the column of lasting insignificance...
—for July 6, 2016 by John Wilcock


THE WANDERING MINSTREL came to town for a day or two and as usual found eager audiences. “I started with a simple criteria for the daily gig”, explains Michael Ward-Bergeman, “at least one person, for at least 35 minutes. Some gigs have indeed been intimate, but if you average it out up to this point, I have played for between 50-75 people a day for about an hour. I have not missed one day of performance so far this year”.


gig #82

    Michael’s chosen instrument is the accordion—although he has many others—and what brought him to Ojai was the annual Music Festival where he rejoined his old colleagues, the soprano Dawn Upshaw, who directed this year’s festival, and the intriguingly-named group Eighth Blackbird (there are six of them).
    But in addition to the scheduled performance, he finds his audiences at random. “I usually don't contact anyone. I have about 150 gigs set up in advance this year and for the rest I just show up at different places that i think might be receptive to a musical experience and ask if they would like me to perform on that day. It could be a cafe, hospital, gallery, anywhere really; the 150 gigs determine my general direction, and where I need to be at certain times. I've been lucky this year as the timing has worked out well taking me all over the USA and parts of Europe”.
    His music making has taken him to many beautiful places around the world: Hong Kong, Copenhagen, Courchevel, Madrid, and Caracas, for example, which is where he began what he terms Gig 365.

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 ojaiorange.com.
—JW

...

John Wilcock
The Gables
701 N. Montgomery St.
Ojai, CA 93023

    “I became curious about what would happen if I was to share music-making in a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional venues for an entire year. I began to wonder about what it would be like to perform everyday. Would a momentum develop? Would I be able to gather and use the energy in a meaningful way for people that shared music making with me along the way? Would I discover something new about music, about myself, about others? It became clear that 2011 was the time to do it.
    “I started in Venezuela because my girlfriend Yulene is from there, and it was where we planned to be together for the holidays in 2010. We went down mid-December and started setting up gigs, which was difficult as the country more or less shuts down around the holidays. But it magically came together - a sign of things to come!”

MICHAEL’S FRIEND and traveling companion, Oscar Cainer comments: “ The beauty of this project is the way in which music is its sole currency. The ability to offer music for free has opened up an entire world of emotional exchanges that would not necessarily have been possible were there financial constraints.


Oscar and John

    “I've been traveling with Michael for significant bursts of time every other month on average - I was there at the beginning in the shrines, orphanages and care homes of Venezuela and at the coffee shops, rock clubs and homeless centers in Florida. I was tagging along at the gleaming concert halls of Madrid and Copenhagen and I was driving him around between village hall, folk club, church and boatyard across the UK and France.
    “I've been party to swamp music from Louisiana, cowboy music from South America, blues music from the South OF America, gypsy music from Europe, folk music from England, classical music from Argentina and tribal drumming from Tibet, all through the work of one mans arm.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++
Invented in Europe in the 1830s, the accordion is one of several instruments played by compressing or expanding a bellows which allows air to flow across strips of brass or steel (reeds) that vibrate. As it needs no accompanying instrument it is considered a one-man band and plays a major part in the folk music of Europe and both North and South America.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++

    In the compact white truck in which the pair travel, is a large array of instruments, including accordion and dozens of percussion instruments, (”some of which my dad and I built specifically for this tour”); a stage, speakers system and a 6' x 4' light board that folds in half (500 multi colored Xmas tree lights through random holes poked through painted black paneling). There’s a suitcase with clothes, a tent, tarp, blankets, pillows. other small stuff to fix things (tape, wire, pins, glue) flashlights...etc. I have a few pictures.
    “I also bought a rather expensive, bulky generator to power my entire sounds system and light rig in the event of no electricity. I've only used it once, and hope there is a call for it in the near future.
    Not limiting his attention to concert halls and stages, Michael has always regarded music as therapy. “I've been using music as a therapeutic tool since I was very young when I became involved with its importance. I would guess that music is therapy in any environment and I use it as a tool to reach patients in a clinical environment and establish a resonance with them. This sometimes gives them an opportunity to temporarily transcend any disability they might be experiencing and learn something new about themselves and/or the universe and communicate about it. Other times, it triggers memories and brings them back in time, and they are able to sing, laugh, and/or cry, which normally might be very difficult. Sometimes I use it to assist in relaxation.
    Oscar had some comments about this. “The expression of joy that was communicated in a grateful smile from a previously abused care home resident in Venezuela will stay with me for life” he recalled. “ The tragedy of playing a centre for the children of homeless parents in Orlando, with all their youthful exuberance and boisterousness despite the impossible difficulties they must face, surrounded by streets full of vagrants queuing for food to be handed out from the trunks of cars, in a city famous for Disney World, is another experience that moved me fundamentally.

