Beat Memior #5 by Marc Olmsted (with Richard Modiano)

In November 1977, old friend Richard Modiano, out from New York, hitched up from L.A. after visiting his mother.  Richard has kept a meticulous journal since his teenage years, and frankly these memories are far more detailed than my own…

…I let myself in and took a shower. Around 4:30 phonecall from Allen Ginsberg for Marc I answered and took a message.  I told Marc when he got home and he phoned back and sd we meet Ginsberg at City Lights and should leave soon (…) At the Bookstore we met Ginsberg and with Bob {Sherrard} we went to the Savoy-Tivoli to meet Neeli {Cherkovski}. {Bob and Neelie were an item then – MO}.  On the way we met Jack Micheline who drunkenly stopped Ginsberg to recite a poem.  Ginsey listened patiently and sd “Better write it down so you don’t forget.” On the way over we talked about Martin Duberman’s play about Kerouac which only Bob and myself had read, both of us thought it was bad. Ginsberg had read Duberman’s book about Black Mountain College, good gossip but said {Black Mountain instructor Robert} Creeley had objections.


At the Savoy Corso was there with Lisa {then-girlfriend – MO} who had {Corso’s} baby Max on her lap and Neeli there too. Corso told about planning to kill Ferlinghetti and then deciding to kill Ginsberg instead because then he’d get national headlines; killing Ferlinghetti would only get S. F. headlines.  Bob said we ran into Jack Micheline on the way over, Corso: “Yeah, what’d that asshole have to say?” Ginsey: “He declaimed a poem with drunken gusto!” “O, man spare me,” answered Corso.  Neeli had poems he wanted to show Allen, but Gregory wanted all his attention to complain about Ferlinghetti not giving him money for an advance on book sales, Ginsey should reason with him, make him hand over some cash.  “I’m a poet-man too!”


At this point a drunken Palestinian poet joined us with his timid girl friend.  We didn’t know he was Palestinian at the moment.  He pulled a sheaf of type-written papers out of his knapsack and read a “destroy all the Zionists” (with heavy accent) poem.  “A little too angry,” said Ginsberg. “Where are you from?” “Palestine.” “Ah.”  Corso to Palestinian: “Fuck you man!”  Palestinian: “Who are you?”  “I’m a poet-man like Ginsey here, better.”  Ginsberg stood up and massaged Gregory’s shoulders, Max started crying, finally Lisa spoke, “Let’s go home.” 

I was sitting with Allen at the Savoy Tivoli café in North Beach when Gregory Corso showed up – I had followed his work in my teens and was thrilled to see him – but also shocked.  Gregory was unshaven and most of his teeth were gone.  Those that remained stuck out of the ragged jaws of a troll.  His hair was a mop of near grey.  He was telling Allen some gossipy story and appeared to be quite drunk.  (From then on I basically saw Gregory in two conditions – drunk or on junk.  He was much more docile on junk, natch – but tonight he was fiery with an obvious alcohol binge.)  If I hadn’t known who he was, I would have assumed this was a mad derelict that Allen was being kind to.  In fact, this was a mad derelict named Gregory Corso.  He scared me but I was fascinated.  He was also hilarious, like a genius member of the Bowery Boys.  His nasal accent was one of a kind.  He cursed and it was the purity of cursing itself – “That mutha-FUCKA!!”  and so on.  At one point, I burst into loud laughter where I had previously been invisible.  Gregory stopped his story, face in a scowl with jutting lower gargoyle teeth, eyes sliding to the side and eyeballing me like “who is THIS fucka?!”  I was frozen like a squirrel in a kid’s aimed slingshot.  But mercifully, he continued.

We all got up to leave, and the Palestinian poet and his girlfriend stayed at the table.  Walked to the American Cafe for late dinner with Neeli, Bob, Ginsberg and Marc. 

We sat in booth, me, Ginsberg and Marc on one side, Neeli and Bob on the other.  Ginsberg told about being in L.A. last week and visiting {Bob} Dylan in Malibu.  On Halloween Dylan and Ginsberg put on masks and took Dylan’s children trick or treating around the neighborhood, no one knew who these characters were.  The last movie Ginsberg saw was the “King Kong” remake.  Marc groaned, “O Allen, why don’t you see a good movie for a change?” “Like what?” “Like a Fassbinder movie, great German New Wave director.”  Neeli finally got to read his poem, Ginsberg thought “unmoving whales” weak phrase, poem too abstract, ideas not connected to sense perceptible world.  Marc sd, “I like it Neeli.” Neeli didn’t care, wanted Ginsberg’s approval.


Meal done we parted on the street.  Marc and Ginsberg went to Shig’s nearby apartment, Ginsberg told me to take Stockton streetcar to Market St. and gave me a quarter when I asked for change from a dollar.  Instead I walked down to Market St. through Stockton tunnel thinking of Dashiell Hammett–maybe it was dangerous, but nothing happened…

Allen and I woke up at Shig Murao’s where he stayed when visiting, and went for breakfast down the street at Café Trieste.  Gregory showed up and told the entire story over again, clearly with no memory of the previous evening.  Allen listened respectfully as if he’d never heard it before.

One Response to “Beat Memior #5 by Marc Olmsted (with Richard Modiano)”

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