Interrogation of a Businessman by the
[ Vol. 3, No. 17, Aug. 17, 1971]
Note (2020). This is the first transcription of this interview that
appeared in Kaliflower in 1971, keeping to the original text exactly and
not naming the two principals of the interview. For scholars and
researchers familiar with the history of the period, the identities of
Star and Crescent will be obvious. To everyone else, the parrying
between the two is important enough for the debate on mass versus tribal
cultures without knowing the identities involved.
[The following interview took place on July 26 and August 19, 1971.
It was transcribed by hand, typed, and on August 19 and 23 the
typescript was read and corrected by the speakers.]
STAR [lights incense, sings mantra accompanying self on harmonium, rings
bell]: Now speakee.
CRESCENT: Why did you shear off your beard?
STAR: Evening's conversation with drunken Lama Chogyam Trungpa Tolku,
his wife screaming SHIT! at him for breathing vodka too close to their
baby. I said, ''You're drinking too much.'' He reminded me of Jack
Kerouac both drunk freedom and tipsy illumination. So he said, ''Why
don't you shave your beard, you're attached to your beard, I want to see
your face!" I left the Hotel bar, zapped out to Hotel pharmacy, went to
lobby men's room with new scissors, reappeared five minutes later at the
cocktail table where drunk Tolku was on his second third Bloody Mary, he
said, ''You didn't shave it, all you did was cut it off two inches!''
And I said, ''It's eight o'clock and you've got a lecture to give at
eight-thirty, I'll shave there.'' ''They know me, they know I'll be
late, shave now order another drink.'' We left the bar it was almost a
full moon, I pointed and he looked up and said, ''Americans aren't ready
for the full moon.'' And I said, ''That needn't affect the moon.'' After
his lecture, when I came out of the bathroom cleanshaven, he said, ''He
took off his mask! Now let's hear you improvise some poetry, like
Milarepa!'' (Because earlier I had said I didn't want to go around
poetry-reading anymore, and he had said, ''You must be tired of your
texts.") And so I did, about ''beer-beard-moon, '' kind of lame. Halfway
through shaving in the mirror I realized I was free of my image-familiar
visage, and could wander around Telegraph Avenue anonymous, and so had
temporarily doubled my pleasure in existence—I'd become too
self-conscious being recognized on the street. Useful karma yoga, but I
was already too long involved in that specific karma—thus charming
change thanks to drunken Lama. He said, incidentally, that because
Americans were so drunk, his purpose, tipsy, was to explore the
illumination of that drug, to see if it could be turned to any good use.
Later on Suriya of the Floating Lotus Opera went to see Hari Dass Baba,
Baba Ram Dass's (Richard Alpert's) teacher and told him the story. He
giggled and said they were both mad in the full moon light. Or ''making
madness in full moonlight.'' How did I first tell it to you?—the full
moon made them both mad. That sort, nice end on't.
Several nights later I closed the Capri invisible and went to the Basket
dressed in my Salvation Army $3.50 Montgomery Street suit and porkpie
hat, white shirt and tie and close-cropped hair. I stood around watching
everybody dance all night, got beat for a buck by a half-drunk
speedfreak kid I picked up in front of Finocchio's, and wound up taxiing
alone to Pam-Pam's at 6 a.m. Great gathering of beautiful varied lads
and queens at table, so I walked up hat in hand and said, ''Can I sit
down with you? I'm lonely.'' They said, ''NO! No room here, we' re
expecting more people .'' And suddenly I was on the outside of gay
hippie culture looking in and realized I'd stumbled on a new karma yoga
CRESCENT: I read in the Berkeley Tribe, I think, a quote from
The Effeminist, a gay radical newspaper, a charge of sexism against
you for your ad in the Berkeley Barb, in which you were quoted as
wanting a certain kind of male love slave.
STAR: I didn't say I wanted a male love slave, I said I was overwhelmed
with work, had left Peter, lonely, ready to put an ad in the Berkeley
Barb—so we put the ad in, a box in mid-interview—'' wants companion,
chauffeur, body servant, who can take dictation, accomplished in
meditation and yoga"—everything I needed all at once, it's really what I
need, well, they thought it was sexism.
CRESCENT: Do you understand what they meant?
STAR: No, I checked back at Venus Psychedelic Church to find out who
they were. I heard they were two guys over thirty and were having
trouble making out—but I never met them. Read subtly, the ad was my
asking for a guru, I wanted someone to live with and have as teacher. So
I don't know if you could call it sexism, the order I was placing was so
demanding that probably no one could fill it. There wasn't enough
substance in the ad to make a doctrinal polemic out of it.
CRESCENT: You've often stated that you're attracted mainly to young
boys. There's a new word for it, ''youthism. '' It's a subclass of
chauvinism, the exploitation of any group for a special characteristic
which is beyond their ability to change.
STAR: I asked Gavin Arthur about that the other night. He said that it's
fitting and appropriate for younger people to learn from older people
and older people to take pleasure in and enjoy the vitality and
enthusiasm of the young.
CRESCENT: But among gay people, you must understand the terrible sadness
older gay people get into when they think they're no longer young and
attractive. That's what youthism is all about.
STAR: I'm in the middle of that now.
