Sleep in a Nest
  of Flames
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Julian (Rich Bernatovech) and Karel (Eric Cole) in The Young and Evil

from Sleep in a Nest of Flames


The Young and Evil:

challenging sexual convention


" The Young and Evil creates this generation as This Side of Paradise by Fitzgerald created his generation."

Gertrude Stein

"Well said the wolf to Little Red Riding Hood sooner was Karel seated in the Round Table the impossible happened. There before him stood a fairy prince and one of those mythological creatures known as Lesbians. Won't you join our table? they said in sweet chorus."

from The Young and Evil


Charles Henri Ford 1933

photographer unknown

Parker Tyler 1933

photographer unknown


The Young and Evil, a novel written by Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler in 1932,was one of the first books to deal with gay characters in a nonjudgmental way. It was banned in the United States and England and was published by the Obelisk Press in Paris in 1933. Its focus is the story of Julian and Karel, characters representing Ford and Tyler. They, and their friends in Greenwich Village, have a sort of amoral view of sex and sexuality that was a precursor of many modern attitudes. It takes these characters from the gay bars and poetry scene of Greenwich Village to the drag balls of Harlem, seventy years ago. Gertrude Stein said: "The Young and Evil creates this generation as This Side of Paradise by Fitzgerald created his generation."

Parker Tyler, Ford's co-author, had lived in Greenwich Village a year before they met. Ford had published a literary magazine, Blues, from his native Mississippi and Tyler was one of the poets he published. Tyler encouraged Ford to move to New York. When he did, they spent a year exploring the gay and poetry subcultures of Village life. Tyler and Ford were to remain poets, friends and collaborators until Tyler's death in 1974. Tyler is, in fact, most well known for his film criticism, publishing over eighteen books and countless articles. Marshall Mc Luhan writing in the Sewanee Review described him as "the first American to give serious consideration to popular culture as it is expressed by Hollywood." Perhaps his most notable achievement in film studies is his Screening the Sexes: Homosexuality and the Movies. This book, published in 1972, expressed many of the ideas later voiced in Vito Russo's seminal The Celluloid Closet, to be published ten years later.

Included in Sleep in a Nest of Flames is a dramatization of Chapter II of The Young and Evil. Ford gives us an introduction to the book on camera, as does the cultural historian Steven Watson. The action of the dramatization begins when Julian (the Ford character) arrives in New York City by ship in 1930 from the South. it had been arranged that Karel (the Parker Tyler character) would meet him on the dock. Julian had already published the other poet in his Mississippi based avant-garde literary magazine Blues. The meeting on the dock is that of a slightly more experienced bohemian poet greeting one who is just arriving in the city for the first time. They immediately fall into rapt conversation, as they walk through Greenwich Village on the way to a hotel.

When they arrive and go to a room, they are still trying to identify themselves by poetic posturing. The language is that of young poets who strike bohemian poses in word and gesture. They finally make their way to bed, one wearing the pajama bottoms, one wearing the tops. It soon becomes clear that Julian simply wants to go to sleep and in turn Karel is outraged. He jumps out of bed and, still in the voice of high bohemian camp, denounces Julian's hesitation. Karel expresses his frustration not only with Julian's reserve, but with his own life, filled with rejection and marginalization: " I shall wear high heels over their corpses and fail to vibrate with their throats' sweet words of me saying 'You are the darling of the Doll's House', but I shall go further into that other house though still there and wait for what will come like the cracking of eggs on the side of frying pans." Karel then storms out of the room looking for the isolation of Washington Square. He contemplates life's pleasurable variety and goes off into the night to sample it.

The story gives early voice to a cry of the heart that resonates through time, down to our own, when so many of these frustrations have been expressed by a new generation aware of its sexual and cultural identity.


Rich Bernatovech (Julian) has recently graduated from The Actors Studio and is one of the principals in founding Harmony Road Productions. He was in the cast of the Miramax film Trial by Jury and has performed widely at venues in New York, including in the John Houseman Theatre production of A Promise to Try.

Eric Cole (Karel) graduated from the Conservatory of Theatre at Webster University after spending two years at Southern Methodist University in theater training. He played Nevel Wainright in the Disney Channel production of Back to Hannibal and currently resides in San Francisco.


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