Archives For May 2014

Hunger For Peace: A Mob Fairy Tale

From Beatdom #14



All of our birthdays came in a row, and the numbers that year were rich with meaning.

I followed Scrapple’s Lucky Seven with my own Big Two–One. Head gave me a coupon for five free singing lessons with him, plus a charcoal caricature of a goateed me which a Lantern regular had drawn to illustrate one of my Head-bestowed nicknames: Toulouse. Head had handed me that handle years before for my role as chronicler of the scenes at The Lantern and The Fusebox. He’d dusted it off for frequent use now because the moniker suited my new lady-killer (uh huh) Toulouse Lautrec goatee and poked fun at my too–loose pants and too–loose lips, the latter a jab at a few loose quips I’d made about Head’s morns abed and mounting expenses. Nevertheless, it was a Hammerhead name, and I treasured it thusly.

Head’s own big–numbered birthday, his Big Five–Oh, came the first week of June. It was, he said, a meaningless number. But as numbers go, it was big and round and momentous enough in my mind at least, to warrant an extra–special gift, which I bought for him with a full week’s pay—a VCR, his first ever.

Head held the unit in the big loving hands that had held Baby Bookmark. “Can you set it up, dude?” If there was one thing I knew, it was home entertainment. Head’s intimate dude reflected my increased importance in his life. As I set the unit up, Scrapple ran circles around me whooping like a worshipful primitive, and Head trekked into the garage returning with a head full of dust and a videotape in hand. “I’ve been waiting to play this forever, dude.” He nodded at the unit as if he were unworthy to touch it. I inserted the tape, and Head said with misty eyes, directed more to spirits in the air than to me, “J.T.’s antiwar mob film, Hunger for Peace: A Mob Fairy Tale. Jer financed it himself in the thick of the Cold War.”

We settled onto the couch as if at a premiere. The plot unfolded in the familiar way. A big–city mob rises to power. A crosstown mob encroaches on its turf, and first blood is spilled. In a departure from form, a midget and a zombie hitman figure in the gunplay — “experimental” said Head — and the prospect of an all out turf war arises. The mobs parlay at a smoke–filled Italian restaurant, the chieftains flanked by flinty–mugged toughs. One is Head, a pug–nosed young heavy in a sharp–lapelled suit, a slanted fedora, a charcoal shirt, and a stiletto tie. The plot veers radically off course at this point as the leaders decide to make peace, not war.

“Now comes a real–time dinner to celebrate the peace,” Head said with eyes riveted to the screen. “With the dinner dialogue all improvised. Daring stuff.”

It seems to me,” improvises one mob boss, wiping his lips after finishing a luscious antipasto, “we could use more prosciutto.”

A murderous silence ensues, broken at length by the boss of Head’s mob. “I think we’ll be fine without the prosciutto, Eddie… Don Eddie. You know, the minestrone is nice.

A terrible pause and a shifting of eyes as the gunmen look around, wondering whether the newly–made peace is about to be shattered. The actors, a hodgepodge of J.T.’s flamboyant gay friends and young Warhol–worshipping actors from the Tickler’s wait staff, shift uneasily on their feet as they wonder who among them will improvise a resolution to the unexpected plot crisis. Suddenly Head puts his fingers and thumb together Italian style, inclines his head towards the middle of the table, leans slightly towards the dons and says, in his best Brando hush: “I’ll be happy to get some more prosciutto, Don Eddie. No problem.

“J.T. said that line made the film,” glowed Head. “Look, here comes the disarmament scene.” The waiter, a gay actor, sashays around the table collecting guns and stilettos which the heavies obediently place on his tray. “You know,” Don Eddie says to murmurs of approval from the now–enlightened thugs, “with all the moolah we will save by not buying guns, we can build a few schools… and maybe a park! Ah, but the mobs have one last fight left in them — they fight over the check. The credits roll to “Where Have All the FlowersGone?” sung by Head, in convincing Italian — and the credits conclude with a dedication: “To Daniel Ellsberg, who had the guts to expose the madness, Il fin?”

Scrap jumped up shouting, “Dad was a star in the movies, oh yeah!” Lenny batted Howie around, and Scrap jumped down from the couch onto the dog-pile like Stone Cold Steve Austin, his wrestling hero.

“Awesome,” I said, by which I meant awesome. “But what was with the zombie hitman?”

My question snapped Head out of his reverie. “Hell, I don’t remember, it stood for something.” But his perturbation was fleeting, for he hooked my neck with his elbow and planted a smack atop my head like the kiss of death.



*an excerpt from, Trips and Trials of a Down Beat Dad

Allen Ginsberg: Belmar Beach

“We used to welcome Summers in
With children by the shore,
But now how long the time has been
We journey there no more . . .” i

Allen Ginsberg as a boy
Playing on Belmar beach
Young skinny arms and legs boy
Laughing boy
Inquisitive boy
Bright boy
Drive from North to Belmar boy
Excitement of going down the shore boy
And first hint of salt air
First sight of blue Atlantic waves
Rushing to water’s edge
Playing in sand and building sand castles ii
Climbing breakwater rocks
Dodging waves
Tarzan jungle game
Boardwalk Playland nights
Cheerful noises and lights and bumper cars
Ice cream and cotton candy and savory delights
Dream day
From city Paterson
“In the Great Lost Sea of Jersey . . .”  iii

i Ginsberg, Allen and Louis. Family Business: Selected Letters Between a Father and Son. Ed. Michael Schumacher. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2001), p. 300.
ii Morgan, Bill. I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg. (New York: Viking, 2006), p. 23-24.
iii Kerouac, Jack. Book of Dreams. (San Francisco: City Lights Publishers, 2001), p. 61.

