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Friday, May 7, 2021

Inside the Townhouse Formerly Known as the ‘Lisa Frank Club’

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Tennis fans used to reach for the Cheetos as they waited at the West Side Tennis Club for the superrich crowd to get in to attend matches. Because everything was done over the counter at the club, it often felt like waiting in line for a fast-food double cheeseburger.

But it was during this era of “faux-architecture” that the wooden, gussied-up structure on 88th Street came to be known as “the Lisa Frank clubhouse.”

Now, they know it as the Richard Avedon Club, where portraits of such well-known people as James Taylor and Mark Twain have been hanging for years.

Avedon is the patriarch of a small community of men who sport this wild-haired, goateed, suave look. Avedon became the fabric of the scene after fame courted his style, and his trips to the monied Upper West Side at age 41. His job and good looks catapulted him up the social ranks. Avedon went on to capture many of the families, lovers and high-society activities that still prevail in this neighborhood. He graced the cover of Seventeen magazine in 1958, and appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on New Year’s Eve that same year.

And just like that, he turned into a celebrity: admired, snapped and photographed. “Richard Avedon has been recognized as one of the best photographers working in the 20th century,” said Gus Heller, an art historian at Bard College.

Before Avedon, “[pre-Avedon] there was really no glamour playfulness in photography in New York,” said Tom Jacoby, curator of the Richard Avedon Gallery.

According to Jacoby, Avedon is credited with “connecting middle America with public life and to public morality.”

He opened a fashion magazine at age 28 that was then called “Avedon.” When it was renamed “Vogue” in 1960, Avedon became its “creative director.” He then graduated to a role at another magazine in 1961 called “Vogue, Vocal magazine.” He was also the fashion director of House & Garden.

“I learned to snap in the Eisenhower era of all the ‘glamor models’ who just signed in for a week here or there,” Avedon once said.

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