Debbie Harry in ”51” Magazine

”51”  was a magazine that was based on the idea that New York City should be the fifty-first state of the US.  This is article written by Debbie Harry, was taken from the bio Making Tracks/The Rise of Blondie published by Da Capo Press. I chose to immortalise this article  on the net since it’s almost impossible to get it from its original source and it really represents how things could be seen from the inside, by those who were part of this legendary era. It an honest, lucid look on how that particular scene was evolving coming from of an artist whose band Blondie was on its way to achieve international stardom. All the pictures were added by me. I hope they are helping setting the tone. -Tobe Damit

”51” Magazine, NYC, Late Summer of 1975

I walked into CBGB’s last Friday night at 2 a.m. The Bowery was thick with late night pollution and smog, a sea of sleeping winos, and broken glass.

The neglected denizens of the Bowery. The men of the Bower were largely neglected until the 1990s when the city began to clean up its homeless problems and workers made an effort to get them into shelters. ©Photo by Leland Bobbé, 1975 

Dee Dee Ramone spotted me through a Heineken Haze and slithered up wearing an electric purple pimp suit, a Jay’s T-shirt, ragged basketball sneakers and mirror shades.   

Swaying slightly, he whispered in my ear, Oh Debbie, we just got signed; we’re supposed to be going on tour. I smiled. I wondered: Will Success Spoil… Dee Dee is bass player to The Ramones, consummate, awesome, punk rockers extraordinaire. The handsomest of the group, Dee Dee resembles Marcello Mastroianni or Steve Canyon, speaks German (born Berlin), was a highly paid hairdresser for a while, is very charming, handsome and childlike.

Dee Dee and Tommy Ramone photographed by ©Adrian Boot

The Next day was ninety-seven degrees and I ran into Tommy Ramone, drummer and leader of the band, in front of Arthur Treacher’s on Sixth Avenue. Tommy, I heard you got signed, I quipped. He flashed me his disgusted look, Yeah, we got signed to the space program, three sets a night on the nest moon shot. I didn’t take it any further; it was very hot.

     But for a few exceptions the NYC rock scene is built on dreams and fantasy. Dreams of love and power, of polite fascism and opulent anarchy: the have and have-nots; EEE, erotism, eccentricity, and eclecticism.  It is more than fitting than that scene has filtered down to one tiny club on the Bowery. The expensive thoughts of all concerned could never have been contained in anything larger or more plush. (Except for Sunday evenings with the Miamis at Broadway Charlie’s, Miamis are not too tight with the manager of CBGB’s.)

Last picture of Miami Showband Summer of 1975. Tony Geraghty Fran O’Toole, Ray Millar, Des Lee, Brian McCoy and Steve Travers

 The rock and roll sub-culture coexists easily with the wraith-like alkies; the angry young black men; with the emptiness and ruin of America’s attics, basements, and secret corners. Places where the out takes and out casts collect. Poverty Marches On… What the Hell: a bass player (now with the Heartbreakers) with so much sex appeal it could lead anyone, male of female into groupiedom, revolution be damned.

Johnny Thunders (L) and Richard Hell

     As I hinted at, an occasional glimpse of success is not uncommon here at CBGB’S house bar. Last Thursday played host to the magnificent men of Kiss, playing homage to their old friends the Harlots of 42nd Street, who were doing their best to entertain the natives. Other notable drop-ins were Mick Ronson (ohh) and Ian Hunter (ahhh) who surprised everyone no end, including the Fast who promptly set up and played a second hot set on an otherwise dead night at the rock palace.

The Harlots of 42nd Street

     A few of the Bowery denizen have succeeded in related fields. Fayette Hauser, Gorilla Rose and Tomata du Plenty, who are behind the scenes Hollywood writers for the new nationally broadcast Manhattan Transfer TV show. I do mean behind the scenes they’re still in NYC, but word has it that they’ll be getting some fresh OJ off their own tree within the month.

Click!

     Just One More Thing . . . The great tower of power moloch Mainman is closing up shop. Mainman produced some fabulous shows like Wayne County at the Trucks, FAME, and Bowie, so much for EEE. 

