Posts Tagged ‘Allen Ginsberg’

Stanley’s: a bohemian 1960s East Village bar

November 15, 2011

For years, the ground-floor of this handsome tenement, on the northwest corner of 12th Street and Avenue B, has been home to a bodega.

But in the early 1960s, it was Stanley’s, “a hip place where Harlem met bohemia,” according to one resident at the time, a hangout for artists, writers, musicians, and other creative types who had begun colonizing the neighborhood real estate folks had just christened the East Village.

A 1965 guide to Greenwich Village had this to say about Stanley’s, as well as the bars that came before it:

“Among its patrons: [Allen] Ginsberg, David Henderson, Calvin Hernton, Tuli Kupferberg, Odetta, Ishmael Reed, Ed Sanders, and actors Lou Gossett, Moses Gunn, and Cicely Tyson,” states The Beat Generation in New York, by Bill Morgan.

Stanley’s was run by Stanley Tolkin, who later opened the Dom on St. Marks Place, a bar-slash-performance space that took heat in the mid to late 1960s for attracting a very uncool crowd.

Getting a sandwich—and hit on—at the Automat

March 7, 2011

The Horn & Hardart Automat is one of those institutions New Yorkers seem to collectively mourn the loss of.

Call it early 20th century fast food: Put a nickel in the slot and turn the chrome-plated knob, and a glass window would open granting you access to the food item of your choice: macaroni and cheese, baked beans, Salisbury steak, pie and of course, a hot cup of coffee.

From 1912 to the mid-1960s, the city had up to 50 Automats, like this one depicted on Depression-era color postcard.

The easy-access food wasn’t its only appeal. The Automat was a place you could sit and nurse a cup of coffee all night long—and got hit on by a famous Beat poet, as Patti Smith recalls in her tender memoir about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, Just Kids.

[Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe on their West 23rd Street fire escape, about 1970]

“One drizzly afternoon I had a hankering for one of those cheese-and-lettuce sandwiches.

“I got my tray and slipped in my coins but the window wouldn’t open. I tried again without luck and then I noticed the price had gone up to sixty-five cents. I was disappointed to say the least, when I heard a voice say, ‘Can I help?’

“I turned around and it was Allen Ginsberg.

“Allen added the extra dime and also stood me to a cup of coffee. I wordlessly followed him to his table, and then plowed into the sandwich.

“Allen introduced himself. He was talking about Walt Whitman and I mentioned I was raised near Camden, where Whitman was buried, when he leaned forward and looked at me intently. ‘Are you a girl?’ he asked.

“‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Is that a problem?’

“He just laughed. ‘I’m sorry. I took you for a very pretty boy.’

“I got the picture immediately.”

The Beat poet born and raised on Bleecker Street

November 3, 2010

Unlike Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and other Beat Generation writers centered in Greenwich Village in the 1950s, poet Gregory Corso was actually from the Village.

Born at St. Vincent’s Hospital in 1930 to poor immigrants living at 190 Bleecker Street (where one-bedroom apartments now fetch $2500 per month), Corso’s upbringing was rough:

He sums his bio up in a letter dated September 7, 1957 from The Accidental Autobiography: The Selected Letters of Gregory Corso:

“…mother year after me left not-too-bright-father and went back to Italy, thus I entered life of orphanage and four foster parents and at 11 father remarried and took me back….”

“…two years later I ran away and caught sent away to boys home for two years and let out and went back home and ran away again and sent to Bellevue for observation where I spent three frightening sad months with mad old men who peed in other sad old men’s mouths….”

“…from 13 to 17 I lived with Irish on 99th and Lexington, with Italians on 105th and 3rd, with two runaway Texans on 43rd etc. until 17th year when did steal and get three years in Clinton Prison where an old man handed me [The Brothers] Karamozov, Les Miserables, Red and the Black, and thus I learned, and was free to think and feel and write….”

In 1950, he met Ginsberg and Kerouac, who were impressed with Corso’s street smarts and talent. And the New York Beat scene took off.

[Photo above: Ginsberg and Corso read with publisher Barney Rosset in Washington Square Park]