Great Groupies Of The Sixties Series
Cherry Vanilla: Lick Me
Vanilla, Cherry: Lick Me, How I Became Cherry Vanilla, 2010, Chicago Review Press
The sixties were the first period of excessive drug use. Nearly everyone carried something, whether prescription or street. How influential drugs would have been without psychedelics is questionable. Psychedelics were legal for most of the sixties while enjoying great cachet. LSD led many a poor boy and girl into drug use. Live Better Through Chemistry was the parody of the motto. LSD stories are legendary, people taking thousands of mics. People dropping LSD daily for months on end. Doug Dillard of the Dillards Band according to legend dropped daily for a couple of years or so. Hendrix found in the desert crawling around on his hands and knees. Incredible stuff.
Cherry Vanilla, nee Kathy Dorritie, certainly qualifies as a heavy drug and LSD user. Staggering amounts. She tells of a friend of hers who had a vial of what she believed to be pure liquid LSD. She describes him saturating sugar cubes with it until the cubes began to disintegrate, then swallowing the cube. I can’t comprehend the dosage. After one massive dose she experienced a white out of her mind during which she went blind experiencing only a sense of blinding light. She doesn’t say, probably doesn’t know, how long it lasted. Life changing though.
Kathie was already an accomplished writer before beginning her autobiography so needed no co-writer. I had recognized her style of writing before I read the account of her LSD intake. LSD has an amazing effect on the mind which produces a very distinctive writing style. Very clear, very organized, written at a very intense level with the little variation in dynamics that inevitably becomes a numbing bore, but so well constructed that it reflects the blinding light that Kathy experienced.
Tim Leary who was a major acid freak wrote some truly amazing books reflecting the LSD experience while if you want to read an amazing virtuoso performance find a copy of Stephen Gaskins Haight Ashbury Flashbacks. These authors write with such amazing clarity and precision as to astound.
But, LSD is a totally inward experience, a complete divorce from the outside world which ceases to exist or becomes a sort of movie set. There is such an intense preoccupation with self that even though the writing is crisp and exciting the tone becomes boring as the inner self isn’t that interesting. The writing is on such an intense, unvarying level that there are no dynamics. (That I’ve repeated myself means I mean it.)
The dissociation from external reality is so complete that one loses all self-consciousness, thus Kathie, or Cherry Vanilla, is able to copulate in public without any sense of embarrassment, indeed, even with a sense of liberation. One might think she was an exhibitionist except that she is so preoccupied that she is almost unaware.
In time the inner world takes such precedence that one is unable to distinguish between the inner world of wishful thinking and the outer world of appearances. Thus Tim Leary could imagine shrinking a few acres of earth into a small size to take with him on a space trip to other planets and believe it possible. As if he wasn’t spaced enough. His final fantasy was incredible enough and he was actually able to realize it.
When he died he willed that he be cremated and his ashes put in a real space ship and rocketed into space. He’s up there now orbiting the planet every couple hours. As his orbit degrades he will one day reenter the atmosphere as a shooting star. Just absolutely incredible.
I don’t know how far out Kathy is but I imagine she finds it quite easy to draw a straight line from Point A to Point 9.
Now, not only did Kathy do amazing amounts of LSD but she was on the money on other drugs too provided they gave the proper result. She rejected heroin after a few times because it didn’t take her where she wanted to go.
She was a perfect child of the sixties even having a fine Dr. Feelgood. One finds her memoirs less than trustworthy because she feels compelled to change names, not all, but some, we just don’t know which ones.
For instance she calls her Feelgood, Dr. Bishop. That good doctor is the same as Dr. Roberts in Jean Stein and George Plimpton’s book, Edie about Edie Sedgwick. Dr. Roberts is also a false name so we can’t be sure. Perhaps Dr. Bishop is his real name but I can’t be sure. Jean Stein and George Plimpton also quote Kathy under the name of Cherry Vanilla concerning an encounter with Dr. Roberts/Bishop that Kathy repeats here but quite differently. Kathy’s memoirs were published in 2010 while Edie was published in 1982 so Kathy has had plenty of time to think about Dr. Bishop; while on the other hand Stein and Plimpton appear to have used a heavy editing hand. All of the dozens of people they interviewed sound remarkably alike so the interviews may reflect more of Stein and Plimpton’s modes of thought. Perhaps they edited to make the text more exciting.
It is quite possible that Dr. Roberts/Bishop may have been with the CIA doing drug experiments. The CIA was certainly active in the field at the time. Bishop was even happy to participate as his own guinea pig. This is an interesting topic so I am going to quote Kathy extensively as she repeats and edits her account from Edie.
By the summer of 1963 (when she was twenty) I had already become quite familiar with booze, grass, hash, coke, speed, opium, uppers, downers, and hallucinogens like mescaline, peyote and psilocybin because they were my favorites.
Those were just her favorites. So in two years since she left home she had really been doing some living while at the same time performing well at her advertising job on Madison Avenue.
