This piece was originally published in Arthur No. 13 (Nov. 2004), with cover artwork by John Coulthart and design by William T. Nelson, pictured above (click image to view at larger size). A correction involving Cosmic Charlie published in a later issue has been embedded in the text here at the most natural point. I’m sorry that I’ve been unable to include the many fantastic photographs from the print article here. However, I have added a still from the film “Will the Real Norman Mailer Please Stand Up” by Dick Fontaine, which we did not have access to at the time of print publication into the text, and there are more stills from various films appended. —Jay Babcock
Clip from Arthur No. 13’s Table of Contents page, featuring photo by Robert A. Altman.
OUT, DEMONS, OUT!
On October 21, 1967, the Pentagon came under a most unconventional assault.
An oral history by Larry “Ratso” Sloman, Michael Simmons and Jay Babcock
* * *
INTRODUCTION BY MICHAEL SIMMONS By Autumn of 1967, the “police action” in Vietnam had escalated. The United States of America waged War—that hideous manifestation of the human race’s worst instincts—against the small, distant, sovereign land. 485,600 American troops were then stationed in Nam; 9,353 would die in ’67 alone. We were there under false pretenses (the “attack’ at the Gulf of Tonkin that never happened), operating under a paranoid doctrine (the Domino Theory, fretting that Vietnamese Communists fighting a civil war in their own country with popular support would envelop all of Southeast Asia and end up invading Dubuque, Iowa). Seven million tons of bombs would eventually be dropped, as opposed to two million during World War II. Indiscriminate use of gruesome weaponry was deployed, most infamously napalm, a jelly that sticks to—and burns through—human skin. Saturation bombings, free-fire zones, massive defoliation with the carcinogen Agent Orange. “Destroying the village to save it,” as one American military man put it.
For a generation that remembered the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals after WW II, something had to be done. Genocidal fugitive Adolf Eichmann’s “I was just following orders” excuse would not fly. The draft was sending 18-year-olds off to die. A domestic anti-war movement emerged, as had a counterculture of hairy young people who rejected the militarism, greed, sexual repression, and stunted consciousness of their parents and leaders to pursue Joy and Sharing as well as Dope, Rock and Roll, and Fucking in the Streets. Pundits spoke of The Generation Gap. A quaking chasm had split the nation.
San Francisco painter Michael Bowen had a dream of people coming together to celebrate his city’s burgeoning hippie subculture, and so he and his wife Martine initiated the Great Human Be-In on Sunday, January 14, 1967. Sub-billed as A Gathering of the Tribes, 10,000 hippies, radicals and free spirits convened in Golden Gate Park. Beat poets emceed (Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Lenore Kandel), rock bands rocked (Grateful Dead, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Charlatans), Hell’s Angels returned lost kids to their mommies – and the cops busted no one, despite rampant open marijuana use. For many, the realization that there were other Martians was transcendental. Berkeley anti-war activist Jerry Rubin gave a speech, but his narrow political rap was dubbed “too histrionic” by Ginsberg and many in the crowd. It fortuitously forked Rubin’s direction. “It was the first time I did see a new society,” he said later. “I saw there was no need for a political statement. I didn’t understand that until then, either.”
Events ending with the suffix “In” became the rage. Bob Fass hosted the hippest radio show in the country, “Radio Unnameable” on New York’s WBAI. The all-night gab-and-music fest was Freak Centra, functioning as a pre-internet audio website. Regular guests included Realist editor Paul Krassner (dubbed “Father of the Underground Press”), underground film director Robert Downey Sr. (father and namesake of…), actor/writer Marshall Efron (arguably the funniest man on the planet), and a manic activist-gone-psychedelic named Abbie Hoffman—all rapping madly, verbally riffing and improvising like musicians. One night after participating in a UsCo avant-garde multi-media show of projections, movies, music, etc., at an airplane hangar, Fass stopped by nearby JFK International Airport and noticed a group of three dozen young people—clearly ripped to the tits—communally entranced by a giant mobile centerpiecing a terminal. The vast open spaces of an airport, with jet planes and stars in the sky, were the stage for dreams to come to life. Fass flashed on the infinite possibilities.
