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America’s religious ‘leaders’ make fools of themselves in the ‘Reefer Madness’ of anti-gay docs

And they all think you’re a dick, Mike…

With the Supreme Court hearing arguments today on gay marriage, it seemed like the perfect time to post this extended trailer from Light Wins, a goofball anti-gay rights documentary produced by Janet Porter, who is a weekly columnist for WorldNetDaily and the author of the demurely titled book, The Criminalization of Christianity (Gee, I wonder what that’s about?). Porter is a believer in “dominion” theology, the idea that Christians are duty bound to wrest complete control from non-believers over every aspect of political life. To bring about the return of Christ, of course!

I absolutely could spend the next 45 minutes coming up with all manner of insulting epithets and nasty things to say about the fucking idiots—including GOP presidential contenders Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul—who took part in this… thing—and it might even be fun, but it would also be utterly pointless. These people discredit themselves and the American/Republican form of Christianity they practice with every second of their onscreen time. It’s wall-to-wall DUMB. They don’t need me, or anyone else, to point out how ridiculous they are.

But I will say this: If you could go back in time to the Salem witch trials and do a documentary about what happened, it would be assholes just like David Barton, Louie Gohmert and Phyllis Schlafly who would be clamoring to inflict their stupidity on your audience (luckily they can’t burn anybody at the stake in these more enlightened times.). Clearly these folks do not realize how much they BOOST the cause of gay civil rights EVERY TIME they open their mouths! Not like there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell that level of self-awareness would shut any of ‘em up, I’m just sayin’...

Phil Robertson, thinking…
Yep. If these people are what America’s version of Christianity sees as its moral leaders… in a sense, all I can say is “Hey… great!” Ten years ago, it used to be that the sight of someone like Tony Perkins on TV made me steaming mad, but the distance from the Bush administration to today seems very, very vast. Today Perkins is scarcely even shown respect on these shows, just last weekend, Bob Schieffer (who’s retiring and hilariously called it exactly like he saw it) took careful pains to make sure that the Face the Nation viewership knew that he just didn’t like this guy very much or have any respect for him. At one point Tony Perkins and his icky ilk held the power, now he and they, just look like yesterday’s bigots.

‘memba her?

Light Wins, of course, casts this matter as a fight of good against evil. In doing so, it makes itself the perfect unintentional time capsule of the moment we’re living in. No really, it sums up everything about America at this pivotal moment in our history, not just the gay civil rights and persecuted Christianist angles, but how America truly is turning into two nations. Not a Christian vs. secular nation, or merely conservative vs. liberals either. It’s something greater than that, what I like to think of as “the Great IQ stratification.” Smart people vs. dumb people. What’s really going on is becoming starkly obvious at this point, don’t you think?

The participants in Light Wins will not be seen very kindly by history and no one in it is ever going to become President, either.

Here’s the nine-minute long trailer. (If you can’t get enough, there’s also the half-hour version.)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Terminal Bar: ‘New York’s most notorious watering hole’
05:00 pm

Pop Culture


The notoriously scuzzball Terminal Bar, as seen in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver.’

Though I may yearn for the rents of the 1970s, the “grit” of “old New York” can be heavily over-romanticized. Yes, it was cheaper, and the arts were more vibrant and the population more varied. There was shitloads of violent crimes, parts of the city were really dirty and dilapidated, and other parts just looked like some one had dropped a bomb on them.

Nonetheless, historical records of the all-too-recent period of NYC brutality are in high demand. Terminal Bar was most certainly an “old New York” institution. The infamously sleazy Port Authority-adjacent saloon opened in 1972, catering first to working class Irish-American toughs, then more for pimps, pushers, prostitutes, down-and-out drunks and drug addicts, finally attracting a primarily gay, black and male clientele before closing in 1982. During its ten-year run, bartender Sheldon “Shelly” Nadelman (the son-in-law of the bar’s owner Murray Goldman) documented his patrons and the area around the bar with a keen eye, and his collection, Terminal Bar: A Photographic Record of New York’s Most Notorious Watering Hole continues to engross those of us with a taste for the louche.

