Monday, February 28, 2011

Seattle Show

If you happen to be in Seattle
this is Rob's show (as mentioned in
The Journal of The Mermaid Translation #1,#2).
Listen closely to the filing cabinets
and hear the novel murmuring.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

d.a. levy in A Certain Strange Memory

During the writing of an essay on Cleveland poet
d.a. levy (which appeared in d.a. levy & the mimeograph
revolution, Bottom Dog Press, 2007), a certain strange
memory came my way. On the Mother’s Day of 1967,
a benefit was held in Cleveland to raise money for levy’s
defense fund. Allen Ginsberg was a featured attraction
there, but could another star on the American scene
just as busy and planted in print as Ginsberg have
come to Ohio without a word?

Larry Smith, Ohio poet and publisher relates:

"The story I heard about 8 years ago involved the

legal aid fund for levy...It was told to me by Dinsmoor

Wheeler, friend of James Lowell and the arts.

According to Dinsmoor, Jayne Mansfield came into

town for the defense fund reading...She did it as a

special thing for free speech." Further, "I once sat

with Dinsmoor Wheeler when he was in his 80's

and living at his family home in Milan, Ohio.

He was very cordial as we sat in his living room

with loads of wonderful old books on the shelf.

He told of starting the first foreign film series

in Cleveland, together with bookseller James

Lowell and others. They often were attacked by

censors. Then he recalled a time when Jayne

Mansfield came to town to speak for d.a. levy

and James Lowell's Defense Fund...He said

he drove out to the airport to pick up Jayne

Mansfield as part of the May 14th program.

He said he enjoyed the ride and that she was

a very bright person, unlike her film persona.

That's what I remember." (1)

Like Allen Ginsberg, Jayne Mansfield was

in the midst of a busy Spring tour that scheduled

her in Britain and Ireland. From her arrival in

England her troubles with authorities began.

Smuggling Chihuahuas was just the beginning.

Lasting only weeks overseas, on May 14th,

Mothers’ Day, aghast Roman Catholics

terminated her tour in Tralee.

So the question is, could she suddenly,

clandestinely, have flown back to the States,

to Cleveland, to witness the benefit for an

underground poet?

And why would she?

“naturally I became interested in the intellectual type”
**Jayne Mansfield in Will Success Spoil Rock
Hunter? (1957)

In 1963, the album Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky

and Me was recorded. Jayne Mansfield purrs over

her favorite poems and sonnets with lush

accompaniment. Her material includes selections

from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Percy Shelley,

Marlowe, Yeats, Wordsworth and Tennyson as

well as Shakespeare and others. She had followed

in the footsteps of Dylan Thomas and

Caedmon Records.

So with an interest in poetry, and always

an eye on the papers, Mansfield would have read

about Allen Ginsberg. She would have taken

notice when Ginsberg praised harassed poet

d.a. levy, commending his poetry, “It has obvious

literary intent. I dig his poetry. He is learned

and sincere, but he is being made to suffer in

the classic American way.” (2)

Since d.a levy’s secret indictment by jury in
December 1966, on charges of filth and obscenity,
levy had been victimized for his poetic vision.
There was police seizure of his mimeograph and
writings, an arrest, trial, jail and release on bail,
then a second arrest in March 1967 along with
Jim Lowell, owner of the Asphodel Bookshop.
Allen Ginsberg had been through similar
treatment with his Howl in 1957.
He arrived in Cleveland to lend his support.
The story would have been familiar to Jayne
Mansfield. But would she have stormed across
the sea for poetry? Why would she call Dinsmoor
Wheeler anyway? Secrecy? Was he her connection
to the underground? Was she afraid of attracting
attention traveling by cab? Did she hide in some
phone booth for him to arrive? And what if
Dinsmoor Wheeler was mistaken? (Nervous
looks at a movie-star.) What if it wasn’t
Jayne Mansfield? Could she have been
another Hollywood bombshell, incognito,
a substitute, with enough resemblance to
Jayne Mansfield to pass as her?
If she wasn’t Jayne Mansfield, she could
have been Mamie Van Doren. She was in America
at the time, filmingVoyage to the Planet of
Prehistoric Women. And she knew about the
Beat movement, even if cartoonishly, she had
been featured in the 1959 exploitation film
The Beat Generation. (3) She was also a friend
of Jayne Mansfield who could double for her.
Mamie Van Doren’s autobiography provides

“In the summer of 1967…I was again booked
to do Gentlemen Prefer Blondes…Afterward I was
scheduled for a ten-day engagement in Biloxi,
Mississippi…I was due in Biloxi in July, but a
complication arose…I was afraid I would have
to return the money…Fortunately, Bill Loeb
was able to schedule Jayne Mansfield to take
my place, and reschedule me for later in the
summer…now they were getting Jayne
Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren the same
summer.” (4)

But it wouldn’t happen that way, try as
she might to imagine it. Both these women
appearing on the stage in a play production
of a film forever identified with Marilyn
Monroe…It could only have been written
that way.
Mamie Van Doren continued, “Jayne’s
death sharply brought home the many
connections in the lives of Marilyn, Jayne
Mansfield, and me, the three M’s. We had
become identified with an era because we
made more movies and lived more flamboyant
lives than many of the rest. They were
connections that I’d tried to push out of my
mind at the time of Marilyn’s death.
I continued to ignore them even more
when I made The Las Vegas Hillbillys
with Jayne Mansfield because I found it
a constant reminder of how we seemed
to be running out of time.” (5)
Jayne Mansfield felt that too. Her last
television appearance was to become
apocryphal. On June 19, 1967, a month after
levy’s benefit and ten days before she would
die, she was a guest on The Joey Bishop
Show where she read poetry, Robert
Herrick’s ‘To The Virgins, To Make Much
of Time’ which begins famously:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

