Characteristically serene and sweet, diarist and erotic writer Anaïs Nin waxes poetic on some of her favorite rebellious women, including psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salomé (who could hold her own against Freud and Nietzsche) and Caresse Crosby, the infamous libertine, anti-war crusader and publisher of Joyce, Kay Boyle, Hemingway, Hart Crane, D. H. Lawrence, René Crevel, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound.
Nin expounds on her penchant for female rabble-rousers, as well as peacemakers, leading into her LSD experience (the drug was administered by Dr. Oscar Janiger) “a world accessible to the poet, accessible to the artist,” in which she “became gold.”
A very, very happy birthday to the very, very wonderful Yoko Ono who turns 80 today!
I was introduced to Yoko Ono (I mean the concept of her; her work) when I was a little kid, probably 6 years old, and I found a copy of her book Grapefruit at a church rummage sale for like a quarter. I’m not trying to impress anyone with how smart or sophisticated I was when I was a small child, Grapefruit was something I stumbled across. All I knew about her then was that she had something to do (I didn’t know what, exactly) with the Beatles, who I was all into because I’d recently seen Yellow Submarine.
Grapefruit, a tiny book of the short, simplistic, whimsical and often hilarious artistic aphorisms Yoko is known for, is not exactly beyond the comprehension level of a precocious child. Here are some examples:
Carry a bag of peas.
Leave a pea wherever you go.
Steal all the clocks and watches
in the world.
Imagine the clouds dripping.
Dig a hole in your garden to
put them in.
It helps if you imagine Yoko’s voice reading it. For me it was love at first sight. I have always been in love with Grapefruit and with Yoko Ono. There has never been a time in my life when I wasn’t. I grabbed her albums from cut-out bins and garage sales throughout the 70s. Yoko was awesome and made music like no other!
I never got the whole “Yoko sucks” thing. It seemed so idiotic to me, then as now (I can see someone thinking that in 1975, but after post-punk showed just how ahead of her time she was? There’s no excuse anymore!).
Yoko Ono is a charter member of my pantheon of personal heroes. I even own a “Box of Smile,” her conceptual art piece that was mass produced in 1971 (It’s a small plastic box with a mirror inside. I have never—and I repeat NEVER—seen someone fail to crack a smile when they open it, not once).
When Yoko Ono announced on her Twitter feed in 2009 that she would answer some questions, she answered mine in the first batch. Keeping in mind what I wrote above, here’s what I asked and her reply:
Do you find that children “get” your conceptual art pieces better than adults?
Not necessarily. There are kids who think they are grown ups and don’t want to know anything that smells like kids stuff. And there are grown-ups who are still kids at heart who clearly get my work.
That made my day, I can assure you.
An excerpt from Yoko’s “Mind Train”:
Below, Yoko tells interviewer David Frost, in 1967: “My ultimate goal in film-making is to make a film which includes a smiling face snap of every single human being in the world.”
Paul Krassner, Tuli Kupferberg and unidentified woman. Photo by Paskal / The Rag Blog.
Iconic American satirist Paul Krassner is writing a series of six monthly columns for AlterNet and the first is a damned good read.
In the rather blandly titled, “‘60s Icon Paul Krassner Reveals His Early History,” Krassner, a guy I admire, revere and consider both a hero and a friend, tells the amazing story of how an interview with an anonymous illegal abortion provider that he published in The Realist in 1962 led to desperate women calling him for advice—effectively seeing him become an “underground railroad” of abortion referrals and eventually facing legal troubles himself.
The Q&A that ran in The Realist with Dr. Robert Spencer, a humane doctor known to his grateful patients as “The Saint"and who charged between $5 and $100 to perform the surgeries, was revealing of the harsh reality of illegal abortion in America, pre-Roe v. Wade and the hypocrisy of the times. Ministers’ daughters, FBI agents, even priests came to Dr. Spencer’s clinic with the housekeepers they’d knocked-up. 5,000 women died every year back then, killed by criminal butchers who charged as much as $1,500.
After that issue was published, I began to get phone calls from frightened women. They were all in desperate search of a safe abortion doctor. It was preposterous that they should have to seek out the editor of a satirical magazine, but their quest so far had been futile, and they simply didn’t know where else to turn.
With Dr. Spencer’s permission, I referred them to him. At first there were only a few calls each week, then several every day. I had never intended to become an underground abortion referral service, but it wasn’t going to stop just because in the next issue of The Realist I would publish an interview with somebody else.
