#13 August 2002 WEB OF ETERNITY edited by Cary Loren PAGE 10 of 13


"I do not want to squander -- the last penny of my soul among youths bred in a hothouse" -- Osip Mandlestam, Noise of Time

"BEWARE THE NON-PSYCHEDELIC -- A non-psychedelic can NEVER enlighten a psychedelic." --Ganesh Baba

phone conversation with Cary Loren, 2002

[in progress]

CL: I got it (Poems From The Akashic Record, 2001, Panther Books, New York) from the publisher. We ordered about fifteen copies. And it's a wonderful book.

IC: I should've mailed you one.

CL: Oh, it's phenomenal. And I wish I had more time to spend, I mean I just spent the last, like, you know, an hour kind of briefly going through it, and it's really a wonderful, thick...I mean it's a thin book but it just covers so much.

IC: Yeah, it's strange how thin it looks and feels, but yet it's really uh, almost uh, you know...

CL: It's almost like a bible of stuff.

IC: It's almost a whole life.

CL: I feel like I don't even have to talk to you about anything  'cause everything is here.

IC: Well, I'm in a funny condition. Like I'm sort of going in and out. Do you have the recorder on already?

CL: Yeah, I've got it going. I think we're set.

IC: I just wanted to know. I'm not going to change too much. I mean, I could change something, I don't have to make any weird digressions. Might be too unseemly, like dropping my pants in a crowded restaurant just to get attention! No I'm just thinking that uh, you know, I've been in just a weird state, physcially and mentally, and suffering a certain fatigue. I've been having something I've been calling diabetic tremens, here and there, which means I'm not regulating things well enough.

CL: Are you taking insulin?

IC: Yeah, I've been doing that for some time, but just lately, even when everything seems okay, I'm still feeling some of the symptoms, for some reason. I don't quite get it.

CL: Do you get dizzy sometimes?

IC: Oh, not so much dizzy, but a certain amount of fatigue. The worst thing is, I guess the other day, I'm not even over it somehow, but if you take too much -- maybe it wouldn't be too much if you ate the right amount, to balance it out -- but sometimes… For example, I was going to join someone, probably for dinner, so I took a shot, and then I didn't really eat anything for an hour and a half, instead of eating within a certain period of time after taking the shot, because I didn't want to carry it and be shooting it downtown or wherever, so I just thought I would take a shot at home, and then go, and then when I got there, there was no dinner, really. I was offered anything that I wanted that was sort of in the fridge. There was an old chicken, so I had a few pieces, but in the end... It was not enough, I suppose, to balance off the amount of insulin, so at a certain point you start feeling like you're dropping things, you can't get something out of your pocket, it suddenly seems interminable. It's just a terribly weird state.

CL: It's good to have like a little can of apple juice or something around...

IC: Yeah, well, when I realized what was happening and I got off the subway, then I ate a Chunky, like a Quadruple Chunky Bar, which has been forbidden. I never go anywhere near anything like that unless it happens to be -- there's a company, like Guylian, that makes sugar-free chocolate which is not bad that I'll sometimes wolf down -- but I started eating chocolate, and I had a chocolate croissant. I had all those things as quickly as possible, and even then it took quite a while for me to start to feel okay, and even two days later I'm still feeling somehow the effects of all of that. But, once I start talking or have something...

CL: Well, all the stuff you have about time, and it seems like there's a lot of stuff on death...

IC: These are about the poems...

CL: In the poems, yeah, but it also seems very in the now, too. You have both of these things kinda working together in your poetry.

IC: Well, you know, I don't wanna say -- I'm saying it really as a joke, I don't think I'll even say it, but I say that as an artist or as a poet, sometimes you get a little mannered, you can become a bit of a poseur.

CL: No, I love your mannerisms.