-Debbie Harry, Late Summer of 1975

 

 

CBGB’s 70’s Punk Scene by Godlis

1976-1978

CBGB’s House photographer

David Godlis was eyewitness to the 1970s New York punk scene. Here’s a very small sample of what you can find i his photo souvenir book on the CBGB with an intro by Jim Jarmusch who just did a documentary about The Stooges ”Gimme Danger”.

"The long view across Bowery that fabulous summer of 77" godlis,1977)
“The long view across Bowery that fabulous summer of 77” (Godlis,1977)
2. The club’s owner, Hilly Kristal, stands outside among the crowd waiting to get in (1977).
Hilly Kristal, Bowery. “Hilly overseeing his Bowery kingdom. It was essential that I had a good shot of him. But back then when I showed people this photo they would ask why I had a photo of this bearded guy in a flannel shirt mixed in with my pictures of punks on the Bowery. Now everyone knows. Without Hilly, I wouldn’t have any of these photos.” (Godlis, 1977)
3. Patti Smith, one of the first artists booked to play the club when it opened, arriving (1976).
Patti Smith, one of the first artists booked to play the club when it opened, arriving (Godlis,1976)
4. Sylvia Morales (who would go on to marry Lou Reed) and downtown scenester Mudd Club co-founder Anya Phillips strike a pose (1977).
Sylvia Morales (who would go on to marry Lou Reed) and downtown scenester/ Mudd Club co-founder Anya Phillips strike a pose (Godlis,1977)
Roberta Bayley, Mary Harron, John Holmstrom, CBGB. "All three were essential at the classic Punk Magazine. Roberta Bayley shot the cover of the first Ramones album and also worked the front desk at CBGB’s, Mary Harron did the first U.S. piece on the Sex Pistols for Punk and later directed many films including American Psycho, and John Holmstrom founded Punk magazine and still runs the punk empire online."(Godlis,1977)
Roberta Bayley, Mary Harron, John Holmstrom, CBGB. “All three were essential at the classic Punk Magazine. Roberta Bayley shot the cover of the first Ramones album and also worked the front desk at CBGB’s, Mary Harron did the first U.S. piece on the Sex Pistols for Punk and later directed many films including American Psycho, and John Holmstrom founded Punk magazine and still runs the punk empire online.”(Godlis,1977)
5. Garage punk band The Cramps standing outside the club (1977).
Psychobilly/Garage punk band The Cramps (Goldis,1977)
6. Music journalist Lester Bangs (1977).
Lester Bangs, CBGB. “Music journalist Lester Bangs brought his pen and typewriter to NYC to report on what was going on down on the Bowery. Here shown wearing a Punk Magazine T-shirt. (Godlis,1977)
7. Singer-songwriter Alex Chilton (1977).
Singer-songwriter Alex Chilton, Bowery. “Alex was a big photography fan, photographer William Eggleston being a family friend in Memphis. So we tried shooting this out on the Bowery median strip, getting very lucky when a drop of rain landed on the lens transforming this shot from pretty good to iconic. Used as the cover for his independent 45 ‘Bangkok,’ an outtake of this session is the cover of the recent biography ‘A Man Called Destruction,’ by Holly George-Warren.”(Godlis,1977)
Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch, Bowery. "I knew Jim Jarmusch through a mutual friend studying film with him at NYU, and he was hanging out at CBGB's. Christopher Parker was in Jim’s first film 'Permanent Vacation.' And Klaus Nomi, was just getting ready to shine over at Club 57 in the next year or so.''(Godlis,1978)
Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch, Bowery. “I knew Jim Jarmusch through a mutual friend studying film with him at NYU, and he was hanging out at CBGB’s. Christopher Parker was in Jim’s first film ‘Permanent Vacation.’ And Klaus Nomi, was just getting ready to shine over at Club 57 in the next year or so.”(Godlis,1978)
