Coffee with Dagmar

How to Remain Human Curator Rose Bouthillier + Curatorial Assistant Elena Harvey Collins recently sat down for coffee with Dagmar Walter, levy’s partner during the mid-1960’s one recent morning. Dagmar shared some of her memories of the city at that time and her life with levy. Both keen to leave their respective homes (she was living on Hampshire Road off of Coventry at the time, he had worn out his welcome in a friend’s home) they moved into an apartment in East Cleveland.  It was the 1960’s and there was an energy about the East Cleveland/University Circle border. Haunts such as the Crystal Restaurant, where a dinner cost $1.90; the Continental Theater, managed by Cleveland Artist George Fitzpatrick, which showed experimental films; the Headquarters, a psychedelic “head” shop; and the many other bars and coffee shops lining Euclid Avenue (in the very same place now occupied by MOCA Cleveland’s new building) formed the nexus of the counter cultural movement in Cleveland. Dagmar remembers a collective sense of pushing against the authorities in a conservative, largely segregated city, and the realization that things could be different.
While levy worked tirelessly, publishing, writing and protesting against his treatment by the police and prosecutors, Dagmar’s life with levy became increasingly difficult as time went on. He became increasingly paranoid and unpredictable in his moods; the threat of suicide was constant. She likens this brief and intense period of her life to this lyric by Bob Dylan:
You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees
You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees
But you will wind up peeking through her keyhole
Down upon your knees.
- Bob Dylan, She Belongs to Me
from the 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home”
Eventually, she moved out, just the day before he shot himself with the .22 hunting rifle that he’d kept in the closet throughout their time together. 
--Elena Harvey Collins


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