Sunday, November 24, 2019

Edward Field Interview: Reflections on his partner Neil Derrick, January 21, 2019

(Neil Derrick in the 1960's)

In 1959, the poet Edward Field was working as a temp typist at an advertising agency in Manhattan. The manager sat down next to him a muscular, handsome young man with fair hair named Neil Derrick. “You two should get along,” she said.

We talked all day,” said Edward. “She separated us the next day, but by then it was too late.” A few weeks later, Edward moved into Neil’s Hell’s Kitchen apartment. Thus began a relationship that spanned 58 years until Neil’s death on January 4th, 2018

I met with Edward in his spartan apartment in Westbeth, the artists’ housing in the West Village, where he has lived since 1972. We discussed Edward’s relationship with Neil, Neil’s writing and his work writing pornography for Grove Press and other publishers.  

Edward spoke of their tumultuous break up in the late 1960’s at the height of Gay Liberation and their reunion that was provoked by Neil’s brain tumor and post-surgical blindness.

During the last four decades of their relationship, Edward and Neil traveled to Morocco and developed a routine where they lived in Paris, Berlin and London on a regular basis. Together, they also wrote the novel “Village,” a saga about a multigenerational family in Greenwich Village.

DYLAN FOLEY: We are near the first anniversary on Neil’s death.

EDWARD FIELD: Yes, he died on January 4, 2018.

DF: You’ve had diarrhea recently?

EF: I’m pretty sure it started because of Neil’s anniversary.

DF: Do you think that it was stress related?

EF: I’m sure. There is nothing in my life that would give me diarrhea except that. I am of the generation that believed in psychosomaticailments. That’s old-fashioned psychology, but if you believe it, it’s true.

DF: Could we start from the beginning? How did you meet Neil?

EF: I was working as a temporary typist. You could make a living, you could live on what you made as a temporary typist. Rents were low, food was so cheap, restaurants even. I was an actor, and my acting teacher said, “If you want to be an actor, learn to type.” Well, I already knew how, but I didn’t want to be a typist. I did it anyway. I was working at an advertising agency in the typing pool.  The first day, the supervisor brought over a young man and sat him down at the work station next to me. “I think you guys will get along well.” Indeed, we didn’t stop talking all day. The next day, she moved me to the back, so we weren’t together, but it was too late.

DF: What was Neil’s family background?

EF: He grew up on a ranch in the Central Valley of California.

DF: What was his childhood like?

EF: He has a sister, Diane.  They’re WASPs. The mother was Canadian, so there was an overlay of Canadian gentility to the ranch and the cowboy image. I always felt because of the Canadian connection, they had a respect for the monarchy.

DF: Do you know if Neil had a happy childhood?

EF: He didn’t complain. He had his mother’s attitude towards his father. She thought the father, a ranch manager, was a boor because she was so genteel. I don’t really know much about his childhood, except he was adored. He was such a cute kid. Growing up in a conventional environment, he always looked with wonder at the New York experience, growing up like I did.

DF: What was Neil’s birth year?

EF: ’31. I was born in ’24. There is seven years difference.

DF: Was Neil drafted?

EF: He was drafted for the Korean War. He spent two years at the U.S. SHAEP headquarters, outside Paris, the big joint-military headquarters. He was first stationed in Chicago as an army clerk and saw a notice of a vacancy at SHAEP, applied, and went to Paris for the rest of his service.

(Edward Field and Neil Derrick)

DF: How did Neil wind up in New York?

EF: Neil was studying journalism at Berkeley, with his junior year at Exeter College in England. When he graduated from Berkeley, he came straight to New York where his sister was living. When I met him, he had just come back from his sister’s wedding in California. I’ve always thought that as significant, that he was free to make a relationship because she had.

DF: What kind of jobs did Neil have?

EF: He worked as an editorial assistant for trade magazines. When we got together, he got a job at the Museum of Modern Art. He, too, wanted to be a writer. Of course, I encouraged him.  I didn’t have a book yet, but I had been published a lot.  Though I was in the poetry world, and he wanted to write fiction.

