Hippie-exploitation paperbacks bring a smile to my face for a number of reasons:
1. Rarely do the hippies on the book covers look under 30. They look like illustrations from stagmags of swingin’ suburbanites.
2. Hippies are doped up and super-horny 24/7. Watch out!
3. Hippies buy their fashions from the “youth in revolt” section of the Sears catalog.
4. When they’re not covering their bodies in goofy slogans and day-glow butterflies, hippies are busy raping and pillaging and at least one in every rampaging gang looks like Frank Zappa.
A truly fantastic idea by San Francisco agency Pereira & O’Dell to promote Snoop Dogg’s Kingsize Slim Rolling Papers: Rolling Words. Rolling Words is a book made entirely out of hemp where each page is a rolling paper with Snoop Dogg’s lyrics and witticisms written on them (in non-toxic ink of course). Also, the spine of the book has a match striking surface so you can smoke up on the run.
Folks attending Coachella this year will get to sample Snoop’s creation.
Robert Snyder’s excellent 1969 documentary The Henry Miller Odyssey takes a joyful look at the Buddha of Brooklyn and his fascinating world.
The colossus of Big Sur at work, living in, and revising old haunts in Brooklyn and Paris. Miller generously reveals how he saw his era, his peers and himself. He recalls his painful youth and his struggle to survive as a writer; talks about art, dreams, and the allure of Paris; reads passages from his works and enjoys himself with friends, including Lawrence Durrell, Anais Nin, Alfred Perles, Brassai, and Jakov Gimpel. What emerges in this insightful documentary is Miller’s charm, his gentleness and his lust for life.
Mostly narrated by Miller, this warm-hearted and playful film captures the essence of a man who did indeed have a lust for life.
Has it been a decade since Feral House signed up the Jamie Gillis / Peter Sotos collaboration, Pure Filth?
Well, yes it has.
Power of persuasion convinced me to do this project way back when. And why? Peter Sotos called it a “dogshit” book, and we’ve always wanted to publish dogshit books.
It contains transcripts, images and introductions to Jamie Gillis’ “Gonzo” porn videos, rare things from that strange, dull, and life-sucking genre. The late Jamie Gillis, who possessed charm in person, is most widely known as a weasly porn performer from its “golden age.” As a side project, Jamie went out on his own with a ho and video camera, inveigling various masturbators found in adult books parlors to be filmed having actual sex instead. The Gonzo films became more notorious than purchased, inspiring dozens of offshoots in contemporary television, as well as Burt Reynolds’ character in the Hollywood movie Boogie Nights.
Jamie sent Pete some strange, sadistic videos that had never even found popular distribution. This wasn’t porn, this was despair, and Pete became motivated to transcribe the existential scenarios of sadism, masochism, and most of all, showoff self-hatred.
When I had dinner with the authors at a San Francisco North Beach Italian restaurant, Jamie pleaded with me to allow him to sell what he called a “memoir” before Pure Filth was released so as not to horrify the big ticket NY publishers. It turned out that the memoir proposal horrified them anyway, what with a recounting of ’70s party scenes, including one in which a 12-year-old girl offered her blowjob services to Jamie, and he gladly accepted them.
No kiddie sex in Pure Filth, we promise, but transcripts of horrifying, embarrassing human degradation.
The book will be available in a very limited, numbered hardcover edition beautifully designed by Hedi El Kholti, known for his designs of Feral House books Lexicon Devil and It‘s a Man’s World. The price is $69, and we expect that they’ll be available in early May.
I’ve heard about this book for a long time and whereas I’ve never seen any of the videotapes that came to be known as “Jamie Gillis’s Secret Stash” (the really twisto videos from his “gonzo” first-person On The Prowl series) they were once vividly described to me by no less of a “specialist” than Marilyn Manson. I can’t say I really wanted to see them after his description, but according to all who have seen them, the tapes don’t work on a “porn” level (unless you’re a totally sick puppy without hope of redemption!) but due to the “interviews” and darkly psychologically bullying “pep talks” that Gillis would subject these people to beforehand as he tried to, um, persuade them to, uh, do stuff and what it might take (such as money) to get them to do these, um, certain things on camera.
I’m not talking about mere sex acts here, either. Imagine, say, what happened before and after they shot “2 Girls, 1 Cup” and then transcribing what remained on the cutting room floor. According to Adam, the transcripts on the printed page of Pure Filth—and what they reveal, shorn of their audio-visual component—are more starkly disturbing than the videos themselves.
