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IRA COHEN - Media Shaman

Anti-hero? Counterculture Legend? Ira Cohen is presenting his 1969 film, 'Paradise Now: The Living Theatre in Amerika' - Live from The Living Room in New York

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by Joe Ambrose, Literary Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: October, 2006
In addition to his Moroccan adventures, Ira is closely associated with Katmandu, where he had a multifaceted relationship with Velvet Underground founder, and fellow media shaman, Angus MacLise
by Joe Ambrose, Literary Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: October, 2006
In addition to his Moroccan adventures, Ira is closely associated with Katmandu, where he had a multifaceted relationship with Velvet Underground founder, and fellow media shaman, Angus MacLise

The Tuesday evening series, Live from The Living Room, is about to resume at NYC's Gershwin Hotel. To kick off the seventh season at this sleek art hotel (the walls are festooned with Pop Art trophies), Ira Cohen will be performing and showing his film Paradise Now: The Living Theatre in Amerika (1969).  

The Gershwin has played host to noble countercultural outsiders like Marty Matz and Leee Black Childers. Marty Matz once told me that, 'They try to be like the Chelsea Hotel but they try too hard.at least they make an effort Its something.'  

When I was staying there I kept encountering Sylvian Sylvian from the New York Dolls in the lift or lobby. This seemed Chelsea Hotel-like to me, as did the frosty aloof staff who could prove helpful in an emergency. I liked to hang out there with Barry Neuman, who at that time ran his provocative Modern Culture Gallery out of the Gershwin.

I've known Ira Cohen since the early nineties when I was involved, with Frank Rynne and Gordon Campbell, in bringing Ira to Dublin for The Here To Go Show. That happened in the winter of '92 but we'd gotten to know Ira long before that via Terry Wilson. Both Terry and Ira were collaborators with, pals of, and propagandists on behalf of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. The Here To Go Show was a celebration of the wild experiments undertaken by those two and it led to a whole batch of new wild experiments (of one sort or another) for Ira, the Moroccan national Painter Hamri, the Master Musicians of Joujouka, Frank, and me. The show will be documented in detail on Destroy All Rational Thought, which comes out on DVD in November via Screen Edge/MVD.

Ira, a cousin of Ed Koch's, is a poet, photographer, filmmaker, and majoon traveler, born in 1935 to deaf parents. In 1961 he took a Yugoslavian freighter to Tangier where he lived for four years and published the seminal Gnaoua magazine. Gnaoua was devoted to exorcism, introducing the work of Gysin, Burroughs, Paul Bowles and a host of Interzone outcasts to a hip receptive public. Gnaoua can be clearly seen on the cover of Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home. He produced Jilala, a mythic recording of Moroccan trance music made by a Sufi sect, from recordings made by Paul Bowles.  He has been involved in album covers by bands as diverse as The Ramones and Spirit. His admirers include Bill Laswell and Chris Stein from Blondie. In addition to his Moroccan adventures, Ira is closely associated with Katmandu, where he had a multifaceted relationship with Velvet Underground founder, and fellow media shaman, Angus MacLise.  

Neke Carson presents in association with Michael Wiener Live from The Living Room at The Gershwin Hotel, 7 East 27th St. (between Fifth and Madison) Tuesday October 17th St. 8pm Cover $10 more info 646 207 0595


(Ira Cohen photograph by Laki Vazkas)

Joe Ambrose
Literary Editor

Joe Ambrose has written 12 books, the most recent being Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. He is currently writing a book about the Spanish Civil War.

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