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Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview

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Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview

Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview

The horror master looks back on his four-decade career

Stephen King’s office building sits on a particularly dreary dead-end road on the outskirts of Bangor, Maine, just down the street from a gun-and-ammo store, a snowplow dealership and, appropriately enough, an old cemetery. From the outside, the anonymous building looks like a new branch of Dunder Mifflin, a very deliberate choice meant to keep King and his tiny staff safe. “We can’t be on a main road because people would find us,” says one of his assistants. “And it’s not people you want to find you. He draws some weird people.”

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Once buzzed in, a visitor enters a sort of Stephen King nirvana – rooms decorated with fan-created artwork populated with characters from his novels, a Stephen King Simpsons action figure, a freakish bobble-head doll of the demented clown from his 1986 book IT, and piles and piles of books. He keeps an old Gothic house (complete with spiderwebs and bats on the front gate) just a few miles away that draws bus loads of tourists, but he’s virtually never there. Most of the year, he lives two and a half hours away in Lovell, Maine, and now with his three kids grown, he and his wife, Tabitha, head down to Sarasota, Florida, at the height of winter.

King himself only comes into the office about once a month, but today he stopped by and, as usual, he’s juggling a lot of projects at once. He just polished off a final draft of his upcoming serial-killer book Finders Keepers (a sequel to his recent work Mr. Mercedes), a pretty astonishing feat considering he will also release two books this year, write a screenplay for the new Joan Allen/Anthony LaPaglia film A Good Marriage and continue to fine-tune Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,a musical he wrote with John Mellencamp.

But right now, the 67-year-old is hunched over an easy chair in his office, chomping on a doughnut that’s leaving a growing pile of powdered sugar on his black turtleneck shirt. He’s excited about the upcoming publication of Revival, a modern-day Frankenstein story about a preacher who’s obsessed with the healing powers of electricity and his 50-year relationship with a drug-addled rock guitarist. It’s basically guaranteed to land at Number One on The New York Times bestseller list.

Since 1974, when Carrie hit shelves, King has sold an estimated 350 million books, and he’s now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. John Grisham and Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James may outsell him these days, but it’s hardly a problem. “He’s not competitive,” says his longtime agent Chuck Verrill. “The only guy he ever cared about was Tom Clancy. They were both at Penguin once, and it was made clear to King that he was seen as the second banana to Clancy. He didn’t like that, but he’s very content where he is right now.”

Stephen King

King hasn’t done many recent in-depth print interviews since a van accident nearly killed him 15 years ago, but he decided to sit down with Rolling Stone to discuss his life and career.

The vast majority of your books deal with either horror or the supernatural. What drew you toward those subjects?
It’s built in. That’s all. The first movie I ever saw was a horror movie. It was Bambi. When that little deer gets caught in a forest fire, I was terrified, but I was also exhilarated. I can’t explain it. My wife and kids drink coffee. But I don’t. I like tea. My wife and kids won’t touch a pizza with anchovies on it. But I like anchovies. The stuff I was drawn to was built in as part of my equipment.

Did you ever feel shame about that?
No. I thought it was great fun to scare people. I also knew it was socially acceptable because there were a lot of horror movies out there. And I cut my teeth on horror comics like The Crypt of Terror.

By writing horror novels, you entered one of the least respected genres of fiction.
Yeah. It’s one of the genres that live across the tracks in the literary community, but what could I do? That’s where I was drawn. I love D.H. Lawrence. And James Dickey’s poetry, Émile Zola, Steinbeck . . . Fitzgerald, not so much. Hemingway, not at all. Hemingway sucks, basically. If people like that, terrific. But if I set out to write that way, what would’ve come out would’ve been hollow and lifeless because it wasn’t me. And I have to say this: To a degree, I have elevated the horror genre.

Few would argue with that.
It’s more respected now. I’ve spoken out my whole life against the idea of simply dismissing whole areas of fiction by saying it’s “genre” and therefore can’t be seen as literature. I’m not trying to be conceited or anything. Raymond Chandler elevated the detective genre. People who have done wonderful work really blur the line.

HEMINGWAY SUCKS. IF I SET OUT TO WRITE THAT WAY, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BEEN HOLLOW AND LIFELESS BECAUSE IT WASN’T ME.

A lot of critics were pretty brutal to you when you were starting out.
Early in my career, The Village Voice did a caricature of me that hurts even today when I think about it. It was a picture of me eating money. I had this big, bloated face. It was this assumption that if fiction was selling a lot of copies, it was bad. If something is accessible to a lot of people, it’s got to be dumb because most people are dumb. And that’s elitist. I don’t buy it.

But that attitude continues to this day. Literary critic Harold Bloom viciously ripped into you when you won the National Book Award about 10 years ago.
Bloom never pissed me off because there are critics out there, and he’s one of them, who take their ignorance about popular culture as a badge of intellectual prowess. He might be able to say that Mark Twain is a great writer, but it’s impossible for him to say that there’s a direct line of descent from, say, Nathaniel Hawthorne to Jim Thompson because he doesn’t read guys like Thompson. He just thinks, “I never read him, but I know he’s terrible.”

Stephen King at the 54th Annual National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York City, New York on November 19th, 2003.

Stephen King at the 54th Annual National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York City, New York on November 19th, 2003. (Photo: Robin Platzer/Getty)

Michiko Kakutani, who writes reviews for The New York Times, is the same way. She’ll review a book like David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, which is one of the best novels of the year. It’s as good as Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, has the same kind of deep literary resonance. But because it has elements of fantasy and science fiction, Kakutani doesn’t want to understand it. In that sense, Bloom and Kakutani and a number of gray eminences in literary criticism are like children who say, “I can’t possibly eat this meal because the different kinds of food are touching on the plate!”

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Film critics can look at a popular movie like Jaws and heap praise upon it, then in another section of the paper, the critics will bash you for The Stand.
By its very nature, film is supposed to be an accessible medium to everybody. Let’s face it, you can take a fucking illiterate to Jaws and he can understand what’s going on. I don’t know who the Harold Bloom of the film world is, but if you found someone like that and said to him, “Compare Jaws with 400 Blows by Francois Truffaut,” he’d just laugh and say, “Well, Jaws is a piece of crappy, popular entertainment, but 400 Blows is cinema.” It’s the same elitism.

Switching gears, your new book Revival talks a lot about religion. Specifically, one of the two main characters is a reverend that turns on God when his family dies but also delivers a sermon about why religion is a complete fraud. How much of that sermon mirrors your own beliefs?
My view is that organized religion is a very dangerous tool that’s been misused by a lot of people. I grew up in a Methodist church, and we went to services every Sunday and to Bible school in the summer. We didn’t have a choice. We just did it. So all that stuff about childhood religion in Revival is basically autobiographical. But as a kid, I had doubts. When I went to Methodist youth fellowship, we were taught that the Catholics were all going to go to hell because they worship idols. So right there, I’m saying to myself, “Catholics are going to go to hell, but my aunt Molly married a Catholic and she converted and she’s got 11 kids and they’re all pretty nice and one of them’s my good friend – they’re all going to go to hell?” I’m thinking to myself, “This is bullshit.” And if that’s bullshit, how much of the rest of it is bullshit?

Did you relay any of your doubts to your mother?
Jesus, no! I loved her. I never would have done that. Once I got through high school, that was it for me. When you see somebody like Jimmy Swaggart and he’s supposed to be this great minister touched by God, and he’s paying whores because he wants to look up their dresses, it’s just all hypocrisy.

All that said, you’ve made it clear over the years that you still believe in God.
Yeah. I choose to believe in God because it makes things better. You have a meditation point, a source of strength. I don’t ask myself, “Well, does God exist or does God not exist?” I choose to believe that God exists, and therefore I can say, “God, I can’t do this by myself. Help me not to take a drink today. Help me not to take a drug today.” And that works fine for me.

Do you believe in the afterlife?
I don’t know. I’m totally agnostic on that one. Let’s put it this way, I would like to believe that there is some sort of an afterlife. I do believe that when we’re in the process of dying, that all these emergency circuits in the brain take over. I base what I’m saying not on any empirical evidence. I think it’s very possible that when you’re dying, these circuits open up, which would explain this whole white-light phenomena – when people clinically die and they see their relatives and stuff and say, “Hello, it’s great to see you.”