A few years later, state police raided Dr. Spencer’s clinic and arrested him. He remained out of jail only by the grace of political pressure from those he’d helped. He was finally forced to retire from his practice, but I continued mine, referring callers to other physicians that he had recommended. Occasionally a patient would offer me money, but I never accepted it. And whenever a doctor offered me a kickback, I refused, but I also insisted that he give a discount for the same amount to those patients I referred to him.
Eventually, I was subpoenaed by district attorneys in two cities to appear before grand juries investigating criminal charges against abortion doctors. On both occasions I refused to testify, and each time the D.A. tried to frighten me into cooperating with the threat of arrest.
In Liberty, New York, my name had been extorted from a patient who was threatened with arrest. The D.A. told me that the doctor had confessed everything and they got it all on tape. He gave me until two o’clock that afternoon to change my mind about testifying, or else the police would come to take me away.
“I’d better call my lawyer,” I told him.
In 1970 Paul Krassner even sued New York State as the sole plaintiff in the first lawsuit seeking to declare the abortion laws unconstitutional. Eventually several women’s groups joined the suit and the state legislature repealed criminal sanctions against abortion. This happened before the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade.
Being the imp of perversity that he was, and still is, for a short time in the late 1970s, Paul Krassner, probably the most feminist guy of the 1960s, became the editor of Hustler magazine during the time when Larry Flynt was going through his “born again” Christian phase…
Author of the misandrist classic, SCUM Manifesto, and would-be assassin of Andy Warhol, Valerie Solanas is downright charming in his 1967 film, (presumably before she decided to shoot him).
The movie’s title is a parody of Swedish erotic film, I, A Woman, which Valerie, founder and sole member of the Society for Cutting Up Men, probably had fairly strong feelings about. From the manifesto:
Eaten up with guilt, shame, fears and insecurities and obtaining, if he’s lucky, a barely perceptible physical feeling, the male is, nonetheless, obsessed with screwing; he’ll swim a river of snot, wade nostril-deep through a mile of vomit, if he thinks there’ll be a friendly pussy awaiting him. He’ll screw a woman he despises, any snaggle-toothed hag, and, further, pay for the opportunity. Why? Relieving physical tension isn’t the answer, as masturbation suffices for that. It’s not ego satisfaction; that doesn’t explain screwing corpses and babies.
I wonder why the SCUM Men’s auxiliary never really took off…
Helen Mirren interviewed about her starring role as Maggie, a rock singer, in David Hare’s play Teeth ‘n’ Smiles, and its revival at the Wyndham’s Theater in London’s West End, 1976.
The play related the events of a May Ball at Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1969, when a fading rock band are hired to perform to the College’s indifferent students, leading to a meeting of two very different worlds, which ends with Maggie burning down the marquee, in which the band played. Teeth ‘n’ Smiles originally opened at the Royal Court in 1975 to some mixed reviews for its author, but generally positive reviews for its star.
With its revival on the West End, Helen appeared on BBC’s news and current affairs show Tonight, where she was asked by interviewer Donald MacCormick, whether she thought the production would have a good West End run?:
‘You never can tell with the West End. You have a play here that is not usual West End material, in the sense that it’s not middle aged and middle class, particularly. It’s got a lot of swear words in it, a lot of very loud music. On the first public preview quite a lot of people walked-out, quite early on in the play when the first music takes place as it was too loud.’
Dame Helen was attracted to the central role of Maggie because the character had “balls” though she did find the part “worrying” as it made her feel “unattractive.” She explained this here and in other interviews given at the time:
I’m very like Maggie in many ways, only she’s much more ballsy and gutsy than me. I endorse most of what Maggie says, in fact in many ways it’s difficult to talk about her because I feel so close to her…
When I was first offered the part I was so scared. I’ve never wanted to play a part so much since I played my first part when I was seven years old [Gretel]. I get very bored going to the theatre now. I’d much rather go to rock concerts [JJ Cale, Dr John and Led Zeppelin are among her favourites]. So when I was offered the part of Maggie, a singer, well, I’m not a natural audience, I’m a performer, I had to do it. Of course I felt scared about the singing, I love singing but I can’t sing. [Nick Bicat, music director for the production, says she can sing ‘because she’s herself and very brave’.] (Time Out, 1975, parentheses in the original)
There aren’t many good parts for actresses. Maggie is a good strong part and that’s quite rare in modern theatre. So I like it for that. I don’t like it because it gets to me in a funny sort of way. Perhaps too close to sides of me I don’t much like. But it just makes me feel unattractive.
