The Blacklisted Journalist
3rd Page: Which was your most memorable year?
Al: After 76 of them, I can't remember.
3rd Page: Where were you born and raised?
Al: Born in Bordentown, NJ and grew up in Roselle, NJ.
3rd Page: What did your father do for a living?
Al: I come from a family of butchers. I was born in Bordentown because my father was a partner with his brother in a slaughterhouse there.
3rd Page: What was your first pet and what was its name?
Al: A mongrel named Bobby, who was always tied up in the back yard. He bit me on the ass the first day we got him.
3rd Page: What year/model was the first car you ever owned?
Al: It was a black 1949 Chevy convertible that my sister helped me buy when I got out of college.
3rd Page: What was the first book that really made an impression on you?
Al: L. Frank Baum's THE WIZARD OF OZ. When I was a little kid my big sisters took me to the library where somebody read stories to kids like me. I remember Jonathan Swift's GULLIVER'S TRAVELS making an impression. Ever since then I wanted to become a writer. Later, I read Howard Fast's CITIZEN TOM PAINE, which made me want to be a patriot--- something that still inspires me. I was born just up the street from where he lived. Another of Fast's books that made a big impression on me was his biography of Clarence Darrow. There have been so many books----classics---since then. One of my all-time favorite writers was Isaac Bashevis Singer. Even today, I identify with GIMPEL THE FOOL. I understand Gimpel - I am Gimpel.
3rd Page: Where were you first published?
Al: The first piece was a story called PICKUP, published when I was a student at Rutgers and written when I was still in High School. A story about being out with some friend of mine who drove a Model T Ford. We were parked outside a roller rink and there were some hot looking girls around, one of whom said, "Go wipe your ass with a rusty nail."
3rd Page: When did you begin writing for The NY Post - and what led you to writing about entertainers?
Al: I was writing for the Newark Evening News, the NY Times of NJ. And every year, I would take a vacation week to go to Atlantic City to help my Rutgers classmate Joe Grossman cover the Miss America pageant - giving me an opportunity to write a front page story for the Newark News about the event.
The NY Post also sent a reporter to Atlantic City and thru him, I got a tryout. My first feature series was about actress Brigitte Bardot, I think, then the Beat Generation. I started writing feature series almost exclusively about entertainment figures.
3rd Page: Was this before or after she made "And God Created Women?"
3rd Page: You have written at length about your friendship with Bob Dylan and Bobby Darin. Did have a similar relationship with Sinatra?
Al: No. Sinatra saw me for all of 30 minutes to tell me he was "not going to talk" to me.
3rd Page: Have you read Dylan's recent memoir, Chronicles?
Al: I'd like to, but I can't afford to buy it.
3rd Page: Why did you become known as "the Godfather of rock journalism?"
Al: That's what some rock writers in England started calling me. I heard it from a writer named Barney Hoskyns who put it in a book and I thought it was a good title for me and started using it and then other writers in the U.S. started calling me that---including one rock writer, Gary (Pig) Gold who said I'm the man who invented the '60s. That's something I would never claim to be, but as the man who introduced Allen Ginsberg to Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan to the Beatles and the Beatles to marijuana, I do boast that the '60s wouldn't have been the same without me.
3rd Page: Who first turned you on?
Al: I wrote up that story once, but the computer lost it for me.
3rd Page: In other bio-style books about Bobby Darin there is always some mention of his penchant for orgies and kinky sex, yet in your book there is little mention of this. Were you just being sensitive to Darin's memory in your book Bobby Darin Was a Friend of Mine?
Al: I do mention Bobby's penchant for orgies. The original version of the first chapter, THE KID, is much more specific about his 'ac-dc' leanings. But I wrote the book in close collaboration with his ex-manager, Steve Blauner, (who is quoted as saying he did everything with Andrea (his second wife) that he couldn't do with Sandra Dee, who never really grew up. She went straight from teen queen to alcoholic. Blauner was also concerned with Bobby's touchy son, Dodd, who can't believe all his father's excesses. In fact, Joel Dorn wanted to use THE KID as part of his Bobby Darin music package, but Dodd vetoed it because Dodd had the power to veto it. That cost me quite a bit of change. I also was apprehensive about any possible libel suits from Andrea, because she was Bobby's orgy partner. I have nothing against orgies. My wife and I indulged in a few. But Darin's penchant for orgies are more than hinted at in my book.
Only the movie industry has the power to create this kind of Darin buzz. Because the movie industry is part of the robot empire that is taking over the world. You didn't know humankind invented robots a long time ago. And like in the movie, I. Robot, the robots have turned against humankind. Humankind's robots are called corporations, robots invented to accomplish what humans couldn't accomplish individually. The robots have succeeded in programing the minds of America to think like robots think, which is not to think at all, because robots can't think. Robots have no human concerns. Robots couldn't care if the world burnt itself to a crisp---except that robots would achieve what they were built to achieve in the run-up to a thermonuclear holocaust---an accumulation of wealth and power. The results of America's recent presidential elections show how far robots have come in taking over this country.