Do you hope to go to heaven?
I don’t want to go to the heaven that I learned about when I was a kid. To me, it seems boring. The idea that you’re going to lounge around on a cloud all day and listen to guys play harps? I don’t want to listen to harps. I want to listen to Jerry Lee Lewis!

Do you wish you had stronger beliefs? Would that give you comfort if you had more certainty?
No, I think uncertainty is good for things. Certainty breeds complacency and complacency means that you just sit somewhere in your nice little comfortable suburban house in Michigan, looking at CNN and saying, “Oh, those poor immigrant children that are all coming across the border. But we really can’t have them here – that isn’t what God wants. Let’s send them all back to the drug cartels.” There’s a complacency to it.

How about evil? Do you believe there is such a thing?
I believe in evil, but all my life I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not there’s an outside evil, whether or not there’s a force in the world that really wants to destroy us, from the inside out, individually and collectively. Or whether it all comes from inside and that it’s all part of genetics and environment. When you find somebody like, let’s say, Ted Bundy, who tortured and killed all those women and sometimes went back and had sex with the dead bodies, I don’t think when you look at his upbringing you can say, “Oh, that’s because Mommy put a clothespin on his dick when he was four.” That behavior was hard-wired. Evil is inside us. The older I get, the less I think there’s some sort of outside devilish influence; it comes from people. And unless we’re able to address that issue, sooner or later, we’ll fucking kill ourselves.

MISERY IS A BOOK ABOUT COCAINE. ANNIE WILKES IS COCAINE. SHE WAS MY NUMBER-ONE FAN.

What do you mean?
I read a thing on Huffington Post about a month ago that stayed with me. It was very troubling. It was a pop-science thing, which is all I can understand. It said we’ve been listening to the stars for 50 years, looking for any signs of life, and there’s been nothing but silence. When you see what’s going on in the world today, and you have all this conflict, and our technological expertise has far outraced our ability to manage our own emotions – you see it right now with ISIS – what’s the solution? The only solution we see with ISIS is to bomb the shit out of those motherfuckers so that they just can’t roll over the world. And that’s what’s scary about that silence – maybe all intelligent races hit this level of violence and technological advances that they can’t get past. And then they just puff out. You hit the wall and that’s it.

So you think humanity’s destiny is to someday wipe itself out?
I can’t see the future, but it’s grim. The depletion of resources – we’re living in this dine-and-dash economy. I love the Republicans, too. Whenever it comes to money – the national debt, for instance – they yell their heads off about “What about our grandchildren?” But when it comes to the environment, when it comes to resources, they’re like, “We’ll be OK for 40 years.”

I want to talk about writing now. Walk me through your typical day when you’re working on a book.
I wake up. I eat breakfast. I walk about three and a half miles. I come back, I go out to my little office, where I’ve got a manuscript, and the last page that I was happy with is on top. I read that, and it’s like getting on a taxiway. I’m able to go through and revise it and put myself – click – back into that world, whatever it is. I don’t spend the day writing. I’ll maybe write fresh copy for two hours, and then I’ll go back and revise some of it and print what I like and then turn it off.

Do you do that every day?
Every day, even weekends. I used to write more and I used to write faster – it’s just aging. It slows you down a little bit.

Is writing an addiction for you?
Yeah. Sure. I love it. And it’s one of the few things where I do it less now and get as much out of it. Usually with dope and booze, you do it more and get less out of it as time goes by. It’s still really good, but it’s addictive, obsessive-compulsive behavior. So I’ll write every day for maybe six months and get a draft of something – and then I make myself stop completely for 10 days or 12 days in order to let everything settle. But during that time off, I drive my wife crazy. She says, “Get out of my way, get out of the house, go do something – paint a birdhouse, anything!”

So I watch TV, I play my guitar and put in time, and then when I go to bed at night, I have all these crazy dreams, usually not very pleasant ones because whatever machinery that you have that goes into writing stories, it doesn’t want to stop. So if it’s not going on the page, it has to go somewhere, and I have these mind dreams. They’re always dreams that focus on some kind of shame or insecurity.

Stephen King, 1967

Stephen King, 1967 (Photo: Courtesy King Family)

Like what?
The one that recurs is that I’m going to be in a play, and I get to the theater and it’s opening night and not only can I not find my costume, but I realize that I have never learned the lines.

How do you interpret that?
It’s just insecurity – fear of failure, fear of falling short.

You still fear failure after all these years of success?
Sure. I’m afraid of all kinds of things. I’m afraid of failing at whatever story I’m writing – that it won’t come up for me, or that I won’t be able to finish it.

Do you think your imagination is more active than most people’s?
I don’t know, man. It’s more trained. It hurts to imagine stuff. It can give you a headache. Probably doesn’t hurt physically, but it hurts mentally. But the more that you can do it, the more you’re able to get out of it. Everybody has that capacity, but I don’t think everyone develops it.

Fair enough, but not many people can do what you do.
I can remember as a college student writing stories and novels, some of which ended up getting published and some that didn’t. It was like my head was going to burst – there were so many things I wanted to write all at once. I had so many ideas, jammed up. It was like they just needed permission to come out. I had this huge aquifer underneath of stories that I wanted to tell and I stuck a pipe down in there and everything just gushed out. There’s still a lot of it, but there’s not as much now.

When did you first get the idea for Revival?
I’ve had it since I was a kid, really. I read this story called The Great God Pan in high school, and there were these two characters waiting to see if this woman could come back from the dead and tell them what was over there. It just creeped me out. The more I thought about it, the more I thought about this Mary Shelley-Frankenstein thing.

How long did it take you to write it?
I started it in Maine and finished it in Florida. An actual book takes at least a year. A first draft can be rough, and then you polish it, take out the bad stuff. Elmore Leonard – someone asked him, “How do you write a book someone wants to read?” And he said, “You leave out the boring shit.”

Do you put some of yourself into the character of Jamie?
Yeah, sure. Jamie is a guy who gets addicted to drugs after a motorcycle accident, and I’ve had a drug problem ever since, man, I don’t know. I guess I’ve had a drug problem since college.

You had a major drinking problem, too. When did that become an issue?
I started drinking by age 18. I realized I had a problem around the time that Maine became the first state in the nation to pass a returnable-bottle-and-can law. You could no longer just toss the shit away, you saved it, and you turned it in to a recycling center. And nobody in the house drank but me. My wife would have a glass of wine and that was all. So I went in the garage one night, and the trash can that was set aside for beer cans was full to the top.

It had been empty the week before. I was drinking, like, a case of beer a night. And I thought, “I’m an alcoholic.” That was probably about ’78, ’79. I thought, “I’ve gotta be really careful, because if somebody says, ‘You’re drinking too much, you have to quit,’ I won’t be able to.”

Were you buzzed when you wrote in the morning back then?
Not really. I didn’t drink in the days. Sometimes if I had, like, two things going – which I did a lot, sometimes I still do – I would work at night. And if I was working at night, I was looped. But I never wrote original stuff at night, I just rewrote. It turned out all right.

At what point did hard drugs enter the picture?
It was probably about ’78, around the same time that I realized that I was out of control with drinking. Well, I thought I was in control, but in reality I wasn’t.

That was cocaine?
Yeah, coke. I was a heavy user from 1978 until 1986, something like that.

Did you write on coke?
Oh, yeah, I had to. I mean, coke was different from booze. Booze, I could wait, and I didn’t drink or anything. But I used coke all the time.

You had three young kids at the time. It must have been very stressful to keep this huge secret while balancing all your responsibilities.
I don’t remember.

Really?
No. That whole time is pretty hazy to me. I just didn’t use it around people. And I wasn’t a social drinker. I used to say that I didn’t want to go to bars because they were full of assholes like me.

Stephen King, 1967

The King Family (Photo: Baerbel Schmidt/NYTimes/Redux)

I’m trying to comprehend how you lived this whole secret life of a drug addict for eight years, all the while churning out bestsellers and being a family man.
Well, I can’t comprehend it now, either, but you do what you have to do. And when you’re an addict, you have to use. So you just try to balance things out as best you can. But little by little, the family life started to show cracks.

I was usually pretty good about it. I was able to get up and make the kids breakfast and get them off to school. And I was strong; I had a lot of energy. I would’ve killed myself otherwise. But the books start to show it after a while. Misery is a book about cocaine. Annie Wilkes is cocaine. She was my number-one fan.

