As long as I am reminiscing and I have your ear, I hope, I would like to tell you about my friend Larry Goldberg. He was one of the most fascinating men I ever met and a very good friend. He died several years ago but I hope a lot of his friends will remember him and keep his memory alive. Larry Goldberg had the uncanny ability to meet people.
But you had to sort Larry out and pin him down when he talked about someone. He only met Falkner once, he shook his hand. He spent several hours with James Cagney. He spent lots of time with Henry Miller and Nelson Algren. He only met the pope once.
Larry Goldberg worked in Washington for Senator Paul Douglas. Across the hall there was another senator named John Kennedy, who would later grow up to be president. He and Larry talked together often about literature. He once borrowed a book from Larry and refused to give it back. It is now in some preserved Kennedy office or library and property of the US Government.
In the 1960's Larry Goldberg ran The University of Chicago's bookstore downtown. There was a controversy about Henry Miller's books and whether the university bookstore should carry them. Larry fought hard for Henry Miller and got the university to keep his books in the store. He also made some shipments of Henry Miller's books out of the country disguised as other shipments. Henry Miller found out about Larry and wrote to him. Larry began a correspondence with Henry Miller.
Larry had also done a lot of work promoting John Steinbeck. One day someone walked into the store asking for Larry Goldberg. Larry said, "who's asking." The man pulled out his driver's license and said "I'm John Steinbeck." Larry said, "Oh yeah, where's Charlie?" Steinbeck went out to the van, which had a big 'JS' on its side, got his dog, and brought him into the bookstore. The dog relieved himself on a pile of Hemingway and Falkner books. Larry closed the store and travelled around the city with Steinbeck.
He later moved to California where he finally got to meet Henry Miller.
But before all this, Larry was a friend of Nelson Algren. They spent a lot of time together in his early years. Larry would go out drinking or playing cards with Nelson to all hours of the night. When they returned to Nelson's house, Larry would fall asleep on the couch. He would wake up in the morning and there would be a pile of papers and a note saying "Larry, please edit." Nelson would be out having breakfast or running around already.
When they wanted to film "The Man With The Golden Arm," probably his best story, they asked Nelson Algren to write the screenplay. He and Larry got togther and wrote a screenplay. The producers rejected it but Nelson didn't care because they paid them anyways.
And he got drunk with the pope. Larry worked at a nursing home west of Damen Avenue and south of North Avenue in Chicago. He used to drive the old folks to church on Sunday. Being Jewish he would sit on the front steps of the church and wait for mass to be over. One Sunday one of the priests came out and told Larry he had someone he wanted to meet. They brought Larry to the rectory and introduced him to Cardinal from Poland. They began to talk about the holocaust. When mass got over, Larry excused himself but the cardinal sent his driver to drive the people home. The cardinal sent out for lunch. Then he sent out for a couple of bottles of wine. After several hours of drinking, eating, and conversation, Larry bid farewell to the Cardinal. He said they were both staggering slightly when he left. Later the cardinal became Pope John Paul II.
When the pope was shot Larry sent him a short note. The pope wrote back and said he remembered Larry. It was a very precious thing for him.
Driving around the city with Larry was a history lesson. He pointed out to me where Theodore Dreiser lived when he wrote Sister Carrie. Showed me where Paul Dresser wrote Back Home Again In Indiana. He showed me Frank Oz's house. Capone's hideouts. The apartment building in Wicker Park where the St. Valentine's Day Massacre was planned and serial killer Henry Lee Lucas lived. The building on the corner on North, Damen, and Milwaukee where they kept copies of the first printing of Steinbeck's first book, Cup of Gold, which was released after The Grapes of Wraith so they could make lots of money on the book.
Several things happened to Larry which broke his heart and nearly his spirit. His wife who he dearly loved died, and shortly afterwords there was a fire that destroyed his book collection.
Larry returned later to his beloved Maxwell Street and fought hard to keep it open. He was one of the last people living on Maxwell Street and he was literally, "The Last Jew On Maxwell Street."
He taught me a lot about books and publishing. I miss him a lot. I miss him more now."