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.

Friday, October 2, 2015

My Recent Travels' Journal


Helicopter Tour to Boulder Colorado. 

It’s been some time since I’ve made a blog post about myself, but to catch up, here are some bits and pieces:

In early April, Radhika, Zina and I went to Las Vegas, the glittering city of light! We stayed there for five nights without gambling (Well, Radhika played the nickel machines and broke even), but we took a helicopter tour all the way to Boulder Colorado. We flew over vast spaces below, with the pilot telling us how millions of years ago everything there was covered in water. The ride was one and a half hours long, and poor Radhika felt air sick, so with her eyes closed she didn’t get to see much of the view. The next day, we rented a car and drove about three/ four hours to see Cathedral Rock, nature’s big church. We thought it would be a bit more spectacular than it was, but it was interesting to look up into it, way up into the sky, the very opposite of what we saw looking down from the helicopter at the blue color of a huge dam down below. Cathedral Rock itself had the consistency of chalk to the touch. In Las Vegas, we also met my cousin Shanta Thokar, who was there for the karate tournament. We saw a little bit of him doing his refereeing for the matches. He didn’t know we were coming until I called him from the airport, so it was a bit of a surprise for him.  

At Cathedral Rock. Photo Credit: Zina Tamang

Soon after we returned to New York, on April 15th, Nepal was hit by the monster earthquake on April 25th, and all of our communities were plunged into sadness. Many Nepalese gathered in Jackson Heights to organize a candlelight vigil for thousands of people who died in earthquake and prayed for those who were affected. There was lots of news media presence, including Verena Dobnik of the Associated Press, who interviewed me and others in Queens about the earthquake and how we were affected. With almost 10,000 people dead and millions left homeless and devastated, everyone started fundraising efforts in whatever capacity they could, and I did the same. I arranged for American and Nepalese musical artists to come together for a fundraiser concert, Help Nepal Benefit Concert, at the Armenian Church in Manhattan on May 30th. The program was a great success in terms of turnout, with about 750 people in attendance, but it didn’t raise as much as I had expected. The operating and maintenance cost for the concert venue and securities fees for the event, all of those things took a bite out of the profits. With the concert profits and a few added donations, we managed to raise $12,000, and I am grateful to all those people who donated their time and talent to help raise these funds for Nepal Earthquake victims. 

Vigil for Nepal Earthquake Victims held at Jackson Heights. Photo Credit: Indra Tamang
At the end of July we travelled to Virginia, where we visited Luray Caverns, the largest cavern in the east coast. This was my third time visiting the cavern, and still I enjoyed the tour of the cavern. We stayed in Virginia for few days. On August 2nd, I had to be at the picnic organized by Tamang Society of America in Connecticut. We barely made it in time, driving all the way from Virginia, but we did make it enough to taste delicious bbq and have good time. 

Luray Cavern, Virginia. Photo credit: Indra Credit
The second week of August, Radhika, Zina and I visited Cancun, “The Nest of Snakes” in Mexico. Many years ago there was nothing but crocodiles and snakes living in that place, where the water is still beautiful and crystal clear. We spent a week there, and one day we took a three-hour bus ride to El Casttilo, Chichen Itza Kukulkan Pyramid. The pyramids was build by Mayans many centuries ago and has 365 steps, one step for each day of the year. It is considered to be one of the New7Wonders of the World. We wondered how those pyramids were built by people hundreds of years ago. The Mayans seem to have worshipped snakes and birds as we saw many sculptures of those creatures everywhere. The Mayans built the pyramids to last thousands of years and they’ve made a big source of income for the people living there today. Thousands of tourists come to see the pyramid every day. I asked a guide if it is always that crowded, and he said that October and April see a few less, but the rest of the months just see rivers of tourists. Mayans were also known for their calendar which predicted the world would end on December 21, 2012, but obviously nothing happened. 
El Casttilo, Chichen Itza Kukulkan Pyramid, Mexico. Photo Credit: Indra Tamang

On our way to pyramid trip, we had a stop for food. All of the restaurants served the wild jungle Habanero hot pepper also known as ghost pepper. There is a local legend that Mayan leaders fed the peppers to the invaders as a revenge. We tried the peppers at restaurants, and I liked it. I’m used to eating hot spicy foods, but even I could only eat a little because it was too hot.
Cancun, Mexico. Photo credit: Indra Tamang

One day we took a boat ride to Isla Mujeres, which I had heard Charles talk about many times. Zina and I took a zip-line ride on the island. We also went scuba diving and sat in the sun drinking margaritas and having lunch, everything included in our tourist package. We returned back to New York on August 15th. 

