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Coca Crystal, a Wild Child Turned ‘Unconventional’ Mother

Coca Crystal from her Facebook pageRalph Ginsburg Coca Crystal

The first thing on Jackie Diamond’s to-do list: “2008 – Publish book.”

“You see I’m behind schedule,” the 64-year-old said of the unfinished work, her chest purring with laughter. “I got busy with cancer.”

Ms. Diamond is better known to students of the underground as Coca Crystal – a secretary, writer, and “Slum Goddess” for The East Village Other who went on to host a cult cable-access television show for nearly two decades.

In 2006, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Since then, she’s had three operations to remove over a third of her lungs, undergone chemotherapy, and become a patient at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. The last time her cancer returned, her doctor told her it had spread to a part of her lung that was inoperable.

Her to-do list continues: “2010 – Movie based on my life released. Drew Barrymore stars as Coca Crystal.”

“And then the dignitaries and the party,” Ms. Crystal imagined. “And then I’ll live happily ever after. Finally.”

But the real reason she wants to publish her book isn’t the dream of a movie deal – it’s Gus. Read more…

Alan Abramson’s Fan-O-Gram to the East Village Other


Because something is happening here
And you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
– “Ballad of a Thin Man” by Bob Dylan (from “Highway 61 Revisited,” 1965)

Alan Abramson - 1972 copy Alan Abramson, 1972.

The times were overwhelming. America was violently awakened from the slumber of the 1950s on Nov. 22, 1963 and quickly found itself inhabiting an unrecognizable, incomprehensible, rapidly evolving reality. The Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the Free Love Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Gender Equality Movement, the Consciousness Raising Movement, the Save Our Planet Movement, the Eastern Mysticism Movement, and sex, drugs and rock and roll all conspired to create a giddy, euphoric Renaissance. If you were a nice young person raised in Eisenhower-era suburbia, the questions that consumed you were: “What the hell is going on? What does this all mean? Where do I fit in?” And most importantly: “How do I get invited to the party?”

Enter, The East Village Other. For me it was the Rosetta Stone that enabled me to decode the meaning of the ‘60s.  Attending Oberlin College from 1964 to 1968, I experienced an environment that was receptive to the Strange Days that were sweeping the nation. I had a subscription to the Village Voice, which retained an aura of cool, post-Beat sensibility.

All of the sudden, however, it was left way, far behind: things were happening much too quickly for it to process. The ‘60s were not about quiet, low key cool. The ‘60s were flaming hot. There was a void in the media. Nature abhors a vacuum and something Other was desperately needed (I always felt that the name was a play on words, dissing its neighbor from the West Village). Like Athena springing fully clad in armor from the aching head of Zeus, The East Village Other burst upon the scene. The Other was not your parents’ newspaper. Read more…

Abe Peck on Why EVO Mattered


The moment is almost upon us: on Tuesday, Feb. 28, the panel discussion and party marking the opening of “Blowing Minds: The East Village Other, the Rise of Underground Comix and the Alternative Press, 1965-72,” will take place at 20 Cooper Square. Before you join us for that, enjoy this penultimate weekend edition celebrating EVO. We start with Abe Peck, author of “Uncovering the Sixties: The Life and Times of the Underground Press,” telling us why the alternative paper was different from others. In short: because it colored outside the lines.

AbeAbbieREV2 copyCREDIT Abe Peck and Abbie Hoffman.

Starting in the mid-1960s, in the zone between 14th Street and Houston, First Avenue and the Alphabet blocks, a wave of longhairs began joining Ukrainians, Puerto Ricans, and pockets of poets, writers and artists. Ingestive preferences turned the grey streets Technicolor. So what if one of my roomie’s father would tell us, “I moved out of a better apartment in this neighborhood in 1924.” We were self-proclaimed life artists, merrily donating our belongings to local intruders into our happy hovels. We were home.

The East Village was where I experienced the end of grad school and the Army Reserves and the start of a community I could call my own. Where I became closer to Sergeant Pepper than to my master sergeant. Where EVO – The East Village Other – mattered.

The Village Voice was literate, and had the apartment ads. But from 1964 to 1973, hundreds of underground newspapers sprang up in every city and college town, and within high schools, the military and even prisons. They varied, but all provided a bent-mirror image of what the dailies and TV news and Time offered: herbs were fine, sex was cool, the Vietnam War sucked, racism was for losers.

Like The San Francisco Oracle (though not as third-eye-y) or my eventual underground-press homeland, the colorful Chicago Seed, EVO began, in late 1965, to chronicle an urban tribe. “We hope to become the mirror of opinion of the new citizenry of the East Village,” EVO declared in its first issue. Read more…

Slideshow: Coen Brothers Take Second Street Back to 1961

Photos: Rachel Citron

As previously noted, East Second Street got a 1960s Greenwich Village makeover today, via metal garbage cans, wooden milk crates, and throwback rides, some of them courtesy of the Oldsmobile Club of America. A couple of the movie’s extras, done up in vintage garb, told The Local that Joel and Ethan Coen – both of whom were on hand, as our new photos (clearly!) show – were filming the very first scene of their “screwball comedy,” “Inside Llewyn Davis.” So exciting.

During the takes we saw, two cars rolled down the snow-dusted street and then a young man clutching a cat and guitar case crossed the road and walked into a building at 77 East Second Street. When we left the block between First and Second Avenues, giant bags of leaves were at the ready and outdoor lights were being turned on. Maybe nighttime in autumn was next?

Have your own photos of the shoot? Add them to The Local’s Flickr pool. And if you live in the neighborhood and want to cover tomorrow’s action, e-mail us.

News Cameras on Second Street, Coen Brothers’ Cameras a Block Over

Photos: Daniel Maurer

While news cameras focused their attention on a block on East Second Street where a three-alarm fire tore through a six-story apartment building last night, cameras were out for a different reason one block east: the Coen Brothers have parked over twenty vintage cars on Second Street between First and Second Avenues, where they’re shooting their new film “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

“Hollywood” Nick Pagani, a car wrangler for motion pictures, told The Local that he had secured the vintage vehicles for traffic scenes set in 1961. “We’re only going to drive five of them today,” he said.  Read more…

Yossarian on One-Legged Terry, Bob Dylan and a Drawing for the Ace

Weberman-Yossarian-Vincent Titus A.J. Weberman, Yossarian, Vincent Titus

How One-Legged Terry became a member of A.J. Weberman’s circle fades into the mists of memory. Surely, he fit the mold of a Weberman associate with his good humor and dominant, eccentric personality. I met Terry along with a number of people A.J. had acquired from a series of “Dylanology” lectures he had given at Manhattan’s New School for Social Research. This was during a five-month period in 1970 in which I had crossed the country with friends in a (then almost requisite) Volkswagon bus, to spend time with the underground comix community, which by then had assembled in San Francisco.

Terry went by the full moniker of Terry Noble in the United States and Terry Ephraite in Israel, where he had gone to work on a kibbutz after finishing his education. While there, he had been assigned to work atop a hopper that loaded agricultural produce into a machine for processing. His job was to assist in moving the produce from a conveyer that lifted the material to the hopper. After a few days on the job, the platform on which he was standing collapsed, dumping him into the machinery and mangling his left leg. What was left had to be amputated just above the knee. As he remembered his thoughts at the time, they were about the loss of his shoe, one of a pair he had recently bought.

When he sought compensation for his loss, it was revealed that the platform had also collapsed in the recent past, costing another Jewish-American volunteer a leg. Terry surmised that it made more sense to assign an expendable American to the dangerous positions than to fix the underlying fault. Because of the negligence involved, Terry had won a settlement of about $50,000 for his loss. Read more…

Dan Rattiner on EVO, the Mafia, and the Takeover That Wasn’t

Screen shot 2012-02-11 at 2.35.17 AMLeft to right: Steven Kohn, (on floor:) Heather, R. Crumb, Ray Schultz, (sitting behind:) Hetty Maclise, John Heys, Coca Crystal, Allen Katzman, David Walley, Little Arthur, (standing:) Joel Fabrikant, Jaakov Kohn

The end of my real involvement with The East Village Other came as something I perceived as a betrayal. I have come to think I really didn’t understand it at the time and perhaps what happened wasn’t directed at me personally. But sometimes I wonder.

I mentioned in my earlier piece that EVO was formed as a stock company, with Walter Bowart, Allen Katzman and I each owning three shares.

“We need to raise more money,” Walter said to me in the spring of 1966. “We’ve run out.  I’ve called a meeting and there will be new people coming. We need to get more people buying stock.”

