Al Aronowitz at Reg Hartt’s Cineforum in Toronto. Who is Reg Hartt? He’s a friend of Al’s. They met in 1981. Reg read about Al in THE SOHO news. He wrote him a letter. Al wrote back. Reg wrote back. Al called. He called again. One day Al said, “I’ve written a book. No one will give me readings. I need to do readings.” Reg said, “Come to Toronto.”
Reg told a friend that he had a major figure coming who liked his pot. “If I give you my TV set can you keep him happy?” asked Reg.
Al arrived in Toronto. Reg Had him do a reading. Gary Topp came out. Sheila Gostick came.
One day Reg said to Al, “Come with me.”
Reg knocked on a door on Albany Street.
“Jane,” he said, “I have a fellow here I think you would like to meet.”
Jane was thrilled.
So was Al.
Who was Al Aronowitz?
Al was the shaping force of American popular music in his day. In the 1950s he was just a crime reporter. Pissed off because his son was hanging out with some fags in New York’s Greenwich Village who were flashing switch blade knives, smoking pot and spouting poetry, Al’s editor sent him down to write a hatchet piece (http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/hatchet+job.html).
Only Al didn’t.
You see Al Aronowitz was something exceedingly rare. He was a man of integrity.
Said Al later, “I walked in and realized I was in the presence of living poets.”
So instead of writing a hatchet piece Al wrote the first positive press about Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.
People today have little idea how much The Beats were hated by the conventional (which always hates anything that ain’t).
One day Al went to do his laundry. He saw a lazy eyed good lookin’ kid and said to him, “Come with me.”
The kid went.
He didn’t ask questions. He just went.
Al took the kid to meet Allen Ginsberg. He said to Al, “Meet Bobby.”
Allen took one look at Bobby and said, “Come with me.”
No one knows where they went, what they did but knowing Allen is not too hard to guess that he gave Bobby a real good time.
‘Cause when Bobby came back he was Dylan.
On another daqy Al said to Bobby, “Come with me.”
They arrived at a hotel. They walked in to a room where Al was to interview four lads who had said that the only journalist in America they would talk to was Al.
Al pulled out a joint.
The lads had never smoked pot.
Al said, “You boys are musicians and you have never smoked pot? What the fuck kind of musicians are you?”
The boys said, “Have you heard our music?”
Al said, “Yeah. I listened to it. That shit’s for high school girls. You guys won’t last long. New generation of high school girls and you’ll be swept away.”
The four lads liked his brute honesty. They knew that was true.
“Can we have some?” they asked.
Al said, “Put a towel under the door. Open the window.”
Then when they were done THE BEATLES walked out on to the stage at Shea Stadium.
Their music was transformed.
Al said to them, “Bobby’s fucking genius. You guys needed to meet. That’s why I brought him.”
Dylan met THE BEATLES. THE BEATLES met Dylan.
In that meeting the course of art, music, live, everything was changed. Changed for the better.
That was Al. Everything he touched became changed for the better.
Al did not know but while a bunch of old Jews was praying for The Messiah the Messiah was smoking pot and walking the streets of New York introducing one artist after another to one artist after another.
How can I say pot smoking Al was The Messiah? Well, the Messiah brings life. Al brought life to a huge number of people.
Then Al’s wife died of cancer. Her death broke his heart and left him broke. He was faced with a wife he could not afford to bury but had to. A lot of dreams died with his wife.
The phone rang. On the other end was a voice which rightly did not much care for white folk.
That voice had felt the full nastiness of good white folk, well meaning white folk, citizen’s committee white folk.
Nope, he just didn’t like white folk and, frankly, while I am white, thank God I’m what most white folk think of as white trash.
But that voice loved Al. Didn’t matter to him that Al was white. He loved him.
“You need help?” said the voice.
“No, I’m fine,” said Al.
“I know something you need help with,” said the voice.
The voice belonged to Myles Davis.
Al’s wife got buried.
That was Al. He was a man so despised by all the right people the best people could not help but fall in love with him.
I fell in love with Al.
One day I got the idea to sponsor Russian Poetry Nights.
Not nights of Russian poetry but nights of poetry in the Russian manner.
People were to get blind staggering drunk, roar out their poems and not ask after, “Did you like it?”
If you don’t know it is good without having to be told than you ain’t ready to be a poet.
For three months it went great.
Then a little lady from down the street asked, “Can I come?”
After three weeks she said to all the “poets,” “You fellows are all getting drunk and shouting at Reg’s place and he is the worst. Come down to my place. It will be better.”
I can’t fault boys for yielding to the power of the pussy, even old boys.
