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“He was one of a kind–my Tomaso. Bursting with energy and curiosity, he was always trying something new. Like flying a plane. Or baking bread. He couldn’t swim, but he learned how to water-ski at Lake Tahoe anyway to show off to Yul Brynner’s wife! He once biked from New York to Montauk – that’s over one hundred miles – just to see if he could do it and because then he could walk along a deserted stretch of beach, collect some shells, and then visit his first mentor, the photographer James Abbe Jr., who had a shack on the dunes.
Tom was sexy, ebullient, self-involved. He could be good guy, bad guy, tough and tender, Jekyll and Hyde. He took pictures of himself constantly. He dressed stylishly – Armani raincoats, expensive scarves flung about his neck. He looked greatin hats. He collected sports cars; we used to drive out to the Hamptons late at night when there was no traffic, so we’d go very fast. He had a hot temper. But Tom was funny too. We’d laugh our heads off when we were first together. But he also made me cry. Still and all he usually treated everybody with grace.
He had beautiful manners; he was sensitive; he really listened. He was a good friend. He called Diana Vreeland once a week for years. He’d talk even more on the phone with his buddies from the Actors Studio. They all told him their troubles; he never told them his.”
–Patricia Bosworth, from the Introduction
He lead one helluva life: international travel, photographing beautiful women for the two best fashion magazines in America, the venerable Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and learning and perfecting his craft under the watchful, masterful eyes of legends Alexey Brodovitch, Carmel Snow, Diana Vreeland, and Alex Lieberman. His excellent eye and easy and adventuresome spirit all meant that he was always game and able to put whomever was in front of his camera in the most flattering light. People just felt comfortable around Columbo. That’s why we see models strike the poses he was envisioning, and celebrities like Miles Davis (smiling no less!), Comden and Green, a young Mia Farrow and Jane Fonda, and Jack Kerouac all sit before his camera with utter ease.
These rediscovered photographs, celebrated in their time but not seen in decades, are presented here, in book form for the first time ever, by award-winning author and Palumbo’s widow, Patricia Bosworth.
Despite being primarily recognized for his fashion work, Tom was interested in much more, and included in this book are three photo special series, all in important locales to Tom: an annual Catholic festival in his Italian hometown; an intimate, smoky Parisian café; and a street parade for John Glenn in his adopted New York City. Each sheds another angle on the life and talents of Tom Palumbo. For years he told Patricia that he always intended to make a book, but alas was never able to. She knows this is the one he would have made.
Patricia Bosworth, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair for over two decades, is an award-winning journalist and best-selling biographer and memoirist. She was awarded the Front Page Award and was a Senior Fellow in Columbia’s National Arts Journalism Program, where she received a grant to research, Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman, a New York Times bestseller. Bosworth has taught literary nonfiction at Columbia University and Barnard College, and currently co-chairs the Biography Seminar at New York University. She is at work on a second memoir, The Men in My Life, which picks up where Anything Your Little Heart Desires left off and chronicles her young adulthood and her years as an actress. Bosworth lives in New York City.