8. Patti Smith performing with the Patti Smith Group (1977).
Patti Smith performing with the Patti Smith Group (Godlis,1977)
9. Punk innovator Richard Hell performing (1978).
Punk innovator Richard Hell performing (Godlis,1978)
Richard Hell, Bowery, ''Around 3 a.m., I caught Richard exiting CBGB before catching a cab in the Bowery rain'' (Godlis 1977)
Richard Hell, Bowery, ”Around 3 a.m., I caught Richard exiting CBGB before catching a cab in the Bowery rain” (Godlis 1977)
10. The infamous bathroom stalls (1976).
CBGB’s Bathroom “The Metropolitan Museum of Art used this photo to recreate the legendary CBGB bathroom for their ‘Punk Couture’ show last year. That’s one way to get into the Met, I guess.”(Godlis,1976)
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Punk magazine co-founder Legs McNeil enjoying (?) a drink (Godlis, 1978)
12. The Talking Heads performing (1977).
Talking Heads, CBGB. “This was the first time they played CBGB as a foursome, after adding Jerry Harrison (formerly with the Modern Lovers). They used to do a great cover of 1910 Fruitgum Company’s ‘123 Red Light.’ It’s on YouTube.”(Godlis,1977)
13. Blondie performing (1977).
Blondie, CBGB. “Another view from the side of the stage. Debbie Harry with Chris Stein on slide guitar doing a cover of ‘Little Red Rooster’ at the Punk Magazine Benefit show.” (Godlis,1977)
14. Richard Manitoba, lead singer of the Dictators, and a friend stand beneath the awning of the club.
Dictators, Bowery. “I photographed ‘Handsome Dick’ Manitoba and his girlfriend Jody under the awning to thank him for returning my lost wallet. Considering that I used to have to explain to people what the letters CBGB OMFUG* meant every time I’d show this picture, I never could have imagined that CBGB would someday grace iconic T-shirts worldwide.” (Godlis.1976)
15. No wavers (which was a short-lived subculture for people who rejected the new wave musicart movement), waiting outside the club (1978).
No Wave Punks, Bowery. “I think it was Terry Ork who came up with the idea to name the next thing after New Wave, No Wave. All participants in this scene, here hanging right outside the club are Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Philips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field and Liz Seidman. Well actually, Harold Paris was not a participant, but he was a best friend of Thurston Moore who once told me he should have been in this photo instead. He was probably standing right next to me when I took it, and his Volkswagen can be seen parked in the background.” (Godlis, 1978)
16. Dee Dee and Joey of the Ramones arriving at the club (1977).
Dee Dee and Joey Ramone, Bowery. “Dee Dee once told me that he chose this for the cover of his book “Poison Heart – Surviving The Ramones”, because he remembered this as a ‘really good night.’ I like that reason.” (Godlis,1977)
The Ramones, who are arguably one of the artists most closely associated with the CBGB, performing (Godlis,1977)
The Ramones, who are arguably one of the artists most closely associated with the CBGB, performing (Godlis,1977)
Ramones, CBGB. "I love that Joey Ramone is holding up the 'Gabba Gabba Hey' sign himself, before they started bringing Zippy onstage to hold it during 'Pinhead.''(Godlis,1977)
Ramones, CBGB. “I love that Joey Ramone is holding up the ‘Gabba Gabba Hey’ sign himself, before they started bringing Zippy onstage to hold it during ‘Pinhead.”(Godlis,1977)
CBGB Interior at Closing Time. "Walking out of the club at 4 a.m., it all looked so romantic to me." (Godlis,1977)
CBGB Interior at Closing Time. “Walking out of the club at 4 a.m., it all looked so romantic to me.” (Godlis,1977)
garbage truck
Garbage Truck, Bowery 4 a.m. “And here’s what it looked like out on Bowery after closing when the Garbage Trucks ruled the NYC streets. They still do.” (Godlis,1977)

