Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.
 

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz too. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.
 

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz.  (See you.)
 

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.
 

Stratton is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, the Times of Israel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. He won two Hopwood Awards.


 
 

EAST VILLAGE OTHER

In Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, she hangs around with famous people on almost every page, even when she isn’t famous yet.

Patti needed 10 more cents for a sandwich at an automat.  Allen Ginsberg appeared in back of her with a dime.  Ginsberg mistook her for a “pretty boy.”  Ginsberg bought her a coffee too.

Smith dated drummer Slim Shadow.  After a few meetings, Slim told Patti he was really Sam Shepard, the playwright.

Patti ran into Janis Joplin a lot.

Ted Berrigan, the poet, lived on St. Mark’s Place.  Berrigan’s tenement had a clawfoot bathtub in the kitchen.    That was how tenements were built.  Berrigan was in bed.  It was the middle of the day.  His wife, poet Alice Notley, said, “When Ted gets dressed, you two should go to Allen’s to get the mail.”

Ted Berrgian, 1971. (Photo by Gerard Malanga)

Alice Notley was addressing Berrigan and me.  (I was in Berrigan’s apartment, not Just Kids.)  Berrigan collected Allen Ginsberg’s mail when Ginsberg was out of town.  Ginsberg’s place — on East 13th Street — was neat.  It wasn’t messy like I had expected.

***

I played harmonica at Grand Central Station to assure myself I wasn’t just another commuter.  I checked my bags in a Grand Central locker, then talked to a staffer at the outdoor convention-bureau kiosk.  She directed me to the 34th Street YMCA.

French tourists at the Y asked me why the street was smoking.  Smoke was wafting out of sidewalk vents.  I figured it had something to do with the subway.  (Am I right?)

A roommate service — Two for the Money — charged $40 to match you with a roommate in New York in 1972.  I met Nathan outside the agency, so we didn’t pay the finder’s fee.  We wound up on Waverly Place in Greenwich Village.

There were a lot of old people in Greenwich Village.  Not the best of scenes — old people.

So I called Webfoot — his phone number was W-E-B-F-O-O-T — in the East Village.  Webfoot said come over.  He lived on Second Avenue and was asking only $100/month.  ($539 in today’s dollars.)  I spent a night there.  He spit blood into the toilet and didn’t flush.

I checked out the NYU bulletin board and found an apartment in SoHo, across from where Ornette Coleman had played a loft concert. $100 for my share.  A mature woman (30-something) answered the door and said, “Let me make this perfectly clear, you aren’t going to score with me if you move in here.”

Score?  Only swingers said score.  Was this woman getting her news from Playboy?  Had she missed the whole hippie thing?

I wound up in a studio apartment sublet on East 13th Street in the East Village for $150/month.  The tenant upstairs was lifting weights, it seemed.  I knocked on his door and said, “Can you tell me if you stay home all day and lift weights?  I’m laying down $450 for a deposit and rent, and I don’t want to make a mistake.”

“I don’t lift weights.”  He had a weightlifter’s build.  “And you don’t knock on your neighbor’s door in New York.  Where are you from?”

“Ohio.”

“That’s in Chicago, isn’t it?”

He also said his apartment had been broken into twice, and he had been mugged outside the apartment.

Maybe the wiser choice was the apartment on Waverly Place in the West Village.  I called Nathan.

Too late.  Nathan had rented the extra room to a law student.

I saw Patti Smith.

I saw her in Cleveland.  It was her first show in Cleveland.

Is that worth anything?

Footnote: Ted Berrigan was a visiting professor at Michigan in the fall of 1969.    Here’s the syllabus from a class I took:

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6 comments

1 Mark Schilling { 09.21.11 at 12:19 pm }

So you turned down Nathan because of his elderly neighbors? How do you feel about that today, bro’?

I went solo in LA about the same era. All the potential roomies I checked out were either wild or weird.

2 Richard Grayson { 09.21.11 at 1:02 pm }

You still have that reading list!

When you visited NYC, you once kindly took me along to Ted and Alice’s apartment, although she was the only one home. I recall it being very messy but oh those impressive little paintings on the wall — originals by artists I recognized! I remember thinking every time they needed money they could just go out and sell one.

Alice was in the news the other day, fighting the closure of the St. Marks Bookstore. The East Village tenements you saw are now, I’m sure, expensive condos owned by hedge fund managers and investment bankers.

Some of the anarchic spirit still lives on. As my last unfinished post on my blog notes, I was at St. Marks Church on Sunday afternoon and saw a great piece of agitprop theater.

Time flies.

3 Kenny G { 09.22.11 at 9:43 am }

This week’s entry a bit difficult to decipher. Looks like you were paraphrasing what Patti wrote, but then you actually tried out NYC in 1971 and, at some point, actually got into Berrigan’s apt.

Did I get it right? How long did you hold out in the Big Apple?

On one of my many visits I paid to Ithaca and Cornell, when I was at Syracuse & Binghamton, was a day there was big commotion because (“Father”) Berrigan was visiting (and creating lots of turmoil, of course). Big Day at Cornell! Nice carnival that evening at SUNY of which I still have a great photo with girlfriend at the time.

4 Charlie B { 09.22.11 at 12:05 pm }

Hey, B, enjoyed your bumptious NYC piece. Can I assume you fairly quickly bailed on pursuing the many miseries NYC apartment life? (I do not recall any extended stay there by you.)

It was a treat to see Berrigan’s reading list. (I could almost smell the mimeograph solution.)

I remember seeing Patti read at St.Mark’s-in-the-Bowery. Whiny, Jersey-accented harangues. She was a crowd-pleaser.

Having read Just Kids, which I enjoyed, I also felt some aspects of it were a little glossed over….. And you may have suggested it in your remembrance: She dampers down her own raw ambition and groupie-ness. Like she just happens to run into Dylan or Keith Richards, etc. I imagine she was more like a crazed, star-struck stalker than the benign and humble recipient of these free-and-easy associations with her mentors.

Something about her own drive and manic motivations seemed bleached out of the story. Felt a touch phony in that regard. But hey, it is her story to tell.

“Cleve the land:” However, you did not just see Patti at the Agora. You, in 1976, saw THE Patti Smith Group, touring on the just released “Horses” album. And I was fortunate enough to be there too. Total electrifying buzz for me. You, I remember, hung back at bit, eschewing the noise and bluster, retreating to the foyer of the ballroom. Would it be fair to say you hated it? You did seem as if you wanted to “split” as quickly as possible, as the parlance went in those days. Probably you were irritated by me wanting to stay to the last note.

Oh, but for me, I was anchored and have been ever since. It was all about that encore as she ripped through “My Generation” with John Cale badgering her along on bass guitar. Her epilogue that evening: “We created it — Let’s take it over.”

Charlie

5 Bert { 09.22.11 at 12:22 pm }

To Charlie B and Kenny G:

I was in NYC about a month.

Didn’t like the Patti Smith concert in Cleve. Never did like punk rock.

Kenny G., Father Daniel Berrigan was a whole ‘other scene. Ted Berrigan was not Daniel Berrigan.

6 Kenny G { 09.22.11 at 1:48 pm }

Okay – I see it’s the priest vs. the poet. I knew more about the priest (and Cornell). You – the poet, apparently.
A whole month…. I used to get to New York more those years. What a magical place to be with my Art History and all the rest. For example, I went June 1971 related to my M.A. thesis on the Paintings of Grant Wood. Had a grand time.

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