And then, pp 50-53:
I’m in with the in crowd;
I go where the in crowd goes,
I’m in with the in crowd:
And I know what the in crowd knows.
By Billy Page as sung by Dobie Gray
c. Warner/Chappell Music
The Jet Set and the In Crowd
Two sixties institutions
Keeping up with the schedule I was on back then would have been impossible were it not for the drugs. And in 1966 I got introduced to the in crowd’s newest elixir. Dr. Bishop’s vitamin shots. At thirty-five dollars a pop, they were pretty expensive, but one or two a day would keep you up forever, and keep you looking fresh and vibrant the whole time. I forget who first introduced me to Dr. Bishop. It might have been Joel Schumacher (one of the original designers of the Paraphernalia store), whom I’d recently met at the Pines (Fire Island homosexual hangout), or Wally Clapham, a friend of Joel’s I knew from Mad Ave. Anyway, someone had to bring you there. You couldn’t just walk in off the street.
Dr. Bishop’s office was located on the ground floor of a highrise near First Avenue and later in a mansion at 53rd and Madison. It was a scene so quintessentially sixties you couldn’t even imagine a doctor’s office like it today. The clubby drug buzz in the waiting room was so dense and intense, you got high on anticipation just walking in there. The “nurses” (none of us knew or cared if they were really nurses or not) wore seductively modern sportswear and often pulled down your pants and gave you your shot in the hallway, while the examining room might be occupied by Dr. Bishop giving someone the sixty dollar special and/or somebody “having a bad reaction.” Everyone was always in a rush, wanted to be seen first, had somewhere to be, had a taxi waiting, whatever. But then once they got that shot in the ass, they often couldn’t tear themselves away from the clinically and socially charged atmosphere and would get caught up in the speed rap session that was always going on among the patients.
When the taste of the iron, or whatever it was, hit your mouth, you started getting off on the shot. And as long as the soreness in your ass lasted, your stamina pretty well lasted too, a good six to eight hours anyway. The first half hour after the shot was dangerous, because you often got a sudden urge to shop, buy someone a gift, spend the rent money on something pretty. And right across the street from the 53rd Street office was a shop called Hunter’s World and, oh my God, how many elephant hair bracelets and zebra skin notebooks could anyone possibly need?….The other temptation was a nearby crystal and rock shop, where it was especially hard to resist the colorful sparklers.
Dr. Bishop had his favorite patients, especially the one male and one female he’d singled out from each sign of the zodiac. I was his Libra girl. I can’t believe I had a huge sense of pride about that. It meant that, along with the vitamins and speed, my shot might get an extra dose of whatever he was experimenting with that week- things like adrenaline stimulants, niacin and even LSD. And he’d have his favorites call him about an hour after getting a shot to let him know what we were feeling. The guy was using us all as guinea pigs, and I thought he was some kind of savior, freeing us all from the need for food and sleep.
One night Dr. Bishop came by Aux Puces while I was spinning and offered me a free shot of something special if I’d come to his office after work. All night at the turntables my mouth was watering at the prospect of what was to come. And as soon as we closed I ran the two blocks over there to take him up on his offer. As his building’s open-sided elevator rose through its day-glo painted, black-lit shaft, I felt positively dizzy with excitement. A minute later I was alone with Dr. B. in his fabulous office space, with it high ceilings, mahogany paneled walls, dance studio, and all those delicious drugs in the cabinets. He loaded the needles and instructed me to slap his ass, poke him fast, and slowly push the plunger on the first one. And then he shot me up on the second. A few minutes later, he had his fingers up my pussy and I was rushing beyond belief.
Pretty soon, I was going numb all over, even in my brain. Then all of a sudden there was blood everywhere and Dr. Bishop just laughed and said rather flippantly, “My dear, you’re bleeding. Maybe you should see a doctor.” I knew I didn’t have my period and I didn’t feel any pain, but the shock of seeing the blood running down my legs made me come to my senses. Even though the bleeding seemed to be subsiding, I just wanted to get out of there and get away from him as fast as I could. It wasn’t easy, since he’d become perturbed and paranoid about the fact I was leaving.
I went back to Aux Puces, where the new maitre d’, David Smith, was tripping after hours with Jay Martin and a couple of friends. I banged desperately hard on the locked front door and, luckily, they heard me above the loud music they were playing. My shaken state and gory story must have been a real bummer for them on their LSD high but they snapped into action immediately and got a limo to take me to the emergency room. Turned out I had cuts and scratches inside my vagina made by a ring or more sinister object, though the doctors said no major damage had been done. By that time the bleeding had stopped and I still wasn’t feeling any pain. Though questioned I refused to rat out Dr. Bishop and was quickly released. I went back to join the gang at Aux Puces, where we opened a few bottles of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild ‘60, smoked some hash-oiled joints and partied until dawn.
Let’s examine the above. As I said Stein’s Edie was about twenty-eight years old when Kathy wrote this. She undoubtedly read Edie so was familiar with her testimony then and as the account combines and adds to Joel Schumacher’s and her own story it is possible she had a copy of the book before her and wrote from it.