CRESCENT: Even on a sexual level there's something comfortable about
sleeping with older people.
STAR: I'm not able to solve the problem. When I was younger, I slept
with older men, Burroughs (and Genet later in Chicago), people who my
heart opened out to and who were older. But generally I was not turned
on by older people sexually, in that question I'm being confronted with
earlier karma. But it can't be solved by polemic about youthism. Maybe
in some revolution older people will find each other attractive.
CRESCENT: Maybe in some revolution every age group will find something
attractive in every other. Speaking of revolution, did you see the
pamphlet we passed out with Kaliflower, whose real name is
CRESCENT: Have you seen ''Against the Stars''?
CRESCENT: In our mind there's been an estrangement between our real
culture and the so-called culture heroes, who are wrapped up in mass
media ideas of a homogeneous national mass audience and have lost
contact with their real base, contact of humble person to person. I
wrote the main draft of ''Against the Stars,'' and one person I had in
the back of my mind was you.
STAR: I read it as such, that's why I came around when you were still
asleep this morning to bemuse you with a free mattress concert.
Historically, this situation has never been recorded before, electricity
overpopulation, creating culture heroes and stars. Previous times,
Socrates in Athens, everything was personal, everyone knew everyone.
Still there was probably some feeble star system, because you can't
relate in depth to everyone. If you see a Hollywood star trying to
relate to a large number of people, it's ''Hi, dear,'' shaking hands,
eye flashes—but sincere eye flashes, vajra bolts. If you can only
relate in depth to one person at a time, in a month you can make
contact with thirty people for in-depth conversation love, dwelling one
day with each, smiling. Love's complicated now by electric media, you
can smile at a million faces simultaneously—Graven Images of poetry and
music get multiplied (against Hebrew and Arab codes, but in accord with
Buddhist prayer wheels and Hindu systems).
CRESCENT: My complaint has a very personal aspect. In the last few years
I've lost contact with you.
STAR: I've visited you, but you haven't come to New York. Although I'm
involved in poetry, you're so involved in the commune that it's
impossible to keep up with you. Another thing that's happening to me is
that I'm overloaded with all sorts of electrical work.
CRESCENT: I think you have in your mind ideas, typical of Grove Press
and New York, that there is such a thing as a national culture, and that
the goal of an artist is to get as wide an audience as possible, using
all electronic means necessary. It's the hoax of media people. What has
been created is an electronic culture, doomed to the loss of personal
contact, and in the hands of electronic middlemen. Our social
organization seems to be following a different cultural pattern, that of
withdrawal from mass activities. I don't know why you too don't drop out
of so-called American culture. I would like you to regain your
anonymity. Shaving your beard is only temporary. Why don't you withdraw
as a holy man and live with a group of people that you could be guided
by, that you could accept criticism from?
STAR: Criticism! You don't know what kind of a tongue Peter's developed.
But I've put a lot of efforts towards living with a group.
Complications! Peter was on speed. There were urgent problems with Corso,
Ray Bremser, Herbert Huncke, lots of others, they were important people
in my life. The last three years most of my energy's been devoted to the
white-elephant farm, people there slowly moving independent. As far as
criticism is concerned—it'd be a pleasure if I didn't have to listen to
Corso drunk and Peter on speed, but I've been being criticized
for years my dear, for years! There was no ''Imagery,'' you haven't seen
any photos of the farm, I've been living relatively in private. And then
I had to go out and get money to support the farm. We grew our own food,
our own eggs, milk, goats, garden. What with doctors' bills, gravity
water system & pond-land works it cost $20,000 a year to live like that,
simple & close to nature.
CRESCENT: I understand the gist of that. Somehow the point was lost.
You're trapped in the system.
STAR: Not really ''trapped,'' I was fulfilling responsibilities, I was
CRESCENT: I've just had the feeling for some time—how can I say it—I'm
forty years old and it's important for me to hear what the young people
to whom the future belongs feel. For example, Kaliflower is a place for
people to spin dreams. From what I know about your life, I find it
difficult to believe that you have placed yourself in a similar
position, listening to their dreams. You seem more interested in
continuing a career in mass media, than listening to young people find
out where they want to go.
STAR: It's too complicated to answer. It's not that you're wrong. There
are more elements than proposed. Where I'm living now I hear almost as
much as you do, except that you specialize in communications—it's the
old Floating Lotus Opera house, all sorts of people come through there.
I spend a lot of time wandering on Telegraph Avenue, sitting in the
Mediterraneum and Shambala, I wind up talking to a lot of street kids.
And then I go to the Capri, the Basket. Also I travel a lot, through the
media to colleges, I wander around nights downtown thru dormitories
looking for loves. Gives me a lot of information and odd relationships
across the country. One portion of my activity is interviewing the C.I.A.
Also I've been working on Leary's strategy this last week; and on a
petition for the Living Theatre—the entire troupe was busted in
Brazil—in the form of a poem. Yes, I'm trapped in media, but I have to
get together these lists of media helpers for Leary and the
Living Theatre. Who else could do it? Or who is doing it? I don't know
how to analyze it.
CRESCENT: If it's a personal thing it seems O.K. What we object to is
working in terms of mass causes.
