Vlado Taneski was a Macedonian crime reporter and serial killer. He was arrested in June 2008 in his hometown of Kičevo in western Macedonia for the murder of three women on whose death he had also written articles. These articles on the murders had aroused the suspicion of the police, since they contained information which had not been released to the public. After DNA tests connected him to the murders, he was arrested and imprisoned on 22 June 2008 and was found dead in his cell the following day, after an apparent suicide.
In the mid-1930s, Maxwell Bodenheim served a brief stint on the Federal Writers Project, composing a magnificent essay about Greenwich Village before tumbling into obscurity.
I’ve reprinted the whole essay below, but here’s the opening: “A nation, coming into its own artistically after an era of ruthless industrial expansion, of materialism and strait-laced conventionality, seized upon Greenwich Village as a symbol of revolt in the ferment of postwar years. The ‘Village’ was the center of the American Renaissance or of artiness, of political progress or of long-haired radical men and short-haired radical women, of sex freedom or of sex license dependent upon the point of view.”
You can download a free copy of the New York City Guide to read more and see more etchings from the 1930s.
My Life and Loves In Greenwich Villiage by Maxwell Bodenheim.
Maxwell Bodenheim and his wife Ruth Fegan were murdered in 1954. Hit photo to read the story of his combat with Joe Gould.
My Life and Loves in Greenwich Village by Maxwell Bodenheim
In Letters from Bohemia, Ben Hecht declares his friend Maxwell Bodenheim “more disliked, derided, denounced, beaten up, and kicked down more flights of stairs than any poet of whom I have heard or read.” In his lifetime Bodenheim was at least as well known for his drunk and dissolute behavior as for his writing. Today he’s mostly remembered for the tawdry way he died.
He grew up poor and Jewish in smalltown Mississippi. He was bright but viciously boorish, physically handsome yet repulsively slovenly, and argumentative to a fault, with a genius for the insult that could end any discussion, usually with his being punched in the mouth. As young men Bodenheim and Hecht were the pranksters of the Chicago Renaissance. According to Allen Churchill’s The Improper Bohemians, they once filled a hall for a literary debate on the topic “Resolved: That People Who Attend Literary Debates Are Imbeciles.”
Hecht strode center-stage to announce that he would take the affirmative. Then he stated, “The affirmative rests.” Bodenheim shambled forward, scrutinized his confident opponent, and said, “You win.”
Bodenheim — Bogie to his long-suffering friends — was twenty-two when he blew into Greenwich Village with other Chicago émigrés in 1915, and instantly made a name for himself in the neighborhood as a poet of promise. Reading his facile, gaudy verses now, it’s easy to think that it was the brute force of his sociopathic presence, rather than his poetry, that convinced the best poets in the Village at the time that he was one of them, potentially even the greatest of them:
You have a morning-glory face
Whose edges are sensitive to light
And curl in beneath the burden of a smile.
Remembered silence returns to the morning-glory
And lattices its curves
With shades of golden reverberations.
Then the morning-glory’s heart careens to loves
Whose scent beats on the sky-walls of your soul.
Tellingly, those not directly in his orbit seem not to have been fooled by the clever romance-novel sham of such verses — and neither, apparently, was Bodenheim himself, though he would go on roaring about his genius for decades. Hecht records that after entering 223 poetry contests and failing to win a single one, he took to signing his letters to editors “Maxwell Bodenheim, 224th ranking U.S.A. poet.”
He did have a real talent for scandal, easy enough to generate during Greenwich Village’s prolonged drunken orgy in the Prohibition years. His haughty, insulting demeanor, and his habit of trying to steal other men’s women right under their noses, got him regularly socked on the jaw and thrown out of bars, soirees and the fauxhemian revels at Webster Hall.
