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Bob Dylan in the Alley: The Alan J. Weberman Story

Page 3 of 9

* * *

Ann," Alan howled on a sweltering Sunday morning last August. "Ann . . . Ann. Today is Sunday!"

Ann Duncan, standing in the middle of the Archives, was working at a painting of Bob Dylan. Ann is an artist and is working on a series called "Great Moments in Rock." Her first subject is a portrait of Bob, shooting himself into his Current Bag. "Mmnn," she answered. ". . . I know . . . yeah . . . yesterday was Saturday!"

"It's Sunday, baby. Sunday! Sunday is one of Dylan's metaphors for his Current Bag. I think we just ought to head on over to Macdougal Street and see what ole Bob is up to."

And to Macdougal Street they headed, he dressed in his Sunday Hudson's Army-Navy Store Dylan outfit, she dressed in an American flag miniskirt and a red pullover.

BRRIIIIINNNGGG!!! BRIIINNGG!!! BRRRRIIIIIIIIIINNNGGGG!!! Smartly, Weberman rang the bell marked "* * * *" "* * * *," he explained, "is one of Dylan's pseudonyms. I can't understand why he picked '* * * *' though. I mean, it doesn't make sense. It's not literary or anything. One of these days, I'm going to have to check into that."

The door moved slightly ajar, revealing a lock-chain and one naked eye staring angrily outside.

"Hey, lemme in. It's me, Alan J. Weberman. I wanna talk with Dylan."

The eye disappeared. The door slammed shut. Weberman was left to pound futilely on a wooden door that just wouldn't give.

"Alan, why don't we just go away for a while and come back maybe in a half hour," suggested Ann, after A.J. had frustrated himself with a good 20 minutes of door pounding and bell ringing. "I mean, if we went outside and came back again, maybe they'd think we were somebody else and let us in."

"Good thinking, Ann."

A half hour later the pair returned. As luck would have it, Sara Lowndes Dylan had just opened the front vestibule door on her way out. With an energy that would have left a football player impressed, Weberman lunged at the door, tackling it successfully and touching down inside the Dylan home.

"Sorry," he apologized, tipping his hat to Sara Dylan, "but I gotta see him. I've just gotta talk to him about my book."

Sara Dylan, who by now must really have been tiring of her role as a Bob Dylan watchguard, went on her way.

Inside, Weberman still had other doors to go beyond. He rang the bell of the first door by the staircase. Through the peephole, another eye. "Hey Bob, lemme in. It's me, it's A.J. It's The Landlord." Weberman was certain at that time that Bob Dylan wrote the song "Dear Landlord" to him. By now Weberman was pounding and kicking every corner of the door that stood between him and his object.

Suddenly, Ann tapped him on the shoulder. "Look up there," she beckoned.

And there he was, Bob Dylan, standing at the head of the staircase, glaring with fury at the pounding, kicking, screaming Weberman.

"Whatdaya want?"

"Well, my name is A.J. Weberman and I'm here to talk to you . . ."

"Well, whadaya want, man?"

"Well . . . uh . . . I don't even know . . . eh . . . where to begin. Just lemme in and I'll expla . . ."

In a long, deliberate, furious drawl, Bob Dylan answered back: "All business is haaandled through my manager."

"Hell, I've had no luck at all in dealing with Grossman's office. I've been trying to see you for three years and they just throw me out every time I try. I mean, I've written a book . . ."

"Ahhll business is handled through mah maan-e-jah!" Dylan turned away, heading back to the cavern from which he had emerged. "And we'd appreciate it if you wouldn't come around the house anymore."

"Ok, man. Anything you say, Bob."

Suddenly Dylan turned back to Weberman: "What was it you wanted to talk to me about?"

"It's about your poetry," Alan answered with great humility.

A voice shot back sarcastically. "About mah poetry! Ohhh, how nice!"

And then he was gone.

* * *

Midnight phone call in New York. On the line's Alan Jules Weberman, America's most intense student of the life and music of Bob Dylan, and Naomi Salzman, fortyish, private secretary to D.

"Yeesssss?" says Naomi in an adenoidal and slumbersome voice.

"Ohhh, this is Alan Weberman. I got a message that you called."

Hurriedly waking herself, Naomi informs Weberman that his request to interview Dylan, alas, must be denied. "He asked me to tell you that he's absolutely not giving interviews to anybody now and therefore it would be kind of sticky to give you one. But what he suggests is that you send him a list of questions and he'll try to . . ."

"I want to give him a list of demands," interjects Weberman, rousing Naomi permanently from her sleep.

"Well . . . do whatever you please . . . um . . . ah . . . I just want to ask you something?"

"Yeah."

"You want to give him a list of demands?"

"Right."

Silence. Naomi hesitantly picks up her cue: "All right. Why don't you just send him the list. I'll give you the address."

"Post Office Box –," chimes in Weberman, beating her to the punch. "I found his address in his garbage . . . Dylan's garbage."

"What are you doing going through his garbage?" inquires an incredulous Naomi. "Don't you have anything else to do with your time?"

"No, no," he answers defensively, "it's a really good thing. There's going to be an article about it in the East Village Other."

"So you want him to move. You want him to move, eh?"

"That wouldn't be such a bad idea . . . the way . . . the way he is now. I mean . . . why come back to the culture you helped to rip off? You know?"

"No, I don't know!"

"Well, you wouldn't because you work for him — you're in Dylan's employ."

"Ohhhhh, listen, Mr. Weberman. You don't know everything! You're not God. And don't tell me who I am. Maybe you can tell me who you are — or what you think Mr. Dylan is, but don't tell me who I am."

Weberman throws the killer punch. "I think Mr. Dylan is a heroin addict!"

"All right, if that's what you think. That's your hang-up!"

"It's not my hang-up," Weberman retorts ferociously, "it's there in his poetry. It's clear as day. Anyone who's hip to Dylanology — the Dylanological Method . . . the Secret Language of Rock — can observe it. I'm a scientist, you dig! I've looked at these things objectively! I don't want Dylan to be a junkie, but there are all these references to heroin in his poetry. Like 'saddle me up a big white goose' — which means cook me up a fix of white heroin. 'Tie me on' — which means tie up my arm."

"You're telling me," she spits back at him, "that my employer is a heroin addict and I'm telling you that you're full of crap! Listen, you don't want to talk to me, you want to talk to Bob . . . so just send him the list already . . ."

"I'll send him my list, but it won't be on paper. It'll be action!"

* * *

I was really fucking hassled the day I met Dylan. Pigs. Heavy shit. I was goin' fuckin' crazy. I made it to the D class that I teach each week at the Alternate U & gave a short rap & then said — "Tonight's the field trip to D's pad." About 50 of us headed down 5th Ave. towards Macdougal St. When we got to 4th St., I pointed out the pad D lived in from '62-'64 and tried to explain how it related to D's single "Positively 4th Street" but this drunk wouldn't let me get in a word edgewise. We continued to march & picked up a couple of street kids along the way (that's the dangerous part about doing something like this — like I could trust the people in my class but these kids were full of undirected violence). Soon we were all standing in front of D's.

East Village Other, Jan. 19

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