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Peter Leggieri’s East Village Other


Earlier this week, the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute launched “Blowing Minds: The East Village Other, the Rise of Underground Comix and the Alternative Press, 1965-72,” with a rousing discussion that’s now archived on the exhibit’s Website, along with new audio interviews with veterans of the Other. Over the course of seven weekend editions of The Local, we’ve heard from all but one of the EVO alumni who spoke on Tuesday’s panel. Here now, to cap off our special series, is the story of Peter Leggieri.

GIL WEINGOURT PHOTO 1968B54B2LEGGERIA-PETER_SPAIN-EVO copyGil Weingourt Left to right: Peter Leggieri, Peter Mikalajunas, and Spain Rodriguez.

From the first day that I began working at The East Village Other, I was overcome by the sense that it was not only a newspaper but a strange and magical ship on a voyage with destiny. It seemed as though each issue printed was a new port of call, and the trip from one issue to the next, a new adventure. Many of EVO’s crew members expressed that same weird feeling – a sense of excitement and creative power.

And what a crew that was! No one was recruited. I don’t recall a resume ever being submitted. They all simply showed up and started working. EVO’s crew might just have been the greatest walk-on, pick-up team in the history of journalism. She was The Other but her staff of artists, poets, writers, photographers and musicians affectionately called her EVO. Her masthead bore a Mona Lisa eye. EVO created a cultural revolution and won the hearts and minds of a generation. She was the fastest ship in the Gutenberg Galaxy.

In the Beginning
I was the anonymous Other, the one editor-owner unknown to the public. I did not party. I did not schmooze with the literati or seek publicity. I had no time for such things. I worked seven days a week, 20 hours a day and, because of law school, I had to be sober. My friend, the poet John Godfrey, told me that I was afflicted with a Zen curse: a hermit condemned to be surrounded by people and events. That was certainly the case for me in the 1960s. Read more…

Bob Simmons on Timothy Leary and the Raid on Millbrook

Screen shot 2012-02-18 at 11.36.42 AM

The only time I really ever wrote anything for EVO was when Walter Bowart, high on something, called me up and said, “Bob, you are the only straight-looking guy we have around the office. We have to do something for Leary. He just got busted up in Millbrook.” Hmm. So Walter and I cooked up this scheme. I would call up the sheriff of Dutchess County, one Lawrence Quinlan, and I would put on my regular work suit and drive up to Poughkeepsie to interview him.

Of course we knew that the sheriff wasn’t interested in talking to anyone from a hippie rag like EVO. So what did I do?  I called up the sheriff and told him my name was Bob Simmons, a stringer for Look magazine, and that my editor asked me if there was a chance I could come and do a short interview for the magazine about the arrest of Dr. Leary. You would think God had called for an audition. “Certainly,” came the reply. “Sheriff Quinlan would be happy to talk with you.”

So, there on a weekend in the spring of 1966, Walter Bowart, Timothy Leary, and Bob Simmons crammed into my Karmann Ghia VW and buzzed up to Poughkeepsie to the headquarters of the Castalia FoundationRead more…

EVO, the FBI and the Plot to Bomb the Pentagon

Screen shot 2012-02-18 at 3.16.06 AM

I can’t honestly remember how I became interested in The East Village Other. Probably, it’s just the age-old thing of a son wanting to know more about his father. That my father’s twin brother was also part of that scene (more involved as it turns out), made it even more curious. The more I researched the whole thing, the more I became aware of what an important part of history they had been.

I suppose it’s not every kid who would make a Freedom of Information Act request to learn everything he could about something, but that was the historian in me back in 1989 when I was writing my undergraduate thesis at the University of Colorado at Boulder. There were lots of stories about possible surveillance and possible this and that. I wanted to know for sure.

The documents came back from the FBI and many of them were typical FBI documents – not all that interesting and with lots of stuff blacked out. However, there were also many surprises, many little semantic treasures, and many things revealed that one might think shouldn’t be. The following account was culled from the most interesting of those documents.

