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.
Who is Herbert Huncke? When I first knew him I saw him in what I considered the ‘glamorous’ light of a petty criminal and Times Square hustler who was experienced in the ways, thoughts, and activities of an underground culture which is enormously extensive. The attempt to dismiss him because of his social irresponsibility is something that I was never able to conceive as truthful or productive. I saw him as a self-damned soul—but a soul nonetheless, aware of itself and others in a strangely perceptive and essentially human way. He has great charm. I see that he suffers, more than myself, more than anyone I know of perhaps; suffers like a saint of old in the making; and also has cosmic or supersensory perceptions of an extraordinary depth and openness.
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.
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 friend described the late, lamented artist, writer, and renowned dandy, Sebastian Horsley as a kind and good man, who didn’t quite always think things through.
One winter, in Edinburgh, Horsley had taken pity on a poor down-and-out, who he invited back to his apartment, which he shared with another. Horsley genuinely wanted to help the man, and offered him food, drink, cigarettes, and a warm night’s sleep in bed. The poor man took to it immediately.
Horsley was rather pleased with his role as a good Samaritan, and was about to retire, when his roommate retuned to find a filthy, foul-smelling, piss-stained inebriate under his covers.
‘Why did you give him my bed?’ his roommate asked.
‘I thought he could do with a night’s sleep,’ Horsley replied.
‘But where am I going to sleep?’
‘O, I hadn’t thought of that.’
Here is Mr. Horsley (dressed in a black sequined suit, “looking half Liberace, half Nazi,”) displaying the charm, wit and honesty that made him such a well-loved man, as he discusses clothes, his ban from entering the U.S.A. (on grounds of “moral turpitude”), his autobiography Dandy in the Underworld, and why we should send “our ships out into uncharted waters—for this is the way we will discover ourselves.”
Malcolm McLaren unleashed the greatest revolution of the last quarter of the 20th century. This was in part because McLaren was really a shop-keeper, a haberdasher, a boutique owner who knew his market and, most importantly, knew how to sell product to the masses.
Unfortunately, when it came to music, the talent was more than just product, and McLaren regularly mis-used and manipulated the musical talent (New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, Adam and The Ants/Bow-Wow-Wow) for his own personal gain. It was the behavior of a man who couldn’t and didn’t trust anyone—perhaps because (as he claimed) he had been abandoned by his mother—an act of betrayal he never forgave. There is the story of how years later, McLaren was have said to have traveled on a London Underground train, only to find his mother in the same carriage. The pair sat opposite each other, with neither acknowledging the other’s presence, and each alighting at their separate stops.
McLaren was bewitching, relentless and always on the make. But for all his scams and incredible machinations, little is really known about the man himself. He re-wrote his biography so many times it is almost impossible to know what is the truth. He also carefully edited out those who had helped his success, and fabricated wonderful, picaresque tales of misadventure—-for example, the time he failed to have Nancy Spungen kidnapped, in a bid to remove her insidious influence over Sid Vicious.
In essence, Malcolm’s greatest talent was his own self-promotion—his unique role as a cultural PR man, who changed history. If there is anything to be learned from his particular type of genius, it is to make headlines out of even the worst situation. On his deathbed, Mclaren’s last words were said to have been: “Free Leonard Peltier.” As he had done in his life, McLaren had once again grabbed hold of someone else’s notoriety.
Ah, if only time machines had been invented already. We would each be free to zip back and visit the desired nightclub/live venue/social scene of our choice, to revel in a world we can now only read, or dream, about. I’ve thought about this before, of course, and most of my preferred time travel destinations were located in and around New York City in the 70s and the 80s.
But there will be many for whom the bright, shiny lights of NYC hold no attraction, and who would rather set the dials for the dark heart of Northern Britain in the early 1980s. These people will wear anything as long as it is black, enjoy nothing more than swaying to the heart-chilling sounds of The Cure, Joy Division or Bauhaus (possibly accompanied by nice pint of cider & blackcurrant juice) and can sometimes be spotted hanging out in mist-shrouded graveyards. Yes, you guessed it, these people are Goths, and if you are one of them, then here’s a treat for you: three films chronicling the early 80s British Goth club scene while it was in its infancy.
The received wisdom in the UK is that clubbing didn’t really exist here until after the acid house explosion in 1987/1988, with the notable exception of Northern Soul venues like The Mecca in Blackpool and the Twisted Wheel in Manchester. Well, these videos tell a very different story, displaying a flourishing alternative club scene that existed years before acid. Offering (mostly) untampered footage shot directly from the dance floors and stages of the best known Goth hangouts of the era, these films have the aura of gold dust about them. If that’s too bright and shiny for you, consider them excellent cultural curios that give a rare peek into a then-emerging subculture. These films, which vary in length from 8 minutes to over two hours, popped up on my Facebook feed this evening, so I decided to do the decent thing and group them all in a post for Dangerous Minds.