He conceived a Fly-In at JFK and announced it on Radio Unnameable. Though Saturday night, February 11, was freezing cold, 3,000 of the underground’s finest came to sing Beatles songs, torch reefers, dance the body electric, and groove with their sisters and brothers. “One of the things that happened,” Fass observed, “was that there was such a colossal amount of human connection that there was something akin to feedback that happened, and people really began to experience not ‘happiness,’ but Ecstasy and Joy. We’re planning another one at your house.”
New York responded to San Francisco’s Be-In with its own. Key to its success was Jim Fouratt, a young actor who’d become one of the most effective hippie organizers on the Lower East Side. Promotion for the event cost $250, which paid for posters and leaflets. On Easter Sunday, March 27, 10,000 full and part-time hippies came together—some in the carnal definition—at Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. It was a glistening, no bad vibes, lysergic day. Fouratt was central to virtually every NYC hip community event, including the infamous Soot-In at Consolidated Edison, where he, Abbie Hoffman, and others dumped bags of nasty black soot at the coal burning, energy company’s offices, in a protest that prefigured and influenced the birth of the environmental movement.
Emmett Grogan was a brilliant and enigmatic prankster/con man at the heart of San Francisco’s do-goodnik anarcho-rogues the Diggers. He suggested to his friend Bob Fass that a Sweep-In would strengthen the momentum the Fly-In had sparked. The idea was to “clean up the Lower East Side” area of NYC where the hippies dwelled. Fass conspired with Krassner and Abbie and listeners on his radio show, and they chose Seventh Street, where Krassner lived. The buzz grew louder and one day an inquiring bureaucrat from the Sanitation Department called Radio Unnameable. The potentates of garbage at City Hall were nervous about these beatniks with brooms taking their gig. While appearing cooperative on the phone and in a later meeting, the city pranked the pranksters on the day of the Sweep-In, April 8. When thousands of mop-wielding longhairs appeared at 11 a.m., they beheld a garbage-free, sparkling fresh, squeaky clean street of slums—courtesy of the Sanitation Department. Fass and Krassner were amused that they’d actually forced the city to do its job. Unfazed, they moved the Sweep-In to Third Street. When a city garbage truck turned the corner, the street peeps leaped on it and cleaned it as well.
No single human—other than Tribal Elder Allen Ginsberg—was as influential on this emerging culture than Ed Sanders. He led the satirical-protest-smut-folk-rock band The Fugs with East Village legend Tuli Kupferberg, ran the Peace Eye Bookstore (and community center) on 10th Street, published Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, made films like Mongolian Clusterfuck, wrote poetry, rabble roused for myriad peacenik causes and cannabis legalization. Sanders—one of the first public figures to live seamlessly within realms of Politics, Art, and Fun—was a first cousin to Che Guevara’s paradigmatic New Man—albeit thoroughly American and anti-authoritarian.
But the Life Actor who embodies the Revolutionary Prankster in 20th-century history books is Abbie Hoffman. And he is where our story begins…
Tuli plays God in this 1972 film by Canadian cineastes Michael Hirsh and Jack Christie, screening in the USA for the first time as part of the FUG ON FILM Tuli Kupferberg memorial screenings happening in New York THIS SUNDAY, NOV 14 at Anthology Film Archives.
ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES
32 SECOND AVENUE NEW YORK, NY 10003
A tribute to the 60s icon, Fugs co-founder, cartoonist, and New York underground beat poet laureate, who passed away in July. Two shows of shorts, clips, and U.S. premiere of the new high-def transfer of the long-unscreened underground film VOULEZ-VOUS COUCHER AVEC GOD?
Sixties icon, Fugs co-founder, cartoonist, and New York underground beat poet laureate Tuli Kupferberg passed away in July 2010 at age 86, leaving a rich legacy of a lifetime’s worth of artistic radicalism and fun, including many rarely-seen film and video appearances. This special memorial screening presents a diverse collection of short films and videos from the 1960s onward, including Tuli’s appearances on the public access programs REVOLTING NEWS and IF I CAN’T DANCE YOU CAN KEEP YOUR REVOLUTION, some of Tuli’s more recent web clips, and other odds and ends. Not to mention the first screening in many a moon of the long-lost counter-culture feature VOULEZ-VOUS COUCHER AVEC GOD?, starring Tuli in the title role!
