The Birth of the 'Voice': 1955–1965

From the Beats to Civil Rights, Lenny Bruce to Warhol's Factory . . .

Quickly: A column for slow readers

By Norman Mailer

Greenwich Village is one of the bitter provinces—it abounds in snobs and critics. That many of you are frustrated in your ambitions, and undernourished in your pleasures, only makes you more venomous. Quite rightly. If found myself in your position I would not be charitable either. Nevertheless, given your general animus to those more talented than yourselves, the only way I see myself becoming one of the cherished traditions of the Village is to be actively disliked each week.

No Contest. Miss Beatnik 1958, Merle Molofsky (June 1959)
photo: Fred W. McDarrah
January 3, 1956

The Hip and The Square

By Norman Mailer
May 2, 1956

Errors in type-setting and proof-reading fall into two categories—those which are obvious mis-spellings, and those (more serious and more interesting psychologically) where a word is left our or changed into another, and the meaning of the sentence thereby becomes altered. Yet the reader never knows that an error was made.

Last week a classic of this sort occurred. Writing about Hip, part of my final sentence was supposed to read:

. . . because Hip is not totally negative, and has a view of life which is predicated on growth and the nuances of growth, I intend to continue writing about it . . .

As it appeared in The Voice, it read:

. . . because Hip is not totally negative, and has a view of life which is predicated on growth and the nuisances of growth, I intend to continue writing about it . . .

In the four months I have been writing this column, similar (for me) grievous errors have cropped up in all but two of the pieces I have written, and these errors have made for steadily increasing friction between the Editor, an Associate Editor, and myself. . . .

At any rate, we all had some words, some fairly sharp words, certain things were said which can hardly be unsaid, and the result is that this is to be my last column for The Voice—at least under its present policy.

Theatre: Two Gentlemen of Verona

The comedy by William Shakespeare, presented outdoors and free in Central Park by Joseph Papp and the New York Summer Shakespeare Festival
By Jerry Tallmer
July 31, 1957

see full text

Burlesque came back to New York with a bang last week when "Two Gentlemen of Verona" opened in Central Park. This makes for the happiest news of the summer.

There's everything—crude comedians, dirty jokes, flower pots, jugglers, dancing bears, a funny dog, pretty girls dolled up like trees, pretty girls necking around with handsome young men, ice-cream hawkers in the background—everything except the naked nipple, and to make up for that there's even a belly-dancer with the wondrous name of Chrysoula Frangos. "Hey," said an honest townsman crouched next to me on the greensward, "dis Shakespeare wrote good slapstick, huh?" It seemed to have shook him to the chops.

Producer [Joseph] Papp and director [Stuart] Vaughan of the New York Summer Shakespeare Festival have thrown all caution to the winds. I did not expect it and I am delighted. If this is Shakespeare for the masses all I can say is that I am one of them on evenings like these.
. . . read more

Hipniks: Where Do They Bed-Down When the Sun Comes Up

August 13, 1958

see full text

When dawn comes, where does Young Bohemia bed-down? This seemed like a reasonable question to ask. So, the paper put two operatives into the field. Our off-beat survey was interested only in geography, other material was noted but strained out.

Years ago the Bohemian Village was a compact network of streets running west from MacDougal. Today it is a vast, spread-out playground for the cool. But . . . Is it home? That was what we wanted to know. Where do the young people brew their instant coffee, brush their teeth (everyone in America brushes his teeth, even the Bohemians, our surveyors discovered), and have friends over to midnight lunch?

Our men talked to 27 young hipniks (hipnik: a folksy variant of hipster). To strain out the inevitable interloper, who appears during evening hours, they toured the coffee houses in late afternoon while the young people were having breakfast. The accommodations of those questioned, which ranged from an elevator apartment to non-fixed-abodes, were found in such exotic sites as Desbrosses Street (lower West Side), Orange Street (Brooklyn Heights), and a dead-end called Bond Street.

Four said they lived on the Lower East Side. "It's real groovy over there," one striking 19-year-old redhead asserted, but admitted that she never spent more than 10 waking minutes in her apartment. Most of the Eastsiders were vaguely looking for Village diggings. Few of them had paid last month's rent.

While the eight who lived in the South Village (below Bleecker Street), generally, did better on rent, one rotund exception (dark glasses, jeans, and bow tie) explained that he spent at least half his time in a friend's Hudson Street loft until the check arrived from home (Gary, Indiana). He seemed troubled by the whole process.

Rents proved to be no higher in the South Village than on the Lower East Side, but apartments were somewhat harder to get, though not impossible. Sullivan, Thompson, MacDougal, Bleecker were the prime favorites.

Next Page »