Ali Wanted To Be…

In Depth Interview with Victor Bockris, Author of ”Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven”

by Tobe Damit

Victor walking around the camp with Ali holding his daughter in his arms, 1973. photo ©Bockris-Schmidlapp.

Foreword by Victor Bockris:

The Ali-Warhol Photo Tapestry shown up above as the ”banner” for this article is 60 x 32 inches and comes in various forms ranging from The Ali-Warhol Boxed Set (on 24 separate canvases) to the popular vertical edition on one large print thirty by six four inches, three images across and eight down. It is a beautiful and historic work executed by the Bockris-Schmidlapp team. Copies still available.

In order to enjoy this interview as I hope you will it helps  to know that I am talking about two slightly different Ali books. The first one called Ali: Fighter Poet Prophet was published in October 1974 on the day after Ali defeated George Foreman and regained his World Heavyweight Champion Crown. It was authored by Bockris-Wylie and contained over sixty splendid photographs by Peter Simon. It was also the last book published by the notorious Maurice Girodias’ Freeway Press. Bockris-Wylie was a writing and interviewing team of myself and my early seventies collaborator Andrew Wylie. Girodias, a great friend of mine, was a legend for publishing in the nineteen fifties some of the best books of our times, from Nabakov’s ”Lolita” to William Burroughs’ ”Naked Lunch”. The second one called Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven” published in 1998 in the U.K. and 2000 in the U.S. by Victor Bockris consists of the original book without the photographs but with a new introduction and final chapter on Andy Warhol’s Ali portrait visit as well as over one hundred stills from Anton Perich’s Ali documentary, parts of which were filmed when Bockris-Wylie was visiting Ali in 1973. To snatch from flames the burning pages of  those days were to twist words into breathing wires in my brain. Let this flog of  memories attend you best. -Victor Bockris

Victor Bockris and Andrew Wylie by ©Elsa Dorfman

This interview was done to complete the article ”Beat Muhammad Ali” previously posted in LAN by Tobe Damit.

Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven by Victor Bockris.

LAN: In ”’Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven”, you explain the important role Gerard Malanga played in the birth of the whole project but I want to know why and when you got convinced that Ali was such an important player in the counterculture of the 60’s?

By November of 1972 I had established myself as a poet in Philadelphia by publication of two well reviewed books of poems and a documentary about me on local TV. I had included interviews in both books of poems when I found in them the poetry of human speech. I was now shifting my focus from writing poems to conducting a series of interviews with poets. In fact, in collaboration with Andrew Wylie I was about to embark on a collection of these interviews called ‘The Life of Poetry” . By 1972 poets had become more relevant than ever. We clung to the counterculture as the best thing to come out of the nineteen sixties, but in the early seventies it was constantly being attacked by the Nixon administration and poets were often our most articulate voices. The problem was it was virtually impossible to make money to help finance our work on ”The Life of Poetry” (unpublished) from interviewing poets. One afternoon Wylie and I asked ourselves, “Who is the most famous poet in the world?”  The great British poet W.H. Auden, who was the Professor of Poetry at Oxford University in England, had just died. Some radical British students were suggesting that Muhammad Ali should be voted Oxford’s  new professor of Poetry. When we read in the local newspapers that Ali had playfully replied he would be delighted to accept the position, we instantly knew we should do a big interview with Muhammad Ali the Poet. Since the Supreme Court had reversed the sentence he received in 1967 for refusing to be drafted, Ali had increasingly been marketed as the champion of the  underdogs and anti-war protestors around the world. Furthermore, by becoming a Muslim in the sixties and staging his key fights of the seventies in third world countries he certified his credentials as one of the world’s best known anti-war voices. As far as we were concerned the fact that he used his fame to attract attention to the cause of World Peace made him one of us. I got the phone number of his training camp from a sports writer at a Philadelphia tabloid. It was ninety minutes north of us in Pennsylvania. Andrew was usually better at getting interview appointments than I was, but on his occasion since I had a strong British accent I made the call. Much to my surprise, Ali answered the phone on its second ring and when I asked him if we could do an interview about his poetry he gave us an appointment two days later. When we first met him that November morning at 10 a.m. Ali was stark naked. Was this his response to being asked about his poetry? Was he in fact in the tradition of Allen Ginsberg, who sometimes took  his clothes off during a poetry reading, emphasising how naked his poetry was? I have to ask these questions because I am looking for comparisons between my people. You have to wonder otherwise why write at all? Ali was coming off two victorious fights that year and approaching the top of his post sixties game. He was full of energy, he looked terrific. I think he granted us the interview because talking to young people who liked him kept him alert. He was a masterful talker cum rapper and being asked about his poetry sent him into a great long, funny rap about the origins of his poems.  As an indication of how in tune he was to our expectations, at the end of our first visit to Fighter’s Heaven Ali asked me to be his spokesman to, ”The white longhairs in the colleges”.

Muhammad Ali: A Poet In And Out Of The Ring. Gettyimage

LAN: I use the term ”project” for this book because it feels to me that it gave birth to numerous side projects that all had roots in what you were doing. Could you please elaborate on who was doing what and what were the ending results and concrete repercussions of all those things taking place ”in the side lines”?

