“I once picked up a guy from the Hellfire club, an S&M club, and by the time I dropped him off on the Upper East Side, he had changed his leather cap and everything and put on a pink oxford shirt and some penny loafers. ‘Good morning, sir,’ the doorman said.”
His obituary describes him as an ascetic but it sounds to me like he found the life he loved, and lived it.
He wanted to observe, rather than be observed. Asceticism was a hallmark of his brand.
He didn’t go to the movies. He didn’t own a television. He ate breakfast nearly every day at the Stage Star Deli on West 55th Street, where a cup of coffee and a sausage, egg and cheese could be had until very recently for under $3. He lived until 2010 in a studio above Carnegie Hall amid rows and rows of file cabinets, where he kept all of his negatives. He slept on a single-size cot, showered in a shared bathroom and, when he was asked why he spent years ripping up checks from magazines like Details (which he helped Annie Flanders launch in 1982), said: “Money’s the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive.”
His uniform was utterly utilitarian: a blue French worker’s jacket, khaki pants and black sneakers. Although he sometimes photographed upward of 20 gala events a week, he never sat down at any of them for dinner and would wave away people who walked up to him to inquire whether he would at least like a glass of water.