Calling himself a “half-assed artist,” Nadelman mainly worked in portraiture of his regulars—beautiful black and whites of usually overlooked and often avoided faces. In 2002 his son Stefan made a small documentary, Terminal Bar, that took the 2003 Sundance Jury Prize for short film—you can now watch it in its entirety (and in HD!) below.

In a combination of interview, narration and slideshow, you get a taste of just how wild—and how alive—one little bar could be. The Renzo Piano-designed New York Times building now stands where the Shelly Nadelman once took his customers’ portraits.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The all-drag version of ‘The Facts of Life’
12:29 pm



If you’re of “a certain age” (or older), you surely remember and quite possibly even loved the show The Facts of Life, which ran on NBC for quite a while along with its somehow-related show Diff’rent Strokes.

The Oasis, on 298 11th Street in San Francisco, is a cabaret that offers “the best of gay culture and an unforgettable San Francisco nightlife experience in our 6,000 square foot venue.” At Oasis the performers have a healthy sense of pop culture: the venue’s calendar features tributes to Madonna and Beyoncé and elsewhere on the site are references to drag versions of Sex and the City, Friends, and Roseanne.

Starting April 23, and playing most Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until May 16 is The Facts of Life Live!, which is an all-drag version of the Reagan-era sitcom staple The Facts of Life, which they identify as “the longest running sitcom of the 1980s.” (It ran from 1979 to 1988, which is very impressive.)

The Facts of Life was about four teenage girls who attend “Eastland School,” a boarding school, and Edna Garrett, often called “Mrs. G,” who is the housekeeper of the space where the girls live. (It never really occurred to me before, but the device of the boarding school allowed them to have a “family” sitcom with anyone being related to each other.) To its credit, The Facts of Life was one of the more obviously feminine, not to say feminist, sitcoms of the era and also served as a launching pad for the careers of talents as diverse as Molly Ringwald and George Clooney. Also just like X-Men, it was set in Westchester County, N.Y. (in this case Peekskill, about a fifteen-minute drive from the town in which I grew up).

The Facts of Life Live! is directed by D’Arcy Drollinger, who co-founded Oasis and also plays Blair Warner (original actress: Lisa Welchel). Tamale Ringwald plays Natalie (Mindy Cohn), Daft-nee Gesuntheit plays Jo (Nancy McKeon), and James Arthur M. plays Tootie (Kim Fields). The show consists of two episodes.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Remembering John Sex, East Village icon: ‘A hustler, a hooker, a honcho, a hero, a dyke and a queen’
05:11 pm

Pop Culture



From the Dangerous Minds archive, a post about John Sex on what would have been his 59th birthday.

John Sex was a New York City-based performance artist, male stripper and disco singer who was a standout personality of the East Village art scene of the 1980s. He’d sing schmaltzy Vegas numbers in glittery smoking jackets, shiny Ziggy Stardust-esque zip-up jumpsuits, 10-inch platform heels, and assless leather pants. His trademark was his bleached-blond hair which stood straight up on his head in an exaggerated pompadour which he said was held aloft by “a combination of Dippity-do, Aqua Net, egg whites, beer, and semen.” He also had a pet python, named “Delilah,” and a suit made of 500 light bulbs. In his X-rated version of the Sinatra standard “That’s Life,” he’d sing “I’ve been a hustler, a hooker, a honcho, a hero, a dyke and a queen.”

The “character” of John Sex was not all that much off from the “real” John Sex, but more of a mythical version of himself as an omnisexual rockstar parody or phallocentric version of Tom Jones. He couldn’t turn it off if he wanted to, which I can assure you, he did not. He would often claim that his parents were immigrants who “Americanized” their original Irish surname “Sexton” to “Sex” so they would fit in better, then adding “and if you believe that one…”  The real story is that during a period of “rampant promiscuity,” Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi renamed art student John McLaughlin, the nice Catholic boy from Long Island who was everything his mother never wanted him to be, “Sex” and for obvious reasons, I think the name just stuck!
imageJohn Sex with Ann Magnuson, early 1980s
John Sex was a smart, super creative, fun, funny and endlessly inventive guy. Everyone loved him. There was absolutely no reason not to. John was a total sweetheart, a great raconteur and he always had the best showbiz stories and gay gossip you ever heard. He is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. There was constant laughter when he was around. You can see a little bit of what John Sex was like in this clip shot by video artist Nelson Sullivan. John and his friend Craig Vandenberg (who often played John’s washed-up showbiz loser father in shows they’d do together) trade lines in the basement of the Pyramid Club, warming up before a performance there. His boyfriend, Willfredo, the guy with sunglasses, is seen taking pictures about 2:45 in. You can see the performance itself here.