Although she barely rates a mention in most Frank Zappa bios, Pauline Butcher was Zappa’s secretary during a crucial era of his early career. Butcher was a model and a stenographer in London, when a chance meeting with Zappa in 1967 led to a job offer in America, helping him to prepare a book he’d been contracted to write. Not only was she his employee, she was also a resident of the infamous “Log Cabin” in Laurel Canyon where the Zappa family and several people in their entourage lived.
Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa is, beyond a doubt, the single most revealing book ever written about the private life of one of the giants of 20th century music and the “inner circle” who surrounded him. If you are a Zappa fan—I’ve noticed that quite a lot of DM readers are (I, myself, am typing this sitting below a diptych painting of the original Mothers of Invention wearing dresses that hangs above my desk)—then you will want to run, not walk to grab a copy of this book. I drank it down like a cold beer on a hot day. Freak Out! is a well-observed and well-written memoir that never forgets who the reader is there for. First-time author Butcher has a novelist’s eye for detail, seems to be blessed with an elephant’s memory and had the extreme good fortune that her mother kept all of her letters from 40 years ago so that she could draw from them.
It’s a great read. Zappa fans will love this book.
I posed a few questions for Pauline Butcher over email.
How would you describe your role in the life of Frank Zappa?
My role in the life of Frank Zappa was restricted to a five-year period, 1967 to 1972. During that time I was originally employed to help Frank write a political book for Stein & Day who’d given him carte-blanche to write whatever he wished. In the event, the book was never written partly because Frank developed other interests in setting up his own record companies, Bizarre and Straight, but also because he had a sneaking suspicion the FBI or CIA would use its contents against him.
As a result, I was left with secretarial work, running the fan club United Mutations, road-managing the GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously) an all-girl singing group which one might say was the predecessor to the Spice Girls, and helping to set up the record companies. I also think Frank used me, in the beginning, as a sort of therapist, unburdening his worries about the Mothers of Invention. I think he felt I was someone he could trust.
What was the impetus to write this book? Why now and not, say, twenty years ago?
If only I had written the book 20 years ago! Book sales would be greater not only because Frank had just died and more people knew who he was, but also because the book market was healthier then.
So why now? I had always wanted to be a journalist/writer, but after I returned to England from America and went to Cambridge University, I met my husband and our son was born. I spent the next 18 years devoted to looking after him as well as teaching A-level psychology. But when our son went to university and I had given up teaching, I no longer had any excuses. I began writing radio plays for Radio 4, had them rejected, wrote again, got encouragement, wrote again until a producer told me, ‘the only way you’ll break through is if you write something that no one else can write,’ and I thought the only story that no one else could write is my experience living and working with Frank Zappa.
It began as a five-part radio serial for Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 but half-way through the first draft, I was told Germaine Greer had been commissioned to do a documentary programme on Zappa and the BBC wouldn’t consider two in one year. I was so angry I wrote off to every publisher and twelve wrote back asking for chapters. Of course, I hadn’t written anything but I knew I had a marketable product. It took nine months to type up the letters I’d written home which my mother kept in a shoe box for forty years, two years to write the book, another year almost to find a publisher, and one year to get it published. Hey, ho, ten years after my son went to university, my book, Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa was born.
Gail Zappa is known for being a fierce protector of her late husband’s legacy. This book is certainly the most intimate book written about Frank Zappa to date, and it’s very revealing about their marriage. I didn’t feel that she was portrayed unfairly or unsympathetically at all, but I’m wondering how Gail has reacted to your book? I would imagine that you might have been a little apprehensive about her opinion.
I’m wondering how Gail has reacted to my book. I have no idea. Many people have asked me this question, but no one it seems has asked any of the Family Trust members directly.
I was hoping that Moon might read it as she has written her own thinly disguised portrait of her parents in America The Beautiful which I think is brilliant, but neither she nor any of her siblings have spoken publicly about it. I visited Gail in Hollywood in 2007. She gave me her e-mail address and I wrote to her but she didn’t reply. Therefore, I have not written to her about the book. I hoped Dweezil, Ahmet, Moon or Diva would be interested in reading it to find out about their parents’ early married life. I personally would love to read a fly-on-the-wall portrait of my own parents when they were first married, painful though some of it might be.
Are you back in touch with any of the Mothers or GTOs on Facebook?
Four of the GTOs, Lucy, Cinderella, Christine and Sandra have died. I contacted the three remaining girls, Sparkie, Mercy and Pamela. I sent copies of my book to each of them and have had a favourable but short comment on Facebook from Sparkie, none from Mercy, and Pamela wrote on FB, ‘lurved your book darlink.’
