Adventures in Marketing — Week 348

Sold a “Lollipop.”
The buyer was the advisor to banks and hedge funds who’d bought a “Cheesesteak” a couple weeks ago. His favorite part was the “Bob-and-Adele” story so “Lollipop” seemed a natural follow-up. Then we talked about autobiographical writing and that crypto-currency outfit that just went bust and effective altruism.

In other news…
1.) The café’s journal, which we had been told would not even be printed until December 12, is scheduled for delivery to us this week. Much excitement has ensued and many Christmas gift lists modified. ($10, plus shipping for anyone so inclined. Limited copies available.)
2.) My article “Denise” finished in time for Benj DeMott to get it posted in the new “First of the Month.” (I have blogged and FB’d links to it and received a total of five “Like”s, three from relatives or semi-relatives, and zero comments.)
The two things I like most about this piece are: (1) It is always exciting to write something where you don’t know where you are going to end up when you begin it; and (2) I love it when I have written something where I can believe there is little chance anyone else in the world would have written it.


My latest article has gone up at First of the Month:

Here’s a bit from near the beginning:

Several years ago, I entered into an e-mail correspondence with a woman over an article I’d written about the B-movie actress Peggy Maley. I had become interested in Maley after learning that she, as Mildred the platinum blonde beautician, not Mary Murphy, the wholesome cafe-owner’s daughter, who had posed the question “What’re you rebelling against, Johnny?” in “The Wild One” to which Marlon Brando had uttered the generation-defining answer, “What’ve you got?” My subsequent research had led to a fascination with Maley’s social life, which linked her to, among others, Artie Shaw, Farley Granger, John Hodiak, a British lord, Greek shipping tycoon, cousin of Al Capone, the head of Columbia Pictures, an ex-husband of Peggy Lee’s, and being “kept” by King Farouk. My correspondent, whose name was Denise Noe, had a broader appreciation of Maley’s talents. She would send me You Tube links to films and TV shows which featured her dramatic and comedic skills. None displaced King Farouk in my imagination.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 347

Sold TEN books, eight in one order, smashing my PB.

But first…
“Goshkin” went to a high school teacher from the Bronx in for Thanksgiving at his daughter’s. He has lived in Boston, Peru, Israel, West Chester – and we connected over basketball. He knew the SPHAs, Willie Somerset, Guy Rodgers, and the Eastern League, where a friend, “the one honest guy among Clair Bee’s boys at LIU” had played. “Zai gezunt,” he wished me when he left.
“IWKYA” went to a fellow whose part in the Berkeley scene pre-dates mine by years. His usual routine is to arrive at the café looking for a friend who has already left, fail to recognize me, and, when I identify myself, recall a sedar he had attended with my wife and Ram Dass which, Adele says, never happened.
This time I invited him to sit. It was an entertaining half-hour. I heard about old girl friends, acid trips, Merry Pranksters, Gershon Sholem, Saul Bellow, learning French kissing from a nine-year-old cousin, visiting pre-Castro Cuba with a business mogul relative who predicted the revolution, a second marriage, at 72, to the 27-year-old daughter of a noted scholar of Judaica (“Seven, two,”he said, “Two, seven. Kabbalahistically significant”), and his plan to return to Stanford, at 82, to complete his PhD. (My role as a line editor came under discussion.)

As for the bonanza…
Faithful readers will recall the law school classmate who had gone on to a distinguished career in journalism with whom I’d breakfasted recently after not seeing each other in 50 years. I had given him a “Lollipop” and he already had a “Cheesesteak” and he sent a more-than-enough wad of cash to complete his collection of Bob Levins. So I packed up “Best Ride,” “Fully Armed,” “Pirates & Mouse,” “Outlaws, Rebels…,” “Schiz,” and “IWKYA” and sent them off. “I pride myself on owning and reading all books written by… Gay Talese, Walter Isaacson, and Bill Cohan,” he wrote. “I want to add Bob Levin to my list.”
Boy, did I feel good.

In other news…
1.) “I took 15-pages of notes on your book,” a recent reader of “Lollipop” told me. “But I’ve compressed it into one sentence: ‘A snide look at do-gooders by an insider who knows the score.’ What do you think?”
“I don’t care for ‘snide.’” I said.
“I didn’t think you would. But you’ll remember it.”
2.) On the other hand, another fellow e-mailed: “At 12 MN, I decided to look again at ‘Cheesesteak.’ Read it cover to cover. Cannot remember when I read a book all in one sitting. What a book!”
So there.
[ALL OF BOB’S BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE FROM:, The “snide” to the “What a…!” Judge for yourself.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 346

