Following is a relatively unknown chapter in the life of Robert Allen Zimmerman; right here, told for the first time by ‘Untold Dylan’.
As the story goes, dressed in rags, with a record named ‘Desire’ under his arm, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan (using the alias ‘Stanley Casanova’) gets off a city bus in the old French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Seems that an Allan Grey makes the mistake of revealing to Stanley the place where his pen is. The scarlet-shirted Casanova, who is the leader of a street gang of a variety of light-loving Gnosticists known as the ‘The Goats’, doesn’t like that man named Grey.
At the time, Bob, aka Stanley, is playing seven-card stud poker with his buddies at “Good Time Dante’s”, a cabaret in the working class district of New Orleans, a desolation row misnamed ‘Elysian Fields’. Allan’s assassin-eyed wife, Snow White DuBois, is sitting on Casanova’s knee, holding in her hand a glass of champagne, and singing ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’.
A stage direction, and for something completely different, a poetic allusion:
Here comes the place that cleaves our place in twain
Thy road, the right, towards Pluto’s dwelling goes
And leads to fields Elysian
But to the left, goes the sinful souls to doom
The ‘Lord Of The Goats’, thanks his bodyguards of Hell’s Angels for stabbing Grey, and then lover-boy Bob runs off to Venice, Italy, with the Virgin Princess of the Woods and the money she inherits from Allan’s estate called the ‘Beautiful Dream’:
They say I shot a man named Gray
And took his wife to Italy
She inherited a million bucks
And when she died, it came to me
I can’t help it if I’m lucky
(Bob Dylan: Idiot Wind)
Tennessee Williams, a clairvoyant, writes a play based on Bob Dylan’s New Orleans adventure long before it ever happens – ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, it’s called.
Lyrics of Dylan songs (he changes ‘e’ to an ‘a’ in character names under legal advice), support the near-accuracy of Tennessee Williams’ look into the future. For instance, the name ‘Sarah’ which means ‘princess’ appears in more than one Dylan song:
A worried man with a worried mind
No one in front of me and nothing behind
There’s a woman on my lap and she’s drinking champagne
Got white skin and assassin’s eyes
I’m looking up into sapphire-tinted skies
I’m well-dressed, waiting for the last train
(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)
Directions for the scene setting on stage, and another poetic allusion:
From the altar of dark ocean
To the sapphire-tinted skies
(Percy Shelley: Euganean Hills)
The text of the script about the Life of Bob relates to a flashback that Casanova is having in Venice – he’s imagining Blanche DuBois sitting on his knee back at Dante’s cabaret on Desolation Row. A tale it is from rags to riches for Dylan, but he’s leaving Italy in a hurry for some reason.
In a guilt-induced Freudian slip, Casanova, below in the song ‘Things Have Changed’, mutters a line originally said by Blanche in the movie version of Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” – once again confirming the accuracy of the play.
Seems that Stanley figuratively dumps Snow White’s mind (not literally her body) somewhere upstream from the structure that the Greecey pig Lord Byron calls ‘The Bridge of Sighs’ . She’s as good as dead as far as Bob is concerned, but still, he’s a worried man with some guilty feelings:
Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose
And any minute now I’m expecting all hell to break loose ….
Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff too
‘Don’t get up gentlemen, I’m only passing through’
(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)
Another stage direction and yet another poetic allusion:
Feelings had changed
Love by harsh evidence
Thrown from its eminence
Even God’s providence
(Thomas Hood: The Bridge Of Sighs)
In the play by Tennessee Williams, Snow White Blanche finally reaches the blissful state of Elysian Fields, the heavenly Euganean Hills, by losing her mind.
Not so ‘Stanley’ – he’s determined to endure the pains of hell-on-earth by doing things his way. If there’s any Hell below, he’s not concerned.
A final poetic allusion … thank God:
But wherefore thou alone?
Wherefore with thee
Came not all hell broke loose?
(John Milton: Paradise Lost)
Here the drama ends with Bob Dylan singing:
They are spoon-feeding Casanova
To get him to feel more assured
Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence
After poisoning him with words
(Bob Dylan: Desolation Row)
And so the play about the Life of Bob Dylan ends – with a big foot stomping on his head for committing the sin of Pride.