Reports from the Bibliographic Bunker
Jed Birmingham on William S. Burroughs Collecting
When I began collecting William Burroughs in 1993, the junk that fed my book habit was the signed titles derived from and relating to the Naked Lunch Word Horde. The Olympia Press Naked Lunch was the ideal fix, and I would have crawled through a gutter to get one. Then came the Nelson Lyon Auction at PBA Galleries in 1999, and my entire focus changed. The Lyon Sale showed me the wonders of literary magazines and opened up a whole new world to me. What made the Lyon Sale special was the fact that his rare magazines were all signed. Lyon, as producer on a Burroughs spoken word album and as the man responsible for Burroughs’ Saturday Night Live appearance, had special access that I could never hope to have. Burroughs’ death in 1997 assured that. In an effort to do Lyon one better, I decided to collect complete runs of all the little magazines with a Burroughs appearance from the mimeo revolution period (roughly 1945-1970).
Thankfully, most of the magazines from this time had short life spans. The number of issues rarely climbed out of the single digits and in some cases comprised only a single issue. The exceptions like Evergreen Review (96 issues in its initial run from 1957-1973) and Floating Bear (38 issues) loom large. I always feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction whenever I successfully put together a complete run of a magazine, particularly if I do it in pieces and not as a bulk purchase in one fell swoop.
So my stomach dropped when I saw a copy of Issue One of Charles Plymell’s NOW magazine for sale on Abebooks. NOW ran for three issues in the mid-1960s. Burroughs appeared in Issue Two and Three, and I tracked down those issues without too much trouble in recent years. William Reese currently has a copy of issue three for $35. The description states that copies of this issue are getting harder to find. This assessment might be spot on. I always remember a copy or two of the later issues of NOW as being available, but these appear to be drying up. Reese has the only copy currently. Issue One has always been tough. In the last three years, I had never seen a copy until, well, NOW. The first issue proved as elusive as Insect Trust Gazette 2. Yet in the digital age, most bookstores, as well as everybody’s garage and basement, are within reach. The Gazette turned up in Germany, the NOW surfaced in San Francisco.
San Francisco makes sense, because the first issue of NOW is a time capsule of the pre-Summer of Love era by the Bay. Plymell printed the premier issue of NOW in 1963 when he was living at 1403 Gough Street. Beat fans might recognize this address. In 1954, Allen Ginsberg met Peter Orlovsky there. At the time, Orlovsky lived with painter Robert La Vigne. La Vigne painted a portrait of a naked Orlovsky that hung on the wall of La Vigne’s apartment. Ginsberg was smitten with the painting and fell in love with the subject.
Flash forward almost ten years and Charles Plymell moved in. Plymell was one of several Kansas natives who shook up the counterculture scene, particularly in San Francisco. Bruce Conner, Michael McClure, Bob Brannaman were some others. In the summer of 1963, 1403 Gough Street became the epicenter of a scene: counterculture San Francisco before the hype and paranoia of the Summer of Love. Plymell has mined this period for a series of essays that appeared in Kevin Ring’s Transit and in Grist, a mag published out of Kansas. Ring recently printed a reworked essay entitled “Neal and Anne at 1403 Gough Street” for his chapbook series.
For sure, proto-hippies (called heads at the time) hung out at Plymell’s residence, but so did writers and poets associated with Auerhahn Press (Dave Haselwood, Andrew Hoyem), members of Wallace Berman’s Semina Circle (Bruce Conner, Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell), left coast Beats (Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, Michael McClure and Lew Welch), and soon-to-be-celebrity drug dealers, like Owsley. In the summer of 1963, Plymell shared the seven rooms with Neal Cassady and his girlfriend, Anne Murphy. Allen Ginsberg blew into town coming down from the legendary Vancouver Poetry Conference of that summer after an extended stay in India and the Far East.
