Friday, January 17, 2014

Paging Dr. Cbarl!

This post started way back when we decided to write about our search for a reputed photograph of Thomas Pynchon duelling with Richard Fariña while students at Cornell University.  We wrote the post and sent out a few queries to some of the people we thought might have been involved.

Investigating these individuals led us to write another post about a student protest, sometimes dubbed a "riot", that occurred about the time this photograph was taken in 1958.

One of the people we contacted was Carl Leubsdorf ('59), a veteran political journalist and past president of both the Gridiron Club and the White House Correspondents' Association.  He was also Associate Editor of the Cornell Daily Sun at the time of the duel photo shoot (The Cornell Daily Sun, Volume LXXV, Number 25, 24 October 1958).  These photos feature one "Ivan Cbarl":

Dr. Cbarl confirms Aladar's death.

Digging around The Sun archives, we discovered that Leubsdorf's name had been misspelled as "Cbarl" on a byline for an earlier article and speculated that Ivan Cbarl and Leubsdorf were one and the same. We also found a letter to the editor by Ivan Cbarl from a couple years later, and speculated that it was written by the same person.

We sent Mr. Leubsdorf a link to the post and asked him if he could shed any light on Dr. Cbarl's origin.

This was his response: 

I can indeed help you. As the blog points out, I was indeed Dr. Ivan F. Cbarl and the name was indeed inspired by the typo in which my byline appeared one day in The Sun as Cbarl P. Leubsdorf. I did write the letter when I was working for the AP in New Orleans.

The duel was conceived by the editors of The Sun, led by Editor-in-Chief David Engel and Managing Editor Bob Malina, for the Spring Weekend edition of The Sun. I was the Associate Editor, or editorial page editor, of The Sun. As the article points out, college newspapers of the day often had joke issues, akin to today's Onion, for special social occasions on campus. Our idea was to have a perfectly straight paper with the exception of the article about the duel. We had hoped to stage it in the middle of campus, in the Arts Quadrangle, but realized that, by the time there was enough light, there might be others there. So we moved it to the cemetery on Stewart Avenue, just below the campus. As the pictures show, the light was indeed not very good.

Farina was indeed Herman Hochkappler; I can't remember where that name came from but I don't think it came from another student; the name of the other dueler, Marcel Aladar, came from Editor-in-Chief Engel, whose middle name was Aladar. [...] The young lady, who was the object of the duel, was perhaps Farina's girl friend. She was not Diane Divers, whom I knew well and was in a number of classes with since we were both government majors. 

Heartened by this response, we sent him a list of questions:
  1. Did we get anything totally wrong in our blog posts? If so, can you clear up the facts for us?
  2. Who was using the name Ludlow in the photos? Just to clarify, in the third picture on our first blog post, was that Guy du Puy on the left and Ludlow on the right?
  3. Did Fariña write the dueling article?
  4. We'd like to know more about the pantheon of characters and pseudonyms. Aladar, Cbarl, Hochkappler, Ludlow, du Puy, Huntington...what other adventures did they get into, other than those we cited?
  5. In our article, we wrote, "If Minstral Island is a jagged look at concerns Pynchon and Sale would address throughout their lives, mightn't the Sun articles also have some use, however minimal, in that regard?" Any thoughts on this speculation? Can you point us to anything that Pynchon or Fariña wrote (or collaborated on) in The Cornell Daily Sun under pseudonyms?
  6. Do you know why Sale's arm was in a sling in photos of the protest?
  7. One of the four students who was initially suspended immediately following the student protest was identified in newspapers as as "Robert M. Perry". Was this Perry the same person as Todd (or Tod) Perry who was reportedly good friends with Fariña, Pynchon, and Sale?
  8.  As you can tell, we think this was a fascinating time/place to have gone to college -- with such talented group of students! Do you have any stories you'd care to share or misconceptions you'd care to clear up?
  9. Can you tell us if Pynchon, Sale, Fariña, and/or Perry appear in any of these photos of the student protests (see attached)? If so, can you point them out for us? These photos all appeared in the Sun's coverage of the student protest, although the first one is copied from an AP reprint in the NY Daily (by the way, President Malott is the person circled in this first photo). If it helps to see these images in the context of the Sun, here are links: images 1 and 2 (The Cornell Sun, May 26, 1958, p. 7); image 2 - The Cornell Sun (The Cornell Sun, May 26, 1958, p. 1).
Mr. Leubsdorf responded: 

Let me try to answer at least some of this. Perhaps my general discussion will help you with the specifics. 

One thing is important to understand: Though a couple of people were involved in both, there was no real connection between the May 1958 demonstrations and the fraudulent duel that was staged for the October 1958 Fall Weekend issue of The Sun. The demonstration that got out of hand was the culmination of a long battle between the Cornell administration, led by President Deane Malott and his executive assistant Lloyd Elliott (later president of George Washington U), and various student groups including the Student Council and The Sun over student rights. As such it was something of a forerunner of the more significant civil rights struggles of the early 1960s.