To be screened:
Shorts, clips, and odds & ends, including Edward English’s short film:
(1960s, 12.5 minutes, 16mm)
“(Sights and sounds of the lower East Side rain forest.) This film captures a bit of the Fugs’ environment, which includes the lower East Side, the Waldorf Astoria, the MacDougal Street scene, police harassment, show biz, humanity, their audiences, and the filmmaker.” –E.E.
–Sunday, November 14 at 6:00.
Tuli with hat, taken from the film. Tuli plays God. Image courtesy Jack Christie and Michael Hirsh
Michael Hirsh & Jack Christie
VOULEZ-VOUS COUCHER AVEC GOD?
(1972, 69 minutes, 16mm-to-video.)
(U.S Premiere of new high-definition transfer from original 16mm elements.)
Voulez-vous coucher avec God? Judge for yourself at the New York premiere of this vintage, Canadian-made experimental flick featuring a groundbreaking potpourri of live action and animation, backed by a rollicking soundtrack of 1960s hits. As portrayed by Kupferberg, there’s no messing with this Yahweh who’d just as soon enjoy a blow job from an inflatable schmoo as mastermind a presidential election from the cozy confines of his bathtub in Hashish Seventh Heaven, where a cast of pipe-dreaming souls journeys to be reborn. All hell breaks loose when the angel of the Lord attempts to cover up his failure to avert the sacrifice of young Isaac by his father, Abraham (also played by Kupferberg).
–Sunday, November 14 at 8:30.
Directions: Anthology is at 32 Second Ave. at 2nd St. Subway: F to 2nd Ave; 6 to Bleecker. Tickets: $9 general; $8 Essential Cinema (free for members); $7 for students, seniors, & children (12 & under); $6 AFA members.
1. Been a while. We realize that, and there are various excuses we could proffer, but we won’t bother. Suffice to say, we’re sorry. But time flies. Been receiving much good stuff. Have even written some of it up here and there, but in truth, there’s a book that came out a while back which we wanted to review. But it was such a long, horrible slog to get through the thing, we were totally thrown off our game. It took actual physical months to read the bastard, and we were so fucking upset by the very idea of evaluating it when we were done, we considered giving up reading FOREVER. Since reading and writing are linked at the hip ‘n nip, well…you get the idea. That book is Through the Eyes of Magic (Proper Books) by John “Drumbo” French.
On one hand, the book has an insane amount of new detail about the machinations and evolution of almost everyone involved with Capt. Beefheart & the Magic Band, and that’s good. French was in many of the group’s line-ups, and he interviewed pretty much everybody, except Jeff Cotton and Don himself, neither of whom speak to him.
Beginning long before the Magic Band came into existence, the book tells the saga of the early ’60s high desert rock scene, then goes into the saga of Beefheart-proper in staggering detail—pretty much gig-by-gig and session-by-session (excepting the years French was out of the band in the early ‘70s). The legends surrounding Beefheart’s creative process have already been pretty well debunked by now. Indeed, the privations the band endured were common knowledge by the time Trout Mask Replica turned 25 in 1994. French, however, has the inside track. And that’s fine. But it’s clear his publisher decided at some point to exercise absolutely no editorial oversight, all but destroying the book’s worth to anyone excepting the most fact-crazed Beefheart fan. And that’s bad. The book is full of digressions, pointless personal anecdotes, whiny chest-thumping, repetitions, Christian bullshit, and is organized in a discursive format we found maddening. At one point, French comments, “I don’t think that will make it past the editor,” and we can only groan and wish someone had seen fit to liberally red-line this unwieldy 864 page opus. With a complete re-write, Eyes could have been a fine book at a third of its current length. As it is, it’s a mess, albeit a perversely compelling one. The facts and photographs add substantially to our working knowledge of the Magic Band’s history, but man, getting through this monster was about as much fun as french-kissing a duck. And to cap it all off (SPOILER ALERT), French gets himself exorcised at the end of the book, loudly barfing Beefheart’s evil mojo straight out his mouth. What the fuck was Kris Needs smoking when he blurbed this book so positively? Kris?