The time she is writing about is 1966 which was the heyday of the Doctor Feelgoods. I don’t know that a study has been done on them yet but there were apparently dozens of these guys practicing dope medicine beginning in approximately 1960. As is well known a Dr. Max Jacobson was operating in the early sixties with an extensive elite clientele that included then President John F. Kennedy. Dr. Jacobson even accompanied Kennedy to the Khruschev summit meeting where he kept Kennedy loaded on these shots. So for roughly six years New York City had been speeding along and whatnot.
At the same time the uptown Doctor, E. 87th, that the Beatles refer to as Dr. Robert was managing an extensive clientele. Kathy refers to her guy as Dr. Bishop who is the same guy Jean Stein refers to as Dr. Roberts. We may assume that neither name is correct. Both Dr. Robert and Jacobson were Jewish, I believe Bishop probably was also. In fact all, or nearly all, of these doctors were probably Jewish.
Now Kathy believed Dr. Bishop was experimenting on his clients. If he was shooting them up with unknown drugs without their knowledge that was at the very least unethical not to mention shooting them up with amphetamines at all. To say that no one knew the effects of amphetamines at the time is nonsense. Amphetamines had been around since 1887 while every army of WWII issued tablets to their troops. Hitler’s own Dr. Feelgood kept him filled with amphetamines for years and his deterioration was obvious. But, perhaps, more clinical observations were wanted or a more precise understanding of how large numbers of people reacted and could be controlled was needed. Maybe they wanted to know how easy it would be to control and direct populations on drugs.
It is well known that the CIA and other governmental agencies experimented with drugs on soldiers and even to unknowing members of the civilian population. Extensive experiments with LSD were carried on by the CIA in the late fifties and early sixties. Stanford and UC Berkeley for instance were running programs in the mid-sixties running ads in the newspapers for volunteers as this was happening in NYC.
So who would have been the beneficiaries of knowledge obtained by these Jewish Dr. Feelgoods who had very large supplies of amphetamines, cocaine which wasn’t too common in ‘66 and was definitely illegal, LSD was just being made illegal, and who knows what experimental drugs? It could have been conducted under the auspices of the US Government agencies who were researching mind control. But the information most likely was going two ways- one to the US authorities, the other way to Jewish psychological ops who could draw their own conclusions for their own purposes. Let’s face it old drugs have been made available while new drugs are invented everyday and find easy distribution so every young person has had his or her consciousness altered beyond recognition.
At any rate with all those doctors with crowded waiting rooms the buzz over New York City must have been audible for miles and miles. And all that didn’t include freelancers like Brigit Berlin of the Andy Warhol crowd.
The True Story Of John Lennon’s Final Years
Review by R.E. Prindle
Green, John: Dakota Days- The True Story Of John Lennon’s Final Years, St. Martin’s Press, 1983
The book should perhaps be subtitled: A True Story. John Green has crafted very nice portraits here of Yoko Ono and John Lennon, especially that of Yoko. She was very superstitious being dedicated to the occult from witchcraft to Japanese numerology to Tarot readings. It was the last that brought Green within her ken. She not only wanted a reading of the Tarot cards but she kept Green hopping day and night giving her readings on whatever little problem that pressed her mind. So for six years Green made a very good living reading for John and Yoko while developing a profound familiarity with their characters; in other words, he knows whereof he speaks.
Neither he nor the Japanese numerologist who he mever met were the only occultists Yoko was consulting but Green seems to have been unaware of the others. He is very careful and doesn’t overstep the bounds of what he knows first hand. There was a great deal that Green wasn’t privy to making this A rather than The true story.
While I know that many people know what the Tarot is I will give an explanation for those who don’t. While I don’t participate in Tarot myself I do have a deck of cards on hand to study for historical reasons.
The Tarot is a deck of 78 cards of some psychological subtlety. It arose as a means to preserve the Egyptian religion when after the various invasions of the first millennium BC the matrix of the religion was shattered. The Tarot was devised as a means of perpetuating the religion. The various spreads of cards provide means of interpreting responses to a problem.
Over the centuries many different decks have evolved representing various time periods. I have the Egyptian deck. It would be
interesting to know which deck Green used. He fails to tell us.
To be able to read well one must have an implicit understanding of each of the cards as well as being a subtle enough psychologist to apply the meanings to he or she for whom you read. Green apparently had both qualifications. Thus over thousands of readings over the six years he became very familiar with the characters and personalities of his subjects John and Yoko. Still, they seem to have been very successful in letting him know only what they wanted him to know.
As he apparently didn’t take notes, limiting in itself, he relies on his memory and familiarity with the Ono’s mental processes to reconstruct a continuum of the six years. While one may question the veracity of his method he seems to capture the mental and vocal traits of both John and Yoko. I have no trouble accepting the portraits while as the details can be corroborated elsewhere I see no reason to question Green’s general accuracy. Otherwise there is no one who doesn’t make mistakes in fact or interpretation.
