By George Capsis
66 years ago I was invited by Dick Brummer to his top floor apartment on Perry Street for an small evening party and I found myself glancing down from the rear window at a garden across the way on Charles Street that became the house I bought for my family and in which I am keying this right now.
Dick’s family owned the Brummer Gallery on 57th Street which, if you Google them, was a famous institution. They sold many things, from Egyptian relics to avant garde art from Paris, and a big hunk of what they brought over is now at the Met.
Dick was interested in what we called art films and I had gone to City College at night to study films under Hans Richter who did nutty things in Paris with the Dada gang and selected me to work on his film Dreams that Money Can Buy and I met Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray on the set the first night.
Dick and I got the idea to gather together all the people making art films, as they were also called, and we made a list and on it was the name of Jonas Mekas and his brother Adolphus, who we discovered lived on Orchard Street, which was THE street on the Lower East Side of Jewish retail shops (it was always flooded with shoppers).
They lived in what they called “old law tenement” and they shared the toilet with the tenant on the other side of the wall. There was no bath or shower, so they drove an ice pick into a cold water pipe in the ceiling and would step into a porcelain pan and pull the pick when they wanted to bathe (their tenement is now the Tenement Museum).
Jonas showed me a draft of a film magazine he was putting together with the name Film Culture and I quickly said “no, no, that’s not right you gotta give it a better name.” I wrongly assumed since he was from Lithuania and was new to English he would accept my suggestions. Not Jonas—and I discovered his granite stubbornness, which he never lost—it stayed Film Culture.
Some months ago I invited Jonas to 69 Charles and he came with his son since, in his 90s, he was frail and walking was treacherous. At one point he stopped and pulled out some typewritten sheets and explained that these were notes of my visit to his apartment 66 years ago written by his brother Adolfus.