|Allen Ginsberg protrait by Zachary Feore|
A drunk started to heckle Allen Ginsberg during a reading of his poem Howl in Los Angeles in 1956.
“Allen politely asked him to hear out the reading and said he would be pleased to hear his opinions afterward,” biographer Barry Miles noted. “That stopped the heckler for a bit, but when Gregory (Corso) got up to read, the drunk interrupted. ‘What are you guys trying to prove?’ he demanded.
“Allen immediately yelled out, ‘Nakedness!’
“ ‘What do you mean, nakedness?” asked the drunk.
“ ‘I meant spiritual nakedness,’ Ginsberg explained later. ‘Poetic nakedness — candor. Then I suddenly realized what I had said. Inspired, I started taking off my clothes.’
“‘All right,’ Allen challenged the drunk. ‘You want to do something brave, don’t you? Something brave? Well, go on, do something really brave. Take off your clothes!’
“ The man was speechless. Allen advanced on him, tearing off his shirt. ‘Come on and stand here, stand naked before the people. I dare you! The poet always stands naked before the world.’ Allen threw his shirt and undershirt at the man’s feet, and he began to back away. ‘You’re scared, aren’t you?’ asked Allen. ‘You’re afraid.’ Allen kicked off his shoes and socks and pulled down his pants. Doing a little hopping dance, he kicked them off... He was now completely naked. The drunk had by now retreated to the back of the room. The audience sat in stunned silence.
“Suddenly the room exploded in cheers, jeers, applause and angry argument. The drunk was booed and hissed until he left. Anaïs Nin was impressed and wrote in her journal; ‘The way he did it was so violent and direct, it had so much meaning in terms of all our fears of unveiling ourselves.’”