His two portraits while revealing conflict with other accounts such as that of May Pang or Fred Seaman the obvious reason is that
the Onos are only letting him see what they want him to see. For instance, in their 1980 interview the Onos state that Yoko had brought the estate up to 150 million dollars yet Green has Yoko spending so fast that they are always on the brink of insolvency. At times expenditures seem to exceed cash on hand.
Green believes himself to be their only investment advisor but that isn’t the case. Just as Yoko had her Japanese numerologist who Green didn’t come into contact with and other occult advisors she must have had other financial advisors.
The picture Green paints of Yoko is far from pretty while he never openly denigrates her yet as he creates his layers of detail she not only becomes but goes beyond eccentric. Her dependence on the occult is such that when someone advised her of a ‘genuine’ witch in Colombia she dragged Green along on the trip to South America to visit the woman. Always lavish in her expenditures, she gave one medium a blank check for her to fill out, she gave this woman 60,000 dollars for her ministrations. When Green protested that the woman had meant pesetas rather than dollars Yoko was unfazed.
Thus while Yoko denied any dependence on John she only was able to realize her vision of herself through the former Beatle’s wealth and influence.
This was no more evident than in Yoko’s competition with her mother. For two successive summers John and Yoko visited Japan. According to Yoko the intent was to establish some rapport so that her son Sean wouldn’t be cut out of the family fortune that was considerable. The trips were conducted on such an extravagant scale that according to Green the Onos were cash poor as a result. Nevertheless Yoko went on spending so either they had funds of which Green knew nothing or they got money from somewhere.
The fact that they always seemed to have enough cash to do anything from spending a few millions on dairy farms and cows to Japanese vacations that it seems strange that when they received an extortion attempt for 200,000 dollars Yoko said they had no money. The extortion attempt seems to have been a protection racket- pay and live or go the police and die. As the extortioners told Yoko that if she went to the cops they would only protect her for a while. When they left whether a year or two later the extortioners would strike.
The Onos refused to comply calling in the FBI. The FBI advised them to substitute newspaper for money and they would arrest the pickup man. Strangely the pick up man was able to elude the FBI. And then two years or so later Lennon was hit by exploding bullets and killed on his doorstep. While one cannot say the two events are connected yet the assassination followed the extortionists plans. Chapman did make a stop to speak to an unidentified party before he pulled the trigger. But nothing is clear.
Yoko first contacted Green during Lennon’s ‘Lost Weekend.’ While Lennon believed, and it seems clear, that Yoko had informants watching John while he was in LA, Green has her denying this saying that it was his card readings that kept her informed of John’s doings. In all likelihood she checked her spies’ information against his readings.
From ’75 to ’80 Lennon was in a severe depression being unable or unwilling to function in a normal way. Of course there was no reason for him to act ‘normal’ as he was able to deal with his funk in his own way. Who is there to say that ‘normal’ was better? As he told Green his muse had left him leaving him unable to write. As he said, call it writer’s block or whatever, he couldn’t work. Enough reason for depression in an artist.
Then in 1980 when he came out of it being again able to write, Yoko in her desperate attempt to be his equal insisted on being part of the new record she called Double Fantasy. John adamantly refused to let her perform on his own tracks while she didn’t want her tracks all on one side for fear that no one would listen to side B, so they alternated tracks.
Thus, even though Yoko insisted that she was the most talented artistically and musically of the two she was forced to hitch her wagon to John’s star.
I found Green’s treatment of Lennon to be more sympathetic than his treatment of Yoko. The inevitable conclusion one comes to about Yoko is that at best she was a pathetic human being while at worst an obsessive-compulsive and a dangerous one at that.
The portrait he depicted of John is that of a man with a completely disintegrated personality entering the mid-life crisis. During this five year period he begins a process of reintegration. Actually his course is that of the mythological hero who experiences his ‘madness’ at this period of the mid-life crisis.
During this period Lennon is essentially egoless. Part of Timothy Leary’s LSD mantra was that one should abandon the ego. Of course to abandon the ego leaves one defenseless and a prey to sharpers who use their ego only too well, nevertheless Lennon bought in and abandoned his ego, or so he says. As he abdicated his identity to the use of Yoko Ono this was obviously the case.
So, he allowed himself to be manipulated by Yoko spending long periods of months over years ruminating naked in his bed, totally exposed as it were protected only by the good will of Yoko. Then, for whatever ulterior motive, Yoko sent John on a solo trip around the world. This was her mistake.
While in Macau, China Lennon had an epiphany in his hotel room. This is a fairly common one but self-revelatory. One might name it the peeling of the onion. In Lennon’s case he obviously felt that he had multiple personalities acquired through various traumatic events in his life.
As he described it to Green he was in his hotel room when he succeeded in peeling a layer of the onion, a personality, off which appeared as real and visible to him as shirt or a suit of clothes. He draped the personality over a chair then began to peel off layer after layer hanging them about the room or draping them over the furniture. When he awoke the next morning he could see them just where he put them. He then conceived the notion of leaving them there as he ran away from their influence.
