SOUTH PASADENA — Herbert W. Worthington III, Fleetwood Mac’s photographer, left many indelible images in people’s minds, but friends and family most remember a “gentle giant” capable of seeing beauty in even the grotesque.
He was 69 when he died earlier this month.
Worthington and Jimi Hendrix were pals, half-brother Bob Worthington Jr. said. But they would’ve been friends even if “Herbie didn’t know how to take a snapshot on a Polaroid.”
“Herbie had that kind of magnetism, that kind of aura that would draw people to him,” said Bob Worthington, 78. “He was kind of a Bohemian monkey, so to speak. He just could click with the greatest.”
After not hearing or seeing the famed photographer for four days, neighbors called authorities, Coroner Ed Winter said. The South Pasadena Fire Department performed a “welfare check” about noon on Nov. 10 and found Worthington dead on his bed.
Worthington died of heart disease, but his time of death is uncertain, Winter said.
“Worthington is best known for photographing Fleetwood Mac’s iconic 1977 album cover, ‘Rumours’ — providing the concept, inspiration and even the footstool for the ‘Rumours’ album cover,” it said. “Worthington captured the mystical allure of the band and was instrumental in creating the iconic imagery (such as the crystal ball) which is still associated with Fleetwood Mac today.”
His family provided an intimate look into the life of a man who became a lovable recluse around 1992.
Lisa Bostwick-Eilar, 47, said she and her two siblings considered Uncle Herbie a father figure because their dad wasn’t in the picture and because Uncle Herbie didn’t have any children of his own.
“When we were younger, he never wore shoes,” said Bostwick-Eilar, from Colton. “Every time, even if he came for Thanksgiving or a holiday, he wouldn’t wear leather (because it comes from cow, and he’s a vegetarian). He would step out of his Mercedes with no shoes.”
Bob Worthington recalled how his half-brother began his career. One day Herbie Worthington called his older brother to tell him someone had given him a camera. Bob Worthington asked his younger brother what kind of camera it was.
“‘Oh, I don’t know,” the elder Worthington recalled Herbie Worthington saying. ‘It’s called a 3-5-M-M-S-L-R. Can you come over and show me how to use it?’”
“What you have is a 35 mm single-lens reflex,” Bob Worthington said before asking his younger brother if he had any film.
“Film? No. I don’t have any film,” Herbie Worthington said. “I don’t even know what I’d do with it.”
Three lessons and a short time later, Herbie Worthington began shooting album covers for Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, Neil Diamond and all kinds of famous folks, Bob Worthington said.
“He ended up having an eye through the camera that was absolutely remarkable,” he added. “Herbie had the ability to — through photographic means — bring out the more beautiful features of whatever he was photographing.”
Herbie Worthington’s fame never went to his head, said nephew Bobby Del Bostwick.
“You’re talking about a guy who, whenever he would walk into a room, he would naturally duck his head down,” Bostwick said of his 6-foot-4-inch uncle, who in the 1970s often jumped into limos with big, bell bottoms and no shoes.
Friend Lori Hyde-Glaser said Worthington had a gentle soul and had a never-ending supply of wonderful stories about his life.
“He was quite the photographer, and he knew how to make you smile,” she said. “I miss his voice and his laughter. I am thankful of his gifts he gave us — his photography — and for his memories. Herbert is one of a kind.”
Worthington is survived by his half-brother, Bob Worthington; nephew, Bobby Del Bostwick; niece Bostwick-Eilar; niece Joy Lydia King; and great-nephew, Chaun Franklin Ralls; as well as all of their children.
His memorial service hasn’t been announced, because the family is still looking for Worthington’s will.
“We want to put Herbie to rest the way Herbie wanted to be put to rest,” Bob Worthington said.
(Lead photo courtesy of Robert Laird Sariti)
By Zen Vuong / Pasadena Star-News / Sunday, November 24, 2013