2. Not too long ago, we made the drive down to Maxwell’s in Hoboken to see When Giants Walked the Earth, a brilliant one-man show put together by Andy Shernoff. Although he was very mean to rock writers in the course of the evening, it was still funny as hell. Shernoff’s personal history is pretty rich. He went to grade school with Johnny Thunders, hit high school with the Fleshtones, ran the legendary Teenage Wasteland Gazette fanzine when he was in college, and founded the Dictators in ’73. The Dictators were a band whose aesthetic (cars, girls, surfing, beer) was immediately embraced by Sandy Pearlman and Richard Meltzer (among others). The band was signed to Epic before they’d played a singe live gig and uh…well, you should listen to Shernoff tell the rest. Andy has done lotsa stuff, from producing Joey Ramone’s solo LP, to touring the UK with the Stranglers at the height of the Gobbing Era, and even opening for Rush in Atlanta—which is not the least incongruous of the Dics’ early live pairings. He told excellent stories and interspersed them with acoustic versions of his songs. From “Master Race Rock” (whose opening lines—“Hippies are squares with long hair/And they don’t wear no underwear”—sounds exquisite in this format) to “Baby Let’s Twist,” the tunes smoked.
Shernoff’s gonna be back working with his current band, The Master Plan, for the next few months, but he promises more of these solo shows ‘fore long, and you would be a goddamn square to miss an opportunity to glom the wit and wisdom of the man who wrote so many immortal tunes.
3.Steve Lowenthal first appeared on the scene in NYC as the editor of Swingset, which was a fairly boss fanzine. Unfortunately, Lowenthal-the-man sometimes reminded me of Terry Southern‘s great short story, “You’re Too Hip, Baby.” Lately, though, Steve has returned to school and he recently visited to do some interviews for his thesis work on John Fahey. He was a changed man, in our estimation, and he has also embarked on producing a very cool series of solo acoustic guitar records for the Vin Du Select Qualitee label. The first volume is by Joshua Emery Blatchey, a California-based dude who plays in Mountain Home with Greg Weeks and Marissa Nadler. On this LP Joshua plays very much in the American Primitive tradition, evoking Epstein-Barr-era Fahey as well as anyone this side of Terry Robb.
Volume Two is by Mark McGuire, the steroid-drunk baseball player who founded the band Emeralds soon after he left the major leagues. On this solo set, Mark’s playing has some of the same kosmiche moves as his work with Emeralds, but the tools are stripped down to guitar and pedals, so the smoke glows with a distinctly volky quality, a la certain periods of Ash Ra Temple, Popol Vuh and others. McGuire unpeels notes and lets them pile up in shimmering coils, awaiting trans-substantiation through listening. Nice trope. Volume Three documents work by the brilliant journeyman, Chris Brokaw.
Chris’s take on the project is the most song-like of the three. His pieces are shorter, generally more evolved melodically, but still simple, stark & lovely. They also take some unexpected stylistic turns (as on the percussive “Undrum”), and pleasure is the sweet result.
4. Not sure how we missed this for so long, but the From Tapes & Throats LP by Ludo Mich & Blood Stereo(Giant Tank) is a woggle-fest that won’t let you down. Mich is a Fluxus-related sound artist from the depths of the Low Country underground who has been active from the ’60s onward. Blood Stereo is this hideous coupling of Dylan Nyoukis and Karen Constance, and the racket the three create when gathered in a single lump is inelegant, malformed and harmful to aesthetic health. That said, the album is a gas. One side’s live, the other was recorded by Ludo at home, then sent to Brighton, where the Bloody Duo fucked with it until it squoke. The sonics are relatively sane (inside the given parameters) and this will flow past yr ears like a river of steaming tapioca. Also more recent than several diseases we could name is Nyoukis’s solo LP, Inside Wino Lodge(No Fun).
Again, this is less gibberous than you might expect, and is a nearly-beautiful melange of brillo’ed electronics and vocals, weeviling into occasional acoustic drones, and trying to surge underneath everything like blood clots. Something like the Three Stooges trying to take a serious whack at the Angus Maclise songbook with tuned shovels or something.
