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From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES Uncategorized

John Lennon and Paul McCartney in Transit

Scenes

THERE I STOOD, next to Paul McCartney and John Lennon — calm, but without a thing to say. I wasn’t intimidated, but more amazed I had managed to get through an endless skein of Beatlemanic intrigue. But with the aid of my press card there I was, for 15 minutes altogether, with them as they were hustled from one custom’s checkpoint to another last Saturday afternoon. Only while driving back to the city later did I remember that I had forgotten to ask them about all the rumors. Was it true that they were here to denounce the Maharishi? Was it true that they were breaking up and that’s why only two of them had come? Was it true that they were merely in New York to help promote their Apple enterprise into another million dollar Beatle spinoff?

(Tuesday at their press conference it turned out that the only rumor that wasn’t true — as usual — was that they were breaking up. Gently putting down the Maharishi, Lennon said they still meditate now and then but, speaking for all four Beatles, he said they feel they made a mistake about him. “After all we’re only human.”)

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Back at the airport, I did ask Paul if the screaming teenyboppers still turned him on and he said of course. He did a lot of sophisticated waving, and signed autographs for some of the airport personnel. John, more aloof and at times sort of surly, looked pretty tired even in white suit, white shirt, white tie, white shoes, and a plain white button on his lapel. He scrawled autographs without looking at the paper or the beseecher.

There had been reports all week, but the Beatles press people had kept the actual day and time of their arrival a good secret and so only two or three press people were there to greet them. But several thousand frantic crying teenyboppers in last year’s bellbottoms, informed by WMCA Good Guys, were racing all over the International Arrivals building trying to find out where the plane would unload. Watching them float was fantastic. If a girl screamed in one part of the terminal, maybe just out of frustration, a hundred others rushed shrieking in that direction.

After John and Paul left by way of a distant airport exit road in their black Caddy limousine (driven by a chauffeur wearing yellow shades), I headed out through the terminal to my car but a burly airport security supervisor stopped me.

“I can’t convince these kids that the Beatles have left. They just won’t believe someone like me,” he pleaded, while over his shoulder I could see at least a thousand of the tearful faithful trying to get in the doors I had to get out.

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“Someone who looks like you they would believe. You tell them that they left and they’ll all go home.” I said all right.

“Hey kids, this fellow is a reporter and he just had an exclusive interview with the Beatles and …” Two squealing girls grabbed my sleeve and the whole crowd suddenly found me fascinating and they screamed and screeched. I finally got everyone quiet enough to be heard if I yelled. They immediately began planning hurriedly at which hotel they would set up vigils until they could get a glimpse of their idols.

The Beatles are still up there. ❖

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From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

The New Politics: Leaders or Guerrillas

In the last 10 days I have read about 20 sophisticated articles analyzing the results of the 1968 elections. Most of these pieces of punditry contained the same two assumptions — which I believe are misleading, and perhaps paralyzing, illusions.

One is that the election returns are proof of a sharp veering to the right by the electorate. And the other is that the future hope of liberal politics rests with the “new politics” Democrats. I disagree with both these interpretations.

First, George Wallace ran much weaker than most of us anticipated. He carried only five Southern states, for a total of 45 electoral votes. He failed to get the bit white working-class vote in the industrial backwaters of Gary, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. And he did not carry any of the border states such as Kentucky, Maryland, or Texas, that his supporters hoped he would.

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Second, most of the incumbent anti-war Senators and Congressmen were re-elected, despite Nixon’s strength at the top of the ticket. The only really outstanding Congressman to lose was John Dow of New York. And he was elected in 1964 because of the Goldwater debacle, and was re-elected in 1966 only because the Conservative Party in his district ran their own candidate, rather than endorsing the Republican. In the Senate, two incumbent. doves — Wayne Morse and Joseph Clark — lost. But I think they lost not because of their prophetic opposition to the war, but because o( their own prickly personalities, and Morse also lost because Nixon swept Oregon. Fulbright was re-elected, however, even though Wallace took Arkansas, and McGovern won, even though Nixon took South Dakota.

Perhaps more revealing of the mood of the voters was that three pro-war, conservative incumbent Democrats lost their Senate seats — Mike Monroney in Oklahoma, Frank Lausche in the Ohio Democratic primary and Daniel Brewster in Maryland, to young, anti-war Republican Charles Mathias.

And most significantly, I think, were the insurgents who won Congressional races. Harold Hughes, the populist, colorful Governor of Iowa, won his Senate race even though Nixon won by a landslide statewide. Allen Cranston beat right-winger Max Rafferty for the Senate in California. And 39-year-old Tom Eagleton, an early supporter of Robert Kennedy, was elected to the Senate from Missouri.

And in New York, although most of the comment has gone to the Conservative Party’s one million votes, three remarkable freshmen were elected to the House — Edward Koch, Allard Lowenstein, and Shirley Chisholm (in Bedford-Stuyvessnt).

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My second point is based more on speculation and theory than on hard evidence. Many liberal observers are relatively sanguine that the “new politics” coalition can now easily move to consolidate control of the National Democratic Party. And, although it might seem to follow from my first optimistic interpretation, I don’t believe this for a minute.

For one thing, I don’t know what “new politics” means. On the Sunday before the election, I heard Jacob Javits define new politics as “problem solving.” Jesse Unruh and Jack English say they are for new politics. But they are just suburban liberal bosses.

It will not be easy at all for McCarthy, McGovern, or Teddy Kennedy to win the nomination in 1972 without the backing, not just of Unruh, but of Daley and John Connally as well. It is necessary to recall, for example, that Daley actually wanted Teddy Kennedy nominated in Chicago last August.

My own view of the future is that the roots of change are still outside the Democratic Party. The civil rights movement began outside the Democratic Party. So did the anti-war movement. And, although the leaders were Democrats, the “dump Johnson” movement also began outside the party structure. And these movements remain the model of the future.

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I think the focus of what is labeled the new politics should be primarily on movements and issues, and only peripherally on candidates. What most people call the new politics, I call guerrilla politics. Which is different from guerrilla warfare. For the immediate future, I think we have to move freely and quickly in and out of institutions and political parties. The priority is to build a movement against the draft, against the power of the military, and for decentralization and community control. Forget McCarthy or Teddy Kennedy — the pornographers of power will gravitate to them. As Dylan says, “Don’t follow leaders, watch the parkin’ meters.”

In most cases, the Democratic Party is still going to be the enemy of serious change. In New York City, for example, it is already clear that Congressman James Scheuer, an early McCarthy supporter, is running for Mayor on the bitter ashes of the school strike as super-Jew, for law and order, and against decentralization. When that happens, I am for John Lindsay, and I would hope the people who worked for McCarthy would also be for Lindsay.

What I am saying, finally, is that political parties, unions, churches, and personalities, will mean less and less in the future. Guerrilla politics with its emphasis on movement and its commitment to issues, is the best antidote to the banality of Nixon. But first, we must puncture the myth that the election was a mandate for reaction. ❖

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ACTIVISM ARCHIVES FEATURE ARCHIVES From The Archives Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Report From Prague: Viewing a Disaster

What follows is a simple eye­witness account of two days in Prague under Soviet occupation. This is a report, not an analysis or a commentary. It is because I know that every “Cold War­rior” welcomes the events in Prague that I must note simply that bad as the invasion was it does not compare to the United States actions in Vietnam where a million or more have died. Prague and Saigon are linked, symbols of the contempt great powers have for the right of smaller nations to self-determination. Let all those who so easily demand immediate and complete Soviet withdrawal apply that same standard to the situation in Vietnam.

I had gone to Europe to attend two working conferences, one in Vienna (War Resisters International) and the other in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia (International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace). Between the conference was a space of four days and I chose to spend that time in Prague as vacation. I arrived there on Saturday evening, August 17. I was due to leave early Wednesday morning, August 21.

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Other American radicals in Prague spent their time to good advantage, seeing student leaders, liberal writers, political figures. I simply wandered aim­lessly, having fallen under the charm of the city, the most beau­tiful I’ve seen in Europe. I stood in church on Sunday morning listening to the chants and smelling the incense. I visited the old Jewish cemetery, the most tragic graveyard I’ve ever seen, filled with thousands of tombstones leaning on one another for comfort in their eternal sorrow. Graveyards are places where the living come, the sons and daughters and the grandchildren, to honor their ancestors. Graveyards fascinate me, for they are not a symbol of an end, but proof of beginnings — here we stand, observing the gravestones, and there lie the ancestors from which we have sprung. Between the living and the dead there is a silent communion. But in the Jewish cemetery, carefully enclosed by high old walls, there was the chilling knowledge that only death was there, for those who should have come to lay flowers had perished in the death camps. The ancestors lay there beneath the stone tablets and only tourists visited, stran­gers to the family. I wept twice in Prague and the first time was when I spent an hour wandering through this silent field of graves.

I roamed through the National Museum, drank beer in small cafes, and walked out on the Charles Bridge to take pictures of the chalk drawings done by the long-haired young rebels­ — slogans in English against the war in Vietnam and slogans in German against Ulbricht. I walk­ed down the broad main street, Vaclavske Namesti, watched stu­dents in Wenceslas Square, and stood listening to debates in the “Hyde Park” of Prague, a little square off Na Prikope.

And in this way I spent my time. I had some contacts through Allen Ginsberg but they were never home when I phoned. By Tuesday night, my last night in Prague, I felt sharp pangs of guilt that I had not been more “responsible” and ” political” in looking people up. I wandered Prague late Tuesday night, until it was a city asleep and moving toward dawn. (At 11 p.m. invasion forces crossed the frontier). I got to bed at 2:30 a.m. (At that hour Russian air­craft had landed at Prague air­port.) I slept fitfully, waking once at 5:30 a.m. to the roar of jets. I slept again until 6:30 a.m. when I had to get up to catch my early flight to Yugoslavia. I went down for coffee and sensed a crisis in the air — Rude Pravo, Communist Party daily, had appeared with large headlines and printed on only one side of the sheet. At one point the Czechs in the room stood by the window and I joined them to watch tanks roll by in the streets below. Still groggy with sleep I took it for granted they were Czech tanks (who else would have tanks in Prague?). I finish­ed my coffee, packed, and then, a thin edge of anxiety working through my mind, went down to the main lobby to make sure the airport was not affected by what­ever crisis had brought Czech tanks into Prague at 8 a.m. There at the front desk I found this note:

American Embassy advises (5:50 a.m.) American citizens to stay where they are. Listen to the Voice of America at 1200 KC (if you were foresighted enough to bring a radio). Stay off streets.”

It was now just after 8 a.m. Wednesday, August 21.