Your are right in this perception. Between September 1971 to June 1972 I worked with Andrew Wylie and Aram Saroyan on our proto punk poetry press, Telegraph Books.  We published ten volumes including Patti Smith’s first book ”Seventh Heaven”, the Warhol Superstar Brigid Polk’s book Scars as well as my ”In America”. This work and my subsequent work received a lot of press attention in the Fall of 1972 leading up to the Ali interview. Outstanding amongst these works was an interview I did with Patti Smith and a poem I wrote called 1972”, which consisted of a list of some three hundred names of the counterculture’s favorite stars. It began with the names of the Rolling Stones, who reached their zenith in 1972 with Exile On Main Street”These two pieces, published together at a new friend Jeff Goldberg’s Red Room Books, marked the beginning of a new period. The first Ali interview, which became the base of the book Ali: Fighter Poet Prophet”, was published the same month it was conducted in Phildelphia’s underground weekly, The Drummer.  It too was a transitional piece, taking us beyond poets to interviewing the One Hundred Most Intelligent People. Rock and Roll was central in my work, which has provided something of a bridge between the Sixties and the Seventies, leading up to Punk  Rock/Art. That was another thing that tied Ali in with my favorite subjects: during the early years of the 1960s Andy Warhol, Keith Richards and Muhammad Ali were all written off in the mainstream press as punks! Punk after all dates far back in time, for punk as I understand it describes a person who is fully committed to transforming themselves into who they want to be and equally committed to their calling. Above all they always do the very best they possibly can and never retreat or surrender. In its June 1974 issue Penthouse magazine featured our Ali interview, which made him happy because it was one of the few times when what he actually said was published instead of some phony rewrite by an editor.

The ”other book”: ”Ali: Fighter Poet Prophet” authored by Bockris-Wylie photographs by Peter Simon.

LAN: The Deer Lake training camp obviously represented a lot more to Ali than just a place to train with these huge rocks painted by Cassius Clay Sr, each one of them bearing the name of a great boxer; What was the very first impression YOU got about the camp itself?

Ali’s training camp Fighter’s Heaven has not received the attention it deserves as one of Ali’s greatest achievements. It was his idea. He was tired of paying huge sums of money to house his entourage in hotels and train in other people’s gyms in Miami. Ali decided to build his own camp and he found a good place at the top of a hill leading off Highway 61 in Deer Lake Pennsylvania. When I first got there Ali only had the gym, the kitchen and his log cabin built. The boulders had not arrived yet, but he worked on the place every time he stayed there. It was his drive that got it done.  Between 1972-1973 he surely turned it into a perfect place to get his head, body, spirit and fight together with his team.  Ali treated everybody he employed well, he often gave guys without the money to develop their skills jobs as sparing partners, etc. Ali made it clear to me how much he gained from living there, fresh home-grown vegetables, fresh water, fresh air, endless space to run, great camaraderie among his men. The camp also had an inspiring view across many miles of open country. He had great visions for the camp and every time we visited him he was showing us new stuff. One day he introduced us to Mr Moyer, who was just beginning to deliver the huge boulders on which Ali’s father would paint the names of the greatest champions. Ali got the idea from Archie Moore, who had the same thing in his camp when Cassius Clay trained there in 1962. Ali was exultant about the whole thing. It always felt good to be there. In between 1972-1974, the greatest period the camp ever had, Ali was close with his wife and children I often saw them there.  Everything and everyone was on his spot. Building organizing and running what became his superb camp was the most sustained and successful things he ever did outside the ring. The good vibes and solidarity of Ali’s camp had a lot to do with his victories in Zaire and Manilla. The camp still operates today. He could have made money renting it to fighters, but Ali chose to rent it free to organizations who ran summer camps for poor black kids from the ghettos.

The camp still operates today. He could have made money renting it to fighters, but Ali chose to rent it free to organizations who ran summer camps for poor black kids from the ghettos.

LAN: Obviously this book was never meant to be about boxing per se. It seems that Ali was really proud about his poems and other aspects of his personalities. This must have been very thrilling. Would it be accurate to say that it was really important to Ali that people recognize him to be more than just an athlete at this point in time?

The main thrust of the Ali book was to make this transition in the popular conception of Ali. At this time he had in view defeating Frazier in their second fight and defeating Foreman to win back his crown. Many things interceded before he got there, but Ali made it clear to me in 1973 and 1974 that he soon planned to retire. Then it became retire after the third Frazier fight in Manilla in 1975. Ali had really enjoyed touring the colleges in the late sixties. Travelling was in his blood. He’d been led to believe Elijah Muhammad was going to give him an assignment to travel to mosques around the world. Ali dreamed of travelling around the world giving inspiring lectures seeking peace between East and West. It all made sense. After the Foreman and Frazier fights he would have enough money to support his family for the rest of their lives. It is quite possible he could have played a role in bringing east and west together via his Muslim religion. Unfortunately, none of this would ever happen. Ali’s business manager, one of Elijah Muhammad’s sons, took 50% of his income and the rest of Ali’s money after high taxes was so poorly handled he never had enough and was forced to keep fighting, like a cash cow for his handlers,  until everything was used up. It was one of the most vicious examples of what can happen to a man of Ali’s calibre when he des not have control of his resources, but trusts others to take care of them. This is never a good idea.

Ali applauds during a speech given by Elijah Muhammad at a convention of the Nation of Islam in Chicago

LAN: I think it’s a correct assumption to say that Ali truly revealed his ”real self” to you. What aspect of Ali’s blazing personality was the most striking to you?

I don’t think Ali revealed his true self to me. I mean Ali was complex, holding in himself contradictory motivations which left him supreme in his profession but weak outside of it. He once told one of  his daughters that he had never been able to feel  anything. He had insecurities. I saw none of these things. Remember I had asked for an interview. What he gave me on that first day was eight hours of his time, from talking to riding in his bus to watching one of his fights on video while Ali sat behind me and flicked punches just past my ear. He was playful. He was joyful. Nearing the end of this marathon visit to Fighter’ Heaven he became a little more personal. Over the years I knew him he always recognized me but never knew my name.

‘I’m so mean I make medicine sick’! Muhammad Ali. Photograph by ©Chris Smith/Hulton

LAN: The book contains an outstanding collection of his poetry; Ali read a lot of his raps and poetry to you. I know most people had heard his raps and rants (!) but was it the first time that he was reading complete poems he had written, commenting them and explaining the events and emotions involved. Do you think he was considering becoming a writer one day?

