Bob Dylan: An Intimate Biography, Part Two

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They stayed over in Reno for a couple of days, gambling, Karman losing all his money, and then they pushed on towards San Francisco. Dylan had a concert in the Berkeley Community Theater and it had been sold out for weeks in advance. The undergraduates at the university and kids from as far north as Oregon and as far south as San Diego had joined the pilgrimage.

"By this time I was disillusioned, my mind was being blown," Karman recalls. "Dylan was a very strange character. His notion of reality was like nothing else I'd ever experienced. I sort of was gettin' the idea I was crazy. I was beginning to feel crazy when they were crazy, Victor a freaky nut and Dylan very weird and Clayton always high on pills, and I just had to break away from them."

Karman had friends in San Francisco and he went to see them the night before the concert. They reinforced his feeling that some kind of insanity had struck the wandering ministrel and his entourage. But Karman was completely out of money, having dropped his last cent at the gambling tables, and he decided to stick it out to the end. A few hours before the concert he asked Victor for a pair of tickets, for his friends. "What are you talking about?" Victor demanded. "We got no tickets to spare for friends."

"For Christ sakes, they're my friends." Karman said. "Of course you've got tickets. There's always plenty of tickets for the performer to pass around to friends."

"Sure," Victor said. "But his friends. Not your friends."

Dylan came in at that point and listened to the argument for a moment. Then he broke in: "What do ya want out of me, Peter?"

"I don't want anything out of you," Karman said. "I just asked for a couple of tickets for friends and I'm getting hassled."

"You want tickets, right?" Dylan asked. "Then ya want something out of me."

"I've never asked you for any . . ."

"I brought ya to a party for Peter, Paul and Mary," Dylan shot back. Karman remembered it, of course. A birthday party for Peter Yarrow, a couple of months earlier, and Karman had been in a down mood and had stayed out of everyone's way and Dylan was bringing it up now for the first time: "I take ya to a party and ya act cool and ya sulk all night, in front of my friends. Ya ignored all my friends."

"What are you talking about?" Karman asked. "If it bothered you back then, why didn't you say so? Funny time to be bringing it up."

"Ya ignored my friends," Dylan insisted, "and now ya want tickets for your friends. Very strange. You trying to use me, Peter?"

Karman's brain felt like it was being wrenched around inside his skull. "I'm beginning to think I'm crazy," he shouted, "when it's really you guys who are crazy. You're all out of your minds. I'm going back to New York before I get as crazy as you guys are."

The concert was one of those memorable events that is still talked about in the San Francisco area. Dylan was never so attuned to an audience, his kind of audience, the hippest, most radical and aware college students in the country, and he held them the way few entertainers ever hold an audience, few Holy Roller gospel preachers either, for that matter. And when he came back after intermission and introduced Joan Baez — a stunning surprise — it electrified the audience. Dick Farina, who had been divorced by Carolyn Hester and had since married Joan's sister, Mimi, wrote: "Had a literary audience been confronted by Dylan Thomas and Edna St. Vincent Millay the mood of aesthetic anxiety might have been the same."

When the concert was ended, Dylan, Clayton, Maimudes, and a new member of the group, Bob Neuwirth — a folk singer who replaced Karman — drove down to Baez's home in Carmel. Farina, who was there with Mimi, later recalled that Dylan brought French fried almonds, glazed walnuts, bleached cashews, dried figs, oranges and prunes. Joan's mother, visiting from Paris, cooked a beef stew. They all sat around later talking about old friends back East, in Harvard Square and the Village, a gathering that wasn't much out of the ordinary, except that it was the King and Queen — and by now that's what the fan magazines were calling them. They played some old Everly Brothers records, Clayton sang some of the whaling and sea songs in which he specialized and a few Appalachian folk songs, and only once did anyone mention Dylan's music. "You know, Bobby," Joan said, "I'm thinking about recording a whole album of your songs." Dylan replied: "Sure thing." That's all.

Suze was very upset by the time Bob returned to New York after his six-week absence. Toward the end of his trip he hadn't bothered calling her at all. He had tried to keep her from seeing people and holding down a job, as has been pointed out, and yet he was gone for more than a month and had stopped calling her. When he returned it was as if he had slipped downstairs for a pack of cigarettes. And he seemed a lot meaner now.

Jack Elliott: "When he got famous around then, he got kinda mean. He was very quick, very sarcastic, dealt with people like a boxer, parrying blows and remarks and skipping out in a hurry. Which was good. Dylan's way was the only way not to hurt yourself. These people just hang on and bore you to smithereens. It's an energy drain. You have to shut the door on fans and groupies, even if it means running little numbers on them."

But Dylan began to run some of his numbers on friends, using them as targets.

Carla Rotolo: "As things got worse and worse for him, in terms of demands on him, he got tighter and nastier. He'd tell people he's got the truth, he was going to show everybody everything, tell them he had the truth about it all. That's were he started using bayonets on people. He could look at you and pick out a weakness and suddenly grab it and use it on you. Which is what he did with everybody. He'd find their vulnerable spots, and just demolish them. At that time he was vicious to everybody."

Sue Zuckerman: "Once we all went down to a little Chinese restaurant near Carla's place on Avenue B, Bob, Pete, Suze and myself and a friend from college. We were talking about politics and history and Bob wouldn't let anyone get a word in edgewise. But what he was doing was just fabricating what he called facts. It was about history, and forces of history, and he was trying to talk about the things he felt emotionally, but he insisted they were facts. He couldn't back anything up, but he insisted they were facts and everybody should know them. He wasn't letting anybody else speak, his whole attitude was that nobody else had anything to say on anything, and after a while Suze got up and left the restaurant kind of upset. His attitude wasn't pretty. He used to say, 'Dave Van Ronk always kids me that I never read any books but I know more than . . .' and that kind of thing."

Carla: "I used to stay in the Limelight till four in the morning because I didn't want to go home. I'd come in and see them sitting in the room with the TV set, or a lot of people around, and there was no privacy, absolutely none. I felt I was some kind of freak. I began to think I was crazy because he had a way of telling you. 'You're full of shit, you're this and that,' and even my head was blown. I thought I was flipping out. Once I said to him, 'Hey, man, again, let me take your place on Fourth Street and we can swap apartments and everybody'll be happy,' and he started coming on like the song he wrote about it all, 'Ballad in Plain D,' about my being lousy for this reason, and rotten for that reason. And a parasite. How could he call me a parasite when for a long time I was the only one with a job? But it was just devastating, the way he could twist somebody's words back on themselves and make them feel he was right and they were wrong."

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