The Early Video Project


Interview with Rudi Stern, Parts One and Two

by Davidson Gigliotti

Recorded: December, 1999

So you were painting before you were doing light shows and at some point or another you got the idea that light shows were more interesting...

No, here's what happened. I was a serious painter from the age of 14 to 24. Serious means eight, ten hours a day. I studied with Hans Hoffman, I had a scholarship with him in Provincetown for two years - a wonderful teacher, a wonderful man, a human being, on a human level. I studied with Oskar Kokoshka in Salzburg, not a good human being - great painter, much greater painter than Hans Hoffman but not a good human being.

I studied painting with Byron Burford in Iowa City, and I studied printmaking with Louis Shanker, and I was a very serious painter. And the paintings were good. They were very strong. When I got back to New York from Europe, around 1959, I'd been in Europe, I'd been in Italy, almost four years. Living in a beautiful mountain top $26 per month studio. When I got back. First of all, I shouldn't have been away that long but, you can't pull back time. But, when I got back I had a studio building on the Bowery for $100 a month - two floors - and I started painting.

I was back a couple of months, three, four, months, and I took my dog for a long walk on the Bowery, a different Bowery than we have today, and walked to St. Mark's Place. It was a spring night, June maybe. I went up the steps of the Bridge Theater, which was the most exciting theater in New York City at that time.

Yeah, the Fugs used to work there.

Exactly. By the way I just invited Tuli to see my work. He just had his 70th birthday party. So I walked up the steps to the Bridge Theater, the place was dark because somebody was rehearsing inside. Walked in the back, sat in the back row with my wonderful dog, Zar. Big German Shepherd. Sat in the back and I saw the most brilliant thing I'd ever seen in my life. I was knocked over by it.

What was it?

They were projections of circles, handmade circles, from two slide projectors with somebodies fingers alternating between the lenses. You changed the slides with you palm, and you covered the lens and you created an animated rhythm. It was about ten minutes. My eyes popped. I'd never seen anything like it, I didn't understand anything, but visually it just knocked me out. the person was preparing for a dance collaboration with Beverly Schmidt, a very interesting choreographer/dancer. I want to tell you this, Davidson, the lights came on and there was a woman there about thirty, thirty-five years old. We took a long walk back down to my place and we spent the next five years together.

What year are we talking about? When did you first meet her?

Give me a second. June of '64. We spent the next five years together. I took acid with her that night for the first time in my life and we spent most of the night looking at a candle on the other side of a bombsight lens that I still have here on my desk. The room became like a Vermeer - not Vermeer - it became like an Escher. The one candle in the middle of the space - it was fantastic.

I began working with her the next day. She had been working with light and with projections. She had been working with light and with projections for at least two years before. She developed a - she was a pioneer. She felt that slide images were - because of their clarity and because of the fact that you can manipulate them and sequence them frame by frame - that it had the potential for something very unusual. And we began to work together. Our first project was the Trips Festival.

I rented the Polish National Home for $40 a night, on St. Mark's Place, and each night we had a breakdown with milk cartons. We'd put the projectors back, I think we had six projectors. Put them back in the milk cartons, stored them downstairs at the bar at the Dom. And because the Poles were having a wedding, or a stamp collectors thing, or a chess tournament, or something, we came back the next night at six o'clock to set up again. And friends came and did performance things and we did some shadow things, and somebody came to sing, and a rock group came. Wonderful vibe to it, very primitive technically. As primitive as you can imagine. Across the street Richard Alpert had a theater, he may have even called it Theater of Light - no, another name - on the fifth floor of the building diagonal from there. Allcroft, Richard Allcroft. It was incredible. He sat in a chair with certain glasses, there were only five people at a time, it was magnificent.

One guy in California was starting to do some interesting stuff, Tony Martin in San Francisco, starting to. So I just want to set this scene. Very interesting, totally chaotic, logistically off the wall, very interesting. About July she had taken LSD already before for the last year. She had already had a show in a group show called Psychedelic Art on 10th St. at the Arica Gallery with people like Isaac Abrams, and she had been taking LSD for about a year. And she wanted me to meet Timothy Leary, whom she had known. And who had seen her work. And we went up for a visit to Millbrook. We were given a room, a wonderful half-round room in this wonderful crazy house. Had you ever been there?

No, I never went to Millbrook, never got there.

Sixty rooms, an estate ten miles by ten miles of virgin forest, Dutchess County, owned by the Mellon-Hitchcock family. Tommy and Billy Hitchcock from Pittsburgh, who had been...Billy had been a student of Tim's at Harvard. And Billy, to the chagrin of his family, gave the use of the house and the estate to Timothy. They almost disowned him at that point, but they couldn't. He owned the stock himself. So in this house, we were given this room, and Jackie and I began to experiment with light. And then we moved the experiments to the bowling alley. A bowling alley across the way, completely unused, that had been the bowling alley of the estate. And we worked night after night, and hung some screens and did some shadow things and developed what we wanted to do - a theatrical performance of light.

