Saturday, June 27, 2020

When Marlene Dietrich Strutted Her Stuff And Made All The Drag Queens Weep- Joseph Von Sternberg’s Blonde Venus” (1932)-A Film Review

When Marlene Dietrich Strutted Her Stuff And Made All The Drag Queens Weep- Joseph Von Sternberg’s Blonde Venus” (1932)-A Film Review   

DVD Review

By Will Bradley

Blonde Venus, starring Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, Cary Grant (yes that Cary Grant), directed by Joseph Von Sternberg, pre-Code 1932  

It is amazing how you get assignments for films sometimes from the site manager Greg Green who is the guy who gives them out these days. Everybody knows, or if not then get it here now, that Phil Larkin and I had been, have been if anybody wants to take up the challenge, in a long term continuing battle royal over who is the “real” James Bond (our respective choices Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan) which has spilled over into other reviews and brought in a couple of other reviewers. A reviewer like Seth Garth who apparently really does believe that our dispute is a tempest in a teapot. Of course, Seth, an old-timer like Phil probably thinks Agatha Christie is the cat’s meow and as well from reading some of his latest reviews he seems to be in a time machine set exclusively around the mid-1960s what with him going on and on about the summer of love, acid rock and the like subjects which got the previous site manager Allan Jackson the boot-and rightly so. I won’t even mention Bart Webber’s remarks since he hasn’t written a worthy review since he found out Humphrey Bogart died.  

Here is the weird part though since the time of my last Bond film review I have not been assigned any film reviews although I have had plenty of other assignments. Some of them like covering a Klimt exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with Mark Rothko thrown and on the political front the brewing controversies around the rise of the Alt-Right which has become increasingly public around the country in the aftermath of the Charlottesville events where they laid bare their fangs. (By the way I was assigned that beat since the massive counter-demonstrations against this movement have been spear-headed by young people and had argued to Greg that giving the assignment to one of the old guard would bring in off-beat and basically negative comparisons to their “glorious” 1960s. It didn’t hurt that I mentioned that these elders would be clueless about the different way, mostly via social media platforms, that the young organize today. Nobody needed to hear about mimeograph machine leaflet production, pay phone telephone calls or plastering the world with posters at midnight.)         

The drought is over now with this film review of one of Marlene Dietrich’s early Hollywood films directed by master director and one- time husband Joseph Von Sternberg Blonde Venus (blonde by virtue of a wig in this case). It was no accident that I received this assignment since in 2017 I was down in Washington on another assignment and decided to peek into the National Portrait Gallery to see what was new something I try to do when down in the “swamp” (the only term from Trump-land which resonates with me). While there I noticed that there was an exhibition featuring Marlene Dietrich and did a short report in this space on her career and her effect on the acting profession centered on her provocative bisexual use of men’s clothing in many of her films (including here) so that she was something of a forerunner and icon for sexual liberation. Moreover Marlene had a certain style Allan Jackson (that former site manager) old me that his growing up friend Timmy Riley, now professionally a “drag queen” under the name Miss Judy Garland out in San Francisco where he runs a famous “drag queen” nightclub told him was a close runner up to Ms. Garland among that entertainment set.      

This film gives an early view of that patterned Dietrich style from the men’ clothing while preforming to that look of utter distain and boredom which she gave off. The “hook” as Sam Lowell who is a pretty cool guy even if kind of ancient and knows a lot about these early films from a lifetime of reviewing likes to tell everybody they should be looking for in a film to hang their hat on is that Marlene after marriage and a child, a young boy, finds out that her scientist husband, Ned, played by wooden stick Herbert Marshall in something of a mismatch, has developed some rare and deadly radiation problem which requires a trip to Europe and a lot of dough to help cure. Marlene to the rescue via her “talent” as a singer and entertainer.  (She can act but the singing bit is hard on the nerves according to an associate who knows a thing or two about music and declared her off-pitch in English and not quite so bad in French.)   

Well not exactly Marlene to the rescue but Nick, Nick Townsend, the fixer man and a guy smitten by Marlene for some reason, played by a very young Cary Grant so this is no slough movie. While Ned is away getting his cure, which unknown to him Nick paid for after services rendered Marlene and Nick are seen cavorting. Except Ned comes back unknown to them and demands the custody of their son. Marlene flees and through a series of further down the social scale maneuvers is the subject of an all- points bulletin initiated by Ned. She finally gives up the kid, her Johnny and she takes a few steps further down the social ladder. As she hits bottom she decides to spring back and restart her career in Europe. That is where forlorn Nick is trying to forget her until he runs into her at a concert and they start up again. No good though since she still pines for her Johnny boy. Eventually she will get him, and Ned, back to the chagrin of Nick. Along the way we get that bunch of songs that are hard on the nerves but which also makes me wonder why those drag queens love to imitate her.     

An Encore Presentation-The Big Sur Café- With The “King Of The Beats” Jean-bon Kerouac In Mind

An Encore Presentation-The Big Sur Café- With The “King Of The Beats” Jean-bon Kerouac In Mind  

From The Pen Of Zack James

Josh Breslin, as he drove in the pitch black night up California Highway 156 to connect with U.S. 101 and the San Francisco Airport back to Boston was thinking furious thought, fugitive thoughts about what had happened on this his umpteenth trip to California. Thoughts that would carry him to the  airport road and car rental return on arrival there and then after the swift airbus to his terminal the flight home to Logan and then up to his old hometown of Olde Saco to which he had recently returned. Returned after long years of what he called “shaking the dust of the old town” off his shoes like many a guy before him, and after too. But now along the road to the airport he had thought that it had been a long time since he had gotten up this early to head, well, to head anywhere.

He had in an excess of caution decided to leave at three o’clock in the morning from the hotel he had been staying at in downtown Monterrey near famous Cannery Row (romantically and literarily famous as a scene in some of John Steinbeck’s novels from the 1920s and 1930s, as a site of some of the stop-off 1950s “beat” stuff if for no other reason than the bus stopped there before you took a taxi to Big Sur or thumbed depending on your finances and as famed 1960s Pops musical locale where the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin rose to the cream on top although now just another tourist magnet complete with Steinbeck this and that for sullen shoppers and diners who found their way east of Eden) and head up to the airport in order to avoid the traffic jams that he had inevitably encountered on previous trips around farm country Gilroy (the garlic or onion capital of the world, maybe both, but you got that strong smell in any case), and high tech Silicon Valley where the workers are as wedded to their automobiles as any other place in America which he too would pass on the way up.

This excess of caution not a mere expression of an old man who is mired in a whole cycle of cautions from doctors to lawyers to ex-wives to current flame (Lana Malloy by name) since his flight was not to leave to fly Boston until about noon and even giving the most unusual hold-ups and delays in processings at the airport he would not need to arrive there to return his rented car until about ten. So getting up some seven hours plus early on a trip of about one hundred miles or so and normally without traffic snarls about a two hour drive did seem an excess of caution.

But something else was going on in Josh’s mind that pitch black night (complete with a period of dense fog about thirty miles up as he hit a seashore belt and the fog just rolled in without warnings) for he had had the opportunity to have avoided both getting up early and getting snarled in hideous California highway traffic by the expedient of heading to the airport the previous day and taken refuge in a motel that was within a short distance of the airport, maybe five miles when he checked on his loyalty program hotel site. Josh though had gone down to Monterey after a writers’ conference in San Francisco which had ended a couple of days before in order travel to Big Sur and some ancient memories there had stirred something in him that he did not want to leave the area until the last possible moment so he had decided to stay in Monterrey and leave early in the morning for the airport.