In September 1967, The East Village Other hatched a plan to bomb the Pentagon. The planned date of this bombing was Oct. 20, 1967 (though it was changed to Oct. 21 at some point or the FBI got the date wrong in its original memorandum), the day before the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam was to hold its march on Washington. On page 22 of EVO’s September 1-15 issue was a not-so-subtle ad: “Pilot Wanted for Daring Feat, phone 228-8640, ask for ALLEN or WALTER.” Allen was my uncle, Allen Katzman and Walter was Walter Bowart. The plan was true and the FBI took immediate notice, only the bomb wasn’t nuclear or conventional. It was flowers. Read more…

Anatomy of the Great Banana-Smoking Hoax of 1967

Donovan record jacket "Mellow Yellow" copy Donovan record jacket.

Sixties survivors often snicker when reminded of the Great Banana-Peel Smoking Hoax. They remember the hours spent laboriously scraping the inside of banana peels, boiling the unappetizing residue obtained, then drying the remains in their ovens before finally rolling a joint in search of the promised high from the fictional psychoactive substance dubbed Bananadine.

Nearly a half-century later, conflicting accounts still circulate as to how the craze got started and which underground paper was first to report it. One version, often repeated by Paul Krassner, the iconic publisher of The Realist, puts the launch in the offices of The East Village Other on Avenue A. In other accounts, it starts on the West Coast. So which was it? 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…

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…

Steve Kraus: How Green Was My Underground

Screen shot 2012-01-28 at 8.27.46 AM Steve Kraus

As documented in a DNA Info video, Steve Kraus has been publishing the New York Good News since the 1960s. Now 82, he has lived just above Café Mogador on St. Marks Place for the past 37 years. He also volunteers for the Jewish Foundation of the Righteous. The following piece appeared in a 1979 booklet produced by the Alternative Press Syndicate, titled “Alternative Media: How the Muckrakers Saved America,” published by Bell and Howell. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Steve Kraus – How Green Was My Underground

For more on “Blowing Minds: The East Village Other, the Rise of Underground Comix and the Alternative Press, 1965-72,” read about the exhibition here, and read more from EVO’s editors, writers, artists, and associates here.

Ishmael Reed on the Miltonian Origin of The Other


Last weekend, in one of our posts celebrating The East Village Other, Ed Sanders wrote that poet Ted Berrigan may have named the alternative newspaper after the Rimbaud line “I is an Other.” Mr. Sanders acknowledged, “Another account has Ishmael Reed coining the name.” In the comments, EVO editor Peter Leggieri wrote that Allen Katzman (who founded the paper along with Dan Rattiner and Walter Bowart) “always gave the impression that he had suggested the name ‘Other.'” After citing the reasons, Mr. Leggieri wrote, “However, if the question of origin came to a vote, I’d probably pull the lever for Ishmael Reed.” Here, now, is Mr. Reed himself, on his role in shaping The East Village Other.

ishmaelIsamu Kawai Ishmael Reed, 1967

My receiving a job as the editor of a newspaper in Newark, N.J., led to the origin of The East Village Other. I worked a number of temporary jobs from the time I arrived in New York in the fall of 1962 until I left for California in the summer of 1967. One of those jobs was that of  a pollster for The Daily News. So when I went to the Department of Labor to get a temporary job, after the poll was completed, I was informed of an opening for a reporter for a new newspaper in Newark.

I had written for a newspaper in Buffalo called The Empire Star, edited by the great A.J. Smitherman, who was the target of mob violence during one of the worst riots in American history, the Tulsa riots of 1921, which left 300 blacks dead.

Smitherman believed in armed self-defense against lynching. After an interview with the investors, it was decided that I would be the editor of a newspaper that I named Advance. Although I had watched the production of a newspaper using the old linotype method while working for the newspaper in Buffalo, I hadn’t a clue about offset printing.

