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That time Gore Vidal porked Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac, 1953
“What did you and Jack do?” Allen Ginsberg asked Gore Vidal one cold January night in 1994.

“Well, I fucked him,” Vidal was pleased to reply. On the night of August 23, 1953, the two men of letters had banged one out in a Chelsea Hotel room following a Greenwich Village bar crawl. Kerouac published a fictionalized account of the assignation in The Subterraneans but, aside from a morning-after moment of “horrible recognition,” he left out the sex. Vidal was annoyed, and said so:

I challenged Jack. “Why did you, the tell-it-all-like-it-is writer, tell everything about that evening with Burroughs and me and then go leave out what happened when we went to bed?”

“I forgot,” he said. The once startlingly clear blue eyes were now bloodshot.

Palimpsest, the first of Gore Vidal’s two memoirs, fills in the lacuna with a detailed record of the evening’s events. It began with William S. Burroughs. Kerouac and Vidal had met before, and in a 1952 letter to Kerouac, Burroughs expressed interest in meeting the author of The Judgment of Paris:

Is Gore Vidal queer or not? Judging from the picture of him that adorns his latest opus I would be interested to make his acquaintance. Always glad to meet a literary gent in any case, and if the man of letters is young and pretty and possibly available my interest understandably increases.


Gore Vidal on the back cover of The Judgment of Paris, 1952
The three writers met at the San Remo bar the following year, after Burroughs’ return from Mexico. Kerouac, Vidal writes, “was manic. Sea captain’s hat. T-shirt. Like Marlon Brando in Streetcar.” Burroughs asked about a Turkish bath in Rome that Vidal had described in The Judgment of Paris. They moved on to Tony Pastor’s, a lesbian bar; afterwards, Kerouac swung around a lamppost out front, “a Tarzan routine that caused Burroughs to leave us in disgust.” Vidal was ready to go back to his father’s apartment uptown, but Kerouac had a different notion:

“Let’s get a room around here.” The first law of sex is never go to bed with someone drunk. Corollary to this universal maxim was my own fetish–never to have sex with anyone older. I was twenty-eight. Jack was thirty-one. Five years earlier, when we first met, I would have overruled the difference, but I had also arbitrarily convinced myself that Conrad’s “shadow line” extended to sex: So from the age of thirty on, a man or woman was, for my purposes, already a corpse–not that I ever had much on my mind when it came to sex with men. In my anonymous encounters, I was what used to be called trade. I did nothing–deliberately, at least–to please the other. When I became too old for these attentions from the young, I paid, gladly, thus relieving myself of having to please anyone in any way. But now here I was stuck with Jack, who had certainly once attracted me at the Metropolitan when that drop of clear water slid down his cheek. Now there was real sweat. I stared at him. We were the same height and general build. With some misgiving, I crossed the shadow line.

At the nearby Chelsea Hotel, each signed his real name. Grandly, I told the bemused clerk that this register would become famous. I’ve often wondered what did happen to it. Has anyone torn out our page? Or is it still hidden away in the dusty Chelsea files? Lust to one side, we both thought, even then (this was before On the Road), that we owed it to literary history to couple.

I remember that the bathroom was near the entrance to a large double room. There was no window shade, so a red neon light flickering on and off gave a rosy glow to the room and its contents. Jack was now in a manic mood: We must take a shower together. To my surprise, he was circumcised. [...]

Where Anaïs and I were incompatible–chicken hawk meets chicken hawk–Jack and I were an even more unlikely pairing–classic trade meets classic trade, and who will do what?


Gore Vidal, 1948

“Jack was rather proud of the fact that he blew you.” Allen sounded a bit sad as we assembled our common memories over tea in the Hollywood Hills. I said that I had heard Jack had announced this momentous feat to the entire clientele of the San Remo bar, to the consternation of one of the customers, an advertising man for Westinghouse, the firm that paid for the program Studio One, where I had only just begun to make a living as a television playwright. “I don’t think,” said the nervous advertiser, “that this is such a good advertisement for you, not to mention Westinghouse.” As On the Road would not be published until 1957, he had no idea who Jack was.

Thanks to Allen’s certainty of what Jack had told him, I finally recall the blow job–a pro forma affair, which I put a quick stop to. At what might nicely be called loose ends, we rubbed bellies for a while; later he would publish a poem dedicated to me: “Didn’t know I was a great come-onner, did you? (come-on-er).” I was not particularly touched by this belated Valentine, considering that I finally flipped him over on his stomach, not an easy job as he was much heavier than I [...]

Jack raised his head from the pillow to look at me over his left shoulder; off to our left the rosy neon from the window gave the room a mildly infernal glow. He stared at me a moment–I see this part very clearly now, forehead half covered with sweaty dark curls–then he sighed as his head dropped back onto the pillow. There are other published versions of this encounter: in one, Jack says that he spent the night in the bathroom. On the floor? There was a shower but no tub. In another, he was impotent. But the potency of other males is, for me, a turnoff. What I have reported is all there was to it, except that I liked the way he smelled.