That scheduled departure plan set Josh then got an idea in his head, an idea that had driven him many times before when he had first gone out to California in the summer of love, 1967 version, that he would dash to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun came up and then head to the airport. He had to laugh, as he threw an aspirin down his throat and then some water to wash the tablet down in order to ward off a coming migraine headache that the trip, that this little trip to Big Sur that he had finished the day before, the first time in maybe forty years he had been there had him acting like a young wild kid again.        

Funny as well that only a few days before he had been tired, very tired a condition that came on him more often of late as one of the six billion “growing old sucks” symptoms of that process, after the conference. Now he was blazing trails again, at least in his mind. The conference on the fate of post-modern writing in the age of the Internet with the usual crowd of literary critics and other hangers-on in tow to drink the free liquor and eat the free food had been sponsored by a major publishing company, The Globe Group. He had written articles for The Blazing Sun when the original operation had started out as a shoestring alternative magazine in the Village in about 1968, had started out as an alternative to Time, Life, Newsweek, Look, an alternative to all the safe subscription magazines delivered to leafy suburban homes and available at urban newsstands for the nine to fivers of the old world for those who, by choice, had no home, leafy or otherwise, and no serious work history.

Or rather the audience pitched to had no fixed abode, since the brethren were living some vicarious existences out of a knapsack just like Josh and his friends whom he collected along the way had been doing when he joined Captain Crunch’s merry pranksters (small case to distinguish them from the more famous Ken Kesey mad monk Merry Pranksters written about in their time by Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson) the first time he came out and found himself on Russian Hill in Frisco town looking for dope and finding this giant old time yellow brick road converted school bus parked in a small park there and made himself at home, after they made him welcome (including providing some sweet baby James dope that he had been searching for since the minute he hit town).

Still the iterant, the travelling nation hippie itinerants of the time to draw a big distinction from the winos, drunks, hoboes, bums and tramps who populated the “jungle” camps along railroad tracks, arroyos, river beds and under bridges who had no use for magazines or newspapers except as pillows against a hard night’s sleep along a river or on those unfriendly chairs at the Greyhound bus station needed, wanted to know what was going on in other parts of “youth nation,” wanted to know what new madness was up, wanted to know where to get decent dope, and who was performing and where in the acid-rock etched night (groups like the Dead, the Doors, the Airplane leading the pack then).

That magazine had long ago turned the corner back to Time/Life/Look/Newsweek land but the publisher Mac McDowell who still sported mutton chop whiskers as he had in the old days although these days he has them trimmed by his stylist, Marcus, at a very steep price at his mansion up in Marin County always invited him out, and paid his expenses, whenever there was a conference about some facet of the 1960s that the younger “post-modernist”  writers in his stable (guys like Kenny Johnson the author of the best-seller Thrill  were asking about as material for future books about the heady times they had been too young, in some cases way to young to know about personally or even second-hand). So Mac would bring out wiry, wily old veterans like Josh to spice up what after all would be just another academic conference and to make Mac look like some kind of hipster rather than the balding “sell-out" that he had become (which Josh had mentioned in his conference presentation but which Mac just laughed at, laughed at just as long as he can keep that Marin mansion. Still Josh felt he provided some useful background stuff now that you can find lots of information about that 1960s “golden age” (Mac’s term not his) to whet your appetite on Wikipedia or more fruitfully by going on YouTube where almost all the music of the time and other ephemera can be watched with some benefit.

Despite Josh’s tiredness, and a bit of crankiness as well when the young kid writers wanted to neglect the political side, the Vietnam War side, the rebellion against parents side of what the 1960s had been about for the lowdown on the rock festival, summer of love, Golden Gate Park at sunset loaded with dope and lack of hubris side, he decided to take a few days to go down to see Big Sur once again. He figured who knew when he would get another chance and at the age of seventy-two the actuarial tables were calling his number, or wanted to. He would have preferred to have taken the trip down with Lana, a hometown woman, whom he had finally settled in with up in Olde Saco after three, count them, failed marriages, a parcel of kids most of whom turned out okay, plenty of college tuitions and child support after living in Watertown just outside of Boston for many years.

Lana a bit younger than he and not having been “washed clean” as Josh liked to express the matter in the hectic 1960s and not wanting to wait around a hotel room reading a book or walking around Frisco alone while he attended the conference had begged off on the trip, probably wisely although once he determined to go to Big Sur and told her where he was heading she got sort of wistful. She had just recently read with extreme interest about Big Sur through her reading of Jack Kerouac’s 1960s book of the same name and had asked Josh several times before that if they went to California on a vacation other than San Diego they would go there. The long and short of that conversation was a promise by Josh to take her the next time, if there was a next time (although he did not put the proposition in exactly those terms).            

Immediately after the conference Josh headed south along U.S. 101 toward Monterrey where he would stay and which would be his final destination that day since he would by then be tired and it would be nighttime coming early as the November days got shorter. He did not want to traverse the Pacific Coast Highway (California 1 for the natives) at night since he had forgotten his distance glasses, another one of those six billion reasons why getting old sucks. Had moreover not liked to do that trip along those hairpin turns which the section heading toward Big Sur entailed riding the guardrails even back in his youth since one time having been completely stoned on some high-grade Panama Red he had almost sent a Volkswagen bus over the top when he missed a second hairpin turn after traversing the first one successfully. So he would head to Monterrey and make the obligatory walk to Cannery Row for dinner and in order to channel John Steinbeck and the later “beats” who would stop there before heading to fallout Big Sur.

The next morning Josh left on the early side not being very hungry after an excellent fish dinner at Morley’s a place that had been nothing but a hash house diner in the old days where you could get serviceable food cheap because the place catered to the shore workers and sardine factory workers who made Cannery Row famous, or infamous, when it was a working Row. He had first gone there after reading about the place in something Jack Kerouac wrote and was surprised that the place actually existed, had liked the food and the prices and so had gone there a number of times when his merry pranksters and other road companions were making the obligatory Frisco-L.A. runs up and down the coast. These days Morley’s still had excellent food but perhaps you should bring a credit card with you to insure you can handle the payment and avoid “diving for pearls” as a dish-washer to pay off your debts.      

As Josh started up the engine of his rented Acura, starting up on some of the newer cars these days being a matter of stepping on the brake and then pushing a button where the key used to go in this keyless age, keyless maybe a metaphor of the age as well, he had had to ask the attendant at the airport how to start the thing since his own car was a keyed-up Toyota of ancient age, he began to think back to the old days when he would make this upcoming run almost blind-folded. That term maybe a metaphor for that age. He headed south to catch the Pacific Coast Highway north of Carmel and thought he would stop at Point Lobos, the place he had first encountered the serious beauty of the Pacific Coast rocks and ocean wave splash reminding him of back East in Olde Saco, although more spectacular. Also the place when he had first met Moonbeam Sadie.

He had had to laugh when he thought about that name and that woman since a lot of what the old days, the 1960s had been about were tied up with his relationship to that woman, the first absolutely chemically pure version of a “hippie chick” that he had encountered. At that time Josh had been on the Captain Crunch merry prankster yellow brick road bus for a month or so and a couple of days before they had started heading south from Frisco to Los Angeles to meet up with a couple of other yellow brick road buses where Captain Crunch knew some kindred. As they meandered down the Pacific Coast Highway they would stop at various places to take in the beauty of the ocean since several of the “passengers” had never seen the ocean or like Josh had never seen the Pacific in all its splendor.

