Every day, 82-year-old Bill Cunningham stands on a bustling NYC street corner and takes pictures of strangers. The man's no creep; he's the photographer behind New York Times' "On the Street" column in the Sunday Styles section. And to appear in one of his round-ups is validation that you're sporting a trend months before it hits the runways. He's been shooting street fashion for the Grey Lady and independent mags like Details and Paper for over 30 years.
His curatorial eye is enough of a reason to see the biopic Bill Cunningham New York when it opens at O Cinema tonight. But it's Cunningham's extreme dedication for his craft that makes the film a eulogy to a bygone era of bohemianism. How many people are willing to shave down to the most spartan of lifestyles so they can do whatever the freak they want?
As director Richard Press reveals, although Cunningham has spent evenings alongside socialites like Brooke
Astor, he lives an almost monastic life of voluntary poverty. He lives
in a tiny studio in Carnegie Hall, which is lined with file cabinets and
a fold-up cot but has no bathroom or kitchen.
And even though Vogue
editor Anna Wintour admits to dressing to impress him, he lives on $3
breakfast specials and mends his daily uniform of a cheap blue parka
with duck tape.
First Thought Films / Zeitgeist Films
He's surrounded by label-drenched socialites and designers clamoring for
his attention, but he has never once sold out. His secret? Don't touch
money. As he states in the film, as soon as you depend on a paycheck, people
can start telling you what to do.
(Although he didn't accept pay at
Details or Paper, we're guessing the New York Times must pay the genial
shutterbug something. But considering the dismal state of publishing,
two weekly photo spreads doesn't likely result in full-time cash flow.
And even if it did, we're pretty sure Cunningham would just blow it all
So amongst the sheer fun of seeing the man at work and learning about
his somewhat eccentric domestic life, Bill Cunningham New York had us
thinking: If we were willing to give up indulgences and get down to the real
nitty-gritty of a simple, Frappuccino-free life, would Tom Wolfe
eventually call our life's work awesome? In the film, the New York dandy
and author is just one of many, many fans of Cunningham's worth ethic
The Society is hosting tonight's 7 p.m. preview with a party that includes Zacapa cocktails, organic hors d'oeurves, and DKNY Hosiery. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the guest list before 6 p.m. and learn more about membership. Bill Cunningham,
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New York screens through Sunday at O Cinema (90 NW 29th St., Miami). Tickets cost $7.50 to $10.50. Visit