By Pete Kotz
By Michael Musto
By Michael Musto
By Capt. James Van Thach told to Jonathan Wei
By Kera Bolonik
By Michael Musto
By Nick Pinto
By Steve Weinstein
Greenwich Village is one of the bitter provincesit 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
Errors in type-setting and proof-reading fall into two categoriesthose 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 Voiceat least under its present policy.
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 everythingcrude 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 backgroundeverything 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.
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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.
The West Village, which is true Greenwich Village, is the most expensive of all. The seven respondents who live there feared their days were numbered. From Charlton to 14th Street the word is "improvement," which means inside johns, heat, and paint. Sometimes this doubles the rent ($20 to $40 is common), but often it quadruples it.
Those with no-fixed-abode gravitate from one friend's floor to another. "It's like a game," said a tall, thin M.A. in Lit; " 'Who's going to get me tonight?' It's cheap, but it's tiresomeI guess I'm too old." He was 26.
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The best you can say for redevelopment is that, in certain cases, it is the lesser evil. As practiced in New York, it is very painful. It causes catastrophic dislocation and hardship to tens of thousands of citizens. There is growing evidence that it shoots up juvenile-delinquency figures and spreads or intensifies slums in the areas taking the dislocation impact. It destroys, more surely than floods or tornados, immense numbers of small businesses. It is expensive to the taxpayers, federal and local. It is not fulfilling the hope that it would boost the city's tax returns. Quite the contrary.
Furthermore, the results of all this expense and travail look dull and are dull. The great virtue of the city, the thing that helps make up for all its disadvantages, is that it is interesting. It isn't easy to make a chunk of New York boring, but redevelopment does it.
On the other hand here is the Village an area of the city with the power to attract and hold a real cross-section of the population, including a lot of middle-income families. An area with demonstrated potential for extending and upgrading its fringes. An area that pays more in taxes than it gets back in services. An area that grows theaters all by itself . . .
Wouldn't you think the city fathers would want to understand what makes our area successful and learn from it? Or failing such creative curiosity that they would at least cherish it?
The cherished dogma that renting to Negroes will panic whites and send property values plunging down received a sharp blow from Villagers last week.
Whitney North Seymour, Jr., local Republican candidate for the Assembly, broke the story that Edmond Martin, Village realtor, had placed a sign in his office saying that he would not show apartments to Negroes because of his opposition to the Sharkey-Brown-Isaacs law. Within three days 30 of Mr. Martin's tenants signed a statement of fundamental opposition to his stand . . .
"As tenants of Edmond Martin, we wish to state that we are opposed to such flouting of the law and to the principle of placing supposed property rights over human rights. Our sense of dignity is not injured by living in the same building with our fellow-men of whatever race, creed, or color, for we welcome that. On the contrary, our sense of dignity is outraged by being forced to live in discriminatory housing."
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the tenant response was its wide support. In the short period that the statement was circulating, some 38 tenants were asked to sign. Only eight turned it down, and of these, only one said that it was because he was actually against Negroes moving in (the others were against signing on principle, or else indifferent).
If you're Negro and are planning to go to the Newport Jazz Festival for the first time over the Fourth-of-July week-end, you had better be very sure of your room reservations. Again this year, applicants for rooms have received letters from Newporters saying they'd be welcomeunless they're Negro. Sometimes, however, that specification hasn't been made clear in advance arrangements, and Negroes have been turned away from lodging houses and hotels, particularly the Munchinger King, one of the town's two principal hostelries.
To my knowledge, however, the Newport Jazz Festival has yet to make a public announcement to the townspeople exhorting them not to discriminate. It's a disgusting situation, and as Negroes continue to be insulted there each year, the reason for holding this largest of all jazz festivals in Newport becomes less and less tenable. "But," I've heard a Festival official say, "all cities have some prejudice." Newport, however, is small and limited in its lodging facilities, and a Negro who goes all the way there to hear music that came from the Negro may easily find himself without a place to sleep. If the Festival can't straighten out the town at least over the July 4 week-endand it could if it tried, because the natives have come to depend on the bread that jazz bringsthen it ought to take the Festival elsewhere.