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I went out in front of our hotel, the Hotel Flora on Vino­hradska Street, about 12 blocks from the center of town. I watched tanks and troop carriers roll by. Czechs stood weeping openly on the streets, gathered in small quiet groups. And now, for the second time in Prague, I wept. I had profoundly identified with the Czech experiment in “Communist democracy.” The Russians had done more than in­vade Czechoslovakia — they had sent their damn tanks crashing into our skulls, they had invaded the hopes of socialists all over the world.

There was an unreal quality to the invasion. The troops were all in trucks or tanks, not on foot. The sidewalks belonged to us, where we stood silent and unmoving. The streets belonged to the tanks. Tanks are ugly things. They were filled with young Russians, men who had been told they were going on maneuvers and found out they were invaders of a socialist country. They were frightened. The troop carriers had machine guns mounted on the front and men with automatic rifles watching the windows and roofs of the buildings they pass­ed. In the distance one could hear the harmless toyish sound of automatic weapons being fired — a kind of “pop—pop—pop.” People moved along the streets, lining up at food stores — which were virtually the only stores open. The streetcars were not running and few cars were on the streets. I had shot my last frame of film Tuesday evening and had to hike for several blocks to find a drug store open where I could buy some film. I came back, then, having seen Russian troop carriers lining the road all the way toward town, as if they were in a traffic jam. I shot some tanks with a telephoto lens from my hotel window.

Perhaps it was because we were motionless on the sidewalks, while the Russians sped by in trucks and tanks, that the invasion was like a dream. The tanks were motorized images, with which the population was not interacting, only observing. It was not yet noon but the resist­ance was beginning, as a car moved down the street throwing out mimeographed copies of Rude Pravo. Then it was noon and the first organized resistance began. A young man pulled his bicycle into the street and block­ed traffic — which consisted, actu­ally, of a single Czech truck which pulled over to one side. Horns began to blare for a two­-minute general strike. At that moment, with the kid in the street and the horns blaring, a Soviet troop carrier came shoot­ing down the street. The kid held his ground, perhaps paralyzed with fear or courage, but it would have made no difference to the troop carrier which wasn’t even slowing down. At the final moment, as most of us nervous­ly pulled away from the corner, fearful of gunfire or seeing the boy run down, an older man moved out from the crowd, put his arm gently around the boy and the bike, and guided him to one side of the street. The troop carrier shot by without ever having paused.

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A student walked past our hotel, moving away from the center of town, holding a large Czech flag.

Radio Prague went off the air early, and Radio Pilsen began broadcasting. It used German, Russian, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Polish as well as Czech — it was beaming its appeal to the invading Warsaw Pact troops, explaining there was no basis for the invasion, that socialism was safe, the invasion illegal. It was also urging the population not to provoke an incident but simply not to cooperate. Radio Pilsen went off the air while I slept in the afternoon out other stations then came on and the Russians, having forgotten to bring tracking equipment with them, could do nothing.

The dream quality came back at dinner, for the Flora is a first class hotel with an excellent restaurant presided over by an imperious head-waiter. We all went to our tables, ordered cocktails or wines and our dinner as if nothing had happened. People chatted in the muted luxury of the Flora, they ate and drank quietly. Outside, somewhere, Czechs were organizing. Some were dying. Some were already dead.

All night long there was the buzzing of motorbikes back and forth through the city. The students were organizing. The underground papers were now being printed, having found presses. About 9:30 p.m. I took another walk toward the center of town, and found out why the line of Russian troop carriers had been backed up earlier in the day.

The Czechs had built up a barricade about 10 blocks from the hotel and two blocks from the National Museum, trying to stop the tanks from getting to the radio station. When I got there I saw a fantastic tangle of burned out streetcars, buses, trucks, and debris — including at least one Soviet truck half blown up and hurled into a side street. This was where the firing had been coming from in the morning and some had been killed — no precise figures. (Note — in fair­ness to the Russians, they generally fired into the air and no estimate of the dead exceeded 30 for the first day, about par for an American riot.) Hundreds of people were milling around the barricade, while the Russians were staying discreetly in their trucks a block away. It is report­ed that at least one Russian tank was set on fire during the morn­ing at this barricade area.

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The milling of so many people made me nervous and I went back to the hotel and it was about 11 p.m. when, looking out my window, I saw fireworks coming from the area where I had just been. Beautiful orange rockets going up in the air. I didn’t understand why fireworks should be going off and went to the window for a closer look. Suddenly the crowd in the street below me broke and ran as if a heavy summer shower had hit them. I leaned farther out to see why they were running for shelter when I heard a “flick” against the building near my win­dow and realized the fireworks were tracer bullets and they were falling in our area.

Suddenly my window, large enough in any case, seemed to fill the whole wall, offering the entire room as a target. I scrambled for the side of my bed where I stayed for perhaps two minutes when I realized that even though the firing was getting closer (the gentle almost lazy “pop—pop—pop” had shifted to a a harsher “tat—tat—tat”), with tracer bullets you could see which way the fire was going. I edged back to the window and standing at one side watched the tracers climb into the sky. I had never realized before that bullets had a “finite speed,” that you could see the graceful blazes of orange climb slowly like Roman candles, and, like Roman candles, wink out.

So Wednesday came to an end. The Czech army had put up no resistance, on direct orders of the party. The only real fighting anywhere near us had occurred around the makeshift barricade 10 blocks away. But it was already clear that non-violent resistance was taking place. When I woke up Thursday it was clear at once that the Russians had made three mistakes. First, they had waited eight months too long. The Czechs, once the most docile of Communist populations, had enjoyed eight months of genuine press and radio freedom. Free­dom, like tyranny, can become a habit. Second, the Russians had assumed they would have some support from within the country and, as it turned out, they had no support at all. Third, they let the first 24 hours pass without any decisive action.

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The Russians may well have assumed, having seized the radio and tv, the airport and the train station, and having surrounded the National Assembly, arrested Dubcek, and sealed off every large area that might have been used for demonstrations, that they had “won.” Certainly their actions had been decisive, total, overwhelming. They had encoun­tered no effective or organized resistance. They had occupied the city. But it became obvious they didn’t know what to do with a population that “refused to re­cognize them.” They had failed to shoot the occasional flag­-carrying student on that first day. They had not counted on the underground radio and tv.

They had not, it seems, thought about the problems of suppress­ing illegal papers, and Thursday one could see that manifestos and leaflets and papers were every­where in evidence. Posters had gone up on all buildings. Trains had ”SVOBODA — DUBCEK” chalked on their sides. Trucks and cars had posters draped over their fronts. Signs in Russian were everywhere telling the troops to leave as well as signs in Czech urging no support for collaboration and no cooperation with the traitors Moscow was seeking to install as a provisional government. The national flag began to appear in apartment windows. Half the people on the streets were wearing bits of rib­bon showing the national colors. Police cars (Czech police) carried large Czech flags. A spe­cial appeal to the occupying ar­my had been printed up. The Czechs were also churning out short leaflets in French, English, and German to make sure the tourists understood the situation. Their radio was still on the air, and this gave the citizens hope. People grouped themselves around little portable radios. People appeared on the streets with petitions and other people stopped and signed the petitions.

An ambulance corps had been organized, and civilian cars flying red cross flags shot up and down the streets. The people were beginning to give a loud whistle when the tanks clanked past (this being something in the nature of a hiss). The Russians had taken Prague but they had not managed to capture its people.

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I went for a long walk Thurs­day afternoon, at one point walk­ing directly under the gun of a Soviet tank, to get down to the National Museum and see if — as rumored — it had been burned out. (It hadn’t been, although along with a number of apartment buildings that I saw, its facade had been heavily raked with machine gun fire, breaking most of the windows.) What I did see, and found incredible, was that every Russian tank and every Russian troop carrier was sur­rounded by groups of Czechs. Whatever spontaneous spitting or rock throwing may have occurred early Wednesday was gone — the crowds were arguing, pleading, explaining. I remember one tank on which a student was perched reading some manifesto to the two Russians sitting in the tank. If the image the West has of the Hungarian uprising in 1953 was a youth throwing stones at a tank, the image from Prague was one of dialogue and verbal confronta­tion.

(I learned that on Wednesday night all the bars had been closed to prevent anyone from getting drunk and charging at tanks. The radio broadcast steady appeals for calm, for no provocation and no cooperation.)

I walked into Wenceslas Square and found the main street leading into it filled with thousands upon thousands of persons. As I watch­ed, two truckloads of Czech stu­dents drove up waving flags and headed straight for a Soviet tank which, somewhat to my sur­prise, yielded the right of way.

My time in Prague was draw­ing to an end. I walked back to the hotel, realizing that I under­stood at last what a student had meant when I asked him, early in my stay, what would happen if the Russians invaded. He said, “For us they will not be here.” Shortly after 5 p.m. the Ameri­can Embassy notified us of a special train leaving for Vienna. We got taxis and boarded the train. ❖

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FEATURE ARCHIVES From The Archives

The Threshold and the Jolt of Pain

Personal Testament

Like most boys in their teens, I wondered once in a while how I would take torture. Badly, I thought. Later I thought not so badly, as I saw myself under the pressures of danger or emergency, once when a lion cub grabbed my hand in its mouth and I wrestled its lips for half a minute with my free hand. Another summer when I fought forest fires in a crew of Indians in the West, we stood up under intense heat and thirst, watching the fires crackle toward us irresistibly while we waited to see whether the fire lines that we had cut were going to bold. I climbed over the lip of a high waterfall; I scratched inside a hippo­potamus’s capacious jaws; I faced a pistol one day in Wyoming with some degree of fortitude. However, I knew all this elan would vanish if my sexual glands were approached. The initiation to join the Boy Scouts in our town was to have one’s balls squeezed, so I never joined. Even to have my knuckle joints ground together in a handshake contest reduced me to quick surrender something about bone on bone. I steered clear of the BB-gun fights in my neighborhood, and I could be caught in a chase and tied up easily by someone slower who yelled as if he were gaining ground, so I made friends with most of the toughies as a defensive measure.

I was much given to keeping pets and showering care on them, but I had a sadistic streak as well. In boarding school, my roommate got asthma attacks when he was jumped on, and I always backed away laughing when his tormentors poured into the room. There was another, rather nice boy, whom I seldom picked on myself. With sincere horror I watched a game grip the Florentine fancy of our corridor, wherein we, the inmates, divided in teams, pushed him back and forth as a human football from goal to goal. Since his name was Bingham, the game was either called that or else “Pushes.” The crush at the center, where he was placed, was tremendous and, though no one remembered, I’d thought it up!

