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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Jim Bush - December 27, 1946 -- July 15, 2019

Gifted Arts Photographer; a major loss

Jim Bush

I met Jim Bush while he was the photographer for SPREE. His Buffalo News obituary recalls that he photographed the likes of Presidents Ronald Reagan and H. W. Bush, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Marvin Hamlisch, Joe Montana, Doc Severinsen, and Rick James. I remember working with Jim while he photographed a less famous but nonetheless important cultural figure.

Once, I was writing a piece for SPREE about older gay people in Buffalo and their memories. When I heard that drag legend Tangara, aka John Minzer, would be performing at the Underground, I asked Jim to go with me. He agreed without question or hesitation.

Tangara, whose career had started in the 1920s, was already in her 90s. She would be performing her signature song, "Red Hot Nuts," backed up by a chorus of young drag performers.

In typical drag show fashion, the show was scheduled to start at 11, but the organizers deemed to the crowd too sparse, and so they waited. And waited.

While they waited, the young drag performers drank. And drank.

Jim remained cheerful and patient. He conversed amiably with me and with patrons at the bar.

When the show finally went up, Jim snapped into action, transforming from laid back and casual into a photographic machine, clicking away with the shutter as if he were playing the castanets.

Tangara performed perfectly, nailing the number while a wobbly bevy of young girls did their best just to keep up. Jim captured everything.

When I called Jim the next day, he said the images were terrific.

Sadly, the magazine, looking to depict gay Buffalo in a more wholesome, normal, and less stereotypical light (whatever that means) did not use Jim's remarkable documentation of a bit of Buffalo history. Editor Elizabeth Licata and I were disappointed.

Jim's photos always demonstrated his unique eye and his loving spirit.

From Elizabeth Licata:

"All I can say is that Jim was a real gentleman with the emphasis on gentle. He always had a smile and usually a hug for any of his friends he'd see out, mostly at arts events. Documentation of the arts was really important to him. I think this Spree cover (of a dancer) is typical of a 'Jim' image, though he did many covers for us. I will so miss seeing him."

Jim's death is certainly a major loss. He leaves a legacy of good will and marvelous photos. While his memorial services were private, his family does hope to open an exhibit of his photography in the coming months.

Somewhere, I imagine, there is even a cache of images of the legendary Tangara!

Good bye Jim Bush. We love you and are better for having known you.

Jim Bush at work, doing promotional photography for D'Youville College


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