STAR: Yet the Living Theatre is in jail, they need help. One way is to
raise an international ''hue and cry'' so that Brazil police get
sensitive to their fate.
CRESCENT: But there perhaps could be other ways—personal contacts in the
STAR: I outlined for Steve Ben Israel (Living Theatre member who escaped
Brazil and organized Living Theatre Defense in New York) all my personal
contacts, the Brazilian desk in the State Department, C.I.A., A.I.D., I
typed up a giant list of personal contacts. Yes, I am trapped, because I
have all that information.
CRESCENT: This puts me in the funny position of advising you not to help
your friends. But maybe you shouldn't bother with them.
STAR: It puts me in a funny position, too. I'm the only one who can do
it, or who did do it, it hadn't occurred to anyone—I'm collecting
signatures on an ''official'' paper from the International Pen Club,
saying that Leary is an ''international refugee,'' so that the Swiss
government will give him asylum: last week's work—an eight-page literary
essay, circulated in the Bay Area, and sent to Switzerland. Statement
that he's not just a jerk but an international literary figure. His
lawyers said it was useful.
However, given these circumstances, I tried to turn Propaganda action
into an art form. So I made this [Living Theatre] petition in the form
of poetry, and in Leary's case I did an essay in Voltairean style.
[Reads Living Theatre poem.] The form looks like a LeRoi Jones poem.
It's integrating aesthetic , form with mass-world cultural political
CRESCENT: The only question is, is the whole trip through the mass media
worth it? Your petition needs the signatures of mass-media
personalities. What can we at Kaliflower do for you? We're so anonymous
that our names would just fill up blank space. You're just playing games
with the mass media, their good guys and their bad guys.
STAR: The question is, what to do when Steve Ben Israel calls up about
being busted? The work that they're doing you would really dig. They've
abandoned the theatre and work on the streets. Julian Beck [co-founder
of the Living Theatre] wrote me a letter and asked if I had developed
anything useful for mass-contact body-sounds on the street. What they
were doing is a three-week-long play, with different scenes on different
days in different barrios, like a galaxy revolving around the city, like
maybe a vegetarian scene in the meat market. It's on the streets and
public places, direct street events. They had gone there specifically to
see if their non-violent communal consciousness could sustain itself in
a fascist police state. Remember that they were always in the
avant-garde, as vegetarians and as pacifists. They were a commune years
before anyone else. So it was useful my having the public image-power
and information and some money for $150 phone bills, talking to Steve
Ben Israel long distance. I don't know what to do other than what I'm
doing. If you could think of any other way of doing this, I'd be glad. I
also have the feeling that the more attention is paid to the media, the
more it grows.
CRESCENT: Suppose you just renounced the Living Theatre and its fifteen
lost souls—there are countless lost souls everywhere. Maybe you should
just drop out.
STAR: I have more of a feeling of fidelity for old friends, it's a
source of energy. I always idealized loyalty to friends, and that comes
before media, communal ideology, revolutions, trains buses and ashrams.
CRESCENT: Yogis say we should treat everyone with the same unbiased
tenderness. I feel most correct when I don't show partiality but treat
everyone who comes to me with the same special favor—if only I could do
it more consistently.
STAR: I'm archaic—and clinging to old loves. A universal love comes soon
enough, on the deathbed. Other swamis say follow your heart. So
if your heart leads you to want to suck one cock for fifteen years?
[Shrugs .. ] The questions and answers are artificial. Another thought
is that practice in particular loves deepens myriad loves. Another
thought is, swamis preaching universal love don't get much of a chance
to relate to any single devotee. Gandhi's children went mad. And any
swami who says things like that does have his delightful favored
devotee or god image too.
[The interview continues after dinner.]
STAR: Assume, as Gary Snyder does, that the whole technology will
collapse and we'll return to tribal culture, which is the only ''safe''
correct place, maintaining stable continuity over ages: You'd specialize
only in what music you can make out of your own body, with hand-made
instruments, and can transmit in your head, independent of
electromechanical robot helpers. Free verse (like mine!) will be
obsolete out the window because no printing press'll exist and only
rhymed verse can be remembered. That's the basic Way that Snyder's on,
he's interested in revival of stable permanent usable earth-knowledge
American Indian stick games, how the Maidu ate, how they built their
houses in the Sierras. I don't have an answer, ''Will machines survive
One thing I thought was to abandon all mechanical poetry reproduction
that didn't have direct memory transmission possibilities. My written
poetic style is a byproduct of printing, I'd have to go back to writing
tuned rhymes, things people could sing and remember by a campfire,
things you can transmit and remember orally. That would be the ideal
medium for an alternative culture—you might abandon written poetry and
go back to ancient bardic chanting.
CRESCENT: Since we are literate now—
STAR: But literacy depends on printing, on machinery, on cutting down
CRESCENT: It could depend on hand transcription.
STAR: On paper?
CRESCENT: From trees that have died naturally—there's plenty dead wood
in the world.
