The paper first started in 1955 under founders Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher, John Wilcock and Norman Mailer.
Monday, July 5, 2021
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Back in 2017 we stopped the print edition of the Voice. Turns out that, like Joe Biden, we just needed a few years off. Look for the Spring 2021 edition of the Voice, distributed to select boxes around town, retailers, eateries, bookstores, and apartment buildings.Expect to see longtime columnist Michael Musto's byline again... he pens an Oscar night preview for the print edition (and online).
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Brian Calle, the chief executive of Street Media, the owner of LA Weekly, said on Tuesday that he had acquired the publication from its publisher, Peter D. Barbey. "I think a lot of people will be hungry for this and I'm superoptimistic," Mr. Calle said in an interview.
He added that he planned to restart The Voice's website in January and would publish a "comeback" print edition early next year, with quarterly print issues to follow. On Tuesday he hired Bob Baker, a former Voice editor, as a senior editor and content coordinator. Mr. Calle said he wanted to bring back more former staff members who know the paper's tone. He has not yet named an editor in chief.The Voice website, which is still active repurposing its archived articles, ceased publishing new content in August 2018 ... this after the final print edition in September 2017 — a 176-page commemorative issue with Bob Dylan on the cover. a return toward the end of its run.
Nothing like the most vaunted counter-cultural publication in America bought by the former head of the Claremont Institute, the West Coast's preeminent right wing ghoul factory.— Otto Von Biz Markie (@Passionweiss) December 22, 2020
Brian Calle makes Jared Kushner look like George Plimpton. This is a laughable disgrace. https://t.co/hSGRlxU1jD
Is this a better or worse fate than staying dead https://t.co/yTpPDIJHro— Kris Vire (@krisvire) December 22, 2020
I am uncertain about the savvy of anybody who lived through the new LA Weekly experience and thinks, "hell yeah, more of this" https://t.co/erVQLHo1ND— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) December 22, 2020
The good news is, the Village Voice is coming back. The bad news is, it’s a branded drop-ship influencer real-estate trust. https://t.co/Pu9Dq1riMO— Ian Bogost (@ibogost) December 23, 2020
"The Village Voice Rises From the Dead" is an odd headline. Seems more like "Right-Wing Grifter Digs Up Decaying Skeleton of the Village Voice and Parades It Around, Pretending It's Alive."https://t.co/FOc4L7xJrK— Zach Schonfeld (@zzzzaaaacccchhh) December 23, 2020
Hey, NYC! Former New Yorker now living in Los Angeles who's here to tell you: this news SUCKS. LA Weekly is a zombie publication now. The whole former staff formed @theLAndmagazine and it's way better. Don't get on board with this version of the Voice. https://t.co/8B3zGGCc6P— Chris Conroy (@ConroyForReal) December 22, 2020
If Calle's relaunch looks anything like what he did to LA Weekly, it will surely involve unmarked spon-con, pay-to-play coverage of the company's unnamed investors, and a complete desecration of everything the paper once stood for. RIP Village Voice. https://t.co/6JwRmH3RVJ— Jennifer Swann (@jenn_swann) December 22, 2020
Anyone celebrating the revival of the Village Voice hasn’t done the reading of what its new owner did to the LA Weekly. https://t.co/cJTxl6tgyChttps://t.co/q5BeMTYHLphttps://t.co/qpSoch0Db9— Monica Castillo (@mcastimovies) December 23, 2020
Both cities & their readers deserve better. https://t.co/H8b18NzPmA
I just... Well, I really wish this article would have included literally anything about Calle's unethical mismanagement of LA Weekly. I cannot imagine a worse future for The Village Voice. https://t.co/5guIblmWiJ— April Wolfe (@AWolfeful) December 22, 2020
Headline accurate in the sense that things that rise from the dead are zombies and should be avoided at all costs unless you can lop off their heads. https://t.co/gRMhOSnYyf— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) December 22, 2020
The Village Voice Rises From the Dead, says the headline. https://t.co/wCBlwNzVjC Well, it has a new owner who says he is bringing it back. There is not a word about the business model said owner has in mind, the first question I would ask. A storied past is not a business model.— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) December 22, 2020
This quote from @mshalhoup about how the quality of @LAWeekly's content plummeted under Calle is the diplomatic understatement of the year.— Elina Shatkin (@elinashatkin) December 22, 2020
Hey NY, hope you like stories about weed and crappy bro-step bands. pic.twitter.com/YE9mKu2jae
Previously on EVG:
A conspiracy theory that I believe without any real evidence is that this cretinous dingus is a cutout for much richer people who want to defile critical alternative media outlets both on principle and "for yuks." https://t.co/mjDGlYLfY5— David Roth (@david_j_roth) December 22, 2020
Friday, August 31, 2018
[EVG photo from October]
Three years after buying The Village Voice, and a year after the paper shut down its print edition, owner Peter Barbey told the remaining staff today that the publication will no longer be posting any new stories.
