“Names and Events”
New York, winter 1965-66; Fast Books, 2014
This text records virtually everything I did and everyone I interacted with for a period of several months in the winter of 1965-66. I was thirty years old and had been living in New York for nine years. For the previous three years I had worked as the Associate Editor of The Village Voice, a lively, growing, influential weekly newspaper in Greenwich Village, but I had resigned my editing job six months earlier to free myself for writing, travel, theatre work, friends, and to work with John Patrick Dodd, an increasingly active downtown lighting designer. I remained The Voice’s principal theatre critic.
I was always a writer. I had come to New York to become a director and do theatre. Writing is ineluctably solitary, and I knew I needed to balance it with collaborative work. After letting myself be taken over by journalism for several years, I had finally directed two plays, “Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters” by Gertrude Stein, at a benefit for the Caffè Cino after a disastrous fire; and the premiere of “Icarus’s Mother,” a one-act by my friend Sam Shepard, at the Cino soon after it reopened. I had just finished an experimental novel, “Near the End.” My first long play, “The Next Thing,” was about to be produced at La Mama. I wrote down everything that happened, twenty-four hours a day.
It was an extraordinarily active and creative time in my life, the days and nights packed with people and projects. The published version is extensively footnoted, identifying most of the characters and filling out the context.
Downtown theatre, love, sex, drugs, people—this was our life.
An Excerpt from “Names and Events”
12/18 — The phone rang a few times. I went to Joe’s Dinette for breakfast. When I went home Søren came right in behind me. I smoked a little more DMT and grass. Michael got up bouncy and talkative. Søren gave me $10 rent. I climbed up into the bed with Johnny and spent the afternoon. I was full of energy and sexy; he was affectionate but half asleep. I read some of a book about Israel and all of John Lennon “In His Own Write.” Then it was six o’clock. Johnny had the energy for love but I couldn’t wake up.
Joe called to say that the Open Theatre will do my play “The Next Thing” at La Mama in February or March. Jacques Levy will direct. Joe said he hates being a producer. Johnny received a letter from someone named Olivier Boelen invoking the Living Theatre and saying he needed a place to stay. He said Rufus had broken his neck in an auto accident in Germany. “Sorry, I fell in the accident hole.” We went to Joe’s Dinette for dinner with Michael. Harry Koutoukas was lying in wait or eating in state, but I had lost my sense of humor. I went to The Voice to collect my check and see if there was a Christmas bonus. There wasn’t.
I arrived at Judson a few minutes late. I was glad to see Gwen and Jonathan, who were sitting on the inside steps waiting for Tanya. Jonathan didn’t recognize me because of my beard. I recognized him although he is missing several teeth. I came up to the choir loft and adjusted the preset. Gwen went inside to put coats on seats and I talked to Jonathan. Gwen and I had tried to coordinate going up to Charlemont but failed. Esther asked me to get her some LSD, from her man, and gave me a check. Eddie Barton showed me how an Antarctic bird wakes up. Tanya invited me to drive up to Charlemont on Wednesday with her, Jean-Claude, and Joe. Remy said he would come see me in the light booth at intermission. That’s where I am now. I wonder how Isabel felt about my not mentioning her in my review. Johnny said my calling Florence Tarlow’s performance of “This Breast” a “tour de force” turned it into a tour de force.
Remy joined me for his play. I called him a “genius.” After it was over I joined Tanya, Shami, Esther, Gwen, and Jonathan. I said I was going up to Lewis and Merna’s to decorate the Christmas tree. Tanya said, “That sounds melancholy,” so instead, after going upstairs to make sure I had blown the candle out, I came to La Mama with her and Shami for the second show of Jean-Claude’s play “Motel.” Ellen Stewart was happy when I arrived and held forth her cheek for a kiss. I gave her a dollar, saying, “I’m here as a member.” Joyce gave me her seat and three photographs of herself in “More! More! I Want More!” She sat at my feet. Sam was the waiter and brought me coffee.