STAR: But ultimately having paper would be a luxury, as it was for the
elite monkish scholars. Harry Smith's ideas about the Australian
aborigines turned me on a few years ago. He said that they had only one
artifact—a wooden stirring stick with notches, used for everything,
weapon, wand, head rest, mnemonic device to remember myths—I think
called a ''Bull Roarer''—which totem object connects them to ''Eternal
Dream Time.'' And yet they had the most extensive oral history
because they have only one artifact. Their mental culture, private
life, is among the most rich because everything exteriorized has been
stripped down, as on a desert where they live. I always keep that in
mind as one possibility. How far do you go toward primitive no-machine
to regain soul balance, which as [typo: has] been tipped over by the
Iron Age? What you're proposing is living off odds and ends of
mechanical culture, what Snyder's proposing is going back to bare
CRESCENT: What's important now is what we should abandon—not necessarily
what we should move towards ultimately. And one thing we should abandon
is mass culture, which is now an instantaneous perversion of our real
local cultures. Now there are rock stars, but according to reports of
San Francisco in the sixties those first dances were—
STAR: Religious—that's agreed.
CRESCENT: The star system is a pure product of mass culture. Without
mass media you would ''hear'' of the repute of a great artist. You would
make a trip across the country to hear him if you were that interested.
STAR: Getting back a little—just as you're proposing to live through a
life style of abandoning mass-culture star-system comers, Snyder's
proposing to go further and abandon the very cities that are the centers
of it, the abuse of human nature. So that's a general tendency of
thought. Then there is an opposite, alternative, like Whole Earth
Catalogue/ Buckminster Fuller optimism; and the Marxist analysis that it
is not the machine itself but the capitalistic use of the machine, the
usurious use of money connected with the machine, that makes it
unusable—so your and Snyder's retreat from the machine—
STEVIE: Our retreat is not from the machine but from the methods of
CRESCENT: We may have to abandon the machine temporarily as an act of
theater—and rite of purification.
STAR: The aborigines, Gary Snyder, ancient Hebrews, don't feel the
machine is viable. They forbid the reproduction of images—not turning on
machines, even a light bulb, on the Sabbath. They say don't reproduce or
''name'' God—I was stretching a point but you get the point. That is to
say, making any abstract reproduction of Life is hallucinatory,
therefore blasphemy—much less mechanical mass reproduction of JHVH.
CRESCENT: Where is the prohibition?
STAR: ''No graven images.'' The star system is a graven image, stars are
CRESCENT: Hasn't it been your hope to take advantage of the star system
and use it to project all your humanness?
STAR: No. I had a higher nore [typo: more] magical ideal. I took the
Bodhisattva's vow: One, that sentient beings are numberless, and I vow
to enlighten every one of them; Two, that the doorways, gates, or
methods of teaching are endless, and I vow to go through every one of
them; Three, that the passions are numberless, and I vow to extinguish
every one of them; Four, Buddha Path very high, I vow to follow through.
The second vow—the gates are numberless, I vow to go through every one
of them—means not relegating any media to non-existence. All sentient
beings are—sentient. Everyone's a Buddha. The tantric thing is making
use of what appears to exist, not negating it, like the tantric thing of
using sexual energy rather than denying it, or Trungpa Lama exploring
Drunk Illumination. Assuming all newspaper reporters are Buddhas,
address the Buddha nature in every being in every way. Yes basically the
same hope you insighted. When I go on TV, I look directly into the
camera to speak, imagining that in another space-time dimension, I'll be
sitting there watching myself—which I will be (or Peter will, or
you)—and say the things I know they will love to hear, talk
telepathically Self, to Self, & speak out What Should ideally be said on
TV—It's using the mechanical transparent Robot TV Eye as a vehicle for
the enlightened eye-glance doctrine transmission of awareness. Not
making discriminations against different forms, treat every form as an
approach to turn the Wheel. My original view was, what if you could
possibly illuminate people magically when they turned on the TV—this is
the highest fantasy in the back of my mind—generous fantasy.
CRESCENT: It is a generous fantasy.
STAR: The freest in a sense, since everything is included.
CRESCENT: But it seems to go against—
STAR: Common sense?
CRESCENT: No, spending most of your time out of the spotlight with
humble people, spending your energy and genius on the salt of the earth.
STAR: But the salt of the earth don't need enlightenment. The most
debased people need enlightenment, the matter-habit freaks of Middle
CRESCENT: Who is your audience?
STAR: I address myself at best to pure spirit, assuming it is identical
in everybody—however hark the Sanscrit word Upaya: Skillful Means—in my
fantasy I assume I'm talking to Richard Helms, Kissinger, William
Buckley, my father, my brother Eugene, Creeley, Gary Snyder, Norman
Mailer, Max Scherr, Robert Silvers (the Times Book Review),
Burroughs, Ted Berrigan, Hibiscus, Ted Wilentz, Jerome Jaffe, Lucien
Carr, Kerouac's ghost, Trilling, Dellinger, Peter Orlovsky, Congressman
Fish—Swami myriads—and I actually am talking to those
people—literally—in some dreamworld place of mutual consciousness.