“It won’t dilute my one third, will it?” I asked.

“It doesn’t have to,” he said, “if you buy some more, too.” And this was technically true.

The meeting took place in our office on Avenue A on a Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. John Wilcock was there, a prized defector to The Other from the Village Voice, our designated competitor. I loved that idea. There were four new people in the room, none of whom was familiar to me, except for John.

“Okay, we’re here to buy stock,” Walter said. “Who’d like to go first?”   Read more…

Kim Deitch’s Ode to Joel Fabrikant

DEFIINITELY USE Deitch Black and Blue EVO Mar 3 1969 EVO BEST BEST copy Mar. 3, 1969 cover by Kim Deitch

He was a roughneck.  He certainly wasn’t politically correct and his blunt management style definitely took getting used to. In fact I really didn’t know what to make of him at first. But during the time I worked at The East Village Other, I received any number of sanctimonious promises from the people I worked with that didn’t seem to amount to much. Joel Fabrikant was no sanctimonious hippie or any other kind of hippie, but he always kept his word.

I was actually drawing comics for EVO, as it was called by most of us, before Joel got there.  The first time I showed up at the storefront office on Avenue A was at the start of 1967. Allen Katzman, EVO’s nominal editor, looked at the art samples I brought. He told me they were interesting, but that EVO was looking for work that was more, “psychedelic.” Psychedelic was a buzzword of the moment.  Put simply it meant, “trippy,” or drug-influenced.

I didn’t have to go far to pipe directly into that. Before I even left the office, Allen Katzman introduced me to Bill Beckman, the art editor. I knew who Bill Beckman was. In fact he was one of my initial inspirations for showing up at EVO.

Back in Westchester, where I had been employed as a child care worker, perhaps nine months prior to this, I showed a co-worker some of the artwork I’d been doing in my spare time. A curious thing about this artwork was that at a certain point, it had started morphing into primitive comic strips. Read more…

Bob Simmons on Bill Beckman and EVO’s Own Touch of Evil

Screen shot 2012-02-10 at 8.17.25 PM Detail from an illustration by Bill Beckman.

I came to EVO in late 1965. I think the paper was about three issues old. Walter Bowart had quit his job as a bartender at the Dom on St. Marks Place (Ed Sanders says it was Stanley’s, maybe it was both) and had raised some money to publish what he was soon to become fond of calling “a hippie National Inquirer.” (“Hippies don’t like to read. They like pictures and big headlines.”) I had just come to New York City from Texas. At the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make it uptown or downtown. All that was certain was that I needed to get some kind of employment.

I was living in the basement of Bill and Debbie Beckman’s apartment on East Ninth Street between Avenues C and D. At the time, this was decidedly a sketchy neighborhood, populated by young Puerto Rican street entrepreneurs who would have duels with ripped-off car antennae, whipping each other viciously over turf or girlfriends or whatever. The old mittel Europeans, Ukrainians, and refugees who lived in the ratty tenements would scurry to get out of their way as they crossed Houston to get a knish. It would have been maybe December of 1965 when I arrived. It was shaping up as a very cold winter, with an incredible blizzard that happened just a few weeks after my arrival. Being a naive Texan, I had innocently driven my car and tried to keep it on the streets. I lost it for almost 10 days under the snow. It was all very new to me. Snow. Hippies. The East Village Other. Read more…

Where Underground Comix Lurched Into Life


The Local East Village continues its celebration of the pioneering alternative newspaper of the late 1960s and early 70s, The East Village Other. This weekend, further to last week’s piece by artist Trina Robbins, we’re keeping our attention on the paper’s trailblazing illustrations, starting with an essay from Patrick Rosenkranz, the author of “Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963-1975.”

Crumb Gothic Blimp Works first issue Cover of the first Gothic Blimp Works issue, by Robert Crumb

I never worked for The East Village Other but I was a captivated reader from the first time I picked up an issue in 1966. As an 18-year-old naïve Catholic scholarship student at Columbia University, I was ripe for the revolution. My roommate introduced me to smoking dope that winter and my enhanced appetite often drew me to the student cafeteria, where I couldn’t help but be attracted to the radical contingent from Students for a Democratic Society sitting around their regular table. They looked to my eyes like bomb-throwing anarchists who were having wild sex every night. They often left behind copies of The East Village Other, which I picked up. It was love at first sight.

