By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
This fight has taken place in many different localities, over many different issues. Its themes are the same as those that were echoed in New York City's fight over community controlled schools, in Boston's battle over bussing, in the black militant attempt to establish a New Africa in the Mississippi, and in the Chicano's attempt to drive most Anglos from administrative jobs in Crystal City, Texas. Can America's mainstream culture, made pervasive by the electronic media, absorb all the diverse groups that live here, that are passionate about maintaining their identity?
To me, the protests here are a fresh sign that the melting potwith its dream of a single, unified American cultureis largely a myth. I don't believe we have ever been united except during times of national crisis like wars and assassinationsand as consumers. I think that, to an unrecognized extent, we are a collection of religious, ethnic, and generational tribes who maintain an uneasy truce. We had to conquer this continent in order to exploit its vast resources. But we were never able to conquer our own atavistic hatreds and loyalties, to live comfortably as a single people.
April 28, 1975
Cecil Taylor, at 43, has been an American cult figure for 20 years. He has an international coterie of followers who consider him a towering figure in contemporary music, a genius. In the United States, however, his existence is precarious, not in terms of economicsthough the economic factor makes it difficult for him to work with large-scale ensemblesbut in finding artistic acceptance. Recently, a prominent figure in the rock world offered to present him in a major concert hall, but only if he would put together a funk group. Taylor regards cultural oppression to be far more debilitating than economic or social oppression and when one hears an Ellisonian echo in his talk, it is clearly the hard-won response of a keen intelligence sensitive to an impossible situation. "By being in America, or by being in the West," he says, "you are invisible, you are not seen."
And yet, if Cecil Taylor's career has often seemed like a gamble against implacable odds, it is now evident that he has won. It has never been possible to write about him dispassionately, but suddenly one no longer needs recourse to noisy rhetoric: the accomplishment speaks for itself. For Taylor is a prophetnot because he was ahead of his time (whatever that means), but because he was so attuned to his time, to the traditions behind him (European, African, and American) and the values before him, that his vision became the path the rest of us would have to follow. Those encountering his music for the first time in 1975 will find the experience a good deal less disconcerting than it was for those who discovered him a decade ago.
John Waters (Feb. 1975)
photo: Fred W. McDarrah
March 3, 1975
I called on John Waters, the great Baltimore filmmaker, the day before his new film, "Female Trouble," opened in New York. Since he was not staying at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, but with friends, he was taking his interviews at the office of John Springer Associates. There he was, string hair, pencil moustache, chain-smoking Kools, sniffling with a cold, and lurking behind Foster Grants, seated amid the mementos in Springer's private office, keeping his voice down as if he were expecting the principal to walk in any second to turn him over to the juvenile authorities.
But Divine, the leading lady gender blur of Waters's repertory company, her sumo wrestler body poured into a quiet battleship gray mohair business dress from Frederick's of Hollywood, her Garo Yepremian shitkickers shoved into dainty black patent spike heel fuck me's and her Clarabelle as Theda Bara visage crowned by a jet black mane of Dynel teased i
nto a megaton version of the Liz look, seemed, well, right at home in the comfy yet hallowed office of Mr. Springer. Yes, it was one of the trappings of stardom. No, it was no bother at all. I knew both the director and his star from previous sojourns in New York. This time John was telling everybody about his three favorite movies of the year: "The Chainsaw Murders," "Abby," and "Lacombe Lucien." "Ayh luvved it!" I haven't seen any of these movies yet, but if John says to see them I will. He has the best taste in trash and even in art films. I'll never forget how crushed he looked when somebody told him that Susan Sontag had walked out on "Pink Flamingos." (A report as yet unconfirmed.)
"Oh and I luvved 'Duet for Cannibals,' " he moaned.
While we were talking about disaster movies, John Springer's numero uno glided in with Judith Crist's review.
"Oooohhh! What does it say? What does it say?" cooed Divine huskily.
"Well, she says it's disgusting, crude, revolting, awful, foul, and you can't dismiss it."
"At least she didn't hate it," said Divine, relieved.
"Yeah," sighed John, "the papers have been just terrible. It only got one star."