Monday, October 13, 2008
HARRIET SOHMERS ZWERLING EX-NUDE MODEL AND MEMOIRIST, 80
Harriet Sohmers Zwerling has been an editor, a teacher, a nude model and a writer. She has also been a one-woman sexual revolution, whose lovers included Susan Sontag, the playwright Irene Fornes and editor Bill Ward. Raised on the Upper West Side and educated at Berkeley, Black Mountain College and NYU, Zwerling lives in Stuyvesantown. She is the author of “Notes of a Nude Model.”
I’m in this documentary called “Still Doing It,” about the sex lives of older women. People stop me on the street. I’m really becoming famous. I’ve been around a long time. I’m 77. It blows my mind.
When I got to Paris in 1950, I had $200 in my pocket. You could live on $50 a month. I was supposedly studying at the Sorbonne. I lived with this Swedish guy in the old bohemian Paris. We had no running water, no heat or electricity. It was primitive and great.
In 1959, I went to Provincetown. I met Bill Ward and he invited me to move in with him. He had a magazine called the “Provincetown Review.” I became the assistant editor. I started modeling in Provincetown, It was easy and my mind was free. Back in New York, the Cedar Bar was in full bloom. It was really alive. We all smoked pot. We had these big bashes to raise money for the magazine. We had the Hubert Selby scandal. We published his short story “Tra-La-La” and had an obscenity trial in Provincetown. I was banned from the town.
Bill and I were both screwing around. Those were the days. I was with the artist Emilio Cruz in the Cedar Bar one night. I went to the john and this drunk out of his mind, handsome guy came over and asked Emilio how much money it would take for me to go back to his hotel with him. I came back, Emilio and I laughed about it and we decided on 30 dollars. I went back to his hotel room. He was bombed, so nothing happened. That was Louie Zwerling, the man I married.
The scene changed. It got tame. My son Milo was born in ‘63 and that cramped my style. I still was having a lot of affairs. Having a husband that was a merchant seaman was great.
I became a schoolteacher in ‘68. I taught for 28 years in Greenpoint, an ugly, racist Polish and Irish neighborhood. I am financially secure. It was completely by accident.
People don’t know what the term “bohemian” means nowadays. To me, it is very important but it doesn’t exist anymore. First, a bohemian is a person who doesn’t give a fuck about money. Second, a bohemian doesn’t give a fuck about the majority way of living. I take these classes at the New School with these young kids. They are worried about everything. “How could you go to Paris by yourself with no money?’” The young people are not the way we used to be. They don’t fuck. Where is the adventure? We didn’t care about money. We didn’t care about real estate. The kids today only care about real estate.