People came up from New York. Well, people were coming continually - Beatles, Maynard Ferguson was living in the house, Charlie Mingus was living there, alternating his two families, different families coming each weekend, Marshall McLuhan, I'd meet him for breakfast. I'd come down and Marshall McLuhan would be sitting at the table. We'd have some eggs together. It was a hotbed of ideas and networking of the highest and most interesting level.

Did you have any conversations with Marshall McLuhan?

Yes, yes. But let me just draw the whole picture. Allow me to just draw the whole picture. And we did this several months, then people said, friends of Billy, social people from Park Avenue in New York - Charlie Rutherford, an attorney, David Balfour, something like that, who owned theaters in New York, said, "Listen, you guys, you should present this in New York. There would be a great deal of interest in this." So, there was a Life Magazine article, a color picture of Richard Allcroft, with his glasses and a psychedelic image on the wall - wonderful issue, I have it if you want to see it, from 19...whatever. Inside there was one picture of Jackie and me with a screen and our shadows as we are putting up a projection image.

And it was a hot situation. And we could not get a theater for a run, all we could get was a dark Tuesday night at one theater. And that theater was the Village East Theater. It was the last of the Yiddish theaters that was still functioning.

Yeah, it was on the west side of the street.

West side of the street, Second Avenue between 5th and 6th, the last of the Yiddish theaters. There had been ten of them. This was the last functioning theater. Ben Bonus and the Yiddish Follies was on the marquee. And then we put up Psychedelic Celebration Number One with Timothy Leary, Light Projections by Jackie Cassen and Rudi Stern, and something else. The crowds on Tuesday night stopped traffic on Second Avenue. The police came because there were more people than the place would hold. And there was a line...

What year are we talking now.

I may be wrong, but I think '65. I think winter of '65. I have stuff in my scrapbooks. So around '65. Super successful, I mean. Well, OK, the audience was completely stoned, drifting in were these gorgeous beautiful people from Santa Fe, and from wherever, and communes and, I mean just the people coming in... I'll never forget it. Just incredible looking people. And most of them were high. When they came in there was meditation music by Peter Walker. Peter Walker played guitar, and played Ragas, for about ten minutes. The house lights would dim, Timothy came out with these white Indian pants and Indian shirt, and his white sneakers. Very youthful looking, beautiful looking guy. He'd look like 35, he was really then about 45. Glow in his eyes, wearing some beads, he looked fantastic. He came out and he sat cross-legged on the front, on the apron. We may have put a projection on him, and then he spoke about "Tune in, turn on, drop out" and we were going to take trip in the bloodstream of Harry Haller and we were going to visit the Magic Theater of Steppenwolf. And the houselights dimmed and we did a program of about 45 minutes. In which Tim periodically would weave between three screens we had hung. We had wide gauge gauze - not gauze, um, scrim material, light wide scrim. The light passed through, the image stayed, the light passed through to the next and to the third - I was smiling when I saw Bill Viola's show at the Whitney - passed through but stayed enough so it became quite magical. Tim periodically would weave between the three screens and his shadow was played against the screens and Ralph Metzner was Harry Haller, which was perfect, and we had sequences like "All girls are yours" in which we had hundreds of photographic images of beautiful women and faces and mouths and eyes playing on the screen - hundreds of them.

And we had sequences like in the bloodstream, beautiful red paintings, and stuff, it was quite beautiful. Inner communication among the people working the projectors was funny. I was thinking of it the other night. Then the communications were on walkie-talkies so were so loud the whole house heard them. I'd say "Henry, move the projector over to the right, and keep your fingers away from the lens" and the whole house heard it.

It was quite beautiful. If the Chambers Brothers happened to be in town, they came and they stood on the balcony, one of balconies, and they sang "Time."

And if somebody else was in town they'd be spotlighted on another loggia balcony, you know a little loggia balcony. We ran there around 16 Tuesdays.

How long did the programs last.

An hour and a half, two hours, of which the light part was only, say, 45 minutes. The rest was Timothy, bless him wherever he is now, probably at his computer up there with e-mail - filled with schmalz. Timothy's idea of theater came from the Harvard Hasty Pudding Club. Big on presentation and reverberation of sound and theatrics of a different kind. But he pulled it off, because, you know, he could pull anything off.

So, there's some funny tangential stories I don't want to tell you right now, but it became so popular that people approached him to make a film, a full feature film. Another time I'll tell you the next part, but we then worked on a second program, called the The Reincarnation of Christ. The first one was called Death of the Mind. The second was called The Reincarnation of Christ, so the marquee for that one, Davidson, read The Reincarnation of Christ with Timothy Leary. So that was perfect. That one was weaker artistically than the first. But even more successful. It became a big deal. And we were in that maybe ten weeks, I don't remember.