My copy of NOW documents this magic time in a special way. The mag bears the library stamp of Ben Talbert. Talbert was an artist associated with the Semina Circle. His works are perfect examples of funk assemblage, like the work of George Herms or Bruce Conner that was coming out of California at the time right before Warhol exhibited in LA and brought in Pop. Talbert contributes a woodcut drawing to Issue two of NOW. Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg and Michael McClure appear in Issue One, and each poet signed, and in some cases, inscribed their contributions. Whalen signs and dates his poem, October 20, 1963. It just so happens that this was the date of Whalen’s 40th birthday. Ginsberg inscribed his poem to celebrate this event with a drawing of a vagina and a cock and balls. McClure provided a snippet of beast language in honor of Rimbaud’s birthday. Rimbaud shared Whalen’s birthday albeit almost 70 years earlier: October 20, 1854. McClure sketched what I take to be a profile of Rimbaud along the gutter of the magazine. This mag may have been signed at a birthday party for Whalen at 1403 Gough Street. Quite a remarkable document that captures a special moment in SF literary history.
Whalen’s work of this period deserves some extra attention. I first read Whalen’s work in the basic Beat anthologies and inevitably these volumes excerpt the Six Gallery era stuff, like “Sourdough Mountain Lookout.” This is basic Zen Beat material in content. The form of these poems is rather traditional as well: left margins for the most part; initial caps at the start of lines. Unfortunately, I did not dig further until recently. I have only dabbled in Whalen’s work, but the publication of the collected Whalen really opened my eyes. Yet the more radical Whalen was always there in the magazines on my shelf like NOW. Whalen’s poetry of the 1960s is a wonderful combination of Eastern thought / American West Frontier (called “Cowboy Zen” by Ron Silliman), O’Hara (and later Ted Berrigan) I do this, I do that notation, calligraphy (like Gary Snyder), and composition by field / projective verse à la Charles Olson. For anyone who thinks of Whalen only as the poet of “Sourdough Mountain,” I encourage them to dig deeper in order to find out why Kerouac considered Whalen 180 pounds of poetmeat.
Roughly a month after Whalen’s birthday, the curtain closed on the scene at 1403 Gough Street. John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963 ushered in the revolutionary / psychedelicized / overhyped 1960s. Ginsberg captured this watershed moment in “Nov. 23, 1963 Alone.” Ginsberg was anything but alone on the day of the assassination. Ginsberg, Cassady, Anne Murphy and Plymell (and his girlfriend Ann) were all together at Gough Street. The poem provides not only a eulogy of Kennedy but also of a moment in time for San Francisco and the rest of the United States. The innocence of Camelot was over, and the spirit of the Kennedy era was about to get much darker and more violent. Issue One of NOW was of that earlier moment before the decade officially became the SIXTIES. Ginsberg writes of being alone “with Now, with Fuck You, with Wild Dog Burning Bush Poetry Evergreen C Thieves Journal Soft Machine Genesis Renaissance Contact Kill Roy etc.” These magazines represent the underground before the counterculture went mainstream.
Shortly after November 1963, Plymell began to disassociate himself from rock and roll / emerging hippie SF and align himself with William Burroughs and the cut-up. This becomes clearer in the second issue of NOW entitled NOW NOW published in 1965. NOW NOW is much more ambitious in form and content than the previous issue. The first thing that jumps out at you is the presence of color and artwork. Color is unusual in the mimeo revolution. Plymell features Burroughs on the back cover with a color-coded selection from Nova Express. The idea of Burroughs organizing his fiction based on color is nothing new. He tinkered with this idea in the Olympia Soft Machine. I would suspect that this use of color tied back to Rimbaud and his poem linking vowels to colors. Another cut-up appears in NOW NOW under the name of William Lee: “Where cumith Bozo the Clown, frum the start to a nevr endin.” According to Maynard and Miles, this is not Burroughs but a taxi driver of the same name. (If you do not have a copy of this bibliography, let alone Goodman or Shoaf’s, get at least one immediately. They are wonderful sources of information.) As for Bozo, it is no doubt a weird piece and I am sure Plymell and readers in the know appreciated the confusion that ensued, but Burroughs generally cut-up sentences and phrases. He did not go down to the individual word or syllable. He experimented with word blocks, more than words.
