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August 27, 2016 by John Wilcock

Manhattan Memories

Chapter 25:
California's Shangri La

Video Rants and Raves (part 3)

MY WEEKLY 28-MINUTE show, Wait a Minute! might sometimes be remembered for its bile, but it would never win awards for technical proficiency, being a casual melding of segments of myself ranting on camera, separated by video tape of such local events as studio artist tours, parades or festivals in the park, plus travel footage of my trips to China, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico, Vietnam, Spain, Italy, France, England etc. By 2008 I had produced about 800 half-hour shows, mostly cobbled together with the minimum of jump-cut editing on a decrepit VCR, and I continued to make more every time I traveled. (These can be seen under the category Wait A Minute! or read in various issues of the Ojai Orange, all cached on my website at Sometimes an Ojai story would be almost too good to be true, as in the case of Jennifer Moss, the notorious naked cyclist.

Wearing flower petal pasties over her nipples and G-string, she stretched out her shapely body under the oaks in my garden and explained why she had swapped her local notoriety for a life in Oregon.

The number one reason I left Ojai,” she said, “ is they are not conscious enough about the air, the soil, the water. Either you get it or you don’t”.

Cited several times for riding her bicycle with nothing more than she was wearing now, she had been twice ticketed for public indecency although the DA had declined to prosecute. Explained Police Chief Bruce Norris: “They just don’t believe they can get a conviction on the nudity issue. There are constitutional issues about why a man can run around without a shirt and a woman can’t”.

At her first semi-nude appearance in Santa Barbara, she recalls that she was harassed by police who gave her a sobriety test, confiscated her drinking water and tested it. “They treated me like I was insane, then let me go.” She claims that she was more or less forced out of town.

In Ojai EarthFriend Jen had both attackers and defenders. “Ojai tolerance is not eternal” wrote one right winger in the Ojai Valley News calling her public displays “naked narcissism”.

“Lighten up people! Enjoy the view or look the other way!” another reader responded.

The paper’s weekly feature, ‘thumbs up, down’ carried a gripe about “people who encourage and take pictures of the Pastie Lady’s bad behavior… What do you call a grown woman who stands on her head in nothing more than pasties and G-string with her legs spread wide open at Libbey Park and the skate park, and who jumps in front of moving school buses full of young children…?”

EarthFriend Jen
Earth Friend Jenny

Jen, 32, who described herself as a social artist and environmental activist, scoffed. “It’s always adults moaning about how something might harm the children, but it’s adults who have poisoned the world. It’s a world of hypocrisy and it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s up to us to speak the truth, the naked truth”.

Why does nudity upset people so much? I asked her.

“Because nakedness represents freedom. America is supposed to be the land of the free but is actually one of most repressed and obsessed societies. It’s in denial.

“We’ve exchanged gold for paper which is now becoming more and more meaningless. I’m into the real gold, the gold that is in the heart and soul. We have got to start growing more, getting more humanly involved with our environment. Instead of getting our resources from China we need to start making them more and more. We must have faith in our power”.

Dear reader,

Today's column is on of the almost 500 columns I ran on the Ojai Orange site between 2006 and 2014. These will, of course, be free as is everything on my sites, and has been for the past decade or so. But, I do request that if you find these columns interesting, that you consider sending a donation, which you could possibly write off as a gift for my birthday on August 4, when I will be 90.

Chapters from my autobiography, Manhattan Memories will continue to run on


John Wilcock
Ojai, CA 93023

Her return to Oregon, where she was born in Corvallis, was partly because her new home, Ashland, is known for performance art, but it’s also where local law specifies people must cover their genitals, and this has been interpreted that bare breasts are acceptable. She aims to grow her pubic hair long enough to cover her genitals. When she announced that she would ride a bike in the July 4 parade, wearing only a G-string, the parade chairman responded that entries must be “appropriate for a family audience”. He said she could display her breasts any other day of the year but not July 4. One councilor, Eric Navickas, defended her. He said it was “an interesting commentary on our society that we’re willing to tolerate dead bodies through our aggressive foreign policy but not healthy naked bodies”.

Jen website: [see Jennifer Moss (Activist)] says she will continue her quest to promote peace, emphasizing body, spirit, mind and soul. “It’s all about the world”, she says. “The world does not define me, I define me.”

In her own way, Jennifer was definitely a local star who caught my attention, but as a general rule I’ve never been much impressed by celebrities, even though usually admiring or at least respecting their talents. On the other hand, I heartily disagree with those who criticize them lending their star power to causes or political philosophies. If you’ve got it, flaunt it, I say. Why not take advantage of the slight edge that stardom offers, even if it’s not backed by the kind of intelligent perception that we most value?

