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Ojai Orange

September 3, 2016 by John Wilcock

Manhattan Memories

Chapter 25:
California's Shangri La

Video Rants and Raves (part 4)

It’s not easy to take sides on breakaway factions, regions, or countries that seek independence. Common sense would seem to favor the view that if a majority seeks to detach themselves from the Mother country, why not let them go? Especially if they are willing to seek no financial backing from the country they leave, although often these would-be freedom-lovers want to have it both ways with a sort of subsidized independence. (Scotland, anyone?)

What usually makes the parting impossible is the understandable unwillingness of legislators to endorse their homeland giving up any territory. For a politician, such reasonableness is tantamount to suicide.

And there’s another factor to consider. So often in our recent history, foreigners infiltrate somebody else’s country—the Tamils from Madras into Sri Lanka; the Albanians into Serbian Kosovo; the Russians into Georgia—and the results are inevitably war. You’d think that logic would dictate that if you choose to live in another country it would be because you were willing to accept that particular lifestyle, but that is rarely the case. The nerve of these intruders who want to change their new home into a replica of the one they have left! If the militant Muslims, for example, want a country in which the mosques loudly summon people to prayer several times a day or seek to be ruled by sharia law or feel obligated to murder their daughters who marry infidels, why did they not stay in countries that favor these kind of rules?

There’ll never be an accommodation between the space-nuts and the rest of us because the former feel that it’s a sacred mission to leave this planet and explore what’s out there, and I share the beliefs of the rest that we have too many problems here to waste billions playing space games.

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

Recently I read about NASA historian Stephen Dick who suggests that there might be a race of super robots somewhere out there in space, with an intelligence so highly developed they don’t think it’s worth their while to communicate with us. Their brains may already be equipped with artificial intelligence after exhausting the potential of their biological brains, he says, and sooner or later the robots we have armed with computer brains will become sentient and surpass human intelligence.

But, firstly, I think all that is a pipe dream and even if it’s true, what are we looking for out there and what good will it do us?  I share the view of Alex Gross who maintains that the entire space program has never been anything more than a vastly expensive fantasy quest whose main goal has been military in nature. In any case, he says, there are no habitable planets anywhere near us and even if there were, there’s no way to transfer earthlings there and keep them alive.

As for the International Space Station, that darling of the space-nut spendthrifts, no less a personage than the president of the British Royal Society Lord Martin Rees, calls it “a turkey in the sky’, plainly not worth spending the additional $50 billion needed to complete it. Most European scientists regret having got involved, says Rees who is Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge.

He envisions that future expeditions to the Moon and beyond “will only be politically and financially feasible if they are cut-price ventures, perhaps privately funded, spearheaded by individuals prepared to accept high risks—maybe even one-way tickets. Perhaps future space probes will be plastered in commercial logos, just as Formula One racers are now.”

But the latest version of the dream—“too deeply embedded in national imagination to go away” says Robert Park—is the determined plan to go to Mars, at a cost as infinite as space itself. Each new administration will concoct a new justification for this quest, he predicts.

In his book, Voodoo Science, Park wrote that the Space Station was already outdated by 1984 because its original proposed functions for global communications, monitoring the weather, detecting clandestine military operations, aiding navigation for ships and aircraft, and astronomical observations, were all being performed by satellites better and more cheaply. As for the proposed trip to Mars, that would take three years and cost half a trillion dollars.  

How can anybody say that’s money well spent when people everywhere are starving, people are dying because they can’t afford health care, bridges are collapsing and so on and so on? Of course spending half a trillion dollars is good for some people, such as the military-industrial complex and all the fat cats who bribe the legislators to ensure the money will be spent the right way. But shouldn’t there be some limitations on how much can be wasted on boondoggles like this without a referendum in which voters give their permission?

Something similar could be said about this year’s triumphal scientific experiment, the Large Hadron Collider—a decade-long, $8 billion project to build a 17-mile tunnel in which protons are caused to collide. And the motive? So that we could (hopefully) recreate the conditions that existed when the world began. This, the experts, tell us may tell us where mass came from. Really, does anybody except scientists give a shit? Nobody has bothered to explain how we’re supposed to benefit from this billion dollar boondoggle.


