"Woe unto those who spit on the Beat Generation," Jack Kerouac intones in this issue, "the wind'll blow it back." The warning is part of his new Playboy article, The Origins of the Beat Generation, a disarming statement of opinion from that generation's most vocal and probably most authoritative spokesman. Kerouac's utterance, we feel, is a valuable amplification of the triptych survey, The Beat Mystique (Playboy, February 1958), in which Herbert Gold, Sam Boal and Noel Clad illuminated the other side of the Beat coin, the dark side where all is cool and nihilistic.
Here's a short-short urban fable, sad but true, of a brief adventure in free enterprise. Fellow in New York was notably generous with the loan of his bachelor diggings for afternoon assignations. Even casual acquaintances could avail themselves of his place, provided they adhered to his admonition to do so at two o'clock, when his maid would be gone for the day, and to be out by five, when he'd be home. What he didn't tell them was that, as the maid went off, a hidden tape recorder in the bedroom went on. The resulting recordings were sold by the gracious absentee host to various other folk, thus compensating him for his generosity, and helping defray the rent. This happy blending of pleasure and profit came to an end, however, when one of the victim's wives heard one of the tapes played at a party. She recognized not only his voice, but his technique as well. (She said later she thought she'd have forgiven him the infidelity if he hadn't murmured exactly the same words of endearment to the other girl that he used on her.) The victim himself, auditioning the sounds aghast, had just opened his mouth by way of feeble explanation, when his enraged spouse smote him across it with a pewter mug. He is now paying both alimony and a sizable dentist's bill. And the enterprising entrepreneur, his ruse exposed, seems to have run out of couples looking for a pad.
In writing, performance and direction, Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth is nerve-shattering theatre. It is Williams at his most degenerate to date, swamp-deep in violence and evil and the miasmas of spiritual decay, but he accords his victims a large share of compassion and supplies them with a moral for their epitaphs. His achievement is to make you care for two people who are despicable and damned. One is a faded movie star on the lam from her lost youth and Hollywood; the other is a tired gigolo who still fancies himself a vigorous athlete in bed and a likely candidate for a screen contract. Shacked up together in a fancy Gulf Coast hotel, the lost lady takes her refuge in alcohol, hashish and sex; her companion supplies the sex, and is not above trying a spot of blackmail to wangle a foothold in Hollywood. His immediate problem, however, is fear of literal castration. Years ago, in this same town, the young man had venereally infected a childhood sweetheart, and a posse of outraged relatives and Southern gentlemen now announce their intention of avenging her with the punishment that best fits the crime. Directed by Elia Kazan, the performers are flawless, from Sidney Blackmer, Diana Hyland and Rip Torn in subordinate roles, to Paul Newman and Geraldine Page as the frightened protagonists. Miss Page, in particular, is a revelation. Gone are the mousy mannerisms, the compulsive elbow scratching, the querulous voice that had become her stylistic trade-marks. In Sweet Bird, the actress has found herself. She sweeps across the stage like an army in full array. At the Martin Beck, 302 West 45th St., NYC.
Eerie and suspenseful, if over-preachy, The World, the Flesh and the Devil is a sci-fi attack on the myth of racial superiority. Harry Belafonte plays a Negro who is seemingly the only guy alive after World War IV; he is militantly color conscious and appallingly respectful toward the only girl in the world, blonde Inger Stevens. In the starkly naked city of New York, Harry's mainly interested in expressing grievances about discrimination. This goes on even after the girl, taken with his good looks, smoldering manner and technical ingenuity (he lights up Broadway on a whim and puts a phone in her pad), lays it on the line. Then Mel Ferrer arrives in a boat to compete unequally for Inger's favors, and a private little World War V starts, but ends with a tidy compromise. Belafonte's nagging concern about the color of his skin is, of course, downright silly, but the film is great in its illusions of aloneness in the big city, full of echoes and despoiled by litterbugs before they died of too much radiation. You should enjoy it, except when the lectures begin.