DF: What year did you meet?

EF: It was ’59.

DF: Where were you living then?

EF: When I met Neil, I had been living on Central Park West with an actor I had performed with the summer before. I had been the leading man in a summer theater company outside Pittsburgh. I had a very good if short acting career. I played big roles and knew what it meant to stand on the stage before an audience.

(Edward and Neil in the aughts)

DF: Was Neil’s apartment in Hell’s Kitchen?

EF: Yes. I moved in there very quickly.

DF: The situation was not ideal?

EF: It was a railroad flat with the toilet in the hall. The rent was $42 a month and it was on West 47thStreet between 8thand 9thAvenues. The police station was right across the street, so it was very safe.
We were once going to the Apollo Theatre on 42ndStreet. When we had sat down to watch the movie a police officer came over and called us out and put us up against the wall. Then drove us to the police station. We learned that a police officer from out of town had been walking behind us and heard us talking about the murder of a woman upstate, like we knew something about it. We did not. After two hours of questioning, a top detective came in and said, “If you know anything about this, come back and tell us. We are going to keep an eye on you.”

DF: Did you move because of your neighbor?

EF: We called her the Widow Murphy. She had a big family and a lot of parties. It was pretty noisy.  So we moved into Alfred Chester’s loft in the South Village. I knew him from NYU. We then found a furnished apartment. We went from place to place. You could do it back then. We finally found an apartment.

DF: Could you describe Neil physically?

EF: He had a wonderfully athletic body, though he wasn’t an athlete. He just grew up on a ranch and rode horses. And he did exercises regularly. One shoulder was short, because his shoulder blade had been broken at birth and he had an operation to repair it. But he had terrific posture, a beautifully straight spine, and was very attractive. 

DF: You were together through the ‘60’s?

EF: Yes, then he started having seizures, epileptic seizures.

DF: Was Neil sleeping with other men?

EF: Not much. Being from the east, I'd had a wild sex life. He really didn’t. Then, after we were together about 10 years, I woke up one night and he was having a grand mal seizure next to me! And they kept happening. A brain scan showed nothing, no cause for the seizures.

Eventually, the seizures were controlled with pills, anti-seizure pills. The medication worked. Having had a lot of psychotherapy myself, I asked him if he had any idea what was causing the seizures? He confessed that he was very frustrated. Especially with gay liberation breaking out all over, all around us in the Village was a sexual frenzy. It was freedom, freedom. Everybody was screwing around. He had never done that and I had.

Also, in 1963, my first book was published, “Stand Up, Friend, with Me.” It was very successful. Wherever we went, people would scream, “Edward Field, the poet.” And Neil, this gorgeous guy I was with, was ignored. That was a factor.

I told him, okay, do what you have to do, and I'll get out of your way. I am going to go to Afghanistan. You're free.

I went to Afghanistan and when I came back, he was living in Chicago and then London. Finally, he came home and we were living in the same apartment, which was impossible. 

DF: Were you still broken up at this point?

EF: We were. Essentially, I had to find a place of my own. (Chuckles) He was not going to find the place. I went to Westbeth. I said to the manager, “I can’t stay in New York if I don’t get an apartment here.” The manager said, “That’s what we are here for, to keep artists in the city,” and gave me a studio.

DF: Did you have any understanding to get back together after you got back from Afghanistan?

EF: No, that was the end. Of course, I was still madly in love with him.This is hard for me to tell…(Edward’s voice cracks and he starts to tear up. It’s okay, he said, I’m a crier.) Then he started having blackouts. And a doctor looked in his eyes and said, “You have a brain tumor. I can see it.” I think there was pressure on the optic nerve which showed in his eyes.