10 Ramones Clips You Need To Watch!

ramonesJust click on pic for the clips!

When you boo the Ramones, you are booing rock’n’roll”; So said Supersuckers’ frontman Eddie Spaghetti. They could be the truest words ever uttered. Tommy Ramone, who died Friday on July 11th 2014 at the age of 65, was the band’s first official drummer and the cool, streetwise rogue in the shrunken black T-shirt and oversized shades staring out from the cover of that 29-minute-sprint-to-the-finish first album. An original member of the band, Tommy’s tenure in the group would last until 1978. During that time he played on arguably their three greatest records (RamonesLeave Home and Rocket To Russia), co-producing each and underpinning the songs with a high-energy, no-frills style that combined with Johnny Ramone’s buzzsaw guitar to propel their music to thrillingly unhinged heights. And if proof were needed of the NY punk icons’ foundation status in rock’s edifice, one need only survey the video evidence corralled below. Strap yourself in, and prepare to break the sound barrier with the Ramones Mark I at their very, very best.

tommy-ramones
Click!

th_2lw3ms

William S. Burroughs vs Andy Warhol

Warhol’s Screen Tests

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Andy Warhol Filming Kelly’s Screen Test

Warhol directed over 400 screen tests, and they serve now and forever as a remarkable archive of the personalities of the New York art scene and the Factory. Artists, male and female prostitutes, art dealers, transexuals, collectors, critics, writers, musicians, lesbians, actors, poets, dandys, painters, sculptors, dancers, strippers, athletes, sinners and saints, servers and patrons are all very well represented, as are the celebrities of the ”Factory’s Studio System” themselves. Those series of portrait films were shot from 1964 to 1966 and each test was about four minutes long. Warhol would place his subject in front of a 16mm Bolex with instruction to face the camera until the film stopped. In many cases, Warhol would walk away from the subject as the film was shooting without any further instructions, giving them absolute freedom to be and to do whatever they wanted as long as they remained in the frame. 51RM1GR24EL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

William Burroughs never sat for a screen test. Given the hype and excitement that surrounded Burroughs during his time in New York City in 1964/1965, this is somewhat surprising. At the time, Burroughs was an underground celebrity, a perfect subject for a screen test. Yet Burroughs and Warhol did not hit it off in the 1960s. Panna Grady, a rich heiress and a groupie of underground poets and writers, took Burroughs to meet Warhol for dinner. They went to a Chinese restaurant, where Burroughs was offended by the manners of those in Warhol’s entourage. Burroughs walked out.

Capture-d’écran-2013-07-29-à-08.53.53
photo by Victor Bockris

The personalities of the two men were quite a bit different, as must have been obvious when they met. Warhol cultivated a camp and effeminate gay persona that was the polar opposite of Burroughs’ gun-toting machismo. Burroughs’ letters of the 1950s are filled with his dislike for swishes, so coming face-to-face with Warhol must have aroused some level of distaste. Creatively, however, the two had much in common. Before their ill-fated dinner, Warhol arrived at Burroughs’ loft with a bag of tape-recording equipment. Surely this piqued Burroughs’ interest because Burroughs asked Warhol to leave the recorders at the loft.

WBS. Polaroid by Warhol
WSB in his usual banker suit. Polaroid by Warhol

I am fascinated by Warhol during the Factory years, and it is an interesting “what if” to me to wonder what a collaboration between Burroughs and Warhol would have been like. How would Burroughs have reacted to a screen test? If anybody could have out-stared a Bolex, without a doubt, it would have been Burroughs. For my part, I catch myself fantasizing about it and think that the camera would have blinked, tore up, or broke down under the strain of Burroughs’ impassive, sullen gaze or that, on the contrary, Burroughs would not even register on the film…. After all, In Mexico City, Peru, Panama, and Tangier, Burroughs stalked back alleys anonymously, melting into the shadows without leaving a trace on his surroundings. The banker’s suit and the grey hat were the uniform of the 1950s Everyman. Or maybe a Nobody. Not for nothing did Burroughs’ ability to blend in and disappear earn him the name “El Hombre Invisible.”

Face to Face

Burroughs Warhol
Andy Warhol talking to Bill, William S. Burroughs, at the Chelsea Hotel, with Victor Bockris shooting and recording. 23/10/1980

