Faces Friday: Don Bachardy

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While still a student, I had the good luck to befriend the legendary writer Christopher Isherwood and his life partner, portrait artist Don Bachardy. Long afternoons spent talking with Chris in his airy home office in Santa Monica Canyon (where he listened patiently to my romantic woes and countered by encouraging me in my artistic pursuits), and even longer afternoons spent sitting for Don (easier said than done, and I don’t think Don was ever too pleased with the results) are among my most cherished memories of the young/dumb/prehistoric era.

I’ll never forget the many dinner parties I was privileged to attend at the Isherwood-Bachardy home, where I stuffed my face next to the likes of David Hockney, George Cukor, Billy Al Bengston, Tony Richardson, and Anne Baxter. I even got to return the favor by throwing a dinner party for them in the house I shared with three other kids. Chris and Don were happy to come, as was my pal Don Diers, and Anne Baxter (who happened to be a neighbor). I made my special recipe, Chicken Kitchen Sink – don’t ask – there was plenty of cheap wine and free drama (Baxter put on a veritable one-woman show). We all had a blast.

Chris and Anne Baxter are no longer with us. But Don is, as wirey, energetic, and disarmingly honest as ever. In addition to his portraiture – which has been included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum of Art in San Francisco, the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, CA, the Smithsonian Institute, and the National Portrait Gallery in London, to name a few – Don runs the Isherwood Foundation out of the house in Santa Monica Canyon.

This fall, Bachardy will be exhibiting portraits, made over the last 40 years, of acclaimed So Cal artists such as Peter Alexander, Billy Al Bengston, and Ed Ruscha at Craig Krull Gallery.

Meanwhile, this week it was payback time. I decided to turn the tables and ask Don to sit for me. He very graciously obliged. I went easy on him.

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