Last night at Bowery Poetry Club, friends of counterculture icon Ed Sanders marked his 75th birthday by lauding him variously as a journalist, an investigative poet, a utopian anarchist, the co-founder of The Fugs and publisher of Fuck You: a Magazine of the Arts, and the intellectual who opened the Peace Eye Bookstore off of Tompkins Square Park in the 1960s.
At times, the lineup of speakers reciting the highlights of Sanders’s C.V., which includes a degree in Greek classics from NYU, veered towards over-the-top hero worship as when a dark-haired older woman garbed in red paraphrased Beat eminence Allen Ginsberg and described the birthday boy as “one of the best minds of our generation who was not destroyed by madness.”
Among the 40 celebrants were downtown legends like Penny Arcade, who called Sanders “a huge influence on my entire body of work,” and Living Theatre matron Judith Malina, who drew applause with a verse she’d written in homage of Sanders: “Now as he enters the age of wisdom I offer him my 88-year-old hand that we may walk together toward the revelation that ends in revolution.” Spoken word artist John S. Hall of King Missile (and, of course, “Detachable Penis”) read an excerpt from Sanders’s book Tales of Beatnik Glory.
Also present, in the audience, was bearded Karl Rosenstein, 63, who traveled from Harlem for the party and kept his black beret on. “I’m not an anarchist” like Sanders, he told B+B as he sat at a small round cocktail table with a plastic cup of Coca-Cola he had purchased elsewhere. “I’m an orthodox Trotskyist and I believe in armed revolution. Why am I here? You ask such stupid questions! I’m here to honor Ed Sanders! I’ve been listening to the Fugs all my life.”
Later, Sanders and guitarist Steve Taylor took the stage to play a series of Fugs tunes. At one point Sanders poked fun at his poor memory (“I used to laugh at John Lennon when he said he couldn’t remember Beatles lyrics”) but he looked hale and hearty in summery duds. Asked by B+B if turning 75 brought intimations of mortality, he replied with customary brevity: “I’m just hoping to go out in a blaze of pamphlets.”
Here’s a recording of the whole evening, via Gander.tv.