Ironically, Burroughs’ non-descript clothes became iconic by the 1970s. Immediately recognizable, precisely because he was invisible. The banker’s clothes disguised a revolutionary: a wolf in sheep’s clothing. When Burroughs returned to New York City from 1974 to 1981, Warhol was still holding court, although the Factory gave way to Studio 54. The screen tests were replaced by celebrity portraits painted for a sizable fee. Interestingly, it was at this period, when Burroughs truly broke into mainstream consciousness, that Warhol and Burroughs would connect. When Burroughs lived in New York City at the Bunker, he and Warhol met again for dinner, and the results were much more cordial than 1965. Victor Bockris who wrote A Report from the Bunker taped several of  these meetings, made all the transcripts, added his personal notes and photos as well as others by Marcia Resnick, Bobby Grossman, Jenny Moradfar and David Schmidlapp in a very interesting book that was released first under the title ”The Warhol-Burroughs Tapes”, later changed to  ”Conversations”. At first glance the conversations appear to be somehow superficial but nevertheless, because of its honesty, you still can very well get a good insight of each participant’s particular behavior ”au naturel”.  ”Conversations”gives you the same feeling that one would get from looking at Warhol screen tests; It may seem superficial at first but you get to see the real person if you wait, watch closely and pay attention without waiting for ”something” to happen. For some reason this book was controversial and I will not go into the details of why because to me, no matter what people say, it still is a very important document that would not have seen the day if it wasn’t for Bockris relentless efforts to make it happen. Let me give you a delightful example here as Bull and Warhol have an open conversation, talking sex, sharing about their ”First Time”:

Burroughs: Cocteau had this party trick that he would pull. He would lie down, take off his clothes, and come spontaneously. Could do that even in his fifties. He’d lie down there and his cock would start throbbing and he’d go off. It was some film trick that he had.

Bockris: How’d he pull that off? Have you ever been able to come through total mental—

Burroughs: Oh, I have indeed. I’ve done it many times. It’s just a matter of getting the sexual image so vivid that you come.

Warhol: How old were you when you first had sex?

Burroughs: Sixteen. Just boarding school at Los Alamos Ranch School where they later made the atom bomb.

Warhol: With who?

Burroughs: With this boy in the next bunk.

Warhol: What did he do?

Burroughs: Mutual masturbation. But during the war this school, which was up on the mesa there thirty-seven miles north of Santa Fe, was taken over by the army. That’s where they made the atom bomb. Oppenheimer [the scientist who invented the bomb] had gone out there for his health and he was staying at a dude ranch near this place and said, “Well, this is the ideal place.” It seems so right and appropriate somehow that I should have gone to school there. Los Alamos Ranch School was one of those boarding schools where everyone rode a horse. Fucking horses, I hate ‘em. I had sinus trouble and I’d been going to New Mexico for my health during the summer vacations and then my family contacted the director, A. J. Connell, who was a Unitarian and believed very much in positive thinking, and I went there for two years. This took place on a sleeping porch, 1929.

Warhol: How great! Was the sex really like an explosion?

Burroughs: No no … I don’t remember it was so long ago.

Warhol: I think I was twenty-five when I first had sex, but the first time I knew about sex was under the stairs in Northside, Pittsburgh, and they made this funny kid suck this boy off. I never understood what it meant…

Burroughs: Made him do what?

Warhol: Suck this boy off, but I didn’t know what it meant, I was just sitting there watching when I was five years old. How did you get this kid to do it, or did he do it to you?

Burroughs: Oh I don’t know, sort of a lot of talking back and forth…

Here’s a remarkable clip of the pair chatting in the very room in which Arthur Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey! The footage is from an episode of the BBC documentary program Arena about the Hotel Chelsea and there are a couple of odd narrative elements to it, but the clip mercifully ends with Nico singing a haunting rendition of “Chelsea Girls”—in the Chelsea Hotel itself, one wonders if it was in Room 506…..

In 1974 William S. Burroughs and David Bowie got together for a little chat, documented by Rolling Stone. Here’s a particularly weird part where Burroughs and Bowie talk about the alien and reptilian nature of Andy Warhol:

Burroughs: Have you ever met Warhol?  tumblr_lpr14oTQM61qzdza2o1_500

Bowie: Yes, about two years ago I was invited up to The Factory. We got in the lift and went up and when it opened there was a brick wall in front of us. We rapped on the wall and they didn’t believe who we were. So we went back down and back up again till finally they opened the wall and everybody was peering around at each other. That was shortly after the gun incident. I met this man who was the living dead. Yellow in complexion, a wig on that was the wrong colour, little glasses. I extended my hand and the guy retired, so I thought, ‘The guy doesn’t like flesh, obviously he’s reptilian.’ He produced a camera and took a picture of me. And I tried to make small talk with him, and it wasn’t getting anywhere.

