STEPHEN COLBERT SAYS BILL BARR WILL BE MISSED ~ NYT

Barr said the Justice Department had not found voter fraud on a scale that could change election results. “Fraud on a scale — also known as the president’s annual physical,” Colbert joked Tuesday.

Stephen Colbert and his late-night peers poked fun at William Barr’s turning his back on President Trump.
Stephen Colbert and his late-night peers poked fun at William Barr’s turning his back on President Trump.Credit…CBS

By Trish Bendix

On Tuesday, Attorney General William P. Barr shot down President Trump’s assertion of widespread voter fraud, acknowledging that the Justice Department had uncovered no wrongdoing “on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

“Fraud on a scale — also known as the president’s annual physical,” Stephen Colbert joked on “The Late Show.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/AnC9XKhtE9k

“It’s so weird that they didn’t find evidence of the very thing they never backed up with any evidence.” — JAMES CORDEN

“Oh, man. If Bill Barr had a neck, Trump would totally be wringing it right now.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“He will be missed.” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“William Barr has been one of Trump’s most obnoxiously loyal allies throughout — emphasis on ‘lies’ in allies. This would be like if Thelma turned on Louise.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“When Trump heard about William Barr, he was so mad, he ordered William Barr to prosecute William Barr.” — JIMMY FALLON

“At this point, Trump’s lost ‘Fox News,’ Republican senators and now Bill Barr. Today he was like, ‘If Randy Quaid jumps ship, it’s over.’” — JIMMY FALLON

“That is cold. Sending the president of the United States to voice mail like he’s spam? Which he is, but still.” — TREVOR NOAH, on Gov. Doug Ducey ignoring Trump’s call as he was certifying Arizona’s election on Monday

“The president called him while he was signing, and the government sent him straight to voice mail. That is a guy who’s picked up that phone once too often: ‘Yes, Mr. President, you told me. Massive dumps. Right. Listen, I gotta go. Arizona is going through a tunnel. Chhhhhhh.” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“You know ‘Fox & Friends’ were watching this like, ‘Oh, that’s a good trick — we can just not answer the phone. We’ve gotta try that.’” — TREVOR NOAH

“I believe the young people call that ‘ghosting.’” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“Trump just got friend-izona-ed.” — JAMES CORDEN

“You know what makes this move especially gangster is that he knew Trump was watching him on live TV. We’ve all had the moment where we think somebody’s ignoring our call or our text, but to actually see it — to see him look at his phone, see your name and then put it away? Ooh, that had to hurt.” — TREVOR NOAH

“You’ve gotta admit it’s a savage move — savage move from anyone who still uses custom ring tones.” — JAMES CORDEN

JIMMY KIMMEL RAGS ON TRUMP FOR HIS RANDY QUAID RETWEETS ~ NYT

“Let’s just say he makes Gary Busey look like Dr. Fauci,” Kimmel said of the pro-Trump actor after the president retweeted five of his posts on Tuesday.

“Look out, kids — Santa’s been eating bath salts this year,” Jimmy Kimmel joked about Randy Quaid on Tuesday.
“Look out, kids — Santa’s been eating bath salts this year,” Jimmy Kimmel joked about Randy Quaid on Tuesday.Credit…ABC

By Trish Bendix

President Trump appeared in public twice on Tuesday, leading both Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert to compare him to Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog whose appearances, like Trump’s, are highly scrutinized.

“‘Punxsu-Donny Phil’ emerged from his hole for not one, but two public appearances today,” Kimmel joked.

