And more from our Liz: the Bill Cunningham documentary all New York is talking about
“A CIVILIZED SOCIETY is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity,” said Robert Frost.
Too bad Mr. Frost isn’t around to watch Donald Trump these days.
I understand that Donald seems to be fulfilling some sort of perpetual American political myth that a big-boasting, plain-talking guy is gonna come along and “just say what everybody is thinking.” And that guy will become our Big Leader.
Despite making the occasional trenchant point, I shudder to think of the United States of America under his control, should he become president. We’d be at war — a lot. And despite his financial acumen, he has declared bankruptcy three times. Comforting?
I also find his Birther talk downright dangerous. And I do not think for one second he actually believes that President Obama — and the entire corps of the FBI and Secret Service and all U.S. Intelligence agencies — has conspired to place a non-American in the White House. (What? Like Obama wasn’t vetted from head to toe?)
Many people say they are amused by Trump. I say NBC should put “Celebrity Apprentice” on hold until June when Donald “makes up his mind” about running. After all, if this is not simply a publicity stunt, it shouldn’t matter all that much.
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BILL CUNNINGHAM of The New York Times may just be the most important reporter-photographer-culture maven in all of modern day journalism .
And he is desperately important at the Times itself. I say this even though the Times editorial and Op Ed pages are necessities in a great and threatened democracy like ours. But Bill fills society’s cultural void.
Bill is the heart and soul of what goes on in New York and environs when it comes to high fashion, street fashion, and low and middle-class fashion, charity parties, balls, and benefits by the rich, famous or infamous. He shoots around the city on his bike (he has had 28 of them stolen,) covering whatever strikes his fancy and he keeps reiterating his mantra: “If you don’t take their money, they can’t tell you what to write and do. You then have the most important thing – freedom.”
So Bill, who is no spring chicken, reiterates for the Times the supreme idea of freedom of the press, of reporters not “taking the King’s shilling,” of a life and profession not beholden to anyone or anything, photographing and writing about whatever strikes his fancy. And he says and knows more about high fashion and low, dressing trends, the elite and the sub-elite than anyone else still extant in the international world. Bill believes if we stopped covering “fashion” we would miss quite a lot culture-wise — and it just might be the end of civilization as we know it. He says we can’t dispense with that frivolity in our culture. (Not to mention that business – the beloved “retail” business – is so important to New York and to the body politic. It helps keep big cities going and little towns hoping.)
They have made a documentary about Bill Cunningham, and it is the talk of towns from here to Paris and Milan. It is titled “Bill Cunningham New York,” directed by Richard Press. It is showing at Manhattan’s Museum of Fine Arts. Everybody who is anybody is talking about it.
This same unassuming creature who eschews publicity was somehow convinced that his life and times should be noticed. He has already refused to be honored by almost everything although back in the Princess Diana years, I did convince him to accept the Fashion Institute of Technology award and he rode out on the stage at Lincoln Center to take the prize from my hand, still astride his bike. Then I convinced him that he should become a “Living Landmark” for the New York Landmarks Conservancy. Bill kicked, demurred, and refused, saying: “No, no way and never!” But finally I got him to accept although he refused to be at a table honoring him and instead worked through the evening photographing others.
But when he finally came up to accept his investiture, he gave the Conservancy one of the best speeches about saving New York buildings and monuments and other aspects of culture that we’d ever heard. I see in his documentary that Bill also accepted a great big important award in Paris and he made his modest comments in French.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the Cunningham documentary is that it offers us three of fashion’s most fashionable and cultured ladies speaking of “their” Bill and how they love him and how important he is. Well, that is two of these women spoke eloquently about Bill and what he means as a reporter and a kind-hearted friend.
They are Anna Wintour of Vogue and the philanthropist and usually shy, retiring wife of designer Oscar de la Renta, one Annette. Both women appear to advantage and come off just great.
Then Bill himself selects his own third icon. He says that Mercedes Bass is the sine qua non of high fashion these days and he compares her to a Sargent painting. (So, no question, Mrs.Bass — who has helped save the Metropolitan Opera — must love Bill too.)
I’ve never met anyone who met him who didn’t.