Did the quality of your writing start to go down?
Yeah, it did. I mean, The Tommyknockers is an awful book. That was the last one I wrote before I cleaned up my act. And I’ve thought about it a lot lately and said to myself, “There’s really a good book in here, underneath all the sort of spurious energy that cocaine provides, and I ought to go back.” The book is about 700 pages long, and I’m thinking, “There’s probably a good 350-page novel in there.”

Is The Tommyknockers the one book in your catalog you think you botched?
Well, I don’t like Dreamcatcher very much. Dreamcatcher was written after the accident. [In 1999, King was hit by a van while taking a walk and left severely injured.] I was using a lot of Oxycontin for pain. And I couldn’t work on a computer back then because it hurt too much to sit in that position. So I wrote the whole thing longhand. And I was pretty stoned when I wrote it, because of the Oxy, and that’s another book that shows the drugs at work.

If you had to pick your best book, what would it be?
Lisey’s Story. That one felt like an important book to me because it was about marriage, and I’d never written about that. I wanted to talk about two things: One is the secret world that people build inside a marriage, and the other was that even in that intimate world, there’s still things that we don’t know about each other.

Are you done writing Dark Tower books?
I’m never done with The Dark Tower. The thing about The Dark Tower is that those books were never edited, so I look at them as first drafts. And by the time I got to the fifth or sixth book, I’m thinking to myself, “This is really all one novel.” It drives me crazy. The thing is to try to find the time to rewrite them. There’s a missing element – a big battle at a place called Jericho Hill. And that whole thing should be written, and I’ve thought about it several times, and I don’t know how to get into it.

You’ve made a fortune over the years. A lot of people would be living it up, buying houses in Hawaii and the South of France and filling them with Picassos. That’s obviously not your thing, so what does your money do for you?
I like to have money to buy books and go to movies and buy music and stuff. To me, the greatest thing in the world is downloading TV shows on iTunes because there are no commercials, and yet if I were a working stiff, I could never afford to do this. But I don’t even think about money. I have two amazing things in my life: I’m pain-free and I’m debt-free. Money means I can support my family and still do what I love. Not very many people can say that in this world, and not many writers can say that. I’m not a clothes person. I’m not a boat person. We do have a house in Florida. But we live in Maine, for Christ’s sake. It’s not like a trendy community or anything. We have the houses and stuff. My wife likes all that. But I’m not very interested in stuff. I like cars, because I grew up in the country and a car was important. So we’ve got more cars than we need, but that’s our biggest extravagance.

When you look at these hedge-fund guys just living like kings . . .
Totally foreign to me. I saw The Wolf of Wall Street, and it looked to me like this guy was living this sort of exhausting lifestyle. Money for the sake of money doesn’t interest me. There’s a lot of it, and we give a lot of it away.

I’ve read that you make large charitable donations, but you almost never hear about where it goes.
We were raised firmly to believe that if you give away money and you make a big deal of it so that everybody sees it, that’s hubris. You do it for yourself, and you’re not supposed to make a big deal about it. We have publicly acknowledged certain contributions, but the idea behind that is to say to other people, “This is the example we’re trying to make, so we wish that you would do the same thing.”

So if you give away $1 million to Eastern Maine General Hospital here, you’re doing it because you’re hoping that somebody else will chip in. I’m not averse to using whatever celebrity that I have. I’m going to do a TV ad for the Democratic candidate Shenna Bellows this afternoon. She’s running against Susan Collins for Senate. And I don’t know how much goodwill I have in the state, but I think it’s a fair amount, so maybe the ad will make a difference.

Do you worry that being too political will turn off some of your readers?
It happens all the time. I wrote an e-book after the thing in Newtown, Connecticut, when that guy shot all those kids. I got a lot of letters, somebody saying, “Asshole! I’ll never read another one of your goddamn books.” So what? If you’re to a point where you can’t separate the entertainment from the politics, who needs you? Jesus Christ.

I never really cared for Tom Clancy’s books, but it wasn’t because he was a Republican guy. It was because I didn’t think he could write. There’s another guy that I sense is probably a fairly right-wing writer. His name is Stephen Hunter. And I love his books. I don’t think he likes mine.

Your father walked out when you were two. How much did his absence shape your life?
I don’t know. I don’t live an examined life, but I can remember when Tabby and I got married, back in ’71. I can remember laying in bed with her and turning over and saying, “We ought to get married.” And she said, “Let me think about it overnight.”

Stephen King in 1952, 3 years after his father walked out on his family.

in 1952, 3 years after his father walked out on his family. (Photo: Courtesy of King Family)

And in the morning, she said, “Yeah, we should get married.” We had nothing. I mean, I was working at a gas station. I was pumping gas. And then when I graduated from school, she was still in school. Then when I got a job working at a wet-wash laundry because I couldn’t get a teaching job, we had jack shit for money. She was working in a Dunkin’ Donuts when I finally got a teaching job. We didn’t have a phone in the house, and we had two babies. Don’t ask me why we did that. I can’t remember what the mindset was there.

Looking back, would you do it all over again?
We must have been fucking crazy, but I love those kids, and I’m glad we did it. She would go to work at Dunkin’ Donuts. She looked cute in the little pink uniform. God, she was so good-looking. She’s still good-looking to me, but oh, my God. And there was something sexy about all that pink nylon.

She would bring home the empty buckets of filling from the doughnuts, and we used them as diaper pails. So I would teach school, come home, she’d work at Dunkin’ Donuts. I would baby-sit the kids and give them the bottles and change them and everything until she came home at 11:00. And then we’d go to bed. And I’m thinking to myself, “I’m not going to leave this marriage no matter what happens.”

Your dad died in 1980. Were you ever tempted to meet him, if only to hear his side of the story?
No. I was curious when I was a kid. I used to think, “I’d like to find him and knock his fucking head off.” And then later on, I thought to myself, “I’d like to find him and hear his side of the story and thenknock his fucking head off.” Because there’s no excuse for it. It wasn’t just that he walked out and left us – he left her holding a whole bunch of bills, which she worked to pay off.

What stopped you?
I was too busy. I was trying to carve out a career as a writer. And when I was teaching school, I would teach and come home and try to steal a couple of hours to write. To tell you the truth, man, I never thought about it that much.

Did you see that new documentary “Room 237″ about obsessive fans of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining?
Yeah. Well, let me put it this way – I watched about half of it and got sort of impatient with it and turned it off.

Why?
These guys were reaching. I’ve never had much patience for academic bullshit. It’s like Dylan says, “You give people a lot of knives and forks, they’ve gotta cut something.” And that was what was going on in that movie.

You’ve been extremely critical of Kubrick’s film over the years. Is it possible he made a great movie that just so happens to be a horrible adaptation of your book?
No. I never saw it that way at all. And I never see any of the movies that way. The movies have never been a big deal to me. The movies are the movies. They just make them. If they’re good, that’s terrific. If they’re not, they’re not. But I see them as a lesser medium than fiction, than literature, and a more ephemeral medium.

Are you mystified by the cult that’s grown around Kubrick’s Shining?
I don’t get it. But there are a lot of things that I don’t get. But obviously people absolutely love it, and they don’t understand why I don’t. The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice. In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I’m thinking to myself the minute he’s on the screen, “Oh, I know this guy. I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.” And it’s so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag. But that’s just me, that’s the way I am.

What’s the best movie ever made from one of your books?
Probably Stand by Me. I thought it was true to the book, and because it had the emotional gradient of the story. It was moving. I think I scared the shit out of Rob Reiner. He showed it to me in the screening room at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I was out there for something else, and he said, “Can I come over and show you this movie?” And you have to remember that the movie was made on a shoestring. It was supposed to be one of those things that opened in six theaters and then maybe disappeared. And instead it went viral. When the movie was over, I hugged him because I was moved to tears, because it was so autobiographical.

But Stand by Me, Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile are all really great ones. Misery is a great film. Delores Claiborne is a really, really good film. Cujo is terrific.