I am in constant contact with Art Tripp who in turn has been in touch with Roy Estrada. I was in contact with Jimmy Carl Black before he died because he was writing his own book; I have spoken to Bunk Gardner who told me he was sued by Gail twice for wanting to play Frank’s music, and to never write to her again after he wrote condolences following Frank’s death. I am also in touch with Ray Collins whose song I have used on the soundtrack of my video which is posted on You Tube and FB. I failed to trace Motorhead before he died, nor have I had communication with Don Preston. Ian Underwood wrote a brief message on FB that he was pleased to hear from me but made no further reply. I failed to find Ruth Underwood until just recently and have not as yet contacted her.
A blood poet of the highest order, Harry Crews has died of neuropathy at the age of 76.
Crews wrote in a style that was at once brutal and beautiful, baroque and as ordinary as dirt. Within a single sentence he could be both tender and terrifying. His novels were populated by freaks, outlaws, burn-outs and lost souls who wandered through trailer parks, bayous, dive bars, sideshows and the long lonely highways of the deep south. Possessed of a gothic sensibility, dark humor and hard-edged grittiness that put him in the company of Cormac McCarthy, Charles Bukowski and Flannery O’Connor as well as hardboiled writers like Jim Thompson, Crews was capable of transforming the rot of reality into something so rich with life that even death had to laugh.
Punk rockers gravitated to Crews because he was a badass who managed to find a medium through which to articulate his anger, despair and lust. Lydia Lunch and Kim Gordon created a band called Harry Crews as an homage to the writer. They harnessed the energy of his books and transformed it into the only kind of music that could handle it - blistering hard rock.
Crews was one of the major influences on my writing, right up there with Bukowski and Raymond Chandler. I f you haven’t read him, I recommend starting with The Knockout Artist, All We Need Of Hell or Scar Lover. Once you’ve started up with Harry you won’t stop until you’ve read him all.
Poet Adrienne Rich was a pioneering feminist and alchemist. Her alchemical compounds were composed of vowels and consonants. She showed us that words, spun from a revolutionary tongue, point the direction while embodying the essence of the destination. The poem arrives at itself with the immediacy of sunlight striking glass.
On the occasion of the publication of William Hjortsberg’s extraordinary 900 page biography of Richard Brautigan, Jubilee Hitchhiker, I am sharing something I posted awhile ago on Dangerous Minds:
“I was 15 when I first read a book by Richard Brautigan. It was called A Confederate General From Big Sur . I borrowed the book from my friend Joseph, a free spirited guy two years older than me who had a beard and rolled his own cigarettes. Though he looked like one, Joseph wasn’t a hippie. Hippies were part of a movement and Joseph wasn’t a joiner. In the small town in Virgina where we grew up, Joseph was completely his own man, a suburban teenage Zen monk who seemed ancient at the age of 17. It made perfect sense that he would be the guy to turn me on to Brautigan. They shared common traits: a clarity of mind, a sharp sense of humor and a deep love for language. Joseph kept a notebook with him at all times in which he wrote short stories, poems and haiku.
In this moment of recalling Joseph, I am convinced he was as close to being enlightened as any teenager could be in America in 1966. I wonder where he is today and what he’s reading.
Joseph, Brautigan, Jack Kerouac and The Doors were my saviors in the year of the Summer Of Love. I was stuck in the suburbs, surrounded by jocks and greasers, completely alone in my world of beatnik books and a meerschaum pipe full of banana peel. It was the year I read Brautigan’s second book Trout Fishing In America and the year that I left home for San Francisco. Joseph was there and I needed to make the connection with the Bodhisattva of the ‘burbs.
Those were the days when a book or a record album could change your life. If literature had a Beatles, its name was Richard Brautigan. It comes as no surprise that John Lennon was a Brautigan fan. They both had a whimsical point of view that started in the square inch field and expanded into the cosmos.
In 1968, I lived inside of a parachute inside of a dance hall in a ghost town near Los Gatos, California. It was my summer of In Watermelon Sugar. I read that magical book repeatedly (my psychedelic New Testament) and lived a simple life of bathing in waterfalls, eating brown rice and scarfing down countless tabs of Benzedrine (in honor of my hero Jack Kerouac) while trying to write with the ease and purity of Brautigan. I discovered that ease ain’t easy (particularly when you’re wired to the gills) and purity is near impossible. Really good writers make writing seem so natural that we all think we can do it. And then we try and soon discover just how hard it is to take energy from where you get it through the word to the reader without losing any immediacy in the process of transference. Brautigan’s poems and prose had this uncanny ability to gently slap you upside the head while maintaining a Basho-like quality of disappearing into what is being described - you saw the words become transparent as they melted into watermelon sugar. Watermelon sugar was Brautigan’s river Tao, a sweet subtle liquid that flowed through the pink flesh of our being.
