CHICAGO, Ill. — I ran into old friends Franklin and Penelope Rosemont Saturday at the Heartland Cafe where I was doing the Live From the Heartland Radio Show. The two of them had come to hear a young community activist who followed me on the program, to talk about Franklin’s book, The Rise and Fall of The Dill Pickle, the legendary Chicago jazz club and cultural/political hangout of the Jazz Age. Franklin and Penelope both seemed in great spirits seeing their work being taken up by the current generation.
Yesterday I was stunned to hear the sad news that Franklin had died the next day after a long battle with illness.
Franklin, 65, came from a working class family. He was a surrealist/poet/artist/revolutionary and a big part of the ’60s Chicago cultural and political scene. I first met both of them in Chicago in ’68 where they were SDS activists.
Inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Franklin had hitchhiked 20,000 miles around the USA and Mexico and wound up in San Francisco in 1960, the heyday of the beat generation poetry renaissance.
Franklin and Penelope went on to create the Chicago Surrealist Group in 1966 after traveling to Paris in 1965 to meet André Breton and attend meetings of the Paris Surrealist Group. The group played a major role in organizing the 1976 World Surrealist Exhibition in Chicago, and has published socially active newspapers and materials through the years. Franklin and Penelope also took over the old Kerr Publishing House and brought it back to life, reviving many classic works of labor history.
Many of their experiences together are documented in Penelope’s wonderful book, Dreams & Everyday Life: Andre Breton, Surrealism, the IWW, Rebel Worker, Students for a Democratic Society and the Seven Cities of Cibola in Chicago, Paris & London.