Just after e-mailing one of my most reliable “Adventure” fans that, unless something happened quick, this would be a week without one, I sold a “Schiz” – and a “Goshkin.”
The former was purchased by a cafe-friend, who had read it and wanted a second copy as a gift for a neighbor who had given him cat food. (Exactly how much a signed, first edition “Bob Levin” is worth in cat food was not revealed.) The friend, who stood by as the transaction took place, was a nice fellow. He was casually dressed, with grey hair in a short pony tail. He described himself as “a dinosaur,” a general practice attorney, everything from civil litigation to criminal appeals. He also teaches “How-To” courses at a law school in SF.
The other buyer was an exuberant woman (tousled grey hair, grey wooly sweater, big, black-rimmed glasses, many rings), down from Placerville for the Big Game. (She and her husband’s two daughters are Golden Bears.)
“Poetry?” she asked.
“Prose,” I said.
“Even better.”
She clearly enjoyed the idea that she was having a Berkeley experience – which is how I subliminally pitch my books to out-of-towners too. (To her credit, she recognized Edward Gorey on the cover. Joe Gould stumped her, but when I said, “Bob Dylan,” she said, “Far out. We saw him on a bill with Willie Nelson.”) She promised to e-mail me her comments and questions. “I’m going to start your book immediately. I brought a reading light for the ride home.”

In other news…
1.) My link to my newly re-ssued Dylan article at FOM drew ZERO response at FB. Which has had a depressing effect on my interest in publishing my contemplated “Bob-on-Bob” collection.
2.) However, I had sent a copy of my mock epic poem about the 1959 Overbrook-West Philly game, which is slated for publication in the soon-to-appear “Journal of the French Hotel,” to an author/correspondent who had actually played in it. He loved it, which, as I told him, made me feel as Homer must have when he heard from a combatant at Troy. (Oh yes, the mag in question has a projected print date of Dec. 12.)

Bob Dylan: The Man, The Moment, The Italian Meats Sandwich

It’s been called “the best thing ever written about Bob Dylan.” Okay, it was I who called it that, but since it first appeared in “Karamu” (1996), it’s been reprinted in “Montague Street (2012) and now here.

It begins:

Chickie Pomerantz was lit.
Opening night of the 1963 Brandeis Folk Festival had been lame. All those green bookbags and black turtlenecks. All those skanks and pears. Then this skinny guy with this scratchy voice came on singing about some farmer starving to death in South Dakota. Chickie and Kevin Cahill and Frannie St. Exupery and a couple other jocks tossed beer cans at the stage. “You shoulda seen the assholes run,” he said, coming back to the dorm.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 343 -345

Sold a “Lollipop.”
The buyer was a fellow from the café. I’d known since the ‘90s, but he hadn’t bought a book from me until six-months ago. He’d asked what I’d recommend and I’d said “Cheesesteak.” (He’s an LA hippie-turned-tradesman, 15 or 20-years my junior.) He liked it so much he asked what I’d recommend next.
And I’ve been giving out cards – and not receiving any follow-ups – hand over fist. One went to the phlebotomist who took my annual pre-physical blood sample; three went to lawyers who asked how my writing was going at a judge’s retirement dinner in Oakland; one went to a woman who used to “mix” sound for Santana; one went to a Hindi-named musician; one went to young man studied jazz piano; one went to a Russian-born “aspiring entrepraneur” (These three the same morning); and one to a self-described “iconoclastic” Social Studies teacher from Long Island, who repeatedly dropped old Woody Allen lines into our conversation. (Actually, I didn’t give him one. I knew that conversation was going nowhere.)

In other news…
1.) The file(s) for the journal has/have reached the printer. The printer has returned the proofs. The proofs have been reviewed, corrected, and returned to the printer.
2.) I had agreed to review a comic, but, while I was waiting for it to arrive, I began to write something else, and when it still didn’t arrive, the editor asked if I would review this forthcoming book instead, and I said, “Fine,” and then the comic arrived. So I am going to be a busy boy.
(Plus I have these letters to send to Georgia to get Sen. Warnock re-elected, I did such a good job in Pennsylvania.)

The War on Drugs: The Early Years

My latest piece went up today. It begins like this:

(Based upon actual events)
In the spring of 1964, even a BrandX University senior as hip as me, who had been one of six students not to walk out on Cecil Taylor’s first set in Grubb Hall, did not know anyone who smoked marijuana. So it was a shock when several undergraduates, – primarily Fine and Theater Arts majors, to be sure – were swept up in raids which extended to Cambridge.

