Thursday, September 7, 2017

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part CXXVI

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

June, 1968.
With President Lyndon Johnson dropping out of the 1968 Presidential Race, a new wave of optimism swept over the younger eligible voters and a new face appeared with it — Senator Eugene J. McCarthy!

With his unconfrontational message, antiwar speeches and liberal ideas he was immediately supported by a lot of influential people.
No more LBJ belligerent talk and vulgarities — e.g., meeting with people while sitting on the toilet, lifting his beagle dogs by their ears, showing his gall bladder surgery scar — we wouldn't have to experience any more of that for another four years!
 Scar in the shape of Vietnam by David Levine (c) 1966
And then Bobby Kennedy decided to enter the race and a majority of the younger people were euphoric with the possibility of another Camelot!

Kennedy had visited the small town of Delano in the Central Valley of California in March where Cesar Chavez, the president of the United Farm Workers, was ending a 25-day fast.  Because of deplorable working and living conditions there was the threat of violence from the Chicano and Mexican American migrant workers. 

Inspired by Gandhi and his friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Chavez had decided to stage a 25-day fast with the hope of having the union officially recognized so that farm workers could be able to receive benefits and decent working and living conditions.  The country was largely in support with a "Don't Buy Grapes" boycott!

Kennedy arrived in Delano and participated in a Catholic Mass of Thanksgiving in honor of Chavez which was attended by 6,000 to 10,000 Mexican Americans and Chicanos. And it was on a chartered plane on the way to Delano that Kennedy secretly told three close aides that he'd finally decided to run for the Presidency!
RFK with Cesar Chavez in Delano, California.
Having won the California Primary in June, he gave his acceptance speech to a jubilant crowd of supporters at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel.
And then — just as suddenly, it was over!  Jubilant exhilaration was in an instant transformed into shocked horror!  And Kennedy, like his brother, was dead!
I couldn't keep working on my commission deadline and even though it was late, went to Dorrian's Red Hand just around the corner on Second Avenue.  I needed to see people and not be alone and I knew "Poppy" Dorrian, the patriarch.

He had been a friend of the legendary artist, Marcel Duchamp, and used to play chess with him.

He also fancied himself to be a Sunday artist.

He introduced me to a young man with whom he was talking about Kennedy. Gerald Taupier.

Everybody was talking about Kennedy and wondering what would happen next?
We talked long into the night until finally I had to go home and work.
I had a meeting a few days later in the lobby of the Pickwick Arms Hotel.
And life continued.

The apartment directly across the hall from mine had become available and I had persuaded Joseph Koppelman, the owner of the building, to let me rent it also. I now had two adjoining apartments that were almost the size that a regular apartment would be in another city!  And they were both rent-controlled so the combined rent was still very affordable!

One was for work and the other was for entertaining — or just living like a normal person would!

Mr. Koppelman was very generous to me and evidently was proudly following my increasingly visible presence in magazines and ads.  He said that he was surprised that I was still living there!

He'd become somewhat fatherly!

I needed to furnish it and my friend Gary Van Kirk, being a designer, was able to arrange for me to buy at cost a beautiful but expensive white fake leather couch that could be turned into a very comfortable bed.

I met with the woman from Chesapeake-Siegel-Land, the couch/bed company, and described what I wanted:  it would be custom made!
Meanwhile, the chaos in Paris had become so intense that my Parisian friend, Bernard Sabatier , decided it was time to leave and come to New York for a while!
Even though my glamorous white "leather" couch/bed wasn't ready, he was able to stay in my other apartment.  At least it was safer than being in Paris.
Was every place in chaos?  It looked like it and it felt like it!

And in April, HAIR had moved from the Public Theater to Broadway so I went again wondering if it was very different from the first time I'd seen it downtown.
There were some adjustments and changes — but the show still had its rebellious bite and upraised fist of protest!
Remarkably, the Counter Culture had become main stream . And even more remarkably, this revolutionary celebration of rebellion against the norm was an enormous commercial success!
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