Alas, there is no sex tape, but you can watch part one of the fascinating Omnibus profile of Vidal below (part two here).



Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
William S. Burroughs’ punk song about eating children, ‘Old Lady Sloan’
03:02 pm


William S. Burroughs
Mortal Micronotz

The Mortal Micronotz’ debut LP
In 1981, when William S. Burroughs moved there, Lawrence, Kansas was home to a punk band called the Mortal Micronotz. Bill Rich, owner of Lawrence’s Fresh Sounds label and editor of Talk Talk magazine, was friendly with the author—according to Barry Miles’ Call Me Burroughs, Rich knew Burroughs’ longtime companion and editor James Grauerholz from the latter’s college days in Lawrence—and he arranged a meeting at the band’s request. Burroughs liked them well enough to give them a song lyric about paedophagy, “Old Lady Sloan,” which became a 90-second blast of disgust on the Mortal Micronotz’ eponymous debut. A few lines:

Old lady Sloan, she likes her chow
Burping up her baby like a happy old sow
Old lady Sloan, chewin’ on a bone
Chewin’ on the bones of her child
Old lady Sloan, she went hog wild
Old lady Sloan, she butchered her child
She stuffed him with apples, mincemeat and fig
and she roasted him in her ashpit like a fat little pig


A ghostly image of Burroughs and the Mortal Micronotz from the LP’s lyric sheet
A later lineup of the Micronotz discussed the association with Burroughs in a 1985 interview with Memphis station WLYX:

STEVE EDDY: We got hooked up with him, and he wrote some lyrics for one of our songs on the first record that we put out, a song called “Old Lady Sloan.” And it’s just about a fat old lady who eats her children. And we had some lyrics, and when Dean, our old singer, found out that Bill was an acquaintance—Bill Rich, our record producer, was an acquaintance of William Burroughs, he saw it as a good opportunity to find out what could be done in that area.

JOHN HARPER: Aside from that, the guy who produced our first album was James Grauerholz, who’s William Burroughs’ personal manager, so that kinda helped out.

The Mortal Micronotz’ debut album is long gone—you’ll need to buy a used copy or download a needle drop if you want to hear the original one-and-a-half-minute punk thrash version of “Old Lady Sloan”—but, remarkably, Burroughs recorded the song himself for 1995’s The Mortal Micronotz Tribute! The quality of moral outrage is missing from Burroughs and the Eudoras’ laid-back interpretation of the number, which makes use of a vibraphone; as one imagines Ms. Sloan lingered over her roasted child, they take their sweet time savoring WSB’s words and the Micronotz’ chords. Bon appétit!


Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Starring William S. Burroughs as Dr. Benway

This remarkable footage comes from Howard Brookner’s Burroughs: The Movie from 1983. In this scene, two modes of address are skillfully intercut, Burroughs himself reading the hospital passage from early in Naked Lunch, which becomes the voiceover for an actual filmed enactment of the same scene, starting Burroughs as his memorable creation Dr. Benway, described by one observer as “the high priest of manic irrationality.”

Warhol superstar Jackie Curtis is tasked with embodying the nurse, a task she does admirably—the mind practically invents a cigarette for her to puff on between lines, so world-weary and seen-it-all is her nurse. I couldn’t figure out the name of the fellow playing Dr. Limpf. Of course, Roy Scheider played Dr. Benway in David Cronenberg’s 1991 adaptation of the book.

Jim Jarmusch and Tom DiCillo, who together did so much to define American independent film in the 1980s, both worked on Burroughs: The Movie. Jarmusch’s masterpiece Stranger Than Paradise came out a year later, of course.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Cursed from Birth: Tragic note from the final days of William Burroughs Jr.
07:48 am


William S. Burroughs
Billy Burroughs

William Seward Burroughs III—better known as Billy Burroughs or William Burroughs Jr.—had one of the more tragically doomed lives in literature. Despite being an excellent writer in his own right, Billy was more infamous for the horrific childhood bestowed upon him by his father, meticulously chronicled in the brutal book Cursed from Birth: The Short, Unhappy Life of William S. Burroughs, Jr.. You may have heard how Burroughs II shot his son’s mother to death in an insane, drunken “game” of “William Tell” when the child was only four—it didn’t get better after that.

Billy wrote:

“Had it been sublime to be born in time, hospital halls unknown, mother soon to be blown from the face of the earth, a bullet hole in her head, father pale, hand shaking as he lit the wad of cotton in the back of a little toy boat in a Mexico City fountain. The boat made crazy circles as the poplar trees trembled, and our separate fates lay sundered, he to opium and fame, bearing guilt and shame. And I, the shattered son of Naked Lunch, to golden beaches and promises of success.”

After a long stay with his grandparents, Billy went to live with his father in Morocco, who introduced him to pot at thirteen and failed to protect him from multiple rape attempts. Billy then returned home to his grandparents in Florida, and echoing the most traumatic incident of his life, shot his own friend in the neck at 15. Though the boy survived, Billy initially believed he’d killed him and ran away to hide. He suffered a nervous breakdown. From there it was a descent into the addictions that his father fostered. Poet John Giorno called him “the last beatnik,” a foreboding casual honorific for a man who considered himself “cursed.”