Simultaneously trying to find an aesthetic form where I am publicly
sending messages to them also understood by a longhaired kid on the
street, blow prophetic trumpet clear in any direction. That's my
fantasy, setting an example for a street kid of capital ''p'' Prophecy,
or language strong and compassionate enough to penetrate through public
hallucination advertising–Politics–inhumane–doubletalk and deliver the
private message; same time find public terms for private sensations. So
that a street kid could appropriate that language and use it on his
parents to convince them that his private world has its own reality, its
own public language. That's what I was trying to do in this thing [holds
up Living Theatre petition]—make a public trumpet. Some of the language
was from Whitman—what he called the Democratic Adhesive—''artist
Persons''—he used Persons—a key word for his whole fantasy—he
conceived of America composed of large magnanimous Persons—the reality
we know in private, saying that's the ultimate public reality—when that
private reality becomes public reality, we will have democracy. Olson
had another phrase: ''Private is now public, & Public is how we
CRESCENT: What do you see as my complaint with what you're doing?
STAR: That my fantasy can't succeed because the capitalist situation is
now so degenerative—?
CRESCENT: No, that there's no homogeneous mass America that Whitman
STAR: But the confraternity of communes is that mass that Whitman meant.
Your complaint is that I'm not taking everything as personal, but
mechanizing it, making it impersonal.
CRESCENT: Why not become acquainted with the confraternity of communes
and find out what people in communes are thinking of. I've pretty much
seen your recent writing as it's been published—it doesn't reflect my
consciousness or the consciousness of the people I see every day. The
whole controversy in Kaliflower about sexism—I've learned a lot from
it—your involvement would be welcome. Maybe I'm just complaining up the
STAR: My product isn't applicable here?
STAR: The applicable parts are the Blake mantras—simple songs people can
enjoy together, tested in communal situations —composed in a commune
with no electricity and tested in communes in New Mexico . Some things
you don't consider communes I do—the religious groups. I've been
involved in learning their songs and disseminating them, getting people
chanting. A totally uncommercial scene, another criterion.
CRESCENT: Don't people have to pay for your performances?
STAR: Some. Last one was a benefit.
CRESCENT: Benefits are commercial and unavailable to the
impecunious—just like non-benefits.
STAR: Last week at the Unitarian Church was free, the Cabaret thing will
be free. Most of my activity is in people's houses, chanting. That's why
you haven't heard me. The problem is, how are you going to get a huge
place without hiring a hall?
CRESCENT : Your own desire to be heard, when you were unknown, was
strong enough to begin the Pocket Poets series.
STAR: No—Ferlinghetti began it before. I'm Number Four.
CRESCENT: But your wishes for other poets to be heard helped to create
the series. Your ease now in getting published keeps new media from
being born. When you had no media, you helped create them-. If you were
to turn your back on commerce now and concentrate on pure media—
STAR: But what is pure media? The underground newspapers think
CRESCENT: —you would help bring them into existence.
STAR: Do you have any suggestions?
CRESCENT: I would go on Kaliflower delivery routes and at each house
sing a little. Start fishing around for some hall-like place that
everyone could go to free.
STAR : I'm trying to do that by working with 330 Grove Street. Last
night I was at the Unitarian Church—that was free.
LYNN: I didn't hear about it.
STAR: I meant to call you to put an ad in Kaliflower but I was too busy.
DENNIS: Even doing things in homes is fine.
CRESCENT: It supports families.
STAR: I do more singing in families than out! The reason you don't hear
about it is because it is in homes and not public . ... I don't
know, I try to do everything. Home–commune–public.
CRESCENT: We need traditional bards and minstrels, travelling with small
entourages to the communes of northern California and Oregon.
STAR: Is the question devoting more time to communes rather than
colleges and bookstores?
CRESCENT: Exactly. You don't spend enough time in communes as compared
to straight institutions. Colleges are revolting, and we urge people to
drop out of them at once. I know part of your message has been to
liberate people in their traditional places. But I'm dismayed when I see
people the same age as Stevie still working for grades.
STAR: I'm not revolted. I see people studying things they couldn't
CRESCENT: Ask them why they're not doing it somewhere else. If they're
turned on at all it's usually fear and ignorance. That's certainly true
of the first four years. I don't know about graduate schools and such
complex instruments as electron microscopes. Even some ''educators'' now
urge abandoning schools—returning to the apprentice-master system.
STAR: Many people stay in school just to make money—it's like welfare.
STEVIE: They spend so much time spacing out.
STAR: All the more reason why I should go there.
STEVIE: You should urge them to drop out.
STAR: I can't do that, giving abstract advice.
CRESCENT: Wouldn't it be nice if we spent some time again working
together on some project—I miss you—some project in the field of
STAR: Every spare minute the last few years I've been working on the
farm to keep it together. It is a commune of sorts—who's going to milk
the cow, take care of nine goats, pay for the water system—I've been
working on very concrete problems. Gordon Ball was here with me, wasn't
he? He did the heavy garden work and planning for several years on our
farm upstate New York. He's a big expert in farming and mechanics, I'm
not basically a communal type, I guess.
CRESCENT: I'd like you to be. Or at least understand what's going
on—what people are thinking. With your knowledge of petty government
officials, you could try to encourage good works among them. For example
the new food stamp regulation that cuts out ''hippie communes'' proves
by both its existence and its unenforceability that the government
doesn't understan [typo: understand] point one about communes. They have
no idea what's going on.
STAR: Why don't you write articles for the mass media about the
food stamp regulations, or call your senators?