He had an operation and lost most of his sight. After going through a blind training program in West Haven, he tried living alone. I was now at Westbeth and he was on Perry Street in our apartment there. But it was too difficult. He was even robbed. The police station had said that people should register their electronic equipment with the police, so he brought in a sheet listing all his blind equipment—talking book machines and recorders. The neighbors said that men came down loaded with suitcases one day. All his stuff was taken away. It’s hard not to believe that it didn’t have a connection to the police.

DF: Neil lost 98 percent of his sight?

EF: He had two percent peripheral vision. He couldn’t go on living by himself. I was going over and cooking for him. This was not romance. 

This was really love. I loved him. He finally moved in with me here in Westbeth. I moved into Westbeth in 1972. And we lived together for 46 more years. We were together for 58 years all together.

Neil had another brain tumor at one point, and I took him to Johns Hopkins for pinpoint radiation. They targeted the tumor and burned it out, but it killed the hearing in that ear.

There could have been another tumor. In the last year of his life, he lost the rest of his sight and then his hearing.

I figure we had a terrific life together. Whenever I could, I would connect him with sex. Not me. I never found anybody else. We went to baths in Europe. In the steam room I would take his hands and put them on someone. That’s what they were there for.

DF: You guys stopped sleeping with each other?

EF: No more. We never had sex again [after we got back together]. It was just not on. We had stopped. Somehow, the break up of two years…I got the message. It was all right. I’m okay.

Can I tell about my private life? Because he was always walking around naked, it was gorgeous. I had living porn all the time and I whacked off over him constantly. I really had a very good sex life, I figure. 

DF: You did not have sex together again?

EF: No. No more.

DF: Neil lost interest in you?

EF: He really didn’t have an interest in me. You see, I was family. When you become family, it’s devastating to your sex life.

DF: What was Neil’s writing career like?

EF: He was not unsuccessful. When he was sighted. Did you ever see his books? [Edward pulls out a stack of 1960’s pulp paperbacks.] He had a half dozen soft-porn novels published, one by Grove Press, “Sticky Fingers.” I think the Stones took their album title from it. It’s about a lady who can’t stop fooling around with her pussy. All of his books are fun.

When he lost his sight, he said, “I can’t write anymore.” I said, “Well, let’s see.” I was going to Yaddo for a month or two. Before I went away, I plotted with him a novel, chapter by chapter. I went to Yaddo and he had written the whole novel by the time I came back. He was a typist. But he couldn’t revise what he wrote.

I helped him rewrite the novel and he called it “The Potency Clinic.” We published it ourselves. A Berlin publisher found it in a gay bookstore and published it as “Die Potenz Klinik.” It was in print for several editions in Germany.

(The German edition of The Potency Clinic)

An editor friend, Bob Wyatt, said, “You know that proposal you sent me about four generations of a family in Greenwich Village? We like it. Could you write a synopsis and I'll submit it to the board.” We'd never proposed anything like it to him, but we put together an outline. Two pages. And he gave us a contract for “Village,” by Bruce Elliot, which we wrote together.

DF: How did your temperaments work together?
EF: We fought. We fought over every line. At the end, it was all right. It was just part of the process. We wrote “Village” here and in Europe, in The Hague, over the winter, in my brother-in-law’s house while he was working in Berlin. We wrote a quarter of the book there in 1980.  We delivered it on time and the book came out in 1982.

DF: You were obsessed with rewriting the book in the aughts?

EF: A small press wanted to reprint it, so we revised it. Neil was not happy that the small press published it with our names on it. He was obsessed with privacy. I always felt it was part of being a WASP. He didn’t want his name on anything. He used Bruce Eliot, a pseudonym. Also, Anita Parker. He had a lot of pseudonyms for his porno books. “Sticky Fingers” was written under the name Eleanor Bartlett.

DF: I find it interesting that Neil was a gay man writing about heterosexual sex.

EF:  I helped him with a lot of the sex scenes. He did some gay sex, too. “The Potency Clinic” was gay, and “Inferno of Women” had lesbian sex.

DF: Was that based on the Women’s House of Detention on Greenwich Street. How was it?

