Original first printing 22x28.5” Poster for The Beard, a controversial play by Michael McLure. The Beard was first performed in San Francisco in December 1965. Then it was performed once at the Fillmore Auditorium in 1966. The second Fillmore performance was canceled after a warning by the police. Andy Warhol's film version of the play was shot by May 1966.
According to Michael Mclure,The Beard - was inspired by these posters.
"In 1964 I was coming back from a trip to Los Angeles and I had a copy of Ring magazine, a boxing magazine at the time, ... I'd seen Norman Mailer in New York, I think I met Norman with Allen Ginsberg and I was interested in Norman's interest in boxing.... a light bulb went off in my consciousness... coming from the light bulb's blaze was this poster - a boxing poster. It was in beast language and the two boxers were Billy the Kid and Jean Harlow....
I got off the plane, got in a cab, took the cab back to my place in the Haight Ashbury and there in the corner drugstore was a boxing poster in the window. I saw that it was done by the Telegraph Press in San Francisco... I phoned Telegraph Press... I said my name is Michael McClure and I wonder if you would do a poem poster... So I got the head shot of Billy the Kid... I got a shot of Jean Harlow... I took it down to Telegraph Press."
McClure put the posters up and distributed them.
“I put the poster up on fences, windows, and in liquor stores where boxing posters would be, and put one up behind my head in the room I worked in at the time, which overlooked the bridge and the ocean. I could feel the presence of Billy the Kid and Jean Harlow broadcasting from the beautiful poster to the back of my head out towards the ocean. They began enacting the play and I began typing it up. They’d say a few pages, I just typed it. I thought it was a nature poem about mammal sexuality and mammal love. It could have been a tantric ritual."
More than six months after the initial production of the play, it was presented by Bill Graham at the Fillmore Auditorium, on July 24, 1966. Although the poster only has a single performance date, a second planned performance was canceled after a warning from the police.
“...Graham canceled the second performance and the guy playing Billy the Kid went to Graham and said why, and Graham had had a warning from the police who said if it was done a second time they were going to bust him and take the Fillmore license away... so anyway we took it over to the Committee Theater which was an avant garde theater…
…It was performed once on their off night, Monday, and it had a good audience. One of the members of the audience was a detective, actually wearing a massive overcoat. The two brave actors were hauled off to jail overnight, let out on bail, and charged with obscenity, which was serious at that time.”
MclCure then set up a performance at the Flora Schwimley Little Theater in Berkeley. They were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (after an offer of help from Melvin Belli.) It was presented to a capacity crowd, which included Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Alan Watts, members of the academic community, members of the clergy, and photographers whose function was to record the police filming the performance. Malcolm Burnstein of the ACLU forbade any taping or filming of the performance, a directive ignored by the police and D.A.'s office.
The evening turned into a 'happening,' with the audience wildly cheering and applauding the attorneys, the author, the actors, and denouncing the civil authorities. After the performance there were speeches by invited celebrities, and the police left quietly. Five days later that Berkeley brought charges of 'lewd and dissolute conduct in a public place. The charges were dropped after about five months of litigation. On February 22nd The Beard opened at California Hall in San Francisco for a five night run. The first night was a benefit for the ACLU.
The play won an Obie for best actress and best direction in 1967
Andy Warhol's film version of The Beard was shot by May 1966. By that time there had only been one performance of The Beard - the December 1965 performance in San Francisco. Warhol could not have seen that production as he wasn't in San Francisco at that time. He may have shot his film version of The Beard without ever having seen an actual production of it.
The poster is on thick cardboard. It is on very good vintage condition. There are small corner bends, edgewear and surfacewear. The back has tape residue.
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