CRESCENT: I couldn't care less, it won't affect the communes. They think
they're doing this to harm the communes and it won't affect us at all.
STAR: You sure?
CRESCENT: Only the most wide-eyed innocents, who tell the officials they
live in a commune and share food will be harmed.
STAR: Don't they come visit you?
CRESCENT: They don't have the manpower
STAR: Why don't you write an article for the underground media then?
STEVIE: We do.
STAR: But you're laying that job on me.
CRESCENT: No. But you might ask the officials why they're mad at hippie
communes anyway. And let them know they can't harm us anyway so why try.
STAR: There's too many things for me to do—I'm overloaded.
CRESCENT: Drop out of some of your colleges.
STEVIE: It's just a matter of where you want to put your energy.
CRESCENT: I want to work with you.
STAR: That's what it boils down to, ''Person,'' lovely. I'd like to go
on a Kaliflower route if I got time Thursday. Do you have one with a lot
of gay houses?
[An interval. Notetaker assumes interview is over, there is much
chatter, finally notetaker realizes things are serious again.]
CRESCENT: So the mass is broken down into small groups which visit and
titillate each other.
STAR: That's what happens in the folk music world. Except favorites come
CRESCENT: That's because of mass media. Without that the top would be
STAR: So you'd have to cut out all advertising.
CRESCENT: Oh, yes.
STAR: What about posters? Where do you distinguish between advertising
and information? Do you want to eliminate radio?
CRESCENT: The Diggers did most everything by word of mouth.
STAR: By the way, do you know how they vanished from Eye? It's pretty
interesting—if not mythic—someone arrived from Vietnam with three gallon
jars of heroin, sold one for $100,000 and felt guilty, so he gave one to
the Diggers, enough junk to last a year.
STEVIE: The ultimate free shot.
DENNIS: Remember the background of the 1% Free poster?
CRESCENT: A couple of Chinese junk smokers.
STAR: Also the Diggers romanticized the rip-off—it gets into violence.
DENNIS: I'm amazed by the number of people who came to the [first] Free
Cabaret by word of mouth.
STAR: Does word of mouth include the telephone? Midnight shows of KMPX?
CRESCENT: Ideally, there would be miniaturized cities, like Tangiers,
with doll houses and tiny alleyways. You would scoot down an alleyway
and everyone would know it.
STAR: The problem anymore is no small decision can be made without the
consideration of the whole society.
CRESCENT: You can make a lot of negative decisions—what you can't stand
and want out of as soon as possible, and that's quite a lot.
STAR: Getting out of anything electric, given almost four billion
people, is an ecological fix. Snyder's recipe is not tiny towns,
but—since the earth can only support 10% of its current population—that
90% bow out.
CRESCENT: Where did he get his figures?
STAR: From Ehrlich, Lily, and others. Industrial problems—One American
shits a thousand times as much waste as any single Chinaman. Snyder and
others say for public consumption there's about twice as many people as
the earth can support, but really it's about 10%, the stable population
of the earth before—
STEVIE: The Industrial Revolution.
STAR: Yes. Before people started taking the material world seriously. It
goes back to the old prophecy: that it's a mistake to reproduce your
god. It's a mistake to print your poem when the whole point is the
vibrations of the bard's voice. It's a mistake to plant your crops when
the whole point is to know enough to gather wildflowers. It all depends
on how far back you want to go. Snyder and others are beginning to think
that early agricultural communities were the beginning, the apple in
Eden. Over 10% and you have to start cutting down trees, dominate and
enslave nature. I guess that's a very rough estimate.
ERIC: What is he doing about it?
STAR: He's got two children. He violated his own precepts. I
wouldn't dream of trying to judge it. I don't have a normal heterosexual
relationship and don't want children.
STEVIE: If you lived in a commune and were intimate on other levels with
women you might have a different perspective. There is some feeling in
this commune to have more children.
STAR: Is it a problem of some girls wanting to become biological
CRESCENT: One in particular.
STAR: You don't know, it might be inspiration.
ERIC: Steve Gaskin said about birth control, that you don't know, maybe
the person who has the answer hasn't been born yet.
[Rap about Steve Gaskin and his audience of a thousand.]
STAR: But his contact with his audience is direct.
CRESCENT: One old way of short-circuiting the multiplicity of personal
contacts is large religious gatherings where everyone is doing the same
thing at the same time.
STAR: You think it's short-circuiting? It's a way for people to get
together and do the same thing at the same time.
STEVIE: That's saying the same thing.
[Rap about rhythms, rap about centralization.]
STAR: There was a complaint at the first Be-in about the centralized
CRESCENT: Sounds like a polite complaint against the stars.
STAR: True, but no one on the grandstand was putting anyone on a trip.
Most speeches were short. I myself was the worst offender, by reading
an old poem text—so the first time was all right. The next Be-in was in
New York. It had no center. The model is Indian—the Kumbh Mela—a
gathering of holy men every twelve years. Usually where Krishna's Jamuna
River meets Shiva's Ganges. A tent city, up to three million people for
three months. Every group is responsible for building its own
shelter—gets a permit. Naked Sadhus draw a line in the sand, rich Swamis
have a wooden pavilion, it's decentralized. Everyone has their own booth
like the Hog Farm or circus. It's long enough so that everyone can visit
everyone's tent, and on certain days everyone does the same thing.
