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After the demise of the Cafe, through the efforts of Acoustic Live to promote under-the-radar talent, we kept in touch with Paul. On a cold rainy night, we met in Cafe Dante, a small West Village coffee shop, one of his favorite haunts, for an interview. From Brooklyn, the Williamsburg Bridge spills into Delancey Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, out onto the fringes of Alphabet City, a few blocks to the north: Avenues A,B, C and D from 14th Street to Houston Street. Paula€™s father, Danny Sachs, was an actor and writer and had worked in Hollywood under the stage name Danny Jackson, particularly in Preston Sturges films. Paul was preturnaturally creative, but not especially suited for the rigidity of the public school system.
One of Paula€™s counselors took an interest in Paula€™s writing and told him that hea€™d learn from reading the work of Arthur Rimbaud.
He had a job as an usher at the Orpheum Theater on Second Avenue and management would allow him to busk at intermission.
While his father did his best to see that Paul avoided being a a€?street kid,a€? insisting that he stay in school and get an education, elements of the street would chew away at the edges of Paula€™s life, threatening to consume him. He had two sets of friends during high school -- one was his old friends from his childhood, and the other -- guys who rode motorcycles and engaged in larceny and consumed large quantities of alcohol and other recreational substances. During the holiday season, he was selling Christmas trees in a very treacherous Hella€™s Kitchen. Paula€™s mother was in the hospital again, so Paul was left alone, adrift without his anchor and his champion. Then, out of the blue, his name was called amidst about four others, and he was taken out of his cell.
Although he juggled work, high school and an ongoing drinking problem, Paul managed to stay in school and graduate. On that issue, number 804, Paul can be heard singing his song,a€?Better Man Than Mea€? (it can also be found on his album No Trouble Here). During his early days as a solo artist, Paul was living on Saint Marka€™s Place, at the heart of the action.
Additionally, Paul had been looking after his mother, all through the years of her hospitalization and various treatments. About 8 years ago, he met the woman who would become his wife, and they became good friends. I asked him if it was a true story and he told me it was about the owner of the used bookstore.
After the Fast Folk Cafe closed, Paul began sporadically attending Fast Folk founder Jack Hardya€™s song swaps. Most of Paula€™s turbulent early days are found in the lyrics to the songs on his first two albums.


We hope our readers will look for Paula€™s name in these pages (and elsewhere) and go to see him live. He played numerous showcases for Acoustic Live and took out ads with us for new CD releases. Gentrifying now at warp speed, in the 60a€™s and 70a€™s it was a winoa€™s heaven, a junkiea€™s paradise. He also worked on the venerated 50a€™s TV variety show, Sid Caesara€™s Show of Shows, as a comedy writer, for a year and a half. His father would type the poems for him at first, but taught Paul to type, so he could do it himself. So, like many before him, Bob Dylan included, Paul dove into the maelstrom of words, astounded and inspired by what he found.
Paul would play outside the Orpheum, then a€?hita€? the intermission at the Astor Place Theater, before heading back to work the end of his shift at the Orpheum. The City As School Alternative High School at Clarkson and Houston Streets in Soho was where they sent the misfits, kids who were considered unteachable in a a€?normala€? classroom.
One night, when he was in possession of various illegal substances, in the wrong place at the wrong time, he was surrounded by the police and taken into custody. The cop who had arrested him drove him home and gave him some well-meaning, but double-edged advice: a€?Kida€¦ Stay out of troublea€¦ Dona€™t buy drugsa€¦ dona€™t do drugsa€¦ just drink!a€? Paul took this to heart and never used drugs again. For those three years he wrote all the songs and played in a a€?power folka€? acoustic group called the Contenders. While many listeners may hear the influences in his voice; Springsteen, coming back to his acoustic roots, John Hiatt, breaking through on Bring the Familya€¦ others will reach past those easy comparisons and see the poet beneath. Ita€™s no shock to learn that his drinking resumed.A  However, this time, a see-saw battle raged inside of him as he engaged in a form of a€?controlleda€? drinking. Onto the streets around Ninth Street and Avenue C, a young Paul Sachs walked, to make his acquaintance with the world. His powerful voice didna€™t set well with some bystanders, and he endured an occasional shower from a cup for water hurled at him and his guitar and case.
He liked motorcycles, wearing leather, drinking, smoking, and using said recreational pharmaceuticals. For a number of years he continued to play his music, while drowning his sorrow and fear in gallons of Southern Comfort. Continuing to stay connected to the performing arts, he had a job working at the Village Gate, handling the spotlight.
One day, sitting on a rooftop with a pack of cigarettes and a couple of six-packs, he had a moment of insight. He and his friends created a safe haven, as best they could, playing in the streets and empty lots.


Paul replied, a€?These are poems I wrote.a€? The teacher called him a liar, disbelieving that he could ever be capable of writing poetry. Others would approach guitar as a way to become the next Eddie Van Halen, but for Paul, the emphasis was on setting his poetry to music, writing songs. Hearing that, I said, a€?That musta€™ve take a thick skin.a€? a€?It still does,a€? he replied. He came home for lunch one afternoon, to hear his father stumbling around in the bedroom and went to see what was the matter. He spent three days in a€?The Tombs,a€? on an express track to Rikera€™s Island, where an uncertain end waited. He could see his life stretching out before him, the alcohol coursing down his throat, year after year, over and over. Still holding onto dreams of being a performing songwriter, I would occasionally play my own set. Danny was obviously suffering from some mysterious impairment -- he couldna€™t function well enough to tie his shoes. In the mid-1990a€™s the Fast Folk Cafe was born and it was here that Paul found a sense of community and support for him as an artist. They played a set of six grunge-style songs that Paul wrote, over and over, at high school events. He kept saying a€?I gotta go to worka€¦a€? Paul said, a€?No, you cana€™t.a€? and put him to bed. Paul had been listening to his records at home, particularly Verities and Balderdash, along with his father.
Then, before his eyes, his father, sensing that he was dying, said, a€?I cana€™t leave you nowa€¦a€? He died right there. Paul had called EMS, but they arrived too late to do anything except tell Paul that his father had had a stroke. The big hit from that album was a€?Cata€™s in the Cradle.a€? This was the first time Paul had ever seen anyone of this magnitude up close and it had a huge impact on him. On any one of my frequent runs to a store outside, to re-stock the snack bar, if he was playing, I could hear him from down the street.



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