Saturday, December 13, 2008

From model to photographer

Nancy Lee Andrews: From model to photographer

Alyssa Webb

Media Credit:

Media Credit: Nancy Lee Andrews

Media Credit: Nancy Lee Andrews

Former international Ford model Nancy Lee Andrews spent her narcissistic days, as she refers to them, in front of the camera. Slowly, she became more interested in clicking the shutter rather than being the subject. A fateful day rinsing prints in a darkroom with renowned photographer Milton Greene solidified her fascination.

Asking Greene too many questions, he eventually handed her a Nikon and encouraged her to begin taking pictures of "anything that [she] found interesting." He praised her; "You've got an eye, Nancy."

"As soon as I started creating imagery and controlling other people with it, I was hooked," said Andrews. "You can really capture people, if the timing is right and the atmosphere is right, you can really dig in."

Thus began the photography of the half-Sicilian, half-Cherokee woman who captured the lives and faces of some of the great artists that decorated the '70s.

Andrews' book "A Dose of Rock 'n' Roll" (Dalton Watson Fine Books, 2008, $49.00) is a nostalgic journey into the land of musical greats like Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Pattie Boyd and Ringo Starr.

"When we would all get together, I'd cook a big dinner. The guys would go in the living room, go to the bar and start drinking Brandy and Heneiken." Like a family.

An intimate portrayal of Andrews' personal relationship with Ringo Starr is also fully illuminated in the photos.

In 1974, Andrews met Ringo Starr at a house that John Lennon had rented. Andrews was introduced to Lennon through her former boyfriend, guitarist Carl Radle.

"He was legally estranged from his wife at the time and was just finishing up on his 'Ringo' album," she said. "I think he said to John, 'I want to meet her' so a couple months later after a brief meeting, John set us up.

"It was John that pretty much introduced us and played Cupid."

Andrews spent her life through the '70s with Ringo, rubbing elbows with musical greats everywhere she went. She was never star struck, but understood that these people were special.

"I realized that these guys were so talented, and had their finger on the pulse of music and pop culture, but at the same time, I was never awe struck."

But the girl that was surrounded by legendary artists met her match in composure when she ran into 'The Duke' at the El Padrino Room in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

"We were having dinner and John Wayne was sitting across from me and we were both speechless," she said. "We were like two kids. I think we had just seen 'The Quiet Man' and there he was.

"When he got up, Ringo stopped him and said 'Mr. Wayne' and he goes 'Well, 'Ello Mr. Ringo'"-in her best John Wayne impression-"and Ringo says 'I'd like to introduce you to my girlfriend. Will you give her a hug and a kiss?'

"I stood up and he just grabbed me, and John Wayne is a really large man. My knees were knocking. He laid a big Maureen O'Hara kiss on my lips. It was totally surreal."

The book captures an era that this college generation did not get the chance to see. Andrews, now 61, knows how lucky she was to experience it, but she doesn't pine for those days.

"I don't miss that life," she said. "At the same time, I feel like a very lucky girl, who was happy to be in the middle of it. Also lucky because I loved photography so much that I was able to document it. There's so much that didn't make it into the book. It's pretty phenomenal!"

There's no way she could fit all of her historic photos into one book.

"The book could have been 500 pages. That was my thing. I've got thousands of photos," she said. "You have to condense the story."

The book was designed and written by Andrews and reminds her somewhat of a family photo album.

"It just happens to be extraordinary pop icons. What a bunch of posers we were!" said Andrews with a laugh. "We were always posing for each other. I said to my publisher, 'I don't know who's going to be interested!'"

But people are interested.

"We're already talking about doing 'Another Dose of Rock 'n' Roll!'"

For more information on A Dose of Rock 'n' Roll or to purchase a copy, go to or

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