There’s a smartass wisecrack about how any newcomer to the West Coast loses one IQ point for every year he stays there and some people scoff that it’s more like ten. Of course, these skeptics are always New Yorkers who retain impregnable pride in living in what they think of as the center of civilization, they make it all but impossible for a real Noo Yawker to actually leave.
Why would anybody leave the capital of the world to step down in life, to live in some more inferior place? they ask rhetorically, and when you’re a denizen of Manhattan, that rules your thinking for long after your first impulse to get out.
Eventually, though, some of us do escape, even though—for ever afterwards—we still like to define ourselves as ex-New Yorkers rather than acknowledge our initial heritage which in my case is English. Life for most of us, me at least, just isn’t as stimulating in the West as in the East. It’s true that we hold fast to the probably erroneous notion that “if you can deal with New York, you can handle anything”. The Big Apple teaches you to be street smart, to watch your back, to remain hip to all new trends and ideas that might be useful and to bask in your (kept to yourself) superiority.
But it also reminds you that the amusing definition of “a New York minute” (the time between the light turning green and the guy behind honking his horn) is unarguable. And I always used to advise visitors that if they wanted to ask a New Yorker for directions, to be sure to be traveling in the same direction and at the same speed as their target. In other words, New York is as stimulating as all get-out. And a helluva strain at the same time.
Although I’ve written more than 30 books, and produced 800 half-hour television programs, I’ve always regarded myself primarily as a columnist. It was during my earliest days in New York that I had a failed tryout at the Daily News whose prime columnist, Walter Winchell, made a lifelong impression on me—not because of his column’s content but his style. He also invented such amusing portmanteau words as infanticipating.
There were nine dailies in Manhattan at the time and they all carried columns, but he was the master of the ”three-dot” technique which had the merit of not only brevity but irresistible readability. The idea is that you entice somebody into entering the column which instantly ensnares them into following it to the end. I liken it to pulling somebody into a boat with you and riding the white water rapids with all the rising and falling all the ebbs and flows that the trip entails. A good three-dot column has its occasional calm spells and its hidden rocks (inflammatory items are sandwiched between two bland ones), but by and large you must stay to the end.
The source for most of my weekly column has always been a variety of publications that I monitor, always in search of items with legs, i.e. incidents or happenings that would appear to have some implications, that might indicate a future trend. Coming events cast their shadows before as the old adage has it, and it might seem surprising that these indicators are more likely to come from magazines than newspapers. Time and again I have read a lengthy exposé in Harper’s or the Atlantic that breaks as a news story some time later. Such examples of this might have been such subjects as China, potential environmental disasters or some far-off country’s political future.
Trade magazines are virtually unseen by the general public and these frequently provide column items, especially publications devoted to the retail business or the media. There’s so much material of this sort that I could turn out a column every day if I had even more reading time available than the six hours a day I already devote to it.
So my first advice to budding reporters who want to document the zeitgeist would be to read a lot. You might think that being there is the most important way to learn about what’s going on, but you can only be in one place at a time, and in my view the collapse in reporting standards began when hundreds of young music fans with minimal or no writing experience got credentials to write about rock and roll and began to think of themselves as journalists. Some of them became damn good writers but they’d never really learned the ropes of being bona fide newspapermen.
Which brings me to the subject of travel writers, of which there are also two kinds: (i) the elegant stylists who write smooth-as-silk essays about places but give few helpful details, and (ii) the work-horse hacks such as myself who ferret out all the facts and figures, the hotel prices, the restaurant menus, the bus routes, where to get help. It won’t be necessary for me to tell you which group earns the big money.
A Guide to Occult Britain
by John Wilcock
EVERY HUMAN BEING has a quest but relatively few realize it, and even fewer discover what their personal quest is before it captivates them. It has its classical counterpart in the alchemist’s search for the Philosophers’ Stone, Jason’s pursuit of the Golden Fleece or the lifelong quest by so many medieval knights for the Holy Grail. All these things, as psychologists have pointed out, are nothing less than inner searches for oneself clothed in the semblance of outer, worldly activity.
The quest in fact, conscious or otherwise, forms the central structure of our lives, and it is only when we detect its pattern that we are able to channel it effectively. When we vacillate, change course haphazardly or shoot off wildly in ten directions at once, it suggests that our internal compass is out of order. It is at those times that we are most vulnerable to somebody (or something) else’s pattern.
The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol
by John Wilcock
Edited by Christopher Trela
Photographs by Shunk-Kender
Village Voice and Interview cofounder John Wilcock was first drawn into the
milieu of Andy Warhol through film-maker Jonas Mekas, assisting on some
of Warhol’s early films, hanging out at his parties and quickly becoming a
regular at the Factory. “About six months after I started hanging out at the
old, silvery Factory on West 47th Street,” he recalls, “[Gerard] Malanga came
up to me and asked, ‘When are you going to write something about us?’”
Already fascinated by Warhol’s persona, Wilcock went to work, interviewing
the artist’s closest associates, supporters and superstars. Among these were
Malanga, Naomi Levine, Taylor Mead and Ultra Violet, all of whom had been
in the earliest films; scriptwriter Ronnie Tavel, and photographer Gretchen
Berg; art dealers Sam Green, Ivan Karp, Eleanor Ward and Leo Castelli, and
the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Henry Geldzahler; the poets Charles Henri
Ford and Taylor Mead, and the artist Marisol; and the musicians Lou Reed and Nico. Paul Morrisey supplied the title: The Autobiography and Sex Life of
Andy Warhol was the first oral biography of the artist. First published in 1971,
and pitched against the colorful backdrop of the 1960s, it assembles a prismatic
portrait of one of modern art’s least knowable artists during the early
years of his fame. The Autobiography and Sex Life is likely the most revealing
portrait of Warhol, being composite instead of singular; each of its interviewees
offers a piece of the puzzle that was Andy Warhol. This new edition
corrects the many errors of the first, and is beautifully designed in a bright,
Warholian palette with numerous illustrations.
The British-born writer John Wilcock co-founded The Village Voice in 1955,
and went on to edit seminal publications such as The East Village Other, Los
Angeles Free Press, Other Scenes and (in 1970) Interview, with Andy Warhol.
All the Popes, good and bad, from St. Peter to John Paul II
compiled by John Wilcock
WHEN THE POPE DIES the biggest story in the world stays on the front pages for at least 15 days until 135 cardinals assemble to choose his successor. Who will it be? The choice has immense implications, and not just for the world's 950 million Catholics.
There are 194 cardinals altogether, and they gather in Rome from all parts of the world. Only those under 80 years old are permitted to vote, and of those Pope John Paul II appointed all but five. Voting is by written secret ballot and although the number has varied over the years, the requisite majority is now two-thirds plus one of the eligible cardinals, for election of the new pope. The required number has varied over the years but this rule was established at the 3rd Lateral Council during the time when Alexander III (1159-81) was pope following an earlier decision by Nicholas II. He had ruled in the previous century that only Roman cardinals could vote. Today, if the conclave is deadlocked after several days, a lesser majority of 50% plus one is allowed. (The extra one is in case any cardinal voted for himself). more
in the press...
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
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.