At one point late in Billy’s life, Michael Rectenwald—(poet, fiction writer and academic, who was at the time an apprentice to Allen Ginsburg at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado)—was placed in a sort of care-taking position for Billy—no easy task for a college student. Nonetheless, Rectenwald saw Billy’s devastating final days, and was the recipient of the heart-wrenching note below, left before Billy fled to Florida. He died of cirrhosis at age 33.

Just woke from my daily ____ ‘Time Out’ A slight spill of beer—and of course—no one here—I must tromp the gathering night (o god I wish I wish, I could have the wish I wish tonight) but I need the cabin—My voiced is laced with madness & my only mental funds have long been placed in security—God, I’m so alone—I splurged and bought a case of beer (redundant) & of course there’s no one here—The wish? I do so much want to be honorably nonexistent

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
RE/Search’s Vale and JG Ballard on William Burroughs

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
‘William S. Burroughs & Lawrence’: Every WSB fan needs to see this charming film
02:37 pm


William S. Burroughs


“This is one of the great dangers with overpopulation… the absolute proliferation of morons.”—William S. Burroughs

I’ve long given up on seeing another decent documentary on William S. Burroughs. One that’s not full of talking heads of people who barely knew him—I could not give a shit about hearing Michael Stipe or Iggy Pop’s well-rehearsed soundbites about WSB, again—and footage that you’ve already seen ten gazillion times before. Not since Howard Brookner’s Burroughs:The Movie—made over 30 years ago—has there been a good Burroughs doc.

So I’m happy to have stumbled across this utterly DELIGHTFUL short “Burroughs & Lawrence” produced and directed by Chris Snipes. It’s episode 7 of Our Town, a series of films about Lawrence, KS, the university town where Burroughs lived the longest of all the various places he’d lived around the world.

Not only have I seen almost zero of the footage contained in the film, it’s full of charming and intimate stories about the notorious Beat writer in the September of his years, anecdotes told by people who really knew the man. Featuring footage of Burroughs reading in a local bookstore. Wonderful stories about Burroughs driving a car. The hilarious “cat butt” scene (trust me, it’s LOL). Clips of Timothy Leary, Marianne Faithfull and Allen Ginsberg celebrating the Beats in 1987 at the River City Reunion event. Patti Smith singing at Burroughs’ gravesite and plenty of mundane, but funny/fascinating details about Burroughs’ day-to-day life in Lawrence.

Highly recommended. In fact, I recommend that you get high and watch this.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘The Junky’s Christmas’: The William S. Burroughs short film presented by Francis Ford Coppola

If you have even the most passing knowledge of the life and work of William S. Burroughs, nothing should seem more out of the ordinary than finding the author of surreal heroin tomes nodding pensively at the beginning of this 1993 Francis Ford Coppola-produced short film directed by Nick Donkin and Melodie McDaniel. I couldn’t help but chuckle watching Burroughs appear in a cozy, holiday-themed room complete with a roaring fireplace, tinsel and an amply lit Christmas tree. The film’s opening sequence reeks of an inappropriate wholesomeness, and the former bug powder purveyor looks as innocent as a kind old granddad ready to tell a bunch of rug rats to grab some hot cocoa and gather around for a tale of Christmas cheer. What, exactly, is going on here?

Then, Burroughs pulls a copy of his 1989 collection of short stories, Interzone off of a bookshelf and opens it to the piece called “The Junky’s Christmas.” As the black and white film cuts away to claymation, Burroughs begins to narrate the sad story of Danny, a heroin addicted hustler who finds himself being let out of New York City jail cell on Christmas morning with no cash and no immediate source for his much needed fix. Now we’re in familiar Burroughs territory. 

Well, sort of. If you’ve read it, you know the story, but now try to imagine the bleak, back-alley Christmas narrative read by Burroughs while classic holiday tunes and beats from the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy mingle with his monotone. If you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil it for you entirely, but suffice it to say that Danny the fiending anti-hero shares a holiday gift with an ailing fellow tenant in a shitty rented room after spending the day being kicked around New York City looking to score. Helping the guy out proves to be an act of kindness for which Danny is supernaturally rewarded. 

Burroughs’ story itself is gritty, odd, sad, touching and revelatory in its way. But we’re talking about the short film as a whole here, and the ending, I think, is meant to add something. We cut back to the holiday scene from the beginning, the claymation goes away, Burroughs closes the book and walks into a previously unseen dining room filled with smiling partygoers surrounding a classic holiday dinner spread. In the closing sequence that follows, Burroughs joins the other Christmas revelers in raising a toast. He also helps carve the turkey. The whole thing comes off as kind of silly, but the juxtaposition is perhaps meant a reminder to think about how lucky some of us are. Or, on second thought, maybe it’s just supposed to add a layer of weirdness. Either way, check it out below.