This is a beautiful little fantasy. But then he turned the corner and there was oneof his selves waiting for him. Visualize the Rock And Roll cover and I think you begin to have it. He then realized he couldn’t escape in that fashion so he went back to his hotel and said ‘C’mon’ to his personalities and continued on his journey. However having identified his ‘problems’ by name, as it were, the seeds for resolving those problems had been sown.
He then returned to the Dakota and while he confined himself to his room rather than merely sinking into depression he began working through those layers of fixations or depression gradually recovering his muse and removing his writer’s block enabling him to compose again.
It would seem that Yoko preferred John psychologically incapacitated so that she could either control him or make herself believe that she was the more talented. Green notes that as John improved Yoko seemed to deteriorate. He quotes her as saying that she had heard some of John’s new songs and they were not very good while hers were.
Dissociated from reality as she was then she couldn’t let John record an LP of songs that might be a hit while anything she recorded on her own would be relegated to the garbage. She even refused to record one side all John and one side all her for fear that no one would listen to her side so she demanded they alternate tracks. I presume that is one reason the LP is entitled Double Fantasy.
While Yoko actually believed in the Tarot and her Japanese numerology, witchcraft and whatever John intelligently disregarded the occult aspects while he might have seen the utility of the Egyptian religous aspects to reveal character and motivation. In fact the innumerable readings of the Tarot might have led up to the revelatory epiphany in China and hence the lifting of his depression.
If that were the case then there would have been little difference between the Egyptian system of Tarot and psychoanalysis. But, as I say, I have no idea of which deck Green was using although the principle remains the same.
After having been on 24/7 call for six years as the Onos moved into what seems to have been a new phase Green lost his usefulness to Yoko sitting by a phone that never rang.
Green had succeeded too well. As he has John explain to him when Yoko first employed him she set him seven tasks. He had successfully completed all seven being now redundant. While John promised to look out for him, of course events eliminated any such possibility.
Regardless of whether the Ono Lennons were the subject of Green’s book I found the whole concept interesting. I like the way Green told his story, his tone and his outlook. His telling made me take an interest in himself. Unfortunately his name being so common makes it too difficult to search out anything of his subsequent career other than he moved to Washington DC.
Perhaps he could write a sequel to Dakota Days from another angle and with more detail. Pressing issues might not be so pressing now. I’d be interested.
January 28, 2010
Conversations With Robin Page 4.
Conversations between R. E. Prindle and Robin Mark
Concerning certain musical questions.
Sorry to be so remiss but I was really involved with writingt Exhuming Bob 23 a and b: Bob, Andy, Edie and Like A Rolling Stone. I got them up a couple days ago and then I was really exhausted.
I think they’re really good work, real Sherlock Holmes stuff. The feud between Dylan and Warhol with Edie Sedgwick as their pawn is very important althougth Dylan has been very effective in shuffling it under the carpet.
I’ve always been amazed that no one came after Dylan because of the savage badgering he and Neuwirth put people through during what was apparently his Acid phase. Anent that I’ve always been suspicious of the back wheel of his bike locking up, obvious sabotage to me. Of course the reuslt would be flying over the handle bars that did happen. A probable result of that would be damage to the head neck and/or back with a very good chance of being paralyzed from the neck down much as Christopher Reeve did from his horse jumping accident which was also contrived.
Who would take that exact means to attempt to paralyze Dylan, I don’t think murder was intended. Warhol is my first choice. In addition to other humiliations Dylan publically insulted him in both Stone and Street using motorcycle imagery. Of course, it is now clear that chrome horse refers to a motorcycle so the line reads: You used to ride on a bike behind your diplomat…. Warhol had a bike and was Edie’s ‘diplomat’ so stripped of an obscure term the meaning is clear- Edie and Andy.
In Street Dylan sings: You know you’d like to see me paralyzed…so the bike accident is prefigured in the imagery of the two songs that have references to Warhol. If and when you read Part b of Bob And Andy the inference that Warhol’s crew were the perpetrators will become more evident.
That was hard work pulling all those details together but rewarding. Still, I’m going to have to take a week or so to recover. Research goes on of course. I think next I’ll tackle Exhuming Bob 24: Bob, Jack and Allen. I’ll start working on the ton of the period some.
Part of Elvis’ problem was that the ton shifted so dramatically after he was drafted. He began his career in the post-war ton of the late forties and early fifties actually causing the shift or, at least, abetting it. Then he was removed from the flow for two crucial years. when he came back the Kingston Trio had already shifted the ton toward the Folk genre that made Dylan possible but made Elvis an anachronism. While I don’t believe Elvis was part of any Illuminati type thing earlier or later it is quite possible that some such sort of conspiracy found him a useful tool. Of course, Parker, who was in the country illegally, could easily be manipulated to betray his and ‘his boy’s’ interests.
