Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On the 14th Anniversary of Charles Henri Ford’s Passing

On the 14th Anniversary of Charles Henri Ford’s Passing

Charles Henri Ford. Photo by Matthew R Lewis

Fourteen years ago, on September 27th, 2002, Charles Henri Ford passed away here in New York. He was 94 years old when he died, but his spirit was youthful and busy right up until that day. On this same date in 1934, Charles wrote a letter to his father, which he mailed from France. 

“To Daddy,” he wrote. “Arrived in Paris last night after a few days in Toulon and a couple of nights in Marseilles. Visited Aix-en-Provence on the way up, like walking in the 18th century. Spain has a brutality in the landscape that one misses in France.” 

He mentions a manuscript for a novel, for which he hoped to find a publisher. His agent of the day had told him the book was without commercial value, but that was never something that bothered Charles or stopped him, and he had plenty of successes over his long life that made him happy, if not rich. The book he wrote with Parker Tyler, The Young and Evil, published around the time of this letter, was considered without commercial value too, and it was also considered shocking. I think that probably made Charles happy, the fact that it was shocking. 

Charles lived for art of every kind, and he lived to experience life to the fullest, which he did. And he was lucky in that the world when he was young was still full of undiscovered places compared to the world as it is today. Charles was blessed with good timing in his life.

“I can’t describe in a letter all the wonderful things we saw in Spain,” he wrote to his father in that letter dated September 27th, 1934, about his travels with Pavel Tchelitchew.  “We also visited Granada, which was the most marvelous of all.”

Could Charles have ever imagined that this same day on the calendar, sixty-eight years in the future, would be his last? I don’t think he thought about it at all, but if he had known it, I think he might have wanted to have it made into a poem or a play or another manuscript “without commercial value.”  

Charles lived a long life full of marvelous achievements and experiences, and in case he’s watching, I want him to know that he’s not forgotten, and his influence lives on more than ever. 

Charles Henri Ford
February 10, 1908 – September 27, 2002

-Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2016, all rights reserved.

On the Passing of Edward Albee

On the Passing of Edward Albee 

Edward Albee, three time recepient for Pulitzer prize for drama. Photo credit: Academy of Achievement

On August 12th, 2009, Ruth Ford passed away in the Dakota, where she had lived for many years and where she hosted her legendary salon. Since then I’ve usually written a little piece every year to commemorate the day of her passing, but this year I did not due to some personal circumstances, and I want to make up for that now with a note on the passing of Ruth’s friend Edward Albee. 

I never met Mr. Albee myself, but he was our neighbor when Charles and I would stay out at Montauk, and he resided there until the end of his life on September 16th. During the time when Ruth was hosting her salons, Edward Albee was one of the favorite guests among the theatrical and literary luminaries—William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and many others—who would come to enjoy those famous evenings at the Dakota.

One of the famous plays Edward Albee wrote is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. It is safe to say that Ruth would have attended the opening night of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf on Broadway—starring Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill—and the premier of its movie version starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor as well, because Ruth was always invited to those glamorous events and she always attended if she were in town. It is also a sure bet that the awards that Mr. Albee won for that play—the Tony Award and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for best play—would have been celebrated and talked about in Ruth’s elegant sitting room. 

Ruth definitely lived a charmed life surrounded by other charmed lives, and when she died, she left behind a huge library of plays—including those by Edward Albee—because reading plays was something she loved to do. Ruth enjoyed reading plays whether she intended to act in them or not, and it is well known that William Faulkner wrote his play Requiem for Nun specifically for Ruth. 

Edward Albee’s plays are almost constantly in production somewhere, and in that way he’ll live on in this world. Just as Ruth lives on through the movies she made in the 1940s, preserved forever on film and easy to find today. Wherever you are Ruth, I hope you are doing great things. And to you, Mr. Albee, bon voyage, good luck and break a leg!

Edward Albee 
March 12, 1928 – September 16, 2016

Ruth Ford 
February 18, 1911 – August 12, 2009

-Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2016, all rights reserved.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Little Something About Ruth

A Little Something About Ruth

The Portrait Heads of Ruth Ford by Pavel Tchelitchev (Vogue Magazine cover, March 15th, 1936)

Ruth Ford was born on this day—July 7th,1911—in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and today in her memory I would like to share something about her that quite a few people might not know. The last play Ruth was in on the Broadway was in 1980, at the Martin Beck Theatre at 302 West 45th Street. It was a short-lived production of Harold and Maude, a stage adaptation of the 1971 movie of same name, and in it Ruth played Harold’s mother, Mrs. Chasen. Apparently the play bombed, but it would have been hard to surpass a movie as popular as that one was (and still is) and even if it did bomb, the role Ruth had in that stage production makes an interesting curio from her life full of interesting achievements. 