"Today is kind of a sucky day," Barbey told the staff...
Barbey said that half of the staff, which is around 15 to 20 people, will remain on to "wind things down," and work on a project to archive the Voice's material online.
A few reactions...
Good thing not to say when you fire a bunch of people and shut down an iconic publication:— Katie Drummond (@katiedrumm) August 31, 2018
"Today is kind of a sucky day" https://t.co/SJXbFtXJnz
Fuck. https://t.co/W0UitLkeQT— Tyler Coates (@tylercoates) August 31, 2018
It’s hard to even imagine New York without the Village Voice— Sam Adams (@SamuelAAdams) August 31, 2018
The worst thing about this whole thing is that Barbey, being a billionaire with delusions of grandeur, will never feel any real pain over this. https://t.co/cprFjxHvPD— Zoë Beery (@noyinzoe) August 31, 2018
Unfortunately for us all, well-intentioned but staggeringly ignorant and egotistical rich idiots are not journalism's salvation. RIP for now VVhttps://t.co/vHbZZTe0Ss— Hamilton Nolan (@hamiltonnolan) August 31, 2018
With The Village Voice shutting down, who is covering repertory cinema anymore? The LAT does it once in awhile for high profile restorations, but I honestly can't think of any outlet that regularly covers rep film like they did. This is such a loss for film culture and criticism— Michelle Buchman (@michelledeidre) August 31, 2018
The loss of the @VillageVoice is bad news for all New Yorkers. We should all be concerned about the increasing loss of voices in our city's media landscape. The public and private sectors need to come together to address the crisis facing our #freepress. https://t.co/AO8bMZ0o0F— Eric Adams (@BPEricAdams) August 31, 2018
Long live the Village Voice: the newspaper that gave New York its cool, birthed generations of some of the best writers this city has ever known, and taught me everything I know about being a journalist here. You will be dearly missed. https://t.co/yi9FGbkQZ7— John Surico (@JohnSurico) August 31, 2018
I went to college in NYC, spent a couple of years afterwards just screwing around. We waited eagerly for the Voice every week to check for which band was playing where. (Also did boozy dramatic readings of adult ads). This is sad. https://t.co/tciPmJh0rJ— Olivier Knox (@OKnox) August 31, 2018
When I was still a sheltered yeshiva girl, I'd go to the Village with my friend to go to thrift stores. We'd pick up free copies of the Village Voice and read them in cafes, feeling much cooler than we actually were.— Dvora Meyers (@DvoraMeyers) August 31, 2018
This is some sad news.https://t.co/nJYuf4IPdZ
i miss 20 minutes ago, when the Village Voice still existed and Bradley Cooper wasn’t America's next great auteur.— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) August 31, 2018
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
[EVG photo from October]
The Village Voice, which ceased its print edition last September, is returning to its longtime former home at 36 Cooper Square.
Per The Real Deal, who first reported on this move:
The publication occupied the building from 1991 to 2013, with a space ultimately spanning four floors.
As the staff shrunk and it stuttered financially, the Voice decamped for the Financial District, where it took 12,000 square feet at Normandy Real Estate Partners’ 80 Maiden Lane.
Grace Church School has since taken much of the Voice’s old space on Cooper Square, but the media company is grabbing 5,860 square feet across part of two floors, a shadow of its former self.
The Voice's staff of 25 is expected to move in some time this spring, according to TRD.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
The last print edition of The Village Voice — a 176-page commemorative issue — is out today with Bob Dylan on the cover.
