Possibilities for a Pleasant Outing, part two

Guardian
Photograph: Stephen Wright, theguardian.com

The second part of the text component of a performance portrait of dancer and choreographer Fred Herko. Part one — complete with footnotes and more information about the project — is available here.

 

Part two: TO COME AND LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND(1)

By that time it is all over but the plangent memory of a rainy evening in lower Manhattan. The people file into their smoke-filled slickers and Doris Hering says Doris Hering was here. We go to Edwin Denby’s and quietly talk all night.(2)

Dear Floating Bear, Fred Herko’s review of Paul Taylor says: “Love is ultimately beautiful. Love is interesting. Love is exciting… Mr. Taylor is not exciting. Mr. Taylor is not interesting. Mr. Taylor is not ultimately beautiful.” Herko is judging Taylor by an idea. This idea – the idea of love and art and The Unsoiled Life – is shit. If Taylor fails by that, he’s doing fine. Herko had better watch his language.(3)

Lad if I love you better than I should, think how thru wasted tides I watched you grow.(4)

The San Remo Coffee Shop on the corner of MacDougal and Bleecker streets in the Village was where I met Billy Name and Freddy Herko, a very intense, handsome guy in his twenties who conceived of everything in terms of dance.(5)

Freddy looked good at what he was doing … Recitals around town, Broadway, off Broadway and TV, were all there for taking. Freddy took the high wide road with a vengeance … He sent home press releases to the little paper in Ossining. Network TV. That was something parents could understand. He went all the way from Siberia to Prime Time.(6)

I first met Freddie in 1954, sitting on a bench in the rain, Washington Square Park, not far from the chess players. And crying because autumn always made him sad. Or so he said. I invited him for coffee. We walked to Rienzi’s and sat talking, looking out on the rainy street.(7)

Where even fools don’t tread you walked, and no scars told the tale.(8)

He was a pianist, he looked a little bit spoiled. Still lived at home with his family, was studying at Juilliard on a scholarship.(9)

In my own chill I knew your restless beds, and nightlong told you tales to kill bad dreams.(10)

When I was seventeen and my friend Judy was eighteen, one evening I left my parents’ Morningside Gardens apartment to visit a coffee shop around on Amsterdam Avenue and settle into the phone booth, so Judy and I could have an uninterrupted hour-and-a-half conversation. Judy had been a child actor and was now a dancer. She knew lots of gay men, some of whom — Freddy Herko, Vincent Warren, James Waring — she’d introduced me to.(11)

Conventionally reared between Sing Sing and the Catholic mission, he cut a swath among his contemporaries. A scholarship for music, a prize for painting, best dancer in the graduation yearbook, part of the school combo, Freddy was action. Unable to suffer fools gladly because of his exceptional quickness and concentration, he studied little but well, and had lots of free time. A local girl’s father thought he would be good at banking. In the small pond he was an observable big fish.(12)

One night he showed up at Diane di Prima’s to borrow a record and invited everyone there to a performance; he said he was going to leap off the top of his building downtown.(13)

Helpless I bring your saddest happy birthday these empty-handed spells for sandstorm days.(14)

(1) Gerard Malanga, ‘To Come and Leave Nothing Behind’, poem quoted in full in Donald McDonagh, ‘The Incandescent Innocent’, Film Culture, volume 45, 1967
(2) 
Frank O’Hara, ‘Dances Before the Wall’, 1959
(3) 
Edwin Denby, letter published in The Floating Bear, issue 19, 1962
(4) Diane di Prima, ‘Invocation, a Birthday Poem for Freddi-O, February 23, 1957’, Freddie Poems, 1974
(5) Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, POPism, 1980
(6) 
Donald McDonagh, ‘The Incandescent Innocent’, Film Culture, volume 45, 1967
(7) Diane di Prima, Memoirs of my Life as a Woman, 2001
(8) Diane di Prima, ‘Invocation, a Birthday Poem for Freddi-O, February 23, 1957’, Freddie Poems, 1974
(9) 
Diane di Prima, Memoirs of my Life as a Woman, 2001
(10) 
Diane di Prima, ‘Invocation, a Birthday Poem for Freddi-O, February 23, 1957’, Freddie Poems, 1974
(11) 
Samuel R. Delany, ‘Coming/Out’, Shorter Views, 2000
(12) 
Donald McDonagh, ‘The Incandescent Innocent’, Film Culture, volume 45, 1967
(13) Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, POPism, 1980
(14) 
Diane di Prima, ‘Invocation, a Birthday Poem for Freddi-O, February 23, 1957’, Freddie Poems, 1974

 

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