What years are we looking at here?

It's, our scrapbooks in Jersey City, I don't have them here, I want to say '66. Maybe into '67, but I think '66. And more and more people approached - managers, agents, press agents, came out of the woodwork. Let's put it on in London, let's go here, let's do a thing with Donovan here, and maybe with Bob Dylan, let's combine this, all kinds of stuff. Most of it hot air, but interesting hot air. So.

So I went to California with Jackie to set up a psychedelic environment at the Monterey.... uh, outside LA, roller rink, the place where the American Fascist Party has its Not Monterey. I'll think of it in a little bit.

Big roller rink. We spend weeks setting up an environment. This was going to be environmental, not a theatrical thing - it was going to be environmental. Something you walk through. It never opened. The police came the night of the opening and sealed the parking lot and had cars just turn around, make a u-turn.


For the same reason that theaters wouldn't give us any other night but Tuesday night. Dangerous, potentially dangerous for turning on middle class kids. Very dangerous and has to be stopped. About that time Art Linkletter's daughter went out a window, and it became too dangerous. So the police came, they sealed it, they closed the building and they had cars just make a u-turn. And there were hundreds of cars, maybe a thousand cars from all over California. Never opened.

So Jackie and I were swamped with wonderful opportunities. Sarah Caldwell called from Boston and wanted us to work with Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Phillip Johnson called, wanted to sponsor an environment at the Architectural League. Glenn Tetley called, wanted us to work on Seven Deadly Sins in Vancouver. And so forth. Wonderful opportunities.

Which ones did you do?

All of them. Jackie's strength was not logistics. And I'm good at it, but I was too young and too swamped. I was in too much of a rush. I didn't stop long enough to make sure that this thing was right, or that thing was right, I just plowed ahead. I was caught in the flow. OK. So that's it.

Oh, the last thing is we then went back to... we had a studio in New York at 6th Avenue and 24th St., 727 6th Avenue. And on the second floor we had a Theater of Light, admission was $2.50. It could hold fifty people. When the lights came on there could be Senator Javitz, Marion Javitz, Bill Henson, and they'd come back week after week. It was on a rear screen which was in front of our kitchen in the loft, the loft was quite small. We lived on the third, the combined rent was about $400 for two floors. We lived in one and had the theater on the other.

It was a completely black room, hung with black cloth, the only light when the audience came in was a fish tank, a little aquarium with fish in the center, with two projectors projecting into the tank. Because the water wasn't clean, the projections were very visible. There was a lot of stuff in the tank so you could see the projections.

And the program was Theater of Light. I just found an early program. I just found it. And then it was a question of juggling that - which we really wanted to do - with all these other opportunities. It became a big bouillabaisse.

There was a lot of light show activity in New York going on at that time. Do you remember Pat Firpo?

Yes, of course, he lives in San Francisco now. The activity was at a certain point, Tony Martin did that thing at the Electric Circus with a guy Gary Brant,

There was a disco called the Cheetah, way up town

I did that, that was for Olivier Cochlin who I met in Haiti then after. Big shot, very good friend of the Duvaliers.

Christian Sidenius, in Stoney Point, Connecticut, had a thing called Theater of Light in his back yard. House he built, charming little theater, seated 20 people and he and his lovely young assistants did shadow dances. He was not an artist, an engineer, who had an incredible set up of lights and gears and motors and stuff, and a great admirer of Thomas Wilfred, as am I.

So was I!

I'm his fan. I will dedicate the next project that I do to Thomas Wilfred. His son I am still in touch with, Thomas Wilfred, Jr. Nyack, New York. I have his phone number. His Opus 187 used to be in Museum of Modern Art on the lowest level, it's been in storage now for 30 years. That's another subject. Interesting subject, but in storage.

Do you remember USCO?

Gerd Stern, USCO, beautiful work.

Do you remember a show that USCO did up at the Riverside Museum, what year was that?

Don't remember, '67, '68, something like that. I think that's the picture that's in the LIfe Magazine. Anyway, of course, no communication between groups because they were so paranoid, jealous, and that's a thing we are going to talk about with video when we get to it. But usual paranoia - why did he get that gig, why didn't we get it? Instead of sharing knowledge, equipment, ideas, and pooling together - "Could you help me on this show, I'll help you on the next thing"; instead of any of that it was like total paranoia city. So in terms of who was working: Patrick was doing very nice things, his show was called... he was on Bleecker Street, near Bowery, his show was called Pablo's Lights, with his wonderful lady Jasmine, storefront and he was doing wonderful things.

Patrick and I once tried to work together. We rented the place that had been Cerebrum.

Oh, yes, Nelson Becker and Bart Friedman.

Bart, I remember very well, didn't Bart work in video with you?