Thinking the Unthinkable
Secret thoughts that probably many people have
at some time or other, but have been too smart to express

Rounding up all the gang bangers with felony records and shipping them off to create their own violent society on some uninhabited island where they won’t prey on the rest of us (Hey, it worked for Australia).

Mass execution of anybody who’s been on Death Row for more than 20 years Enough with all these repeated appeals ad infinitum.

Stop calling it merely collateral damage.

If we were serious about keeping out illegal immigrants, stringing up electric wire along the border would really discourage entry. Re complaints about how we need endless immigrant cheap labor to pick the crops: how about trading with 12m illegals who are already in the country? A year’s work in return for a green card.

When generals appear in public wearing that ridiculous fruit salad on their jackets, has any paper bothered to analyze what each of those medals is for? It’s doubtful if many of them are rewards for having placed themselves in danger.



One of the things that happened to me this past week was the denial of my appeal to the court. What was the appeal about? Well, I'll start at the beginning. About three months ago, I was driving over to my friend's place and a cop emerged from the shadows in which his patrol car had been sitting, and gave me a ticket for driving without a seat belt. I told him that I was wearing my seat belt around my waist rather than over my shoulder because a few nights before I'd tripped over a metal set of steps and seriously injured my ribs which were still painful. Nevertheless, anxious to make his quota for the day, he gave me the ticket and when I subsequently went to court, he admitted  that from across the street he hadn't been able to see that I was wearing my seat belt around my waist.

The court session was a parody. I had once before been to traffic court—for making an illegal U-turn on a deserted street—and so I was aware that not a single person is ever found not guilty, no matter what their excuse. Traffic appeals court is just a money-making racket bearing virtually no relation to justice, a concept I'm sure court officials regard as amusingly naive.

On this day, a trumped-up, hack lawyer whose name I later discovered was “Commisioner” Mark S Burrell, listened to my tale, dismissed it forthwith and found me guilty. He refused to look at the documents from the hospital confirming my x-rayed ribs and told me that I should have got a note from a doctor. Do these guys live in the real world? Are they aware how long it takes to get a doctor's appointment for such a minor thing? And then have to pay for it?

Doubtless lawyer Mark S. Burrell went home and boasted to his family when he was elevated to the job and doubtless his young son or daughter had asked: "Isn't a commissionaire, one of those guys in uniform who stands outside a swanky hotel and directs the parking?"  Of course, I have no evidence of how this two-bit lawyer was promoted but usually the way to do it is to give money to the prevailing political party and then brown-nose the judges. The legal system is corrupt from top to bottom, as evidenced by the farce of the so-called non-political Supreme Court.

At any rate, I decided to appeal on the grounds that the commissionaire wouldn't look at my hospital papers which could be regarded as exoneration.

A few weeks later, I receive a summons to a court hearing at the Inferior Court of California down in Ventura and after spending half the day driving down there and waiting in an empty court room when, lo and behold! with his robes flapping in comes the very same bum Burrell. Apparently, the appearance was for me to confirm that the transcript of the court proceedings--which I had been handed two minutes before--was accurate. Obviously this could have been sent thru the mail, thus saving us both half a day and a copy, in fact, arrived in the mail two days later.

I tried to make some comments but was brusquely brushed aside. In court, with a tin pot lawyer in charge, God almighty and His Imperial Majesty has to give permission before his victims may speak.

Two weeks later another summons from the Inferior Court of California setting a date for me to once again go to Ventura for my appeal. Now what could I possibly say that I hadn't already written? So I declined the invitation telling them that as usual the system had won. That—as the whole purpose of the court system is to harass defendants and give them as much trouble and inconvenience as possible—they had succeeded and the story was over so far as I was concerned. Two weeks after that yet another note from the court: did I want to ask for a delay in the hearing?  Yes, I replied, until December 31, 2009.

And so this week back came the form stamped: DENIED


Chapter Twenty-Six—The Last Word

My Life as a Columnist


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.

(read more)

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.

(read more)

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
also available at (in paperback or for your Kindle)
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