Updates on Beatdom #15 and Beatdom Books

As we move into the latter half of May, only eleven days from the deadline for Beatdom #15, we bring you this image macro, made by the trained monkeys at Beatdom H.Q. It features quotes from the three men hiding in the atomic bomb cloud that lingered over the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Enjoy:

Beat Generation War Quotes
If haven’t already, please get your submissions in for Beatdom #15 as soon as possible. There are some details and ideas here, here, and here. Please read the guidelines carefully and keep in mind that we are now mostly looking for essays. This issue has received the highest number of submissions to date, but we mostly receive fiction and poetry.

Aside from Beatdom #15, the helper monkeys at H.Q. have been busy prepping from the release of several Beatdom Books publications. These include Under These Stars by Tony R. Rodriguez (whose Facebook page you can find here) and Don’t Hesitate: Knowing Allen Ginsberg ’72-’97 by Marc Olmsted (who has a poem in the the next issue).
Early reviews for both books have been glowing, and our last publication, Philip Willey’s Naked Tea, has also earned praise. Later this year we will be releasing John Tytell’s mammoth collection of interviews and essays.

In other, non-publishing, news, Beatdom is moving over to Google Plus, after its humble editor (this jerk) became sick of Facebook’s absurd page management policies. With 1,200+ organically generated followers, only about 10% ever see our posts, and this seems unfair. We now have to pay through the nose to reach the people who signed up for our feed! So please head over to our Google Plus page, or be sure to check in on our Facebook page when you can. We will still update it, but Mark Fuckerberg seems determined to keep all pages held at ransom.




Furthur Bus 50th Anniversary “Trip”

Zane Kesey, son of the author Ken Kesey, legendary Merry Prankster, is currently using Kickstarter to fund a 50th anniversary “trip” across America in his dad’s bus, Furthur. Donations are rewarded with varying levels of thanks – from an e-mail to an invitation to join the “trip”.


A few years ago, Beatdom interviewed Zane, who proved to be a rather difficult interviewee…

American Mutants Spawned in the Bunker

Originally published in Beatdom #14, and excerpted from the forthcoming memoir/scrapbook, Don’t Hesitate: Knowing Allen Ginsberg ’72 Through ’92.


Allen Ginsberg invited me to see William S. Burroughs in January 1977, when I was visiting NYC. As you may know, Burroughs’ residence at 222 Bowery was nicknamed The Bunker. It was a converted YMCA, with literally no windows and a shiny steel door. The walls were painted white with tiny minimalist art, like that of his old colleague Brion Gysin’s.

I thought it was definitely a great space and safe shelter, then and now. Various young people were hanging out with Bill at a big table like you’d see in a conference room, like James Grauerholz, his longtime secretary and then-platonic companion. Burroughs was extremely gregarious in this environment – a few drinks in him and some weed, and he became a hilarious story teller.

I told Burroughs that I had a dream about him where his face was covered with tattoos like Quequeg in Moby Dick, and was wearing a Hawaiian shirt like Hunter S. Thompson, and also looked like Thompson, which was not a stretch. In the dream, he told me he was a master of Peruvian magic. Burroughs didn’t seem to like the Thompson part, scowling slightly as I told it, but then leaned forward and said, “I am a master of Peruvian magic, my dear.”Allen Ginsberg X-Ray

I told Burroughs about this great sci-fi movie called They Came From Within – released as Shivers in 1976 – that reminded me of his work, where man-made parasites (looking like a cross between a penis and a bloody shit) turned you into an insatiable sexual zombie. It was actually David Cronenberg’s first feature, made fifteen years prior to his Naked Lunch adaptation.

Burroughs presented me with a signed copy of a recent chapbook. As we began slowly gathering ourselves to leave, I had the idea to use Burroughs as the subject for a rephotography film experiment I was considering. I talked to James out of Bill’s earshot and asked what he thought. James went off to Bill and came back with a “yes.” We’d meet for breakfast at a diner the next day and shoot Bill walking around the neighborhood.

The next morning, accompanied by my old pal, Richard Modiano, I went to the diner armed with my Bauer Super 8 and a primitive cassette tape recorder. But when we met, Bill was considerably more reserved, stiff, and looked a little hungover. Still, he was friendly in an otherworldly sort of way. He was also most definitely a good sport.

I turned on the cassette player, thinking I’d use it for background to the film. Our discussion turned to film itself, and I made some mention of Godard’s maxim that every camera angle was a moral statement.

To move the camera or not to move the camera,” said Bill. “Right,” I answered. It turned out to be the only remotely audible section of the entire tape, which was mostly a cacophony of restaurant background noise. I later used these two sentences as a loop for the film, though there were only a few mortals who could recognize the words.  Basically, Bill then took a walk around the neighborhood and I filmed him.

Later, I intercut the then rephotographed footage with fragments shot off the TV from Monster Zero, From Russia with Love, and White Heat. I also shot some peep show gay porn right off its rear-projected screen where fellow film student Craig Baldwin worked. Some cruising cat wanted to join me in the booth. I declined.

The San Francisco State University Film Department had this device where you spooled the Super 8 through and it would show up as a TV image, a sort of pre-VCR device the industrial world used that would allow cheap screenings of Super 8 training films. I had been introduced to this device by Craig (he was later to make the great Tribulation ’99: Alien Anomalies Under America), because it allowed all kinds of crude rephotography off the TV screen, going in for close-ups on what was originally a full shot, and filming second and third generations of Super 8 footage. Craig was a big influence, cementing an interest in found footage and deconstruction of image. He lived in this big ramshackle house on Andover Street in the Mission. It would eventually be condemned, with problems like a giant broken hole in the bathroom floor into the apartment below, covered with a sheet of plywood.


