Andy Roberts tribute to Ed Kelleher
All Ed’s Liverpool friends met him through his acquaintance with Mike Evans. Mike had run across Ed when playing US Army bases in Germany in the mid-60s.
In those days if you played soul music, your audience was black; if you played country music, then it was entirely white. Mike’s band played soul: there, a lone white face in the crowd, was Ed. Mike knew he would be an interesting person.
After that Ed would grab a ride on transport planes flying to the USAF base at Burtonwood, and come to Liverpool for the weekend, to be part of the poetry and music events there. Most times, the first I knew he was coming was when I heard the street kids catcalling as he walked up Canning Street in uniform. 10 minutes later he’d be in the Philharmonic pub, in jeans and a t-shirt.
When Liverpool Scene went to New York first, in 1969, Ed was working at Cashbox. He was tireless in his advice to us, to help us make sense of an increasingly nonsensical tour. And he steered us around Manhattan to his favourite haunts, McSorley’s and the White Horse Tavern, the Dugout and Nobody’s.
Ed would stay with Jacqui and me in our house at Stanmore in the 70s, which is where he met Kath and many of his British friends. I remember one wild, opium-driven night going with him to see Lou Reed at the old Scala Cinema at King’s Cross. Much later on I roomed with him in Leroy Street, whilst overseeing my Broadway flop, in 1980. At that time he was writing with Harriette Vidal. He introduced me to many NY theatrical names, Charles Ludlum, Louise Lasser, Bob Balaban. Once, when we were attending something wildly underground at Joe Papp’s Public Theater, a fire alarm decanted the audiences and casts of 7 productions into the foyer. Ed was beside himself with glee when I wound up standing next to Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne), dressed as a judge.
Later, in the early 80s, he brought Melanie down to a gig I was playing in London, and she played with our band under the name Mabel Syrup, to her obvious delight.
Ed sought, and found, the rich and curious in life. How could I ever forget Bob Heide and John Gilman’s fairy-tale apartment? Or one truly memorable Sunday brunch with Linda Mauskopf in the West Village, when we set out to test the claim that you could have as much champagne as you wanted? I met these wonderful people, and many others, through Ed.
I can’t believe he has gone so soon from our lives. My thoughts, tinged with great gratitude that I knew him, will be with Ed’s family and friends at his funeral on Thursday.
When someone dies it might seem tasteless to chronicle the night we scored some opium and went to see Lou Reed, but, hey, we used to recall it 20+ years later as one of the GREAT nights out! That was a big part of Ed’s make-up. He liked his booze, he liked his drugs, he liked going to excruciatingly horrible low-budget horror movies on 42nd St., with me cringing beside him as he explained exactly how you make a thoroughly realistic disemboweling, or how a pig head can really make that scene where someone has their eyes drilled out.
He once showed me the sales returns for his film Invasion Of The Blood Farmers which was playing in the drive-ins of the Mid-West. On a Saturday night in one town the intake was 32 cars and 58 tractors! He loved that!
But to complete the picture, he showed me how to go to the opera free in New York, by slipping into the Metropolitan Opera House at the first interval. He had the craziest mix of high and low culture that I have ever seen in one man. When he wrote his column for Creem magazine (it was called Drive-In Saturday by Edouard Dauphin) he used to say that his target audience was guys who would pick up a movie and a 6-pack on their way home to play Ted Nugent records.
He was responsible for so much in my life. As I remember all those years of our acquaintance I recall how he told me about George Romero’s original Night Of The Living Dead when it was just starting to be noticed.
It was Ed who pointed out to me my all-time favourite bit of graffiti, in a jazz club on 7th Avenue called Sweet Basil, where someone had written in a portentous hand ‘TOMORROW NEVER COMES’, and underneath, in different writing someone else had written “Neither does Ralph”.
Weirdness stalked Ed all of his days, and we loved him for it.