Billy Hoffman wants me to send him some plays for an anthology. I said I’d send “A Dog’s Love” and “More! More! I Want More!” When Jean-Claude asked if I liked his play I said a lot of things that I later found out he interpreted as meaning I didn’t like it at all. As I was leaving Ellen told me she’s glad we’re going to do “The Next Thing” at La Mama. I ran into Joe, Sam, and Joyce coming out of Sam and Joyce’s house next door and went with them to a party at William Bruce Friedman’s. I sat with Lee under the piano. Lee, Joe, Sam, Joyce, Shami, and I went to the Hamburger Train. I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I wanted to buy 101 Boys at the 8th Street newsstand on the way home but didn’t have the nerve. No one was here. Lewin called up from the street below. A hit of DMT gave us clarifying insights into the nature of our relationship. Lewin said, “You could tell Johnny you’re my guru.” We smoked more DMT, lots more, and I closed my eyes and had an edifying and lovely insight into ultimate playful exuberance. Johnny and Michael came home and we sat around having conversation. I admired the form but thought the subject dull. Lewin was talkative, sometimes saying things I already know, sometimes better.
12/19 — Two young Dutchmen, Olivier Boelen and Michel Samson, friends of Rufus’s, were in the living room when I woke up. Lewin was still there—also Søren, Michael, and Tommy Garland. I invited them all to come to Judson for the matinee. Lynn Nesbit called to ask for the address of the Voice Christmas party. She said Dick was asleep. I went to the Beefburger with Lewin, Michael, and Tommy. Lewin was spaced out and a little frantic. Michael and Tommy made light conversation.
Lewin kept me company in the light booth while I ran the shows. The Dutch guys loved them. Lee Guilliatt thanked me for giving her a good review. I went home, called Jacques Levy about “The Next Thing,” and agreed to reread it over Christmas and meet with him when I get back. I called Lewis and Merna but they were out. I took my shirt off, climbed into bed, and cuddled with Johnny. Joe called and we agreed to meet at or after the Voice party. I took a lavender lily. Sitting at the desk I overheard the conversation of six from the other room with the soundtrack of “Madame Bovary.” “Autumn pursued her down the empty spaces of her loneliness.”
Lewin walked me to the Voice Christmas party, a whirl of people in Ed Fancher’s impossibly overcrowded apartment. Bob Pasolli gave me half a joint as a Christmas present and said he thought Sam should be homosexual. Dan Wolf and I shook hands. I talked to Julie Bovasso briefly about the Vietnam plays project. Ann McKay [?] talked about clichés. I saw Betty Rollin. I talked to Al Carmines and Burt Supree in the hall. Various people talked to me about my reviews including Howard Smith. It got more and more crowded. Irene Fornes said it was better if we didn’t talk. Many people admired my flowered tie. Rhoda Wolf liked the combination of the tie, the peace button I’m wearing, and my beard. I said hello to Ed’s parents and Sandy Fendrick. Jerry Tallmer was red in the face. Diane was happy and excited. David Bourdon said something peculiar and ambivalent.
I left with Burt and came over to Joe’s. We passed Jean-Claude on the stair looking odd. Joe and Fred are all worked up about a crisis over Jean-Claude’s play. What to do.
Burt left for a rehearsal. The phone broke. Joe, Fred, and I walked over to Sing Wu for dinner, then came up to La Mama to see what’s happening. Everything is O.K.
