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volume 9
october 2006

Talking peace in New York

 





  Remembering the Voice of Peace (3)
by Russell T. Dodworth
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  After its arrival in 1969, the MV Peace stayed for three years and some months — from the end of 1969 up till early 1973 — in New York because of lack of funds. In this chapter of our series on the Voice of Peace, we look at what Russell T. Dodworth, one of the right hands of Abie Nathan, remembers from these days when he was busy doing publicity for the station as well as getting Nathan in contact with John Lennon.
 
1 Left: Abie Nathan (1969)

With Abie in New York. I'm getting older and not too good on dates, but I was with Abie Nathan, in New York. Somehow we set up a donkey watch for the plant and general security at the East River pier. I was in those days, in the publicity business mainly with solo artists and bands in the City. I supplied Abie with free talent who were so romanced to appear on the big, covered hatch aft of the "house," for some of our attraction, which included art shows and benefits.

I often slept on the Peace Ship, after long nights in Abie's cabin, which was really the whole saloon area of the house. We had shore phones, of course, and once people got to know Abie, they wanted to share some of their contacts who would be useful. In a subtle way, we were making press but the big main liners were a bit timid to do much follow-up. About 2 o'clock in the morning, I picked up the cabin phone and John Lennon, was on the other end. Somehow John had heard (through the grapevine) about the Peace Ship and her earnest problems of coming to New York, to raise funds and have the transmitter equipment donated and installed. I believe it was exactly the same time though it appeared so, both John and Yoko, were staying in bed at a fine Amsterdam hotel for "Peace." Of course, the Lennon's planned this course of publicity for World Peace, in general. He had heard of our ship in New York, and asked for Abie.

  Abie wasn't aboard, but John volunteered a whole shipment of "John and Yoko" posters (in bed) which really arrived shortly after. I mentioned that we were doing art shows and auctions at the Commodore Hotel, and we would appreciate any donations of objects or services from any of his contacts. "I will donate my "Yellow Rolls Royce," John exclaimed. I told Mr. Lennon that I was personally astounded. I think Yoko was right next to him, and I didn't hear any laughter about the surprising idea. "I want you to talk to Abie," I said. "He should get the personal thrill of all of this!" John gave me the direct number and I proudly carried it in my "Address Book," to give to Abie. Nathan got back to Lennon and we received boxes of rolled up posters from John and Yoko, in bed for PEACE, plus posters of the Yellow Rolls in black and white. Lennon's car was being offered, but our auctions were not rendering enough more than to pay the ballroom. We had an original "Carot," worth tens of thousands yet we had to pull it out of the sale. I left the car deal to Abie, and this would involve surface transportation from London, or where so?
2 Right: The MV Peace in New York harbour

Moored on the East River. Abie was concerned about the time such a deal would take and he could not realise how long we were to be moored on the East River. The plans were to run the ship up the Hudson River, to federal lock at Troy, New York, and navigate the New York State Barge Canal to the Great Lakes, sailing to Chicago, to have the radio equipment installed. I thought this was such an expensive goal; and why couldn't we have it all shipped here? After a good night's sleep, I met with Abie and put forth a good idea for publicity which would make the trip to the Great Lakes, a publicity build. I explained that I could master a plan for interviews and picture editions in all of the local newspapers along the Erie and N.Y. State Barge Canal. With my plan, folks could come down to the locks to greet the Peace Ship, as it locked through.

  By the time we got to Chicago, we would have a whole crescendo of interest built up, for an outstanding welcome of Radio-TV news, and the big daily newspapers. I was so discouraged that Abie wasn't interested in the idea, but there came a time when we had arranged for the radio masts to be fastened to the decks. I thought it would be better to do the Atlantic crossing first, and deploy the towers in a Mediterranean port. A few weeks went by, and I found that Abie had ordered a huge derrick on a tremendous tractor with steel treads. I was the last to know, and on early morning watch, this huge industrial machine slowly crossed over a stone arch bridge over the Franklin Roosevelt Drive or more commonly known as the East River Drive. The mammoth apparatus made it safely over the stone bridge and started erecting its boom that looking like a giant "Mecano" tm. set. By then, the full extent of "rush hour" traffic was cruising by the Peace Ship pier, and here comes the cops!
  Apparently there wasn't a permit to move the boom crane here. I took notes of the gross tonnage and registration numbers, and quickly hailed a cab down the City Engineer's Office. He was a most cordial man, and I presented a small press kit regarding the goals of the Peace Ship' efforts. The gentleman was quite intrigued as he sat behind his desk that I was busy admiring. The Chief saw me examining his fine desk and offered the information: "This desk used to belong to the famous General Pershing, of World War One!" The "bad news" was that he could not authorise the boom contraption to be sent back over the bridge, as it exceeded the registered stress limits. Emphatically he said that "she has to go off by sea, aboard a barge." Being a publicity man, I mused about how we could turn this big disappointment into a mainline publicity event. I knew guys that worked the picture desks of many of the big papers of New York, and I was anxious to call the assignment editors of television, etc., turning this "scar" into a "star" piece about the plight of the Peace Ship. I contacted Dr. Larry Birns, on our Board, and he tamed me down, in his most mature way.
3 Left: The MV Peace in New York (1972)

Peace and friendship. Not long after that incident, I went home to keep better office hours on West 58th Street, at the time. I kind of felt spent out, but so many of my clients enjoyed entertaining aboard the Peace Ship, i.e. the famous "Bergerfolk" and "Irene Cara." Some of my greatest memories have been with the Peace Ship. I've been close friends with "Larry Birns," ever since. He went on to found the C.O.H.A., (Committee On Hemispheric Affairs), representing countries in the Caribbean Basin, as well as all of South America. We all love Abie Nathan's subtle sense of humour. He sure liked the beautiful girls who would gravitate to the ship on fine Sunday afternoons.

  There was a time when I was talking business with Abie, at the port side Saloon cabin door. I had his full attention and after a few minutes, I saw his eyes looking over my shoulder — distracted with some of the women who had come down to the quayside. "Abie!" I said: "How do you spell P-E-A-C-E"? "Right now, you must be spelling it with the "I-E," I said. I was also good friends with and Irishman by the name of Patrick Dean. He was a watch-standing engineer at the famous "Woolworth Building," once one of New York's highest buildings. Pat volunteered many hours standing watch and keeping the donkey engines going. He lived in Woodside, Queens, N.Y., and I would sure like to meet him again. However, there are a lot of "P. Deans" in the Borough of Queens, N.Y. phone book.
  As many of us, I treasure my times with the Peace Ship effort, and the magnetic Abie Nathan. It's now nice to see the Peace Ship's story mapped out, right to her briny deep end. Peace be with you, Brother Abie. You were full of magnetism and lived a life of mission that brought you to so many precarious situations. You finally brought your dream ideas to fruition.
   
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