Happy Birthday Bill Burroughs
February 5, 1914, was the birth day of William Seward Burroughs Jr. For the rest of this piece he will be known as WSB. This is both a handy abbreviation, as well as a touch of irony for Atlanta readers. WSB radio is a 50k watt clear channell am station, owned by the same media oligarchs that own the fishwrapper and channel two. The radio tv clusterfuck has long been the symbol of Peachtree Street white column respectability. Just to be clear/queer, from here on out in this feature WSB will mean a certain junkie writer, not welcome south brother.
This is a good day for birthdays. Hank Aaron in 1934. Adlai Stevenson in 1900. Peg Entwhistle in 1908. The last one lived until 1932, when she jumped off the Hollywoodland sign.
A well thought of radio institution called “This American Life” has a show this week, Burroughs101. Actually, there is a class by that name, and there will be an exam at the end of the semester. The show is narrated by Iggy Pop. It begins with a warning. “A warning. The following program contains references to homosexuality, drug use, sex with aliens, violence, and kitty cats. What did you expect?” The show was originally cobbled together by the BBC, which might explain things a bit.
Iggy Pop did a show at the 688 club. PG was in the audience. A man named Ivan Kral was in the band. When Mr. Kral came on stage, he blew his nose, and a white powder booger came out. The performance was not so much a concert as it was an endurance test.
The show has the lazy bloggers friend, the transcript. There are some lovely quotes. This show is not going to candy coat the bastard. This is a man who shot his wife while playing William Tell, and got away with it. As one non admirer says “I don’t just take the Burroughs myth with a pinch of salt. I view it as a unpleasant slug crawling across the lawn of literature. And I like to pour salt on it.”
Or this one. “Having used heroin yourself– I think used is a bit of an understatement. I was a heroin addict on and off for pushing a quarter of a century. For myself, I find the whole Burroughs myth pretty repulsive, actually. Because I understand what happened to me. I was an addict in waiting. I got my form prize or my English prize at The Naked Lunch. And a year and a half later, I was sticking needles in my arm. … You could be lying in some pestilential piss-soaked squat in the bowels of the city listening to some moron totaled on drugs drooling on and talking about Burroughs, because Burroughs was their Leon Trotsky. He was their Archbishop of Canterbury. He was the Pope. “
One of the questions of the early eighties was whether or not WSB was shooting up. Forget the nonsense about there not being any old junkies. Supposedly Ray Charles never really quit using heroin. So, in 1981, WSB was living somewhere in Manhattan, and it was a right of passage to go to the bunker and take heroin to him. Since he was the star, he used the needle first, which was an important distinction in those days … hiv did not have a name but was running wild through the junkie veins and queer buttholes of Reaganite America. We don’t know if WSB got hiv or not. He made it until August 2, 1997, when a heart attack sent him to meet his maker. Contemporary Allen Ginsberg cashed in his chips earlier that year. In Washington, silly billy POTUS was getting knob jobs from Monica Lewinsky, who now gives TED talks by calling herself a social activist. WSB was a social activist, at a time when few would publicly admit to such a distinction.
The answer to your question is, yes, WSB was shooting dope in 1981. Somebody saw this as being an unhealthy situation, and arranged for him to move to Lawrence KS. This was his home until WSB went to live with Jesus, who was pissed because WSB didn’t bring him any smack.
So WSB was living the beat life, shooting dope, fucking boys, and just being a general mess. In his spare time he was writing books. Naked Lunch was busted for obscenity, and became his best known work. It is the first thing by WSB that PG tried to read, making it to page twenty six before declaring the endeavor a hopeless waste of brain cells.
It is not known how much of Naked Lunch Dorothy Kilgallen read. She was called as a witness during an obscenity trial for Lenny Bruce. ” …There’s another book called The Naked Lunch which I couldn’t even finish reading, but it’s published, and I think the author should be in jail and he used– Q. Unfortunately we can’t do everything at once, Miss Kilgallen. Are you judging the non-obscene quality and the artistic quality of Bruce by the fact that The Naked Lunch is a book which, as of this date, is sold in the community? A. No, I’m not. I just mentioned it because you asked me for some books. Q. And The Naked Lunch is a book you found impossible to read, is that correct? A. Yes, I found it revolting. Q. What was revolting about it? A. Just the way it was written.”
Another expert witness to testify … to a BBC reporter, not a New York courtroom … is Marcus Ewert. A Dunwoody native, Mr. Ewert took literary groupiedom to ridiculous lengths with Allen Ginsberg and WSB. “We’re getting into bed, and I’m sticking my legs down under the covers. There’s this bump that my legs feel. And I’m like, “Oh, what’s this hard thing my legs are bumping against, William?” And he said, “Oh, that’s the gun.” I said, “Is it a loaded gun?” He said, “Of course it’s loaded.” You’d sleep with a lover with a loaded gun in your bed. That’s kind of a metaphor waiting to happen.”
Mr. Marcus is now a children’s book author. An Amazon reader says this about 10,000 Dresses. “I returned mine today and was appalled as I read the story to my son before reading it to myself. Kids need to feel safe at home, especially when dealing with gender non-conformity. I wish the author would have reconcilled the reactions of the family members. It is great to have stories out there addressing gender non-conformity in kids, but we have a huge responsibility to make sure they are sending the right message.”
The death of Joan Vollmer is discussed. This is the lady who was playing William Tell one night, with fatal consequences. Some say accident, some say intentional. The word uxoricide is used, meaning the act of killing one’s wife.
The cut up technique is discussed. The show goes on to talk about how much WSB liked cats. He died, and people said nice things about him. Pictures tonight are from The Library of Congress.