R. Hell Site Forum Message

in memoriam Alan Betrock (pt. 1)

Posted by:Roy Suggs (‘webmaster@richardhell.com’)
Posted on: 24 Apr 2000
When it became clear a few weeks ago that Alan Betrock was probably not going to survive his hospital stay, his old friend (and successor as editor of NY Rocker) Andy Schwartz wrote friends and colleagues of Alan's to explain what was happening and to invite them to send messages to Alan.

Shortly after Alan died on April 9th, Andy got permission from some of Alan's friends to circulate to the others, as a sort of memorial, the letters they'd sent him in the hospital. One of the most moving was written by Jay Schwartz (no relation to Andy), a Philadelphia writer, researcher, film archivist and founder of "The Secret Cinema" (www.voicenet.com/~jschwart) repertory series. Jay's very kindly allowed us to print his letter here too, as an indication of the effect Alan had on people's lives. (Later this week Richard will write a few words about Alan on the site too.) Thanks, Jay.


Dear Alan,

I heard from Andy Schwartz the sad news that you are very ill. I feel a little funny writing to you now, since I probably haven't talked to you in 15 or 20 years (I can't recall now if I spoke to you during the HOLLYWOOD ROCK period), but Andy assured me you would like hearing from me. And while I haven't had much excuse to be in touch with you for most of the last two decades, and regret never having met you in person, you've always loomed large in the pop culture world that defines my life. In fact, just two months ago I used your name to make a point.

For the last eight years I've been doing this thing called The Secret Cinema, which is somewhere in between a job and a hobby (meaning it takes up enough of my time to be a real job, but doesn't make enough money to let me give up other part-time real jobs). What it is, is a floating repertory cinema, in which I take a portable 16mm film projection setup to various Philadelphia (and occasionally elsewhere) nightclubs, coffee houses, art galleries, and colleges, and present my own program of semi-obscure cult feature films or themed groups of short films (like Scopitones or campy educational shorts), drawing mainly on my own collection of 16mm films (In fact, your THE I WAS A TEENAGE JUVENILE...MOVIE BOOK is a favorite reference book in my programming research).

I was showing the '60s movie THE COOL ONES and sent a copy of the press release/film description via email to Domenic Priore, since it's one of his favorite films, what with its generous scenes of the Sunset Strip, one of Domenic's big obsessions. (I'm guessing you are familiar with some of Priore's work, like his Beach Boys/SMILE book). Domenic wrote back asking why I quoted Leonard Maltin in the press release, and why I respected Maltin -- someone he thought was rather square.

I responded with a lengthy defense of Leonard Maltin, explaining that he was an expert on old movies while still in his early teens, had written several important books before reaching voting age, had kept in touch with his old film collector/film buff friends, etc. But my final argument was this:

"You know how in the mid-'70s there were a few rock writers who seemed to know everything about the history of rock, long before 'Pebbles,' its offspring, and numerous fanzines made the past of non-Top 40 rock relatively easy to learn about? I'm thinking specifically of Lenny Kaye, Alan Betrock, and Greg Shaw. If you had those three in a room, they could tell you about almost every record ever pressed in the US, UK, or Europe."

"Well, in the world of old movies, I can think of two such people who would be their equivalents. One is William K. Everson, a prolific author who sadly died a few years ago. (Everson was also a regular at the Cinefest, and one of the sweetest men I've ever met.) The other is Leonard Maltin. I can think of no third person to complete the analogy."

So there you have it: You're the yardstick. I knew Domenic would immediately understand what I meant when I mentioned you and the others. I'm sure he must be a fan of GIRL GROUPS -- a book which is probably my favorite rock book ever, even though it was about a genre I'd never even considered until your book appeared.

The Secret Cinema has really taken over my life, mostly for better. It came about because of my connection with the local nightclub scene, which I used to work in and manage a band in. That came about because of my work as a photographer and music writer. And my first assignment as a music journalist came from...you. It was a small piece on the opening of Philadelphia's first new wave nightspot, The Hot Club (complete with a photo I took of Ivan Julian handing me back my autographed BLANK GENERATION album). I was there on opening night, interviewed The Dead Boys the following afternoon for a local weekly, and wound up working at the club as publicist a little over a year later, still in college.

continued in next post (which is... http://www.richardhell.com/cgi-bin/forum/showmessage.asp?messageID=743)

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         in memoriam Alan Betrock (pt. 1) by Roy Suggs, 24 Apr 2000 (1)
                 in memoriam Alan Betrock (pt.2) by Roy Suggs, 24 Apr 2000

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