IC: No matter how normal or natural you want everything to be in the work and the expression, whenever something really strikes you on the death chord, you know that it's time to pull out your pen, and you could also do that at a moment of great ecstasy and vision. There's just certain things that are like... just the idea of a skull... Jack [Smith] was maybe one of the first people that in life rather than in art, that made me very aware of the skull because he could never pass up anything...and there's no such thing as a skull too tawdry. Not even talking about real skulls, which I had in my hands more often than Jack ever did, because of living in Nepal, where they turned up. I had a collection of them, in fact. People would come and bring them to me, like monkey skulls. Kids would come and bring me monkey skulls. I would give them the equivalent of like 35 cents for a monkey skull, and somebody once said to me, "You know, you're decimating the whole population of monkeys around Swayambhu, there's these kids going out and killing them" and then coming to sell them to me because for them 35 cents seemed a lot of money. Of course that was a joke. I don't think, in fact, that was really happening.

CL: They're holy creatures there, aren't they? Aren't monkeys kinda holy?

IC: Well, everything is holy if you're in a holy place, I suppose. I mean, monkeys are clever. I don't know how much they were really revered.

CL: Aren't there temples that they live in?

IC: Yeah, there's monkey temples, but I don't know, people see monkeys as uh...they're very clever, they come in packs. If you look at them straight in the eye when they're hangin' around on Swayambhu Hill, for example, especially if it's around their mating season, one might jump on you. They look a little troublesome, you know, they can get a little worked up. I mean, I've seen a kid walking up the hill eating a cookie, and seen a monkey jump up and grab that cookie, putting its hand right in the mouth of the kid. So they're rather clever, and I had an experience once, living in Hampi for a week or something, or a few days, which is a great place. Incredible temples, sunken temples. Even in the water, where I actually was bivouacing, with Petra, in a temple that was half-sunken in the water. We could step right off into the water, so it was an incredible place. And there was a main temple there that had columns that said "Don't bang on the columns" so of course everybody did. In case they didn't know it already, the sign naturally told every Indian to bang on the columns...because these columns were all pitched, you know, so they made kind of a ringing sound. It was like music, you know.

CL: I have a copy of your poems that you wrote for Petra.

IC: Oh, from the diagram…… That's a rare book!

CL: It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

IC: How did you get that, the internet?

CL: Yeah, from a bookseller. I'd been searching for some of your more cosmic...

IC: Do you have a copy of On Feet of Gold?

CL: Yes.

IC: I see, so you're a...

CL: That's not that uncommon.

IC: Well, it shouldn't be.

CL: All this stuff should be in print. It's really a terrible thing it's not.

IC: Well even On Feet of Gold which had -- I don't remember the run, but I mean it was more like anyway 1500 or something, and it took probably ten years for them to be more or less out of print with the publisher, and they might still even have 20 copies hidden away with banged-up covers or something. But Michael Rothenberg, who has Big Bridge, when we discovered that they still had maybe 40 or 50 copies, we discussed it and he offered to get them, thinking that he would sell them. He probably wouldn't mind still selling a few if people contacted Big Bridge, because he was generous enough giving me a dozen or so and I don't think he has a big run on them. People don't know that they're there.

CL: I loved how that book was done with the little lavender endpapers and...who was that, Cold Turkey Press?

IC: Yeah, that was Cold Turkey, Gerard Bellog. Well, basically, I designed the book.

CL: It's an amazing thing, it really is.

IC: Well, I don't know if you've seen any of the ricepaper books I did in Khatmandu.

CL: Those I'm looking for constantly, but it's probably a lost...

IC: Well, at a certain point, about two years ago or something, someone I was working with, Tim Barnes, on the Angus MacLise CDs that he got out, that we worked on together, The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda and Brain Damage, or Benefit...I don't know what we called it, Brain Damage in Oklahoma City or Benefit for the Oklahoma City Police Department, or whatever, Brain Damage in Oklahoma City probably. So uh, then uh, he was checking on the net and he found a copy of GNAOUA, which is a magazine I did in Tangier that was my first attempt...

CL: I've seen some photographs from it, from the various sites, and that seems like just a kind of masterpiece...

IC: Yeah, but the fact that, you know, from 19...I can't remember what year that was, it was the middle Sixties that I brought it out. I guess it was...'64 or something?

CL: That's something I'd love to repress with, actually, some friends...

IC: A few people have suggested that. There's somebody in Amsterdam...

