When the Village WAS Bohemia


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July 31, 1957, Vol. II, No. 40

When the Village WAS Bohemia

By Dan Balaban

“Things were different then,” says Romany Marie, reflecting back on 36 years of her various restaurants in the Village. “There was more spacing, not so much building.” There were also places with strange, vanished names: The Pirate’s Den, Aladdin’s Lamp, The Three Thieves, Will o’ the Wisp.

Her first place near 1 Sheridan Square — “on the third floor, up a winding staircase” — was right in the middle of the teeming tourist track. “Greenwich Village was like Coney Island then. I had artists, and they drew sightseers. It was such a mix-up. The sightseers would crowd into my place.”

…In the early days, Eugene O’Neill would be at one table. “He used to come in right from the beginning.” He would have come over from the Hell Hole, a saloon on 4th Street, bringing with him a crowd of young people “who used to look up to him like God. He used to make notes on his sea plays in my place.”

…Or you might see William Saroyan there during the years he was writing “The Beautiful People” and “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.” “He was very enthusiastic and, I would say, satiric.” I might have been the night Dr. Marchand read Saroyan’s palm and told him: “You’re a piece of cheese,” and Saroyan answered: “I never heard such a truth about myself.”

…She could have pointed out to you Ernest Hemingway, Elliot Paul, William Rose and Stephen Vincent Benet, Burl Ives — “he was very poor then” — Gjon Mili, famous Life photographer, Leonard D. Abbot, editor of Reader’s Digest, Theodore Dreiser, Witter Bynner, Walter Duranty, Leger, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, E. E. Cummings, Isadora Duncan, Charles Demuth, Niles Spencer, Joseph Stella. “When you hear a great name, make no mistake, he was at my place.”

Not only in her place. You might have noticed a young man sitting on the stairs as you left. “Clifford Odets used to wait for Harry Kemp on my doorstep. Kemp” — leader of Bohemia in the 20’s and author of “Tramping on Life” and “More Miles” — “was his early influence.”

Theatre: Two Gentlemen of Verona

By Jerry Tallmer

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 Fangos. “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…

[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.]