The 60's Art scene



Writing this is a bit of a challenge So I am going to tell my story as I remember it. It gets confusing as to dates so I am just going to make chapters of different venues and just tell the stories.
FL: I always wanted to be an Artist and I always approached life like an Artist, it just took me a very long time to figure out what an Artist was.
After getting out of the Navy I apprenticed as a silkscreen printer making up to 12 colour decals for pottery. He moved to Creemore and I worked at silkscreen in Toronto for awhile   and spent a great deal of time at the Village Corner and the Yorkville folk scene. I really started here because of  school friend Muriel Frisque She hung out here when she was at College. I looked up a friend of hers John Smith and we became friends. John was from Nova Scotia and billed himself as the dirtiest Folksinger in Toronto and often sold out the Village Corner mostly sing songs off the Oscar Brand records - (I had all of them) Through John I met the 'Dirty Shames' Chick Roberts, Jim McCarthy Carole Robinson and Amos Garrett and many others on the folk scene .  I remember at a party with the Dirty Shames one night I went home and got some booze and went back to Carole's I think, A girl friend of hers came in from New York and we sat around while she sang a song she had picked up in New York. She sang 'Girl From the North country' and bowled us all over.
Soon I was hanging out with Ken Danby at the Gate of Cleve when he did the Mariposa Folk Festival Poster. In this milieu I met Ed Cowan and Jack Wall and ended up as Assistant Food Manager at the 63 Mariposa Festival in Orillia.
    Ken Danby

I worked with Wally Cowan Ed's brother and we put together and supplied the several food booths that served the festival. I was staying at the crew motel as we set up the week before, and in the next room was the coolest guy I had ever met. he was from New York and did the lighting. We had a few beers together everyday. Chip had little round blue sunglasses and a young hippie wife with a baby and he knew everybody and was just cool. So the day before the show he is looking real sad and I ask why. he says he is leaving. he broke his most important light and it cost $150.00 and he didn't have enough to pay for it. I asked if he could get it in Orillia he said yes. So we went and bought it and I charged it to the Festival. So the show went on and saved his business. That cool guy was Chip Monck one of the principle founders of the Woodstock Festival.
One of our big sponsors was Canada Dry and their reps were great quick to buy dinners and drinks and I was friend with a couple of them for years. the week before I had a van and set up freezer space for tons of Frozen pizzas hamburger patties hotdogs etc. organizing carpenters etc.
Somewhere in this I managed to back into the TR3 of lord Athol Layton the wrestler with our rented van. He did pull up in my blind spot( it took him about 5 years to find me to sign off the insurance)
I also partied most nights, eventually making a bed in the Van. I found a neat girlfriend to share it with. the only problem was the baker delivered the fresh rolls to the van at 4 in the morning. the festival itself was a zoo.
I remember the mayor of Orillia's introduction. "Last year I said the Town is Yours. This year we would like it back!"
The money rolled in from the booths so fast we ended up using my Volkswagen bug as a vault. Wally and I had keys and would pick up handfuls of cash and stuff it in the back of the car under a blanket.
I once went into the festival office to get some change and found Irving the accountant sitting at a desk counting by stacks of money. I surprised him and he pulled a gun on me. when he saw it was me he apologized and put it away.
When it was over I helped clean up and got half my pay and was told I would get a cheque for the rest. after no cheque for a couple of weeks and getting the run-around from Wally I went to fifth peg to see Jack Wall. he pleaded poor and offered me a week of free dinners and shows at the 5th Peg.
So I had a week of having dinner with John lee hooker as he performed to a very small crowd. As it turned out Jack ripped off everybody he paid nobody. he didn't pay most performers, suppliers. I don't know how he did it, the fifth peg closed and he dropped out of sight.
I drifted back to Uxbridge and became involved with Goodwood Go kart Track. it was owned by my  friends from High school Bill Bell and my lifelong friend Gary Hodgkins. they were in a financial crisis and created a huge go-kart weekend combined with a hootenanny and included the tent city from Mariposa. Bill's uncle was going to bootleg only he lit a cigarette and crashed his van into telephone pole with a few thousand dollars worth of booze in it sending him to hospital as well. So I became the bootlegger. I had a big tent in the middle of the tent city. The half dozen beds were made of stacked cases of beer and pints of whiskey covered with blankets and my Volkswagen beetle had pints of whiskey under the seats and stacked inside the doors and trunk etc. I conducted business thus. I sold at the Friday night dance Jay and the Majestic's I remember giving Eugene Smith (Jay) a mickey of whisky to cheer him up. John Smith and a bunch sang at the hootenanny at island lake Saturday night. I parked my van in the middle of the crowd about hundred feet from the Haywagon Stage and bonfire and conducted business. Suddenly sirens and police raided the place coming from everywhere. I got out locked the car walked up a hill and climbed a tree. I sat there until everybody left about 3 in the morning. My Volkswagen sat untouched. I got in checked all the booze was still there and I drove out the only way in and out. An OPP sat at the gate and waved me on.  The next day was  Sunday and I was selling cheaper trying to get rid of some stock. Then another raid. Police started searching the tents. there was at least a couple of hundred tents. I left the tent and went up on a hill with Ken Danby he had broken his leg and was on crutches. We sat watching the cops search the tents everyone but mine.  I have no idea how I was so lucky twice. This put a crimp in the biz however I never went back to the tent all day. I remember there was a beauty contest and Hodge made me organize it or something. anyway I had to sit in the tent while all the girls got changed around me which made for a fun time.
 I sold booze for a couple of weeks but there was not a lot of business and Hodge and Bill and I got to drink a lot of it. I still found bottles in my car 6 months later. The Track went into bankruptcy and we moved on. The last I saw of John Smith was at 'Websters Restaurant he was in a bad way His girlfriend had thrown him out and given all his clothes to the Salvation Army.


