Monday, August 10, 2009

Eshleman on Jack Smith

[Clayton Eshleman sent me this letter about Jack Smith.]

dear Johannes, occasionally I go to your blog. The other day I noticed the Jack Smith quickie videos.
From 1967 to 1970, at 36 Greene St., in Soho, Smith was my super! He had the top two floors of our building, or actually he had the 4th floor, since he had destroyed most of the 5th floor, except for a two foot area that extended from each wall, that he would shoot from. He grew pot on the roof, and I think he shot most or all of Flaming Creatures there. He was an incoherent but utterly kind person. At one point he took months, maybe years, of junk down from his loft and piled it 7 or 8 feet high on the sidewalk next to the building. Somehow it caught fire, and we were all awakened one morning by the fire department putting the fire out. When I say "we" I mean me on the second floor (I bought the key from Jack Boyce and Joanne Kyger in 1967), Ed Iglehart (who sold hash pipes etc on Wall Street) on the 3rd floor and Jack on the 4th/5th. Jack had no money at all and about once a month he would put up little announcement on walls in Greenwich Village announcing a Lobster Moon Festival the coming Saturday night. Kids from New Jersey would see these announcements and some would drift down to Green and Grand, and climb the stairs to Jack's 4th floor--where they would be met by Jackie Curtis or another transvestite friend of Jack's. There would be one jug of cheap red wine on a table, and some paper cups. As for the "Festival," the ones I saw a bit of involved Jack and Jackie having an arguement over how to be photographed etc. The kids would have spent their $5 and gradually they got bored and wandered down the stairway. Jack would have $100 or so, enough to keep him going for a few more weeks.
On the first floor was a Puerto Rican greasy-spoon diner that provided rats for the rest of the building. After Caryl and I left in 1970 (I was part of the first faculty at the new Cal Arts near LA), and sold our key to a sculptor, Ted Victoria, the diner folded and in cleaning the space up it was noticed that there was a copper ceiling under the paint. Suddenly 36 Greene Street was a landmark building, and Victoria, who had cannily bought the buildling for peanuts from our old landlady in Yonkers made a killing. When we returned to NYC we would occasionally come across him in Soho, in the street, and he would see us and laugh. He had paid $1250 for a key that ended up making him rich.
There are many other stories about 36 Greene St. For now, just this one, given your interest in Jack Smith.
Clayton

4 Comments:

Blogger Nada said...

Wow! Great story! Priceless!

7:52 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

Fuck the Bible. Greatest story ever told.

7:55 PM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

Ah, for the days before the total capitalist co-option of real estate in the U.S. Sometimes I think it's one of the profoundest differences between artists whose work developed before 1980 and after. Can those of who came later even imagine a time when a large portion of life didn't have to be spent working so that you don't find yourself out on the street?

6:56 AM  
Blogger J.R. Pearson said...

Yo Mark, completely agree. Poetry is now put together between pauses of working & family...

As for the story, there's a book in there trying to jump out..

Enjoyed.

6:17 PM  

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