Yeah, he was one of the Videofreex. But he did Cerebrum with Nelson Becker?

No, no, no, the guy who did Cerebrum, whose idea it was, was that guy who lives in San Francisco....


Ruffin Cooper - wait a second, I want to write this down. And Bart Friedman? Are you in touch with him?

Oh, yeah, I'm in touch with all of them regularly.

Bart Friedman was then Videofreex, I didn't know his connection with Cerebrum. I never saw Cerebrum but the concept of it has been with me ever since. We'll talk about that. That's an interesting subject. And very timely for me right now.

So, Patrick, Tony Martin, wonderful guy doing interesting stuff with liquids in Garnerville, New York, an English guy, English guy. His wife is still around. He also was involved with the Cheetah. He also brought his liquid gizmo, a chamber, and he squirted inks into it.

I remember it well, who was that guy?

Lives in Garnerville. English guy. Let's see who else, wonderful guy in California, Jim Morrisette. wonderful stuff. Another woman in San Francisco does interesting things. In New York, Josh was maybe gearing up for the Fillmore East and Bill Graham.

Joshua Light Show!

Remind me, please make a circle around that. Let me tell you a funny thing about that another time. Because I went to him first when I was starting now, two years ago, two and a half years ago. He's in television land. He's a high-paid producer in television. Daytime television. But please make a circle around that because...

So that's about it.

So at a certain point now we are starting to creep in on video.

No, no. Video came...Jackie and I bought the first floor sample from Willoughby Peerless of the wonderful CV camera.

I remember seeing it at Willoughby's

The editing was scotch tape, you could tell an edit was coming 45 seconds before, and just before the edit there would be some salt and pepper.

Did you buy the portable or the studio deck?

No, portable. would, you believe this...

You had to have a studio deck to play back, because the portable didn't play back.

Oh, it played back, with a hand rewind.

Yeah you rewound it, but it never played back, it would never play, you could rewind it but you couldn't play. I had one of those, I remember it well.

Couldn't play...

No, in order to play it back you had to have - we're talking CV now - a studio deck.

You're right, you're right, you're right... but hand crank...

I remember the crank, yeah, a crank...

It had a compartment in the pack, for the crank.

Yeah, for the crank. Hilarious.

[off topic conversation]
Jackie said she was in touch with you.

How did she say that? What did she say? I sent her the very first invitation to tell her I'm doing Theater of Light again. Jackie, take a look at what I'm doing. Four months ago, five months ago. OK. Because I mention her in the thing I just sent you. My hat's off to her. She turned me on to it. [personal matters] John Reilly came into the picture, and Ira.

How did this happen?

Ira was, had known, John. John knew Ira Schneider. You know little slices of people are always the same? Like a Polaroid of somebody reveals things that then you'd learn more about twenty years later? John got comps at Theater of Light because he said he was a journalist. The admission was $2.50. We were clearing $42 a week or something, after baby food, diapers. And he was there as a journalist. Very vague about where it would appear, but to save on the $2.50. We never saw any articles.

[off topic personal conversation]

So its nice to think of all this stuff, it's interesting. I don't want to spoil the beginning of Global Village. Let's stop for today.


Part 2

Interview resumed 12/13/99

Where we were is, we were just about to start the Global Village Story, and your involvement with that. We went through the light show I think.

Where would you like to begin, what would be good for you?

Well, I guess where I'd like to begin is where you were in 1968 and 69.

All right. John Reilly had a small apartment on Spring Street.

Do you remember the number?

Spring Street between Thompson and 6th Avenue. And I stayed there for three months and we began to develop ideas for Global Village. I put together a model, I...

You were living there with him?

No, no, no, no, it was an empty apartment. He was living further on Spring Street with Laura Adasko. He was living between Mercer and Green.

Where did you meet him?

At, uh, Theater of Light when he wanted comps.

Right, right, right.

So I bought parts at Canal Street to put together a model of what a video environment would look like potentially. And what was important for me was a 360 degree experience involving three channels in which one could orchestrate the audio independently with the video, so that we had six elements on the palette. So that the initial program included The Doors - not The Doors, The Who - Richard Nixon, a couple making love in a forest near Woodstock, demonstrations, Weathermen, riots in Berlin and Paris, and so, and so, and so. And we orchestrated a kind of time capsule of that period of time in which music and visual information was played spontaneously or improvisationally in program that was one hour and ten minutes. The program was very interesting.

Anyway you made a model of this.

We made a model. Just to raise money. We raised...

Was it a maquette kind of thing?

Bought plastic boxes, little Almac boxes on Canal Street, put them together, and I made what looked like a miniature environment for video.

How did you first become aware of video?

I became aware of video because there was a camera for sale at Willoughby Peerless, I bought the floor sample. The CV, remember with the hand rewind. and I thought if was fantastic.

We raised the grand sum of $2,500.

