The Last Supper

Here's part of an email Joan's ex sent to some friends after hearing of her death: My pal who knew her well in New York in the 60's, and San Francisco in the 70's, nailed it perfectly. She was, he said, "one of the hipster warrior princesses." I would add that she was also an intrepid adventuress, joining me on a coast-to-coast ride on the back seat of my R-60, a fairly hairy expedition driving down to the bottom of the Pan American Highway in an old pickup truck, and a trek in the high Himalaya--and hardly ever complained (at least about the adventures). Joan wrote under the pen name of Naomi Wise, and I've always loved her story about how she got that name. Back in the late 1950s, when the NYC folk music thing was in fullest bloom, there was a weekly folk sing at some community space. It cost a buck to get in, unless you were willing to perform, in which case you got in free. Joan, who was probably 16 at the time, didn't want to perform, but she didn't want to pay that dollar either--so she signed up on the performer list as "Naomi Wise." The guy at the door, not a folk scholar, didn't recognize the name and let her in free. On the other hand, the MC, who called the performers, and who knew lots about folk music, recognized the name instantly as the heroine of a famous murder ballad, understood that it was a scam, and passed on to the next name. Hence Joan got in free, and did not have to sing or play. Not that that would have been so bad. She was one of the baddest "girl guitarists" on the scene thanks to "private" lessons from a series of hip, hot guitarists including Perry Lederman and others whose names would mean little to you today. Anyway, that's where the name "Naomi Wise" came from. She knew her way around the Village like the back of her hand. ----------------------------------------------- I really wish I had brought her a guitar and insisted on hearing her play. One other fact many may not have known about her was her ability to finish a Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle in pen. kencompton could have easily been her friend writing this instead of me, as I too exchanged email with her soon after she took over from Eleanor Widmer. I lucked into being a member of her posse, when she invited me to dine her boyfriend TJ and herself at Third Corner. It was thrilling to dine with a restaurant critic, although they soon both made me feel at ease. During the meal I was skeptical when they identified a not so obvious ice cream as vanilla ice cream from Gelato Vera. So I asked the waiter, who confirmed it. It was the first of many times I was impressed by Joan's knowledge and I learned a great deal from her over the many meals I was fortunate to share with her. In so many ways she was a friend like no other, and even once quipped that my female friends were all "wispy, pale, Pre-Raphaelites." I suspect I will never hear that description from any other friend. Sang (aka Sam)
— January 15, 2012 12:24 p.m.

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