The Burning Ghat is a strange, yet revealing short film that reveals something of the relationship between original Beat, Herbert Huncke, and his long-time companion and room-mate, Louis Cartwright.
Huncke was a petty crook and junkie, who hustled around Times Square in the 1940s, where he met William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. It was Huncke who originally introduced these 3 young writers to the “Beat Life,” and became a major inspiration on their writing.
Louis Cartwright was a photographer (he took the portrait of Huncke above), drug addict and alleged pimp. According to Huncke, he was also someone not to be trusted. In 1994, Cartwright was stabbed to death, and his murder still remains unsolved.
The Burning Ghat was directed by James Rasin (Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar) and Jerome Poynton, and was filmed in Huncke’s apartment on Henry Street, New York.
Allen Ginsberg wrote of the film, “O Rare Herbert Huncke, live on film! The Burning Ghat features late-in-lifetime old partners Huncke & Louis playing characters beyond themselves with restrained solid self-awareness, their brief masquerade of soul climaxing in an inspired moment’s paradox bittersweet as an O’Henry’s tale’s last twist”.
Harry Smith said of the film, “It should have been longer”.
The Burning Ghat was featured at the 53rd Venice Biennial, and included in the Whitney Museum’s “Beat Culture and the New America” show of 1996. It won the Gold Plaque Award for Best Short Film at the 1990 Chicago International Film Festival.
Made the same year Huncke published his autobiography Guilty of Everything, this was to be his only on-screen, acting performance.
A letter from Charles Bukowski to journalist Hans van den Broek in response to Bukowski’s book Tales of Ordinary Madness being removed from the Public Library in Nijmegen in 1985.
Tales of Ordinary Madness was described by the library as “very sadistic, occasionally fascist and discriminatory against certain groups (including homosexuals).”
Dear Hans van den Broek:
Thank you for your letter telling me of the removal of one of my books from the Nijmegen library. And that it is accused of discrimination against black people, homosexuals and women. And that it is sadism because of the sadism.
The thing that I fear discriminating against is humor and truth.
If I write badly about blacks, homosexuals and women it is because of these who I met were that. There are many “bads”—bad dogs, bad censorship; there are even “bad” white males. Only when you write about “bad” white males they don’t complain about it. And need I say that there are “good” blacks, “good” homosexuals and “good” women?
In my work, as a writer, I only photograph, in words, what I see. If I write of “sadism” it is because it exists, I didn’t invent it, and if some terrible act occurs in my work it is because such things happen in our lives. I am not on the side of evil, if such a thing as evil abounds. In my writing I do not always agree with what occurs, nor do I linger in the mud for the sheer sake of it. Also, it is curious that the people who rail against my work seem to overlook the sections of it which entail joy and love and hope, and there are such sections. My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the “light” and never mentioned the other, then as an artist I would be a liar.
Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can’t vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist.
I am not dismayed that one of my books has been hunted down and dislodged from the shelves of a local library. In a sense, I am honored that I have written something that has awakened these from their non-ponderous depths. But I am hurt, yes, when somebody else’s book is censored, for that book, usually is a great book and there are few of those, and throughout the ages that type of book has often generated into a classic, and what was once thought shocking and immoral is now required reading at many of our universities.
I am not saying that my book is one of those, but I am saying that in our time, at this moment when any moment may be the last for many of us, it’s damned galling and impossibly sad that we still have among us the small, bitter people, the witch-hunters and the declaimers against reality. Yet, these too belong with us, they are part of the whole, and if I haven’t written about them, I should, maybe have here, and that’s enough.
Future Sci-Fi great Ray Bradbury looks fresh-faced (he was but 15 years old) and diva’s diva Dietrich, as ever, is just looking fierce when the pair were photographed together outside the gates of Paramount Pictures in 1935.
I tried to figure out how these two would have known each other. All I could find was an interview Bradbury did with Playboy in 1995 which might explain the circumstances of how they met:
Playboy: What brought you to Hollywood in the first place?
Bradbury: The Depression brought me here from Waukegan, Illinois. The majority of people in the country were unemployed. My dad had been jobless in Waukegan for at least two years when in 1934 he announced to my mom, my brother and me that it was time to head West. I had just turned 14 when we got to California with only 40 dollars, which paid for our rent and bought our food until he finally found a job making wire at a cable company for $14 a week. That meant I could stay in Los Angeles, which was great. I was thrilled.
Playboy: With what aspect of it?
Bradbury: I was madly in love with Hollywood. We lived about four blocks from the Uptown Theater, which was the flagship theater for MGM and Fox. I learned how to sneak in. There were previews almost every week. I’d roller-skate over there—I skated all over town, hell-bent on getting autographs from glamorous stars. It was glorious. I saw big MGM stars such as Norma Shearer, Laurel and Hardy, Ronald Coleman. Or I’d spend all day in front of Paramount or Columbia, then zoom over to the Brown Derby to watch the stars coming or going. I’d see Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich, Fred Allen, Burns and Allen—whoever was on the Coast. Mae West made her appearance—bodyguard in tow—every Friday night.