The other day Robert Frank was threatening me. He went to see "Anatomy of a Murder," and the movie was so boring that he had to walk out of it. "Why did you go see it?" I said. "I gave it a very bad review." "So, your review wasn't bad enough," said Frank.
There I am. My next review of a big Hollywood movie will consist of adjectives only, such as bad, horrible, boring, disgusting, stupid, ridiculous, etc., etc., interspersed with a few four-letter words. Our old generation of film-makers is so boringly bad and so outdated that all their current films, all unanimously acclaimed by New York reviewers, could be perfectly described by such a collection of adjectives.
The two most modern and most intelligent American films, John Cassavetes' "SHADOWS" and Robert Frank's and Alfred Leslie's "BEAT GENERATION," are still not released, and my praising them here wouldn't amount to much, since you cannot see them. But these two movies are so far ahead of all Hollywood and independent films that once you've seen them you can no longer look at the official cinema: you know that American cinema can be more sensitive and intelligent.
Let us be frank: if Hollywood films are boring and outdated, it is not because our "geniuses" are being kept away from the cinema; not because the scripts are being ruined by the producers; the truth is more simple: the horrible fruits we eat through our eyes and ears are just what their makers are capable of; what we see is their finest work at the top of their intelligence. And the sensitivity? Allen Ginsberg: "These media are exactly the places where the deepest and most personal sensitivities and confessions of reality are most prohibited, mocked, suppressed."
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Hipper than thou. Ted Joans, Village bard, at Café Bizarre. (July 1959)
photo: Fred W. McDarrah
On a warm, cloudy afternoon recently, the young flocked like lemmings to the fountain in Washington Square. They made the usual scene: sloppy blue jeans and occult amulets dangling from open shirt fronts; a bongo drum thumping and reverberating through the trees. But always on the outskirts of the crowd, where once a single police officer walked his beat, three or four now strolled.
Suddenly, great raindrops flashed down. A girl yelped and the crowd ran for cover. As disheveled figures flew by, the officers laughed and beat the iron park fences with their sticks, yelling: "Run Beatniks!" They were delighted. The tensions of the Square, scene of many a fight, beating, and arrest in the past years, had been relieved courtesy of God.
Most of the rain-outs wound up on MacDougal Street. There, in its coffee houses and bars, they became more definable. Most were in late 'teens or 20's. From other parts of the city and New Jersey, or from districts adjacent to but not of the Village, they had come to their spiritual home. For MacDougal Street is much more to them than a place to get out of the rain. It symbolized their non-conformity, their adventures amorous or otherwise. MacDougal is Mecca1960 style.
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Daddios. A reading, at the Artist's Studio, an informal poetry center run by George Nelson Preston, 48 East 3rd Street. Kerouac, arms out like a Christ figure, on ladder reading from "On the Road." Left to right: poets Ted Joans, Jose Garcia Villa, Allen Ginsberg, Edward Marshall, Gregory Corso, Leroi Jones. (Feb. 1959)
photo: Fred W. McDarrah
It's all gibberish, everything that has been said. There's not many competent explainers. I'm speaking of the Beat Generation, which after all is quite an Angelic Idea. As to what non-writers, journalists, etc., have made of it, as usualwell, it's their bad poetry not Kerouac's.
Be that as it may, "The Subterraneans" (1953) and "The Dharma Bums" (1958) are sketchy evidence of the prose pilgrimage he's made.
The virtue of "The Subterraneans" was that it was, at last, published, completely his own prose, no changes . . .
Spontaneous Bop Prosody, a nickname one might give to this kind of writingthat is to say, read aloud and notice how the motion of the sentence corresponds to the motion of actual excited talk.
It takes enormous art (being a genius and writing a lot) to get to that point in prose. (And trusting God.)
Bop because, partly, in listening to the new improvisatory freedoms of progressive musicians, one develops an ear for one's own actual sounds. One does not force them into the old rhythm. Unless one wishes to protect one's old emotions by falsifying the new ones and making them fit the forms of the old.
