the column of lasting insignificance...
—for October 26, 2016 by John Wilcock

Under every stone, lurks a politician
Aristophanes (450-385BC)

NOVELIST ALEXANDER BESHER launched his new book last week via the barcode on a T-shirt. By pointing a cell phone at the barcode, the potential reader can download The Manga Man right onto his phone, formatted and ready to read in small bites. The book, subtitled "a novel set in the neuro future", follows Besher's Rim Trilog--hailed as pioneers in the world of contemporary science fiction, and which, among other things, predicted by many years the kind of scenario which eventually became Second Life. The bar-code book includes Butoh dance performances and accompanying commentary about post-Zen Japanese philosophy. Besher and his partners plan to develop this into a meta-multimedia publishing venture named

WITH WORLD FOOD PRICES having jumped 83% in the past two years, there have already been food riots in 30 countries, including one in Haiti which brought down the prime minister. "To the typical household in four countries, food is the equivalent of energy in the U.S.", writes Paul Collier in Foreign Affairs. And, in some households it can consume half of the family budget, five times the norm in high-income countries. "Global food prices must be brought down fast (or) the consequences will be grim, both ethically and politically, Collier forecasts. (Revolution is brewing! -ed.)

THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU, it seems, may not be the best recipient of your complaints about firms with which it is affiliated. "Companies pay between a few hundred dollars and $10,000 to be an accredited BBB member" reports Smart Money, "and some see a conflict of interest....And, say some critics, both its complaint process, and those famed reliability reports are designed (in an atmosphere of) pro-business". Almost half the mission firms are members of the BBB, which fields more than twice that many consumer grievances each year. Sometimes the online complaint forms are passed onto the firms themselves (Cingular, for example, paid the Bureau $50,000 for such information) and often the matter is resolved merely by the company responding, regardless whether action was taken or not. In response, the BBB claims it has to "take care of business first" and if it didn't, it would have to charge consumers for the service.

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 89. —JW


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

OVER-PROTECTIVE MOMS AND DADS who hover over their children constantly even when they go to college were tagged "helicopter parents" in a Guardian story. Constantly bugging college authorities with questions, some admitted to calling their offspring several times a day well into their twenties, and Huddersfield University in England has found it necessary to reassure parents by setting up a "family liasion officer", available 24/7. This "infantilization" is even worse in the U.S. says Donna Miller, director of a car rental firm, who reports that some parents even accompany their kids to job interviews asking questions like: "What will they be doing? Can you explain the benefits?"

BRITAIN WAS DESCRIBED as the shoplifting center of Europe in a recent Daily Telegraph story which estimated that stealing from stores had become a $2.5 billion dollar business. Eight-member teams were identified as hitting the motorways to visit town after town, where a typical raid might last under six minutes but yield more than $4,000-worth of goods. Watching these raids on security videotapes later. said one police officer, "is like watching a skilled piece of choreography".

THE WILCOCK WEB: The difference between a president in denial and a president-denied? One's a flustered Bush, the other a busted flush….With Sarah Palin's autobiography presumably less in demand by publishers, how long before Larry Flynt now offers her a couple of mill for a nude centerfold?…. Yet another example of the stupidity of choosing machines over a simple pencil and paper, were the six-hour long lines at polling booths where delays were caused by insufficient working machines….Tentatively introducing some tabloid techniques into its new layout suggests that the Los Angeles Times could benefit from transforming itself into becoming a real tabloid….November 13 kicks off LA's week-long "getting-ready-for-the big-one" earthquake drill. Check out for details….The New York Post warned Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Graydon Carter and Charlie Rose that the garbage cans outside their Washington Square apartment complex were accessible to snoopers after reporting that Weeds' star Mary-Louise Parker had her trash ravaged and its contents publicized…. Measurably less-popular NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg may have outsmarted himself with his power grab for an extra term, having infuriated enough people to possibly lose his election in 2010….Another of those new words invented in a Washington Post competition: Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating…."Democracy run amok–the tyranny of the individual's right to pursue his or her own happiness above the community" wrote reviewer Susan Salter Reynolds summarizing Hervé Kemp's How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth….In India, solar-powered rickshaws are appearing among the traffic in Delhi streets….Acting scummily to the end, pretend-prexy George Bush is now spitefully bringing in damaging regulations that the papers say will be hard for his successors to reverse….Only entrepreneurs willing to give away at least $1million in the next year are welcome at this week's Philanthropy Round Table annual gathering at Naples, FL.…. Of all the stupid additions (apps) available for free downloading to iPhones, the three most popular are a clanking cowbell, a man yelling "wooo!" and the sound of a stapler clicking…."We never really know what stupidity is", wrote Paul Gauguin, "until we have experimented on ourselves"…. Brit artist David Penfound's horse-print T-shirts cost $1,395 from designer Martin Margiela but are said to be available on the Internet for $19.85…. Kids' panties bearing the words "Dive In" (themed from the movie High School Musical) have been condemned by Britain's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children after parents objected that they were "inappropriate" for young children…. If you insist too long that you're right, you're wrong --author unknown.

This column first appeared on
November 5, 2008

National Weed (1974, issue #3)

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


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 (, 2010)
excerpt from A Book Review By Marshall Brooks
Provincetown Arts Annual 2012/13

On the Ground
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)

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 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
also available at (in paperback or for your Kindle)
and other online booksellers