John was tall, lanky and always dressed in baggy shorts with a t-shirt, often one he designed. Funny, biting wit, all delivered by a crisp South African cadence. He was an artist, a designer, a friend- and host to many people through out the world. He passed on early this month surrounded by a small circle of closest friends, succumbing to ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.
He would have hated any saccharine sentimentality and would not want anyone to dwell on that, so here I am, an ocean and continent away, celebrating the colorful character I remember fondly.
John Bain was one of the first people I met during my initial adventure to Hawaii in the early 80’s. He had what seemed like the best “gig” I could imagine. John was caretaker of A.L. Kilgo‘s country home at beautiful Waimea Point, overlooking the bay on the North Shore of Oahu. He lived on the first of the three houses on the property and over saw the rental of the other two homes leading out to the point.
There was always a cute surfer or two or three, or more, staying at John’s during the fall and winter surf season and John painted many of them. Here is John’s “private gallery” at the point house and through the doorway on the left you can see small framed photos from Kilgo’s party days out at the house.
After I moved to the mainland and started our family with Scott, we had the opportunity to stay at the coveted house on Waimea Point more than once.
John was always painting, working or designing something, and his house was filled with his work and collections. During one of our visits staying at Waimea, we commissioned John to do a small portrait of each of our boys.
In my last email to John when I first learned about his illness I had Nate and Griffin pose with their portraits.
Last week, our dear mutual friend Faith Milnes, filled me in about John’s final days. I am truly sorry that he is gone, so many people loved him, myself among them. I know he leaves behind so much of himself in his friends and art, and to that I say-
To John- with love and much aloha. and Cheers!
What a wonderful story of your friend….so glad you had the portrait with the boys. Life is happening all around us.
Thank you Cathy, I thought of you when I heard about his passing, because he was such a good friend, as are YOU, and many of those friends were there for him in his time of need. As you do for so many. It’s all about LOVE.
I have just learned of his death. I am very sad because it was a very generous man who hosted me the time to find a hotel, me French lost in hawaii in the early 90s.
He had become my friend.
Yes, John was that kind of guy- and because of that, and his quick wit, he had friends all over the world. Truly a loss.
I had a good friend . Same name, however I don’t recognize the photos you have of him, however be that as it may, John worked for McCann Erickson New York back in the 1960’s. His mom had a beautiful town home basement apt, in the Village, right off of Christopher Street. Eileen Bain, and a good brother, Donald Bain, whom I didn’t get to meet . I don’t remember, that was 1968
I was USN Submarine Secret Service, Sevron, Pearl Harbor Seventh Fleet 1967, and right around then I met John. I invited him and a couple of his friends on board the sub. John had long long red hair right down below the nape of his back, tall, thin full of energy, a girl friend of his at that time, Sally Roberts, and other acquaintances. His hair caused quite a stir on the sub,, and no one got at all upset with him, as he was able to respond to any comment with a lovely acrid, you are bleeding already from several different wounds, and don’t even know it.
retort, I always liked him. He was an expert photographer and made a head sheet for me, which got me a funny little modeling job which I never got paid for in the end, cause, the producers of this advertisement, decided to keep just the girl they had, and deleted me, and did a remake with only her.
I was so happy when I found that they made that decision.
Maybe that’s the Johnny Bain, I knew who you laid to rest, or not, however his entire family originated in and around Cape Town, South Africa. Very well spoken with the Queens English, he was, and he mentioned his bloody school he had to go to, and you know.
G-d, Save The Queen and all that.
I got out of the Navy in 1969, got a job with Ashby F. Johnson Electric company, and got a small shack to live in, right in the middle of the ‘Jungle” you might not know it, it’s no longer there, but during John and mine acquaintance, he had a place right on Kapili Street,, and mine was on Ohua Street. Timeline is a little messy here because I left for Aspen in a 1945 late 1969, Ford, that John and I painted exactly like the American Flag. We did that well before that dastardly movie,
“Easy Rider ” Came out.
I was still on active duty then, and I raised hell with the Navy with that car, cause as much as they wanted to blow it up with me in it, they didn’t and the Military Code of Conduct told them they had to let the car on the base provided the American Flag painted on the car, was an exact replica of the flag, and from the air, looking down upon it, it was the American Flag.
I left the Island in November that very year, 1969, went to Aspen and then back to live with my mom and dad and two brothers.
In the 1970’s John had taken a trip to New York, and gave me a call from there,
and low and behold, as I invited him to come on down and stay with me and my family for a week or whatever, and he did exactly that.
We had a great time of it.
After that, I became desparidido. In other words, I dove the boat, and have only recently surfaced. [ if you knew John well , then you know, that he would find that hilarious, and worthy of Saturday Night Live, or a gig at the comedy corner.
the end of a good life.
In the meantime, I have one foot in the Astral world, and another one in the grave. “Blue Cheer ” From their Album “Oh Pleasant Hope.”
another one my favorite, Even You can be a Believer. I hope Johnny boy got that.