Ceremonies on the first days—bathing and parade, elephants, mantra
chanting. The yearly ones have 500,000 to a million people. So the idea
of a vast Be-in is not uncommon, not even a product of the Electronic
Age, but an old human tradition. So there is an archaic mass culture.
[What follows is the second session of the interview, which took place
August 19, 1971. The leading questions had been prepared beforehand and
were read out loud.]
CRESCENT: It seems you've always, at least as far as the public is
concerned, called attention to your love affair with Peter as an example
of queer domestic bliss. Is there any moral to be drawn from your
STAR: I haven't drawn a picture of queer domestic bliss, ever. For
instance in published and unpublished poetry there's a lot of murderous
references to Peter, especially in the middle fifties with the
amphetamine thing. Public appearances have been equally quixotic,
especially during the mid-sixties. Youth time I tended to idealize our
relationship, maturing, come of maturing, imagery reflected angry
experience as well as fidelity. But the theme, the basic theme, has been
capital ''p'' Possibility—Possibility of comradely marriage. (Read
Angelic fifteen years ago.) And fidelity. So divorced and faithful we'll
be driving around the East Coast giving readings this fall
together—probably not fucking though. No need.
CRESCENT: It is my impression that you do not treat media as merely
another gate to the dharma equal to all others, but as your preferred
gate; that you actually seek celebrity-hood or notoriety; and that you
are a rather flagrant celebrity groupie. How can we have an equalitarian
society with people like yourself running around drowning out the meek
and humble. confusing fame with esteem and serving glory rather than
STAR: Poetry is a medium—language is a ''medium'' to begin with.
So to the extent that I'm practicing Western language-poetry I'll be
troublsome [typo: troublesome] to king and cook as Villon, footloose
irresponsible troubador. To deal with media apparatus outside of pure
poetry seriously as a holy devotion, prayerfully mudra'd, offers same
difficulties as Kaliflower interview—this Kaliflower interview no
different than supernatural television. Actually I have about the same
enthusiasm and slothful reluctance towards both. I keep feeling I'd
rather be doing something else. [Rereads question.] Using media as my
preferred gate ... that may be so. [Rereads it.] But it can't be said
that I've actively sought this—it's been an event of the situation. Oh,
no! no!—I'd say definitely it's not my preferred gate, my preferred gate
is writing poetry in increasingly solitary settings. I'm generally in a
setting where I don't have a chance to sit in a solitary setting, people
are demanding services. The question, did I actually actively seek
celebrity-hood? Neither celebrity-hood nor notoriety, I sought an
aesthetic show which had as its consequence celebrity-hood and
notoriety. Which goes back many years to the celebrated ''notorious''
response I gave in Chicago '59 Big Table reading when a lady
asked, ''Why is there so much homosexual imagery in your poetry?'' and I
answered, ''Because I'm queer.'' I didn't say ''I'm queer'' because I
seek celebrity—the answer was in exact Reality. However, piling
on show after show, a public poem of identity emerges, an artwork so to
speak, a continuous Happening. The odd thing about that Fame is that it
presented a koan, Ramana Maharshi's mantra-riddle, of identity, ''Who am
I?'' But isn't that exactly the same question everyone asks themselves?
So it's like a universal problem of consciousness amplified made more
In the course of proposing Whitmanic admiration of Person, "large
magnanimous individual Persons,'' by virtue of the eloquent nature of
the Persons themselves (like Kerouac or Cassady) the idea-wish-poem
became real, i.e. publicly familiar and nostalgically acceptable. How to
prevent language like ''flagrant celebrity groupie'' from replacing the
Whitmanic formula ''large magnanimous Persons''? This question needs to
be looked at with a most cheerful eye. ''How can we have an equalitarian
society'' when I'm pushing Hypnotic Influences? Well, first of all
everybody's different. There's nobody else like myself. So this problem
doesn't arise at all and nobody has to worry about it. [Repeats
verbatim.] So the problem does not exist as a general problem.
The fact that everybody's completely different is one of the first
ideal thoughts of all communards as well as traditional American
Whitmanic Democratic. So is the question, am I seeking my own glory or
am I seeking God? No, the question is am I actually drowning out anybody
weak and humble? Or am I encouraging meek and humble? I'd leave it up in
the air as a question. Except that would leave my musty ectoplasm
hanging around at the end of the interview.
CRESCENT: That's not so bad, it might be pleasant.
STAR: On this point my ultimate reference as always is continuing faith
in the reality of bliss, experienced early (1948) when I glimpsed out of
a window in East Harlem the buildingtops hanging in the sky like the
open mind of God, and heard William Blake speaking his poems in a deep
earthen voice which by hindsight I realize is exactly the same as my own
voice now, age forty-five, when I'm not smoking cigarettes .
CRESCENT: I feel I may be causing you pain.
STAR: No. No pain. Secret mind, my celebrity results from my
interpretation of Divine Orders.
