It could have been funny, but Allen and Jack weren't laughing...and neither was the Dean...

It all started with an innocent little prank that Allen pulled. He was mad because the cleaning lady wouldn't clean his window, so he took his finger and wrote a few four-letter words in the dirt. I'm not sure exactly when he did it, but he and Jack had a long night of partying and poetry, and they finally went back to Allen's dorm to crash. Normally, everything would have been fine, but they overslept. First thing the next morning, the cleaning lady noticed what Allen had written on his window and reported it to the goddamn Dean. He saw it and burst into Allens dorm like gangbusters. There he caught Allen and Jack with their literal pants down and gave them a scolding they never forgot. Allen had to pay $2.63 and clean the window, and Jack was told never to be seen on the campus again.

Well, this was one hell of a mess, no two ways about it. Here the Dean thinks he's just broken up the hottest love affair in the history of the university, when the truth of the matter was they were doing nothing more than sleeping. What's really had the Dean worried was he was afraid that other students might get on this crazy new kick. He knew that if word got out that Columbia had developed a goddamn homosexual problem that he'd never hear the end of it. But what the Dean didn't realize is he probably did more damage bursting in on them than he would have done if he had left them alone. Allen had to leave Columbia for a year over it and I have no idea what kind of damage it did to Jack. All of this happened back in 1945, long before the word, beatnik had been coined by the squares and when homosexuality was absolute tabu.

A good place to read about this incident is in Jack's biography, Memory Babe by Gerold Nicosia.
Copyright © 1995, Colin Pringle