Where did you get the money from?

We got it from a very well-known actor who was a friend of John's.

Who was that.

Tony Devito. He gave us $500, maybe Barney Rosset gave us something. Our thing for beginning it was $2500. The studio on Mercer and Broome, the rent was $250 a month. We could have bought the fucking building, Davidson, for $50,000 cash. Each floor is worth a million dollars now. It was an aquarium manufacturing company. They made supplies for tropical fish. $50,000 would have bought the building - I'd be on a boat doing light shows in the Caribbean right now. We just were thinking about that. But, interestingly enough, we were the pilot fish for the real estate people. We were the interesting people who pioneered the neighborhood and created the monetary value by our activities. Anyway, that's past.
So we raised the $2,500 dollars we cleaned up the lost. We had a number of very interesting invited showings.

You must have built the thing in order to have showings.

Well, we did as best we could, man, we borrowed from here, borrowed from there. Lui came to the first show. CT Lui. He was one of the first people to pay admission. I think the admission was $3.00. And he was standing in line, and he had just jumped a ship in Baltimore as an electrician, and, uh...

What year are we looking at now?

'68. At that time I was working on videos. I did a tape with the Black Panthers, I was in touch with Eldridge, who was in Algiers, and we did tapes for him in New York with a very mysterious Dutch courier, Lily Vandenhagen, who came through New York and picked up tapes and brought them to Algiers and Bayreuth and everything, it was very Burberry raincoat stuff, you know? And we did tapes with SDS and...

Who was your contact at SDS?

Mark Rudd.

Oh, my God!

Mark Rudd at Columbia, he was a student at Columbia.

Sure, I remember him.

And, uh, say 80% of activity was political stuff, we did things with Abbie, with Jerry Rubin, and so forth and so on.

Any of those tapes still extent?

Man, in terms of my thing it's a ridiculous story, but I don't even want to tell it to you now. OK? It's absurd. So we started a workshop. The Rockefeller Foundation gave us a grant, Howard Klein at the Rockefeller Foundation gave us a grant.

When was that? That was much later.



We then got a grant from the National Endowment from the Arts, we got a grant from Rockefeller Brothers Fund. We had by the second year funding of about $150-$200,000 dollars.

What type of an organization were you? Did you have a 501(c)3?

Yes, yes, yes.

You did have a 501(c)3.


So you were a fully non-profit organization. How did the organization of Global Village come about? Who decided on the name?

I did, it was my... I picked it. Of course it comes from McLuhan. But I picked the name, I thought it would be a good name for us.

And what was your - did you have any arrangement or agreement with John, I mean when you started out with this?

Well, with John it was one of those marriages where everything had to be negotiated. Nothing was easy. I was doing my best to reach out and make contact with people. Very often John turned them off as quickly as I turned them on. I would make one step forward, I would find we were two steps back, because he didn't have time to talk with them. He was too busy, too pressured, or there wasn't enough money or something. We were coming from different places, man.

Right. What was your particular vision of what Global Village should be?

A resource for the development of video ideas that would be art oriented as well as political as well as social as well as environmental, let's say, and that it would encompass all those things with fresh networking everywhere.


Had I known better at the time and had I had a different partner the relationship with Videofreex, Raindance, People's Video Theater, would have been very, very different. sincerely regret the stupidity of the paranoia, the backbiting, the painful stupid stuff that went on for any part of it that was mine. I can't apologize for John, that's his thing to deal with, but for any part of that ridiculous travesty of paranoia I regret 100%. I've never done anything like that since.

I can tell you that in this light projection thing I'm doing now I'm inviting anybody working in the field, sharing with them anything I know, and wanting them to partake of this fully. Do understand that?

I understand what you're saying, and I appreciate it, although you know, I mean those days, man, it was like...

No, no. We were dealing with a social force, a powerful social medium. It was absurd - and you guys were guilty of it, too - that we didn't on a regular basis meet with each other, share ideas, share equipment, share editing, share stuff - we were poor like churchmice, all of us. That we didn't help each other with the New York State Council on the Arts, that we didn't fully embrace each other, and help each other. I regret that totally.

I agree too, but you know, I think at the beginning, a lot of that did take place.

Well, with you guys, maybe with you and Raindance. I think Global Village...listen man, if I could replay that, we'd have one place where the pool of equipment is, whoever needed it took it, we logged it out. We helped each being crews for each other, and doing it right. I regret it.

Yeah, that would have been different, indeed.

I can only regret my part.

At some point, I think it was in 1969 - what were your inclusive dates at Global Village?

I was there, let's say '68 and I left it in '72 to start Let There Be Neon. And I left it, Davidson, I left it because I found that John's orientation to the entire thing was not where I wanted it to be.

Of course a lot people were involved with Global Village in '68 and 69...

Ira Schneider, we started it with him. We took the lease with him.