While Andrew and I were interviewing Ali between 1972-1974 our friend Anton Perich was shooting a documentary about Ali, which included the day Ali gave us a real poetry reading. Many years later I was sitting at a table in a nightclub in Copenhagen when I noticed a silent film of a man moving his head and body back and forth in a rocking motion projected slightly larger than life on a wall to my right. Loud disco music was blowing through the room that  seemed so perfectly in time with the man in the film I was thinking they should put this music on the soundtrack of the film when I suddenly realised ”WHATTT!?!” I was looking at Anton’s film of the poetry reading Ali had delivering so hypnotically at us thirty years ago. That image sums up the power of Ali’s delivery. He undoubtedly had a love affair with language but he also communicated with the language of his body.  We have to bear in mind that most of Ali’s poetry was copied from or translated from religious texts. This is no different from Bob Dylan taking songs from the past and making them his own. Ali’s voice was his greatest weapon outside the ring. Asking, “Can Muhammd Ali  write?” is like asking, “Can David Bowie act?” In the verbal department Ali was the most impressive world athlete of all time. Ali mesmerized the world with the language that he used. Millions of Ali’s words in interviews have been published all over the world. His verbal pyrotechnics were not the product of a slow mind. The man was sharp. If he had travelled the world giving speeches those speeches would have turned into books. Can he write? The man had a Great Rap! His gift was in the delivery of the poems and in working them into his raps, his strength was in the performance of the words. He was a great communicator. He could have gone on to be a great orator. Except by the time they were through with him Ali no longer had a voice.

LAN: There is a very interesting chapter about Warhol’s visit to the camp. Warhol seemed a bit ambivalent towards the champ even if Andy still managed to produce Ali’s favorite portrait, it seems there was sort of some ”disconfort” in the air when they actually met for the shooting. What would be your take on it?

Warhol taking photos of Ali. Thursday, August 18, 1977 Photo by ©Victor Bockris.

Andy Warhol’s visit to Fighter’s Heaven came three years after publication of ”Ali: Fighter Poet Prophet”. He had read the book and took me along as a buffer. I had also just published a profile of him which asked the question, ”Who Does Andy Warhol Remind You of Most? Answer: Muhammad Ali.” From the introductions onwards I was struck by how rude Ali was to Warhol. I’d never seen him behave like that. At the same time as we walked over to the gym to take the pictures he annealed himself to my side and talked nonstop. Ali acted this way because he knew Andy was gay. After he finished taking the pictures and got a perfect pose it seemed as if Andy had cracked the ice with Muhammad, who invited us on a tour of the camp. This delusion came crashing down when we got to his cabin and, after reading us a new poem he had written on the Concorde the previous night, Ali pulled a thick stack of index cards out of a big briefcase and proceeded for more than thirty minute to harangue Warhol about the gay influence on the nation. Suddenly I was astonished to see Muhammad abruptly break down in confusion saying he did not know what was happening but he could not talk anymore. When Andy told me afterwards he was so glad Ali kept staring into his eyes, I realised he had delivered the Warhol coup de grace, in which Andy would slice people up with his eyes, instantly discombobulating and dismissing them. Believe me I’ve been on the receiving end of it  and it is extraordinarily effective. On that occasion, Andy Warhol was much stronger than Muhammad Ali.

Warhol, Ali and his daughter Hana by ©Victor Bockris,1977 

LAN: Do you know what were Ali’s feelings towards ”The Greatest”?

 One day Ali started complaining about how his publishers were treating the book. “Look at this,” he said handing me a  cheap xerox  invitation to its launch. The book might have given Ali an opportunity to sing his story, but his manager hired a well-known Black Muslim propagandist to write the book and it was not accurate. The way his managers marginalized or ignored Ali should have sent shock bells of warning ringing in his ears, but Ali’s fixation on his mission did not allow him to doubt his people. It was a dilemma he never overcame until his fourth wife, Lonnie Ali, took over his finances. So far as I know he never read the book, which is a sad conclusion to his only book contract. Thus is a boxer neutralized and boxed in. His lack of control over his book would soon become a lack of control over his life. You could say Ali got much more from the Muslims than they took from him. Elijah helped to transform Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali which led to Ali becoming the most famous man in the world. He was also a strong father figure Ali really needed. But the Black Muslim’s did not just take the majority of his money they took way his voice not just once but twice. The first time was in his autobiography. Then by forcing him to fight  his last five years of brutal fights (1976-1981) they took it away again. By the time they were through with him Ali  was no longer able to give any speeches. Was this like some kind of mafia torture where they maximize the suffering? Ali won’t say a bad word against them, but people said he was frightened of the Muslims from the beginning. They destroyed and killed people with seeming immunity. No one was ever caught for killing Malcolm X in broad daylight. The bottom line was just like any crook they got the money, but they also neutralized the Champ. It’s a dark road between Ali and the Black Muslims. After Elijah’s death in 1975 Ali slowly changed his affiliation to the regular Muslims. I don’t want to go there because more than anything Ali was a huge Beacon of Light in a darkening world. When he came into it he was happy along with the Kennedy’s Best and Brightest men.  Then as the evil came out of the land and started shooting down those other beacons so did the evil come to Ali. That he overcame that evil again and again, even prevailing over the broken years of the mid 1980s is his greatest achievement. It took a great man to rise above all the corruption, theft, greed and murder, but he did. That is why he remains to this day that bright Beacon of Light. Now Ali’s light will never go out because it has become a star. Those of us who look up at it from all over the world see different things. For me Ali will always stand for his artistic integrity as a very strong voice for world peace. That’s what he wanted his message to be. He wanted to be seen as a man of peace.  That is what his message was. So let it go forth.

”The book might have given Ali an opportunity to sing his story, but his manager hired a well-known Black Muslim propagandist to write the book and it was not accurate.”

LAN: When Ali got your book, ”Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven” do you feel he genuinely loved the book and that it played an important part compared to all the book that have been written about the champ? If so, what makes it so special to him and/or to the public in general?

