People often ask about this photograph. Where was it taken? What was happening? I'm always happy to talk about this image, because of all the photos I've taken, "Miriam on the Waterbed" is my absolute favorite.
Here's the story:
The year was 1970, and my artist friend, Joe Westerfield, had a stunning new girlfriend. Miriam was a 22-year-old Puerto Rican hottie with big dark eyes, a dazzling smile, and 36-inch breasts. I felt jealous when he introduced us. Joe was twice her age, had a long gray beard, and was drunk half of the time. Yet Crazy Joe had managed to score this sensational Latina stripper as his new sweetie.
A few weeks later, at the Gallery of Erotic Art (a private space on Manhattan's Upper West Side), Joe Westerfield had an exhibition of his new erotic paintings (Joe is the bearded man standing beside the black priest.) Art collectors and voyeurs gathered to check out the art and enjoy the free white wine. Joseph, happy-drunk, pointed to a queen-sized waterbed at the rear of the gallery.
Click image for full size.
"At ten o'clock," said Joe, "Miriam will get naked, lie on the waterbed, and perform her masturbation dance. People will crowd around to watch her act. Take some good pictures, okay?"
I chose my spot, and calculated my technique: superwide 21 mm lens, fast Tri-X film in my Leica camera, bounce flash off the white ceiling. At ten o'clock, the gallery went dark, and Jimi Hendrix guitar music blasted from giant speakers. Everyone crowded close, but I held my spot.
Miriam ran up, dropped her robe, and lay naked on the undulating waterbed, her voluptuous body silhouetted by pulses of colored lights inside the bed. My wide-angle lens caught Miriam's erotic dance just right, boy howdy—and my bounce-flash technique also captured the expressions of amazed onlookers.
Here's more information: the "Miriam on the Waterbed" photograph was published in my first book, Sidetripping, where William S. Burroughs wrote this about it:
What do the expressions on the faces of the spectators express? Substitute a car wreck, an epileptic convulsion, a lynching and the expressions would be equally appropriate..."
Oh, and the black priest watching the hot action? That's my friend Carlos—in his priest's costume. He told me drunks confessed their sins to him and old ladies gave him their seats on the subway. But that's another story!