THE BEAT MEMIOR with MARC OLMSTED
GINSBERG ON BROADWAY by MARC OLMSTED
In San Francisco, November 1981, Ginsberg was going to read at On Broadway in North Beach, (directly above the legendary punk club, Mabuhay Gardens) and invited my New Wave band The Job to back him up. Gregory Corso was also on the bill. Bob Kaufman, the black poet of the North Beach bar Dagon poem recitation of my “first date” with Allen some years prior, had come along with Gregory. Kaufman shuffled about like an electroshock causality, barely speaking. Kaufman was badly beaten by the police years earlier and may have suffered some brain damage as a result. By all accounts he was functioning normally until the police roust.
We all met backstage and Corso was cantankerous, “You young rock & rollers are just in it for the gold.” I thought to myself, “If we are, I’ve yet to see it.” I was splitting $90.00 between 5 band members, albeit more money than we usually saw. He thought my friend Paul Stiver was a “Rolling Stone [magazine] shmuck,” as we stood back stage with the girl interviewer who shrank into the corner during this tirade. I worried that Gregory might do anything, wander onstage, disrupt the band etc. Allen agreed this could very well happen with Gregory, but it would be alright. I only half-got this “crazy wisdom” teaching, but I accepted it. And Gregory behaved himself (special thanks to Richard Modiano’s journal in getting the details of this memory correct).
Allen told the band last minute that we could go on after his reading and play a few songs. I had gotten completely soused (as opposed to functionally soused) thinking I was done for the night. On top of that, the drummer had wandered away, clearly bored with the poetry. He was found downstairs in the Mab. At one point I was rushing down those stairs to run into Michael McClure walking up – he paid me a compliment about the band and I thanked him but told him I had to find the drummer pronto. McClure frowned that I didn’t stop to chat – I had apparently fucked up with him yet again.
When we opened with a song I was so drunk that I forgot the lyrics. I could only make up phonetic noises with vowels and consonants. No one noticed. After Allen and Gregory left, the energy of the remaining mob was barely containable anyway. We did 3 or 4 songs and begged off. While Richard watched the pre-show with Paul and the show itself and the final aftermath, Paul told him, “this would make a great Robert Altman film.”
Allen Ginsberg said “MARC OLMSTED inherited Burroughs’ scientific nerve & Kerouac’s movie-minded line nailed down with gold eyebeam in San Francisco.” Olmsted has appeared in CITY LIGHTS JOURNAL, NEW DIRECTIONS IN PROSE & POETRY, OUTLAW BIBLE OF AMERICAN POETRY, SIGNS OF LIFE (a Manic D Press anthology), PROCESSED WORLD, Flesh Eater Chris D’s BONGO CHALICE, BLUE SATELLITE and a variety of small presses. His work includes two books, MILKY DESIRE (Subterranean Press, 1991) and RÉSUMÉ (Inevitable Press, 1998).