August 9, 1941– Way Bandy made up some of the planet’s most beautiful and accomplished women on our pretty, spinning blue orb, and by “made up” I don’t mean “imagined”, although he did do that too in a way. He called it: “Faces Designed By”. His clients included Elizabeth Taylor, Raquel Welch, Catherine Deneuve, Lauren Hutton, Farrah Fawcett, Barbra Streisand, Gloria Vanderbilt, Lee Radziwill, Cher, Sigourney Weaver and Cheryl Tiegs.
On the night he left this world, a photograph of Bandy with another of his special ladies, Nancy Reagan, was sent to his hospital room from the White House.
Elizabeth Taylor wrote:
“Bandy was like an artist using a palette.”
Famed photographer Francesco Scavullo claimed:
“Way Bandy was not only one of the greatest makeup artists of our time, but also one of the most beautiful men in mind and spirit.”
Bandy worked with all the greatest fashion photographers: Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Hort P.Horst, and Hiro. His book, Designing Your Face (1977), was a bodacious, big bestseller.
When Bandy was taken by HIV in 1986, the NY Times obituary stated that he died of “unknown causes”, that he was a bachelor, and that it was his wish that any survivors not be identified. He was cremated. He had always guarded his private life, but he died during an era when it was too risky to identify AIDS as the disease that took him. Yet, more than 200 friends, fans and associates showed up for his memorial service. When he passed, not even his closest friends knew his real age and they didn’t even know his real name.
Bandy had taken the media by storm when he transformed middle-aged Watergate whistle-blower Martha Mitchell into a magazine cover girl shot by Scavullo in 1974. Scavullo, Bandy, and his BFF hair stylist, Maury Hobson, all collaborated for nearly 20 years, producing covers shots of everyone from Tatum O’Neal to Ali MacGraw to Jerry Hall.
The Fashion Industry was shocked when Bandy became ill. He was a health nut who lived on juices, took vitamins daily, and he was a vegetarian and Buddhist. When he went on book tours, Bandy required that bottled water be placed in his hotel rooms because he was afraid of the impurities in tap water. He had not been sick in two decades. But when the editor of Vogue Magazine, Grace Mirabella, confronted him about his coughing and sudden weight loss, she and Bandy’s agent had him admitted to Cornell Medical Center on August 6, 1986, just days before his 45th birthday. He was gone within a week. That’s what the plague was like in the mid-1980s. People died miserably, but fast. If he had been diagnosed with cancer or heart disease, it would have been considered the territory of medical science and he might have received help earlier. Unfortunately, AIDS involved politics.
Bandy was not an AIDS activist before he got sick. It was commonly assumed that anyone crusading against AIDS probably had the disease, and he thought it would be bad for business.
After his passing, Bandy’s friends and collaborators learned that had been born Ronald Duane Wright in Birmingham, Alabama. He had once taught college English Literature, he had been married, and that he had fallen in love with NYC while on vacation in 1965. He stayed in the city and the wife went back down South. He rechristened himself as Way Bandy, a name he came up with on a whim. He started a new career and got his nose done.
In 1969, Bandy became the director of the makeup department at Charles Of The Ritz. He left in 1971 to become a freelance makeup artist, proved himself a genius and became very, very wealthy. Ironically, he said:
“Real beauty is inner. By the experiences and opportunities of our lifetimes, we enrich our souls and earn our natural beauty.”
Bandy’s obituaries failed to mention it, but he had been in a relationship with Michael Gardine, a writer and antiques dealer, for 15 years. The couple shared an apartment in NYC and they owned homes in Nantucket and Key West.
I feel that this may seem like a sad story, but more so when I tell you that I had long planned for Scavullo to shoot the cover for my first album Vicodin & Jockstraps with Bandy doing my make-up. Now I realize, that is never going to happen.