In fact, at first glance, nothing extraordinary seemed to be happening there, with the sole exception of more White people being present than four Black teenagers from Harlem were were accustomed to seeing.
For you see, this was the mid 1950's, Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr. had as yet to lead any freedom marches, Southern schools were as yet to be integrated, and in many Southern states Black people were lynched on Saturday nights as town entertainment. But three hours later, we knew that everything we'd heard about Greenwich Village was true and more. For this was a place far ahead of it's time.
In the Greenwich Village of the 1950's, racial integration had been in place for well over two decades. But far more important, forbidden talk of sexual liberation, interracial sex, homosexuality, along with political, artistic and literary freedom at all levels were openly discussed, flouted and displayed for all to see; performed to a background mixture of new age Jazz, early Rock and Roll and Folk Music. Virtually nothing was excluded from the social or musical menu this incredible place had to offer.
I can't speak for the rest of my friends on that day, but I immediately fell in love with the place and remained so, until it's untimely demise at the hands of the high rise-high priced real estate industry toward the mid 1970's. By then, the people who had made the place justifiably famous and notorious for what it was, could no longer afford to live there. So the Village remained,in name only, as it is today: a mere shadow of what it used to be.
Joyfully, director Paul Mazursky has managed to capture on film, a moving snapshot of the social life and time of a remarkable neighborhood, in what was probably the last fifteen to twenty years of it's legitimate life. And I do remember it so well. The rent parties for starving (sometimes talented) artists, the ubiquitous book shops, the coffee houses featuring impromptu poetry readings, the fashion statements (or blatant lack thereof), the mixing and making of all sorts of colorful characters who, even in their farcical attempts to parody themselves, were more alive and real then those who would put them down. This was the Greenwich Village of the 1950's and of legend.
This magical place was for me and many others (as was for the director who produced this film as an ode to his time there), our first real awakening and taste of adult life. And far more important, a fortuitous preparation for the new social order that was, in time, to come.
The place, as it was, is truly deserving of this wonderful little gem of a film.