CL: René van der Voot. He's a friend….

IC: Oh, that's right. We talked about that. Well, I would actually like to do it with him, or you could tie in with him so that...

CL: Yeah, both of us could do it.

IC: Maybe you need to translate me into...I mean, not even into Dutch because he speaks English.

CL: It's just a matter of getting a copy and maybe scanning it...

IC: It's not a big deal. In fact, I think I gave it to...well, actually Michael Rothenberg got some copies, and then I can't remember if he might've even given it to Jack Magazine, and if they even put it up. I can't remember. I'm very open to doing these things...

CL: Maybe do it as a facsimile, and try to find the papers and the weight...

IC: Well, you could come close. You don't have to be exactly the same. You don't have to worry about getting -- I mean it would be nice to get violet inferno. I guess it was a canson paper even, that I saw, that immediately jumped out at me in Antwerp, that year when we were printing it, and looking at cover stock -- but I mean just something that's a magenta color. There's a book that was done in Belgium called Minbad Sinbad. That contains a lot of things. Everything in there has to do with Morocco. In the end, he could've printed another 10 or 15 pages of the best poems I wrote in Morocco or afterwards, which wouldn't have taken up much more room, but he only printed maybe two little poems in there, and otherwise whatever I could put together, and I wrote an introduction for it, and those things were all then translated and published in this book Minbad Sinbad in French. I've gotten most of those things published in English in different places, by themselves, but there's no -- that book would be something I'd like to see come out as a book.

CL: Is it illustrated also?

IC: Yeah, I put in a little clutch of about maybe as many as 10 photographs in a little group, and I would've put in a few more, and I felt very...the one thing, I mean it's just funny how certain things happen that can drive you crazy in life, which is that I gave the publisher a certain number of pictures, and the way he worked it out, the one picture he left out of the whole series of pictures was the one of Brion Gysin.

CL: Oh jeez.

IC: And to me, I told him "Why did you do that without even asking me?" I actually undertook to take that picture and make a bunch of them as laser copies, on cardstock, and stick them in maybe the first 50 books that were sold, in Paris especially, which was Brion's turf...but then after that, I didn't think I should keep that going…I mean I tried to suggest to the publisher...

CL: How many did you print?

IC: Of that book? I don't know, it's not my job to know...I can't remember. He probably printed something like over a thousand.

CL: What did you print of GNAOUA?

IC: GNAOUA was originally 500 but then they did them perfect bound, which I didn't want, and I saw that they were cracking...

CL: You wanted them to lay flat...

IC: Perfect binding is the most imperfect binding you can have. Tricky because of the name...

CL: But you wanted it to sort of lay flat, kind of open, as you turn the page?

IC: Well, it's not a question of laying flat, everything lays flat, I just...it wasn't to be stapled and folded over because there were too many pages in it to do that without it's opening up like an accordion in the rain or something, so it was done with a square back. You've seen Poems From The Cosmic Crypt, has a squared-off back, a spine, and you could see the name on the spine or something. And GNAOUA was a little thicker, 'cause the paper was very nice and a little thicker, some kind of a laid paper or something.

CL: And there were original photographs tipped in, right? 

IC: No, they weren't tipped in, they were just printed by letterpress on glossy, inserted stock, and came out very well, and those were mostly pictures of Jack Smith. Superstars of Cinemaroc.

CL: Well, maybe we could do a series of these...

IC: It would be very easy...

CL: Maybe do the GNAOUA first, and see how that came out, and if that worked out well, do the Minbad Sinbad...

IC: In English.

CL: Yeah.

IC: Well then another thing that could be done is to take all the Khatmandu rice paper books, and without worrying about doing them on rice paper on everything, just for the material, putting them all together into one small anthology. It wouldn't be all that big.

CL: With the Charles Henri Ford book...