Atlantic City

My story “A Palace of Wisdom” has appeared in SPEAKING OF ATLANTIC CITY, Janet Robinson Bodoff and Leesa Toscano, eds. (History Press. 2022). Bob Levin scholars may recognize the incident at the story’s core and be fascinated by what I made of it this time. Or they may yawn, “Oh, that again.”
I found the volume fascinating myself. (I skipped my story and, not being a poetry reader, most of that, and only glanced at the photos.) It is a tribute to Atlantic City, words and pictures, past and present, fact and imagination, from Whites (of various ethnicity), Blacks and Hispanics, gays and straights, summer visitors and year long residents. From my visits, child, adolescent and adult, Steel Pier, Hi Hat Joe’s. the White House, Baltimore Grill, Knife and Fork, and Resorts International resonate. So do the beach, ocean, boardwalk, jitneys, salt water taffy, Skee-Ball, Miss America, Veg-o-matics, and prize fights at the Convention Center. (About all it missed from my immediate world were Lucy the Elephant and, less inexplicably, the schoolyard where, in 1954, I socked a home run, winning respect of the locals.) From outside my circles of contact came informatives about the 500 Club, Club Harlem, junkies, whores, female impersonators, and burlesque. (I wish the editors had included a page of Contributors’ Notes. Many of the authors cried out to be identified.)
I liked this book. I liked its lack of pretense. I liked how it simply took people’s stories and set them down, one next to another, a mosaic of simplicities establishing a complexity of time and place, a compendium of hopes and dreams, some crashing to earth, some soaring into the sky, some being looked at even now with wonder. I read about what I knew and what I didn’t and felt expanded by it all.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 342

It happened like this.

Faithful readers will know that I am a Mended Hearts volunteer, a program in which people who have had heart surgery visit hospital patients, who have just had or are about to have similar surgeries. We answer their questions and address their concerns as someone who has beenthere; done that. We are, we say, “Vertical role models.”
The last patient I saw was an 80-year-old with white hair and a red scar showing, mid-chest, through which his aortic valve had been removed. His cardiologist was Dr. E.
“My cardiologist’s in the same office,” I said.
“Who’s your cardiologist?” he said.
“Dr. M,” I said.
“I know her,” he said. “I love her.”
“We love her too,” I said.
“She saved my life,” he said.
“She saved my life too,” I said. “What kind of work did you do?”
“I was a lawyer. Civil litigation.”
“I was a lawyer too. Workers’ comp.”
“We should be friends,” he said.
So I sent him my (and Adele’s) book.

In other news…
1.) Received my contributor’s copy of SPEAKING OF ATLANTIC CITY (Bodoff and Toscano, eds.), in which my story “A Palace of Wisdom” appears. I will be writing more about it in a few days, so I will leave it there for now.
2.) Our café anthology is only moments from the printer. (My check is already en route.) Our last board-of-directors meeting resolved ISBN (No), TOC and page numbers (Yes), and hiring a self-publishing “guru” to guide us further for $80/hour (NO, NO, NO). We withdrew our offer to sell discounted copies to contributors (Each will receive one free one), agreed to split all costs, divide all remaining books, and allow each of us to do what we want with our copies. Everyone is still talking to everyone else.
Fingers crossed the files we send the printer are files the printer can work with.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 341

Gave away a “Lollipop.”
The donee had introduced himself to me our first day of law school. His father and my father had been in the same law school class too, and he knew I wanted to be a writer, and he wanted to be newspaperman, and neither of us wanted to be lawyers. We did not socialize much – he was already married –but since the last time we had seen each other, 1970 or ‘71, when he came to Berkeley from having just interviewed Alexander Jodorowsky in Mexico City, there had been 10 books for me and stints at the NYT, WSJ, Forbes, Time, Inc., and LA Times for him, and enough interest in each other that when he invited me to breakfast in SF, where he was attending a conference, I hopped on BART for the first time in over a decade.
Late in law school, we had learned that we – scandalously for that time and place – both smoked dope. Now, both of us stood at 80, marveling at our presence on such a stage, learned we each, as part of our exercise regimens, boxed.

In other news…
1.) The acclaim – the sound of six hands clapping, anyway – with which “A Fig in Winter” was received, has led TCJ to request my take on another work. The creator’s name is “Uncle Willie,” which is enough of a recommendation for me.
2.) The café journal takes one step forward and… Just when we seemed set to contract with a printer whose bid had substantially reduced what we expected to pay, the Editor-in-Chief revisited the question of font-size and increased it, raising our page count and, presumably, price by two-thirds. And just when this increase had been agreed to and finances resolved, the questions of ISBN numbers and distribution at book stores and through Amazon resurfaced.
When I had joined this project, my vision had lain somewhere between a samizdat and Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland: “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show.” I thought we’d print a book; sell it; throw a party with any money we made. Now I was getting the idea others imagined Best Seller Lists and Oprah invitations. Instead of sugar plums, visions of Fictitious Business Names, sales tax, partnership agreements, and ensuing litigation dance in my head.

Not only that.
Faithful readers may recall the submission, which bothered no one else but led me to editorial suggestions which caused the author to call me a “Jackass.” Now another contributor’s complaints about his submission’s treatment, which bothered no one else, led me to call out his discourteouies, causing him to decry my “B.S.” and express the wish not to hear from me again. (I should have known he was touchy since he had stormed out of a pandemic-era café-regulars-only Zoom for some offense of mine, never to return.)
Alas and alack. The upshot to all this is I fear I am in for a down-grading when it comes to “Plays well with others.”