Saturday, April 2, 2016

RIP Coca Crystal


[Image via Facebook]

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.”

H/T Steven

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

so sad. R.I.P ......THIS is what i remember as the east village i moved to in the 70's!!

Anonymous said...

Scanned through some of the final show. Noted that both Steve Ben Israel and Judith Malina are both gone (and Julian Beck too).

Some very special times in the Village in those days. RIP Coca

Anonymous said...

Oh shit, I left out Tuli Kupferberg who passed away in 2010.

Life is short, my friends....

Anonymous said...

It's hard to remember that NYC anymore

Unknown said...

Amazing footage. God Bless the anarchists!

Anonymous said...

RIP and thank you for coming to stay on earth for a bit!:)

Anonymous said...

Tuli!!!!!!!!!
And David Peel! Wow :)

Anonymous said...

RIP. The footage from the show is wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I remember this. NYC Public Access TV was so crazy, it was the greatest. It could be anything at all. She did what she wanted, which is admirable.

Anonymous said...

Whoa those were the days....CC was head and shoulders above Alex Bennet when it came to her show and way better than Ray Schultz when it came to writing in the East Village Other.

And those guys were not half bad!


All hail Coca for she lived her life on the spot and in the groove.

chris flash said...

Coca generously shared her show with The SHADOW, inviting us to appear a few times. I really dug her anarchistic free spirit and that she made a point of smoking a joint on air!!

I miss her, Lannes Kenfield and Tuli.....

Anonymous said...

http://archynewsy.com/coca-crystal-avatar-of-counterculture-dies-at-68-new-york-times/

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