IC: Yes, 7 Poems of Charles Henri Ford….there's uh, a book of mine called Gilded Splinters, another one called 7 Marvels. There's a little book called CKROWWW, c-k-r-o-w-w-w...w....by Jane Falk, very lovely poems about crows. She was a young poet that I got to know there and I wanted to do that book. I kind of convinced her that she shouldn't leave Khatmandu without using the efficient rice paper trip there to print a book, that she had written all the poems for while she was there, called The Witch Speaks, so I convinced her to do that. And then one day while she was doing it and coming to visit me she wrote a poem about a crow that I thought was really good, and so basic to our life there in Nepal, and then I saw that...I explained to her that, from my own experience, I knew that when you're going to a printer and you're doing something like that -- you're doing past work -- that it's a time that you're very open to do something new, so she should step on it and write at least seven crow poems, which she did. And then when she gave me that manuscript, I decided to print it after she left, which is what I did.

CL: You had a bookstore in Khatmandu?

IC: Well, there was a bookstore that we put together. A group of people...Bardo Matrix people. You know, I used that name but John Chick and someone else...other people who were working around on that scene,  and the Rose Mushroom, which was a club…they kind of helped a little bit, and we opened a bookstore, in which we gave readings every week. That was my main interest. I presided over these Spirit Catcher readings.

CL: Spirit Catcher. Was that the name of the bookstore?

IC: So Angus would come sometimes, although he was not as enthusiastic, but he would come and he would read, and then I would try to encourage anybody that came into town that was at all inclined to read, whether it was someone like John Giorno passing through, which was more special, or whether it was just somebody who was living there in the East and turned up there and was keeping a notebook, or had something to contribute. We always had things going on....Roberto Valenza...

CL: Did you have music performances?

IC: Yeah, we had some kind of accompanying music, or anything else that people would wanna do. They were quite nice. So uh, yeah, so there was….the Gregory Corso Way Out book was the first one. That's visible on the internet, on Jack Magazine I think, and uh, will be in an anthology I'm working on with G.N Reilly, r-e-i-l-l-y, who lives in Glasgow. And it was his idea to do an anthology called Warrior Shamans & Now Poets, and he wrote me because he was in contact with Jon Hassell, the great musician, who's a good friend of mine. And Jon said to him if he was really doing something like that, he should contact me, so I got this letter from him, and then I called him up and we had a terriffic first conversation, and I thought "Okay!" The first thing I did was I sent him a group of poems and photographs of my own, but I also included in the same envelope the work of Angus MacLise, Julian Beck, Judith Malina, and Hanon Reznikoff, and that was just the beginning.

CL: Did you publish Julian Beck at Spirit Catcher?

IC: No, I think I mentioned most of the people already. There was Roberto Valenza, who actually did his own publication, and used the basic imprint, the ones that I printed myself I'd let other people use, Bardo Matrix, on occasion. That wasn't originally even my name, but I liked it, and then the things I did were Bardo Matrix Starstream Series, which means that it was my choice, and that I edited it and published it, and worked on it.

CL: Did Corso go out to Khatmandu?

IC: No, actually, the way I got the Corso manuscript was quite remarkable.  Alan Zion, who had a famous pad in Paris for many years, where expatriats, and artists, and travellers would know that they could meet on a Sunday, and that he had these great open house parties. I only remember going there maybe twice at the very most. I was never in Paris long enough that I really got onto that especially, but I had been there, and a lot of people I knew had gone to those parties and I used to hear about them. And then one day in Khatmandu, suddenly Alan Zion arrived in a Volkswagen Bus from Paris, having, you know, whatever....I mean he pulled out of Paris completely, that place that he lived in. I don't know all the reasons for it,  whether he just wanted to travel, or he lost the place or whatever, but he just moved on. He showed up in the East. He settled mainly in Goa, where he had this great house that he built, and uh...he stopped off in Khatmandu somewhere in his first travels in that part of the world. When we met, we knew each other somewhat before, and, you know, he saw that we were doing these poetry readings. I had some books of poems...

CL: Was this around '64 or so?

IC: Yeah, something like that. Actually, we hadn't done any of those rice paper books at all yet. Maybe Angus had done one or two first things, like a little magazine called Teapot. It wasn't so little, some of them were actually very large formats, like the size of a large newspaper, but in rice paper.

CL: Were they calligraphy things?

