A Lasting Impression: My Friend Alan
Alan Winn, Ford Modeling Agency, New York, late 1960s.
We all come into this planet with our stories mostly written, but do we always tell our story to its fullest potential?
Some may boast about their career, a lavish home or new boy toy. Others experience a lifetime of fulfillment to utter only small ovations to their success. Enter Mr. Alan Winn, a soldier, a top male model, a successful restaurateur, an art collector and a charming story-teller.
Alan (left) and an Army buddy waiting for a Greyhound bus to take them on their first trip to New York City. Alan never made it to New York. He met a like-minded guy on the bus and they decided to spend the weekend in a hotel room instead. Summer of 1961.
I met Alan through our common path in visual store merchandising. My first impression was “this ole guy has a flair that reminds me of Halston!” He’d work his beautiful magic on the marble retail floor and dance amongst the ladies as if he actually owned the place. I was intrigued.
Alan and his partner Thad soon became friends outside the workplace and we shared many lovely dinners at their humble duplex apartment. Martinis would be in order along with conversations of their days in New York and Key West. One of my favorite stories was of Bette Midler and Barry Manilow entertaining at their local gay bathhouse.
Alan (kneeling) and Thad at their infamously successful Lazy Afternoon Garden Restaurant, Key West, mid 1980s.
One night we were talking about our first gay magazines and I mentioned mine had been Honcho or Colt. It turned out that Alan and Thad had been neighbors of Colt founder Jim French and had boxes full of his photos featuring just about every 80’s gay icon. I was like a kid in a candy store.
Alan would also show me photos from the Western Photography Guild: “my first purchase of homoerotica,” he told me. And then there were those marvelous little Ferrero nudes… and so much more.
As the years passed I found myself looking up to Alan as an uncle, admiring his discernment and knowledge of the arts, his culinary talent, and his tales of a life well-lived full of carefree love and passion.
When Thad passed away I made a promise to Alan; he would always be family to me and I would never desert that bond. Fast forward to the last eight years of Alan’s life. I became his general caregiver of sorts. We’d run errands, go to doctors’ appointments and have long conversations through lazy Sunday afternoons together. In a way I feel compelled to say: I needed his company as much as he may have needed mine.
Alan in a Karl Lagerfeld campaign, late 1960s and a fashion magazine.
One afternoon Alan came out of his art room with those boxes of photographs he’d shown me years ago. He said “Bruce, Thad would have wanted you and Neil to have these.” (This was in 2013 and Neil was my partner at the time). Well, with profuse appreciation we accepted his gift.
Reboxed and kept on the shelf in our wardrobe, I never assumed much about the collection other than my dear friend Alan wanted me to have it and share it with people, as he had. Other than an occasional dusting off with a “show and tell” among friends, the boxes of men sat unaffected by the years.
March of 2020 came along and Alan’s health declined rapidly to the point I became his full time caregiver and power of attorney. Alan’s only brother was in Utah, stuck there because of Covid-19. Alan passed on May 16, 2020.
Alan in the middle of his Boy Scout troop heading off on a three day wilderness expedition, Preston Idaho, c. 1949.
I was left with the daunting task of donating his belongings and sharing some of his favorite art pieces amongst his nephews and nieces along with a few of his friends. I will always treasure the wonderful memories of our 22 year friendship. The gratitude I have for him as grown even deeper with his passing .
As I became overwhelmed by the duties ahead of me, I decided one evening to take a moment and reminisce through my boxes of photos. My joy came not just from the images, but from the stories and memories of companionship of my dearly missed friend.
Before I knew it I’d amassed an inventory of photos that left me wanting to get them back out into the world for everyone to enjoy. I threw the dice against the wall one day and reached out to Barry at Homobilia and within 15 minutes of our conversation, felt a level of comfort with my decision to consign his collection.
Alan’s hidden treasures have been reborn in a way, and I hope they’ll be enjoyed by other aficionados of homoerotica for many decades to come.
Bruce Smith, North Carolina, November 2020
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