“He knows that if he comes out of his bunker and sees his shadow, he’ll only have six more weeks of president,” Colbert said.

~~~ WATCH ~~~

In the first appearance, the president held an impromptu news conference where he took credit for the stock market’s success. In the next, he pardoned a turkey named Corn. And yet, the late-night hosts noted, he still had time to retweet several of the actor Randy Quaid’s Twitter posts, including one that featured a video of Quaid dramatizing one of Trump’s tweets about Fox News.

“For those who remember Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie from the ‘Vacation’ movies, he has a long list of accomplishments outside acting: He’s been arrested a few times, he tried to get asylum in Canada, he believes there’s a group called the Hollywood Star Whackers that is plotting to kill him — and our president retweeted that person five times today.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“Look out, kids — Santa’s been eating bath salts this year.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“Let’s just say he makes Gary Busey look like Dr. Fauci, Randy Quaid.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“Five Randy Quaid retweets. Two, sure. Three, that’s pushing it. Five? I think that makes him secretary of agriculture.” — JAMES CORDEN

~~~ WATCH ~~~

“Quaid, of course, is most famous for trying to erect a Randy Quaid museum, or claiming he’s on the run from a celebrity-killing organization called the Hollywood Star Whackers, or showing up in court wearing a sheriff’s badge, or posting disturbing sex tapes in which he and his wife are having intercourse below a picture of Rupert Murdoch. Obviously, Randy’s a busy guy — barely has time to buy and sell urine on Craigslist.” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“So, a crazy guy retweeted another crazy guy performing the first crazy guy’s crazy tweet. It’s a Möbius mess. It’s like watching two toddlers try to change each other’s diapers, but somehow, it’s even more full of crap.” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“The only person listening to Randy Quaid is his therapist, which, unfortunately, is an old boot he put a hat on.” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“Well guys, today, President Trump took a break from his busy schedule of retweeting Randy Quaid and carried out the presidential tradition of pardoning a turkey.” — JIMMY FALLON

“The bird needed to be pardoned after it was let down by its bumbling lawyer, Rooster Giuliani.” — JIMMY FALLON

“It’s the first turkey basted with Grecian Formula.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“There you have it — an innocent turkey pardoned by a lame duck.”— STEPHEN COLBERT

“Yeah, the good news is, the turkey was pardoned. The bad news is, Trump didn’t wear a mask, so he’s a goner anyway.” — JIMMY FALLON

“Yes, it’s a lucky, lucky bird to have a better legal team than the president.” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“But I hope everyone else wore a mask, because it’s got to be embarrassing if your contact tracing leads back to a turkey pardon.” — JIMMY FALLON

“I saw that people could go online and vote for the turkey they wanted pardoned, Corn or Cob. Meanwhile, it turns out Corn might’ve won because the vote was rigged by Hugo Chávez.” — JIMMY FALLON

Steve Martin and John Candy in the 1987 film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”
Steve Martin and John Candy in the 1987 film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”Credit…Paramount Pictures

Streaming classic Thanksgiving films like “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” or the new ensemble comedy

‘THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST’: A LOST CHAPTER OF GOSPEL, SAVED FROM EXTINCTION ~ NPR

PETER BRESLOWAudio will be available later today.

Pastor Juan D. Shipp is the radio personality responsible for The Last Shall Be First: The JCR Records Story, Vol. 1, a new collection of old gospel songs.Courtesy of the artist

This fall brings a new collection of some old spirituals and gospel music, first recorded back in the 1970s. The Last Shall Be First: The JCR Records Story, Vol. 1 aims to give a second life to some memorable performances that almost disappeared forever. It’s a story that really begins with a close cousin of gospel music: the blues.

In the late 1940s and into the ’50s, radio station KWEM in West Memphis, Ark., featured live broadcasts of future legends like B.B. King, Johnny Cash and Howlin’ Wolf. Eventually the station changed its call letters to KWAM, moved across the river to Memphis, Tenn. and started tilting in a more heavenly direction. 

In 1970, the station hired Pastor Juan D. Shipp, a clergyman from a local church that was known for its music. “Always wanted to be a DJ,” Shipp now recalls. ” I do have a music background: I was in the band in my high school and I sang in the choir. Music was just a part of my life.”