EF:  It’s fun to read. All his books are fun. And on line they are now selling for quite a lot. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Vincent Livelli: A Greenwich Village Ladies’ Man Speaks of the 1940’s, Anatole Broyard and Sheri Martinelli

Vince Livelli in 2014

An interview with Dylan Foley
Vincent Livelli is 98 now. The hale Italian American was immersed in the bohemian scene st the San Remo in the 1940’s. He eventually left his native Village in 1948 to travel the world on cruise ships as a cruise director. He still delights in recounting stories of his many romances and sexual conquests, comparing his body count to Casanova’s.
Though he was not a literati like his friends Anatole Broyard, Milton Klonsky and William Gaddis, Livelli still had a keen eye on the vibrant intellectual culture, the parties and the bar scene of Greenwich Village.
The two interviews took place in the summer of 2008 at his apartment on Perry Street. I also interviewed him a third time in 2014, at a restaurant near his home.

Vince Livelli was born in Greenwich Village in 1920, where his family owned an apartment building on Sullivan Street. In 1938, Livelli enrolled in Brooklyn College. There he met Anatole Broyard in the cafeteria. Both men dropped out of college that year.
At that time, Livelli introduced Broyard to the San Remo Café on MacDougal and Bleecker Streets, a bar patronized by local Italians and owned by the Mafia-connected Santini family.
Livelli and Broyard reconnected after the war in 1945 and lived as roommates in a railroad flat on West 4th Street. Broyard founded a small bookstore on Cornelia Street, and Livelli gave Broyard $1,000 from a wealthy patron to buy stock.
Broyard was a Village Romeo, with both his friends and enemies believing he could pick up any woman he wanted.
Livelli left the Village in 1948, to become a cruise director on ocean liners. Livelli has kept the same apartment on Perry Street since 1964, when his rent was $50. When I first interviewed Livelli in 2008, he was paying $550 for three rooms. His unscrupulous landlord was trying to triple his rent.
The back two rooms of Livelli’s apartment were done up like a harem tent, with textiles from his world travels stapled to the wall. Livelli also had screens inlaid with mother of pearl, a hookah pipe and ornate lamps from his four decades of travel to foreign ports. Also stapled to the floor were cotton woven rugs, which gave the place a dusty feel.  “You shoulda seen this place before the fire,” he said. “It was really something.” The fire happened several years before our 2008 meeting.
Originally, I met Livelli at a book party for Bliss Broyard on her memoir and history One Drop, which chronicled the Broyard family’s tumultuous relationship with race. The party took place at a townhouse in Chelsea.
Bliss Broyard’s father Anatole had been a prominent book critic for the New York Times, up to his death in 1990. On his deathbed, he revealed to his family that he had hidden his African-American heritage, “passing strange” in the larger white society. Several years after Broyard’s death, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard outed the late critic in The New Yorker, causing a stir in the American literary establishment.
At the party, Livelli handed me a piece of paper with his phone number on it. We made plans to meet.
Livelli is a great storyteller, though everything for him started in 1938, in meeting Anatole Broyard. He was perpetually obsessed, even at aged 94 in 2014, with the women he’d slept with in the 1940’s. “I had 120 women,” said Livelli. “Casanova beat me by two. He had 122.”
Livelli has always maintained friendships with younger singers and dancers because of his deep roots with Latin music. Several years ago, a friend set up a Facebook page which detailed Vince’s social life. In 2016, A young photographer named Lewis Lazar published a book called Historietas of Livelli’s essays about growing up in Greenwich Village, the social scene in the 1940’s, his four decades as a cruise director on ocean liners and his travels to Cuba.
In November 2017, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation interviewed him for their audio archive. In 2018, friends of Vince Livelli threw a blowout 98th birthday party for him in his beloved Village.
Here are the combined 2008 interviews:   

Q. How did you wind up at the San Remo in the 1930’s?
1938 was the year that Anatole and I decided to drop out of Brooklyn College. When I was three months old, we owned 117 Sullivan Street. The Village became home for me, and now for Anatole, as well. He was looking for someplace to get away from Bedford-Stuyvesant with his family. He was able to shack up with me. I knew about the Village and was into the Village. The San Remo opened its door to me. In 1938, it was a social club environment for local bigwigs. It later became Anatole’s homestead. He became the leader of a literary movement, founded by him at the San Remo in the 1940s.