By the time of the return from the military Presley’s career was obviously being directed by Hollywood. So, who was getting what from mismanaging Elvis’ career?
June 20, 2008
Slum Goddess From The Lower East Side
Some Thoughts On The Autobiography Of Suze Rotolo:
A Freewheelin’ Time
Sandoz The Great
In 1938 Albert Hofman, a Swiss chemist working for Sandoz isolated LSD-25. In 1938 young Tim Leary was 18 years old. It was in 1943 that Albert Hofman discovered the effects of LSD. Seventeen years after that LSD burt onto the world through the agency of the now, Dr., Timothy Leary, a psychologist with Harvard University.
LSD was adopted by the Bohemian society and all its offshoots as the appearance of the new chemical Messiah: Better living through chemistry as the slogan was. Its use quickly spread through the folk music community of Greenwich Village in New York City.
In 1923 a fellow by the name of Tuli Kupferberg was born and his partner Ed Sanders came along in 1939 a year after I did. Kupferberg and Sanders were poets who became influenced by the folk scene forming a band sometime in 1964 originally called the Village Fugs, later the Village was dropped and they became simply the Fugs. In 1965 they released their first LP on Folkways. Now, cut one, side one was little number entitled Slum Goddess From The Lower East Side. Sort of OK as a song, funny, as were a lot of Fugs songs. Like Dylan they searched for social significance rather than write trite love songs. Unlike Dylan you could easily understand the meaning of the lyrics. Slum Goddess was one and then there was a song that many of us thought significant in the social sense back in those days entitled: Boobs A Lot. ‘Do you like boobs a lot? Gotta like boobs a lot.’ As I said deep and intense meaning. This was followed by a song eulogizing jock straps. ‘Do you wear your jock strap? Gotta wear your jock strap.’ So the Fugs were with it.
At some point after 1965 the Village Voice decided to run a feature depicting some East Village lovely as the Slum Goddess From The Lower East Side. Suze Rotolo had the dubious honor of being selected as the very first Slum Goddess.
To what did she owe this honor? Well, she was famous on the Lower East Side for being featured on the album cover of Bob Dylan’s second LP, The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan. She was at that time, 1962, I believe, Bob’s girl friend or, at least, one of them, perhaps the principle one but one can’t be sure as Bob had others as ‘part time’ girl friends.
Thus one has to go back to the summer of 1961 to discover how Suze Rotolo began her odyssey to become the very first Slum Goddess. Suze tells her story in her autobiography issued in May of 2008 called A Freewheelin’ Time. It is a bitter sweet story not lacking in charm. Bob was born in 1941 while Suze was born three years later. All the disparate elements in our story born at separate times were slowly moving to a central focal point in New York City from 1961 to 1965 or so.
Suze and Bob were of that age when freewheelin’ seemed possible while the psychological social moment was about to congeal and then vanish before it could be realized as psychological moments do. Some catch the golden ring as it come around, some don’t. Bob did, Suze didn’t.
Suze was born in Queens, over there on Long Island, as a red diaper baby. In other words in the romanticized Communist parlance her parents were Communists when she was born. She was brought up in the faith.
Bob described her as a libertine dream or some such epithet. I’m not sure Suze saw herself in the same way. I think she expected a little more of Bob than to be his sex toy. As a Communist she should have had a more freewheelin’ attitude.
Suze seems to have been brought up completely within the Red religion much as a Christian might be a Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran or as Jew in whatever stripe of Judaism it might be.
She edged into race agitation at a young age. She met Bob when she was seventeen while she had been working for CORE (Congress Of Racial Equality) for a couple years before that. She would have been fifteen or sixteen. Whether she had sexual experiences with the Africans she doesn’t tell us. In her search for a raison d’ etre for her life she found herself in Greenwich Village in the Summer of ’61 where she met the twenty year old Bob Dylan just in from the Iron Range of Minnesota. They were mutually attracted, quickly forming a sexual relationship.
Bob as everyone knows was and is Jewish. He came not only from a Jewish background but from an orthodox background. Hibbing, Minnesota, his hometown, had a Jewish population of about three hundred families with their own Jewish establishment and synagogue.
According to Beattie Zimmerman, Bob’s mother, Bob was a good boy who attended services regularly while investigating the nature of the various Christian churches. As a mother Beattie’s version of things must be interpreted through the eyes of mother love.
Father Abe was not only a practising Jew but the President of the Hibbing chapter of B’nai B’rith and its terrorist arm the Anti-Defamation League. In addition Beattie, Bob’s mother, was the President of the Women’s auxiliary, Hadassah. So Bob isn’t just Jewish but comes from a very committed Jewish background.
As the President of the Hibbing chapter, Father Abe would have attended statewide gatherings in Minneapolis, regional meetings wherever they were held and possibly if not probably national meetings in NYC and elsewhere. Now, within the international Jewish organizations heavy hitters attend various levels of meetings where they meet and learn something of the various local and regional people. Thus, it may be assumed that Abe Zimmerman as a name at least was known on the national Jewish level. Kind of the Jewish Who’s Who, you know. Bob says that he had contacts to help him when he got to New York. Those contacts would have come through Father Abe while being part of B’nai B’rith and ADL. Bob wasn’t entirely alone out there.