Shipp had a daily show on KWAM — 2 p.m. until sunset — and depending on the vagaries of the atmosphere, The Gospel Train could sometimes be heard as far away as Detroit and New York. “Gospel quartets” is the name of the style Shipp like to play — though the groups weren’t limited to just four people. The style features close harmonies, similar to doo wop.

At some point, Shipp, known on air as Juan D, noticed a disparity in the recordings he was playing: He realized that local bands were being shortchanged. The audio quality of those records — groups like The Spiritual Harmonizers, The Silver Wings and The Calvary Nightingales — didn’t match that of the national acts. 

So he went hunting for a good studio, where he could record area artists. One day, while picking someone up at the Greyhound bus station in Memphis, Shipp saw a hand-painted sign for Tempo Studios, owned by rockabilly drummer Clyde Leoppard.

“Up on the second floor, there was the most fantastic studio that I had ever seen,” Shipp says. “The way he had it laid out, each individual had [their] own cubicle. And the padding of it was so tight you had to just about holler in order for a person to hear you inside of it. It was just that good.” 

Shipp already knew how to run a mixing board and produce, so he got busy. He says he pushed his artists: “They considered me a pretty hard taskmaster when I was in the studio. I was very nice outside the studio; they said I was the perfect person. But inside the studio I became a monster.”

But Shipp was a monster who created a unique sound. “My signature thing was to put something in there that others didn’t have, so we went into the ‘wah wah’ sound,” he says. That distinctive effect, a bit controversial for church music at the time, became a signature of Wendell “Music Man” Moore, a guitar player Shipp met when the artist was around 16. 

“It was just a different sound, and the people was loving it — me being a young kid, doing my thing,” says Moore, now in his early 60s. “You know, you would have the older people — “What are you bringing up all that noise in here like that?” — but once they caught on, they loved it.”

Shipp eventually developed a first and second team of artists to split between two record labels: The best groups ended up on the D-Vine Spirituals label, while the the second string appeared on the JCR label. The collection released this September, The Last Shall Be First, features just second stringers. 

Music historian Michael Hurt, who wrote the liner notes for The Last Shall Be First, says the album almost didn’t happen, and these old recordings came within weeks of disappearing forever. “I feel like the whole thing was D-Vine intervention, as Pastor Shipp likes to say,” he says.

Hurt tracked Shipp down after stumbling upon some old D-Vine 45’s and loving what he heard. In 2011, the two of them set out to find the original master tapes. Eventually they did, in an old shack behind a house in Olive Branch, Miss. “The roof was caving in and it was just a real mess — you know, when nature starts to take back over,” Hurt says. “But somehow or another, those tapes were in incredible shape.” 

The shack had been a studio for Leoppard, Shipp’s old collaborator — and along with Leoppard’s former house, it was about to be foreclosed upon. Had Hurt and Shipp arrived just two weeks later, the tapes would have been lost for good, chucked out in the trash. Instead, there are now plans for many more releases of JCR and D-Vine artists.

