A young struggling writer walks into the White Horse Tavern, orders a beer, and takes a seat. He notices a familiar face sitting nearby and engages him in friendly conversation. By the end of the chat, James Baldwin has guided Dan Wakefield through a case of writer's block. The scene was New York in the '50s. Beat poetry was all the rage; Greenwich Village was the place to be. Frustration with complacency generated new art movements and booze-besotted literature, and jazz was the soundtrack to life. Artistic individuality was the soup du jour, and everyone was hungry. New York in the Fifties chronicles Wakefield's life among poets, artists, authors, and musicians, a life that was the antithesis of the uptight morality of the era. "New York City was where everything important was happening," remembers Wakefield, who moved to the Big Apple from Indianapolis in the early 1950s. "New Journalism was just beginning with the Village Voice, a newspaper where writers could, for the first time, write personally. Norman Mailer wrote a column where he discussed his sex life. That was never possible before. Women could come to New York to be writers, artists, singers, anything but housewives. The idea of people not having 9-to-5 jobs and just writing for a living -- that was thought of as far out."
Columnist Calvin Trillin once remarked that the Big Apple of this era was a place where people could be anonymous, and New York in the Fifties confirms that. On any given day, Dylan Thomas might be seen hanging out at the White Horse, and Thelonious Monk and Charlie Mingus could turn up jamming at the Five Spot. But over the clouds of cigarette smoke and the din of beatnik musings, Wakefield could see the times, they were a changin'. "Everyone could sense there was something different in the air," he remarks. "Allen Ginsburg wrote Howl, and it was banned in San Francisco. Nat Hentoff was writing about the burgeoning jazz scene. James Baldwin was one of the first African-American writers to become successful. After these monumental events, I knew I was living through something special. I wrote this book because I had too many great memories to keep to myself." You can live vicariously through Wakefield when he visits the Museum of Art (1 East Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale) to discuss New York in the Fifties and Betsy Blankenbaker's documentary of the same name. Lecture starts at 11 a.m. and costs $25 per person. Call 954-525-5500 ext. 239. -- Audra Schroeder
TUE 5/20 Bartending for Life
Battle leukemia through cirrhosis!
Would you like a sleazy politician to serve you a cold brewski? You would? Well, come out to Rooney's Public House (213 Clematis St., West Palm Beach) at 6 p.m. County Commissioner Karen Marcus and City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell tend bar for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. So down brew and help cure leukemia while you do it. And, uh, we were kidding about Karen and Kimberly's being sleazy. Call 561-601-9955. -- Beth Kirkpatrick
I Am So Write
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
If you want others to believe your point of view, check out "Persuasive Writing Made Simple." For $40 in advance, $45 at the door, Tom Sander, the Sun-Sentinel senior editorial writer known for his quality op-ed pieces and truly breathtaking film reviews, teaches folks how to present the perfect written argument. The class takes place at the Bienes Center (Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale) at 10 a.m. Saturday. Call 954-357-7401. -- Dan Sweeney
Bark at the Moon
It's time we talked about that great white orb in the sky. After all, the full moon is nearly upon us -- that time of the month werewolves refer to as "that time of the month." But silly superstitions aside, there's probably plenty you didn't know about Earth's closest celestial neighbor. Let the folks at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center (1801 N. Ocean Blvd., Boca Raton) tell you all about the facts and fantasies surrounding the moon. Following the 7 p.m. discussion on Friday, naturalists lead participants on a beach stroll to observe the full moon rising over the waters of the Atlantic. Admission is $2, and reservations are required, though silver bullets are not. Call 561-338-1473. -- Dan Sweeney