William Carlos Williams famously wrote “no ideas but in things” and embodied that thought in poems like “The Red Wheelbarrow.” Brautigan wrote from a similar point of view - a kind of American Zen that was ordinary and transcendental, modern and prophetic…
I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammels and computers
live together in mutually
like pure water
touching clear sky.
One of the things that was most compelling and inspiring for a young would-be writer like myself about Brautigan’s books were their covers. With every new book that Richard published there was always an attractive bohemian woman on the cover. It was as though Richard was sending a message to all the reclusive teenybopper poets in the world that said “write poetry and you will get laid.” And it was true. I would sit in the Mediterranean Cafe on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley with my journal unfolded before me and invariably a young flower child would approach and ask if I were a poet. A response of “yes” would often lead to a fuck fest in my attic apartment on Channing Way. In the sixties being an artist/intellectual had the same aphrodisiac qualities associated with cocaine and Rolex watches in the 80s. Being smart was sexy.
For many of us, Brautigan was a door into a consciousness that was liberating in its playfulness and here and nowness. Reading Brautigan is like taking a pure hit of oxygen. Things sparkle. There is a sense of boundless delight and eroticism in his prose and poetry - a promise of the unspeakable, where language transcends itself.
Brautigan, now more than ever.” February 2, 2011.
You can purchase Jubilee Hitchhikerhere. If you’re a Brautigan fan, you’ll find it an immersive and deeply satisfying trip. It took Hjortsberg, who knew Brautigan well, 20 years to write the book and during his research he discovered unpublished Brautigan writings that had been locked in a safe-deposit box in Eugene, Oregon for 30 years. This is a gift from the poetry gods.
The following recordings of Brautigan reading were intended to be released on Zapple records, a spinoff of The Beatles Apple label. But the project was never fully realized. Harvest Records released them as Listening To Brautigan in 1973.
Don Juan disciple Carlos Castaneda is interviewed by the brilliant teacher and author Theodore Roszak (The Making of a Counter Culture) on Berkeley-based KPFA radio on January 30, 1969.
Venerable, groundbreaking and radical, KPFA was the coolest station to ever elevate the airwaves. Unfortunately, its owner Pacifica Radio corporation went from a progressive collective of media activists to a union-busting bunch of assholes who seem intent on destroying what made the station so extraordinary: its independent spirit. If you’re interested in the ongoing struggle between KPFA’s workers and their corporate bosses, check this out.
Okay, back to the psychedelic part of this post.
On the occasion of posting this interview with Castaneda, I’m taking the opportunity to share with you this excerpt from my memoir describing the first of many of my experiences with peyote (I was 18 at the time):
One afternoon this guy with a wild blonde afro came into the Arbor Café, a natural food restaurant where I worked in 1969. He was from Arizona and wanted to trade a bag of fresh peyote buttons for food. We made the trade. I gave him all he could eat and he gave me three dozen big fat juicy buttons. I called my dear friend John The Poet and told him about my score. That night we had our first peyote experience. An experience that taught me more about the Universe, God and my place in the grand scheme of things than all the books I’d ever read or have read since.
John came up to my apartment. In one room, which was to become John’s, I had laid the peyote buttons on a little altar I’d constructed out of a milk crate covered with Indian fabric, candles and a beautiful statue of the Buddha. We each ate 12 buttons while drinking black cherry juice to try to mask the extreme bitterness of the cactus. 12 buttons is a large quantity of mescaline for even an experienced peyote eater. We had made a serious commitment to Mescalito.
John stayed in the altar room. I went into my room and sat on the bed, which was the sole piece of furniture in my spartan digs. When the peyote came on, it came on strong. The window in my room looked out over the Bay and I could see the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond glowing in a haze of jaundiced luminosity as it spewed spires of rank sulphuric smoke. It was a futuristic vision of hell - an Etch-A-Sketch of a Boschian nightmare. I was consumed with a sense of dread and doom. But soon that dark vision was swept away by a surge of powerful euphoric energy, the beginnings of the awakening of my kundalini and the activation of my chakras.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like some new age mumbo jumbo. But, keep in mind, this was 1969 and I was 18 years old. All the new age crapola hadn’t been written yet. There were a handful of books by scholars of Eastern mysticism on the subject of kundalini and you had to make an effort to seek out this information. I’d read a few books on kundalini, also known as serpent power - a dormant energy coiled at the base of the spine that just waits to be awakened - and I knew about seven points of energy along the spine that corresponded to bundles of nerve endings called the chakras. I’d read about this stuff, but I wasn’t sure I believed it. Well, peyote made a true believer out of me. That bitter green flesh introduced me to serpent power in precise and intricate detail. Unlike the epic acid trip I’d stumbled into back in D.C., my peyote experience was as physical as it was mental, every cell of my body was engaged in a cosmic dance.
