Magazine article The New Yorker

LAST BOHEMIANS; TRIBES Series: 5/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

LAST BOHEMIANS; TRIBES Series: 5/5

Article excerpt

"My life's an open book," Harriet Sohmers Zwerling declared the other night. She was wearing a maroon bustier and Pharaonic blond bangs, and was leaning on a cane. Zwerling, the writer and grande horizontale, has been a sort of den mother--she would get smashed and have everyone over for lima beans--to five decades of Greenwich Village misfits. Recently, she appeared in a documentary, "Still Doing It," about sex and older women. "Every time it's shown, I get e-mail from young guys who want to get it on with me," she said. "Which is wonderful. I'm seventy-seven fucking years old." Zwerling was in the gallery at Westbeth, the artists' complex on Bethune Street, at a party for the opening of an exhibit of photographs, "The Last Bohemians," and the publication of her friend Edward Field's new memoir, "The Man Who Would Marry Susan Sontag." The book is every bit as gossipy an accounting of lives, his own and others', as its title suggests. (The Man, by the way, was the critic Alfred Chester.) Few of Field's cohorts were offended by his dredging up of youthful indiscretions. If profligacy has been their social imperative, its moral corollary is unflinching tolerance. They seemed highly entertained, and even a little proud.

"In those days, I lived in a former coalbin, which I shared with Jean Garrigue, on Ninth Street," Stanley Moss, the poet and art dealer, said. "If I went to bed before four o'clock in the morning, I thought I was doing something awful." He went over to say hello to Field, who was sitting behind a table, set with a few books and a cigar box for contributions. "We met," Field said, "because a friend was having an affair with a guy who was married to a woman Stanley had had an affair with."

"A wonderful thing about Edward," Karl Bissinger, a ninety-one-year-old resident of Westbeth, said. "He had a friend that he lived with. The friend left him and, just after, went blind. Edward is still taking care of him after all these years." Bissinger, a fashion photographer who abandoned his career during the Vietnam War to help draftees escape to Canada, was referring to Field's partner of forty years, Neil Derrick. "I'm very glad to see you," Bissinger said, turning to a sweaty, hulking man in a "Poetry at Gunpoint" T-shirt who had flecks of fried egg in his wiry white beard. …

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