Nov 202013

By Denise Mattia

#05 Rene tastes shrimp-1Why Bill Simmons was allowed to photograph Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll never know. Still, our parents agreed, and the dinner was immortalized in black and white.  Years later my sister, Michele, and I would be grateful for the memory of that evening.

Manhattan, East 52nd Street

Floodlights in place, Bill set up his camera in our dining room and documented the evening.  Today the setting could be a TV retro-sitcom – mother, father, two children (girls rather than a boy and girl), an uncle and our friends, Bill and his lover, George.

The characters

A fashionista, mum was impeccably dressed no matter the circumstance.  Everything, including her daughters had to be perfect.  I always thought, despite a great figure and attractive looks, mum took a cue from Greta Garbo and wouldn’t let anyone shoot her.  Dad looked a little like John Garfield.  A dapper dresser, we have a picture of him dressed in a Homburg hat posing with mum in her 40s outfit — black, open-toed shoes, red envelope and black suit and hat.  They made a stunning couple.

Uncle John had been home a few years from the army and was trying to settle into civilian life. We would learn later his platoon was decimated just as he left on leave.  George too had been in the service. I was fascinated by the tattoos on his arms.  He spoke with a twang, had a droll sense of humor and kept us laughing. Neither man spoke of his military experience.

Bill was my favorite friend.  I remember rushing into his arms every time he came to the house.  He took Michele and me to the ballet and bought us ice cream at Rumplemeyers on Central Park South. Upon occasion he’d have us up to his studio on Second Avenue to look at the racks of photographs he’d done – images of neighborhood people, traffic and sights. The room was black, white and gray. That evening at our house I have a feeling he was forced to stop work and eat dinner, otherwise he’d have kept shooting.

What It’s All About

Looking back 53 years ago I realize how much we accepted one another and were content with enjoying ourselves, the holiday and being together.  It was a Thanksgiving never to forget.


All images are by William “Bill” Simmons

Denise Mattia

About Denise Mattia

A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.

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