[here's the unedited version of the interview Mike Watt did of Linda Bukowski for "MEAN" magazine's March-April 2006 Volume 2, Issue 7 - to read what got acutally got printed, click on the four above pictures]
LINDA BUKOWSKI interviewed by MIKE WATT
January 10, 2006
Mike Watt: Did he tell you how he started writing, that lightning hit him or he thought about it before he ever did it?
Linda Bukowski: No, he just started getting into it when he was younger. When he was in school. You know, in grade school. And a long time, he wrote a little short story about going to, I think it was, I'm not sure, but he was going to, like, a political rally or some sort of political type of event, and he talked all about it. And I don't think it was the president, but maybe a senator. Somebody was there, and he talked about this speech and everything. And then he handed it in with the other kids, and then the next day, the teacher comes and she hands all these papers out.
And he's sort of thought of as a slacker, but, like, she says, Henry, this is very good. I'm very surprised. You wrote something amazing there. And then later, she found out that he'd made it up, and he got totally turned off. I mean, the teacher just got really cross and really angry. Because, I mean, here's this great story (laugh) that he made up. He didn't talk about a real experience, and they were supposed to talk about a real experience. That, you know, had been effective. Well, he didn't have any, so he made one up.
And it was, and she'd given it the highest thing, the points. And then when that, she found that out, he got a failing grade. (laugh) Well, and so, but he just did a little thing, was all through his youth, but not a lot. He didn't try to make it as a witer, or anything like that. He didn't try to do novels, and then later on, he went to LA City College for a couple of years and took a journalism course. And, you know, he was a slacker. He wasn't really into the whole school thing and the discipline thing, or all of that. And but so then, you know, and his family life was horrible.
And his father was just, they hated each other's guts, and he just decided to get the hell out of there and started going all over the country. Just working odd jobs, and drinking a lot, and having really sort of low down experiences, really low down. But always scratching on paper, you know, with a pencil somewhere, you know?
And a piece of old newspaper edge, or something like that. And he'd just do it, and he'd try to submit it to things, to different magazines, and of course, he'd get rejection slip after rejection slip all the time. And it was very discouraging, I guess. So he just sort of lived this very desperate, (laugh) desolate kind of a life. But he lived it very powerfully and very intensely. (laugh)
And with little literary success. So that just went on for a very long time. And there were many affairs with women, and just many situations. Finally, he began to get little magazines accepting his poetry here and there, you know, and giving him a little spark of hope now and then. And then...
MW: Did he have writer friends, or was he alone?
LB: No, he really didn't like to hang out with other writers at all. At all. And...
MW: Even when he was starting?
LB: Never in any time. He couldn't stand the games, the egos.
MW: Yeah, right.
LB: Oh, it just, it is a scene. And he just never, he was a very reclusive sort of a person. He never had buddies that he hung out with, or anything like that.
MW: So nobody to grease the submission. He just put them out there.
LB: Yeah, yeah. And they'd send them back, and he'd live in rooming houses, and just go through real crazy experiences, but he had this amazing ability to retain these experiences enough to write about them. And so, he would write some short stories, or he'd write poetry. And ultimately, he landed back in LA. And with odd jobs, he got someplace to live, and going through some intense relationships with women. And then he was getting a little more heard about, and actually somebody put him in a poetry reading at one point.
And in east Hollywood somewhere. And so he did that, and then he got, somebody wrote about him, and then John Martin, this man who was working in an office supply company, he was the manager, somehow got a hold of one of the things he'd read and written, and he was very, very turned on by it. And he wasn't rich, he didn't have any money, per se. But he went over to Hank's little hovel of a house, or the play courtyard in east Hollywood, and asked him if he could look at his writings. If he had any writings.
And Hank said, oh yeah, in that closet over there. And he opened the closet door, and out came, like, boxes and sheaves of paper, with poetry, poetry, poetry. Hundreds and hundreds of sheets of paper, poetry. And they're just surrounding John Martin, and Martin, evidently, from what he said, just was in, just ecstatic. He couldn't believe it. And then he started looking at them like. And it was. And very soon after that, he told Hank that he'd give him $100 a month for the rest of his life if he'd quit his job and just write. Write for him.
And he agreed. (laugh) (clearsthroat) He agreed. John Martin sold this little book collection that he'd put together over the years, working as this office supply manager, a Henry Miller collection, and he sold it and made enough money to start Black Sparrow Press, which became the home of Hank's writing. And from then on, he just was able to do that. He never had to work again, (laugh) literally. He never had to go get an outside job, except in the early times, it was still bad. I mean, that wasn't a whole lot of money. But he'd do poetry readings, which he despised. He couldn't stand going out in front of public.
MW: Yeah, yeah.
LB: He thought it was so egotistical for a writer to sit there. Now if you're a musician, it's okay. You know, let's hear the gig. (laugh) But if you're a writer, your gig is alone at the typer. Like I said, he called it his piano. He was a solo pianist, and...
(laugh) He'd go up there, and he'd play his piano. And so when he had to do readings, he would accept them because he'd make money. They'd send his airfare and put him up at a motel or a hotel. And, you know, he'd get to have a lot of booze and read his poetry. And then the next day, he'd fly home.
But it would be awful, because he'd have to sweat it out about two weeks in advance. He was so, he couldn't stand it. He'd be very, very nervous.
And that's why he drank so much when he was on stage. He wasn't like that all the time. You know, I think people have a misconception that, you know, he woke up in the morning and mixed a drink (laugh) and kept on. There's no way. I think maybe way back in the earlier days, when he was on that other part of his venture, he did stuff like that. But he wasn't the kind of guy that that was, he wasn't an alcoholic. Even though he did drink a lot. I can tell alcoholics. He sort of, he was productive. I think when you stop being productive in whatever it is, your life, what you do that's important with your family or your work or your art, then you're in, then you have a problem.
MW: Oh, yeah.
