An interesting 24 hour period of birthdays. Yesterday (May 10th), these two birthday pairs stood out: Bono and Sid Vicious and John Wilkes-Booth and Mark David Chapman. Bono and Sid, though born on the same day, they couldn’t be more different. Bono took post-punk/new wave to staggeringly successful heights, fronting the most popular band of my generation, while Sid Vicious became punk’s John The Baptist, ending his fifteen minutes of fame in the dark clutches of heroin and Nancy Spungeon. Wilkes-Booth and Chapman, well, not much explaining needs to take place here.
Today, we have Louis Farrakhan and Machiavelli and Salvador Dali and Andre Gregory. The surreptitious and the surreal. Gregory in fact mentions Dali in the semi-cult classic, “My Dinner With Andre” which featured him and fellow playwright, actor and friend, Wallace Shawn. It’s a wild riff where Gregory is unraveling a multi-layered synchronicity involving Dali, Andre Breton and Antoine Du-Sant Exupery. “My Dinner With Andre” might be one of the most important films of all time. It’s a rich exchange of potent ideas and life experience written and performed by two insiders of the New York theater scene. Ironically, Gregory’s foil, Wallace Shawn is every bit of Gregory’s opposite, not only in the film, but astrologically as well, with his Sun in Scorpio, opposing Gregory’s Sun in Taurus.
Andre Gregory was a pioneer of avant-garde theater in New york, forming the outside theater group, “The Manhattan Project.” In “My Dinner With Andre” he unfolds amazing tales of improvisational theater in the deep forests of Poland, eating sand with a magical monk in the Sahara, and looking for extraterrestrials in the cathedral at Findhorn in Scotland. Not only are the stories otherworldly and profound, Gregory’s telling of them is mesmerizing. He is a master story teller.
Looking at his chart, we can see Pluto in Cancer in the 9th House. Pluto in the 9th lends itself to deep and transformative experiences in other lands. It smacks ever so slightly of the zealot, but this is what can happen when one undergoes a profound religious experience and the way that Gregory talks about dramatic ritual in the polish forest reverberates with sacred numinosity. Pluto squares Uranus, Jupiter and the Moon, making it difficult at times for Gregory to ground these meta-perceptions, but it sextiles his Mercury and Sun, which certainly assists him in his ability to convey the power and the immediacy of his experiences. He also has Venus in Aries in the 5th House. Here is where his love of theater and the vibrant relationships he has experienced with fellow actors, directors and playwrights comes to the fore. For Gregory, it’s not just the love of the theater, but the people that he experiences it with. With Venus in the 5th, they form his community, as it opposes Jupiter in Libra in the 11th. Lovers become friends, friends become lovers. Friends are actors in his life and in fact Gregory even talks about the theater being dead and that the real theater is now living ones own life (he makes several references to this dichotomy in the film).
While he experiences love in the Polish countryside and death on Long Island, he seems to struggle in reconciling his life of experience with his domesticity. Andre Gregory comes across restless and ultimately surrenders to his life at home with his wife, “Chiquita.” His natal Saturn in Aquarius is in his 4th House, conjunct his IC. Saturn in the 4th is heavy and Earth bound. It suggests duty and anchors, but in Aquarius, the challenge becomes living an experimental life of sorts at home. It squares both his Sun and Mercury, perhaps adding to the complete and utter contrast in his voice and persona when he talks about the life of a householder versus the life of a nomad experimentalist.
I saw “My Dinner” when I was 21 and it changed my life. It served as both a spiritual and political catalyst for me. Based on Gregory’s fantastic tales of Findhorn, I journeyed there for month in 1984 and experienced my own strange and wondrous times. The message of the film is still quite potent as it deals with timeless themes like love, loss, grief, meaning and being alive.
Here is one of the most important clips of the film, where Gregory talks about staying human.