Tell me about that.

Ira's a difficult guy. I think he's a very talented guy. I would handle it very different today.

Yeah, but what was it like then?

Terrible to work with him. His equipment, his thing, his name, he's not a team player. Very difficult. And a very talented guy.

And what did he bring to the organization?

He brought his equipment that he had, couple decks, couple cameras, I think, couple of monitors, but not conceptually, well, he and Frank Gillette had been talking for some time about establishing something.


It had never happened.

They did Wipe Cycle.

They did Wipe Cycle, a very interesting piece, but he's not a team guy. He's hard on himself. He's hard on himself. He's restricted by himself.

So are we all.

So are we all to some extent. Listen, my friend, I have to leave. Tomorrow morning let's try...

May I ask you one more question, do you remember Andy Mann?

Wonderful person. Andy was with us for a couple of years, he did editing, did shooting, wonderful person. Full of life and enthusiasm, good things.

He'd just gotten out of the Navy at that point. You know he has pancreatic cancer now.

Oh, no, no.

Although he's really fighting it. I mean, I must say...

That's a bad one, man. Where is he, in New York?

No, He lives in Houston.

I'm sorry to hear.

But you know, what's amazing, he's very lively, my wife went down to see him.

Give him my best, OK.

Davidson, forgive me I've got to run. Tomorrow at 11 o'clock, OK?

At 11 o'clock

And thank you for your patience.

Oh, that's OK, listen, Thank you.


OK, this is Rudi Stern, Monday, December 13, 1999.

The 13th?

OK, your on the record, kid. What we were talking about the last time, we were talking about the origins, the birth as it were of Global Village, and how that came about and the initiation of your relationship with John Reilly. And we were beginning to discuss some of the other people who were involved with Global Village also.

OK, I'm going to put it on speaker for a bit, then I can do stuff with my hands, OK.

OK, if that's good for you.

Can you hear me OK?

Not terribly well, but...

Can you hear me now, OK?


OK. If not I'll go back to the other one, Davidson.

Yeah, I know...

Well, Edin Velez was involved, very talented artist.

Edin Velez! When did he come in?

He got married. John gave a party for him for his marriage to Ethel, and he spent his honeymoon night in the large monitor that we built for the Rose Museum show. So his connection with video is a very strong one.

Oh, yeah. I know Edin.

We had a big monitor, wood with a glass front, and that's where he spent his wedding night.

Well, let me ask you this, how did you - we are talking now, 1970 now - I'm sort of interested in going back around 1968-69, that period. How did Edin become involved with you?

He wrote a letter from Puerto Rico, and I called him when I got it. And I said, "Yeah, we'd love to work with you, come up." Came up. Worked with us, primarily with John, I think. Very talented guy. Did whatever he could. He was given a lot of stuff to do, he did it very well, and he was beginning to think about his art work.


What other people? Andy Mann, of course. Susan Shapiro. A student from a workshop who then stayed to work with me. Daughter of somebody who used to work in broadcast television. Eleanor Bingham.

Eleanor Bingham.

Eleanor Bingham, do you remember her? Eleanor Bingham comes from the Bingham family in Kentucky.

Yes, she does, and I remember her well, as a matter of fact.

She did a lot of good things.

What was her involvement?

All of this was free-flowing help. New ideas, try things, all of it was a boullibaise of energy and good potent stuff. Sal... I can't remember his last name. Joe Chiara, another guy. One of the first workshop people was the guy whose developed high-definition, Barry Rebo. He's had big entrepreneurial things with high definition, and so forth. There are others I could fish out.

Yeah, I'm interested. Because one of the things that I'm interested in know, one of the things about Global Village was that it always was, or seemed to be a teaching facility.

It was. It was a hands on teaching facility.

Was it that way from the beginning?

Yeah, it was a very strong part of what we did.

It was part of your mission, so to speak.

The other groups were a little more closed in that regard, I think.

Yeah, they were. There was a much more free-flowing thing through Global Village.

Strong point.

Who were some of the other people who flowed through there?

I'll have to dig out scrap books, next time you're in New York.

You have scrapbooks?

I've got lots of scrapbooks.

Wow, that's interesting, Yeah, I would like to know. OK, so nevertheless, the two people who more or less were at the top at Global Village were you and John Reilly. How did you break down your responsibilities there?

Well, for peace and harmony I realized very quickly he'd have to do his own programs and I'd have to do mine. Different styles, different ways of working with people, different look for the editing, different human engineering, human relations, interest in subjects, and so and so. So, easily, we divided that some things would interest him, or some things he had worked on like The Irish Tapes and some things had always been of interest to me and so, that was one division. The running of the place was not that easy. I don't want to say... my policy and my philosphy and my feeling is not to say negative things about people, so I've got to skirt it delicately. But we are different people. John and I are very different people, and I'm for open doors and open windows and networking a lot, and John had another approach. So I don't want to say more than that.