Nor have I ever given much credence to commercial endorsements which, by their very nature, are often hypocritical. A celebrity may or may not like or use the product to which he or she lends a famous name, but it’s become so commonplace that there’s an inevitable cynicism about its verity. And I suppose—now that it’s so widely practiced—it’s old fashioned to cling to the idea that big, hugely-recompensed stars really don’t need to sell their names to advertisers. Although you might remember that until a few years ago, stars who made commercials abroad had contracts demanding that the ads not be seen back home, suggesting that the celebrities themselves felt that being so overtly commercial diminished their luster.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

My heroes are of a different kind and top of the list is a woman, Burma’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has not been allowed to fulfill the post to which she was elected almost 20 years ago by the brutal army generals who seized power to negate a landslide election in her favor. To many people she’s a Mandela for the 21st century, a heroine whose bravery was acknowledged with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 when her acceptance speech in Oslo was delivered by her son Alexander Aris. He reminded his audience that “the lonely struggle taking place in a heavily guarded compound in Rangoon is part of the much larger struggle, worldwide, for the emancipation of the human spirit from political tyranny and psychological subjection”.

Although his mother, he said, was often described as a political dissident who strove by peaceful means for democratic change, it should be noted that her quest was basically spiritual. And he quoted her: "To live the full life one must have the courage to bear the responsibility of the needs of others… one must want to bear this responsibility”. Her strength, she explained stemmed from Buddhism, the foundation of traditional Burmese culture. "The quest for democracy in Burma”, she declared, “is the struggle of a people to live whole, meaningful lives as free and equal members of the world community. It is part of the unceasing human endeavor to prove that the spirit of man transcends the flaws of his nature."

Millions of people around the world hope that this beautiful and noble lady, now 64, will eventually see not only her own freedom but that of her suffering people. A special issue of the Ojai Orange devoted to Aung San Suu Kyi is available on

DEFINING MYSELF AS a columnist might seem perverse considering that after 50 years—and more than 1,000 columns—I have never been able to make a living from this particular vocation. My career could more accurately be described by the 30+ travel books I have written in the course of visiting more than 30 countries. After being more or less forced into retirement by Insight Guides, I continued to travel, but at my own expense. Often choosing tours (China, Vietnam, France, Alaska, the Caribbean) for their ease and convenience, I continued to write, publishing my findings as columns, or in my magazine, the Ojai Orange. This was almost always factual reporting. Opinions I usually reserved for my appearances on camera.

It's not very charitable to be indifferent about somebody dying and certainly not very kind to let them die in pain when you could do something about it. You might almost feel that it was genuine retribution, even karma if the same thing happened to them. Or their closest friends or relatives. Deliberately allowing people to die in pain is exactly what the (DEA? NIH? etc) do every day, something the Supreme Court mandated for many more lifetimes. Yes, we're talking about medical marihuana, the legalization of which has been established in many states, but is still ignored by these unfeeling barbarians. They're all in corrupt partnership with the smugglers, the DEA, the NIH, the prison structure, the police, the vast federal bureaucracies, the paid-off pols. Their shared credo is economic not moral. They are willfully mindless about the consequences of their behavior.

On a similar theme, I can’t help but feel that there’s a certain irony in a situation where people feel it’s okay to kill doctors who practice abortion on the grounds that even-unborn life is sacred and must be protected at all costs. And as a male I resent the fact that men can take it on themselves to decide what women can do with their bodies, indeed their lives. The only men who should be allowed to prevent women having abortions are those who are willing to adopt the unwanted children. And note how often are the supporters of the death penalty the very same people who scream that (unborn) life is sacred.

But obviously saying one thing and doing another is not confined to this controversial issue. So many issues never seem to die. Abortion is certainly one of them, a subject that presumably will always be controversial. The overall impression, as I see it, is that it is usually Catholics that head the ranks of anti-abortionists but to mention their religion seems to be deemed unfair although it’s obviously the most important factor behind the “choose-life” movement.

Every week, indeed almost every day, there are examples that appropriately could be filed in the category labeled “Get Over It”. Mostly these are instances that stem from political correctness which insists that humor should be at least protested (and hopefully barred) if it is directed at… well, anybody at all. Some students at a Los Angeles High School tampered with the names in a yearbook, changing them so that they were almost as ridiculous as the existing ones (does Starkeisha, Shaligua or Q'J'Q'Sha ring a bell?) True, the exercise was aimed at the sometimes–ridiculous names adopted by African-Americans, but so what? Blacks have been choosing unique names for centuries, nothing wrong with that. Which is not to say that Caucasians (and probably Asians and Latinos) are not equally guilty of this propensity for eccentric naming. How about Track, Willow, Bristol, Piper and Trig? But if you’re going to give your child a strange-sounding name, how strong is your case when somebody makes fun of it? It’s not racism, it’s sarcasm. Get over it.

