Tuli Kupferberg (and Harvey Pekar)

Greenwich Village poet and scenester Tuli Kupferberg has died at age 86. Most legendary as a founding member of the 60s rock/poetry band The Fugs (who are more talked about than listened to today, though you can actually listen to them here), he was also widely beloved for being a funny, unpretentious and approachable New York City street hipster through several generations.

I’m a little skeptical of the story (which I only began hearing in recent years) that Tuli was immortalized as a character in Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. He did, however, write a book called 1001 Ways To Live Without Working, and lived that ethic to the end.

Comic strip artist Harvey Pekar’s work wasn’t to my taste as much as Tuli’s was, but I’m not so mean that I won’t honor his death as well. An interesting coincidence: one of the only chapters I didn’t dislike in Pekar’s late work The Beats: A Graphic History (I explain my problems with this book here) is a chapter on Tuli Kupferberg.

(UPDATE: I now have it on good authority (the Allen Ginsberg estate, which should know) that Tuli was indeed the person mentioned in Howl who jumped off a bridge (it turns out it was the Manhattan, not the Brooklyn) and survived. The reason for my skepticism was that I had once heard a different explanation for this passage, but the case seems to be sealed. Go Tuli!)

5 Responses

  1. Tuli Kupferberg will be
    Tuli Kupferberg will be sorely missed.
    He was a great showman and a funny guy.
    I was a huge fan of “the Fugs” and my prayers
    go out to Tuli’s friends and family.

  2. ……r.i.p. tuli
    ……r.i.p. tuli kupferberg….and harvey pekar, whose book on the beats i gave to my daughter after a couple a head shaking pages that i read……

  3. Yes, as Ginsberg estate
    Yes, as Ginsberg estate informed you, it was Tuli who inspired Ginsberg’s reference to a beat who jumped off a bridge and survived, but he altered the story for his own purposes which I never understood. It’s unfortunate that he misled people and misrepresented Tuli who never liked to hear people harp on the story. It was the Manhattan Bridge, not Brooklyn, though Tuli was a Brooklyn boy. Tuli did not walk away unharmed, as the poem would have you believe. Rather he was picked up by a passing tugboat, taken to a hospital and treated for a severe spinal injury which required a body cast. This was an act of youthful despair he’d rather be forgotten. He lived the rest of his eighty six years in a very non-suicidal, pro-life way and should be immortalized for his books, poems, songs and cartoons not a dumb act made famous by Allen Ginsberg. See the tulifuli channel on YouTube for some of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What We're Up To ...

Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!