CRESCENT: This is the last question. I'll read it and then let you see
it, it's rather long. In New York, in 1958, when I spent a lot of time
in your company, I felt that you were deliberately manufacturing a
literary aristocracy, or caste system, and that you ranked your friends
on the basis of something very close to heredity, in clearly marked
orbits around the triumvirate of yourself, Kerouac and Burroughs. At the
time I loved you a lot, and I was very confused, because I felt that you
had admitted me into your life as far as you could, without tainting
your royal blood. You recognized other royal families—the O'Hara-Ashbery-Koch
clan for instance. It was like a Napoleonic Empire of poetry, in which a
Proust would have felt completely at home. It was that state of affairs
more than anything else—picked up and carried out by others—that drove
me out of New York in 1962. One of the things for which I have always
admired Huncke was his innocence of your status-celebrity trip —I guess
he was too busy getting off with junk to settle for less.
STAR: That's kind of nice. That doesn't require an answer.
STAR [rereads question]: Well of course you know—he was sort of
flattering me, egging me on to give readings so he could get more money
for his junk.
CRESCENT: I was referring to the fact that he'd pick up stray nobodies
on the street—and he didn't drop names.
STAR: The obsession with Kerouac.
CRESCENT: And Cassady.
STAR: That was my whole mythology—extended to Gary, Philip (Whalen]—it
got so extensive that almost anybody with long hair could belong to it.
At that time—you and I were dealing with Poetry—our relationship-to-be
came out of a purely literary thing—Big Table—and literary
camaraderie about it. But is [typo: it] was also a time of an enormous
cultural conflict, not merely a battle for ''power'' and ''acceptance''
but for understanding between a hip Apocalypse world-consciousness
poetry, and an older culture—but I had mythologized all that—as I
continue mythologizing Peter, as you mythologize Kaliflower.
CRESCENT: I guess I don't object to the mythologizing, but—
STAR: It's very similar to the gradation of communes—those families you
love enough to give Kaliflower to.
CRESCENT: Our theatrical finickiness and the air of chic around
Kaliflower have a very deliberate purpose—to stimulate people to join
communes. Were you doing the same thing, deliberately?
STAR: Very much—mythologizing Burroughs' odd laconism and humor as part
of a no-bullshit attitude that did not accept the attitude of the state.
I wasn't consciously doing it, just intuitively, even jokingly as ignu,
or earlier anonymously tearfully as in ''Green Automobile,'' even 1948
CRESCENT: When a person joins a commune that's it, he's in, there are no
superior and inferior communes. There are communes we know are more
organized. As far as Kaliflower is concerned, there's no favoritism.
STAR: That's because you don't get a million things to print. If you got
more to print than people could read you'd have to discriminate. [He
mumbles about the time and how his day's tangled up.] CIA opium ...
Leary leaflet ... Living Theatre picket line ... Fantasy contracts …
William Blake Country Western tune ... fly to India to see Burroughs &
Jagger & 7,000,000 refugees swollen bellied in the mud ... type up
assembled poems mss ... safety copies ... an hour a day straight back
breath lower abdomen & breast, sigh out like ah! after coming ...
organic farm costs money to live simple back to nature ... 3 hours
straight on telephone … nobody loves me ... finally broke through to 3
chords instead of Just C & F or G C, Dylan said try G C D ... and honey
tea before chanting ... finished preparing mss. early rhymed poems
'48-'52 ... ''Iron Horse'' 60 pages 1966 finally in proof … ''Fall of
America'' maybe call all scribbles 1965-71 ... separate album of
Vajraguru Mantra 24 minutes continuous basso chorale each side . . .
Psychedelic Venus Church orgy … ''Elegy to Che Guevara in Tribe … survey
of repression of underground newspapers two foot thick file, anyone
wanna write it up? … Go stay with Snyder & Whalen in Sierras . . . build
hemitage there? … crosscountry last time reading with Peter October …
threw last half pack of cigarettes under KF truck wheels last nite ...
rehearse with guitar cello tonite … record Saturday spend all the money
get it on tape once for ever … move all those boxes & papers Berkeley
back to North Beach done 16 albums poetry ... telephone jangles nerves
before noon … Hum … preface to D.A. Levy poetry ... what ya put on tofu
to fry it sliced, sesame seeds? … Use lotah or small classic
indic water-pot to pour down crack between cheeks & wash w/ left while
pouring, then I wipe off with toilet paper if any, ever since India
'63—Kerouac's long discourse on clean asshole in Desolation Angels
1961 ... don't even need to wipe wetness Irving? … The bulk of Narc
agents peddle, they're completely dependent on shit for a living, my
bibliographic paper final supplement Crumb cover Whole Earth Catalogue
... maybe I win bet with Richard Helms over Long Cheng opium market & he
sit meditate hour a day rest of life … can't collect till I do it myself
... Revolutionary Letters amazing unity cultural manifesto poetry ... Mc
Clure perfect mature inexhaustible biologic poet ... Whalen totally
relax'd notebooks returned from Japan ... Hum Hum Hum Home … all the
hills echoed … weary of time ... Burroughs making movie Naked Lunch now
formed corporation ... Leary's letter sounds fresh-headed tho stuck in
elite class Karma Switzerland ... his prose improving ... Anther beard
fellow from Minneapolis, amazing long one word title poems like
''Applause'' ... rare to be given words so sweet ...
Click on any page below to get a larger image view.