Sunday, February 17, 2013

Barnaby Conrad, "Man of Many Hats...

...and a Cape" as his obit in the New York Times describes him, died at age 90.

Why do I like the obituaries so much? (Besides the fact that I'm Irish?) Just read these first three paragraphs (my emphasis):

As a 19-year-old art student one summer in Mexico City, Barnaby Conrad attended a bullfight, and, with a whimsical bolt of Hemingwayesque bravado, leapt into the ring and challenged a bull himself, using his Brooks Brothers raincoat as a cape.

He barely escaped, but the stunt amused and impressed the famed bullfighter Felix Guzman, who had been preparing for his turn in the corrida when Mr. Conrad performed his spontaneous, amateurish veronicas. Guzman soon became Mr. Conrad’s tutor in the art of the matador — though, alas, in their first training session together with a live bull, Mr. Conrad was gored through the knee. Just about the time he recovered, he learned he’d been admitted to Yale. His flight back to the United States crashed on the runway in Burbank, Calif.

This eventful summer vacation was a mere prelude to Mr. Conrad’s eventful life. He survived the crash to fight more than 40 bulls in Spain, Mexico and Peru, to write more than 30 books, to earn a living as a portrait painter and a cocktail pianist, to own a celebrated nightclub, to start a writers’ conference. He would descend into and re-emerge from alcoholism and befriend a long list of boldface literary names, including Sinclair Lewis, John Steinbeck, William F. Buckley Jr. and Ray Bradbury, many of whom he painted; his portraits of Alex Haley, James Michener and Truman Capote are in the National Portrait Gallery collection. Perhaps to tempt fate, perhaps to keep it in his own hands, he also learned to fly a plane. 

How can you not read on?

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