I did. I was living with John and 14 other real nice hippie guys, no girls allowed at that house on Kapili Street. When anyone wanted weed, I would go out and get Thai Stick, and then the good stuff was Black Opium. I could get anything you wanted, I just had all those connections. the guys all had their outside girl friends, and they all would come to me, hey pete can you get some Black Opium, sure no worries mate, and then will you drive us around the Island while we all get stoned in your car together? sure. The loved me. I would take the craziest stuff, the same as them, and hold the universe all in my hands, not letting it go, and drove that car all around the island Stoned cold stoned, not in this world, but in the one above. They marveled at that. I always kept it all together.
I am sorry for our loss. I have learned from everyone whom I love who passed on before me, there is never enough time to spend with a loved one.
Oliver Sub Vet Uss Tiru SS416 1967 – 1969 Cold War – Vietnam
Pete, sounds like our guy. I loved reading your story and it will share it with a mutual dear friend who was with John til the end. She will get a good laugh from this memory, and may be a part of it. She’s still on the island, missing John everyday I am sure. Shalom to you as well.Thanks for sharing. With aloha…
I lived next to John for awhile and bought a “stained-glass” cut-out from him.
As I was deciding where to finally hang it again. I thought I’ll Google John and see how he’s doing…surprise, surprise.
Thank you for posting the article and letting the rest of us know his fate.
Blessings to John !!
Thank you for your post.
Inger, Thank you for touching base here, glad I was able to update you with the sad news about our friend. We all remember him fondly, with love and laughter. Yes, blessings to John, and to all who knew him.
He was the world to me.
I miss him so!
He was the world to me.
I miss him so!
For some reason, it says that i’ve already submitted the above.
Perhaps I did a double tap.
But, I must say,I loved him more than anything and anyone.
Karin, to say that John was one-of-a-kind does not do him justice but all of us who knew and loved him are forever touched by his wit, humor and generosity of spirit. I have the two paintings that he did of our sons when they were young and think of him daily. Sending you blessings of peace and love.
John was a great teacher. He was the most wonderful and fascinating soul that I have ever known, by far.
I frequently hung out at his place in Waikiki ’69-71. He whimsically and joyfully demonstrated other realms of higher consciousness to many of the spiritually hungry, including me.
Thru the years I have told many people about him.
The last time I saw John was late 1999. He was standing in his Waimea backyard as I came into view. Our eyes met.
In an effortless JB cosmic instant, he gave me his astounding grin. as his masterful, droll british voice said: “steve reiff how are ya?”.
We spent several astounding hours together.
See you my friend and teacher. We shall laugh and sing over there.
Thank you Steven for sharing your thoughts and memories of John. I can hear John saying to you “steve reiff how are ya?” and as the teacher and friend he still is, I love that he is still connecting us all- and having a good laugh. Be well and thank you.
John always called me ‘Squire’ after coning to stay at my house in the English countryside…it amused him greatly because he loved nicknames and was thrilled and disgusted in equal measure by oxymorons. … there aren’t many ‘squires’ on the North Shore. Despite his acerbic wit and sharp, Swiftean sense of humour, John had an ocean-deep empathy with the feelings and personal pathos of his fellow human beings… and enormous admiration for anyone who had the courage of their convictions and who struggled to overcome the tragedies, troubles and difficulties of life. That’s partly why he was such a good painter of people. I believe he was a very great Artist and not only Hawaii but the whole surfing world should celebrate his life and Art and be proud that his chosen field and the Zeitgeist of his art, where he chose to live and work, was within the Global Spirit, Ethos and Sporting Culture of Surfing. Clearly, for John, Surfing was a ‘religion’ with its own danger- defined system of ethics and Truth; which he, like a great Renaissance Artist, was going to dedicate his life and Art to. I believe the people of Hawaii in particular and Global Surfing generally should establish a permanent exhibition place or museum where all of John Bain’s work and charismatic contribution to the visual iconography and representative Art of Surfing, the Surfing World globally; and his multi-faceted take on the people in it … could be on permanent display. This has to be in Hawaii, which is the Eternal City and Mecca of this sport which is yet, in is, in its oceanographic manifest destiny, so much more than a Sport.
I can hear John calling you “Squire”! He was everything you so warmly and aptly described. John was one of the first people I met on the North Shore, and after I moved back to the mainland, my family and I would continue to visit and stay at that amazing Waimea Point house. I have two paintings that John did of my boys when they were 5 & 7 and when I get back to Hawaii next week, I am going to find out from Faith, where the rest are and see what we can put together in terms of an exhibition. Will keep you posted…John lives on in these memories we all have and share about him- and in his wonderful work. Aloha.
Aloha Nanci – that would be a great favour to the world, if you and Faith and everyone could start the ball rolling. It would do so much good for Surfing and for its connection to and origin in Hawaiian Art and Culture; now and long into da Future.
As John would have said:
” Go Dude !!!”
re-reading these comments after a few years,
brings tears of joy and laughter to my heart.
totally agree that he was and is a master artist.
YES YES YES his portraits of surfers should be known and appreciated by a larger audience.
how can we get this blessed task accomplished?