Jack is very concerned with the rhythm of his sentences, he enjoys that like he enjoys jazz, Bach, Buddhism, or the rhythm in Shakespeare, apropos of whom he oft remarks: "Genius is funny." The combinations of words and the rhythmic variations make masters laugh together (much as the two dopey sages giggling over a Chinese parchmenta picture in the Freer Gallery). All this ties in with the half-century-old struggle for the development of an American prosody to match our own speech and thinking rhythm. It's all quite traditional actually you see. Thus W.C. Williams has preached the tradition of "invention."
All this is quite obvious except to those who are not involved with the radical problems of artistic form.
Coffee-house Cassius. In one of the most bizarre triumphs since P.T. Barnum had two of his midgets ceremonially married at Greenwich Villages Grace Episcopal Church, in the middle of the 19th century, the fight games answer to Cyrano de Bergerac held forth last Thursday in an improbable high-noon poetry reading at the Bitter End coffee house on Bleecker. The reading was in preparation for his bout with Doug Jones this week. Here, Mr. Clay produces a mob scene upon leaving the event. (March 1963)
photo: Fred W. McDarrah
Hundreds of Villagers and other New Yorkers are putting most of their energies this week into protests against nuclear testing and the "war economy." The Worldwide General Strike for Peace began on Monday at points all around town with high enthusiasm if relatively few participants. The elaborate schedule of activities comes to a first round conclusion on Sunday evening, February 4, with a rally at the Village Gate and a torchlight parade up Sixth Avenue to Times Square.
Following last week's refusal by the New York Times of the ad for the General Strike, the New York Committee submitted the ad to the Herald Tribune and the Post. Both rejected it. According to Julian Beck, an initiator of the strike concept, the Herald Tribune gave no reason for this rejection. The Post, he said, demanded deletion of the words "strike," "work-stoppage," and "boycott," and required that the ad not announce picketing at the U.S. Army recruiting station in Times Square or at the New York Stock Exchange. The Post has recently initiated a stock-market report section.
On Friday a group of about 20 advocates of the strike picketed the Times, wearing placards explaining the aims and planned activities of strike week. Retreating from the rain into Cobb's Corner Coffee Shop, on the corner of 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue, the picketers held a brief press conference, at which the Times, the Tribune, and The Voice were represented.
On Monday a group of strikers estimated at more than 300 marched down Fifth Avenue from 59th Street to Washington Square. In a kick-off speech in front of the Plaza Hotel, David McReynolds, of the War Resisters League, said: "We declare peace against all the governments of the world."
The mood of the occasion was festive despite the 26-degree cold and the apparent indifference of most passers-by. A large group of the walkers, centered on folk-singers Pete Seeger and Gil Turner, sang "I Ain't Gonna Study War No More," "You Can Dig Your Grave in Your Own Backyard," and other songs of protest. Arriving at Washington Square, the group was diverted by good-natured police to the sidewalk along Sixth Avenue south of Waverly Place. There Julian Beck spoke briefly, telling the demonstrators: "It is beautiful to see you here today. You are the hope of the future." "Peace torches" were then lighted and carried to points where vigils will be maintained throughout the week of the strike.
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"There's no place for Uncle Tom on this bus, man." The voice of the Negro echoed down the neon-bathed Harlem street as he mounted the steps of Bus 10 ready to start for Washington.
It was 2 a.m. on the morning of August 28. Anticipation hovered quietly over the 24 buses that lined both sides of 125th Street. Cars and cabs stopped more and more frequently to pour forth bundle-laden, sleepy Marchers. Black, white, old, young zigzagged back and forth across the street trying to find their assigned buses. Bus captains marked by yellow ribbons and rumpled passenger lists stood guard at the bus doors. Small groups huddled around them.
Voices arose above the general din.
"You've got to switch me to Bus 10. It's a swingin' bus. There's nothin' but old ladies on this crate."
"Hey, is this bus air-conditioned?"
"Where can I get seat reservations?"
"Hey, chick, are you on this bus?"
"Is your husband on this bus?"
"That's all right. I'll make love to both of you. I'm compatible."
