May 27, 2017 by John Wilcock
JOHN WILCOCK: George Wallace, the KKK, and the 1965 Selma Freedom Marches
Returning from a trip abroad, John returns to Andy Warhol's Factory to meet a young, fragile, and beautiful Edie Sedgwick. From John Wilcock, New York Years, a history of the 1960s underground press and related events.
It's All Journalism
Recently, producer Mike O'Connell from It's All Journalism interviewed John Wilcock and writer Saundra Sorenson. Click on the above links to listen to the podcasts.
John Wilcock suffered a stroke in April 2014. The stroke left him with visual, cognitive, memory, and mobility issues. Because of this he has lived continuously in an assisted living facility. At the venerable age of 90, John’s personal resources are exhausted and he is now faced with having to leave the only community he has known for the past three years unless he gets some outside support.
John Wilcock was the inspiration behind the Underground Press movement (200 papers worldwide) in the '60s and '70s. In addition to editing New York’s first underground paper, The East Village Other, and his own underground tabloid Other Scenes, he guest edited underground papers in London, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. He was a founding partner of the Village Voice with Norman Mailer, and launched Interview magazine with Andy Warhol. He went on to write more than 30 books including The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol, the first biography of Andy Warhol.
When John had a near fatal car crash in Greece during a book assignment for Frommer’s Travel Guides (Greece on $5 a Day, 1968-69), his fellow New Yorkers held a benefit for him with artists and gallery owners donating works for a public auction. Andy Warhol contributed a sketch he drew of John Wilcock for the invitation to the event. John needs your help again!
Thanks to that vast outpouring of love and support, John Wilcock survived to write/edit 25 more travel books for Insight Guides. That’s what we’re hoping to achieve here with this fundraiser for this intrepid British-born traveler. Before his stroke, at age 87, he cruised through China’s waterways and filmed an episode of his popular Wait A Minute! program (800 half-hours of programming to date, check out his China trip at http://tinyurl.com/z6k5t7z) that he’s been airing on public access television for more than 20 years. With your help, we hope to see John Wilcock produce 200 more hours of travel shows.
Have You Seen This Man?
John Wilcock actually predates Woody Allen’s peripatetic “Zelig” figure in the film maker’s faux 1983 “documentary.” John profiled Woody when he was still a relatively unknown comic. Instead of a routine interview, Allen invited Wilcock to a comedy club in New York where he rehearsed bits for a comedy skit he would later call “Dr. Moreno’s Psychodrama” which he performed under the stage name of “Walter” Allen. This was before John Wilcock interviewed a relatively unknown horror writer named Stephen King on his Conversations With Wilcock program that aired on New York cable television in the early eighties.
Other guests on that show included the notorious Cold War Soviet spy Alger Hiss, mega-comic and huge John Wilcock fan Steve Allen, adman Barry Day who was known for The 100 Greatest TV Ads TV show, and George A. Romero, who kicked off today’s zombie craze when he co-produced Night of The Living Dead and subsequent zombie flicks with Richard P. Rubinstein, then head of Laurel Entertainment before Viacom acquired the company and Rubinstein launched his New Amsterdam Entertainment, Inc. Richard was an old friend of John Wilcock’s since their Ibiza, Spain days going way back to the sixties.
Keep the zombies away from John’s bedside by donating here now! May your friends do the same for you one day!
John Wilcock, The Pre-Zelig Zelig
Drum roll here, please! Here’s a list of just a few celebs whom John Wilcock has interviewed and personally known over the past half-century of his career as a Zeligian columnist par excellence:
Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Milton Berle, Leonard Bernstein, Rock Hudson, Bobby Darin, Bob Dylan, Timothy Leary, Jane Fonda, Larry Adler, Lenny Bruce (Lenny used to regularly crash on John’s couch in his Greenwich Village apartment between his gigs at comedy clubs), Jean Shepherd, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Judy Collins, Orson Bean, Sally Kirkland, Cicely Tyson (she married the future Miles Davis, John once offered her a joint which she refused!), Mary Travers of the Peter, Paul, and Mary folk group, not to mention a young Leonard Cohen whom he interviewed at the poolside of a Greek hotel.
