THE NATC’S 2015 GEORGE B. SMITH AWARD GRANTED TO BILL LYON

While all tertulinet followers will be familiar with Bill Lyon’s frequent contributions to our site, I wonder how many actually know something about him. So, since he recently received the George B. Smith award by the NATC (National Association of Taurine Clubs of the United States of America), I felt it was a good time to let all the tertulinet readers learn about this honor as well as a bit of background about how Bill’s life has revolved around, and in, el mundo taurino.

First the award. The George B. Smith award for “a worthy artist, writer or author who, during the lifetime of the NATC (since 1962) has contributed to the enjoyment of and/or dissemination of information and educations about tauromaquia” has an interesting history. George B. Smith was a school teacher and an aficionado in California with a passion for collecting taurine books and art. Over several decades he made regular trips to Spain, and when he could no longer travel he sent money to friends in Spain for new material. He was a member of Los Aficionados de Los Angeles, the Taurine Bibliophiles of America, and a President of the NATC. At the age of 91, in 1985, he was going into the hospital for surgery, so he called the Los Angeles Public Library and told the officials there, “come over to my house and pick up my bullfighting literature collection.” The collection of over 1,500 volumes, described by James Michener as one of finest in the world, is now held in the library’s Rare Books Department.

It should be noted that this award is not given lightly. In the 39 years since the award was established in 1978, it has been given only 28 times. To be on this list places the recipient along with the names of writers such as Barnaby Conrad, James Michener, Allen Josephs, and Jim Meyers to name just a few. And matadors Mario Carrion, John Fulton, and Robert Ryan have also received the award, not for their actions in the ring but as writers and artists.

Now to Bill. Originally from New York, he has been an aficionado since 1954 and his life is one of journalism. Most of that time he has lived and worked in Madrid, working for such varied news- gathering operations as United Press International, Time-Life, Variety, and CBS and NBC radios. He even covered the Portuguese revolution for Associated Press. Bill entered the center of the mundo taurino when he was a reporter-editor in the Culture, Editing and International sections of El País, working alongside the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) critic Joaquín Vidal. It was Vidal who gave Bill the apodo “El Pasmo de Manhattan”, linking him to that other famous “Pasmo” who revolutionized toreo in the early 1900s. In 1987 he published “La Pierna del Tato: Historias de Toros”, a collection of his taurine pieces from El País, to popular and critical acclaim.

The list goes on too long to repeat it all here, but it includes work at the daily El Sol, where he headed taurine coverage, and bullfight articles published in the International Herald Tribune, Connoisseur, The Financial Times, El Europeo, Vogue, and GQ. In short, any publication that wanted straight, knowledgeable information about la fiesta brava would call on Bill Lyon. He has also contributed to the journals of the Club Taurino of New York and the Club Taurino of London, and recently wrote a brilliant article for the latter titled “Cargando la Suerte Explained, Definitively!” in which he debunked old myths that many hold as dogmas of toreo.

But all this is not pure theory. Bill has gotten into the ring with brave vaquillas and felt the pain and joy of toreo, most recently this past summer, at age 75!

Bill still lives in Madrid, where he works as a translator and editor of bi-lingual magazines, teaches in the master’s degree journalism program at the ABC newspaper, and instructs businessmen in effective written communications based partly on his recent book “La Escritura Transparente”, a manual for young and not-so-young journalists.

So I am sure the readers of tertulinet will join me in telling Bill “enhorabuena” and we will continue to look forward to his sapient inputs to our site.

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