I first showed the book to Ali in the Spring of 1975 while we were walking down Central Park South in New York followed by a crowd of a hundred or more people. Bedlam surrounded him as he walked to a restaurant to have dinner. Cops shouted from horses, “Ali! Ali!” Cabs came to screeching halts, people yelled out of car windows, kids ran amongst our feet as he paged through the mass paperback book complaining about the clarity of the pictures on its cheap paper. He was also pissed because he had planned to use the photo he had given us which we used on the cover somewhere else! It was partially in humor. We had left a box of two hundred copies of the book in his suite at the Essex House hotel. We never told him that, just as the advance copies were starting to sell like hotcakes, the printer shredded the entire edition of 50,000 copies of the book because our publisher had not paid his bill. I always wondered what happened to those two hundred copies we gave Ali. Then in 1996 I got a copy of a book of Ali’s favorite photographs of himself called Muhammad Ali in Perspective by Thomas Hauser. It included a Howard Bingham photo of Muhammad holding the book up and reading it at a table sitting next to Lonnie. Both of them wear expressions of supreme satisfaction. I had never seen a photograph of Ali reading a book other than the Koran. Anyway I continued working on Ali projects like The ALI-WARHOL PHOTO TAPESTRY by Bockris-Schmidlapp (See top of the page). Then in 2000 my book ”Muhammad Ali in Fighter’s Heaven” was published in the U.S. and I sent Lonnie and Muhammad  copies. They thanked me. Then In 2009 Lonnie sent me a letter saying that she was reading the book to Muhammad when he went to bed at night. It reminded him of a time in which he almost broke free from his violent profession to become the man of peace he wanted to be so now the book brought peace to him. What more perfect image can we end on? 

Ali riding his horse in Deer Lake ”fighter’s Heaven” training camp by ©Anton Perich

LAN: Indeed!! Thank you so much for your time but most of all in this precise case, I’d say thank you for letting the whole world know that Ali was much more than just one of the greatest boxer in the world. Looking back, how do you feel about having accomplished that??

I always loved the Ali book. It was my first book of prose and I loved everything about it. It was beautifully designed, it contained the only collection of Ali’s poetry. It as alive with his voice. I knew it was good, we also received a positive quote from George Plimpton we used on the cover and postcards praising the book from our friends Ted Berrigan and Eartha Kitt. By the time it was published in 2000 I had a better perspective of the book as part of my  Collected Works in fourteen volumes. Back in 1979 Andy Warhol wrote, “Victor Bockris only writes about three people, Muhammad Ali, William Burroughs and me.”  It is the relationship  between these names I see as my accomplishment. My achievement is that I was able, without planning, to write a connected series of books about outstanding artists of our times who shared in common an ability to communicate attitudes and  take actions which combined to play a large role in creating an enlightened counterculture in this country and around the world. And that counterculture, based on its international population’s efforts to stop the war in Vietnam and its lasting influences on our lives today, should in turn be recognized as one of America’s greatest achievements. 

Muhammad Ali by Andy Warhol
All rights reserved tobedamit.com 2017

Vintage Pics of Iggy and The Stooges

 FARMINGTON HIGH SCHOOL IN OAKLAND COUNTY

DECEMBER 5TH 1970

On December 5, 1970, The Stooges played a show at Michigan’s Farmington High School. That’s Zeke Zettner on bass, James Williamson AND Ron  Asheton on guitar as well as Scott Asheton on drums.  Jim Edwards (lead singer of Detroit band The Rockets) saw these pictures taken at the gig and immediately shared them on his facebook page. I heard about it much later through Please Kill Me. Here they are now posted with everything I could gather around their story and various comments from people who sat their asses in this gymnasium that happen to be the theater of one the very first real Stooges Concert. 

Iggy and the Stooges (22)

”He was 45 minutes late because they were “busy” in the john with needles and such, or so rumor had it. It was my lap he landed on, shocked the crap out of me. You can see the side of my face in the pic, lol. I remember I kept tapping his shoulder, “Sir? Excuse me, sir?” lol His tongue freaked me out, full of what looked like holes to me. I remember I was sitting next to my friend I called “Bucky”, I think his name was Mark McCallum? Could be wrong there, but I was begging him to get Iggy off of me! tongue Probably a good experience, all in all for me, as it was an “in your face wake up call” to show me what the end of the “path” I was teetering on actually looked like.”

Iggy and the Stooges (28)
Above, a young James Williamson plays his first live gig with the Stooges.
Iggy and the Stooges (3)
Short-term Stooge Zeke Zettner on bass, Iggy and drummer Scott Asheton.
Iggy and the Stooges (17)
A great shot of Ron Asheton. Looking at their gear, it must have been pretty loud in that gym.
Iggy and the Stooges (10)
In late ’71, Zeke Zettner left the band & enlisted in the Army and went to Vietnam, allegedly to get cheaper heroin. Zeke died from an overdose on 10 November 1973.
Iggy and the Stooges (5)
“I was there as a sophomore…The show also featured Brownsville Station and Mitch Ryder. Iggy only played four songs before collapsing in the middle of the gym floor on the lap of another one of my pals who was in ninth grade at the time.” —Pete, Farmington High School pupil in 1970
Iggy and the Stooges (25)
”The show was late due to Iggy being arrested earlier in the night – and then bailed out by band members. Iggy did not start until midnight – way too late for the kiddies in attendance….”– Pete
Iggy and the Stooges (9)
Has Iggy ever worn a shirt?
Iggy and the Stooges (8)
‘’I see at least five members of the student body in the crowd – that are now dead. Yet Iggy rolls on. How cool!’’-Peter
Iggy and the Stooges (19)
Gatta love the scoreboard in the background!
Iggy and the Stooges (27)
Wonder what the kids were thinking with all that noise blasting them in a gym? Can’t imagine the acoustics were very good. Funny to see them sitting down as Iggy crawls all over them.
Iggy and the Stooges (24)
The Stooges look they stepped off the first album cover and donned stage clothes and wham! Check out the dog collar on Iggy!
Iggy and the Stooges (26)
Scott Asheton ”beating his heart out” on drums.
Iggy and the Stooges (11)
When I see pics like this I always wonder if the kids had any idea what to expect with a band like this. Did they dig it, or were they going, “Eeww, gross. And what’s all that racket?
Iggy and the Stooges (20)
Despite the leather and dog collars and of course Iggy, it all looks so innocent and … fun.
Iggy and the Stooges (21)
What did the administration think? “Hmmm, The Stooges… How bad can it be?
Iggy and the Stooges (16)
I wonder who got fired for booking that band!
Iggy and the Stooges (2)
It’s almost jarring to see what basically became punk rock played out in a Woodstock-era high school gym, 6 years before the movement broke in England. Iggy is timeless.
Iggy and the Stooges (1)
It’s even cooler that the show is during that brief period with both James Williamson AND Ron Asheton on guitar.
Iggy and the Stooges (18)
And nobody could even yell- “Freebird! ”
Iggy and the Stooges (15)
I can only imagine what these poor, unsuspecting, teens were thinking when “that nervous little shirtless feller” started gruntin’ and hollerin’ as the band churned up a deafening wall of noise. I bet it was even weirder when “that nervous little shirtless feller” started convulsing, doing back flips, and THEN dove on top of those kids seated on the floor!!
Iggy and the Stooges (14)
Legendary on-and-off stage stunts…
Iggy and the Stooges (23)
Iggy and the Stooges at Farmington High School in Oakland County, 1970
Iggy and the Stooges (4)
”Sorry I’m a little late! If you only knew all that happened you’d be really happy I was even able to show up!”

