Birth of a Voice, Chapter 5: The 4 Voices — Dan Wolf

Jerry Tallmer at the ceremony at The Players.

BY JERRY TALLMER  |  Dan Wolf, who, like me, had accomplished very little by way of a career — and was some years older than he ever admitted — wanted primarily to shake up the whole damned political establishment, Republican, Democratic, left, right, center.

Nobody ever put it better than Dan Wolf himself in his introduction to “The Village Voice Reader” (Doubleday, 1962). Here is how that intro began:

The Village Voice was originally conceived as a living, breathing attempt to demolish the notion that one needs to be a professional to accomplish something in a field as purportedly technical as journalism. It was a philosophical position. We wanted to jam the gears of creeping automatism.

Though today [1962] at least part of our purpose has been achieved — The Voice’s circulation of over 20,000 makes it a “giant” among weekly newspapers — we often wonder about our original premise. If we had known more, we certainly would have suffered less. On the other hand, if we had been businessmen or professionals, we would probably have failed, because it is not the way of the expert to pursue absurdities in a cool and resistant world.

The Voice came into existence in Greenwich Village on October 26, 1955, a time when the vulgarities of McCarthyism had withered the possibility of a true dialogue between people. The best minds in America — radical and conservative — were repeating themselves. Up and down the countryside the elect of the Ivy League had taken flight into the reality of the conventional church, the community organization, the lawn mower. Practically no one was testing reality, and General Eisenhower was our leader… .

“The vulgarities of McCarthyism”… . I remember as clearly as yesterday listening day after day, hour after hour, on the radio of my little maroon-colored $700 Jeepster, to every gripping millisecond of the Army-McCarthy hearings — and Joseph Welch’s “Have you, at long last, no shame, Senator?” — that was prologue to the whole creation of The Village Voice.

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