[Photo via BoweryBoogie]
There were three articles published during the last week of 2015 related to Adam Purple's legacy, including the new bar operated by the Gerber Group that bears his name at the Hotel Indigo on Ludlow Street.
Purple, aka David Wilkie, was an environmentalist and activist known for his elaborate Garden of Eden on the Lower East Side. He died on Sept. 15 at age 84.
1) On Dec. 26, The New York Times published an article titled "Meant as Homage, Bar’s Naming for Downtown Squatter Is Perceived as a Slight."
Per the article:
By nearly any measure, Mr. Purple — a dedicated ascetic who lived in an abandoned tenement, got water from a hydrant, read by candlelight and kept warm with a wood-burning stove — is an odd symbol for a 24-story hotel with “spalike bathrooms” and a terrace swimming pool.
“The gentrification, the consumerism, it’s the opposite of everything he stood for,” said the photographer Harvey Wang, who began documenting Mr. Purple, whose birth name was David Wilkie, in 1977. “It’s just appalling.”
2) On Dec. 28, BoweryBoogie posted an op-ed written by Purple's grandson, Steve Mason.
Per the post:
“Mr. Purple” is not an honorable tribute. Believe me, I would love for David’s legacy to be memorialized, and I’m happy that he achieved notoriety enough to be considered for exploitation by a midtown corporate property development committee. However, a fancy hotel bar is not the right vehicle. At best, it’s tone deaf.
In an email to us on Dec. 28, Mason wrote, "I only found out about this travesty [on Dec. 27]. He and I were not close, but this is horrifying and I've been sick to my stomach for the last 24 hours over it."
3) There's a lengthy investigation in the current issue of The Villager dated Dec. 31 titled "The dark side of Purple." Editor Lincoln Anderson puts together the activist's past through a series of phone conversations and an exchange of documents and letters with Purple's two daughters, step-sisters Jenean and Lenore, who say that their father sexually abused them while growing up in Australia in the 1960s.
Per the article:
Asked what specifically Purple did to them or had them do, [Jenean] said, “Oh, everything — that’s what we were about — our purpose. He trained us, with pornography magazines, films, comics. I read ‘The Kinsey Report’ when I was age 10.”
According to Australian court documents obtained by The Villager, Purple served a two-year prison sentence for the molestation charges at Long Bay Penitentiary in Sydney. (In a letter dated from March 1967, Purple proclaimed his innocence to the children’s maternal grandparents, "asserting that his second wife was not a fit guardian for his daughters.")
One of the daughters, Jenean, told The Villager that Purple himself was sexually abused by his mother as a child ... and that his mother was also a victim of "generational sexual abuse."
As The Villager concludes:
Hopefully, the two narratives can somehow coexist and inform: on the one hand, the story of a family that finally healed from domestic sexual abuse, and, on the other, a man who built a new life for himself — and a glorious garden — on the Lower East Side and left a lasting legacy of environmental consciousness.
You can read the full article here.
Previously on EV Grieve:
[Updated] The upscale hotel bar with a pool named for the late environmentalist Adam Purple (44 comments)
[Updated] The Gerber Group responds to criticism over Mr. Purple (23 comments)
As the Hotel Indigo and Mr. Purple continue efforts to be part of the LES neighborhood (25 comments)