Bette Davis’ cigarette
Late 1980s: Upon entering Bette Davis’ West Hollywood apartment, even the casual observer couldn’t help but notice the tiny white porcelain vases that seem to be on every horizontal surface, each sprouting a floret of cigarettes. Vantage filters - king size. Ms. Davis, 80 at the time, was as thin as a thread when I encountered her less than a year before she died, though impeccably dressed and with eyelids troweled peacock blue. She had already battled cancer and a stroke and I attribute to those unfortunate circumstances why she kept staring at me and crisply barking, “Who’s the young lady I haven’t met yet?”, which, like most of her verbal expulsions, was accompanied by a sharply exhaled column of smoke that seemed to be directed at some unseen evil force. I was a photo-assistant on this job, and after we had finished and Ms. Davis had retired to the confines of her sprawling apartment, we packed up and were leaving when I saw her freshly snubbed Vantage resting in the ashtray. I flicked it into a Kodak film box where it resided for 12 years until I pulled it out one day and took the photograph that you see here.
© Jim Herrington