[Shig Murao, his Grant St Apartment, San Francisco, where Allen often stayed when visiting the city. May 22, 1988. photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]
One of the, frankly, egregious errors of the Howl film was the erasure, or non-appearance, of Shigeoshi "Shig" Murao, City Lights bookstore manager, and one of the central participants in the Howl trial (it was he, and not Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who was arrested by the San Francisco police department and spent a night (before being bailed out) in the Bryant Street jail).
We reported on this omission here, following up on Patricia Wakida and J.K.Yamamoto's reporting - "(H)ow ironic and sad" (they write), "that the white establishment had to write out such a critical part of the "Howl" story - the very man, who, a mere ten years before, had been forced into an American concentration camp (sic)....would be the one to take the fall for defending the right to freedom of speech - and in the name of literature - only to be deliberately forgotten a generation later with the creation of this film".
Well, we can't right that wrong, but we can draw your attention to an extraordinary 'labor of love', the just-launched (launched today!) Shig Murao website - Shig Murao: The Enigmatic Soul of City Lights and the San Francisco Beat Scene. Its author, Richard Reynolds writes: "I came to know him (Shig) in 1976 and we remained friends for the rest of his life. After he died in 1999, I decided that his story had to be told and begun work on this project." "It is my hope that this website will serve as a resource for those who are fascinated by the bohemian culture of the mid twentieth-century, and will illuminate Shig's little-known role as the soul of City Lights during its heyday". Shig's biography is presented (in 13 individual chapters), there are notes and memories and a "Shig's Review" sampler (Shig's fugitive journal, first published in 1960 and revived in 1983). "I welcome corrections, comments, and additional information readers feel might flesh out this resource", Reynolds writes - Go to shigmurao.org now and spread the word.