 At the factory I had been promoted to the top job as a Stainless steel tubing welder.I tried to get into OCA but was rejected because of lousy math marks. So I decided to become an Artist by hanging out with artists. But by now I had found out about 'The Pilot' The pilot was reputed to be the Mecca of Artists this is where most of the famous ones hung out. Barry hale was the Art Critic of the Telegram and wrote lots of stories about Artists at the pilot. (mostly because he hung out at the pilot)
At that time the pilot was a bit of a problem for me because of the shifts I was on.
So I show up at the pilot around noon. There are no artists and I didn't even notice the back room. I sat at the bar and had a sandwich and a beer. A guy sat beside me looked like an ad man, very dapper in a gray flannel suit trimmed moustache gray hair, he ordered a martini. We chatted he was a really nice guy and seemed to know a lot about art. Over the next few weeks I went a couple times a week met the same guy often and we became  very friendly but I never saw any of the artists Barry Hale wrote about in the Telegram.
One time I asked Jack if any artists hung out there and he said he thought so but they came later in the afternoon and hung out in the back room. I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed the back room, it was like a large dark cavern It had a continuous upholstered seat right around th room with and exit door at the back and a dozen or so table with chairs. One wall was mirrored and the other had a very strange mural. But it was almost in complete darkness. So I started coming at 5 pm and soon  began to recognize the ones from the art articles (at that time Jerry Santbergen was the featured Artist)  
 Markle was an unlikely looking guru he looked like  kind of a slob he was overweight, he only wore blue jeans and navy sweatshirt and often rubber boots with a motorcycle jacket and a scarf.  But he  was brilliant, wonderful, witty  and  sort of a snob.
Markle sort of held court at the Pilot. At 5 he would appear and sit in these funny little corners at the Pilot Tavern either side. The pilot had benches along each wall with tables for four and 2 chairs outside. But at the entrance there was a sort of cul de sac on each side of the stairs that they made into a seat like a mini throne. Markle always sat there and woe be on them that took his seat. The inner circle sat up that side on that day. The Pilot was always very dark at any time of day. The five o clock crowd was very much an In Crowd outsiders were made uncomfortable and soon moved on. I came in as a outsider and was strongly ignored. But I wanted to be in the artscene and persevered and sat off on the fringe trying my best to get any drift of the conversations. I vaguely remember words like ‘ramifications’  that sent me running for a dictionary.  But I lingered on the fringe even Santbergan was more or less on the fringe and managed to talk to him a few times, he was fairly new to Toronto and had just come from Saskatchewan . One thing I knew for certain if I was going to get into this Artist World I would have to be accepted by Markle. I hit the Pilot about once a week and met some other fringe artists and cbc people like Bill Mc Neil and Hans ? Larry Zolf etc.
Then one night in February 1966 I drifted into the Pilot at ten o clock. The 5 o clock crowd long gone  . I sat and ordered a beer waiting for my eyes to get used to gloom. It was not a busy night and not many around. then I saw Markle coming in with some guy . He walked by his usual throne and sat on the bench, a table away the other guy sat down across from him. Jesus! he was sitting with Bob Dylan WOW!  I dared not approach and merely nodded as our eyes met. I couldn't hear what they said but I could tell Dylan was engaged and enjoying the conversation. I am not sure what I did but the Pilot had become my "Office'.
The next day I was at the Pilot at 5 o clock. Markle was soon in his seat bubbling with the news of bringing Bob Dylan there the previous night. There was a mood of disbelief. Markle saw me and invited me over and offered a chair. "Hey man you saw me here last night with Bob Dylan - right?"
"Yes" I said and was accepted in to the in crowd.
I started going to Openings and soon was invited to parties and studios and smoking dope and all that that entails.
The factory job was a conflict I soon rose to the top job and I was also president of our union. Then I was sabotaged by a jealous worker I had passed over. He switched orders on me causing me to double a big order. I was demoted for a couple of months which really didn't bother me but I wasn't cut out for factory work and it was  spring I quit my job and moved to a house on McAlpine near Yorkville (same street Markle lived on) And some how got unemployment insurance as an unemployed shepherd. it seemed my Artist life was starting. One of the things that impressed the Pilot Artists is that I was friends with Jack Bush who was the guy I had been talking to at the bar.



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