Facing declining ad revenues, among other factors, owner Peter Barbey (since 2015) announced the end of the print era last month.
Here's part of editor Stephen Mooallem's farewell letter in this issue:
When I talk with people about the Voice, they often refer to it as an “institution.” But I think of it more as having a constitution. By that, I don’t mean a document containing a statement of essential principles by which the Voice is governed — I mean a constitution in the way that a person has a physical constitution. If you treat it well, then it can flourish; if you don’t, then it withers. Its existence is not inevitable. It needs to be fought for. When I look at what this paper has been for the past (almost) 62 years, I see the names of many people who have done just that for the Voice, and we’ve decided to dedicate this final print issue to them. The Voice may be bigger than print and ink or any owner, editor, medium, or era, but this paper belonged to New York, and the people who have worked for it have served both the Voice and the city in exemplary fashion.
The Village Voice was founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher and Norman Mailer. It will continue on as an online publication.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Said publisher Peter Barbey, who bought the weekly in 2015, via The Hollywood Reporter:
"For more than 60 years, The Village Voice brand has played an outsized role in American journalism, politics, and culture," Barbey said in a prepared statement. "It has been a beacon for progress and a literal voice for thousands of people whose identities, opinions, and ideas might otherwise have been unheard. I expect it to continue to be that and much, much more.”
The paper left Cooper Square, its home since 1991, in 2013 for a move to Maiden Lane in the Financial District.
More tributes TK...
The Village Voice is ending its weekly print edition. End of a journalism era in New York City.— Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) August 22, 2017
Here's more via Poynter, which called the announcement "a symbolic blow for alternative weeklies across the United States, which have endured successive cuts and closures in recent years as print advertising revenue has dried up."
Here are thoughts via the Columbia Journalism Review.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
The Best of New York 2014 issue named EVG as the Best Local Website.
Yikes. There go my plans to "temporarily close for renovations" next week.
Seriously, though — thank you. Everyone.
And congratulations to my blogging friend Jeremiah Moss, whose Jeremiah's Vanishing New York was deservedly named Best Chronicle of New York's Ever-Changing Face.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Three familiar bylines at the Voice were reportedly among those laid off today:
The damages include longtime writers Michael Musto, Robert Sietsema and Michael Feingold.
Per Gawker, who first reported on the layoffs: "We're told that the paper's remaining staff is 'devastated' and in 'uproar.'"
Sietsema shared his thoughts on East Village restaurants in this interview with me last September.
[Image via Fork in the Road]
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
He's good for a rant too, such as his piece titled "Mayor Bloomberg's Jihad Against Salt." He's also particularly strong on the cheap eats front, and, well, I've discovered a lot of far-flung places thanks to his work.
Sietsema, who moved to NYC in 1977, answered a few questions for me via email on the East Village dining scene.
What new(ish) East Village restaurants are you particularly pleased with?
• Masak, a sleeper bistro on East 13th (Remember when the rents used to be depressed on 13th Street because nobody wanted to live there because of the number?) that serves a fancified Singaporean menu
• Sao Mai, one of the best Vietnamese cafes in the city, with killer pho
• Sabor A Mexico, a taqueria started by immigrants from Guerrero, with beer
• Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, very nice small dishes, pleasant space, but a little pricey
• Mile End Sandwich, nice addition to the myriad sandwich possibilities in the East Village.
Most overrated and underrated East Village restaurants?
The most overrated restaurant of all time was Life Café, which closed somewhat unceremoniously not too long ago. I ate there several times during its long existence — fueled by the musical "Rent" — and always had a bad meal. That kind of awful hippie cooking is now thankfully nearly gone from the nabe.
I think Veselka is also vastly overrated — and comparatively expensive, too. Not sure how it established its reputation, but a couple decades ago it was only one of over a dozen cheap Polish and Ukrainian places clustered on the avenues. Now most of them are gone and it remains. The food has always been decidedly lackluster, but maybe the late-night hours made it the place to hang.
Underrated? Lots of good Japanese food that gets ignored, some it rather formulaic, but often cheap. Natori and Sapporo East are two good old-timers with sushi much better than you’d expect, both historic refuges for cash-strapped daters.
