For decades, Foy was a quiet if supremely capable avatar of the city’s gracious, aesthetically minded, boldface-named social milieu, a latter-day Gilded Age that flourished in New York in the years before the Stonewall uprising and for some time after, of which Truman Capote was perhaps the best-known embodiment.
With Leo Lerman, his companion of nearly half a century, Foy passed the years in a welter of dinner parties, holiday fetes, black-tie galas and opening nights. This heady whirl is recounted in “The Grand Surprise” (2007), the posthumous journals of Lerman, a writer and editor for Condé Nast publications who died in 1994.
On any given night — first in the crumbling brownstone on upper Lexington Avenue where their romance began in the late 1940s, and later in the apartment in the Osborne, to which the couple moved in 1967 — the Foy-Lerman firmament might include many of these stars: Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Leonard Bernstein, Paul Bowles, Maria Callas, Mr. Capote, Carol Channing, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Aaron Copland, Marcel Duchamp, Margot Fonteyn, John Gielgud, Martha Graham, Cary Grant, Anaïs Nin, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Edith Sitwell, Susan Sontag, Virgil Thomson, Lionel and Diana Trilling and Anna May Wong.
Leo Lerman was an American writer and editor who worked for Condé Nast Publications. Lerman also wrote for the New York Herald Tribune, Harper's Bazaar, Dance Magazine, and Playbill. Lerman’s lifelong love was artist Gray Foy, together from 1948 until Lerman's death in 1994. When Lerman died without completing his life story, Gray discovered that Leo had actually kept diary notebooks. Stephen Pascal used these notebooks and other outside materials about Lerman's life to put together the book.
Gray Foy was an artist of considerable early reputation, in later years known as a tastemaker, party-giver, genteel accumulator and perennial fixture of NYC cultural life. “He was the last of a breed,” said Kaye, who married Foy in Manhattan in 2011 and is his only immediate survivor. “A breed of person who was educated and interested in everything that was artistic. He knew every piece of classical music, the words to every song until 1965, architecture, cooking, and the art of conversation.”
MOST IMAGES TAKEN FROM "CHEZ LEO & GRAY", ACNE PAPER #10, STORY BY JOAN JULIET BUCK, PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERIC BOMAN; SUPPLEMENTARY INTERIOR IMAGES TAKEN FROM ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST, OCTOBER 2005, PHOTOGRAPHED BY DERRY MOORE (http://keehnankonyha.com/journal/2010/11/2
Foy continued entertaining to the end of his life, giving parties for as many as 100 guests. With his death, an era passes.
“He was the last of a breed,” said Kaye, a longtime friend who married Foy in Manhattan in 2011 and is his only immediate survivor. “A breed of person who was educated and interested in everything that was artistic. He knew every piece of classical music, he knew the words to every song until 1965, he knew architecture, he knew cooking, and he knew the art of conversation.”
He also knew how to draw. As a young man, Mr. Foy was renowned for two things: his ethereal beauty and his artistic promise. He drew as he lived, in minute, meticulously constructed abundance, and his work resembles that of no other artist.
A typical pencil drawing by Foy, on which he might spend as much as a year, teems with massed forms that seem to rear up out of a shared shadowy past: human limbs and torsos, webs of twisted organic shapes that recall tree roots and leaves. The resulting image, built up of hundreds of thousands of tiny black marks, suggests work done by M. C. Escher.
A 1942 drawing by Foy, “Dimensions,” has been donated to the Museum of Modern Art in New York by one of his friends, the actor Steve Martin.
What he was trying to do in his work, Foy has said in interviews, was catch and hold memory on paper. And though his artistic career ultimately yielded to the demands of domesticity, it was clear that his domestic life, too, with the vast assemblages and tender care of people and things it entailed, was equally about the custodianship of memory.
Frederick Gray Foy Jr. was born in Dallas on August 10, 1922; after his parents separated when he was about 4, he moved with his mother to Los Angeles.
During World War II, Foy worked in a Lockheed aircraft plant in California. He later attended Southern Methodist University before moving to New York, where he studied art at Columbia.
He found critical success while he was still a student. In an article about Foy’s work in 1948, The New York Herald Tribune described him as “a superb craftsman, a young person who will someday be reckoned with in the field of modern art.”
That year, Foy met Lerman at a party at Lerman’s home. (On arriving, Foy had an augury of their luminous future together: When he knocked on the door, it was answered by Marlene Dietrich.)
Though Foy had several well-reviewed gallery shows, created book jackets and classical-album covers and won a 1961 Guggenheim Fellowship for his drawing, his role as helpmeet to the far more gregarious Lerman — it was Foy who shopped, cooked and otherwise arranged their days — gradually eclipsed his art.
It was a role he accepted, Kaye said, for the love of Lerman and out of immense affection for their friends.
Leo Lerman (May 23, 1914 – August 22, 1994) was an American writer and editor who worked for Condé Nast Publications for more than 50 years. Lerman also wrote for the New York Herald Tribune, Harper's Bazaar, Dance Magazine, and Playbill. (Picture: Leo Lerman by Oliviero Toscani)
Lerman’s lifelong love and partner was artist Gray Foy, together from 1948 until Lerman's death in 1994. When Lerman died without completing his life story, Gray discovered that Leo had actually kept diary-like notebooks. Foy showed them to Stephen Pascal, who used these notebooks and other outside materials about Lerman's life to put together the book. (Picture: Gray Foy)
Foy was an artist. He stopped doing his obsessively detailed drawings years ago, but one hangs at the museum of Modern Art, a gift of Steve Martin. He had just had his first show at the Durlacher Brothers gallery in 1948, and got by with a night job in the art department of Columbia University, when he went to a party Leo Lerman gave for the couturier Peirre Balmain in his basement apartment in 1948, and never left.
Lerman was born in New York City, the son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Ida (née Goldwasser) and Samuel Lerman. He grew up in East Harlem and Queens, New York. As a child, he accompanied his house-painter grandfather and father on various jobs in upper-class homes. He was openly gay.
Selections from his journals, roughly 10 percent of the writings, were published in 2007 as The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman. Meant to be the source material for a novel he never wrote, the journals detail his social and business interactions with a remarkable number of famous and important people who passed through the New York arts scene from the 1940s to the '90s.
Lerman died in New York City on August 22, 1994. He was 80. Frederick Gray "Gray" Foy, Jr, son of Frederick Gray Foy (1892 - 1969), was born on Aug. 10, 1922 Dallas, Texas, and died Nov. 23, 2012.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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