My first love affair was with a Philadelphian, a girl 27. That is, she was the girl whom I slept with first. She was a love in the sense she loved me. I was close and grateful to her but didn’t love her (I’d loved one girl earlier whom I hadn’t slept with). She lived in one of those winsome houses that they hav·e down there, with a tiled backyard, three floors, and three rooms. We wandered along the waterfront and spent Saturdays at the street market, which is the largest and visually richest street market in the United States. I really was not an ogre to her, but I did by stages develop the habit of beating her briefly with my belt or hairbrush before we made love, a practice which I have foregone ever since. This experience gives me a contempt for pornography of that arch, gruesome genre, quite in vogue nowa­days as psychological “exploration,” where whipping occurs but the flesh recovers its sheen overnight and the whippee doesn’t hang her (him) self one fine strapping dawn, propelling the whipper into the nervous breakdown which he is heading for.

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I saw eventual disaster ahead and I didn’t go deeply into this vein of sensation, just as I was shrewd enough as a boy not to be picked on often or to suffer more than a few accidents. Once I ran my hand through an apple-crusher and once I imitated a child’s stutter at summer camp, thereby (or so I imagined) picking the malady up at age six. Almost my only pangs, then, were this stutter, which still remains in my mouth after twenty-nine years. It may strike other people as more than a spasm of pain of a kind which I haven’t time for or time to regard as anything else. It’s like someone who has a lesion or twist in his small intestine which hurts him abruptly and of which he is hardly aware anymore. The well-grooved wince that I make seems to keep my face pliant and reasonably young.

Somerset Maugham described his bitter discovery when he was a boy that prayer was no help: He woke up next morning still clamped to his adamant stutter. I was more of a pantheist, so I kept trusting to the efficacy of sleep itself, or the lilting lift that caused birds to fly. Also I went to a bunch of speech therapists. At the Ethical Culture School in New York, for example, a woman taught me to stick my right hand in my pocket and write the first letter of the word I was stuttering on again and again. This was supposed to distract me from stuttering, and it did for a week or two. The trouble was that watching me play pocket pool that way was more unsettling to other people than the original ailment it was meant to cure. At a camp in northern Michigan I was trained by a team from the university to speak so slowly that in effect I wasn’t speaking at all, I spoke with the same gradualism as a flower grows. Of course I didn’t stutter, but it was so absurdly tardy a process my mind unhinged itself from what was going on. Then, in Cambridge, Mas­sachusetts, a young fellow fresh out of the University of Iowa — and oh how he stuttered! — took the most direct approach. He got me to imitate myself deliberately, which was hard on me since I was already terribly tired of stuttering, and to stare, as well, at the people whom I was talking to in order to find out what their reactions were. I found out, for one thing, that some of my friends and about one fourth or one fifth of the strangers I met smiled when the difficulty occurred, though they generally turned their heads to the side or wiped their mouths with one hand to avoid the smile. Life seemed simpler from that time on if I avoided looking at anybody when I was stuttering badly, whoever he was, and I wasn’t so edgily on the alert to see if I’d spit inadvertently. Not that I lacked understanding for the smilers, though, because for many years I too had had the strange impulse, hardly controllable, to smile if somebody bumped his head on a low door-lintel or received sad news. The phenomenologists say this is a form of defense. It goes with childhood especially, and I stopped indulging in it one night in Boston when I was in a police patrol wagon. A friend and I had been out for a walk, he was hit by a car, and, as he woke from unconsciousness during the ride and asked what had happened, I found myself grinning down at him while I answered. A week or two later I was walking past an apartment building just as a rescue squad carried a would-be suicide out to the street. He was alive, on a stretcher. When our eyes touched, he smiled impenetrably, but I didn’t.

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I learned not to write notes. You put yourself at someone’s mercy more when you write him a note than if you just stand there like a rhinoceros and snort. He will assume that your trouble is mental rather than physical and may even be pleased, but he usually has assumed the same thing about himself.

I could write a Stutterer’s Guide to Europe, too: the titters in old Vienna, the knowing English remembering their King, the raw scorching baitings I met with in Greece, surrounded sometimes like a muzzled bear. The fourth means of effecting a cure which I heard about was based on the fact that stutterers are able to sing without stuttering. The victim should swing his arm like a big pendulum and talk in time to this — which was obviously a worse fate than his impediment. Though I didn’t try it, I was sent to a lady voice teacher who laid my hand on her conspicuous chest so that I could “feel her breathe.” For the moment the lessons worked wonderfully. If I wasn’t speechless, I spoke in a rush.

Stammering (a less obtrusive word I used to prefer) apparently is not unattractive to women. It’s a masculine encumbrance; five times as many men as women do it. I was told once or twice by girls by way of a pick-me-up that they’d loved someone “for” his stutter, and when I went into my spasms at parties, if a woman didn’t step back she stepped forward whereas the men did neither. The female instinct does not apply nearly so favorably to other afflictions — I was seldom alone while I was in Europe. In our glib age the stutterer has even been considered a kind of contemporary hero, a supposed Honest Man who is unable to gab with the media people. Beyond the particular appeal of this image, it does seem to suit a writer. Publishers are fastidious types, and some whom I’ve met have sidled away in distress from my flabbering face as soon as they could, but they probably remembered my name if they caught it. The purity image or Billy Budd stuff didn’t intrigue them, just the hint of compulsion and complexity. Though I don’t greatly go for either picture, in social terms I’ve thought of my stutter as sort of miasma behind the Ivy League-looking exterior. People at parties take me for William Buckley until I begin, so I keep my mouth shut and smile prepossessingly just as long as I can.

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Being in these handcuffs vocally made me a desperate, devoted writer at twenty. I worked like a dog, choosing each word. I wrote two full-length novels — eight years’ work — in iambic meter and a firehose style. We sent out 300 review copies of the second of these and received, I think, only three reviews. This was new pain, a man’s career pain, with its attendant stomach trouble and neck and back cramps. A couple of years after that I got divorced, and bawled like a half-­butchered bull for maybe an hour, rolled up on the floor of my apartment, while the two homosexuals next door listened in silence close to the wall, wondering whom they ought to contact. It was a purge, but the pain I remember of that experience was an earlier scene. I’d announced to my wife, whom I loved and still love, my belief that we needed to separate. The next time we talked, she crossed the room, came to my chair and knelt beside my knees, and asked what was going to become of each of us. That is the most painful splinter in my life, the most painful piece of the past. With variations the ache was prolonged through many, many fugitive suppers. In fact, we still meet, holding hands, laughing at each other’s jokes until we feel tears.

Who knows which qualities are godly? Pain probably makes us a bit godly, though, as tender love does. It makes us rue and summarize, it makes us bend and yield up ourselves. Pain is a watchdog medically, telling us when to consult a doctor, and then it’s the true-blue dog at the bedside who rivals the relatives for fidelity. Last summer my father died of cancer. We had made peace, pretty much, a few years before. Though he had opposed my desire to be a writer, he ended up trying to write a book, too, and he turned over to me at the last an old family history which he’d been hiding ever since I’d become literate, partly because it mentioned a lot of muteness among my ancestors and partly in order to prevent my exploiting the stories. My voice and my liberal opinions grew a little more clarion in the household during the months he was dying. From my standpoint, I suppose, I was almost ready for him to die, but I was very earnestly sorry for every stage of rough handling involved in the process and for his own overriding regret that his life was cut off. Having lost our frank fear of death along with our faith in an afterlife, we all have taken our fear of pain as a feeble alternative. Our regret, too, is magnified. When he was in discomfort, I stuttered a very great deal, but when he was not, when he was simply reminiscing or watching TV and talking to me, I stuttered scarcely a bit. Then, as he was actually dying, during our last interview, he turned on the bed and asked me something. My answer was blocked in my mouth and his face went rigid with more pain than mine — that my infirmity was still there unhealed. He was startled because in the exigencies of dying he had forgotten. He straightened, shutting his eyes, not wanting to end his life seeing it.

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Nevertheless, he’d often told me that it was my problems he loved me for rather than my successes and sleekness. He loved my sister for being waiflike and my mother for being on occasion afraid she was mentally ill. We were quite hardy while the months passed. Mother and he lay side by side on the bed clasping hands. Until nearly the end, because of the pills, he was not suffering pain of the magnitude he had dreaded. The last couple days it was a tossing and pitching, horrific pain, but the body more than the mind was responding — the body attempting to swallow its tongue. What I remember, therefore, of death’s salutation to him was that death came as a tickler, making his withered body twitch, touching him here, touching him there, wasting his tissues away like a white wax, while his head on the headrest above looked down and watched, or he’d shoot an acute glance at me from out of the hunching amalgam of pricks, jactitation, and drug-induced torpor. Death tickled him in a gradual crescendo, taking its time, and with his ironic attorney’s mind, he was amused. His two satisfactions were that he was privy to its most intimate preparations, everything just-so and fussy, and that at last the long spiky battling within the family was over and done. The new summer blossomed. In mid-June I saw what is meant by “a widow’s tears.” They flow in a flood of tremulous vulnerability, so that one thinks they will never stop.

Most severe on the physiologists’ scale of pain is that of childbirth. It’s also the worst that I’ve seen. A year had gone by since I’d left the army and quit visiting my Philadelphia friend. She came to New York, looked me up, discovered me vomiting, thin as a rail because of girl trouble, and moved in with me on the Upper West Side, spooning in food and mothering me. Then about the time I had perked up, she was able to confirm that she had got pregnant by a chap back in Philadelphia.

We drew out our savings and started for San Francisco, that vainglorious, clam-colored city. In her yellow convertible, with my English setter and her cocker spaniel, we drove through the South and through Texas, taking Highway 80 because it was the cold part of autumn. In Mississippi I remember whenever I shouted at one of the dogs, if he was slow peeing, any Negro who happened to be close about would turn to see what I wanted, quite naturally, as if I had called. It was a grueling trip. I’d begun vomiting again after she’d told me that she was pregnant, and she was suffering mysterious pains in that region between her legs, which no druggist would touch with a telephone pole. But we reached Russian Hill and established ourselves in one of the local apartment hotels. For a while during the seven-month wait the arrangement didn’t work out and she moved to a Florence Crittenton home and I went to the beach, but we ended the period together. At six one morning I drove her up to a whelk-pink hospital on a breezy hill and sat in the labor room for eight hours, watching the blue grid of stretch marks on her anguished stomach — medieval pain. She jolted and heaved and screamed, squeezing my hand, sucking gas from a cup and falling asleep between the throes. I needed three days to stop shaking, though it was a normal delivery throughout and she, by the mental safety catch which women have, had blocked off most of the memory by the time she was wheeled to her room, asleep. I’m ashamed to say that I’d spanked her a little the night before, and I never spanked her again.

