When I first spoke with Ed Sanders, Fugs co-founder and Lower East Side royalty, for Interview Magazine, he expanded my mind. His perspective on the neighborhood I had grown up in shaped my own point-of-view, adding a psychedelic, violent, richly artistic layer to the streets I remembered from my own youth.
It’s been four decades since Sanders’ wild music and poetry poured out into the streets of the Lower East Side from his bookstore, first located on East 10th Street, then on Avenue A. Ed’s memoir, Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side (Da Capo Press) was recently released. Original lithographs, wildly sexual and Egyptian inspired pages of his magazine, are now on display at Boo Hooray Gallery to further celebrate the legacy he left in the Lower East Side and in the larger arts community.
Boasting contributors such as Tuli Kupferberg, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, the poems, drawings and stories mounted colorfully on the walls of Boo Hooray are remnants of a different time, though the crowd who gathered at the opening to see Sanders speak was still as eclectic and spirited as ever.
I caught up with Sanders after his return to Woodstock, his current home, far from the rough streets where he started his revolutionary press to talk about the good old days. Here’s what he had to say:
On sex in the Lower East Side during the ‘60s:
There were couples who were married. There were those who were single or more experimental. There was the bar life, like now, I think it was just more unusual then. We were rebelling against the lingering effects of the 1950’s, what we called squares. It was a funny era. In the ‘60s, there was a rising tide of expectation. Generational, interracial, there was a freedom rise. There was a greater sense of change and being willing to change, not only the economy but of interpersonal relations.
On the people who showed up to his recent gallery opening:
It feels like the same crowd thirty years later, younger, older, straight gay, bisexual, all kinds of people. But a number of people that I hung out with and loved are now departed, gone under the earth. It is kind of a shock. The contributor list of my former publication is full of those that are no longer here. But the original inspiration for my magazine, Jonas Mekas was there still taking video and pictures.
On country life versus city living:
The air is a little cleaner up here. But I go to Boston a lot where my daughter lives, and New York and I get invited to speak at colleges all over, even in Europe. I’m a little cosmopolitan, except I live in the country by the woods and have a creek. My wife has a deer herd.
What has changed, if anything:
We’re still here on planet earth, shooting off our mouths, hoping for peace for everybody in the United States and in the world. Which were the same hopes I had in 1962, when I put out my magazine. You have to have fun in the midst of the worrying.
Ed Sanders – Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts 1962-1965 will be on display at Boo-Hooray Gallery through March 8th.
TLD columnist Royal Young, born and raised on the Lower East Side, is a New York City author. He contributes literary coverage to Interview Magazine and the new web site Holy Diver. Young recently completed “Fame Shark,” his memoir.