The other day someone said to me, “Men take care of themselves. A man takes care of others.”
That is a damned fine definition of a man. It is also one that fits the late Al Aronowitz to a T.
In the 1950′s Al was a crime reporter for The New York Post.
His editor’s son was hanging out with some guys down in Greenwich Village who spouted poetry, smoked pot, sucked cock and flashed switch blade knives.
Al was sent down to write a hatchet piece that would these people busted.
Instead he wrote the first positive press about Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.
After meeting Bob Dylan in a laundromat he brought Dylan along to meet Ginsberg who took one look at the beautiful boy that was the young Bob Dylan and then headed off to find a place where they could be alone together.
They were alone together for a very long time.
Dylan emerged better and stronger for it.
When The Beatles played Shea Stadium Al was the only journalist they wanted to talk with.
He brought Dylan with him.
Finding out that the lads from Liverpool had never smoked pot Al turned them on and through them zillions of others.
When his wife died of cancer Al was drained monetarily, physically, and spiritually.
“Do you need help with anything,” said Miles Davis in a phone call.
“No,” said Al.
“I know something you need help with,” said Davis who quietly paid the bill for Al’s wife’s funeral.
Davis, rightfully, had little love for white folk.
But he loved Al.
I first read about Al Aronowitz in a New York week weekly called THE SOHO NEWS.
What I read was interesting. I wrote him a letter. He wrote back. We began to correspond.
In one letter Al said, “The new messiah will tear up the money.”
I wrote him back quoting the end of Mark’s Gospel, “If they give you any deadly thing it will not harm you.”
About a week later I got a phone call from Al.
“Are you going to drink poison?” he asked.
“No. That’s just scripture,” I told him.
In that moment I realized that Al Aronowitz was the real deal. He was a man who cared.
We began to talk a lot together on the phone.
One day Al sounded depressed.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“I have written a book (THE BLACKLISTED MASTERPIECES OF AL ARONOWITZ). Nobody will give me a reading,” he said.
“Come to Toronto. We will do one here,” I told him.
Not many folks came out for that reading but that was the kindling that started the fire. Al gave tons of readings after that.
A couple of years later NOW newspaper brought Al to Toronto for a reading as part of a program they sponsored.
Al called up. “We have to hang out together,” he said.
Time passed. We stayed in touch.
“I want to come to Toronto,” said Al one day.
So we did a third reading.
Party of it was here at The Cineforum. Part of it was at The Toronto Press Club.
I asked Robert Fulford, to my mind the best journalist in Canada, to host the reading at The Press Club.
“Let me read his work before I decide,” said Bob rightfully.
After having read the material he called to say, “I’ll be glad to do it.”
A lot of folks met Al here at The Cineforum. My friend, Bernard Hashmall, took some terrific pictures.
Al passed away a few years back in 2005. At time there were a lot of people here who knew him. We had a memorial in Toronto for him.
This summer I find myself thinking a lot about Al and his influence on my life.
I did a presentation in New York at the famed Thalia Theater. Al introduced me from the stage and then after the show introduced myself and Peter Sumadh (whom I had brought along as my assistant) to the spots where legends had been born and lived. It was cool to be at The Bluenote with Al where one artist after another came to our table to thank him for being who he was.
At first I thought of doing a one day reading from Al’s Blacklisted Masterpieces on August 1, the day he left us.
Then I found myself thinking it would be cool to give Al the month instead of just one day.
So every night but Friday at 9pm I will be reading from THE BLACKLISTED MASTERPIECES OF AL ARONOWITZ.
Al was too big a man to be interested only in himself and what he had to say.
After the first hour each night the second hour will be myself reading aloud the work of other writers present in the audience.
It is one thing for a writer to read their words aloud themselves and quite another for them to hear another person doing it.
I first did this a few years back. It was lots of fun. I met a great many interesting people.
THE CINEFORUM is a place Al loved a lot.
He found himself a man very much loved here.
It is right that his words come alive here once more.
Join us. Bring along something you wrote your self. Give it to me before the program.
Limited to five pieces each night.