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The Eulogizer: ‘Beat’ writer and editorial cartoonist

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Jay Landesman, 91, ‘Beat’ generation writer, promoter

Irving “Jay” Landesman, who operated a nightclub in St. Louis that gave an early stage to Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce and others, and who said about himself that he had a “lifetime habit of upsetting the Judeo-Christian applecart,” died Feb. 20 in London at 91.

Landesman’s numerous cultural contributions in the United States and England, where he relocated n 1964, included founding and editing Neurotica, a short-lived but influential journal of Beat writing that gave a forum to Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and others for their early work. Landesman described the magazine as “a literary exposition, defense and correlation of the problems and personalities that in our culture are defined as "neurotic." Neurotica’s fifth issue was banned by the U.S. Postal Service because it contained a four-letter profanity.

During that era, he and his brother ran the Crystal Palace nightclub in St. Louis, whose performers included, along with Streisand, Allen and Bruce, such later stars as Phyllis Diller, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and Dick Gregory.

His experiences with the Beats provided fodder for an avant-garde musical written by Landesman and and his wife, poet Fran Landesman. "The Nervous Set” was about the beginnings of the Beat Generation and featured a four-piece jazz combo. A brief Broadway run in 1959 featured a young Larry Hagman.

Norman Mailer wrote of the Beat generation that Landesman and his wife “could be accused of starting it all. By God, they were there at the beginning.”

Landesman’s London home became a gathering spot for hipsters, musicians, writers and entertainers from the 1960s on. Phillip Trevena, author of “Landesmania,” the biography Landesman commissioned, termed him “the Soho Gentleman Bohemian,” who always stayed several steps ahead of mainstream thought.

Landesman was born in St. Louis and operated the family antiques store before moving into the world of avant-garde culture and self-creation. He reportedly renamed himself Jay after reading “The Great Gatsby.” He wrote three volumes of memoirs; the first was "Rebel Without Applause." The final volume, “Tales of a Cultural Conduit,” included the unpublished novel that became the basis of “The Nervous Set.”

Fran Landesman continues to write and perform. Their eldest son, Cosmo, is a London-based journalist and critic, and their other son, Miles Davis Landesman, is a musician.

Hy Rosen, 88, editorial cartoonist and sculptor

Hy Rosen, an illustrator, political cartoonist and sculptor whose work ranged from comic books to museum pieces, died Feb. 24 at 88, at his home in Albany, N.Y.

Rosen was the first and longest-tenured political cartoonist at the Albany Times Union, his hometown paper, and drew more than 10,000 cartoons from the time he started in 1945. Times Union editor Rex Smith described Rosen as "a truth-teller with a mighty pen."

Rosen was a founding member and a former president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. He was the longest-tenured cartoonist on one newspaper when he retired in 1988.

Rosen’s career also included work before and during his newspaper days as a comic book artist. He was an artist and writer on such 1950s comics as “Georgie,” “Adventures into Terror,” “Little Joe” and “Girl.”

In retirement, Rosen sculpted works that now are at the New York State Library, New York State Museum and other locales. One sculpture was based on the famous World War II-era photo of a Jewish boy surrendering to the Nazis in war-torn Warsaw.

Rosen was raised in a low-income ethnic melting pot neighborhood in Albany and spent his early years accompanying his immigrant ragman father, Myer, on his horse-drawn wagon collecting rags and newspapers.

Rosen was in an engineering battalion in France during World War II, and trained at the Chicago Art Institute and the New York Art Students League.

A personal note from The Eulogizer: I knew Hy Rosen when I worked at the Times Union. He was a talented artist and a mensch who was well known and well liked in Albany’s Jewish community.

 

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