Before she became Chicana leader Betita Martínez, Elizabeth Sutherland was a lover of words and language. At eight years old she was writing and typing a newsletter (“The Daily News”) for family and friends. At college in the 1940s, she wrote for and became associate editor of The Swarthmore Phoenix. In the early 1960s, while at Simon and Schuster, she edited Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s Four Screenplays and translated a French novel, The White Stone. By 1965, she had written reviews of French New Wave and English “kitchen sink” films for Horizon and Film Quarterly; and reported on Cuba for the Manchester Guardian, on the Russian poetry scene for Evergreen Review, and on the Civil Rights movement for the Nation.
Her writing during this period is original, sharp, vivid, and evocative. Here is an unpublished, untitled piece, written in 1964, that I found in her personal papers. I am publishing it here with permission of Betita’s daughter, Tessa Koning Martínez, in celebration of Betita’s 87th birthday on December 12th. I’ve added a title.
YEAH, YEAH, YEAH
Elizabeth Sutherland Martínez
Took Tessa and her friend Valerie to see the Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night in New York. When it was over, we all got up without a word and RAN out of the theatre and across Second Ave, Valerie in front and then me and then Tessa, running running up three blocks to the car which we jumped into and I started it in a sec and drove sixty miles an hour straight to the Doubleday store on 5th avenue which is open until midnight, Yeah Yeah Yeah.
And I parked it where it says NO PARKING NO STANDING NO LIVING NO NOTHING and we all raced into the store with Tessa leading this time and zoom up to the record counter where we collapsed with our tongues hanging out, WHERE ARE YOUR BEATLES RECORDS SIR? There it was, the movie sound track itself. What could you want in life now? And WRAP IT PLEASE while Tessa disappeared, then hollered out from behind some stack of books, MOMEE THEY HAVE THE BOOK TOO, while Valerie watched for cops getting the car, and we threw money at the man for the book of the movie and raced out the revolving door. There was the clerk holding out the change but we had no time for that, had to get home to play it play it play it.
So I drove up Park Avenue through three red lights. Valerie had to go home because her mother doesn’t believe in Beatles and she was late for dinnah, and now I am here with the music and beloved Tessa and two jumping kittens.
So there is no death tonight.