West 45th Street is still full of theatres, including the old theatre where Ruth played Harold’s mother, the Martin Beck Theater. However, in 2003 it was re-named to honor the famous theatrical illustrator Al Hirschfeld. Martin Beck had been a Vaudeville promoter, and I know that Ruth and her brother Charles Henri Ford both loved vaudeville as children and saw as many shows as they could. Charles’s childhood diaries are filled with descriptions of the vaudeville shows they attended. 

As for Al Hirschfeld, Ruth was one of his many subjects. She was sketched by him for the 1938 run of the play The Shoemaker’s Holiday, in which she starred opposite Vincent Price. And she was again his subject in 1959 when she starred in Requiem for a Nun opposite her husband Zachary Scott. 

Ruth is part of a great theatrical history in New York, and West 45th Street will always be a street where Ruth walked, on her way to the theatre. By sharing this bit of Ruth's theatrical trivia I am doing my own small part to keep her little flame lighted. 

Wherever you are Ruth, you are still part of New York and very much not forgotten.

Happy Birthday.

July 7, 1911 – August 12, 2009


copyright © Indra Tamang 2016, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Recent Visit to Nepal

My Recent Visit to Nepal
Waving Nepal's Flag with Mr. Laxmi Narayan Silpakar, flag bearer of Kathmandu, at Basantapur Durbar Square.
Behind me is a temple reduced to rubble after the devastating earthquake.
Photo by Arjun Pakhrin, Radio Sagarmatha.

As many of you know, after the devastating earthquake in Nepal last year, I put together a fundraiser, Help Nepal Benefit Concert, to raise money to help the earthquake victims. The Concert, which was held on May 30th, 2015, here in New York City, had performances by many famous Nepalese artists as well as American, British and Japanese musicians. We successfully raised $12,000 from the fundraiser. 

In October last year, I traveled to Kathmandu, and with the help of Tamang Artist Association of Nepal, a program was organized at Nepal Academy, Kamaladi, Kathmandu, where I was able to hand over the funds to the selected recipients personally.  The money was distributed among seven different earthquake impacted districts, where it will be used specifically for schools in small villages. I contributed a hundred thousand rupees myself to the Tamang Artist’s Association for their help, and my cousin from New York as well as well known social worker Mr. Banshalal Tamang made a generous contribution of his own. There was a good turnout for the program, with many speeches made by prominent Tamang figures, many famous tamang singers, although there were no performances. Mr. Rudra Singh Tamang, Chief and Executive Officer, Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office, attended as the Chief Guest of the program. Among the attendees were famous linguist Mr. Amrit Yonjan, President of Tamang Ghedung Sangh Mr. Kumar Yonjan, social worker Mr. Gajendra Kumar Lama and formal parliament member Mr. Bir Bahadur Lama. The event was well covered by the media, both local and US based outlets, including the Everest Times, US Nepal Online and Nepali Bulletin. Mr. Manchhiring Tamang, Chief Editor of Nepali Bulletin, was also present at the program. Handing the funds over was a great relief to me, and my little speech was something to that effect; that the burden of using the funds effectively was now shifted onto the recipients. 

While I was there, I saw only a tiny fraction of the tremendous damage caused by the earthquake, but what I saw was spectacular. So many houses were crumbled to the ground. In my own village, the two houses which I built for my family were both very unsafe to live in. The members of my family who had lived there are in a temporary shelter outside, but they still go into one of the old houses to cook, which I think is taking a big risk because there are still aftershocks. Both houses are too badly damaged to be repaired, so eventually they’ll have to come down. Something else I found in my village was that the little creek where we used to get our water as far back as I can remember, is now dried up as a consequence of the earthquake. So now everyone has to go much farther to get water, which is difficult and affects everyone’s life very much.
Earthquake survivors. Sindhupalchowk
Devastated house which claimed a life at Dilli Bazaar, Kathmandu.

My cousin's old house damaged by earthquake
Aftermath of earthquake, Sindhupalchowk.

Dried up Creek at my village.
Adding insult to injury after the earthquake was the blockade, with India not allowing fuel and provisions into Nepal. I was in Kathmandu during the time of the Dashain festival, which is the main festival, and everything was closed. There was also no gasoline available so there were no cars about. There was no cooking gas—meaning not even a cup of tea—and worse than that, no basic medicines for people needing dialysis and other life sustaining services. At the same time, some greedy people were taking advantage of the blockade with black market gasoline, making big profits who gladly prosper from the suffering of the many, and as usual. It’s always the ordinary honest hardworking people who are suffers. I saw mini buses, crowded with people sitting all over the roofs, listing to one side like ships with the weight imbalance which is very unsafe. I didn’t ride a single bus, but I did ride on the motorbike with my brother. 