Just Kids by Patti Smith

patti-and-robert

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” ― Lester Bangs

I have just finished reading ”Just Kids” for the second time and I can’t help feeling a bit of anguish as I’m about to express my perception of Patti’s first book of prose mainly, I suppose, due to the fact that it’s a best seller. Not that I disagree, Au contraire! All the praise about ”Just Kids’‘ is very well deserved, but so much has been said already that I forbade myself to read any of it so that everything I would say would  be 100% mine. Therefore I will simply pretend I’m the only bloody diamond geezer who was clever enough to read it, heartily hoping to bring something new to the table in the process. I chose this quote by Lester Bangs as an opener because these words seemed to be the very foundation of one of the most sincere and coolest relationship ever, one that’s been told through the pages of ”Just Kids”, a true story that would in itself become an inspiration for so many more to come. It’s a call to be who I really am no matter what, because by doing so, I might be able to bring something unique and new in this bankrupt world.

”There Will Always Be Us!”

first-edition-2

     In ”Just Kids”,  legendary, highly authentic American inspired singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist Patti Smith, who  became an influential component of the New York City punk rock movement, offers a very unique, never-before-seen glimpse of her honest, enduring, sister-brother, Yin/Yang, boyfriend/girlfriend magical everlasting relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late 60s and 70s.

The relation itself is the guiding light and the whole purpose of this book and if, at times, certain passages might seem trivial, well, they never were. This unconditional love they shared –  creative, sensitive, stimulating and artistically prolific – becomes a sincere and deeply moving story of youth, friendship and ultimately success. The best thing being that anyone can relate to it in a very intimate, personal way.  ”Just Kids” fully grasp the heartfelt passion and holds this very same unique, sensitive and lyrical quality that is written between each lines of her formidable body of work, from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.

patricia-lee-smith
Photo©by Frank Stefanko scanned by Patricia Lee Smith 

No one else could have better described all the ins and outs of the unique, constantly evolving story she shared with Robert Mapplethorpe, and this means way more than just itemizing their body of work, for the whole represents way more than the sum of it and their relationship in itself was on its own an expression of art. It just couldn’t be contained in its entirety in little works nor in big works for all to see.  Parts have been laid in music, paintings, poems and photographs but even all these, as inspired and beautiful as they are, fail in giving us a complete picture. Even if it celebrates a friendship that left a permanent impact on almost every artistic aspect and style in America, it still had to be told in a book. It was essential and sacred. Patti had to share their journey under the blue star, a symbol of their undying love for each other, one last time.

Patti writes in a Last Note to the Reader:

”We were as Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the world. There were temptations and witches and demons we never dreamed of and there was splendor we only partially imagined. No one could speak for these two young  people nor tell with any truth of their days and their nights together. Only Robert and I could tell it. Our Story, as he called it. And, having gone, he left the task to me to tell it to you. ” – Patti Smith, Just Kids, May 22, 2010

What makes this book so special is how Patti manages to express a magic that started almost immediately. Patti arrived in NYC with almost nothing but her wish to accomplish something no one has done before. Robert was already in NYC and struggling on an urban survival mode, but nevertheless they both had a deep sense that life had something very special in store for them and that it was written in the stars. They never thought it would be so hard, that they would have to struggle so much just to survive but nevertheless it didn’t take very long for them to be able to recognize the signs. We can feel that they saw in each other something true and very real, something which they felt they would later be able to rely on as persons and as artists. Of course there were moments of doubts but maybe it was these crucial moments that would prove them to be essential to one another. It never was a give and take type of relationship. The base for it might just be honesty, true faith in each other’s talent, the hope that there was a place for them as they were and that with a lot of work, perseverance and a little bit of luck, they would both find their niche as people and artists. Lots of spoken, unspoken pacts were made, very few ever broken.

Patti Smith by ©Andy Warhol , Ca. 1972

Despite a certain ”twinlike” aspect, their part in each other’s life could also definitely be seen as complementary. One could say that Robert was the eternal dreamer, on some aspects, even alien to practical knowledge and certain everyday life faculties and that Patti possessed a more down to Earth perspective on life but this is only a half truth since, when needed, on several occasions, they could trade roles and when the other one would be in dire need of a trait that would normally be the other one’s unsaid character/task assignment, they would put their egos aside and would manage to trade places if it would help the other to get through a rough patch.

”The premise was simply that one of us always had to be vigilant, the designated protector. If Robert took a drug, I needed to be present and conscious. If I was down, he needed to stay up. If one was sick, the other healthy. It was important that we were never self-indulgent on the same day.