IC: Yeah, there'd be some calligraphy, some Tibetan woodblock prints. They were kind of eccentric, based on people there. He might've found some Nepali poet that he put in, or some other classical...

CL: Was he connected to Gysin at all?

IC: No.

CL: No. Because you mentioned seeing him in '63 in Paris when you were there.

IC: Well Brion is one of my favorite friends. I could say "beloved Brion," I mean, Brion was just such a wonderful person to have met. There are a lot of great people you meet in a lifetime, but I wouldn't change too much of what I said....you know, what I'm saying now, from even 15 or 20 years ago somewhere....Ganesh Baba, Brion Gysin, Julian Beck...were three of the most....

CL: I love the line you say in ELEGY FOR BRION: "Time is in boxes, in drawers, while Nothing riding on a dial, calibrated with speed&silence&perfection.” It’s so, like, in the now, too…

IC: Well, yeah, but you see, I mean, some things are more in the now than I did then, and now may be more in the now only because I’m writing it now. You know? And it might be as simple as anything that we’re saying on the telephone.

CL: But this is something you wrote in ’63…[just after meeting Brion]


Ganesh Baba

Brion Gysin

Julian Beck

portraits by Ira Cohen


IC: Yeah, but the thing is, there’s a story connected to that piece. Which is that I was…I had just arrived in Paris, and I met Brion kind of by chance, but uh perfect chance, we all have destiny.

CL: Was this the Beat Hotel?

IC: Yeah, he was at the Beat Hotel. I actually met him in a bookstore, and I had just come up from Morocco. I had some of the best grass that, even in all the years I was there, that…I had it in a perfect little tobacco humidor kind of pouch or something that kept it very fresh and uh…when we sat down and had our first conversation in Brion’s pad where he was working on the Dreammachine and uh…you know, everything in the pad was in movement, you know. There were canvases in different states of, you know, completion…and things were sort of moving all around the pad in an exciting way…

CL: Right. It was a magical place.

IC:  I don’t know, I guess William was not there at that particular moment, though he often stayed at the same place, The Beat Hotel. Brion and William were always very closely associated. But uh, when he was working there on the Dreammachine, and I met him, there was also at that time the Cannes Film Festival was on, and a lot of the regular habitues of the hotel, and the general scene, whoever they were, some of them – a lot of them had gone down to see, to be part of the Cannes Film Festival, so that was better for me because there weren’t as many  people around and I spent a lot of time with Brion at the beginning. And he of course started playing all the music for me that he had, ‘cause I’m coming from Tangier, so I was already you know hip to Tangier and interested….

CL: So he had some of the Jajouka stuff….

IC: Yeah, he had Jajouka, Jalala, you know….Paul Bowles music….stuff that Paul had been taping. Morocco things that Paul had done like this piece called The Pool which was something done with tape recorder manipulations, while on a high fever in a room in some place like Tafrout or something, from just the sound of the water dripping in the cistern.  Anyway, the point is that Brion was a great turn-on, and he’s one of the greatest turn-on’s, and most catalytic people there could ever be.

CL: So this was like way before Khatmandu then. 

IC:  Yeah.

CL: So how did Khatmandu come into it…

IC: Well, I saw a lot of movies in my life. So first there was Morocco, you know what I mean? You know, and seeing, you know, movies that made me feel like I’d like to be in Morocco. Maybe I’d meet Charles Boyer or Abbott and Costello. You never know. You know, I was reading Paul Bowles a little bit before I went to Morocco. But Khatmandu was another story. Whatever dreams of Shangri-La, India, and it was just another time, you know.

CL: But it seems it wasn’t the popular thing to be thinking of…

IC: Well, in actual fact, there was like a run of post-Beat -- Hippies, they were called at that time – that were going there, that were interested in India.