Blue first Burroughs walk?

saucer-ray-crowd water

gun window


saucer take-off



spider face-end


— found poem of my own scribbles: how to edit Burroughs on Bowery.


I finished the work print in my graduate film production class, having a terrible contest of wills with instructor-filmmaker Karen Holmes. She gave me a C in the class and a D in the unit lab, basically because I wouldn’t do what she said. I had been used to a great deal more freedom and empathy in my undergraduate years. They were the worst grades of my entire film school career.

I continued working on Burroughs on Bowery, finally finishingand screening it for students and faculty for the San Francisco State Film finals. In those days, they would post how everyone voted. Three-fourths of students and faculty voted against including it. I was devastated but took the print to Naropa University in the summer of 1978 when Allen invited me out.
Burroughs on BoweryBurroughs had this cool queer secretary at Naropa, not James Grauerholz but a new kid named Cabal, dressed in thrift store New Wave – literally the quintessence of “skinny tie band” as the disdainful punks of the era referred to this refined look. I had never seen it before. Extremely short fifties hair, top button of thrift store collar buttoned, black skinny tie, natch, and a small lapel button like a Vote Ike sort of political button, only it was just a solid color with no words of any kind – a no-slogan button. Wow! This guy was one cool motherfucker. Here I was with my Jackson Browne hair and this cat was the next thing, like an alien off a space ship or some warp into the future – the new X-Man, baby! He also wrote prose that closely resembled Burroughs’ cowboy porn, The Place of Dead Roads (as Burroughs would later jokingly refer to the dismal stretch of Highway 5 between Oakland and Los Angeles). Years later I heard he was a little tyrant at the Bunker, bringing friends home to fix while James tried to shoo them away. Our little tyrant apparently told James off – he was Burroughs’ lover now, not James – as recounted by my ex-junkie pal who’d shot up with Cabal.

A teaching assistant, as per Ginsberg’s request, arranged the 16mm projector I needed to show Burroughs on Bowery to Burroughs. Cabal slipped on some white cotton gloves he’d picked up from an editing bench (this was the audio-visual classroom), prompting Burroughs to say, “Interview with the Vampire, my dear.” I struggled a little getting it threaded. Outside Burroughs apparently asked Richard if he smoked. He wanted a cigarette although he’d quit and then Richard came back in to the room with the projector and said, “He’s getting restless.” Fortunately, I then had it and finally showed the movie to Burroughs, who chuckled enthusiastically throughout with his characteristic Renfield/Dwight Frye close-lipped “mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm.” They say that closed lips make for a sinister laugh. They’re right. “Great film, Marc,” said Bill. The truly great thing was that I’d always thought the movie was very funny myself, but this seemed lost on virtually everyone who saw it. I remember asking my older brother if he thought it was funny. “In a psychotic sort of way,” he had replied.

Anyway, better to please Burroughs than the entire S.F. State University Film Department, fuck those motherfuckers.

Burroughs invited me and Richard over to his apartment. He offered me a vodka tonic which I first turned down. He frowned so I took it. Gun magazines littered his place. We hung out, made small talk, and sipped our drinks. Cabal was there too and joined in the drinks and pot smoking. It was actually a pleasure to talk in a low key way with the old man. I was just glad it wasn’t awkward.

Costanzo Allione, Italian documentary filmmaker and future husband of meditation teacher Tsultrim (nee Joan Rousmaniere) Ewing, (They met here for the first time), was shooting what became a great film on ’78 Naropa – Fried Shoes, Cooked Diamonds. Beat translator Nanda Pivano came along. She was the connection between Allione and Ginsberg, and had set up this meeting in Ginsberg’s apartment. Allione was in Allen’s apartment with his crew catching the conversation of Burroughs, Timothy Leary, and of course Ginsberg himself. Part of the time, I was also running around with a Super 8 camera making what would become my short collage, American Mutant. Gregory came in with his 16mm camera and announced, “I’m gonna shoot everybody’s feet,” and proceeded to do so.  The film crew caught me over Burroughs’ shoulder.

The New Wave hip look came up again when this interesting queer had wrangled his way into Allen’s kitchen to hang with Leary. The guy had a weird sort of glam look, not quite on the money with it – but he was clearly not a hippie even with Prince Valiant hair – maybe it was vague eye make-up or his clothes, but it was some different quality that was glitter queer like the New York Dolls (whom I didn’t even know about yet and were actually straight anyway).

“What do you think of Crowley’s Book of the Law?” he asked Leary. “Not much,” Leary replied. That was interesting, since he had said in his writing that he considered himself to be carrying on where Aleister Crowley left off, and the queer had just mentioned Crowley’s most important work. It was fairly clear Leary felt no need to be consistent about anything. Ginsberg made some reference to me being of the David Bowie generation, and Leary said, “He isn’t Bowie, this guy is Bowie,” pointing to the glam queer. Well, he had that sorta right, and I duly noted it, even if Bowie had moved on to his Thin White Duke persona already – which was more like Burroughs’ Naropa secretary. I wanted to be like Bowie or Burroughs’ secretary, if not this glam queer, but not some old hippie, definitely, not anymore.

