with Tony for nearly two years. And through it all it was very fofilling, although a tragedy to see Tony devoured by it… his sudden rise, his inability to overcome his insecurities… and his addictions. But I was very proud of the work. We delivered under the most demanding deadlines. I don’t think people realized how difficult it was to produce the volume of illustrations required of him… It’s not like the snap of a camera. And luckily Tony was very fast handed, and generated alot of energy out of his work. But it took a toll early on him. He developed dibilitating backpain early on. Most people didn’t know that. That’s why the mattress was first moved into his drawing rooms, so he could take breaks and reduce his pain. An then pain pills were needed as the jobs piled on. Tony would at times have to leave small unfinished details to be completed but never anything compromising to his work. I did however do all the mechanicals in his collage work. I had a layout and mechanicals background from college. And we developed matte technicues that became digitally implemented at Conde Nast for our Lei and Per Lui jobs. These same digital matte technicues were very far ahead of their times… and are used today in cutting mattes and keying in special effects for tv and film, which is where I am… and what I do today.

    I will be attending the Viramontes exhibit this weekend for the first time and also hope to purchase a copy of The Bold, Beautiful and Damned book although I feel I know the story too well.

    Mostly, I’ll be excited to be reunited with a bunch of work that I was personally and directly involved with, much of it I handled while doing finals, cleanup, mechanicals, lab supervision, sealing, boxing… and their delivery. Those works are like children I will be united with once again… after so many years. That will be a great reward for a lot of sweat equity during my time at Studio Viramontes.

    It is rather unfortunately, though, that outsiders refer to my involvement with Studio Viramontes as Tony’s entourage.

    • fashionsphinx. says:

      Hello Paul….thank you for sharing in this very detailed and inspiring account. Yes , Tony always spoke to me about you in a special and very caring and trusting way. You were family.

      I completely agree with you on all you wrote and also that there was a lot of bad blood going on around Tony and his entourage of hangers on and losers that were there just for the fame ride and the glamour and drugs, taking his energy and focus when he most needed it : when his career took off with a loud bang.

      It was so fast…it was terrifying , and I cannot imagine how unsettling that must have been for him too.

      But there were also some serious and hard working people like yourself , Susann Guenther , Nick Kamen , Cyril, Marion De Beaupre….friends that kept the show running and also looked well after Tony, thank goodness for that.

      I just regret that at times Tony could not tell the difference between who were his friend and those who were not and as a result there was a lot of collateral damage. , friends that gave up on him and moved away or were violently cut off. As Tony got more famous and for my sanity and because I was scared of the drugs , I kept myself distanced from it all , but maybe that was also why an Italian agent was able to move in and take him away from me at the height of his career : we had been best friends , he broke my heart.

      You are part of a huge body of his work, you are in so many of his illustrations and photos, so I do not how people could confuse you with the rabble entourage !

      I have never heard that myself……you will see what I mean when you look at the book and you should feel proud and and a little rewarded .

  4. Paul Hendrix says:

    Interesting story telling, but not exactly the way I remember it while I helped Tony run his studio in Paris during his rush to stardom. However, it’s great to see the studio’s work reemerging after all these years. Yes, I was there in Rome for Valentino…. I’m the male in the Valentino illustration with the two women. I’m seated next to Cindy Crawford during the campaign that launched her career. Interesting enough I lived at studio Viramontes for a fair amount of time while I helped Tony with his work, so I know how it all really went down… just sayin. In my opinion it was Franca that launched Tony’s career… Just as she did Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts and Steven Meisel. You know, that Franca is amazing!

    • fashionsphinx. says:

      Hi paul….yes of course I know who you are !
      As I wrote in my posts on Tony , I left Paris for Milano at the end of September 83 so I was not at the studio on a daily basis after september 83, only when I had job-related trips and productions i.e. Jenny , Complice, Genius Group, Valentino etc
      I used to sleep at Tony’s studio during those trips , if they were short , otherwise, on long trips, I stayed at my friends in the 14 th arrondissement , or in a hotel.

      The high energy of the studio was very inspiring on a daily basis , however, the chaos and studio intrigues were not conductive to the minutiae of production work and accounting spreadsheets.

      The events i wrote in my blogposts are how I remember them at the time and how I wrote about them in my diaries of those years.

  5. Nice to see these old pics.
    Sorry to see I’ve been mis-named again though, and to learn I worked as “a nightclub bouncer” !!! Really??
    Try nightclub founder, or nightclub host, alongside model and muse. The 80s were busy!

  6. Fabulous article, well written, beautifully documented, looooved it. Thank you fashionsphinx, xx


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