Here is how to become a well-known and well-compensated photographer of the well known and well compensated, like Terry O'Neill, whose photos of everyone from Jagger to Sinatra have just been published in a book called "Legends." Then you, too, can know the satisfaction of looking smashing at 47 (flawless skin, sculpted hair, swell leather jacket), counting the icons of Hollywood among your personal pals and maybe even marrying one of your subjects, as O'Neill married Faye Dunaway.
First off, make friends who shortly thereafter become international sensations.
While still a British newspaper photographer in his twenties, O'Neill hung out with people like the Beatles, the Stones, Mary Quant and Jean Shrimpton. "None of us ever thought we'd last longer than the next dawn," O'Neill says cheerily, smoking cigarettes and thumbing through his book. He pauses over a happy picture of Ringo's wedding to Barbara Bach a few years ago. "We thought we were having a good time and one day we'd have to get proper jobs."
Instead, O'Neill became what he calls "a sort of Boswell to the great personalities of the day." He shot Sinatra between movie takes, followed John Lennon into rehearsals and showed Jagger under a hair dryer before a television appearance.
He even formed an agency with Peter Sellers, who was an obsessive photographer. "He was fanatical, had every piece of gear," O'Neill says, fondly. "He had so much equipment it got in the way of his photography. If someone said there was a new light meter on the market, he'd switch in midshot."
The memorable picture of Sellers waltzing with Lord Snowdon came about one afternoon around a pool in Beverly Hills. "We were all having fun, having a laugh, photographing each other," O'Neill remembers. "Pete dragged Tony to the end of the diving board, grabbed him and said 'Right, Terry.' " Snowdon and Sellers struck a pose; O'Neill snapped the shutter.
The next step is for your friends to make friends. You don't know your subjects, you might as well join the paparazzi, for whom O'Neill feels mostly pity.
"I knew Burton from 'Look Back in Anger.' A young kid," O'Neill says. "Then he ends up marrying Elizabeth Taylor and it sort of spreads." That's how O'Neill, who over the years photographed Burton on the set, Burton in a tub wearing a flowered shower cap and Burton with Taylor, got to introduce Taylor to David Bowie, whom he calls "the Cary Grant of pop. He'll be performing at 60."
"He was thinking of getting into films," says O'Neill. "She was thinking of putting him into a film she wanted to make in Russia called 'Bluebird.' " O'Neill set up the stellar summit at George Cukor's house in Beverly Hills. Bowie arrived exhausted and hours late (the limo got lost), but once the meeting and the photo session were under way, all was forgiven. "She borrowed his hat and we took off from there," O'Neill says of his pictures of their playful embrace. "That's what happens with two great professionals." Even when utter strangers, "they conjure up this intimate relationship."
Of course, you can't depend entirely on good timing and youthful friendships to shoot the stars. O'Neill researches his subjects carefully.
"I make it a point," he says. "I read an awful lot, every magazine, every newspaper . . . I always make sure I know a lot about them, whether they know it or not." He keeps a mental file of details, always alert for more. "You'll always find somebody who knows somebody."
Do your homework and you, too, can pull off a coup like this one. When O'Neill was photographing a Paul Newman movie in Tucson in 1972 and Clint Eastwood was on location nearby, O'Neill was able to gently badger them into posing together. This joint appearance, he says with pride, is something Hollywood producers to this day have yet to achieve.
"That took two weeks, to get that shot. I knew both of them and they kept saying, 'Sure,' and finally the day before I had to leave for England . . . They were both late. I had two minutes. I had to do it against a motel wall, which I hated, but what could I do? They're both great guys, you know. Real guys, not actory actors." It helped that O'Neill could talk Grand Prix racing with Newman. As for Eastwood, O'Neill had been a jazz drummer in his youth and learned that The Craggy One was also a jazz buff. The photographer happened to be sitting in with the band at a Tucson bar where the quarry happened to be having a drink. "That gave us a little bond," O'Neill grins.
Finally, you need to develop a sort of prescience about people's futures, so that you know which of your friends is about to become an international sensation.
O'Neill somehow knew it was worthwhile visiting Jean Shrimpton on her family farm and photographing her with cattle. He spotted Elton John early, too. "I thought, 'There's another one.' They" -- the less gifted -- "said, 'He'll never be a pop star. Glasses and all that?' " But not only did Elton connect, he introduced O'Neill to his friend Billie Jean King. And after O'Neill had gotten to know her, "I realized she was a sweet feminine person. Off the court, she's not competitive in any form." And he photographed her wearing an embroidered prom gown and holding a rosebud, just to prove the point.
You see how it works. You do this for two decades or so, the resulting photos appearing in Life, Look, Paris Match, Vogue and People, and you get a reputation. You publish books and have one-man shows in London and, next month, in New York. You sell prints (the large ones go for $175 unframed, $250 framed). You set up appointments, while you're here promoting your book anyway, to photograph John Malkovich and William Hurt and Liz Taylor (again) and Anjelica Huston (whom you already know; ditto her dad). You get offers to direct movies.
And you regret, well, not that much, really. That friends of 20 years -- Sellers, Lennon -- are dead. That Newman and Eastwood weren't leaning against a better-looking wall. That foolish producers gave you so much flak that you walked away from directing a film that would surely have won your wife, the mother of your 5-year-old son (O'Neill also has two teen-agers from a previous marriage), another Oscar.
And that you never snapped one particular photograph. O'Neill got off a plane in London one evening and there, alone in the airport, was Brian Jones. "He was drugged out of his mind, lying on the floor," O'Neill remembers. "A Rolling Stone in a deserted airport! I couldn't believe it was him. He was a friend of mine, so I helped him up." But O'Neill didn't uncap his lens. It seemed unfriendly. Now, "I wish I had taken it. For historical purposes. That particular image, I still see it."