But then he saw my shoes. I was wearing a pair of gold-and-yellow shoes, and he says, ‘I adore those shoes, tell me where you got those shoes.’ He then started a whole rap about shoe design and that broke the ice. My yellow shoes broke the ice with Andy Warhol.

I adore what he was doing. I think his importance was very heavy, it’s becoming a big thing to like him now. But Warhol wanted to be clichi, he wanted to be available in Woolworth’s, and be talked about in that glib type of manner. I hear he wants to make real films now, which is very sad because the films he was making were the things that should be happening. I left knowing as little about him as a person as when I went in.

Burroughs: I don’t think that there is any person there. It’s a very alien thing, completely and totally unemotional. He’s really a science fiction character. He’s got a strange green colour.

Bowie: That’s what struck me. He’s the wrong colour, this man is the wrong colour to be a human being. Especially under the stark neon lighting in The Factory. Apparently it is a real experience to behold him in the daylight.

Burroughs: I’ve seen him in all light and still have no idea as to what is going on, except that it is something quite purposeful. It’s not energetic, but quite insidious, completely asexual. His films will be the late-night movies of the future.

(Full Story in: Teenage Wildlife/Beat Godfather Meets Glitter Mainman )

RECORDING MACHINES

Andy-Warhol-with-Tape-Recorder1
Andy Warhol with Taper Recorder, 1972

Despite the coldness of their first meeting, Burroughs and Warhol briefly bonded in Burroughs’ loft over the tape recorder. This machine proved central to the creative work and philosophies of both artists in the 1960s. Burroughs: “I am a recording instrument.” Warhol: “I want to be a machine.” Burroughs utilized the tape recorder from the late 1950s on. In his essay ”The Invisible Generation, Burroughs proclaims such technology as an agent for revolutionary change. Warhol relied on the tape recorder for most of his literary projects. A: A Novel is at its simplest a transcription of Warhol star Ondine talking about the events of his day. Tape transcriptions made up the bulk of Popism and The Philosophy of Andy Warhol as well. Ideally, Warhol sought to just let the tape run and present verbatim transcriptions. There would be no stopping or re-starting of the tape, no edits, no cuts. On the other hand, Burroughs aggressively manipulated the tape. He inched it backwards and forwards, recording and re-recording. He cut and spliced the tape. The resulting transcripts were heavily revised and altered. These two creative icons are on the opposite ends of the spectrum concerning the process of editing. Yet the goal is the same: a dissolving of the control of the artist, a striving for the impersonal.

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The major difference between the films of Warhol and Burroughs is, again, the cut. Burroughs’ films are full of aural and visual cuts, and Warhol uses the cut sparingly, if at all. Despite opposing editing techniques, the desire to displace the artist is the same. Of course, just the reverse occurs. Reading Burroughs cut-up texts, his personal obsessions and style shine through. The same occurs with his films. The selection of images and sounds betray his hand. He cannot help but impose his personal imprint. The same holds true for Warhol. Within the seemingly very strict parameters of the screen test, extremely individual, personal performances result. No screen test is exactly the same, even with the same subject filmed for several different tests. If you doubt this, view the several different tests taken of Baby Jane Holzer or Edie Sedgwick. Each test has its unique qualities. The personalities of the sitter show through as does that of Warhol.

Installation view of Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures at The Museum of Modern Art, 2010. Left to right, Screen Test: Susan Sontag (1964), Screen Test: Dennis Hopper (1964), Screen Test: Kathe Dees (1964), Screen Test: Edie Sedgwick (1965), Kiss (1963–64), Screen Test: Lou Reed (1966), Screen Test: Kyoko Kishida (1964), Screen Test: Baby Jane Holzer (1964), and Screen Test: Donyale Luna (1964). © 2010 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute. All rights reserved. Photo: Jason Mandella
Installation view of Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures at The Museum of Modern Art, 2010. Left to right, Screen Test: Susan Sontag (1964), Screen Test: Dennis Hopper (1964), Screen Test: Kathe Dees (1964), Screen Test: Edie Sedgwick (1965), Kiss (1963–64), Screen Test: Lou Reed (1966), Screen Test: Kyoko Kishida (1964), Screen Test: Baby Jane Holzer (1964), and Screen Test: Donyale Luna (1964). © 2010 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute. All rights reserved. Photo: Jason Mandella

