By Robert Reiss
Ralph Lee b. 1935, d. 2023
On one particular October 31 it was during my late afternoon visit in the Westbeth Home of Karl Bissinger, the Café Society, Photographer and activist pacifist, when he declared excitedly “let’s go outside to Jane Street and see what fellow Westbeth resident Ralph Lee has been working on!”
Carl was talking about what, in retrospect, was to become the first of the annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parades, which started at Jane St and West Street’s in association with Crystal Field and Companys Theater for the New City (TNC).
As we left Westbeth Carl and I fetched another Westbether, Josheph Chaikin, the actor director and founder of the influential The Open Theater to join with us as we left for the parade at its first expression of itself as an enduring cultural gift to the life of the city.
We joined about a hundred West Village families assembled in their costumed attire; here I said hello to the famous memory expert Harry Lorrayne, (with his youngster Robert in tow) who had a Jane St townhouse thereabouts.
Our small procession proceeded through the sepulcher, serpentine streets of the Village winding our way past window-sills and doorsteps decorated into tableaus of ghouls, ghosts, and spectral Halloween characters arranged during the week prior by Puppet master and theater maven Ralph Lee.
For about one hour this procession of wide eyed revelers marveled at and were delightedly awestruck by these window frame Hallows Eve screens designed by Mr. Lee; the window frames aflame with devilry on display.
Indeed, WestView News publisher George Capsis for the first parade provided his Charles St townhouse for one of the puppet masters parade route stenographic creations.
As I remember it, that evening’s adventure concluded under the Washington Square Arch.
The charming and neighborly gathering came to a lovely end, that loveliest of Halloweens, all thanks to the enchantments of the enlivened hand and imagination of Ralph Lee.