I was in the grip of Mescalito’s magic…my body suddenly became white electricity and was humming with energy, and my spine was tingling with waves of pure ecstasy. Beautiful and perfectly detailed geometric mandalas were spinning in the space between my closed eyes. My chakras were spiraling, pulsing, sparkling and luminescent like pinwheels of light in a Fourth of July fireworks display. And when all the chakras were vibrating at the exact same frequency, none prevailing over the other, I disappeared into an infinite white light and no longer existed. Ego death.
While I was going through this extraordinary transformation, John was having a similar experience in the altar room. From to time, we’d call out to each other across what seemed to be infinite space “you still there, you still there?” Our voices faded like the industrial smoke outside my window until they were no more. Our tongues had disappeared along with the rest of us…whater “us” is.
The lesson I learned was this: when we emphasize one aspect of our being while ignoring the rest, we create ego. If our sexual energy is dominant, we create ego. If our intellect is dominant, we create ego. If our emotions are dominant , we create ego. Only when sex, heart and mind are in complete balance and harmony do we experience so called enlightenment. When all of our chakras, our energy centers, are vibrating on the same wavelength, at the same pitch, we become in tune with the cosmos.
We are refined and subtle beings not just meat and bone. Embodiment is the result of getting stuck in just one corner of our totality. The Catholic concept of original sin, the idea of humans as fallen angels, is simply the result of being out of balance. When our mind is in tune with our heart and our sexuality is in touch with both, we become one with the natural order of things and no longer exist apart from the world. That’s how it works. If you don’t believe me, eat 12 fat peyote buttons and get back to me.
The morning after Mescalito’s visit, John and I re-entered the world tenderly, with the vulnerability and openness of newborn children. We looked at each with amazement and humility. We were no longer quite as solid as we were before our peyote trip. We had been introduced to something that was so enormous in its scope and yet so pure and simple that we were both blissed out as well as bewildered.
The deal with psychedelics is that you get the Cliff Notes version of cosmic consciousness. Don’t me get me wrong, the experience is real, genuine, but it’s also just a kind of crash course giving us a quick glimpse of who we really are. Most of us, actually all of us, can’t afford to leave our jobs, family etc. to sit on a mountaintop and contemplate the nature of existence. There have been a handful of human beings who could make that commitment: Milarepa, Buddha, Jesus and a few divinely intoxicated bums who used to practice their Dharma on Bowery and Broadway back in the 70s. But, in this day and age, when there are so many forces conspiring against our attaining even the slightest insight to who we are and what has authentic value in our lives, we need guidance that can lead us to a deeper and more profound understanding of why we are here and where we are going. I suggest taking the crash course. If you can get your hungry hands on some peyote, psilocybin mushrooms or clean LSD (it exists) go for it. Don’t wait for the world to become your paradise. Throw away the travel brochure. Create your own cosmic getaway. If your head’s in the right space, Newark is just as beautiful as the beaches of Belize. But ultimately it’s up to you to follow up on the psychedelic experience and do the hard work of self-realization on a daily basis. While psychedelics do open the doors of perception, it is our mission to walk through those doors and keep walking. There are no quick fixes for what ails us. Peyote showed me the way, a cosmic road map, but I still had to do the driving.
My next peyote trip was in 1972 with the Yaqui Indians on their reservation in Tuscon during Deer Dance. This is a story I’ll share at another time.
I always preferred Len Deighton’s anonymous spy to Ian Fleming’s James Bond. There was something too glib and unexciting about Bond, like Superman you knew he could never be defeated, which made it all rather pointless. Whereas Deighton’s spy was fallible, awkward, funny and quite often messed things up.
When it came to the films, it was a more difficult choice. Sean Connery made Bond his own, and has never been equalled. But Michael Caine was equally successful with his interpretation of the Deighton’s insubordinate spy (now named) Harry Palmer in a trilogy of brilliant spy films. Of course, he later nearly blew it all by making two sub-standard Palmer films in the 1990s, the less said about which the better.
Here is Michael Caine with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the second Palmer movie, Funeral in Berlin. The quality of this video is not brilliant, and yes, it does have an irritating text written over it, but there is enough fascinating things going on to make Man on the Wall very watchable.