“There is a history of calamitous and
violent deaths among the glamour girls that
boggles the mind and chills the blood,” Mamie
Van Doren writes, “If you make your living
being beautiful, you’ve got to be willing to
pay that price. You must realize that there
is also something deep inside that is as
beautiful as the outside; and that the
beauty inside will neverchange for as
long as you live.” (6)
This was the same realization that levy
points out in his Buddhist Oracle, that
ultimately: “the greatest revolutionary
‘game’ is learning to live with, survive for,
& love yourself and then to really
know – you are other people.” (7)

Like the collage artwork levy had been
creating for the Cleveland underground press,
where he joined erotic imagery with Buddhist
iconography to create a revolutionary picture,
levy went beyond the surface level to draw on
that power of the Hollywood Bombshell for
his writing. This would become especially
clear in his two short stories The Beginning
of Sunny Dawn and Red Lady. (8)
“I played games in the sun,” Marilyn Monroe
writes in My Story. “I daydreamed chiefly about
beauty. I dreamed of myself becoming so
beautiful that people would turn to look at
me when I passed. And I dreamed of
colors—scarlet, gold, green, white.” (9)
From The Beginning of Sunny Dawn:
Like Marilyn Monroe, “there was almost
no one alive to teach her how to wait or what
it meant if she saw the sunlight of herself.”
When Marilyn Monroe took acting lessons,
her teacher realized, “You are a young
woman who gives off sex vibrations—no
matter what you are doing or thinking.”
So, “I realized that just as I had once fought
to get into the movies and become an actress,
I would now have to fight to become myself
and to be able to use my talents.” (10)
(written with slide show images of William
Burroughs, Charlie Chaplin, J. Edgar Hoover,
flashcards, film clips and ads for bird seed,
like one of those experimental films levy
would watch every Saturday midnight at
the Continental Theatre on Euclid Avenue).
Time moves her from fairy tale to modern
drive-in screen, “but she wanted something
else, not to just get laid, she wanted
something else,/hungry ghosts in the
shadows of her brain…Red Lady said
within her ‘i am going’” like Sunny Dawn
beyond and in the morning when she is
gone, “there were rumors of a woman who
changed shapes in the darkness and
whispered light in sleeping ears, a
woman who left one thinking of the sun.”
What comes to light will happen: “She
knew she was forever & the day would come
when the others would understand her ways
and leave her alone to fulfill her own destiny.

(crowds of people shouting before giant

posters of jean harlow, marilyn Monroe,

jane mansfield, jane fonda & faye dunaway

—they are firing guns in the air & scream-


Jayne Mansfield was included in his vision
of revolution, but if she came to Cleveland to
join him, it would have been done in the
underground, the war was on, and bombshells
and burning poets don’t last long.
Anyway, on Mother’s Day, the benefit
really did happen, Allen Ginsberg was there,
newspaper records were left behind. 600 people
watched from the crowd. It’s hard to imagine
that Jayne Mansfield could have been there
secretly (in sunglasses, hair under kerchief,
made shadowy in long black coat) when
everywhere she went she was falling out of
pink, photos flashing. All we have of her
there is a memory in a car.
In a 2006 phone conversation with
Continental Theatre manager George
Fitzpatrick, I asked about Jayne Mansfield.
He confirmed, “She was in Cleveland in
Summer 1963 or 1964. She was pregnant
at the time and she came to the theatre in
full length pink mink coat.” But he assured
me the rumor of her appearing at the 1967
benefit never happened, and, “I don’t know
how these stories get started.” (11)


1) Letter from Larry Smith, May 18, 2006, used with permission

2) Cleveland Press, April 12, 1967

3) In a 1993 episode of L.A Law entitled “Rhyme & Punishment,” Mamie Van Doren read from Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” while Jayne Mansfield’s daughter Mariska Hargitay can currently be seen on television’s Law and Order

4) Playing the Field: My Story; Mamie Van Doren; G P Putnam’s Sons; New York; 1987; p.226

5) Ibid; p.227

6) Ibid; p.231-32

7) The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle; Volume 2 #3; August-Sept 1968

8) I couldn’t have written about d.a. levy without the help of his friend, Tom Kryss. He provided me with the 1969 Open Skull Press Edition of The Beginning of Sunny Dawn & Red Lady with the note:

“This was the first printing of “Red Lady,” but the second appearance of “Sunny Dawn,” which was first published by levy in Cleveland, March, 1968, under the Ghostflower Press imprint…I do believe the “Sunny Dawn” story was written before “Red Lady” but not by more than a few months, and in both cases the stories seemed to have gone into print shortly after they were written…Neither story, to the best of my knowledge, has appeared in print since 1970. Just a hunch—“Red Lady” always strikes me as something he brought back in his head from Madison, Wisconsin, and I suspect someone he met there lies at the core.”

**Letter from Tom Kryss to author, May 25, 2006

9) My Story; Marilyn Monroe; Cooper Square Press; New York, New York; 1974/2000; p.19

10) Ibid; p.135

11) Author’s phone call conversation with George Fitzpatrick conducted 4:35 PM, June 14, 2006.