NOW NOW NOW, the third and final issue of NOW, is one step beyond the previous two issues. It is oversized, almost poster size, and presents some difficulty in sending it through the mail. It is an art piece. By this time, Plymell was intimately involved with Claude Pelieu and Mary Beach, two of the most dedicated followers and practitioners of the cut-up technique. NOW NOW NOW reminds me of another little mag of the period: Bulletin from Nothing. Both mags incorporate the visual as much as the textual. Both introduce collage into the mag in terms of content and in the patchwork way the mags are put together. Plymell worked as an artist as well as a writer. In 1963, he exhibited a show of collages at the Batman Gallery. Like the Ferus Gallery, the Batman had ties to the Semina Circle.
Burroughs appears in NOW NOW NOW: “Afterbirth of Dream Now.” Like Bozo, it is a standalone effort that in an interview Plymell states was created from an article that he sent to Burroughs. Burroughs received the article and sent it back cut-up. Several other magazine editors of the period tell a similar story. Daniel Lauffer of Brown Paper is one example.
The visual elements of NOW NOW NOW remind me of the collage / mixed-media work that the Fluxus artists might do. Maybe NOW NOW NOW seems like Fluxus in the shared influence of Dada. Norman Mustill contributes a collage. Cut-ups in the form of telegrams come from Claude Pelieu. I have not seen Burroughs described as a fully fledged member of Fluxus, but his radical experiments with text, image, art, film and audio tape in the 1965-1970 period seem to have much in common with that group that goes beyond merely being published by Dick Higgins’ Something Else Press.
The changing title of NOW over its run is instructive. What I like best about the magazine is that it changed from issue to issue and always attempted to expand and to do itself one better. Issue one is a simple chapbook, not much different from a host of other little mags of the time. I am thinking of Trace, Yugen, or Nomad. The Whalen poem suggests an interest in typography and the page as canvas, but this is largely unexplored. Not so in NOW NOW. Visual art is a major component of the second issue; in the presence of reproductions, in the use of different typographies (as expressed in the interlocking bodies that form the title or in McClure’s poster-like beast poem), and in the layout of work on the page (for example, McClure’s poem is landscaped and utilizes the whole page). NOW NOW also has an expanded format in the number of pages and page size.
NOW NOW NOW makes the link between page and canvas explicit. The large format with the string binding suggests an artist’s portfolio or a collection of posters. NOW NOW NOW is slight in number of pages but it challenges what a literary magazine can be in form and content. The final issue is a logical progression from Plymell’s work with collage: artwork described as “sadistic” by Jeff Nuttall. Plymell surely plays rough with the reader’s expectations of a literary magazine in this issue.
After the final issue of NOW, Plymell continued to experiment with writing. He published Apocalypse Rose with Auerhahn Press in 1967 and The Last of the Moccasins with City Lights in 1971. In 1968, Plymell continued to explore the merging of the textual with the visual. The first issue of Zap Comix, printed by Plymell, introduced early work by R. Crumb. This roughly produced publication helped usher in the underground comix and presaged the graphic novel in terms of introducing adult themes to the comic. Zap Comix #1 is a legendary rarity and a highly prized collectible — the equivalent of Action Comics #1 that introduced Superman in April 1938.