In the beginning I faltered, and he was always there with an embrace or words of encouragement, coercing me to get out of myself and into my work. Yet he always knew that I would not fail  if he needed me to be the strong one”

The Chelsea Hotel

Patti Smith on the balcony of the Chelsea Hotel , 1971
Patti Smith on the balcony of the Chelsea Hotel , 1971

“I loved this place, its shabby elegance, and the history it held so possessively”

Back in those days, New York City was a very dangerous place. Some areas were filled with what is commonly regarded as the lowest forms of the human species likes thieves, pimps, rapists, thieves, hookers, murderers and so forth. Being young artists who strive to survive, of course they were bound to have to live in such areas. At one of their lowest points they were plainly told that they had to get out, that they wouldn’t make it if they stayed. Fortunately, there was a place that offered hope if you were an artist, a little island of optimism, gathering past, present and future generations of artists of all kinds where you didn’t even need to have money right away. Stanley Bard would keep your portfolio, or take a work of art until you could get it back and you were now part of a community that was very special, during the 60s and the 70s especially. The Chelsea played a huge part in the history of the new generation of artists of the 60s and the 70s.

”Gregory made lists of books for me to read, told me the best dictionary to own, encouraged me and challenged me. Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs were all my teachers, each one passing through the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel, my new University. ”

”The Moon Turned Blood Red”

robert mapplethorpe and patti smith in their chelsea hotel apartment, circa 1970, photo©Albert Scopin.
Robert and Patti Smith Chelsea Hotel, circa 1970, photo©Albert Scopin.

Yet they came to a point where one or both of them needed more space, more freedom. Some things are meant to be faced and dealt with on your own even if they knew the other one will still be there for me if need it be but never taking one another for granted and always being grateful of each other’s effort to play the right part when needed, never taking advantage of one another. In one word: Respect was of course the cement that sealed the ”deal”. Robert soon had to face his inner demons and question his sexuality again and again. Of course this was heart wrenching for both of them.

”He had been with a fellow and not for money. I was able to give him some measure of acceptance. My armor sill had its vulnerable points, and Robert, my knight, had pierced a few, though without desiring to do so.”

Their relationship morphed and this had major effects on their everyday lives. It is during theses major changes and adaptations that could have tore them apart that we see that love makes all the difference in the world and that instead of trying to exert control on each other’s lives, they simply went ahead with the flow and they grew stronger. I would say that we witness how something some would see as a humiliation becomes merely a chance to humble ourselves and let life take its natural course. Never stop to love and support those who are true soul mates. A bond stronger than marriage.

I will not spoil all the fun and tell you everything that happens. I already told you the big lines and a few little ones but Here is one last thing that I realised reading ”Just Kids”.

I so happened to notice that in general there can be two different kinds of artists. Some very callous, careless, aloof and undisciplined that are successful because of their God-given talent  and so much passion that they seem to evolve in a different space and time, going all the way with everything they’ve got, with all their worries and genius. They truly appear as some unstoppable forces of nature, pushed by some alien powers. Then there are others with which they share the same gift, also having a remarkable imagination, but very rooted in their reality, very lucid and conscious of the space they occupy in space and time as well as having a clear view on what is their place in society and what their relationships made of, how strong can they be.

Now certain artists are lucky enough to have just about the right proportion of each of these components within themselves, to be well supported by a team of people they trust and that have faith in their work. I think ”Just Kids” is about the encounter of 2 people who miraculously manage to complete each other perfectly as people and as artists.

Patti Smith and Sam Shepard in their play, Cowboy Mouth, in New York in 1971
Patti Smith and Sam Shepard in their play, Cowboy Mouth, in New York in 1971
smith-dylan
Dylan, Smith and Sam Shepard attended a party at Allen Ginsberg’s Greenwich Village house, where ©Ken Regan took several photos of Dylan and Smith in conversation on the stairs.

So?

”Where does it all lead?What will become of us? These were our young questions and young answers were revealed.

It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”

Fred "Sonic" Smith (September 14, 1949 – November 4, 1994) , was an American guitarist, best known as a member of the influential and political, Detroit rock band, the MC5. Later in life he married and raised a family with poet and fellow rock musician, Patti Smith. The couple collaborated musically, and raised two children together.
Fred “Sonic” Smith (September 14, 1949 – November 4, 1994) , was an American guitarist, best known as a member of the influential and political, Detroit rock band, the famous MC5. He married with poet and fellow rock musician, Patti Smith. The couple collaborated musically, and raised their two children together. 

Together the Smiths had a son, Jackson (born 1982) and a daughter, Jesse (born 1987). Jackson, a guitarist, was married to Meg White (formerly of indie band The White Stripes). Jesse is a pianist. Both have performed on stage with their mother along with other members of the Patti Smith Group.

Patti Smith never forgot Robert Mapplethorpe and wrote ”Just Kids” in 2012. She had made a promise to Robertthat she’d write a book about them and she did, Patti wrote this memoire of their friendship in her own unique personal, direct, sensitive and wholhearted style and we should be all damn happy she kept her promise!

photobooth

Just Kids won:

Also by Patti Smith  9781101910160

 

Closet Master

I wish I had a closet to hide in
The Unconditional Walk Inn
Faithless and lightless
A Dark Princess…

Faith is a word rather sad
Darkness washes everything bad
Faith is all things you wish were real
But are in fact unreal

Outside this tiny planet
All I can manage to be is upset
I would like to remain inside
Because I woudn’t have to die

Time would be suspended
Actions would be deleted
I could just disapear
Leaving no dispair.

Forever witholding
The Freedom of not pretending
Normality never setting in
I can be just …nothing.