What do you make of this surge in sales for young-adult books? There’s a whole school of critics that say too many adults are reading them.
It’s just crazy. I read all of the Harry Potter books, and I really liked ‘em. I don’t approach any books in terms of genre saying that “This is young adult,” or “This is a romance,” or science fiction, or whatever. You read them because you read them. Someone asked me recently, “Have you ever considered writing a book for young people? You know, a YA novel?” And I said, “All of them.” Because I don’t see that genre thing.

Do you think you have fewer young readers than you had back in the first few decades of your career?
Yes, that’s probably true. I’m seen as somebody who writes for adults because I’m an older man myself. Some of them find me, and a lot of them don’t. But I came along at a fortunate time, in that I was a paperback success before I was a hardcover success. That’s because paperbacks were cheap, so a lot of readers that I had were younger people. Paperbacks were what they could afford. You do say to yourself, “Well, are the younger readers coming along in terms of the e-books, the Kindles and all that stuff?” And the answer is, some of them are, but a lot of them probably aren’t.

Does that bother you?
Well, I have a drive to succeed. I have a drive to want to please people, as many people as possible. But that ends at a certain point where you say, “I’m not going to sell out and write this one particular kind of thing.” I had a real argument with myself about Mr. Mercedes, which is basically a straight suspense novel.

I had to sit down and have a discussion with myself and say, “Do you want to do what your heart is telling you you should do, or do you want to do what people expect? Because if you only want to write what people expect, what the fuck did you do all this for? Why don’t you write what you want to write?”

Do you worry about the death of print?
I think books are going to be around, but it’s crazy what happened. They’re worried in the publishing industry about bookstores disappearing. Barnes & Noble creating the Nook was like Vietnam; they should have left that alone because Amazon got there first with the Kindle. The death of the music business was insane, but audio recordings have been around now for maybe 120 years. Books have been around for, what, nine centuries? So they’re more entrenched than music.

Speaking of Harry Potter, you’ve become friendly with J.K. Rowling, right?
Yeah. We did a charity event at Radio City Music Hall a few years back. She was working on the last of the Harry Potter books. Her publicist and her editor called her over, and they talked for about 10 minutes. And when she came back to me, she was steaming. Fucking furious. And she said, “They don’t understand what we do, do they? They don’t fucking understand what we do.” And I said, “No, they don’t. None of them do.” And that’s what my life is like right now.

What do you mean?
When someone says, “What are you working on?” I’ll say, “I’ve got this wonderful story about these two families on two sides of a lake that end up having this arms race with fireworks,” but I’m doing this event, and then I’ve got the political ad and all this other crap. So you have to be stern about it and say, “I’m not going to do this other stuff, because you’ve got to make room for me to write.” Nobody reallyunderstands what the job is. They want the books, but they don’t, in a way, take it seriously.

You mentioned watching a lot of TV. What’s the best show of the past 15 years?
Breaking Bad. I knew it was great from the first scene you see him wearing jockey shorts. I thought it was amazingly brave since they look so geeky.

Do you think if you had been born at a later time you would have wanted to work as a TV showrunner?
No. Too much time for too little payoff. I don’t mean in terms of money. Also, showrunning is a thing where you have to work with tons of different people. You have to schmooze people, you have to talk to network people. I don’t want to do any of that.

It’s interesting that mainstream movies are worse than ever, but TV just gets better and better.
Yeah. I mean, we aren’t talking about shows like NCIS and CSI that basically show one story over and over. I’m not even talking about Mad Men, which I don’t like. But Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead, The Bridge, The Americans. Those things are so textured and so involving that they make movies look like short stories. I was watching a show 12 years ago called The Shield. And in the first episode, Michael Chiklis, who played the protagonist, turns around and kills a fellow cop. And I thought to myself, “TV just underwent this seismic change.” That show was the most important show on television. Breaking Bad is better, but The Shield changed everything.

Let’s talk about music. Revival is about a rock guitarist. Do you think that could have been your path if you had a little more natural musical talent?
Sure! I love music, and I can play a little. But anyone can see the difference between someone who’s talented and someone that’s not. The main character in Revival, Jamie, just has natural talent. What he can do on the guitar, I can do when I write. It just pours out. Nobody taught me. In Revival, I took what I know about how it feels to write and applied it to music.

What’s the best concert you ever saw?
Springsteen. I went to see him at the Ice Arena in Lewiston, Maine, in 1977. He played for about four hours. It was fantastic. There’s so much energy, so much generosity in the show, and so much real life in the music. He was totally athletic, and he’d jump into the crowd, lay on his back and spin around. He was a great showman.

Do you respect him as a storyteller?
I respect him as a songwriter and the insight in his songs. My favorite album of his is Nebraska. I knew from the beginning of “Atlantic City” that it was amazing. He had really grown as a songwriter. He’s done stuff in music that nobody else has done. That line in “The River,” “Now I just act like I don’t remember, and Mary acts like she don’t care.” Let’s put it this way, it’s a long way from “Palisades Park” by Freddy Cannon.

I feel like you and Bruce would both be doing what you’re doing, even if you weren’t paid for it.
Yeah, I think it’s fair. And it’d be fair to say that we were both self-taught with a lot of ambition, a lot of drive to succeed, because I have that in me too. I have this one thing that I can do, and that’s something Bruce expresses in a lot of his music.

Do you think President Obama is doing a good job?
Under the circumstances, he’s been terrific. Look at how much improvement there’s been with the job situation. But it’s human nature to care about unresolved issues. And so this business with ISIS, or people breaking into the White House, this becomes, for some reason, Obama’s fault somehow.

Do you think Obama is right to go after ISIS like this?
If they’re as bad as the press says. I mean, they’re cutting off heads in public and blowing up shit – something’s got to be done to those guys. That’s my feeling anyway, and I’m a pacifist. It’s depressing ’cause it’s like 1984 all over again: constant war – it’s never going to end.

Why do you think the country is so divided?
It doesn’t have anything to do with Obama. There’s a fundamental discussion going on in America right now about whether or not we’re going to continue to protect individual freedoms or whether we’re going to give some of them up. And the discussion has become extremely acrimonious.

In the wake of 9/11, we’re searched invasively at airports. There are CCTV cameras everywhere. There’s a whole bunch of people who say that America is for the individual and that we’re all the gunslingers of our own house. Basically, there’s a whole side of the country that’s fearful. They’re fearful that if same-sex marriage becomes legal, then God knows what will happen – all at once, all of our kids will be gay and America’s way of life will die out. They’re afraid that immigrants are going to swamp the economy. And on the other side, there are all of those people who say, “Maybe there’s a way to embrace these things, and maybe we need to give up our right that anybody can buy a gun.” They’re basic arguments.

Do you think much about what your legacy will be?
No, not very much. For one, it’s out of my control. Only two things happen to writers when they die: Either their work survives, or it becomes forgotten. Someone will turn up an old box and say, “Who’s this guy Irving Wallace?” There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Ask kids in high school, “Who is Somerset Maugham?” They’re not going to know. He wrote books that were bestsellers in their time. But he’s well-forgotten now, whereas Agatha Christie has never been more popular. She just goes from one generation to another. She’s not as good a writer as Maugham, and she certainly didn’t try to do anything other than entertain people. So I don’t know what will happen.

You’ve threatened to retire a few times, but you’ve obviously never gone through with it. Do you see yourself doing this into your eighties and maybe even beyond?
Yeah. What else am I going to do? I mean, shit, you’ve got to do something to fill up your day. And I can only play so much guitar and watch so many TV shows. It fulfills me. There are two things about it I like: It makes me happy, and it makes other people happy.

From The Archives Issue 1221: November 6, 2014

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/stephen-king-the-rolling-stone-interview-20141031#ixzz3IgJNeUQu
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Illustration by Roberto Parada
Stephen King

The horror master looks back on his four-decade career

Stephen King’s office building sits on a particularly dreary dead-end road on the outskirts of Bangor, Maine, just down the street from a gun-and-ammo store, a snowplow dealership and, appropriately enough, an old cemetery. From the outside, the anonymous building looks like a new branch of Dunder Mifflin, a very deliberate choice meant to keep King and his tiny staff safe. “We can’t be on a main road because people would find us,” says one of his assistants. “And it’s not people you want to find you. He draws some weird people.”

