October 1, 2016 by John Wilcock
Flash forward to the [Village] Voice’s 50th anniversary issue in 2005. One of the stories they ran was my seminal piece about Andy Warhol’s moviemaking. Was I recompensed or otherwise mentioned? No, and no.
Thus my letter to Tony, requesting that the fatwah be lifted and that my name be mentioned in the paper itself, as they continued to use my 50-year-old 2c words. This was his response:
That current issue of the Voice, by the way, was more than 200 pages. I tried again a couple of months later, hinting that as they were unwilling to devote a paragraph to telling their readers about my book, maybe for old time’s sake they might give me a break on an ad. Sure, they replied, just send five hundred bucks. They were still re-using the old columns.
Nobody, as we know, has a monopoly on the truth or what’s the most sensible policy about almost anything. I have found myself agreeing occasionally even with the likes of Dr. Laura or Bill O’Reilly (but never with Rush Limbaugh).
It long ago became obvious that the difference between Republicans and Democrats was simply that between the haves and have-nots, the former were motivated almost entirely by the constant need for more, no matter how much they had already. They were totally insensitive to the fact that poor people are rarely poor by choice and that the solution for them is not—as Limbaugh might maintain—for them to get off their asses and work. When Bush first decided to ignore the need for money by schools, hospitals and the infrastructure, in favor of giving obscenely rich people yet another tax break, I asked the Montecito Journal’s Jim Buckley: “How could he do that?”
“Well they paid the money” blustered Jim indignantly, “why shouldn’t they get it back?”
Isn’t that a bit selfish?
“Oh don’t give me any more of that Socialist left wing garbage” Jim replied.
Jim’s approach to life and his politics were perfectly aligned. Fundamentally, he seemed to believe that anything you could acquire and hang onto was deserved. It was entirely legitimate, no matter how you acquired it. The sacred belief of Republicans is that nobody should then be allowed any part of it. With manipulation, indeed, more can be acquired. For Republicans, greed has no limits; they never have enough. The would-be sharer is a pariah.
People are poor? Tough luck, serves them right for not being as smart as I am. Taxes? Outrageous! Why should I give up any of my money for the common good?
For Republicans there is apparently no common good, only one’s personal avariciousness. Note how often rich companies, rich people stash their money out of the U.S. so they won’t have to pay taxes to the country that made them rich. Taxes could help everyone. But greed heads don’t want to benefit anybody but themselves. My idea of a classic Republican—apart from that blustering, bullying blowhard ElRushbo—is Rupert Murdoch. Watch how he changes his nationality to fit his business…how he changes political sides for the same reason… how he censors his newspapers and broadcast interests when and wherever true free speech could cost him money.
JIM HAD INVITED ME to write for his new paper, the Montecito Journal when it began back in the early ‘90s. I was paid nothing at first, then $30 a column. After ten years I asked for a raise. He told me with some indignation that he was already being generous as he could buy material better than mine from a syndicate for less money. Not long afterwards he turned his thriving paper over to his son who, surprisingly, turned out to be an even bigger fan of George Bush than his father The bullying son dropped my column after accusing me of being a hated liberal because I occasionally quoted the Nation (among 100 other sources). He sought to avoid paying for the last two—but Jim (my ‘friend’ of 35 years) said not a word in my defense.
Maybe I shouldn’t focus so much on Jim, who, after all, is a decent and likeable human being, but he seemed to me to epitomize everything that I hate about Republicans, whose creed seems to be that virtue and merit is due only to those who have proved themselves financially successful. Anybody lacking such aims deserved all they (don’t) get.
But in many ways he epitomized the socially-ambitious style of so many persons of moderate talent who thought and voted Republican because they were so focused on their own interests that “the poor” were beyond their ken. I have no idea how much, if anything, Jim ever gave to charity and I never asked him how he felt about Franklin Delano Roosevelt but I can imagine his knee-jerk response to the concept of helping the under-privileged. He was, of course, a fan of that dittohead who persistently reiterates that anybody who isn’t rich has only himself to blame.
For most of my early life it was a given that we’re all in this together, and rich and poor both had a stake in creating a smooth-running and reasonably equitable society. But greed has increased exponentially in the past few years (William Greider described, in the Nation, the New Right’s agenda as “rolling back the 20th Century”). Now we have a society that has become largely acquiescent about inequality. These are the times when rich people establish their bases in other countries rather than be taxed in their own… who spend more on lawyers showing them how to evade taxes than many people earn in a lifetime. The latest estimate of executives’ pay, reveals it to be 179 times what their workers earn—almost double what it was a decade ago.
The titles of two books that appeared last spring say it all: Free Lunch; How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and stick you with the bill) by David Cay Johnston and The Politics of Inequality by Michael J. Thompson. The latter quotes Thomas Jefferson who was already beginning to see a trend: “I hope we shall crush in its birth” he declared, ”the aristocracy of our money corporations which dare already to challenge our government”. Substitute ‘tycoons’ for corporations, and ‘dominate’ for challenge, and you have a picture for today.
Virtually every member of the “haves” is totally out of touch with the rest of us. Some Republicans, for example, airily dismiss $200,000 as “a middle class income”. Apparently they’re totally unaware that multi-millions of people live on about one quarter of that. They’re the same elitists who lap up the words of food critics telling them about “bargain meals” that are under $50.
Why do the Democrats always allow the Republicans to demonize and define them? It’s sometimes with the same old trick—accusing your opponents of what you are yourself guilty of (the Nixon defense) and also a case of negatively emphasizing words like ‘liberal’ or ‘socialist’ often enough that people begin to accept them as negative.
And if the high octane speaker is always blustering and almost screaming, in Limbaugh fashion, it cows and overwhelms the audience, a naturally tendency to feel that anybody with such forceful emphasis must be right.
More than one (GOP) party chairman suggested Republicans had “lost their way” but opinions ranged widely on the reasons, from the suggestion that their policies had been too moderate (“compassionate conservatism was a disaster” said one). Phyllis Schafly said she’d spent much of her life trying to tell people that the Republican party was not the party of the rich and big business (but) “there just seem to be some people who are trying to make it that way”. Does this woman hear what she’s saying?
Thomas Frank went a long way to explaining in What’s the Matter With Kansas? why less privileged people vote for people who represent the opposite of their apparent interests. Because of so-called cultural prejudices. In his recent book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, Frank argues that, “Fantastic misgovernment of the kind that we have seen, is not an accident, nor is it the work of a few bad individuals”. It’s the very essence of conservative rule, “by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society”.
The right wing made much of how their election opponents were, or were supported by, people who weren’t “real Americans”, citizens who lacked patriotism, “the me first-country second” crowd. Of course they weren’t referring to their rich patrons who believed it to be real American to invest one’s money out of the country to avoid paying real America any taxes.
Manhattan Memories is available at amazon.com.
An updated A Guide to Occult Britain, complete with new illustrations, is also available at amazon.com.
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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
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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 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.
“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.”