Known as LeRoi Jones when he collaborated with Diane di Prima on the mimeo poetry zine The Floating Bear; this poet, playwright, and writer later relocated to Harlem and disassociated himself from the downtown scenes and became a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement.
“I worked part-time at the Eighth Street Bookshop,” Andrei Codrescu said, “the greatest literary bookstore of all time.” The downstairs room housed the traditional books with spines; poetry mimeos could be found in the store’s second-floor room, which was dedicated to books from smaller publishers, such as Something Else Press. “The Eighth Street Bookshop was pivotal to a young poet in those days,” Ed Sanders recalled. “It was there I monitored little magazines such as Yugen and Kulchur and where I first purchased Allen Ginsberg’s epochal Kaddish and Other Poems.” Eighth Street bustled on the east and west sides of the Village, but the stretch between Fifth and Second Avenues seemed cursed. Odd-ball businesses—such as a French art store that employed both a classical painter and a modern painter, wearing berets—would open and then disappear, though the area came alive around the Eighth Street Bookshop. Another jewel in the downtown’s literary crown was the Paperbook Gallery, on Sixth Avenue around the corner from the Eighth Street Bookshop. Cabaret performer and Off-Off-Broadway music composer Paul Serrato managed the Paperbook, which stayed open until midnight—a practice that encouraged people to socialize. “The area was like the Times Square of the Village,” he said, “In those days, everybody hung out there, and Paperbook Gallery was the epicenter of all the independent publishing.” Frank O’Hara, Ted Joans, Diane di Prima, LeRoi Jones, and others came in to drop off their mimeographed publications, which were displayed on a series of shelves that looked like mail slots.
From Chapter 5 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
In 1967, Ed Sanders began collaborating with Shirley Clarke and fellow filmmaker Barbara Rubin on a satirical anti-Vietnam project, Fugs Go to Saigon. (Sanders also suggested several alternative titles: Eagle Shit, Aluminum Sphinx, Oxen of the Sun, America Bongo, Vampire Ass, Gobble Gobble, Moon Brain, and It’s Eating Me!) After Rubin took Sanders to see the Velvet Underground at Café Bizarre in late 1965, they began discussing ideas for the film, which was to star the Fugs alongside William Burroughs, LeRoi Jones, Allen Ginsberg, and a host of other downtown denizens. Clarke attempted to fundraise from summer to fall of 1967, but she still wasn’t being taken seriously as a filmmaker, despite her previous successes with The Connection and The Cool World. Clarke’s inability to get funding for Fugs Go to Saigon may have also had to do with the outrageous “plot” ideas supplied by Sanders: “William Burroughs dressed as Carrie Nation attacks opium den with axe,” he wrote. “LeRoi Jones as homosexual cia agent. naked viet cong orgasm donuts suck off gi’s with poisoned teeth. . . . horny priests disguised as penguins fight savagely for captured viet cong grope boy. . . . Shower of candy canes comes from sky over us headquarters in Saigon.”
From Chapter 10 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore