Left: Priscilla Mead, Taylor's neice talking about her uncle at the Taylor Mead Memorial at the Bowery Poetry Project, Right: Bob Holman at the Bowery Project Memorial reading a poem from a Taylor Mead collection
(Photos: Clayton Patterson)
On Monday evening on May 13th the Bowery Poetry Center held a memorial event for Taylor Mead. Bob Holman conducted the event with Taylor's niece, Priscilla Mead, who flew in from Denver where Taylor had passed away on May 8; and she presided over the program and offered up stories about her Uncle many of which had never been heard before. Richard West from Theater for the New City read a full Taylor bio. I spoke about first meeting Taylor at the Gaslight in l958 when I was just a prep school Jersey kid. At that Gaslight poetry event with Taylor were Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Ted Jones, Jack Michelline, and Gregory Corso. Others as this Bowery Poets gathering included Ultra Violet, Agosto Machado, playwright Larry Meyers, Jay Riesberg, Catherine Johnson, author of "Thank You Andy Warhol", artist Blake Boyd, and Mari-Claire Charba who played opposite Taylor in "The General Returns From One Place to Another" by poet Frank O'Hara in l963. Taylor won an OBIE Award for his performance that year and Mari-Claire and he were also paired in LeRoi Jones "The Toilet".
Taylor Mead nursing a drink of Dewar's Scotch
(Photo: Clayton Patterson)
Tapes of Taylor talking and reading from his own work brought both laughter and tears from the audience. It seems Taylor has been reciting his poetry at the Bowery for eleven years. Sometimes while performing he would listen to his boom box and drink Dewar's Scotch, his favorite libation. The legendary Clayton Patterson showed up and told us about the harassment and suffering Taylor endured on Ludlow Street for so many months. Finally the landlord settled $l00,000 on him and he moved out. This allowed Taylor to move to his nieces in Denver where he lived out is last days following a stroke and a fall. A week before I talked with him on the phone there and he was planning to visit Blake Boyd in New Orleans. He said the two would then drive up to New York where Taylor would be looking at a small loft he might move into. His niece Priscilla says she plans to use some of the landlord settlement money to publish Taylor's "Son of Andy Warhol" book. She also is working on another memorial at St. Marks Church which Taylor helped plan. It will take place in the Fall. There will be poems read as well as his favorite music. We might hear a recording of Ruth Etting singing one of his favorite songs "Love Me Or Leave Me". At the Bowery on Monday a group of rappers sang the praises of Taylor in musical rhymes. One strange lady in the crowd approached me stating "Taylor was like a leaf fairy, a sprite, or an elf." Like those unworldly creatures from the Brothers Grimm he spun a magic web around whoever he encountered. To be sure he enchanted us all and for a long time. The subject was brought up of a commercial movie called "Buster's Bedroom" made in Europe starring Taylor as Buster Keaton and Donald Sutherland as a mad scientist. Not released here Bob Holman promised to get hold of it and show it at the Bowery.
New York, May 2013