Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Beat writers...spent considerable time with the bookies, dope dealers, working girls and alcoholics for whom the Holiday was a second home"

So, as you know, we're all in full-on mourning over what may or may not be the end of the Holiday.

Former East Village resident Mike Hudson had a nice piece on the place and its irascible owner Stefan last May in the Niagra Falls Reporter:

Stefan was old the first time I went in there back in the '70s, and he was older still when the Redhead and I lived a few blocks away on Avenue A during the early '90s. When I went there last week, it mostly to see whether the place still existed and, if it did, fully expecting to hear the particulars of Stefan's passing.

So I was surprised when I walked through the door and saw him there, weighing a lot less and not even bothering to put in his lower dentures anymore, but still standing behind his bar and still irritable.

"What do you want?" he asked.

Hudson gets into the bar's past patrons:

The place wasn't overtly literary in the sense of the White Horse Tavern, where Dylan Thomas suffered his killing seizure after a drinking bout, or the Lion's Head, where Mailer, Hamill, McCourt and Kennedy drank and fought and preened in front of barmaid Jessica Lange, but like many Manhattan dives the Holiday Lounge had its writers.

For years Allen Ginsberg had a large apartment in a building almost directly across the street, and he and other Beat writers like Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso and Herbert Huncke spent considerable time with the bookies, dope dealers, working girls and alcoholics for whom the Holiday was a second home.

When I mentioned them, Stefan cheered a bit.

"Ginsberg, Kerouac, yes. But Auden, Auden always sat right there, under the window. He lived in the house next door. And when the war was ended, after that, he came in one afternoon and said he was going to Vienna. He had a villa in Vienna."

And in the end, Hudson comments on the obvious...what has happened to the neighborhood:

The East Village isn't what it used to be, not 60 years ago or even 10. The writers and artists and musicians are gone, replaced by young Wall Street brokers, trust fund babies and Manhattan real estate speculators as rents have skyrocketed.

Likewise gone, and to who knows where, are the bums, and what was once the most wonderfully diverse neighborhood in the city has now become predictably and boringly white and middle class.

Cell phones glued to their ears, they walk their stupid dogs or ride bicycles on the sidewalk. Inside the living organism that is New York, art takes a back seat to commerce, no matter what they tell you.

Well, it's only Jan. 6...we're still being optimistic for the new year...and the continued existence of the Holiday as we've known it...


Anonymous said...

we tend to memorialize places-stuff and people--but in truth--I met Gregory Corso--he was a perverted pig alcoholic--remember prostitutes in dive bars was not an attractive profession--what is wrong with you kids?

Ken Mac said...

anonymous. Probably lived in New York for a couple years. I get this same attitude from people who have only lived here briefly, or only came for work anyway. For them New York is all about shopping, shows, 5th Avenue, and making shitloads of cash. You can't polish a turd someone once said. And our City is full of turds.
I get so tired of dodging these morons on the sidewalk checking their cellphones.

Anonymous said...

Nah--born in Brooklyn Ken Mac

Anonymous said...

Nice work Grieve, I will never forget Stefan wailing and crying to that Jeff Buckley alleluiah track on the the jukey. This was back in 1999 when I traveled to the city on tour. The band I was working with at the time never stopped talking about him and that place.
I hope guys like anonymous stay just that.......anonymous.