Notably, James Grauerholz, bibliographer and literary executor of Burroughs’ estate, is listed in the credits as one of the Christmas guests.

A different version of this story appeared in Burroughs’ Exterminator! originally published in 1973 as “The “Priest” They Called Him” which itself was read by Burroughs over Kurt Cobain guitar noise and released in 1993.

Posted by Jason Schafer | Leave a comment
William S. Burroughs buys a parrot, 1963

Today’s adventure in obscure video centers around an innocuous 85-second film shot by Antony Balch called William Buys a Parrot. In the movie, the “William” is William S. Burroughs and the parrot is actually a cockatoo. It’s in color and has no audio track—it resembles a home movie to some extent but it’s just a shade more orchestrated than that, although it might just have been something shot to test a new camera. In William Buys a Parrot we see Burroughs, wearing a white suit and a dark brown fedora, approach a door in some exotic desert setting—either Gibraltar or Tangier, it seems. He raps on the door knocker, a man from inside comes out and they chat for a moment or two. Cut to a some kind of a coastal veranda, where Burroughs confronts the bird. Then the fellow comes out and the two men sit at the table and enjoy an adult beverage. The last third of the movie is the bird jumping around in his cage with Burroughs in the background. End of movie.

Burroughs and Balch in ‘Tony and Bill
In Wising Up the Marks: The Amodern William Burroughs, Timothy S. Murphy has this to say about the movie:

William Buys a Parrot demonstrates that even when silence eliminates the specific word—the external word of mundane narrative interaction that is susceptible to technical reproduction and animal mimicry—it leaves intact the general, generic, internal Word—the structural Word of addictive subjectivity that allows the viewer to provide her own narration for this film.

Well… sure... Why not? To me, though, it just looks like a famous writer buying a bird and enjoying some daytime spirits with a chum…

William Buys a Parrot was probably shot in 1963, but edited in 1982 by Genesis P-Orridge who is said to have rescued it and many other films from a trash dumpster after Antony Balch’s death (including Balch’s other collaborations with Burroughs and painter Brion Gysin and some prints of Kenneth Anger’s films).

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Young, loud, snotty: Famous punks just hanging out

Jello Biafra at Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1978 by Jim Jocoy
Jello Biafra at Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1978
Jim Jocoy and his family left their home in South Korea and arrived in the town of Sunnyvale, California, when Jocoy was only 17. He enrolled at UC Santa Cruz, but later dropped out once he discovered the burgeoning punk scene that was exploding all around him. Jocoy got a gig at a Xerox store, hung out at punk clubs by night and started up a punk zine with his friends called Widows and Orphans. That’s when Jocoy decided to pick up a camera and started shooting photos of his friends and bands whenever he happened to find himself someplace interesting. Jocoy found himself in lots of interesting places.

Olga de Volga of the San Francisco band VS. Geary Street Theatre, SF 1980 Jim Jocoy
Olga de Volga of the San Francisco band VS., Geary Street Theatre, SF 1980
Jocoy’s remarkable photos ended up in a book in 2002 called We’re Desperate. I reached out to Jocoy in an email, and the photographer graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions about his days growing up as a young punk in California.
Sid Vicious. San Francisco, January 14th, 1978 by Jim Jocoy
Sid Vicious, San Francisco, January 14th, 1978
Tell me about your now infamous photo of Sid Vicious.

Jim Jocoy: The photo of Sid was taken after the last Sex Pistols show in SF. They performed at Winterland on Jan. 14, 1978. He took a cab to my friend Lamar St John’s apartment in the Haight-Ashbury district. I was outside as the cab pulled up. He was alone and got out and pissed in the middle of the street before going into the apartment. I ran into him in the hallway and asked if I could take a Polaroid photo. He nodded yes and that was it. He spent most of the evening in the bathroom with a couple of “fans”.
William Burrough's at his 70th birthday party in SF, 1984 Jim Jocoy
William Burroughs at his 70th birthday party in San Francisco, 1984

I understand that you presented a slide show of your photos to William Burroughs in honor of his 70th birthday. How did that go?

Jim Jocoy: The party was held at a warehouse in the Mission district belonging to the artist Mark McCloud. He was known for his (real) LSD postage stamp art. Burroughs allowed me to take a photo of him that evening. He wore an nice blue suit and had his briefcase in hand.

What’s your favorite memory of a show you saw back in the day that really blew your mind?

