The flamboyant owner of New York's popular French restaurant Chez Josephine took his own life after years of battling depression, the NY Post reports.
Police discovered Jean-Claude Baker's body inside his Mercedes-Benz at his East Hampton home Thursday morning, The Post reports.
Friends tell The Post the openly gay Baker, 71, suffered from depression despite his outgoing, flamboyant personality.
“He stood out for his unfailing generosity and joy and laughter and love that he brought to everyone that knew him,” said Patrick Pancheco, a friend who knew Baker for decades.
“He was struggling with depression and with the arduous chore of getting through life. But he gave his all, and I think that was part of the problem — that somehow you just exhaust yourself in giving everybody the best of who you are.”
Baker was one of 12 children adopted by biracial pop singer Josephine Baker as part of her “Rainbow Tribe.” She died in 1975 in Paris, France at age 68.
Jean-Claude Baker opened Chez Josephine as a tribute to his adoptive mother. The restaurant was once a house of ill repute located in the seedy Hell's Kitchen area of NY. "There was still a sign in the window that said, ‘$10, Complete Satisfaction,’” he told The Post in 1999.
Baker's reputation attracted big name stars and the restaurant became a celebrity haunt. Harry Connick Jr. got his start, at age 17, playing piano at Chez Josephine.
“I think Jean-Claude was best friends to about a thousand people, believe me,” Pancheco told The Post.
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