This post was originally published in September 2011. In memory of Bill Cunningham, I’m re-sharing my brief encounter with the New York Times photographer, who died on Saturday in Manhattan at 87. Thank you for your legacy and inspiration, Bill.
On Saturday night, I went to the Libertine fashion show in midtown Manhattan at Exit Art. It was a gorgeous, warm night, the kind we never get in San Francisco. The show was walking distance from my hotel, and an evening stroll without sleeves was miraculous and lovely. The show was totally fun and quirky, and they served great drinks—another bonus at off-site shows! As I was walking back towards my hotel, I spotted a thin, white-haired man wearing an electric blue windbreaker pedaling by me on a bike. I recognized him right away: Bill Cunningham.
“Bill, I love you!” I yelled. Apparently I couldn’t help myself. Then I saw him de-biking in front of Exit Art, so I backtracked and started following him—one might call it stalking. He parked at the end of the block. I tried to look casual standing (and staring) a few feet away. He locked up his wheels with an enormous metal lock, the same kind he used in the documentary Bill Cunningham New York. When he walked towards me I approached him and gushed about how much the documentary inspired me and what a big fan I was. Unsurprisingly, I became verklempt.
Perhaps to change the subject, he explained that he had just attended some great shows at Milk Studios (“There were five lines at once so it was really great!”) and was heading for Libertine. I was very excited to be chatting with Bill Cunningham, especially since he didn’t seem wary of me as a potential stalker.
Just as he was entering the show I asked if I could snap a picture. He told me to hurry up because he didn’t want to miss anything inside. I snapped the above shot on the fly. As we entered, people asked me who he was, which surprised me.
I saw him again the next day again on the steps of Lincoln Center (photos below). I guess the chances are actually pretty good that you might run into Bill Cunningham during fashion week in New York.