Jim Jocoy: I would have to say it was the first Ramones’ show in SF at the Savoy Tivoli on August 19th, 1976. It lasted about 30 minutes without a break, only “one, two, three, four!” between songs by Dee Dee. It was such a sonic boom of pure rock energy as I had never heard before. It was in the tiny back room of the bar/restaurant. It was like ground zero for launching the punk rock scene in San Francisco. A few weeks later, many of the seminal SF punk bands started performing regularly at the Mabuhay Gardens, the first main punk rock venue in the city.
Punk girl in leather SF 1978 Jim Jocoy
Punk girl in leather skirt, SF 1978
Jocoy’s photos were only shown in public twice (one of those times was at Burroughs’ birthday party), and then were stored away for almost two-decades before seeing the light of day once again between the covers of We’re Desperate. So here’s a glimpse of what punk rock looked like back in the late 70s and early 80s, through the lens of a simple 35mm camera with an oversized flash taken by a guy who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Many thanks to Jim Jocoy for the use of his photos and captions (written by Jim) in this post.
John Waters at the Deaf Club in SF, 1980 by Jim Jocoy
John Waters at the Deaf Club in SF, 1980
Johnny Genocide Geary Street Theatre SF, 1980 Jim Jocoy
Johnny Genocide, Geary Street Theatre in SF, 1980
Poison Ivy of the Cramps in the dressing room of the Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1979 Jim Jocoy
Poison Ivy of the Cramps in the dressing room of Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1979
More young punks after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Time of the Assassins’: William S. Burroughs’ cut-up version of Time Magazine, 1965
08:23 am


William S. Burroughs
Brion Gysin
Time Magazine

One of the favored forms of Beat author William S. Burroughs was that of the “cut-up,” basically fancy talk for “collage.” After the Dadaists pioneered the technique in the 1920s, the midcentury artist who had done the most with it was Brion Gysin, a close friend of Burroughs, who once called Gysin “the only man I ever respected.” Gysin stumbled on the technique on his own around 1954 when he slashed a newspaper page and noticed that the page underneath created interesting juxtapositions. Gysin showed Burroughs the cut-up concept in the late 1950s, as he related in Cut-Ups: A Project for Disastrous Success:

William Burroughs and I first went into techniques of writing, together, back in room No. 15 of the Beat Hotel during the cold Paris spring of 1958. ... Burroughs was more intent on Scotch-taping his photos together into one great continuum on the wall, where scenes faded and slipped into one another, than occupied with editing the monster manuscript. ... Naked Lunch appeared and Burroughs disappeared. He kicked his habit with apomorphine and flew off to London to see Dr Dent, who had first turned him on to the cure. While cutting a mount for a drawing in room No. 15, I sliced through a pile of newspapers with my Stanley blade and thought of what I had said to Burroughs some six months earlier about the necessity for turning painters’ techniques directly into writing. I picked up the raw words and began to piece together texts that later appeared as “First Cut-Ups” in Minutes to Go (Two Cities, Paris 1960).


William S. Burroughs, photograph by Brion Gysin
In 1965 Gysin and Burroughs collaborated on a cut-up version of Time Magazine that would end up being 27 pages long. According to Jed Birmingham, “Time was published in 1965 in 1000 copies. 886 copies comprised the trade edition. These copies were unnumbered and unsigned. 100 copies were signed by Burroughs and Gysin. 10 copies numbered A-J were hard bound and contained a manuscript page of Burroughs and an original colored drawing by Gysin. 4 more were hors commerce. ... An hors commerce print was used as the color key and printing guide that the printer would use to insure consistency of the print run.”

Apparently, Burroughs and Gysin chose the November 30, 1962, cover of Time to mess with because that issue contained a dismissive review of Naked Lunch under the title “King of the YADs,” where “YAD” stood for “Young American Disaffiliates.” Burroughs was greatly irritated by the review.

The Time cut-up was described as follows in Robert A. Sobieszek’s Ports of Entry: William S. Burroughs and the Arts:

Burroughs created his own version of Time magazine, including a Time cover of November 30, 1962, collaged over by Burroughs with a reproduction of a drawing, four drawings by Gysin, and twenty-six pages of typescript comprised of cut up texts and various photographs serving as news items. One of the pages is from an article on Red China from Time of September 13, 1963, and is collaged with a columnal typescript and an irrelevant illustration from the ‘Modern Living’ section of the magazine. A full-page advertisement for Johns-Manville products is casually inserted amid all these text; its title: Filtering.


Here we can see what the cover originally looked like in color. Photograph: Stephen J. Gertz
The first few pages (after the “copyright page”) are pretty much pure typewritten text—the metaphor of this being a version of Time doesn’t really obtain until you get to page 5, which has the word “REPUBLICANS” across the top as well as the words “Democratic Governor John Swainson,” who was the Governor of Michigan when the original issue came out (but not in 1965). After that you spot the familiar non-serif typeface here and there. Page 6 is titled “THE WORLD” and is about Red China. Page 8 is simply an unmolested full-page ad for Johns-Manville. Page 10 has a picture of a bunch of dignitaries at Peking Airport and another one with “John and William Faulkner.” Pages 13-16 are a series of ideogrammatic doodles by Gysin, after which the text reverts almost entirely to typewritten text by Burroughs.

Page 22 may be the most interesting page, as it features several short paragraphs of true automatic writing, as for example: “moo moo. .Tally Tillie Valspar Vent flu flu..doo do do. .Ding Dong Bell. .Sell sell sell. .Knee Wall fell. .sell sell sell. .Tele tell yell. .Sell sell sell. .Pell Pow Mell. .Sell Sell Sell. .Pel Tex Mell.”

