Friday, September 12, 2014

Margie’s 1972 Search to Find Bob Dylan: The Adventures of Day One (A.J. Weberman)

Misccellaneous Dylan memorabilia*
Margie Marcus was a 41-year-old suburban Chicago housewife whose spirit and soul were flatlining until one day the music of Bob Dylan snapped her back to life. She describes the experience as a zeitgeist in her life in which previously she had been immobilized in a cocoon shell and afterwards broke free, discovering she had wings and could fly. This life transformation began as a result of picking up a Dylan album from a Highwood record shop a couple years earlier. After buying that first record she bought everything and wired her record player all the way through the back door of the kitchen and on to the patio where she could sit for hours and listen to Dylan and literally memorize his work. 

Her awakening set in motion correspondence with interesting people including author Joseph Heller, and co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine Ralph Gleason. She was especially interested in people who were writing about Dylan, including Anthony Scaduto who’s book Bob Dylan had been released the year before and A.J. Weberman, the Dylanologist who infamously made a name for himself by picking through Dylan’s garbage.... Over time she developed an obsessive desire to meet the man who changed her life and when the opportunity came she took it.

What follows is Margie’s 1972 account of her whirlwind trip to New York to meet Dylan in person. Day 1.

Left Deerfield on a 7:00 a.m. plane to LaGuardia Thursday, January 13 exhausted before I started. I had sprained my foot two days before and limped around the whole previous day to the trip, which only made every bone in my body ache. Arrived in NY at 10:00 NY time and had every intention of unpacking and falling right into bed for a nap. Instead, decided that there was too much to be done, so unpacked and immediately got on the telephone.

Called my brother first, made arrangements to go to a play that evening, called his wife, and then got down to business. I went to New York to find Bob Dylan and there was no time to be wasted.

Bowery bar from an earlier era.
About 11:30 I called A.J. Weberman, freak garbage picker and leading Dylanologist. Woke him, asked him if he remembered me from previous correspondence (he did) and asked him if he would be there all day and if I could come up to see him. He lives in a tenement in the Bowery and although I called and knew nothing would stop me, I asked a few people about going to that neighborhood and they told me forget it. So, I promptly got into a cab and headed for the Bowery. That scene was an experience in itself. I knew I needed my head examined when on that rainy, dark afternoon we pulled up to 6 Bleeker Street where there were bums lining the streets, garbage set out in front of the tenements and no doorbell to even ring and see if he was there. There was an iron gate with 3 different locks on it on his door. It was the kind of place where you had to holler up, “Hey A.J., are ya there?” I asked the cabbie (he was a nice one and knew I wasn’t about to let him leave until he came up with Weberman) to get out and call A.J. So, for a price, he did and when the gate opened there he stood--just like he looked in the Rolling Stone, hair disheveled. I think I woke him again (he looked very sleepy) and his fly was unzipped with the end of his shirt sticking out. That was my first introduction to the man I had read about in the papers for so long.

I looked up a long dark flight of stairs with a black cat squealing in front of me and thought, since I had never exposed myself to a neighborhood like this or a circumstance like this with a stranger, “O.K. honey, this is it. You go up, but you may never come down.”

Up we went to the 2nd floor, where once again, he unlocked several locks into his ‘office’ apartment. It was cold in there, but bright. The place was strewn with hundreds of papers on a long table and filing cabinets where he keeps all of his papers and information on Dylan. Strung along the walls were wires on which were hanging all assorted articles and pictures of Dylan and Weberman and everything Weberman has written for the various Village papers. I sat down and didn’t know where to begin with my questions.

The guy is 26 years old and got his BA from the City College of New York as an honor student. Instead of going to school he quit and started studying Dylan’s music and became a Dylanologist, which means a scientific study of all of Dylan’s songs. He has in his possession a collection of rare Dylan tapes of unreleased songs, interviews and everything there is to know about Dylan. His study consists of what he calls concordances. They look like bookkeeping books only twice as big. Each word that Bob Dylan has ever used in a song he has cross-checked and found the symbolic meaning to--at least in Weberman’s eyes. He will sell these concordances for $100 each-they have all been computerized and are incredibly unbelievable. The years of work this has taken is hard to believe.

He is going to Knoxville, TN to the U of Tenn to speak sometime in April for which he will receive $200. He tried several years ago writing a book on Dylan. He showed me the manuscript and said he couldn’t get it published because publishers wanted $1,000 apiece to reprint each Dylan song. He says the book was academically oriented.

It was Izzy Young who told Weberman where Dylan lived in the Village. Izzy Young is the owner of the Folk Lore Center where he sells instruments and folk music for people. From this information, Weberman went to Dylan’s house and started going daily through the garbage to learn about Dylan. He found a letter from Johnny Cash the first day--then continued daily pickups and became a nationwide topic of conversation. He drove Dylan and his family nuts with the many things he did to get to Dylan. He gave Dylan a birthday party for about 400 people in front of Dylan’s house-all in vain but strictly for publicity because Dylan was in Israel where he had gone for his 30th birthday.

I was in the tenement apartments both the office floor and his ‘home’ floor for about 3.5 hours. I became really nervous and itchy toward the end because I had seen all I could see and talked all there was to be talked about Dylan to Weberman. We went from the office upstairs about an hour before I left and when I went up there I met Weberman’s girl Ann whom he sent on an errand while he recorded a tape for me from a reel-to-reel to cassette. She had a dazed look and moved like a ghost.

When we left the apartment--he locked several different locks both upstairs and downstairs and we went outside into the rain--he took me to Bowery Street to catch a cab. But first, we had to go around the corner to a store to break a $20 bill I had--I owed him $5 for the tape, then he hailed the cab and asked me if he could ride a few blocks with me. As he got out we shook hands and he gave me the name of a fellow Dylanologist in Chicago who ‘studied under him’ for quite a while.

Weberman is now writing a book called “You Are What You Throw Away,” presumably to be published by McMillan for which he will receive $7,500. Should be out in 5 months, he thinks. We’ll see.

Next: How what she learned at Weberman’s led her to Dylan’s door.

*memorabilia shot is from a wall in this blog writer's garage. The Bowert photo is public domain from Wikipedia. 

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