In the profile Artist’s Muse: Randy Jack, I wrote about his relationship with photographer George Platt Lynes, which came to an end in the Fall of 1948. Just 10 days after Jack moved out of the apartment, another former military man named Chuck Howard moved in as Lynes’ next boyfriend.
Charles “Chuck” Howard was born in Cochran, Georgia on March 4, 1927. After graduating from high school during World War II, he joined the Naval Air Force and became a tail gunner. While stationed in Miami Beach, he met New York artist Bernard Perlin and the two would “reconnect” whenever Chuck was in New York City. After the war, Howard studied fashion in France on the G.I. Bill before moving back to NYC to live with the artist. When Perlin was offered a residency in Rome, he threw himself a farewell party, and Chuck was introduced to Lynes.
Three sketches of Chuck Howard by Bernard Perlin
“Another twenty-one-year-old has moved in on me bag and baggage, almost without being invited..” Lynes wrote in a letter to his friend, author Katherine Anne Porter.
Howard was viewed favorably by Lynes’ friends and was said to have a grounding effect on the photographer. The relationship lasted for just over two years.
Although Howard had previously posed for Bernard Perlin, it was after his introduction to Lynes and his circle of friends that he became a favorite model for the artists. He posed for George Tooker, sculptor John LaFarge, and Jared French, with whom he also had a physical relationship.
Paul Cadmus also sketched him several times and used him as the model for the central figure in his painting Architect (1950).
When Lynes’ nude photography became more widely exhibited decades after his death, photos of Chuck Howard were among the most celebrated. Howard downplayed the photos, describing his work modeling for Lynes as “primarily lighting tests.” Collectors disagree.
Chuck Howard also had a film career of sorts when he participated in Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s famous studies, performing sexual acts with poet Glenway Wescott in front of the researchers’ movie camera. Howard later remarked; “It wasn’t Hollywood.”
Lynes and Howard parted ways in January, 1951. “Chuck has decided to go off and live by himself;” Lynes wrote to his mother. “I shall miss him but I don’t disapprove… I’m afraid that my influence is too often all-pervading, all-inclusive.”
In an earlier blog post on Ted Starkowski, I mentioned that he and Chuck then embarked on what author David Leddick described as “a tempestuous affair.” The couple were photographed together on Fire Island while vacationing with Paul Cadmus, Jared and Margaret French: aka The PaJaMa Collective.
Act II: Chuck Howard’s career in the fashion industry began to flourish in the late 1950’s when he sketched for several designers, including Bill Blass. He worked for David Crystal before moving on to Anne Klein’s Junior Sophisticates. In 1965, he joined Townley, working his way up to become chief designer and head of business operations. The company was then renamed Chuck Howard, Inc. His design style was noted for its sense of humor with sporty, colorful coats, tunics, pants and jersey shirts.
Around this time, a Parsons student named Donna Karan began working for Howard and he eventually introduced her to Anne Klein.
After Klein’s death in 1974, Donna Karan succeeded her as designer for the Anne Klein studio. Chuck Howard then closed his company and became a designer and creative coordinator there, where he was responsible for several of its collections. He departed with fellow designer Peter Wrigley in 1976 to form their own company.
Howard and Wrigley operated their business out of Chuck’s townhouse at 412 W 47th street – formerly the infamous party house of New Yorker editor Harold Ross and Alexander Woolcott.
Act III: In 1980, after his departure from the fashion industry, Chuck Howard opened his self-named restaurant on Restaurant Row. Assisting him in this next chapter was his partner Edward Vaughan. The couple rented a three story townhouse at 355 W 46th St and lived on the third floor above the restaurant.
Soon after opening, twenty-two-year-old Anthony Bourdain took over running the back of the house. He later recounted his time at the restaurant in the Chef of The Future! chapter of Kitchen Confidential, with Chuck and Edward referred to as “Tom and Fred.” He writes, “They were genuinely lovely, intelligent, warm-hearted and funny older guys who cooked well, had impeccable taste and were considered (rightly) to be wonderful, charming and entertaining hosts – naturals, it had been said, for the restaurant business, especially a restaurant in the heart of the theater district where they knew and were liked by so many.”
The restaurant was initially successful, although the Daily News review suggested that it wasn’t destined to last. Bourdain further describes the restaurant’s decline, with mounting costs and dwindling guests. “What I learned… was a sad lesson that has served me well in decades since: I learned to recognize failure. I saw, for the first time, how two beloved, funny and popular guys can end up less beloved, not so funny and much less popular after trying to do nothing more than what their friends told them they were good at.” Bourdain moved on to another restaurant, and by the end of 1982, Chuck Howard’s had closed.
The couple retired to the island of Saba in the Netherlands Antilles where they lived for several years before settling in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
On October 5, 2002, Chuck Howard died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 75 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was survived by his long time partner Edward Vaughan.
Chuck Howard, ca 1950 / 1997
Chuck Howard’s life had a similar trajectory as fellow Lynes paramour Randy Jack: A WWII military man who became an artists’ muse before moving on to the world of fashion and finally ending up as a restaurateur. In their twilight years, both also enjoyed a bit of recognition for the work they inspired in some of the great American artists of the 20th century.
Artist’s Muse: José “Pete” Martinez
Artist’s Muse: Randy Jack
Artist’s Muse: Ted Starkowski
Artist’s Muse: The Mystery Model
Fire Island PaJaMa Party
Buddy & Johnny: A Historic Photo Shoot
7 thoughts on “Artist’s Muse: Chuck Howard”
I’m currently reading Allen Ellenzweig’s biography of GPL and I’m so glad I can finally put faces to the names of, for instance, Chuck Howard and Randy Jack. Thanks for your amazing, painstaking job! Your blog is an actual treasury.
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can you tell me where the photos of the Jared French sketch and bust of Chuck came from? are they published in something?
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They are in Naked Men: Pioneering Male Nudes by David Leddick.