"St. Marks Is Dead"

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Sheila Klein
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"St. Marks Is Dead"

Post by Sheila Klein » 10 Dec 2018 21:07

I've found some very interesting passages in Ada Calhoun's St. Marks Is Dead book. The first gives some background on Stanley Tolkin, owner (according to Calhoun) of the facility that would be variously known as Stanley's and the Dom:
... That tack was unsuccessful, but Joyce Hartwell did find love with Stanley Tolkin, who ran the bohemian-friendly bar Stanley's on 12th Street and Avenue B. "Stanley was very welcoming of all types," says Hartwell, "not like a lot of the Polish and Ukrainian immigrants there."

Tolkin was bald, sturdy, and instantly likeable. He was Polish, and his parents had run a speakeasy in the neighborhood back in the thirties. During the Depression, his pregnant mother swam out into the East River to a coal barge to steal coal for their fire. He adored his mother but dreaded ending up like his father, who died of alcoholism in a state institution.

Stanley's served as a hangout for poets and artists. "I used to watch Stanley hooking the new hip population of the East Village," writes literary theorist Ronald Sukenick, "working them with free beers and sympathetic talk at a time when the rest of the locals regarded these strange guys with beards who didn't work, and their bra-less girls who looked like they wore nothing under their skirts either (and often didn't), with at best mild contempt."

A young art student named Andy Warhol, born in 1928 to Slovak immigrants living in Pittsburgh, showed early work at Stanley's. Warhol had sublet an apartment for the summer of 1949 on the top floor of a roach-filled six-floor walk-up on the north side of St. Marks Place, a couple of doors from the park, with his friend, painter Philip Pearlstein.

Stanley's also hosted young poets who came to New York in the 1960s following the siren call of their heroes, the stars of Grove Press's epic The New American Poetry 1945-1960, published in May 1960. …
The next quote gives further background, along with a clearer sense of the layout of Stanley's bar than I've seen to date:
To the Eastern Europeans, [poet Ted] Berrigan looked like just another obnoxious Beatnik. On a hot summer afternoon in 1960, Berrigan and his friend Ron Padgett stopped into a bar on St. Marks between 2nd and 3rd Avenues for a cold beer. "It was a lazy, quiet bar with some neighborhood people," recalls Padgett. "It was not trendy. It was rather dismal. As soon as we walked in, the people uniformly turned to stare at us with an unblinking, inscrutable dourness that stopped us in our tracks. It was partly because we were strangers, but also because Ted had a little beard at that time. We didn't look right. These people were all Ukrainian immigrants. One of us said to the other, 'I think maybe we should find another bar."

Soon after, in 1964, Stanley Tolkin bought that same bar from the Polish National Home (nos. 19-23). As a link to the former owners and his own Polish heritage, he kept the former name: "The Dom." There were two entrances to Tolkin's downstairs Dom bar at no. 23: one led to a relatively quiet gathering place for Stanley's regulars, the other into a dance club. At the top of the stairs, another entrance opened into a party space that would become an epicenter of art and rock music.

Most nights until four in the morning, Joyce Hartwell (who was now living with Tolkin on Third Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets) worked the door at the disco end of the downstairs Dom. She had decorated the place in red and orange, and Tolkin had artists he knew from Stanley's repaint the eighty-foot-Iong bar in vibrant colors, sprucing up the older generation's dive. As the space came into its moment in history, Hartwell greeted celebrities including Leonard Bernstein and Jackie Kennedy. During lulls, she read books about the black experience, like Malcolm X's autobiography, as if studying for a test that the whole neighborhood was about to take.
Here we are left to visualize the VU wearing bright orange or green dashikis in place of their Betsey Johnson-designed S&M gear:
One of McGee's apprentices was Khadejha McCall, who opened up Khadejha Designs down the block from him at no. 5 selling African prints. "The Velvet Underground came to my store and sat," says McCall. "I wanted to dress them, but they wore jeans and leathers and that kind of thing."

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Re: "St. Marks Is Dead"

Post by taxine » 13 Dec 2018 10:10

Nice reading ,thanks for sharing.... Phil.
But there are no stars in New York sky, they're all on the ground.
This is the place where she lay her head when she went to bed at night....

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