UPPERS, DOWNERS & WITHDRAWALS SYMPTOMS

Watching the films of Burroughs and Warhol from a drug perspective, I feel that their styles could have been reversed. The drug of choice for Warhol and his art was amphetamine, while Burroughs preferred heroin. One would expect rapid cuts of image and sound from Warhol, and yet it was Burroughs’ cut-up films that reflect the speed freak’s sense and sensibility. Conversely, Warhol films like Sleep and Empire seem to capture the perspective of the junkie on the nod. Burroughs famously wrote in Naked Lunch that while on junk he could stare with interest at his shoe for hours. What would Burroughs have thought of a movie like Empire? Given his interest in editorial manipulation, Burroughs might have found it boring, preferring instead a movie like Chelsea Girls with its split-screen projection. Burroughs’ fascination with multiple perspectives hammers home the point that the world he described is largely seen through the lens of withdrawal. The kicking junkie is besieged by sensation. Spontaneous orgasms, crawling flesh, runaway thoughts. Burroughs’ art, cinematic and literary, captures and reproduces the experience of withdrawal more than the sensation of the fix. The hardcore addict fails to experience the euphoria of heroin in the same manner as a first-time user. Part of the kick is trying to recapture that initial rush. Burroughs’ strong sense of nostalgia stems in part from the longing of the addict for the first fix.

As Warhol was making screen tests in the 1960s, so in a way was Burroughs (along with Brion Gysin, Anthony Balch, and Ian Sommerville). Towers Open Fire (1963) opens with a long static shot of Burroughs which mirrors the portraits Warhol would begin creating a year later. In Guerrilla Conditions, later to become the basis for The Cut-Ups (1966), Burroughs introduced chance / found techniques similar to Warhol’s. Barry Miles writes, “The Cut Ups was literally that, with four reels of film being cut into twelve-inch lengths and assembled in rotation by a lab technician… No artistic judgment was made, and Balch was not even present.” The similarities to the restraints imposed on the screen tests are obvious.

I am more intrigued in considering a film like Bill and Tony(1972) as a Burroughsian screen test. The movie consists of the image of Burroughs mouthing Balch words, and Balch doing likewise to Burroughs’ words. Balch and Burroughs experimented with merging images to form a composite person. Burroughs was very interested in such superimpositions. Burroughs states, “Anthony Balch and I did an experiment with his face projected onto mine and mine onto his. Now if your face is projected onto somebody else’s in color, it looks like the other person. You can’t tell the difference; it’s a mask of light.” He states further, “Another experiment that Anthony and I did was to take the two faces and alternate them twenty-four frames per second, but it’s such a hassle to cut those and replace them, even to put one minute of alternation of twenty-four frames per second on a screen, but it is extraordinary.” Burroughs and Gysin also played with such techniques in The Third Mind experiments. The New Reformers photographs, produced in connection with the Colloque de Tanger in 1975, utilized such superimpositions. In 1971, Jan Herman visited Burroughs and Balch at St. Duke Street in London. At this time, the two men were making Bill and Tony and performing the experiments Burroughs describes above. Herman took part in these experiments and recorded a session on videotape. The results are available exclusively on RealityStudio.    

Bill and Tony
Bill and Tony

As the video shows, Burroughs introduces montage to the screen test. Montage, collage, assemblage, like the cut-up technique, all center on the cut. In the screen tests, Warhol avoided the edit, the physical cut. The duration of the movie was dictated by the length in feet of the packaged roll of film. No takes, no director yelling cut, no splicing of the film. On the other hand, Burroughs urged a generation to cut up everything. Film, text, audio tape all was fair game for the scissors. Warhol and Burroughs’ editing techniques differed but their goal of depersonalization (and eventual failure to achieve those goals) were the same. Fucked up glases

