I had the great pleasure to work with Bill Cunningham when I was a PR girl almost 10 years back. I was in my 20’s, working and living in NYC and doing public relations for many of the glitzy charity galas around town – think socialites and celebs at the Plaza, Pierre, Waldorf, etc.
The one man anyone ever wanted to attend their event was Bill Cunningham of the New York Times Evening Hours and On the Street sections. Because if there was one thing everyone knew, it was if Mr. Cunningham photographed you, then you were in! I remember waiting in the office with bated breath for a phone call from the man himself assuring us he would stop by our event – surely on his way to one of countless others held each night.
Once he did show, people frantically moved this way and that in hopes that he would take their picture. It was best to leave him alone and let him do his thing – he always knew exactly what he was doing and what shots he wanted to get, on his own terms. I remember him referring to me endearingly as “child” and speaking to him the next day to confirm a name spelling or chair title.
I was sad to hear of his passing in 2016 but was very happy to find that he left behind a memoir to be published after his death. I just started reading Fashion Climbing and not only is it an interesting insight into the man himself, but also very timely in some of its themes. Unfortunately some of the issues he speaks about are still prevalent today, even though he wrote this more than 40 years ago. Hopefully you’ll have a chance to read the book – I’ll leave you with a very timely quote from this one-of-a-kind man.
“It’s a crime families don’t understand how their children are oriented, and point them along their natural way. American society has a lot to understand about the natural creative desires of children. Parents should stop feeling ashamed of the arts, and this trend of thinking men who are interested in ballet, opera and fields of design are just a lot of sissies has caused more unhappy family breakups. The country would not have half the trouble with mentally disturbed people it has if parents would accept each child’s God-given personality and stop trying to force what they feel is more suitable for their offspring.”
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