In those days, unlike now when the park closes at dusk as Josh found out, you could park your vehicle overnight and take in the sunset and endlessly listen to the surf splashing up to rocky shorelines until you fell asleep. So when their bus pulled into the lot reserved for larger vehicles there were a couple of other clearly “freak” buses already there. One of them had Moonbeam as a “passenger” whom he would meet later that evening when all of “youth nation” in the park decided to have a dope- strewn party. Half of the reason for joining up on bus was for a way to travel, for a place to hang your hat but it was also the easiest way to get on the dope trail since somebody, usually more than one somebody was “holding.” And so that night they partied, partied hard. 

About ten o’clock Josh high as a kite from some primo hash saw a young woman, tall, sort of skinny (he would find out later she had not been so slim previously except the vagaries of the road food and a steady diet of “speed” had taken their toll), long, long brown hair, a straw hat on her head, a long “granny” dress and barefooted the very picture of what Time/Life/Look would have used as their female “hippie” poster child to titillate their middle-class audiences coming out of one of the buses. She had apparently just awoken, although that seemed impossible given the noise level from the collective sound systems and the surf, and was looking for some dope to level her off and headed straight to Josh.

Josh had at that time long hair tied in a ponytail, at least that night, a full beard, wearing a cowboy hat on his head, a leather jacket against the night’s cold, denim blue jeans and a pair of moccasins not far from what Time/Life/Look would have used as their male “hippie” poster child to titillate their middle-class audiences so Moonbeam’s heading Josh’s way was not so strange. Moreover Josh was holding a nice stash of hashish. Without saying a word Josh passed the hash pipe to Moonbeam and by that mere action started a “hippie” romance that would last for the next several months until Moonbeam decided she was not cut out for the road, couldn’t take the life, and headed back to Lima, Ohio to sort out her life.

But while they were on their “fling” Moonbeam taught “Cowboy Jim,” her new name for him, many things. Josh thought it was funny thinking back how wedded to the idea of changing their lives they were back then including taking new names, monikers, as if doing so would create the new world by osmosis or something. He would have several other monikers like the “Prince of Love,” the Be-Bop Kid (for his love of jazz and blues), and Sidewalk Slim (for always writing something in chalk wherever he had sidewalk space to do so) before he left the road a few years later and stayed steady with his journalism after that high, wide, wild life lost it allure as the high tide of the 1960s ebbed and people drifted back to their old ways. But Cowboy Jim was what she called Josh and he never minded her saying that.

See Moonbeam really was trying to seek the newer age, trying to find herself as they all were more or less, but also let her better nature come forth. And she did in almost every way from her serious study of Buddhism, her yoga (well before that was fashionable among the young), and her poetry writing. But most of all in the kind, gentle almost Quaker way that she dealt with people, on or off drugs, the way she treated her Cowboy. Josh had never had such a gentle lover, never had such a woman who not only tried to understand herself but to understand him. More than once after she left the bus (she had joined the Captain Crunch when the bus left Point Lobos a few days later now that she was Cowboy’s sweetheart) he had thought about heading to Lima and try to work something out but he was still seeking something out on the Coast that held him back until her memory faded a bit and he lost the thread of her).          

Yeah, Point Lobos held some ancient memories and that day the surf was up and Mother Nature was showing one and all who cared to watch just how relentless she could be against the defenseless rocks and shoreline. If he was to get to Big Sur though he could not dally since he did not want to be taking that hairpin stretch at night. So off he went. Nothing untoward happened on the road to Big Sur, naturally he had to stop at the Bixby Bridge to marvel at the vista but also at the man-made marvel of traversing that canyon below with this bridge in 1932. Josh though later that it was not exactly correct that nothing untoward happened on the road to Big Sur but that was not exactly true for he was white-knuckled driving for that several mile stretch where the road goes up mostly and there are many hairpin turns with no guardrail and the ocean is a long way down. He thought he really was becoming an old man in his driving so cautiously that he had veer off to the side of the road to let faster cars pass by. In the old days he would drive the freaking big ass yellow brick road school bus along that same path and think nothing of it except for a time after that Volkswagen almost mishap. Maybe he was dope-brave then but it was disconcerting to think how timid he had become.

Finally in Big Sur territory though nothing really untoward happen as he traversed those hairpin roads until they finally began to straighten out near Molera State Park and thereafter Pfeiffer Beach. Funny in the old days there had been no creek to ford at Molera but the river had done its work over forty years through drought and downpour so in order to get to the ocean about a mile’s walk away Josh had to take off his running shoes and socks to get across the thirty or forty feet of rocks and pebbles to the other side (and of course the same coming back a pain in the ass which he would have taken in stride back then when he shoe of the day was the sandal easily slipped off and on) but well worth the effort even if annoying since the majestic beauty of that rock-strewn beach was breath-taking a much used word and mostly inappropriate but not this day. Maybe global warming or maybe just the relentless crush of the seas on a timid waiting shoreline but most of the beach was un-walkable across the mountain of stones piled up and so he took the cliff trail part of the way before heading back the mile to his car in the parking lot to get to Pfeiffer Beach before too much longer. 

Pfeiffer Beach is another one of those natural beauties that you have to do some work to get, almost as much work as getting to Todo El Mundo further up the road when he and his corner boys from Olde Saco had stayed for a month after they had come out to join him on the bus once he informed them that they needed to get to the West fast because all the world was changing out there. This work entailed not walking to the beach but by navigating a big car down the narrow one lane rutted dirt road two miles to the bottom of the canyon and the parking lot since now the place had been turned into a park site as well. The road was a white-knuckles experience although not as bad as the hairpins on the Pacific Coast Highway but as with Molera worth the effort, maybe more so since Josh could walk that wind-swept beach although some of the cross-currents were fierce when the ocean tide slammed the defenseless beach and rock formation. A couple of the rocks had been ground down so by the relentless oceans that donut holes had been carved in them.                          

Here Josh put down a blanket on a rock so that he could think back to the days when he had stayed here, really at Todo el Mundo but there was no beach there just some ancient eroded cliff dwellings where they had camped out and not be bothered  so everybody would climb on the bus which they would park by the side of the road on Big Sur Highway and walk down to Pfeiffer Beach those easy then two miles bringing the day’s rations of food, alcohol and drugs (not necessarily in that order) in rucksacks and think thing nothing of the walk and if they were too “wasted” (meaning drunk or high) they would find a cave and sleep there. That was the way the times were, nothing unusual then although the sign at the park entrance like at Point Lobos (and Molera) said overnight parking and camping were prohibited. But that is the way these times are.

Josh had his full share of ancient dreams come back to him that afternoon. The life on the bus, the parties, the literary lights who came by who had known Jack Kerouac , Allan Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the remnant of beats who had put the place on the map as a cool stopping point close enough to Frisco to get to in a day but ten thousand miles from city cares and woes, the women whom he had loved and who maybe loved him back although he/they never stayed together long enough to form any close relationship except for Butterfly Swirl and that was a strange scene. Strange because Butterfly was a surfer girl who was “slumming” on the hippie scene for a while and they had connected on the bus except she finally decided that the road was not for her just like Moonbeam, as almost everybody including Josh figured out in the end, and went back to her perfect wave surfer boy down in La Jolla after a few months.