LB: But no, he was productive the whole way through, you know? And he got better. You know, he got wiser and wider and more open and vast in his perceptions and his experiences and his way of writing. You know, he left, finally. He became a little successful, and moved to San Pedro here (clearsthroat) in 1978. And he'd sold several books by then, and they were selling in Europe in all these translations. And he was just getting much more wider known. And he would be interviewed by people from all over the place. And he got in, and he'd spend his days basically at the racetrack, and then he'd come home at night and he would...
MW: Get on the piano.
LB: ...would hang out and have dinner, and he'd have his Jacuzzi, would have a glass of wine, and go upstairs and start composing. (laugh) You know?
MW: Well, where did you meet him?
LB: I met him through his books, originally. I mean...
MW: So did you go to one of them readings?
LB: I went to one of them readings. (laugh) I did go to many readings, I went to dozens of readings before I ever met him, because I'd read his books and I just dug him. I mean, I wasn't in love with him. I wasn't, like, a groupie type or anything. I just, I was astonished by him. And so I'd go to the readings, I'd go with friends, and so on and so forth. And finally, after many years, I went to a reading at the Troubadour in Hollywood he was giving. And I went there, and I'd been on this thing called a grape cure. I'd fast for four weeks every year on nothing but grapes and grape juice and water.
And so I was doing that, and it was, like, the day after I'd done this. And, you know, I was so pure, and just oh. (laugh) And I was gonna go see Bukowski in this whole different way. And so I went with a friend, and we got there, and first thing, well, grapes, wine, we had some wine. And Hank went on. And he was pretty well oiled by the beginning of the show. (laugh) And in the middle, he took a long intermission. He was complaining about his girlfriend, who was out screwing some guy somewhere, I think.
(laugh) And he was all upset, and he complained about it, and took a long intermission. Then he came back and gave the second half of his reading. And it, really sort of rowdy. And then he came out to the front part of the place and was signing autographs. And women and men and people were coming all over and talking to him. And finally, I just said, I think I should meet him now. It's been all these years, I wanna just meet this man. He's right there. And she said, go ahead. Go on, go on, I dare you. (laugh) And I said, okay. (makesnoise) And I'd only had, like, two glasses of wine. But I hadn't had anything to eat or drink except grapes.
And I was really feeling good. It was like, okay. So I went up there, and there was just a few people around him. And I just sort of stood there quietly. And he said, and who are you? (laugh) And I said, well, I'm Linda Leigh Bailey, and you're Charles Bukowski. Hi. (laugh)That was so stupid, you know? And he said, so did you like the reading? And I said, I did, and I've been to many of them. And I go to all of them within a hundred mile radius. I go to all of them. He said, oh, really? Okay.
And then he said, listen, kid, I gotta go because I'm having a problem. But by that time, he'd picked up this nice young chick, (laugh) and she was sort of over there. He said, I have to go, but here, and he gave me his phone number. And I gave him mine on a piece of paper. And he drew this little man that he draws, with a little jug of hooch, or something. And so two days later, I got this phone call at my little restaurant, I had a health food restaurant in Redondo Beach at the time. And I got a phone call in the afternoon, and I said, hello. (laugh)
Dew Drop Inn, that's the name of the place. And he said, hello? This is Bukowski. No, this is Charles Bukowski. Is Linda Leigh there? Oh my God. (laugh) And my knees just started going. I literally wanted to melt. I mean, in fear, not fear. Maybe it was. It was just, like, (makesnoise) . (laugh) I'd read everything this man ever wrote. I know everything about his whole life. He didn't know who I was from Adam, you know? And I said, well, this is she. And so, he said well, you know, I'd like to come and see you.
Where do you live? (laugh) And I said, well, really? And he ended up coming down to my restaurant, like, three or four days later. And he had this little blue '64 blue Volkswagen. And I was in my restaurant, and I had a window, I could see out front. And I just glanced up, and I saw this little blue Volks drive by. And it was the other way, but, like, and he's driving by, and he's like this, and he's going. And then I knew, I went, oh my God, that's him. And what is it? And so, like, I didn't, that was it.
And so finally, I get a call about half an hour later. He says, Linda Leigh, listen, I'm up the street at the Bullpen. Which is this bar. (laugh) And he said, this is a great crowd in here. It's 3:00 in the afternoon, and it's packed. I like this place. (laugh) And I said, well, okay, I'm cleaning up. I said, do you still wanna come, are you still gonna come by? And he said, yeah, what time? Half an hour, whatever. And so finally, he came by. And then he was, (laugh) I mean, seeing him walk in the door of my humble little restaurant was something I just, it was, like, surreal.
It was like a caricature of itself. It was like a cartoon or something. (laugh) It was just,(makesnoise) . And he came in and everything, and from that moment on, I was completely calm with him. Completely, just everything was really easy and at ease, and he sat down. I made him an avocado melt and a smoothie. (laugh) And he'd never had either of those things in his life.
MW: Yeah. (laugh)
LB: And on the, I had a bookcase, a bookshelf. And I had all these books that I read, including his. And so he's sitting there eating, and he's looking , and I'm cleaning up. And he looks up and he says, ah, you set this up, didn't you? And I didn't, either. I said, what do you mean? He said look, you got all my books there. You're trying to impress me. I said, oh, no, they've always been there. I have all of your books, and they've always been there. The customers come in and they read them. (laugh) And he said, oh, yeah? Yeah.
So we hung around, and then we decided to buy some wine and go down to my house, and a little house. And we drove down there. During the time he was there, there was, a few people came in. And one of the people was a friend of mine, and they knew who Bukowski was. And I said, you know, and they left. Well, Hank and I went down to my house. We were having some drinks, and, like, half an hour in, all of a sudden, people started coming over. And within an hour, there were, like, 20 people there, in this tiny little house that was as big as this room, you know?
I mean, and it became this total just, it was pretty much of just a beer blast, you know? Everybody brought six packs, because, you know, when you go to see Bukowski, bring a six pack. And that was the thing, I guess. And that went on for hours and hours. And I think he sort of actually had a good time. You know, people were adoring him and loving him, and being very kind. And he was laughing a lot, and I think he did enjoy it. I think he was surprised with himself, because they were really nice people.
