Snap shots: ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ turns the camera on fashion’s most influential paparazzo

LENS ME A SHOE | The Times photographer documents foot fashion in ‘Bill Cunningham New York.’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Maybe Project Runway’s to blame, maybe The Devil Wears Prada, but for the past few years there has been a surplus of documentaries about the fashion industry, with profiles of designers like Valentino (Valentino: The Last Emperor), Yves Saint-Laurent (several in fact), even young designers (Seamless) and Vogue magazine’s editor (The September Issue). (By contrast, I can only recall one fashion doc from the 1990s: Unzipped, about a young designer named Isaac Mizrahi.) Is there really that much to say about dressmaking?

Maybe not, but while Bill Cunningham New York fits broadly within the category of fashion documentaries, its subject is unusual because he eschews the trappings of haute couture even as he’s inextricably a part of it — a huge part, really.

If you don’t read the New York Times, you might not recognize Cunningham’s name, and even if you do read it, it may not have registered with you. For about, well, maybe 1,000 years, Cunningham has chronicled New York society with his candid photos of the glitterati on the Evening Hours page. At the same time, however, he has documented real fashion — how New Yorkers dress in their daily lives — with his page On the Street, where he teases out trends (from hats to men in skirts to hip-hoppers allowing their jeans to dangle around their knees). Anna Wintour may tell us what we should wear; Cunningham shows us what we do.

“We all get dressed for Bill,” Wintour observes.

What makes Cunningham such an interesting character is how impervious he seems to the responsibility he effortlessly wields. He loves fashion, yes, but he’s not a slave to it himself. He scurries around Manhattan (even in his 80s) on his bicycle (he’s had dozens; they are frequently stolen), sometimes in a nondescript tux but mostly in jeans, a ratty blue smock and duck shoes, looking more like a homeless shoeshiner than the arbiter of great fashion. He flits through the city like a pixie with his 35mm camera (film-loaded, not digital), a vacant, toothy smile peaking out behind the lens, snapping the denizens of Babylon whether they want it or not.

One of the funniest moments is when strangers shoo him away as some lunatic paparazzo, unaware how all the well-heeled doyens on the Upper East would trade a nut to have Cunningham photograph them for inclusion in the Times. Patrick McDonald, the weirdly superficial modern dandy (he competed as a wannabe designer on the flop reality series Launch My Line a few seasons back), seems to exist with the hope that Cunningham will shoot him. And shoot him he does.

Many artists are idiosyncratic, even eccentric, but Cunningham is supremely odd by any standards. He lives in a tiny studio near Carnegie Hall filled with filing cabinets cluttered with decades of film negatives on the same floor as a crazy old woman, a kind of urban variation on Grey Gardens. He knows tons of people but most of them seem to know very little about him. By the time near the end when the filmmaker, director Richard Press, finally comes out and ask him outright whether he’s gay, Cunningham arches in that prickly New England way, never really answering outright, though he says he’s never — never — had a romantic relationship. Things like that were simply not discussed by men of his generation.

In some ways, we never really know any more about Cunningham at the end than any of his friends do, and perhaps even him. Cunningham comes across as defiantly non-self-reflective. He lets his work do all the talking for him. And that work has a lot to say on its own.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright

Family Research Council asks for money instead of answering charges of unethical behavior

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

The Family Research Council has yet to give a "detailed response" to charges lodged by the Southern Poverty Law Center that it spreads untrue propaganda about the lgbt community by means of either junk science or distorted science.

However, the group did take time out of its day to send out the following email requesting money. I took the liberty of zeroing in on the most pertinent part:

As you may have heard, the ultra-liberal Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recently declared Family Research Council and a few of our allies as "hate groups."

How do you feel about you and FRC being lumped in with neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, racist skinheads, and other radical organizations?

I am outraged. But more than that, I am concerned. Never before has FRC been slapped with such a false and malicious accusation by an organization claiming to be mainstream.

Thankfully, we have hundreds of good friends who have stepped forward to denounce the SPLC in the strongest possible terms and to declare their support of FRC. The list includes national leaders who signed a Statement of Support.

Now I urge you to show you won't be intimidated into silence. Please follow this link to take your place alongside these leaders and others in defense of FRC by making a tax-deductible donation to support our work.

The SPLC is pressuring major news networks, magazines, newspapers, and online news and opinion outlets to not invite us on their programs, run our opinion pieces, or quote our views. It even hosted an event aimed solely at smearing FRC.

Astonishing, isn't it?

The SPLC is now attacking FRC and other groups that uphold Judeo-Christian moral views, including marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

By labeling its opponents "hate groups," the SPLC is saying: No discussion. No consideration of the issues. No engagement. No debate!

As usual FRC is playing the victim while evading the true story. SPLC said the following about FRC and several other so-called pro-family groups:

. . . a hard core of smaller groups, most of them religiously motivated, have continued to pump out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities. These groups’ influence reaches far beyond what their size would suggest, because the “facts” they disseminate about homosexuality are often amplified by certain politicians, other groups and even news organizations. . . Generally, the SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.

The falsehoods in question include the beliefs that:

  • Homosexuals molest children at far higher rates than heterosexuals,
  • Same-sex parents harm children, and
  • Homosexuals don’t live nearly as long as heterosexuals.

For its part, SPLC has listed detailed reasons as to the inaccuracies of these claims.

 

FRC, on the hand, has yet to fully answer SPLC's charges even though it said two months ago that it would give a "detailed response."

FRC's entire campaign  of  "they are trying to silence us" has been a clever dodge, or a non-sequitir which only serves to cover up that SPLC is in fact pushing for the debate while FRC is avoiding it.

Conveniently absent from FRC’s email – and its other statements – is suitable refutation to SPLC’s charges or any type of refutation at all.

At the times in which FRC did try to address the charges head on, such as when FRC head Tony Perkins went on the news program Hardball or when an FRC employee recommended a piece written by Perkins,  the organization was called out for engaging in exactly the same tactics SPLC accused them of – distorting science to denigrate the lgbt community.

No one wants to silence FRC.

Not SPLC, nor do I, nor does any other person who sent emails to the organization asking for the "detailed response" to SPLC's charges, which FRC promised to give.

All we want are answers. And we have yet to receive those answers.

In the long run, FRC's plea for donations may be successful in terms of monetary benefits.

But what about personal integrity?

If the FRC considers itself a Christian organization, then it needs to act like one.

And somehow I don't think that spreading untrue stories about the lgbt community and then playing the evasion game when called out on this behavior is a Christian virtue.

Stating that you are a moral, Christian group doesn't necessarily make you one. Especially when your actions have been most un-Christian.

Related posts:

Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council just can't stop engaging in duplicitious tacticsPay attention to this post. In an interview last week, FRC spokesperson Peter Sprigg criticized studies looking at same-sex households in part because the studies in question doesn't compare same-sex households to heterosexual households. However Sprigg's objection is ironic seeing that he freely cites studies that don't compare the two dynamics when he denigrates heterosexual households.

Family Research Council's Tony Perkins pushes George Rekers flavored falsehoods on Hardball

Write Chris Matthews and Hardball to complain about Tony Perkins's lies

SUCCESS! Chris Matthews addresses distortion of Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council

Peter Sprigg won't address hate group charges but will lie about same-sex households

Family Research Council has yet to come out with 'detailed response' against SPLC charges

Will the Family Research Council ever fulfill its promise and address SPLC's charges?
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet