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The Times today has a feature obituary on Coca Crystal, a major figure in the counterculture of the East Village in the 1960s and 1970, who died on March 1 of respiratory failure. (In 2006, she was diagnosed with lung cancer.) She was 68.
Crystal, born Jacqueline Diamond, started work at The East Village Other in 1969.
Per the Times:
Adopting the pen name Coca Crystal, she wrote about politics, women’s issues and random personal events: a burglary at her apartment that she foiled by serenading her intruder on the guitar; the myriad obscene phone calls that she fielded at the office. The newspaper honored her, in one issue, with her photograph over the title “slumgoddess.”
“She was the epitome of the flower child,” said Lynda Crawford, a colleague at The East Village Other. “She was sexy, she was young, she was very smart — she was cool.”
As the Times notes, her future was in television... cable-access television... for nearly 20 years, with a show that counted David Letterman as fans.
In 1977 she reserved a one-hour slot each Wednesday night at 10:30 on Channel D to present “If I Can’t Dance, You Can Keep Your Revolution,” a mix of politics, culture, music, audience call-ins and spontaneous nonsense. She often described the show as a visual version of The East Village Other.
Ms. Crystal, who in addition to her sister is survived by her son, Gustav Che Finkelstein, had an unflappable, slightly spacey demeanor and an incongruous la-di-da accent that added an extra layer of ineffability to an already bizarre persona.
Here's an episode from 1977 featuring Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie...
Her final show aired in June 1995...
This May 2012 feature in The Local has the story of how Crystal cared for Gus, her mentally and physically handicapped nephew whom she adopted, for nearly 40 years.
In recent years, they lived near Woodstock.
She often describes her life as unconventional. “I don’t have a normal sleep schedule, I have a bizarre child, my dog is limping, my cat is in love with the dog. It’s just a little bit off the beaten track here,” she said.
But then again, Ms. Crystal never cared much for the ordinary. “When I’m in the hospital and wondering where I’d rather be, I’m thinking I’d rather be sitting with Gus watching ‘Tom and Jerry.’ That’s the best I can think of.”