With his female backing singers, The Bodacious TaTa’s (Wendy Wild, April Palmieri, Micki French, Myra Schiller and others) and wearing his exaggerated showbiz finery courtesy of his friend (and sometime TaTa) fashion designer Katy K, John Sex played to nightclub audiences at venues like Club 57, the Pyramid Club, Danceteria, Limelight, The Palladium and The Saint. Many of his shows would end with him stripping down to a glittery jock strap, or beyond, during a song called “Jet Set.” Some of his other notable numbers were “Hustle With My Muscle” (see clip below), “Sex Appeal,” “Bump and Grind It” and “Rock Your Body,” a song he did with noted hip hop producer Man Parrish, that I made a music video for in 1988 (see bottom clip).

“Hustle With My Muscle” directed by Tom Rubnitz, This was shot at the Area nightclub in 1986 when the theme of the decor was something like “rednecks” or “trailer trash.”


More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Bennett’ lets off some steam about his ‘Commando’ character’s sexuality: A chat with Vernon Wells
08:56 am



Mark Lester’s 1985 film Commando, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is arguably the greatest action film of the ‘80s—or more arguably “the greatest film of all time,” depending on how many drinks you’ve had.

Commando brought us one of the most unusual villains in action cinema, “Bennett,” played by ultimate ‘80s bad guy, Vernon Wells, who was previously known for his portrayal of “Wez” in The Road Warrior and “Lord General” in Weird Science.

The transition from playing “Wez” to playing “Lord General” was quite a stretch.

The Bennett character is Wells’ most notorious role, due to the fact that he seemed such an improbable foil for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “John Matrix.” Any discussion of Commando usually leads to a discussion of Bennett’s look, which was described by Andy McDermott in Hot Dog Magazine as “Freddie Mercury Casual.”

His silver mesh tank top, worn with a belt over, black leather pants, bike chain necklace and pornstar mustache give him more of the appearance of a Tom of Finland character than your typical action antagonist.

Commando costuming director’s inspiration for Bennett’s look?

Perhaps it’s the character’s visual presentation, or something more, that has caused speculation for 30 years over Bennett’s sexual orientation—whether or not he was homosexual, and whether or not he was secretly in love with John Matrix.

IMDB devotes an entire section of their Commando FAQ to an examination of Bennett’s sexuality. Much of this discussion is fueled by McDermott’s Hot Dog article:

McDermott goes on to argue that whilst Bennett always calls Matrix by his first name, suggesting affection and familiarity, Matrix always calls Bennett by his surname, suggesting distance. This leads him to hypothesize that perhaps Bennett was kicked out of the unit by Matrix, because Matrix discovered that Bennett had become sexually attracted to him; “all he wanted was a little love, and instead he got fired. No wonder he’s mad.” McDermott also attaches great metaphorical significance to Matrix’ line at the end of the film, “Put the knife in me. Look me in the eye and see what’s going on in there when you turn it. Don’t deprive yourself of some pleasure. C’mon, Bennett. Let’s party.” The image of one man putting something in another man and then turning it, McDermott argues, has obvious homosexual connotations. He also points out the significance of the fact that Matrix’s knife is bigger than Bennett’s, thus causing “knife envy” in Bennett, prompting him to attack his “love/hate object”. McDermott also comments on the irony inherent in the fact that although Bennett seemed to be in love with Matrix (and presumably wanted to have sex with him), it is Matrix who penetrates Bennett at the end of the film, albeit with a steel pole in the chest. Which probably wasn’t what Bennett had in mind.


