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Beard, James (1903-1985)  
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Beard was smitten with Jerome, but the younger man was far from popular with Beard's friends and associates, who complained that he limited their access to Beard and stated their belief that he was exploiting his relationship with Beard for personal aggrandizement. Beard would hear nothing against him, though, until July 1976, when he was hospitalized in San Francisco with a pulmonary embolism that could have been fatal. When Jerome left him there to return to New York to meet another lover, Beard solicited and heeded the advice of his friends and ended his relationship with Jerome.

Beard's health became more and more fragile. He had surgery on his prostate in late 1976 and needed a further operation for a bowel obstruction the next spring. Despite these obstacles, he published his twentieth cookbook, James Beard's Theory and Practice of Good Cooking in 1977.

With Jerome gone, Beard engaged Richard Nimmo as his personal assistant and general factotum in 1977. There was no romantic attachment this time, but, reported Clark, Nimmo began taking Beard with him "to au courant gay bars at which [Beard] took even more than his usual delight in being recognized." Despite these forays, Beard did not make any public acknowledgement of his homosexuality.

The last member to join the Beard ménage was Percy, a tawny pug who was a gift from restaurateur Stephen Spector. Unaccustomed to pets, Beard at first did not know what to make of the playful pup who loved to bound into his lap, but the affectionate nature of the little dog soon won his heart, and Percy became a cherished companion.

Beard would put out two more books, The New James Beard (1981) and Beard on Pasta (1983). Increasingly, however, he relied on assistants to put the books into shape for publication.

In spite of his numerous health problems and many stays in the hospital, Beard, aided by a staff of capable instructors, kept up the cooking school, and he also managed an amazing amount of travel.

In August 1984, against the advice of his friends, Beard insisted upon fulfilling a commitment to give classes on a special cruise through the inside passage of Alaska. Upon his return to New York, however, he was once again hospitalized and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and intestinal bleeding.

Once released, he made what would be his final visit home to Portland and Gearhart, where he shared a picnic with a childhood friend.

Back in New York, Beard attempted to resume his routine, teaching cooking classes and hosting a benefit dinner for charity. By the new year, though, he went into kidney failure. He initially refused dialysis but then relented. He rallied briefly, but his decline was irreversible. He died in the early hours of January 23, 1985.

According to his wishes, there was no funeral service. His body was cremated and the ashes sent to friends in Oregon who scattered them along the seaside.

Beard's will called for his house to be sold but stipulated that Colfacci have lifetime tenancy in his apartment there. When this provision put off potential buyers, Julia Child urged cooking instructor Peter Kump to organize a group to purchase the property. The James Beard Foundation, as they came to be known, officially opened the James Beard House in November 1986 with the stated mission of "provid[ing] a center for the culinary arts and . . . continu[ing] to foster the interest James Beard inspired in all aspects of food, its preparation, presentation, and, of course, enjoyment."

The Foundation now offers classes, workshops, and conferences, and it has a scholarship program. In addition, it administers the annual James Beard Foundation Awards, which recognize and honor excellence among chefs, cookbook authors, food journalists, restaurant designers, and others working in the food and beverage industry.

In his last years, Beard envisioned a second memoir, tentatively titled Menus and Memories, in which he planned to come out publicly as a gay man. Unfortunately, he did not get beyond making some preliminary audio-taped conversations with food writer Barbara Kafka to organize the project. Kafka presented the transcripts--including the acknowledgement of his sexual orientation--in the introduction to The James Beard Celebration Cookbook, published in 1990.

Over 130 of Beard's friends and admirers, including such luminaries of the food community as Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, Jane Grigson, Marcella Hazan, Diana Kennedy, Jeanne Owen, Jacques Pépin, Wolfgang Puck, Irma Rombauer, Jimmy Schmidt, and Burt Wolf contributed recipes and fond reminiscences of Beard.

Linda Rapp

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Claibourne, Craig. "An American Apostle of Cooking as High Art." New York Times (January 24, 1985): B6.

Clark, Robert. James Beard: A Biography. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

James Beard Foundation:

Kafka, Barbara, ed. The James Beard Celebration Cookbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1990.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Beard, James  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated August 21, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  


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