Funny that people still remember that event. I wonder why?
If I had my choice of being anything in this world, I'd be a Shakespearean actor, simply because I love standing amid a crowd giving a speech. Of course I've read up on what performances at the Globe were really like. Crowds did not sit catatonically, but were engaged in byplay with the actors they surrounded; the shouts, heckling, shocked reactions and thrown peanuts all part of the show. Literature had teeth in those bygone days.
Five of the original Six members of the ULA, with NYC journalist Annia Ciezadlo in tow, showed up at KGB one Sunday night to give an impromptu performance to let people know what we were about. We were there a grand total of ten or fifteen minutes. It was great fun, one of the highlights of our history as an organization.
That simple "reading crash" illustrated then and for all time the difference between the status quo and what the ULA stands for. What we saw was a crowd of the gentry "appreciating" the most godawful sterile dull "performance" ever witnessed; the polite comfortable affluent people sitting like tame pets as if at a church service-- which for them is exactly what it was. The Vanity Fair editor who was reading has little talent as a writer and ZERO ability as a reader-- staring down mumbling in a monotone her precious story about vacation in France, or something similarly irrelevant and precious. (We were hoping Rick Moody and friends would be there.) There was no life in the room. THIS-- these kind of readings, are exactly what are killing literature in this country because they tell the world there's no life in literature itself-- and there isn't, if it's to be judged by these folks and by their enervated works.
So, we gave a free performance; some brief ULA Theater. For me, it was an opportunity to let my voice out just a trifle-- when Ms. Sterzinger, Mr. Bassett, and Mike Jackman had done their thing and then the balloon popped and the crowd demanded we be removed and I got off my barstool, stood in the center of the room and asked, "Who's going to remove us?" and pointed to pet after pet and said, "You? Or you?"
I was the first person out the door and so missed Jackman's impromptu speech, which I heard afterward was pretty good. The rest of the gang came down in stages where I waited outside on the sidewalk; that's when I uncorked my voice full out at the bouncers-- I'm sure it was heard in the room above-- while an Ivy League jock who'd followed us downstairs tried to give Michael the "jock push." Michael just puffed on a cigarette and laughed at him.
Theater, that's all it was. If Ms. E.S. had any ability whatsoever as an entertaining reader she would've waved at us and laughed. Instead, she froze. I've been heckled many times when reading. It's when I'm at my best-- when I can really get into my words. For E.S., it was potentially a learning experience-- and she blew it, maybe because as a talent she blows.
All you saw that evening, Anonymous, was a contrast between genteel posers and the genuine article.
The ULA's evening ended at the International Bar with a couple out-and-out brawls between us. (The early ULA saved all its most intense and violent fights for ourselves.)