“There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.”
Such was a lyric by the great Paul Williams, and it dances inside my head whenever I think of my friend David Edward Byrd.
David’s work in illustration is far too extensive to properly summarize here. He is legendary for his rock posters (Jimmi Hendrix, The Who, The Grateful Dead, Prince, and an initial design for a seemingly modest 1969 Wallkill, NY rock concert, before it was relocated to a farm in Woodstock), Broadway musical posters (Follies, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar), and movie posters (The Day of the Locust).
Before I go on, poster art and rock fans should know that David will be among the featured artists at the THE ROCK POSTER SOCIETY’S ANNUAL ROCK POSTER SHOW & SALE in San Francisco on Saturday, October 22nd. This special event will be held for one day only, from 10am-6pm, at Golden Gate Park’s Hall of Flowers.
I met David back in late 2007/early 2008. He was one of my very first contacts in researching Richard Amsel, as he was not only a colleague but a close friend to the late artist. We hit it off immediately, becoming fast friends; if I was ever reserved or doubted his sincerity during those first few weeks, it was only because I felt so insignificant, and my talent so unworthy, whenever in David’s company. That an artistic giant such as he could welcome me so openly seemed too good to be true.
David is warm, gracious, and funny as hell; a gentle soul with the sharpest wit; a self-described “old hippie” who relishes sharing sordid, salacious tales of Broadway and Hollywood’s bygone era – while keeping very keenly abreast with current events and today’s political climate. I’m amazed how he manages to keep his sweet, genuine personality so devoid of cynicism and disillusionment. He’s seen, lived through, and endured so much -- yet takes everything life’s thrown at him in stride, and with grace. He’s an old soul with a young heart. His home includes a growing number of stray and rescue dogs, whom he adores, and is beautifully decorated with intricate mosaics by his husband, Jolino Besserra.
My most recent post here is an opportunity to go back to the beginning. David was not only my first interview for the www.richardamsel.info website, but also for the film. We conducted two interviews in early 2015; first was an initial “warm up” detailing the history of Amsel’s Nancy Reagan portrait for TV GUIDE, while the second was an exhaustive, two day interview in David’s basement studio. I had just invested in a high end digital camcorder, microphone, and light kit for the project, and I was still struggling with all their bells and whistles. David was patient through it all; at times I felt like I was treating him like a guinea pig. (I’m happy to add that I’m now much more familiar with the equipment…and my setup time has been cut down from 45 minutes to less than ten.)
David’s testimony is, in many ways, the very backbone of the film. He was very candid, poignant, funny, and endearing in his stories. Editing them is going to be a challenge, as there’s just so much material and every cut hurts. Yet I daresay I want to go back and interview David a third time…but I’ve already put the poor man through so much!
It must also be said that David has been my emotional rock throughout the project’s development and production. Every project has its challenges, sure, but I faced some pretty choppy emotional waters, and I surely would have drowned without David’s support and guidance. This project might have ended before it even began, were not for him.