As for Shipp, at 81 years old, he is back on the radio for the first time in more than 30 years, on WYXR in Memphis. “After all these years going back into radio, it’s fantastic, he says, “I’m really excited about it.”

~~~ LISTEN ~~~

WITH BIDEN’S WIN, ALEC BALDWIN MIGHT FINALLY GET TO QUIT PLAYING TRUMP ~ Vanity Fair

LIVE FROM NEW YORK

“I don’t believe I’ve ever been this overjoyed to lose a job before,” Baldwin wrote after Saturday Night Livethis weekend.

BY CHRISTOPHER ROSENNOVEMBER 9, 2020

Image may contain Human Person Electronics Monitor Display Screen Musician Musical Instrument and Performer
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Dave Chappelle” Episode 1791 — Pictured: Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump during the “Biden Victory” Cold Open on Saturday, November 7, 2020 — (Photo By: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)PHOTO BY: WILL HEATH/NBC/NBCU PHOTO BANK VIA GETTY IMAGES

For Alec Baldwin, a long personal nightmare may be over. On Saturday, after four years of impersonating President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, Baldwin expressed relief at what might have been one of his final appearances as the president on the sketch comedy show.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever been this overjoyed to lose a job before!” Baldwin wrote on Twitter, shortly after Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was officially projected as the election’s winner. After starring as Trump during Saturday’s episode of SNL, Baldwin tweeted a photo of himself in character holding up a sign that read “You’re welcome.” The actor, who won an Emmy for his portrayal of Trump, shared the same message during the episode’s goodnights.

Baldwin was cast as Trump in the fall of 2016, and his impression frequently got under the now lame duck president’s skin.

“Alec Baldwin, whose dying mediocre career was saved by his terrible impersonation of me on SNL, now says playing me was agony,” Trump wrote on Twitter in 2018, shortly after Baldwin gave an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in which he expressed displeasure with having to play the president. “Alec, it was agony for those who were forced to watch. Bring back Darrell Hammond, funnier and a far greater talent!”

Last year, Trump again broadsided Saturday Night Live, asking how “Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!” The president did not follow through on his threat to investigate the sketch comedy series.

Tossing out idle threats about Saturday Night Live, however, is something Trump and Baldwin have in common. In June of last year, Baldwin said in multiple interviews that he had stopped enjoying the role.

“I can’t imagine I would do it again. I just can’t,” he told USA Today. “They should find somebody who wants to do it.”

But in an interview published just one day later, Baldwin said despite his misgivings, he would likely return. “I get sick of [appearing as Trump] and I’ve whined about it regularly, because in the zeitgeist I’m a pretty political person and where I would normally put that energy is in voter registration, to work with MoveOn.org, to get involved in an actual candidacy and get more into that,” he toldTVLine. “But Lorne [Michaels] is my dear friend and [SNL] is like another home to me, so if they want me to do it, I probably will.”

He did, of course. In October of last year, Baldwin told Jimmy Fallon that while he tried to leave the impression behind, Michaels convinced him otherwise. “Lorne starts with one very powerful premise, which is, ‘I hired you, didn’t I? So my judgment is flawless, right? I gave you your biggest job, didn’t I?’ And you’re like, ‘Yeah, you got a point. You hired me, so I really shouldn’t doubt you,’” Baldwin recalled.

If this is the end of Baldwin’s Trump, he went out much in the same way as Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton. After the 2016 election, McKinnon-as-Clinton played a mournful cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on Saturday Night Live. On Saturday, befitting the president, Baldwin-as-Trump sat in front of a piano and performed a sad cover of The Village People’s “Macho Man.”

‘SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE’ SENDS OFF TRUMP WITH A BALLAD ~ NYT

Alec Baldwin appeared as the president to mourn the election results, and the host Dave Chappelle urged Americans to “find a way to forgive each other.”

Dave Chappelle and the “Saturday Night Live” cast. He returned, bookending his 2016 monologue, with another provocative mix of sometimes stinging humor and wisdom.
Dave Chappelle and the “Saturday Night Live” cast. He returned, bookending his 2016 monologue, with another provocative mix of sometimes stinging humor and wisdom.Credit…Will Heath/NBC

By Dave Itzkoff

Just over four years ago, “Saturday Night Live” invited Dave Chappelle to host its Nov. 12, 2016 broadcast — the show’s first after that year’s presidential election. The tacit assumption, at the time, was that he would be the master of ceremonies for an episode that would serve as both a satirical farewell to the long-shot candidacy of the Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, and a victory lap for his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Needless to say, things didn’t work out that way.

Even so, “S.N.L.” put together a memorable episode that weekend, one that began — for better or for worse — with Kate McKinnon, as Clinton, seated at a piano and singing a somber rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” (Cohen had died a few days earlier.) Turning to the camera, McKinnon said, “I’m not giving up and neither should you.”

Chappelle, in his debut appearance as an “S.N.L.” host, acknowledged in a lengthy standup monologue that he had not expected Trump to win the election, and wondered what would happen to America now that “we’ve actually elected an internet troll as our president.” He went on to say that “I’m wishing Donald Trump luck. And I’m going to give him a chance, and we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.”

One presidential term later, “S.N.L.” gave Chappelle the chance to host a more exuberant episode — a broadcast that capped several protracted days of vote-counting and aired just a few hours after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. secured his victory.

In another extended monologue that was variously comedic, reflective and deliberately provocative, Chappelle reflected upon his 2016 appearance and reminded Biden supporters that “it’s good to be a humble winner.”

“Remember when I was here four years ago?” he said. “Remember how bad that felt? Remember that half the country, right now, still feels that way.”

In an extraordinarily divisive time, Americans must “find a way to forgive each other,” Chappelle said.

This week’s episode opened with a sketch that began as a lampoon of CNN’s election coverage, with Beck Bennett as a weary Wolf Blitzer and Alex Moffat as John King, whose fingers had been worn down to nubs from using touch-screen maps for 85 hours.

They announced that the presidency had been won by Biden and then brought out Jim Carrey in that recurring role.

“We did it,” Carrey said as Biden. “Can you believe it? I honestly kind of can’t. It’s been so long since something good happened.”

He added, “I’ve never felt so alive, which is ironic since I’m not that alive.”

He was joined by Maya Rudolph, reprising her role as Kamala Harris, now the Vice President-elect. “I am humbled and honored to be the first female, the first Black, the first Indian-American and the first biracial Vice President,” Rudolph said. Noting that she had a Jewish husband, she added, “Between us, we check more boxes than a disqualified ballot.”

The sketch also included a would-be concession speech from President Trump, played by Alec Baldwin. Speaking to the camera, Baldwin said, “I vow to all my supporters, I’m going to fight this thing to the bitter end. I will never give up and neither should you.”

In a callback to McKinnon’s performance four years ago, Baldwin stood up, walked to a piano and began to sing a mournful cover of the Village People’s “Macho Man.”