Here is Burroughs and Gysin’s Time cut-up in its entirety:



The rest after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
William Burroughs on cover of National Examiner tabloid along with Burt Reynolds, Delta Burke
01:01 pm

Pop Culture

William S. Burroughs

The current issue of the National Examiner newspaper

Of all the people you might see on the cover of the National Examiner supermarket tabloid—Loretta Lynn, Michael Jackson, Honey Boo Boo, the Clintons and of course the Kardashian family—one face that you’d probably never expect to find there is that of junkie novelist William Burroughs, but there he is, in the right upper corner, right above Burt Reynolds and to the left of the bit asking what the fuck Delta Burke did to her face…

See Burroughs there, along with Ted Kennedy, Claus Von Bulow and Susan Cummings, the original affluenza poster children? The question asks “Do the rich and famous get away with killing people?”

The short answer, of course as was most certainly the case with William Burroughs (whose brother bribed Mexican police to let him go after he’d blown his wife’s brains out at point blank range) is that they often do! Predictably there’s a sidebar about Claudine Longet, too.

I’m not normally in the habit of picking up cheesy supermarket tabloids, but I noticed this at the check out this morning at Ralphs (that’s what they call Kroger in So Cal) and had to share. The National Examiner has a reputation for bad reporting—if not just out and out making shit up—but they got the basic facts right for this one. Still, it’s got to be the most unexpected company ever for William Burroughs to keep.

Not so much Claus Von Bulow, but Delta Burke?


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa, John Cage, Patti Smith & others celebrate William S. Burroughs at the Nova Convention

Nova Convention
In 1978, after many years of living in London and Tangiers, William S. Burroughs decided to return to his home country. For a small group of artistic weirdos, this was a significant event, and a convention was held in his honor at the Entermedia Theater from November 30 through December 2, 1978, on Second Avenue and 12th Street in New York City (it’s no longer there). Much earlier, it had been announced that Keith Richards would be on hand, but after his heroin arrest in Toronto, his management calculated that it would not be wise to appear at a festival honoring the legendary deviant drug addict William S. Burroughs. Frank Zappa was enlisted to read the “Talking Asshole” section from Naked Lunch. Patti Smith, who wore “a glamorous black fur trench” in the words of Thurston Moore, objected mightily to having to follow Zappa and had to be placated by Burroughs confidant and organizer of the convention James Grauerholz, who explained to Smith that Zappa’s appearance was a last-minute necessity and not intended to show Smith up. You can listen to Smith’s contribution, in which she addresses Richards’ absence, here. At the “event party” for the convention, the musical performances included Suicide, The B-52s, and Debbie Harry and Chris Stein from Blondie. The inclusion of The B-52s is most fascinating, as they hadn’t even released their first album yet.
William S. Burroughs
Other participants included Terry Southern, Philip Glass, John Cage, Laurie Anderson and Allen Ginsburg. You can read a writeup of the event from the December 4, 1978, edition of the New York Times: “Of the other performers, Mr. Burroughs himself was the most appealing, and this had less to do with what he was reading than with how he read it. Although he has created some enduring characters, he is his own most interesting character, and he was in rare form, sitting at a desk in a business suit and bright green hat, shuffling papers and reading in his dry Midwestern accent.” An LP and cassette documenting the event were released in 1979 and they fetch top prices today at Discogs.

According to Ted Morgan in Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs,

The Nova Convention took place on November 30, December 1, and December 2, 1978, with the principal performances being held on the last two days at the Entermedia Theater, on Second Avenue and Twelfth Street, which had in the fifties been the fabled Phoenix Theater. Attending were an odd mixture of academics, publishers, writers, artists, punk rockers, counterculture groupies, and an influx of bridge-and-tunnel kids drawn by Keith Richards, who made the event a sellout.


Saturday night the Entermedia was packed, largely with young people waiting to see Keith Richards. There was a small hitch, however, which was that Keith Richards had cancelled. He was having problems as the result of a heroin bust in Toronto, and his office convinced him that appearing on the same program with Burroughs was bad publicity.

But the show had to go on, and the composer Philip Glass, playing one of his repetitive pieces on the synthesizer, was thrown to the wolves. The disappointed kids who wanted Keith Richards shouted and booed. Then Brion Gysin went on amid cries of “Where’s Keith?” and found himself hoping that the riot would not start until he had done his brief turn.

In a last-minute effort, James Grauerholz had recruited Frank Zappa to pinch-hit for Keith. He volunteered to read the “Talking Asshole” routine from Naked Lunch. But as Zappa was preparing to go on, Patti Smith had a fit of pique about following him. James did his best to make peace, saying “Frank has come in at the last minute, and he’s got to go on, and he’s doing it for William, not to show you up.” Patti Smith retreated to the privacy of her dressing room, and Zappa got a big hand, because that’s what they wanted, a rock star.