There’s also this snip from a 1991 LIFE interview:
I still have my autographs and a few roller skate ball bearings left over from those days so long ago. Almost all of the people I met then are gone, but miraculously Marlene and George have survived. The light that comes out of these pictures is a constant rerun of my life as a somewhat silly but always loving boy, terribly reluctant to enter manhood.
In 1964, The British Labour Party was elected into government with a slim majority of 4 seats. Such a small majority made governing the country difficult for canny Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. Therefore, after 17 months in power, Wilson called a second election. In support of winning re-election, the Labour Party’s magazine, Tribune asked a selection of writers and artists who they would vote for in the 1966 General Election. In response, sensing Labour might not hold to their socialist ideals, poet Christopher Logue wrote the poem “I shall vote Labour.”
I shall vote Labour
I shall vote Labour because
God votes Labour.
I shall vote Labour to protect
the sacred institution of The Family.
I shall vote Labour because
I am a dog.
I shall vote Labour because
upper-class hoorays annoy me in expensive restaurants.
I shall vote Labour because
I am on a diet.
I shall vote Labour because if I don’t
somebody else will:
I shall vote Labour because if one person
everybody will be wanting to do it.
I shall vote Labour because if I do not vote Labour
my balls will drop off.
I shall vote Labour because
there are too few cars on the road.
I shall vote Labour because I am
a hopeless drug addict.
I shall vote Labour because
I failed to be a dollar millionaire aged three.
I shall vote Labour because Labour will build
more maximum security prisons.
I shall vote Labour because I want to shop
in an all-weather precinct stretching from Yeovil to Glasgow.
I shall vote Labour because
the Queen’s stamp collection is the best
in the world.
I shall vote Labour because
deep in my heart
I am a Conservative.
Christopher Logue was a poet, writer, journalist, dramatist, screenwriter, actor and performer. Born in Portsmouth, in 1926, Logue was an only child of middle-aged parents. After school, he served in the Black Watch regiment, from which he was given a court-martial for selling stolen pay books, and given a 16-months’ jail sentence.
‘It was so drab. There was nowhere to go. You couldn’t seem to meet any girls. If you went up to London in 1951, looking for the literary scene, what did you find? Dylan Thomas. I thought that if I came to the place where Pound flourished, I might too.’
In Paris, Logue met writer Alexander Trocchi (who saved Logue from an attempted suicide), and the pair set-up and edited the legendary literary magazine Merlin, which premiered work by Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Chester Himes, as well as Logue and Trocchi. The pair also wrote pornographic novels for Maurice Girodias’ Olympia Press, and briefly met William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso in the late 1950s.
George Whitman, propietor of Shakespeare and Co., described the pairing of Trocchi and Logue as:
‘True bohemians, Beats before Beats officially existed. Christopher was the scruffy poet, quite down and out most of the time. He definitely fancied himself as Baudelaire or somebody like that.’
In Paris, Logue toyed with Marxism, and was once famously put down by the author Richard Wright.
‘You’ve got nothing to fight for, boy—you’re looking for a fight. If you were a black, boy, you’re so cheeky you’d be dead.’
But Logue lost none of his mettle, or his socialist convictions and he continued to be a gadfly throughout his life. In the 1960s, he collaborated with Lindsay Anderson, giving poetry readings at the National Film Theater between features. He was a pacifist and a member of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, taking part with Bertrand Russell on the marches to Aldermarston.
He appeared at Peter Cook’s club The Establishment and wrote songs for jazz singer Annie Ross, and had one recorded by Joan Baez. He also appeared at the Isle of Wight Rock Festival, and contributed the wonderfully bizarre “True Stories” to Private Eye magazine. He acted for Ken Russell in The Devils, wrote the screenplay for Russell’s Savage Messiah, and acted in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky. Logue’s poetry was incredibly popular, even appearing in posters throughout the London Underground. His most famous works were Red Bird, a jazz colaboration with Tony Kinsey, and War Music, a stunning and critically praised adaption of Homer’s Illiad. He was awarded the 2005 Whitbread Poetry Prize for his collection Cold Calls.
Logue died in 2011, and Wilson won the 1966 election with a majority of 96 seats.
This is Christopher Logue reading “I shall vote Labour” in 2002, as filmed by Colin Still.
“Never keep up with the Joneses; drag them down to your level. It’s cheaper.”
You might think that arriving in NYC and checking into the Chelsea Hotel only to experience, in rapid succession, a fire, the murder of Nancy Spungen and a robbery that this would put you off the Big Apple, but this was not the case with Quentin Crisp, England’s “stately homo.”
