the column of lasting insignificance: January 31, 2015
by John Wilcock
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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— Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
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November 20, 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