Monday, September 05, 2016


It was great to be in Amsterdam once again, albeit only virtually. This all became possible due to the fact that Jessi's brand communication duties for the firm that markets electrically-powered motor scooters include the production of videos covering collaborations with young artists in various cities. It's a nice intiative, linking an urban mobility solution to contemporary urban culture.

When it is released I'll post the Amsterdam video featuring the artist Selwyn Senatori (a colourful figure who assures us he 'ain't no joker') and the scooter he embellished with gusto. However in the context of this blog post, that's of secondary concern.

It was in Sptember 2004 that I introduced Jessi to Amsterdam. I had flown in from Abu Dhabi to attend the annual IBC (International Broadcasting Convention) event. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to show my daughter one of my favourite cities where I had to my great regret never lived, but over the years visited with surprising frequency. The truth is that I never picked the places I settled. I went optimistically to wherever the next job offer took me, never sufficiently well-funded or courageous enough to risk a period of unemployent during which I very well might... at various times in the last fifty years... have chosen Amsterdam!

I discovered the city fifty years ago as emissary for the pirate station Radio Caroline. Perhaps a better term would be clandestine courier, for at the time we were mounting a sneaky effort to circumvent the record companies' control of popular music broadcasting in the United Kingdom and the BBC's radio monopoly, daringly flouting the provisions of the Marine Offences Act. (Yo, ho, ho!)  We thought we were striking a blow to revolutionize the music and broadcasting industries and in all truth it must be said that history proved us right. My trips to the Radio Caroline office at Singel 150 gave me the chance to explore a part of Amsterdam which delighted me. 

In the early seventies I was travelling round Europe extensively and one of my favourite clients was the Amsterdam agency Modelplanning. It was run by Corine Spier-Rottschäfer who had been crowned Miss World in 1959. From Corine, who was utterly charming and only a couple of years older than I was, I got insider tips which brought the Grachtengordel to life. One was the Athenaeum Boekhandel, a bookshop which was thereafter a 'must' every time I was in town. It was the place to find the radical underground periodicals like Suck, more daring than International Times, Frendz or Oz, the counter-cultural provocations published in London. 

Later in the seventies my pretext was provided by the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation for whom I arranged exhibitions of photography. At about the same time I had a Dutch girlfriend who I should really have treated much better instead of letting her get away!

Thereafter it was the IBC that was my annual excuse until about 2010 to spend some quality time in the Dutch capital. And now I must settle for vicarious visiting. Need I say that I was touched mightily when Jessi did some shopping at the Athenaeum Boekhandel on Saturday? Had the 'continuity' streteched no further than that I would have been entirely satisfied.

But there was more to come. At the splendid Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam Jessi had just time to visit the Helmut Newton retrospective exhibition on the very last day of the show. Of course in so doing she was again visiting my own past, the late-seventies period during which my best friend John Dunnicliff represented Helmut in the Paris agency I managed.  

Shall we stretch the 'continuity' theme a bit further? Why not! In the photo panel heading this post, we see a super portrait shot by Helmut... examined by Tino, Jessi's bestest friend and video editor in her production team... of none other than David Bowie. 

Okay, let's leave it there! Suffice to say I was very happy to be in an Amsterdam that seemed to defy the rules of time.

1 comment:

Jessi said...

Hunting the traces of papsi is always a pleasure! So nice to see a world you experienced left a little for today's world too.