the column of lasting insignificance: January 31, 2015
A party without cake is just a meeting.
by John Wilcock
Over the past three years I've probably given close to 20 parties -- rarely with less than a couple of hundred guests -- and I have formulated several rather definite theories with which I'm prone to bore acquaintances whenever I get the opportunity.
The first theory is outlined very succinctly by Toots Shor ["Every party I ever went to I enjoyed myself. You go with my attitude and you'll enjoy yourself, too."] Too often people go to a party with a sort of chip on their shoulder. "So okay, I've come to your party; now entertain me," is their unspoken challenge. It's the wrong attitude, and I once proved how wrong it was by sponsoring a party via this column. "Let's give a party," I suggested, "at which everybody is welcome but at which everybody agrees that they'll go and introduce themselves to people they don't know; at which everyone will be friendly and not status-seeking; to which everybody goes determined to ENJOY themselves." I invited everyone who sent me his or her name; instructed all guests to bring liquor; borrowed the enormous studio of an artist-friend -- and had one of the most enjoyable parties I've ever known.
That was five years ago, and many of the people I met then are still on my regular invitation list (which has now grown to more than 100) and form the solid, warm core of most of the parties I give today. I can't stress too much how important it is to have this sort of nucleus for your parties: when half the people know each other well already, there's a warmth and friendliness that gradually permeates the other half.
One of the most important rules for a good party is to have plenty of space, and not only space but room for circulation. Rooms with bottlenecks are out. Most apartments are out, even big ones, unless there's a way for people to make a complete circuit back to the starting point (i.e., out into the hall via one door and back via another). Bigness, of course, is not enough in itself; the place should also have a little atmosphere and charm. It should NOT be dark. This is a mistake many party-givers make. Nice, attractive people like to look at each other at parties; only the guilty or insecure prefer darkness.
At large parties an equal number of each sex isn't such an important matter, of course, but you can't have too many pretty girls, paper cups, or bags of ice cubes. And music is important, too: live jazzmen if you can get them, otherwise good records. Most important of all is good conversation. Creative people with plenty of tastes and views in common always have plenty to talk to each other about and, taking my responsibilities as a host rather keenly, I try to ensure that all the people who'll like each other are sure to meet each other. Apart from an insatiable desire to know everybody in the world, it's always been a secondary dream of mine to introduce everybody I know to everybody else.===========================
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— “What I was actually trying to do in my early movies was show how people can meet other people and what they can do and what they can say to each other. That was the whole idea: two people getting acquainted.”
— “ONCE AN IDEA forces its way into the public domain, it can never be pushed back; it will only grow and spread, eventually fulfilling itself, even if it takes a long time. Consider, for example, the case of marijuana...”
— “John Wilcock:
India, LSD, and Leonard Cohen's ‘Flowers for Hitler”
— “John Wilcock: The Day I Turned Down The Beatles”
— “No matter how complex, no matter how unique, your password can no longer protect you.”
— “There's no point to regretting things that have gone to the trouble of happening.”
— “I like to be the right thing in the wrong place and the wrong thing in the right place. Being the right thing in the wrong place and the wrong thing in the right place is worth it because something interesting always happens.”
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in the press...
Now on Boing-Boing!
From Boing-Boing—JOHN WILCOCK:
India, LSD, and Leonard Cohen's ‘Flowers for Hitler’
November 27, 2014
July 13, 2012
Manhattan Memories: an autobiography
(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
November 28, 2011
The Book Bench - Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department
October 22, 2011
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.
“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,...
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 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.
"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."