As for Leary’s lack of consistency, Allen and I were talking with him and Allen made some reference to his claim that LSD could cure homosexuality. Leary said, “Oh that was Ram Dass, not me.” Apparently colleague Richard Alpert a.k.a. Ram Dass had once wall-papered a room with Playboy centerfolds and attempted to reprogram himself with a massive dose of LSD. Remembering how astounded I was by porn when on mescaline at age sixteen (vaginas like the mandibles of strange alien fauna); I could guess this hadn’t worked out. After Leary left, both Ginsberg and I recalled that Leary had made such pronouncements in the past, particularly in a Playboy interview. Ginsberg wondered if they’d done something to Leary’s brain at Folsom, since Eldridge Cleaver had also come out of there as a “Mooney,” a follower of Sun Myung-Moon, the self-proclaimed Korean Christian Second Coming; Cleaver later identified himself as a Republican. During Leary’s Folsom stay, Tim started talking extensively about outer space travel, and in particular about alien contact, but dropped the alien bit very rapidly – a wise move, to be sure. Dolphin scientist John Lily had completely discredited himself once he began about his alien chats on LSD. Tim’s new slogan was SMI2LE, “Space Migration/Intelligence Squared/Life Extension.” He was also saying “Stamp Out Death.” Burroughs was actually intrigued, since he saw little hope for the planet.

I think it was this same conversation with Leary about the Book of the Law and homosexuality that included one of his typical quips that if Buddha was back today he’d be a molecular scientist or one of the Bee Gees. He also referred to Ralph Nader as an ecological fascist, which really bugged Ginsberg. “Now stop that!” he actually shouted, adding, “What does that mean, anyway?” Leary quickly backed down and said it was his position to be provocateur, not necessarily believing what he said; just stirring things up. A good gig if you can get it.

Burroughs had already shown the proper way to handle a .357 Magnum borrowed from student poet Richard Roth, drawing “the correct way, not the bullshit way they do it in James Bond.”

One morning, I got up and saw them both brushing their teeth in the bathroom mirror, both naked. Leary was tall with a basketball gut. He saw me and gave his characteristic conspiratorial wink. Tell me life isn’t a dream.

I finally started to really physically crash from the Ritalin and profound lack of sleep that everyone seemed to run on while partying at Naropa, with Allen at the head of the list. I was upstairs lying in bed when Allen came up and said, “Burroughs and Leary are downstairs!” “That’s ok, Allen. I’m tired.” “You’re missing all the good parties,” he said.  “What’s the matter, you depressed?” I was depressed, and hated that he could see it. It was one of those depressions where you know that what’s going around you would be the envy of many, but it wasn’t working for you. I really just wanted a girl like in the movies. That’s why they call it samsara, or as my dad’s favorite reference, “the vale of tears.”  Nobody gets what they want. Poet Amelie Frank later saw me brooding on a couch in a scene from Fried Shoes and said, “the little pouter.” Bingo. By the way, my traveling companion Richard Modiano is in the movie throughout, way more than me, and he’s probably one of the least ambitious people I know. More proof of Buddhism’s sensible irony in a brutal world. Cue that Buddhist monk with the tennis racket drum we kept hearing all over the place.

So in my American Mutant film, Leary was a CIA government official (when I asked him to be in the movie he was doubtful until I told him he’d be playing the head of the CIA), Allen some sort of Tibetan Mutant King, and Burroughs had already shown the proper way to handle a .357 Magnum borrowed from student poet Richard Roth, drawing “the correct way, not the bullshit way they do it in James Bond.” When I tried to direct Burroughs a little more closely, he said “I am not an actor.” Apparently he changed his mind, given the number of roles he wound up playing on screen, though arguably they were just about as demanding as what he did for me. Leary was even harder to direct – he kept looking in the camera and grinning idiotically. “That was great, Tim, but ah… could you not look into the camera next time?” Tim announced he always looked into the camera and smiled. It was a rule of his. “Well, if it’s a rule…” I trailed off, obviously disgusted. “Oh fuck it,” he said, and did it my way. I think I may have spared the directors who later used him (as in Wes Craven’s Shocker, of all things – good movie, odd choice for Leary).

I tried to persuade Gregory Corso to take a part as a sci-fi gangster. I had a .45 replica BB gun for Gregory but when I talked to him he was very hungover, saying with disinterest “Guns are bad karma, man.” I shrugged and his toddler son Max escorted me to the door, slamming it behind me while shouting “Get out!”

Leary came back from a meeting with Allen’s Tibetan Lama, ChögyamTrungpa Rinpoche, expecting to be recognized as some sort of colleague, it seemed. Instead he was made to cool his heels in what he described as a dentist’s waiting room, and when he was finally allowed to see Trungpa, all that the Lama said was “stay out of trouble,” seemed good advice to me.

Heart of Dreams

By David Morgan-Brown

From Beatdom #14



“With each film that I’ve worked on, whether it’s produce or direct, I always like to just let the movie naturally unfurl through the production process,” says Frederick Reginald Coleman, founder and current president of Coleman Production Films. “And they always end up the same – schlocky, campy, terrible, but simultaneously entertaining and fun. Not many people make films like these.”

That much is true – it’s incredible that the haphazardly-produced works of Coleman’s company actually often make a profit, but these films have found their own cult audience. One of the many films Coleman is producing at the moment is Piranha Paradise 3: Terror from the Coast. The third in the series of gory, juvenile B-grade, (or even Z-grade) creature-feature horror films is helmed by director Andrew Wilson, who has made a number of art house short films and comical skit videos, but this is his debut feature film.

Wilson has aspirations to be the next Michelangelo Antonioni or Martin Scorsese, but he’ll have to deal with being the next Uwe Boll for now. “I’m using Piranha Paradise 3 as a stepping stone,” he admits. Coleman is a legend in the Hollywood business, but many people may not be aware of his influence. Take a look at the Best Director nominees for the Oscars in 2009 – all of those directors started off as protégés of Coleman, learning the ropes of filmmaking with his disposable, trashy films to go on and make some of the masterpieces of our time.