Even though they shouldn't have intruded. But I think, but anyhow, he crashed there. He couldn't have driven home. And everything was nice, because I'd been celibate for many, many years and was remaining that way. And I was not intending and, to have that kind of a rapport with him anyhow. I'd never felt like I was into him, like, ooh, you know? I wanna, ah. It was not that at all. It was just this very loving thing, this man. Like oh, I just love him. I wanna cut his hair, and make sure his nails are neat. (laugh) But I didn't say that, you know? I didn't even think of that then, either. It was very organic, sort of like the way you guys got together.
LB: It was just organic. We were so different, from such different backgrounds.
MW: Yeah, it was probably his first time in Redondo Beach. (laugh)
LB: Yeah, I think so. (laugh) Yeah, he really didn't think too much of Redondo Beach, you know? Especially at that time, because only people that were sort of beachy type people and so forth, did skateboards and rode bikes and all that. Now, everybody does that.
LB: No matter what area they're from. But at that time, you know, he couldn't stand all these bicycle, how the fuck do they make it? They're riding their bicycles, they have their little shorts on. Their little brown shorts, he called them. The brown shorts. Little surfing boys, you know. (laugh) But so it just evolved, and it happened that at the time, he was writing a novel. And his novel was called Women. So he was doing quote, research, unquote, on women.
And he hadn't had a lot of women experiences when he was a young kid, because he had this horrible acne vulgaris that really made him disfigured in his face and upper body, and it was very painful. And he didn't look good, and nobody liked him. (laugh) So he had the opportunity now, because he was getting well known, and people were looking at him, and women were calling him and wanting to go out with him and all of that. So he had this opportunity to explore women, which, in a way that he never had before. So he decided to while he was doing it write the novel. (laugh) So, he did. For a couple of years, he had all these women experiences. And all kinds of women, and.
MW: Oh yeah, I read it.
LB: Yeah. (laugh) Oh my God. All kinds. And I even had the opportunity to meet a few, which is really fun. It was really fun to meet them.
MW: The sculptor.
LB: (laugh) Oh yeah, that one, that was a fairly long term one. He'd just gotten over that when I met him. And he was into the one in the book called Lydia, which is Cupcakes O'Brien. (laugh) Miss Pussycat 1973. But, you know, I mean, he just sort of went through these women experiences. They come and they go, and they come and they go. And then I kept hanging out with him, but we were still just platonic. Strictly platonic.
LB: For, like, a long time. And finally, he just finished his novel, and he had no use for really getting into any more of these relationships. He'd felt that he'd run the gamut, pretty much, in that amount of time. And we ended up staying together. And that was the end of all of those relationships. And we stayed together. And then we became lovers, and, you know, the whole thing. (laugh)
MW: Big heart.
LB: Big heart. (laugh)
MW: It's just...
LB: A big rollercoaster heart, going oh, up and down.
MW: Oh yeah, because it's real.
LB: Oh, yeah.
MW: It's not a movie.
LB: Mm, yeah.
MW: It says here, what made him write the way he did?
LB: I wish the person was here that asked that question, because I'd say, what way? What do they mean by that? (laugh) What do you?
MW: I know.
LB: What made him write the way he'd write? The way he did.
MW: Yeah, like, maybe did he have a philosophy?
LB: Oh, you mean coming from some, well, everybody has a philosophy.
MW: That's right.
LB: (laugh) I don't think it was a conscious philosophy. I think it was just the way. He was a great fan of the great Chinese master, Li Po. And several others of those people. And...
MW: You can't say what the Tao is without ruining it. (laugh)
LB: Yeah, yeah. It's not really something that's (laugh) definable, meaning the way, maybe something more superficial like, because he wrote from very, like, street level, gut speak, dirty words.
LB: Sometimes called vulgar writing.
LB: Grotesqueries. He said, well, I'm a writer, but I'm a photographer. What I write about is what I see.
LB: What I write about is what I experience. And that's where I've been. And I'm not gonna write about, he said, oh, he put it into analogy, like, he says, you know, Woody Allen, he's not gonna write what I write, 'cause he hasn't been there. Now, I don't really think Woody Allen's, you know, I could never write what Woody Allen writes, because I've never been there. I'm not gonna write about these upper class fucking New York people with these accents and their neuroses. You know, I'm writing about the people that I know, with their ways, and their neuroses.
MW: So he wanted to serve the truth.
LB: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, that's the only way. And that's all he could do. I think much the same way, that's all you can do when you play your bass. Yeah.
MW: I read this thing Coltrane said, "musicians are looking for some kind of truth."
LB: Any artist. I don't think there's an artist, a real artist alive that isn't doing that. And, well, I think then you can put it into the whole thing. We're all looking for truth. The Tao, and how consciously we're doing it. How mindfully. And observantly. And we're doing it. Artists tend to do it much more consciously.
MW: Yeah, you were saying before that some people do things because they wanna get these other things.
LB: Mm hmm.
MW: It's not the thing itself, but.
LB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think that's...
MW: And Hank is in a language.
LB: But it's only the writing. At one time, he said, you know, I would write, no matter what, you know? No matter what I do, I'm going to write. Being published is a bonus.
LB: That's all. I mean, and he's obviously very grateful for it and that, but that's a bonus. I mean, he would write, no matter what. He proved that for many years already, you know?
MW: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
LB: And, you know, by good fortune and karma, John Martin came along...
LB: ...at the time that he did, and they connected. And became Mr. Rolls and Mr. Royce, as said at one time. (laugh)
MW: (laugh) This is, I'd like an opinion from you.
LB: An opinion?
MW: Yes. What accounts for his massive, enduring appeal? Especially among discontents?