Did you read my article “San Remo Nights”? It hasn’t been published, but it has been distributed.

I’m Italian from Brooklyn. I hate to be identified with Italians. Believe it or not, there’s a certain stricture of notoriety. I want to be an American.
Q. What was Anatole’s bookstore like?

To have a high-class bookstore in Greenwich Village in 1946 was useless, for people weren’t prepared for it. I have an essay called “The Birth of the Bookstore: A Story of Life and Death.” This one’s priceless.
The only reason the Santini brothers and Santos the waiter tolerated us is that we spoke about Gabrielle D’Annuncio and Pirandello. We were able to warm the owner. We took over the San Remo. I just found out two days ago that Allen Ginsberg used to hang out there. They hung out there because of Anatole. He laid the groundwork for people like that to come to the San Remo.
The San Remo went through three phases--it was a social club for the guys who had the neighborhood by the throat. Anatole created a pleasant environment of literature discussions until the discussions themselves got kind of violent over Marcel Proust. Then you had the homosexuals coming in, then the tourists coming in. There was no room.

In 1948, I left the Village. When things were starting to get drug laden, I said, “I’m getting out of here.” The quality of people was disheartening. I couldn’t stand to see what was happening to my Village.

Q. What happened to the San Remo?
It closed down and it is now called Cario’s. [Editor’s note: In the last five years, it was a chain coffee shop, but the shop is now closed and the space is for rent. There is a plaque outside commemorating the San Remo.] It became gay, totally.

Q. In the 1940’s, did you know Milton Klonsky?
Milton was my dearest friend. I cry when I hear his name. I was at his bedside when he died. Anatole was the best man in a hospital wedding to Klonsky’s girlfriend. [Editor’s note: the writer Alice Denham told me that the woman Klonsky married was his pot dealer, so the dealer could get his rent-controlled apartment.]

Q. Could you tell me about Klonsky and wife?
She was a communist and she MADE Milton into a communist, a card-carrying communist. Her name was Rhoda. Rhoda married W.H. Auden. Imagine marrying Auden? We all met at Auden’s for literary parties. {Editor’s note: The British poet Auden lived in the East Village for many years.]
My favorite story about Delmore Schwartz is what Milton Klonsky told me when we were going to see Delmore. We went to his house on Charles Street. I said. that’s typical of Schwartz to marry somebody who’d make him angrier. [Schwartz was married to the writer Elizabeth Pollet.] I said, “God, Milton, his library is bigger than yours.” At that comment, Schwartz jumped up and said, “Get out! Get out!”

Milton and Anatole were constantly at each other’s throats like booklovers, over who was the better author. It reached a point where they were really hostile to each other. There were enough women to go around for everyone. Milton was very successful, despite not having a nice appearance. He was a noble, charming, brilliant guy. Anatole and Milton had a fight where they were not talking to each other for a week. Imagine that.

The women were coming to the Village in waves, depending on when school was out—Smith, Bennington. They would come into the Village in droves like bees to honey. When school was out, a tremendous number of wealthy, intelligent women came to the Village looking for Anatole. His fame spread very easily.

Anatole and I mingled well together, swapping Latin records and books, sharing Village gossip and trading girlfriends. We ended up opening up a bookshop on Cornelia Street in 1946.

We were overcome by the forces of history. The homosexuals, the drug addicts, the tourists just drove us out. The tourists drove the prices up. Before them, we could have the manicotti, the house specialty, for 75 cents. This was when the standard tip for a taxi driver was 10 cents.