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Once buzzed in, a visitor enters a sort of Stephen King nirvana – rooms decorated with fan-created artwork populated with characters from his novels, a Stephen King Simpsons action figure, a freakish bobble-head doll of the demented clown from his 1986 book IT, and piles and piles of books. He keeps an old Gothic house (complete with spiderwebs and bats on the front gate) just a few miles away that draws bus loads of tourists, but he’s virtually never there. Most of the year, he lives two and a half hours away in Lovell, Maine, and now with his three kids grown, he and his wife, Tabitha, head down to Sarasota, Florida, at the height of winter.

King himself only comes into the office about once a month, but today he stopped by and, as usual, he’s juggling a lot of projects at once. He just polished off a final draft of his upcoming serial-killer book Finders Keepers (a sequel to his recent work Mr. Mercedes), a pretty astonishing feat considering he will also release two books this year, write a screenplay for the new Joan Allen/Anthony LaPaglia film A Good Marriage and continue to fine-tune Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,a musical he wrote with John Mellencamp.

But right now, the 67-year-old is hunched over an easy chair in his office, chomping on a doughnut that’s leaving a growing pile of powdered sugar on his black turtleneck shirt. He’s excited about the upcoming publication of Revival, a modern-day Frankenstein story about a preacher who’s obsessed with the healing powers of electricity and his 50-year relationship with a drug-addled rock guitarist. It’s basically guaranteed to land at Number One on The New York Times bestseller list.

Since 1974, when Carrie hit shelves, King has sold an estimated 350 million books, and he’s now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. John Grisham and Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James may outsell him these days, but it’s hardly a problem. “He’s not competitive,” says his longtime agent Chuck Verrill. “The only guy he ever cared about was Tom Clancy. They were both at Penguin once, and it was made clear to King that he was seen as the second banana to Clancy. He didn’t like that, but he’s very content where he is right now.”

Stephen King

King hasn’t done many recent in-depth print interviews since a van accident nearly killed him 15 years ago, but he decided to sit down with Rolling Stone to discuss his life and career.

The vast majority of your books deal with either horror or the supernatural. What drew you toward those subjects?
It’s built in. That’s all. The first movie I ever saw was a horror movie. It was Bambi. When that little deer gets caught in a forest fire, I was terrified, but I was also exhilarated. I can’t explain it. My wife and kids drink coffee. But I don’t. I like tea. My wife and kids won’t touch a pizza with anchovies on it. But I like anchovies. The stuff I was drawn to was built in as part of my equipment.

Did you ever feel shame about that?
No. I thought it was great fun to scare people. I also knew it was socially acceptable because there were a lot of horror movies out there. And I cut my teeth on horror comics like The Crypt of Terror.

By writing horror novels, you entered one of the least respected genres of fiction.
Yeah. It’s one of the genres that live across the tracks in the literary community, but what could I do? That’s where I was drawn. I love D.H. Lawrence. And James Dickey’s poetry, Émile Zola, Steinbeck . . . Fitzgerald, not so much. Hemingway, not at all. Hemingway sucks, basically. If people like that, terrific. But if I set out to write that way, what would’ve come out would’ve been hollow and lifeless because it wasn’t me. And I have to say this: To a degree, I have elevated the horror genre.

Few would argue with that.
It’s more respected now. I’ve spoken out my whole life against the idea of simply dismissing whole areas of fiction by saying it’s “genre” and therefore can’t be seen as literature. I’m not trying to be conceited or anything. Raymond Chandler elevated the detective genre. People who have done wonderful work really blur the line.

HEMINGWAY SUCKS. IF I SET OUT TO WRITE THAT WAY, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BEEN HOLLOW AND LIFELESS BECAUSE IT WASN’T ME.

A lot of critics were pretty brutal to you when you were starting out.
Early in my career, The Village Voice did a caricature of me that hurts even today when I think about it. It was a picture of me eating money. I had this big, bloated face. It was this assumption that if fiction was selling a lot of copies, it was bad. If something is accessible to a lot of people, it’s got to be dumb because most people are dumb. And that’s elitist. I don’t buy it.

But that attitude continues to this day. Literary critic Harold Bloom viciously ripped into you when you won the National Book Award about 10 years ago.
Bloom never pissed me off because there are critics out there, and he’s one of them, who take their ignorance about popular culture as a badge of intellectual prowess. He might be able to say that Mark Twain is a great writer, but it’s impossible for him to say that there’s a direct line of descent from, say, Nathaniel Hawthorne to Jim Thompson because he doesn’t read guys like Thompson. He just thinks, “I never read him, but I know he’s terrible.”

Stephen King at the 54th Annual National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York City, New York on November 19th, 2003.

Stephen King at the 54th Annual National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York City, New York on November 19th, 2003. (Photo: Robin Platzer/Getty)

Michiko Kakutani, who writes reviews for The New York Times, is the same way. She’ll review a book like David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, which is one of the best novels of the year. It’s as good as Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, has the same kind of deep literary resonance. But because it has elements of fantasy and science fiction, Kakutani doesn’t want to understand it. In that sense, Bloom and Kakutani and a number of gray eminences in literary criticism are like children who say, “I can’t possibly eat this meal because the different kinds of food are touching on the plate!”

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Film critics can look at a popular movie like Jaws and heap praise upon it, then in another section of the paper, the critics will bash you for The Stand.
By its very nature, film is supposed to be an accessible medium to everybody. Let’s face it, you can take a fucking illiterate to Jaws and he can understand what’s going on. I don’t know who the Harold Bloom of the film world is, but if you found someone like that and said to him, “Compare Jaws with 400 Blows by Francois Truffaut,” he’d just laugh and say, “Well, Jaws is a piece of crappy, popular entertainment, but 400 Blows is cinema.” It’s the same elitism.

Switching gears, your new book Revival talks a lot about religion. Specifically, one of the two main characters is a reverend that turns on God when his family dies but also delivers a sermon about why religion is a complete fraud. How much of that sermon mirrors your own beliefs?
My view is that organized religion is a very dangerous tool that’s been misused by a lot of people. I grew up in a Methodist church, and we went to services every Sunday and to Bible school in the summer. We didn’t have a choice. We just did it. So all that stuff about childhood religion in Revival is basically autobiographical. But as a kid, I had doubts. When I went to Methodist youth fellowship, we were taught that the Catholics were all going to go to hell because they worship idols. So right there, I’m saying to myself, “Catholics are going to go to hell, but my aunt Molly married a Catholic and she converted and she’s got 11 kids and they’re all pretty nice and one of them’s my good friend – they’re all going to go to hell?” I’m thinking to myself, “This is bullshit.” And if that’s bullshit, how much of the rest of it is bullshit?

Did you relay any of your doubts to your mother?
Jesus, no! I loved her. I never would have done that. Once I got through high school, that was it for me. When you see somebody like Jimmy Swaggart and he’s supposed to be this great minister touched by God, and he’s paying whores because he wants to look up their dresses, it’s just all hypocrisy.

All that said, you’ve made it clear over the years that you still believe in God.
Yeah. I choose to believe in God because it makes things better. You have a meditation point, a source of strength. I don’t ask myself, “Well, does God exist or does God not exist?” I choose to believe that God exists, and therefore I can say, “God, I can’t do this by myself. Help me not to take a drink today. Help me not to take a drug today.” And that works fine for me.

Do you believe in the afterlife?
I don’t know. I’m totally agnostic on that one. Let’s put it this way, I would like to believe that there is some sort of an afterlife. I do believe that when we’re in the process of dying, that all these emergency circuits in the brain take over. I base what I’m saying not on any empirical evidence. I think it’s very possible that when you’re dying, these circuits open up, which would explain this whole white-light phenomena – when people clinically die and they see their relatives and stuff and say, “Hello, it’s great to see you.”

Do you hope to go to heaven?
I don’t want to go to the heaven that I learned about when I was a kid. To me, it seems boring. The idea that you’re going to lounge around on a cloud all day and listen to guys play harps? I don’t want to listen to harps. I want to listen to Jerry Lee Lewis!

Do you wish you had stronger beliefs? Would that give you comfort if you had more certainty?
No, I think uncertainty is good for things. Certainty breeds complacency and complacency means that you just sit somewhere in your nice little comfortable suburban house in Michigan, looking at CNN and saying, “Oh, those poor immigrant children that are all coming across the border. But we really can’t have them here – that isn’t what God wants. Let’s send them all back to the drug cartels.” There’s a complacency to it.

