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!)