It's rare that I can say I've met a legend. Bill Cunningham, the longtime fashion and society photographer for the New York Times, was a legend. He passed away today at age 87. The obit
that the Times wrote explains a lit of what made him a legend. So does the charming little film Bill Cunningham New York.
But I can tell you what I remember of Bill.
Bill was a charming old gentleman who would come most years to take photos at the Jewish Museum's Purim Ball and Family Hanukkah Party. He would enter the room with a warm smile and desire to get good photos. Sometimes that meant the photos we directed him to take. Often that meant the best or most interesting or most unusual photos. He really didn't care that our events were honoring someone so much as he loved to get that shot of the great Purim mask. Or the kid in the wonderful outfit. But he also let us help him. He never had an agenda. He had a camera and a notepad and a smile and a handshake.
Seeing him made us happy. In part because it meant we'd be in the Times. But in part because it just meant Bill was here. Year after year, people asked "is Bill coming?" They wanted to have this singular man take their photos.
I would occasionally see him on the street, just walking or riding along on the bike he'd bounce from event to event on, sometimes in a blue rain slicker. He was indefatigable until the end, a presence in New York and someone that everyone loved.
Bill, we will miss you next February when the Purim Ball rolls around and you are not there. I don't know what the Times will do to fill in the void left on the Evenings Hours page and elsewhere in the Styles section. But you will never be replaced.
Rest well, Bill.