~~~ CONTINUE ~~~

Letters From An American, Heather Cox Richardson

November 1, 2020

There are two big stories this weekend: voter intimidation and the Trump campaign’s attempt to game the election by convincing people that the president should declare victory on Tuesday night.

There have been flashes of voter intimidation all along, with pro-Trump supporters blocking a poll entrance in Fairfax, Virginia, in September, for example. But that intimidation escalated yesterday when a caravan of trucks and cars sporting Trump flags surrounded a Biden-Harris bus in Texas, forcing it first to slow to 20 miles an hour and then forcing the campaign to cancel the rest of the day’s campaign events out of safety concerns. One of the trucks sideswiped a car as the two drove down the highway. 

After the encounter, Trump cheered on the perpetrators, retweeting a video of the vehicles swarming the bus with the words “I LOVE TEXAS!” Last night, he retold the incident to his rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, suggesting it showed how popular he really is. 

rŌbert

Also yesterday, Alamance County sheriff’s deputies and city police officers in Graham, North Carolina, abruptly pepper-sprayed about 200 people who were marching peacefully to the polls. The crowd included children and disabled people and, in what will likely turn out to be a problem for the officers in court, political pundit David Frum’s children, who filmed the encounter. The sheriff’s office said it attacked the march out of “concerns for the safety of all,” but Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson has such a record of racism and intimidation that the Department of Justice sent election monitors to the county in 2004, 2008, and 2012. 

This afternoon, the FBI confirmed in a short, nonspecific statement that it is investigating the incident. After all, voter intimidation is a federal as well as a state crime. 

Tonight, Trump tweeted: “In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong. Instead, the FBI & Justice should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA, who run around burning down our Democrat run cities and hurting our people!”

Today, Trump supporters are building on yesterday’s disruption, but with little obvious purpose. They shut down the northbound side of the Garden State Parkway and the Mario Cuomo bridge over the Hudson River. Tonight, another Trump group appears to be disrupting traffic at Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Writer Rebecca Solnit noted, “Reminder: They’re doing crazy s**t because they can’t win by the rules.”

