From the archives:

Eulogies

Eulogies by Bart Gulley, Chuck Weinstock, David Fenichell, Emily Apter, Jim Schwartz, John Seabrook, Peter Homans, Stephen Fenichell

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We know Sterett’s verbal skills were unmatched. But even when he didn’t say anything his capacity to be present and to connect with people was intense. I saw this the first night I met him, in Cambridge in the winter of 1981‐82. Chuck was in law school and I’d come up to visit him from New York. It was Friday night. A big snow had fallen that day. When I arrived Chuck was busy with work upstairs but Sterett was there in the entry hall.

“Bartley,” he said, spoken in his best Levon Helm voice. He already had a name for me. He told me he had a new double cassette he wanted me to hear. “Fela Anikulapo Kuti.” Few had heard of Fela then outside of Nigeria and West Africa.

The snow was gorgeous so we went out into the clear night. Sterett was wearing what I think of as a bear hunting hat with the fur muffs that came down. For two hours we tramped the streets of Cambridge, yoked together with twin ear buds hooked up to his early eighties Walkman. Our walk was silent except for Kuti, but it was punctuated by hand signals, facial expressions, exchanged glances.

We were both delighted with the night. I remember thinking, “I have made an extraordinary new friend.” I’d only met him and I was already literally plugged into his point of view. I was arrested and captured by Sterett.

Sterett’s presence was distinctive, pure. Also grand, opinionated, entitled, ironic, and calculating. His hands were always going like this – (rubbing hands together) “let’s warm this up” he seemed to say.

Incredibly alert, always up for it, Sterett set the tone. And the tone stays with me, even though I’ll never hear it again ‐ not in that distinctive voice. No one else could put such meaning into “Bartley.”

–    Bart Gulley

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