CL: So there was a pattern before that, yeah…

IC: Yeah. You know, first of all, the lure of the smoke, of the hash, of the grass. Opium, psychedelics, whatever. Goa, and the way of life. Indian religions, Buddhism, festivals, you know, just the whole life. I mean, it was incredible. Not to talk about elephants. Anyway, it was a good place to go. Things were not expensive. There were certain kinds of communities there, and that kind of built up in Khatmandu, and then because of what I did, and the fact that Angus, who I knew from New York before, was a really good special friend, and his wife Hetty, and certain other people, and Charles Henri Ford even ended up there, and other people who came in... You know, I was with this lady Petra, so there were already a couple of good players.

Petra Vogt by Ira Cohen

CL: You knew Petra from New York?

IC: Well I met her when The Living Theater came back to this country with Paradise Now, and then they did these plays at Yale, so this whole Paradise Now trip they were also doing Mysteries and smaller pieces, and Frankenstein, and then I got involved in going – I mean, I didn’t just go do one performance, the first one in New Haven, which I did do – but I stayed on the wagon, and saw almost every performance that they did.

CL: Did you meet Billy Name when he was with the…

IC: Well, I never…he wasn’t with The Living Theater…

CL: Wasn’t he doing some lighting design or something?

IC: No, he worked with Andy Warhol.

CL: Right, but I thought he did some stint with…

IC: No. I would say Johnny Dodd was a great lighting guy. One of the…if not the best lighting man I ever knew of in New York as a hipster, certainly. I don’t know about certain other areas of special lighting experts for different kinds of things, but he was really a very hip guy, and he was a great lighting man, worked with a lot of things. More than I would even know, and he was a good friend of The Living Theater’s. Billy Name I only know about through the Warhol trip, although I met Warhol, and I did know Angus used to go there to the Factory, and he had contacts with Billy Name and certain other people, and over the years I’ve known a lot of the Warhol people, but I was never very involved in the Factory experience of that time. It didn’t appeal to me so much.

CL:  When did you first meet Jack?

IC: Jack? When I was in Tangier, and I knew Marc Schleifer (original editor and pub. Of Kulture press)and Irving Rosenthal who showed up at somet point in between my first two or three trips, and then I met them, then….

CL: But you gotta tell me that story, again, about Irving, and being hit on the head with a frying pan.

IC: I wasn’t hit with a frying pan. No, we were talking and I was saying something about how I thought that no matter how far out Jack went – you know, people would say he was crazy -- he was certainly capable of excess in a grand style -- I mean if there’s such a thing as petit mal and grand mal, speaking of epilepsey, then you could talk in the same way, perhaps, about just anything, even a simple tantrum. A petit tantrum or a grand tantrum, and Jack was capable of anything when he felt like it, and it’s true that some things that he did might – especially if it happened to you – whoever it is that was the recipient of some negative feeling that Jack had in the form of an attack would be particularly upset about it, and other people would say, “That’s terrible that he painted that guy’s head blue! What did he do that for?” I mean, the guy wasn’t trying to do anything bad, you know, Jonas had asked him to paint a room that Jack had been planning to paint but never got around to doing it for months, and so when he came and saw someone else doing it, he grabbed a brush and painted the guy’s head blue. Especially since he had some other color scheme in mind. No, I mean, but knowing Jack as well as I did, which was pretty well, I would observe a lot of his most eccentric behavior, and I always could see a certain point of view behind it, and even if it seemed excessive I could understand why he would feel that way, and I would uh…I mean it’s not like I’m trying to apologize for any of these things. But the story with Irving, I mean Jack was notoriously slow and could keep people waiting. Many times people would come for a screening somewhere that was supposed to be 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock, they were still hanging around and Jack had run downtown to get the film which he forgot to bring with him to show, or some other thing…You had to be very, very patient. You could just say “fuck this” and go somewhere else, but because it was Jack people would have a tendency to wait and undergo some of the, you know, extreme things he would subject them to. And then, the question is, was he really so spaced out, or was he doing it deliberately? These are questions you could ask.

CL: Or maybe it was part of Jack's whole performance. 

