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 City Lore                                                                January 26, 2010  


New Face for HaitiRIP Bingo GazingoRed Baraat
Harvey Wang’s New YorkStreet Performer Innocence
Steve Zeitlin honored for Black History MonthFive Borough Day

Dear Citylorists,

Please enjoy our Tours and Tales January e-letter!

Marjorie Eliot
Photo by Matthew McDermott/Polaris

New Face for Haiti • The tragedy in Haiti hit close to home for us at City Lore. Our accounts manager, ethnomusicologist Lois Wilcken manages La Troupe Makandal, a Haitian drum and dance troupe, and shares an apartment with master drummer Frisner Augustin, a City Lore People’s Hall of Fame honoree. For four days, she could get no news from Frisner’s family in Haiti, and we worried with her. When she finally got through on the phone and heard the voice of her friend Diabolo telling her that they all survived, she said that it sounded just like music. Lois feels that Kiki, the child in the photo to the left might represent the new face of Haiti.

With her first-hand knowledge of Haiti, Lois’ first choice to offer your support is Partners in Health. She writes, "From the organization’s earliest days the vision of its founder, Paul Farmer, regarding the dignity and humanity of the Haitian people, was one that I shared. Dr. Farmer’s vision inspired him to develop a life-saving strategy for treating AIDS in a developing nation. Today Partners in Health is well positioned to make a difference not only in disaster relief but also in rebuilding Haiti. Please join me in supporting Partners in Health."

On Sunday, January 31, at 5:00 pm at The Living Room at 154 Ludlow St., NYC, the Association for Cultural Equity will sponsor a benefit for the Hospital Albert Schweitzer Haiti, the closest full-service hospital to Port au Prince, which currently has over 500 patients (suggested admission $20). The hospital is already overwhelmed and will need direct support to deal with the supplies and personnel needed for the coming weeks and months. There will be live music from the Haitian bands DJARARA and La Troupe Makandal as well as music from the recently released recordings of Alan Lomax in Haiti. A portion of the proceeds will also go to the musicians playing that night who have family in Haiti. Many of the musicians’ families and friends have lost everything or are still missing, and these musicians are in need of funds to directly support the survivors.

Marjorie Eliot

Photo by Debbie D.

Street Poet Bingo Gazingo Inducted in the City Lore’s Great Characters Hall of Fame • For the past seven years, the wild and crazy street poet Bingo Gazingo performed each week at the Bowery Poetry Club. On New Year’s day, at the age of 85, he was hit by a cab on his way to the Club, never regained consciousness, and later died. Poet Bob Holman, his friend and owner of the Bowery Poetry Club, wrote, "I’ve known Bingo for 15 years or so — here is an artist who lived his work till his last breath. Whether he had no one but us... in the house, or if he was playing an arena concert with the Bogmen, he was never less than full tilt 1,000%, a consummate artist who lived his work. Being old, I think a lot about Bingo, and what it means to be performing into your 80s, to die getting hit by a cab on your way to work at the Bowery Poetry Club. Poverty and illness were nothing to Bingo, art was everything. I love him." Bingo’s poetry, his entry on Wikipedia suggests, "often contain hilarious rhyme schemes and crude language, with titles like "Up Your Jurassic Park" and "I Love You So Fucking Much I Can’t Shit". This month, Bingo has been inducted into City Lore’s Great Characters Hall of Fame on the City of Memory site. Listen in to one of his classic poems.

Marjorie Eliot
Photo by Amy Touchette

Red Baraat CD Release Party • I hope that all of you who learned to dance bhangra at our People’s Hall of Fame bangin’ bhangra dance party last November still have your skills intact. Red Baraat, the amazing band who played that night, is hosting its CD release party, on Saturday night, January 30, 7-10 pm at (Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St. in Manhattan. Please call 212.505.3474 to purchase tickets. Here’s what Christopher Weingarten has to say about them in the Voice: "Brooklyn nine-piece party-starters Red Baraat are thus far the most exciting local prospect of this short year, a fiery blend of raucous Indian bhangra and funky New Orleans brass. Yeah that’s right—New York doesn’t even have a fusion restaurant that mixes those two. The result, needless to say, is completely riotous, a blustery groove machine with the comforting hoot of a tuba, two backbeats fighting for attention, saxophones that spiral and wail, and the violent percussive scamper of a lead dholi Sunny Jain.