But still, with the two of you up there, there was a considerable flow through.

There was a lot of flow, and yes, it came in for both of us, and I wish I had the discipline and the organizing talents that I've developed since.

Yes, if only we could be there then with the brains we have now, what a wonderful experience life would be.

Yes, that, by the way, that's one of the wonderful things that I'm experiencing now with my light performance work. Because, you know, like yesterday, we fine tuned three pieces and just added one more image, slowed down something, brought one to an end - it's a luxury to have the perspective, experience, knowledge, discipline focus, to be able to do that now. I don't take it for granted is what I'm saying.

When you first took over that space there, cleaned it out, got it ready, you must have obviously sat down and talked to each other, what was your idea for that particular space and for that particular organization. When you started, what did you think you were going to do?

That's because of Ira and John, who had been together previously for a bit. He had been planning a Woodstock event. Ira had shot a lot of footage at Woodstock, and they had planned and done an event at a studio on Grand Street, Grand and Wooster,
Baggie's Studio.

Baggie's! Baggie's Studio. Baggie had a rehearsal studio there, Tom Baggie, and he used to do a lot of rock and roll stuff up there.

That's where it was. So they did a Woodstock program, a multiple-channel Woodstock program.

How many people came?

I wasn't there. I never saw it there. They may have done it once or twice, or they were planning to do it, I'm not sure they actually did it, I'm not sure. I'd have to go through the scrapbooks, not sure. But that became a nucleus for what we did at Broome and Mercer, or starting point, let's say. So to answer your question, a theater was very much on our minds at that point, a video theater, and tangentially, or however, a teaching facility, a base for political work, which was pretty important at that moment, and a networking place, a place where potentially good and creative contacts could be made.

And then when you moved into the space, of course, and got that thing going...

Well, we borrowed everything we could, monitors from everybody, and made a wall of monitors, and I did a little light projection introduction to it which I didn't like, didn't work. It was a good idea to have it, it was a soft beginning to the program, but it didn't work. I mean, I look back at it now... Jud Yalkut came by a lot, Jud Yalkut showed some films on the rear screen, and other people came by.

Where either of you guys working at that time in any other job or anything?

No, full time.

Where had John come from?

NYU, Doctorate program in communications. I don't know if he ever finished it. Dissertation on communications. Jersey City. I think of him everyday when I go out there. His mother was living there and his father, whom I'd met. Jersey City, pretty hard background material-wise.

Really? Tell me.

Well, just hard. His father was watchmaker, really nice people, both have passed on. Watchmaker, they had a little cabin on the lake in the middle of Jersey. Good family, you know, very supportive of each other and very encouraging to John.

You say your studio is out there now?

Yeah, wonderful studio. Next time you come I want to show it to you. 5500 sq. ft., Davidson. 20 ft. ceilings.

My God, Jersey City. What's the neighborhood like?

People look at each other, listen to each other, they smile more. My landlord, before a presentation brought me two bottles of wine and three Cuban cigars to wish me well.

That's great! You mean there are cheap places in Jersey City?

No more cheap. I just caught the last of it. Not cheap, but a whole different nice vibe when you cross the river.

Cheaper than New York, though.

Oh, man. A quarter, a tenth.

That's interesting.

No more, it's passing, everything around New York is being built up and gobbled up. The monoply game continues beyond the river is what I'm trying to say.

Right, I think I got you. OK, so we're still back around '68,'69. Somebody's building these pieces. Like the piece that was at the Rose Art for example, at Vision and Television, somebody had to build that, think of that piece. Was that the first of the pieces that you did or were there other pieces?

A piece meaning sculptural...?

Yeah, that kind of physical thing.

It may have been one of the first that was actually built. I think it was pretty much my idea to have a big monitor and to have a live person inside doing switching and doing maneuvering, so it was a performance thing. As I recall, I think it was pretty much my thought. And that was a really good show. You remember that show.

Yeah, I was there.

And you remember the wonderful performance that Aldo Tambellini did?

Oh, I remember Aldo Tambellini and I remember other performances. Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman did a piece there , I think.

Aldo's in Cambridge.

Are you in touch with him?

I was in touch with him because he helped me to reach Jackie.

Yeah, I really would like to have Aldo Tambellini's number.

[conversation-off topic]

His black and white performances both there and on the theater on Second Avenue.

The Gate.

The Gate, precisely, brilliant. Absolutely first rate. I'm doing a black and white piece as part of this program, the inspiration is Aldo. Everytime I see it I think of Aldo.

Yeah, well he was the first guy I met who wore black all the time, you know, and I visited him up in his place up there, he and Elsa. Elsa, remember Elsa Tambellini? He and Elsa lived over the theater, kind of, they had a space up there. They had a space over the theater, upstairs.

In that building?