"Who the hell is on this bus?" cried George Johnson, the exasperated 30-year-old Negro captain of Bus 10 and organizer of New York CORE's 24-bus caravan. "People shouldn't be swapping buses, especially CORE members. It only adds to the confusion. Now everybody get in a seat and stay there. You can't save seats. This isn't a cocktail party."
The reaction to George's gruffness was a tongue-in-cheek parody of the Mr. Charlie routine. "Yassir, anything you say, sir." "Don't you fret now, Mr. George." "Don't you go upsetting yourself, boss." "You knows I always listen to you captain sir."
There was a general shuffling of bundles on the bus. Index cards with emergency Washington phone numbers were filled out and kept by everyone. "Sit-In Song Books" were passed back.
Outside the window of Bus 10 an old Negro was standing with outstretched arms reciting an impromptu ode to the Black Woman. "Black Woman, you are the queen of the universe. I would give my life for you." This was less comic than symptomatic. It was just one of many signs of the racial pride which is now surging through the Negro people.
A young Negro in the seat behind me, when asked why he was going on this March, replied, "Because it's like your sweater. It's Black. It's for the cause. If my people are in it, I am going to be in it fighting, even if I get killed."
Outside the window of Bus 10 was also a more extreme reminder of this racial pride. Young members of the Black Muslims, neatly dressed in suits and ties, were hawking copies of "Muhammad Speaks." This paper is the official statement of the Black Muslim philosophy: Black is beautiful; Black is best; Black must be separate from white.
I swing off the bus to ask the young Muslim if he was going to Washington. With a faint trace of a smile on his lips, he answered, "No, ma'am, I have to sell papers. You people go to Washington." The implication was clear: he was too busy working for his own causeseparationto be bothered working for integration.
An older man, converted to a Muslim later in life, was not so emotionally untouched by the March and what it stood for. When I asked him why the Muslims were not participating in the March, he gave all the proper answers. He said: "The Messenger has not spoken. If he says nothing, we sit still. If he says go, we go." But then, asked if as an individual rather than a Muslim he would have gone, he replied: "I would have gone."
Moving through the crowd, I encountered a Negro I knew to be a fence-sitter between the Muslim and integrationist philosophies. I asked him why he had decided to come on the March. He said, "It's like St. Patrick's Day to the Irish. I came out of respect for what my people are doing, not because I believe it will do any good. I thought it would do some good at the beginning, but when the March started to get all the official approval from Mastah Kennedy, Mastah Wagner, and Mastah Spellman, and they started setting limits on how we had to march peacefully, I knew that the March was going to be a mockery. That they were giving us something again. They were letting the niggers have their day to get all this nonsense out of their system, and then planning to go back to things as usual. Well, if the white man continues to sleep, continues to ignore the intensity of the black man's feelings and desires, all hell is going to break loose."
"The Birds" is here (at the Palace and Sutton), and what a joy to behold a self-contained movie which does not feed parasitically on outside cultural referencesChekhov, Synge, O'Neill, Genet, Behan, Melville, or what have you. Drawing from the relatively invisible literary talents of Daphne DuMaurier and Evan Hunter, Alfred Hitchcock has fashioned a major work of cinematic art, and "cinematic" is the operative term here, not "literary" or "sociological." There is one sequence, for example, where the heroine is in an outboard motor boat churning across the bay while the hero's car is racing around the shore road to intercept her on the other side. This race, in itself pure cinema, is seen entirely from the girl's point of view. We see only what she can see from the rowboat. Suddenly, near shore, the camera picks up a sea gull swooping down on our heroine. For just a second, the point of view is shifted, and we are permitted to see the bird before its victim does. The director has apparently broken an aesthetic rule for the sake of a shock effectgull pecks girl. Yet this momentary incursion of the objective on the subjective is remarkably consistent with the meaning of the film.
The theme, after all, is complacency, as the director has stated on innumerable occasions . . . As in "Psycho," Hitchcock succeeds in implicating his audience to such an extent that the much-criticized, apparently anticlimactic ending of the film finds the audience more blood-thirsty than the birds.
