Schulenberg’s Page: Sex, drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll and the spiritually unknowable!

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Craig Caswell and Mike Weil at Charlie Davis', August 3, 1975.

On September 5, 1975 there was an assassination attempt on the life of President Ford by a Charles Manson follower, Martina Navratilova asked for political asylum, and my friend Craig Caswell made another visit to Manhattan. He and Beth Rudin and I went downtown to Greenwich Village for dinner at the Horn of Plenty.

Craig was back at Georgetown from a stay on the West Coast where he had been working in Los Angeles with a furniture restorer and learning different restoration and decorative techniques.

A short time before we’d been invited to Charlie Davis’ house in the East 90s for the afternoon.  The house was from the 19th century and resembled a kind of farm house which it might originally have been!

Charlie was working with a small theatrical group called The Impossible Ragtime Theater (IRG). They were working out of some of the small theaters that were popping up in the area that had much earlier been an Irish slum called Hell’s Kitchen. At the start of the 20th century the whole area had been gang-ridden and was called “the most dangerous area on the American continent.”

It was now just beginning to be gentrified and still had many old and dilapidated buildings delighted to welcome adventurous theater groups!

Around 1915, a street in Hell’s Kitchen.

The Impossible Ragtime Theater was, if nothing else, adventurous!

I had photographed Marilee Sennett who was also starting a career in theatre.  I’d met Charlie and everyone through Michael Weil who’d moved to Manhattan after graduating from the University of California at San Diego where he’d been an active Theater Arts major.  His parents were friends of my mother in Fresno and I said I would be happy to introduce him to people.

As it turned out, he introduced me to people!

Hugh Fordin was a lover of classic musicals, The Great American Songbook. He was also independently producing records and was at one time the casting director for legendary theater producer, David Merrick.

On my way to Hugh’s apartment on the Upper West Side.

Hugh had just written The World of Entertainment!: Hollywood’s Greatest Musicals, which was a detailed in-depth study of the Arthur Freed Unit at MGM. He’d go on in 1976 to create a record company, DRG, specializing in film and theater original cast recordings!

We’d been invited to his apartment see a screening of a composite of performances from MGM musicals, That’s Entertainment!, a film made to celebrate the 50th year anniversary of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios!  It really makes me sad today to think that musicals are no longer like that.

Hugh was doing everything he could to make it possible so that future generations could see and appreciate these American classics!

The next day, it was back to reality.

I took a subway down to the Financial District to the old Federal Hall, the first New York City Hall and the spot where George Washington was sworn in as the first US President.

My friend Sharon Powers was singing there and I don’t remember the details of why but Alan Jay Lerner and Leonard Bernstein had joined forces to collaborate on a musical, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, with a book following the inhabitants from George Washington to Theodore Roosevelt and their servants. And Sharon was in it!

Earlier in the year she had appeared in a performance of the Bernstein opera, Trouble in Tahiti, at the Whitney Museum and Bernstein was in the audience. It’s possible that that’s how she was invited to join the cast. Possibly this was related to the performance at Federal Hall. (I’ll have to ask her.)

In any event, in spite of being excitedly anticipated, the show was a flop and the last thing Bernstein wrote for the musical theater.

More musical theater awaited me on the BMT Broadway Line!

Hank Mantell had done Silva Mind Control with me a few years earlier and was remarkably psychic. After we had completed the four-day training, we spent an evening doing some of the psychic-sharpening exercises. We were using a technique visualising someone with a current or recent illness of some sort and I mentioned that my brother had had an ulcer before leaving Capitol Records for Columbia Records’ legal department where he’d be the head of West Coast Business. He hadn’t been very happy at Capitol Records.

Following the protocols of the Silva exercise I had him go to an Alpha brain state with meditation and then I gave him my brother’s name and location — “Studio City/Los Angeles, California” — and told him to visualise my brother.

He “saw” my brother lying on what seemed to be a white rounded nubby fabric in a pale green surrounding reading a book when a woman looks in through a door and says something. He gets up and follows the woman. Hank went on but sounded troubled. “But,” he said, “as your brother walks out of the room there are little black clouds following him!”

I gave Hank the instructive suggestion to come out of the meditation. I told him that I was amazed by what he’d described! He’d “seen” my brother lying on the bed in his pale green bedroom on top of the nubby, white bedspread reading a book which is exactly what he did when he returned from work just before dinner.

Hank smiled but then looked serious.

“What about the black clouds?”

I told him that my brother had five Scottie dogs!

I showed him photographs of my brother and one with my sister-in-law.

Hank gasped and said, “That’s the woman I ‘saw’ looking into the room!”

I laughed and said, “You must have ‘seen’ her telling him that dinner was ready!”

Our Silva Mind Control experiences were literally mind-blowing. We were continuing with occasional graduate sessions at which there were famous people who also must’ve profited from taking the classes. It was really about engendering positive thoughts as we developed our psychic abilities — very New Age-y indeed!

But that’s what the ’70s were!

Sex, drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the spiritually unknowable!

So life in the city continued — the prosaic and the profound!

All bumping into each other sharing the same time and space and heaven only knows what else!

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