I've just been watching Sue Perkins doing a show on BBC 2 about 'domestic art'. I hadn't planned to watch it but started to get sucked in when a picture of Brighton Beach came up on the screen. I always have nostalgia for Brighton having been born and brought up just 20 minutes away. This was also my father's birthplace and where he lived through WW2 - his childhood memories of doodlebugs, mined beaches and bombings are vivid and extraordinary. My mother-in-law grew up there too. My own memory bank is huge and full of iconic images and experiences of this highly influential, quirky, arty, historic town - but I will write about that another time.
As the programme progressed I started to get the picture (excuse the pun). We were moving happily through the decades in terms of the pictures that hung on a thousand walls - and when we got to the 70s and the Girl on Tennis Court one (scratching bare bottom in fading evening light, tennis balls strewn artfully about), I knew what was coming next. Yes, the Man and Baby poster.
I think there are plenty of mid-lifers who'll remember this one. It was on every student's wall (if they were female or gay) in the late 80s. Gorgeous hunk cradling fragile baby, sepia light etc etc. I can't be bothered to discuss the imagery - it's too obvious. What I will tell you is, quite simply, that I knew the model. Well, to be fair, I didn't exactly KNOW him. And given he slept with about 3,000 women, that's a sad indictment of my charms. My consolation is that he slept with 3,000 women AFTER he was famous, and I knew him BEFORE he was famous. Yes folks, he went to my school. Good old Haywards Heath Sixth Form College (formerly a comprehensive and prior to that, a good old Grammar School).
While I was poncing around being Head Girl, he was larking about in a Jam jacket (purple and green stripes) and dark grey drainpipes with a close cropped Mod hair cut. Very right on. I didn't look twice at him (despite my having a rather respectable Parker with all the correct Mod embellishments lent to me by my then boyfriend). He didn't really apply himself to the learning process, but I do remember him winning the dry cracker eating contest at the School charity day. He sat on the stage and stuffed them into his mouth like there was no tomorrow. Girls, his saliva glands were legendary. Therein lies his success, clearly.
The summer after we left college, I was working with a local agency called Helping Hands to get some holiday money. I remember being dumped a load of young teenage Italian school children for a week. My tasks included chaperoning them around the likes of London and Cambridge (not easy on the Tube when they're all roped up to Sony Walkmans and drifting around in their own little world of Wham's 'Wake me up before you Go, Go' tripping up little old ladies with their treacherous wires) and, on one occasion, to a local tennis court. Now, it just so happened that my companion for that glorious moment, was one Adam Perry. I barely recognised him at first - he'd gone all blonde and tanned and (relatively) floppy-haired. He certainly caught my eye this time. We fell to idle chit-chat while the Teenagers tapped disinterestedly at tennis balls. He told me that he'd just signed up at a model agency in Brighton. I asked interested questions (having always secretly wanted to be a model - though conscious my atrociously knobbly knees would let me down on the catwalk; but, quite frankly, my participation in a local beauty contest, Miss Dolphin (cringe), and the horror that ensued was, frankly, more than enough for me to park my dreams). Still, I would have happily found the excuse to hang out with Ad a bit more, given his new look and his talk of all the foreign assignments he had lined up....
Hell, I never did anything about it of course and my sense of duty to the Italians prevented me from eloping with him there and then. If he'd have had me, that is.
So, Adam, if you're out there (and I know you are), this is just a quick 'Hi'. Much as I want to believe the iconic image, sadly I'll always know you as the Cream Cracker Guy. Sometimes reality hurts!
The Athena poster sold over 5 million copies around the world. (I even saw it on a wall in a girl's student flat in Padua when we lived in Italy. I told the girl I knew the guy. She nearly fainted.) Sadly the art director was gay and died of Aids in the early 90s; the photographer was a greedy bastard and shoved his fortune from royalties up his nose and down his throat; Adam got peed on by the baby and paid about £100 for the shoot (reduced because he arrived with a sunburnt chest!), though it shot him to fame and enabled him to bed the 3,000; the baby's now a 20 year old law student and his parents got paid £32 - but had to buy the poster! Funny old world.