In the 1970s, Plymell continued on as a publisher manning a xerox machine for a series of publications under the Cherry Valley Editions imprint. Cherry Valley was Ginsberg’s retreat / sanctuary / sanitarium for poets and writers in distress in rural New York. Ray Bremser and Gregory Corso landed there as did Plymell. By this time, Plymell married Mary Beach’s daughter, Pamela, and started Coldspring Journal (possibly a reference to Coldspring, Texas, a locale that appeared in Burroughs writing over the years based on his time near the Texas-Mexico border in the late 1940s). A Burroughs piece titled “Coldspring News” appeared in Spero 1, a one-shot from 1965. Spero is a cool item, and they have been turning up online recently for those interested. Four issues of Plymell’s journal appeared in the mid-1970s. Some other publications include Ray Bremser’s Blowing Mouth (1978), Joshua Norton’s The Blue and the Gray Poems (1975), Maureen Owen’s The No-Travels Journals (1975) and Dan Raphael’s Energumen (1976). Plymell brought out Burroughs’ Cobblestone Gardens in a Cherry Valley Edition in 1976; it was followed up years later with Tornado Alley. Burroughs wrote the foreword to Mary Beach’s Electric Banana and provided a blurb for Pelieu’s Coca Neon/Polaroid Rainbow collection; both books were printed by Cherry Valley. Cherry Valley Editions soldiers on in the present publishing new work by Plymell and others.
Plymell is something of a forgotten figure. Currently he is best known as a gadfly commenting on the Beat Generation and the poetry scene generally taking on the role of the departed Gregory Corso. Plymell lays low the sacred cows of the post-WWII counterculture. In my opinion, his work as a publisher deserves a second glance. NOW stands out visually from the mass of 1960s little mags. In Bomb Culture, Jeff Nuttall singled out NOW and Plymell as contributing factors that helped build the counterculture and helped form an alternative network of information and contacts. Nuttall also comments on the important role that Kansas played in providing energetic individuals as well as an element of funkiness and grit into the scenes on both coasts. This Kansas connection is well documented on the Beats in Kansas website, and Plymell is a major figure in that group.
Over the years, Plymell had ties to Burroughs in Lawrence. Despite being critical of the Beats, Plymell speaks highly of Burroughs. In return, Burroughs blurbed Last of the Moccasins. More importantly, but less known, is the fact that Plymell introduced a young James Grauerholz to the work of Burroughs in a Kansas bookstore. The recommendation struck a chord, because soon after Grauerholz went to New York and became Burroughs’ right hand man. The rest is history. When the counterculture gathered, like at 1403 Gough Street, Plymell was usually in the room, and in many cases, he had something interesting (and controversial) to contribute to the conversation. His publications, like NOW, are testament to that. Check them out if you get the chance.
Charles Plymell: Outlaw Poet
PDF of feature article that appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of Rain Taxi.
NOW NOW NOW
Poems by Charles Plymell and Philip Whalen, “Afterbirth of Dream Now” by William S. Burroughs
NOW NOW NOW
Poems by Roxie Powell, Sculpture of Bob Branaman by Dion Wright, Drawing by “Manny Lipshitz” aka Dean Stockwell
NOW ARCHIVAL MATERIALS
William S. Burroughs
Afterbirth of Dream Now
Manuscript of cut-up collaboration with Charles Plymell published in NOW NOW NOW.
William S. Burroughs
Now the Judgement of Things to Come
Manuscript of cut-up collaboration with Charles Plymell published in NOW NOW NOW.
William S. Burroughs
“Long Lost Cut-Up”
Manuscript of cut-up sent to Charles Plymell for use in NOW NOW NOW.
“Poem by Paul Lungrund, the mad bookstore owner in Wichita who was in WW2 intelligence” — Note by Charles Plymell
43 thoughts on “Charles Plymell and Now”
“These magazines represent the underground before the counterculture when mainstream.” Think you meant to type “went mainstream.”
Very interesting article, I really enjoyed it. You might want to mention Plymell’s tabloid The Last Times #1 from Fall 1967 that also has Burroughs. E-mail me for more info. on this tabloid Plymell printed.
Zap Comix #1 was printed in Feb. 1968, not 1967 (the copyright when R. Crumb finished drawing it).
I contacted W. Reese and they are sold out of NOW, NOW, NOW. Let me know if you know of any issues of the 1st NOW for sale.
Corrections made. Thanks, Guy.