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The contract she’d signed obliged my friend to relinquish the baby girl to the Home for three weeks, after which she could appropriate her completely as her own. I was privileged to keep her breasts flowing during those weeks, a luxury that would have been fitting for Zeus, and to the astonishment of the Home, as soon as the interval expired we showed up for the child. They wondered whether we were kidnappers, this was so rare. Then we drove East. The baby acquired a father before she was out of her infancy, and is now about ten.

So pain is a packet of chiseling tools. Women in labor make no bones about protesting its severity. Neither does a dying man once he has stopped lingering with the living — thinking of the memories of his behavior which he is leaving for his children, for instance. It’s when we have no imperative purpose in front of our sufferings that we think about “bearing up”; “bearing up” is converted to serve as a purpose. Pain, love, boredom and glee and anticipation or anxiety — these are the pilings we build our lives from. In love we beget more love and in pain we beget more pain. Since we must like it or lump it, we like it. And why not, indeed? ❖

1968 personal memoir in the Village Voice about stuttering

1968 personal memoir in the Village Voice about stuttering

1968 personal memoir in the Village Voice about stuttering

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES FRINGE ARCHIVES From The Archives

Remarks on Timothy Leary’s Politics of Ecstasy

‘Christmas in Earth’

By the late ’40s of this memory Century the people I knew best and loved the most had already broken through the crust of old Reason & were dowsing for some Supreme Reality, Christmas on Earth Rimbaud said, Second Religiousness according to Spengler’s outline of civilization declining through proliferation of non-human therefore boring technology; Blake had called “O Earth O Earth return!” centuries before, echoing the ancient gnostic prophecy that Whitman spelled out for America specifically demanding that the Steam-engine “be confronted and met by at least equally subtle and tremendous force-infusion for purposes of spiritualization, for the pure conscience, for genuine aesthetics, and for absolute and primal manliness and womanliness —” Ezra Pound’s mind jumped to diagnose the dimming of the world’s third Eye: “With Usura the line grows thick.”

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One scholar who transmitted Blake’s kabbalah, S. Foster Damon, can remember his sudden vision of tiny flowers carpeting Harvard Yard violet before World War One, an image that lingers over 60 years in mind since his fellow student Virgil Thomson gave him the cactus Peyote to eat. Damon concludes that rare beings like Blake are born with physiologic gift of such vision, continuous or intermittent. William James, whose pragmatic magic probably called the Peyote God to Harvard in the first place, had included shamanistic chemical visions among the many authentic “Varieties of Religious Experience.” His student Gertrude Stein experimented in alteration of consciousness through mindfulness of language, an extremely effective Yoga since mechanical reproduction of language by XX Century had made language the dominant vehicle of civilized consciousness; her companion Alice B. Toklas contributed a cookbook recipe for Hashish Brownies to enlighten those persons over-talkative in drawing rooms unaware that “the medium is the message.”

This synchronism is exquisite: William S. Burroughs also once of Harvard shared Miss Stein’s mindfulness of the hypnotic drug-like power of language, and collaborated on cut-up rearrangement of stereotyped language forms with friend Brion Gysin, who had originally given Miss Toklas the recipe for her famous Brownies. Burroughs among others had begun experiments with drug-shamanism after World War Two — for the author of “Naked Lunch” it was a pragmatic extension of his Cambridge interest in linguistic Anthropology. That same gnostic impulse broke through to clear consciousness simultaneously in many American cities: Gary Snyder realized the entire universe was alive one daybreak 1948 in Poland when a flight birds rose out of the tree stillness in a gully by the city river, a natural vision — The masters of the Berkeley Renaissance read Gertrude Stein aloud and practiced Poetic kabbalah (charming synchronism that psychologist Timothy Leary met poets Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan in that same 1948 student scene) — Neal Cassady drove Jack Kerouac to Mexico in a prophetic automobile to see the physical body of America, the same Denver Cassady that one decade later drove Ken Kesey’s Kosmos-patterned schoolbus on a Kafka-circus tour over the roads of the awakening nation — And the wakening began, some say, with the first saxophone cry of the new mode of black music which shook the walls of white city mind when Charles Parker lifted his birdflightnoted horn & announced a new rhythm of thinking, and extended breathing of the body in music and speech, a new consciousness. For as Plato had said, “When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake.”

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The new consciousness born in these States can be traced back through old gnostic texts, visions, artists & shamans; it is the consciousness of our ground nature suppressed & desecrated. It was always the secret tale of the tribe in America, this great scandal of the closing of the doors of perception of the Naked Human Form Divine. It began with the white murder of Indian inhabitants of the ground, the theft and later usurious exploitation of their land, it continued with an assault on all races and species of Mother Nature herself and concludes today with total disruption of the ecology of the entire planet. No wonder black slaves kept for non-human use into this century in tear-gassed ghettos of megalopolis were the first Aliens to sound the horn of Change, first Strangers to Call the Great Call through Basilides’ many Heavens. Amazing synchronism again, that Mr. Frank Takes Gun, Native American Church amerindian Peyote Chief, invited the brilliantly talkative silver-haired psychiatrist who directed a Saskatchewan mental hospital in the early ’40s to participate in a Peyote ritual, and that the same Dr. Humphrey Osmond having recognized a wonder of consciousness thus experienced passed on the catalyst in Mescaline synthetic form to Aldous Huxley; and that Huxley’s 1945 essay on the chemical opening of the Doors of Perception found its way to the tables of Bickford’s Cafeteria Times Square New York & the couches of Reed College and Berkeley, where artist persons, having heard the Great Call of the Negroes, already initiated themselves en masse to subtle gradations of their own consciousness experienced while smoking the same Afric hemp smoked by Charles Parker Thelonius Monk & Dizzy Gillespie.

Dr. Timothy Leary takes up his part of the tale of the tribe in a Mexican hut and brings his discovery to Harvard harmoniously — and there begins the political battle, black and white magic become public visible for a generation. Dr. Leary is a hero of American consciousness. He began as a sophisticated academician, he encountered discoveries in his field which confounded him and his own technology, he pursued his studies where attention commanded, he arrived beyond the boundaries of public knowledge. One might hesitate to say, like Socrates, like Galileo? — poor Dr. Leary, poor Earth! Yet here we are in Science Fiction History, in the age of Hydrogen Bomb Apocalypse, the very Kali Yuga wherein man’s stupidity so overwhelms the planet that ecological catastrophe begins to rehearse old tribe-tales of Karmaic retribution, Fire & Flood & Armageddon impending.

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It would be natural (in fact deja vu) that the very technology stereotyping our consciousness & desensitizing our perceptions should throw up its own antidote, an antidote synthetic such as LSD synchronous with mythic tribal Soma & Peyote. Given such historic Comedy, who could emerge from Harvard technology but one and only Dr. Leary, a respectable human being, a worldly man faced with the task of a Messiah. Inevitable! Not merely because the whole field of mental psychology as a “science” had arrived at biochemistry anyway. It was inevitable because the whole professional civilized world, like Dr. Leary, was already faced with Messianic task of accelerated evolution (i.e. psychosocial Revolution) including an alteration of human consciousness leading to the immediate mutation of social & economic forms. This staggering realization, psychedelic, i.e., consciousness expanding & mind-manifesting in itself, without the use of chemical catalysts, is now forced on all of us by images of our own unconscious rising from the streets of Chicago, where teargas was dumped on Christ’s very Cross in Lincoln Park AD 1968. The drains are backing up in the cities, smog noise and physiologic poison in food turn us to insect acts, overpopulation crazes the planet, our lakes corrupt, old riverways become dank fens, tanks enter Prague and Chicago streets simultaneous, Police State arrives in every major city, starvation wastes African provinces, Chinese genocide in Vietnam, Alarm! Alarm! howls deep as any Biblic prophecy.

Ourselves caught in the giant machine are conditioned to its terms, only holy vision or technological catastrophe or revolution break “the mind forg’d manacles.” Given one by-product of the technology that might, as it were by feed-back, correct the berserk machine and liberate the invertor’s mind from captivity by hypnotic robots, Dr. Leary had in LSD an invaluable civilized elixir. For, as Dr. Jiri Roubichek observed early in Prague (“Artificial Psychosis,” 1958), “LSD inhibits conditioned reflexes.” And this single phrase, for rational men, might be the key to the whole gnostic mystery of LSD and Dr. Leary’s role as unique, alas solitary, courageous, humane & frank Democratic Boddhisatva-teacher of the uses of LSD in America. For he took on himself the noble task of announcing the evidence of his senses despite the scary contumely of fellow academicians, the dispraising timorous irony of scientific “professionals,” the stupidity meanness self-serving cowardice and hollow vanity of bureaucratic personnel from Harvard Yard to Mexico City to Washington, from the ignorant Sheriff’s office in Dutchess County NY to the inner greedy sanctums of the US Treasury Department in D. C., our whole “establishment” of civilization that defends us from knowledge of our own unconscious by means of policeman’s clubs, and would resist the liberation of our minds and bodies by any brutish means available including teargas, napalm & the Hydrogen Bomb.

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Dr. Leary conducted himself fairly & equitably, given the extremity of his knowledge; it took an innocent courage to explore his own unconditioned consciousness, to take LSD and other chemicals often enough to be well balanced in praxis as well as explanation, and to attempt to wed the enormity of his experience to Reason. An heroic attempt to communicate clearly and openly through civilized technologic media to his fellow citizens, despite centuries of identity brainwash accelerated now to mass paranoia and Cold War Apocalypse, required Dr. Leary the proverbial wisdom of serpent & harmlessness of dove.

Timothy Leary tells the tale of his tribe in book aptly titled “The Politics of Ecstasy,” & events enlarged since he wrote his book and chose its title charge the author’s handiwork with prophetic enormity. The battle of generations that erupted this year simultaneously in Prague, Chicago, Mexico City, Paris, New York (and Moscow underground) — everywhere the State’s electronic consciousness is interlinked — transcends antique battles of Cold War and Race. We witness planetary confrontation wherein controlling Elders trapped in a suicidal mechanical consciousness deploy their destructive technology against their own children in the streets of their own cities. ‘Tis Blake’s Urizen tormenting tender Los in Eternity! New generations have risen spontaneously with new consciousness and a mutant politics of flower power that is rooted in the ground of human consciousness itself: an acceptance of human identity as one with living nature on a living planet where all creatures are living God. The public philosophies and technologies of all civilized Governments at present are are at war with this God, and the planet itself is within decades of destruction. No wonder there is sudden appearance of Adamic hair. Eve walks naked in the streets; ancient body rhythm beat out thru the airwaves in eclectic mantric Rock from Bratislava to San Francisco, & youths ingest shamanic elixirs to recover consciousness of planetary Archetypes. Hare Krishna!

