HAZEL BARR & BUNKY CUSHING
The Besties: Copiloting Chicago’s Society Scene
Entering RL with Hazel Barr and Bunky Cushing is like walking in with royalty. They have “their” table—and everyone from the wait staff to the clientele knows them. Hazel, ageless in Chanel and with the energy of a teenager, has been the leading lady on the society scene for decades, and Bunky, a well-known man about town, has been by her side attending events and dinners for 20 years.
Hazel is married to consultant Warren Barr and refers to Bunky as her “Other Man”; she has three children and five grandchildren and is best known for her tireless work on behalf of the Service Club of Chicago, serving as its vice president. In addition she is chair emeritus of the club’s upcoming annual luncheon and fashion show A Day on the Terrace (“my baby,” says Hazel) at The Peninsula on August 5. For the past 30 years, Hazel has been the driving force behind this event. Everyone knows you don’t say no to Hazel.
Bunky, a consultant at a luxury retailer on Michigan Avenue, is renowned for throwing his annual Valentine’s Day Tea—one of the most coveted invitations in town, according to Harper’s Bazaar and Women’s Wear Daily. More than 100 women will join him on February 12 (wearing the traditional red) at the Ritz-Carlton to celebrate the tea’s 20th anniversary. Bunky says that Hazel will be by his side, putting the event together as always. “I have learned so much from Hazel,” he says. “To be much more of a positive person. To see the good in everything and have a go-get-’em attitude. And to realize that each day is a gift and it’s up to me to unwrap it.” He adds, “I call her Auntie Mame.… She is society’s den mother. There is simply no one else like her.”
They are best friends and confidants. He brags about her “brilliant grandchildren.” She praises him as “forever faithful, patient, and trusting,” with “a ready ear for any problems.” With a beautiful, knowing smile, she declares, “Everyone needs a Bunky in their lives.”
Hazel says that long ago she wanted to go into theater, and she uses a little theater in all her endeavors. She married Warren at a young age and had three children in four years (“Pretty good for a Protestant,” she laughs). When her kids were old enough she decided she wanted to deeply immerse herself into community affairs. Bunky says that whatever Hazel touches, it’s always state-of-the-art.
They consider each other family, and meet at least once a week at RL to dissect life and to connect. “I am so fortunate to have a male friend other than my husband with whom I can really let down my hair and who is so loyal. It’s very special,” Hazel says. Where will we find this duo in five years? Bunky leans forward, his tone unyielding, “Same time, same place, same channel—right here.”