LB: Well, if you read his writing, you will find out very, very quickly that he might sound, oh, external and emotional and angry and have a vast array of expressing himself. A vast way of expressing himself insofar as he says words that simply are the words. He doesn't embellish them. And he just says it. And he's so attuned to that ability, that's the gift, that ability, that it comes out from his truth part, and not from his false, preconceived, or preplanned thought. Nothing that has ruminated in his conscious mind for hours or days or years before he writes. It just comes through. And he's the vehicle, you know?
MW: Do people pick up on this?
LB: And the people that pick up on it see that right off the bat. And they either buy it, or take it, or absorb it, or allow it to come in. Open to it. Or they shut it out, because they see a word that frightens them. You know, a dirty word, or talking about a very, you know, people talk about sex in the most (backgroundnoise) Victorian sort of ways.
LB: Like, these novels, Jackie Collins. And she's talking about these horrible people doing these disgusting, talk about vulgar things. But in a way that somehow is accepted.
MW: And she sells millions and millions of books. And here's Hank, and because he comes, he's talking from the level of really low life people, people that maybe academics or upper class types don't wanna delve into those lives.
LB: They don't wanna feel that dirtiness or grit, because they might catch it or something.
LB: I mean, do you know what I mean?
LB: But now, it's changing. Because his writing endures in so far, so much more than that picture, or that vision, or that small understanding, that limited understanding of what he's writing, and how he's writing. And the people that are young people especially pick it up now. Because it's obvious. You know, it's obvious to them, and they're looking for things. I think young people are really in a confused state. (clearsthroat) I think it goes along with the rest of the world, and especially our world and the crisis that we're in.
(clearsthroat) I think they're limited in their, they don't seem to have, young people don't seem to have a lot of experience in things, because they're living vicariously through so many media things that are going on. In computer things, in TV shows, in films that are trying to tell them what is. In music. They're being drawn like lemmings to inane music that doesn't teach, that doesn't show, that doesn't express, that doesn't inspire. And that's what they're living by. And so, they don't have any pizzazz, anything that's inspiring them to think on their own.
Or have a creative thought on their own. Or even think that they should, or even care. I mean, it's just not there. And Hank's work seems to cut through to people who are seeking. And people who need and are in need. And like I said, you open a book of his, and maybe the first one doesn't work, but go to the next one. Or maybe the next one. But within the first three you read, you're either gonna say ah ha, or you're just gonna deny it. And you just carry on with your little lemming life.
MW: What did he believe about how one should live one's life?
LB: Don't bother me.
MW: Autonomy. (laugh) Yeah. Yeah, that's a good way. I like that. How did he live his life day to day? You kind of went into that.
LB: Oh, you mean during his daily life?
MW: Yeah. (laugh)
LB: Yeah, he was very keen in the way that he was, as far as going along in the day. You know? He was very basic, and he had his racetrack, and he'd come home. And the racetrack was important to him, and I've told you before, but.
LB: I told him one time, I think that this is like your temple. And, you know, he wasn't a religious guy. He'd been raised as a Catholic, but certainly wasn't a follower of Catholic. He would call himself agnostic. And, you know, I didn't get into religious thoughts with him, because of my affiliation with whatever I'm involved in. But, you know, you try to be a living example of the teachings. (laugh) But he would just go to the track and contemplate there. You know, could focus on one fine point, and that was the winning horse.
And the way he went about it was very unique. Nobody else had a system like he did. (laugh) Because every race, he had a different system. And every day, he'd have nine new systems. And he'd have them all over his little racing program, with his little black pen. He'd just write circles and numbers and pluses and minuses. And, (laugh) you know, he wasn't into handicapping in the traditional way. And he liked the tote board. But afterwards, he'd come back home and be a winner or a loser. But he would go and have his Jacuzzi. (laugh)
Outside, very middle class. And relax, and then come in, and we'd have dinner, and he'd have a, we'd have a glass of wine. Sometimes we'd watch Jeopardy, and I would always win. (laugh) And then he'd go in and play his piano. Yeah, yeah. And then he'd come down later, sometimes. Well, yeah, always. And we would usually just have another drink together, and call it a night. Sometimes, we'd go on a little longer. (laugh) Sometimes we'd go on too long, and end up in some sort of mortal battle. Just verbal, verbal insanity from overdrinking and just playing stupid, human games with each other, you know what I...
MW: Oh, yeah.
LB: I don't know if you do know what that is, but you probably do.
LB: You were in a relationship for a while, weren't you?
LB: How long were you married?
MW: I was married six years.
LB: That's long enough to, (laugh).
MW: And we still have the band... we've had the band 20 years.
LB: This is what's incredible to me. And I'm sure to everybody. What happens when you two get up there is almost indescribable. But Griffin, a friend of mine who came with me both times to see you, hadn't heard you and Kira. And I tell you, it was, he, I said, so? 'Cause he's very enthusiastic about good music and interesting stuff and jamming.So he said, man, they were just fucking on stage, man. I went, that is really good.
Because this is, he got it. You know, he's 50 years old, he's not some young kid. He's been around the block. But he's seen a lot of music, and knows a lot of people in the music business. And he picked up on that type of intimacy, you know, that was so close. And I definitely believe that. But it was more than that to me. It's more than that to me, because it's that, but it's also, like, in many other ways, the connection that you have with each other. You're really one. You're there. And you have this connection that is a spiritual connection.
I don't like to sound cliche, but it's a very strong spiritual connection that allows that intimacy to occur, which isn't just sexual. But the energy is so powerful, you know, that it's like, it includes that, but it also transcends that.
MW: Was he happy with how his life turned out? (laugh)
MW: Yeah. But you know young people, they're always worried about that. How are you gonna do?
LB: He was happy the way his life turned out. He was. Because he opened up all the doors and windows of his house. He opened up not the front, only the front, the back, the side. He opened up the attic, he, you know, went into the crawl spaces. He hung out in all these places, and he breathed it in, the dust from all those rooms. And he was able to breathe it out again on paper. And he had to keep doing that. That was his life breath. That's what came from him. And that's what he breathed in and out.
MW: Did he get frustratedto live it?
LB: He got frustrated. He was...