The first film is a BBC promo for the infamous London haunt The Batcave, which was originally broadcast on Halloween, 1983. Ok, the Vincent Price/William Castle inserts are cheesy as hell, but there’s some great footage of Alien Sex Fiend performing live to make up for it. The video was uploaded by the Batcave’s original DJ Hamish (aka h808) who says:
Oh yes, 1983, when the media were all trying to figure out what came after punk…. Remember that the Batcave was born of punks and glam rockers, trannies, psychos and people turned away from other clubs - we let anyone in, trainers or no trainers, businessmen and dustmen, strippers and nuns….
After the jump “The Height Of Goth” and footage from Devilles, Manchester…
A cross-dressing, gay priest buys an adult bookstore and uses it as a front to sell meth? You couldn’t make it up!
And before you ask, no, it’s not an April Fool’s joke. From Irish Central:
Monsignor Kevin Wallin, a Connecticut priest now being nicknamed Monsignor Meth, is expected to plead guilty next week to participating in a conspiracy to distribute crystal methamphetamine in Connecticut.
The Connecticut Post reports that court papers filed on Tuesday show that 61 year old Monsignor Wallin is expected to enter a guilty plea, which will have him facing a mandatory 10 years in federal prison.
The Associated Press reports that Connecticut authorities said the Wallin had meth mailed to him from co-conspirators in California, and made more than $300,000 in drugs sales out of his Waterbury apartment in the second half of last year.
Wallin had also purchased a bookstore - one that sold primarily pornography and sex toys - which he used as a front to launder money.
Wallin served as the pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport for nine years until he resigned in June 2011 citing health and personal problems. Prior to that, he served six years as pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Danbury until 2002.
While still serving as a priest, many noted his “off-kilter” behavior in early 2011. One church worker said that Wallin had grown “disillusioned with the bureaucracy of the Church.” The same worker, along with others, said the priest had long had sex with men and was a cross dresser.
On January 3, federal agents arrested Wallin, and on January 15 a grand jury indicted him and four other people on drug charges. All are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing meth and 50 grams of actual meth, a crime that carries 10 years to life in prison upon conviction. Wallin plans to plead guilty to that charge.
This would be funny if it weren’t also creepy and sad. As if the Catholic church needed any more scandal!
Dangerous Minds, it’s time that introduced you to my good friend, and member of the Tranarchy family, Mr Kurt Dirt. Usually we keep him in the basement so as not to freak out the visitors, but he’s been scratching at the trapdoor lately, so we’ve decided let him loose for a while.
Kurt is a bit of a sick puppy. After years of gigging on the live circuit, Kurt decided to pack all the “band” nonsense in and go it alone (though he still puts on one mean live show, featuring bare back gorillas, dancing demons and women in cages.) He makes music that sounds like vintage late 80s/early 90s Wax Trax, and cites Fad Gadget, Big Black and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult as his major influences. By some incredible kind of osmosis, though, he somehow manages to take all those influences and make music that’s even MORE camp than the originals, which is surely some kind of magical feat.
Another one of Kurt Dirt’s major influences is the soundtrack to Tetsuo, and on the topic of films soundtracks, Mr Dirt has just finished scoring the upcoming Troma release Return To Nuke ‘Em High and is about to start work on the score for the sequel. Kurt Dirt and Troma films is a match made in heaven (or, rather, the deepest bowels of hell.)
That Troma influence is loud and clear in his new video, “Love Sick”. Taken from his debut solo release, the Rat Burger EP, this clip takes the viewer into a disgusting nether land of licking used diapers and literally fucking skulls. Yep, it’s pretty sick, all the more for the authentic, scratchy, video look. Kurt says:
I just wanted to make the most horrible thing I could really, something that makes you feel like you shouldn’t be watching it. I choose to shoot it on 8mm video8 handy cam so that it would have worn down, tenth generation look of a video nasty era VHS movie. You see horror movies these days like saw etc that are 1000 times more graphic but they just feel way too clean, like your watching an MTV video. Visually I’d say we ripped off Hershell Gordon Lewis, Troma, Tobe Hooper and Harmonie Korine the most.
Kurt Dirt “Love Sick” (NSFW)
You can buy “Love Sick” (and the Rat Burger EP) and get more info on Kurt Dirt at KurtDirt.net.
After the jump, two more Kurt Dirt videos from Rat Burger, “I’m Filth” and “Beat Me Up Buttercup”...
