James R. Tempio, 59, restaurateur, painter, activist, ‘Renaissance man’


By Albert Amateau

James R. Tempio, a resident of Bank St. for more than 30 years and a partner in a popular Villager restaurant in the 1970s, died July 21 at the age of 59.

He died at home of a liver disease after a long illness, according to his friend and neighbor Cassandra Saulters.

A man of many talents, he was a professional scenic painter who worked on films, including the 1996 “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” directed by and starring Barbra Streisand.

A tenant activist, he was a passionate fighter against injustice and bigotry. He volunteered with Gay Men’s Health Crisis and was a pillar of strength for friends afflicted with AIDS.

Born in Jersey City to James V. and Josephine Tempio, he went to Parsons College in Iowa, then to Kent State University in Ohio, where a friend was killed in the 1970 National Guard shooting. He then went to Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey for graduate study, tutoring English in a mentorship program, according to Saulters. He also worked for a time in commercial real estate for Thomson McKinnon in the Financial District, Saulters said.

With Bobby Krieger, he opened Star Thrower, a restaurant on Greenwich Ave. and Bank St. that earned rave reviews and prospered for several years beginning in 1976. The restaurant was named for a painting done by a friend and displayed in the restaurant.

“It was ahead of its time with nouvelle cuisine and it was always packed,” said David Rothenberg, a friend. “Jim closed it because he got bored with it.”

“It’s said of too many people, but Jim really was a Renaissance man,” said Saulters. “He was a fourth-level yoga and an expert fisherman. He used to go fly-fishing in Roscoe, N.Y., and surf fishing on Long Island. He was so thorough in everything he did.”

He is survived by his mother, Josephine, a brother, Richard, two sisters, Kathy Bianchi and Maria McCann, three nephews and a niece. His father, James V. Tempio, died on May 28.

Redden’s Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.