MW: No, he didn't get frustrated with the final deal, though, I mean.
MW: Like, I got to write, I got to get this out.
LB: Oh, no, no.
MW: I got to breathe it in, I got to breathe it out.
LB: No, because it was, we don't, if...
MW: Well, you hear about some people, they have the dream, and they just never even get to try it.
LB: Yeah, yeah.
MW: Where he was living it.
LB: He was compelled to do it. That was the only way his heart would beat. And really.
MW: I guess the word's regret. Like, people get older, and they, I've got regrets. I shouldn't have done this.
LB: Yeah, why didn't I, yeah, I know, I know. Definitely, yeah.
MW: But nobody's got a perfect life and stuff. But if you add it all up...
LB: He had no regrets.
LB: I don't believe. Well, I can't say that. But from what, as from my knowing him, I can't think of any regrets that he might have, you know, I don't think so.
MW: Alcoholism destroys minds and stops talent. Hemingway, for instance, wrote his best stuff before he hit the sauce. How did Bukowski escape that curse?
LB: The curse of, like, losing it because of alcohol?
MW: Well, like you were saying before, if you're not productive, it's a problem.
LB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Other things take over your existence that are...
MW: The bottle.
LB: ...distractions. Yeah, and the bottle opens up other distractions that are meaningless.
MW: Does it seem like writers are more prone?
LB: No, I know artists, oh my God.
MW: Just artists, period.
LB: Artists. Absolutely.
MW: Because it seems, a lot of writers I know, and I always thought maybe 'cause they're by themselves a lot...
LB: Yeah, well, yeah. I mean, but I don't think that, I think every...
MW: Yeah, I've seen enough musicians drunk, so yeah.
LB: (laugh) Yeah. Painters, sculptors. Look at their lives.
LB: All the greats. I mean, how many of the great artists of any realm, any idiom, or any area, areguys? I mean, there were, there were a few. But I mean, not a whole hell of a lot.
LB: There was always some dysfunctional thing happening that propelled them or carried them on, destroyed them. Some of them were able to keep up with it in spite of it. Some weren't. Hank didn't, he wasn't that self destructive.
MW: Discipline? Did he have discipline?
LB: Absolutely. Absolutely. He had great discipline. He had wonderful...
MW: Yeah, so that's how he survived. (laugh)
LB: And he was punctual.
LB: That's something. Punctuality. And I was never punctual. I mean, not so good. And he was very, very punctual, and I think that's very important. Punctuality. And that sounds like some teacher saying something.
LB: But it's, and that's probably why I've rebelled against being punctual a lot of my rebellious life. Because it was sucking up, somehow, to them.
LB: And, but he knew the importance, because he was his own man. So he was making his own time-life schedule.
LB: And he was setting up his own routines, and nobody was telling him. That's why he rebelled against the jobs and all of this. He couldn't do it that way.
MW: Yeah, yeah.
LB: He was a right brain thinker, you know?
MW: Yup, yup.
LB: I mean, he was just coming from that area. He couldn't live like a, what's called a normal life, 9:00 to 5:00, etcetera. Any more than you can. (laugh) Let me ask you,, have you ever had another job in your life?
MW: Well, during the Minutemen, we worked, all of us. During the entire time.
LB: What, did you do, like,?
MW: All kinds of small things. All kinds, from running a parking lot, to fast food, to meter reader.
LB: Oh my God.
MW: meter reader.
LB: Were you a Rita?
MW: I wrote a poem about it.
LB: Oh, meter reader. Oh.
I never gave a damn
about the meter man
'til I was the man
who had to read the meters, man
LB: (laugh) That's a good poem. I like that. That's...
MW: I had a lot of time to think about it.
LB: Like any artist, starving artist.
LB: Starving actors. You know, they're waiters.
MW: unless you win the lottery. (laugh)
LB: Oh, yeah, of course.
LB: (laugh) Or win at the racetrack.
MW: Yeah, right.
LB: You know, when Hank needed money, he never, he would never win. When he was really and he'd go to the track, he'd lose. You know, he'd never win. And then when, you know, he became comfortable, and just went there for the purity of that focus and everything, his intensity grew with it, and he became a better horse player.
LB: He really did. And because the pressure wasn't on him.
MW: Right, right.
LB: These poor guys that are, you know, struggling to pay their rent, these poor, like, immigrants from Mexico, they live five in a room, you know? And have their wives and children with them. And, you know, they're going for milk.
LB: And then they win $25, and they spend it on booze before they get home.
LB: I mean, this is the sad part of the racetrack.
MW: Yeah, yeah.
LB: But he didn't...
MW: Raymond likes it a lot
LB: You go?
MW: I go with Raymond.
LB: Where do you go, Hollywood?
MW: Or Santa Anita.
LB: Oh my God.
MW: Because, uh, loves it. And it's the same thing, I see him, I watch him. He focuses.
LB: Does he win?
MW: Yeah, he doesn't bet much. Dollar trifectas.
LB: No, well, Hank didn't either, yeah.
MW: And, but he sizes up each race. He knows all the trainers, all the owners, all the pedigrees. His mind is intense.
LB: Hank didn't do it that way.
MW: It's not just for painting, you know? He just whatever he's involved in. And so it calms him.
LB: That's good. Yeah, yeah.
MW: And there's no pressure, yeah, 'cause it's not big money he's riding on it. And I just love listening to him. I don't know much about it. I usually go by the jock. Well, I like.
LB: Oh yeah. (laugh)
MW: You know. (laugh) So I'll, you know, put my two dollars, I always go to, for win. I don't knowexotic stuff. And Raymond's like, well, look at this, if thewas this, and the...
LB: Oh, yeah, oh, God. Oh.
MW: in the race, and he knows all these things.
LB: Yeah. Oh yeah,
LB: Closers and mothers.
LB: I used to be good.
LB: Hank told me that, he taught me everything I know. And he told me, he said, I've been to the racetrack, and I don't like to go with anybody. But I've gone, I've met up with people over the years. You're the best horse player I've ever met.
