Charles Mingus and His Eviction From His New York City Loft, Captured in Moving 1968 Film

In Novem­ber of 1966, the great jazz bassist and com­pos­er Charles Min­gus was forcibly evict­ed from his apart­ment in New York City. Thomas Reich­man’s doc­u­men­tary Min­gus (above) cap­tures the sad moment when the musi­cian, with his five-year-old daugh­ter Car­olyn at his side, looks through his scat­tered belong­ings the night before city offi­cials arrive to cart every­thing away.

With the cam­era rolling, Min­gus plays a few notes on a piano and then picks up a rifle and shoots a bul­let into the ceil­ing. He finds a bot­tle of wine and gives a sip to his daugh­ter. He recites his own ver­sion of the Pledge of Alle­giance:

I pledge alle­giance to the flag–the white flag. I pledge alle­giance to the flag of Amer­i­ca. When they say “black” or “negro,” it means you’re not an Amer­i­can. I pledge alle­giance to your flag. Not that I have to, but just for the hell of it I pledge alle­giance. I pledge alle­giance to the flag of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca. The white flag, with no stripes, no stars. It is a pres­tige badge worn by a prof­itable minor­i­ty.

Scenes from the apart­ment are inter­cut with footage of Min­gus and his sex­tet per­form­ing at a lit­tle club in Peabody, Mass­a­chu­setts called Lennie’s-on-the-Turn­pike. The com­bo fea­tures Min­gus on bass, Dan­nie Rich­mond on drums, Charles McPher­son on alto sax­o­phone, John Gilmore on tenor sax­o­phone, Lon­nie Hilly­er on trum­pet and Wal­ter Bish­op, Jr., on piano. The music includes parts of “All the Things You Are,” Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Secret Love.”

But the film is more about the man than the music. It records an espe­cial­ly painful moment in Min­gus’s life. He had hoped to use the loft at 5 Great Jones Street in Green­wich Vil­lage as a music school. In the final sequence, a crowd of reporters and cam­era­men jos­tle for posi­tion to record the humil­i­at­ing scene as Min­gus’s belong­ings, includ­ing his musi­cal instru­ments, are hauled out to the curb and loaded onto a truck. Tears appear in Min­gus’s eyes when the police block him from going back into the build­ing. When the cops find hypo­der­mic nee­dles among his things, Min­gus him­self is loaded into a police car and tak­en away.

Relat­ed con­tent:

1959: The Year that Changed Jazz

Thelo­nious Monk: Straight No Chas­er

How to Pot­ty Train Your Cat: A Handy Man­u­al by Charles Min­gus

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Comments (5)
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  • rena navon says:

    A French jazz lover I met when begin­ning grad­u­ate school stud­ies in Romance Lan­guages intro­duced me to many jazz artists, whom I enjoyed and play their records still. Charles Min­gus’ sto­ry hits a sore spot in my heart; right now he’s describ­ing swastikas on a Jew­ish tongue and the mes­sage hits even hard­er home for me.
    It’s hard to hear about the suf­fer­ing of any minor­i­ty and good man­ners for civ­i­liza­tion as a whole can nev­er be drilled too often. Thank you for your selec­tion and let us all hope that this new les­son will make some con­tri­bu­tion to chang­ing Amer­i­ca’s prob­lem­at­ic his­to­ry.
    Amen from Israel

  • Paul Tatara says:

    I tru­ly admire Min­gus the artist. But he was­n’t pay­ing the rent. I, too, would be kicked out of a loft on Great Jones Street if I was­n’t pay­ing the rent. So would any­body else. It’s inter­est­ing to hear him jab­ber on for a while, but I’ve nev­er under­stood the point of this film, unless it’s to stress that even genius­es don’t get free hous­ing.

  • SDC says:

    Way to miss the point, Paul. You’d prob­a­bly have no trou­ble pay­ing the rent going the route of self right­eous white dude play­ing by the rules but doing noth­ing of con­se­quence in the grand scheme of things. That a man of such tal­ents who cre­at­ed work that last­ed after his death is in such dire finan­cial straits says much to any­one will­ing to look beyond his Tea Par­ty Patri­ot pam­phlet about mak­ers and tak­ers.

  • Mmarkham says:

    I had some gnats in my apart­ment and I sprayed them with Neem oil- which is an insec­ti­cide and anti­fun­gal made from a plant.this left streaks- and when we had an apart­ment inspec­tion I was launched on a year long antag­o­nism with the land­lord which became an evic­tion notice this month.
    There have been no more gnats, until five min­utes ago-when one lit­tle gnat came up to my face as if to say he was sor­ry.
    Wish me luck fight­ing the evic­tion
    I did call the local vol­un­teer lawyers, but time will tell

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