Still mourn the loss of Vandaag, the only Dutch resto in town, and offering very nice food, the kind you make your parents pay for when they visit New York. Never got enough traction (that corner has been a problem for years), and the sandwich and bakery window they tried to install at the last minute in the back was pretty much a disaster.
Best cheap option in the East Village?
Downtown Bakery is a gem, not too comfortable but with great southern Mexican food. Ramen Setagaya is one of the city’s best noodle joints. Xi’an Famous Foods for some off-the-wall, anti-rice northern Chinese (with plenty of chiles).
I'm very fond of Stromboli’s, since it was the place I often went post-gig when I was a rock musician. You always bond permanently with the first pizza you try, and that was my first slice when I came to New York. The sauce is tangy and a little sweet. Hate the weird space they added on, though.
[Archival photo via]
How do you think East Village restaurants stack up against those in other neighborhoods these days?
The East Village is one of the 10 greatest restaurant neighborhoods in the city; it may be in the top 5. Lots of crappy little storefronts that, even today, are not as expensive as you might imagine, and become home to little ma-and-pa places.
Also good for mid-range bistro-level restaurants and even fine dining. A place where empires can be built, too, and filled with quirky food choices. Lots for vegetarians and carnivores alike, and every time you go around a corner, you see a new place. Japanese presence has long been a boon to the neighborhood, and the East Village also has its very own celebrity chefs. Enough restaurants crowded together there to fill a medium-size Midwestern City. And everyone eats out. Every meal.
Most annoying food trend?
For a long long time along with other neighborhoods in the city, the East Village was able to resist national franchises. I can remember when the McDonald’s on First Avenue was the only such franchise in the neighborhood.
But thanks to Bloomberg — who has no reverence for food culture and culture in general — and the rapacious landlords who are his most eager supporters, these franchises have been flooding the neighborhood in the last five years. Franchises pay employees nothing, source their foods out of state, and undersell small local restaurants. They must be resisted at all costs. And besides, the food they sell sucks.
Did I just see a Long John Silvers go in on First Avenue? Jeez!
James Campbell Taylor]
What's your guilty food pleasure?
Egg cream at Gem Spa plus french fries at Pommes Frites
Friday, March 9, 2012
At Fork in the Road this morning, Robert Sietsema unveils his list for the best East Village restaurants circa 2012.
Here's the list. Please go over to Fork in the Road for his explanations and critiques of each...
10. Downtown Bakery
9. Dirt Candy
8. Back Forty
7. Zabb Elee
5. South Brooklyn Pizza
4. Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria
3. Ramen Misoya
2. Momofuku Ssam Bar
His list prompted more than 50 comments here the last time (in 2010). What do you think of these choices...?
Note: Per Fork in the Road, Sietsema is friends with the chefs at Goat Town, Porsena and Porchetta, so they were not considered for the list.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
"The Bowery used to be synonymous with people who lived on the street and were alcoholics," Glass says with little nostalgia of many veteran Villagers. "In the '80s, if you wandered over to Avenue B . . . there would be people walking in the middle of the street hawking drugs! Just announcing what they had for sale! It was that open.
"I am not sorry to see that part of the East Village disappearing. It was a very grungy part, you know?" He admits that Tompkins Square Park "is much better than it used to be. ...
Still, Glass is aware (and sad) that many of the economic realities that allowed him to become an artist, back when the East Village was a neighborhood of Ukrainian immigrants and Yiddish theaters, no longer exist.
"It was very common when I was a kid — I call myself a kid until I was in my thirties; that would have been until the late '60s and early '70s — it was very common to find a loft in the East Village . . . empty synagogues and that type of thing," Glass says. "You could find a loft for $150, $200 a month.
"Now, that's impossible," Glass says, though it never stops the Big Apple. "One of the things that's made New York so impressive is the constant wave of young people looking for fame, fortune, art, whatever, something."
Read the full article here.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
• Bowery Boogie
• Fucked in Park Slope
• Jeremiah's Vanishing New York
• West Side Rag
I'm happy to be serving as a judge this time around... the Awards will be handed out tonight. Next stop: The Gold Coast California Grand State Finals!
