A onetime Bay Street clerk turned super Girl Friday is on her way up in the New York world of big-time showbiz

SUSAN DEXTER April 2 1966


A onetime Bay Street clerk turned super Girl Friday is on her way up in the New York world of big-time showbiz

SUSAN DEXTER April 2 1966


A onetime Bay Street clerk turned super Girl Friday is on her way up in the New York world of big-time showbiz


MARY MARTIN (the Canadian, not the singer) was first confronted with Barry McGuire at The Dugout, an “in” sawdust-on-the-floor bar populated by artists and entertainers in New York’s Greenwich Village. McGuire, the beefy blond mophead known better for his recording of Eve Of Destruction than for his social finesse, growled, “What the hell are you doing here? You look like a librarian.” Mary Martin snapped back. “And you . . . you look like an egotist.”

Mary Martin and Barry McGuire are friends now — “just good friends,” she says. But he still had good reason to wonder just what she was doing down there on Bleeker Street with the hip set. Mary, a twenty-six-year-old onetime stockbroker's clerk from Toronto, is now up to the top of her bell-bottom pants in the swinging big-time show business of New York, but she looks as though she’d he more at home behind the reference desk of the Orillia Public Library. She wears glasses, has a timid-mouse look about her, dresses soberly, and wears little, if any, makeup.

The reason she belongs in places like The Dugout is that she has taken on the job of bringing some measure of order into the hectic, disordered lives of such stars as Peter Paul and Mary, lan and Sylvia, Odetta, and Bob Dylan. You could call her a secretary and be right, technically. But what she is, really, is sort of a super Girl Friday at Albert Grossman Management Incorporated, which is the artist-management establishment for big-time folk singers and such in the United States. Grossman and his associate John Court make the decisions — where their artists should appear, what’s right for their images — and Mary carries them out, booking accommodations, coordinating travel arrangements, letting show sponsors know what the artists require in the way of equipment, ensuring that passports are in order, and generally seeing to the needs of the big names while they are on tour.

Sometime in the future, she hopes to leave Grossman and the jumping New York clubs, and with his blessing return to Canada to make a fulltime job out of managing Canadian performers. Even now, she is promoting Canadians on the side — and with some success. Only last summer Bob Dylan was looking for a band to join him on tour. Mary insisted the right group was Levon and the Hawks, who had come out of Toronto. Dylan tried them out, pronounced them great, and the Hawks are now part of Dylan’s entourage.

Currently, Mary is devoting much of her energy to helping Leonard Cohen, the sensual Montreal poet who wrote Spice Box Of Earth, one of the best collections of lyric poetry to come out of this country. She and Cohen are planning to set up a

company to publish his songs; she is working on a possible contract for him to read his songs on record; and she introduced him to folk singer Judy Collins, whose sound man became so intrigued with both Cohen’s songs and his singing style, that he is talking of getting Cohen himself to record some of his songs.

Mary, whose father was the corporate lawyer at Manufacturers’ Life Insurance Company, really got her start at the time she was locked in a cage in the stock-clearing department of a Bay Street brokerage house. She spent nights and Sundays in the company of various Toronto folkniks, including Ian Tyson, who was then designing labels for Resdan bottles. Through Tyson, she struck up a friendship with Jim McCarthy, who leads a singing group called the Dirty Shames. McCarthy,

Mary discovered, was having difficulty getting dates outside Toronto, so she decided to help out by writing the managers of clubs in Hamilton,

Ottawa and Montreal — and, presto, Jim was soon working the circuit.

Because her management work in Toronto was limited at best, she decided to go to New York, and there, through a friend, she got a job at Grossman’s as a receptionist, and after a couple of more moves, including six months in Toronto learning shorthand, she rejoined the management firm — this time as Grossman’s secretary.

Mary has been in New York three years now, but she cautions almost everyone she meets: “You must remember that I do want to go back to Canada to set up an agency, because I think the talent is there. There are six or seven people in Canada who could make it.” Included in her list are the Stormy Clovers, John and Lee and the

Checkmates, and the Dirty / continued overleaf

Life swings for Mary, in a busy world of stars, showta/k and parties

continued ! Shames. She says the Shames are the equal of any group playing in New' York today — and better than most — and she has just signed them into Boston’s Club 47, and is lining up New York dates as well.

Mary’s pad, on Bleeker Street (where else?) has plenty of Village atmosphere — white walls, black curtains and two telephones — and, when friends gather, conversation that is as good a reflection of the swinging life as the go-go sounds of the fruging clubs. Photographer Murray Lerner was at one of Mary’s recent parties (imported beer, cheese dip and Beatle records), just back from Nigeria, where he had caught the last plane out before the coup d’état closed the airport. Mark Gross, a bearded writer in running shoes and a tan, had just returned from Tahiti, sailing as crew on a sixty-foot ketch. And John Gardner, road manager for Glen Yarbrough (Whistling Gypsy). and who sometimes works with the Smothers Brothers comedy team, was saying that he himself will never be as successful a manager as Mary: she’s a girl to watch. Mary, with Amos Garrett and Carol Robinson of the Dirty Shames, talked about how bad Chad Mitchell’s current show at The Bitter End is, and how good but how sexy Leonard Cohen’s new book is. It’s called The Beautiful Losers, and Leonard had given Mary the uncorrected page proofs. People at the party seemed interested in that.

On yet another night, Mary stopped by the Americana Hotel’s Royal Box with Charles Joffe, a showbiz manager who used to take her skiing in Vermont. Barry McGuire was in town that week, so Mary dropped in to watch CBS taping a couple of his songs at The Phone Booth, an intimate, progressive, go-go club in midtown New York. He joined her afterward, wearing a leather sweatshirt and bell-bottom trousers. He talked about this record player he’s building, a player with so many amps it can blow the roof off. But most of all he talked about a groovy TV show he wants to do — lots of film, he said, except that he’s afraid it won’t work, because he will have to use union cameramen, “and boy are they dull.” But the closeups he could get if he only had the chance — “Groovy, man, groovy.”

Mary can’t resist the challenge she must face in introducing fresh young talented Canadians to the sophisticated New York scene. And then there’s the prospect of running her own agency. And maybe, if she can get three million dollars, setting up a big-time recording studio.

How is she going to manage all that? The best advice she ever received, Mary says, came from AÍ Brown, a musician-publisher who is the talent co-ordinator of the Harry Belafonte TV specials: “AI just told me that the secret of success was to surround myself with genius.”

She thinks she has made a fair start. ★