Last Saturday, September 27th, I attended a reception organized by various Nepalese communities of NY for the Nepalese delegation to 70th UN Assembly leaded by Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Prakash Man Singh. Radhika’s father, Chitra Kumar Lama, was an old friend of the Deputy’s, and they were members of the same political party. Therefore Radhika came up with idea of inviting the Deputy PM and his wife for dinner at our house. I agreed and we invited the couple for private dinner at our house on Tuesday evening. It was just a personal evening to celebrate the old friendship that the deputy had with Radhika’s father. Radhika, with her aunt’s help, cooked a delicious dinner and everyone felt happy for the occasion. It is always great privilege to have such a dignitary in our house. 

With Deputy Prime minister of Nepal and his wife at my residence. Photo Credit: Zina Tamang
Next week, I am making a trip to Nepal to see for myself how things are progressing and to check on my family. It will also give me chance to personally distribute the funds raised from the concert in May 30th. I will be very busy while I am there, no doubt, and my focus will be on helping rebuild damaged schools from the funds, since there is already effort being made to building houses for people displaced by the earthquake. I will hand the money we raised to trustworthy recipients, and I will report on that when I get back.  

I wish everyone a happy and healthy autumn.

Help Nepal Benefit Concert held at May 30th.

Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2015, all rights reserved.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

On the Passing of Charles Henri Ford, Thirteen Years On

On the Passing of Charles Henri Ford, Thirteen Years On

 Young Charles Henry Ford in 1933, when he first arrived in Paris.
Photo Credit: Studio Piaz Paris 
While thinking about the 13th anniversary of Charles’s death, I looked into the pages of an old journal he kept in Tangier in 1932. I read entries about some of the things he was doing—lunching with Claude McKay, meeting Wilfredo Lam and describing the artist’s long brown fingers and gold bracelet, swimming, eating delicious meals, enjoying the company of his exotic friend Carmita, to whom he dedicated the journal, and getting letters from Paul Bowles in which Bowles talked about Algiers being magnificent and more savage and lovely than Morocco—all the kinds of unexpected pleasures and adventures Charles loved most. In short, he was having the time of his life in 1932, and marking down in his journal countless little observations, like these:

“Gertrude Stein, like Schnitzler, drinks no wine with her meals.”

“Anna Karenina is so great, so true and all told with such calm or passionate insight.”

“Of course we are all full of fleas and there seems no avoiding them.”

“The milk woman is about six feet tall and has been found out to have been charging for eight days in a week instead of seven.”

“People are born with everything important they will discover as the years fall: character, or lack of it, genius if any, strength or weakness, a beautiful nose or misshapen mouth, even an early death or a long lifetime…Man is delivered from the womb complete as a seed; everything else is accident.”

In 1932, Charles still had 70 glorious, accidental years ahead of him. And he lived every day of those years to the fullest, right up until he passed away on this day in 2002. I know because I spent many of his later years watching him do it, taking part in his exciting life, and having experiences for which I’ll be forever grateful. 

Charles, wherever you are, your work and influence down here still live on, as strong as ever, and you will be forever remembered and missed.

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

Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2015, all rights reserved. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Wishing Ruth a Happy 104!

Wishing Ruth a Happy 104!

Today, July 7th 2015, marks the 104th birthday of Ruth Ford. As I work my way through what feels like bottomless boxes of papers and photographs that Ruth left behind, I come across lots of little gems to remind me of Ruth’s extraordinary life. I came across this photograph for example, from 1967, in which Ruth is seated with Bobby Short, Tallulah Bankhead and Rex Reed at a table in what looked to be a restaurant. 
Ruth with Bobby Short, Tallulah Bankhead and Rex Reed, 1967.

The matchbooks on the table say “The Living Room,” and doing a little detective work online turned up a few details in an old newspaper clipping. It seems that Ruth and Rex Reed gave a party for Bobby Short, and they asked guests to come either as themselves or as a favorite movie star. This is why Tallulah Bankhead came dressed as Bette Davis. I didn’t know until now that Bette Davis was Tallulah Bankhead’s favorite movie star, but life is much better now that I know.

On the wall behind Ruth is a poster for the movie Forgotten Women, made in 1949. Ruth wasn’t in that one—I checked—but she made her share of movies, and had more than her share of fun, excitement, glamour and evenings like the one in this picture.  What I want to tell her, wherever she is, is that she’ll never be called a Forgotten Woman, not now or ever. I think she would appreciate knowing that. Being forgotten wasn’t Ruth’s style.

Happy Birthday, Ruth. May glamour always be your guide.

JULY 7, 1911 - AUGUST 12, 2011

Indra Tamang
Copyright Indra Tamang, 2015, all rights reserved. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A note on Judith’s Passing

A note on Judith’s Passing

Much has been written about Judith Malina in the short time since she left the world, and I don’t think there is anything more to be added; she was admired and beloved for what she did in the theater, and for what she wrote as a diarist and poet, and for what she achieved as a political activist, and for who she was as a person. Charles Henri Ford knew Judith (and her husband Julian Beck) since the early sixties, and he often spoke about them. The experimental aspects of the Living Theater was something that he very much liked, maybe in part because his own work was always very experimental too. 