A Status Quo by Tobe Damit

Hugh’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Week 26 – ‘Distance’

Drinking Alone by Tobe Damit

CM-Capture-3-1000x645
I saw this homeless guy who was drinking alone and when I got my camera out, felt he knew I was taking the picture and didn’t budge, I even felt he was enjoying it, even from that far away! I decided to just let him know that he wasn’t alone in my own way. In spite of the song called ”Drinking in L.A.” by Bran Van 3000 that makes drinking alone such a trendy thing, I titled this one ”Drinking Alone’‘. By doing so I brought this guy closer to me and the viewers, establishing a connection from far away and at the same time, establishing a connection with the reality of this homeless guy, drinking alone in a back alley, downtown Montreal.

5094489205_7d4c3259a1_bLAN 6r 

hughs-weekly

Post-Mortem Photography

Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauty Post-Mortem Photography | Sleeping beauty in sepia 1890

By today’s standards the practice of post-mortem photography (also known as memorial portraiture or mourning portrait) might be considered somehow creepy but once put in its proper context, it will come out as a completely different picture.

 Born together died together nothing more perfect neither girl looks to be dead.

Born together,died together nothing more perfect neither girl looks to be dead. Hand painted eyes on the photograph did the trick. Stunning.

Post-mortem photography is the taking of a photograph of a deceased loved one and was a normal part of American and European culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It has nothing to do with images of violence, crime, or war. Death, and personally dealing with death, was prevalent throughout the entire world as epidemics would come quickly and kill quickly. The invention of the daguerreotype in 1839 made portraiture much more commonplace, as many of those who were unable to afford the commission of a painted portrait could afford to sit for a photography session. This cheaper and quicker method also provided the middle class with a means for memorializing dead loved ones.

So alive...
So alive…  The eyes are… real!
In this photograph, the girl standing in the middle is the deceased. The photographer attempted to make her look more alive by drawing on her pupils.
In this photograph, the girl standing in the middle is the deceased. The photographer attempted to make her look more alive by drawing on her pupils.

Eyes were painted afterwards by hand on the photographs so that the deceased would look alive, that is why it is sometimes hard to distinguish between the living and the dead. The most common practice was still to make them look as if they were asleep. Small photographs of the deceased were often carried in lockets or kept close to the body for greater intimacy.  As photography was a new medium this new practice most likely flourished during photography’s early decades among clients who preferred to capture an image of a deceased loved one rather than have no photograph at all. This was especially common with infants and young children; Victorian era childhood mortality rates were extremely high, and a post-mortem photograph might have been the only image of the child the family ever had.

Father and son
Father and daughter/son.

The practice eventually peaked in popularity around the end of the 19th century and died out as “snapshot” photography became more commonplace, although a few examples of formal memorial portraits were still being produced well into the 20th century. A thorough history of post-mortem photography can be seen in the award-winning Sleeping Beauty book series, which showcases the memorial and post-mortem photography collection privately held by Dr. Stanley B. Burns and the Burns Archive.

Complete Family. Unkown. So sad.
Complete Family. Unknown. So sad.
The Keller Family: Emil, Mary, and 9 month old Anna Keller. Mary shot Emil through the heart, mortally wounded Anna, and then committed suicide. Gelatin silver print. Auburn, New York, January 25, 1894.
The Keller Family: Emil, Mary, and 9 month old Anna Keller. Mary shot Emil through the heart, mortally wounded Anna, and then committed suicide. Gelatin silver print. Auburn, New York, January 25, 1894.
postmortem top
Photos by José Rodrigo and J. Suárez, ca. 1870
Frank. Dead girl, Daguerrotype, June 1857
Frank (?) Dead girl, Daguerreotype, June 1857  
Fernando Gordillo, Catafalque in Pedro Bernardo, 1969
Fernando Gordillo, Catafalque in Pedro Bernardo, Spain, 1969
Sleeping for Eternity
Sleeping for Eternity
Example of a postmortem photo where eyes have been painted onto the girls eyelids so it appears her eyes are open and that she is alert.
Example of a postmortem photo where eyes have been painted onto the girls eyelids so it appears her eyes are open and that she is alert.
Family portrait with the recently deceased younger sister propped up at the end
Family portrait with the recently deceased younger sister propped up at the end.
Fernando Navarro, Mourning in Totana (Murcia), ca. 1905
Fernando Navarro, Mourning in Totana (Murcia), ca. 1905
A deceased young girl and her dolls.
A deceased young girl and her dolls.
Again with the dolls
Again with the dolls
Victorian-death-photography1
No dolls.

Haunting.

By Tobe Damit
By Tobe Damit

The Wisdom of Innocence

TARA MCPHERSON’S INSOMNIAC LUMINATIONS

Tara McPherson's Wandering Luminations: e.JPG

Tara McPherson is an artist based out of New York City. Creating art about people and their odd ways, her characters seem to exude an idealized innocence with a glimpse of hard earned wisdom in their galactic eyes. Recalling myths and legends, issues from childhood and good old life experience, she creates images that are thought provoking and seductive. People and their relationships are a central theme throughout her work. One could wisely say it always remains a constant throughout the heart of her cotton candy colored paintings. The true soul and sometimes our perversions are sugar coated for everyone to see. 


12316300_10153670320247200_4056379070031512518_n 12356922_10153698783742200_2125330882929519037_o

Tara McPherson's Wandering Luminations: B0D2E9_fullsize.JPG

Tara McPherson's Wandering Luminations: B53236_fullsize.JPG

Tara McPherson's Wandering Luminations: D4F688_fullsize.JPG

Tara McPherson's Wandering Luminations: F5B982_fullsize.JPG

TO GET TO TARA MCPHERSON page, CLICK ON ANY IMAGES ABOVE! 

