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André Leon Talley, by Bill Cunningham

If the world of fabulous notables is divided between those who are famous mostly for what they do and those who are famous for who they are, André Leon Talley was difficult to define precisely because he was so much of both. He wrote well without fitting the conventional definition of a writer and styled great photo shoots without really being described as a stylist.

He was also a gay man of a certain generation on whose arm other fabulous notables — usually but not always women — were frequently seen, yet was not, in the classic sense, a walker.

But in that last role, squiring Mariah Carey, Lee Radziwill, Anna Wintour around town, Mr. Talley reached his apex. His coats were fur, his shirts were custom. “Toxic to my budget,” he once said. “Auspicious for my aspirations.”

That made him an obvious fit for Bill Cunningham’s columns, where what got published was a picture-perfect crisscross between a master of self-abnegation who sneaked into rooms and a sovereign of self-creation who strode into them.

One posed, the other snapped. Everybody won.

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