This Sunday is both Father’s Day and Al Hirschfeld’s birthday. To celebrate the occasion, we sat down with Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, president of The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, which honors her late husband’s art through exhibitions, programs, and educational initiatives. In our brief chat, she discusses birthday traditions, birthday cards, and fatherhood. So, how will you spend the holiday? Come check out The Hirschfeld Century and enjoy a two-for-one admission with a printout of this blog post!
You knew Al Hirschfeld since the 1960s and spent countless birthdays with him. Did he have any favorite traditions, like seeing shows or going out to particular restaurants for dinner?
Al was usually the center of a large birthday party. It might have been in his dining room or garden on 95th Street. Friends like Jules Feiffer, Sidney Lumet, Boris Aronson, Marge Champion, Rosemary and Edward Chodorov, the lovely raven haired wife Dolly and their daughter Nina and her children. In later years I brought my two sons and their families. Sitting on Al’s legendary barber chair was a special treat for the children.
Did Al ever present his drawings as birthday cards to you or to friends? If so, can you recall a notable example?
Of course! One birthday he presented me with this drawing featuring our two new kittens. He portrays me as a lion tamer!
Al once said, “If you live long enough, everything happens!”As a man who lived to celebrate 99 birthdays, what wisdom do you think he drew from being a part of New York culture for almost a century?
Throughout his life, Al loved the city and followed the sounds of music from Greenwich Village to Harlem. His ability to recognize transitions and to move freely between decades was remarkable. He made new friends, read The New York Times every day, and welcomed new challenges. His art and the theater sustained him. Even at age 93, he was diving head first into new experiences—we married that year!