LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHESGuest blogger Colm Redmond, fresh from seeing Bob Dylan for the seventh time last night, takes another look at Dylan's memoir. The only song performed both in the Greenwich Village folk clubs in the early 60s and at the Blackpool Opera House last night was "Blowin' In The Wind", which he was performing live for the 1,188th (known) time, according to bobdylan.com.
Chronicles, Volume One by Bob Dylan
Published 2004 - section from early 1960s
[In the cafés and bars of Greenwich Village, NYC, singers generally performed for nothing and relied on a whip-round among the audience]
One singer I crossed paths with a lot, Richie Havens, always had a nice-looking girl with him who passed the hat and I noticed that he always did well. Sometimes she passed two hats. If you didn't have some kind of trick, you'd come off with an invisible presence, which wasn't good. ... A couple of times, I hooked up with a girl I knew from the Café Wha?, a waitress who was good to the eye. We'd go from place to place, I'd play and she'd take up [the] collection, wear a funny little bonnet, heavy black mascara, low laced blouse - looked almost naked from the waist up under a capelike coat. I'd split the money with her later, but it was too much of a hassle to do it all the time. I still made more when she was with me than when I was working on my own.
observations: We have seen how, for someone with a famously roving, womanising eye, Bob Dylan does a surprisingly good job of showing an interest in what men look like and wear. But he doesn't skimp on descriptions of women either; nearly always attractive ones. We don't know if the waitress in this extract dressed like that for work, or only when passing Dylan's hat around. Either way she must have been quite a sight. Not too surprising that - assuming an even split - she doubled a legendary singer-songwriter's takings without singing a note or writing a word. Mary Travers of Peter, Paul And Mary used to be a waitress at Wha? and she was a remarkable beauty in her day [see films of the Newport Folk Festival if you don't believe me] but I imagine if she was the waitress in this story Dylan would have mentioned it.
Café Wha? is still open now; it was the king of the Village's folk venues in Dylan's time but is overshadowed in reputation by the Gaslight Café - which was on the same street - because some famous tapes of Dylan performing at the Gaslight have survived.
Suze Rotolo - the girl with him on the 1963 Freewheelin' Bob Dylan album cover - has written about these days in her own book A Freewheelin' Time. It seems from both her account and Dylan's own that he was a restless as well as an ambitious guy and it's unsurprising that he didn't stick with the waitress plan just because it was lucrative, if it was also "a hassle".
Richie Havens was later famous for playing the guitar with his thumb, instead of fingers, on the fretboard and for opening the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Presumably the "trick" Dylan refers to was having a pretty girl, because I can't imagine people chipped in twice just because there were two hats. Or were the Olden Days really that sweet and uncomplicated?
The main photo is of CiB favourite Louise Brooks - not waitressing, but demonstrating how to rock dark eye makeup, and look naked when you're not. It's a Diary Of A Lost Girl publicity shot. Obviously, for when her mom came to visit the café, she'll have had a backup respectable outfit with a dinky change dispenser:
This is in fact Brooks' contemporary and hair-twin Colleen Moore, in the 1927 film Her Wild Oat. She made many films with great titles, she was admired by F Scott Fitzgerald, her eyes were different colours, and on closer inspection her bob was different from Louise's by virtue of having a side-part behind that fringe. Brooks parted hers in the middle.
For more from the Guest Blogger, click on Colm Redmond below.