“What’s wrong, Bennett? Can’t take the pressure?”
McDermott’s article sums up the character’s vibe thusly:

Bennett is a walking, talking, stereotypical embodiment of the macho, puritanical Reagan era’s utter terror of homosexuality, gripped with the fear that the slightest chink in the masculine armor will instantly result in a trip to the YMCA and a purchase of a pair of chaps and a tube of KY jelly.

Commando director Mark Lester, however, flatly denies that Bennett is gay, stating in the DVD commentary:

I don’t know what people are saying when they say that to me. He seems to me like the most macho soldier or person you could think of.

Others who worked on the film have suggested that they aren’t so sure. In the 2007 DVD featurette, “Commando: Let Off Some Steam,” screenwriter Steven E. de Souza mentions that “the wardrobe on Vernon Wells has led to a lot of conjecture that Vernon had a crush on Arnold’s character,” and Commando co-star Rae Dawn Chong is upfront about the homosexual undercurrent:

They’re like lovers. The outfit they had on him, I mean, HELLO, he looks like one of the Village People. Arnold is the ideal, and you know, if you can’t be it and can’t love it, you want to kill it. That really confusing sexuality comes through and it manifests in violence.


The Wookie Wednesday blog chimes in on the debate:

There’s plenty to point to that suggests that Bennett and Matrix had a relationship deeper than friendship. For example, this line: “I really love listening to your little pissant soldiers trying to talk tough. They make me laugh. If Matrix was here, he’d laugh too.” The part of the quote in bold is delivered by Bennett with a sigh, as if he was a lovesick teenager.

In the film’s climax, Bennett warns Matrix: “I’m not going to shoot you between the eyes, I’m going to shoot you between the balls!” Is it reading too much in to think that Bennett may have wanted to destroy the one part of Matrix’s anatomy he was most upset over being denied?

“I’m going to shoot you between the balls!”
We recently had a chance to sit down with Vernon Wells, Bennett himself, and ask some burning questions about his Commando character.

Wells tells us that he was originally rejected for the role, but was called back in from Australia, six weeks into Commando production, as a replacement. He further explains that, with the production being under-the-gun, he was not afforded a proper costume fitting and that his costume was a bit small for him. We’re not sure that that explains the leather daddy look, but it might explain why he appears a bit out of shape—the clothes were ill-fitting!

On the topic of being in shape, we noted that many have suggested Wells seemed a bit mis-matched against the massive Schwarzenegger, an insinuation which Wells quickly dashed, claiming he was “perfectly matched” against his opponent. He relates a story about the beginning of Commando shooting where he was holding back in rehearsals and Schwarzenegger suggested to producer, Joel Silver, that Wells was “a bit of a wuss” and that he was no good for the character; but when the cameras rolled, Wells gave a performance so maniacal, stating “I was virtually up his butt with this knife,” that Schwarzenegger recanted, telling Silver, “nevah give him a real knife!”

“The first scene I did was where I had him tied to the table and had the knife to his throat, telling him what I wanted to do to him… and we did the scene and I was virtually up his butt with this knife…”
We asked Wells if Bennett had a first name, because THAT’s a thing we’ve always wanted to know: “I’m sure he did but nobody ever told me.”

Curious about character motivations, we asked what the motivation was behind Bennett’s wardrobe. Wells diplomatically replied that Bennett “liked to be different” and was an “individual” and his dress reflected that. When asked if Bennett may have been a Freddie Mercury fan, Wells speculated that Mercury was looking down on Bennett, shaking his head and saying “oh my God.”
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Malcolm McLaren on the Beatles, the Stones, fashion and marketing stuff to young people, 1984
07:18 pm

Pop Culture


I bookmarked these videos of Malcolm McLaren being interviewed on the intersection of fashion, rock music and marketing to young people a while back but didn’t get around to watching them until this morning. Absolutely fascinating stuff. If you have any interest in the history of fashion or in the wiley Mr. McLaren himself, trust me this is most certainly worth an hour of your time.

What this is is three 20 minute Betacam camera reels (raw footage) of McLaren being interviewed for Rock Influence what is presumably a program firstly about fashion and secondly about music as it relates to and influences fashion trends, in late 1984. In the first of the tapes, he starts off talking about the birth of Parisian couture fashion, and how Christian Dior’s signature La Belle Époque-inspired silhouette ended up being adopted in the 1950s by American girls who “wanted to dance with James Dean.”