LB: I think maybe that's why he liked me. (laugh) No, I mean, if he could be a good horse player, I mean, I was really good. And I mean, I didn't bet more than two, five dollars, five dollar exactas, you know, this and that. And it wasn't a big thing. I'd just go maybe once a month with him. But I learned it from, like, you followed the guy that you followed early on. I followed the guy that I followed early on to learn how to play a horse, and that was Hank. You know, I didn't learn any other thing. I didn't know anything about betting, and all this. I learned the tote board, though. I'm good. I'm very good. (laugh) But I don't go. I haven't been back since he died. It's just too.
LB: Still, yeah. Like you can't go to D. Boon's.
MW: Yeah. Too heavy.
LB: If you ever wanna go to D. Boon's, I'd love to go with you someday.
MW: I've never been to that.
LB: Have you ever, what?
MW: I've never been to that place.
LB: Well, if you ever want to, I would love to go there with you. I really would. We could go see Hank.
MW: Someone showed me a picture.
LB: We'll take a couple of beers. We can have a beer at Hank's and go down to D's and have a, have a beer with him.
LB: I'd like to do that.
LB: If you ever are for it, it would be sweet.
MW: Yeah, I've been afraid.
LB: I know. I know. Well, cry, you know? But, is that all right?
LB: Is it?
MW: Yeah, it's okay.
LB: No, no.
MW: It is. I mean, it's sincere. It's heavy. And sometimes, you gotta walk through that.
LB: I know, man.
MW: away. I remember I didn't do a song about it for 14 years, that's when I worked that opera. (laugh)
LB: Oh, wow.
MW: Finally faced up to it.
MW: It says, Bukowski movies Ordinary Madness, Barfly, and now Factotum, are coming out. Do any of them bear any resemblance to the reality?
LB: Barfly, which ones did he say?
MW: Ordinary Madness, Barfly, and now Factotum.
LB: Well, of those three, Factotum is the only one that gets any kind of inner stuff coming through. The other two are, and I'm not just saying it for myself, I'm saying it the way Hank tells about them. He really, really was not happy with either one of them at all. At all. He didn't dig them. But especially Mickey Rourke. (laugh) He couldn't handle Mickey Rourke. Mickey Rourke played a guy that was a character. He wasn't the right guy. He played a character, and Hank was very upset, because he played a slob.
And my husband, even when he was on the skids, was not a slob. He was very clean. (laugh) Like I think I told you, he had two sets of clothing, and every night, he'd wash what he wore the day before, and the next day, he'd wear the clean set. And he kept his hair nice. And here's this slob walking around with a load in his pants in Barfly. And Hank was really upset about that. But, you know, he like Barbet Schroeder so much, and they'd worked together for so long, he just didn't wanna hurt his feelings.
LB: So he was nice. But then later on, he did say some things that were recorded, and that sort of ended, well, Barbet later on, it was after Hank died, he just stopped even talking to me, and sort of blamed me, and I don't know why.
MW: Well, yeah.
LB: But it's too bad.
MW: I heard some of those recordings.
LB: Oh, yeah. But Factotum is incredible.
LB: Matt Dillon is remarkable.
LB: He plays Chinaski.
LB: And that guy is a wonderful, wonderful actor. I mean, that's been his life.
MW: I've got him a few times.
LB: Have you?
MW: He's a nice cat.
LB: He's a sweet guy.
LB: He's really unaffected, and, you know, we send emails back and forth, I had the chance to meet him at a screening he invited me to at his agent's in Beverly Hills, very fancy place, my gosh. You go in this plush screening room, and all these bigwigs in their suits. And they're these kids, (laugh) they're like 29 or 35, 30 years old. And they're in their suits, and they're justsuits and all of these things. (laugh)
MW: Oh, man.
LB: And you talk to them, and. (laugh)
LB: But they're doing a good thing with this, and Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor, who's the actress, is incredible. And Marisa Tomei is marvelous. And it's coming out, it's going to Sundance, and then it's coming out, I think, in February.
MW: And they got kind of the vibe.
LB: Yeah, he's this great guy, Bent Hamer, from Norway. And he is the director, and he worked with Jim Stark, who is the producer, who's from New York, who produced Jim Jarmusch's movies.
MW: Oh, wow.
LB: "Down By Law," and...
LB: ..."Mystery Train," and these other films. And he's brilliant. And I've gotten to know both of them, and they're terrific people, and they love Hank. And they worked seven years to get money, and getting this thing going.
MW: Now, the other two movies, they were Hollywood deals.
LB: Oh, yeah. Oh my God, yeah.
MW: Big money.
LB: Well, one was Italian.
MW: Oh, that's right.
LB: One's from Italy, and then Barfly was Cannon Films, at the time. These two crazy Israeli guys, Golan and Globus, and who were a story in themselves. So Barbet Schroeder basically had to go along with who they accepted for the movie, which became Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway. They wanted, Hank wanted Sean Penn, it didn't work out. But that's how we got to know Sean, which is really cool, because...
MW: Oh, because of that.
LB: ...he's stayed a really good friend over the years. Wonderful friend. But there's another movie that was done by a Belgian guy called Crazy Love. I think you can get it on Netflix now, or I think you can rent it. It's a Belgian film done in Flemish with French and English subtitles.
LB: And it's a trilogy of three of Hank's short stories.
MW: Oh, wow.
LB: Just done by this young man who was, like, 21 at the time. And he, well, 24. He came over here from Belgium with his producer, and the director, Dominique Deruddere is his name. He's, like, my height, which is, like, five-three? Five-two? And his producer was about six-four. This tall, thin guy and this little tiny guy, Belgian, they come to the door and they're gonna screen the movie for Hank and me. (laugh) And they're terrified.
They come in, and they're just almost shaking. And they're so sweet, and very, very kind and grateful that they could do this. And so we have a few drinks and it comes time to show the film. This director's film that he'd done. And he's terrified. And so he says, excuse me, while you screen the film, I'm going to go in the garden. So the poor guy took a bottle, went out into the garden, and Hank and me and the producer sat here and watched this amazing film, thank God, you know? Because Hank really was impressed.