How about evil? Do you believe there is such a thing?
I believe in evil, but all my life I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not there’s an outside evil, whether or not there’s a force in the world that really wants to destroy us, from the inside out, individually and collectively. Or whether it all comes from inside and that it’s all part of genetics and environment. When you find somebody like, let’s say, Ted Bundy, who tortured and killed all those women and sometimes went back and had sex with the dead bodies, I don’t think when you look at his upbringing you can say, “Oh, that’s because Mommy put a clothespin on his dick when he was four.” That behavior was hard-wired. Evil is inside us. The older I get, the less I think there’s some sort of outside devilish influence; it comes from people. And unless we’re able to address that issue, sooner or later, we’ll fucking kill ourselves.

MISERY IS A BOOK ABOUT COCAINE. ANNIE WILKES IS COCAINE. SHE WAS MY NUMBER-ONE FAN.

What do you mean?
I read a thing on Huffington Post about a month ago that stayed with me. It was very troubling. It was a pop-science thing, which is all I can understand. It said we’ve been listening to the stars for 50 years, looking for any signs of life, and there’s been nothing but silence. When you see what’s going on in the world today, and you have all this conflict, and our technological expertise has far outraced our ability to manage our own emotions – you see it right now with ISIS – what’s the solution? The only solution we see with ISIS is to bomb the shit out of those motherfuckers so that they just can’t roll over the world. And that’s what’s scary about that silence – maybe all intelligent races hit this level of violence and technological advances that they can’t get past. And then they just puff out. You hit the wall and that’s it.

So you think humanity’s destiny is to someday wipe itself out?
I can’t see the future, but it’s grim. The depletion of resources – we’re living in this dine-and-dash economy. I love the Republicans, too. Whenever it comes to money – the national debt, for instance – they yell their heads off about “What about our grandchildren?” But when it comes to the environment, when it comes to resources, they’re like, “We’ll be OK for 40 years.”

I want to talk about writing now. Walk me through your typical day when you’re working on a book.
I wake up. I eat breakfast. I walk about three and a half miles. I come back, I go out to my little office, where I’ve got a manuscript, and the last page that I was happy with is on top. I read that, and it’s like getting on a taxiway. I’m able to go through and revise it and put myself – click – back into that world, whatever it is. I don’t spend the day writing. I’ll maybe write fresh copy for two hours, and then I’ll go back and revise some of it and print what I like and then turn it off.

Do you do that every day?
Every day, even weekends. I used to write more and I used to write faster – it’s just aging. It slows you down a little bit.

Is writing an addiction for you?
Yeah. Sure. I love it. And it’s one of the few things where I do it less now and get as much out of it. Usually with dope and booze, you do it more and get less out of it as time goes by. It’s still really good, but it’s addictive, obsessive-compulsive behavior. So I’ll write every day for maybe six months and get a draft of something – and then I make myself stop completely for 10 days or 12 days in order to let everything settle. But during that time off, I drive my wife crazy. She says, “Get out of my way, get out of the house, go do something – paint a birdhouse, anything!”

So I watch TV, I play my guitar and put in time, and then when I go to bed at night, I have all these crazy dreams, usually not very pleasant ones because whatever machinery that you have that goes into writing stories, it doesn’t want to stop. So if it’s not going on the page, it has to go somewhere, and I have these mind dreams. They’re always dreams that focus on some kind of shame or insecurity.

Stephen King, 1967

Stephen King, 1967 (Photo: Courtesy King Family)

Like what?
The one that recurs is that I’m going to be in a play, and I get to the theater and it’s opening night and not only can I not find my costume, but I realize that I have never learned the lines.

How do you interpret that?
It’s just insecurity – fear of failure, fear of falling short.

You still fear failure after all these years of success?
Sure. I’m afraid of all kinds of things. I’m afraid of failing at whatever story I’m writing – that it won’t come up for me, or that I won’t be able to finish it.

Do you think your imagination is more active than most people’s?
I don’t know, man. It’s more trained. It hurts to imagine stuff. It can give you a headache. Probably doesn’t hurt physically, but it hurts mentally. But the more that you can do it, the more you’re able to get out of it. Everybody has that capacity, but I don’t think everyone develops it.

Fair enough, but not many people can do what you do.
I can remember as a college student writing stories and novels, some of which ended up getting published and some that didn’t. It was like my head was going to burst – there were so many things I wanted to write all at once. I had so many ideas, jammed up. It was like they just needed permission to come out. I had this huge aquifer underneath of stories that I wanted to tell and I stuck a pipe down in there and everything just gushed out. There’s still a lot of it, but there’s not as much now.

When did you first get the idea for Revival?
I’ve had it since I was a kid, really. I read this story called The Great God Pan in high school, and there were these two characters waiting to see if this woman could come back from the dead and tell them what was over there. It just creeped me out. The more I thought about it, the more I thought about this Mary Shelley-Frankenstein thing.

How long did it take you to write it?
I started it in Maine and finished it in Florida. An actual book takes at least a year. A first draft can be rough, and then you polish it, take out the bad stuff. Elmore Leonard – someone asked him, “How do you write a book someone wants to read?” And he said, “You leave out the boring shit.”

Do you put some of yourself into the character of Jamie?
Yeah, sure. Jamie is a guy who gets addicted to drugs after a motorcycle accident, and I’ve had a drug problem ever since, man, I don’t know. I guess I’ve had a drug problem since college.

You had a major drinking problem, too. When did that become an issue?
I started drinking by age 18. I realized I had a problem around the time that Maine became the first state in the nation to pass a returnable-bottle-and-can law. You could no longer just toss the shit away, you saved it, and you turned it in to a recycling center. And nobody in the house drank but me. My wife would have a glass of wine and that was all. So I went in the garage one night, and the trash can that was set aside for beer cans was full to the top.

It had been empty the week before. I was drinking, like, a case of beer a night. And I thought, “I’m an alcoholic.” That was probably about ’78, ’79. I thought, “I’ve gotta be really careful, because if somebody says, ‘You’re drinking too much, you have to quit,’ I won’t be able to.”

Were you buzzed when you wrote in the morning back then?
Not really. I didn’t drink in the days. Sometimes if I had, like, two things going – which I did a lot, sometimes I still do – I would work at night. And if I was working at night, I was looped. But I never wrote original stuff at night, I just rewrote. It turned out all right.

At what point did hard drugs enter the picture?
It was probably about ’78, around the same time that I realized that I was out of control with drinking. Well, I thought I was in control, but in reality I wasn’t.

That was cocaine?
Yeah, coke. I was a heavy user from 1978 until 1986, something like that.

Did you write on coke?
Oh, yeah, I had to. I mean, coke was different from booze. Booze, I could wait, and I didn’t drink or anything. But I used coke all the time.

You had three young kids at the time. It must have been very stressful to keep this huge secret while balancing all your responsibilities.
I don’t remember.

Really?
No. That whole time is pretty hazy to me. I just didn’t use it around people. And I wasn’t a social drinker. I used to say that I didn’t want to go to bars because they were full of assholes like me.

Stephen King, 1967

The King Family (Photo: Baerbel Schmidt/NYTimes/Redux)

I’m trying to comprehend how you lived this whole secret life of a drug addict for eight years, all the while churning out bestsellers and being a family man.
Well, I can’t comprehend it now, either, but you do what you have to do. And when you’re an addict, you have to use. So you just try to balance things out as best you can. But little by little, the family life started to show cracks.

I was usually pretty good about it. I was able to get up and make the kids breakfast and get them off to school. And I was strong; I had a lot of energy. I would’ve killed myself otherwise. But the books start to show it after a while. Misery is a book about cocaine. Annie Wilkes is cocaine. She was my number-one fan.

Did the quality of your writing start to go down?
Yeah, it did. I mean, The Tommyknockers is an awful book. That was the last one I wrote before I cleaned up my act. And I’ve thought about it a lot lately and said to myself, “There’s really a good book in here, underneath all the sort of spurious energy that cocaine provides, and I ought to go back.” The book is about 700 pages long, and I’m thinking, “There’s probably a good 350-page novel in there.”