Indeed, Americans continue to turn out to vote in record numbers. As of early this afternoon, voters had cast 93 million early ballots, almost twice as many as were cast in 2016. That’s about 68% of the total votes counted in 2016. Hawaii and Texas have already seen more votes cast than were cast in total in 2016. People newly engaged in the political process are turning out to vote, including young people, who are voting in record numbers. In Georgia, the voter rights organization Fair Fight, started by Democrat Stacey Abrams in 2018, has registered more than 800,000 new voters. If those people show up to vote, University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock told NBC News, “it would be game over.”

As the tide appears to be running strong against Trump, he and his surrogates are trying to lay the groundwork to claim a victory before the actual votes are counted. Repeatedly, Trump and his people have insisted that the election should be called on Tuesday night, and that if it is not, as Trump adviser Jason Miller said on ABC this morning, the Democrats are “going to try to steal it back after the election.” 

But you can’t win an election before all the votes are counted. As the New York Times put it tonight, counting all the votes by the evening of November 3 is “not possible and never has been. No state ever reports final results on election night, and no state is legally expected to.” It is the states that certify the final votes, and none of them does so on Election Day. They have to take time to count all the ballots, and always there are late arrivals, such as those from deployed military personnel. 

Ohio’s Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the swing state’s top election official, is already warning people that it is unlikely Ohio can call its election results on November 3. “That’s not the way elections work. It’s just simply not, it’s not the way elections work in Ohio or most any other state election night is a snapshot in time,” he told CNN. “Every legally cast [ballot] deserves to be counted and will be counted by our boards collections and reported as part of our final certified result at the end of the month.”

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss pointed out today that we did not have a certain presidential winner on the night of the election in 1960, 1968, 1976, 2000, 2004, and 2016. It would not be unusual at all not to have one this year, either.

The way it works is this: Each state has its own procedures for counting ballots. Some count early ballots when they come in, others alongside the ones cast on Election Day, still others put them off until after in-person ballots are counted. Because early voting this year has skewed to Democrats, people watching this election expect that the in-person voting will be heavily Republican. So in Arizona, for example, where officials count ballots when they come in, it is likely that the first reports on November 3 will lean Democratic. Then the in-person ballots will be counted, shifting the state into the Republican column, then the late arriving ballots might well shift the state back to the Democrats. 

Trump is hoping to call the election at the end of the evening, after the in-person ballots have been counted—meaning a shift to the Republicans– but before the mail-in ballots which will likely favor Democrats have all been tabulated. He and his campaign are especially interested in getting things settled before results come in from Pennsylvania, a key swing state where Biden is leading, and which doesn’t count its mail-in ballots until Election Day. Picking a moment at the end of Tuesday night would let him capitalize on the high water mark for his campaign, but it would mean ignoring legally cast ballots. It is rather as if a soccer team captain got to choose to call a game at the precise moment her team was ahead.

Three sources close to Trump told Jonathan Swan of Axios that Trump indeed plans to declare victory if he appears to be ahead. Tonight the president told reporters: “I think it’s a terrible thing when ballots can be collected after an election. I think it’s a terrible thing when states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over.” He added: “I think it’s terrible that we can’t know the results of an election the night of the election. … We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers.” 

His campaign appears to be hoping to convince followers that Democrats have stolen the election if the results change after Election Day. At the same time, his lawyers will throw around lawsuits in key states. If the vote is close, these two things could create enough confusion that the election drags out until it ends up either in the House of Representatives or before the Supreme Court. This is highly unlikely, but it might be a way to game the system for a victory, and Trump’s campaign needs scenarios that do not depend on winning the election fair and square.

Tonight NBC News White House correspondent Geoff Bennett reported news from a federal law enforcement source: Starting tomorrow, “crews will build a ‘non-scalable’ fence to secure the WH complex, Ellipse and Lafayette Square. 250 National Guardsmen have been put on standby, reporting to Metro Police officials.” 

