PJ (Paul Johnston) was an artist living in Greenwich Village most of the years between 1919 and 1987. This is one of his memories from the 1960s.
All through his forties, fifties and sixties the ghost of his wife’s husband, the passionate lover, the rejected lover and the professor of love, was in unbelievably good health.
Did a turning point come when he loved Olga at first sight, he sixty, she twenty five? And would rather be her celibate lover if the alternative was a one night stand or a brief affair? Six years in love with Olga—an embrace, a long kiss in love on greeting, but never a bussing in bed.
Meanwhile during frequent amiable meetings, going to art galleries, Off Broadway theatres, films, far out happenings, dances, year in and week out for six years, the old man was in robust health, fulfilled in amiable love.
But coincidentally with age sixty, the doctors imposed on him a heart condition.
He was in fine health between the losses of life’s time in hospitals, which he took without complaint. Nor did his losing O to a worthy husband affect his health.
On, on to seventy, the professor of love loved, often to fulfillment.
All those days he’d wake up singing, even if he slept alone. A loner, singing squeezing orange juice from the half shell, singing frying eggs, singing (but not out loud) while he worked. His health was disgustingly good.
“I met Olga when she was in the happenings and fell in love with her right away. And we made of it what we did, that’s all. I was sixty and she was twenty-five. I couldn’t see making the big lover pose, that I was in love with her for sexual reasons, which I was not. It was my first experience with amiable love. Amiable affection. And I played it by note.” He laughed, “By rote. I played as it played. And it was very beautiful.”
Olga married a young man. PJ understood this. “After all, I had nothing to offer her. It was a natural thing, and I could live with it.”
“Was her husband the one who was into happenings?”
“He was in the happenings, Claes Oldenburg’s happenings. He didn’t do any happenings. He thought art and science should be mixed, and he got a bunch of scientists to make these art pretensions,” PJ said. “But Olga was a natural genius. She was an artist in her own right, but her brilliance was beat down by her husband who used her as an attractive model-type wife to attract capital to his enterprises. Until, one day, she had enough.” After she divorced him, PJ recalled, “She left a note on my front door saying she wanted to see me.” He dared to hope they would get back together. “But her heart wasn’t in it,” he said.
“The funny part of it was when she rejected me years before, she said you know those years you claimed you were in love with me all the time and we were going out together all the time, I never felt it a bit. So she tells me this after five or six years, when I was there when she was going out with me and I could tell she enjoyed it very much. So it was just one of those things, she had become disillusioned with everything else, and she had to become disillusioned with me.”
That was quite a blow, he said, for the professor of love. The experience left him “disillusioned in love.” Soon his health declined and he was in the hospital again. At age 66, his health had been broken by a broken heart twice. The first was a passionate love, the last worthy of a supreme Zen master.
“How did you meet Olga again? Did she come here?”
“I met her a few years ago when Rogue called me and asked me to come to a poetry reading. Patty Mucha, a friend of O’s, was reading. And right away, I was sure then at least I could find out whether Olga was alive or not.”
The poet came and he asked her about Olga. “And sure enough, she said yes, I invited her, she may be here. While she was reading, Olga came into the room.”
“Did Rogue know Olga?”
“He didn’t know her. He knew Patty Mucha, the poet. Patty used to be Patty Oldenburg. She and Olga have been friends for twenty years.”
“Did Olga say she’d come around to one of our parties?”
“I’ve invited her to bring her man and come over to see my art, but they invited me first to have dinner at their place and I refused, because it was so far, all the way down in Soho.”
“Does she sound … seem happy now?”
“She claims she’s very happy.”
View photo of Olga Adorno and Patty Oldenburg and other performance artists