David Bard: September 14, 1965 – September 14, 2021

Note: The following is reprinted, with permission, from a September 15, 2021 blog by Ed Hamilton, for his Living with Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog (“The Last Outpost of Bohemia”). To access the original, click here.

L to R: Stanley and David Bard in 1989. The photo, by Rita Barros, was included in her 1999 photography book, “Fifteen Years: Chelsea Hotel.” | Photo courtesy of Barros

 

BY ED HAMILTON | David Bard, beloved former general manager of the Chelsea Hotel, passed away on Tuesday, September 14, on the day of his 56th birthday. David, together with his father Stanley, from whom he was set to assume the mantle of leadership, will always be remembered as the heart and soul of the Chelsea.

As Stanley’s only son, it had always appeared to be David’s destiny to manage the Chelsea Hotel. After all, it was no mistake that he was named after his grandfather, also David Bard, who bought an ownership stake in the Chelsea in the mid-forties. So it must’ve been quite a blow when the Bard family, which had owned and operated the hotel for over 60 years, was forced to step back from their management role in 2007, and, under pressure from minority shareholders, to subsequently sell the hotel in 2011.

It’s safe to assume that Stanley, a larger-than-life figure, must’ve been a hard example to live up to. But while the elder Bard was well known for his generosity, David also had a big heart, and residents would sometimes appeal to him when they feared Stanley wouldn’t listen. David would usually do his best to meet them half-way.

But David was no clone of his father and had his own ideas about how the hotel should be run. As quoted in the New York Times on 6/28/90: “My idea was not to change that bohemian feeling that the people we’ve always had here feel very comfortable with,” said David Bard, “but to cater to the patrons of artists, as well as producers and directors, and make them feel comfortable, too.”

Perhaps the following passage, provided to the blog by Sherill Tippins, author of Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel, best captures the touching mix of respect and protectiveness in which David held his father:

The first time I approached Stanley to interview him, he took me to the room behind the front desk where several desks were set up at the time for employees. We sat down at one of the desks, and Stanley started giving me the standard spiel about the hotel’s history and his and his family’s role in it. But then, suddenly, he veered into a rant about how the board of directors had recently kicked him off the board, and how his only his son and daughter remained in a position to try to save the hotel from being destroyed by the other board members, who were interested only in profits and had no comprehension of what the hotel stood for or what it still meant to the city of New York. As he continued, his voice growing louder and his tone more distraught with every word, a young man behind us jumped up and put his arms on Stanley’s shoulders, trying to force him back into his chair, ordering him to be quiet, that I was “the press,” and that broadcasting their problems in front of me would only make matters worse. After some time, this young man—who, I learned, was David Bard—managed to settle Stanley down a little, at least to the point at which Stanley offered to show me the rooms they had renovated in an attempt to appease the board members. While we were upstairs, Stanley told me how proud he was of his son, whom he expected to take his place as manager of the hotel, and how perfect he would be for the role because David understood what made the Chelsea residents tick. I myself could see that Stanley’s children were playing crucial roles in getting him through that difficult time. Even if they were not successful in their attempt to keep the Chelsea, they stood by Stanley, giving him their full love and support all the way to the end—which is all that a father can wish for.

I hadn’t seen much of David in recent years, though while the hair salon was still in the building next door, he was in the habit of coming in once a month for a haircut and I often ran into him on the street. Inevitably, he would express a deep sadness over what was happening to the hotel in his absence, though also a boundless confidence that it would live on in some form or other. Most strikingly, he always made sure to inquire about the welfare of the residents of the hotel, for each one of whom he seemed to have a genuine affection. Usually, he couldn’t quite bring himself to venture inside, finding the prospect too heartbreaking to bear, but had to content himself with a furtive glance through the lobby doors.

David was torn from us too soon, but he’ll always live on, in the walls of the Chelsea as sure as he does in our hearts. We know David loved the Chelsea, and we can only hope his last memories of the hotel and its people were happy ones.

David is preceded in death by his father, Stanley Bard, and his mother, Alice Beer Bard. He is survived by his wife, Debbie Bard, their two children, Amanda and Myles, and his sister, Michele Bard Grabell, and her husband, Matthew Grabell.

[The funeral was held on Friday, September 17, at 11:30am at Cedar Hill Cemetery, 735 Forest Avenue, Mount Paramus, New Jersey.]

David Bard (left) and Quentin Crisp in front of the Chelsea Hotel in 1993. | Photo by Rita Barros

 

To purchase the photography book Fifteen Years: Chelsea Hotel by Rita Barros, click here.

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