Charlotte Selver
Charlotte Selver

A Conversation with Stanley Keleman

This is a short excerpt of my interview with Stanley Keleman in which he talks about his connection with Charlotte Selver and Charles Brooks, his understanding of the differences between his and Charlotte’s approach, New York City in the 50s, the revolution in the humanistic movement at that time and Charlotte Selver’s place in this movement. Donors to this project can access the full interview from the Members Pages. In this excerpt you can hear how Stanley Keleman met first Charles and then Charlotte independently.

Berkeley, October 16, 2008

Stefan Laeng-Gilliatt: You told me that you met Charles even before Charlotte. Was that in a Reichian or Lowen circle?

Stanley Keleman: I met Charles through a woman that I was seriously dating, I’m thinking of the dates – maybe ’58, 1958, ’59 at the latest. And she invited me to one of Charley Brooks’ famous parties.

SL: You call him Charley Brooks.

SK: He lived in the Village then, and he was a first class woodworker. These parties were salons; they were top-of-the-line. And they were fun. And Charles was working his way through paying for his therapy with John Pierrakos in the Lowenian movement. By making his desk and chairs and stuff. So that was the connection. I don’t actually know how I met Charlotte, but Charlotte was not part of that episode of me knowing Charles. So it was Charley and the gang around him, and the dances, and the let’s say the rebellious psychological people.

SL: Can you tell me a bit about that? Because we know little about that.

SK: About the party or the group?

SL: Well the party and the group. I know Charlotte did talk about his parties.

SK: Well she must have gone to some of them. ‘Cause I don’t know any other way you would meet him. ‘Cause the parties – how could you describe these parties? They were not drunk parties. I mean there was liquor, but they were not drunken parties. And there was food. And there was irreverent talk about the nature of life, society, condemnation (?) and the exploration of sexual reality and sense reality, and whatever we want to call the life of the body. As I remember it, Charlotte had a reputation coming through the Korzybski movement, whom I knew people in the Korzybski movement, and Read – Herbert Read and Erich Fromm. She ran these sensory workshops, I think Erich Fromm, which I – I never met him – sent people and supported Charlotte. But it was – it came from – an influence besides Gindler was the Korzybski movement, which at one time was extremely powerful in the States. I don’t know if you know that, but a lot of hot shot, upper echelon intellectuals in the social movement were involved in that. So I knew about Charlotte and her workshops through the people that I knew in the Korzybski movement. So otherwise there was a circle. And she did her workshop in a flat on the first floor – I’ve forgotten exactly what neighborhood that was. And her classes, right. Non-Aristotelian experiences. So I would say that there was this group of people, the Korzybskian people, the F. Matthias Alexander gang – not him directly but it wasn’t F. Matthias, but one of his disciples, I forgot his name, who came to the States, who was also very popular. And one of the Gurdjieffian guys. It may have been Orage, I’m not sure about that. So, it was through the Korzybskian, Orage entourage that one heard about Charlotte. And which, just as a little around the corner, like that, also Feldenkrais was a member of that gang, from the Orage side – from the, uh, Gurdjieffian side. And who else was in that package? Uh, Ida Rolf. I was at the session that Ida Rolf used Charlotte as a demonstration, and hurt her and she was hospitalized from that.

SL: Is that story true?

SK: That story is true!

SL: That story is true! I just spoke with Don Johnson yesterday, and we wondered, you know, if that actually happened.

SK: The story is true. It happened in Ida Rolf’s apartment on Central Park West I believe. And she used to give demonstrations for people, and I was there, and somebody would volunteer, and Charlotte volunteered. Now this is pure speculation. I thought that injury happened out of rivalry. But you can’t prove that. But Charlotte ended up hospitalized after that!

SL: What happened? Do you know?

SK: I think she loosened muscles in the shoulders – it was in the shoulder girdle, that she couldn’t move (laughs) her shoulders for a while. (Both laugh)

SL: You were in that session. That’s amazing.

SK: Well so was Annelies Widman and Charlotte Read, Herbert Read’s wife was there. There was another woman I can’t remember her name. So what I’m saying that there was quite a grouping of people coming from Korzybski and coming from the Gurdjieffian people and Erich Fromm was very strong, and Gindler was involved by reputation – she wasn’t there.

SL: But you knew about her. People knew about her.

SK: Oh yes. Her and Carola Speads was linked back to that. And Charlotte was a student of Karlfried von Dürckheim.

SL: She was not a student; she was friends with him.

SK: Well, she was also his student in his classes in philosophy, according – well I ....... only what Karlfried told me.

SL: Oh, I don’t know that.

SK: She was a friend. But she also was a student of him.

SL: Where would that have been, in Leipzig?

SK: Uh, he taught in Leipzig.

SL: ‘Cause she lived in Leipzig in the twenties.

SK: And he was – the whole idea of the Lebensraum – the living space – comes from him. And she took that. According to Karlfried.

SL: OK.

SK: I have to qualify that . . .

SL: Lebensraum – it’s not a term she used when I knew her.

SK: Well it was a term that, yes. ‘cause that term was prevalent – the living space of the human. The Lebensraum.

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