Why are COST estimates invariably wrong, deliberately low, and bearing little or no relation to the final cost? Realistically, of course, we know from experience that we are expected to accept these deliberate lies accepting the fact that the estimate is totally phony. Budgets? There’s always a deficit, never a surplus. So, unless the increase is calculated and factored in, what’s the point of the estimate in the first place? Sometimes we hear about bonuses for finishing the job ahead of time, but how often are there penalties for being late or false estimates?

AN OBVIOUS advantage of choosing art as a subject to talk about on camera, is that you can illustrate your opinions at the same time, as when I asked my viewers:

Francis Bacon - Self Portrait
Francis Bacon self portrait
Getty Images

Why are Francis Bacon’s ugly portraits so admired? What’s so clever about distorting faces so they are unrecognizable? Come to think of it why are gullible suckers willing to pay so much—$34 million, for example, for his repulsive 1976 triptych Three Studies for Self Portrait, a smeary, misshapen trio of the same face twisted three ways. Is this supposed to inform us of something we didn’t know or understand about the person depicted? If so, it’s no revelation to me; it’s still ugly. Makes me think there’s something sick or malevolent about its creator. Almost a dozen of Bacon’s works have sold for more than $25m apiece since the death of his lover George Dyer in 1971. Looking at that portrait makes you think that it’s enough to prompt suicide all on its own.

So-called “art lovers” rarely love the art they buy—just the money that it represents, commodities that increase in value and bring a profit when sold, just like anything else. If you really loved art, wouldn’t you want to keep it instead of just making a profit?

It’s not as if artists even make the art that bears their name much of the time. Jeff Koons’ huge construction Balloon Dog placed atop the once-distinguished Metropolitan Museum was neither conceived nor constructed by him. As Peter E. Rosenblatt wrote in a letter to the New York Times: “Mr. Koons simply found something to duplicate and suggested making it big and shiny. That’s creative?”


Chapter Twenty-Five—Ojai, California's Shangri La

Video Rants and Raves (continued)


Manhattan Memories is available at

An updated A Guide to Occult Britain, complete with new illustrations, is also available at


comments? send an email to John Wilcock

Now Available in Print!!

John Wilcock: New York Years, Book One

A comic book history of the rise of the 1960s underground media.
by Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall

Don't let a real-life comic strip sneak by unnoticed. This one's too unusual (and brilliant) for that!

also available on
Marijuana—The Weed That Changed the World

National Weed (1974, issue #3)

A Guide to Occult Britain

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 on

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, 
art by Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall

An authorized comic book biography of John Wilcock,
art by Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall

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.

(read more)

January 2, 2011

John WIlcock at home in Ojai
Photo Credit: Carmen Smyth/News Press

A way with Andy Warhol : John Wilcock recalls life in iconic pop artist's inner circle
Marilyn McMahon, Staff Writer
Santa Barbara News Press

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.

Today, the 83-year-old writer, who has been described by others in his field as "a libertarian-anarchist" and "a talented Bohemian counter-culture journalist," lives a tranquil life in a rustic cottage he rents on the outskirts of Ojai.

(click here to access the Santa Barbara News Press online where the full text of the article is available by subscription)

January, 2011

The Return of the World's Worst Businessman

Sneak Peak “The Return of the World's Worst Businessman”
Tyler Malone
PMc Magazine

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,...

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jewcy Top 10 Art Books of 2010
Margarita Korol

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.

Said John Wilcock in explaining the book, “A lot of people really misunderstood him then and indeed still do, although there’s hardly a day when Andy’s name is not mentioned in the paper.” Especially interesting is the timing of Warhol’s booming popularity as it comes half a century after pop rushed the 60s, a period similar to our own with fluxes in economic, political, and civil rights climates.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

A Reader Comment from the recent New York Times Frugal Traveler post
RN—Sydney, Australia

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,

indifferent to self promotion and the hoarding of gold, it is great to see John get a dash of recognition.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Budget Travel Pioneer on a Time When $5 a Day Was Real (Frugal) Money Frugal Traveler

by Seth Kugel
John Wilcock at the New York Times

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 Săo 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.

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available in print...

Manhattan MemoriesManhattan Memories
An Autobiography
by John Wilcock

“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.”

-From the preface of Manhattan Memories, by Martin Gardner
order from
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