[The Voice interviewed comedian Lenny Bruce shortly after he was arrested on an obscenity charge at the Cafe Au Go Go.]
A couple of hours spent with Bruce . . . can be a pretty incongruous couple of hours. First, tagging along with him and his private-detective sidekick to the Fifth Avenue apartment of a prominent civil libertarian, for whom they play the tapes of the shows for which Bruce was arrested. Sitting in a comfortable chair surrounded by wall-to-wall carpeting watching Bruce, in his light blue pants and white shoes and tan suede jacket, sitting stiffly in another comfortable chair, deadpan, listening to himself on the machine. And then watching him get fidgety, though always attentive and polite, as the liberal lectures him on the history of the good fight against censorship in this country and explains that Bruce's language stems from an anal fixation, when all he really came for was some specific advice on his own case.
Later, in his room at one of the Village's less elegant hotels, where there is no carpeting, just blankets and miscellaneous junk on the floor, Bruce kind of nervously jumps around, occasionally flopping down on the messed-up bed with a law book, all his attention focused on working out the legal strategy to get him out from under the latest charge against him. His steadily mounting experience in cases like this has made him somewhat of a specialist on the subject. The whole scene is reminiscent of poet Allen Ginsberg spouting the expertise he accumulated in his recent battle with the City License Department for the right of poets to read their work in coffee houses. Here too the authorities are, if nothing else, succeeding in distracting an artist from his work and turning him into a legalist.
But when Bruce is finally lured out of his law book and into a more general discussion of his problems, there is no display of bitternessagainst neither the police nor the law itself. In fact, Bruce displays more compassion for the police than just about anyone around the Village these days. "They die for less than $400 a month," he points out. "And they're ashamed of being cops. It's a shitty gig." He feels it isn't fair to treat individual policemen as symbols. Newspapers, he says, depend too much on symbols. "When they talk about Alec Guinness they say he's Chaplinesque. And when they talk about Peter Sellers they say he's Guinness-like," Bruce complained, shoulders hunched, hands in pockets, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling and looking exactly like James Dean.
As for the obscenity law, he says he thinks it's "correct." "The whole issue," says Bruce, "is not that the state should keep its dirty hands off," as the liberal he visited had insisted. For Bruce "the key word is 'prurient.' Don't get people horny." And he says, insisting he is serious, that there should be a law against getting people aroused because "it's bad for marriages." He says he's not for the repeal of obscenity laws because "most laws have been defined and tested under Constitutional law by men like Judge Black and some other pretty wise old cats . . . Here's how wonderful the law is," he goes on, getting enthusiastic. "Even if (what you say) gets people horny, if it has some social importance it's not obscene."
Bruce's quarrel is not with the law as written. He feels that the obscenity law as written and correctly defined does not inhibit his freedom of speech. He is confident that, as has happened in California, if his case has to go to a higher court, the words he has been hauled in on will not be judged obscene. The only fear Lenny Bruce has is "of running out of carfare to the Supreme Court."
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Surf and Turf. Carolee Schneemans "happening" titled "Meat Joy" at the Judson Church was one of its recent sensational events that was overshadowed only by a concert of two nude dancers. In this happening the players got swatted with raw fish and plucked limp chickens. (Nov. 1964)
photo: Fred W. McDarrah
It was the Ecumenical Council, a hootenanny, a happening, and a revolution all rolled into one. And it happened in Montgomery, "Cradle of the Confederacy."
A broken-down hipster, the Realist sticking out of his dungarees, marched alongside an Episcopal bishop clutching the Holy Bible. There were the kamikazes of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating CommitteeSNCCin their blue-denim overalls, mud-caked boots, and rash helmets, next to middle-class housewives who won't ride the subways after dark. There were nuns in flowing black habits arm in arm with jowly labor leaders who discriminate in their unions.
There were rabbis, junkies, schoolboys, actors, sharecroppers, intellectuals, maids, novelists, folk-singers, and politicians40,000 motives and 40,000 people marching to Montgomery behind James Forman who hates the oppressor and Martin Luther King who loves the oppressed.
