Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jack, Bob & Barbra

Was reading a comment I made at HuffPost last April 23rd on Jack Nicholson's birthday:

“Met Jack briefly in 59 on a summer afternoon in Greenwich Village. He and his mates were on huge Harleys almost blocking the corner of 8th St & McDougal. One of my acting buddies, Bob Vernier, was in The Actor's Studio with Jack and he introduced us. Jack gave me that huge, gorgeous smile and it was one of those moments that you remember for a lifetime. This was 10 years before he broke out in "Easy Rider" and this "nobody" had star power even then. I'd love to meet him again now that he's a Super Star! I sussed it way back before it happened. Happy Birthday, Jack.”

When I read it over something jumped out at me: "the corner of 8th Street and McDougal"!   That was where the yellow brick road began that led to the "BEAT" Revolution, "Howling" for Equality that pretty much ended with the Beatles.  (Together, the Lads were invincible; split, occasionally sublime rather than nearly always.  Dylan gave them pot and they gave us Sgt. Pepper.)  The Yellow Brick Road for this breeding ground of Dylan and Streisand, the playground of Kerouac and Ginsberg, stretched west on McDougal to Bleeker, made a left turn south and ended up just past The Bitter End.  

McDougal between West 3rd and Bleeker, one single small block, had a dozen coffee cafes and just 2 bars.   There were poetry readings practically every night in every cafe, where the cost of admission for the whole evening was a single cup o coffee while poets poeted and a nobody like Dylan got up to recite his latest poem for free on an "open mike".   You weren't allowed to clap, there were packed tenements above these walk down, basement cafes; so you snapped your fingers in hushed appreciation or not.  It was "live" so the response was immediate.  Hearing no sound was deafening to a failure.

Conversations in these coffee cafes expanded to neighboring tables as the merits of Dostoevsky's "The Grand Inquisitor", a chapter in his "The Brothers Karamazov", is chimed in on by poets, actors, painters, writers, singers and any and all lost seekers.  There was no alcohol, just the freedom of open exchange and by consensus all these lost souls discovered a code to live by that was liberal humanism and they took that with them wherever they went, high or low.  One I knew and watched develop was a girl from Brooklyn.

A few blocks north on Bleeker you run into Gay East, aka Christopher Street between Greenwich and Hudson.  Around the same time McDougal was bursting with Dylan poetry, a singing superstar was discovered on Christopher Street.  A monster to the right wing, a full blown LIBERAL SUPERSTAR!   A certain teenage singer named Barbra from Brooklyn got her breakthrough gig on Christopher Street, sleeping on the floor of her gay mentors tiny apartment on 10th Street rather than go home to Mom in the middle of the night.  She was mature for her age and was an attentive listener to her life mentors, Beatnik actors, and she carried the faith in equality with her as she rose to astounding heights.  Her success as a liberal icon has yet to be determined:  "It ain't over, till it's over!"

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