Today I chatted on the phone with my old man, who remarked just as he was about to hang up that Barnaby Conrad died last week at the age of 90.

I mention it here because while I never met the man — who is described in the San Francisco Chronicle as a bullfighter, diplomat, man about town, author, painter, owner of a North Beach night spot in one of San Francisco’s golden ages, and a patron of the arts — I had drinks with his son, Barnaby Conrad III on my last night in San Francisco before moving to New York.

Appropriately it was in North Beach, and Barnaby, who’s bi-coastal, told me he was showing his own art at his wife’s New York gallery the following week, which turned out to be my first night out on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Like his father, Barnaby was a man about town who didn’t settle down until well in his forties. He’s also a painter and writer, though I’m not sure whether he ever fought bulls.

The late Barnaby (pictured above sharing a drink with Tyrone Power) attended the Taft School and went on to Yale, which his son also attended. He was a J. Press customer while a student, and remained so for many years until salesman loyalty sent him to a competitor. Richard Press remembers:

Back in the ’50s the J. Press West Coast road salesman, Sam Kroop, outfitted Conrad during his road trips to San Francisco. Conrad bought from J. Press while at Taft and Yale, and when Kroop left the Clift Hotel where he showed in San Francisco, he regularly held court for his customers on the J. Press tab at Conrad’s El Matador nightclub. Kroop took our mailing list when he sneaked out with another of our employees to take over Arthur M. Rosenberg, and unfortunately took Conrad along with him.

Though bullfighting brought him renown, his Renaissance Man talents and passions kept him well occupied. His Wikipedia entry has this great anecdote:

In 1958, Conrad was gored almost fatally in a bullfight that was part of a charity event. After learning of the incident, Eva Gabor is said to have run into Noël Coward at Sardi’s in New York and asked him, “Did you hear about poor Barnaby? He was terribly gored in Spain.” Coward replied, “Oh, thank heavens. I thought you said he was bored.”

Both father and son are a great inspiration to cultivate all of one’s talents and life to the fullest. Though if you’re going to tangle with bulls, at least take it down a notch and try bullriding. — CC