This might be of interest to you, Plymell had 2 presses. A smaller Multilith 1250 that he printed NOW (1963) and NOW, NOW (1965) on and later the 1st print of Zap Comix #1 (Feb. 1968) that he soon after sold to Don Donahue (who then printed Zap Comix #1 2nd print and possibly also the first print of Zap Comix #0 on) and a larger printing press that he printed NOW, NOW, NOW (1965) and later The Last Times (Fall 1967).
Thanks for the info on the Multilith. What was the larger press. Check this out on the 1250 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcJfL3IJsaw. Do you have some info on The Last Times: number of issues, Burroughs contribution, how many copies, etc.
The Multilith 1250 is the smaller one that Plymell printed Zap Comix #1 on and is still owned by Don Donahue (though I don’t think it’s still used).
It’s all in the post in this thread:
Sorry, just realized you asked what the larger press was. I don’t know, I’ll try and ask.
Plymell just let me know it’s a MGD 11″ x 17″.
Is that first issue NOW a bright florescent day glow red cover (that doesn’t show up well on the scanner) and is the cover paper thin regular weight paper (not thick)? If so, then I think it might be the same paper as the comic Robert Ronnie Branaman he printed before NOW.
Are there any dates in NOW that might signify approx. when it was printed or at least when it would have had to have been printed after?
A day glow orange cover which did not come out on the scan.
I suspect similar/same as this one?
By the way, Branaman has one n in it.
Hi, Excellent article finally getting it mostly straight. Ginsberg came to my party at 1403 Gough St. after his tenure in India in 63.The Haight was just starting. (I had moved from the first block on Ashberry off Haight were I lived in ’62 because too many “heads” in that old Russian neighborhood). He had all the principle beats in tow: Whalen, McClure, Ferlinghetti,et. al. First time I met Ginsberg who later moved in the Gough St. pad with Cassidy. NOW NOW was important too in that it included the Hollywood (Berman) scene with collages and art work, not only by Wichita’s Mclure &classmate Connor,but Hollywood’s Dean Stockwell (Deanwell), Bobby Driscoll, Dennis Hopper (originally from Kansas), et. al. The W.B. collage in NOW NOW NOW is Wally Berman not Burroughs, though B’s text is there along with photos. from France J.J. Lebel and Artaud are represented too. The ZAP #0 as I understand it, is the “Plymell Zap” with my name on backcover (seen on myspace/charlesplymell1) I think #1 was after Donahue took the press and reprinted. He sort of helped on #0 or the first one and shuffled Crumb’s artwork back & forth to the multilith in our pad around the corner from Gough St. Charles Plymell
We published Burroughs Tornado Alley here in Cherry Valley. Burrughs visited here and stayed at our place. S.Clay Wilson also visited. He had done the illustratiuons for T.A. On his later stay here he did some with special covers in silver ink that I gave to friends. Charles Plymell
I’m sorry, I haven’t seen them for a while.It was The Last Times( with my collage cover and inside collage of Leary & Ginsy kissing in T-Bird). that contained Lebel and Artuad.On the same Multi I printed Ginsberg’s, “So who Owns death TV on black paper & silver ink for Mary Beach working at the time for City Lights. That copy is rare, I’ve seen for 5 bills. It is also printed on regular stock. I also printed her APO 33 of Burroughs and Bulletins from Nothing. cp
Another historical footnote that happened at 1403 Gough St. in 1963 was that I turned Ginsberg on to Dylan’s music for the first time. Ginsberg says that in the Scorsasie documentary on Dylan. (I’ve not seen it). I remember in some publication, “The afterbirth of the dream Now” by Burroughs in a cut up I echanged with Burroughs re: Now mag. Pam and I later met him at his Duke St. Pad in London. Charles Plymell
Boy, what an interesting article for me. The comments made for icing on the cake, no plain banana bread here. pure chocolate for us small mag fans.
Can anyone tell me which Artaud text is included in The Last Times and who the translator was? And am I right in thinking this is issue number 1 (1967)?
there are 2 now mags printed in 1963 one is dayglo pink and one is dayglo orange, i know because i have 2 copies and also a few other of cp’s work straight from the man himself,then i am glad to see he is getting some attention he deserves……..
Karen, let me know if you decide to let them go, would be great to complete the run as I just need #1..
As for Lucy, Plymell told me there was Artaud, but I can’t locate it. Perhaps it was in something else he printed?
I ALONG WITH NUMEROUS OTHERS WOULD LOVE TO SEE A PAGE OR AN ENTIRE SITE ON THE WORKS & IMAGES OF THE VENICE, CA. BEAT ARTIST CULTURE. BEN TALBERT SHOULD HAVE HIS OWN SPOT AT THE SMITHSONIAN…WE OWN SOME OF HIS ORIGINAL PAINTINGS AND SKETCHES….WHICH HAVE NEVER BEEN PUBLICLY SEEN…WE NEED ACCESS TO VIEW ALL THE IMAGES, FROM ALL THE BEAT ATRISTS, ALL ON ONE SITE…NOW WHO CAN HELP? THERE COULD BE A SPECIAL PAGE FOR UN-PUBLISHED WORKS, OR ITEMS WHICH HAVE NEVER BEEN CIRCULATED IN THE PUBLIC.
I examined a copy of Now (#1) this week with non-dayglow yellow cover (besides the dayglow pink and dayglow orange mentioned previously). 1 piece of art in the back by Robert Branaman.
Super article. Thanks for posting. Hats off to you and of course Plymell.
Lucy, It was a darwing allegedly by Autaud. A great portrait of Gina Lollabrig (sp) I can’t remember who gave it to me. My mother-in-law, Mry Beach translated his Man Suicided by Society. It was in a later mag I ran in the same format as NOW NOW NOW I called The Last Times. It had work by J.J. Lebel, Burroughs, Pelieu,Ginsberg. The were two variant issues of Last Times found by Sherwood Donahue in some old Berkely Barbs. cp
Robert Ronnie Branaman is having a art show opening at the Art Coyote Gallery in Venice, CA tonight.
Are there any archived copies of NOW in the Bancroft library at Berkeley? I feel like I have seen one before, but can’t be sure.
Charles – I had the pleasure of boarding with your beautifully crazy and wild entourage — you, Pam and your daughter (?) and Joshua (where is he?) in Balto. when I was a young modern dancer at The Theater Project. I am now 52. I would love to hear from you – a little update altho I enjoyed reading all this on the net – are you still living in upstate NY ?
yes i made contact because i just heard your name mentioned on the dylan doc. !
Thanks, wish I could have made it for the 5oth celebration. cp
Hold on a minute, I have to say something. I have to say “synchronicity”, defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related; simultaneity”. I stumbled across RealityStudio, had never seen it before, and don’t remember how I got here, but was immediately snagged by a small reproduction of a magazine cover I remember well and once possessed, Charley Plymell’s NOW. So I began to read the article by Jed Birmingham on collecting William Burroughs. He wrote of the Olympia edition of “Naked Lunch”, the very one I cut my Burroughs teeth on in 1960. That particular copy belonged to Dave Haselwood. I wonder what happened to it: I think we simply read it to pieces. Or we no longer needed it when the Irving Rosenthal-edited Grove Press came out (incorporating a few changes that I was able to spot immediately, that’s how into Naked Lunch I was). Or maybe that copy still exists in Haselwood’s “rich chaos” of an office in the Cotati-farmhouse he has inhabited for about 35 years.
So I read the article, skimmed it rather, noting additions I could have made, like that painting LaVigne did of Peter Orlovsky had another life after Ginsberg fell rather fatally for its subject: LaVigne left it with me and it hung on my wall at 1403 Gough for years, until I sent it to him strapped to the bed of a pickup headed for NYC where he supposedly had a buyer for it. He didn’t. The next time I saw the painting was at the DeYoung Museum here in San Francisco in the travelling Beats show a few years ago. The painting is mythic, but a little overrated, (and I hope Bob doesn’t ever read this): it captures what there was of Peter’s boyish beauty to capture but it is really more LaVigne’s salivating imagination of the ideal Narcissy, that neat pick curve of his cock. There is a strange foreshortening of space in the painting, not intentional I’m sure, that finally began to bug me. I was glad to see it go.
