Every Sunday, like clockwork, I
get the New York Times and open up to the Style section first. I am keeping
my fingers crossed that one or two of our Galas has been covered by Bill
Cunningham. Two weeks ago we hit the jackpot and 4 Plaza Galas were
featured. I think it is a catering thing we do in the hotel business to
see if your party garnered the blessing by Bill. Since, we reopened in
2008 every Gala really begins when Bill shows up with his 35-millimeter camera
slung around his neck. He had two uniforms. One was a dark suit
with a black tie or his more traditional French-blue workers jacket, khaki
pants and black sneakers. His only mode of transportation his infamous
bicycle. Nothing fancy just a simple bike with maybe 2 gears. Even in the dead of winter with snow falling, the bike was at work.
As mentioned before in previous
stories about Bill, I know from first hand experience he never took an hors d'ouvre, sat down at a table and not even a simple glass of water was taken. He
kept it very professional. I don’t think he ever wanted to owe anything
to anyone. He was all business, and his business was documenting the social
world of New York and what they wore. A Gala favorite of Bill’s to
capture, Mercedes Bass philanthropist and undeniable taste in fashion said, “There will
never be another Bill Cunningham. He was a wonderfully talented photographer
and a very special human being. I will miss him very, very
much!" I personally will miss seeing him snapping away on 57th and 5th for 'Fashion & Style'. It's rumored that there's a petition going around to rename 57th and 5th "Bill Cunningham Corner" - I hope it's true. Not only did he focus on featuring the notable and famous New Yorkers, he had a zest for seeking out the ordinary who looked extraordinary in their day-to-day style.
Peg Breen, President of The New York’s Landmarks Conservancy stated, “Bill Cunningham was so self-effacing that I was surprised he agreed to be honored as a “Living Landmark” in 2009. He then continued the surprise with a moving talk at the dinner praising the audience as the people who made New York special through their work and philanthropy. While he photographed fashion at innumerable galas, he also documented a generation of leaders who keep our great institutions alive."
Anna Wintour also has been
quoted as saying, "We all got dressed for Bill." I would like to think that
Bill doesn’t have to worry about locking his bike in heaven and that he is busy
taking photos of Jackie O, Brooke Astor, Liz Taylor and Amy Winehouse.