It was precipitated, as is suggested in the post, by the comments of Theresa Humphreyville (real name), who was chair of a President's Committee on Student Affairs. At a Student Council meeting at the beginning of the week, she made the inflammatory comment that "apartment parties (a term used for the presence of men and women at social or even academic gatherings in off-campus apartments) were conducive to petting and intercourse" and should be banned. I've always believed that her comment, reported in The Sun, was the spark that set things off. I was Associate Editor and David Engel was editor-in-chief and, following in the footsteps of previous editors Andrew Kopkind (56-57) and Kirk Sale (57-58), we roundly condemned the administration position. What started as a peaceful demonstration at midday got out of hand with eggs thrown at Edmund Ezra Day Hall, the administration building. A second demonstration at night got even more out of hand and led to the burning of President Malott in effigy and the march on his off-campus house. I wrote about many of these events in a 100th anniversary edition of The Sun in 1985. Sale, the former editor of The Sun, appeared at the nighttime rally, and was one of the main speakers who fired up the crowd. I believe he is the person pictured in the middle of the group with his hand up in the air. At the time, Sale, who was about to graduate, was living off campus with several friends, I believe including Pynchon, Seidler and possibly Farina. They were there with him, but he was really the principal figure as the former Sun editor who had led the fight against the restrictive student rules. His picture appeared in a prominent waythe one with his hand raised in a way that made him look like the ringleaderin many pictures across the country and, among other things, cost him a newspaper job he had lined up. Robert Perry and Tod Perry were, I'm pretty sure, the same person; he was another friend of Kirk's. I believe Farina is pictured in the picture that shows Dean Frank Baldwin, but most of the pictures are too crowded for me to recognize individuals. The Sun said that, while the cause was justified and the initial demonstration was a good idea, the nighttime demonstration was a mistake and the violence was inevitable. For that, we were roundly condemned by some of our former Sun colleagues. Ironically, Lloyd Elliott was headed for a new job as President of the University of Maine. The same edition of The Sun that reported on the demonstrations also reported on the naming of John Summerskill as Vice President for Student Affairs. Summerskill, a liberal, was very different from Malott and Elliott and, over the next several years, guided the administration and student body in a very different direction including far more power for a revamped student government. Summerskill later became president of San Francisco State University and was a central figure in the student demonstrations there in the mid-1960s. Many accounts described his appointment as resulting from the demonstrations but, in fact, he had been named beforehand.

The duel was totally separate, conceived of by a group of Sun editors, as a good centerpiece for the Fall Weekend issue. As I said before, like many college papers, we sometimes did totally fraudulent Onion-like papers for these weekends; this time, the whole paper was legitimate except for the duel. I've explained to you the origins of Dr. Cbarl and Marcel Aladar. The name Ludlow stems from a Linotype process involving the melting down of lines of type after they're used. Though Farina was Hochkappler, I don't think he had any further involvement in either the conception or the writing of the article. Pynchon was not the other dueler.

You've listed several names:

Carol Huntington was someone's girl friend, but she definitely was not Diane Divers. As I recall, we wanted sort of a willowy, long-haired blonde as the prize for whom the duel was fought. Diane, with whom I had classes in government honors, dated Farina at one point. She went to work in one of the 1960 presidential campaigns after graduation (I think Stuart Symington), moved to Arkansas where she became a well known professor of government. She and her second husband, a prominent Arkansas Democrat named Jim Blair, were married by Bill Clinton, and she became especially close to Hillary Clinton before her untimely death from cancer at 61 in 2000.

C. Michael Curtis, who had a lengthy college career before graduating in about 1960, was at Cornell at the time but I don't believe he had anything to do with the Sun parody.

Kirk Sale, as I mentioned, had graduated at the time. He and Faith started dating midway through college and got married after graduation (I'm not sure precisely when). Stephanie Greene had nothing to do with any of this. Stephanie Gervis '58, who later wrote for The Village Voice and married Socialist Michael Harrington, was Associate Editor of The Sun when Sale was editor, but was not directly involved in either event.

O. Kristin Osterholm had graduated in 1957. She was on The Sun but was gone from campus when all this happened.

David Seidler was, I believe, principally involved because he was friends with Kirk. He had nothing to do with The Sun.

Bob Wegryn was The Sun's Photo Editor.

Allan Metcalf's use of the name Marcel Aladar may well have occurred because he was a Sun staffer at the time of the duel.

I hope this is helpful. But I have to ask: why are you so interested in this?

We responded with a note explaining our interest (which basically boils down to our interest in Farina and Pynchon as artists, as well as our curiosity about this time at Cornell). We also asked for Mr. Leubsdorf's permission to post his emails and shared a draft of the article with him, and he was kind enough to allow us to publish this. In this email to us, he wrapped up by stating that: 

The 1958 demonstrations were among the most significant events of my years at Cornell, while the fake duel shows how much fun at The Sun often had. It may explain why, some 55 years later, I'm still writing for a newspaper.

Having read a handful of Mr. Leubsdorf's opinion pieces in the Dallas News, we see that this sense of fun combined with tackling the significant still comes through in his writing.

Well, this wraps up our fourth post on this topic. We appreciated the opportunity to discuss this seminal period with some of its key figures. We entered this series of posts about Cornell in the late '50s with a focus on a series of pictures of the fake duel, and, thanks primarily to Mr. Leubsdorf, we have identified half of the participants: the two duelists and the doctor. If anyone is able to identify the two seconds or the woman in the photos, we remain curious....

Thank you, Mr. Leubsdorf and Mr. Perry, for your recollections and insights into these tumultuous times and interesting people, including yourselves.  We would appreciate hearing from anyone else who we've discussed, whether it's to share more anecdotes, clarify any mistakes we may have made or just to tell us to knock it off and leave you alone....

Related articles on LoS:

* Start of a Duel (Buried in The Sun) (the post that kicked this series off)

* Teacup in a Tempest (our follow up to the original post)

* Cozy & Loud as a Camel in the Rain: An Interview with Mr. Tod Perry

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