Over the years, I saw Judith and Julian many times in New York, usually after attending one of their plays. I spoke to Judith whenever I saw her, although I no longer remember what we talked about. I just remember that it was always nice to talk with her, and I’m sure that anyone who has ever chatted with Judith knows what I mean. 

The photograph I’m including here is one that I took in 1984 of Ira Cohen, Julian, Judith, and Charles. It was taken in Paris, in Charles’s apartment on the Ile Saint Louis. I wish I could remember what all were talking about that afternoon in Paris, but I had never been one to keep a diary of who said what to whom. I wish I had been. Of course Ira was there, which probably means that he did most of the talking.

Whenever we were in Paris, Charles would invite people visiting from America or elsewhere to come and have tea. One thing he never allowed was smoking. If someone went to light up a cigarette he would stop them. But on that day he allowed Judith to smoke, and this I think was a gesture of respect for her on his part.

It always struck me that somehow, in a way, Ira, Julian and Judith all looked alike. It was something about their style—their dress and manner—it was a fashion and way of being, very specific to them. Now they are all gone. I know that until the last minute, Judith was still writing, still thinking of directing theater, still living life. She was one of the last posts standing from a whole group of luminaries. Sadly, yet happily, the torch is passed. 
Judith Malina with her husband Julian Beck at her side, Ira Cohen and Charles Henri Ford. Photo taken at Charles' Apartment in Paris sometime around 1984. Photo by: Indra Tamang

In memory of Judith Malina

June 4, 1926 – April 10, 2015

May her spirit have safe, but adventurous travels

Tuesday, February 10, 2015



Charles Henri Ford. Gin Beach. Montauk, NY 1995.

As February 10th approached, I was looking through some old letters from Charles to his mother, Gertrude Cato, and in the one sent from Rome, dated 7 February 1953, Charles wrote, “Thank you, honey, for the birthday greenery. Pavlik’s ordering a cake from the Bar Tranquil in Frascati.” 

He then listed the friends he’d invited to a cocktail-buffet: Channing Hare, Stevie Hensel, Truman Capote, Stark Young, and a few others, including a French fashion illustrator who had a Rolls Royce for everyone to ride in. In the letter, he also told his mother that the night of the 10th was Carnival in Frascati, so after going to that he was planning to celebrate his birthday again in Rome, on February 12th. This means that in 1953 Charles had two birthday parties. 

And why not?

Charles loved birthday parties, his own and other peoples’ too. When I try to think of a favorite birthday party for Charles during my years with him, the Mudd Club comes to my mind. It’s been so long since Steve Mass threw that party for Charles that I no longer remember many details, but I do remember Kimon Friar being there. He was the man responsible for translating all the books of Nikos Kazantzakis from Greek to English, and for writing a book about him called The Spiritual Odyssey of Nikos Kazantzakis. Charles and I saw him many times in Greece, and for some reason he’s the only specific guest I remember from the party at the Mudd Club. I also remember Charles showing his Poem Poster movie that night, a film he made himself at the opening of his Poem Poster Show of 1965. The film “starred” Jayne Mansfield, James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol.

I don’t recall too many big parties at the Dakota. Usually events at the Dakota were small. Certain people, particularly among the poets we all know, would want to come at different times in order to avoid each other. Ted Joans couldn’t stand Ira Cohen, for example, and I don’t know what Ira thought of Ted, but Charles liked both Ted and Ira. Ruth used to buy Ted’s poetry books in bulk, twenty at a time. She’d have him sign them and then give them as gifts to her friends. Sometimes Ted ran out of his own books and then he’d ask Ruth if she still had any. And if she did, she’d give them back. Nothing pleased Charles more than Ted Joans coming to the Dakota with sweet potato pie brought down from Harlem. 

Had Charles lived, he would be 107 years old today. At the end of his life his mind was sharp and clear, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded living to be 107. I don’t think either Charles or Ruth ever thought for a minute that they wouldn’t just live forever, at least that’s the impression I always had. Ruth was always thinking she’d be getting ‘better’ soon, even though there was nothing wrong with her but age. 

Thankfully, Charles never seemed the least bit frightened at the end of his life. When it came to living, he always said, “Just play it as it lays,” and that’s what he did. And he enjoyed every birthday, and every other day too, to the fullest.

Happy Birthday, Charles. I hope wherever you are, it’s a good one. 

Marcel Duchamp’s cover design for View magazine (1945). Charles was editor of the magazine.

Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2015, all rights reserved.