Walter Bowart was a bartender at Stanley’s, which was our hangout. It was owned by Stanley Tolkin who was a patron of the arts and our benefactor. Read more…

Ed Sanders on EVO and ‘The New Vision’

Screen shot 2012-01-20 at 12.49.16 PM Drawing by Bill Beckman, Nov. 1966.

I first knew Walter Bowart around 1963 or ’64 when he was a bartender at Stanley’s Bar, located at 12th Street and Avenue B. Bowart was an artist who did some design work in early 1965 for LeMar, the Committee to Legalize Marijuana, which operated out of my Peace Eye Bookstore located in a former Kosher meat store on East 10th Street between Avenues B and C.

Allen Katzman I had known since 1961 when he helped run open readings at various east-side coffee houses, such as Les Deux Magots on East Seventh, and later the Cafe Le Metro on Second Avenue. Katzman was known at the time mainly as a poet.  (During his time at EVO, Katzman spelled his first name Allan.)

During the summer of 1965, Bowart, Katzman and others, including the artist Bill Beckman, Ishmael Reed, Jaakov Kohn, and Sherry Needham, decided to found a newspaper. Poet Ted Berrigan, as I recall, came up with the name, The East Village Other, with “Other” coming, of course, from Rimbaud’s famous line of 1871, “Je est un autre,” I is an Other. Another account has Ishmael Reed coining the name. (The participants in the Dada movement argued for 50 years over who first thought of the name “Dada.”) Read more…

EVO Columnist John Wilcock Interviews John Wilcock

Scott Marshall artist - text Ethan Persoff for comic biographycredit at ojaiorange.comIllustration: Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall

How did you know Walter Bowart?


When I went to Japan to revise my book, “Japan on $5 a Day,” I had been dating Sherry Needham. When I returned, he was dating her.


Did you fight?


Of course not. I was just worried that she wouldn’t fulfill her promise to bare a breast in the fourth picture of a story I wanted to tell in one of those-25 cent photo machines.


And did she?


Yes, Walter came along and we had a high old time, assisted, as I remember, by the benevolent herb. Walter told me he was starting a new paper and I agreed to write for it. My first column was about how forgery had been a constant presence on the art scene for centuries. I called it “Art & Other Scenes” but Walter eliminated the “Art &.” The appearance of the column in EVO infuriated Ed Fancher [Village Voice founder and publisher] who insisted I choose between the two papers. Read more…

Dan Rattiner on the Founding of The East Village Other

T1616454_06Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images From left: Dan Rattiner, Walter Bowart, and brothers Allen and Don Katzman. Jan. 14, 1966.

Little is it known that Dan Rattiner, doyen of Dan’s Papers, helped launch the East Village Other alongside its more celebrated founders, the late Walter Bowart and the late Allen Katzman. In 1964, having abandoned graduate school in architecture at Harvard, Mr. Rattiner, in between gigs producing a summer newspaper in Montauk, rented an apartment in a brownstone on West 10th Street in Greenwich Village. A year later, in the fall of 1965, something amazed him on the newsstand at Eighth Street and Sixth Avenue. He picks up the story from there.

It cost 15 cents and was an enormous piece of newsprint all folded up into tabloid size. The four pages, when unfolded looked more like a work of modern art than a newspaper. A new way to print a newspaper was on the market. It involved using scissors and rubber cement to put together a proof of a page, then making a plate from a photograph of it and then printing from that. But I had never seen anyone make use of the new process like this before; most people just used it to mimic the old.

As for the content, it was also revolutionary. The lead headline read: “TO COMMEMORATE THE GLORIOUS NEWSPAPER STRIKE THE HERETOFORE UNDERGROUND ‘OTHER’ EXPANDS ITS PATAREALISM.” In huge black type, the words coiled along the perimeter of the page and ended with a half-tone photograph of a half-closed eye. “Peace Rally Breeds Strange Bedfellows,” was the headline below. “Generation of Draft Dodgers” read another headline below that.

I bought it. And I looked for, and found the name, address and phone number of the publisher and editor, Walter Bowart. 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…