Bob’s Jewish name is Sabtai after the last acknowledged Jewish Messiah, Sabbatai Zevi. There have been many that filled a Messianic role since Zevi not least of which was Sigmund Freud and possibly Albert Einstein. Bob may have been encouraged to take the role for himself.
At any rate when Bob approached thirteen and Bar Mitzvah time Abe brought in a special Rabbi from Brooklyn to instruct Bob. Now this is really signficant. He was probably a Lubavitcher or ultra-orthodox Jew. When Bob publicly expressed his Judaism after his Christian stint he chose to do so as a Lubavitcher. Very likely that was no coincidence. Having received his crash course in orthodoz Judaism Father Abe next sent his son to a Zionist summer camp for ‘several ‘ weeks for each of four successive summers ending at the age of seventeen. This would have the effect of introducing him to young Jews not only of the region but from around the world while at the same time estranging him from his fellow Hibbingites giving him his strange cast of character.
Camp Herzl was named after the originator of Zionism, Theodore Herzl. the camp with a spacious hundred and twenty acres is located on a lake near Webster, Wisconsin. Herzl is not your basic summer church camp but a national and international gathering place where young Jews from around the US and the world can meet and get known to each other somewhat.
The camp is conducted exclusively for Jews along Jewish lines eliminating as many goyish influences as is possible. At least when he was seventeen Bob was playing the Wild One showing up in a mini biker cavalcade. One may assume that many national and international Jewish figures made appearances over the four years to both instruct, encourage and look over the upcoming generation.
The post-war years were very traumatic for the Jewish people. The death camps of the Nazis dominated their minds. They were psychologically devastated and unbalanced looking for Nazis under their beds before they went to sleep at night. One may safely assume that Bob and his fellow campers had to watch extermination movies over and over lest they forget.
The State of Israel was founded in 1948 while the first of Israel’s successful wars occurred in 1956. The ’56 war was a seminal event bolstering the spirits of the Jews turning them aggressive as they now believed they could fight. After ’56 they began to come out of themselves.
For whatever reasons as Bob entered high school his personality began to disintegrate. Perhaps he had to cease being Bobby Zimmerman to become what his people expected of him which was a probable religious leader who then became Bob Dylan. As always Bob would combine two cultures, Jewish and Goyish.
After an extremely rocky year in Minneapolis where Bob shed the remnants of his goody goody image of Hibbing he became the dirty unkempt Bob Dylan of his rush to fame of the Folk years.
Thus as Bob and Suze met in the Summer of ’61 they were both searching for something to be.
Why Do Fools Fall In Love?
The question now that Suze and Bob have gotten together is to sort out the various accounts of what happened. Bob says everyone has gotten it wrong. However his own account in Chronicles I is no more factual than the accounts of his biographers and commentators. Suze doesn’t provide us with much more clarity. While Bob tells it like he wanted it to have been Suze on the the one hand protects her memory of what she wants to keep as a beautiful memory while glossing over her own actions at the time to keep it so.
Bob goes through the romantic notion of constructing their bed with saw, hammer and nails. This is a charming story and I’m embarrassed to say I took him at his word. You simply can’t. Chronicles came out four years ago so Suze has had plenty of time to read it and mull over Bob’s ruminations. Thus she must be aware of Bob’s story of the bed. She says it was an old bed the landlord left from another tenant. Another beautiful tale of Bob’s down the tubes.
Suze rather unflatteringly depicts Bob as a rouster and fairly heavy drinker. She was offended that Bob, who was posing as Bob Dylan, not yet having officially changed his name, didn’t level with her and confide that Dylan was a pseudonym that looked better on a marquee while his real name was Zimmerman and that he came from Minnesota rather than being an orphan from New Mexico. Coming home one night, as Suze tells it, Bob, stumblingly drunk, dropped his ID and she discovered the truth as she picked it up. Even then she had to drag the truth out of Bob.
These problems mounted up. There was immediate hostility between Bob, Suze’s mother and her sister Carla. The mother seems to have instinctively seen through Bob, while I’m sure Carla soon learned that Bob was doing her sister wrong.
As we know from Chronicles Bob had other ‘part-time’ girl friends, pick ups and whatever. As the folk crowd was a fairly tight knit group even if Suze didn’t want to hear the obvious Carla who was employed by the Folklorist, Alan Lomax, could hardly have been unaware that Bob had a laissez faire attitude toward romancing the girls.
Indeed, Bob’s understanding of Suze was that she was his Libertine belle. As a libertine therefore he could hardly have believed fidelity was a necessary condition. I don’t know if Suze considered herself a Libertine but as a Communist both fidelity and jealousy were forbidden by the dogma so speaking consistently with the belief system neither mother, Suze nor Carla had grounds for complaint. Nevertheless both mother and Carla wished to separate Bob and Suze.