From July 1 through July 13, the Red Gallery in London is putting on an exhibition dedicated to the Nova Convention. The exhibition is curated by Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz; Moore, who was present at the event in 1978, supplies a short piece called “Nova Reflections” to the exhibition catalogue; here are some snippets of that:

What I remember of the Nova Convention, in my teenage potted reverie, was a palpable excitement of the importance of Burroughs’ return to NYC. He had been living and working in London for some time, and before that, was residing in Tangiers. My awareness of the poets and performers on the Nova Convention bill was obscure, but I did realise everyone there had experienced a history in connection to the man. The poet Eileen Myles performed, and I have a hazy memory of what she has since reminded me was a polarising moment that night: She and a femme cohort came out on stage and performed the so-called William Tell act where in 1951 Burroughs tragically sent a bullet through his wife Joan Vollmer’s skull, killing her instantly. According to Eileen she was hence persona non grata backstage, and frozen out from the coterie of avant lit celebrities shocked at her “reminder” performance.


Glass’s idiosyncratic high-speed minimalist pianistics was natural, gorgeous and sublime. Zappa came out and read a Burroughs excerpt “The Talking Asshole” which seemed appropriate and was mildly entertaining. Patti hit the stage in a glamorous black fur trench, purportedly on loan from some high-end clothier. She rambled on a bit, brazenly unscripted, testing the patience of the long night when out of the audience some fan-boy freako leapt on stage and bequeathed her with a Fender Duo-Sonic guitar. She accepted it cooly and before long was gone. And we stumbled into the 2nd Avenue night.

In his catalogue piece, Moore leads with an anecdote about photographer James Hamilton, whose astonishing pictures of rock icons are collected in the book (Moore was intergral in putting that book together as well) You Should Have Heard Just What I Seen. Hamilton was covering the event for the Village Voice, and while it’s not stated as such, presumably many of Hamilton’s photographs, are featured in the exhibition.
Here’s Timothy Leary, Les Levine, Robert Anton Wilson and Brion Gysin engaging in “conversations” about Burroughs’ work:

And here’s Frank Zappa reading “The Talking Asshole” from Naked Lunch:

Preview video of the “Nova Convention” exhibition at the Red Gallery:

via {feuilleton}

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
William S. Burroughs and industrial music all-stars in dystopian 80s cult film ‘Decoder’

If your life needs a little-seen dystopian ‘80s German film about Industrial music sparking revolutionary change in a society of fast food and cultivated complacency—and I believe it does—then your life needs Decoder. Largely illuminated in lurid reds and TV-tube blues, the 1984 film starred Einstürzende Neubauten’s then-percussionist F.M. Einheit as a sonic experimenter who discovers that playing back recordings of disturbances in public spaces can create actual disturbances among the public, a concept developed by William Burroughs in the “Electronic Revolution” essay found in some editions of the collection The Job. (In fact, Burroughs briefly appears in the film, as does Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV’s Genesis P-Orridge.)

Einheit uses this esoteric knowledge to cultivate increasingly widespread defiance and mayhem, attracting the attention of a Muzak corporate hit-man (I love the conceit that Muzak would have an assassin in its employ) whose task is complicated by his crush on F.M.’s peep-show dancer/amateur herpetologist girlfriend, played by Christiane F. The film’s themes and inspirations are illuminated by its writer Klaus Maeck in this interview from Jack Sargeant’s Naked Lens: Beat Cinema, excerpted here from the film’s web site.

I wanted to realize Burroughs’ ideas and the techniques which he described in the ‘Electronic Revolution’, and in The Revised Boy Scout Manual and in The Job. These were my favorite books … And I loved Johnny Rotten for his revolution in show business (and I still do). I was convinced that the only valuable political work must use the enemy’s techniques. From the ‘Foreword’ of the Decoder Handbook: “It’s all about subliminal manipulation, through words, pictures and sound. It is the task of the pirates to understand these techniques and use them in their own interest. To spread information is the task of all media. Media is power. And nowadays (1984!) the biggest revolution happen at the market for electronic media. To spread information is also your task. And we should learn in time to use our video and tape recorders as Weapons. The fun will come by itself.”

Being in the music business and participating in the punk and new wave explosion I became more interested in music. Muzak was one thing I found. Subliminal music to influence people’s moods, to make them function better, or buy more. So my conclusion was similar to that of ‘bands’ like Throbbing Gristle; by turning around the motivation, by cutting up the sounds, by distorting them etc. one should be able to provoke different reactions. Make people puke instead of feeling well, make people disobey instead of following, provoke riots.