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One politic synchronism that concerns this text should be gossiped forth contextual. Timothy Leary quit public life to write a book in Mexico some years ago, but he was searched by Agents of Government as he went to cross borders, arrested for possession of some herb, and thus forced to interrupt his writing, return to public action, and defend his person from attack by the State. So he traveled to academies and lectured to the young, & thus he paid large legal fees required by the State & thus maintained an Ashram of fellow seekers well known in Millbrook. Agents of Government raided and repeatedly abused the utopia, whereupon Dr. Leary was obliged to be Dr. Leary and lecture more to raise money for his family of imprisoned friends. Agents of Government concluded this phase of prosecution with a piece of Socratic irony so blatantly echoing an old Greek injustice that the vulgar rhetoric of a Tyrannous State would need only be quoted to be recognized, were it not for the fact that these States are by now so plagued with Tyrannously inspired chaos and public communication so flooded with images of State Atrocity from the alleys of Saigon to the parks of Chicago that official public conscience here now, as memorably in Russia and Germany, is shocked, dumbed & amnesiac. I quote from the Spring 1968 State Document in any case for the delectation of gnostic Cognoscenti, that is to say myriads of the present young:

“To Hon. Edw. W. Wadsworth
Clerk, U.S. Court of Appeals
for the Fifth Circuit
Room 408 — 400 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA. 70130
“Re: No 23570
Timothy Leary vs United States of America

“… We are applying for an order from the District Court requiring the Defendant to surrender to the United States Marshal…

“The appellant continues his publicized activities involving the advocacy of the use of psychedelic drugs by students and others of immature judgment and tender years and is regarded as a menace to the community so long as he is at large …

Very truly yours,
Morton L. Sussman,
United States Attorney.

By: James R. Gough,
Asst. U.S. ATTY.
Chief, Appeals Research Division”

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Thus requesting revocation of Dr. Leary’s bail’d liberty while his political-religious defense for possession of an herb approached Supreme Court, Agents of Government checked further conversation with the young. The Millbrook Ashram having been simultaneously dispersed by Agents of Government his immediate financial responsibilities lightened, Timothy Leary retired back home to Berkeley with his mate and completed his description of “the Politics of Ecstasy.” ❖

1968 Village Voice article by Allen Ginsberg on Timothy Leary's Politics of Ecstasy

1968 Village Voice article by Allen Ginsberg on Timothy Leary's Politics of Ecstasy

1968 Village Voice article by Allen Ginsberg on Timothy Leary's Politics of Ecstasy

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Andy Warhol: Alive & Well

“I Thought Everyone Was Kidding”

Andy Warhol is alive and well. Last Thursday, accompanied by the inevitable coterie of business associates and superstars, Warhol went out on the town. It was the underground film-maker’s first public appearance since last June, when, as everyone knows, he was shot down by Valerie Solanas, a writer who had played in his film, “I, a Man.”

We were sitting around a table at Casey’s Restaurant. Viva, reigning superstar, and Paul Morrissey, Warhol’s producer and technical director, were regaling their chief with tales of recent assaults upon their persons.

“We are constantly under attack,” claimed Viva. Very charming she is, and plenty paranoid: “Andy’s shooting was part of a conspiracy against the cultural revolution. Recently a man leapt over three empty rows in a cinema and punched me as hard as he could.” Viva’s vexed, misunderstood expression made everyone laugh. “It was during the greenhouse scene of ‘Amities Particulieres’ and I giggled and said, ‘Gay among the gladioli or faggot among the ferns.’ It was supposedly a sensitive homosexual film — so tacky.

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“I was also attacked in my apartment the other night” — she went on in a Holly Golightly monologue — “by someone whom I had never before seen. It turns out he’s a professional attacker. All he does is beat up people. I really did a job on him. I think I fractured his skull. I’ve never seen so much blood…”

“Well, it’s our year for crazy people. It really is,” observed Warhol, wincing as though in pain.

“Feel all right?” asked the reporter.

The silver haired Warhol hesitated. “Uh mmm — sort of; I can’t really tell,” he said softly.

“Have you rethought your lifestyle since the shooting?” asked the reporter.

“I’ve been thinking about it,” conceded Warhol. “I’m trying to decide whether I should pretend to be real or fake it. I had always thought everyone was kidding. But now I know they’re not.” He looked worried. “I’m not sure if I should pretend that things are real or that they’re fake. You see,” said Warhol, craning his head absently, “to pretend something’s real, I’d have to fake it. Then people would think I’m doing it real.”

“Do you think you had any complicity in the shooting,” persisted the reporter, “in the sense of encouraging those around you to act out their fantasies?”

“I don’t know,” Warhol replied, denying that he had ever encouraged anyone to act out his fantasies. His voice trailed off. “I guess I really don’t know what people do. I just always think they’re kidding.”

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Were his stars actually shooting dope in “Chelsea Girls”?

“I never really knew,” he insisted. “I suppose they must have been. I thought they were kidding.”

Did he think Valerie Solanas was kidding when she shot him?

Warhol shrugged and said his back was turned at the time. He had known Valerie Solanas four years. At first, when she showed him her manuscript “Up Your Ass,” he had thought she was a lady cop. Later, he had come to regard her as a serious writer, but he had sensed that she was disturbed so he avoided her. Sometimes she would telephone him late at night. Her nocturnal nagging was in the nature of crank calls. Once, when she needed money, Warhol had used her in a film. She never complained that she was ill-used.

Valerie Solanas’s grievance, Warhol learned too late, was that she imagined he had conspired with publisher Maurice Girodias to defraud her of her works. Girodias had in fact given her an advance to write a book, but the publisher barely knew Warhol and had no business dealings with him. Now Valerie Solanas is in a mental institution.

“It happened so quickly,” Warhol recalled. “She met me downstairs and we rode up in the elevator together. I turned around and it sort of happened…”

“So it was a surprise?”

“Oh, it was a surprise,” Warhol said, “but the bigger surprise was that she had dressed up for the occasion. She wore lipstick, eye makeup, her hair was combed. And she looked so pretty in a dress…”

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Warhol still likes Valerie Solanas: “I’ve never really disliked anyone. And I don’t think she was responsible for what she did. It was just one of those things.”

Wasn’t that the same as his thinking that everyone was kidding? Shouldn’t he be more angry and compassionate? After all, he had been badly hurt.

“Uh mmm,” Warhol hesitated. His dark blue eyes burned straight ahead. He spoke quietly as if his voice box were soundproofed. “I can’t feel anything against Valerie Solanas,” he said. “When you hurt another person, you never know how much it pains.”

Was he in pain?

“Uh mmm, the whole idea of the shooting was painful,” Warhol nodded. “It slows you up some. I can’t do the things I want to do, and I am so scarred I look like a Dior dress. I’m afraid to take a shower.” He giggled weakly. “It’s sort of awful, looking in the mirror and seeing all the scars. It’s scary. I close my eyes. But it doesn’t look that bad. The scars are really very beautiful; they look pretty in a funny way. It’s just that they are a reminder that I’m still sick and I don’t know if I will ever be well again.” Warhol fell silent. The clatter of silver and china filled Casey’s. So did small talk.

“Since I was shot,” Warhol went on, hypnotized by the central idea of his own resurrection, “everything is such a dream to me. I don’t know what anything is about. Like I don’t even know whether or not I’m really alive or — whether I died. It’s sad. Like I can’t say hello or goodbye to people. Life is like a dream. What would you call that?”

“Are you afraid?” asked the reporter.

“That’s so funny.” Warhol laughed as if to diminish his dread. “I wasn’t afraid before. And having been dead once, I shouldn’t feel fear. But I am afraid. I don’t understand why. I am afraid of God alone, and I wasn’t before. I am afraid to go to the Factory.”

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Having spoken his fear, Warhol seemed relieved. He pulled a false mustache from his pocket and offered it to Viva who pasted it above her thin-lipped mouth. It was no good, he decided, and took it back.

“What now?” asked the reporter.

“I’m thinking about getting busy again — if I can do it,” said Warhol.

“With the same philosophical slant?”

“Well, I guess people thought we were so silly and we weren’t. Now maybe we’ll have to fake a little and be serious. But then,” Warhol said, going on like a litany, “that would be faking seriousness which is sort of faking. But we were serious before so now we might have to fake a little just to make ourselves look serious.”

“Do you laugh all the way to the bank?” asked the reporter, grasping at a realistic straw.

“For the first time we would have made some money this year,” Warhol said, “but my hospital bills took all of that. Our grosses are very big, but the net is practically nil. And we plow what we net back into our experimental films. But the Beatles have a lot of money and we’re trying to talk them into setting up a non-acting foundation for us.”

“For your non-films?”

“Yes.”

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Then Andy Warhol and company walked to a party celebrating the completion of a Hollywood movie, “Midnight Cowboy,” where Warhol, insulated by two superstars, Nico and Ultra Violet, sat on a verandah and chatted with British screen director John Schlesinger. He talked about how quickly Hollywood films had caught up with underground films. He found himself beset with admirers. He seemed glad to be alive. ❖

Categories
From The Archives NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

The Grand Central Riot: Yippies Meet the Man

Inside A Yip-In

All the brass was watching. Chief Inspector Sanford Garelik, shielded by a cluster of Tactical Patrol Force heavies, leaned against the wall in the 42nd Street entrance to Grand Central Station, intently watching the churning sea of demonstrators. Sid Davidoff and Barry Gottehrer, Lindsay’s roving sensory apparatus, roamed around the terminal for hours. And a dozen privileged persons of some sort lined the balcony above the escalators leading to the Pan Am Building, observing the melee below like Romans digging the arena. 

All the brass were watching, and the cops were having a ball. “It was the most extraordinary display of unprovoked police brutality I’ve seen outside of Mississippi,” Alan Levine, staff counsel for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said at a press conference on Saturday. “The police reacted enthusiastically to the prospect of being un­leashed.” Levine reported seeing several people forced to run a gauntlet of club-wielding cops while trying to flee from what has been characterized as a “police riot.” Spitting invective through clenched teeth, cops hit women and kicked demonstrators who had fallen while trying to escape the flailing nightsticks. It was like a fire in a theater. 

It was a Yip-In. “Its a spring mating service celebrating the equinox,” read a Yippie handbill, “a back-scratching party, a roller­-skating rink, a theater, with you, performer and audience.” The Yip-In was held for Yippies to get acquainted, and to promote the Yippies’ “Festival of Life,” which will coincide with the Democratic National Convention in Chicago this summer. 

