A while back, we ran a number of posts on Beat sociology – “Beatniks” – and Beat Exploitation
Beat Kitsch – see here and here and here and here
This recent post, from the indefatigable catalogers/bloggers at Houghton Library, Harvard – “Beelzebub Books” (sic) (promising “an uncensored, unexpurgated expose of the Beat Generation”) – got us to pondering the subject again –
“More daring than any fiction”? – (Ah, but it is a fiction!)
Sex and Violence. Hypocritical Thrill-Seeking. Tabloid Sensationalism.
The second item, the New York Mirror‘s April 10, 1961 edition and its unforgettable headline, “3000 Beatniks Riot In Village” (Greenwich Village, that is),
but of course, has a back-story.
For years, weekend folksinging had been a tradition in Washington Square Park. But in the spring of 1961, the City, under pressure, rescinded its customary permit for singing. This triggered a protest demonstration, which was put down with excessive force by the NYPD (hence the “riot”) but (which) eventually resulted in the city backing down and reinstating the permits.
The Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation gives a short account of the events, fifty years on, here
John Strausbaugh‘s account in The Village – 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues may be read here
Here’s Joel Rose‘s piece for NPR (also on the 50th anniversary), “How The Beatnik Riot Helped Kick Off The ’60’s“
and Dan Drasin‘s classic documentary, “Sunday” shows existing documentary footage. Drasin was, astonishingly, only 18 years old when he made this film.
The third tabloid spread (more “tales of horror”) is from across the water and refers to something else entirely, the 1960 riot at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival – “The bucolic peace of Hampshire is shattered when fighting mars a set from Acker Bilk‘s band” (reads The Observer‘s, measured, contemporary account). “Trad jazz” versus “Modern Jazz” (not to mention overcrowding and youthful exuberance). Not so measured, the Sunday People (source of this two-page spread), a couple of weeks later, blaming it all on the Beats –
“These four Beatnik “prophets” do not themselves preach violence” – (Well, at least, they acknowledge that!) – “But they do infect their followers with indifference or outright hostility to established codes of condict. Nothing matters to the beatnik except the “kicks” or thrills to be enjoyed by throwing off inhibitions. If you feel any urge, no matter how outrageous, indulge in it. If the beat of jazz whips up violent emotions, why not give way to them?”
Er..and didn’t they do some crude doctoring there on the face of Allen?, “Allen, the hate merchant” (!) ?
Two final clippings turn the tables. Why not “break the social chains that chafe”? – Diploma (“Beatnik University”), Membership Card, Beret, all for just $3.98 (not even 5!) – that seems like a true bargain!
– And for just a little bit more, an entire “Do-It-Yourself Beatnik kit”! – including, most mysteriously, “six authentic Beatnik poems” (!) and “Beatnik instructions” (what could they be?)
In a post about cliche’s, how about a(nother) cliche, “The Beat Goes On“
More Beatnik exploitation tomorrow