Q. What were the waiters and bartenders like at the San Remo?
That was a playful attitude. They were paying customers, after all. We were entering a world where no one really spoke English. We were able to warm these guys. Anatole was charming and polite, and brought some beautiful women in.

Anatole and I would meet for dinner near Pete Martin’s bookstore at West 4th Street. While we waited, we would be browsing. We would take a walk from the bookstore on West 4th Street and 7th Avenue, over to the Remo, which took 10 minutes at the most, and we would discuss authors and works that we knew we could bring up at the table for conversation. We were cheating, having prepared ourselves en route. My role was to steer the conversation in the direction Anatole would pick up on, so he would be able to quote from the works of Auden, Freud and Kafka, appearing to be a genius with a photographic memory. It was like champions dueling or playing chess with words. Anatole would always win. He had a system. I’d throw him a quote from D.H. Lawrence, where Anatole had already gone over it. Milton would come back with a quote by William Blake, and Anatole would respond with something about Henri Michaux, who Klonsky knew nothing about. They had this rivalry which was beautiful. There was an exhibition of literary spectacle.

I would walk into the Remo with a beautiful woman. The employees who worked at the Remo, they would stop and yell out, “Valentino, Valentino,” In his book The Recognitions,  Willie Gaddis Calls me Valentine, and has me wearing black and white shoes, the mark of a rhumba dancer, which I was doing at the time. It wasn’t because I was so handsome. It was because I had a beautiful woman with me at the time.

The local women who lived in the Village were like Stella Brooks, who married Kerouac.[Editor’s note: That’s wrong…it was Stella Sampas, who was Kerouac’s last wife. Stella Brooks was a bohemian singer in the Village.] She went with Anatole for a while.

Sheri Martinelli, 1940's
Q. Did you know Broyard’s girlfriend Sheri Martinelli?

Anatole lived with me on West 4th Street. Sheri Martinelli’s first suicide attempt was putting her head in the oven when Anatole lived with her. The second attempt was when she went on the fire escape naked, threatening to jump off, and the neighbors called the cops. The third attempt was an overdose of sleeping pills, but she had her stomach pumped at St. Vincent’s. The 4th attempt was throwing herself down a set of very steep steps in the company of Stanley Gould. [Editor’s note: Stanley Gould was known as “the Jewish junkie.” When he lost his false teeth, Norman Mailer paid for a new pair…he survived to the early 1980’s, dying of AIDS.]

If you read Anais Nin’s diary in December ‘45. I rescued a homosexual from jumping off a ledge at one of Anais’ parties. I pulled him back in and saved his life.

Anatole introduced me to Anais through Sheri. Anais had wanted to see me the next day for an afternoon liason. I wasn’t the only one. At one point in the evening, the woman throwing the party, Toshka Goldman…Her bookstore was the number one bookstore for avant-garde literature. {Editor’s note: Livelli is referring to Rosetta Reitz, who owned the Four Seasons Book Shop on Greenwich Avenue in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Her single name was Toshka Goldman.]

In the middle of the party…it was mostly homosexuals…Anais gathered them around her. Anatole, Sheri and I were the only straight people at the party. I think Anais was bisexual. At one point, Goldman gets up in the middle of the floor, with her hands on her hips. This was the highlight of the party.  She says, “There’s not a fuck in the whole place.” She wanted a man. Finally, a guy took her up to the roof. Back in those days, we used to make love on the roof a lot.

I could have had an affair with Maya Deren, but her hair was too much. [Editor’s note: The filmmaker Deren had a dense, red Afro. She was famous for a documentary on Voodoo in Haiti]

Q. Why did the Bennington College girls come to the San Remo?
Anatole. The word spread that he was the magnetic type. My style was different than his. I was overly successful. This is the most boastful thing that I can say. I had 120 women. Casanova had in his diaries that he had 122. Son of a gun. He beat me by two.

Q. Did you know the writer Chandler Brossard?
He made the Village sour. He turned sweetness into sourness by exposing Anatole as a poseur. [Brossard’s novel To Walk in Darkness initially revealed Broyard’s race secret, but Brossard changed this detail when Broyard threatened to sue him.]