After an afternoon of such memories Josh was ready to head back having done what he had set out to which was to come and dream about the old days when he thought about the reasons for why he had gone to Big Sur later that evening back at the hotel. He was feeling a little hungry and after again traversing that narrow rutted dirt road going back up the canyon he decided if he didn’t stop here the nearest place would be around Carmel about twenty-five miles away. So he stopped at Henry’s Café. The café next to the Chevron gas station and the Big Sur library heading back toward Carmel (he had to laugh given all the literary figures who had passed through this town that the library was no bigger than the one he would read at on hot summer days in elementary school with maybe fewer books in stock). Of course the place no longer was named Henry’s since he had died long ago but except for a few coats of paint on the walls and a few paintings of the cabins out back that were still being rented out the place was the same. Henry’s had prided itself on the best hamburgers in Big Sur and that was still true as Josh found out.

But good hamburgers (and excellent potato soup not too watery) are not what Josh would remember about the café or about Big Sur that day. It would be the person, the young woman about thirty who was serving them off the arm, was the wait person at the joint. As he entered she was talking on a mile a minute in a slang he recognized, the language of his 1960s, you know, “right on,” “cool,” “no hassle,” “wasted,” the language of the laid-back hippie life. When she came to take his order he was curious, what was her name and how did she pick up that lingo which outside of Big Sur and except among the, well, now elderly, in places like Soho, Frisco, Harvard Square, is like a dead language, like Latin or Greek.

She replied with a wicked smile that her name was Morning Blossom, didn’t he like that name. [Yes.] She had been born and raised in Big Sur and planned to stay there because she couldn’t stand the hassles (her term) of the cities, places like San Francisco where she had gone to school for a while at San Francisco State. Josh thought to himself that he knew what was coming next although he let Morning Blossom have her say. Her parents had moved to Big Sur in 1969 and had started home-steading up in the hills. They have been part of a commune before she was born but that was all over with by the time she was born and so her parents struggled on the land alone. They never left, and never wanted to leave. Seldom left Big Sur and still did not.

Josh said to himself, after saying wow, he had finally found one of the lost tribes that wandered out into the wilderness back in the 1960s and were never heard from again. And here they were still plugging away at whatever dream drove them back then. He and others who had chronicled in some way the 1960s had finally found a clue to what had happened to the brethren. But as he got up from the counter, paid his bill, and left a hefty tip, he though he still had that trip out here next time with Lana to get through. He was looking forward to that adventure now though.               

From The Pages Of The Socialist Alternative Press-On The Anniversary Of Stonewall- The Stonewall Riots - 1969 — A Turning Point in the Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Liberation

From The Pages Of The Socialist Alternative Press-On The Anniversary Of Stonewall- The Stonewall Riots - 1969 — A Turning Point in the Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Liberation


The Stonewall Riots - 1969 — A Turning Point in the Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Liberation

Jul 1, 1999
Lionel Wright

Originally appeared in Socialism Today No. 40, July 1999

Something unremarkable happened on June 27, 1969 in New York's Greenwich Village, an event which had occurred a thousand times before across the U.S. over the decades. The police raided a gay bar.

At first, everything unfolded according to a time-honored ritual. Seven plain-clothes detectives and a uniformed officer entered and announced their presence. The bar staff stopped serving the watered-down, overpriced drinks, while their Mafia bosses swiftly removed the cigar boxes which functioned as tills. The officers demanded identification papers from the customers and then escorted them outside, throwing some into a waiting paddy-wagon and pushing others off the sidewalk.

But at a certain point, the "usual suspects" departed from the script and decided to fight back. A debate still rages over which incident sparked the riot. Was it a 'butch' lesbian dressed in man's clothes who resisted arrest, or a male drag queen who stopped in the doorway between the officers and posed defiantly, rallying the crowd?

Riot veteran and gay rights activist Craig Rodwell says: "A number of incidents were happening simultaneously. There was no one thing that happened or one person, there was just... a flash of group, of mass anger."

The crowd of ejected customers started to throw coins at the officers, in mockery of the notorious system of payoffs - earlier dubbed "gayola" - in which police chiefs leeched huge sums from establishments used by gay people and used "public morals" raids to regulate their racket. Soon, coins were followed by bottles, rocks, and other items. Cheers rang out as the prisoners in the van were liberated. Detective Inspector Pine later recalled, "I had been in combat situations, but there was never any time that I felt more scared than then."

Pine ordered his subordinates to retreat into the empty bar, which they proceeded to trash as well as savagely beating a heterosexual folk singer who had the misfortune to pass the doorway at that moment. At the end of the evening, a teenager had lost two fingers from having his hand slammed in a car door. Others received hospital treatment following assaults with police billy clubs.

People in the crowd started shouting "Gay Power!" And as word spread through Greenwich Village and across the city, hundreds of gay men and lesbians, black, white, Hispanic, and predominantly working class, converged on the Christopher Street area around the Stonewall Inn to join the fray. The police were now reinforced by the Tactical Patrol Force (TPF), a crack riot-control squad that had been specially trained to disperse people protesting against the Vietnam War.

Historian Martin Duberman describes the scene as the two dozen "massively proportioned" TPF riot police advanced down Christopher Street, arms linked in Roman Legion-style wedge formation: "In their path, the rioters slowly retreated, but - contrary to police expectations - did not break and run ... hundreds ... scattered to avoid the billy clubs but then raced around the block, doubled back behind the troopers, and pelted them with debris. When the cops realized that a considerable crowd had simply re-formed to their rear, they flailed out angrily at anyone who came within striking distance.

"But the protestors would not be cowed. The pattern repeated itself several times: The TPF would disperse the jeering mob only to have it re-form behind them, yelling taunts, tossing bottles and bricks, setting fires in trash cans. When the police whirled around to reverse direction at one point, they found themselves face-to-face with their worst nightmare: a chorus line of mocking queens, their arms clasped around each other, kicking their heels in the air Rockettes-style and singing at the tops of their sardonic voices:

'We are the Stonewall girls
We wear our hair in curls
We wear no underwear
We show our pubic hair...
We wear our dungarees
Above our nelly knees!'

"It was a deliciously witty, contemptuous counterpoint to the TPF's brute force." (Stonewall, Duberman, 1993) The following evening, the demonstrators returned, their numbers now swelled to thousands. Leaflets were handed out, titled "Get the Mafia and cops out of gay bars!" Altogether, the protests and disturbances continued with varying intensity for five days.

In the wake of the riots, intense discussions took place in the city's gay community. During the first week of July, a small group of lesbians and gay men started talking about establishing a new organization called the Gay Liberation Front. The name was consciously chosen for its association with the anti-imperialist struggles in Vietnam and Algeria. Sections of the GLF would go on to organize solidarity for arrested Black Panthers, collect money for striking workers, and link the battle for gay rights to the banner of socialism.

During the next year or so, lesbians and gay men built a Gay Liberation Front (GLF) or comparable body in Canada, France, Britain, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Australia, and New Zealand.

The word "Stonewall" has entered the vocabulary of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgendered (LGBT) people everywhere as a potent emblem of the gay community making a stand against oppression and demanding full equality in every area of life.

The GLF is no more, but the idea of Gay Power is as strong as ever. Meanwhile, in many countries and cities the concept of "gay pride" literally marches on each year in the form of an annual Gay Pride march.

The present generation of young LGBT people and many of today's gay rights activists were born or grew up after 1969. And over the intervening decades, politics in the U.S. have passed through a very different period. While there have been huge advances in the struggle for LGBT rights, there is still a long way to go to achieve full liberation as the growing attacks by the religious right makes very clear.

Developing Subculture
Why did the Stonewall events happen when they did? How did the initial actions of fewer than 200 people lead to both a wider protest and then the birth of Gay Liberation?

In his 1983 book Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities, the historian John D'Emilio has revealed the pre-history of Stonewall. The author shows how the process of industrialization and urbanization, and the movement of workers from plantations and family farms to wage labor in the cities, made it easier for Americans with same-sex desires to explore their sexuality. By the 1920s, a homosexual subculture had crystallized in San Francisco's Barbary Coast, the French quarter of New Orleans, and New York's Harlem and Greenwich Villages.

People with same-sex desires have existed throughout history. What has varied is the way society has viewed them, and how the people we now describe as LGBT regarded themselves at different stages.

The significance of the social change described above, and the emergence of a subculture, for the development of a gay rights movement is that an increasing number of individuals with same-sex desires were able to break out of isolation in small and rural communities. However discreetly, they learned of the existence of large numbers of other gay people and started to feel part of a wider gay community.

In society at large, the penalties for homosexuality were severe. State laws across the country criminalized same-sex acts, while simple affectionate acts in public such as two men or women holding hands could lead to arrest. Even declaring oneself as a gay man or lesbian could result in admission to a mental institution without a hearing.

Within the embryonic subculture, there were fewer places for lesbians than gay men because women generally had less economic independence, and it was therefore harder for a woman to break free from social norms and pursue same-sex interests. During the Second World War, all this changed. With the set routines of peacetime broken, gays and lesbians found more opportunities for freer sexual expression.

Women entered both the civilian workforce and the armed services in large numbers, and also had new-found spending power with which to explore their sexuality. In the documentary film Before Stonewall, a lesbian ex-servicewoman called Johnnie Phelps relates how she was called in with another female NCO to see the general-in-command of her battalion - which she estimated was "97% lesbian."

General Eisenhower told her he wanted to "ferret out" the lesbians from the battalion, and instructed her to draw up a list to that end. Both Phelps and the other woman politely informed the General that they would be pleased to make such a list, provided he was prepared to replace all the file clerks, drivers, commanders, etc. and that their own names would be at the top of the list! Eisenhower rescinded the order. A few years later as U.S. president, however, Eisenhower would get lists aplenty during the McCarthy witch-hunts that were unleashed against thousands of both suspected Communists and "sexual perverts."

Renewed Repression
With the return to peacetime conditions, the millions of Americans who had encountered gay people and relationships in the services or war economy saw this temporary opening-up of U.S. society come to an end. Most of the new wartime gay venues closed their doors, as service people were demobilized and the bulk of the new women workers were sent home from the factories.

The lid of sexual orthodoxy came crashing down, and a dark age was about to dawn for gay people. But the genie of lesbian and gay experimentation had been let out of the bottle. Things could never be quite the same again. One of the enduring effects of the war was the large number of lesbian and gay ex-service people who decided to stay in the port cities to retain some sexual freedom, away from their families and the pressure to marry.

In the 1940s and 1950s, post-war reconstruction and the shift to consumer production, taking place against the background of the Cold War, resulted in the authorities heavily promoting the model of the orthodox nuclear family to buttress the social and economic system of capitalism. The other side of the coin was a clampdown on those who stepped out of the magic circle of matrimony, parenthood, and homemaking by engaging in same-sex relationships.

The inquiries of the House Un-American Activities Committee led to thousands of homosexuals losing their jobs in government departments. The ban on the employment of homosexuals at the federal level remained in place until 1975. In the District of Columbia alone, there were 1,000 arrests each year in the early 1950s. In every state, local newspapers published the names of those charged together with their place of work, resulting in many workers getting fired. The postal service opened the mail of LGBT people and passed on names. Colleges maintained lists of suspected gay students.

The Birth of Gay Rights
It was against this hostile background that the gay rights movement in the U.S. came into existence. In 1948, Harry Hay, a gay man and long-standing member of the U.S. Communist Party (CP), decided to set up a homosexual rights group. This was the first chapter in what gay people at the time described as the "homophile" movement.

Like all Communist Parties around the world, the U.S. party claimed to uphold the tradition of the October Revolution in Russia. One of the early measures of the Bolsheviks had been to end the criminalization of gay people. But by the 1930s, the rise of the Stalinist bureaucracy had resulted in the resumption of anti-gay policies both in the Soviet Union and world Communist Parties.

In this situation, determined to pursue his project, Hay asked to be expelled from the CP. In view of his long service, the party declined his request. Together with a small group of collaborators including other former CP members, Hay launched the Mattachine Society (MS) in 1950. This took its name from a mysterious group of anti-establishment musicians in the Middle Ages, who only appeared in public in masks, and were possibly homosexual.

D'Emilio describes the program of the Mattachine Society as unifying isolated homosexuals, educating homosexuals to see themselves as an oppressed minority, and leading them in a struggle for their own emancipation. The MS organized local discussion groups to promote "an ethical homosexual culture." These argued that "emotional stress and mental confusion" among gay men and lesbians was "socially conditioned."

Notwithstanding the Stalinist degeneration of the CP in which Hay had received two decades of training, the MS founders clearly applied Marxist methods to understand the position of gay people and chart a way forward. For the structure of Mattachine, Hay utilized the methods of secrecy which the CP had employed in the face of attacks by the authorities, but which also developed against the background of the undemocratic methods of Stalinism in the workers' movement.

To combat the persecution facing gay people, the Mattachine Society was based on a network of cells arranged in five tiers, or "orders." Hay and the other leaders comprised the fifth order, but would be unknown to members at first and second "order" levels. For three years, the MS steadily expanded its network of discussion groups. Growth accelerated in 1952 after MS won a famous victory over the police when charges against a Mattachine member in Los Angeles were dropped, following a campaign of fliers by a front organization called the "Citizens Committee to Outlaw Entrapment."

However, the following year, after a witch-hunting article by a McCarthyite journalist in Los Angeles, the fifth order decided to organize a "democratic convention." When this took place, the Hay group was criticized from the floor by conservative and anti-Communist elements who demanded that the MS introduce loyalty oaths, which was a standard McCarthyite tactic. The radical leadership managed to defeat all the opposition resolutions, and the demand for a loyalty oath never gained a majority in Mattachine.

Nevertheless, Hay and his comrades decided not to stand for positions in the organization they had established and built. This effectively handed the group over to the conservatives. Many who had supported the original aims left in disgust, and it took two years for the membership to be built up again. If the Hay group had stayed active, it could have offered a pole of attraction for militant LGBT people. As it was, the movement was thrown back and a decade was lost.

Whereas the Mattachine founders had advocated an early version of "gay pride," the new leadership reflected the social prejudice prevalent against homosexuals. The new MS president, Kenneth Burns, wrote in the Society journal, "We must blame ourselves for our own plight ... When will the homosexual ever realize that social reform, to be effective, must be preceded by personal reform?"

The position of the new leadership was that gay people could not fight for changes in U.S. society but had to look to "respectable" doctors, psychiatrists, etc. through whom to ingratiate themselves with the authorities in the hope of more favorable treatment. But the problem was that the vast majority of such figures advocated the idea that homosexuality was a sickness.

Towards the end of this period, when a professional named Albert Ellis told a homophile conference that "the exclusive homosexual is a psychopath," someone in the audience shouted: "Any homosexual who would come to you for treatment, Dr. Ellis, would have to be a psychopath!"

The Rise of Gay Activism
It is thought that many LGBT people who had yet to "come out" (publicly identify themselves as homosexual) became workers in the black civil rights campaign that began in the 1950s. By the following decade, the influence of the civil rights movement was making itself felt within the homophile movement. The "accommodationist" establishment of people such as Burns increasingly came under attack from a fresh generation of militant activists.

Eventually, in both the Mattachine Society and a similarly conservative lesbian group called the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the leadership chose to dissolve the national structure rather than see the organization fall into the hands of radicals. Individual MS and DOB branches then continued on a free-standing basis. In these and other city-based groups, militant leaders managed to win majorities, often after colossal battles.

Within this process, an influential figure was astronomer Frank Kameny, who had been fired from a government job in the anti-gay purges. After unsuccessfully fighting victimization in the courts, he concluded that the U.S. government "had declared war on" him and decided to become a full-time gay rights activist. Kameny was scathing about the old leadership of the homophile movement in their craven deference towards the medical establishment: "The prejudiced mind is not penetrated by information, and is not educable." The real experts on homosexuality were homosexuals, he said.

Referring to the organizations of the black civil rights movement, Frank Kameny noted: "I do not see the NAACP and CORE worrying about which chromosome and gene produced a black skin, or about the possibility of bleaching the Negro." As the struggles of U.S. blacks produced slogans such as "Black is Beautiful," Kameny coined the slogan "Gay is Good" and eventually persuaded the homophile movement to adopt this in the run-up to Stonewall.

The militant homophile campaigners started public picketing with placards and other direct actions, and mounted an offensive against the police and government over criminal entrapment, the employment ban, and a range of other issues.

Twenty years after Harry Hay had first conceived the idea of the Mattachine Society, U.S. society had undergone a transformation. The rise of a women's movement (with lesbians prominent among the organizers), the shift among black people from a civil rights to a black power movement (parts of which embraced socialist ideas), a revolt against the U.S. war in Vietnam on American campuses influenced by the May 1968 events in France, plus the side effects of other developments such as a rebellion against establishment values in dress and personal relationships among groups such as the hippies, all contributed to gay and lesbian rights campaigns moving into a more militant phase.

One of the strands within the Gay Liberation Front argued that a revolutionary struggle against capitalism to build a socialist society was needed to finally end the oppression of gay people.

Craig Rodwell concludes: "There was a very volatile active political feeling, especially among young people ... when the night of the Stonewall Riots came along, just everything came together at that one moment. People often ask what was special about that night ... There was no one thing special about it. It was just everything coming together, one of those moments in history that if you were there, you knew, this is it, this is what we've been waiting for."

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love, 1967-The “Blues Mama” Of “The Generation Of ‘68”- The Music Of Janis Joplin

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love, 1967-The “Blues Mama” Of “The Generation Of ‘68”- The Music Of Janis Joplin

Zack James’ comment June, 2017:
Sometimes you just have to follow the bouncing ball like in those old time sing along cartoons they used to have back in say the 1950s,the time I remember them from, on Saturday afternoon matinees at the old now long gone Stand Theater in my growing up town of North Adamsville. Follow me for a minute here I won’t be long. Earlier this spring my oldest brother, Alex, took attended a conference in San Francisco which he has done periodically for years. While there he noticed an advertisement on a bus for something called the Summer of Love Experience at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. That ad immediately caught his attention he had been out there that year and had participated in those events at the urging of his friend Peter Paul Markin who was something of a holy goof (a Jack Kerouac term of art), a low rent prophet, and a street criminal all in one. When Alex got back to the East after having attended the exhibition he got in contact with me to help him, and the still standing corner boys who also had gone out West at Markin’s urging to put together a tribute booklet honoring Markin and the whole experience.
After completing that project, or maybe while completing it I kept on thinking about the late Hunter S. Thompson who at one time was the driving force behind gonzo journalism and had before his suicide about a decade ago been something of a muse to me. At first my thoughts were about how Thompson would have taken the exhibition at the de Young since a lot of what he wrote about in the 1960s and 1970s was where the various counter-cultural trends were, or were not, going. But then as the current national political situation in America in the Trump Age has turned to crap, to craziness and straight out weirdness I began to think about how Thompson would have handled the 24/7/365 craziness these days since he had been an unremitting searing critic of another President of the United States who also had low-life instincts, one Richard Milhous Nixon.
The intertwining of the two stands came to head recently over the fired FBI director James Comey hearings where he essentially said that the emperor had no clothes. So I have been inserting various Thompson-like comments in an occasional series I am running in various on-line publications-Even The President Of The United States Sometimes Must Have To Stand Naked-Tales From The White House Bunker. And will continue to overlap the two-Summer of Love and Age of Trump for as long as it seems relevant. So there you are caught up. Ifs not then I have included hopefully for the last time the latest cross-over Thompson idea.           
Zack James comment, Summer of 2017                

Maybe it says something about the times we live in, or maybe in this instance happenstance or, hell maybe something in the water but certain things sort of dovetail every now and again. I initially started this commentary segment after having written a longest piece for my brother and his friends as part of a small tribute booklet they were putting together about my and their takes on the Summer of Love, 1967. That event that my brother, Alex, had been knee deep in had always interested me from afar since I was way too young to have appreciated what was happening in San Francisco in those Wild West days. What got him motivated to do the booklet had been an exhibit at the de Young Art Museum in Golden Gate Park where they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the events of that summer with a look at the music, fashion, photography and exquisite poster art which was created then just as vivid advertising for concerts and “happenings” but which now is legitimate artful expression.
That project subsequently got me started thinking about the late Hunter Thompson, Doctor Gonzo, the driving force behind a new way of looking at and presenting journalism which was really much closer to the nub of what real reporting was about. Initially I was interested in some of Thompson’s reportage on what was what in San Francisco as he touched the elbows of those times having spent a fair amount of time working on his seminal book on the Hell’s Angels while all hell was breaking out in Frisco town. Delved into with all hands and legs the high points and the low, the ebb which he located somewhere between the Chicago Democratic Convention fiasco of the summer of 1968 and the hellish Rollins Stones Altamont concert of 1969.     
Here is what is important today though, about how the dots get connected out of seemingly random occurrences. Hunter Thompson also made his mark as a searing no holds barred mano y mano reporter of the rise and fall, of the worthy demise of one Richard Milhous Nixon at one time President of the United States and a common low-life criminal of ill-repute. Needless to say today, the summer of 2107, in the age of one Donald Trump, another President of the United States and common low-life criminal begs the obvious question of what the sorely missed Doctor Gonzo would have made of the whole process of the self-destruction of another American presidency, or a damn good run at self-destruction. So today and maybe occasionally in the future there will be some intertwining of commentary about events fifty years ago and today. Below to catch readers up to speed is the most recent “homage” to Hunter Thompson. And you too I hope will ask the pertinent question. Hunter where are you when we need, desperately need, you.       
Zack James comment, Summer of 2017 

You know it is in a way too bad that “Doctor Gonzo”-Hunter S Thompson, the late legendary journalist who broke the back, hell broke the neck, legs, arms of so-called objective journalism in a drug-blazed frenzy back in the 1970s when he “walked with the king”’ is not with us in these times. (Walking with the king not about walking with any king or Doctor King but being so high on drugs, your choice, that commin clay experiences fall by the way side. In the times of this 50th anniversary commemoration of the Summer of Love, 1967 which he worked the edges of while he was doing research (live and in your face research by the way) on the notorious West Coast-based Hell’s Angels. His “hook” through Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters down in Kesey’s place in La Honda where many an “acid test” took place, where many walked with the king, if you prefer, and where for a time the Angels, Hunter in tow, were welcomed. He had been there in the high tide, when it looked like we had the night-takers on the run and later as well when he saw the ebb tide of the 1960s coming a year or so later although that did not stop him from developing the quintessential “gonzo” journalism fine-tuned with plenty of dope for which he would become famous before the end, before he took his aging life and left Johnny Depp and company to fling his ashes over this good green planet. He would have “dug” the exhibition, maybe smoked a joint for old times’ sake (oh no, no that is not done in proper society, in high art society these days) at the de Young Museum at the Golden Gate Park highlighting the events of the period showing until August 20th of this year.   

Better yet he would have had this Trump thug bizarre weirdness wrapped up and bleeding from all pores just like he regaled us with the tales from the White House bunker back in the days when Trump’s kindred one Richard Milhous Nixon, President of the United States and common criminal was running the same low rent trip before he was run out of town by his own like some rabid rat. He would have gone crazy seeing all the crew deserting the sinking U.S.S. Trump with guys like fired FBI Director Comey going to Capitol Hill and saying out loud the emperor has no clothes and would not know the truth if it grabbed him by the throat. Every day would be a feast day. But perhaps the road to truth these days, in the days of “alternate facts” and assorted other bullshit would have been bumpier than in those more “civilized” times when simple burglaries and silly tape-recorders ruled the roost. Hunter did not make the Nixon “hit list” (to his everlasting regret for which he could hardly hold his head up in public) but these days he surely would find himself in the top echelon. Maybe too though with these thugs who like their forbears would stop at nothing he might have found himself in some back alley bleeding from all pores. Hunter Thompson wherever you are –help. Selah. Enough said-for now  


Janis Joplin: 18 Essential Songs, Janis Joplin with Big Brother and The Holding Company, Columbia Records, 1995

It is virtually a truism that every generation has its own cultural icons, for better or worst. The 1960’s, the time of this reviewer’s “Generation of ‘68”, was no exception. Although there were no official creeds in the matter, in fact we scorned such thinking, a rough translation of what we thought we were about then could be summed up as follows- live fast, live young and live forever. Other, later generations have put their own imprint on that theme although I sense without our basically naïve and hopeful expectations of that phrase. All this is by way of saying that the artist under review, urban white blues and soul singer Janis Joplin, was one of our icons. That she crashed and burned well before her time, and well before forever, only adds poignancy to her fate.

The role of “blues mama” for a generation is certainly no task for the faint-hearted, as Janis’s life, life style, and fame attest to. That she was able to translate the black blues idiom and style of the likes of her idol “Big Mama” Thornton, of necessity, had to take its toll on that tiny hard scrabble Texas-raised body. But that is the fundamental tragedy (and beauty) of the blues. Not only must you ‘pay your dues’ but this genre cannot be faked. If you have not lived a hard scrabble existence, faced the depths of what society has to offer and come out swinging you flat-out cannot convey that message the way it is suppose to be done. Janis could. Other white women blues singers as fine performers as they are, like Tracey Nelson and Rory Block, approximate that sound but there is just a little too much “refinement” in the voice to pass this test.

So what did Janis (and her fellow musicians of Big Brother and The Holding Company who generally rose to the occasion and created great sounds to go with that Joplin voice) leave us? Well, as contained in this above average CD compilation of her work, most of the essential woman’s blues numbers of the 1960’s that will stand the test of time. Not bad, right? Start off, as always, with ‘Big Mama’s” “Ball and Chain” (that blew them away at the Monterrey Pops Festival). Move on to the classic Gershwin tune “Summertime”. Feast on her own “I Need A Man To Love” and “Kozmic Blues”. And close out with Kris Kristofferson’s 1960’s traveling anthem “Me And Booby McGee”. And in between a dozen more memorable tunes. I defy anyone to find a song in this compilation that is less than above average. And that kind of says it all. Janis Joplin’s star burned out far too quickly and those of us from her generation are now coming to terms with the fact that, despite our youthful beliefs, we will not live forever. Her music, however, will.

Ball And Chain lyrics

Sittin’ down by my window,
Honey, lookin’ out at the rain.
Oh, Lord, Lord, sittin’ down by my window,
Baby, lookin’ out at the rain.
Somethin’ came along, grabbed a hold of me, honey,
And it felt just like a ball and chain.
Honey, that’s exactly what it felt like,
Honey, just dragging me down.

And I say, oh, whoa, whoa, now hon’, tell me why,
Why does every single little tiny thing I hold on to go wrong ?
Yeah it goes wrong, yeah.
And I say, oh, whoa, whoa, now babe, tell me why,
Does every thing, every thing.
Hey, here you gone today, I wanted to love you,
I just wanted to hold you, I said, for so long,
Yeah! Alright! Hey!

Love’s got a hold on me, baby,
Feels like a ball and chain.
Now, love’s just draggin’ me down, baby,
Feels like a ball and chain.
I hope there’s someone out there who could tell me
Why the man I love wanna leave me in so much pain.
Yeah, maybe, maybe you could help me, come on, help me!

And I say, oh, whoa, whoa, now hon’, tell me why,
Now tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me why, yeah.
And I say, oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, when I ask you,
When I need to know why, c’mon tell me why, hey hey hey,
Here you’ve gone today,
I wanted to love you and hold you
Till the day I die.
I said whoa, whoa, whoa!!

And I say oh, whoa, whoa, no honey
It ain’t fair, daddy it ain’t fair what you do,
I see what you’re doin’ to me and you know it ain’t fair.
And I say oh, whoa whoa now baby
It ain’t fair, now, now, now, what you do
I said hon’ it ain’t fair what, hon’ it ain’t fair what you do.
Oh, here you gone today and all I ever wanted to do
Was to love you
Honey you can still hear me rock and roll the best,
Only it ain’t roll, no, no, no, no, no.

Sittin’ down by my window,
Lookin’ out at the rain.
Lord, Lord, Lord, sittin’ down by my window,
Lookin’ out at the rain, see the rain.
Somethin’ came along, grabbed a hold of me,
And it felt like a ball and chain.
Oh this can’t be in vain
And I’m gonna tell you one more time, yeah, yeah!

And I say oh, whoa whoa, now baby
This can’t be, no this can’t be in vain,
And I say no no no no no no no no, whoa,
And I say whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Now now now now now now now now now no no not in vain
Hey, hope there is someone that could tell me
Hon’, tell me why love is like
Just like a ball
Just like a ball
Oh daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy
And a chain.

Call On Me lyrics

Well, baby, when times are bad,
Now call on me, darling, and I’ll come to you.
When you’re in trouble and feel so sad,
Well, call on me, darling, come on call on me, and I’ll help you.

A man and a woman have each other, baby,
To find their way in this world.
I need you, darling, like the fish needs the sea,
Don’t take your sweet, your sweet love from me.

Baby, when you’re down and feel so blue,
Well, no, you won’t drown, darling, I’ll be there too.
You’re not alone, I’m there too,
Whatever your troubles, honey, I don’t care.

