Berkeley’s beloved ‘Bubble Lady’ poet dies

BERKELEY — Julia Vinograd, who brought bubbles and poetry to all she met during the more than 50 years she ambled along Telegraph Avenue, has died.

“The Bubble Lady,” as generations knew her, was 75.

Vinograd’s death Tuesday came less than a month after her friends and fellow poets held a benefit for her at the Art House Gallery & Cultural Center on Shattuck Avenue after she was diagnosed with cancer.

With her green and gold beret and wobbly walk — childhood polio left one leg in a brace — Vinograd was a fixture at the now-shuttered Caffe Mediterraneum, where between coffee and chats with UC Berkeley students she would shuffle from table to table, peddling her poetry books.

A button adorned her hat. “Weird and Proud,” it read.

Out on the street amid the bewildered and downtrodden, or among the teenagers record shopping at Amoeba and eating pizza from Blondie’s, Vinograd blew bubbles.

The poet started spreading the sudsy orbs in May 1969, when activists seized land slated to become housing for UC Berkeley students and declared it a “People’s Park,” sparking a showdown with police.

“There was going to be a riot the next day, and everybody knew that,” Vinograd recalled in 2000. “I was a pacifist and I still am. But I was angry enough that I wanted to throw something. So I went out and got 15 bottles of soap bubbles.

“I went out feeling very noble on a pleasant summer night. There were two rookie cops in the park. I don’t know why, maybe someone was going to steal it. One finally said, ‘Hey, can I try (blowing bubbles)?’ I didn’t quite believe what I was hearing. Pretty soon they were having a contest.”

The park remained despite its rocky beginnings, and so did Vinograd, who in her tassled beret, ankle-length dress and bubble wand looked like a fortune teller as she made her way along Telegraph Avenue.

The bubbles floating around her — as if the muses for her poetry had sprung to life — meant many who frequented the south-of-campus neighborhood recognized Vinograd, even if they didn’t know her name.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Julia Vinograd, a renowned poet and Berkeley institution,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said in a statement. “Julia Vinograd captured the soul of Berkeley, especially in the heyday of the counterculture movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Her wit, keen observations and use of language

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment


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