Situated before a large green screen are all the actors dressed in army gear somewhat resembling actual military outfits. The actors appear bored, but attentive to what their director has to tell them. Opposed to the dressed-up, made-up, bored-looking actors are the very active crew members behind the camera, dressed in casual gear; speaking orders between each other; turning switches on or off; and delicately skipping over the multiple wires on the ground. Controlling all of this is director Wilson, who some may claim is the main creative head of this production. He calls out to the working crew, “We need a stronger red light on Tony [actor] as well as a blonde [light] on the left middle part of the green-screen because it’s looking kinda fucked on the monitor.” Looking at the monitor, I see that the green screen has been replaced by a large CG background of multiple futuristic buildings (I didn’t know this was a sci-fi), but in the area Wilson was referring to, it does appear to look visually glitchy. “We’ve got forty-five minutes left, which means we have enough time to get these seven shots done, but not enough time to pack up.” He quietly comments to himself, “I’m in trouble.”

Wilson started his filmmaking career at nineteen years old working as a gaffer for a number of television projects at Hoffman’s House productions. This led to him working as a grip, best boy, and eventually assistant cameraman. It may have appeared as menial labour, but to Wilson it was incredibly exciting to contribute to a film in any process. “It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had,” he tells me. “And it was incredibly educational. It taught me what occurs on a film set and what to expect, and how to react on a job like that, and how each member of the crew has to work together to make the production successful. It was a real eye-opener, it set off the beginning of my life up ‘til now. It was loads of fun. Of course, I was new at the time, and very naive.” Wilson soon began directing children’s shows and reality programmes for the production company, all the while scribing his own screenplays that he hopes to be able to fund some day and bring to fruition. Wilson was given the directing job on Piranha Paradise 3 after the original director (who served as an assistant editor on Piranha Paradise 2), quit less than forty-eight hours before the first day of shooting. Wilson continued on with the production and made sure it was on time.


The screenplay for Piranha Paradise 3 was written by the experienced Reginald R. Christmas, who has approximately 270 screenplays under his belt (many of which were for Coleman productions), including numerous theatre plays and teleplays. “This,” says Christmas, holding up the script for Piranha Paradise 3, “is about story.” He retains a confidence in the script that Wilson may lack. “It’s not a masterpiece of a script, you know,” Wilson admits. “It’s not On the Waterfront or anything. But it’s serviceable, you know. It’s just kind of mindless entertainment. It does what it says on the package; it doesn’t set out to change the world.”

I join Wilson and crew members for another shoot on the coast of Monkey Mia in Western Australia, (apparently portraying the coastlines of Costa Rica), where bikini-clad women with model-esque physiques have water splashed over them for one shot, then blood for the next shot. I even saw one actress with prosthetic piranhas covering each of her nipples. “There’s too much wind here,” Wilson barks at the crew members. “Oh, but we’ll have rain in less than a few hours. Do we have protection for this equipment?” None of the crew members or cast seems to be concerned with continuity on this production. They seem more concerned with finishing each shot as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.

Two and a half weeks later, at the wrap party in executive producer Dan Castle’s house, Wilson is finally introduced to Frederick R. Coleman, and the two men talk extensively about movies, movie-making, and movie-viewing for a few hours. Here are a few gems of dialogue from their conversation (I’ll let you guess who said what):


 “But you shouldn’t even try and guess. A filmmaker is a human being like any audience member, so they should make what they feel is right and there’ll be people that will get it.”

“You can never anticipate the audience’s reaction. You just have to guess.”

 “If a film has not even one thing to teach me, if there’s nothing in it that’s true or real, then it’s not a worthwhile film.”

“The producer can have as much creative freedom over the film as he likes, but not the executive producers.”

“There are people out there – they either grow up to be serial killers or executive producers.”

“I’m normally not interested in genre films; they’re too limited to their restrictions of conventions. Each individual film should follow only the rules it sets for itself.”

“I think you have to have a certain sort of arrogance to be able to create art.”

“You can’t be too cautious or pessimistic; you have to be very optimistic and enduring. Films are created in the vacuum of chaos.”


The two men both have an infatuation with the medium, more so than any other art form, and share a similar love for the viewing and experiencing of films. But it’s obvious to me that both men come at making films from different angles. Coleman began his film-making career opposite the way Wilson did. His first film was a low-budget examination of family life and was critically acclaimed by the few people who saw it. Coleman received a $250,000 grant to make his sophomore flick. But losing interest in his script, and let down by the movie-making business on his debut film, he decided to sacrifice his artistry in exchange for commercial success. And it worked. He used the grant to make four $50,000 low-budget flicks, each one ended up quadrupling its budget in ticket sales. Coleman was given more and more money to make cheap films that did not make back a lot of money but usually made back their budget several times over. From here on in, Coleman established his empire of being an incredibly prolific film-maker whose films rarely failed to make a profit.


The production for Piranha Paradise 3 wraps up, and three weeks later premieres at the Cannington Cinemas, where over two dozen Coleman produced flicks have previously been shown. Most of the key crew and cast members are there, and the rest of the audience is packed with young hipsters who look like they have enough expendable income to spare fifteen dollars on some post-ironic love-hate affair with another so-bad-it’s-good Coleman production.