At the age of 18 I thumbed my way from Northern Virginia to Los Angeles. Picked up by long-haul truckers, who introduced me to Black Beauties, and an ex-con in a Rambler American who generously shared his Lucky Strikes, I managed to make the trip in three sleepless days and nights. When I got to the City Of Angels, I made my way to The Source restaurant, a hub of hippie activity that I was anxious to experience. The place had a rep for being a very cool gathering place for spiritually-inclined hipsters, Laurel Canyon rockers and Hollywood celebrities. John and Yoko frequented the joint. They liked the menu’s wide selection of salads and protein drinks. Woody Allen satirized the place in a scene in Annie Hall when he orders bean sprouts and “mashed yeast.”
The Source had energy and its long-haired white-robed staff generated some genuinely good vibes. For a hippie from the downcast East Coast, The Source radiated a sunny magnetism that drew you in and made you feel that the future might be golden. And for awhile, The Source was golden. It made money (as much as ten grand a day) and it made converts to the Aquarian Age philosophy spun from the ego of the restaurant’s massively charismatic owner, Jim Baker (Father Yod).
Baker was a former WW2 war hero, martial arts expert, bank robber and an acquitted killer (two quick karate chops, two dead bodies). He possessed the well-honed patter of a con man and an unquenchable lust for life. When he discovered the hippie movement, it was like a hardboiled character out of a Jim Thompson novel wandering into Richard Brautigan’s world of LSD, poetry and hippie pussy. A few hits of Orange Sunshine, some classes in Kundalini yoga and the scent of patchouli-basted pubes propelled Baker into a spiritual phantasmagoria that transmogrified the warrior into the cosmic Father Yod.
Baker attracted a following of young hippies looking for alternatives to their suburban alienation and middle-class angst. In Father Yod they found both a guru and a sense of paternal security. He established a commune of about 150 flower children, the Source Family.
Transfixed by his personality and lulled into blissful acceptance of his “Enlightenment For Dummies” distillation of the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, Alan Watts, Swami Satchidananda, Krishnamurti etc., his followers got a brain-addling dose of the cosmic warm and fuzzies. Throw in some exotic rituals involving group sex and ganja and you had one very happy cult-like collective with the usual misogynistic tendencies lurking under the groovy free love surface. Yod ended up with 13 submissive wives, most in their late teens and early twenties. He was 50 years old and he knew how to nasty.
Despite Baker’s power-tripping ways, the Source Family was to many of its members the real fucking deal. In the downhome archival footage that comprises much of the new movie, The Source Family, you can see genuine happiness on the faces of Baker’s followers. In filmed interviews conducted in recent years with core members of the family, few have any serious regrets. Many attribute their successes in life (several are millionaires) to Baker’s teachings. Some, on the other hand, do bear scars, most of whom are women. Their deep love of Baker was betrayed by his lust for the seemingly endless flow of teenyboppers streaming through his bedroom door. Baker displayed the classic behavior of many new age gurus during the ‘60s and ‘70s. From Rajneesh to Chogyam Trungpa, these cosmic poonhounds couldn’t resist the power and glory of the peach-fuzzed meat pit of mortal delight.
The Source Family is a fair-minded film that benefits from a motherlode of footage and photographs taken over the course of several years documenting the group from its beginning to its bittersweet end. Behind the scenes at the restaurant, home births, group gropes, concerts by the Source Family’s psychedelic rock band (Sky Saxon was briefly a member) and various westernized tantric practices were filmed by one of Baker’s wives, Isis Aquarian, who also wrote a very fine book on the commune. This makes the movie uniquely intimate and powerful (even Baker’s death is filmed).
The Source Family is opening theatrically and on demand in May. I urge you to see it. It’s refreshing to experience a movie about American counter-culture, particularly the hippies, that doesn’t present its subject with a snicker and a sidelong glance. This is an honest exploration of something real and significant: the search to find what we already are but have forgotten, the search for the self. It ain’t easy and it can get sloppy, but it’s the only game in town worth playing.
In Alejandro Jodorowsky’s masterpiece El Topo , a cosmic gunslinger goes in search of his spiritual master in order to kill him. The idea being that in order to really be free, we must be free of our masters, our gurus. In the case of Jim Baker, he didn’t wait for his students to kill him. He did the job himself. After years of proclaiming his Godhood, he awoke to the revelation that he was a mere man and had nothing left to offer his followers. He calmly flew off a mountain cliff in a hang glider that he had no idea how to operate. The God literally crashed to earth and died nine hours later. The coroner found no broken bones or internal bleeding. His body was whole and intact. For three days his corpse was attended to by his beautiful young wives. As in life, Father Yod died with a contented smile on his face.
The Source Family band, Yahowha 13, has a growing reputation among fans of psychedelia and it is well-deserved. The following tune, “Fire In The Sky,” is pretty amazing. Positively Beefheartian. It’s from the rare and highly collectible album Savage Sons Of Ya Ho Wah.
Another piece from my old Disinformation TV program, this 2001 segment highlights the activities of the Surveillance Camera Players, a New York-based troupe of Situationist-inspired thespians led by prankster/activist Bill Brown.
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.