The Village Trip! Launch Event
A LITTLE OVER A CENTURY AGO, Hippolyte Havel - writer, waiter, anarchist and the inspiration for Eugene O’Neill’s character Hugo Kalmar in The Iceman Cometh – proclaimed Greenwich Village “a spiritual zone of mind” that had no boundaries.
The Village has long been the cultural and countercultural epicenter of American music, literature, drama, film, art, politics and thought. As one wag put it, “everything started in the Village – except Prohibition”.
A celebration of Greenwich Village as the forge in which much of American culture was hammered out is long overdue. On May 22, in the Lounge at the iconic Washington Square Hotel, plans for The Village Trip will be revealed.
An Evening of Words and Music with Maeve Brennan and Friends will feature dramatized readings by Kelly Letourneau of the great Irish-American writer whose New Yorker columns captured in poetic prose Village life of the 1950s and ‘60s. Emilie Conway, with Darragh Hennessy and Marcos Varela, will perform a set of songs and instrumentals associated with the period, conjuring up the atmosphere of clubs such as the Bon Soir, which was close by the Hotel. Biographer Angela Bourke will put Brennan’s life and work in context.
The evening begins at 6.30pm. Tickets, including cocktails and canapes, cost $50 and can be purchased at www.TheVillageTrip.com
The evening is sponsored by Caledonia Spirits (Vermont). Background Always, the Village has pushed the boundaries of what is “acceptable”. Café Society, America’s first integrated nightclub, opened on Sheridan Square in 1938, hosting performers such as Paul Robeson, Leadbelly and Billie Holiday. Around the corner, the Stonewall Inn – landmark of the gay rights movement – is still open for business. Alive and well a few blocks west is the White Horse Tavern where James Baldwin and Dylan Thomas drank with longshoremen and the Clancy Brothers’ Irish rebel songs raised the roof. Following President Roosevelt’s death, Eleanor Roosevelt moved to an apartment on Washington Square West. From there she would have seen the guitar players and banjo pickers, including Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, who gathered around the fountain to sing on Sunday afternoons.
At the Eighth Street Bookshop, on the corner of MacDougal Street a few steps from Washington Square, Bob Dylan first met Allen Ginsberg, not far from 116 Waverly Place where, a century earlier, Anne Charlotte Lynch hosted a literary salon attended by Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe. In the early years of the 20th century, MacDougal Street habitués included Edna St Vincent Millay, Emma Goldman and Jack London. Some of the most celebrated names in 20th-century culture have tramped the iconic streets of Greenwich Village, among them Edward Albee, Diane Arbus, Joan Baez, John Cage, Gregory Corso, Merce Cunningham, Dorothy Day, Patricia Field, Martha Graham, Richie Havens, Jimi Hendrix, Edward Hopper, Janis Ian, Jane Jacobs, Henry James, Betsey Johnson, Jackson Pollock, Sam Shepard, Paul Simon, Patti Smith, Susan Sontag, Dave van Ronk, Edgar Varese, Andy Warhol and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.
Others – less recognisable yet no less important – contributed much to what, in 1917, Marcel Duchamp and his fellow “Arch conspirators” declared “the free and independent Republic of Washington Square”. The old Hotel Earle, now the Washington Square Hotel, was home to author and New Yorker columnist Maeve Brennan. Roger McGuinn wrote “Chestnut Mare” while staying in room 707 and John Phillips, another guest, wrote “California Dreamin’” one winter’s day when the sky was grey and the leaves brown. The Rolling Stones, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Barbra Streisand and Patti Smith have all “done time” in the Hotel where, not so long ago, a young Norah Jones waited tables and sang jazz brunch shows in its elegant North Square Lounge before setting forth on other adventures. The Village Trip will be a community-wide “happening”, a celebration of all things Greenwich Village: the revolutionary ideas, the experimentation, the wildness, the sheer madness and joy of it all. A month-long, multi-venue event based out of the Washington Square Hotel, it will be a living, growing part of today’s Village. Events will celebrate artists of earlier eras while also providing a platform for today’s young performers and artistic spirits as they create their own legacies.
The Village is increasingly under threat from large commercial and political interests. These days millennials come to visit, many sadly unaware of its momentous history, though walking tours point out the Electric Lady studios beloved by Hendrix and the locations made famous in films from Rear Window to Serpico and Inside Llewyn Davis.
The Village Trip will be a festival created by and for those who live and work in Greenwich Village – for those who call it home, literally and spiritually. The plan is to start small and grow organically: building partnerships; establishing sponsorship opportunities (in cash and kind); working with the creative and local business communities to kindle something “for the people” which will also, over time, become an annual draw for tourists from across the Boroughs, from across the nation and, perhaps, the world. As co-founder Liz Thomson, a British author and journalist, explains: “In Scotland the Edinburgh International Festival was established in 1947 to ‘provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’. Much has flowered in Greenwich Village and now is the time to celebrate the infinite variety of it all.”