Throughout the hour-long interview, in which the interviewer gets to ask precious few questions—as anyone who ever met him can tell you, “conversations” with Malcolm McLaren were so decidedly one-sided that “monologue” would be a better term to use—the infamous trouble-maker who spun “cash from chaos” spends a lot of time talking about the Beatles and their influence on fashion and contrasting them, and what they stood for, with the Rolling Stones. He discusses clothes being marketed to post-war Britain’s youth for the first time beginning in the mid-1960s, gay fashion in London, Teddy Boys, the “Cinderella” women of Motown and Carnaby Street.

There’s one particularly interesting section, I think it’s in part two, where he explains the sort of shops that were open on the King’s Road in London in the early 70s when he and Vivienne Westwood first opened their boutique (which had various names like Let It Rock, Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die, Seditioaries, SEX and World’s End). Basically it was stores catering to glam rock and glitter all around them, but what they were doing was simply buying up overstock on the togs of 1959 and reselling it for Teddy Boy and rockabilly revivalists. Consider that even a few years before this, there would have been NO “cool” or “fashionable” section of town, any town, even in a city like London, to begin with. That entire notion was just beginning to be expressed for the first time historically, but already, in one of the small handful of such stores in the capital city at the time, the marketing of nostalgia was starting to rear its head. Today there’s any number of “looks” one can choose in the supermarket of style… punk, hippie, Victorian, Edwardian, that fucking Jeremy Scott look that DAZED magazine always pushes, etc, but at that point and time, selling the clothes of 1959 to young folks was a fairly bold—almost counterintuitive—thing to do. Also, consider that selling 1959’s fab gear in 1972 would be comparable to selling the fashions of 2002 today, for a lil’ perspective.

Always remember that the distance from the doo-wop era to Sha Na Na aping it ironically at Woodstock was a mere decade. McLaren makes a pretty good case here—without intending to—that he and Westwood were among the very, very earliest pioneers of marketing “vintage” clothing. Because of the short distance from the beginnings of the modern fashion industry to the 1984 date of this interview, McLaren makes one great point after another that have retrospectively become even more true in the three decades since this was taped.
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The [inanimate object] Was My Gay Lover! The strange erotica—and wonderful cover art—of Chuck Tingle
09:56 am



Imagine world in which one of the most idiotic fantasies of ignorant right wing homophobe creeps were true, and homosexuality was not only a choice one could make, but that young people were actively recruited into gayness by a sinister cabal of persuasive pipefitters. Now imagine a world where your recruiter—your tour guide through the forbidden delights of Sodom!—wasn’t a fit, handsome, and just dead charming older student at the campus mixer with a fabulous smile, flawless hair, and an impish gleam in his eyes, but a diner.

Not as in someone who’s dining, I mean a diner as in an actual restaurant.
Turned Gay By The Living Alpha Diner

Lars is simply looking for a place to grab a bite and take a load off. But he bites of more than he can chew when he meets Turk, a handsome, living diner. The loads come later!

Lars and Turk take to one another immediately, and soon Lars finds himself putting it all on the line for an erotic future with this gorgeous, gay restaurant.

That’s pretty much how it goes in the world of writer Chuck Tingle, who trades in homoerotic eBooks that he calls “Tinglers.” I haven’t actually read any of them, as it’s not my zone, and anyway I don’t have a Kindle, so I’m unabashedly judging books by their covers here. But MY GOD, WHAT GLORIOUS COVERS! Tingle, or his go-to cover artist, definitely has the template nailed—while it’s of a type with lots of self-published eBook art, it absolutely has a certain something all its own. There’s always a come-hither beefcake image right up front, behind which, in brightly saturated colors, is an almost Pen & Pixel-ishly improbable collage depicting said beefcake’s mate. And it has to be a collage, as said mate is never simply another human guy. The not-of-this-world cover art is a match for the curious quirks in Tingle’s oeuvre. It seems to break down into four distinct and imaginative motifs. To start, there are his protagonist-pairs-off-with-an-anthropomorphic-object tales.
I’m Gay For My Living Billionaire Jet Plane
Trained By The Living Biker Train
HEAVY META! Pounded In The Butt By My Own Butt