In One Star General (Rinehart, $3.50), Al Morgan, who yanked the rug from under a cathode comic in The Great Man, does likewise for a brigadier. Or all but. Trouble is, after giving the rug some good yanks, he suddenly turns benign and grabs the old boy just as he's about to fall on his face. This General Charlie Bronson, it seems, has an outsize death wish. Had it ever since he killed his pregnant fiancee in a car crash. His wife (the dead gal's sister), loved and married him, but sis' ghost came between them, so she took to bottle and bed (other men's). Well, as you might well suspect, a CO with a death wish can be a hazard to his men, but by the time the Army found this out, Charlie had made Colonel in World War II. It took out-and-out blackmail to get him his star, and he'd have been just another Pentagoner if not for Korea, where that death wish resulted in humbug bravado. Now (it's 1953), he's flying home to a hero's welcome. We learn all this in flashback from the hard-nosed newshawk who is the author's corner-of-the-mouthpiece, the hero's PR rep, and Mrs. General's current bedmate, in that order. So when the plane lands, we expect to see a prime s.o.b. But, surprise, surprise! Charlie has seen the light, and is now just one big bundle of togetherness. Why? Ask Mr. Morgan. Fact remains, however, that most of this is a superior hatchet-job, so give One Star General 3-1/2 stars.
David Allen's third album, I Only Have Eyes for You (Warner Bros. 1268), is his finest to date and a first-rate example of why many consider him the best interpreter of the romantic ballad today. Here Dave handles a tasteful mixture of standards (I Only Have Eyes for You, You Go to My Head, Heart and Soul) and lesser-known dream stuff (You're Laughing at Me, With Every Breath I Take, Drifting) in a manner that proffers to the listener a warm, emotional experience. Pat Suzuki's Broadway '59 (Victor stereo 1965) is a pleasant potpourri of the more singable footlight fare around these days. Pocket-sized Pat warbles with obvious relish the likes of I Enjoy Being a Girl (from Flower Drum Song), Just for Once (from Redhead) and The Party's Over (from Bells Are Ringing), is backed briskly by the suave scoring and wand-waving of George Sivaro. Johnny Hartman's a balladeer with an easy, resonant set of pipes that can be heard to good advantage on And I Thought About You (Roost 2232), a collection of lovelorn pop tunes (Long Ago and Far Away, Little Girl Blue, et al.) that are nifty for late-hour listening. Keely Smith's Swingin' Pretty (Capitol stereo 1145) is a thumpingly accurate description of this bright-tempo set of goodies (The Nearness of You, There Will Never Be Another You are just a couple), each one handled faultlessly by the swinging Miss Smith and her pal on the podium, Nelson Riddle.
On the off-season Miami Beach scene, if you're interested in eating, Black Caesar Forge is a must. It's quite a challenge to find the place, two miles east of U.S. I at Rockdale, but it's worth the effort. The restaurant is largely and attractively underground in an old quarry, and is dedicated to doing the very best that can be done to red meat. Doors open at five. Equally rewarding is a visit to the Jamaica Inn (320 Crandon Blvd.) on Key Biscayne. Their English Pub is open for all three meals, and a dinner of prime ribs of beef in the Inn itself, with its glass-enclosed indoor garden of crazy tropical plants, is memorable. Excellent food, with background music and a magnificent view of Miami Beach and the bay, is to be found atop the Columbus Hotel (312 N.E. First St.) in downtown Miami. The wine list is above average. An offbeat spot for dinner or after-theater supper is The Gallery (1763 Coral Way) in Coral Gables, where you sit on cushions on the floor and are served authentic Polynesian food by girls who now and then burst into song. The walls are adorned with abstract paintings by local talent, tastefully lighted and for sale. The Luau (1755 79th St. Causeway) is big, dimly lit, and capable of superb achievements in Cantonese fare. Beware of their drinks: potent, mainly rum, and you need both hands to get them off the table. On the Beach itself, Maxim's (9516 N. Harding) is your mecca when you're in a summer formal and your date is all gussied up, too. Posh is the word. Joe's (227 Biscayne St.), near the dog track at the southern tip, is the oldest restaurant in town and merits high praise for its stone crabs, for which it is famous. The Old Forge (432 Arthur Godfrey Rd.) is also an old established place, where you dine under palms in a garden, but can stuff yourself on their German cuisine. As to night life: all the big hotels have their own entertainers, and you can find out who is where by consulting the newspaper. In general, late spots in Miami tend to be large, crowded and dimly lit. A couple of standbys worth catching: The Harbor Lounge (1335 79th St. Causeway) features a pianist-singer team with a risqué repertoire; and if you have the nerves and strength to withstand the blasts, you might make the scene at The Rancher Motel (1780 N.E. 126th St.) which is live and jumping at 4 A.M. with one of the noisiest rock-'n'-roll bands in the world, punctuated by the Tune-Toppers, a quartet of very funny musical zanies.