Is The Tommyknockers the one book in your catalog you think you botched?
Well, I don’t like Dreamcatcher very much. Dreamcatcher was written after the accident. [In 1999, King was hit by a van while taking a walk and left severely injured.] I was using a lot of Oxycontin for pain. And I couldn’t work on a computer back then because it hurt too much to sit in that position. So I wrote the whole thing longhand. And I was pretty stoned when I wrote it, because of the Oxy, and that’s another book that shows the drugs at work.

If you had to pick your best book, what would it be?
Lisey’s Story. That one felt like an important book to me because it was about marriage, and I’d never written about that. I wanted to talk about two things: One is the secret world that people build inside a marriage, and the other was that even in that intimate world, there’s still things that we don’t know about each other.

Are you done writing Dark Tower books?
I’m never done with The Dark Tower. The thing about The Dark Tower is that those books were never edited, so I look at them as first drafts. And by the time I got to the fifth or sixth book, I’m thinking to myself, “This is really all one novel.” It drives me crazy. The thing is to try to find the time to rewrite them. There’s a missing element – a big battle at a place called Jericho Hill. And that whole thing should be written, and I’ve thought about it several times, and I don’t know how to get into it.

You’ve made a fortune over the years. A lot of people would be living it up, buying houses in Hawaii and the South of France and filling them with Picassos. That’s obviously not your thing, so what does your money do for you?
I like to have money to buy books and go to movies and buy music and stuff. To me, the greatest thing in the world is downloading TV shows on iTunes because there are no commercials, and yet if I were a working stiff, I could never afford to do this. But I don’t even think about money. I have two amazing things in my life: I’m pain-free and I’m debt-free. Money means I can support my family and still do what I love. Not very many people can say that in this world, and not many writers can say that. I’m not a clothes person. I’m not a boat person. We do have a house in Florida. But we live in Maine, for Christ’s sake. It’s not like a trendy community or anything. We have the houses and stuff. My wife likes all that. But I’m not very interested in stuff. I like cars, because I grew up in the country and a car was important. So we’ve got more cars than we need, but that’s our biggest extravagance.

When you look at these hedge-fund guys just living like kings . . .
Totally foreign to me. I saw The Wolf of Wall Street, and it looked to me like this guy was living this sort of exhausting lifestyle. Money for the sake of money doesn’t interest me. There’s a lot of it, and we give a lot of it away.

I’ve read that you make large charitable donations, but you almost never hear about where it goes.
We were raised firmly to believe that if you give away money and you make a big deal of it so that everybody sees it, that’s hubris. You do it for yourself, and you’re not supposed to make a big deal about it. We have publicly acknowledged certain contributions, but the idea behind that is to say to other people, “This is the example we’re trying to make, so we wish that you would do the same thing.”

So if you give away $1 million to Eastern Maine General Hospital here, you’re doing it because you’re hoping that somebody else will chip in. I’m not averse to using whatever celebrity that I have. I’m going to do a TV ad for the Democratic candidate Shenna Bellows this afternoon. She’s running against Susan Collins for Senate. And I don’t know how much goodwill I have in the state, but I think it’s a fair amount, so maybe the ad will make a difference.

Do you worry that being too political will turn off some of your readers?
It happens all the time. I wrote an e-book after the thing in Newtown, Connecticut, when that guy shot all those kids. I got a lot of letters, somebody saying, “Asshole! I’ll never read another one of your goddamn books.” So what? If you’re to a point where you can’t separate the entertainment from the politics, who needs you? Jesus Christ.

I never really cared for Tom Clancy’s books, but it wasn’t because he was a Republican guy. It was because I didn’t think he could write. There’s another guy that I sense is probably a fairly right-wing writer. His name is Stephen Hunter. And I love his books. I don’t think he likes mine.

Your father walked out when you were two. How much did his absence shape your life?
I don’t know. I don’t live an examined life, but I can remember when Tabby and I got married, back in ’71. I can remember laying in bed with her and turning over and saying, “We ought to get married.” And she said, “Let me think about it overnight.”

Stephen King in 1952, 3 years after his father walked out on his family.

in 1952, 3 years after his father walked out on his family. (Photo: Courtesy of King Family)

And in the morning, she said, “Yeah, we should get married.” We had nothing. I mean, I was working at a gas station. I was pumping gas. And then when I graduated from school, she was still in school. Then when I got a job working at a wet-wash laundry because I couldn’t get a teaching job, we had jack shit for money. She was working in a Dunkin’ Donuts when I finally got a teaching job. We didn’t have a phone in the house, and we had two babies. Don’t ask me why we did that. I can’t remember what the mindset was there.

Looking back, would you do it all over again?
We must have been fucking crazy, but I love those kids, and I’m glad we did it. She would go to work at Dunkin’ Donuts. She looked cute in the little pink uniform. God, she was so good-looking. She’s still good-looking to me, but oh, my God. And there was something sexy about all that pink nylon.

She would bring home the empty buckets of filling from the doughnuts, and we used them as diaper pails. So I would teach school, come home, she’d work at Dunkin’ Donuts. I would baby-sit the kids and give them the bottles and change them and everything until she came home at 11:00. And then we’d go to bed. And I’m thinking to myself, “I’m not going to leave this marriage no matter what happens.”

Your dad died in 1980. Were you ever tempted to meet him, if only to hear his side of the story?
No. I was curious when I was a kid. I used to think, “I’d like to find him and knock his fucking head off.” And then later on, I thought to myself, “I’d like to find him and hear his side of the story and thenknock his fucking head off.” Because there’s no excuse for it. It wasn’t just that he walked out and left us – he left her holding a whole bunch of bills, which she worked to pay off.

What stopped you?
I was too busy. I was trying to carve out a career as a writer. And when I was teaching school, I would teach and come home and try to steal a couple of hours to write. To tell you the truth, man, I never thought about it that much.

Did you see that new documentary “Room 237″ about obsessive fans of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining?
Yeah. Well, let me put it this way – I watched about half of it and got sort of impatient with it and turned it off.

Why?
These guys were reaching. I’ve never had much patience for academic bullshit. It’s like Dylan says, “You give people a lot of knives and forks, they’ve gotta cut something.” And that was what was going on in that movie.

You’ve been extremely critical of Kubrick’s film over the years. Is it possible he made a great movie that just so happens to be a horrible adaptation of your book?
No. I never saw it that way at all. And I never see any of the movies that way. The movies have never been a big deal to me. The movies are the movies. They just make them. If they’re good, that’s terrific. If they’re not, they’re not. But I see them as a lesser medium than fiction, than literature, and a more ephemeral medium.

Are you mystified by the cult that’s grown around Kubrick’s Shining?
I don’t get it. But there are a lot of things that I don’t get. But obviously people absolutely love it, and they don’t understand why I don’t. The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice. In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I’m thinking to myself the minute he’s on the screen, “Oh, I know this guy. I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.” And it’s so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag. But that’s just me, that’s the way I am.

What’s the best movie ever made from one of your books?
Probably Stand by Me. I thought it was true to the book, and because it had the emotional gradient of the story. It was moving. I think I scared the shit out of Rob Reiner. He showed it to me in the screening room at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I was out there for something else, and he said, “Can I come over and show you this movie?” And you have to remember that the movie was made on a shoestring. It was supposed to be one of those things that opened in six theaters and then maybe disappeared. And instead it went viral. When the movie was over, I hugged him because I was moved to tears, because it was so autobiographical.

But Stand by Me, Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile are all really great ones. Misery is a great film. Delores Claiborne is a really, really good film. Cujo is terrific.

What do you make of this surge in sales for young-adult books? There’s a whole school of critics that say too many adults are reading them.
It’s just crazy. I read all of the Harry Potter books, and I really liked ‘em. I don’t approach any books in terms of genre saying that “This is young adult,” or “This is a romance,” or science fiction, or whatever. You read them because you read them. Someone asked me recently, “Have you ever considered writing a book for young people? You know, a YA novel?” And I said, “All of them.” Because I don’t see that genre thing.

Do you think you have fewer young readers than you had back in the first few decades of your career?
Yes, that’s probably true. I’m seen as somebody who writes for adults because I’m an older man myself. Some of them find me, and a lot of them don’t. But I came along at a fortunate time, in that I was a paperback success before I was a hardcover success. That’s because paperbacks were cheap, so a lot of readers that I had were younger people. Paperbacks were what they could afford. You do say to yourself, “Well, are the younger readers coming along in terms of the e-books, the Kindles and all that stuff?” And the answer is, some of them are, but a lot of them probably aren’t.