There were hundreds of high school and college youngstersthat new breed of revolutionary that has somehow grown up inside the bowels of prosperous America. There were kids who rioted against HUAC, vigiled against the Bomb, invaded Mississippi last summer, and turned Berkeley upside down. They are a new generation of insurgents, nourished not by Marx or Trotsky, but by Camus, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, and SNCC. Their revolution is not against capitalism, but against what they deem to be the values of an enlightened AmericaBrotherhood Weeks, factories called colleges, desperation called success, and sex twice a week.
And there were thousands of clergymen symbolizing the revolution within a revolutionthe nun with suntan cream on her face who marched all the way from Selma, priests, ministers, rabbis with yarmulkes. There was a huge sign: "Lutherans are Here Because Christ Cared." Another read: "Kansas Mennonites Support Civil Rights." And another: "SMU Marches for Freedom."
On the streets of the Confederacy's cradle that "coalition of conscience" Bayard Rustin and Michael Harrington have tried to will into existence materialized spontaneously. A line of marchers, strung out as far as the eye could see, sang "America the Beautiful" and made it sound like a revolutionary anthem . . .
A white minister from Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) greeted new arrivals, urged them to leave the city "as soon as the rally is over because it will be dangerous," and directed them to shuttle buses to the City of St. Jude, a Roman Catholic complex where the marchers had camped the night before. On the SCLC minister's lapel was a button that said "GROW." He explained it stood for "Get Rid of Wallace."
At St. Jude the predominant mood was gaiety, as thousands upon thousands of visitors swelled the great serpentine line of march that coiled around the vast, muddy athletic field.
Small clusters sang freedom songs during the two hours it took for the whole line to unwind onto the streets towards the capitol, four miles away. The visitors sang off-key versions of better-known freedom songs, while local Negroes, led by either SNCC or SCLC staff members, sang raucous, sassy, taunting songs that came out of the Movement in Alabama's Black Belt. A group of about 500 from St. Louis stood in a large circle, one small, Negro woman calling out chorus after chorus of "We Shall Overcome."
Other demonstrators milled around the staging area like conventioneers, wearing name tags and introducing themselves to strangers, pronouncing their home towns with accents of prideMontreal, Berkeley, Boston, Detroitand their association with equal prideADA, the United Auto Workers, NAACP, the University of Virginia, the American Legion (Gramercy Park chapter).
At noon, under one of the day's brief showers, the procession began to move out, with the bloody-shoed 300 who had marched all the way in the vanguard. With them were barefoot Joan Baez; James Baldwin, nervously smiling, just back from Scandinavia; the angelic looking Montgomery seamstress Rosa Parks, who ignited the mythic bus boycott a decade ago; and SNCC's John Lewis, who walked the whole way from Selma and who had suffered head injuries on "Bloody Sunday" at the Alabama River Bridge. And there was Martin Luther King, to whom Negroes of the Black Belt now sing "Glory, Glory Hallelujah" and then kiss his hand.
The streets in the Negro slums of Montgomery were of mud and clay. There were row upon row of run-down shacks, with the very old, the very young, the unemployed sitting on porches.
At first the non-marchers were timid and shy. It was as if shame made them look down rather than at the masses that surged past them. But slowly, they looked up, to wave, and when the marchers began to shout, "Join us, come on," many accepted the invitation and probably protested their plight for the first time in their lives. Marching through the slum was like taking LSD for the soul.
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They had a marvelous time, those plucky non-conforming radio kids over at WBAI. They suspended regular programming with the evening news, flipped the switch for the incoming calls, and staged a marathon 55-hour appeal for funds to tide them over what they called their worst crisis in five years of broadcasting.
Syrupy-voiced staff announcer Bob Fass pierced ears for the cause in the window of Conrad's, a village jeweler. Comic Henry Morgan came up to the station to tape some plugs and actor Tony Randall gave a fast 200 in cash. Artist Elaine De Kooning provided some of her minor Kennedy paintings for auction, and other lesser known artistic lights offered their services as plumbers and carpenters. A piano company hauled over the floor model for the critical stretch and jazz pianist Randy Weston fell by to play it. Big Joe Williams sang the blues and three teenagers hitchhiked in from Nyack to make sandwiches for the tired and hungry crew.
