Travel through the 60's with Hammond Guthrie, a multi talented and charismatic artist and writer as he hob knobs with some of the notables of the times , such as Allen Ginsberg, Carmen McRae, the Diggers and Richie Havens to name a few. His travels takes us to the "Hip Scene" in such places as San Francisco, Southern California, Tangiers and Amsterdam, as we learn of his colorful life, his art, his marriage, his thoughts and his drugs.
Read what others have said about the book...........
An absolute hip classic! Hammond has interacted with just about all the
major players making the scene during the last half of the twentieth
century. Plus, he can write. Cruising Hollywood on Bennies is a classic
chapter, as well as living the high life in London. Frankly I don't have the
time to write an in-depth review, but can only highly recommend the book for
a delightful journey into a California-to-Europe psychedelic adventure from
the POV of someone else's sparkling cortex. Well done, Hammond! Your book is
a classic in post-gonzo reportage from the neon edge of consciousness. I can
think of at least a dozen friends who'll devour your story happily!
Thanks for putting it all into your own affablly hallicinatory perspective. I
wish you waterfalls of positive vibrations from She Who Manifests First and
Cleans Up Last!
Ramon Sender Barayon
Remember Woody Allen’s movie Zelig that places the chameleon-like Zelig in all the important places among all the major people of the history of the time? Insert "Hammond Guthrie" as Zelig in all these places from LA to London, from Amsterdam to Tangier and you’ll get an idea of the scope of this memoir. In reviewing it, the temptation is to reel off lists of the famous people that the author has known. But one has only to glance at the well-appointed index to see the illustrious names. The spectrum of his contacts – artists, architects, cartoonists, writers, musicians, film-makers and even scientists – boggles the mind. He has a talent for schmooozing with people from diverse cultures and persuasions, famous and infamous. He can be the hipster extraordinaire in L.A, the proper gentleman in London, the cutting edge artiste in Amsterdam, as well as the flamboyant "European with two wives" in Tangier. His adventures there read like a page from Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer or Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet (but with a more engaging spin).
Being all things to all people, he had his finger in every pie and his hand on the pulse of everything artistically innovative in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. In addition to being a painter, writer, musician and film-maker, he experimented with "…cinematic dissolve and juxtaposition of genre" in his "event rituals," tone poems and overdubbed happenings.
There are hilarious episodes, from getting a fake marine ID in Mexico to his elaborate and ultimately successful ruse to avoid the draft. Once he jumped out of a car he’d hitched a ride in when the driver told him it was stolen. He ditched the "supposed narcosi" the driver had given him behind the first bush he came to and "…to avoid the obvious, I ducked into the darkened courtyard of a quasi-subterranean establishment called the Fifth Estate…" where he met some people he would know for the rest of his life.
I most enjoyed the odd little serendipitous scenes such as the time when, still in school, but working for the summer with his high school band buddies at a Lake near Tahoe, Hammond met three Hell’s Angels who had descended on the town café, much to the perplexity of the waitress who made noises about closing at 9:30 a.m. When a smooth Latin voice intervened on his behalf, Hammond turned around to see "…three of the most ominous-looking human beings I had ever laid eyes on." After inviting them politely (he "knew enough to be very polite) to his band’s evening at the local lodge, one of them asked Hammond if he "…drank beer or smoked dope." Says Guthrie, "I told him I certainly drank beer and had ‘tripped out on LSD once," but hadn’t smoked any dope, which was the truth. (Never tell an Angel anything but the truth.") His "outlaw companions" cracked up at this. Then Hammond’s benefactor handed him his "senior member of the Hell’s Angels" club card saying that "…it might come in handy some day." It was signed, "Zorro."
Two years later, Guthrie saw a news article that identified the three "modern-day gladiators" that he’d met in his youth. More years later, flat broke in Barstow, CA "…where tumbleweeds go to die…" a biker wearing Angel colors roared up and Guthrie’s "speed-drenched brain" remembered Zorro’s "well-worn wallet card." He "…stumbled up beside the hairy behemoth" presented him with the card and asked politely for assistance. Whereupon, "…he sized me up for just a second, smiled as only an Angel from Hell can, and said, "Hop on little buddy and I’ll take you anywhere in the country you want to go."
Or how about the time that Lawrence Ferlinghetti handed him the original hand-written pages of Jack Kerouac’s "Scriptures of the Golden Eternity" or when Ginsberg handed him a Tibetan Dorje and "…a numbing energy surged through my arm and my hand spasmed out in front of me like a humanoid dowser’s wand!"
Guthrie met with William Burroughs in London, who helped in publishing his Belfast Insert which was an experiment in "cut/up writing." "Cut/up writing" explains the author, "is an extension of Tristan Tzara’s early Dada prose taken to a painter’s point of view and then reapplied to the written word. The resulting texts of combined structure and newly formed contents offer an unusual approach to the written space/time continuum." (There is a picture of the cover of Belfast Insert in the very interesting photo section of the book).
Of Emmett Grogan, Guthrie says: "I was especially enamored by his consciously plagiaristic use of Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kamphian Diabologue at the Roundhouse in London, during the "Dialectics of Liberation" event, a counter-conference of hip dignitaries. At first he was vigorously applauded for his oration and then people cried out in staunch indignation when he revealed the origin of the words."
And although Guthrie’s heartbreak at the loss of his wife to a drug smuggler was obviously real and excruciating, perhaps the subtext of his reaction was that the event served as an excuse not to take the plum of artistic success offered him by Willem Sandberg (his mentor and friend in Amsterdam) and limit himself to painting alone but to remain free and flexible.
All these experiences are liberally laced with copious amounts of pharmacopoeia of every kind from grass and hash to hallucinogens to amphetamines so these pages are compressed life. Elegant as champagne and caviar, rich as eggnog and cheesecake, the memoir runs cinematic-like reels through the imagination. Since the author’s life is not over yet (his book begins and ends with his decision to kill himself) it’s fitting that the very last words on the last page are "to be continued."
One can only hope that the words mean just that and that in the fullness of time, we will be treated to the rest of the story. It will be well worth waiting for.