It is with great sadness that I am writing this column today. Horace Ward, long-time Fleet Street photographer and my wonderful friend, passed away on Friday 18 January. His health had not been great for some time, but quite naively I never imagined that he could actually leave us! With all his stories, memories and observations, it just didn’t seem possible. And yet here we are.
I have been friends with Horace for 14 years, ever since I researched my book, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. The funny thing is, I don’t remember how we actually first got in touch. I know the answer to that will lie somewhere in my Marilyn files, but to me it just seems as though he was always there.
Horace was one of the photographers present when Marilyn and Arthur Miller left London Airport on 20 November 1956. He graciously allowed me the use of his photographs in my book and he shared his memories of that famous evening with me:
“I remember a crowded press conference in the old tin-hut terminal with dreadful drab green curtains they had up as a backcloth, which everyone moaned about. There were hardly any fans around; it was mainly airport staff and a few police.”
Horace and I became firm friends during the writing of my book, and we kept in touch forever after. The first time we met was at the book launch party for Private and Undisclosed. He was the star of the evening and everyone wanted to talk to him. I’ll never forget him walking into the venue with his folder of photos under one arm and his camera in his hand. He even took my photograph! Imagine that?! A Marilyn photographer taking a snap of me! That still blows my mind. The funniest part of the evening was when Horace and I were standing together at the window, and everyone suddenly started taking our picture. There were flashes of light all over the room and Horace thought it was hysterical to be in front of the camera, instead of behind! We spoke about that moment many times in the years ahead.
When I did my talks at the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, Horace was in attendance. After the latter, he emailed to let me know that while he did enjoy the second talk, he felt the first one was better: “I think your speech at the National had more ‘home grown impact’ or in other words, more about The Prince & The Showgirl and what went on here on British soil. Listen, I may be wrong because it’s a year ago now, but talking about something that takes place in your own country entertains the audience much more… you (at the National) ‘drove it home’ and I still remember that. No two events are the same, but you still done a good job and I enjoyed the experience of attending… (good cup of tea as well).”
This was exactly how Horace was! He wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is and he would certainly let me know if he thought I was going in the wrong direction. Two things come to mind when I think about that – firstly when I wondered if I should write a book about a particular actor, Horace emailed me just one sentence – “Stick to the girls, Michelle!” Then when he saw a photo of me on a bicycle, he told me off for not wearing a helmet. In fact he also made it clear that he’d rather I didn’t ride a bike at all!
Horace was always more than willing to share his stories with me, though there were times when he would warn me that the things he witnessed in the industry, were not for the faint of heart. In fact, sixty years later, Horace still found it difficult to understand some of what he had seen.
Our conversations were always wide-ranging and enjoyable. Horace adored his cat and shared photos of her climbing trees and chilling at home… He loved steam trains and photographed them extensively… We spoke about the plane that flew Carole Lombard to her death and the life and career of tragic actress Clara Bow… Then when my friend gifted me a brick from our old, torn-down school, Horace said that while he didn’t particularly go in for presents, this was exactly the kind of gift he would love… Lastly, he’d be the first to admit that he wasn’t particularly romantic, and yet after last year’s Royal Wedding, he went straight out to order the DVD!
And that’s exactly why I loved my dear friend Horace. He was always honest, funny and interested in everything! He loved the old stars and their stories, but at the same time he remained clued-in to what was happening in the world today. He stayed relevant for his entire life, and always had time for his friends – of which he had many.
Horace lived a full and extensive life, and there was practically nobody he hadn’t met or photographed. He will live on in his photos and the beautiful memories he created. While I am sad to say good bye, I’m also so happy and blessed to have had Horace in my life for the past 14 years. He was one-of-a-kind and will be dearly missed by myself and his many friends and colleagues.
Good night Horace, my dear, dear friend. Give Marilyn a hug from me, and give yourself one too. I’ll never, ever forget you.
Until next time,