Both Warhol and Burroughs were well exposed to the world of experimental film from Russian avant-garde film of the 1920s to Surrealist film of the 1930s to the New American Film of the post-WWII era. Warhol was a fixture at The Filmmakers’ Co-op and a friend of numerous underground filmmakers like Jonas Mekas, Jack Smith (before their falling out), Willard Maas, and Marie Menken. These filmmakers were subjects for screen tests. Through Gysin and Balch (who distributed European soft-core films), Burroughs would have been exposed to a number of experimental films. I suspect Burroughs and Warhol were well aware of each other’s films as well. Towers Open Fire was completed in 1963 before the underground film boom of the next year. Much of what became The Cut-Ups were filmed around that time. Sections of The Cut-Ups were filmed in the Chelsea Hotel in 1965, the year Warhol and Burroughs first met. Given his connection with Mekas and others, Warhol may have heard about Burroughs’ film experiments as early as 1963. Interestingly, despite Burroughs’ absence from Warhol’s films, particularly the Screen Tests, they are Burroughsian in spirit (alternatively Burroughs’ films are Warholian) as both men had similar obsessions and interests. Burroughs’ films of the mid-1960s have images of young men in bed, of static portraits, of artwork being created in Factory-type fashion.

One day a young man appeared at the Factory introducing himself as Julian Burroughs, the son of William Burroughs. The man was in fact Andrew Dungan. Here is the real actual story of what happened, as told by the man himself (see comment section for current post):k2-_c9c41bfe-6fc0-4986-8472-5243420d5111.v1

”I was drafted into the army in 1966 and deserted in June 1967. In October, after the March on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. I arrived in NYC. Walking down the street I met Warhol and Paul Morrissey by chance and they asked me to be in a movie that evening. They had asked me my name and I did give him my fugitive name which I had constructed from the knowledge that he did have a son, (who oddly enough I later met as he was a friend of my brother), and I felt it would get me off the hook if I was busted by the FBI agents presumably looking for me. Well, we made the movie that night and I sort of got along with Andy and Paul and the others and, being straight, was passed around among the females in the entourage. Heady experience, but the heavy paranoia of living in NYC made it difficult. Still, I hung out, dined on the Warhol tab at Max’s Kansas City, and came up with the concept for Lonesome Cowboys- based on Romeo and Juliet, hence Ramona and Julian in the film. The police did get word I was connected with Warhol and I got out of town to Paris in April 1968. Lived there for six years before getting an amnesty when Nixon got his pardon, saw Andy a few times, but returned to California, and have led my quiet life here in LA though I still am in contact with people like Viva. Saw William Burroughs once and told him my story and he enjoyed it. But it was really a chance encounter not a con or an attempt to get into the Warhol scene.”

The idea of a doppelganger of this type always appealed to Warhol (who probably got that from Dali who was obsessed by doubles and copies). He played such tricks himself. Before all that took place Warhol had already sent Allen Midgette (who sat for a screen test) on a speaking tour of the United States posing as Warhol himself in October 1967 before the time of the Julian Burroughs hoax. Most famously, Edie Sedgwick had dyed her hair silver and accompanied Warhol to parties and openings as a female version of Warhol. Quite possibly, the hoax perpetrated on the Factory inspired Warhol to try it himself, although forgery and impersonation were already staples of the Factory aesthetic. In any case, Warhol cast Dungan / Julian in Lonesome Cowboys and Nude Restaurant. So indirectly Burroughs was a Warhol superstar. Burroughs appeared on Saturday Night Live, was the Godfather of Punk, was profiled in People. Such flash and recognition captivated Warhol. The pinnacle of this type of attention would be the Nike ad in 1994 that capitalized on Burroughs’ iconic status in the realm of, not Punk, but Cyber-Punk. Burroughs may never have set foot in the Factory but his presence was felt there and bled into Warhol’s films of the period. Similarly in the screen-test feel of Bill and Tony, Warhol proves to be a ghost in the machine in Burroughs’ films.

This article is largely inspired by Jed Birmingham and his ideas on the cinema of Burroughs and Warhol. The links have been updated and some have been added but you don’t have to check every single one of them although I really made a big effort to make this interesting to people who aren’t that much into this kind of stuff.

''Reptilian Burroughs'' by Charles Burns
”Reptilian” Burroughs by Charles Burns

Sources:

The Cut-Up Films:

William Buys a Parrot (1963)
Bill and Tony (1972)
Towers Open Fire (1963)
Ghost at n°9 (Paris) (1963-72)
The Cut-Ups (1966)
The Junky’s Christmas (1966)