John Wilcock even covered the Beatles on the eve of their American tour! Oops, slight correction: In a typical Wilcockian fit of anti-establishment pique, John passed on covering the Fab Four. Just think how his life might have turned out differently if he’d grabbed ahold of the platinum ring he was offered. But then he wouldn’t have been the Cranky Frank-y Johnny whom we love and hold so dear today! And there’d be no such tale to tell . . . Would there?
Please consider a donation to the John Wilcock Rehabilitation Fund so he can get the names of the four Beatles straight! That would be John, Paul, George, John, Ringo . . . As we say, it’s never too late to teach old anarchists new tricks!
“Wait a Minute! How Quickly the Days Seem To Have Gone By . . .” A Look Back at a Life Filled With Observations And Revelations
Let it not be said that John Wilcock has spent his life in search of ephemeral wonders—from interviewing cultural icons, celebrities, or amusing “three-dot” items for his long running “Column of Lasting Insignificance” to whatever beckons to him, and to all of us, from beyond.
Now at age 90, as he reaches a milestone of what may appear to some as cobweb dreams and practical fallacies, he sagely faces the unknown head-on without flinching or equivocating.
Here, in his own words born of a lifetime of chronicling the journey of a rich and rewarding path that he steadfastly pursued, he shares his reflections on what life brings to all of us in its own good time, indifferent to our petitions for immortality.
Without mincing words or glossing over the imponderable that awaits us all, he lays it out for all to share:
“Time flies so fast as we get older, the weeks almost seeming to merge. I once heard somebody joke that he was traveling so fast in a car that, ‘the milestones began to seem like a fence,’ and that’s how quickly the days seem to have gone by. (What, it’s Saturday again?) Many of you will know, or will soon find out, that the supposed wisdom imparted by advanced years is no compensation for the diminution of one’s faculties. Teeth are lost, eyesight is impaired, arthritis affects the knees. And, of course, hearing fails to the extent that the first impulse is to get a hearing aid— which doesn’t help very much. My doctor told me that nine out of every ten of his patients who acquire a hearing aid tend to give it up within two years because of the inconvenience. And I am one of the nine.
“The interesting thing is that diminished hearing doesn’t entail loss of sound but of clarity; you just can’t make out the words. One compensation is that often what you don’t hear doesn’t actually matter and this isn’t just a rationalization because, with obvious exceptions, even when I could hear very well I often didn’t pay attention to what was being said, particularly when many people were part of the conversation. I found that if something was really important, that I would become aware of it one way or another, and the rest of the time, the best filter was inattention.
“I was always impressed by the tale of the man who liked “to walk through the woods with a lot of people”. Yes, and why was that? Well some, he said, would note the dew on the leaves, and some the mushrooms on the ground, and others would rave about the sun shining through the trees…. Although immortality is beyond our scope we’d all like to think that our good works, our power, will long outlast us, but sadly almost all of us will be remembered after we’ve gone only by family and a handful of others. Within days of our death we’re out of sight and out of mind. Some folk believe in reincarnation and that karma will determine how our new life will be, but there’s never been any evidence that we return to this earth in any form.
“So enjoy life while you can— carpe diem —and at least try to ensure that any memories you leave are nice ones. If we have creative talents we can at least leave something behind which is why I published a layout in my magazine of some of my mother’s art. Before I die I hope to see this book in print.”
Love and Peace, John. You are and will always be with us, Here and Now and Forevermore.
Manhattan Memories is available at amazon.com.
An updated A Guide to Occult Britain, complete with new illustrations, is also available at amazon.com.
comments? send an email to John Wilcock
Now Available in Print!!
Don't let a real-life comic strip sneak by unnoticed. This one's too unusual (and brilliant) for that!
also available on amazon.com...
National Weed (1974, issue #3)
Forty years ago the second of my three books about magic was published, A Guide to Occult Britain (Sidgwick & Jackson) covering a wide range of sites from Stonehenge to Loch Ness and King Arthur country to the witches of Pendle Hill. It is now available as an eBook
Over the past year, my combined medical and support costs from a stroke I had in April 2014 have been more than $100,000. If you'd like to help, use the Paypal donate button, or better yet, buy my books, and thank you. —JW
Now on Boing-Boing!