3rd Page: Will you continue publishing The Best of Blacklisted Journalist?
Al: Yes. Vol. Two will be called: BY AMIRI BIRAKA, who is also blacklisted here in the U.S. I consider Amiri, a friend of mine for nearly 50 years, to be one of America's greatest living poets. It might be a while before I can get around to putting out his book. I have so many of my own to put out and I have so little time left to live, with so few resources---I am depending on the books I've already put out to help finance all the rest.
Vol. Four is already in production - a humor book of risqué stories by six different authors - and three reminiscences by me. I just finished a first draft of MICK AND MILES, a story about the night I took Mick Jagger up to meet trumpeter Miles Davis. And in the future, if I last that long, I have AMERICA'S ANSWER TO BRIGITTE BARDOT: THE YOUNG JANE FONDA, TALES OF THE DEAD: MOON JASMINE (AT HOME WITH GERRY GARCIA), along with Books One and Two of THE BEAT PAPERS OF AL ARONOWITZ.
3rd Page: What do you think about Kerouac's original draft of On The Road traveling around the country - on tour so to speak?
Al:I consider ON THE ROAD sort of holy because it helped change my life as it did to so many others and as it continues to do so. Jack wanted his papers enshrined in a library, but they are now in the hands of highly non-literary people more interested in their monetary value than in their literary or cultural value.
3rd Page: If you could take just three albums or CDs while stranded on an island in the Pacific (with a built-in sound system) what would they be?
Al: I have too many favorites to single out any three. I write listening to too many different favorites to start enumerating them. I like all kinds of music. My favorites include classical European, all types of jazz and rock and roll and folk and you name it. I find myself least inspired by funk, heavy metal and rap, although I consider all of them valid art forms. Beautiful music invariably brings tears to my eyes. For example, when I saw the movie RAY, the music alone had my crying throughout the film. Not to mention the fact that I had spent a month following Ray Charles around for a Saturday Evening Post profile and the Ray I saw on the screen was the Ray I remembered seeing in person.
3rd Page: Who are your favorite rock photographers?
Al: Baron Wolman was the first to impress me. His photos were magical. But since then, most all rock photographers I've known have measured up.
3rd Page: Where will your collected papers be archived?
Al: I have no idea. I once offered them to Rutgers, but never received a response.
3rd Page: Do you think music journalism is as important to the music of today as it was in the 50s and 60s?
Al: The writers are more incisive I think but I really have no way of knowing. At present, I don't have time to read anything but what I have to edit.
3rd Page: Do you think today's popular music is honestly an extension of rhythm and blues, or do you think it has become something else entirely? I see very little connection between current trends and the rock founding work of Lightnin' Hopkins, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Ronnie Hawkins and so many others in this lineage.
Al: The music has evolved, a natural occurrence. The new forms of music are just as valid art forms as their predecessors.
3rd Page: Valid as individual art forms yes, but do you think the current muse has a direct relationship to rock & roll as a distinct genre that has progressed in one way or another since the early 50's?
Al: The music has gotten more basic, having to do more with the beat and the rhythm than with the melody. I myself prefer melody.
3rd Page: In the 60s we had so many wonderful small press music magazines - The Mojo Navigator, Crawdaddy, and the early versions of Rolling Stone for example. In your opinion are there any current publications that compare other than the nearly impossible to read 'zines' where all the ink comes off on your hands?
Al: I have only a passing acquaintanceship with the new zines, most of which are onthe internet, which doesn't leave ink stains on your hands.
3rd Page: What do you think lies ahead?
Al: I see more disaster ahead until the evangelists wake up to find they're just tools of the super-rich, that they've been robotized by the robots humankind long ago invented. These robots are called corporations and they were invented to accomplish what their inventors couldn't accomplish individually. And now the robots have grown so powerful that they're robotizing the world. They've already succeeded in robotizing America to the extent that the robots have taken over control of America, which has been programmed to think like robots. which is not to think at all but to do things automatically, like robots or worker ants---or soldier ants. It's an old, old story. Humankind invents a robot and the robots turn against humankind. Iraq is going to become a worse mess and the aim of the neocons is to starve the beast, meaning shrink the government, leaving the U.S. dead broke like the USSR went in Afghanistan. Now the U.S. has two Afghanistans to take it broke. Then the whole government gets privatized. We'll be like a third world country with no middle class, because the middle class always gets troublesome. There'll be only the super-rich, the peasants and the military tokeep the peasants suppressed. The only good thing that might happen is that the people will rise up against oppression.
On the other hand, I foresee a lot of American Tiananmen Squares. There'll be bloodshed, I'm afraid.
© 2005 - The 3rd Page - Al Aronowitz
Ed. note: Al Aronowitz passed away on August 1, 2005 after a long struggle with cancer.