I first met Tuli Kupferberg in the early ’60s at the Paperback Gallery in Greenwich Village. I was delivering my magazine, The Realist, and he was delivering his booklet, Birth. Sharing a concept that tragedy and absurdity were two sides of the same coin, we bonded immediately.
In 1966, I published an article by John Wilcock, “Who the Fugs Think They Are.” Tuli talked about the importance of sexual liberation. “Americans like to kill or be killed,” he said. “Aggression is reaction to frustration. Sexual frustration is still the major problem to be solved and in my opinion the appearance of sexual humor is a healthy sign. And if we can put some joy, some real sexy warmth into the revolution, we’ll have really achieved something.”
When Norman Mailer wrote his first novel, The Naked and the Dead, he used the euphemism “fug” for “fuck,” which was then a literary taboo. At our first encounter, I asked him if it was true that when he met actress Tallulah Bankhead she said, “So you’re the young man who doesn’t know how to spell fuck.” With a twinkle in his eye, he told me that he replied, “Yes, and you’re the young woman who doesn’t know how to.” Anyway, that’s where the Fugs got their name. In “Doin’ All Right,” they sang, “I’m not ever goin’ to Vietnam/ I’d rather stay right here and screw your mom.” Tuli told me, “That was enough to get us beaten up if we did it in the right place.”
In 1968, at the counter-convention in Chicago, hash oil in honey was the drug of choice. The Fugs co-founders, Ed Sanders and Tuli, sampled it. This was strong stuff, and they got completely fugged up. Sanders described the grass he was walking on as “a giant frothing trough of mutant spinach egg noodles.” Tuli’s friends had to carry him by the armpits back to the apartment where he was staying. “They’re delivering me,” he explained.
There was a rumor that Philip Roth had lifted the masturbatory obsessed theme of his novel, Portnoy’s Complaint, from a Fugs song, but that notion was disavowed by Sanders, who assured me, “Philip Roth did not plagiarize a Fugs song. He came to a Fugs show in 1966, and I think he was inspired by Tuli, in top hat and cane, singing ‘Jack-Off Blues.’ Many times in reunion concerts, introducing Tuli singing that song, I have suggested that Roth got some of the impetus for Portnoy’s Complaint from that time he was inspired by the Tuli tune.”
Another rumor was triggered by Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem, Howl. Tuli acknowledged that he had been the inspiration for this passage: “…jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alley ways & firetrucks, not even one free beer…” Actually, it was the Manhattan Bridge. Tuli was just out of college and in the throes of the break-up of his first major love relationship, which contributed to a nervous breakdown that precipitated his suicide attempt. He was rescued by a passing tugboat and taken to Governor’s Island Hospital with a broken transverse process that put him in a body cast.
“Throughout the years,” Tuli complained, “I have been annoyed many times by, ‘Oh, did you really jump off the Brooklyn Bridge?’—as if it was a great accomplishment.” At first he had refused to talk about it, but as Ginsberg’s myth spread that he had simply “walked away” after jumping off a bridge, Tuli became concerned about wrongly influencing young people. He didn’t want anyone else to take a similar chance of being severely injured if they survived.
Tuli was the first Poet-in-Residence at the Bowery Poetry Club. Proprietor Bob Holman sent an e-mail two days before Tuli’s death on a gloomy Sunday: “I am in Medellin at the amazing International Poets Festival here—100 poets! Ten days of it!—and Tuli’s spirit is everywhere. Tell that bum to get up and out and over here.” Norman Savitt, producer of Tuli’s TV show, Revolting News, reported from the hospital bedside that Tuli reminded him “what a shame it was that I had my son circumcised, how I should be putting lyrics to all my instrumental music, and the importance of raw garlic in my diet.” And Larkworthy Antfarm adapted a Fugs song, applying the original lyrics to the BP catastrophe, singing about “a river of shit.”
Epilogue: Ah, the condolences: “Tuli, may you see Boobs a Lot in Heaven” . . . “This Monday will be just a little more Nothing” . . . “Mourning, Mourning” . . .
Check out paulkrassner.com to see the digitally colored edition of the infamous Disneyland Memorial Orgy poster.