I’m getting desperate from that robbery. (A man posing as a Verizon worker stole money from Livelli.) My rent is going up from $552. It almost tripled. I’ve been here 44 years.

Q. Did you know Jay Landesman, the editor of the short-lived Neurotica?

He came to the Village from St. Louis to be a bohemian.
Landesman was a good student and picked up things from Anatole.  He added a Jewish wit.
Milton was difficult to get along with. If you weren’t a sharp person, he thought he was wasting his time associating with the wrong people.

At the end of his life, Jay was drinking martinis, double, to the point where it was keeping him alive.
When Jay went back to St. Louis in the 1950’s , he changed his name to Stan Stunning. Gershon Legman was like Schwartz. They were angry poets. Gershon was nuts.
When I met him in London, Landesman started to cry when he talked about his marriage to Fran. He had him living in the basement. His place was cluttered, the kind that would indicate psychosis. She lived upstairs in the normal house. She was torturing her husband for his infidelities. He made himself a martyr. He had a sad face and was not the Landesman I knew from the Village. Did you know he carried a cane? It made him very aristocratic.

Jay never achieved his family’s level of expectations. He became the black sheep of the family. When his nephew Rocco was approached to produce a revival of “The Nervous Set,” he said, “I don’t deal with crazy people.” Rocco owns five Broadway theaters. Why wouldn’t he produce this shitty little play to please his uncle. [In the early 2000’s, when Landesman was trying to remount his musical “The Nervous Set,” Rocco owned the Jujamcyn theater chain on Broadway.]

Q. How did the Village change in your eyes?
In 1948, it was a lovely afternoon in the Village, and Anatole and I were walking through Washington Square Park. We pass some of our friends who are sitting on the street, against the wall in the dirt. One was Stanley Gould, one was Stella Brooks, and perhaps a character named Frenchie. Stanley Gould and Stella were in the San Remo all the time. Anatole and I were well dressed in jackets and ties, for there were women involved in our lives. We took pride in our appearance. We saw the three of them in the garbage. They said, “Come join us.” I said, “That’s what is going to happen in the world. They are going to sit in the street and put flowers in their hair. That’s when the world divided in two. You had Anatole’s clique going in one direction with class and cheerfulness, then you have the pre-hippie, pre-Beats, sitting on the street and bringing society down to a lower level.

The Beats came in such large numbers that Anatole and I couldn’t hold our fingers in the dike. We couldn’t hold back the barbarity.

Milton Klonsky was turned on to LSD.

Milton adopted Anatole’s style with women. I was a dancer. Anatole used words. I used touch. This was the language I conquered women with. Before language, humans were communicating through touch and gesture.

The physical touch got to them deeply. All women love to be led by a virile man, as all men prefer a docile, receptive woman.

I have to get some money going here. A Latin music project at the University of Washington gave me 250 bucks. They are going to make a lot of money.

Q. Were you involved with the Off-Off-Broadway play “Klonsky and Schwartz”?

I gave a lecture to the people in the lobby as they were coming out. [Livelli hands me pictures of myself from our last meeting]

I used to hang out at the Cedar Tavern every chance I got.

Anatole started Greenwich Village. I started that, too. I brought Broyard and Klonsky into the bars. They never would have allowed Anatole, half a black, into a social club. That was not the way that local people acted in those days. Blacks were not welcome.
I knew he was black in 1938. At Brooklyn College, we both had obstacles. I was considered a fascist as an Italian American in the Jewish environment of Brooklyn College, so I didn’t fit in. Anatole stood out in a strange way., coming from New Orleans and dressing in a different manner. He dropped out at 18, saying that Brooklyn College didn’t fit with his frame of mind. One word to describe Anatole was irresistible, and the word to describe Klonsky was noble. He had a sweet, gentle quality. He tried to cover up his sweetness with a manly, attacking personality, which is more in keeping with the Village character. You couldn’t be a sweetheart. You had to be a fighter. He had a literary personality and was poetic in his speech. He was loving in his relationships with both men and women. He had a streak of hostility when it came to his area of specialty. He became hostile if you opposed him. His favorite writers were Charles Dickens and William Blake, whereas Anatole’s favorite writers were John Updike, Wallace Stevens and Henri Michaux.

