The Secret Dark Side of Adam Purple is Revealed
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Adam Purple above his Garden of Eden, Photo: Harvey Wang
With all the hoopla buzzing Hotel Indigo, the Gerber Group, and their decision to name Mr. Purple after late local legend Adam Purple (aka David Wilkie), a part of the story remained untold to the mainstream. That of an unsavory twin narrative of a man with a sordid, somewhat secret past of alleged sexual molestation and incest.
Lincoln Anderson of The Villager spills loads of ink on the controversial subject, interviewing estranged family members, including his daughter Jenean and grandson Steve Mason (who wrote an op-ed for us last week). Gist of this explosive post-mortem expose is that people shouldn’t be too quick in idolizing the gardener; anything of the sort could be considered revisionist history. And that naming a bar Mr. Purple is wrong on so many additional levels.
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Adam Purple in the 1960s
We’ve excerpted some bits from the report.
“This is a true story…. I was born in Missouri in 1955. For the first 12 years of my life, I was held captive, and systematically brainwashed. I was indoctrinated and trained to be a sex slave. …”
Asked what specifically Purple did to them or had them do, [Jenean] said, “Oh, everything — that’s what we were about — our purpose. He trained us, with pornography magazines, films, comics. I read ‘The Kinsey Report’ when I was age 10.”
Recalling another incident that scarred her, she said Purple once, using a lathe, made a bunch of dildos from wooden dowel rods in different sizes and shapes, then varnished them and hung them up to dry on a clothesline in the basement, then brought the prepubescent girls down to see them as they hung there.
When he was in his mid-30s during the 1960s, Purple served up to two years in jail in Australia for attacking one of his stepdaughters, after which he was deported from that country.
Jenean and Lenore lived with Purple and his second wife, Romola, after they moved to Australia, where Purple worked as a journalism teacher. Their birth mother had earlier been institutionalized back in America.
They frequently moved, which Jenean said was due to Purple being a “pervert.”
After being deported from Australia, David Lloyd Wilkie briefly bounced around Haight-Ashbury, his daughter said, before landing on the Lower East Side in 1968. There he eventually took on his Adam Purple moniker and soon, dressed in purple tie-dye clothes, was living with a new wife, fittingly, called Eve, and working on creating his magnificent Garden of Eden, which at its height spanned five abandoned city lots.
Purple was also part of the “swingers” subculture and an “orgy cult,” she said, where pretty much anything went, sexually speaking.
Finally, in a letter from Nov. 29, 1985, only about a month before the city finally bulldozed his beloved Garden of Eden to clear the way for a public housing project, Purple wrote to Jenean of how he was awaiting a federal appeals court’s decision on the garden’s fate. He added that their children — Jenean by now had a son of her own, Steven — should “do some or a lot of country living,” noting he had grown up in the country himself.
“If I’m going to saw wood for winter heat, i’d just as well be in the country woods?” he wrote, apparently yearning a bit for the country life himself as the wrecking ball loomed over his urban oasis.
Grandson Steven Mason, meanwhile, spoke to the Gerber Group about the pitfalls of naming the establishment for a man with history. Basically, an advisement that it’s a bad PR association.
Mason promptly fired off a blistering letter about the inappropriateness of the eatery’s name to local blog Bowery Boogie. Later the same day, he e-mailed The Villager, saying that he knew the newspaper had been talking to his mother about the dark side of Purple’s legacy.
Mason said he wrote Scott Gerber, head of the Gerber Group, which is behind the Mr. Purple restaurant, to express his disapproval. “I don’t know if he understands how deeply inappropriate it is for him to use his name,” he said. “Adam Purple was a vegan and they are serving hamburgers, plus high-priced cocktails.”
“I mentioned that there are aspects of his history that are extremely unsavory and would not reflect well on the bar,” he said.
Anyway, this sum-up barely scratches the surface of the piece. Head over to The Villager for the full shebang … if you’re so inclined.