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The promotion was as heavy as the planning was weak. The Yip-In was announced at a press conference at the Americana Hotel, and several thousand handbills were distributed urging Yippies to come to Grand Central Station at midnight on Friday. Why Grand Central Station? “It’s central, man,” said one Yippie. How many Yippies would come? Well, it was a good way to test the pull of the media. 

The media pulls, and a lot of people came. Most came by subway, coming up out of the bowels of the 42nd Street station to fill the mammoth terminal like a diverted river might fill a dry lake. Soon it was a sea of heads, and it was hard to move. Balloons bounced above the crowd, as an estimated 6,000 people were jammed together under the vaulted ceiling.

The crowd stirred and the balloons bounced for almost an hour, while the terminal continued to fill. Occasionally clusters of people took up chants, ranging from “Yippie!” to “Long Hot Summer!” to “Burn, Baby, Burn!” Shortly before one, kids began to climb to the roof of the information booth in the center of the terminal, where they began to lead the chants, and one militant climbed to the pinnacle of the information booth, striking a “Workers, Arise!” pose, his fist raised in the air, and unfurled a banner which read, vertically, “Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker!” Two cherry bombs exploded, and the sound was greatly amplified in the huge room. Now the balconies were packed, and the cops were quivering in formation in the 42nd Street entrance. 

There are four clocks on top of the information booth, and as the roof became more crowded the temptation to rape time apparently became irresistible. First kids turned the hands around, and then the hands suddenly disappeared. 

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I was standing close to the cops when they started to clear the entrance, shoving people into the terminal or out in the street, where more cops were waiting in formation. I ran around the corner to the Vanderbilt Avenue entrance, and came to the balcony that overlooked the terminal in time to see a wedge of blue slice into the crowd, nightsticks swinging, until they came to the information booth, where they paused. The kids slid off the roof and the crowd recoiled. The police surrounded the information booth and, in seconds, now rein­forced, charged the crowd again, forcing the demonstrators back into the huge corridor which led to the subway. The crowd simply made a U-turn in a connecting corridor and flowed back into the terminal, and the cops went wild. 

Now another formation of cops charged toward the stairs where I was standing, and I made for the street again, rounded the corner, and returned to the 42nd Street entrance, which was now entirely filled with police. I pinned on my press credentials and began to move through the police line. My credentials were checked twice, and I was allowed to pass. At that point, I was stopped a third time by two uniformed cops. They looked at my credentials, cursed the Voice, grabbed my arms behind my back, and, joined by two others, rushed me back toward the street, deliberately ramming my head into the closed glass doors, which cracked with the impact. They dropped me in the street and disappeared. My face, and my press card, were covered with blood. I went to the hospital to get five stitches in my forehead. 

So I missed the climax of the Yip-In, but I can pass on various accounts of witnesses. The police, it seems, continued to charge the crowd at random, first charging, always swinging the nightsticks, then pulling back, then charging again. Sometimes several formations of police charged simultaneously in different directions. The exits were jammed and the crowd was in a panic, desperately trying to avoid the nightsticks. The police kept charging.

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During all this time, arrests were being made. Within two hours, 57 persons were arrested, on charges ranging from felonious assault and criminal mischief to resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. At least 20 persons were taken to hospitals for treatment. 

The arrest procedure followed a brutal pattern. Most of the people arrested were automatically beaten with nightsticks. (The cops didn’t seem to want anyone to walk out after having been arrested.) “If you protected yourself, you were resisting arrest,” a witness said. “If you didn’t, you were knocked out.” A youth was arrested near the escalator leading into the Pan Am Building, and was dragged across the terminal, screaming with pain, while police kicked him in the groin. He finally collapsed, and police grabbed him by the back of the belt, and carried him out to the waiting paddy wagons. 

At another point, Voice columnist Howard Smith relates, the police made a charge toward the west side of the terminal, and a soda bottle came flying out of the crowd, striking a cop. Five cops grabbed a kid — ­the wrong one, Smith said — and shoved him into the door of Track 32, where they began beating him with nightsticks. While the kid, later identified as Jon Moore, 17, screamed “I didn’t do it” and “It wasn’t me,” the crowd shouted “Sieg Heil!” Still the beating continued. Some other cops approached and tried to stop the beating, Smith said, and then a police captain approached and made the guise of breaking it up. Moore, who was now hunched over protecting his head and groin, looked up, and the captain grabbed his head and cracked it against the iron grating of the door, cursing “you son of a bitch.” The captain then turned away, brushing his hands, and Moore was taken out of the station. He was later charged with felonious assault. 

These incidents were not exceptional. Ronald Shea, 22, was shoved by police through a plate-glass door. He raised his hands to protect his face, and the broken glass severed every essential tendon and nerve in his left hand. In six months, doctors at Roosevelt Hospital say, he may regain partial use of his hand. Shea was not arrested. 

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Witnesses charged that several plainclothesmen, who had infiltrated the crowd before the police charged, were even more brutal than the uniformed cops when the swinging started. They add that the plainclothesmen, who wore no badges, refused to identify themselves when questioned by accredited newsmen. Several instances were reported when cops struck or intimidated people seen writing down badge numbers. Witnesses emphasize that no warning or order to disperse was given at any time before or after the police charged the demonstrators, although a public address system was presumably available in the station. Ed Sanders of the Fugs contends that the people would have responded to a warning. “People who come to Yippie demonstrations are very reasonable,” he said. “There was no reason to rush in and crunch.” 

After the police first charged, Abbie Hoffman, YIP leader, report­edly approached Barry Gottehrer, assistant to the mayor, and asked to use the terminal’s public address system. Gottehrer replied that he thought Hoffman was “an hour and a half late,” and refused. Hoffman then asked that the police be pulled out, and Gottehrer presumably refused again. 

After an hour and a half, the cops calmed down, and the remaining demonstrators were allowed to remain in the terminal. Others went to the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, also staked out with police, where the organizers of the Yip-In had planned to meet to “yip up the sun.” By 4:15 A.M., Grand Central Station was empty. 

Saturday morning, the key leaders of the YIP, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Paul Krassner, and Bob Fass, left New York to fly to Chicago for a conference regarding the planning of activities during the Democratic National Convention. Later that morning, the 57 people arrested were arraigned in court. Most of the people were represented by Legal Aid. YIP had made no arrangements for lawyers or bail.

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There was a lot of garbage and buck-passing flying around during the following days. Gottehrer, at a YIP press conference Sunday night, placed considerable emphasis on the crowd on top of the information booth, the cherry bombs, and the damage to the clocks. He refused to concede any misconduct on the part of the police. YIP spokesmen complained about a breakdown of communications, insisting that they had never considered the possibility or violence. On Monday, the scuttlebutt at City Hall included rumors that some of the demonstrators were carrying dynamite Friday night, and privately city officials alleged that the police received two bomb threats at Grand Central Station. Now the rumors have gone even further, with representatives of both sides darkly referring to “provocateurs” who incited the police to riot. 

As I see it, the central issue — besides the astonishing brutality of the police — was a failure in planning on the part of both YIP and the city that borders on gross incompetence and irresponsibility. Although YIP had been in contact with the mayor’s office before the demonstra­tion, the city gave no indication as to what their response would be. The city urged YIP to consult with the New York Central Railroad, which owns Grand Central Station, which YIP did not do. The demonstration was allowed to form without interference or objection and, an hour later, without warning, the police viciously attacked the crowd. There was little direction or coordination evident in the cops’ attack; they seemed to be improvising. YIP did not even bring a megaphone so that they could address their own people; in the situation that developed, the leaders found themselves impotent. The cardinal insanity was the selection of Grand Central Station for an enormously publici­zed demonstration of totally indeterminate size. The Yip-In was the fourth and by far the largest demonstration to be held at the terminal. The first three all ran into cops. It was a pointless con­frontation in a box canyon, and somehow it seemed to be a pro­phecy of Chicago. ❖

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

The Election-High Is a Bad Trip

The Press of Freedom: The Election-High Is a Bad Trip

Many of my friends expected to be in concentration camps by the end of summer. Some expected to be gunned down dramatically in the streets of Chicago in August while yippie-ing at the Death Convention. These visions lead to caution, and one some­times feels like he is living in Russia in the early part of the century.

There is a knock at the door. It could be the agent with our number up, and it could be a messenger bringing the news that Kennedy and McCarthy are going to fight it out for leader­ship of the anti-war movement! What a fuckedup country — we expected concentration camps and we got Bobby Kennedy.

I am more confident of our ability to survive concentration camps than I am of our ability to survive Bobby. Concentration camps capture our bodies tem­porarily but set our spirits screaming; Bobby injects a nerve gas into our veins, putting our body and spirit to sleep. The media overwhelm us with the reality of Bobby and Gene, and drug us into identification with THEIR thoughts, arguments, trips, crusades.

Elections in America are a mind-poison.

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The energy for a mass, people movement in which we begin to trust our own ideas and impulses, depend on our own strength, face the dilemma of making our own world … that energy is oozed out of us as we become voters, door-to-door vote sales­men, and spectators in the country’s greatest theatrical event: the elections.

Elections are authoritarian, the subjects elect their kings.

What’s wrong with America is that her total institutions overwhelm her people into impotence and isolation. We all live the dream of the celebrity-candidate. Yet only massive populist revo­lution can liberate the imprison­ed soul of the people of America. Revolution is not a result, but a process. In revolution man liberates himself and becomes free, creating and discovering his own identity.

Elections are modeled after the sports world. That’s why they are so mind-capturing. Candidates compete in contests which build up drama and suspense as The Day approaches. We are all baseball fans who vote for our team. The winner!  The loser! The front pages read like the sports pages. We the masses do not participate; we give consent; we argue; we root; we take sides; but we are little more than bystanders in a mass athletic spectacle and it’s called democracy.

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The twinkles in Bobby’s eye compete with the dark brows of McCarthy’s face compete with LBJ’s large nose competes with the uncompleted sexual act of JFK competes with Dick the Car Salesman competes with Johnny Carson competes with … is this what the Founding Fathers intended?

The most aware action toward the elections is (1) not to vote; (2) to vote for yourself, a na­tional “Vote for Me” campaign; (3) to vote for a close friend. The yippies may nominate a 300-pound pig for president. His pro­gram is garbage. After nomination we will eat him and be­come the candidate. The only answer to an absurd system is absurdity and laughter, followed by anger, and then absurdity and laughter. Anything else is playing by their rules, and their rules are oppressive and fixed­-in-advance.

I ran as a candidate for mayor of Berkeley last spring and fell almost unconsciously under the drug of the election-system. In order to answer the streetcorner question: “Are you serious?” — sort of a pre-condition for people listening to you — I had to concentrate on the commodity, soap-disguised-as-votes. I should have said I wasn’t serious. I should have used the election purely as a stage for farcical theatre. I should have dropped out of the race a week before the election and encouraged peo­ple to vote for themselves.