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
The incident reportedly took place on Aug. 21, 2008 outside the former Cheap Shots on First Avenue near Ninth Street. Read Rayman's article here.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Here's a good summer Friday feature at Fork in the Road... in which Robert Sietsema writes: Our 10 Best Things to Eat on St. Marks Place in the East Village.
And here they are!
10. Falafel sandwich at Mamoun's
9. Tea-smoked duck at Grand Sichuan
8. Chocolate egg cream at Gem Spa
7. Early bird sushi assortment at Natori
6. Vegetarian soups and salads at Café Rakka
5. Morning Jersey at Crif Dogs
4. Plain cheese slice at Stromboli Pizza
3. Slider at Mark Burgers
2. Spicy miso ramen at Ramen Setagaya
1. Moroccan appetizer assortment at Mogador
The whole post is here. [Photo via the Voice]
Because I take everything seriously, I'd add the popcorn at the Grassroots to this list.
Friday, January 22, 2010
[Photo via here Look, no Ludlow building!]
After last week's top-10 East Village eateries list... Fork in Road today puts out its top-10 list for the Lower East Side....
10. Congee Village (Cantonese), 100 Allen Street, 212-941-1818
9. Clinton Street Baking Company (American), 4 Clinton Street, 646-602-6263
8. Alias (New American), 76 Clinton Street, 212-505-5011
7. Sorella (Italian/Piedmont), 95 Allen Street, 212-274-9595
6. 'inoteca (Small plates Italian), (Italian), 98 Rivington Street, 212-614-0473
5. Kuma Inn, (South East Asian tapas), 113 Ludlow Street,
4. Apizz (Southern Italian), 217 Eldridge Street, 212-253-9199
3. Katz's Delicatessen (Delicatessen), 205 East Houston Street, 212-254-2246
2. Cafe Katja (Austria), 79 Orchard Street, 212-219-9545
1. Falai (Italian/Florentine), 68 Clinton Street, 212-253-1960
No Odessa! Why you *&^%*#%*&^3! (Ha! Kidding!)
Anyway, dunno if I have the energy to debate another list! In any event, I always like Rebecca Marx's work, so I have to trust her on some of these... Plus, I've only eater at three of these places... and I have a horrible bias against Clinton Street Baking Company purely based on the crowd waiting to get in on weekend mornings...
As you may recall, last Friday (and into the weekend), there was some debate hereabouts over Robert Sietsema's top-10 East Village eateries listicle... The choices are also prompting some healthy discussion at Chowhound too... (Via Eater)
Previously on EV Grieve:
A listicle to debate: The best East Village restaurants
Sunday, January 17, 2010
As promised, Robert Sietsema listed "the best East Village restaurants" over at The Village Voice today.
10. Dirt Candy (Vegetarian), 430 East 9th Street, 212-228-7732
9. Porchetta (Central Italian), 110 East 7th Street, 212-777-2151
8. The Smith (Gastropub), 55 Third Avenue, 212-420-9800
7. Back Forty (New American), 190 Avenue B, 212-388-1990
6. B & H Dairy Lunch (Jewish Dairy), 127 Second Avenue, 212-505-8065
5. Hasaki (Sushi), 210 East 9th Street, 212-473-3327
4. Prune (New American), 54 East 1st Street, 212-677-6221
3. Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar (New American), 101 Second Avenue, 212-979-1012
2. Momofuku Ssam Bar (New American), 207 Second Avenue, 212-254-3500
1. Ippudo (Japanese Noodles), 65 Fourth Avenue, 212-388-0088
No Odessa! Why you *&^%*#%*&^3!
OK, I've only been to four on the 10 here. And of those four, I'd never go back to Porchetta, which I tried once after caving in to peer pressure.
Also included in the feature....
Mamoun's Falafel (Middle Eastern), 22 St. Marks Place, 212-387-7747
Veselka (Ukrainian), 144 Second Avenue, 212-228-9682
Degustation (Science Chef), 239 East 5th Street, 212-979-1012
The Redhead (New American), 349 East 13th Street, 212-533-6212
Motorino (Pizza), 349 East 12th Street, 212-777-2644
Ukrainian East Village Restaurant, 140 Second Avenue, 212) 614-3283
Kyo Ya (Japanese), 94 East 7th Street, 212-982-4140
Saturday, May 16, 2009
The Praise Day for Richard Leck (pictured above in a photo from the 1960s) was held last Saturday at the Bowery Poetry Club. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it. However, his publisher, Karen Lillis, who organized the tribute, did a recap on her MySpace page.