I mean, I've never seen him impressed by anything that anybody did of his work. So it was over, and Hank says, tell the kid to come in. It's all right. And so, they go to the door and say, come on, Dominique, it's okay, come on. And he's just. He's just like, he's sort of laying and going oh, oh. And he comes in, and Hank greets him at this door right here, you know? And he just gave him a big hug, and that's unusual. You know, that's not him. And the guy started crying. (laugh) It was just, you know, it was a sweet, sweet experience. But that's a wonderful, wonderful film, Crazy Love.
MW: I'll see it, then.
LB: You should see that. Good one.
MW: You get a sense, reading his books, of how he saw the women in his life. Is that sense true, or did he not intimate, he did, (laugh) is that true, or did life not imitate art so much? Now, you told me about him doing the research.
LB: Yeah, yeah. (laugh) Yeah, he... (technical)
Like I think I said earlier, in explaining that, maybe he would say, well, I'm a photographer. I was photographing. I was photographing the experience I was in with the women I was with at the time. And, you know, maybe another writer would write about other things in another way about their experiences with these people. Butthese women, and these relationships, and so forth. But I think he was doing it on many levels. I mean, I think he was studying women.
LB: I think he loved women. That's a misconception, by the way, that he hated women, and was a misogynist, you know?
MW: I remember reading about that when I was young and starving. And I really.
LB: Yeah, that's really a misconception.
MW: When I read it, I was looking for that, because I was told.
LB: Oh, yeah.
MW: You know, I didn't see that.
LB: Well, because he writes a lot about fighting with women, and saying you bitch, you cunt, you know, and all of a sudden,make him hate women. He's writing about the experiences that he's having with these women. And maybe at the time, you know, and she also calls him a bastard and a son of a bitch.
MW: Yeah, and he fights with guys, too.
MW: He fights with guys, too. (laugh)
LB: Absolutely. You know, like he said, I'm recording it.
LB: I'm just a tape recorder.
MW: Well more than that, they him. There's all kinds of that he foisted on them.
LB: Oh yeah. He says, you know, if you really read my books, you'll see, like, I'm not the good guy, you know?
LB: I shit on myself more than I do most of the people I talk about. And it's not women. No, he just had some really nasty experiences during nasty times in his own life where he contained a lot of the rage from the horrible life of childhood that he had.
LB: And getting beaten and etcetera. And he hadn't overcome a lot of that rage. And so he would take it out. When you drink a lot, you know, he, you still have this awful rage. Of course it's going to come out. That's why people, when you go to bars and parties, and people get into drunken brawls. It's because they have this rage inside that they haven't worked out.
MW: Yeah, yeah.
LB: And, you know, we all do, to some degree, have that.
LB: He would just go extreme. (laugh)
LB: He could, he was brilliant. Because he was a man of words, he could crush you like just a little piece of shit dust.
MW: He had a command of the language.
LB: Yeah. And, like, he wasn't physical.
LB: You know, later in his life, he'd get into all these stupid bar brawls when he was young, but later in his life, he wasn't into physical fighting. He'd always say, hey, I'm gonna duke you, you son of a bitch. You know, be some young, virile guy sitting next to him, and the guy would sort of, okay, Bukowski, okay, sure. What do you mean? Say another word, you know? (laugh)
MW: For Bukowski, his poetry and prose served different purposes, artistically. Did he favor one or the other?
LB: He wrote mostly, early on, he wrote poetry.
LB: And then a little later on, he wrote short stories. And then he would intermingle that with a novel. Which the first was Post Office.
LB: And that came out, when did that come out? Seventy, '74 or something like that. But up until then, it was pretty much poetry.
MW: he's always talking about writing poems.
MW: Always poems.
LB: But that's what.
MW: Every night, he's making himself write poems.
LB: Yeah. But what's interesting about his writing is that whether it was poetry, novels, short stories, letters, or talking to you.
LB: It was all, it was in that same voice. He never changed that I'm gonna be a poet now, and I'm gonna write poetry.
LB: Or now this is a novel, and this is this form.
LB: He wasn't into, you know, form and the academic aspect of poetry. He wasn't into that, because he saw how limiting it was.
LB: And how precious it was, and self serving and self conscious.
LB: You know, to write poetry that nobody else understands except five people, and they don't really understand it, they just pretend they do.
LB: Because the writer thinks he's hot shit. You know, he didn't buy that. And...
MW: Yeah, for the listeners that are into him are hot shit.
LB: Yeah. (laugh) You know.
MW: The games.
MW: See,keeping himself outside that, he didn't have to worry about falling prey to that.
LB: Yeah, yeah.
MW: You know? He would have hung out with that scene. You know, humans are a social organism. They'll start playing the game they're in.
LB: That's right. They succumb, they give in.
MW: And discipline, he wanted to be a writer, he didn't wanna be a social worker.
LB: Yeah. Natural.
MW: Social interactor.
LB: Like you. I mean, you have no desire to do anything else, do you, in your life? I mean, as far as working in, whatever, it's painting, art, work a job, (makes noise) ? I mean... play bass. See? Same thing, isn't it?
LB: Did you see the documentary on Hank?
MW: No, you were telling me about it, though.
LB: Damn. I...
MW: And you were having kind of trouble with the people, right?
LB: Yeah, yeah.
MW: So it kind of put me off.
LB: But it's brilliant.
MW: Oh, okay.
LB: You know, why don't you, we could watch it some night, if you wanna come by. Because...
LB: ...it's brilliant. It's just that certain things, he leaves out. But no, what's there is pretty impressive, you know? It's good, and you get, I would recommend it to anybody who reads this article. That they get a hold of it. But I don't think it's available yet. They just have to read his books. So you can learn everything you need to know about.
MW: Yeah, like this question. What did he think about God? Well, you already said he was kind of agnostic.