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The purpose of political life is to free the spirit and energy of man. Vietnam is a symptom of the American disease; the war is a symbol of violence and domination less dramatic. Vietnam is the mirror to understanding Detroit and South Africa. Our goal is to transform the quality of American life, the distribution of power, the content of the culture, the forms of decision-making, the top-heavy organization of institutions, and the tiny influence individuals have over their own lives.

Dealing with repression is far easier than dealing with tolera­tion and sweet bureaucracy. In reaction to the LBJ madness, America may be due for a national regeneration, a new FDR­-type period, the end of wild rule by guys like Hershey and Hoover, and the triumph of pub­lic relations-liberal parents-dol­lar-capitalism. This will mean a crisis for the repression-atrocity­-oriented movement. For whites the alternative is a national youth underground with new val­ues and life-styles — the pot ciga­rette its symbol — an under­ground exploding in creation but badly seeking definition.

In the end, however, reform will lead to revolution. America proposes to us, but she cannot  complete her promises. Reform creates hope, widens expectations, and then an inch demands a mile. JFK was a creator of the New Left. Bobby is going to invite us over for dinner and we are going to sleep with his wife, give his kids pot, and steal his money and send it to guerrillas at home and abroad. Today’s shaved nice McCarthy-RFK collegians will be tomorrow’s yippies.

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Kusama: ‘Miss Naked Happening’

The Way of All Flesh: Stripping for Inaction

I have seen the future — and it doesn’t work.

According to a telegram which arrived at the office late Friday afternoon, “JAPANESE SCULPTRESS KUSAMA WILL STAGE A SPECTACULAR MASS NAK­ED HAPPENING AT THE GYM­NASIUM 420 EAST 71 STREET NEW YORK CITY AT 10 PM THIS FRIDAY JANUARY 26.”

“Those things never start on time,” I was informed.

So I showed up about 10:40 just as the first young man slipped off his shirt and pants. Within seconds half a dozen young men joined him, all body-paint­ed, all well-lit by the over-lap­ping flash of photographer’s bulbs.

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On a stage at the far end of the gym, the Group Image was performing against a huge back­drop of multiple — projections. It isn’t accurate to say they play extremely loudly — like many groups, they don’t seem to make sound at all, but to have enter­ed another sensory dimension altogether. Movies were projected on several screens hung from the ceiling, moving lights dappled the walls, and from time to time strips of paper were thrown from the balcony. Two or three hundred hippies — the term is still valid in certain environ­ments — were dancing in various stages of consciousness.

And in a kind of pen at the entrance-end of the gym, about the size of a boxing ring, with fluorescent posts at the corners and a C-movie projected on a screen at the back, the naked dancing continued — now 10 or 12 young men, and a few on the main dance floor itself.

“Put your clothes on,” the owner of the Gymnasium vainly implored, but suddenly, in a heterosexual followup to last week’s naked happening at the Palm Gardens, a fleshy blonde girl strode naked into the pen, and the crowd, merely curious up to this point, clustered quickly around the area. The girl danced for a few minutes, then disap­peared as quickly as she’d come — into clothes and into newsprint.

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A little later, another girl lay down in a corner of the pen and casually smoked a dubious ci­garette as her boy-friend gently lifted her skirt and deftly painted — but not so deftly that it didn’t tickle — what John Cle­land referred to as “nether lips”. Eastman-Kodak stock must have jumped at least a point, and a Time reporter, more indignant than curious, asked “is this what’s going on in New York?”

For the next hour or so the over 30 reporters and photo­graphers waited around, Marty-­like, for more [of] what used to be called “action.” But finally Ku­sama admitted that that was pretty much it for the evening, and she seemed as disappointed as anyone.

Actually, I’d very much wanted to like it. On the way up on the subway, I vowed not to use the banal and obvious jokes like telling boys from girls or having it up to here with nudity. After all, everyone had said the Ann Halprin dance concert at Hunter College last year was ex­hilarating and liberating, many people in our time regard utopia as a sexual rather than a social ideal, and we have been told that the younger generation is finally overthrowing 2500 years of Platonic idealism in favor of tactility. This was to be a glimpse of the unrepressed fu­ture. Animal vitality and accep­tance would sweep the world. Que viva body mysticism!

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But how sad and depressing it was. The utopian fantasies, col­lapsed, and somewhere in between the titillated media and the post-civilization on 71st Street lay hopes that this was not to be the way of all flesh.

For the most disturbing thing about the evening was its com­plete sense of unreality. At first I thought they might be laughing at how serious everyone was get­ting about such a trivial thing — ­wow, we just take off our clothes and people write articles about “glimpses of the unrepressed future.” But they weren’t putting us on, they weren’t even there. It was very much like one of those press conferences at which a public figure makes state­ments for television cameramen. The cameramen are bored, the public figure is just putting on his act for the cameras — the “reality” of the event, its es­sence, when it actually “happens,” is when the film is shown on television six or eight hours later.

Similarly, the reality of the “mass naked happening” seem­ed to lie in the media, in the pictures, in the gesture — which meant nothing except insofar as it was reported. I felt at first it would be unfair to comment as a voyeur, that one would have to swing with it in order to understand it (another Voice reporter arrested), but the only reality of the situation WAS voyeurism. We had achieved a situation in which the voyeur was more real than what he observ­ed.

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For the scene — or at least this one example of it, which we can only hope is an exception —seemed like nothing so much as those futuristic movies (some of which were projected on the screens) full of pale, emotionless zombies. The participants were obviously in a state of ecs­tasy — but it seemed such a solipsistic, masturbatory ecstasy that the pleasure-principle itself may need re-definition. What a sad and lonely and disembodied ecstasy.

When telegrams announce the arrival or the Noble Savage, tactility has become the final abstraction. ♦

1968 Village Voice by Ross Wetzsteon about Yayoi Kusama "Naked Happening"

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From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

America in the Eye of the Telescope Site

In Transit

LOS ANGELES — At the long rented tables inside the door of Kennedy-for-President head­quarters, three middle-aged lad­ies wearing Kennedy hats were selling bumper stickers and post­ers. It was the afternoon after Nebraska and you arrived ex­pecting elation, perhaps even eu­phoria; instead the three middle­-aged ladies sat there rather­ glumly, staring out at the bright clean sidewalks of Wilshire Boul­evard and the plump, suited fig­ures of other ladies shopping at the Broadway across the street.

“What’s the matter?” I asked one of them, a blue-haired lady nervously shuffling bumper stickers. “I thought you’d have a party going here.”

“Oh, no, “she said, smiling metallically. “We’re just begin­ning. The real one is just be­ginning.”

She was right, of course, In­diana, the District of Columbia, and Nebraska were important enough; Kennedy could not have afforded to lose any of them. But the real fight is in Califor­nia. This is the heart of the new United States, and if he cannot win convincingly, Hubert Humphrey will be the next President of the United States.

“The other ones were just the preliminaries,” a young USC graduate said. “It’s sort of like the heavyweight elimination. You can’t afford to lose any of them, but the last one is the big one.”

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Away down Wilshire Boule­vard, in Beverly Hills, McCarthy for President headquarters had seemied like a West Coast ver­sion of Walter B. Cooke’s. One lovely little girl sat behind a table covered with literature and her face was so wasted and forlorn that you felt like taking her to a Laurel and Hardy movie just to give her some perspec­tive.

“It’s so … unfair!” she said.

Kennedy headquarters was something else: it had a kind of motion and fury to it, played against a background of jerky shabbiness. The walls were painted red, white, and blue; adorned with posters of the candidate. People were dashing ev­erywhere: the three middle-aged ladies were the somber window dressing for a jumble of ham­mering typewriters, clattering mimeograph machines, ringing telephones, blasting tv sets, rad­ios turned to the all-news chan­nel. Young girls with impossibly white teeth and Kennedy hats gathered up clusters of posters and signs to take to the airport to greet the candidate. They walked across a floor littered with a compost of cigarette butts, crushed coffee cups, discarded press releases, balled carbon paper, and crusts of Dan­ish pastries. They were pretty but they were like all the chicks you ever saw around a cam­paign headquarters: clean, straight, smart, and oddly sex­less; in the sack, they probably hollered for the Candidate.

The men in Kennedy head­quarters were something else. All the younger guys seemed to have been pressed from the same mold at the Rent-a-Volun­teer-with-Pragmatic-Com­passion Works. They wore grey suits on the street, and in the office hiked their shirt-sleeves halfway up the forearm, in case a photographer from Look drop­ped by. They all had horn-rim­med glasses. They all had tight law-school mouths. They all smoked thin panatella cigars. And they were all pricks. That is, they were almost without ex­ception rude, bursting with self-importance, quick to hang up telephones, incapable of return­ing calls, and for most purposes unconcerned with anything ex­cept the technical processes of politics.

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With a few exceptions, Ken­nedy had nothing to do with en­listing these people. Most of them, I’m told, have come out of the Jesse Unruh operation in California. Unruh does not run a machine, in the old sense of that word; but in Democratic politics in this state he has the best organization. The trouble is that the guys who work for him now feel they are working for a winner at last, after the Pat Brown and Pierre Salinger di­sasters. And they feel that they can win without any outside help. The major organizational problem Kennedy has in California has been caused by the Unruh men who answer the telephones; hundreds of people who wanted to work for Kennedy were told by Unruh’s people to forget it, they had enough help. These po­tential volunteers have gone to work for McCarthy, or the Peace and Freedom Party, or stayed home. (I haven’t heard of any­one joining up with Hubert, the Soul Brother.)

My brother Brian and I were standing around when one ot the volunteers came over. He was one of the few fat guys in the place, and stuttered a little.

“You going to the airport?” he said.

“Yeah … ”

“Can you take two riders?”

“Sure.”

Why not? I told Brian. We’re going out there anyway. A few minutes later the fat guy came back with a girl and a pile of posters.

“You can squeeze in some more people, can’t you?”

“No.”

The guy looked miffed. We went and got the car, and the fat guy and his girl and his hats and his posters all piled into the back. We started for the San Diego freeway and the airport. After two blocks the fat guy said: “Roll the window down, will you?”

“Can I smoke?” I asked.

“Let him walk,” Brian said.

“Just don’t want to get a cold,” the fat guy said.

I rolled the window up. The girl was quiet and the fat guy started talking about how ter­rible it was that Kennedy was late after all the planning they had done. I rolled the window down.