Bob records his side of the conflict in his song Ballad in Plain D. In his usual high flown language Bob says in his song:
“The tragic figure!” her sister did shout,
“Leave her alone, goddamn you, get out.”
All is gone, all is gone, admit it, take flight.
I gagged twice, doubled, tears blinding my sight.
My mind it was mangled, I ran into the night
Leaving all of love’s ashes behind me.
Within a few months he was married to Sara who he kept waiting in the wings. Subsequently he tried to keep Sara and his growing family in Woodstock and the Slum Goddess Of The Lower East Side out on the side. Suze, apparently not quite as Libertine as Bob supposed, declined the honor.
Just as Bob blithely romanticizes his early NY years in some sappy Happy Talk that belies his songs and what nearly everyone has written about him so Suze adopts a near virginal girlish pose. Her story of how she left for Italy and her true blue yearning for the perfect love of Bob who sent those charming letters purloined from old country songs is also belied by the various biographers. To hear Suze talk she never looked at a boy in Italy and certainly never dated one let alone kissed or petted. Yet by her religious Communist ideology that would have been no sin, even would have been a virtue. In fact she did have an Italian boyfriend who was apparently dropped down the memory hole at autobiography time.
When she did return the road of romance was much more rocky than she lets on. Carla who stayed home where she could watch Bob was privy to his doings which were much more libertine than anything he accused Suze of. He had to have slept with Liam Clancy’s live in somewhere in there. He’s accused of being a womanizer and you can’t be a womanizer without a lot of women. So whatever Carla knew it was somewhat more than an earful and I’m sure that between Carla and her mother Suze heard it all.
Suze out of respect for this young love which, after all, must still occupy a sacred spot in her life never expresses but the mildest resentment of Bob but letting her sister speak for her she says that ‘she (Carla) felt I was better off without the lyin’ cheatin’ manipulative bastard.’ Right on all counts I’m sure except for the last although as Bob claimed to have no parents Carla could justly so surmise.
At any rate if Suze couldn’t make up her mind her mother and Carla could.
Ballad In Plain D again:
Beneath a bare light bulb the plaster did pound
Her sister and I in a screaming battleground,
And she in between, the victim of sound,
Soon shattered the child ‘neath her shadows.
The wind knocks my window, the room it is is wet.
The words to say I’m sorry, I haven’t found yet.
I think of her often and hope whoever she’s met
Will be fully aware of how precious she is.
And then Bob married Sara and ruined her life.
While Suze and Bob talked marriage there is no reason to take that seriously; he talked marriage with Echo too. I don’t think Bob had any notion of marrying aouside his faith. The mother is the culture carrier; Bob is firmly within the Jewish culture so there could have been no chance that he would have taken other than a Jewish wife. Even then he may have married only to fulfill the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. Once he had fulfilled that duty he broke the marriage apart.
The Slum Goddess
Suze was now a young woman of twenty or twenty-one alone adrift in New York City. While she and Bob were having their tempestuous romance the times they were a changin’.
Tim Leary, up in harvard, had embraced psychedelics. Once in love with LSD he wanted to share his love with everyone. He became the High Priest of his psychedelic religion. I can recommend both his autobiography and his volume of reminiscences: High Priest. The latter is a spectacularly well written book if tending toward tediousness.
Leary’s experiments attracted the dark angel of the Hippie years, Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg also attached himself to Dylan tying the Beat and Hippie decades together. Vile man.
Bob had introduced Suze to Marijuana and what else I don’t know, perhaps LSD. He himself was into the pharmacopeia also undoubtedly dabbling in heroin although if he did he is still an addict or was successful in kicking the habit after his retreat from fame in ’66. That whole thing about the motorcycle accident may have been just rehab. He sure needed it.
As Bob notes the effect of LSD on the Greenwich Village folk scene was to turn people inward destroying any sense of community. Suze then was attempting to navigate this terra nova. Along with turning people inward, LSD, the drug scene, turned the scene sexually rasty in ways even the Communists couldn’t have imagined. The Pill coming along at this time certainly was as influential as LSD in changing sexual mores.
Suze, if aware of this, makes no mention of it in her auto. The Fugs released Slum Goddess in 1965 although they may possibly have been playing it around the Village for a year or two earlier. The Slum Goddess is not a savory woman.
That Suze was selected as the first Slum Goddess strikes my sensibilities as a negative compliment. Her presentation of it implies a souring experience. Shortly after her selection she chose to withdraw from Village life. She gives as the reason that her earlier relations with Bob caused upleasant curiosity and that was certainly true.
The scene turned absolutely rotten after 1968 when between drugs, profound negativity and the progressing degradation of the Hippie movement anyone with any sense of dignity was driven out.
Suze must have been one of us for she left the scene behind. There are few today who choose to remember it. As for me, life is life, there it was and there was I. I was who I was; je ne regret rien. I hope Suze doesn’t either. Bob? He just stays on the bus and doesn’t get off. Reality can be such a drag.