the column of lasting insignificance...
Beginning next week and in the 50 weeks following, John Wilcock's autobiography Manhattan Memories will be serialized in this space. The 260-page book is available amazon.com.
Manhattan Memories begins right here with the Preface by the late Martin Gardner.
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.
After ten years with the Voice, Wilcock broke with the paper to edit a rival publication, the East Village Other, and then to publish his own tabloid, Other Scenes. They were the city’s first underground papers, covering all the topics The New York Times would consider unfit to print. Later he worked with similar papers popping up in London, Los Angeles and Tokyo.
For three years Wilcock was a travel editor at the New York Times and his subsequent journeys here and there produced a raft of popular travel guides. Two of his other books are of special interest: The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol had a sparse print run but today a copy sells for more than a hundred dollars; Popes and Anti-Popes presents an unvarnished view of Roman Catholicism.
In 2001 Wilcock, by then divorced, retired to a cottage in Ojai, CA, where he started a curious, little magazine called the Ojai Orange. It publishes bits and pieces about anything of interest to him at the moment, which in 2006 included my letter complaining that New Yorker cartoons are not funny any more.
Now writing a whimsical weekly “column of lasting insignificance” on his website, Wilcock appeared briefly in the Huffington Post, quitting when he realized how much his factual column was at odds with the predominance of opinion essays there. A 1973 profile in the New York Times tagged him “an influential man nobody knows” and a similar profile in a London magazine pegged him as “a man with an ability to make no money”.
The book you are now about to read contains colorful interviews with such notables as Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Bob Dylan. Other well-known personalities who appear in Wilcock’s memoirs include Leonard Bernstein, Rock Hudson, Timothy Leary, Jane Fonda, Larry Adler, Lenny Bruce, Jean Shepherd, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the Beatles.
Several chapters cover what the author calls “the golden Soho scene” with its funky art galleries and legendary parties. There is an account of what the Manhattan art world then called “Happenings”, and a hilarious quote from a top art critic struggling to justify the grandeur of such a great work of sculpture as blocks of wood in opposite corners of a room.
Two chapters are devoted to magic, not in the conjuring sense but magic based on the paranormal. It’s a topic on which Wilcock was enough involved to participate with a self-styled witch on several lurid books. The Amazing Randi turns up in this chapter. Bending Wilcock’s key and declining to reveal how he did it.
Manhattan Memories is a fast-paced, highly entertaining narrative about the life and adventures here and abroad of a remarkable journalist who has been everywhere, done almost everything. There isn’t a dull page in the book.
comments? send an email to John Wilcock
also available on amazon.com...
National Weed (1974, issue #3)
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 my book, and thank you. —JW
- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— The Candy Store
— From the archives... The religion of Violence & Statistics, otherwise known as college football; WPA II; Would it be called Indiastan or Pakindia?; Who you Gonna call? Crime Predictors; Being a Bank means you never having to say you're sorry; Oil vs. Democracy, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— From the archives... The Mother of All Family Feuds, Otaku Means Geek in Japanese, Affirmative Action or 'It all depends on who you know', The Moonies are packin', and of course, the Wilcock Web......
— Dear Reader,
— 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
Now on Boing-Boing!
February 12, 2015
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