Above, Amiri and Baz at the Poetry Project, February 17, 2013. Below, LeRoi and Baz and Gil Sorrentino, May, 1963, excerpt from Learning to Draw, A History, Basil King, Skylight Press, 2011:
It was crowded in McSorley’s. All the bartenders knew Leroi Jones, Gil
Sorrentino and Basil King. From one of the tables racial slurs were being
directed at Leroi. There was no mistaking what the cops from New Jersey
were saying. The cops were without their wives and girlfriends. They felt
entitled to say anything they wanted and there was no one who could stop
them. They didn’t have any jurisdiction but that wasn’t stopping them
and if they didn’t know it they were inciting not only the three of us they
were pissing off most of the clientele. They were told to stop by one of the
bartenders. They didn’t.
Was it Gil was it Leroi was it someone else. Movies always tell and show
who started it. Gil was a large man I’m a few inches taller than Roi (Amiri
Baraka) what I remember is a free-for-all arms chairs and fists and in the
midst of it I heard Brian the bartender croaking “Gil it’s me, Brian.” Gil had
his hands around Brian’s throat and he was choking him. Did the police
come I don’t remember but the New Jersey cops who had demonstrated
what they were made of went back to New Jersey. Gil was licking his
knuckles and he went home.
Martha wasn’t home she was visiting her parents in North Carolina I went
with Roi back to his house and we climbed the stairs and told our story to
Hettie. Big Hettie is what my kids called Hettie Jones at that time she was
taller than her namesake our daughter Hetty. Big Hettie got the iodine,
band-aids cleaned the two of us up and I stayed and slept on their couch.
Yes. Pause. As we all go on.