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

Senator Gillibrand Named to Senate Armed Services Committee

Today, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a strong ally during efforts to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, was named to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) for the 112th Congress. Along with other Congressional allies, Gillibrand fought to make repeal legislation a reality in 2010, and has been at the front of efforts to allow service members to serve openly since coming to the Senate in 2009.

Sen. Gillibrand previously sat on the House Armed Services Committee when she represented New York’s 20th District in the House.

“One of the reasons I came to Congress was to strengthen our national security and serve as a voice for our troops and military families,” said Gillibrand. “I am honored to once again serve on the Armed Services Committee to continue fighting for America’s troops and veterans.”

During the coming year, Gillibrand will join Sen. Joe Lieberman and the SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin on the committee, as they work with the Department of Defense to dismantle the “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” law, and oversee the transition to open service.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Human Rights Campaign Field Staffer named “Organizer of the Year”

Nancy Pelosi Congratulates HRC Organizer Karl Bach for his work in Nebraska moments before sending DADT repeal bill to the president

HRC Regional Field Organizer Karl Bach was voted Organizer of the Year this week by Grassroots Solutions, a national grassroots training organization.

Karl was recognized by this prestigious group for his organizing leadership in many states, including Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Delaware and Texas.  But it was Karl’s field work in Nebraska that made history.  Karl built and led a team of Nebraska organizers that created a grassroots campaign in support of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell directed at Senator Ben Nelson.

Many in Nebraska noted that Nebraska had never seen such a large, strategic, and effective grassroots program until HRC hit the ground.

Karl’s  leadership team included Nebraskans Nic Swiercek and Cassie Fleming.  Together they identified and mobilized hundreds of Nebraskan veterans (gay and straight), and thousands of Nebraskans across the state.

When Senator Ben Nelson issued a statement the day before the May vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee, Karl and his team were deservedly proud of their accomplishment.  In fact, Senator Nelson’s staff commented that it was HRC’s field effort that helped make it possible for the Senator to vote yes.

Karl was in Delaware this election season, engaging HRC members in the high-profile Senate race there. He was also in New Hampshire, working with New Hampshire Freedom to Marry, to help win marriage equality in the state.

Karl has worked in New Jersey alongside Garden State Equality as they sought to win marriage equality; he worked in Florida helping to protect equal rights at the ballot box in Gainesville; he was in Texas in 2008, working on state legislative elections.

Karl is not only a great organizer, but he’s also a wonderful colleague. The HRC field team and the entire HRC family are so proud of this well-deserved recognition of Karl Bach.  Karl Bach, you rock.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Newly named anti-gay hate groups plead victimhood but do not address charges

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

Apparently some organizations who are on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list and profiles of anti-gay hate groups aren't happy about it and their spokespeople are addressing the issue.

But the venue that they chose to address SPLC's list and the way that they are saying (or rather what they are not saying) raises some questions as to the accuracy of their complaints.

Coral Ridge Ministries's Robert Knight, Concerned Women for America's Wendy Wright, and Christian Anti-Defamation Coalition head Gary L. Cass all responded in outraged tones over SPLC's either profiling or designating their organizations as anti-gay hate groups.

The venue where they choose to address the charges was on the pages of World Net Daily, an online publication which is infamous for its anti-gay rhetoric.

A writer on the site, Les Kinsolving, has in the past referred to the lgbt community as the “sodomy lobby.”

In October of this year, he called a judge’s order to stop enforcement of the military’s ban on gay and lesbian troops in the military as a “disease ridden judicial decision.”

In August of this year, the publication dropped conservative writer Ann Coulter as a keynote speaker from a conference it held because she earlier spoke at a conference held by a gay Republican group.

And in February of this year, another writer on World Net Daily, Molotov Mitchell, spoke out in favor of Uganda's “Kill The Gays” bill, even evoking Martin Luther King Jr's name in defense of it. 

Joining Cass, Perkins, and Knight was Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in an official statement which may not have been put out to World Net Daily specifically but was still picked up by the publication.

The irony of appearing in an anti-gay online publication in order to complain about being unfairly targeted as anti-gay seemed to have escaped Perkins, Wright, Knight, and Cass. This is probably because they were too busy pleading victimhood.

Knight - “Smearing legitimate groups merely for disagreeing about homosexuality is a very hateful act.”

Perkins“The Left's smear campaigns of conservatives is being driven by the clear evidence that the American public is losing patience with their radical policy agenda as seen in the recent election and in the fact that every state, currently more than thirty, that has had the opportunity to defend the natural definition of marriage has done so . . .”

Cass“We are going to form a coalition of organizations to lobby Congress to withhold funds from SPLC.”

Wright - “If they were to judge according to actions, they would have to have a special section for homosexual groups that vandalize and threaten people who oppose the homosexual agenda. We've had death threats against us posted openly on websites because of our work to uphold traditional marriage.”

Of course Wright did not say just which lgbt groups were threatening her organization. Nor did she, Knight, Perkins, or Cass directly address any of the charges lodged by the SPLC, which are listed in a detailed report.

For the record, Knight, whose name pops up several times in the report, is inaccurate when he said that groups are being smeared for voicing a mere objection to homosexuality. SPLC said the following in the report:

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.

SPLC also gave a detailed description as to what these falsehoods are, including the claims that:

Gays molest children at a higher rate than heterosexuals,

Same sex parents harm children,

Gays have a lifespan shorter than heterosexuals, and

Gays controlled the Nazi party in Germany and helped orchestrate the Holocaust.

SPLC contends that these groups are knowingly pushing these falsehoods.

Now it would seem to me that through all of the whining and clinging to the cross of victimization done by Knight, Perkins, Wright, and Cass would be some type of declaration that these charges aren't true.

Maybe some type of short statement such as “we never said these things” or “we were misconstrued.”

But none of the four denied the fact that their organizations are pushing these falsehoods.

So while it seems that these groups aren't ignoring SPLC's charges, it's obvious that they are doing a insanely poor job of refuting them.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Lesbian named to Colorado’s Supreme Court

Congrats to Monica Marquez:

The appointment of Monica Marquez to the Colorado Supreme Court moves the state past a couple of ethnic and sexual-orientation milestones.

But as he pondered his choice among three qualified candidates, history wasn’t important to Gov. Bill Ritter.

“It is not because Monica is a Latina or because she is gay,” he said. “I chose her because of her analytical ability and her keen intellect.”

On Wednesday, as Ritter announced that Marquez — currently deputy Colorado attorney general — would become the state’s next Supreme Court justice, the Capitol erupted in cheers from her colleagues and family.

Marquez also got support from Colorado’s GOP AG John Suthers:

“She is just terrific,” Suthers said. “She is warm, kind and generous. I think he picked the absolute best.”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright