John P. Dodd was the great love of my young life and a close friend until his death in 1991. After several attempts to tell his story, which never ceased to fascinate me, I organized “Johnny!” as a memoir-biography, using his own words whenever possible, as well as comments from many of his friends and colleagues.
Some additional information has come to light since the book came out in 2011 as younger members of his family have contacted me. His sister Kerry Mills reports that by the early eighties Johnny was back in touch with his family, from whom he had been painfully alienated when I knew him best. His mother and younger sister and brother visited him in New York, and he visited them in Toronto. Kerry writes: “Also, did you know [our] mother sang with Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, performed at the Ethel Barrymore theatre a few times, and was a chorus girl when she married JP’s father?” I remember Johnny telling me his mother was a stripper, but I guess that was a romantic fantasy. We were all of us cut off from our families in those days, making ourselves up anew in the heady ferment of Greenwich Village in the sixties.
Additional Texts[About Astrology]
What do the physical symbols of a sign have to do with the actual people. It would be better for a Virgo to assume an abstract form as they have a state of mind affecting them sometimes controlling them than for instance a Scorpio would have the defence of the actual scorpio to limit their physical form.[9 Feb 1964 (postcard, typed)]
Sometimes I’m happy. Sometimes I’m sad. I climbed the Lady of the Lake. Gold and Silver in her hair and not a hairbrush anywhere. She sensed I wanted something, so loosed out her only window the entire parrot collection and the sky was parrots when you touched me. With a cry and the threshing of silver she let her secret suppressed eggs fly. Her big heart was full of a thousand tiptoe feet and a delicate chuckle of satisfaction. Am probably going to be in New York next week, why don’t we have lunch on the veranda?
Diamond Lil had strayed through the weather beaten jungles and saw the sunshine on the ice and mountains in the sky.
She realized that she had nothing but the fragrance of history and the truces of that young girl waiting for disenchanted lovers perhaps never to come.
Lil thought of those friends that she never thought of. Don’t speak. Don’t say it, for my sake, for your sake, for your father forsaken, surrounded by green stones that he dare not touch.
Hardly did she reach the frothy coast when she met that green-eyed Mexican. Lily it’s just like a mother’s first Mexican baby death. Even after those few days, he was graceful when she preferred to stay with the pirates that had captured them in the Gulf Stream.
“Goodbye,” smirk, of course you can’t consider the rest but I won’t either.
Lil assumed he meant the old man that they had taken advantage of because he kept being handy, promising him a return tattered shiny career plus guidance. They stoled his umbrella and his monocle.
She stayed to mastermind herself over all possibilities and the theft of over a million dollars long since spent. It’s like riding a horse sprawling and kicking, it’s not like walking down the street.
It certainly wasn’t her fault. If only the hills could be persuaded to flounder and even to whisper their delights. They didn’t care if one of them was garrotted and then levelled and then burned. More room for all.
“An order of teeth to go” said Lil punctuating a word with a pistol shot. A lot wondered who she was.
She was on her way to a roof where a party of world famous had invited her.
Jimmy the green-eyed Mexican was there. “Good,” she thought, I can stay a while at least and put her hand near her womb for a minute.
A small breeze started toward the pavillion. A few small explosions regarded themselves lightly around her feet as she walked.
“I bet you’re going to the pavillion,” said Jimmy, turning blue against his will. “It’s that wound bite of youth that strikes my willow spent song.” Jimmy knew what he wanted.
He could be tempted with savory branches and salty tea but in the end it was mostly Diamond Lil, dope queen, salmon of salmon, fake palm reader, palm reader, farmer’s friend and city girl’s companion.
He chose a certain death of coal poisoning to a life of circumstances. Who wouldn’t, licking at that fragile face trying to smother the sounds of sacrificial doves.
Inside the rhythmic water maidens of the Aborigine Tribe were ill at ease but nevertheless painted themselves slightly and brightly in hopes of catching a glimpse of the blue-eyed fish that they had been promised.Love Letter
Dr. Abraham Abrams (this one ex-jazz musician)— Dr. Barney Miller (this one old nice vegetarian old-fashioned eccentric intellectual Thoreau-ridden)— This one there after office hours. Office hours are from morning till early evening. That’s when the early evening manekins come to woefully mend smashed dental series, and sit in the magazines sorry for the morning they woke and realized that they had endured death (never a connection) (perhaps that often-talked-about various philosopher stuff—wish I could exclude Goethe because I know there’s something else only because it’s (even scientifically) certain that there’s that one thing that is impossible to express. Goethe was no closer than Macy’s but who’ll believe it except Goethe and Macy’s but I have no feeling of finality anywhere. I’m almost afraid of discussing it with you because it must somehow (I’ll stop at nothing and will wait as long as necessary) especially because I can make mistakes and know them instantly and I am desperately afraid of stopping for a moment and end up with a (all time glorious however) I love you. I am almost certain that I forced myself you exhaust that state and have it tucked away in jasmine and lavender and I want that other thing that great men sometimes had in the foothills around their own portable mountains. Let’s try and fake it all out and build the empire state building from stones she dare not touch. I have nothing to discuss I just want to touch you and lie without sleep or rest. I know that sleep will be as good and mostly better tonight. It’s not always dangerous. It is always dangerous to scare the danger away. I’ll chop, you plant. You can have the proceeds but there won’t be any to sell because the market wants things from factories. I’ll miss you, it’s past the pattern (you have secret plans felt still from previous attempts to conquer the world). Don’t listen to me except when I say I miss you.
Letters from Europe
I considered including in the book, as an Appendix, the letters Johnny wrote to me almost every day in the summer of 1967, when he was on tour in Europe with “Black New World,” a large-scale dance-drama by Donald McKayle, and I was managing the Sundance festival theatre in Pennsylvania. These many and passionate letters are the most he ever wrote about his art and work of stage lighting. They are extraordinarily frank and open and reveal his unusual personality and way of thinking more vividly than any description I could write. I am pleased to share them here.Antwerp, May 1967
Dear Michael, How are things here at the Tourist Hotel? I saw the last ten minutes of “Land of Smiles” at the Flemish Royal. Tomorrow is Emperor and you too. I butcher the plan. It will maybe end up with a blue and yellow wash, possibly with sides of blue and gold. See how crazy I am? I miss you a lot. Things would be much better with you along. How would you like the bus scene? I thought I’d hate it but it’s so good to sleep. These towns I couldn’t get letters but in Amsterdam yes, but that’s so far away. How does Stoiber [Rudolf Stoiber, one of the producers] get his mail? He is unapproachable. I threw the cue sheet at him in Wiesbaden and said I was going to Heidelberg and if he had any sense he’d come too and forget that the prime minister of Hesse was coming. That moment passed. He is a Virgo. So is the other one Ellis [Haizlip]. The P.M. made a speech about May Wine. Wed. is TV and I can make a cue sheet. I wish we could stay in Germany. After two days (the second) I didn’t need an interpreter and the second nite had to make up cues during the show. They wouldn’t do it at first. Wasn’t written down, they said. This is so sloppy but that’s the style these days, there is no time to even approach polish.
Love JohnnyBrussells, May 1967
It’s just as well that you’re not here although I hate it. But things are bad. I am depressed and obsessed all the time There is barely one hour a day to spare because there’s always the next stop flop. Rave reviews. Torture scenes after each show. Within a few perfs Rudi may learn that I don’t thrive on his little critique sessions. He sure is a perfectionist.
Tell me more details about Soren’s play . Was it all nightmare? Is it still happening? Where are we in time? Sometimes I panic when I think of you. Love doesn’t die, it must be slaughtered. I saw a statue of Cupid with a sword today. Sometimes I panic when I think of you. How is Sundance? Maybe you can meet me in London and finish up Scandinavia with me. Amsterdamn… Oh where am I? I can’t operate quickly.
I will have more money then and will give it all to you. Next Saturday (payday) I’ll have fare home saved and can think of other things. Money is really driving me crazy now but I’ll get onto it. It goes so quickly especially with clothes cleaning. I’m so sick of chicken and french fries.
At the Beaux Arts it was all in French. Nobody spoke English. I think I can do it in German too. I wish I could do it with you. I panic when I think of you sometimes. Why can’t you be in a far off place among strangers and there lonesome bored and wondering what you’re waiting for and isn’t this convenient. I’ll never do this again but it would be good to finish it and not panic. Tell me about Sundance. Never mind the yellow pads. How about a Village Voice somewhere. I hesitate to encourage you to write because maybe you really do need some rest from me. I miss you so much like never before.ANTWERP, 23 MAY 1967
What a junta tonight in Antwerp. It makes up for Wiesbaden where the mayor was not that enthusiastic, that is he didn’t say quite enough about the wine.
I guess I’ve learned one thing in life and that’s that I love Virginia tobacco and it usually makes me happy to smoke a cigarette filled with one that is if cigarettes can be happy ever and if love can ever make you die. I spent $8.00 for a carton of cigarettes today and that’s the event plus meeting this man fat fifty and never smiling. I felt intimidated, he was light years ahead of me. (I thought “Land of Smiles” looked a little rosy.) The smaller the stage the better for me. He knew what I wanted before I said it and then polished it after I did. I love to be edited by a mayor.
The social situation is getting very twisted here, they have too much free time, I have none but tomorrow for the first time I am free until seven oclock, I’ll go to the zoo and waterfront to see the castle there. The stage manager is humorless, moody, and insists on giving me cues. He won’t take an answer, insisting on the original concept (fantasy-reality) of the director and pouting, endlessly hinting at retaliation as it’s not just show business but will be personal in a few days. It maybe was today so I’ll give him half what he asks for tomorrow as today he took twice as long leaving me only four hours. The fantasy reality vanished in Q20 when I turned the cyc orange instead of moon blue in a reality section. Rudi was translating into German and didn’t notice. He refers to lavender as lilac.
I hate to send you so many letters because for two months maybe I won’t and what will that mean besides literal action. What kind of timing should I use natural upbeat. What I’m really afraid of is not mailing it, you know how hard it is to mail the right thing, is it ever enough, do dreams come true?ANTWERP, 24 MAY 1967
Lavender is lovely. Tell Soren I made a mistake, daylite blue and lavender make moonlight as imagined or seen through looking forward into night. I have other thoughts about it now. The basic power plants enforced me to add a special and I made it lavender.
Am I going to use you as a diary, that is tell you about every specific performance? There have been four so far, two and two. After tonite I went to a movie. It was called “Agony of Love” and about a rich Jewish wife’s being a call girl in her spare time, meeting her husband in bed at the end, screams, runs in the end into a killing car. He says, “I love you, Nancy.” It was very far out for Holland.
Money is really making me crazy. I got paid $176 last Saturday. It’s now Tuesday and I have $100 plus a few francs and marks. At least once a day sometimes in steady intensity for hours I begin planning my getaway, that is sometimes even at showtime begin thinking how much money do I have. How far can it get me, to let’s say Paris or Berlin or Heidelberg or Amsterdam and how long to stay there until someone bailed me out of it and got back home again. It’s terrible feeling trapped but so easy to spend.
Hotels can be fun. The one in Wiesbaden had beer, wine, 7 Up, champagne in your icebox and fruit juice on the table but no laundry service. This one has. God it sure is two and two. Once I balance it out everything will be much better. Rudi came to Montreal (1952 instead of New York and started a German-speaking theatre which collapsed after he left. Before that he came to Brantford, Ontario, where I sometimes spent the summer. That’s the second person that I’ve met having the same relationship with the same place. Is that remote? The other was Matt Baylor who spent some time with the Eskimos or who at least has seen them. He said down in Brantford. I said down from where. He said the far north in the northwestern territories. I said down as far as the lake. The lake is the border between our two countries. Is it on it or five miles above it. Five miles above it on Mississauga Road says he the other is Brandfort on the lake between Lake Champlain. I wish I could see a movie about that lake by Ingmar Bergman. I didn’t go into it that far with Rudi when the name flashed by but he asked me if I knew the place and I said yes I did.
Never mind sending me the gels, the lights can’t use it because they’re so strong. That was a wonderful takeoff. Sure started things off right it did.
LoveTHE HAGUE, 27 MAY 1967
Dear Michael, The waiting is what really kills me and the groups of people. God the only honourable place for performance is on the stage.
The musicians are drunk. I turned on one of the dancers last night on the way to dinner. He wouldn’t leave the room. I was too paranoid to stay in the dining room and left and walked in the rain instead. Later he said it was like LSD and still wasn’t over it. The moment he was alone he went crazy.
Today at the TV studios I made a cue sheet for the 1st act of BNW and threw away Nick’s scribble. I must get control of that show so I can make cues in advance and know what they are and then make them up on paper. That seems completely impossible to do. I have to see them actually turning on and off.
The musicians are drunk and screaming in the halls. I heard the last act of “Nabucco” in the bus today. There is an opera faggot in the company, Capricorn and white too. I feel very self-conscious having a two-hour conversation about Strauss with the only other white person around. Rudi doesn’t count, he’s Viennese.
This really is another world. No one here has ever heard of the Living Theatre let along Jimmy Waring. It’s all Negro from Eartha Kitt to the “Porgy and Bess” company that toured Russia, “Raisin in the Sun” that ran in London for nine months, to Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley in Washington. Everyone’s credits are totally black and pedigree too.
My blood is boiling and all the Dutch and Germans remind me of you. I wish you were in the other bed now asleep so I could be writing someone else and telling them the Dutch look like good cheese and my heart is like a pinball machine and you get the jackpot.
(POSTCARD OF STAG IN SNOWY WOODS): The dream is but another dream. One man’s thoughts projected on the soul. The arrow is the way, the soul is the tunnel.
Great friction with the star. Maybe I’ll see you in a moment. Emotional scenes (“too dark”) after each show far overshadowing my own feelings of imperfection. Virgos love scapegoats. I don’t.BRUSSELS
Some things have to come from the heart first just because they exist but do not fulfill and the mind desires them. Then it must tell its own heart to create love and beauty in gigantic proportions. What does the mind receive as it lies dreaming? Where does my heart’s soul flee when it lies with pleasure and reports oblivion?
The reporter reports with an unsure hand, mixes the mind and the body and produces the chaos in which nothing will stand, neither love nor hate, and the soul goes wandering. The heart waters, then dries, looks at the sunshine, and wonders why.
Maybe I will see you sooner than that. Tonight I had a real crash with Rudi the producer. There’s never been a good BNW and tonite at the Circus it was horrible. All these theatres have aprons that are lit with follow spots if any venture out there (opera singer aria followers). I tell him, I tell them, and they dance right out there. Plus the projector broke tonight and he was crazy. I said, “I’ll hit you if you don’t go away.” He said, “All right if you want to be finished.” I thought how far it is to Luxembourg and didn’t cool off as usual after a few hours. If I do tomorrow in the same theatre I’ll have to stay until Saturday, payday. I hate it. Why am I here? The cyc turning purple and the stage white during the finale brought applause and he has to tell me to move the sidelites forward. Rotterdam critics said the lighting was monstrous at the midnight moviehouse, two hours setup all pink and blue only areas (red foots and blue cyc only). That’s really what he’s mad about, not Antwerp Royal Flemish “most glamorous of this year.” I have all sorts of paranoid plans such as “the cues for my salary” or “I’ll give you notice if you give me fare otherwise a surprise absence.” What can I say but I’ll walk into the ocean and please come too. You start on that side and I’ll go out my window here. The moon must be full but I can’t see it.
Like similar stories among the classics this saga of hatred and power frustration may have to come to an aborted end and I will have to let a destructive force continue in its own story where far away where I can’t tell the tale.
I haven’t worn a necklace yet or painted my eyes white. I would sooner do it for my parents or grandmother on her wedding day.
I saw a concentration camp out the window of the bus today outside Brussels. The bus driver points out war places over the loudspeaker. He’s quite kicky in a cloutish way. That’s perhaps too mean. Yesterday he told me the complete history of Belgium. (It’s left in a corner now, he says.) Occasionally he gets lost and once had an accident in front of the hotel while assembled company was waiting an hour. Sometimes he gets lost making shortcuts too. “This job is going to put me in an asylum.” “I’m going to quit next year because my wife thinks I’m a stranger. I even go to the winter sports.”
The projector died at the Circus. It was quite a hangup and will be back for Frankfurt. A crazy man named Otto killed it with transformers.
If I ever conquer this show can I keep it there? I can do it in six-seven hours with good conditions MAYBE but not yet in less. It’s always chaos and the social reverberations from these imperfect performances have thus far inspired me to spend hours figuring the least moves to move fastest out of a big hotel into a moving taxi. This is the closest we’ll ever be to Luxembourg. My window looks out on a courtyard with bushes. This is a fine hotel (not the Grand, which was a nightmare physically and spiritually, but the Plaza, you never know what those names mean). This one has stationery already provided on the desk by the window. I’m reading “Strange Interlude” because I have to have another life other than strangeness. It must soon become more of a pleasure, otherwise I can’t remain within and fly out of the immediate range of joy.
I move further from the sea now and still further than the sun. My average arrival into the days is about 8 AM. Everything in this room is beautiful. One wall is mirror, another windows, and the others light French blue. There is an excellent light fixture store chandelier with a few remaining crystals. Wherever I am I am always wishing to be with you.FRANKFURT, 5 JUNE 1967
Well Heerlen really happened, the first perfect performance. The cast was good and the audience ecstatic. I told him it would take at least ten.
8 a.m. Now I am in a train for Köln Koblenz Wiesbaden and Frankfurt. The bus follows. It’s 2 a.m. there and I wonder what you are doing. This letter is written entirely in motion. Rudi is explaining how the Austrians are not Germans. Germany is merely a crazy idea of Hitler’s that the world still clings to.
They had a guitar-playing street demonstration in Munich and the police rode their horses into the cafes. It’s raining now and all the people are sleepy. I forgot the plan for Frankfurt.TILBURG, 7 JUNE 1967
Michael, I’ve been up for three days now and your letter certainly was a thrill even though it contained mainly misfortunes . After wherever four hours sleep then car to Heerlen then two hours then train to Frankfurt just in time to see last act of “Aïda” rehearsal then setup-perf, then after bows right into bus to Tilburg ten hours to now, the perf is just over.
Nick was in Frankfurt. It was quite a jolt to see him appear in the booth during curtain calls. The chief there kept insisting I do the cues only on paper circuit style like Nick did last week, he says ‘probably’ I could have done it but morally decided against it I grabbed Rudi’s throat when he came back, “You’ve overdone yourself in darkness tonight.” Nick was saying, “You overlit the entire first act, it’s too bright.” He was only there for ½ hour and we got on our separate buses. I felt much better afterwards as he said he loved it and I know he didn’t but at least he saw all my added specialties, center white specials, cyc tricks, etc., added and cut cues. La Mama was playing “White Whore” in the other theatre through the backstage corridors. There are three theatres in the same (same night) building. I tried to see them in a ½ hour coffee hand break but got lost in the corridors instead.
Tomorrow is Hamburg travel to. The schedule is variating. Don’t let me scare you. Antwerp wants us for two weeks sometime because of insane reviews. A critic in Heerlen said it looked like ancient Greece. Paris wants us too but nothing is definite. That’s for sure. I was going to ask Rudi for a raise today instead of yesterday (instead I choked) on the basis of astrological advice from a magazine but he went ahead on to Hamburg. His advice from same sources says don’t commit yourself. “Promise is most given when least said.” Maybe I’ll say if he says I’ll tell you later or something that he should get someone else by Berlin. He’s not making much money as Alvin Ailey is going lots of places first and bloodsucking the audience. Everyone’s mad at Alvin Ailey because he stole half the cast two weeks before departure including Nick by offering them twice the months and twice the money.
Your horoscope says that June is a favorable month to marry a friend. Now I have to read that and accept the consequences There are so few realities in my life at this moment and you seem to remain one of them even though there aren’t many—the work and the moment that goes with it resulting afterwards and therefore inbetween. Then I sought to search for other diversions than pressure and torment. I may smoke a whole joint tonight before I go to bed. I’ve smoked seven altogether since. So there are drugs fantasies and you and the music of romance.
SiegfriedHAMBURG, 8 JUNE 1967
Thursday midnite. Michael— Maybe I will see you soon. I said to Rudi today, “I would like to have a conversation with you could w……” He looked at me like I was a jew and said tomorrow!
The hotel situation is getting incredibly bad, negroes kicked out of one in Tilburg, cast paying for two nites staying one because of “mixed up reservations.” Tonite I share a double room with George the driver. Lots of times lots of people have to share rooms but never before me and I’ll have to verbalize that too besides asking for $50 more a week. He’ll say as has he to others, “I can’t help it’s very bad work to get enough rooms there’s always a festival on.” I don’t know what to say then but I do know that it can’t all be a drag, there must be some pleasure somewhere not just by accident, and if I can’t ever go on tour again OK or ever advance into the world of leisure in art OK, I can return to New York and piddle for years. Fate has always been good even through destruction. After Frankfurt I know I can do it now and in ten more performances there is a possibility of another level via finery and fine points. Maybe I should be able to do this immediately. What drove Rudi the craziest was when he said when is this show going to be lit properly & I said in ten perf. Now I know it will be at least twenty and not some mystical mythical ideal too but what the public or naked eye sees.
It would be very nice to stay in Germany and work. It’s much harder because all the other countries let you smoke on the stage during setup. Only the stage hands are around. There’s no one else to be around except clerical demigods. I never do unless the “Chief” does. He’s called something else in Belgium and Germany and has an office but these have been opera houses too. I can sit in these offices and plan the whole thing out. Both have been calm like there was all the time in the world, “Have a cigarette,” then everything’s good. Then if at the end of completion after remaining anonymous ask for about 40-55% more it’s better than good. Then it gets more dangerous as the personnel gets more refined yet, just me and the board operator and the chief, then he goes after the cues are set. They call Golden Amber Rembrandt in Tilburg. It’s when I walk on the stage and then all of a sudden after hours waiting someone puts all the lites on on the bridge saying where should I focus this and what colour. Last night was all yellow. Rudi said of an earlier performance, “Can’t you make it anything else but a continual warm summer sunset?” and something like “It’s all afternoon.” I thought of that when the gel choice was straw or canary for the areas and the choice was red or Rembrandt for the sides, never enough for cool too. “Don’t use red, you make them look like devils.” The only colour that really came out of footlites was yellow and the front lites were yellow so beautiful and amber too with red and “Rosa.” The performance was crummy because I lost it during the cues. Sometimes I changed the colour in the fronts, as a cue yellow to red, and that kind of excited me. Some objected to the sound Bzzzzz click six times one at a time left to right sort of overlapping like a wave. Somewhere where, if, they are more silent it would be fun to make an abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz cue. How far can I go? I said at Frankfurt, “I want some green in this” (horizon panorama) and he put on two mangy leftover leaf patterns and looked at me glintingly. It didn’t look like anything good, just like two lekos, so I changed it blue and available red and let it go. No one mentioned it so I guess I can go quite far by only mastering the mechanics. I can hear Chinese music playing somewhere in Hamburg now.GIESSEN, 12 JUNE 1967
Now it’s the endless German forests and cognac and I had nearly a good time for the first time in Hamburg. The master was a master and we played volleyball. He was much better at the game, as good as the man in Antwerp. BNW was too dark as usual because of the most beautiful colours I’ve ever seen mixed to ‘match’ my colour samples. I made a follow spot duet for the 2nd perf though.
I asked Rudi for a raise. He nearly fainted. I told him I have a remarkable job offer in Indiana doing “Kiss Me Kate.” “Why does this appeal to you?” he says. “Because I don’t get anyone telling me it’s too dark after each perf.” All that has stopped. Instead I got the vaguest of vague promises to renew the conversation in the Holland festival two wks from now. This is another mobile missile. It has taken so long to find you. Do I bring you words to make you free? The sunset is slowly sinking miles away and I am bouncing and the wind is fermenting through the Cologne. I don’t know what to do. Give me some advice on how to get this raise in salary. Maybe it’s not important now. I feel the smallest surge of confidence. My astrology magazine says not to expect a raise at the Holland Festival. I’m afraid to read yours or mine until next month. In a few days this will all have been a month that’s happened.
There is a small castle lit up in the distance, one moment among the multitude.
Don’t be at loose ends, these things are natural things of a chaotic life you have chosen. Somehow it is the best and will be nothing but better. This is not the interlude but always the prelude. I will come back and make you happier than ever and joy myself will be on my lips for you. Come down to the bottom with me, you won’t drown. Floating is the best swimming and the waves are the best whispers but don’t listen, just listen to me and tell me I adore you and let me panic and the calm will come later.
Love JohnnyZURICH, 14 JUNE 1967
Michael, I really love it what you say about loneliness because it’s true and I know it and the word changes to melancholy then french windows and Brahms then Chopin and chiffon. This is all beyond the torment too with the lion of language always near sniffing out its prey.
Giessen was a real gas, what a pleasure, a dump of a theatre but a forty fat dyed redhead of a Chief with a real love of lighting crying because the theatre didn’t think it important and he had to buy equipment on the sly (expenses). All the lights were freaks, nothing matched. The crew was idiot 15-year-olds on summer vacation, one 90 lbs blond anemic red-eyed and crazed (board), one fat swishy and funny, the other beautiful Germanic and so stupid he was running into walls. I hated him because he could have destroyed the whole scene. “Don’t put them on the floor,” I says. “They are good there,” he says (cyc) and proceeds. So I had to take them (wood boxes with litebulbs) and put them back in the cellar. From then on things went up, on to gelling the work lite, wiring on gels, more lites from another theatre, rehearsing the follow spot duet in the intermission, changing gels between cues, and the climax was the white man murdering the nigger when I flashed the proscenium work litebulbs on the gunshot.
Now that the subject is here and hot I’ll indulge it and talk about Sundance areas. As you know I more than ever now favour the headlite system straight on. The box lekos were one on each pipe I think like this [sketch of center lights crossing] but they weren’t much good that way. Try another. It takes years and I don’t believe in change just because I know it will never be perfect. There is no such thing as stagnation. Sometimes I worry when I see more pieces of my life disappear and be replaced with theatrical ideals and ideas that first of all there is the danger of the world and more important you may decide that this is all there is, that it is my vision and you are less than the most beautiful light that heaven can make and all others are visionary and beautiful because. Well I would stop like that either for the danger or just for you, let’s say for a year to prove a point. I’m not suggesting this, just that your disposal is limitless and sometimes when I worry it comes to mind.
I think I can do more than Nick because I take longer. Forever believe he is the best is another story. I can surrender completely and completely destroy my foe. Nick is not a romantic, he has grasped his vision looked it in the eye. Our ambitions are quite different. I am never past your help, what you can do is beyond Nick (tricks and lavender), you are always elevated, beyond the senses above the hands, look at your own hands and see what I mean.
Ludwig and Wagner sounds wonderful, I really am sorry I didn’t do it but saw it much better than I thought it was. Maybe I will do the movie version. Charles doesn’t know about romance but what an excellent choice anyway.
I really want to make a movie about sunsets. Corniness is nothing to conquer. That really happened, didn’t it. Genius is another thing and Albert Einstein is something else, not genius, it doesn’t linger, it flashes, you see it through a doorway lingering not waiting. It passes by like an intersection.
Dusseldorf is out, we go directly to Amsterdam and stay nine days. I think the mail is forwarded according to these delays. What do Rudi and the others do? The changes are a surprise to him too. Business is very bad. Sometimes producers see shows (bad ones) elsewhere (the Dusseldorf man sees it in Brussels, e.g.) and cancel out. Sometimes they see a good one (only a couple so far) and ask for extra weeks. German TV will be squeezed in somewhere.
Today I cut my hair (Italian barber) and went into my escape route and bought a new suede coat similar to the beads. It was extra hard to tell the chief electrician of the Frankfurt opera that the corners were dull when he thought I was too eccentric to know. After the Giessen thing I knew that was not the crusade I was on. It is quite short but I love it, nearly one month to the day. I dressed completely in brown with black tie for Frankfurt (Hitler Youth). Rudi was in the Austrian army very young offers college education, elite corp being saved (marching always at nite to avoid detection) for the final victory by Hitler, as the Russians closed in he deserted to the woods. Sometimes he speaks to me in German when he gets a little drunk and in translating lite cues. We get very crazy together then and it’s really the only place we can meet. He is a Virgo like Ludwig. I don’t trust him much but admire his madness. I wish he was Wolfgang and miss him and think of him often.
I don’t need grass yet. Just yesterday finished the joints you made to fill the cigarette case. Don’t worry about letters being poetry. That’s another form. Don’t worry about love being letters, that’s what letters are.
Ellis is quite mad (outwardly like Ondine). He never mentions lights to me but gave a speech to Bill Louther (star), Margaret (conductor), and me about Zurich being the MOST important, international press present, NY Times, diplomats that was worthy of Diaghilev. He took us to dinner. I learned to eat artichokes and waded in fingerbowls. It was quite grand. Virgos know about grandeur. I threw my astrology magazine away because it gave a dismal prediction for today. Ripping it in half would have been going too far. More follow spot cues. I asked Bill if he could see his way around on the stage if I turned all the other lights out. We were very drunk on Russian vodka (tasted like sherry). He said A L L ! ! ! then let’s try it. This is the beginning of the second level. He said he hasn’t been satisfied. I said, “Ho ho never?” That later went into “contentment for some is satisfaction for many.” The whole thing shifted to the second level. Ellis did it but I knew he saw he could do it when I got a haircut. He told Bill to make a curtain speech in order to be a star. Margaret wants more microphones. She sometimes plays Rachmaninoff, practicing while I set cues, being a music teacher from Harlem (also Virgo). She also has a sense of humour.
Maybe by not forcing yourself it will happen. If it’s not pleasure ignore it. Punish yourself that way without a burning obligation. Reviews are writing, it’s coming out of you, remember.
It’s now ten and I have to go to the opera house, doesn’t that sound nice? This week has been kicky—Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Zurich.ZURICH, 15 JUNE 1967
Michael, It finally happened. I went tonite where I never went before and it truly is the beginning of the second level of this trip. Everyone was good (not as good as they can be), and when the curtain opened for calls there was a roar and the audience stood and cheered.
My personal excellence depended on the follow spot duet made several performances ago, two red ones crisscrossing (tanzing) on the mirrors, a white one added to a solo to the trumpet. Tonight all the other lites went out so it was a solo that blends right into a duet, the countess enters in white feathers white sequins and rhinestones and they dance together each in their white follows, then the diagonals come on all purple, the towers both are for diagonals [sketch]. Then there’s that section getting progressively hotter. B.O. All up with every blue lite in sight for solo in yellow (golden amber) follow that blends into the finale. It’s terrifying. What will I do in Nyemin where they have twenty lites, imbecile waitresses, no gels, and a followspot that falls asleep so the dancers break legs. They have to leap. It is very dangerous up here.
I met a boy with a monocle last dinner with the artichoke. Ellis outgoing invited him to our table looking like the tubercular intellectual in “Remembrance of Things Past” was eating smoked raw venison. I had a piece. “How can you like such eccentric food?” says he. “Because I think of it as philosophy,” say I. He took out a monocle, put it to my eye, and said, “Do you see something?” I don’t want a monocle now. That’s probably the first conversation I’ve had with a person. Wait, buying trousers the clerk said I should wear my joint on the left side for a better line. I tried it and it feels better. I will probably send you my beaded jacket because it’s falling apart and my suitcase is full.AMSTERDAM
Rosenkavalier by Strauss is supposedly a “Mozart Opera” that is ‘like’ or toward. Mozart has been called various rich blue pale green and others too mutitudinous to investigate under a discussion of Strauss.
Rosenkavalier is the most well known and could best be described as lavender. Lavender at its best is beautiful. Morning can be lavender (German). Evening can be lavender too and its silver cousin the pope.
Silver is an easier subject to discuss and blue is a heavy mood to be stuck with but Rosenkavalier blue can come in handy. Like all good colours. An opera must be more beautiful all the time until you come to the Presentation of the Rose when the music is so ecstatic you can’t listen and the stage must writhe in splendor.
Now after a lovely morning, a crazy afternoon, and a lesson in love to match misery, where can you go? What can you give the vanishing audience? A fanatic would say WHITE the purer (after splendor what can please an appetite), a romantic would say silver. To please everyone and not lose your cool (lavender) too you must use Rosenkavalier blue.
It is so hard to be bright and powerful and still retain a mood or extend a poetic (or let’s just say the stage) point stated in the first act, embellished in the second, and attempt to raise it to heaven in the third. Heaven is bright and Rosenkavalier will do if you call it blue.AMSTERDAM, 21 JUNE 1967
The follow spots are up to their old tricks again. Setting of cues I told them colour, entrance place, and cue exit. On all levels they were ecstatic (excellence, dependability) and during the leap in the air dance they leaped and did hoops. They throbbed, anything you would want to do and more. They were playing dancing in the air (natural born). Tonight at curtain my message says, “The _ _ _ too bright =”dizzy"= can’t see it. The entrance of the follow spot blues. I said that’s because it’s white, strong, and focused exclusively on the body. It’s too late to add stage lites (suggested). I’ll make it pink (pink like clouds) and bigger.
This is so boring. They played leap frog during the curtain calls. How far will trifles take you? Oh dear what will the matter be? I want to use six during the mirror dance and other cues (with one two or three) gradually added.
Aren’t you lucky to get another episode of the follow spot saga? What else is there to do but fight about nothing. Important things???? I asked Bill to please talk to me in the future (exact reversal of original—"talk to the producer about your problems"), afraid he’d jump into the orchestra pit, etc. Last nite on the stage during a leap and jump the spot lost him and lay helpless on the floor but he jumped backwards and picked it up. No one but a birdwatcher would have caught it. I’ll leave the sides on glow.
Here we are in Amsterdam. Maybe I shouldn’t change the subject but something else should happen. I looked for a Sigma theatre but it was closed so says a cab driver. Arrival was about 9 pm amidst great confusion and I took a daring foray into the woods. The French knew how to deal with the Indians, they gave them gifts for about an hour. 8 am is a train to Niejwn with Walter (stage manager) to set up for a 4 o’clock rehearsal, not a dress but separate. It’s impossible to have all things rehearsing at once. That’s the performance.AMSTERDAM
[written in a program for “Orfeo” by Monteverdi, with sketches of stage plan and lights] This is what I never thought opera could be, a circus, the games. The Carré looks like large versions of Broadway house, a Metropolitan of the haggard mind but with quite more many crystal chandeliers. They took the orchestra seats out. All the action took place there. The proscenium was sealed mostly up used mostly as entrances through holes to give it depth and sometimes smoke was fumed through to give the illusion of Hades.
It looks like the Polish Lab has been here, hundreds of people on stage doing violently different distracting things, arias and ballets together. The conductor threw kisses to the orchestra. What a thrill!
Sometimes singers appeared at balconies, theatre (audience) ones, that is real ones, and sang unexpectedly A man who spoke Latin (Enter ye all who hopes last leave it here) sat next to me. There is a special Monteverdi audience just like Handel’s. Looks like bird. I don’t know what this looks like. Sometimes an aria would make everything else move in slow motion. Light cues were taken as musical climaxes (many small ones) even in arias. Sometimes you also wondered what happened to the twenty people who had been dancing a moment ago. They turned in and out of the scenery too.
The only trouble was the singers. The leads should not have been played by professional opera singers but by members of a sister musical form such as extremely trained church singers or Robert Shaw Chorale soloists. The fact that they were singers made it singers had to have staging too, action to move around, even act if necessary, which could under certain circumstances interrupt the flow of Monteverdi’s river of music and pure spectacle. There were hundres of times where hundreds of lights barely changed but maybe one point. They were all pale amber, white, and blue. There was a dwarf in the Italian nobleman’s court (Lorenzo Medici or his father had one too) and Hades was played as an Italian nobleman dressed in black.ROTTERDAM, 22 JUNE 1967
Reading your letter here at Den Haag makes me tremble inside. Don’t waste up and die honey. Maybe I’m losing my cool but I could have said that to Cino and maybe not to Freddy but I didn’t when the thing to say is to shoot some yourself too. Ondine is cognac and all the world’s aristocracy too but remember your life. You have one you know. How can I say this to make you pay attention and still tell you just that I’m worried about you and how close that shooting madness and death are together. Joe didn’t really know he was or why he was crazy or why the torment was beyond measure. I wish you would teach yourself that you are as fine a writer without A. Of course it’s harder.
You know how things in letters look how easy to continue pleasure when it’s there. I realize this is dangerous this letter a new position. You have a lot to lose but you can’t lose me. There is such a thing as can’t stop. Ondine is the only one who can do both that is can and can’t. Don’t try to match him that’s what killed Joe Cino trying to match the kids uptown.
I will be back soon and will never go away again like this. I’ll bring you back so much that it will take years to give it to you. Remember I will always bear fruits of pleasure. It’s very hard to write letters about anything but lites and social problems but that is the smallest things happening the rest you will see and feel. Jewels in reserve and jewels for your treasure.
Now about how I loathe you for your lust and love for adulterous beds. I see young boys with smooth bodies blond heads and German minds too. You are less hindered and more restless than I and even then must do this. Have some nice tricks but don’t gamble with me. You can have everything I will even help you later. Remember you once said to me “Careful don’t fall” Well I say the same but don’t slip away don’t get stuck with an inferior product. There is so much to do and I see lifetimes ahead beyond your adulterous beds beyond your disappearance because of a time lapse. This is really making me crazy. I’ve never thought of you like this. European dicks don’t suit me the shape and not circumcized. I will send you $200 anytime and more by that time. What do you think? Do you want me to tell you more about how I adore you DESIRE you and how you should be near me and not trying to retreat or find a way out.ROTTERDAM, 22 JUNE 1967
What do you mean what do I think? I know that after a month jerking off doesn’t work anymore. Should I tell you about blond German boys instead of black German thoughts? I think you should follow your heart’s desire and ignore the mind. Defeat the soul and it will love you. How can I answer that? Go and have millions of tricks, get you a summer holiday lover to hold you. Remain absolutely pure until I get back. See what kind of energy you get from that. That is connected with ecstasy. Just stay away from danger and pleasure will pursue you, don’t worry.
If it was winter I would say frozen is fresh but it’s not and you can’t freeze properly in the summer. Do only what you can do. Want only what you can’t. What a wild letter you sent making me really crazy, especially this afternoon going into the theatre. The “Electric” said don’t ever read mail on the stage. He is the best one yet, dapper, sixty, funny. “Ha ha you only use #11 in ballets.” He sent a woman to Rotterdam to buy the colours he didn’t have, $4.00 a sheet. “Don’t use light blue and Rembrandt sides, use #19 (Urbano).” I did and what a surprise. The whole performance was a complete surprise. I don’t remember setting any of these cues, in fact came by forgetting the pad that said what, all I had was the script saying when. Plus it’s a full moon. It took three hours today and the audience nearly booed the show. He told me to focus on the empty stage without the scenery. Walter nearly had a fit and blamed mistakes (things not struck) on this method. However things will be much better next week. I will be in Berlin, the end of my reserve enthusiasm for this tour unless I continue finding little pleasure politics. We agree on absolutely all subjects.HEERLEN, 23 JUNE 1967
Well today is sure a shocker. Nick came unannounced to the show and told me it was positively horrble. Everything possible was wrong. He was right, too sloppy, too bright, etc. I don’t really feel bad though because it probably was as perfect as it will get already (Antwerp and last night). Tonight was flashy green cyc, flashing Urbano blue stage with white center down lite. He said I was ignoring the form, not establishing a clear rebellion form. So tomorrow I’ll take all his suggestions, restraint, darker, no sensational effects. Sunday we are meeting in the Hague (my day off) to take LSD, he, his Swedish trick Orion, and I. I’ll tell him about the follow spots of BNW then and go on to Berlin the next day
I really hate failing so much but there are so many things I don’t have time to learn and time is limitless to me. Maybe they will never be learned and I’ll be limited to sensationalism.
I guess I like powerful people. In Connecticut we were shown to the guest room to sleep. The morning waking we’re much closer. I thought how disgusting, how can I get out of this one. He said, “No one has to know what happened, this is between you and me.” That made it much easier to jump quickly out, say, “Rise and shine,” smile, and he was cool enough to do the same, smile and start the day. Later was different when he turned on me and I said, “I don’t think I do want to run the board,” awkward moment then on again. That’s why I didn’t want you to ask him about the Obie, not because of the morning but the afternoon. I hate retaliation measures unless they are immediate and honest (that is, open).
Tonight was another. In the midst of how terrible, unprofessional, etc., “From the little I’ve seen of your work I thought you were much better.” I said you better say something very nice soon because I just stopped listening. These were just flashes, two flashes in a yeartime relationship. What has happened? Where am I?— On the train back to Amsterdam because I missed the company bus after the performance due to conversation.
When I don’t like powerful people is when they play power games with me because I don’t have any nor never will have. That’s why I’m there, not to play with but as a relief from that, and when the game begins I can only try to destroy the relationship, the only choice (move) I can offer.
I feel lately that these letters are not the ones to receive. I feel completely alone, absolutely isolated, with you as my only escape. Nobody has anything to offer and what am I offering you but my torment, not even as it’s being lived but second hand. There is no relief. If you were here with me I could say all this in a moment or you could see it and there would be no point in saying it. Everything, every beautiful thought goes into the performance and nothing comes out. I have no one to play to. Nobody knows what I’m doing, not even me, but I will later and so will you, you’ll see it (I don’t mean on the stage) or I’ll tell you or something. That’s why the details are now, and the moment is later.
I really want to say something to you about that book you’re writing but all I can think of is how Strauss had a glass floor put into the Vienna Opera so he could lite from beneath. Von Stroheim or whoever it was saying, “More rose petals” falling in Hollywood for a love duet, thousands and thousands of dollars of rose petals for one moment. These are the things that will tie you down if you pay any attention. Don’t do research. That’s hard to read. Get those words down even if they’re boring. It’s so hard to think of something new to say. I’ve said all this. Don’t let the word German limit what you hear me saying, it’s an adjective, limited like any other.
If you really do want some suggestions or whatever can be got from me, think of a way to do it. (I can keep a secret.) You already have a style that can’t be damaged. Just get the words, don’t try (taxi to hotel now) for anything too hard. You have a whole lifetime for that and many books to write. I live right around the corner (there it is) from our former hotel here. Now it’s time to go to bed and you begin your day.
Send me some marijuana (rolled maybe). Not much. Buy some more lights, maybe one. Even why not send me some part of your book to read. Is this going too far? I will accept-invent any role for you in this. That’s not a declaration, I just don’t want to seem pushing.
Utrecht in the morning, the end of the Holland Festival. I feel as if I flunked the Holland Festival but that’s all right. This is the time for that. Remember we talked about that.AMSTERDAM, 26 JUNE 1967
Your whole shipment was wonderful. It arrived at the end of a perfect day. Rudi arrived unexpected from Berlin. I’m getting things sooner than I should. The schedule is stable if not vague, no names given for some city theatres. I signed his name to my pay receiver receipt tonight.BERLIN, 7 JULY 1967
I feel as if I just met you. The only trouble with masturbation is that it ends. The only other choice is to let it linger, see what the body will do when the mind thinks of it as one thing and flows for once through and on to…… Where does it flow to then? What does the meadow lark say to the spring?
What about those pkgs I send? Do they arrive? I don’t trust the mails. The baggage at Berlin stole my Egyptian St. Christopher medal. I want to send another before it gets broken but won’t until I’m sure. Maybe that’s too much already at the VV.
Do you remember that good barber in London? Any Italian will do. Otherwise they should be good
I hate Berlin and will be very happy to leave. All I feel is the terrible melancholy of last time here, of seeing you unhappy and myself miserable for seeing it and letting it surround us. Now it’s still here and I feel the city is poisoned for me. Up until I called you I was totally engulfed in the madness of the theatre and couldn’t get out, but afterwards every street corner was pressing on my heart and the sky hurting my brain to think I already have lost some part of you. Maybe I’m supposed to feel that because it’s Berlin and I’m caught now in another current of gloom. But soon I will be in Venice and everything will be pizzicato (the fast section of the 2nd movement). Amsterdam must be marking time. Where is the finale, the must sought climax? What city does love grow? What mean of sometime will pleasure bloom?
Ravi Shankar congratulationsMILANO, 17 JULY 1967
Michael— Venice really flashed by. Wow! I knew it would be crazy. My bag and cue sheet was left in Munich (change). The setup was pure Rossini. I never left the theatre, first day I thought set up & make cues next morning. It took all day to set up the bars for the side lites. The next day (sets still at the airport) it took 8 AM – 12:30 PM to assemble & select gels the MOST BEAUTIFUL I have EVER seen. I’m on a train (six hours) to Farno [?], Rudi will run the second show tonight in Venice. If there was ever a show I wish you’d seen it was this one in Venice. The setup was so crazy. Everyone was panicked. The crew would vanish. The chief would say scusi and not show up for two hours, crew would be sleeping in the aisles There was hardly any lites, 25 maybe. Any theatre could have done it in an hour. At 7 PM we were half done. I had a minor chair-kicking tantrum and the crew began to sing so I lay down on the stage and went to sleep. That made a small impression.
Obviously I had no control over this setup but the performance was another thing. It was madness of the most cherished theatrical degree. Pre curtain was the follow spots playing on the turquoise velvet curtain with gold gondolas. I didn’t notice until Rudi said bursting in, “What are the follow spots doing because the house is in already?” I was busy finding out the mechanics of the house lites—fluorescent tubes behind glass on ceiling, two that were yellow, red, blue, and white that together made a lite that cannot be described, like pastel LSD mist. You could run your fingers through the air in that room. I said don’t worry about a thing Rudi they just arrived and what colour do you want the house lites in the intermission, red or blue. Please take out the yellow and white now before the curtain goes up. Then it went up unannounced before the house was out and the work lite still on. I can’t tell you any more how crazy it was. The Electrician was a Scorpio. He was not about to be less crazy than me. I love Scorpios. The Italians can do no wrong. I hate the Germans, all they can do is excellence and not even that if you don’t have the right prescription. The curtain fell down broken during the curtan call. I was screaming bravo and singing opera through the intercom, the follow spots were dancing in the audience, and the house lites were flashing red blue yellow white, chandeliers red yellow red yellow red red red yellow white white white. Assistant electrician saying what color do you want flash flash flash, I’d answer orangeade. The front lites were automatique changers. Guess what they were doing.
Rudi ran the 2nd show there while I was setting up with my Italian interpreter Ernesto Meninger, Hungary American 200 lb unemployed dramatic opera singer just finished working eight years in Germany and behind the iron curtain. The first thing the communists did in Hungary was to fire all the queers in Hungarian opera. He said he added a follow spot cue (Rudi 2nd nite).
Fana [?] was on a platform under the balcony in the court of the Malatesta family palazzo. The electrician couldn’t read. All cues must be given verbally. I didn’t even see that performance. The most fun of setting the cues (about twenty w/ five dimmers & five switches) was deciding which blue lites to leave on (lighting various balustrades and balconies, windows, railings, campanile, etc.) during the performances. I said there is no curtain, how will the cast get on unseen? He said (this is a communist town) turn the shrubbery lites on the audience (1000W), then they won’t be able to see the stage.
I love the Italians. Dare I go on in their praise and how I feel completely lost in unknown emotions neutral and glorious? The train trips are hot and heavy without break between setup and just try to do something, sleep (hardly), trip, etc. We arrived (my interpreter and I) on the suburb hill overlooking Florence through a festive piazza to the Etruscan amphitheatre at 10 o’clock when the bells to the entrance church attached to Teatro San Romano rang for one hour while the electrician (from Florence opera) focused the lights, 17 blue, 16 yellow, 16 pink. Then we talked about various refreshing ways of doing “Romeo and Juliet” and at 11 o’clock fireworks started happening in the sky from the piazza. This continued throughout setting of cues which were without pink and yellow gels because he has to get them from the opera tomorrow. He had one piece of each on hand which was put into each one of the eight just to give the impression. He stopped actually turning them on after Q25 and I didn’t even notice we were going so fast. Then he said let’s stop and watch the finale. I’d even forgot the fireworks were happening. After that I said cut out the rest of the cues go to the finale. He said let’s drink some wine first. They just don’t want to work in Italy, their pay is very low and often they don’t get it and very few really do it for a living whatever that is. Italy is off off broadway Etruscan amphitheatres and antique palazzos. What next? There is a fishing village (all train trips are five-six hours) with a genuine fisherman running the board.
These are bushes in flower pots shoulder height. [Drawing of a semicircular stage with bushes] After all requests for a crossover device were discarded I said if the plants were only shoulder height instead of waist that could be the ideal thing for a crossover. They’re bringing them from the Pitti Palace tomorrow. There is a kind of wooden tower than can be erected holding plenty of lites and man. With stairs that is not offensive with a landscape. Footlites could be fluorescent tubes behind glass.
The plants arrived and were a great success. Get out yourself among the plants. Don’t take a typewriter or any German philosophers. That’s why you are there, not to escape society because it’s there too. You won’t be using my personality because there’s nothing new under the sun.
Rudi ran the second show in Fiesole while I went on in the day to set up Santo Stefano (nearby island to Elba). Young Virgo electrician from Rome says, “Out of the question to gel tonight. Set cues? Don’t be ridiculous. If you have a good lighting man why can’t he call them as the show is going on?” Ernesto translated to him that I wasn’t going to be here but a ballerina with a broken leg was going to run the show and she needed a cue sheet. Anyway there’s a hundred cues or two a minute. He said he didn’t care, he hoped there was 900, but this is the Italian way (that’s why Amneris’s temple falls down at La Scala). I am interested in the Italian way, said I, because it’s crazy. He said not crazy but good. Our theatre is better than the Germans. I bowed and said Domani.
Why does there have to be a performance to face all philosophy? Why must our hearts be eaten by the same words that feed them? Motives are the words’ revenge. Every hunch can be made good for a moment, that’s why I believe in them too, in fact sometimes worship them as divine providence given to an empty world. The audience knows nothing and has to be told everything. That’s why it is just as important not to have anything to say that they can hold against you, that is as soon as they can prove it or if you can prove it to them. Books with a solid philosophy behind them are never written for the public, they are written for each other. It seems a shame to throw it away completely because it is a good idea even though I wish Marlene Dietrich had told me something about Erich von Stroheim instead of egg waffles. Why can’t the index be interesting too like stage directions could be if they wanted to?
What you have seen and what you have done and all you have to go by that you can prove (secretly or publicly). They are cornerstones and walls to a palace of words that may lead to information and who knows where.
Romance and nobility are safely concealed not confused with the world that knows them not and would destroy them if it did.
I took back less cable than I brought. If the footlites were good enough you wouldn’t need those poles.
Another dancer has sprained the leg that fed her. Tonight was mostly a disaster. A violent collage with people that don’t take advantage of chaos to be outrageous. There is too much time lost in giving the cues verbally. On the whole it was a mess except in the finale when I said, “Now we do a crossfade duet until the end of the show.” The audience broke into wild applause. Ernie just broke into my room, caught me with marijuana smoking. I loathe him now because he wakes me up on the train, is a boor, and won’t translate verbatim my insults to the Italians, hoping to tone them down or colour their humour therefore making them gross like him. I hate him. Everything is falling apart and everyone is getting cheated except me. I mostly have a good time and sometimes better like during the finale tonight. Rudi said what was the matter, why did it look like someone was playing them on a piano? I burned him with a cigarette.
It looks like arrival in London will be delayed three days because of Hamburg television. In Italy lighting people have more power than anywhere in Europe. Their boss is the impresario only, hence not powerful people (with the public), hence the impresario cannot command him. He owns the equpment and runs it himself with few if any assistants. A one-night show takes two or three days, set up, set down. The greater part of everything is on switches. I don’t know what I’m used to. This one felt like the first show I ever lit.
It’s quite possible I sold the stamps to Remy [Charlip]. I really don’t remember. I remember vaguely a conversation w/ Billy [Linich] in which he said, “It shouldn’t just be left behind (Stanley [Amos] left), can I take it to the factory?” That wall was made only for you as a courting present. As for its actual existence it shouldn’t be stored, it should be a wall with doors in it. That’s why it should be at Third Street even if it falls into obscurity. I don’t necessarily want it near me, that is in a residence, but I leave it up to you to decide. It’s always been yours but I guess I didn’t tell you. It is not a painting or a collage or a work of art. It must be walked through. Is the whole thing at the factory? It couldn’t be. You can remove door frames but not walls. Damn Billy. It should be destroyed now that it’s been despoiled. I don’t want it where I live but Sundance is fine. There is no place I love more than home than Sundance.
By all means use those gels. They are mostly behind me at this point. I can’t mail you this letter until Amsterdam. Every ounce of my existence has to go to Italy. Tonight I set up Torino. Tomorrow I write a cue sheet (ala Nick Cernovich) for the evening performance.
It looked good the first time in Italy, that is looking with my outside stage eye. Venice was something else, an accident. It took six hours to make the numbers into a cue sheet. I loved it, can’t wait to do it again. It was like writing music. You have to remember where everything is.
Billy I’m sure is thinking of safety first of all and not at all possession. He would give it to you. I bet I am thinking they should only be used as doorways going into rooms except if you want them that’s all I care about. What must I do to help satisfy that desire?
BILLY — WOULD YOU PLEASE GIVE THOSE STAMPS TO MICHAEL I went to see the luminated fontana tonight but it spent five minutes before I got there. The theatre is in the courtyard of the royal palace. Things naturally slipped in place and I’m on a semi nighttime schedule again, the first time in Eruope. That is, I can sometimes rise as late as 10:30 AM on second performance days (if there is a third). Amsterdamn has more than three and so does London. I guess you didn’t send me grass to Torino, I hope not because it’s not in my hands. You could even send LSD to Amsterdam. No maybe not there but to London. Maybe I should be really demented for Scandinavia.
What I miss most is music although I refrain from buying a radio. I’d have to have a radio before a movie camera but I never see anything. How could I see it if the few things I do see I’d have to film it? That would have been nice in Venice. I would like to make a real film though and be responsible for shooting the where and at what time a day. I have never seen a movie where the eye was completely satisfied. The Russian “War & Peace” nearly does it.
Italian First Opera Critic: “I went to La Scala last night to hear Lohengrin sung by Jess Thomas. I am 71 years old and I said to myself Julio it is time for you to die.” “Last night I heard the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra perform the Tchaikovsky violin concerto with 18 violins playing as one instrument the violin. It can never be done again. It can not be imitated. Nothing I can say will describe how beautiful it was.”
If you do start observing a schedule don’t be discouraged if nothing comes out at first. It may take months especially if you do it without A, which will take a month to even you out of all down thoughts that will want to dominate the theatre. Maybe that would be a good thing to write down, how horrible everything is. I would suggest at some point in the “4” hour shifts you deliberately didn’t write but just think about it or read research. Don’t worry about devoting too much time to allow yourself the luxury of taking your time. Why not try an undistracting place to do it even without drugs or regulated like the schedule, not by time necessarily like beginnings and ends or any way. Whatever discipline (personal, abstract even) you put into it will appear in some way upon the written page. Do you even want to do it? Does that necessarily mean destruction if you really don’t and then you don’t? The worst thing you can think is that you’re not old enough and ever worry yourself with thinking of people who are old and what they are supposed to know. Forget anything the public believes and plunge ahead into the journeys of your own mind. Give yourself the time to look into it. Don’t look at what’s there or think about it but take what you need. Don’t worry how to say it until after you say it.
Would you buy me some Mandrake & Buck Rogers comic books at Farmersville and send them to London?
I have absolutely no social life. Everything divided up so quickly and every once in a while I have a coffee with one of the singers or musicians. It is very lonesome sometimes. I keep thinking about Joe Cino in Italy. It would be impossible here to have a good time (under the most zany circumstances) without knowing him first.
I would love to jerk off with you but I don’t know how it can be done. I did it after reading the suggestion after not doing it for weeks and weeks. I did it a lot at first but wanted to instead have the energy that makes me look at people (cruise) to modify or embroider a plain life. Always thinking of one thing—defeat—lights. Suppression hence sustained unhappiness. After a while release becomes an anticlimax. A release from what, an added pleasure of life. This really isn’t propaganda one way or another. I mean I enjoyed doing it. What more can I say about such a delicious subject?
London has been changed. We go to the provinces instead, then to Edinburgh on cue, then to London. I don’t know about Scandinavia whether it’s in, out, or postponed what. I often ask Rudi for addresses and will get them soon. Strand Theatre in London. Is the Carré period enough? I’ll get more. (115-125 Amstel – Amsterdamn)
If I ever said anything about don’t bother to come to Scand or wherever please ignore that. It’s very important that I see you as soon as possible, that’s all I mean.
Tonight I set up Nerve. Rudi ran the second at Torino. They have 4 follow spots here and wouldn’t let them be dancing on the nearby trees. The theatre overlooks the sea midst an exquisitely lit palm tree forest. He did let me leave on one palm tree for the forest section ballet.
Saturday I have to set up Viareggio in the morning and Livorno after a train trip at night. There I meet that nice Roman boy who made me wing the whole thing in Santo Stefano. I hope he’s ready for me this time. I must think of some surprises for him.
I hope you don’t think you have to ac quire a new style for a book when the one you use for reviews is the one you have. That is the one that comes out of you. One is enough for anyone.
I don’t know where I am or where I am going from Venice on. The momentum has carried me. Rush to a train, rush in a cab to the theatre (sometimes $10-20), rush to a hotel, and then over again. This is every day for two weeks. I can’t say enough about Italy and everything that’s happened here. In 20 years I’d like to go back to Germany.
Mainly I don’t think about jerking off so I can amuse myself with thoughts during moments of panic and going under. I can sometimes get a hardon by leaning against something and not know it. I jerked off in a Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam once. I can’t wait for a wet dream.
I often think about how lovely your hands are. I don’t mean on my dick. That too but just themselves.
I did a foolish thing from seeing a “Frankenstein” poster in Torino. I sent to the theatre listed a letter to Rufus [Collins] & Luke [Theodore] mostly including one joint each, which was more than a mistake. It was my last. Anyway after the posting I found that the poster was posted for MAY, just figuring that MAGGIO meant August because today was the 10th. The the info said Maggio 456. That was very uncool. Do you think I will get them arrested?
There are few pleasures in life greater than a shave by an Italian barber.
I’m about to make trouble again because TV is going to film the show at Viareggio. Rudi told me during intermission at Torino. Go ahead & make cues even though they will have to flood the stage occasionally. I agreed to it finally on the thought that I wouldn’t be there anyway. So I left a note at the desk for him saying I wasn’t going. Who knows what will happen? I don’t want him to cancel TV, because TV is good money, good publicity, etc. I don’t want him to fire me because he can’t at least until next week. I don’t want to be making phone calls asking for HELP! but I must make a point. If I have to prostitute something I must be paid well. I don’t remember actually getting the 50c from Remy but the conversation becomes clearer. Was Stanley [Amos] there too? Maybe about the time he moved in.
Stop referring to your “sex problem.” There is no such thing with you. It’s what makes you interesting, for one thing, that is when I can manage to connect with it and our joints are in the open and I love you. The voyeur exhibitionist in you is what I wanted (besides your nice cock) and it will always be there with or without A. It’s only a problem when it gets bogged down because one of us makes a mistake.
I’m now in Viareggio (Shelley’s body burned here) to do the one I refused because of TV. Rudi had called the theatre saying I couldn’t come & why.
Nerve was a colossal flop generally and more miserably personally. It seated 2 or 3 thousand and you couldn’t even see the stage. Perpetual B.O. past row 50. Jim Anderson of LT showed up there with his Italian wife and turned me on w/ some opium. (I did have 4 follow spots.)
A man directed “Freischütz” at Dusseldorf and for the magic bullet scene in the forest he had 200 electric irons and ironing boards flown in. He also did “Mignon” here with a rubber ball (red) on the end of her nose. He got fired for “Freischütz.”
Two more in Italy and off to Amsterdam. I’m glad because of the train rides and the company of my more than pleasant CONSTANT companionship with Ernesto the Italian interpreter.
My honour is intact. As I stood despairing in Viareggio because they had only 10 lites, poor footlites, and nothing in front, the TV director said, “Would you help us? This should be filmed in a studio and we are sorry to inconvenience you. Would you help us because we don’t know the show?” They told me Visconti had said no TV lites for “Don Giovanni.” As it was filmed directly to the viewing eye it was mostly black and shadow. I talked to him for four hours giving every detail and suggestions about follow spots and backlites which he wrote down. We had a long conversation about how to obliterate the naked dance because it couldn’t be shown. Then I went to lunch and got on a train instead of coming back. I left a note for Rudi instead of the customary cue sheet. I said, “Don’t worry same is in the hands of the TV people. Honour is not dead.”
Tomorrow is the last performance, then a day journey to the north, then Amsterdam on the third. I am nearly through Eugene O’Neill. You should read “The Great God Brown” as soon as possible. I’m reading them in order backwards. I don’t know what I’ll do with “Emperor Jones,” which is first. Maybe read it (the play) backwards. He was a Libra so says the foreword saying he wasn’t as great as Shakespeare. Is the foreword supposed to make you feel sick and cheap or whet your appetite for something GOOD? Earlier he may have said he had merit (there are never enough facts) in a clinical sort of way. “Lazarus Laughed” is all Mediterranean sun and purple. “Electra” is white and a lot of machines.July 19-25 Amsterdam 26-30 Hamburg TV (maybe me to Paris to see LT) 31-Aug 6 somewhere Aug 7-12 London TV (American Express) 14-20 Liverpool (name of theatre later) 21-26 Edinburgh Lyceum Theatre 30-Sept 23 Strand Theatre London
Here is some idea of where we’ll be. I give you the facts as I get them. I hate those empty spots when we are really separated.
Tonite was very crazy. I had eight stage hands rock the side lites back & forth while the chief & I did a crossfade duet. Now if only the four follow spots from Nerve had been here too. You see I desperately need a capable driver. I am only strong enough to crash. I hope you are taking flying lessons again. Rudi is off to Geneva to see if we play there on the 31st. Tonight was the last in Italy.
I think I better mail this letter. It has turned out to be all of Italy at once.
We are now in Milano after a grueling ride from Livorno (Modigliani, Mascagni). After a drive through the afternoon I began to hear music and at night the clouds are shining brightly. Do you think you will ever get this letter?
BROWN: I am the remains of Dion Brown! I am his murderer and his murdered.
SCENE: Music from full Chinese and Tartar bands crashes up to a tremendous crescendo of drums, gongs, and the piercing shrilling of flutes. The light slowly comes to a pitch of blinding brightness. Then as light and sound attain their highest points there is a sudden dead silence.
Then it goes on to describe the throne room of Kublai Khan (“Marco Millions”).
You should be just about ready to open now. I will be on a similar schedule with you, that is one setup a week. You will be much busier, I hope.MILANO, 19 JULY 1967
(POSTCARD OF SUNSET AT VIAREGGIO) You seem so far away but you are with me always. I refuse to acknowledge a string quartet without you standing beside me.AMSTERDAM, 19 JULY 1967
Michael— As you see I wasn’t entirely silent in Italy. Someone is playing Joan Baez out the window. What more could I ask? Amsterdamn is good but the dancers are falling off the stage and fainting. Far away music should always be turned up but then it wouldn’t be so private anymore. Loud music invites people to listen to shut out their souls and speak.
The pope’s remarks about celibacy were very interesting. I agree of course. I mean why bother to be Catholic, if you can’t be celibate then be something else. I am on a diet of sweet and sour dishes only. There are three, chicken, pork, and shrimp, for all Amsterdam.
I wish you wouldn’t refer to last summer as a nightmare when I remember it as remaining beautiful. What you recall is life and how those things are constant. I was most happy when all the guests leave. Peter’s “Harold in Italy” was a German one, perhaps Scherchen (at Cornelia) or perhaps another one. I am back on my natural schedule, that is, rising in mid-afternoon. Sometimes I go to the movies for one hour when I get stuck in time and want to catch up with it. That is why I smoke more pot now. No time to not do it except before performance. I am often very tempted to get drunk in the afternoons. Kaiser Jones won’t appear before Edinburgh. Pity too because James Earl Jones is fabulous, he knows everything that’s going on, he covers my mistakes and makes them into masterpieces. I in turn do everything he tells me, turn this on, turn that out, because it’s always a good idea.
By all means please send me more pot in any fashion you think best. I likes it the way I gets it. What I have will be over in Amsterdam. I will gamble on getting some in Paris if I can find any LT there. Maybe I’ll be there three days. There are breakfast trays everywhere because I won’t let the maid in to clean the room. I don’t care if they pile up to the ceiling.AMSTERDAM, 24 JULY 1967
The year is 1933 Berlin the place someplace behind the concert hall between the renaissance and history.
Just by chance a record player has fallen into my hands for use of a few hours. I have just arrived in Amsterdam and received many letters from you especially with pot. How good to have pot again. Luckily I am traveling with an unusual “Rosenkavalier,” several Korngold arias, and a “Masked Ball” that I bought in Viareggio. This is the time to embrace the world. I also have a Beethoven Romance.
What I want to do would not be right for this show now. I think it’s better than the show but would be too subtle, too unflashy. I’ll do it anyway, even risk letting attention fall instead on the mediocrity. I even know in advance that it will fall but I’ll do it.
The follow spot saga is over for the moment. I won. It sort of reached its climax in Venice with a brief appearance in four at Nerve. It was really a reply to a second series complaint department from the management about no two shows being alike. I said that is the way I am. Get someone who doesn’t change. Rudi is good to ignore and help me out of my destructive sprees. I only use two for the strip and one for Bill’s solo and if they’re good (after first nite) on the finale.
Would you send me some more grass? I am smoking more now that the one night stands are over or are they. From the 25-31 I will not be working at all. Neither of us will know where I am. I will when I’m there and you afterwards. Maybe I will go to Lapland. The cast will go to Hamburg. I will go anywhere not to go there or probably stay here either.
I can’t wish I was there enough for Ravi Shankar. That’s the same thing as a Mozart opera but better.
It’s tomorrow already and I’m going to mail this tonight and count on nothing better. It’s been two glorious days. It started with a horrible drunk arrival, I always get drunk to fly, on which I had a conversation with Mrs. Van Ray (impresario assistant) about Nick Cernovich at which I told her to ask permission to speak to me in the future as she handed me your letters and things got better after that. There was a moment of leisure, music, movies (Ingmar Berman suicide movie). I ended by moving the bed to the window in order to sleep in the moonlight.
The electrician scowled at me on sight. I was supposed to go to the light booth to meet him but waited an hour on the stage. It took five hours to set up and four hours to set cues. That was a mistake in Germany, getting friendly with the employees and even more so with the chief. He wouldn’t sit at a table in the canteen with me and his help. I told them the Circus theatre had killed our poor projector. Later he said, “Mr Hubel you met at Rotterdam.” That when I asked him his zodiac: Saggitarius. He lost interest and got drunk halfway through the second act. He said, “I won’t write another cue unless you have a beer too.” I had been having lemonade to his beer. He meant it too, because I said only if it’s Löwenbräu. After another he received in time for the finale. God I hate the Germans when they drink like that, especially the Dutch, who consider it imperative to get drunk at intermission. I fixed most of it for the second performance but it didn’t matter, all the rest was wonderful. I was terrified because all the rest for a long time have not been good enough and nightmares for a second (missed them in Italy) night. The Carré is beautiful, halfway between opera house and Broadway house. The same one where I saw “Orfeo.”
Business is bad but they cleaned up in Italy. One nite stands are good business. Most of the first act is missing because of the girl with the broken leg and they just sing songs huddled in a group center stage. I’ve been doing tricks on them with the music as an excuse but stopped today. It’s still boring. At one moment in Italy last night I detected a few moments of hysteria in one performance. It got very exciting. The conductress was turned on. It was like theatre. It was happening and we were making it happen. The choreography binds them. Maybe I’ll get a motor scooter tomorrow.AMSTERDAM, 24 JULY 1967
Michael— Many new developments schedule wise. Geneva is after Hamburg. Get the address tomorrow but maybe it’s too late to do me any good by you.
Then the tour is being extended till Oct. 15, which drives me crazy because my whole being is geared to Sept. 15. What torture. At least you will be there around that time and my mind will be clear.
This is not the life for me. It’s not my theatre. It all stays the same. Sometimes the singers get spirited and a dancer will jump a little higher. I have to keep fighting to maintain the original cues. Elaborate or make them better never. These men are too bored for that. They know it has to be good for the first night and after that why bother.
For instance when the broken leg came nearly the whole first act dancing was cut. The singers huddle in a group DS center and I do lighting tricks w/ each song. Why can’t they do the dancing anyway? Why can’t the singers move around? Why can’t something else happen? I realize that with this kind of freedom Donny McKayle would sue when he sees it in London. I have abandoned lavender here completely but I don’t care enough to restrain myself. Why should there be that hangup? Where is the theatre I want? Only at the Caffè Cino? I have all the freedom I want but no one to play with.
All the social life here is in gay bars. Everyone in the cast hunts them down like hounds except me. I have to escape from the cast for one thing, plus I hate them. The scene is just like Indianapolis. For a moment I talked to someone once and in the course denounced Bill Louther for claiming to be a star or something. I was sure it was a mistake even as I said it. I realized I was in position to be fired upon. Everything breaks up into groups like (Ellis-Louthier-best) (#2 dancers & equity deputy) (singers) (musicians) (miscellaneous). Ellis gets bored with his life and plays hotel booking games and others. He has stopped talking to me, which is the best game he’s played yet.
As you see I’m disgusted. The only life I have is lighting and it’s never good enough. Why am I learning to do this, so I can do what I don’t want to do again, never. However it is lovely to go to foreign cities and make money. New York is really the unknown. It’s a little scary for the first time. Where am I, how long is long? I prefer being lost when things are good and when they’re bad not even alive or breathing at least.
I’m already making decisions a month in advance. Very dangerous practice. It’s like setting up the bridges burning in advance. That’s what the avant garde is, advance burning bridges. One was a musician, the other an electric guitar, and they all played badminton in the swimming pool. War was a different thing then, it was just killing and robbery.
I am going to quit then on that day. It’s the only clear break I can see. The sunlight I can see ahead. The best example of pleasure (sunlight) is something I don’t like. I’ll keep my eyes closed until I see you. I’ll only look at the moon and out my hotel window.AMSTERDAM, 26 JULY 1967
Michael— We have lost all of Rita’s [Fredricks, another of the producers] money, $30,000. Every three weeks I have a drink with Rudi and we have a conversation. He said, “Yes, every penny is gone and I don’t care.” “I made her think she was going to be rich overnight and that greedy bitch took it.” “If there’s one thing I can do it’s sell. I’m a good salesman.”
Rembrandt is the other end of the middle ages, that is, the first hints of a renaissance. Urbano is the beginning. If used in equal amounts you have the entire middle ages, rich darkness at the beginning and imitation gold at the end. Darkness can be used as extravagance while gold, especially golden light, is a little harder.
Tomorrow is closing here and a shame too This is the best so far. I have to be there to make cues at 9 AM for Harriet being put back in. I imagine great power struggles with Bill Louther over sharing the stage as I have two hours before the cast arrives but won’t be finished and we’ll have to be sharing the stage. For instance cue 20 is very dark, only one lite, and each cue takes 10-20 minutes to write (here).
After tomorrow to Paris for sure, alone then. Maybe I’ll see the LT but I don’t know where they are. I don’t really want to go but for sure not to Hamburg and not stay here, and however long we’re due for Geneva will be enough. All I want to do is come home and be with you. At least the movies will be better in Paris and maybe even opera too. I hate free time but I don’t like to rush either. Virtuosity doesn’t interest me and my own mind is satisfaction enough. Today I ate nothing but strawberries.
How much money will you have? Is it too early to talk a little about that without making a burden on any anticipation you might have? I will know better how much I’ll have when I know how much I need.
Do you know a book called “The Green Babies” (?) about people who live under the sea by an English art critic?
Today I saw a violin made of porcelain with real strings and a lot of doll furnishings made of silver. The violin was the most interesting.GENEVA, 2 AUGUST 1967
Michael, It’s nearly days from now, isn’t it. I’ve just arrived in Geneva, drunk, drugged. Where is that old personalty, the one for the German opera houses? Paris was fabulous, a thrill a minute, mostly hashish, ether, and other things. I met Jack di Lucia on the street namely from five years ago, a former Caffè Cino waiter. Mistakes in later life can’t prove costly today. How much do we have to pay for? Certainly all of the rumour is structure. Do we have to support life as a form and still live it? All this is purely Napoleonic in tradition. The French invented grace. They still have the Eiffel tower and live with it. I will leave you clear of the social life that is here, that is, put the present back into reality. It’s not necessary something yet happening. The lake is lovely, elegant, a lakeside leisure with trees on the shore that trim the eye from seeing too much. The lighthouse is baroque and the season sets the pace that the soul is the reason.GENEVA, 4 AUGUST 1967
Michael, I’m half finished “Eugene Onegin” and about time too. I wish I had the one you gave me once as the complication was much more translated.
Tonight I had to speak all languages and used the weeping willow as a cyc and lit it with the follow spots.
Don’t think of the bad times or their correction. Diane’s breast will always be bared but her friends will be there not to notice. We don’t learn or shouldn’t anything by mistakes, only triumphs can be pleasant, luck in the pool.
Maybe I won’t cut my hair again because I’ve learned never smile at an electrician or try to make it relaxing and under no circumstances offer them cigarettes. If I can find something else that’s enough.
What does Harry Koutoukas say, that you directed? The machine that couldn’t?
What are these hurricanes of the mind? Come away with your summer wind and calm me down.
Now I don’t use the radio as a hunt so much as before because it’s mostly a failure in terms. Better wait until what I want comes on anyway. Record players are what you can control.GENEVA, 4 AUGUST 1967
Michael— Resting from my rest is what I’m doing now. I met Luke right away on the streets [in Paris] and then Rufus at a [Living Theatre] rehearsal. We went to buy hash but the connection was busted. In front of the hotel was Jack di Lucia who was from another world five years ago then suddenly disappeared. He said, “What are you doing here, buying drugs? I can help you if you want.” Then it started, from one to another, shooting maxigon to sniffing ether and more hash than necessary. There were two sane moments, one those Ionesco plays, the other a fabulous variety show at the Raymond Duncan studio, which is like that theatre in Rome, old people reciting Racine, singing Fauré, Lalo on the violin, etc.
Tonight is another setup and I have to get together. Too much excess for only five days but it shows.
I saw Haile Selassie on the lake yesterday. Three days have been doing nothing and the Swiss know about comfort, radios that work, big rooms, bathrooms. All they can do is hotels. Some of the rooms even have kitchens and the cast is doing dinner parties.
All the Living Theatre ask about you. Judith had her baby (Cancer) [Isha Manna Beck] in Paris and they all want to come home. So do I. Where did the idea ever come from that Europe was better or chic?
Seems like “Emperor Jones” opens the Edinburgh Festival. It only had three weeks rehearsal and hasn’t been done in a month. Only four setups to go and I fear they won’t pay my way back with leaving after London.
I turned another one on last night en route to see “War & Peace,” Ed Zang, the white man in “Emperor Jones.” He said he fainted in the streets this morning.
I will be in London when this reaches you and even have days off there while they do TV again. All I want is for the time to go faster and for this to be over. I always feel like that when there isn’t a performance. This is the last of the outdoors and there’s a weeping willow tree on the stage.
JohnnyGENEVA, 4 AUGUST 1967
Michael, Now I am in the mood and that’s not jazz. None of it is. South Arabian exchange can bring us closer together.
I have stopped today my schedule of beer in the morning, rosé in the afternoon, and brandy and dope in the evening. Paris got a layer of hash over all. Now it’s time to come together in this what is the last lap.
Someone is throwing a party for us tonight. In the morning a plane to London.
Last night was chaos. It rained so we moved to a nearbye skating rink and improvised the performance mostly with follow spots.
Nothing is happening. I can’’t stand it. What is this place Geneva? Soon I will have to play politics but not in the air. Tomorrow I’ll be gone and they have to take their politics with them. Where will I be then? Did you write me a letter at American Express? Where am I?
Maybe we should take a lot of amphetamine together. How’s your habit? How’s your other habits? When will I see you? My cock is getting hard with this section.
JohnnyLONDON, 9 AUGUST 1967
Michael— It sure is too and much better than most other cities also than all other cities. I met Jacques Levy on the street and am going to “America Hurrah” tonite. I have about six days free while they do TV. Seems like all I do is nothing. Today I got tickets for the opera. (Season opens “Magic Flute” and “Orpheus in the Underground.”) Yeats summons up the Great Irish Past. I listened to his wife singing songs he wrote for her. They never do the Bizet version of “Carmen.” It’s supposed to be mostly talking. He embodied the soul of the hero to perfection and today I found a shop selling perhaps 10,000 comic books. What joy! What a breathtaking gap between the heroic myth and the impoverished breath of reality. I can’t remember the peace to which I am alluding but I rehearse it in my mind.
Leslie isn’t here, else he doesn’t answer his telephone. I see a great movie movement before me, thousands of miles to go to the movies. I met Luke Theodore and Roy Harris outside the theatre. They had come from Paris that afternoon to see specifically “America Hurrah” and were returning next morning. We went to see Joe Chaikin but he wasn’t there. Oh society society. Why don’t you meet me for lunch? It’s so hard to mail letters anymore there, always like the real thing I want to say ready to come out.
I want to write more on that play (Luci Tiabale[?]) and started to write a song to be sung by a folk singer but threw it all away except the first line, “Rattling down the Rhine.”LONDON, 10 AUGUST 1967
[POSTCARD OF THE ENRAGED SWAN] I make a grand play to believe what I know today but the sun is shining. The rest is free and the sky’s wrapping its snappy tendencies over me. Super sun make your play.LONDON, 12 AUGUST 1967
[ON THE BACK OF CUE SHEETS] Michael— First of all I hate you for leaving me all alone in London. Secondly I apologize for not sending you $500. God knows what happens to my money but it doesn’t exist. Sometimes it costs over a hundred dollars a week for hotels. It’s all so confusing. Why aren’t you here to tell me what to do? For instance after London when I want to quit where will you be? Are they going to buy me a return plane, unemployment insurance? Then again maybe you want to go to Scandinavia in which case…
I saw another production of “Orpheus,” which has of course changed my life and entire theatrical outlook. The company is in chaos. All the English unions have moved into this fetid atmosphere of overwork and outdated complaints after which the producers have to pay EXTRA. All I want to do is come home. It’s too lonesome here. These hotel rooms are no place to be. I don’t want to go anywhere. This is a dismal display but I had to say those disgusting things.
Actually it’s been over two weeks of no perf except for those two Geneva days and that must be a bad influence. My suitcase is completely full now, that’s why I can’t go on. Then again I will and soon will see you and recline in brilliance. Nothing is ever quite settled, there’s a breeze everywhere, that’s why weatherfinders are so important. The trucks go to market beneath my window. Where is the life love sent us?
JohnnyLONDON, 15 AUGUST 1967
Michael, Of course that is not necessarily correct about always releasing the first first thought first. That is on paper. Still trying to avoid confusion, careful consideration can reveal a simple fact to be a diamond, self polishing and self shining. This is close to obsession, dangerous foe but sister to invention.Johnny LIVERPOOL, 16 AUGUST 1967
Michael, Michael, I feel like the trees in autumn when they lose their leaves their contact with sunshine and when they come back in springtime I will be more than happy.
Certainly it hasn’t been a long winter, whole harvests could have fell, but without you I cannot give nor receive joy but must always sit in wordless gardens and think about what might have been the past.
Nothing is future except the certainty of bliss.LIVERPOOL, 17 AUGUST 1967
Michael, At last it’s better again. Liverpool promised nothing but tragedy. I tangled with the electrician and afterwards left a rehearsal hanging about a dozen people up for hours while I smoked hashish in my hotel room. First the stage mgr came. I told him to go away, mind his own business. Then Rudi came and we screamed at each other through the streets, “important opening international press blah.” Anyway they had all gone home by the time we got to the theatre 10 PM what fun. One of the things that stuck in my mind was, “I don’t want to be surprised on that stage tomorrow nite.” That meant I really had to do something surprizing so I worked all day. I loves show business.
I’ll have $100 at the end of this week and I won’t send it to you because its too complicated. I’m afraid of a bare envelope and banks take too long. That is unless I receive a letter saying you don’t have AIR FARE. Maybe by now I’ve made too much of this and turned your ardor damp. Maybe also I assume wrong and you don’t leave right after Sundance finishes. This is nearly an obsession. Goodbye—LIVERPOOL, 18 AUGUST 1967
I see, so the fatal mirror of deception says I don’t receive a letter from you at Liverpool. So be it, then I’ll imagine what you see, regret what I can’t tell you.
A letter-censoring priest once told me that the height of bad taste was to say “write soon.” This illusion to reply is not about to let me run dry, rather to chastise my imagining.
Today the company was called out to a “Luncheon” given by local “Blue Coat Society,” a fed-up group of wealthy old women who call tea a luncheon and resemble the Salvation Army. I didn’t go but in the meantime Herr Storber committed me to a local debate held by the Liverpool Anarchists at the former home of the Duke of Leeds. In Italy I list my political position as monarchist-communist. Who would you replace Queen Elizabeth with, Oliver Cromwell?
All the girls’ cunts have withered and their constitutions have grown sour. It’s because they don’t get fucked. All except one who has a husband. They fuck in the dressing room and dress on the stage. She’s happy all the time.
Everything that happens in a teacup is fair. Tonight I read this whole tour in two lumps for before Liverpool and Edinburgh together side by side and London at the top alone with you far to the left isolated in white. However nothing was giving geography.“The fatherless children, Color, Tune & Rhyme (The sweet lad Rhyme), ran all uncomprehendingly Then, at the way’s sad ending. Round the raw grave they stayed Old Wisdom read In mumbling tones, the Service for the dead." LIVERPOOL, 19 AUGUST 1967
Michael, I’m sending you almost nothing, the almost imaginary remains of a small container of kif. Perhaps you can add it to something else. Make a mixture so they say, the reluctant stragglers of a world of fast moving pleasure seekers.
Marlene Dietrich travels with her own sound engineer and in England always employs Joe Davis as her lighting designer. He is like Jean Rosenthal. He travels with cycs, scrims, special things for the gown while singing center stage always. One would think that the wrap she wears is mink but it isn’t, it’s only swansdown made lovely by a series of follow spots, one for the gown and one for the feathers.
They did a publicity stunt today of quickly calling in the masseur (private to internationally known Liverpool soccer team) to treat Bill Louther who had a horse fall on him at Marlborough yesterday. He has a doctor at each performance as without a vitamin B12 shot he can’t perform.LIVERPOOL, 20 AUGUST 1967
Michael, When are you coming here? Your letter tells me nothing. Does it say that you are broke? So am I. There are maybe twp paydays in August and maybe I could have $200 or $150 saved up by then. That’s where I am, nowhere. All possible facts suggest that I should have a lot of money but not so. I can’t tell you how depressed that makes me and I should know clearly your finances by now but the time just flew by and the money too with only minor extravagances and a few major phone, chandelier, and Paris. Can you do a plane ticket? TELL ME EXACTLY HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE. If it’s nothing, then I should come home right after London making our reunion three weeks later than usual. This is a disgusting conversation because of course I want you to tell me what to do. Or would you rather I stayed confused and we just meet some day soon?
I get $176 a week but somehow I foresee three plane fares, two for you and one for me, about $600 or $700. Should have been that I had $1000 saved by now but every time I got $100 I spent $50 on a coat or something and the next week finds a hotel costing $15 a day and miscellaneous surprises.
Send me pot and please prepare them in a special way, that is rolled and half of them thinly coated with your own sweet load. This depending on what you are doing these days. I don’t want to hold you to any philosophy. If you’re saving it OK but if you have a moment to yourself with flying thoughts don’t waste it.
I will send you what money I have left seven days from now, Saturday. Today I had $10 left from last week which I spent on a recording of “Lulu” plus $10 more. Michael, tell me what to do, my darling, not necessarily forever but in this case. I’ve tried to be clear.
Why don’t you plant some trees by those light pipes so in a few years they will engulf the pipes in their branches? That way eventually it would be possible to have even ten lekos on each side and the tree would support all kinds of things, ladders, platforms, etc.
I can’t tell you how horrible it is here in Liverpool with only an occasional ruined church or two to brighten things up with. I set the most dull and dark cues possible today and don’t know how to live with them all week. Moments before the microphone was being trailed the electrician turned SOUR. It was a mistake to be friendly. He had let me regel all the strips which took four hours alone and the blue was wrong, a waste of time.
The desk clerk is hot for me here, fat, forty, hairy, horrible, timid, and trembles when he brings me milk at night. I am always undressed. If the poor thing was faster he could have some. Does he think me to seduce myself?
I told Rudi he should do the lights in Scandinavia as I had to go. He said, “Don’t tell me that now because I’m too depressed.” Very occasionally we have lunch together, which is always a pleasure. He is going to Vienna during London and knows how to have lunch with someone even if it’s only a relationship. I can’t believe how awful this city is and how dismal my life has become. Lead me again into the richness of horror, out out of this drab defeat and once again into the firsthand knowledge of love.
I will be on my way to Scotland by the time you get this.
You know what I need to have in England is that Strauss “Rosenkavalier” that Joe Chaikin has, who is probably in England.
It is a very good idea to write down the first thing coming out of the head. Waiting for something better clogs it up so nothing comes out. A subject is only good for a first sentence. After that the heart wants to be challenged with images of the mind and FACTS to set the hardened intellect at ease.
After this trip, I’m not even interesting in lighting this one. I can’t stand tomorrow. Next week is terrifying. Why don’t you try writing in longhand (although I love letters from you typed) or even copying things out of books? Writing is like anything else, you have to get warmed up. Sometimes a gradual retreat from the thoughts of eternity can lead to the same place as a bravado last stand. About this going to mass and missing it and if that’s a defeat or an exchange of one habit for another then there is more than one way to go to mass and a good priest will tell you don’t go if you think it’s a sin to miss sometimes. I mean don’t go ever.
Wolfgang should have a follow spot to take to the church when it rains [drawing].
I can’t go to sleep and thank god it rains all the time in Liverpool.
Where will you be later?
JohnnyLIVERPOOL, 20 AUGUST 1967
Michael, The man I got my latest “Lulu” from says that “Rosenkavalier” is not necessarily [conducted] by Strauss. “Yes, I know the recording. More than likely someone brought him a tape and said I know the singers but not the conductor.” Yes, says Smith, it’s more than likely Strauss himself. He is ordering me a “Totenstadt” from the deleted, and available to him, Smith files. Bring it with you, will you.LIVERPOOL, 21 AUGUST 1967
Michael, It’s been raining every day here and life has been sorry but it all reversed tonight and one of those performances happened (there have been maybe two or three). So I am elated, overjoyed, surprised, everything. It went beyond shivers. I even forget for a moment, you wretch, that you ignore me and leave me here wet, but I’ll think again in the morning on the train. I always think about you on the trains. Tonite my teacup shows an Arabic heart and tomorrow at this time I’ll be in Scotland.
The company gave me a private curtain call after theirs last nite. It’s a little frightening as when I was sure of defeat I thought, good, that will inspire me for Scotland, then set up the impossible to do in London. Now London is somewhere in the sky unless Scotland flops.
Wouldn’t you like to go to Lapland? Where is Loch Lomond?
JohnnyEDINBURGH, 21 AUGUST 1967
Edinburgh is jumping. It’s like a big amphetamine party and everyone you see is a foreign celebrity. I met Paul Foster. We arrived in town together at the same hour. I missed a switchover and went to Glasgow instead. Good thing Walter was with me and rescued my bag that went with him to Edinburgh. We had been in the dining car getting drunk discussing how London would be a good place to put the slides back in. Ellen Stewart arrives tomorrow with Volkswagen buses at the same time as these black people I know.
Fortunately I won’t have a moment to enjoy this frivolous atmosphere as the setup is immense and there are thousands of performances.
Why don’t you get on a plane the minute Ravi Shankar plunks his last? I have $100 for you. Where do you want it?
I will probably stay at the Shaftsbury Hotel in London. Maybe we will cross in the air going opposite directions. If I don’t hear from you after a week in London I’m coming home or else I may go to Italy.
Edinburgh is the most beautiful city in the world, next to Venice. It’s all gardens and antiques and kilts and boys w/ freckles. Who knows what they are saying?
There is playing a movie “100,000 B.C.” that has been advertised for five years on 42nd St. but never shown.
Love JohnnyEDINBURGH, 21 AUGUST 1967
Michael, It’s already full moon bright one city of my dreams. I’ve been working 16 hours, didn’t know the moon was there till it was over. I saw the two Scorpios walking the streets (3 AM) as I came from the theatre. Instead of about 20 huge and floats, foots, etc., they have only about 200 small somethings between a baby spot & a leko small size. I’ve been very crazy—haven’t slept for a week except a little half sleep.
The castle dominates the town. It looks like it may have been born yesterday or in the 18th century after a french chateau or recently remodeled after what they thought it would look like. Who knows? All I see is two blocks to the right on the way to the theatre and the castle on the way past. There’s another lady electrician here and the best humored chief ever. Maybe I will stay here and go to the University of Edinburgh. It would take a lot of books but I could do it with the kind of concentration around lately.EDINBURGH, 22 AUGUST 1967
Michael, That’s wonderful that you come so soon. Imagine, you will be here in two weeks. I’ll give you some money as soon as you arrive as I don’t like you to be in debt. That is unless I come home first. Either before or after London opening I could make a deal saying I’ll do the opening night (leave cues) if I get a plane ticket, otherwise I quit right now. I told Rudi that I was preparing a treacherous move because he had already. He said the slides are in London. The motor is being fixed. I said, “Treachery.” He said well some anyway. Two months ago I told him which ones were important (telling a story). These are the ones he’ll hold me to. Here in Edinburgh he made about five suggestions (intensity, colour) and I always obliged to the letter while at the same time removing such scenery as I couldn’t make look good. Everybody wants them. Why couldn’t the damn thing remain forgotten? I was tracking an elephant but shot a deer instead. Maybe the slides are the next logical set, this may be the time for them. Many of the other possibilities have been used. I can’t blow up the machine (unless with a hand grenade). I would sabotage the motor if it was around.
I never want to do “Emperor Jones” again. It nearly killed me this time. I don’t know what I was doing before. The sets look like they were designed to be lit now but that takes 26 hours and I barely got it this time exercising my new skill of focusing, which is indeed in its earlier stages of hit and miss system.
I don’t ever stay in fancy hotels on my own but when the reservation maneouvers put me in fancy ones I always stay even for weeks. London is another story as they cost twice as much as other cities.EDINBURGH, 23 AUGUST 1967
Michael, Did you know there is such a thing as a yellow swan? They live in the north of Scotland where they come to summer in June from their homes in the north. George IV once came here to hunt them. Preceding him by a year were 500 Italian masons who built him a renaissance palace, the first floor and roof of which was made of tinted glass. Round it grow the cedars of the north looking a little transparent to their lebanese sisters. These have bark the colour of cognac. The north side is much thinner like paper and reveals almost their pale and resinous body beneath. Their foliage of glass can be rolled, is green, and like the sun itself is nearly not there. He never went back. He lived there for three days, shot two swans with a crossbow, and returned home.EDINBURGH, 24 AUGUST 1967
Michael, What action! I told Rudi my deal lites for a ticket to which he replied variously. He told me today I looked like a bum. I slapped him across the face with a newspaper. Then I went to see “Futz” and accepted the today vacant post of lighting designer with La Mama in London Sept. 11-23, closing same day as BNW. Of course I will try to do both. I will meet your plane of course and see you into insanity. Things are looking much better. I don’t know what kind of trick dealing to expect from Rudi. He can safely fire me after opening as he can run the cues. Later I went to a symposium where everyone attacked a critic for saying La Mama should be closed down even when he didn’t see the play. He was very brave and handled himself well against an army of Irish wits.