Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Frank in 1966

A perfect gem just came to my attention--a 15-minute film on the great New York poet Frank O'Hara, produced by Thirteen/WNET in 1966, the same year he died.

In the film, Frank visits the studio of artist Alfred Leslie (who would later depict O'Hara's death by dune buggy), and then the two of them take a walk down Broadway.

Starting at 23rd Street, they pass the glorious Gordon Novelty Shop, alive and well. A coffee shop on the corner of 21st called Barry's Deli-Makers. Signs for party favors, decorations, lanterns, balloons (this was once a district of novelty shops). A little stand advertising meatballs, beef stew, and thick shakes, next to a wedding photographer's studio, next to a barber shop.

Then Union Square Park, the stretch where the farmer's market is today a parking lot full of chrome. Union Square with its crowd. Barton's Bonbonniere (wow--look!), a jeweler's shop, a phonebooth. Men in hats. Cigarettes 37 cents.

And then they're in Frank's apartment, that last apartment of his, at Broadway where 11th should be, recently demolished and turned into a condo building, the first floor replaced by a fro-yo joint histrionically called "Yooglers."

The phone rings while Frank types and it's "Jim." Jimmy Schuyler? I wonder. Or another Jim? (He's got an upset stomach after a night at "the Kansas City.") Frank smokes and reads poems. His cat sits nearby.

He reads the great, wonderful "The Day Lady Died," the poem that made me come to New York in the first place, if a poem is the thing that did it.

Frank's Last Place
Novelties Unsheathed


Greg Masters said...

It's poet Jim Brodey who calls while Frank is being filmed, according to Jim Brodey.

EV Grieve said...


Ms. said...

This is Golden!

Ms. said...

The Day lady Died
by Frank O'hara

1926–1966 Frank O'Hara
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Ivan said...

Barton's had at least 50 locations? Surely that would not fit in with some of the anti-chain crowd.

What a find! Whatever happened to them?

Marty Wombacher said...

Great post today, Jeremiah! Loved this!

Laura Goggin Photography said...

This made my day, Jeremiah - thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

From Frank O'hara to Blank O' Nada, it's the end of the world as we know it, and I don't feel fine, but the newbie transplants do feel great.

BabyDave said...

Thanks so much for sharing this.

laura said...

nice film, but not much of a poet. i have a 27 minute reading of allen ginsburg doing "howl". now that is capivating. as for "bartons" it did have a nice sign. yes they had chains those days, but more small businesses. & the chains were human, no blasting music, dancing girls, blaring lights. loved the part of frank walking around w/his friends.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Thanks - what a find! That's one of my favorite poems. Whitman, O'Hara - it's their work that runs through my head the most when I'm walking around the city. So intimate, immediate, alive.

mch said...

Of course a poem did it. If not this one, then another.

Lorna said...

You make me want to visit New York before it disappears. Very fine writing here.


Michael Simmons said...

Thank you Jeremiah for constantly reminding us that a big heart along with a big brain are the keys that made New York City great.

Anonymous said...

Great Poet! I always liked O'Hara's art.

Hannah self-obsessed Horvath said...

Nowadays, cupcakes did it, if not Manolo Blahnicks, or the next thing or another that a Midweserner would consume based on a show such as SATC or Girls, of course.

Anonymous said...


Were he alive today Frank O'Hara might have written a poem entitled "The Day Whitney Died" or "Having a Baked by Melissa Micro-Cupcake With You" or "8th Avenue" or "Poem (The Txt on the Phone Sd Call Me)" or "Post-Post-Modern-Personism: A Posthumanifesto." From that era only a few of the greats--John Ashbery, Diane DiPrima, Amiri Baraka, Jean Valentine, Russell Atkins, Edward Field, etc.--remain. We should honor them. Your entry definitely does that.

vzabuser said...

For those who want to know:
the second to last stanza mentions 'a carton of Picayunes'
Picayunes were a local Liggett & Meyers (L&M) brand sold only in New Orleans called Picayune. Similar to Camel, non-filters, Picayunes had unbleached tobacco.

dylan brie ducey said...

This is so beautiful. I cannot speak.

James Taylor said...

Nice to see that that nice metal sign above the door at 880 Broadway is still there.

Oh, for the days when crosstown buses advertized such things as Cinzano.

Currently Into... said...

I'd never seen him or heard his voice. I'm kind of overwhelmed right now.