Third Avenue EL at 100th Street
Directed by Harvey Wang

Harvey Wang’s New York • When we first started City Lore way back in the ‘80s, we worked with Harvey Wang to release Harvey Wang’s New York, a collection of his wonderful images of New York City’s vanishing occupations. When I spoke to Harvey recently he said, "Were still a-doing what we’ve been doing." Sure enough, Harvey’s first feature film will open at the Quad on Feb 19. It is a sweet "buddy" story about two old-timers (played by Dominic Chianese, Uncle Junior, from The Sopranos) and Tony Award winner Dick Latessa, friends for life, who no longer feel at home in the modern city. The film also stars Kathleen Chalfant (wife of City Lore’s board chair, Henry Chalfant). Harvey’s press release describes the film this way: "The film is a love letter to New York and many of the people and places that are vanishing in front of our eyes with the gentrification of the city. Directed by New Yorker, Emmy award winning filmmaker and photographer Harvey Wang, the film echoes his previous book of photographic portraits of older New Yorkers whose ways of life were being threatened by the ever changing city. The film also features prominent New York locations including Eisenberg’s Coffee & Sandwich Shop, Odessa Cafe, Moulded Shoe Company, and the now-closed Lismore Hoisery and Blarney Stone."

Marjorie Eliot
Photo by Janet Levoff

Street Performers • Years ago, Susie Tanenbaum, author of Underground Harmonies and the director of the Street Performers Advocacy Project, and I discussed whether the MTA’s Music Under New York (MUNY) program, which auditions performers for prime spots on subway platforms and train stations, is a good or bad thing. I thought MUNY brought attention and recognition to the city’s street performers while she feared that it provided a rationale for the police to dismiss other performers who also have a legal right to perform in the subways. City Lore has written to the MTA and NYPD to request a meeting about the recent crackdown on performers, but the responses from the authorities suggest that Susie was right, that the police tend to dismiss the rights of performers who are not part of the formalized MUNY program, in which many performers, for various reasons, are not interested in participating. Increasingly, non-MUNY performers are "guilty until proven innocent," and we are working to change that. Stay tuned.

Marjorie Eliot
Photo by Martha Cooper

Steve Zeitlin Honored for Black History Month • When Marjorie Eliot, who runs jazz concerts in her Sugar Hill parlor each week, called to say that she wanted host a concert in my honor for Black History Month, I thought it was the silliest thing I’d ever heard. But it made sense to Marjorie who said something like "why shouldn’t Black history month be a moment for Blacks to honor Whites?" In any case, I will be happy to be honored by Marjorie along with her family and friends at 555 Edgecombe Avenue on Sunday, February 21 at the usual time — 4:00 pm. You’re all invited — it’s a great chance to see this wonderful NYC institution that’s been part of the fabric of NYC for more than a decade. In a piece created by Atsushi Funahashi for Japanese television you can also catch Marjorie on City of Memory.

Five Borough Day • At City Lore we take pride in our history of programming and documentation in all five boroughs — but rarely all in one day! This winter, our new Education Program Associate, Jenna Bonistalli, did just that. She left her home in Brooklyn early in the morning to meet a group of students at PS 11 in Woodside, Queens, and accompany them on a fieldtrip to the Chinese Scholar’s Garden in Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center, then she returned to work at City Lore’s offices on the Lower East Side. Later she joined our staff in the Bronx for our Place Matters Award ceremony, held at Hostos on the Grand Concourse. After that she returned to Brooklyn for an art opening featuring her art work, among others — and she sold a piece! All in a days work for our indefatigable education department.

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Enjoy the City!


City of Memory is sponsored by City Lore and Local Projects.  It was funded by The Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

City Lore is part of a cultural coalition called CATCH, to promote the City’s cultural heritage. Check out the web sites of our wonderful partners, the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, the Latino Children’s Theater, SEA, and the World Music Institute.

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