Ellen was on the stairs guarding and relieved. Phill Niblock and I talked about films. Sam came in saying his dog had eaten a quarter of an ounce of pot and would it die. He said it was very high and demonstrated. He has decided to withdraw his play that Jacques was going to direct here in February, and “The Next Thing” may be moved up. Joe, Fred, Phill, and I went across the street to Doughnuts-Muffins-Coffee for coffee. Phill and I talked about a possible film. I said I’d call him after the holidays. There was a party at La Mama with wine and rock and roll. Jean-Claude went away with Tanya, looking more relaxed. He hadn’t eaten anything in 24 hours. Gordon talked to Joyce. I talked to Jordan Charney, who introduced me to Chad Mitchell. Jordan is enthusiastic about the Open Theatre’s playwrights’ workshop. Karl Schenzer, wearing a daisy, noticed my tie. So did Barbara Vann. Sharon Gans talked to me about the relationship between actors and director. It’s a pleasure to see Lee Worley even from afar. I hadn’t seen Sharon Thie in a long time. Joe said she has turned into a playwright, which he hates; but he likes her play. I nodded and smiled to Carl Morse. Joyce held up her cup to ask if I wanted more wine. I said no. She is talking to Gordon. The Dutch boys want to stay at Joe’s but he doesn’t want them to.
Gordon drove Joe, Lee, and me to the Village in his Porsche. He went home and they came up. Charles took Olivier and Michel to his house to sleep. Helen had called. Søren went to bed. I took a Tuinal. Joe and Lee left. Johnny and I had a good time. I got high from the pill. We went to bed, smoked the rest of the DMT, and finally made love. Johnny in his sleep said, “I don’t even want to think about that,” and sighed.
12/20 — I went to breakfast at Joe’s Dinette, to the bank, to the post office, to The Voice. I received a postcard from Eric Bentley saying he hadn’t been able to reach me. I chatted with Diane and Dan. I went to Go Casual for a fitting of a new pair of pants. I paid my bill at Joe’s Dinette. I’m very short of money. I came home and kissed and hugged Johnny. Søren was here. Olivier and Michel came and went. Peter Hartman called. Peter Morse called. Lewis and Merna cancelled our date for tonight. I wrote a letter to Mother and Dad in Honolulu. Helen just wanted to know if I’d heard from Dad about the money I supposedly owe her. I haven’t. Søren brought me a Coke. I took a dexedrine with the first swallow and lit another cigarette. I have almost an hour to write reviews before Peter comes.
I wrote three reviews. When Peter arrived I talked a lot because of the dexedrine. There’s so much to tell someone you haven’t seen in a long time. I told him about my trip to Morocco with Johnny. Søren was up in Michael’s bed with a flashlight cleaning and killing cockroaches. Peter and I went to Joe’s Dinette but couldn’t get a table. Michael gave me $20 for LSD. Peter and I had dinner at Emilio’s and talked about our art. He told me about his music and I told him about my writing. He encouraged me. I put him into a taxi and ran into Lewin, whom I swept along with me to Judson. I peed and came up to the light booth. Charles shined the follow spot on me to say hello. Jackie Curtis was in the audience wearing black-rimmed glasses with a girl in a hat with fur around her face. I looked at him a lot.
Sam was there and said he liked “What Happened.” Remy gave me two copies of a book by himself and Ruth Krauss signed by both of them, one copy for “your friend.” I introduced Sam to Phil Corner. Ruth Krauss and John Wulp were there, and Søren. Charles had been to Bellevue with lymph node trouble and got Darvons. I put myself in Jackie Curtis’s frame of vision. He came over and thanked me for the review, his first. Being thanked is not much of a relationship. Ellen Stewart said she had heard from Denmark. They had heard from me and thanked me. Now it is “A Beautiful Day.” I had boiled beef for dinner and am obsessed with garlic.
Olivier and Michel went away with Søren after the show. David and Valda were right in front of us on the sidewalk. Florence Tarlow thanked me and I thanked her. Charles went to the Cino for a rehearsal. I came home, called the LSD man, and arranged to meet him tomorrow. Dianne Gregory called. I called Peter but he was asleep and I talked to Norman.
I read about Henry Moore in the New Yorker and sniffed some amphetamine in the john. Johnny came in but left again as I was finishing writing my reviews. I never did get to John Herbert McDowell’s party.