Richard Habberley on his new book of snapshots that captured a decade of sleepless nights

By
Photography Richard Habberley

Published October 11, 2018

“You’ve got to understand,” says Richard Habberley, “I went to a nightclub when I was 15, and I didn’t come back until I was 27.” The former club kid and current super agent to supermodels has made a book of these peripatetic days and nights (mostly nights) spent in the clubs and flats of London in the late 1970s through the early 1980s. At age 16, his roommate was George Alan O’Dowd, or Boy George, who was just beginning his ascent to the top of the charts during the summer of 1982. Naomi Campbell, Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, and performance artist Leigh Bowery gather elsewhere in Memorabilia, a collection of Habberley’s snapshots recently published by IDEA Books.  To celebrate the book’s release, Habberley sent us six of his favorite photographs from the book, telling us the mythic and grin-inducing histories behind each.

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Habberley with barber James Lebon, 1986

“My dream was to have platinum hair because I loved Billy Idol. He was the most beautiful of all the punk boys. Everyone hated him and used to spit on him and throw things at him because he was so cute. I would bleach my hair, just endlessly, to match Billy Idol. During that time, you weren’t meant to look how he looked.”

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Habberley and roommate Boy George greet fans on their doorstep, 1982

“The summer of 1982, when I was 16-years-old, George’s third record came out, “Do you really want to hurt me.” I told him, “I hope this is a big hit for you, this one, George.” When I came back from school, all of sudden this record was on the charts. Everyone was going crackers for George and Culture Club. We had all these kids suddenly sitting on our door step hanging out 24 hours a day. In this photo, there would’ve been at least 10 kids on the doorstep waiting to see if he was going to come out. They’d ask things like, “What color eyeshadow does George wear?” They wanted to copy that yellow shadow he wore on Top of the Pops. He was famous for the eye makeup. They’d ask where George got his pan stick from. That’s the really thick foundation that comes in a theatrical make up. It gives you that kabuki feel. And here I was, probably hungover from drinking vodka, and you open the front door and that’s the scene. I’m not wearing any shoes, bleary eye’d, trying to find a pint of milk.”

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Leigh Bowery and Sue Tilley in New York City, 1984

“Susanne Bartsch brought all the London club kids to New York City in 1984. Here, Lee and Sue [Tilley] had come back from Area night club, both completely wasted. They were so drunk they were laying on the floor. They woke me up and I was so irritated that I was like, “Fuck you, both,” and I started taking pictures of them while they were rolling around the floors. This was just the beginning of Leigh’s blue phase. This was the period when he really started going there and got more and more extreme.”

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Habberley wearing Culture Club’s favorite designer, Sue Clowes

“We used to get all of Sue Clowes’ stuff given to us. As with everything in the 1970s and 1980s, a lot of it was about being controversial. I don’t quite know what the clothes say in Hebrew, but I remember getting chased down Kings Road from the Great Gear Market by a bunch of angry men who jumped out of a car. I had to run into the tube station and hide. I thought that this kind of thing was all over— when I was a mod, we always used to get chased by punks. If you were a punk, you’d get attacked by the skinheads. We could only go out in groups because we’d get beaten up depending on what you were wearing. When I left home I thought that was all kind of over. ‘Til this day, I don’t know what I did to offend them.”

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Diana and Jackie, 1980

“This is one of my favorite ever pictures, and they’re gonna kill me for putting it in the book. Diana and Jackie are both fifteen years old, here, but they look like they’re 45-years-old. We’re in a bedsit in Ilford at four in the morning after dancing all night at a club called the Groovy Cellar. There was a psych revival in London, then, and all of a sudden we discovered acid and mushrooms.”

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Richard Habberley wearing Vivienne Westwood, 1986

“We were obsessed with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. Their stuff was always referenced. Armani, Versace, we didn’t care. We cared about Vivienne. We had friends that would go into her store and steal clothes. Kids who worked at the store would steal clothes. In fact, Vivienne had to ask her friends for money to make her collections because she didn’t understand where she would make any money—everyone would steal it all because no one could afford it. Here, I’m wearing a stolen Vivienne Westwood top from 1977, which was already vintage at the point.”