The 1957 Auto Rally, and a Poet Returned from The Exotic East


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July 10, 1957, Vol. II, No. 37

Village Voice Auto Rally Sunday

An impressive galaxy of foreign and American sports cars will line up this Sunday, July 14, at 12:30 p.m., to vie for prizes in Greenwich Village’s first auto rally. The cars will assemble on Washington Place, just off the Square, under the direction of Rally Steward Jean Shepherd. The Village Voice is sponsoring this unusual event which emphasizes adherence to traffic regulations, rather than speed.

The entries thus far include at least one each of the following: Citroen, Hillman, Austin-Healey, MG, Jaguar, Skoda, Thunderbird, Corvette, Isetta, and Volkswagen.

Each of the drivers will receive a route sheet one minute before take-off. There will be three check-points along the way at which they will have to stop. Beside prizes to the three top winners, an added award will go to the driver who returns to the finish line with the best poker hand. A playing card will be given to the participants at the start and finish, as well as at each of the check-points. The driver who ends up with the high hand will be awarded a case of world-famous Heineken’s imported Holland beer, donated by The Village Voice…

Tale of a Young Man

For more than a year the young man from Perry, New York, traveled up and down and throughout India. He spoke to every fakir, yogi, jadoo-walla, dervish, and sadhu-sanyasi he could.

“Whenever I met someone interesting, I would spend a week with him and learn all his tricks.” In this way he mastered the magic and the miracles of India. Among the things he claims he can do are the Indian rope trick, charm cobras, be buried alive, and stick pins through his face. All this knowledge and experience he has put into a book called “Jadoo” which Messner will publish in the fall.

“Most of these are simple tricks which can only impress primitive people,” he said. “Anyone who is well-educated or knows a smattering of magic can see right through them.” Charming a cobra by playing a flute, for example, has nothing to do with the snake listening to the music. The cobra is deaf, he explains. The cobra weaves back and forth with the moving hands of the flute player. If the player should hold his hands still, the cobra would strike immediately. The problem then is not to perform the trick but to end it…

He interviewed Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa guide who was the first to climb Everest. Tenzing he considers the most memorable personality he ever met. “He is a friendly man, full of humility. He projects a feeling of great, quiet strength.”

…His most exciting adventure was tracking down the “Abominable Snowman” of the Himalayas. The only evidence Westerners have of these creatures are huge, humanlike tracks which travelers have occasionally seen. Natives call them “yeti” and many claim to have seen them…

The young man from Perry heard the call of the yeti while staying in a lama monastery in Sikkim. “It sounded like a seagull,” he recalled, and added: “There are no seagulls in Sikkim.”

…Five weeks ago he returned to Greenwich Village. America’s Thinnest Poet, as he was once called in his early Village days, has not gained much weight in his six loaded years of travel. He is long, lanky, and has a modest, unassuming manner. People tell him he resembles some stranger named Charles Van Doren.

…His plans include television, lecture tours, and of course writing. When he feels more cheerful, he talks enthusiastically of going to Timbuctoo, which, he explains, can be approached either across 3000 miles of Sahara desert or through 3000 miles of African jungle. “Timbuctoo,” he says, “was the largest city in Africa in the twelfth century. It had a great university, and learned men from all over used to go there.”

The young man from Perry is John A. Keel. He now lives on Thomson Street.

[Keel went on to write several books about UFOs and other paranormal phenomenon. His 1976 book The Mothman Prophecies, about sightings of a strange creature in West Virginia, was turned into a 2002 Richard Gere film. Keel suffered a heart attack in 2006, but recovered and continues to live in New York City.]

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]