That ended the Russian Poetry Nights.
Al called. He said, “Reg, I want to come to Toronto.”
The great thing about using my home as a salon is that first I don’t have to ask permission and, secondly, I can do anything.
I called THE TORONTO PRESS CLUB. They said, “Wow! That man is a legend!”
Then I called one of the few newspapermen in Canada who is a newspaperman. He had a book coming out titled, “Toronto: Accidental City.”
I said, “If I poster Toronto for your book will you do me the favour of welcoming Al Aronowitz to Toronto?”
He said, “Love to.”
A few weeks later I said, “Al, meet Robert Fulford.”
Said Fulford after, “That man is a poet. Thank you for introducing me to him.”
You see Robert Fulford is not Ed Keenan. Not that I don’t like Ed. Ed’s okay. But Ed’s a boy. Fulford is not only a man but THE man.
At THE TORONTO PRESS CLUB I all my ex-Russian poets showed up with the polite lady who had snipped off their balls.
The next three nights were at THE CINEFORUM.
They were three fucking wonderful nights.
The folk who lived with me at the time baked cookies ’cause Al liked his pot best that way. We went further out than we had ever gone. Some never came back.
Al met some amazing people in Toronto with whom he stayed in touch.
Again Al called. He said, “Reg, your place is my favorite place on earth. I want to do a reading there again.”
I said, “Come on up.”
Al didn’t come.
August 1, 2005.
I gave a reading in his memory.
I give one every summer.
I won’t this summer.
‘Cause the same folks who told Andy Warhol to move his ass from time to time are tellin’ me to move mine.
‘Cause it’s illegal to invite the public into our homes in Toronto.
As Thoreau put it, “Every idiot can make a law and every idiot will keep it.”
I’m not complaining.
Messiah’s are born to be crucified by those who work for the government.
You see, they have jobs to do.
If the job says to throw Jews and fags and gypsies into ovens, well, they do their job.
Can’t fault them for that.
In Tibet monks lavish time creating mandelas. When they are completed they exist for a few days. Then they are swept away.
I created The Cineforum as a mandela. It is shortly to be swept away.
Come take a look at it.
On August 2, 2016 the day will be devoted to the life and words of Al Aronowitz.
Some of the poets who found their Muse hear will be invited to share their work.
I will speak for Al.
And to The City Inspector who said he’d bust my ass if I did not adjust to the city I say, “Bust my ass.”
The essence of Jane Jacobs expressed in her landmark book THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES is simple: Cities must adapt to people. People must not adapt to cities.
Ed Keenan doesn’t understand this.
Jane Jacobs did.
Al Aronowitz did.
Robert Fulford does.
Lawrence Solomon does.
The late Rob Ford, God bless him, did.
Reg Hartt does.
“Most teachers say you should go to school to get your degree to have something to fall back on. Aside from being a huge lie, that also creates a very high level of mediocrity, because nobody who really believes that is going to take the leap of faith required to be a serious artist. Stay out of school.“–Ellis Marsalis to his sons Branford, Delfeayo and Wynton.
A writer named Will Sloan wrote a piece about the final chapter of THE CINEFORUM. He whines because I said in a flyer promoting him that he was a good writer and hot. He didn’t like the hot part. Poor Will. If Al or I had taken him to meet Allen Ginsberg he sure as fuck would not have disappeared for a few months. He would have whined, “Why did you introduce me to that fag?’ Can’t blame will. He’s the product of a system designed to produce mediocrity. You can read his piece here: http://torontoist.com/2016/06/reg-hartt-cineforum-closes-again-2016/
You can read about Al Aronowitz here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Aronowitz , http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/02/AR2005080202209.html , http://www.blacklistedjournalist.com .
If you want, you can read about me here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reg_Hartt .
Remember the date: August 1, 2016. A DAY FOR THOSE WHO LOVE AL ARONOWITZ and WHO WERE LOVED BY AL ARONOWITZ. A DAY FOR THE MESSIAH.
At Reg Hartt’s home, 463 Bathurst Street,Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 2S9. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Jacobs knew that when a law is stupid you stand up to it.
I do, too.
I created THE CINEFORUM not as a business but as a work of art. As a result many artists have found their Muse here. I am the first person in the world to do that. The City Of Toronto has decided my wonderful work of art must be swept away. Come see it before it vanishes forever. Al Aronowitz will be here in spirit. So will Jane Jacobs, Judith Merril, my beautiful Mark Mitchell and many others. I look forward to meeting you. I look forward to hearing the Words of The Messiah, Al Aronowitz.–Reg Hartt 6/18/2016.