I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of Jess Down, Artist and former English Boy Ltd model. It's not difficult to see why he was in such demand, he's very easy on the eyes, although he didn't seem to be too enamoured with modelling as a profession in this interview from 1969....
Sam Meets The Goodlookers....JESS DOWN is a male model. He also does interior decorating, painting, or anything else that interests. The day we met, he was planning to paint the walls at his office if there was nothing else to do. He is a tall, broad shouldered, serious young man with a pleasant, but rare, smile. Dressed in a red/brown suit, turquoise jumper and a hat because it was cold. He waved and said ''Hello'' to half the people that came in to the Kings Road coffee bar where we were sitting. In this area everyone knows him. This is where he works and relaxes and he lives nearby in the Cromwell road. Jess should have been a naval officer, he says. When he was 13, he went to a naval training school and then when he was 17, served six months on a training ship as midshipman. ''That was my father's idea, not mine so I bought myself out for £100 after six months.''
''After that I did lots of things. I worked in a shop, Smart Western, for eight weeks, in the store room checking things off. Then I got a job shifting scenery at the Palladium and from there I went to the Criterion. That sort of job is badly paid, so I became a waiter in a restaurant, where at least you get tips, and then I did anything that came up. I ended up in interior decorating and I still do a bit when I've got nothing else on. Then came modelling because I knew Mark Palmer who started the English Boy Model Agency, though it's been taken over by other people since then. Modelling is very unrewarding. You're just like a box of matches. Once you're struck that's it. It's all over. What I'd really like to do would be to have my own agency that dealt with re-touches and stylists. You can hire out an agency at £30 a day, but you've got to know enough art directors.''
He says that this is his aim, but Jess has no burning ambitions to be fulfilled. He doesn't plan the future and just likes to feel that he is doing something, and is associated with something that progresses. ''I don't want to be anything. I just occupy my time as best I know how. Whatever comes along, I take or I don't take, as the case may be. At the same time I keep up my living standards. It's not hard to pay the rent and the other things sort of accumulate. I've just spent quite a lot of money on sound equipment, but if you know the right way to go about it, you can always get a bargain.'' As he knows most of the people in his area, Jess manages to get discounts on clothes and even the speakers he bought for his gramophone came from someone who renovates equipment smashed by groups, so that was cheap, too.
Jess lives in a three-room flat in Cromwell road. ''I like girls who can take care of themselves.'' he says. ''Girls who work and have their own independence and know their own minds, is what I want. I'm not particularly interested in glamour. We don't go out much as friends drop in. I go to a concert now and then, and I paint anything that comes into my head. I don't work regularly, usually during the day, not at night. It's better to relax at night when everyone else is relaxing; sleeping during the day seems to disrupt your whole body and mind.''
Apart from earning enough money to live and buy the few things he needs, he feels he needs to enjoy life. Jess seems more interested in the mind that the material things. His philosophy is first of all to understand himself before he can effectively help others. ''It's no use rebelling against the world or going down to Grosvenor Square protesting against something unless you do your bit inside yourself.'' He feels the best way to improve is through example, both through following other people's and setting one yourself. He thinks example is the most powerful force. Jess also thinks that if everything you do and say is truthful, then nothing can harm you. ''You fall down on it again and again,'' he says, ''because there's no end to how you can improve.''
Our conversation ending on that philosophical note, I came to the conclusion that not much could be done to improve Jess, appearance-wise. Standing at the height of 6 feet 1½ inches, his chest measures 38 inches and his waist 30 inches. He describes his hair as ''light walnut'' and his eyes are a soft brown. While I floated from the cafe, he whispered intimately that he takes an 8 ½ inch shoe. Help!
Left to Right: Jess Down, Rufus Potts-Dawson, Nigel Waymouth of Granny Takes a Trip and Amanda Lear. Photograph by Colin Jones, 1967.
Another outtake from the previous 1967 fashion shoot above, Jess Down on the right this time. Photograph by Colin Jones.
Interview with Jess Down for The Sunday Times Magazine
IMAGE CREDITS & LINKS
All images scanned by Sweet Jane from the following publications, (1. & 2.) Jess Down interview - Jackie Magazine issue N0.268 February 22nd 1969, original interview by Sam, (Photographer uncredited), (3.) English Boy Ltd publicity photograph by Ray Rathbone 1967 - The Day of the Peacock Style for Men 1963-1973 by Geoffrey Aquilina Ross, (4.) Sir Mark Palmer by Ron Trager - The Day of the Peacock Style for Men 1963-1973 by Geoffrey Aquilina Ross, (5.) Photograph by Colin Jones 1967 - Boutique a 60s cultural phenomenon by Marnie Fogg, (6.) Photograph by Colin Jones 1967 - Sixties Source Book: a visual reference to the style of a decade by Nigel Cawthorne, Except (7.) Jess Down interview for The Sunday Times Magazine Supplement courtesy of the artist's website, You'll find some film footage of Jess modelling for Mark Palmer's English Boy Agency at approximately 45 seconds into this clip from the BBC documentary The Perfect Suit and again at around 3:50 here, Jess on the right in the yellow suit close by Grosvenor Square, a brace of unsquare bird fanciers boast a far-from-pedestrian look in 1970 on Flashbak. View some of my previous posts featuring Nigel Waymouth and Amanda Lear here & also here respectively. Further information about Sir Mark Palmer here, And finally, the begrudging comments about the long haired English Boy Agency models in the previous documentary clip brought this track from The Barbarians to mind.