Even as a club owner, Conrad continued to write. Years later, he received a fan letter from crime writer Elmore Leonard, who told Conrad that the opening sentence of "La Fiesta Brava" was the best he'd ever read.
Tired of the surging sleaze in San Francisco — symbolized for Conrad by a topless shoeshine stand down the street from his club — he and his family moved to the Santa Barbara area in the early 1970s.
By then, his machismo was so established that Times columnist Jack Smith wrote of meeting him: "I was pleased to see he was growing bald. It eased the envy."
"But a boyish charm remained," Smith wrote with tongue in cheek. "A very bad man, one might guess, for women and bulls."
In 1972, Conrad founded the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, an annual extravaganza bringing together agents, writers, publishers and, over the years, literary legends such as William Styron, Joan Didion and William F. Buckley Jr. Conrad sold the conference in 2004, but it continues today.
Conrad wrote what he knew. In the 1980s, he chronicled his battle with alcoholism in a book called "Time Is All We Have."
Over decades, he settled into a daily routine of painting and writing — in longhand. Triple-bypass surgery in 2010 improved his health but, his son said, he started declining last year.
Bedridden but still sharp, he was reading a book when his doctor told him he had just three or four weeks to live.
"I guess I'd better read faster," he said.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Mary Nobles Conrad of Carpinteria; four children, author Barnaby III of San Francisco, artist Cayetana Conrad of Carpinteria, author Winston S. Conrad of Kamuela, Hawaii, and fashion designer Kendall Conrad Cameron of Montecito; two stepsons, William A. Slater of Los Angeles and Michael Slater of Ventura; eight grandchildren; and five step-grandchildren.