It was a gasser, and when they totaled the receipts they found they had garnered over $25,000enough to keep the turntables spinning and the commentators questioning until mid-August.
A play by Sam Shepard, presented through Sunday by and at the Caffe Cino, 31 Cornelia Street. Directed by Michael Smith.
For those of you who are busy people, facts first, implications later. (And by facts I mean, of course, nothing closer to the truth than my opinions.) Sam Shepard is one of the youngest and most gifted of the new playwrights working off-Broadway these days. The signature of his work is its unencumbered spontaneitythe impression Shepard gives of inventing drama as a form each time he writes a play. His new theatre piece, "Icarus's Mother," is presently on view at the Caffe Cino. Sad to say, it gives the impression of being a mess . . .
The value of off-Broadway and its café adjuncts lies not only in its enthusiasm for sustaining plays without which the uptown theatre is unreal and preposterousthe work of Beckett, Genet, Pinter, Claudel, deGhelderode, for examplebut, as well, in offering new, experimental playwrights (such as Sam Shepard) a proper ambiance in which to try things out, over-reach, fail and, if they have the stuff, finally succeed.
If Shepard's new theatre piece, "Icarus's Mother," fails to please, by which I mean fails to engage one, the failure is of no importance so long as the piece is merely one random experiment, one spontaneous throw-off, one way-stone on the path toward the creation and recreation of theatre. If, on the other hand, this play signals, as I have the disquieting suspicion it does, the beginnings of a premature crystallization of Shepard's theatre aesthetic, then the failure of the play is a good deal more serious.
Andy Warhol makes movies with the same unruffled objectivity that he looks at life. His usual procedure is to set up the actionoften a group of people interactingpoint the camera at them, turn it on, and step back. The camera makes the movie: whatever happens, planned or not, is the film. Sometimes in the studio (which he refers to as "the factory") there will be interruptions: telephone calls, people going up or down in the elevator, somebody dropping something or walking inadvertently in front of the camera. All is recorded. No trace of surprise or annoyance registers on Warhol's face.
He is totally cool or very uptight, depending on your point of view. The latter school says: "Andy's been trained in Madison Avenue. He's like a high-powered executive who doesn't show his feelings, but he's seething inside." Personally, I think it the height of coolness to regard everything with a detached eye and rely on intuition to make instant decisions. Warhol's intuition is usually correct.
He is the subject of intense curiosity and heated discussions. What does he DO, people ask, that gives him such a reputation? His public work is more a subject for humor and wisecracks than for serious study: representations of soup cans, silkscreen reproductions of famous faces, multi-colored lithographs of flowers, murky six-hour movies of a man asleep or Henry Geldzahler smoking a cigar. Maybe his true talent lies in provoking so much argument about whether he's an artist without doing any of the recognizable things that the public accepts as "art." Warhol is an artist, a catalyst, a perceptive observer of contemporary life whose comments are sometimes astute by being no comments at all.
There are very few words wasted around the Andy Warhol milieu, little idle conversation. Andy himself sizes up situations instantly, and his instructions or comments are brief. Most of his closest friends are as laconic as himself, their thoughts presumably having taken them beyond trite responses. Andy is cordial and willing to converse but wary of cross-examination. He sometimes seems slightly surprised that you have not reached the same conclusions as himself. I have never seem him "rude," but people who believe that artists must justify themselves in words (if an artist could explain his point of view by words alone, why would he need to do anything but talk or write?) sometimes choose to put him down because he doesn't always respond according to the accepted canons.
He is a provocateur by his mere presencethe silvered hair, the dark shades (lately he has not been wearing them much), the slightly enigmatic and faintly expectant look of an amiable polar bear. "I didn't expect him to look like such a twerp," said a girl at one gallery opening. She was provoked by just the sight of him as many people are provoked. "I bet he's wearing a wig; I'm going to pull his hair and find out," she said. Andy smiled, with nervous embarrassment, and ducked into the other room to escape. Does he wear a wig? Does it matter?
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