Bobst, F. Tucker

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August 8, 1923 January 23, 2008


Artist, innkeeper, bon vivant

By Gayle Ronan Sims, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

F. Tucker Bobst, 84, a critically acclaimed surrealist painter who with his partner of 60 years operated a boutique inn in West Philadelphia for visiting actors for 20 years, died of pancreatic cancer Jan. 23 in Chestertown, Md., where he had lived for three years.


In the guestbook at the inn, on 42d Street near Spruce, was this 1975 entry from Douglas Fairbanks Jr.:

To Dick and Tucker:

I'd been looking forward to today for a long time - and everything, the food, the drink, the pictures, the talk, the good company, all exceeded my high expectations! ////When may I come again?

Many thanks.////Douglas Fairbanks

Other theater and film stars who were wined and dined at the Victorian brownstone from 1965 to 1985 included Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Claire Bloom, Betsy Palmer and Sir John Gielgud.

Mr. Bobst, a gourmet cook, and Richard Maloy, an actor and a playwright, created a warm, welcoming atmosphere for actors in the seven-bedroom mansion decorated with Mr. Bobst's artwork.

"Tucker was known for his incredibly loud laugh," longtime friend Valerie Rose said. "I always thought of Tucker and Richard as my personal pep pills. I felt better after I had spent time with them."

The mansion was just one of 33 homes that Mr. Bobst and Maloy restored together. Mr. Bobst painted, and Maloy acted in New York, Philadelphia, Virginia and Maryland, and in each city they refurbished homes.

One was in Arlington, Va., next door to former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, known as a harsh critic of gay rights. Mr. Bobst and Maloy befriended Rehnquist and his wife in 1986. When the chief justice once left his car unlocked and the lights on, Mr. Bobst left a note on the car, "There've been car thefts in the area. Hope to hell you have the keys 'cause I've locked it and turned off the lights. Best mend your ways!" according to a 2003 story in the Washington Post.

Later, when Mr. Bobst and Maloy put a sale sign in their yard, the Washington Post reported that the chief justice had thrown his coat over the sign and said: "You can't move. Who's going to tell me my car's unlocked and the lights are on, and to mend my ways?"

Born into a wealthy family in Watertown, Mass., Mr. Bobst graduated in 1942 from Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass. He immediately enlisted in the Coast Guard and was a yeoman stationed in New York until his discharge in 1945.

The next year, he met Maloy, an actor and a model. The two strikingly handsome men were life partners until Maloy's death in 2006. In 1947, they exchanged rings in a ceremony in a New York church.

In an interview with National Public Radio in 1996, Mr. Bobst and Maloy spoke about gay rights and what kept them together.

Throughout their lives, Mr. Bobst and Maloy fought for equal rights for same-sex couples. In the 1980s, Maloy was hospitalized and Mr. Bobst was refused the rights of a relative. When Maloy was released from the hospital, he legally adopted Mr. Bobst, said Ron Barber, executor of Mr. Bobst's will. "Tucker was a member of Richard's family in the eyes of the law."

Mr. Bobst, a self-taught painter, won numerous gallery and museum awards in the States and several international awards, including Espace Lyomnaiss d'arte (France), International Biennial (England), and Artes Populare (Mexico).

Mr. Bobst's People in Painting series at the Fraser Gallery in Washington included portraits of John F. Kennedy (acquired by the White House), Vivien Leigh, Rudolf Nureyev, Tennessee Williams, Alfred Hitchcock, Gielgud, Barbara Bush (acquired by the Bush Library) and Bill Clinton (which hangs in his presidential library).

"My first contact with Tucker Bobst was through his work in 1975 when I was director of the Philadelphia Civic Center Museum," said Ron Barber, a friend. "Bobst's work epitomized the very definition of surrealist."

Mr. Bobst is survived by sister Barbara Bobst Paul, nephew Frank Bobst Judge and niece Shirley Paul Wolf.

His body was donated to science. There will be no funeral.

Date of Birth: 8/8/1923

Date of Death: 1/23/2008

Age at Death: 84


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