Beauford Delaney was our landlord. In 1951, Tony Hagert and I moved into a vacant second-floor loft above a Greenwich Village trucking firm. Beauford, who lived on the third floor of the old Greene Street warehouse, had been paying, I believe, 30 dollars a month for both floors. Each loft offered a toilet and a cold-water tap, nothing more. Ours had not been occupied for more than a decade and it required days of cutting through the soot, grime and crud. Tony and I paid 30 dollars to Beauford and he could now live rent-free.
Greene Street (as it appears in Amazing Grace)
Oil on Canvas (1946)
© Discover Paris!
Most of what Beauford owned was given to him. He was especially fond of his record player and his collection of 78 rpm records by artists such as Bessie Smith, Sidney Bechet and Duke Ellington. Often his yells of ecstasy over jazz came drifting down to us on the second floor. Visiting upstairs was not unlike entering a temple. Beauford usually sat, Buddha-like, on his large bed under an elaborate canopy of white sheets, surrounded by colorful paintings. He seemed, to me, to love everyone and every thing.
When our building was scheduled for demolition by its new owner, New York University, we had to move. Tony had just been called up for military duty. Beauford and I walked the streets of the lower Village and as far East as Second Avenue, hoping for another cheap loft to fit both our ways of life. At that time --1952?-- Beauford told me he didn't want to follow, sheep-like, the many artists who had moved to Paris. He loved New York and often found inspiration in humble scenes such as Greene Street homeless men trying to warm themselves with fires set in trash cans.
Somehow we ended up going on separate paths. I rented a rickety flat on Second Avenue. Beauford, who, child-like, could not survive without the generous support of friends and admirers, finally gave in to the call of Paris.