One astute reader commented: “You might be forgiven for thinking he’s planning on doing something that will be bringing mass protests to Washington & the White House.”

~~~ WATCH ~~~

DIANE DI PRIMA, FEMINIST POET OF THE BEAT GENERATION, DIES AT 86 ~ The Washington Post

By Emily Langer

Oct. 26, 2020

Diane di Prima, a poet and writer who was regarded as the most significant female member of the Beat Generation, the male-dominated countercultural movement of the 1950s to which she lent her feminist, sometimes anarchist sensibility, died Oct. 25 at a hospital in San Francisco. She was 86.

Diane di Prima reads from her poetry collection “This Kind of Bird Flies Backward” at the Gaslight Cafe in New York in 1959. (Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images)

She had Parkinson’s disease and Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, according to a statement from her family.

For Ms. di Prima, the author of more than 40 works of poetry, prose and theater, writing was “like being a hermit or a samurai. A calling. The holiest life that was offered in our world.” By her actions, she declared herself a conscientious objector to the bourgeois life of her childhood, quitting college because it distracted her from her artistic pursuits and making a name for herself, first in New York and later in San Francisco, amid the tumult of the counterculture.

~~~ WATCH ~~~

The Beat movement, epitomized by the works of such writers as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, was largely a male preserve, although it did make room for female poets including Joanne Kyger and Anne Waldman.

Ms. di Prima made her poetic debut with the collection “This Kind of Bird Flies Backward” (1958). City Lights, the venerable San Francisco bookseller and publisher co-founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, describes her collection “Revolutionary Letters” (1971) as “a series of poems composed of a potent blend of utopian anarchism and ecological awareness, projected through a Zen-tinged feminist lens.”

Her work “is the expression of a strong, sensitive, intelligent woman during more than two decades of social and artistic ferment,” reads an entry in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. “Unfettered by the conventions of academia or society, she speaks of life outside the mainstream of middle-class America,” charting “the shifting streams of America’s fringe culture.”

Ms. di Prima had five children — including one with LeRoi Jones, the influential African American poet later known as Amiri Baraka — while publishing her writings, co-founding with Jones a mimeographed literary newsletter, the Floating Bear, and pursuing the self-discovery that the freedoms of the counterculture promised. But she described maternal responsibilities as imposing on her life the discipline that made writing possible.

In her memoir, she recalled a Beat party in New York, with alcohol and marijuana readily available, which Ms. di Prima left at 11:30 p.m. to tend to her daughter.

“DI PRIMA,” she recalled Kerouac shouting, “UNLESS YOU FORGET ABOUT YOUR BABYSITTER, YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO BE A WRITER.”

(Asked years later about the incident, Ms. di Prima said that she did not attribute Kerouac’s comment to sexism. “Jack wanted me to hang out because everyone was gay and I was straight,” Ms. di Prima told The Washington Post in 2017. “He was probably hoping to get laid later.”)

Driving the beat road

Ms. di Prima moved in 1968 to San Francisco, where she joined the Diggers, an anarchist group in the Haight-Ashbury district that provided free food, clothes and theater to the poor, and continued her writing. “Loba,” an epic poem published in installments beginning in 1973, centers on a wolf goddess and is often described as the female answer to Ginsberg’s “Howl” (1955).

Ms. di Prima lived for the rest of her life in San Francisco, becoming the city’s poet laureate in 2009 and, by the time of her death, one of the few surviving members of the Beat generation. Kerouac had died in 1969, Burroughs and Ginsberg in 1997. Baraka died in 2014.

Amiri Baraka, poet and firebrand, dies at 79

Diane Rose di Prima was born on Aug. 6, 1934, to an Italian American family in Brooklyn. Her father was a lawyer, and her mother became a reading teacher. An early influence on her political sensibilities was her immigrant grandfather, who, Ms. di Prima once told the Chicago Tribune, “brought over anarchism and a sense of poetry as belonging to everyone.”

~~~ CONTINUE ~~~