A man and a woman have each other, baby,
To find their way in this world.
I need you, darling, like the fish needs the sea,
Don’t take your sweet, sweet love from me!

Please! So baby, when times are bad,
Call on me, darling, just call on me.

I Need A Man To Love lyrics

Whoa, I need a man to love me.
Don’t you understand me, baby ?
Why, I need a man to love.
I gotta find him, I gotta have him like the air I breathe.
One lovin’ man to understand can’t be too much to need.

You know it
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be this loneliness
Baby, surrounding me.

No, no, know it just can’t be
No it just can’t be
There’s got to be some kind of answer.
No it just can’t be
And everywhere I look, there’s none around
No it just can’t be
Whoa, it can’t be
No it just can’t be, oh no!
Whoa, hear me now.

Whoa, won’t you let me hold you ?
Honey, just close your eyes.
Whoa, won’t you let me hold you, dear ?
I want to just put my arms around ya, like the circles going ‘round the sun.
Let me hold you daddy, at least until the morning comes.

Because it
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be now
Oh no
Can’t be this loneliness
Baby, surrounding me.
No, no, no it just can’t be.
No it just can’t be
Oh, baby, baby, baby, baby, just can’t be.
No, no, no
No it just can’t be

And why can’t anyone ever tell me, now ?
No it just can’t be
I wake up one morning, I realize
No it just can’t be
Whoa, it can’t be.
No it just can’t be
Now go!

Whoa, I need a man to love me
Oh, maybe you can help me, please.
Why, I need a man to love.
But I believe that someday and somehow it’s bound to come along
Because when all my dreams and all my plans just cannot turn out wrong.

You know it
Can’t be now Oh no
Can’t be now Oh no
Can’t be now Oh no
Can’t be now Oh no
Can’t be now Oh no
Can’t be just loneliness
Baby, surrounding me

No, no, no, it just can’t be
No it just can’t be
Oh, baby, baby, baby, baby, it just can’t be
No it just can’t be
And who could be foolin’ me ?
No it just can’t be
I’ve got all this happiness
No it just can’t be
Come, come, come on, come on, come on, and help me now.
No it just can’t be
Please, can’t you hear my cry ?
No it just can’t be
Whoa, help ...

Newly Found Photos Show Janis Joplin's Final Concert — 45 Years Ago At Harvard


Peter Warrack's photo of Janis Joplin performing at Harvard Stadium, August 12, 1970. (House of Roulx)
Peter Warrack’s photo of Janis Joplin performing at Harvard Stadium, Aug. 12, 1970. (House of Roulx)
The evening of Aug. 12, 1970, was a warm one. Harvard Stadium had been transformed into a concert arena with the addition of rows upon rows of seats onto the field. An estimated 40,000 spectators were crammed inside. After it was discovered that some sound equipment had been stolen, the show was delayed. According to several accounts, the crowd was restless, near rioting.
They were waiting for Janis Joplin.
“Oddly, while we were sitting there—and the crowd was getting into something, it became very smoky and sweet there, let’s put it that way—we could see, straight ahead, the open-scaffolding stage,” says Kevin McElroy, who was seated near the front with his boyfriend, Peter Warrack. “Janis was underneath. And she had a bottle of Southern Comfort, and she was just in a world of her own there. She just was doing what she wanted to do in the moment. After another hour-and-a-half or so—it was really quite a delay—she literally burst onto the stage. It was just electric.”
Peter Warrack's photo of Janis Joplin performing at Harvard Stadium, August 12, 1970. (House of Roulx)
Peter Warrack’s photo of Janis Joplin performing at Harvard Stadium, Aug. 12, 1970. (House of Roulx)
Two months later, Joplin was dead. That near-disaster concert at Harvard Stadium, it turned out, was her last public performance.
It was a special night for Warrack as well. An amateur photographer who liked to photograph celebrities and collect autographs, he shot almost a whole roll of film from down in the front, a telephoto lens aimed upward at the star as she threw herself across the stage. Concerts weren’t documented as thoroughly back then as they are now, thanks to Instagram and Twitter and a camera on every smartphone, so those 24 black-and-white close-ups are, seemingly, some of the few existing relics of the historic concert.
The Liverpool-born Warrack died in 2008, but nearly his entire collection of photographs—around 15,000—remained unpublished during his lifetime. Until recently they languished in a vast collection of binders in several closets at McElroy’s residence in Boston’s South End. House of Roulx—a Danvers-based operator of an online boutique selling celebrity photos, reproductions of funny sci-fi art and copies of curious old photos—acquired the entire collection this year. Individual prints as well as a limited edition box set of the Joplin series are available for purchase on the House of Roulx website.
Peter Warrack's photo of Janis Joplin performing at Harvard Stadium, August 12, 1970. (House of Roulx)
Peter Warrack’s photo of Janis Joplin performing at Harvard Stadium, Aug. 12, 1970. (House of Roulx)
“This wasn’t just a guy who was celebrity star-struck who snapped pictures, he was actually a really good photographer,” says House of Roulx’s Jared Gendron. “Because there’s a difference between someone who just runs around snapping pictures paparazzi-style in the 1970s, versus somebody who has that artistic eye.”
Taken together, Warrack’s photographs of Joplin are like a flip-book of the 27-year-old singer that capture a few fleeting, candid moments onstage. They are portraits, really, set against a black background, zoomed in close enough to count the bracelets on her wrist. In one shot, she holds a finger pensively to her lips. In another, she radiates, smiling as she looks over her shoulder. One photo captures her in motion, a blur of sweat and song.
“She was feeling no pain, literally,” says McElroy. “She was interacting with the audience in almost a—well, it wasn’t almost, it was, it was a sexual banter back and forth. They were calling up to her, they wanted her, and she wanted them. At one point in time she says, ‘Yeah, I’ll take you on. One at a time. One at a time.’ That was part of who she was.”
Peter Warrack's photo of Janis Joplin performing at Harvard Stadium, August 12, 1970. (House of Roulx)
Peter Warrack’s photo of Janis Joplin performing at Harvard Stadium, Aug. 12, 1970. (House of Roulx)
When Joplin died on Oct. 4, 1970, Reuters ran an obituary that spent as much time detailing her boozy, contentious persona as her actual musicianship. In the years since, she has become something of a feminist icon, in addition to a bona fide rock ‘n’ roll legend. Her voice—that gravelly, SoCo-soaked voice—epitomizes the capacity of a rare kind of greatness to translate pain into art.
“I think people today might not understand—you know, Janis was young, she was only 20-odd, and she was one of our current rock stars,” says McElroy. “She was just somebody who was touring, and somebody who was good, and somebody you wanted to see. Over the last 45 years, Janis has become something else, in a way most people who die young do become. And I think young people today would look at Janis and not see her in the same light that we did.”
In McElroy’s telling, Warrack’s work was driven by a fascination with both the glamour of celebrity as well as the humanity behind it. The photographs of Joplin, he says, show a side of her that has been largely erased by her iconic status and all that she symbolizes now.
“I think we see something different when we look back,” says McElroy. “I don’t think we see just Janis herself. [That night] was just Janis, performing. It was wonderful.”
Peter Warrack's photo of Janis Joplin performing at Harvard Stadium, August 12, 1970. (House of Roulx)
Peter Warrack’s photo of Janis Joplin performing at Harvard Stadium, Aug. 12, 1970. (House of Roulx)