Turning from poetry to prose, through the 1920s he wrote a string of best-selling, sensational potboilers like Replenishing Jessica, about a free-loving bohemian, Georgie May, about a fallen prostitute, and Naked on Roller Skates, about a middle-aged “onetime hobo, circus-pegger, doughboy, sailor, anarchist, con man, all-time sensationalist and wanderer of the world” who leaves a small town with a much younger woman who “wanted to try everything at least once.” They sound better than they read. Hecht called them “hack work with flashes of tenderness, wit, and truth in them.” When the Society for the Suppression of Vice brought Bodenheim to trial in 1925 on an obscenity charge for Replenishing Jessica, his defense lawyer used a familiar tactic of demanding that the prosecutor read the entire text aloud to prove his case. Judge, jury and the reporters covering the trial dozed as the prosecutor droned on and on, and the unaroused jury voted Bodenheim not guilty. Mayor Jimmy Walker agreed with the verdict. “No girl was ever seduced by a book,” he quipped.
For a bohemian poet, commercial success and celebrity could bring on a full-blown personality crisis (as it would do Jackson Pollock, Jack Kerouac and Kurt Cobain). Bodenheim squandered the money he made from his novels on drink and gambling, as though he couldn’t throw it away fast enough. He preferred to demand loans and cadge drinks from everyone around him, like a true bohemian poet should. Meanwhile, his reputation in these years as a daring, risqué writer attracted a cloud of what we’d call groupies today, many of them the sort of teenagers from the outer boroughs and the hinterlands who flocked to the Village in the 1920s to throw off the shackles of mainstream morality and abandon themselves to the neighborhood’s non-stop pagan revels.
He took his pick. One was Gladys Loeb, 18, from the Bronx. In 1928, he ended a brief fling with her, adding that her poetry was doggerel. Her landlady soon found her with her head in the gas oven, barely clinging to life, and to Bodenheim’s portrait. A few weeks later he did the same thing to twenty-two-year-old Virginia Drew, who threw herself into the Hudson and succeeded where Gladys had failed. When police went to question Bodenheim about Drew’s suicide, he’d slipped off to stay with fellow Villager Harry Kemp in Provincetown. Gladys, having recovered from her own suicide attempt, followed him there — trailing her irate father, cops and reporters. Bodenheim talked his way out of their clutches, but not out of the newspapers all over the country, which had a field day with lurid tales about the Greenwich Village Lothario.
Then came Aimee Cortez, widely feted as “the Mayoress of Greenwich Village.” She earned the title by stripping naked at private parties and Webster Hall shindigs and gyrating a wildly erotic dance. According to Churchill, this display sometimes ended with her going off with some lucky male, but other times she’d stop abruptly, with a look of terror and confusion, and run off. In a later era she’d be prescribed a drug for this clearly disturbed behavior, but in the Village of the late 1920s, where “a hideous lust… pervaded the air” as Bodenheim’s My Life and Loves in Greenwich Village put it, she was merely celebrated as the queen of the modern-day bacchantes. Not long after Gladys and Virginia made the papers, Aimee was found with her head in her own oven, also clutching Bodenheim’s portrait. She was dead at nineteen.
Bodenheim was indirectly implicated in the sad end of another lover, a teenager from the outer boroughs with the improbable name Dorothy Dear. When she wasn’t with him in his MacDougal Street apartment, he wrote her love letters that she carried in her purse. One afternoon she was aboard a rush hour subway train heading from Times Square to the Village when it derailed at a faulty switch, killing sixteen passengers, including Dorothy. Bodenheim’s love letters were found scattered around the wreckage.
By the end of the 1920s Bodenheim was a wreck himself. From the 1930s until his death he was a fixture on the streets and in the bars of the Village, by turns annoying and sad-making, decaying before his old friends’ eyes into a stinking, toothless ghost, “tottering drunkenly to sleep on flophouse floors, shabby and gaunt as any Bowery bum,” as Hecht put it. Still, Hecht gallantly added, “Bogie hugged his undiminished riches — his poet’s vocabulary and his genius for winning arguments. He won nothing else.” He cranked out more cheap novels, drank the money, and stooped to hawking his poems to tourists in Washington Square for a quarter each. Wiseacres in the bars fed him gin and laughed at his drunken mumblings and rants, which sometimes yielded a famous line like “Greenwich Village is the Coney Island of the soul.”