Posts Tagged ‘Gregory Corso’

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]

Jack Kerouac at the Kettle of Fish in the Village

January 3, 2010

Opened in 1950, the Kettle of Fish—with its large neon “bar” sign outside the door—was already old-school by the time The New Inside Guide to Greenwich Village came out in 1965:

By then it had earned its cred as a hangout for the early-1960s folk music crowd, and before that as a haunt of beat writers, such as Jack Kerouac.

In Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, author and Kerouac girlfriend Joyce Johnson recalls a night in 1958 when Kerouac visited the Kettle of Fish with poet Gregory Corso:

“Shortly before he returned to Orlando to start packing, [Jack] went out one night with Gregory Corso to the Kettle of Fish, a bar on MacDougal Street that had a rough clientele and was frequented by moving men like Henri Cru. In the fall Jack and I had been photographed in front of its red neon sign by Jerry Yulsman.

“In the small hours of the morning, Jack and Gregory left the bar, followed outside by two men, who beat Jack up, banging his head repeatedly against the curb and breaking his nose and his arm. To his horror, he found he lacked the will to defend himself. . . .”

Kerouac and Joyce Johnson at the Kettle of Fish on MacDougal. The bar moved to the old Lion’s Head space on Christopher Street several years back, where it still is today—and strangely has become the epicenter of Green Bay Packers fandom, as the Daily News explains.

The Kettle of Fish in the 1950s, part neighborhood pub, part beat haunt