It Seems Like Yesterday

by Harry Benson

Malcolm Forbes Red Leather Aug 77 largeB. C. Forbes was a journalist who immigrated to America from Aberdeenshire in Scotland and worked as a columnist for Hearst newspapers before founding Forbes magazine. Because we shared a background with Scotland and journalism, I was pleased to have the opportunity in 1971 to photograph B. C. Forbes’ son Malcolm Forbes, who was at the helm of the Forbes publishing empire at the time.

We flew to Colorado and almost immediately went up in a hot-air balloon. I climbed with camera gear in hand.  It was one of the scariest rides of my life as we crash landed into a hillside where I came tumbling out, camera and all. Malcolm faired a bit better as he was accustomed to riding in the balloon, and I, of course, was the novice.

We agreed to meet an hour later where I would photograph him with one of his motorcycles. Arriving in a red leather outfit, he was joined by a large group of biker friends, possibly from the motorcycle club he founded, the Capitalist Tools. The name was a clever take on the name of his Boeing 727, the Capitalist Tool.

Forbes was always amicable and easy to photograph and never a difficult subject in any way.  He loved hot-air ballooning and loved motorcycles, and even gave a Harley-Davidson to Elizabeth Taylor (I photographed her sitting on it wearing biker gear, though I never saw Elizabeth actually start the engine).

Over the years, I photographed Malcolm Forbes on several occasions, none more glamorous than the time at his French chateau in Balleroy, for a hot-air balloon race, but that story is for another time.