In that building.

I recall that they had a loft on West Broadway, somewhere.

But that must have been at another time,when I knew them they were over there. They were living over the theater.

Very gifted guy.

Yeah, he was. Funny guy, too, considering. I think he was born in Syracuse, but I think he spent most of his young life in Italy during the Mussolini era. It was during the war - you know, I mean that must have been an experience. And then he got involved with the Columbo family, he was their videotaper. He was videotaper to the mob for a while. And he was taping the Columbos. Then we was working on something and he got something in his eye and he went blind for a period of time, it was terrible, just terrible.

I don't remember that.

Oh, yeah, it was something else.

Anyway he was doing mostly poetry, but let him explain it to you.

So anyway, we are back there around 1969, 1970. Ira is there, I guess Ira pulled out in the December of 1969.

Yeah, very bad. Bad thing.

It was a middle of the night kind of thing as I recall.

Ahh, he pulled his equipment out in the middle of the night, said, he wrote us a note. I have the note in my scrapbook. List of equipment and his note, in the scrapbook. and he was very angry about the collaboration. We'd barely started, I don't know quite what the anger was about. But he felt he wasn't getting his proper artistic share. But it was so early, man...

What was the collaboration on.

Probably connected with the Woodstock thing. He was upset about something.

He had just done a thing with Frank Gillette at TV as a Creative Medium.

Anyway he was very unhappy. I would...looking back I'd say that 50% of it was because of John and me and the other 50% was just his general malaise. But he was unhappy, he came in in the middle of the night and took out all his stuff, wrote a very angry note - no, sorry, the note said, "I took back the equipment for safekeeping - to keep it safe." Then we pretty much never saw him again.

I think he went over to Raindance.

He was very angry with us.

Tell me about the tapes you were making at that time. We're talking now '68, '69, we're talking that period before Vision and Televison, before the show at the Rose Art, in that foggy gray area there. Tell me about the work you were doing then.

Political primarily, I would say, I was doing some things for Eldridge Cleaver, who was probably in Algiers. I was doing some things for Timothy Leary, we did a lot of taping with Columbia SDS, Puerto Rican Young Lords. Gay Activist Alliance, I helped them set up their video at the Firehouse in SoHo.

What year was that?

I don't remember. It's in the books here, but I don't remember.

When you say in the books, do you mean like in....

Scrapbooks that I have.

I'm going to obviously take a look through those scrapbooks.

You're welcome to. You are welcome to copy them or whatever you want.

Oh, that's great, really. Where do you live?

I live at Church and White, 35 White Street.

You have a loft there?

I've had a loft here, a wonderful loft for 16 years. I'm going to be moving for two years to Jersey City, and commuting between there and Europe.

What are you going to be doing with your loft?

I'm going to sublet it for two years.

How much?

Uh, $4,100.


No big deal. I'd rather talk to you another time about it, but it's no big deal. I mean its no profit situation. Can't do both right now. And I can't project here, it's too small. The program I'm showing at the theater I developed here, and you'll be amazed if you see the size of this loft.

So you continued on making videotapes with Timothy Leary, how did that go.

Fine, interesting stuff.


Does the name Cy Griffin mean anything to you.

Sure, we did some things with him too.

Can you talk about your relationship with Leary?

That's a long one, Davidson. I worked with him, lived with him for a couple of years, I've been in touch with him since. He just passed away last year. I'm in touch with Rosemarie his widow, a lot of people around him. It's a long story. A very important one for me, but I'd rather compress it into a couple of minutes.


I'm sorry he can't see this program I'm doing right now.

Well he certainly had quite an impact on all of us.

It's a long story, and one I'd love to share with you and talk to you about, but I just would like the luxury of more time.

Sure, so you went through that whole thing with the Center for Decentralized Television. I know that was an enormous fiasco at that time.

When was that?

Remember when Paul Ryan and Michael Shamberg...

I had no connection with them.

No, but remember that there was a big thing at the New York State Council on the Arts...

Oh, yes, of course, I thought you mean't a place. No, very bad thing.

Can you talk a little about that?

I would refer that question to John Reilly. Because I would have done it very differently. I wanted to do the whole thing differently.

How did you perceive it at the time?

I perceived it as an opportunity for us all to work together. Terrible, terrible situation developed, and I knew it would be bad and I knew it would have lasting damaging effect for us and for everybody and I regret the whole thing, but the question should be directed to John.

OK, well I'll certainly ask him. I did find him, by the way.

And you spoke to him?

Yeah, not for long. I'm going to talk with him at length later on.

He's out in the island?

Yeah, he's in Hampton Bays, you were right.

And he's teaching at Southhampton College?

Yeah he is, actually, yeah. That's what he does. He has a little apartment in the city, he has also his house, that building he bought, but he rents it out now.

[more off topic conversation]

End of Parts One and Two

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