You'll be glad to learn that Charlie's name isn't really Charlie at all. Her real name is Marilyn Hanold. But in his nightclub act, dirty-bird George Gobel is in the habit of explaining that he employs an assistant who does nothing else but chaperon his guitar; then he turns to the wings, yells "Charlie!" and scantily-dressed, hazel-eyed Marilyn makes her stunning entrance. Marilyn also put in an appearance in the Gobel film, The Birds and the Bees, in which she played a particularly tasty comb of honey. When she's not performing with George, she's indulging her taste for such hectic hobbies as hunting and water-skiing. These rugged avocations notwithstanding, Miss Hanold has a completely feminine interest in dating dashing young males. In her professional life, although she has played a variety of roles, she has invariably been type-cast as a girl. This was good thinking, we feel, so we have emulated it by choosing her for the part of an abundantly girl-style Miss June.
Romanoff's, in Hollywood, is a restaurant conceived and perpetrated by a Graustarkian "prince," and perpetuated by people whose lives are a mixture of illusion and reality so heady that it's often unclear where one begins and the other leaves off. This is poetically just, since its founder, Mike Romanoff, had himself led a life of so many guises that his real identity was frequently obliterated in the scuffle. His most famous pose, and the one that brought him notoriety, was, of course, that of nephew to the last of the czars. Subsequently, he renounced his "title". became an American citizen and -- by the topsy-turvy laws of Hollywood -- only then achieved the princely prerogatives of living royally and being an arbiter of social status. Today, reaching the top of Tinseltown's totem pole and remaining there seem to bear some direct relationship to regular attendance at Romanoff's princely establishment. Many things combine, however, to make the pilgrimage a pleasant one: the conversation is generally fast-moving and memorable; stars and starlets delight the eye in their efforts to attract attention; agents, writers, directors and producers tablehop like bees sampling a field of clover; and the food and drink will convince you of the owner's regal nature, erstwhile pretender or no. Everything is painstakingly prepared and presented with pomp and circumstance. If you and a starry-eyed companion want your taste buds to feel like successful talent scouts, try a meal consisting of Fresh Cracked Crab on Ice, Créme Portugaise, Mignonette of Spring Lamb Sauté Cyrano, Fresh Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce, Hearts of Romaine Salad, and a Sabayon for two. Take your time: there's plenty to watch. This is the place for publicity launchings and post-premiere parties -- and when the squarer guests leave, the insiders linger long after the kitchen closes to mix brandy with badinage. Certainly among the major attractions is Mike Romanoff himself: impeccably groomed and strolling-stick in hand, he generally positions himself at his bar, where he spends the evening holding court before his subjects, as captured (along with bartender Ross Acuna) by artist LeRoy Neiman on the facing page.
Check Chicago on August 8th and 9th for what will easily be the biggest, sure-to-be-talked-about live jazz bash in the history of that art form: The Playboy Jazz Festival, to be held at Soldier Field. Stars signed as of this date include Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Chris Connor, the Dukes of Dixieland, Duke Ellington, the Four Freshmen, Erroll Garner, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, J. J. Johnson, Stan Kenton, Shelly Manne, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Gerry Mulligan, Oscar Peterson, Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughan, and, like the man says, many, many swinging others. Between sets you can browse through a complete high fidelity exhibition featuring the latest stereo gear.