An authorized comic book biography of John Wilcock,
This IS a book-length comic series on John Wilcock. People who enjoy focusing on underground and alternative media are occasionally familiar with John's work, but most often the response is "who's that?" Outside of small press historians and collectors, John remains very unknown. Which makes no sense, the more you learn about him. We're very excited about the opportunity to tell his story. Art for THE STORY OF JOHN WILCOCK is by me and co-conspirator Scott Marshall. Story comes from an extended and ongoing year-long interview with Wilcock, himself. The focus is John's years in New York, roughly 1954-1971.
January 2, 2011
A way with Andy Warhol : John Wilcock recalls life in iconic pop artist's inner circle
During a journalism career that began when he was 16, John Wilcock has interviewed celebrities — Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Bob Dylan, to name a few — was part of enigmatic pop artist Andy Warhol's intimate circle in the 1960s, traveled to exotic locations all over the globe, has written dozens of books ranging from frugal travel to magic, was one of five founders (Norman Mailer was one of them) of the Village Voice and co-founded Interview magazine (still in circulation) with Mr. Warhol.
“The Return of the World's Worst Businessman”
John Wilcock is not what you would call a household name, and yet, he has had a measurable impact on art, journalism and culture-at-large over the last century. He co-founded Interview with Andy Warhol. He also was one of the co-founders of The Village Voice. He has written for countless print and online publications: Frommer’s, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, The East Village Other, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Ojai Orange, etc. So why, one feels inclined to ask, is he relatively unknown? The answer seems simple: Wilcock has called himself “the world’s worst businessman.” This self-description makes sense because listening to him one hears the voice of a writer and a traveler and an enthusiast, not at all the voice of a businessman. In an age when it seems like everyone is all about business—art as a business, fashion as a business, everything as a business—it is refreshing to hear someone self-identify as “the world’s worst businessman.” It seems less like he has failed as a businessman and more like he has refused to become one. In addition to all his other accomplishments,...
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Jewcy Top 10 Art Books of 2010
This brilliant remake of a pop primary document is brought to you by John Wilcock, probably the Most Interesting Man in the World in the realm of writers. The Village Voice cofounder had also edited Warhol’s seminal mag Interview in the 70s. The fruit of the book is in the genius of its redesign. After 40 years out-of-print, the newly edited edition is “beautifully redesigned in a bright, Warholian palette” that surrounds a trail of Harry Shunk’s internationally Pop-art-informed camera as well as transcribed interviews with those closest to Warhol that ultimately make up an oral history of the artist’s Factory period. By looking at him through the scope of his peers, this book is the equivalent of Pittsburgh’s Warhol Museum in illuminating qualities of Warhol’s warped mirror on which our American culture was briefly reflected.
Monday, November 15, 2010
A Reader Comment from the recent New York Times Frugal Traveler post
Not only did John Wilcock shake up staid publishing in the USA, from the Village Voice to the East Village Other, his influence extended to several continents, including Australia & the UK, where - in his mild mannered way - he pushed the boundaries of image and speech. The counter culture was nothing but a dull puddle, until John kicked out the jams and ignited the Underground Press, which attracted absurd prosecutions, that of course boosted circulations. An unsung hero of the sixties,
It was the first handwritten letter I’d received in 5 years. Or maybe 10. Signed by John Wilcock, a man I’d never heard of, and postmarked Ojai, Calif., it was waiting for me when I returned from my São Paulo-to-New York summer trip. Mr. Wilcock wrote that he had been an assistant editor at The Times Travel section back in the 1950s, and had written the first editions of “Mexico on $5 a Day,” “Greece on $5 a Day” and “Japan on $5 a Day” for Arthur Frommer in the 1960s.
By George, I thought. This man was the original Frugal Traveler.
“A GOOD WAY to describe John Wilcock is to say that he is a talented bohemian counter-culture journalist who once played a major role in the emergence of America’s underground press. Born 1927 in Sheffield, England, he left school aged 16 to work on various newspapers in England, and on Toronto periodicals before moving to New York City. There in 1955 he became one of the five founders of the Village Voice in which he and co-founder Norman Mailer wrote weekly columns. Wilcock called his column “The Village Square”, an intended pun. He and young Mailer were not quite friends, although Wilcock was at times annoyed, but always amused, by Mailer’s monstrous ego.”