2011-02-27 16:53:30 UTC
Playboy photographer Ken Honey dies
Ken Honey photographed Dorothy Stratten and Pamela Anderson
By John Mackie, Vancouver Sun
February 25, 2011
Ken Honey had what many men would consider a dream job - photographing
beautiful women, nude, for Playboy magazine.
The North Vancouver photographer was never on staff, but did fairly well as
a freelancer. Among the Playmates he discovered were Pamela Anderson,
Dorothy Stratten, and Kim Conrad, who became Hugh Hefner's wife.
Honey passed away Thursday, just shy of his 87th birthday. He had
disappeared from the public eye in recent years after suffering a stroke
and being hospitalized at Evergreen House, a long term care facility in
But in his day he was a fixture around town, and on Wreck Beach, where he
would head with his Hasselblad on sunny days in search of models.
Kenneth Frederick Honey was born on March 2, 1924 in Winnipeg. His parents
weren't married, so he kept his mother's name, and was raised by her and
When he was 17 he joined the air force, where he served as a tailgunner on
a Halifax bomber during the Second World War.
"He was shot twice," relates his friend Margie Goodman. "He flew back from
one mission without a canopy. But he never came home, he did his missions."
Honey had married before he left Winnipeg, but it ended when he returned
"He was brokenhearted, so he moved out west," said Goodman.
He did a stint selling cars at Bowell MacLean (Bow Mac) when Jimmy Pattison
was the sales manager, then tried his hand as a stockbroker. But his real
forte was taking photos, and he became a commercial photographer.
Goodman and her late husband Milton hired Honey to take their wedding
pictures 45 years ago, one of hundreds of weddings he shot. The couple ran
Goodman photo studios and became good friends with Honey, often letting him
use their house on the Deep Cove waterfront for photo sessions.
"My neighbours could probably tell you some crazy stories, I'll tell ya,"
One legendary session involved a young woman bouncing up and down on a
trampoline the Goodmans installed in their backyard for their kids.
"I was not here, we had gone away on our boat," recalls Goodman.
"I heard [a neighbour] say 'Oh my God!' He was [looking] over the fence
three doors over."
But Goodman said there wasn't any shenanigans involved in Honey's photo
"The reason he got all these girls to take their clothes off was that he
was such a gentleman," she said. "He could just talk."
His first Playboy shoot was Pamela Gordon in 1962, the first Canadian to
appear in Playboy. He would eventually shoot 13 Playmates.
"He'd put his camera on and his bathing suit and go to Wreck Beach, and I
guess take his clothes off and find local talent," said Goodman.
"But a lot of the girls found him. Once he got popular, they'd phone him to
Honey was known as the Playboy photographer, but paid the bills doing
regular commercial jobs, such as shooting weddings or doing product shots
for lumber companies.
"He did lots of pictures of entertainment people, like the Supremes," said
Goodman. "He took pictures at The Cave and the cabarets."
Technically, Goodman said Honey was a master.
"He primarily used available light with reflectors," she said.
"He was a master of light and body position. He was absolutely incredible.
It's a shame he didn't teach what he knew; he was an absolute talent."
Goodman has been going through his prints and negatives - "thousands of
negatives." She picked out a picture of Honey with one of his most stunning
subjects, Willy Rey, for his obituary. It shows him in one of his favourite
poses, with a young beauty draped all over him.
"He would have the girl's hands covering over his bald head in the front,
and have the girl behind, bending over," said Goodman. "He had it all
figured out. Many beautiful women put their hands across Ken's forehead,
Rey was one of two tragic figures Honey photographed: she died of an
overdose of prescription pills in 1973, when she was only 23. The other
tragedy was Dorothy Stratten, a Playmate of the Year who was killed by her
estranged husband in a murder-suicide seven years after Rey's death.
Honey had tragedy in his personal life, as well. In 2006, his longtime
companion Joyce Brown died in his arms. He then suffered a stroke, from
which he never fully recovered.
"She was dead in his arms for 10 days at their house, and nobody knew it,"
said Goodman. "He'd had a stroke. It was just awful."
He lived out the rest of his life at Evergreen House, where Goodman said he
was quite happy.
"He didn't suffer," she said. "They kept him very comfortable, he was very
Towards the end Goodman located Honey's step-brother in Winnipeg. They
hadn't talked in 30 years, and John Honey didn't even know that his brother
Ken was a photographer, let alone a Playboy photographer.
"His brother found pictures of his dad," said Goodman.
"He was never allowed to see his dad after he was quite young. I took them
up to him and said 'Ken I have pictures of your dad.'
"He looked at the pictures and said 'My dad. My dad.' And that was the last
thing that he said, 'My dad. My dad.'"