Monday, September 15, 2014

Margie's 1972 Search To Find Bob Dylan: The Audacious Adventures of Day Two (Tony Scaduto and Philip Schechter)

This is Part 2 of Margie Marcus' three day adventure in New York in mid-January 1972. Part 1 appeared Friday here. It was through Anthony Scaduto that Margie hoped to find and meet Dylan. This past month it was through Margie's search to find and re-connect with Anthony Scaduto that she found me, or rather, found my blog about Scaduto's book Bob Dylan. As a result of sharing her story, I made an effort to help her by writing a blog entry about her quest. In the end she was successful in both her quests, in unexpected ways.

FRIDAY, January 14, 1972

At 10:00 my phone rang, woke me, and the voice on the other end was Tony Scaduto--the man I had written to and made an appointment with from Deerfield. I wanted to make sure that when I got to New York he could see me and not be too busy. He is the author of the new book Bob Dylan: An Intimate Biography and probably has done more research and knows Dylan better--not personally but consciously and thinking-wise--than anyone except perhaps old acquaintances like Joan Baez. I would say after reading Tony’s book he knows him better than anyone, period. He figured out his mind so well-that there were ten pages in the original manuscript to the book, that he left out because he and the editors felt it was just too heavy--it weighed the book down with a personal psychoanalysis of Dylan’s head—so that Tony didn’t really feel he should print it or had the prerogative to do. So he left it out and told me he would send it to me in the future.*

He called me at 10:00 and asked if he could come to my hotel earlier than we had planned because he had to take a 4:30 train to Long Island. I said “sure, anytime.” I really had nothing planned for the day--I was playing things by ear. I got up, ordered breakfast in and then got on the phone and called Philip Schechter. He is a Rabbi who was fired from his pulpit because of his radical ideas and appearance--and the things he was saying from his pulpit were not what the wealthy members of his Temple wanted to hear. They fired him and he was written up in the Rolling Stone at length last year, which is when I made my first correspondence contact with him. He interested me and what he was saying interested me. Not only that, I knew Schechter knew Dylan and I wanted to get in touch with anyone who knew Dylan. So, I called him. His answering service said he wasn’t in and I tried to persuade her to give me his home phone number. (I had called the JWB Lecture Bureau, which was the only number I had.) She said she wasn’t allowed to give me his number and I kept talking, and this was one example of the perfect timing that seemed to be with me during my whole NY trip. As I was trying to get the number out of her he picked up the phone and said he had just gotten home. I told him who I was and he remembered me from the letters I had sent him and my interest in Dylan. We began to talk.

He said his lecture schedule and all his other commitments to the congregations he was working with part time did not allow him to time to see me, but he would be glad to talk with on the phone awhile. A while turned out to be about 45 minutes of delightful conversation. I asked him a million questions, some about Dylan and some about himself and he was really nice to talk to. He first met Dylan on the street while Dylan was taking his son to get a haircut. It seems that when Schechter was fired he had a rather large interview by the Brooklyn Bridge, a newspaper I believe in the Village, and Dylan was at the interview because he was curious about Schechter. Dylan didn’t identify himself at the time, but recognized Schechter on the street and stopped to speak to him, most unusual for Dylan. The conversation was peculiar. They talked about their kids. There would be lags in the conversation, then another comment would be dropped. I’m sure I didn’t get it the way it happened because my notes are sketchy but Dylan does not want to talk about his music, Schechter said. They talked a little about Israel and Dylan’s recent connection with leaders of JDL and giving money to Israel etc., and Dylan denied it all saying it was a lot of baloney. Dylan made a few disparaging remarks about Abbie Hoffman and told Schechter to read a book called The 1st 3rd, published by City Lights and about Neil Cassidy.

Won’t go into all the details, but Schechter said didn’t know what Dylan’s theology is, thinks there’s a lot of theology in his ‘Father of Night’ and thinks Dylan means that people use God to justify their behavior. Schechter said he’s a changed man since he was fired. He seems to be able to deal with things on many different levels and is still really trying to find out ‘exactly what I am’ but knows that he is comfortable with the word God. He is not a completely humanistic Jew, he is only humanistic as far as bringing things back to the people rather than to institutions. When our conversation came to a close it was 11:30 a.m. Friday.

Tony Scaduto called my room about 2:45 and I came downstairs to meet a very friendly and smiling gentleman. We went into the bar at the Sherry Netherland and sat down to have a drink. We immediately started talking about Dylan and I don’t think we stopped for almost 2 hours.

Tony had to leave at 4:30 to catch a train to Long Island and in all that time I really learned nothing about him at all except that he worked for the NY Post for 20 years as a reporter (I learned later from his book and other articles that he was a court and police reporter, too) and then quit the Post and is freelancing. He was a fascinating and incredibly nice person. He was so friendly to me--we had no trouble communicating at all--we both seemed as though we had known each other before. When our time was up, he told me to call him the next day in Long Island and we would talk some more. He gave me a copy of his book which he autographed, reading: ”Dear Margie: You are warm, you are lovely, and I dug so much talking to you. Good luck in your search. Tony Scaduto."

I read every word of the book in a week and my regret was that it was finished. I wished it had gone on forever. He again promised to send me that part of the manuscript that contained a lot of things that go on in Dylan’s head which Dylan said was very accurate. He’s had a lot to do and Part 1 of his book came out in last week’s Rolling Stone. He’s had a bit of a hassle with them--wasn’t sure they were going to print it. He told me he should probably be in Chicago sometime in March and I said I hope so, I’d like to talk with him again.

* Margie did eventually receive those 10 pages and still has them.

In Part III we'll learn how a whim and serendipity made her dream come true. 


Anonymous said...

Just for ref the book mentioned above is:-
"The First Third" and is actually written by Neal Cassady

ENNYMAN said...

Anon: I should have verified that before posting, or fact-checked. Thanks for the correction.