From Robert Weide: "On Saturday, June 21st, a public tribute/celebration honoring Allen Ginsberg was held at the Wadsworth Theater in Los Angeles for an audience of approximately 1,500 people. Vonnegut was asked to speak, but had plans to be out of the country on that date. He did agree to write an original piece for the ocassion, provided that someone else could read it at the event. I was asked to perform that honor, which I gladly accepted."
Please, please, please. Nobody else die!
Allen Ginsberg and I were inducted into the American Institute of Arts and Letters in 1973. A reporter from Newsweek telephoned me at that time, and asked me what I thought about two such outsiders being absorbed by the Establishment. I replied, "If we aren't the Establishment, I don't know who is."
Allen was inducted nominally as a poet, but had in fact become world-famous for the radiant love and innocence of his person, from head to toe.
Let us be frank, and admit that the greatest poetry satisfies few deep appetites in modern times. But the appearance in our industrialized midst of a man without guile or political goals or congregation, who was doing his utmost to become wise and holy, was for many of us a surprising, anachronistic feast for our souls.
Allen and I met at a dinner given in Cambridge by the Harvard Lampoon in 1970. We would hold hands during the ensuing entertainment.
I had returned from witnessing the end of a civil war in southern Nigeria. The losing side, the rebellious Ibos, had been blockaded for more than a year. There had been widespread starvation. I was there with my fellow novelist Vance Bourjailly. We arrived on a blockade-running Catholic relief DC-3. We were surrounded at once by starving children begging for mercy. They had distended bellies, everted rectums, hair turned yellow, running sores, that sort of thing. They were also dirty.
We were afraid to touch them, least we get an infection to take back home. But Vance was ashamed of his squeamishness. He said that if Allen Ginsberg had been with us, Allen would have hugged the children, and gone down on his knees and played with them.
I told this story at the Lampoon dinner, and then said directly to Allen: "We have not met before, sir, but such is your reputation."