One of the great perks about my Clark Kent job is that I am constantly brushing up against interesting people doing interesting things. I recently bumped into Bill Cunningham at the elevators early one rainy morning. He is a super-humble man who is still setting the industry on its ear at 80. He rides a bike everywhere in all sorts of weather and is the only photographer at the Old Gray Lady who hasn’t gone digital.
I had wanted to attend the screening at MOMA of the documentary about him called Bill Cunningham’s New York. It began shooting the day before 9/11 and followed him around as he simply did his job. I apologized to him for not being able to attend because it was sold out, but quickly congratulated him for that very same reason. He seemed a little grumpy and I thought I’d messed up with him. After he finished blowing his nose, blocked up from a rough bike ride, he said he wouldn’t know anything about it. “I didn’t attend,” he said. “I don’t want anything to do with it. I only did it for the house ads.”
In other words, he doesn’t want the attention and only agreed to participate to help the paper.
Most of the people I know are out doing everything and anything for attention, myself included. “Please recognize me. Please do something to say what I’m doing isn’t for naught.” Not Bill. Honestly, you’d have no idea he’s The Bill Cunningham.
I want to be like Bill when I grow up.