Herbert "Jim" Baker was exquisite.

Jim was Tony Strilko's lover for quite some time. They met while Tony and I were sharing an apartment on W 113th Street near the Juilliard School of Music. So the three of us were quite inseparable for a long 

Herbert was the essence of elegant refinement. Tony was elegance itself. So much so that he was completely relaxed and natural in it, no matter what he did. And it never came off as "piss elegant" or anything unnatural. It was relaxed human perfection of manner. But Tony was not physically great looking.

Herbert, on the other hand, was Ivy League, top to bottom, when he met Tony. But he didn't know what to do with it and wasn't comfortable in it. Meeting Tony changed all that.

Real, true elegance is not something one learns or does. One cannot act it. One only gets it from being around it steadily.....and from a little additional instruction and help from some who are it. But essentially, it simply rubs off on one, if one is intelligent and sensitive enough to recognize and value it in the other person.

My paternal grandfather had a good deal of it, and my father a great deal. But my conducting teacher at Juilliard, Jean Morel was the most truly elegant human being I have ever met. Even in a rage, he was 
superb. While I did not have the natural French manner of Morel, I recognized and admired every single last thing about it during my whole 5 years in his class. Meeting Tony Strilko just at the time I was with Morel was possibly the greatest good fortune of my life. Tony, and a psychoanalysis that my parents insisted on at the time, helped cement the most precious thing to me about my life: an awareness of and understanding of true, non-vulgar, natural elegance and refinement that I more and more find missing in most people. An 
awareness that I constantly keep foremost in my mind and in my being and try to always sustain in myself.

Meeting Tony and myself freed Jim to become what he was with total naturalness: an exquisitely elegant, refined person, without even the slightest hint of "chi-chi" And Jim had one further advantage: he 
absolutely looked it. He was exquisite, in a very calm, Ivy League, well-brought-up way. Even the small imperfections of his face, the ever-so-slightly large, but extremely sensuous mouth, the slightly 
short chin, the hairline, etc., all added to the effect of natural, unforced elegance.

I am so glad that I found the portraits I made of Jim during my visit to NYC in 1962. They bring back to me, ever so magnificently, a human being whom it was a great privilege to know for no other reason than 
his personal being. I haven't a clue what he did at work or otherwise. It was simply enough to know and enjoy his company over those years.

Tony and Jim eventually stopped being lovers after a few years. But they remained closest of friends and even had apartments in the same great apartment building on 79th near Central Park West.


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