The lights dim and the chatter of the audience dies down, they are almost entirely silent by the time the movie begins. The back of their heads remain dark, but their faces are lit up by the luminance of the screen. During the feature’s 78 minute long running-time, there are plenty of snorts and guffaws, laughter in the wrong places, yells of joy as another character lays out another inane bit of dialogue (some rowdy audience members shout back responses to the screen). Wilson doesn’t seem as enthusiastic about the film as some of Coleman’s fans; he appears uncomfortable and itching to walk out of his own film.

Once the film’s first showing is over, a number of fans stay behind to congratulate Coleman, Wilson, and the other cast and crew on what they just saw. Despite Wilson’s reservation regarding his own creation, he seems rather chuffed to have such positive reactions to his film. “It sure is nice to be recognised, especially positively, and it’s why I want to make films,” he comments to me once all of the audience have left. “But I’d rather it’d be for something that I was proud to have attached to my name.”

Like Coleman’s other apprentices, Wilson could be the next hot director in the Hollywood biz, he could be an award-winning visionary in the next decade, or he could be a house-hold name for art house aficionados. But whatever classic piece of works he goes on to create, his debut feature film will always be Piranha Paradise 3, and he will always have Coleman and the world of B-movie (and Z-movie) entertainment to thank for whatever successes he has in his career.


Old Shoe

“ . . . my old cracked shoes weep . . . ” i

“ . . . turning an ankle is a Pavlovian fait accompli” ii

Desolation Peak
Minus perks
In the desert
of suburban house
Over fifty and it’s over
Disposable trash
Corporate ash
Old shoe
Friday at three
Sealed with a kiss
CEO unreined brat
Shallow cad
Foul-mouthed rat
A kiss and dismissal
Crass no class
An imp
An ape
Fat cat
Loud crude and dull
You killed the swan
Capricious caprice
Listing lee
Solo mio
False drunk miss
(role model for your girls)
Sweetness gone
“For men [and women] love the fall of the righteous” iii
Too old so go
The way we live now
Loyalty? (lol)
Taken a vow
Poetry and poverty
Words and dignity
Tomes of integrity
The right to choose
Not to color gray hair Never played your games
Never will

i Kerouac, Jack. Desolation Angels. (New York: Riverhead Books, 1995). p. 6.
ii Ibid., p. 84.
iii Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. (New York: Vintage Classics, 1991). p. 312.

Interview with Tom Huckabee: Taking Tiger Mountain

By Adrien Clerc


The story of the making of Taking Tiger Mountain is one of the strangest a movie-goer could possibly hear. It all started in the mid-seventies, when two friends, Kent Smith (director) and Bill Paxton (not-famous-yet actor) decided to make a film together, loosely based on the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty. They shot enough silent, black and white images in Tangier and Wales to make a full-length film, but hit a dead-end when it came to editing, and sold the footage to a friend, Tom Huckabee, who was still an aspiring filmmaker. Huckabee decided to leave the kidnapping story behind, and to think over the whole meaning of the images to make a conspiracy sci-fi movie. Huckabee’s Taking Tiger Mountain would be set in the apocalyptic world of Burroughs’ Blade Runner: a movie, and follow Billy, a young time-bomb assassin. Yes, it sounds crazy, and yes, it is.

In the following interview director Tom Huckabee goes back on the process that led to the making of the first feature with a Burroughs’ writing credit, and talks about feminism, LSD, Burroughs, and the future of sci-fi movies.


Hi Tom. Maybe we can start with the most simple intersection point… What interested you in Burroughs’ work?


The value of Burroughs to me was that he was on the fringe between acceptable and non-acceptable, that he was an explorer of dangerous worlds. There was a vicarious, transgressive thrill to his work in subject and form… the ideas were fun to think about because they expanded your mind, made the world larger, but just like acid, which was fun for eight hours, you didn’t want to stay there. My actual philosophy comfort zone is more with Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Tim Leary, William Faulkner, Hermann Hesse. I was never into opiates or boys, or noir, for that matter.


The idea you had – not to make an adaptation, but a movie set in the world of a Burroughs’ novel – is very interesting. Did it come to your mind before you saw Smith’s footage, or afterwards?


I saw Smith’s footage first in 1975. I may have heard of Burroughs back then but hadn’t read anything. In ‘76 I enrolled at UT Austin and probably started reading Burroughs then. I got the footage in ‘79 and looked at everything and logged it. There was 10 hours of silent non-sync 35mm techniscope, and its corresponding anamorphic work print. I started building scenes using the script they had which was loosely based on the J. Paul Getty kidnapping. There was no sci-fi element, no assassination, no prostitution, no feminism, or brainwashing. It was a dream film about a young American waking up on a train – with amnesia, maybe – who wanders into a Welsh town, meets a lot of people, has adventures, bad dreams, and then gets killed on the beach, or does he?

Once I had assembled all their footage into what seemed like a narrative flow, I started thinking about what the story could be. I didn’t like their story much, it was too languid for me, Tiger Mountain Posterdisconnected, but mostly they had only shot half of it and I knew I couldn’t go back to Wales. I’d been reading Burroughs and a lot of other avant-garde, transgressive, and erotic literature. Story of the Eye was a big influence. I started reading The Job. I got the idea that he was an assassin… and maybe the idea to set it in the future.

Other people were putting in their two cents and this mysterious guy named Ray Layton, who behaved like a cult leader, but only had one follower, and I think he paid her, was hanging around doing avant-garde theatre. He had the idea to make it about feminist terrorists brainwashing Billy…. and the prostitution camps. I don’t know who came up with the idea that he was a draft dodger.