IC: Well anyway, because it was Jack... Most people you would know right away that they were just not together. Jack had that problem too, but somehow rather it seemed to be so much part of his whole style that you could question it. I mean, I had a ping pong table in my loft, and Jack would come to my loft sometimes, and one day I said “Do you know how to play ping pong?” I liked to play, and I did play with certain other people I knew.
Some young poets liked to play ping pong -- Clive Matson, Bobby Richkin -- so if they came over we would play some quick games, and Jack was hanging around and I just had this impulse to ask him, and he said, “No, I never played ping pong,” so I showed him, you know, popping the ball over the net and everything else, and Jack managed to do every single mad thing that was possible to do with the ball and the racket except the right thing. From hitting the ball out the window, from missing it completely, you know…just whatever you could even…if I would try to make a set of categories, if I could remember everything he did, whether he took it on one hop or didn’t…

CL: Sounds like a Buster Keaton film.

IC: Yeah, but I mean, the way in which there was a certain pattern or logic to the total irrationality of everything that he was doing, made me suspect that, in fact, that was what he was trying to do.  I remember once, one of the last times I saw Jack before I went to Morocco, we were not on speaking terms. Without going into making the story ten yards long, but I came on one of the last nights I was in town with Robert Levine, who was afraid to go there, but I said I would protect him, because he knew Jack had punched Irving in the jaw, and I think it broke Irving’s jaw. And that was because – we started this story before --

CL: That’s why I thought it was a frying pan

IC: I don’t think so, I think he just punched him, but Irving was very small, and Jack was quite tall, and actually he had almost superhuman strength.

CL: He was a very athletic guy.

IC: Yeah, well, especially if he had wanted to do something, he could probably, like…I don’t know…

CL: So he hit him in…

IC: Well, I wasn’t there at the moment, but I was there on that day, for quite some time…

CL: Was this over the novel?

IC: Oh no, there could have been a million…
CL: Schlepper?
IC: Sheeper, not Schlepper. No, it had nothing to do with that, in fact, Jack was very impressed with Irving’s skills and education and critical acumen and everything else, and relied to some degree…

CL: Is Irving still alive?

IC: Yeah. So then, uh, the main thing was just that it was going on for hours and hours and hours. Say like, ten hours, wouldn’t be too much to say, or anyway, say six or seven hours, and Irving was sitting around in some complicated costumery, with gloves without ends of fingers, wearing five rings on every finger, and a big cravat. I don’t know what the weather was like, but, you know, you get tired of sitting around like that. Not able to do too many normal things that you might do otherwise because you’re in the costume, makeup, whatever, all that. And then Jack was delaying and delaying and delaying until Irving lost it, and decided he had enough and he wanted to leave. So the idea of his leaving before Jack ever got it together to start shooting, even though it had taken six hours to get that point, made Jack so angry – I don’t remember, since I wasn’t there, if there was that much more to it. But I was gonna say that, some other story about – well I know that, for example, Jack, when he would get on his stepladder, and he did that in a performance, that he would start rocking on the ladder, you know, as if he was falling, you know what I mean? But he would do it with such – yeah, like a Buster Keaton number, so that he--

CL: Yeah, a kind of elegant klutziness.

IC: Yeah, but he perfected that also as a style. Like when I was reading Ronald Firbank once – you ever read him?

CL: I – no, but I know of him.

IC: Well, he wrote these rather unusual strange novels. When he himself is described, Furbank, you know, there’s a  little book in the Anoman series, with a collection of little--

CL: Oh, I did read that, right.

IC: --of little tidbits by Andre Sitwell and whoever all the other people were who had little anecdotes. That reminded me a lot of Jack, what he would wear, what he would do if he went to a restaurant and he ordered something, and they said, “No, you have to order a meal if you wanna have a drink,” and he just wanted a glass of wine. So then he ordered a meal, then he ordered just one green pea, you know what I mean? Just taking everything to an extreme. You know, in certain ways….some people are just made to go into the street and take a lobster for a walk like Gerard de Nerval.

CL: I think it was Ray Johnson who told me this story about Jack hitting him, too, or doing something violent and…he was always afraid when he was around Jack.