Where will the wandering minstrel find himself next?
“The magic of GIG 365 is that I have a certain amount of gigs booked, and that points the direction in which I travel” Michael says. “But the rest of the gigs happen as I go, and I sometimes find myself going around on the day of a gig playing for people to see if there is interest to have me perform later in the day. I've met a lot of great people this way.
    “I finally made it to New Orleans in March after years of people telling me I should go. I knew I had found a spiritual home on my first day there. The musical language and culture there runs deep and overflows out onto the street. I played on numerous street corners around the city, mostly in the French Quarter. ‘If a passing musician hears you and likes what you are doing, they will stop and play with you. I was fortunate enough to play with some folks that have been playing on the streets since they were children - they always seemed to find me, wherever I was.

WHATEVER INFLUENCE he might have had on the world at large, he’s certainly changed the life of his companion.
    “I've had moments that have changed me spiritually and informed me factually” says Oscar. I've been treated like family by Michael's family and been greeted as a friend by his friends. They all recognize the same thing in him as I do and therefore need no explanation as to why I am there. Michael is unique in spirit, fascinating in character and compelling as a performer; it's obvious to them why I would be choosing to document this journey and they are all more accommodating than I should have the right to expect.
    “The variety of settings adds visual interest but it is the human reactions and interactions which have delighted and moved me most of all. It is through the experiences I've had with Michael in the small time I've been with him that I have begun to more understand my spiritual and cultural place in the world. I've started volunteering at a local drop in centre for the homeless in London and I'm making what I hope to be my opus in the documenting of this project. When I started this I was expecting to document how these experiences would affect and change Michael. What I was not prepared for was the transformative effect it would have on myself.”

This column first appeared on 6/25/11

comments? send an email to John Wilcock



National Weed (1974, issue #3)

it's here...
Marijuana--The Weed That Changed the World


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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 one of my books, and thank you. —JW


comments? send an email to John Wilcock

recent columns

- Complete column archives: 2006 - present

John Wilcock ... Marijuana, the symbolic center of the underground society
Week of June 8, 2016

John Wilcock ... From the Archives: Cuba Diary—Havana, April 2011
Week of April 20, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
Week of April 16, 2016

John Wilcock ... From the Archives: When you vote, don’t forget the Republican Paradox
Week of April 13, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen--Travels: Tokyo-Rick Kennedy recalls; Japan on $5 a Day; About Chapbooks; Magic in South America
Week of April 9, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eighteen (continued)--Theory & Practice of Travel Writing; Remoteness of Callanish; Jim's Paris dinners
Week of April 2, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eighteen--The Quest for Magic: Around Europe by VW bus; Regarding armchair travelers; Pisa's Leaning Tower; The magical Alhambra
Week of March 26, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen (continued)--London's Magical library; In the Cannes
Week of March 19, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen--The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Week of March 12, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary (continued)
Week of March 5, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary
Week of February 27, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen (Part Two--Manhattan phone book, JW'S Secret Diary
Week of February 20, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen--Party Circuit
Week of February 13, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part two, Soho Saturday
Week of February 6, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part one, Soho Saturday
Week of January 30, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
Week of January 23, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve--Andy Gets Shot: Max's Kansas City; Jane Fonda's gesture; Christo & Jeanne-Claude
Week of January 16, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eleven (continued)-- We go to Rutgers, Ann Arbor ... What people say about Andy
Week of January 9, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eleven -- Andy Warhol First encounter....People talk about him....His movies...
Week of January 2, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Ten (continued)--The 'Movement' splits: Eldridge Cleaver Year of the Great Hoax…The OZ trial
Week of December 26, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Ten--Tom Forcade's smuggling funds High Times; Rolling Stone's underground sabotage
Week of December 19, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Nine (continued)--Rip Torn on stardom… Robert Mitchum's gift; London: Julian Beck’s critique; Emmett Grogan and the Diggers; Greece: The Junta, Charlotte Rampling, and art hero Daniel Spoerri
Week of December 12, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Nine--Bob Dylan in the Village, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, Richard Neville and OZ, What Does London Need Most?, The International Times
Week of December 5, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight (continued)--Japan: a working honeymoon; The Shinjuku Sutra
Week of November 28, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight--Art Kunkin's LA Free Press; In LA with Hunter Thompson, Lenny Bruce; Visit by Warhol; Hakim Jamal plays god; The San Francisco 'Be-In'; Underground papers meet
Week of November 21, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seven (continued)--The Underground Press; Army revolt:  fragging officers; Bowart goes to Millbrook
Week of November 14, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seven--The singing Tit-o-Gram; The East Village Other; Art & Forgery; Birth of Black Power; The Underground Press
Week of November 7, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
Week of October 31, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six—The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
Week of October 24, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Five—Reefer Madness (continued)--Jan and Stan change my life; The man who turned on the world
Week of October 17, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Five—Reefer Madness--The man who turned on the world; Tested by Harvard professors; Jan and Stan change my life
Week of October 10, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Four—Into the '60s--London's underground press; Jean-Jacques Lebel burns US flag; Everybody's friend: Jim Haynes; Lenny Bruce and the kitchen tapes
Week of October 3, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Four—Into the '60s--More Working at The New York Times; Mexico On $5 a Day; What Richard Condon taught me; Henry Miller's wise words
Week of September 26, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Three--The Village Voice (continued) --Lasting insignificance: the 3-dot column, ECHO  and Larry Adler, Woody Allen plays classic nerd, A sample Village Square column
Week of September 19, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Three--More trouble with our star novelist; Lasting insignificance: the 3-dot column; Jean Shepherd’s phantom novel
Week of September 12, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Steve Allen derides TV columnist; Marlene Dietrich--glamorous grandmother
Week of September 5, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Gilbert Seldes' The Lively Arts; Norman Mailer’s Voice column; Giving parties to meet strangers
Week of August 29, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Chatting with Marilyn Monroe
Week of August 22, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Jack Kent Cooke tells me to stay in Canada; Becoming a New Yorker ;A new Village newspaper; The casual wisdom of Steve Allen
Week of August 15, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
Week of August 8, 2015

