Harry Drinkwater Remembered

Harry Drinkwater was my friend and part of my life for almost 40 years. He was a total inspiration to me because he knew how to live his life to the fullest. He remained young at heart and was dancing and partying with friends into his nineties. He always had a reason to get up in the morning because he had his life’s work, his legacy of photography to work on. I enjoyed his company and had many enlightening conversations with him about astrology or philosophy. I always used to make cookies for him and he loved them. He will be missed by all who knew him.
– Nancy Reimold

“One, two, three, four. One two three four” he patiently whispered gently in my ear as he lead me around the dance floor. A row of women waited for a turn as a party raged on around us. Mr. Harry Drinkwater was the charmer of Venice and an integral part of every dance party. I even remember women circling him and chanting “Harry, Harry!” as he reached out for the next dance partner.
My husband, KPFK DJ Derek Rath, and I met Harry in 1981 when he came to our dance parties at our photo studio in the Venice Place on what was known then as West Washington Blvd. If he did not charm you with a dance he would with his historical photography. Harry’s famous  line– which he used on all women who asked him how he was doing—was always said with a sweet smile–“Better now!”.  I will so sadly miss Harry and our parties will not be the same.
-Sylvia Rath

In the year 1959, fifty-five years ago, I met Harry Drinkwater when I was a young thespian at LA City College. On Santa Monica Blvd., near the College, was the Xanadu Coffee House, where all of the “cool” people hung out. Many actors, painters and an assortment of other artists were always there sharing stories. When I first met Harry Drinkwater, and his camera, I assumed he must be a descendant from some North American indigenous group. I later discovered he had grown up in the wine country, the grape growing region with all of the vineyards in Napa, north of San Francisco. In l9l9 when Harry was born, that area was almost devoid of African Americans.
As an l8 yr.old, having grown up in South Central Los Angeles and never having spent much time in Hollywood, I was wide-eyed and open to new experiences. I was so flattered when Harry asked me to model for him and introduced me to many other photographers. I later learned there were times when he did not have film in his camera. We laughed because so many artists were attempting to make an impression. Working with Harry was effortless because he allowed me to be comfortable, and encouraged me to take charge of my work. One of the most revered memories was that he was never inappropriate. I felt safe when we worked. In l963, I met and married my present husband of fifty-one years, and Harry became a part of our extended family. He took numerous photos of our family and came and stayed with us when we lived near Yosemite and visited us for several weeks in December 2012 here on Maui.
One of the things he and I had in common was our love for dance. In Venice, there used to be the Taurus Tavern, with Sam Taylor singing. We danced until our feet were barely able to support us. Many times our clothes were wet with perspiration. Some of those times, our children and other younger people joined in. Those memories cannot be duplicated. Dancing was a release from the week trivia and other challenges. Dancing was our salvation. When there was racial disharmony, anti-war sentiments, environmental disputes, our way was to briefly escape through dance.
Harry was instrumental in the development of our underground classic feature musical drama LIVING THE BLUES with Blues Hall of Famer Sam Taylor, who was a friend of Harry. Now available on GooglePlay:
As long as I knew Harry, he was always planning for a show. Was he perfect? Of course not. Who is? He was, however, a gentle soul, always working on an upcoming project, a Getty sponsored Culver City Gallery exhibited his last show and a photograph book was published in the Group Show. At the end of our conversation, I would say “I love you, Harry.” His reply was “EASY.”
– Galyn Gorg

Harry Drinkwater was a warm hearted man with a sweet smile. He photographed some of my first baby photos. There were times when we danced and partied with the entire family on many occasions. What a blast we had. “How you doing, Harry D,?” After a while, he would look at you, or hear your voice on the phone, his response was, “Better Now.” Love you, Harry D.

These comments are just a brief sketch of Harry Drinkwater. Enjoy the photographs.
Harry, wherever you have traveled to in your new assignment, we will just say, “HEY DUDE.”

– Regina Barton

Categories: Obituary