Here's part of her review:
Bowery Poetry Club proprietor and poetry guru, Bob Holman wrapped up the afternoon for us with some words about Richard, followed by a reading of both poems and prose. "I didn't know Richard, but of course, we all know him now," Bob began. "The readings today have been exquisite because the writing is exquisite, because Richard knew how to look at something and then manage to pass it on."
Friday, May 1, 2009
Karen Lillis first met the writer and poet Richard Leck nearly five years ago. And in a rather short amount of time, he made a profound impact on her life.
"Richard was a really positive, steady presence in my life... Among other things — like good life advice from someone who had survived 75 years — he embodied and remembered a New York I was really interested in, a bohemian place people came together to make," Lillis told me in an e-mail. Lillis has since published Leck's work on her Words Like Kudzu Press in Pittsburgh.
Leck, a longtime East Village resident, passed away of heart disease on Dec. 19.
First, some background on Leck's life from his obituary in The Village Voice:
He was drafted to go to the Korean War in 1951, but deferred his service to attend New York University’s Journalism School. During this time, he also reported for the New Jersey Observer. He served in the Army in peacetime from 1956 to 1958, training at Fort Dix and working in Westchester.
In the 1960s, Leck was a habitué of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene, frequenting Cafe Figaro, The Limelight and The Commons, but especially Cafe Feenjon. He mingled inside and outside of the coffeehouses with such figures as Yoko Ono; Shel Silverstein; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Feenjon owner Manny Dworman; poet Taylor Mead; offbeat radio show host Long John Nebel; actor Darren McGavin; and painter Yukiko Katsura, among others.
He said of that time, “I didn’t write in those days — I just listened. I just took it all in.”
Leck worked a variety of odd jobs, often retaining a bohemian’s preference for the low-key lifestyle to a regular day job. He did the books for a retailer, he managed an antique store, he sold goods on the street, and he worked with Jewish children.
In recent years, he was a regular customer at Neptune Diner on First Ave., at St. Mark’s Bookshop and at Junior’s on the Fulton Mall, in Brooklyn.
Without any living relatives, Leck was to be buried in Potter's Field. However, Lillis and other friends reached out to Graham Rayman at The Village Voice, who then helped cut through the bureaucracy. Leck was buried in a modest military service at Calverton National Cemetery in Long Island on Jan. 23.
Lillis will host a memorial reading for Leck at the Bowery Poetry Club on Saturday, May 9 from 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m. It will be called "Praise Day Reading for Richard Leck." Free admission. Several writers will read from Leck's poems and excerpts from his memoir, "Jumped, Fell, or Was Pushed."
Here, Lillis talked to me about first meeting Leck and his feelings about life and the East Village.
You met Richard while you were working in the St. Mark's Bookshop. What do you remember about that? What were your first impressions?
Lillis: I was working the register, and Richard came up and opened that book, "The Little Black and White Book of Film Noir." He started reading some of the one-liners to me in an exaggerated accent and telling me about the movies they came from. I came right back with some quotes because I'm a film noir buff myself — it really surprised him that someone half his age knew these movies. So, he just kept talking to me.
I immediate felt familiar with him — he was both a familiar Village type — open to meeting people, very idiosyncratic, ready to give you a piece of his mind. And also a familiar Irish-American type, very entertaining and psychologically smart, very funny with a Vaudeville sensibility. He reminded me a lot of my paternal grandfather.
After that, Richard would come back to the store to talk to me, or we'd go for coffee. It wasn't long before I started compulsively taking notes whenever he talked.
What do you think inspired him about living in the East Village?
Lillis: He liked the anything-goes quality, the creativity and the street life. He liked being able to meet sympatico people, artistic types. He liked not feeling restricted the way he did as a schoolboy.