943919_10153823859337200_3369773385108324155_n

Do your walls need some love? Check out the newest giclees up on the Cotton Candy Machine website! Click on any image below to access the site!
12439263_10153761039742200_1836782298869769443_n
David Bowie

1074023_10153892210692200_7388519423595565626_o

Portrait of Charlize Theron's character for the new Fury Road Mad Max anthology commissioned by DC Comics!
Portrait of Charlize Theron’s character for the new Fury Road Mad Max anthology commissioned by DC Comics!
Faith No More show posters
Faith No More show posters

12219479_10153638513722200_693461222520835309_n

12440571_10153751279232200_4150506413085161083_o

10943696_10152951070732200_5551593019077952410_n
988457_10152937683157200_541435449282751065_n

10891494_10152934934692200_867319166241152719_n

10897743_10152939746992200_9199966475977567756_n
10366211_10152999384332200_6364301478221219121_n

10980757_10152986394832200_9138945468946896356_n
‘Sword Swallower’ from Lost Constellations solo exhibition at Jonathan Levine Gallery in 2008.
11693945_10153395386347200_4986288988328438078_n
Detail from ‘Galactic X-ray Jets: Or How I Turned Into a Quasar’. Exhibited in Berlin for the Urban Nation show.
12227107_10153635415207200_2173513342911815639_n
Lara Croft limited edition poster done for the new Tomb Raider game!! This is a four part series along with Frank Kozik, Geof Darrow and La Boca.
Electric Lola, 18"x18", Oil, 2015
Electric Lola, 18″x18″, Oil, 2015

12507504_10153774743482200_1486070578435978904_n

Insomnia
Insomnia

Ray Caesar

The Trouble with Angels 

Ray Caesar says that issues with his father contributed to the arrival of Harry, an “alternate,” when he was 10. The boy is disguised as a girl in Caesar’s art, and remains present in his daily life as an alter ego. “Harry is beyond anger – he enjoys it,” says Caesar. “My job is to keep Harry under control.”

Sort of. 

7-hally-painting-by-ray-caesar
Click for artist homepage

Caesar suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, uses his art as an outlet to express trauma. He was born in London, England in 1958 and moved with his family to Canada in 1967. He describes his childhood art as “atypical and aberrant” as it was unlike the bright pop art of the 60s and 70s. Drawing inspiration from era paintings, Caesar creates fantasy scenes that include innocent young girls, sensual young women or ageless divas or cold blooded predators, sirens/octopussy creatures. Some of these feminine characters seem out of place in their antiquated world, posing in a manner that would have been very unseemly a century ago. I hope you will like these surreal paintings. Ray Caesar is considered by many one of the best of the Pop Surrealist modern painters with Mark Ryden. 

Trouble with angels 1

Trouble with angels 3

Trouble with angels 4

Trouble with angels 5

11-friends-oil-painting-caesar 14-surreal-oil-painting-caesar 15-surreal-oil-painting-caesar 16-surreal-oil-painting-caesar 2-woman-surreal-oil-painting-caesar 3-silent-partner-painting-by-ray-caesar 5-messenger-painting-by-ray-caesar 26-surreal-painting-by-ray-caesar 17-surreal-oil-painting-caesar 22-guardian-study-painting-by-ray-caesar 23-little-voyageur-painting-by-ray-caesar 24-castor-painting-by-ray-caesar 25-pollux-painting-by-ray-caesar
Day Trip  OldWoundsEM1WorldTravellerEM

homeFeature

Jim Kazanjian

     Surreal Architecture 

Vessel
Vessel
Station
Station
Backyard
Backyard
Object
Object
UFO
UFO
untitledbubble_sm
Bubble
untitledFacade_sm
Facade
Vehicule
Vehicule
Exterior
Exterior
House
House

Bob Dob

Dob_LG_Purity
Purity

”I love to create worlds where the dark side of human nature is present. Life isn’t always good times. While in our youth we experience many things we would rather forget but this is what defines us.  That’s why my characters have an adolescent quality to them.  I’ve been very fortunate in experiencing and hearing many great stories in my life which now find their way into my paintings.”

Early Bird Gets The Worm
Early Bird Gets The Worm
BobDob_06
Horror Hotel
A Little Birdie
A Little Birdie
Good Fortune
Good Fortune
Cigar Break
Cigar Break
Fat Cat Must Die
Fat Cat Must Die
Death of an Icon
Death of an Icon
Black Eyes Mouseketeers
Black Eyes Mouseketeers
Mouseketeers Bones
Mouseketeers Bones
“On August 6th 1970 the war began when the radical Youth International Party, aka Yippies, invaded Disneyland as a way to rebel and protest against the establishment. They were successful in taking over Tom Sawyer’s Island for a “smoke-in,” taunted guests with their chants of anarchy, and attempted to raise their flag at city hall. Mickey Mouse and friends were under attack. But from this event arose the Mousketeer Army. They battled back to defeat the oppressive ideologies of the Yippies who’s only objective was for Disneyland to cease to exist. The Mouseketeer Army is the last hope to preserve the Magic Kingdom.”
“On August 6th 1970 the war began when the radical Youth International Party, aka Yippies, invaded Disneyland as a way to rebel and protest against the establishment. They were successful in taking over Tom Sawyer’s Island for a “smoke-in,” taunted guests with their chants of anarchy, and attempted to raise their flag at city hall. Mickey Mouse and friends were under attack. But from this event arose the Mouseketeer Army. They battled back to defeat the oppressive ideologies of the Yippies who’s only objective was for Disneyland to cease to exist. The Mouseketeer Army is the last hope to preserve the Magic Kingdom.”
"Tables Have Turned" Krampus , 2014
“Tables Have Turned” Krampus , 2014
Drink Up
Drink Up
Mouseketeer Tony
Mouseketeer Tony
Fight Fight Fight
Fight Fight Fight   
Fish in a Barrel
Fish in a Barrel
Die
Die
Uplifting
Uplifting

Bob Dob Art (3)

Waiting in Vain
Waiting in Vain
Blue Skies
Blue Skies
Lonely Day
Lonely Day
Where Crows Die
Where Crows Die
 #pillhead #blockhead #shithead #pothead
#pillhead #blockhead #shithead #pothead
4:20
4:20
Mario Trece
Mario Trece
Luigi Trece
Luigi Trece
12309631_961940707185077_958786282667226245_o
”Barrels of Fun”
Ride You Bastard
Ride You Bastard
 Visit BOB DOB.Com for much. much more!