Stern profiled Hirschfeld for GQ in 1987 and, following the piece, was given a signed copy of Hirschfeld's book "Show Business Is No Business" with the inscription: "For Ellen Stern, my biographer."
"The piece ran, he liked it a lot, and that was that," Stern told the Times via e-mail. "Alas, I never saw him again. But I held onto my notes. He died in 2003, and last year his house was sold and his famous barber chair and drawing board given to the New York Public Library. It broke my heart. Hirschfeld would have said, ‘Get over it.’ So I did. Then one day I pulled out my research and found the book he'd signed 25 years ago. Yes! A biography!"
Hirschfeld, who died in January 2003 at age 99, was known for his caricature portraits, which captured the vast personality of the Broadway scene. For his artistry, Hirschfeld received a special Tony Award and was the subject of an Academy Award-nominated film documentary, "The Line King." In June 2003 the Martin Beck Theatre was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in honor of the artist's 100th birthday.