In Carnegie the Man with the Face of Christ Sits Alone


PM Daily, January 19, 1945,  p. 13 (photo by John De Biase)


PM Daily, January 19, 1945, p. 13 (text by Natalie Davies and photo by John De Biase)

About two years before Louie Hardin became Moondog (in memory of a pet dog), he was attending daily rehearsals of the Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall (after befriending conductor Artur Rodzinski) and living in the top room of a brownstone on 56th Street, (between 8th and 9th Avenues). Hardin came to Manhattan in November 1943 after studying music in Iowa and Memphis. He was born on May 26, 1916 and died September 8, 1999.
A fascinating profile of Hardin by Natalie Davis, published in PM Daily, January 19, 1945, p. 13 concludes:

Did he have any plans for the next years?
He squatted on the sleeping bag again and laughed. “I’m going to write music,” he replied. “I’m going to write my fool head off.”
Did he see many people? Did he have plenty of friends?
“Oh, yes. I meet people all the time.” He threw back his head again, and laughed. “I’m somewhat of a wolf. I know many women. But my life is lonely. I have to maintain a certain independence, and put everything into my music.”
We stood up to go, and he stood up too. As we walked down the flights of stairs we asked what his favorite piece of music was.
“Mozart’s G Minor Symphony,” he said immediately.
Why?
He paused on the steps. “It seems to me a perfect blend of the classic and romantic ideal.”
Did he wish sometimes that he had been born in ancient or medieval times where he could find romance?
“No,” he said earnestly. “You can be yourself in any age. You don’t have to follow the herd.”

Moondog to his credit wasn’t fond of the Christ-like reported likeness. In the liner notes to a 2005 CD, The Viking of Sixth Avenue, Moondog commented on the PM profile:

When I first got to New York they wrote me up as “a man with the face of Christ.” I put up with that for a few years, then I said I don’t want that connection, I must do something about my appearance to make it look un-Christian.” And so Moondog became a Nordic warrior; complete with spear and horned helmet: “the Viking of Sixth Avenue.”

About six years after Arthur Fellig became Weegee (in memory of a faddish game), Weegee, also a single-named individualist, expressed a similar idea in a March 9, 1941 issue of PM:

Most photographers always use the same old methods. We’ll assume that a horse-drawn wagon is going over the Williamsburg Bridge. A car hits it and the driver is tossed into the water and gets killed. The other photographers will take a picture of the bridge and then have an artist draw a diagram showing how the guy fell into the water. What I do is go and see what happened to the poor old horse…
One time one of the newspapers assigned me to a three alarm-fire… I came back with a picture of a monster whale that had drifted into Sheepshead Bay. I got the whale picture exclusive.
A photographer should have confidence in himself and if he gets a good idea he should take it, even if everybody laughs at him (or her).


Weegee, Moondog, ca. 1956


Weegee, Moon Dog at Montmart, ca. 1956

Because of an amusing coincidence of geography, there is a small Midtown triangulation where Moondog (corner of 54th Street and Sixth Avenue) and Weegee (47th Street and Ninth Avenue) lived and worked and where ICP (corner of 43d Street and Sixth Avenue) exists.

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One Response to In Carnegie the Man with the Face of Christ Sits Alone

  1. Wow! Quite a story. On the block of West 48th Street between 9th and 10th Avenue there is a semi-public park perfect for lunch. You’ll have to ask one of the folks inside to let you in, but it is well worth it…and you can eat looking at the backside of the house Weegee lived in. I don’t miss the city, but I miss that park.
    Thank you for a wonderful post. I wonder if the early fame given the article here helped Moondog wig out further?

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