Posts Tagged ‘Maxwell Bodenheim’

Max Bodenheim, Village poet and gadfly

June 8, 2008

When Mississippi native Maxwell Bodenheim arrived in New York in the 1920s, the talented poet and novelist became the quintessential Village bohemian, hitting up bars, charming the literati, and picking up star-struck chicks. By the 1930s, however, he’d slid into destitution, a bum selling poems for a quarter at the San Remo Cafe and Minetta Tavern.

At left is the cover of his final, posthumously published and ghostwritten book (the actual writer based it on Bodenheim’s drunken ramblings), My Life and Loves in Greenwich Village. Undated photo at right.


Bodenheim hung on in the Village for a few decades, sleeping on benches and doing stints in the drunk tank at Bellevue. He was murdered in 1954, shot in a sleazy hotel at 97 Third Avenue by a dishwasher he’d befriended. His third wife was stabbed to death in the room with him. 

The February 15, 1954 issue of Time had this to say:

“In the 1920s, when he settled down in Greenwich Village, Max hit his bohemian crescendo. A lusty, limpidly handsome man, he attracted women by the scores (at least two of his castoff in amoratas committed suicide). By 1935, Bodenheim was no longer in vogue…he sank gradually into the bleary stupor of the alcoholic.

“At the San Remo Cafe, caricaturist Jake Spencer smashed Bodenheim’s personal gin glass and proposed a toast. ‘Max was a splendid type,’ he said. ‘He used to write poetry in a booth here and then try to peddle the verse at the bar for a drink of gin.'”