I’d never seen a publication like this before. It was full of wild accusations and bawdy language and doctored photographs. It had President Johnson’s head in a toilet bowl. It had naked Slum Goddesses, truly bizarre personal ads, and a whole different slant on the anti-war movement than my hometown paper upstate. But best of all, it had the most outrageous comic strips. The continuing saga of Captain High; the psychedelic adventures of Sunshine Girl and Zoroaster the Mad Mouse; Trashman offing the pigs and scoring babes left and right. While I enjoyed many aspects of EVO, I liked the comics the most. Read more…

Alex Gross on the 1960s Youthquake

Screen shot 2012-01-13 at 9.29.02 AM

On Feb. 28, the Local East Village inaugurates its exhibit “Blowing Minds: The East Village Other, the Rise of Underground Comix and the Alternative Press” at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at 20 Cooper Square, appropriately located in the East Village.

From 1965 until 1971, this underground newspaper struck fear into the hearts of millions of Americans. But countless other Americans welcomed it as a glorious ray of hope and joy.

Essentially the flagship of the Sixties, EVO influenced many other so-called underground newspapers in this country and around the world. While resistance to the Vietnam War was often featured, it was scarcely the only theme. Nor was EVO only about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, though these were certainly present.

I wrote for EVO from 1968 to 1971 and before that helped out with other underground newspapers in London, Amsterdam, and Berlin. So let me confirm that other EVO topics included feminism, eastern mysticism, the commune movement, new approaches to education, practical problems of artists, the budding ecology/environmental movement, and the struggle for black and Hispanic equality. Read more…

Allen Katzman and J.C. Suares on the Reportage of Wonderment

Katzman-EVO proposal120

With this special edition, The Local presents the first of seven wild, winding, weekend walks through the seven years when this neighborhood was home to The East Village Other. EVO, as the weekly soon became known, began in the imagination of the late Walter Bowart, in his fourth-floor painter’s loft at Avenue B and Second Street. He was the sole creator of Issue No. 1, a broadside, or uncut proof sheet, that was folded into tabloid size. As readers unfolded it again, the pages faced all directions. Anyone with half an eye who happened to pass a Village newsstand that October of 1965, could see that Mr. Bowart was far ahead of others in grasping the real potential of the revolution in printing techniques just getting underway: the move from costly metal plates, professional printers, and “hot type” to paper, scissors and rubber cement. Cold type — offset printing — did more than lower the bar to entry; it provided whole new means of expression in graphics and text.

By Issue No. 2, the East Village Other had a team of publishers and actual papers of incorporation. By Issue No. 3, it had its own storefront office on Avenue A between Ninth and Tenth Streets, just across from Tompkins Square Park. In 1968, Bill Graham bartered concert ads for office space on the third floor of his new Fillmore East, giving EVO daily access to the concert hall’s all-important back stairwell and the stars of rock ‘n’ roll.

By the time the Fillmore closed in 1971, EVO’s end was not far behind. It had moved to new offices on the 11th floor of 20 East 12th Street, and then to a back store room of the Law Commune offices at 640 Broadway. There, as word surfaced that, owing to unpaid bills, city marshals were coming to seize whatever assets might be, the young Charlie Frick, alone in the office with Coca Crystal, scooped up all and sundry, boxed up the files, commandeered his family truck and then hauled it all to his mother’s barn in Passaic County, N.J. There it would remain unmolested for the next few decades.

In anticipation of The Local’s exhibition “Blowing Minds: The East Village Other, the Rise of Underground Comix and the Alternative Press, 1965-72,” we asked Mr. Frick to dive back into the bounty, now variously housed in a storage unit and at his home in Montclair, N.J. Choice selections from the ephemera and artifacts he and others have unearthed will be among items to be featured.

The Local has something from the annals, too. The items in Mr. Frick’s collection included the following undated typescript that must have come into his possession at some point at least a decade after EVO’s demise. It is a xerox of a proposal for a book to be titled “The Best of the East Village Other.” Its cover page attributes it to the late Allen Katzman (most likely the proposal’s author) and the well-known creative consultant and book and magazine designer, J.C. Suares. The late Mr. Katzman, a poet and longtime publisher of EVO, was, along with Mr. Bowart and Dan Rattiner, a signatory to the founding papers. Who better than he to start us out?

Read more…