More, more, more after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Queer, boho or just plain gorgeous: Photographer captures the beauty of counterculture youth
08:47 am



Like every generation before them, millennials endure the scorn of their amnestic elders with obliviousness and eyerolls. I’ll concede that bitterly railing about “kids these days” is the prerogative of anyone over 45 forced to listen to Miley Cyrus, but I truly think intergenerational amity is a worthy and plausible goal—and I’d advise all those baffled by millennial bullshit to start by looking at the margins of youth culture, rather than their commercial representatives, who are obviously appointed by old millionaires anyway. 

Photographer Poem Baker‘s captivating series,Hymns from the Bedroom, shows a gorgeous array of young people—some bending gender, some subverting conventions, some simply looking beautiful. Her subjects are her friends, and she captures them with a vulnerability that reveals the intimacy of the shoot—an informal affair where she might snap only a few unpretentious candids before putting away the camera. From her site:

Hymns from the Bedroom is a personal journal of friends and people I’ve encountered whilst wandering around London. Most of whom are creative twenty-something’s on the threshold of their dreams and ambitions, ranging from performance artists, musicians, actors and fashion designers to strippers, transvestites and those who live on the fringes of society.




More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Anti-gay pizzeria bitchslapped mercilessly on Yelp
02:57 pm



Ohhh boy. Yesterday, when Crystal O’Connor said that her family’s restaurant, Memories Pizza, in Walkerton, Indiana, would be obliged to deny a request to cater a mozzarella-themed wedding reception for a gay couple due to their religious “beliefs,” she surely didn’t anticipate the wrathful response on social media by homosexuals and/or fans of civil rights and “the American way.” Given that Memories is a local restaurant that serves pizza, the natural social media venue for a vigorous response was Yelp, the website that publishes crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses.

That response has been intense indeed—and hilarious:

The overall rating for Memories, at this writing based on 1,127 reviews, is hovering at about 1.5. Of course, not all of the people glomming onto the site are out to attack Memories; like Chick-fil-A, it has plenty of defenders too.

And lest we forget, Yelp allows reviewers to upload pics as well. Interestingly, there are currently fewer pictures than just a couple of hours ago, so Yelp or someone is seeking to remove the obvious trolls. Here, check some out:




via Salon

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
RE/Search’s Vale and JG Ballard on William Burroughs
12:06 pm

Pop Culture


This is a guest post from Graham Rae.

In 2007, I interviewed Val Vale, of RE/Search Publications, and the late futurologist novelist JG Ballard, about a writer whom they were both very favorably predisposed to, William S. Burroughs. I talked to the amiable Val by phone, and sent JGB a few questions by mail, sending him a copy of an expensive science book I had received for review, An Evolutionary Psychology of Sleep and Dreams, to sweeten the pot. The answers are below.

These interviews originally appeared on the now-defunct website of the fine Scottish writer Laura Hird, and do not appear anywhere else online; have not done for years. Thus the references are somewhat dated, but at lot of the material, sadly, remains very much in vogue. I had only been in America for two years in 2007, and my views here seem somewhat naïve to me now, but, well, them’s the learning-immigrant breaks. So without further ado…

Foreword: Noted San Francisco underground publisher V Vale has been publishing since 1977, when, with $200 he was given by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and poet/ City Lights bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti ($100 from each), he put out 11 issues of the Search And Destroy punk zine. In 1980 he started RE/Search, an imprint which still puts out infrequent volumes on subjects like schlock therapy trash movies, JG Ballard, punk, modern primitives, supermasochists, torture gardens, pranks, angry women, bodily fluids.anything and everything taboo and alternative and unreported was and is fair grist to Vale’s subversive ever-churning wordmill.

In 1982 he put out RE/Search #4/5, a three-section volume including William S. Burroughs, with the other two sections being about Throbbing Gristle and the artist Brion Gysin, WSB’s friend and collaborator who’d introduced the writer to the ‘cut-up’ method of rearranging his texts to show what they really mean.