After bringing his famed one-man show, An Evening With Quentin Crisp from London’s West End to the Off Broadway Player’s Theatre in 1978, Crisp relocated to New York City permanently in 1981. To hear Mr. Crisp tell it, after that, he never worked another day in his life, living off the kindness of strangers. That’s, of course, if you don’t count all of the movies he was in, all of the popular one-man shows he performed for adoring audiences, and the books, advice columns and film reviews that he wrote in the years until his death in 1999 at the age of 90.
Crisp famously made sure his phone number was listed (He’d always answer “Yes, Lord?” just in case) and would accept nearly every dinner invitation that came his way, with the understanding that the tab would be picked up. Mr. Crisp would basically do an up-close version of his one-man show. On two occasions I dined with Mr. Crisp at the Odessa Diner on Avenue A and these are memories that I will always treasure. It was like sitting face to face with Mark Twain, in lavender eye shadow. Okay, maybe more like Oscar Wilde.
In the engaging 1985 interview below, Crisp promotes his then new book, Manners From Heaven, discusses British vs American manners, how he was badly bullied as a child, the secret to a happy (heterosexual) marriage, how to get off the phone politely and the main message of his work that: you alone are responsible for your own happiness in life.
Kurt Vonnegut was a 22-year-old Private serving in the U.S. Army, when he was captured at the Battle of the Bulge, in December 1944. Together with his fellow POWs, Vonnegut was marched to a work camp in Dresden, named “Slaughterhouse Five.” In this letter details these events and the infamous bombing in February 1945, that was to inspire his best-selling novel.
Pfc. K. Vonnegut, Jr.,
12102964 U. S. Army.
I’m told that you were probably never informed that I was anything other than “missing in action.” Chances are that you also failed to receive any of the letters I wrote from Germany. That leaves me a lot of explaining to do—in precis:
I’ve been a prisoner of war since December 19th, 1944, when our division was cut to ribbons by Hitler’s last desperate thrust through Luxemburg and Belgium. Seven Fanatical Panzer Divisions hit us and cut us off from the rest of Hodges’ First Army. The other American Divisions on our flanks managed to pull out: We were obliged to stay and fight. Bayonets aren’t much good against tanks: Our ammunition, food and medical supplies gave out and our casualties out-numbered those who could still fight - so we gave up. The 106th got a Presidential Citation and some British Decoration from Montgomery for it, I’m told, but I’ll be damned if it was worth it. I was one of the few who weren’t wounded. For that much thank God.
Well, the supermen marched us, without food, water or sleep to Limberg, a distance of about sixty miles, I think, where we were loaded and locked up, sixty men to each small, unventilated, unheated box car. There were no sanitary accommodations—the floors were covered with fresh cow dung. There wasn’t room for all of us to lie down. Half slept while the other half stood. We spent several days, including Christmas, on that Limberg siding. On Christmas eve the Royal Air Force bombed and strafed our unmarked train. They killed about one-hundred-and-fifty of us. We got a little water Christmas Day and moved slowly across Germany to a large P.O.W. Camp in Muhlburg, South of Berlin. We were released from the box cars on New Year’s Day. The Germans herded us through scalding delousing showers. Many men died from shock in the showers after ten days of starvation, thirst and exposure. But I didn’t….
I don’t remember if we called them “hobos,” but I do recall occasionally seeing “hobo marks” made in chalk or charcoal on walls or the sides of houses, when I was a child growing-up in Scotland. The marks were mainly lines, circles, or arrows, and rarely anything elaborate.I thought there was something exciting, even romantic, about these simple marks, mainly because I knew here was a secret code that denoted some act of kindness or, gave a warning to others who followed.
These few men were itinerant workers, who chapped doors in search of odd-jobs, or offered to sharpen tools, mend fences, mow lawns. They passed through towns in summer and fall, moving on to farms, where they picked fruit. My grandmother told me of how she had made “jeely pieces” for such men, and had given them sweet tea and a “tanner” for their pocket. She said some were ex-military, who had lost their way after the War.
There was also Highland travelers (“Summer walkers”), who migrated south for work, and “onion Johnnies,” traders who cycled over from France to sell onions and garlic. All of these men seemed to have a nobility and were different from the “jakeys” or winos, who congregated around railway stations and town centers, mooching for change.
In America it was different, hobos first appeared at the end of the Civil War, and they moved across country in search of work with the arrival of the railroad. By 1911, it was estimated there were 700,000 hobos in America. By the 1950s, this number had dramatically fallen—as Jack Kerouac, who was no stranger to the hobo-life, noted in Lonseome Traveler:
“The American hobo has a hard time hoboing nowadays due to the increase in police surveillance of highways, railorad yards, sea shores, river bottoms, embankments and the thousand-and-one hiding holes of industrial night. - In California, the rat pack, the original old type who goes walking from town to town with supplies and bedding on his back, the “Homeless Brother”, has practically vanished, along with the ancient gold-panning desert rat who used to walk with hope in his heart through struggling Western tons that are now so prosperous they dont want old bums any more. - ‘Man dont want no pack rats here even though they founded California’ said an old man hiding with a can of beans and an Indian fire in a river bottom outside Riverside California in 1955.”
