We’re running the gamut today, from West Coast poetry and underground papers of the ‘60s to ‘60s spy lit to the closing of the Roy Rogers Museum—and where you can lay your head where Roy did all those years ago. Sounds like variety to me--
While I’ll be delving into this subject more deeply in a future post, it seems a good day to make a few remarks about Allen Cohen, a genuine icon of the 1960s Bay Area counter-culture. He’s one of those figures who is often overlooked in histories of the heady, heavy days of the “Summer of Love” and beyond.
Honoring figures like Cohen is important because many remember the ‘60s for the great music, but often the importance of underground newspapers and literature that had so much to do with what poet Gregory Corso called “the cracks of consciousness” of the era is only recognized in literary circles. For example, the multi-cultural mix of the ‘60s is often traced back to the explosive power of the “Beat Generation” which was launched in 1955 when Allen Ginsberg did his first public reading of “Howl.” Then there was Jack Kerouac whose On The Road, against his own conservative grain, became a Bible for the generation coming of age on both the East and West Coasts during the ‘60s. The “Beats”—Ginsberg, Kerouac, Gregory Corso and William Burroughs—became the nucleus of a wider literary movement called the “San Francisco Renaissance” which included writers like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, and Gary Snyder. Through them, the counter-culture heard voices steeped in Eastern religion, particularly Zen Buddhism, and an interest in the concerns of Native-Americans. This was all long before George Harrison picked up a sitar. Bob Dylan made no secret of his influence from the “Beats.” John Lennon later said, after hearing a recording of Allen Ginsberg reading “Howl,” that he first mistook the voice for Dylan’s and then realized just how significant Ginsberg was in shaping Dylan’s approach to writing elliptical, long-lined lyrics. Jim Morrison too was an overt lover of Beat and San Francisco poets, bursting into tears when his own poetry—thanks to Michael McClure-- first appeared in print. For him, his literary side was more important than the music of the Doors.
All this, of course, fused with political concerns of the day, mainly Vietnam and Civil Rights. Synthesizing all these threads wasn’t always an easy task. Folks like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman worried hippies weren’t dedicated enough to the important issues they championed. Poetic voices were often more focused on spiritual, intellectual, or creative quests. How to bring these divergent groups together? How about a “Human Be-In”? How about a newspaper for the young, namely The San Francisco Oracle, which was created to be artistically beautiful, open to both poets and political writers, and targeted to a readership keenly into everything “anti-Establishment”?
At the epicenter of this exciting brew was Allen Cohen, a main motor of the “Be In” and principal creator of the Oracle. As a poet of no small talent himself, he also published a series of verse collections that, frankly, have gotten lost in the discussions of the more “brand-name” writers of the California Renaissance. Fortunately, after Cohen’s death four years ago, there has been a concentrated effort to both preserve Cohen’s legacy and expand awareness of him in a variety of media. For example, should you visit--
You can see sample material from the original run of the Oracle. If that whets your appetite, check out—
There, you can learn about a DVD-ROM which includes the entire run of that newspaper and how to order printed collections and audio-versions of Cohen’s verse. Two blogs devoted to the life and works of Allen Cohen are—
And, to see appreciations of Cohen from his peers, one site is—
As I’m awaiting review copies of some of this material, I’ll hold off making any commentary here just yet. In the meantime, I hope you’ll take the time to explore the contributions of one of the unsung heroes of what the ‘60s were all about.
On a completely unrelated note, unless you count the fact spy novelist Len Deighton became popular in the same decade as what was going on in San Fran, my buddy Armstrong Sabien, creator of the Mister 8 comic strip, asked I mention his new Len Deighton contest here. Apparently, Armstrong picked up a trading card autographed by Deighton and it will be the first prize in a contest in which you can submit theme songs for imaginary movies based on Deighton novels, posters for the same, or pretty much anything Len Deightonish. All the details are at—
(The following announcement came by way of Martin Grams, Jr.)
ROY ROGERS-DALE EVANS MUSEUM IS CLOSING, BUT THE LEGACY WILL CONTINUE
BRANSON, MISSOURI. October 5, 2009 - After six seasons in Branson, the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum announced today that it will close its doors in December.
The Rogers family wants to thank Roy and Dale's fans for the many wonderful years that the Museum has enjoyed since its opening in California in 1967. However, declining attendance and an uncertain economy have caused the family to make the extremely difficult decision to close the Museum doors. And as Roy Rogers himself told Roy Jr., "If the Museum starts costing you money, then liquidate everything and move on."
Says Roy Rogers Jr., "The artifacts in the Museum are from Roy and Dale's lifetime together, but even when these artifacts are gone, our memories of Roy and Dale will live on forever. Nothing can ever take those away. We encourage everyone to visit the Museum during the next few months and re-live the great memories that Roy and Dale gave them and celebrate their lives."
As for the live shows that currently are performed at the Museum, Roy Rogers Jr. also announced today that his company, Golden Stallion, which owns and produces the shows, will be looking for a new location in the Branson area. "Next season, we hope to see you at our new location, where Roy and Dale's legacy will continue through our live shows." Rogers continues, "We have developed a great love for Branson and the theatre community here, and look forward to many more years as a part of it."
While this note doesn’t answer one question—just where are all these artifacts disappearing to?—it sent me back to the night I slept where Roy Rogers once laid his head. Or maybe it was Dale, I can’t be certain. But I’m not alone and you too can join the caravan the next time you visit San Antonio, Texas.
Smack in the middle of San Antoine, directly across the street from the Alamo, sits the historic Menger Hotel. Built in 1859, there are claims it’s haunted by some of the rich and famous who stayed there. Former president Ulysses Grant visited the hotel as did future Commander-in-Chief Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, if you stop by the bar, you can see bullet holes in the ceiling said to have been shot by TR while he was recruiting Rough Riders. You can also see axe gouges cut into the bar that the hotel claims were struck by saloon-buster Carrie Nation when she was going around chasing drunks out of such nefarious watering holes in the years before Prohibition. Indian chief Geronimo was once imprisoned in the basement. Folks like Buffalo Bill, Beverly Sills, Mae West, Robert E. Lee, John Wayne, and Oscar Wilde slept in better quarters. As did Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
In fact, Roy and Dale weren’t just sleep-over guests in the Menger. During the years they were making movies in the area, they headquartered at the Menger and the “Roy Rogers Suite” still has all the furnishings and decor Roy and Dale preferred back in the day. At least Roy’s tastes are evident—all the furniture is leather-covered with buckskin fringe hanging from everything on the floors and walls. Unlike modern suites, there are two thin single beds and I don’t know what to infer from that. I’m at least presuming the mattresses have changed since the glory days of Roy and Dale riding the range and belting out all those yodels with the Sons of the Pioneers.
If you’re so inclined, you can root around the net and see tourist pictures posted by other guests who slept in the same suite. Anyway, if you can’t make it to the final days of the RR Museum, perhaps you can make a reservation to stay in the Menger—and perhaps see one of the ghosts who are said to haunt the place. I guess I should make a return visit and perhaps interview some of these presences for “Dave White Presents.” Sounds like fun.