Back to synchronicity. I skimmed the article — it’s very long and it’s very good, mostly about Charley, an old friend of mine I haven’t seen or corresponded with in years. I went on to read the comments posted (Karen is right about the two dayglos pink and orange of NOW; I wonder is that the Karen that turned Charley on to Dylan? I was there.) As I came to the end, reading the last comment, suddenly there appeared on my computer screen Charley’s comment of Aug 30, 09 (today) at 6:17 p.m. How odd is that? How unlikely? That after years of separation our fingertips would suddenly touch in cyberspace?
Okay, you’re not convinced. Try this for synchronicity. It’s better.
In the summer of 1963 I shared 1403 Gough Street with Charles Plymell and Dave Haselwood and Neal Cassady and Anne Murphy and Maggie Harms and Justin Hein and Patricia Ross and Dave Moe and Marian Weston and other people I could name but I’d run out of space. As a matter of fact I did most of the fucking cooking. And cleaning. I was losing my mind. Dropping acid and out. Trying to write a novel. You wouldn’t believe the chaos and energy and creativity – Charley writing poetry and reading it to whoever would listen, Justin painting sunburst murals in the hall, Ginsberg shaking his glory locks, Neal smacking Anne with a rubber hose. I thought life would be like that from then on, but, you know, it didn’t really last much past the sixties.
It got to be too much for me, so me and my two lovers, Justin and Maggie, jumped in the Volks — it was Mag’s car, she drove, with the baby on the top of a suitcase – and headed for Mexico. Bye, Charley, bye, it’s your scene, take it! Sad though, because the previous winter we had all bonded – Charley, Dave, Maggie, Justin, me – we were the Fool Troop, we called ourselves, stoned and holy. So our little truncated caravan bounced up and down the Pacific coast of Mexico for a few weeks, we stuck a pin in the map and headed for it, run over by a Mexican truck that crushed the Volks, before we landed in the Merced Mercado in Mexico City where we were when we heard the news – eleven minutes after it happened – that Kennedy had been assassinated. We headed home, that was enough to put an end to the party. We drove up the middle of Mexico to some little border town in Arizona out in the middle of nowhere. We left the customs station and turned onto a US highway. A car was coming toward us, the first we met. As we got closer somebody waved – both cars stopped. Believe it or not, it was Charley, headed for New York with his girl friend Anne Buchanan. The last person we said goodbye to when we left, the first person we see when we cross the border. Synchronicity. Charley went on to NY. We went on to SF.
I went back to 1403 Gough Street and lived there for about fifteen more years, a place where I sometimes find myself in dreams in the middle of the night. Oh yeah, when I was leaning into Charley’s car out in the middle of the Arizona desert, I noticed a magazine lying on the backseat. It was NOW, but it had a different cover from the first, pinker, more garish, more day-glo, cheaper looking. I was glad I had the original issue.
OMG! Glenn came out of the writer’s closet! I’ve been telling everyone…check with Glenn Todd. He remembers everything! Yes Karen did bring the Dylan I played for Allen. Allen didn’t seem impressed with Okie immitation of Guthrie blowing in the wind, but after Dylan’s fame that’s all he played!!!I laughed until I cried about meeting the VW as the only signs of life on the desert highway. (Very Eerie) He sent me a tearsheet from the London Times a few years ago about Anne, who had been selected as Andy Warhol’s most beautiful film people. A half century ago,I stopped for her on Market St. while she waited for a trolley. She hopped on my bike and rode to furthur! Yes, the first NOW was printed on both red and orange day-gow paper. I shoved whatever I had into the press, but it was all the same run. cp
Excited to see the new posts and to state that I just scored a copy of Now (eagerly awaiting its arrival) to complete my set of all 3. Hoping some day soon I can go visit Charles and have him John Hancock all my Plymell items to go along with the Branaman signs on many.