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Kennedy was expected at American Airlines Gate 44, and all the way to the airport a disc jockey who sounded like 1958 Bruce Morrow announced the ar­rival time every 10 minutes. I expected 10,000 people. There were about 100 there when we arrived. They were clustered a­round the gate, with the press off in the waiting area on the side. About 60 Kennedy girls in tight white blouses and plastic boaters were rehearsing a song while a woman’s voice led them on from same mysterious loud­speaker. The song kept repeating a line that talked about  “… conscience with a capital K …” It sounded like a song construct­ed by Jimmy Van Heusen for the Ku Klux Klan.

All the little girls were white, except for one pretty black chick with blue eyes (sorry, Rap) who was brought up to the front for the photographers. A black guy and his wife and six-year-old daughter leaned over the fence to see Kennedy. The man car­ried a Kodak. I asked him why he was there.

“Bobby’s my man.” he said. “I want my daughter to see him too.”

“We never saw President Ken­nedy in the flesh,” his wife said. “And so we want the little girl to see Bobby.”

The little girl watched the cameramen, who were banging and tripping each other with cameras and wires. As usual they reminded me of the CBS reporter who once said, “If I ever have a retarded child, God forbid, I won’t worry. I’ll just enroll him in the cameraman’s union.” Then a middle-aged wo­man came to the front, trim, neat, bright-eyed, in a white dress a couple of inches above the knee, looking like she drank Tanqueray in the summer and Chivas Regal in the winter and subscribed dutifully to the New York Review. She started danc­ing, cold sober, and I realized she was the cheerleader. She started singing again about con­science with a capital K, and all the Kennedy girls did their best, while the reporters and photo­graphers stared dully at them and I wondered if there were any girls in California with flat chests and cavities. They weren’t at the airport.

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After awhile a squad of the pricks arrived carrying clipboards and folders, smoking those goddamned small cigars, wearing the tight mouths and the horn-rimmed glasses. They started pushing the crowd around and making Terse Announcements about how Kennedy would first make a statement to the press and then would walk through a kind of gauntlet of Kennedy girls “so you can all see him.” Then they started arranging the reporters, with the tv guys in front, followed by a few lonely magazine reporters, and the local newspapers some­where around the candy stand in the next terminal. The crowd was growing bigger now, with people standing up on the stairs to the left and a few cops drifting around the edges.

About 7:30 the plane arrived, and the crowd had grown to about 1000. Those reporters who had not been given a week off by their bosses trailed off first, limp and pale, toting typewriters. The cameramen crashed forward, a wall of them, and the girls’ choir came on about the conscience with a capital K, and you could hear screaming and shouting, and there was Kennedy, with tired lines around his eyes, blue-grey suit, his lips moving into the cluster of microphones, and I decided to get the hell out of there.

I made it just in time: the line of girls were pushed forward, some women screamed, the black guy was wobbling with his daughter on his shoulder, and the cameramen were committing various acts of mayhem as they shot film they must have known would never be used. Another mob was in the rotunda near the escalator. One of the pricks pushed a tv report­er and the tv reporter gave him a good shove back. More screaming. A little girl fell.

“I touched his hand, I touched his hand,” said one of the long-­haired California girls.

“I’d hate to tell you where I touched him,” her girl friend said, all teeth and innocence.

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And then we were down the stairs and moving fast along the shiny corridor between the hori­zontal escalators that they use to move people in L.A. Kennedy did his best to smile while people leaped around him and then he was outside, climbing into the convertible, while the press buses loaded, and we went off behind him to Valley College in Van Nuys.

The trip took us north on the freeways, heading for the blue ridge of mountains that separates L.A. from the San Fernando Valley. Mayor Yorty had provided two motorcycle cops and a stationwagon with two more to follow the press buses. We didn’t know until later that the Van Nuys cops had received a call from some terrified citizen saying that his brother was going to shoot Kennedy.

We got off the freeway at Burbank Boulevard and passed into a neighborhood of town houses, clotheslines, gas stations, kids on bikes. A sound truck had plowed the route earlier, warning the residents that Ken­nedy was coming. The reception from knots of scattered people was warm. The kids on the bikes kept up with the motorcade all the way to the college. I saw one Nixon sign, one sign that simply said “Eccch!”, and about 50 Kennedy signs. At one point, a lone man in a sleeveless undershirt stood out in the street under the trees and shouted, “Booo.” That’s all he said, and you wondered what the hell his kids thought of him.

There were cops blocking traf­fic at the college, and they stopped a black reporter in a Volkswagen in front of us and made him park three blocks away. They couldn’t let us do anything else. We parked and started running through the cool evening after the twin red eyes of the press bus. It was beautiful: kids on an overpass, someone yelling into a bullhorn, and Brian and me running through the tennis courts on the trail of the candidate. And all around us young college kids were running too, in the direction of the great ugly brown building where Kennedy was scheduled to speak.

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The motorcade stopped at the front door and the McCarthy signs started waving high. Kennedy tried to get out, and the cops started rapping people with bats held at each end. I was on the side beside a hedge of pine trees as we all tried to get into the gym behind Kenne­dy.

This was impossible. When Kennedy was through the door, they slammed it behind him and locked it.

“It’s all right, it’s all right, there’s a loudspeaker.”

“What about the press?”

“Go around the back.”

A guy fell on the ground beside me, and a girl stepped on him, and we cleared some room. “I lost my shoe!” he said. There seemed to be nowhere to move, so Brian and I started to crawl under the pine trees. A big dark grey dog stared us in the eye.

“The hell with it,” I said. We ran around to the back, and the door there was locked too. Three football players arrived and started crashing with their fists against the door. It looked cer­tain that we’d be arrested if we stayed with them. That, or torn limb from limb by the people charged with feeding them. We went around to the front again and finally convinced a cop that we were supposed to be on the inside. We stepped through, fol­lowed suddenly by the football players. Another beautiful eve­ning in the only life I will ever have.

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Kennedy was already talking when we came into the gym. There were about 8000 young people in the place. The McCar­thy kids were in the stands flanking the speaker’s platform and down in front, seated on the floor, were some of the kids from the Peace and Freedom Party, who looked like the Mc­Carthy kids before they cut their hair.

Kennedy was talking about welfare and the need to give citizens jobs. It was a familiar theme, and Kennedy himself seemed a bit bored by it. The formal speech was repetitious and ragged and was not really what these young sons and daughters of the middle class had come to hear. They wanted to hear about Vietnam and true change in the American system. Kennedy was not giving that to them, though he was applauded loudly and often. He talked about how great numbers of Americans were hungry and humiliated, “how some of them might have wanted husbands, some of them might have wanted fathers, and we have only given them checks.” He talked about what a disaster the welfare system was, how demeaning and ugly it was. He started building then, throwing the prepared speech away. He talked about the law passed by Congress last year that will cut off vast numbers of children from even the humiliating sub­sistence of welfare. “Those chil­dren have a choice between starving to death or moving,” Kennedy said. “I’ve seen them, in the state of Mississippi, with their bellies swollen and their faces covered with sores …” He enumerated and exploded some of the myths about the poor. “It is simply not true that the poor do not want to work,” he said. “It is far more likely to be children of favored families rather than the poor …”

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Then there was a question period and Kennedy was better than he ever is with prepared speeches. Some of the kids were nasty and bitter, and after one particularly snotty question, Kennedy said, with a tired voice, “What we need in the country is to cut down the belligerence. If we let this hatred and emotion control our lives, we’re lost.”

“It’s our lives!” one of the Peace and Freedom kids yelled.

Kennedy talked about the draft, as he always does with college audiences, and tried again to say to them that if they really oppose the war, if they were against the draft, they should follow their consciences on the matter. “But you also have to face the consequences of your actions,” he said. This never goes over well, because most of these kids have grown up believing that there are no consequences to their actions. (Joel Oppenheimer once ex­plained why he can’t take pot­heads seriously: “The drinker pays with a hangover. The junkie pays with a big habit. The pothead never pays.”)

Kennedy’s line of argument infuriated the Peace and Freedom kids. They shouted and booed and interrupted both questions and answers. “You fascist pig!” one kid said (seriously). Others threw tantrums, like nine-year-­olds being asked to clean up after a birthday party. They looked as if they wanted to kill somebody, and they were in the same ugly mood when the even­ing ended and Kennedy made his way outside to the convertible.

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A group of them stationed themselves on the school overpass, and as Kennedy’s car started moving they unleashed a barrage of small stones, pebbles, apple cores, and other debris. This was in the name of social and racial justice, of course. Kennedy was not hit, but he slid down into the seat. Fred Dutton, of Kennedy’s staff, was hit on the head. The kids were ranting on the overpass, and I tried to get up there. The cops sealed it off. Kennedy’s car dis­appeared into the quiet side streets, heading for the Ambas­sador Hotel and some sleep.

I don’t believe that those young people were just an obscure case, hardened up by the barbarities of Marxist prose. No. They were the truest children of the Johnson era, because if the past few dirty years have taught us anything, they have taught us how to hate. Hatred on the left is even more vile and disgusting than hatred on the right, because it clothes itself in the rhetoric of decency. All those people sitting around the West Side getting their I-hate-Bobby rocks off are not much different from the George Wallace animals; they just think that their hatred is purer. They’ve made Kennedy into Savanarola and McCarthy into Francis of Assisi and when the primaries are over, the hatred will go even wider, hitting Humphrey and Rockefeller and Nixon too.

I think Kennedy is a decent man; he is the only politician now functioning on a national level who presents at least the possibility of bringing us back from the brink of race war; personally, he is the only politician I know who has never lied to me. He’ll have my vote no matter how many potential Walt Ros­tows now are attaching themselves to his campaign. But it would be self-deception of the worst kind to believe that any single man will save America. Kennedy alone will not do it; McCarthy can’t and Nixon would only push us into a seething cauldron, like Mexico about 1917. It’s too late for fairy tales, especially when we tell them to ourselves. I enjoy funny hats, balloons, campaign songs, and the rest of it. But 562 American men were slaughtered in Viet­nam last week. They are what politics is about this year. The smug, pampered, self-righteous kid who takes rocks into the darkness of an overpass and pelts a candidate with them is only a step away from picking up a Mannlicher Carcano with a telescopic sight. He is what politics is about in 1968 too. The cold dumbness of the pragma­tists killed those kids in Viet­nam. The Cocktail Party Left with its nasty little sophistries and its thrall at the prospect of violence put the rocks in those kids’ hands. I’d like to see America saved, but that’s not going to happen until all of us, the left even more than the right, begin to de-escalate our capacity for glib hatreds. Politics used to be our national clown show; but it has become an ugly confrontation between armies of opposing haters, and if it keeps going that way, we’re doomed. ♦

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