Today, the hobo life continues, and every second weekend in August, a Hobo Convention is held, with races, carnivals and the crowning of the Hobo King and Queen.
‘A writer moves about, observing, seeing as much as he can, trying to guess how man will play the game,’ Ray Bradbury said in Story of a Writer, a documentary on his life and work from 1963.
‘Constantly measuring the way life is, against the way he feels it ought to be. He is a magnet passing through a factual world, taking from it what he needs.’
Bradbury was always generous with his advice and encouragement, always willing to explain his method of writing to those who wanted to know. Writing was like a love affair.
“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
Bradbury worked his apprenticeship as a writer in libraries, which he later described as places where:
...anything could happen there and always did. All you had to do was pull a book from the shelf and suddenly the darkness was not so dark anymore.
In the “The Importance of Being Startled,” the afterword to his final novel, Farewell Summer, Bradbury described the process by which he wrote:
The way I write my novels can best be described as imagining that I’m going into the kitchen to fry a couple of eggs and then find myself cooking up a banquet. Starting with very simple things, they then word-associate themselves with further things until I’m up and running and eager to find out the next surprise, the next hour, the next day or the next week.
Surprise is everything with me. When I go to bed at night I give myself instructions to startle myself when I wake in the morning.
As Bradbury explained in Story of a Writer, allowing the ‘subconscious time to think’ was essential.
‘The time we have alone; the time we have in walking; the time we have in riding a bicycle; are the most important times for a writer. Escaping from a typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give your subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs on the subconscious level.
‘I never consciously set out to write a certain story. The idea must originate somewhere deep within me and push itself out in its own time. Usually, it begins with associations. Electricity. The sea. Life started in the sea. Could the miracle occur again? Could life take hold in another environment? An electro-mechanical environment?’
This was the kind of thinking that made Bradbury’s book so irresistible. Anything was possible with Bradbury. He had a joyous, child-like enthusiasm for life that infused his books, with a brilliance and pleasure, that makes them so very, very special.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
Siouxsie Sioux (Feb 1979) This is certainly a young woman who knew exactly who she was, wouldn’t you say?
Nevermind those sterile museum retrospectives, First Third Books has just published Punk+, a gorgeous new coffee table monograph featuring Sheila Rock’s documentation of the formative London punk scene. Although many of the faces are familiar, the emphasis on punk as a youth culture, as a tribe, makes this a welcome departure from many other books of punk era photography. These shots are from when the participants were still really young and Rock’s intimate images haven’t lost any of their power from being overused (85 to 90% of the photographs are unseen according to her estimate).
I get sent books like this, well, frequently, and Punk+ is far and away one of the best. Speaking as a former publisher myself, this is a high quality piece to be really proud of.
With a brief introduction by Nick Logan and commentary from some of the participants, Punk+ wisely lets Sheila Rock’s portraits do the talking. I especially loved the pics of a young John Lydon in what appears to be his own flat.
Jordan outside of Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX boutique
Girl (Leather Jacket)
Subey (June 1977)
The Subway Sect, Chalk Farm (Dec 1976)
Rob Symmons: “They’re the only public photographs of us that exist from that time because we wouldn’t have any photographs taken. When you (Sheila Rock) rang the door bell, (that little black door at the side Rehearsal Rehearsals) you asked for The Clash and were disappointed they were not there, didn’t believe us and came in to see. To save a wasted trip, you reluctantly photographed us. After we told Bernie [Rhodes] you had come to the studio one evening and taken our pictures, he was cross. I remember his exact words: “When the cat’s away. the mice will play”
Generation X (1977)
The Buzzcocks (Nov 1977)
Paul Simonon: “We did a couple of shows with The Buzzcocks and we used to go on stage with Jackson Pollack Shirts. One time they did a show with us and came on with Mondrian shorts. It was great!”
The Damned (Nov 1976)
Paul Weller of The Jam (1979)
Sheila Rock’s Punk+ is available as a signed limited edition and standard edition directly through First Third Books.
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
I'll repeat that: We're not necessarily endorsing everything you'll find here, we're merely saying "Here it is." We think human beings are very strange and often totally hilarious. We enjoy weird and inexplicable things very much. We believe things have to change and change swiftly. It's got to be about the common good or it's no good at all. We like to get suggestions of fun/serious things from our good-looking, high IQ readers. We are your favorite distraction.