I discovered Blade Runner and realized it was exactly the right kind of world, happening in America, while our events were unfolding in Wales. I lucked into finding a backer who promised $30,000, and that’s when it got real. I remembered seeing another short film that Kent and Bill had made; a thinly veiled homoerotic portrait of Bill, called D’Artagnan. I thought it could be used to represent Billy’s brainwashing. By then I’d acquired the MKUltra transcripts and was heavily into The Job.

It took at least a year to write the script to conform to the footage, which by the way was 60 minutes. I knew I needed 75 min. minimum for it to be a feature. So I built five minutes of dream sequences out of outtakes, including one where I threw the film in the air and put it together as it came down – cheating a lot.

I should mention that I was fairly regularly during this time, maybe once every one or two months, on acid, mushrooms, and baby woodrose seeds… this, added with all the experimental film I was seeing, and avant-garde and erotic and left wing and feminist political literature I was reading, kept my mind open to outré thematic and formal tropes… so, say, if a scene wasn’t working I could always run it upside down and backwards… Also by then I was thoroughly versed in MKUltra brainwashing, psychic warfare, so in that respect I think I was getting a lot of that independently from Burroughs, maybe from the same source he was getting it.

Then I wrote the opening scene and shot it… and started dubbing in dialogue. I forgot to mention Woody Allen’s Tiger Lilly as an influence. First I hired a lip reader to tell me what the characters were saying and many of them were speaking Welsh.


And you found a way to get in touch with Burroughs?


In 1980, the bass player of my band, The Huns, had an out of town visitor, Adam Somebody, who said he knew Burroughs. By then I knew I wanted the material from Blade Runner and what I would do with it. Adam said he would ask him about it and that part of it went down super easy after James Grauerholz got involved.


How did you become aware of the making of Ridley Scott’s, Blade Runner?


I was the one who alerted Burroughs that Blade Runner was the official title of Scott’s film… I was killing time in a book store where Burroughs was signing books, looking at movie magazines, when I came across a big spread on Blade Runner in Cinemafantastique.

We had just an hour before we finished watching Taking Tiger Mountain on a Steenbeck flatbed [editor], fast-forwarding through most of it but slowing down for the sex scenes, signed contracts… I think I handed them a check for $100.00 and we walked across the street together to the signing…

They had made no mention that the same book I was adapting, Blade Runner, might be used in some way, if just the title, for the basis of a mega budget sci-fi by the genius who had brought us the most popular film among punk rockers like myself: Alien. My jaw dropped… I walked it over to James [Grauerholz] and his jaw dropped. It heralded to them that there might be hope for them in Hollywood, after all. James didn’t appear at all worried at being ripped off. There had been talk about them using the name, and a price already discussed: $5000.00, which at the time seemed like a good deal to them.


That’s an amazing story! I’m a big fan of Alien too – in fact it was one of the first movies that got me interested in cinema. It’s one of these films that make the screen it is using bigger, larger; it creates a new dimension of space. I saw Blade Runnera few years ago when it was reissued for the big screen, and some of it is amazing, but I was a bit disappointed – and still am – by the fact that the narrative is very, very conventional. What do you think of Blade Runner?


I totally agree about Blade Runner. Too bad it doesn’t have just 10 percent of Burroughs, and I don’t think Harrison Ford is that good in it. Sean Young and Daryl Hannah are fabulous – and Rutger Hauer, the evil ruler, and the toy maker… in fact all the supporting characters are great, but Ford is just Han Solo. It would have been fun to see Christopher Walken in that role.

I had dinner with Ridley Scott and Bill Paxton one night to pitch a story idea of mine… I can’t remember if we even mentioned Taking Tiger Mountain-Blade Runner, probably not, for fear it could have derailed the pitch, which he didn’t buy, although his girlfriend thought he should. I’ve recently submitted my most recent script, a four hour mini-series about Timothy Leary to his production company, we’ll see!


Fingers’ crossed! Do you know if Burroughs and Grauerholz knew Scott’s movie wouldn’t revolve at all around the topics of his book?

I think they knew the script was based on Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? I think James had even read the script. I never saw the director’s cut, is it better? That sounds better to me… as the problem, like you say, was the conventional nature of the plot, which probably wasn’t helped by the pedestrian narration.

Yes the director’s cut is way better than the original one. I wondered about something, watching Taking Tiger Mountain. Were you aware, at the time, of Burroughs’ work with Antony Balch, movies like Towers Open Fire or The Cut-Ups?

I haven’t heard of either of those films.

Ok. Were you influenced by any other movies or filmmakers then, or were you just trying to create your own path?

Influences were all over the place since I was working with acquired footage and making it tell a story that it was not designed to tell. Things that spring to mind are Alphaville by Godard, everything by Kenneth Anger, every post-apocalyptic film that had come out by then, El Topo, The Prisoner TV series…. Maya Deren. Stan Brakhage. Buster Keaton. Stanley Kubrick movies. DušanMakavejev, Twilight Zone…. the young David Lynch. Truffaut, Passolini, Antonioni, Roger Corman, In the Realm of the Senses….   Robert Altman… John Boorman, especially Zardoz… Bruce Conner! Hollis Frampton, Michael Snow! Persona!

And outside cinema? Your movie seems to be heavily influenced by music.

Oh, yes, my tastes were punk rock… Throbbing Gristle, Devo, Talking Heads, but also the poetry of Jim Morrison, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, John Cale, David Bowie and Brian Eno – in fact the film was already named Taking Tiger Mountain before I or Kent Smith had heard of Brian Eno.