MW: But then you told me before, too, towards the end, he was mediating.
LB: He was, towards the end. He became sick with leukemia, and in 1993. And, you know, there you are. There you go. You're in this place. And nobody knows whether it's a terminal thing or not, and it just goes on, and you do the best you can, and so we sought out alternative methods and this. And we got, (clearsthroat) I decided to see if he might be interested in meditation. And because I know the benefits of meditation, personally. And so, actually, he was willing to. I think he was frightened in that state, you know? Not knowing, and not really liking doctors, you know?
MW: Oh, I know... when I had the sickness...
LB: Oh, yeah. Oh, my God. So you're willing to stretch out a little bit. And so, we went up to Malibu, to this transcendental meditation center, and we went through, both of us, I did it just to be with him, we went through all of the teachings for several weeks. We'd go up there two and three times a week for several hours. And then afterwards, we'd go to Gladstone's on the beach and have a big crab dinner. (laugh) But he got into it. And he learned the meditation, and they'd give you a mantra, it's a ritualistic thing where they, you know, you've gone through the teachings, and you present them with flowers, and so forth.
And you see, for when you're meditating, as a focus. You just, like, if you light a candle, or if, you know, you focus on any one thought, or you count numbers, or something. So that's what the mantra is about, and that's his chair, over there.
LB: And that's where he would sit 20 minutes a day, twice a day, and meditate. And man, it was something to see him there, because I knew the power. The power of his power was immense, as a being, a living being. Which was just sometimes exploding, or imploding, so much throughout his life. I think meditation allowed him to just allow it to ease through and in and out of him. And release itself, and the pain and the suffering.
MW: Some kind of peace?
LB: Yeah, that, yeah. I have to say that. And so, he was very, very fond of that, and even in hospital, when he was going through different chemo and all of that, would sit in his room and 20 minutes a day, twice a day, would sit there. Close the door. I'd tell the Catholic nurses we were praying, and they would love that very much. (laugh) And so, we'd be in there, and meditate. And amazing to see him that way, in that state. Because it did bring him a peace that I don't know if he hadn't gone through that, how he would have been, I don't know.
But he was amazing. And to sort of look at his life from early on and through all of the things, I've gotten to know him all through these years, as well, to this, and the way that it did come to an end was absolutely beautiful. I mean, if you're gonna go, if you have to go, which we all do.
LB: He found this thing. And he wasn't being religious, you know? He wasn't, like, bowing down to some god thing. He was just looking within. He was just digging it within himself. And that's exploring that in a very mindful way. So I think he used his ability to focus from where he learned at the racetrack, you know?
LB: (laugh) I think that might have helped him be able to concentrate... that way. Or, and the writing was a great discipline, too.
LB: So I think it all led up to this, this.
MW: See, 'cause people think their life is fractured, and in some ways it is, especially. We are broken into all these pieces.
LB: Yeah, yeah.
MW: But the reality, the super-reality is this one journey.
MW: It should add up, I think.
LB: And I'm so sad that today, it doesn't seem like that's what's happening with people.
LB: With people. You know, the dissatisfaction of everybody, you know? People are gonna get old and they're gonna die really dissatisfied and unhappy, and...
LB: ...failed, feeling failed, you know? And I don't think I will. You know, I'm fine, I think you're fine. But I mean, in general, people, they're unhappy, and they're gonna die old and unhappy, and sad and sick. And just defeated. And I don't, that's the sad thing, I think, about life right now. I think that's what, all the way that we're being led by the people that are leading us. (laugh) Supposedly. That's the goal. Just, that's what's happening. Terribly sad.
MW: Yeah, well, this consumer culture, right? Emphasis on materialism?
MW: Part of the game, I think, is to keep people feeling empty, so they always need some outside thing. So they keep buying.
LB: Oh yeah.
MW: You know?
LB: Consumerism is the opium of the masses.
LB: Now. Absolutely. Capitalism.
MW: I was reading some stuff he wrote about like that. Almost like, yeah, strange. You want a vacuum inside of people, you want them to have regrets and stuff.
LB: Yeah, yeah.
MW: 'Cause then we'll get a new, you know, acquire them objects, get more into the debt, more into, entrenched. But then, you kind of...
LB: Very hopeless. It's a hopeless...
MW: Yeah, 'cause it follows its own tail... corkscrews in.
LB: Yeah, it's a hopeless situation. It's a whirlpool. It's, like, dreadful. (laugh)
MW: And you solve it with things.
LB: Well, I think we're on the upswing. I think we're on the upswing. I mean, I think we're really, (makesnoise) . I think it's very tense right now, but I think that finally, there's a toppling beginning to happen. And I think it's gaining momentum and with the situation out there. As far as there's too much dissatisfaction, even with people that might ordinarily go along with things. But I think it's, I'll do whatever I can. Just, what do I do? Just tell me, and I'll, you know what I mean? That's how I feel. Goddamn. I mean, I used to get beaten up by police at rallies and protests in the sixties in Harvard Square, for chrissake.
Where's the action? (laugh) You know? I just, I want so much for a rallying. And then you go to these rallies and these protests, and it doesn't serve anything. It doesn't work right now. What works? What works? I don't know.
MW: Yeah, it's not a machine. (laugh)
LB: You know, burning monks or something.
MW: Yeah. (laugh) That was intense.
LB: Yeah. All right, any more questions? (laugh)
MW: Yeah, the last one.
MW: What was it like to share a life with such a man?
LB: (laugh) Oh. Ooh. That's none of your business. (laugh) Oh, it was. If I could say my thoughts,things. His words. We met our match.
LB: We were a very unlikely couple. Very unlikely. How the heck that all, how the heck we ever came to meet each other, it's ridiculous. Another, like an accident. Like you say with your... the inevitable just smashing together of atoms and particles, all the ones that at this magical time, for some incredible cosmic reason, we were meant to collide and intersperse, and be together. Oh, collectively. Just these two. These two bodies, this mass. This mass of emptiness. (laugh)