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BIOGRAPHY

picture that he could send back to his boss at Doubleday for publicity purposes. The scene was way out, he lamented: crazy people running around in feathers and beads wearing mismatched outfits and costumes, many of them not distinguishable from the street people coming in and out of the bar.


Kate's next literary effort, THE PROSTITUTION PAPERS, precipitated a personal crisis. She was having problems with the IRS and needed my help. Why me? Because I was her friend, obviously; but also because she saw me as grounded, in the world, of the world, a person who knew her way around bureaucracies, someone with connections and contacts. The government was after her, Kate declared, demanding their cut of monies she had earned from SEXUAL POLITICS. But she had no money; she had given it all away to sex workers. Kate was a luftmensch and an innocent: Taxes on royalties? It never occurred to her to worry about such things until the garbage landed on her head. Of course, I came running.

 

New groups were forming, splintering off from NOW. Kate seemed to be everywhere, prominent in her role as an articulate voice of the Movement. In fact, she stated, if there were a thousand feminist organizations, she would join them all. I believed her. Kate's passion for this new cause burned bright, different from the flameouts of her personal relationships that so often brought her grief and brought her down. For her, romantic love was a bad drug, an opportunistic infection that took hold of her soul. She just wasn't good at it.

 

But she was good at feminism. Psychically, she now seemed turbo-charged, and privately I cheered. Against all odds and all bets, mine included, she had become an accidental celebrity.


My friend, who had many gifts but seemingly few prospects, morphed into one of the most famous people in the world--her face on Time Magazine, "the Mao Tse-Tung of Women's Liberation," they wrote. On August 26, 1970, she marched down Fifth Avenue at the head of an army of women. I watched with pride as she ascended the podium at Bryant Park, took the microphone, and exhorted the crowd. She was a midwife of the Movement and in helping to birth it, was herself reborn.

 

The New York Times anointed her "the principal theoretician of the women's movement." Kate's acclaim lasted awhile and then cratered into scandal and assault. She, who had been feted and admired, was now demonized and discredited. The cruelty was extraordinary. Her flaws were magnified; her virtues and accomplishments diminished or canceled. It turned out that she was all too human, after all. As Kate fell from grace, transitioning from famous to infamous, there were many defections. Friends and fans turned on her; feminists did, too, although certainly not all. Ultimately, Barbara Love and others organized a press conference. There was enthusiastic support from feminist leaders, including Gloria Steinem.

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Kate and I took turns presenting our recommendations and findings in a final report that we read at a meeting, a version of which was published by NOW in 1968 under her name as TOKEN LEARNING. Kate's hand and voice shook as she read her portion of our "poop sheet" to the group, and I remember how the paper she held also trembled, betraying her fright. The terror that seized her at that meeting would never really abate, even after she became a practiced speaker and stood at multiple microphones addressing hundreds, maybe even thousands of people. She was so very shy and scared. Large group or small--it didn't matter. Kate forced herself to perform, but it was never easy or natural.

 

We couldn't have known it then, but our work later became the foundation for many studies and a raised national, even global consciousness, resulting in dramatic and gratifying changes to gender-based educational practices in this country and others.

 

Kate pursued her doctoral studies at Columbia University and was graduated with distinction. But she also delivered a dissertation so brilliant and original it caused a sensation. Published in 1970 as SEXUAL POLITICS, it would become a classic and the bible of the women's Movement. These very writings also created a firestorm. This yin and yang of both cheers and jeers was the very spine of her life, inapposite doppelgangers that often derailed her. She was Janus, writ large..

Doubleday hosted a publication party which Kate insisted be held at CBGB's, a dingy neighborhood bar several doors down from her apartment, later to become famous as an underground rock music dive. Kate took pride in being a "downtown artist," another example of her reverse elitism. So CBGB's it had to be! At the time, however, its allure was not obvious as it shared the ripe smells of the Bowery along with a clientele that was mainly indigent, alcoholic and homeless.


Bums mingled with the invited guests at this event, many of the latter attired in outrageous clothing that offended the aesthetic eye of the photographer sent to document the occasion. Flopping down on the bench next to me, he rested his camera on the table and complained that there was not one useable or respectable

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