Hi Glenn, I hope you read this as I am researching Charley Plymell for some further pieces. As CP said “Always ask Glenn Todd, he remembers!”. Glenn is there any way to get in touch with you re: your memories of hanging with Charley?
I hope you read this!
“Chas, meant to send letter after yr cool one-wanted to be closer to cerebrum tho-the cream of the top rather than dippity doo dah! But will send soon-going thru surprise scuffle scene & hung up temorarily-all cool now & anxious to get back to 8mm flick been working on of Michael & lions. Have seen only rarely the ‘spirit’ that yr 1st NOW & Dreams of Straw + Branaman’s comic strip- Love W.B.” (From Wallace Berman’s collage/card he sent to Charles Plymell in 1962)
The center pages of NOW NOW NOW above has poems by Mr. Roxie Powell on the left and a drawing by “Manny Lipshitz” which is actor Dean Stockwell above and a picture of a sculpture of Bob Branaman by artist Dion Wright below.
Thanks for the history. Letters from Wallace Berman to me sold on ebay. They menioned Artaud, Dean Stockwell, George Hermes and Dennis Hopper artwork. I don’t have their contents. I don’t know what happened with NOW originals, which I guess were picked up from my “underwear strewn” floor as Ginsberg wrote in the poem. I had a reason for putting my dirty clothes and towels on the floor to act as dusting before I took the whole works to laundromat. It was probably shocking for a middle class kid from Patterson! Ha! I had a mattress on floor and record player and mss, just essential items. Neal’s room was on one side and Allen’s on the other at the Gough St. flat where he wrote the poem (above). “Bed on the Floor” is and old tune by Woody Guthrie and my lifestyle long before I heard og the Beats. Charlie
fantastic collection of some incredible publishing. yowza what a find!!!!!
Thanx for everything Charles!!!!
Been a long time since we printed NOW at Impressions Productions on Mission Street with Ralph Ackerman -about 47 years ago. I still have copies of all three of the mags. Remember Leland Myerzove – we printed his mag Burning Bush, and I remember you, Charlie. You were a good guy.
RICHARD W CARLSON, WASHINGTON DC email@example.com
I have recently come across a couple Oracle issues and The Last Times: Final Star Edition #2a, would like to know more about them and if there is any interest in the purchase of these publications. Thanks for any help
Dick Carlson, been too long since I checked this page. I have the Burning Bush books. I picked them up after I purchased some printing plates (the exact ones you and Charlie used to print the Burning Bush books) off eBay from the person selling Myerzove’s items after he passed away. Do you think Myerzove may have been the inspiration for Wallace Berman’s use of the Jewish symbols in his art?
What a wonderful thing you have written.
I have a NOW dated 1963.
It’s bright orange, it’s a bit soiled on the covers, and its spine is rubbed. But it’s tightly bound, with no marks inside.
I am planning to sell it, as part of my volunteer work for a library-friends group I’m in. So I need to sell it for a “fair” price — meaning one that will draw gasps. Look for it soon on eBay.
Hi: I have a Now Now and a copy of Fux! Magascene and a copy .that I’ve seen on someones website They have wear to the covers and staining plus the Fux has a taped spine but the insides are good. I also have a copy of a publication called HO with a man riding an old 1800’s bicycle. But I’m trying to find out about 2 articles that were in the magazines called Fram-o-Gram I have no’s 3 and 4 can anyone help me.
Great article, Jed, and I love the added materials.
As an interesting complication to the dates on Now Now Now (which M&M sets at 1965, and has since been the authoritative statement on publishing date — the issue itself contains no date), I have an issue of Now Now Now inscribed on the cover by the publisher: “Printed by Charles Plymell – somewhere in/on ’66”. I’m not certain where the truth lies, but I tend to believe the publisher.