The Burroughs section of the book include an interview with Burroughs by Vale (who is mentioned in Burroughs’ Last Words), an unpublished chapter from Cities of The Red Night, two excerpts from The Place of Dead Roads, two “Early Routines,” an article on “The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin” and ‘The Revised Boy Scout Manual’ which is a piece in which Burroughs muses revealingly on armed revolution and weapons-related revelation.

I talked to the amiable publisher about this interesting volume, but only about Burroughs, because he was the reason I wanted to read the thing in the first place; neither of the other two subjects much interest me, to be perfectly honest. It’s an interesting volume that any Burroughs enthusiast would definitely enjoy. So join us as we (me with occasionally incomprehensible-to-American-ears Scottish accent) take a trip down memory lane and talk about snakebite serum, dark-skinned young boys, the City Lights bookstore, independent publishing, aphorisms, Fox News’s hateful right-wing Christian conservative pop-agitprop, the madness of Tony Blair and avoiding mad drunks with guns.

And after the interview with Vale you will find the answers to a few questions JG Ballard was kind enough to answer me by mail about his own relationship with El Hombre Invisible.

V Vale Questions

Graham Rae: First off, how did you first encounter Burroughs’ work?

Vale: Oh, jeez. Well, I encountered Naked Lunch at college in the late ‘60s. He was like the cat’s meow. Burroughs and Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon—books like these. And it was obvious that Burroughs was this un-sane, slightly science-fictiony visionary, but he wasn’t really science fiction, he was extremely sardonic, that was his main appeal, with Dr. Benway and all that. And since I was more-or-less hetero oriented I think I more or less ignored all the references to young boys with blue gills and fluorescent appendages and whatever. That sort of went right by me like water off a duck’s back. It was only later that I realized that the imagery was kind of . . . how it was oriented. But what really turned me on to Burroughs was an article in a 1970 or ‘71 Atlantic Monthly magazine that came out with a huge excerpt in it from The Job, which is Burroughs’—I think it’s his signature book of interviews, it’s kind of the equivalent of The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again). And so I took this magazine and underlined it and kept reading it over and over, making lists and trying to get all the books that he talked about. And then The Job came out and that became my Bible


Vale: Oh yeah, it’s totally important. Still important; it’s got so many ideas in it.

Well that’s the thing about Burroughs, isn’t it? It’s like this sort of surreal mercurial Braille, it’s very strange. I mean you read it, you go back to it and then you go back to it and then you get something different from it because you’ve got a completely different level of understanding of it, y’know, I think, personally.

Vale: Well yeah, that definitely can happen with any great book. And I spent so much time with ‘The Job’ and with that ‘Atlantic Monthly’ article. It was obvious that this was sort of like a philosophy of life. I mean, instead of saying you’re right wing or left wing politically, you could just say, Well, I’m a Burroughsian. There should be almost a Burroughsian political party making fun of authoritarianism all across the entire political spectrum.

I’ve got that party in my head that goes on 24 fucking 7, man. Right. When and how did you first contact Burroughs?

Vale: Well I was already working at City Lights Bookstore and one of the perks of working there was that you got to meet all the so-called Beatniks and you were already in the in-group.

Did you meet like Ginsberg and that then, I take it?

Vale: Oh yeah, sure. The legend is that Ginsberg gave me my first $100 to start publishing. It’s certainly true, but I wish I had made a Xerox of the check, and I wish I had made a Xerox of the check that Ferlinghetti gave me, too. But you know, back in those days you didn’t have a home Xerox machine, you had to go to a corner facility and spend ten cens on a Xerox. Believe it or not, ten cents for a Xerox was a lot of money in 1976 or so.

Especially when you don’t have much money.

Vale: Especially when you’re living on minimum wage from City Lights, but you know you would parlay that, you’d stretch that out by: you’d get such a low income you’d qualify for food stamps, for example. They still give out food stamps—I see these old Chinese people using them still, but I hear they’re really hard to get now. But they used to be easy to get.

Continues after the jump with more from Vale and JG Ballard on WSB…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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