11 June 2013

remembering Coby

the older I get the more critical it feels to reclaim gay history.  even in my lifetime so much has been lost.  & so many men have become forgotten.

Coburn Haskell Britton (1935-1997) came from a wealthy Cleveland family.  it's been told that his grandfather inventd the golf ball & his father manufacturd the hula hoop. he went to Deerfield Academy.  I think he was a year or two ahead of playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie.  then he went to Yale (where his papers now reside).

his career in letters began as an editor with Doubleday.  in the '60s he became co-publisher of Horizon Press.  then in 1970 he startd the magazine Prose

my friends who appeard in its pages were delightd because he paid well. & it was often gossipd that he was more than generous with elderly writers he admird who were struggling financially.

my memory of exactly how we got in touch is already sketchy but it was during that time I was editing A Festschrift for Djuna Barnes on Her 80th Birthday.  he put me in contact with photographer Berenice Abbott who allowd us to use a previously unpublishd photograph of the novelist (which after publication I learnd Barnes loathd).

Coby wrote a short encomium to Barnes. the now-famous publication also had contributions by Lawrence Durrell & Anais Nin.

I've been unable to unearth a photo of us together.  I remember a color poloroid of me naked on a raft in Coby's pond on the apple farm in New Jersey in july of 1972 but it hasn't turnd up yet.  however I do have this gem from that visit.

this was a birthday party for composer Charles Wuorinen (whose opera of "Brokeback Mountain" premieres next year). several years later Coby wrote the text for a piece of Wuorinen's.

early in 1974 Coby & his then partner Joseph Focarino (who workd at the Frick where he editd the catalog of their collections) came to visit my then partner & I in Twin Lakes. & a year after that I attended his famous all-male New Years Day party in NYC.  he lived next door to Paul Cadmus on St. Luke's Place but I don't recall if the famous painter was there.

as sometimes happens we lost touch.  so I didn't know him in his final years.  he collaboratd with the delicious artist Willyum Rowe on an abecedarium & publishd some of his own letters.  a while ago Edmund White wrote abt visiting him on the farm. but I don't hear much anymore abt Prose & less abt the boy parties. perhaps there will be a chapter in someone's memoirs. we can only wait.


cinemage books said...

i recall you taking me to his house maybe it was new years, and it was a very drunken scene, I played my part well.

Alex Gildzen said...

my main visual from that party was a huge glass bowl of raw meat. it was for steak tartar.

cinemage books said...

I'm surprised I didn't wind up in that huge glass bowl