Thursday, September 1, 2016

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part LXXV

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

I had returned to New York from Paris in August, 1964
and this was my first holiday season back in the United States.
I had been back since August and spent some time in California with my family, but was still getting used to the grittier aspects of life in Manhattan.
There were, of course, the other less gritty faces of New York By Night.
There were new places to go. L'Interdit, a private club in (underneath) the Gotham Hotel on Fifth Avenue at 55th Street, was said to be the first discotheque in New York. Since I'd spent so many nights at Chez Castel, Regine's New Jimmy's and Keur Samba in Paris I was curious about l'Interdit.

I went there with "Riddy" (Alastair Riddick) Semple whom I'd known in Paris. Riddy had graduated from Princeton and I'd spent my last night in Paris roaming through Les Halles with him, Karl Lagerfeld and the cartoonist Copi whom I'd met as he sold his funny drawings on the pont des arts.
I was so impressed with Copi's work that I sent him off to a publisher friend and he and his cartoon drawings were becoming well known in La Nouvelle Observateur and other publications.

Karl of course became legendary. I'd once asked him why he'd always remembered my last name quicker than my first and he'd replied that his sister "was Princess von der Schulenberg."

Karl is a bit of what the French call "un mythomane," a big fibber. And being somewhat anti-bourgeois has invented a very impressive and serviceable background for himself.
Copi, whose real name was Raul Damonte Botana, was born in Argentina and his family, being anti-Peronist, went into exile. Photo: Léon Herschtritt.
He sent me a copy of his book, "Les Poulets n'Ont Pas De Chaises" ("Chickens Don't Have Chairs") in which he'd inscribed "à Bob qui m'avait découvert!" ("To Bob who discovered me."). Nice!
So Riddy and I had agreed we'd get together again in New York. Before going out, he'd invited me to his parents' house for dinner.
Riddy Semple's sister, Lea.
And at l'Interdit ...
Drawing in ink augmented with a coffee wash.
The club had a tiny dance floor over which a sculpture of three musicians by the (as yet not famous) sculptress Marisol stood guard.
As happened frequently, many of the people I drew were people I'd just met and this was the case with Riddy; after that evening I never saw them again (I've even lost track of Riddy).
The next night, Riddy and I went to The Dom on St. Mark's Place, which would soon become The Electric Circus.
The Dom was largely still a Polish dance hall — but changing with a younger crowd just beginning to infiltrate and take over!

There was also the Metro Cafe on Second Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets, a part of downtown that because of lower rents was just beginning to be called "The East Village" (and a neighborhood with which I was not yet familiar).

It was called "ground zero for poetry in the East Village" and it held poetry readings by Alan Ginsberg, Diane DiPrima, Ed Sanders and others. In 1964, it successfully fought being fined for entertainment without a license! Poetry readings!
Poets Ted Berrigan and Ed Sanders at The Metro in a photograph by Fred McDarrah of The Village Voice.
It had a distinctly European feeling with a sad Christmas tree.
But it had mascots, four legged customers.
With changing times and rents, The Metro closed in 1966.
I took the subway uptown, got off at 53rd Street and Third Avenue and thought I'd walk home in the falling sleet rather than take a cab or wait for a bus.
It was cold and as I came to P. J. Clarke's, a figure in white emerged and whirling, embraced me in a big hug!

It was Bea Feitler, the brilliant Art Director of Harper's Bazaar who'd years before shown then editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland my satiric ideas for a fashion feature.
When I'd asked Bea what Diana Vreeland had said about it, she said Mrs. Vreeland had only said, "très dégagée!"

This was in 1961 and the last time I'd seen Bea was a very late night/early morning when we were at Keur Samba in Paris. This freezing night in the midst of a hug in front of Clarke's Bea said, "give me a call or come by the office!"

So the next week I found myself near the Harper's Bazaar offices and with time to kill, decided to drop in on Bea.

I arrived while Bea was on the phone having a long conversation with a famous painter/illustrator who'd covered Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

I waited but Bea didn't look up.

She continued the conversation.

I waited.

She continued, but didn't acknowledge my presence.

I waited.

She continued.

After quite a long, uncomfortable-for-me time she hung up the phone and looked at me.

Silence.

"... uh — hello, Bea."

"... oh ... hello."

Not very enthusiastic.

After another uncomfortable pause, I said "I was just wondering if you'd be free for lunch?"

She said, "I don't do lunch" and again picked up the phone.

I let myself out.

Welcome back again — to more New York!
Contact Bob here.
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