August 9, 1941– Way Bandy made up some of the planet’s most beautiful & accomplished women, & by “made up” I don’t mean imagined, although he did do that 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 & Cheryl Tiegs.
On the night he left this world, a photograph of Bandy with another of his ladies, Nancy Reagan, was sent to his hospital room from the White House.
“Bandy was like an artist using a palette.”
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 & spirit.”
Bandy worked with all the great fashion photographers: Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Horst, & Hiro. His book Designing Your Face (1977) was a 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, & it was his wish that survivors not be identified. He was cremated. He had always guarded his private life, but he died during an era when it was thought too risky to identify AIDS as the disease that took him. Yet, more than 200 friends, fans & associates showed up for his memorial service. When he passed, not even his closest friends knew his real age & 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, & his BFF Hair stylist, Maury Hobson 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 got sick. He was a health nut who lived on juices, took vitamins daily, & was a vegetarian & 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 water from the tap. He had not been sick in 2 decades. But when the editor of Vogue, Grace Mirabella, confronted him about his coughing & weight loss, she & 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 & 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, & he thought it would be bad for business.
After his passing, Bandy’s friends & collaborators learned that was born Ronald Duane Wright in Birmingham, Alabama. He had once taught college English, he had been married, & that he fell in love with NYC while on vacation in 1965. He stayed & the wife went back South. He rechristened himself as Way Bandy, a name he came up with on a whim, started a new career & got his nose done.
In 1969, he 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 & became very, very wealthy. Ironically, he said:
”Real beauty is inner. By the experiences & opportunities of our lifetimes, we enrich our souls & earn our natural beauty.”
Bandy’s obituaries never mentioned it, but he had been in a relationship with Michael Gardine, a writer & antiques dealer, for 15 years. The couple shared an apartment in NYC & owned homes in Nantucket & 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 that will never happen.