In his obit for the Voice, Graham Rayman described Richard as "one of that disappearing class of people who make the neighborhood more colorful and more interesting than the yuppie scum who invade this sacred ground and drive up the rents." Did Richard share with you his feelings on the present-day East Village?
Lillis: [Laughs] Yes, Richard shared his feelings on the topic — early and often. He recalled the East Village from when it was "The East Side," and his acquaintances drifted over there to do drugs in the "shooting galleries." This was in the 60s. He said it wasn't the "East Village" until the realtors wanted to sell it, and I think he felt it just kept going in the wrong direction from there. I mean, it was still the Village and unlike anything else, but now he saw the young women who spent hundreds of dollars on their purse dogs' wardrobes, he saw cybercafes where no one talked to each other, he saw bohemian style replaced by adults in sweatpants, he saw people so busy they sped by him at a Manhattan pace, he saw landlords renovating buildings for the worse — over and over — only to jack up prices. He saw young people so worried about money and rent that they couldn't enjoy art or life just for the pleasure of it.
He talked a lot about the glass and steel skyscrapers going up all over the Village. He hated the glass and steel buildings! He liked to talk about the huge windows — "That's not a window, darling, that's a wall!" He said the people living in them must feel like they owned everything they could see. He preferred wood and brick; to him the glass and steel represented the opposite of a home, they just represented coldness and greed, and an imperial mindset.
At the time of his death, he was working on an autobiographical novel. Will any of this be released?
Lillis: Yes, one section of it already has been published in the zine, Go Metric (Issue 22), and more will be, with luck. Several excerpts will be read at the memorial reading. The book wasn't actually a novel but a memoir, working title, "Jumped, Fell, or Was Pushed" — from an adage they used to teach him in his NYU journalism program in the 1950s. Richard liked to refer to the book as comedy-sociology. The book is his life stories from the 1930s through at least the 1980s. It starts out in Jersey City and moves into the New York phase. The Depression, World War II, Mayor Hague, the Army, the Village coffeehouses of the 60s. We were working on the book together — he was telling me the stories and I was writing them down and helping shape them — I wanted to capture his voice and his cadence, and his humor. I have two years worth of material from talking to him once a week, so I believe I have enough to finish it. I may ask his closest friend, Frances, to help me fill in some gaps — she'd been close with him since the late 80s. And I'm trying to get more excerpts of the book published along the way.
Can you talk a little bit about the efforts to make sure that he received a proper burial?
Lillis: Navigating the different city agencies and the misinformation involved was disheartening and very stressful — but some individuals worked very hard to make a proper burial happen, and that was pretty amazing to see. It took a village to bury a Villager! There were many points when we thought the whole thing would go bust and Richard was going to end up in Potter's Field — we couldn't find a next of kin, we didn't have money, we were running out of time, we didn't have help from the VA — they were very rude and dismissive. I felt very overwhelmed working on this from Pittsburgh where I relocated, and Frances was going to different agencies on foot but getting doors slammed in her face. I was just determined that a U.S. veteran should not be ignored in this way, so I kept going up the food chain for leverage — writing to city politicians, then congressmen; organizing email campaigns and getting bloggers involved. Finally I started writing to newspapers, and Graham Rayman at the Village Voice was the only one who responded in due time. First he made some key phone calls to stall the march to Potter's Field. Then he blogged the story, and a few HOURS after he posted it, the Mayor's Office called Frances to say they were taking care of a military burial. The power of journalism — and public shaming — cannot be underestimated!
I learned three things I would pass on: 1.) Everyone should write a will right now, and artists should write down who they want to do what with their art/manuscripts/publishing rights, etc. Get it notarized. 2.) You're allowed to bury your friend if there's no next of kin or a will, you just can't cremate him or her. 3.) An articulate e-mail is now officially more powerful than phone or face time, unless you're someone important.
What do you think inspired him about living in the East Village?
Lillis: I think he also liked the way he could be Manhattan anonymous sometimes, or have people to talk to when he wanted to find them — at the bookstore, the diner.
The view from the kitchen/sitting area at the Sirovich SRO on East 12th Street where Leck lived since 1993.
As Graham Rayman noted: In his poem, "Residents," Leck seemed to be referring to folks like himself when he wrote:
Let dandelions be. They break up
the monotony of the grass.