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
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
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 headquarters...um.
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
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
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
So that's about it.
So at a certain point now we are starting to creep in on
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
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
Yeah, I'm interested. Because one of the things that I'm
interested in is...you 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,
Yeah, they were. There was a much more free-flowing thing
through Global Village.
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
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
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! Baggie's Studio. Baggie had a rehearsal studio
there, Tom Baggie, and he used to do a lot of rock and roll stuff
That's where it was. So they did a Woodstock program, a multiple-channel
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
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
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.
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
Yeah, I was there.
And you remember the wonderful performance that Aldo Tambellini
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.
His black and white performances both there and on the theater
on Second Avenue.
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,
I don't remember that.
Oh, yeah, it was something else.
Anyway he was doing mostly poetry, but let him explain it
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
He had just done a thing with Frank Gillette at TV as a
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
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.
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
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
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
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
And you spoke to him?
Yeah, not for long. I'm going to talk with him at length
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
Back to top of page.
To submit comments on this article contact: email@example.com
© Davidson Gigliotti, 2000CE