- column archives: 2006 - present




in the press...

Now on Boing-Boing!

JOHN WILCOCK: Leaving the trial, I realized Kennedy had just been killed.
February 12, 2015

The New York Years - Boing-Boing

July 13, 2012

Manhattan Memories: an autobiography
By John Wilcock (Lulu.com, 2010)
excerpt from A Book Review By Marshall Brooks
Provincetown Arts Annual 2012/13

On the Ground
IF
John Wilcock had lived in the Garden of Eden he would have started the world’s first under- ground newspaper there. One can easily picture it: a paradisiacal incarnation of John’s 1960s legendary tabloid, Other Scenes, featuring a lively threesome on its cover and an interview inside with the snake, who, it turns out, really dug (in the argot of the day) cool, mellow people. An Eden on $5 a Day guide would have been sure to follow, precursor to the dozens of travel books that John Wilcock actually has methodically researched and authored over the years, beginning with Mexico on $5 a Day in 1960 for enterprising guidebook publisher Arthur Frommer. Still traveling the world at age eighty-four, no moss grows on John Wilcock, which Manhattan Memories makes clear. But there is more.

(The complete review begins on p.175)




December 1, 2011

On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S
reviewed by Steve Heller in Imprint
On the Ground
The Underground Press, as it was called, was a groundswell of media activity running the gamut from radically political to seriously satirical. A new book, On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S. (PM Press) Edited by Sean Stewart (who between 2007 and 2009 owned and operated Babylon Falling, a bookstore and gallery in San Francisco), recalls the Underground epoch. Through interlacing interviews with Emory Douglas (Black Panther), Paul Krassner (The Realist), Art Kunkin (The L.A. Free Press), Abe Peck (The Chicago Seed), John Wilcock (Other Scenes), Jeff Shero (The Rat), Trina Robbins (Gothic Blimp Works) and many more (including Al Goldstein of Screw), the remarkable journals that shaped my life (and career) are revived as oral history.

(read more)




November 28, 2011

The Book Bench - Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department
New Yorker Online
Check out the first installment of Ethan Persoff's serialized comic-book biography of the publisher and writer John Wilcock.

(read more)



October 22, 2011

The New York Years

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, 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,...

(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.

(read more)




Wednesday,
October 27, 2010

A Budget Travel Pioneer on a Time When $5 a Day Was Real (Frugal) Money
nytimes.com: 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 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.

(read more)


and 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 lulu.com
also available at amazon.com (in paperback or for your Kindle)
and other online booksellers