Though it deals thoughtfully with provocative ideas, the film is laden with Euro art-film pretense that feels like fit matter for a “Sprockets” gag. Early on there’s a montage of video games cut with military stock footage, and another that alternates gore and erotica while Soft Cell’s “Seedy Films” plays. And it features this exchange:

But as strange as it can be, Decoder still holds a coherent, if dreamy, narrative, filled with captivating imagery and a gorgeous soundtrack composed by Einheit, P-Orridge, and Soft Cell’s Dave Ball. You can watch it in its entirety right here. I’ll throw the trainspotters a bone: Burroughs’ cameo is in the scene that starts at about 37:30, and P-Orridge’s appearance is at about 49:00.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
When Derek Jarman met William Burroughs, London 1982

Early one Saturday morning in September 1982, Genesis P-Orridge met filmmaker Derek Jarman at his apartment in central London. The pair then drove to Heathrow Airport, where they were to collect William S. Burroughs. Jarman brought his camera, and took a few “shy snaps” as Genesis welcomed Burroughs and then drove him to Chelsea, where he was booked into the Arts Club. A full itinerary of events had been organized for Burroughs during his visit, as Jarman later wrote in his journal.

During the next week Mr. B. was banqueted at the B2 Gallery, filmed and interviewed across London, and did four nights of readings at the Ritzy in Brixton and one night in Heaven.

Burroughs was publicizing his latest novel, Cities of the Red Night, as well as reading extracts from past works and his forthcoming book The Place of Dead Roads. Having made three critically successful art house films (Sebastiane, Jubilee, and The Tempest), Jarman was struggling to raise money for his next feature on the Baroque artist Caravaggio. Genesis, finished with Throbbing Gristle, had formed the video art and music group Psychic TV, who were working with Jarman on a film portrait of Burroughs.

Jarman “clicked away” with his Nizo Super 8 camera filming Burroughs, Brion Gysin, John Giorno and others. The results were edited together into a short film Pirate Tape, with a soundtrack by Psychic TV.

In his memoir Dancing Ledge, Jarman described a reading by Burroughs and Brion Gysin:

WSB emerges tortoise-like to greet his audience. He stoops like a cadavre in the catacombs of Palermo and talks of mummies and immortality. To speak to him is almost impossible, as he is always on the move in little erratic circles. At rest he retires into himself and puts out a signal, ‘Leave me alone.’ The only thing to do is to be photographed with him, and that is what everyone attempted to do. His readings are immensely funny. He drawls out his lines in a Southern monotone, punctuating it only for sips of water. What might give you the shivers on the page becomes the blackest of black comedy. Brion Gysin fights an old battle with him; but William’s junk vision has won out against Brion’s magic and the battle isn’t joined. Brion described William fishing for inspiration in the sewers of Paris. They do not share accommodation on this trip, and their friendship now seems cemented by the common platform that their young admirers have provided. Time has parted them: Brion the Parisian with his dream-machine and Bill in Kansas with his junk.

Sometimes the bare facts of history create a romantic notion that the participants in such culturally important events were happy, successful and generally financially secure. When usually, in truth, the opposite was often the case.

So it was for Jarman, who by January 1983 was broke, his bank account shut, and all his holiday change spent. He was reduced to selling clothes and books to pay the rent. Genesis P-Orridge, on hearing of Jarman’s financial plight, gave him £50 towards the cost of the Super 8 film he had shot for Pirate Tape.

Pirate Tape is an experimental portrait of William Burroughs, which features a loop of the writer’s voice cut to images of his visit to London. This film tends to disappear quickly, so watch it while you can.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages’: Incredible vintage movie photos up for auction
09:53 am


William S. Burroughs

What’s your budget for occult-related artifacts? Well, it probably needs to be a lot bigger, because some gorgeous vintage photos from the 1922 Swedish/Danish documentary, Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages are up for auction. The opening bid was $2,000, and the lot is expected to go for somewhere between $4,000 and $8,000.

For the uninitiated, Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages is only a “documentary” in a very abstract sense. Intrigued by the Malleus Maleficarum—a 15th century German guide to witch and demon identification—director Benjamin Christensen depicted the occult hysteria of the Middle Ages by actually portraying the delusions and superstitions themselves. So instead of a movie made up entirely of inquisitions and trials and executions (which, to be fair, are certainly scary), he delivered a motion picture depicting mental illness, satanic masses, baby killing, sex with the devil, broom rides, the seduction of clergy and all manner of cinematic evil. The film was once banned in the United States.

I highly recommend you watch it, and I also highly recommend the 1968 William S. Burroughs-narrated version I posted at the bottom. The film was originally silent (obviously), but whatever score might have been played at a screening couldn’t be any creepier than hearing William S. Burroughs’ nasally voice over psychedelic jazz and electronic noises. Plus, the Criterion Collection version is 104 minutes long, whereas the Burroughs version is 77 minutes, since a narrator eliminates the necessity of title cards.

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages was the most expensive Swedish film ever made at the time, and it shows. There are lush, eery sets, clearly created with careful attention to detail, and the early special effects are haunting, even in our cynical CGI-laden present day. The cinematography is also very sophisticated, using odd angles and unsettling close-ups. It’s absolutely gorgeous, a true fantastic horror—disturbing, violent, and sometimes sexy—pretty much everything you want in an occult documentary, no? To give you a taste, some of the lot is below, (the first four are larger sized, the others are smaller photos).

But really, watch the movie. In the dark.

Oh, and buy me these photographs. I need them for apartment ambiance whilst summoning the dark forces








Thank you, Eric Bradley!

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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