Jason Donnelly, a regular at the Lexington Queen in the early 2000s was inspired not only by Bill’s persona and generosity, but by his personal style: “I was in the Army stationed at Yokota Air Base. Being in the Army on an Air Force base meant that I did not connect with many people on base. After being in country a few months I ventured out on my own and discovered Roppongi. I started at the TGI Fridays and somehow ended up at an amazing place called the Lexington Queen. I had a backpack full of glow bracelets and gave them out to everyone in the club. I just loved the smiles that people had when I gave them out. That is how I met Bill. He loved how I made people smile so he asked me to keep coming and giving them out.
“I spent almost a year doing this, from 2002 until 2003, and in those years, Bill treated me like a VIP. I am from a small rural town in Pennsylvania and I was meeting people like Marilyn Manson and Ben Affleck. I was hanging out with models and designers and going to fashion shows. I was sitting in the VIP area in awe of what he had created. His sense of style has really impacted me, and now I dress how I feel trying to emulate his persona [would be]. When he talked to you, he made you feel like you were the most important person in the world.”
He left a similar impression on the TW team, as Matthew Holmes, one of the magazine’s former editors, recalls: “Bill was a tremendous presence – the energy he brought to the TW office on his many whirlwind visits would linger for hours as we digested the latest anecdotes, reminiscences and tales of life in his favorite city.
“I first met Bill around 2012 when joining the TW team and he was always a supportive and inspiring advocate of life in Tokyo – though I have since left the city I consider my second home he’ll always remain a big part of mine and I’m sure many people’s experiences and memories.”
Norman Tolman, a noted art collector and dealer, remarked that Bill covered as much of Old Edo (as he would often put it) and its denizens as he could, always with others in mind: “Whatever lunch, dinner, party of any kind, fund raiser for the poor, and fun living for the rich, if Bill could get there, he got there. and he made sure that you knew that he got there for you, not for himself. Bill was always willing to help out and expected little in return. How he managed to keep people’s names in order, and come up with something nice to say about everyone, always amazed me. He seldom had an axe to grind, and if he did, he just ground it and moved on.
“Having known him since his early days of running a clothing shop and watching him absorb the duties of keeping track of what was going on in Tokyo in his social scene was a great pleasure. I know that everyone searched each of his columns for his own name and because Bill worked so hard at it, we were never disappointed.”
Towards the end of his life, Bill’s steps slowed, but his fascination with people and what they were up to never abated. He continued his work with TW and maintained a social schedule that would have exhausted someone decades younger to the very end. Haynes said that Bill would occasionally complain about growing older to him, but he would remind him of where his many steps had taken him, and what his friends and fans won’t ever forget: “Bill, you have an amazing life, and one day we’re all not going to be here. But one thing about you that you have to remember is when you leave, your name and your voice will always sing out. It’ll always sing out.”
*This article was first published at Tokyo Weekender.
Credit: Alec Jordan