IC: Well, I don’t know, Jack never hit me. We had some arguments…well, I started to say that the last night…one of the last nights before I went to Morocco the last time, which was around….what year that was…I guess it was around 1970, when I went there on the way to India. But anyway, I was also giving up my loft, and I didn’t know what to do with a lot of things, so I decided to go at midnight and just yodel Jack’s name from the street when he lived on Grant Street, and Robert Lavigne came along. He was hanging out with me, and in a way he wanted to, in another way he was afraid because he thought that Jack would beat him up or something. Which I don’t know why he was so particularly worried about that, even if…

CL: I think other people had that…

IC: Well, no, even if there was something like, you know, five months before, Robert was still thinking about that, whereas Jack would be very different from one day to the next, perhaps. Or at least one month to the next. Anyway, I was with Petra, and Petra had never met Jack, but the main thing is I wanted to say good-bye to him, for some personal reason, and take a chance, and also because I wanted to give him some things, like I had an orange sequined gown with a very big kind of hat that went with it. Which actually, they dry-cleaned and put in the PS1 exhibit, which made a lot of those things look much tattier, because they dry-cleaned them.

CL: Is this stuff you used in your photo shoots and things?

IC:  No, I didn’t really make – there were things I could’ve. I had them. I collected certain things, the way you do when you have a space of art and, you know, you’re looking for things that you might work into something. Everything can find its place in a photograph, and I did take some photographs of Vali, wearing that outfit, but I never had to chance to try doing it with getting Jack in that outfit, or putting it on Irving, if he would’ve agreed even. Irving was never around when I started making photographs. And somehow the idea of having this kind of shooting session, and making photographs or shooting films in this way, by hanging around Jack’s, and being there at some times when he did that, was definitely a major inspiration, as anything in his work was too. Though my style, of course, was a bit different to say the least, but there are--

CL: Well, I see similarities in your writings and your mannerisms…

IC: Well I’d like to see someone catalog it so that I might try to figure some of that out. I could have some ideas on it myself.

CL: Well, like the Mylar chamber stuff. When did you start to do that? Maybe we should talk about it.

IC: Yeah, somewhere around 1961. I had been going to shooting sessions with Jack, so when I started getting into this from another way altogether because I had a friend who was cornering the Mylar market and selling it, as part of the psychedelic age.

CL: (laughing) Cornering the Mylar…

IC: Well, he was trying to create a company, and he was trying to get money because he had lived in the Ozarks without any money and he had a big family--

CL: Who was this again?

IC: His name was Alan Erlich. And I met him in Paris when I first came there, so he showed up with his family and he was looking for a way to support his family, and he put his business acumen on the table, and he had a very good one, as a matter of fact. I think he had had an education in business and accounting or some things, but anyway, but he was very hip to doing things in the right way. He saw what was happening with the psychedelics and everything, and he was the first person, practically, to go and try to get hold of Day-Glo paint. And he found a place that made it in in Cleveland or something, and he got them to make oodles of Day-Glo paint, and put his company name on it. They were making it for him – it might not have been exclusive.

CL: So he’s marketing that with Mylar?

IC: Yes, and then Mylar, and Dycro spotlights, and--

CL: Strobelights.

IC: Yeah, just—he also made a lot of very simple posters. His wife was a very competent artist, and she made a very geometric and simple designs, but they were…

CL: Is Erlich still in New York?

IC: No. He went to L.A. now, you know, anybody, we were talking about it, if they’re alive, and they’re probably in their sixties, so they’re probably looking to get out. They’re all in Sarasota, Florida, in the retirement world. I don’t know, everyone’s gone somewhere else. He went to L.A. …

CL: So you bought one of these kits, obviously, or something…

IC: No, I didn’t buy anything. We were friends, he called me to –

(tape runs out)



phone conversation with Cary Loren




#13   August 2002   ETERNITY BLAST SPECIAL  guest editor: Cary Loren   PAGE 10 of 13

End is Here I was a Jack Smith love slave Infinite Black Darkness, Infinite White Darkness Buried Alive Rock and Revolution, photos by Leni Sinclair Aesthetics of UFOs by Mike Kelley Wallace Berman Angus MacLise Father Yod  Ira Cohen Akira Ikufube Swampy Lagoon Index Ray Johnson