My Date With Sam Dolgoff
(a shared memory)
( Note: the “My Date…” series of articles stretches back as far as the mid 1980’s and was begun by an article written by a woman attendee at anarchist functions in NYC. Her article, My Date with Holly Near, is a brief fluffy piece about an outing she and the singer had which evidently ended in some very earnest and breathy sex play. At that time Holly Near had dated (and fucked) almost every identifiable female anarchist in NYC, and the article may have been an attempt to record this historic campaign for posterity. Shortly thereafter Bob McGlynn wrote his “My Date with Holly Near,” which is a fantasy piece in which he and the singer drink beer, go bowling, and then stomp the lungs out of a bunch of malicious bikers. By far the most famous entry is Bob Black’s My Date with Jim Hogshire, which is an account of the notorious evening of February 10/11, 1996, where Black, who was to stay at Hogshire’s place, had a falling out with his host, allegedly groped Hogshire’s wife, was threatened with an M1 rifle and then was shown the door. This resulting article is classic Bob Black, and the vengeful aftermath includes a court case that stemmed from an issue Hogshire had with the local constabulary regarding the legality of making opium tea out of dried poppies purchased at florist shops. Hogshire unfortunately still has not written what he may have been put into this world to write, the response titled My Date with Bob Black.)
Suffice it to say that by 1985 or so I had become an anarchist with all the attendant vices and virtues, I hated the state, I lived on the Lower East Side, I attended interminable meetings; I read much and worked little. The city had two operating anarchist groups that I knew of, and I was a part of both, the Libertarian Book Club, and the Anarchist Switchboard. There were a lot of folks through each of these, but mainly a hardcore group of about 20 souls maintained the beating heart of anarchy in those foul years of Reagan and his ilk, which proved the truism that in any society the scum eventually rises to the surface to be drained off by history. I had been friends with Lauren for several months and she had called, said she was on her way to see Sam Dolgoff and invited me along. I met her at the Anarchist Switchboard that March afternoon in a cold, pouring rain. She said that we should just walk to his apartment as, other than busses, no trains would put us anywhere near his place. I asked where that was and she said that he lived in a building for retired members of the NY painters union. There are dozens of these union administered retirement buildings throughout New York, and though they resemble housing projects, the insides are better kept, and they have built-in meeting rooms and offices, some for the unions, some for rent. The Libertarian Book Club’s monthly events were held at a large meeting room in a union retirement home a few blocks down Seventh Avenue from Madison Square Garden. Even then, and in spite of the prevailing political climate, the unions would let the anarchists use the room—it was pretty cheap too. Lauren had made it her business, at the young age of 20, of bouncing around New York and introducing herself to as many of the old time anarchists, the Dolgoffs, the staff of the then recently defunct Freie Arbeiter Stimme (The Free Voice of Labor)—the Yiddish anarchist newspaper that had been going since the twenties, Vilario—an old Italian gentleman who at one time was involved both with the Galleanist’s and (it was rumoured) also Malatesta. Finally she had met Mel Most, who it was believed was related to Johann Most—a cousin or nephew—who for years had been running an outreach and service agency for prostitutes working on the Lower East Side. So this trip to the Dolgoffs was just her doing her best to string these old time anarchists to the younger punk anarchist scene—I guess to maintain some semblance of continuity.