the column of lasting insignificance: November 15, 2014
by John Wilcock
“It's the movies that have really been running things in America ever since they were invented. They show you what to do, how to do it, when to do it, how to feel about it, and how to look how you feel about it.”
“My fascination with letting images repeat and repeat - or in film's case 'run on' - manifests my belief that we spend much of our lives seeing without observing.
“Human beings are born solitary, but everywhere they are in chains - daisy chains - of interactivity. Social actions are makeshift forms, often courageous, sometimes ridiculous, always strange. And in a way, every social action is a negotiation, a compromise between 'his,' 'her' or 'their' wish and yours.
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At the height of the filmmaking, the atmosphere at the Factory had become somewhat circus-like, virtually out of control. Andy's unwillingness to reign anybody in, his dislike of confrontation and his need to be surrounded by the motley crowd which provided the fodder for the movies as well as the endless people doing business of one sort of another, sometimes resulted in a kind of layered chaos. One afternoon I stood among the regulars just inside the door, unable to get past the various friends and media types (Italian and French magazine writers) who were milling around watching German television videotape a group of photographers doing a layout for Vogue of models posing against the backdrop of Paul and Andy manning the movie camera focused on whatever drama was being enacted against the rear wall.
Paul and the debonair Fred Hughes, who regarded himself as Andy's social secretary, and who came to be the Factory's dominant figure, were often in dispute over this sort of thing. "He wanted a place where no one would hang out" Fred recalled. "The kids wouldn't be here, they'd come just for business, just to find out about a job, and then they'd leave (but) I think it's better to enjoy what you're doing and the way it's taken place is more like an accident. Since the people who come here have such a good time. We use unusual people and they need a place to (posture) even when they're not in the films".
What did Fred think it was, I asked, that made Andy so sympathetic to and interested in all the freaks that were usually around the place?
"Well, first of all he has that terrific look of appearing very old and very young at the same time. This look is really important to what he does. And he has the kind of innocence that comes from someone who really doesn't have any specific motives except to promote entertainment".
Bourdon, a perceptive former Life magazine art critic and longtime Warhol friend, also talked of this entertainment aspect. "He insists that he's in show business", David told me in 1970, "and that he is through with art (which) is very dull and that show business is much more glamorous and exciting".
Drama of any kind was obviously meat and drink to him as anybody could see if they spent time around Max's Kansas City, the Union Square tavern which became the ipso facto Factory local during the late Sixties. There were innumerable occasions when a simple evening's food and drink ended with some superstar acting up--jumping atop a table, squirting beer across the room or simply yelling at some imagined enemy. One night Brigid Polk found a cockroach in her potato and started screaming. Andy was muttering, 'Oh Brigit' to calm her down, but he obviously loved it.
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- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— Dear Readers...
— John Wilcock ... Marijuana, the symbolic center of the underground society
— John Wilcock ... From the Archives: Cuba Diary—Havana, April 2011
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
— John Wilcock ... From the Archives: When you vote, don’t forget the Republican Paradox
— 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
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen (continued)--London's Magical library;
In the Cannes
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen--The Sorcerer's Apprentice
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary (continued)
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen (Part Two--Manhattan phone book, JW'S Secret Diary
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen--Party Circuit
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part two, Soho Saturday
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part one, Soho Saturday
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
— 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
— 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
— John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight (continued)--Japan: a working honeymoon;
The Shinjuku Sutra
— 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
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six—The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
— 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
— 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
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Steve Allen derides TV columnist; Marlene Dietrich--glamorous grandmother
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Chatting with Marilyn Monroe
— Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
- column archives: 2006 - present
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May 2, 2013
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.
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 on amazon.com.
"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
The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol