The date: May 1990. The scene: the ice-white beauty of the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, a mythical movie star retreat on the French Riviera.
Two of Hollywood’s leading action men, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are there, graciously permitting photographs to be taken.
So far so predictable when a voice from behind one of the clicking lenses pipes up: ‘Why don’t you hold hands and dance? It would make a terrific shot.’
Legend behind the lens: Photographer of the rich and famous Alan Davidson has died aged 70 after decades of capturing the stars at play
Let’s dance! A photograph of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger dancing at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in France was beamed around the world
They did and it did — and those photographs went round the world.
The figure behind the voice was Alan Davidson of the Daily Mail who for half a century — yes, 50 years! — rode shotgun on London’s nightlife, lowlife, political life and celebrity just about everywhere.
Today, we at the Mail are mourning his death at the age of 70, a man who was always in the thick of the action behind the camera or in front of it.
No event was off limits to Alan, no gathering where there was a chance that a well-known face might be missed.
He suffered for his craft too, once receiving a bloody nose from a minder at a lunch to remember Buddy Holly.
A moment in time: Bob Geldof and Paula Yates were snapped by Alan Davidson at the Wembley Live Aid charity concert in 1985
Showbiz royalty: Elton John and Elizabeth Taylor at an Aids charity lunch in Mayfair in 1991 were among the famous faces captured by the photographer
Another time he was pursued by security men while dressed in the flowing robes of an Arab for a costume ball he’d been to.
He photographed everyone, the famous and the plain infamous. His mission: to capture them at play.
He was in Hyde Park, in front of the stage, naturally, when The Rolling Stones played their free concert just days after the death of Brian Jones in 1969.
And who else but our Alan was at the Royal Albert Hall in 1989 for one of its most starstudded nights, when Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli and Sammy Davis Jr performed together, one of the last times all three were on the same stage.
Photo fun: Television presenter Clare Balding and former jockey Willie Carson share a joke at a horse racing gala in 2015
Alan’s favourite photo: One of Davidson’s most famous pictures was of the teenage Lady Diana Spencer leaving Princess Margaret’s 50th birthday party at the Ritz in 1980
Party pics: Prince Andrew with actor Kevin Spacey and Amanda Donohoe at an Old Vid benefits night in 2003
One of his most famous pictures — and his favourite — was of the teenage Lady Diana Spencer leaving Princess Margaret’s 50th birthday party at the Ritz in 1980, two months into her romance with Prince Charles.
Shot through a limo window, it is a picture of a luminous and vulnerable beauty.
Equally intimate was the snapshot he took at a private party of Lord Snowdon on his knees talking to his youngest daughter Lady Frances Armstrong-Jones.
The royals regularly featured in his work — he was once sprayed with white paint by Prince Andrew (in jest) — but so too did political leaders.
The picture he got of Margaret Thatcher and Ted Heath, who famously didn’t get on, at a 2002 dinner for the Queen and all living prime ministers, was quite remarkable.
Royal life captured: Princess Diana with the Queen in Windsor in 1982. The royals regularly featured in Davidson’s work — he was once sprayed with white paint by Prince Andrew (in jest)
Rocks ‘n’ camera roll: The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and Mick Jagger at Ronnie Scott’s Club in Soho in 1985, listening to Charlie Watts’ jazz band
Its brutal simplicity achieved more than 1,000 polished words could ever do. As Alan himself brilliantly put it: ‘You could have cut the atmosphere between the two with a knife — and it shows.’
Born in Leeds in 1949, Davidson always wanted to be a Press photographer. After leaving school at 15, he got a job as a messenger at the old Keystone picture agency in Fleet Street on £4 10s a week.
He bought a second-hand Rolleiflex and a flash gun and went out and photographed life on the street.
His first published pictures were of student demonstrations, but he soon discovered a talent for photographing the famous.
In 1969, a picture of actress Rachel Roberts on the day her husband Rex Harrison announced that their marriage was over made the front page of the Daily Sketch and Davidson was on his way.
Peter Sellers and his third wife, model Miranda Quarry, at their wedding reception at Tramps in Jermyn Street in 1970
Famous.. and infamous! Disgraced MP and fraudster Robert Maxwell is pictured in fancy dress at a party in 1989
Thirsty work: Pop star Adele at a film premiere in 2008. Davidson snapped some of the biggest names on the planet for decades
After a brief stint on the Maidenhead Advertiser he joined the Mail and his photos are a pictorial chronicle of the last 50 years.
He snapped some of the biggest names on the planet: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Jerry Hall and all three of her leading men — Brian Ferry, Mick Jagger and her current husband Rupert Murdoch.
Alan’s wife Sandra said she never knew what time he’d get home. Alan was busy, bossy and sometimes downright irritating, but he rarely fell out with any of his subjects, no matter how often he asked for ‘just one more picture’.
His last and most important assignment was giving away Joanne, eldest of his two daughters, at her wedding last August when he was already very ill.
Last night, Daily Mail Editor Geordie Greig paid tribute: ‘Thirty-five years ago when I first met Alan Davidson in the Daily Mail offices he was impossible to ignore.
‘His hunger to be in the right place to get the best picture marked him out as someone whose photographs were always going to be remarkable.
‘He was unstoppable in pursuit and, combined with his irrepressible personality, he was a legend behind the lens.’