… Maggie’s doing it [struggling with a boring middle-class background] in one way. I don’t think that’s the only way to do it, possibly. But I’ve always had this sneaking admiration for people who go to the extremes of energy and wit. They’re terribly, horribly destructive often, but there’s something really fascinating and very lovable about them. I find it very difficult to let go. I mean I find it practically impossible to let go. I just get very sulky instead. I don’t think I can do a Maggie at all. I’m too self-conscious.
… When I played Miss Julie, it was the same cathartic experience, because you let it go. You let it all come out without ever actually committing yourself personally – although I do try to commit myself personally as much as possible on stage and try to make it as real and present as possible. (NME, 1976)
Teeth ‘n’ Smiles was very much an important part of its day, reflecting a time when London’s theaters were filled with old school socialist machismo—where male writers (David Hare, Howard Brenton, David Edgar, Trevor Griffiths, amongst others) dealt with the issues of politics and society, often with little recourse (or collaboration) to women.
Ms. Mirren has thankfully gone on from strength-to-strength, to become one of England’s greatest actresses.
From Sire Records’ promo for The Pretenders’ album Last of the Independents.
• Don’t moan about being a chick, refer to feminism or complain about sexist discrimination. We’ve all been thrown down stairs and fucked about, but no one wants to hear a whining female. Write a loosely disguised song about it instead and clean up ($).
• Never pretend you know more than you do. If you don’t know chord names, refer to the dots. Don’t go near the desk unless you plan on becoming an engineer.
• Make the other band members look and sound good. Bring out the best in them; that’s your job. Oh, and you better sound good, too.
• Do not insist on working with “females”; that’s just more b.s. Get the best man for the job. If it happens to be a woman, great — you’ll have someone to go to department stores with on tour instead of making one of the road crew go with you.
• Try not to have a sexual relationship within the band. It always ends in tears.
• Don’t think that sticking your boobs out and trying to look fuckable will help. Remember you’re in a rock and roll band. It’s not “fuck me,” it’s “fuck you”!
• Don’t try to compete with the guys; it won’t impress anybody. Remember, one of the reasons they like you is because you don’t offer yet more competition to the already existing male egos.
• If you sing, don’t “belt” or “screech.” No one wants to hear that shit; it sounds “hysterical.”
• Shave your legs, for chrissakes!
• Don’t take advice from people like me. Do your own thing always.
The fabulous chanteuse Anne Pigalle returns with a new exhibition of artwork, Is There Life After Sex?, which will be on show at Natalie Galustian Rare Books, 22 Cecil Court, London, from February 1st-21st.
Following on from the great success of Miss Pigalle’s last exhibition (at the Michael Hoppen Gallery), Is There Life After Sex? is a must-see show which will continue her discourse on relationships and the important role of sexuality in our lives.
Miss Pigalle will also be holding one of her legendary Salons, on February 14th, where Anne will perform a choice selection from her acclaimed erotic poems L’Ame Erotique. For those who wish to experience something new, important and very special, I suggest they go along to see the Last Chanteuse Ms. Anne Pigalle. Check here for details
Singer-songwriter Carole King’s first solo record, 1970’s Writer, was a commercial flop, but the following year, her Tapestry album captured the public’s attention, worldwide. Tapestry‘s laid-back, folksy, very feminine-centered compositions—something still quite “new” then, Joni Mitchell was also breaking big around this same time—saw the record become an immediate chart success. The lead-off single from the album, “It’s Too Late”/“I Feel The Earth Move” was number 1 on the Billboard charts for five weeks. The confessional Tapestry was nominated for four Grammy awards and King was given statues for Album of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Record of the Year (“It’s Too Late”) and Song of the Year (“You’ve Got a Friend”).
Tapestry went on to become one of the top-selling record albums in history. In fact, with well over 25 million copies sold worldwide, 10 million in the US alone, the album was the first to be certified “diamond.” Its sales tallies have been bested only by Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Its chart run, holding down the #1 rank for an incredible fifteen weeks was the record for a female solo artist for over 40 years until Tapestry was surpassed by Adele’s worldwide blockbuster 21 in 2012. All in all Tapestry has been on the Billboard Top 200 for over 300 weeks between 1971 and 2011.
I’ve actually purchased Tapestry on three formats over the years on vinyl, CD and then twice on two different SACD releases (I’m forever searching for the best version of something). It’s one of the most essential albums I own. How could anyone not like Carole King???
In 1971, Carole King taped an amazing live studio set—more or less “unplugged” before such a concept existed—for the BBC’s In Concert series, with James Taylor on acoustic guitar.
Set list: “I Feel the Earth Move,” “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman,” “So Far Away,” “It’s Too Late,” “Smackwater Jack,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” and “Up on the Roof.”
I was absolutely floored by the quality of this set. I hope you will be, too.