My brother and his family, along with our mother, had been living outside in Kathmandu since the earthquake damaged my house there. But since the winter has started, they’re taking their chances and staying in it anyway. The house is the one Charles Henri Ford originally bought so many years ago, and it’s a very old house, now noticeably unstable. The walls and ceilings are full of cracks and gaps. I stayed there during my visit, and at night little pieces of dirt or plaster would fall from the ceiling onto the floor. I would hear the sound and wonder if it meant the house was trembling. Somehow, I managed to get enough sleep anyway. 
Basantapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu.

Remaining piece of Dharara also known as Bhimsen Tower. Sundara, Kathmandu
Water shortages meant few baths, and there was usually no hot water, so I washed my hair with cold water every day. In twenty days, I must have had only two or three hot showers. People who have better houses or houses with no damage do have hot water, but my house was not one of the lucky ones. As for drinking water, people play it safe by buying large bottles of water, and to be absolutely certain they boil the water they buy so that it’s safe to drink. 

During my trip, I also had chance to visit His Eminence Losang Namgyal Rinpoche at Kopan Monastery. Along with me were Bansalal Tamang, Pemba Sherpa Hyolmo, my brother Suraj Tamang and few others. His eminence gave us a brief tour of the monastery and his eminence treated our group with delicious lunch. It felt refreshing to visit the monastery in midst of the earthquake aftermath and economic blockade. 
On the rooftop of a building at Kopan Monastery with His Eminence Losang Namgyal Rinpoche. Kopan,  Kathmandu.
Photo by Suraj Tamang.

I’ve only roughly summarized my trip here, but I do feel that I was able to accomplish quite a few things during my short stay. I returned on November 1st to New York, home sweet home, feeling good about having gone. 

Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2016, all rights reserved.

On the Occasion of Charles Henri’s Birthday

On the Occasion of Charles Henri’s Birthday

Today, February 10th, is the birthday of Charles Henri Ford. He would be 108 if he was still here, and he’d probably like that. On this occasion, I thought it might be nice to publish a short letter he wrote to Gertrude Stein on this date in 1930. 

144 MacDougal Street
New York City
Feb 10, 1930

Dear Miss Stein,
L’adorable c’est ici. for number 8.
More beautiful, so are things complicated.
heart tremblings in n.y. So are paris.
So are stein
so blues
so what the hell.


The building in which Charles wrote this letter, at 144 MacDougal Street, no longer exists—it was replaced by an NYU law library—but once it was a print shop where Anais Nin printed her first three books. The number 8 in Charles’s little letter refers to the 8th issue of his magazine, Blues, to which Gertrude Stein made contributions. 

I get letters regularly from scholars asking about Charles, and about what he did and what he knew. The interest in him has not lessened. If anything, it just keeps growing.

Happy Birthday, Charles. You live on through your marvelous influence.

Charles Henri Ford. Chania, Crete, Greece. 1980.
Photo By Indra Tamang

Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2016, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015



Holly Woodland at a party. NYC, 1976. Photo by Indra Tamang

Like so many people, I was saddened to hear that Holly Woodlawn had died on December 6th in Los Angeles. She was one of the interesting characters I met early on, in the 1970s, not too long after I came to New York. I was lucky that Charles Henri Ford took me almost right away to meet Andy Warhol at the Factory, and I thought it was all very interesting although at the time I knew nothing about Andy or any of the people I was meeting at the Factory. 

At a certain point, Charles gave me a little Kodak Instamatic camera, and I carried it with me wherever we went. Very often we went to Studio 54. Anytime someone was having a birthday party or some kind of celebration, an invitation would come and we’d go off to Studio 54. Andy was always there with an entourage, and rather than try to start a conversation with anyone I kept myself busy with the camera. Sometimes Charles would point at someone and say, “Photograph that one.” I didn’t always know who I was photographing then, but I ended up with a lot of snapshots of famous people. I know that I photographed Divine, and I photographed Jackie Curtis, and Jayne County, and somewhere there’s a photograph of Holly Woodlawn. 

Charles remembered us being at some club one night, not Studio 54—and I have no memory of this—but a lady was pulling at me and saying, “Come on, Indra, let’s dance!” So we danced, and it was Holly Woodlawn.  That was my first encounter with her and I can’t remember it! I wish I could, but at least Charles did. Later on I read Holly’s memoir, Lowlife in High Heels. I read every page and I’m sure it’s all true. 

I wish her a safe passage and I’m sure she’ll be reunited soon with all the other glamorous figures who never missed a party and who have gone on ahead. Rest in Peace, Holly.


October 26, 1946 – December 6, 2015

Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2015, all rights reserved.