The other influences were from books, arts and drugs, Burroughs’ complete oeuvre but especially The Job, LSD, Xerox art, Yoko Ono, psychological theory, Antonin Artaud’s, Theatre of Cruelty. Otto Muehl. Hunter Thompson. Minimalist art like Carl Andre, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Andy Warhol. Rimbaud, the Book of Revelations, Foucault… Jean Genet, Rothko… Man Ray and Duchamp… Cocteau! Eisenstein! Buñuel! Conspiracy Theory, Cattle Mutilations and The Anarchist Cookbook.

I was drawing on every avant-garde thing I’d ever known to try to make a horse race out of the footage Bill and Kent had shot in Wales… using every trick in the micro-budget, experimental, minimalist, transgressive handbook. It had its admirers back then, more now, but probably the best review I ever got was from Burroughs, saying, “I think ya got somethin’ there, kid.” That’s all he ever said about it that I know of.


I think he was right, you had something – the only problem was, I guess, that the “thing” it was. It’s not an easy-to-sell product. It’s interesting that you mention The Job. The makers of Decoderalso said it was Electronic Revolution that was the major inspiration behind their work, not the “fictions.” You were interested in the control theories that Burroughs developed; the power of the image and sound combination in mind-control?


Yes, of course, and Clockwork Orange was a big influence too, and the Kennedy assassination, Burroughs’ interest in Hassan-i Sabbah, which still interests me… sound frequencies that can make you vomit and whatnot.

Speaking of Hassan-i Sabbah, the way the woman’s group controls the mind of the character is directly taken from the old man of the mountain’s legend, isn’t it?


Well, actually, I think that’s a merger of Hassan-i Sabbah, the SCUM Manifesto, Manchurian Candidate, and MKUltra documents.

I love the idea of a cross-over between the SCUM manifesto and Hassan-i Sabbah! By the way, as you said you were influenced by The Job, were you interested in Burroughs’ views on women, the idea that they might came from another planet, that we should build two distinct societies, male and female…


I thought it was myopic and bigoted… stereotyping a whole gender, to me, was worse than stereotyping a race or religion. It stank of elitism, fascism… unenlightened… I saw it as a flaw in his character. So, maybe that’s something that is interesting about Taking Tiger Mountain, that it was equally influenced by Valerie Solanas, a militant man-hater, and also Burroughs, the polar opposite… something to offend everyone! I was pretty influenced by feminist thought, took a class in feminist art and literature, was sympathetic toward Valerie Solanas… About Burroughs, I was conflicted about the shooting of his wife, to say the least… I barely remember any female characters from his stories. When it comes to women, I’m much closer to Timothy Leary’s views than Burroughs’.


What about the homosexual undertones of the movie?


The homosexuality of Taking Tiger Mountain – in that it dovetails so nicely with the other Burroughsesque themes – was a happy accident courtesy of Kent. It dawns on me now how perfectly the feminist brainwashing group fits in with Burroughs’ views about women trying to control men. By then I was also thoroughly enmeshed in punk rock and its intellectual preoccupations. Genesis P. Orridge… situationism… ReSearch Magazine… The Clash…. turmoil in London, and all that went in the stew. It’s interesting to me that Orridge actually became a woman like Billy does at one point. The band that did my soundtrack, Radio Free Europe, was Texas’ answer to Throbbing Gristle.


You’ve said in your eulogy for William S. Burroughs that there will probably be Hollywood movies made from Junkie or The Wild Boys. Do you still think it’s a strong possibility?

Junkie, for sure….Wild Boys, yeah, it could happen. James Franco, the likely producer… he seems to be the patron of all things outré and literary at the moment.

Taking Tiger Mountainhasn’t been easy to see, to say the least, during all these years. Do you plan on releasing it?

I don’t know. There’s a young Turk in Dallas who says he’s going to pay to have a digital negative struck from the original techniscope which would mean that the film would look a lot better than it did on 35mm… He could use some encouragement, too, that he’s not the only one interested.

Mark Murphy/ Bop for Kerouac

“I want to be considered a jazz poet . . .” i

Don’t miss Mark Murphy’s 1981 recording “Bop for Kerouac.”ii
Jack loved jazz and wanted to be known as a jazz poet. Highly-acclaimed American jazz vocalist Mark Murphy will take you for a luxurious spin with this beautiful recording, a rich tribute to Kerouac and the music he adored. It’s gorgeous jazz—silky smooth and pure as a pure jazz singer or a pure man jazz poet—and Murphy puts Jack’s writings to splendid use with his eloquent vocals. All you need to do is listen, and he’ll do the rest with his vocalese. If you enjoy good music, and classic Kerouac, you will enjoy this sophisticated recording. As Duke Ellington said, “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.”
The record has eight tracks and features Murphy reading from The Subterraneans “ . . . we went to the Red Drum to hear the jazz which that night was Charlie Parker . . . the king and founder of the bop generation . . . ” and On the Road “Dean, ragged in a moth-eaten overcoat he brought specially for the freezing temperatures of the East, walked off alone . . . ,” which are incorporated into tracks three and eight. The track titles might tempt you to indulge: “Be-Bop Lives (Boplicity),” “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” “Parker’s Mood,” “You Better Go Now,” “You’ve Proven Your Point (Bongo Beep),” “The Bad and the Beautiful,” “Down St. Thomas Way,” and “Ballad of the Sad Young Men.”
Read the linear notes that relate great Beat moments, especially publisher Jay Landesman’s recollection of an encounter Jack had with bandleader Artie Shaw at Birdland while listening to Lester Young. Jack wanted to do his clarinet imitation for Shaw, but Shaw wanted to talk about literature. Did the sad young men have fun? Sure they did.

i Kerouac, Jack. Mexico City Blues. (New York: Grove Press, 1994).
ii Mark Murphy with Richie Cole, “Bop for Kerouac,”1981. CD.