Q. What did the bars represent to Klonsky?

Klonsky was doing something radical. He saw that Anatole had established himself as a literary ringleader at the San Remo. He had objections to Anatole on many points, so in revenge or rebellion, Klonsky thought that he would start a salon similar to the one at the San Remo. Guess where? Later at the Cedar Tavern. He would try to get people at the San Remo to follow him to the Cedar. The walk to the Cedar was a long haul, and it was removing yourself from the heart of the Village. The Village was concentrated at MacDougal and Bleecker. Charles and Perry  Streets were considered the wasteland. [Charles and Perry] were Irish and Italian, while MacDougal and Bleecker were all Italian. The Sullivan Street area where I was born and brought up, was predominately Genoese, and you had some Piedmontese. My grandfather owned our building and ran a bar. He was a blacksmith in Italy.

I was instrumental in bringing Klonsky and Broyard together. I may have introduced them. I was able to bring Stanley Gould, a drug addict, into the bars.  Stanley was very important. He was one of the founders of the hippie movement. He had absolutely no money. We’d invite him in. He used to sell stolen goods. He’d go up to the Garment District and buy stuff stolen off the trucks. He sold white-on-white shirts. I bought from him. He lived at the Chelsea Hotel.

Q. Who were you hanging out in the Village?
I went to the Cedar when my ship came in for two nights. I’d go out on 38-day cruises, and stay for two nights and three days. I’d see what was happening and would get caught up.

Have you heard of Stella Brooks? I think she married Jack Kerouac. Stella was one of the original hippies, before there was a Kerouac. She must have influenced him. She was one of the leading feminine personages in the Village, along with Sheri Martinelli and Maya Deren.

Stella hung with us--Anatole, Milton and I, at the San Remo. She was the only woman with us until Sheri came along. She was a wonderful woman and had a warm personality. She was absolutely normal, unlike Sheri, who was far out, because of a guy named Shu, who turned her onto cocaine and heroin. Sheri had a lot of talent to begin with and the drugs brought this out, until she went downhill.

When Anatole and her first got together she was beautiful, radiant sunshine, a girl from Philadelphia. She used to dance in the streets, do turns and skips. Anatole met her under those conditions and said she was brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. She had been married to an Italian painter. She brooded over him and her child. She took Anatole over as her child. The love she transferred to Anatole was phenomenal, deep-rooted, mother type tight hold love, which suffocated Anatole. He was a freedom-loving man. He felt for her and lived with her on Jones Street. When she met Shu, she became more expressive, more intelligent. He didn’t know she was on drugs. I knew it because she came to me in confidence, to keep her relationship with Anatole going, to speak well of her. The relationship was faltering because he found her antics too exaggerated.

If you read Kafka, there was a part where he was carrying her around the streets of New York, because she had a bad heart. It was fake. He would carry her upstairs and downstairs.

Klonsky’s friends were politically involved, while Anatole was more literary.

I was a protector of Greenwich Village culture. My grandfather was a landowner, and I belonged to, if you want to use the word, the nobility of the West Village. I’m 88 and I can say what I want to say. If somebody threatens your culture, it is like threatening your household, your family.

There were outsiders coming into the Village…Anatole was from Bed-Stuy, Klonsky was from Flatbush.and Landesman was from St. Louis. Stella came from near Boston, Sheri came from Philadelphia and Willie Gaddis came from Long Island.

They were allowed by me to join in. Stanley Gould wasn’t a thief, but he was a shill and a black market operator. He had a purpose. He was very young, but gave us a certain perspective.