Emmett Grogan did enough, rest assured. He proved with his existence that each of us could act out the life of our highest fantasies. This was his goad and his compassionate legacy. Don’t minimise it or let yourself off the hook of his example by quibbling over details. Think about what you read, but more important, as Emmett would have said, “Dig yourself!”.
- Peter Coyote, introduction to Ringolevio: A Life Played For Keeps, 1989.
I’m a recently converted disciple of Emmett Grogan (born Eugene Grogan, November 28, 1942–April 6, 1978).
I was turned on to Grogan’s epic meta-memoir Ringolevio by the persuasive pairing of beat music entrepreneur Kosmo Vinyl and writer Steven Daly when hanging out with them in a series of New York bookshops last year. By the time I was home a few days later I’d devoured Ringolevio’s 500 pages twice and still refer to it constantly. It is a masterpiece.
This absolute delight appeared as if from out of the blue: Grogan – in his capacity as founder of The Diggers – promoting the newly published Ringolevio by participating in a 1972 episode of the guess-the-guest game show To Tell The Truth.
And naturally Grogan does tell the truth. Asked to differentiate between hippies and Yippies he caustically defines the latter group as attracted to “morons like Abbott Hoffman and Jerome Rubin”.
Grogan also tells host Gary Moore – who praises the Larry Rivers cover of the first edition of Ringolevio – that he is working on a new book, entitled The Impossibility Of Fair Play In Democratic Society Because Of Loneliness.
Put-on or not, the sad fact is that this was just one of a number of Grogan’s projects which failed to see the light of day in the wake of Ringolevio. As Peter Coyote wrote in 1989: “Emmett’s road petered out at the end of the line of the Coney Island subway April Fools Day 1978 – where his body was found, dead of an overdose.”
Bob Dylan subsequently dedicated his album Street Legal to Grogan’s memory.
If you don’t already own a copy do yourself a favour and buy Ringolevio.
As Coyote also wrote: “Think about what you read, but more important, as Emmett would have said, “Dig yourself!”.