Does that bother you?
Well, I have a drive to succeed. I have a drive to want to please people, as many people as possible. But that ends at a certain point where you say, “I’m not going to sell out and write this one particular kind of thing.” I had a real argument with myself about Mr. Mercedes, which is basically a straight suspense novel.

I had to sit down and have a discussion with myself and say, “Do you want to do what your heart is telling you you should do, or do you want to do what people expect? Because if you only want to write what people expect, what the fuck did you do all this for? Why don’t you write what you want to write?”

Do you worry about the death of print?
I think books are going to be around, but it’s crazy what happened. They’re worried in the publishing industry about bookstores disappearing. Barnes & Noble creating the Nook was like Vietnam; they should have left that alone because Amazon got there first with the Kindle. The death of the music business was insane, but audio recordings have been around now for maybe 120 years. Books have been around for, what, nine centuries? So they’re more entrenched than music.

Speaking of Harry Potter, you’ve become friendly with J.K. Rowling, right?
Yeah. We did a charity event at Radio City Music Hall a few years back. She was working on the last of the Harry Potter books. Her publicist and her editor called her over, and they talked for about 10 minutes. And when she came back to me, she was steaming. Fucking furious. And she said, “They don’t understand what we do, do they? They don’t fucking understand what we do.” And I said, “No, they don’t. None of them do.” And that’s what my life is like right now.

What do you mean?
When someone says, “What are you working on?” I’ll say, “I’ve got this wonderful story about these two families on two sides of a lake that end up having this arms race with fireworks,” but I’m doing this event, and then I’ve got the political ad and all this other crap. So you have to be stern about it and say, “I’m not going to do this other stuff, because you’ve got to make room for me to write.” Nobody reallyunderstands what the job is. They want the books, but they don’t, in a way, take it seriously.

You mentioned watching a lot of TV. What’s the best show of the past 15 years?
Breaking Bad. I knew it was great from the first scene you see him wearing jockey shorts. I thought it was amazingly brave since they look so geeky.

Do you think if you had been born at a later time you would have wanted to work as a TV showrunner?
No. Too much time for too little payoff. I don’t mean in terms of money. Also, showrunning is a thing where you have to work with tons of different people. You have to schmooze people, you have to talk to network people. I don’t want to do any of that.

It’s interesting that mainstream movies are worse than ever, but TV just gets better and better.
Yeah. I mean, we aren’t talking about shows like NCIS and CSI that basically show one story over and over. I’m not even talking about Mad Men, which I don’t like. But Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead, The Bridge, The Americans. Those things are so textured and so involving that they make movies look like short stories. I was watching a show 12 years ago called The Shield. And in the first episode, Michael Chiklis, who played the protagonist, turns around and kills a fellow cop. And I thought to myself, “TV just underwent this seismic change.” That show was the most important show on television. Breaking Bad is better, but The Shield changed everything.

Let’s talk about music. Revival is about a rock guitarist. Do you think that could have been your path if you had a little more natural musical talent?
Sure! I love music, and I can play a little. But anyone can see the difference between someone who’s talented and someone that’s not. The main character in Revival, Jamie, just has natural talent. What he can do on the guitar, I can do when I write. It just pours out. Nobody taught me. In Revival, I took what I know about how it feels to write and applied it to music.

What’s the best concert you ever saw?
Springsteen. I went to see him at the Ice Arena in Lewiston, Maine, in 1977. He played for about four hours. It was fantastic. There’s so much energy, so much generosity in the show, and so much real life in the music. He was totally athletic, and he’d jump into the crowd, lay on his back and spin around. He was a great showman.

Do you respect him as a storyteller?
I respect him as a songwriter and the insight in his songs. My favorite album of his is Nebraska. I knew from the beginning of “Atlantic City” that it was amazing. He had really grown as a songwriter. He’s done stuff in music that nobody else has done. That line in “The River,” “Now I just act like I don’t remember, and Mary acts like she don’t care.” Let’s put it this way, it’s a long way from “Palisades Park” by Freddy Cannon.

I feel like you and Bruce would both be doing what you’re doing, even if you weren’t paid for it.
Yeah, I think it’s fair. And it’d be fair to say that we were both self-taught with a lot of ambition, a lot of drive to succeed, because I have that in me too. I have this one thing that I can do, and that’s something Bruce expresses in a lot of his music.

Do you think President Obama is doing a good job?
Under the circumstances, he’s been terrific. Look at how much improvement there’s been with the job situation. But it’s human nature to care about unresolved issues. And so this business with ISIS, or people breaking into the White House, this becomes, for some reason, Obama’s fault somehow.

Do you think Obama is right to go after ISIS like this?
If they’re as bad as the press says. I mean, they’re cutting off heads in public and blowing up shit – something’s got to be done to those guys. That’s my feeling anyway, and I’m a pacifist. It’s depressing ’cause it’s like 1984 all over again: constant war – it’s never going to end.

Why do you think the country is so divided?
It doesn’t have anything to do with Obama. There’s a fundamental discussion going on in America right now about whether or not we’re going to continue to protect individual freedoms or whether we’re going to give some of them up. And the discussion has become extremely acrimonious.

In the wake of 9/11, we’re searched invasively at airports. There are CCTV cameras everywhere. There’s a whole bunch of people who say that America is for the individual and that we’re all the gunslingers of our own house. Basically, there’s a whole side of the country that’s fearful. They’re fearful that if same-sex marriage becomes legal, then God knows what will happen – all at once, all of our kids will be gay and America’s way of life will die out. They’re afraid that immigrants are going to swamp the economy. And on the other side, there are all of those people who say, “Maybe there’s a way to embrace these things, and maybe we need to give up our right that anybody can buy a gun.” They’re basic arguments.

Do you think much about what your legacy will be?
No, not very much. For one, it’s out of my control. Only two things happen to writers when they die: Either their work survives, or it becomes forgotten. Someone will turn up an old box and say, “Who’s this guy Irving Wallace?” There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Ask kids in high school, “Who is Somerset Maugham?” They’re not going to know. He wrote books that were bestsellers in their time. But he’s well-forgotten now, whereas Agatha Christie has never been more popular. She just goes from one generation to another. She’s not as good a writer as Maugham, and she certainly didn’t try to do anything other than entertain people. So I don’t know what will happen.

You’ve threatened to retire a few times, but you’ve obviously never gone through with it. Do you see yourself doing this into your eighties and maybe even beyond?
Yeah. What else am I going to do? I mean, shit, you’ve got to do something to fill up your day. And I can only play so much guitar and watch so many TV shows. It fulfills me. There are two things about it I like: It makes me happy, and it makes other people happy.

From The Archives Issue 1221: November 6, 2014

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/stephen-king-the-rolling-stone-interview-20141031#ixzz3IgJNeUQu
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COOL PEOPLE – LEONARDO DICAPRIO: “I AM A LOT CALMER NOW”

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  • Jeff Vespa/Contour by Getty

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: “I AM A LOT CALMER NOW”

November 9, 2011

Mr. DiCaprio, wouldn’t it be nice to do a shitty romantic comedy every once in a while?

I am completely open for doing a romantic comedy but I will never do something just for the sake of doing a specific genre or because it’s the time or place to do a different type of movie. I think that would be a huge mistake. Ultimately I read a script and I say, “Woah, I am emotionally engaged in this.” I never think about the subject matter, what it will be to popular culture, what it means historically – ultimately all that stuff passes and this movie will come out and it’s either good or it’s not. So that’s the only way I know how to pick films, otherwise I am not connected to it.

How important is it for you to challenge yourself even further with every film that you do?

That really depends on the role. It’s always this grand search in the industry to find good material. Whenever there is good material they all jump on it and it’s like a food fight to get it made. That’s why so many things take years and years to develop because it all shows up on screen. If there are holes in the story structure, if it’s not a compelling, moving narrative, that shows on screen and the movie fails.

You seem to be winning the food fight, considering the material that you get.

It’s been director driven. I have to say that whatever decisions I make, I really do think that movie making is a director’s medium. They are the people that ultimately shape the film and a director can take great material and turn it into garbage if they are not capable of making a good movie. So that is why I have chosen to work with directors that I feel can transport themselves in the audiences mind.

You have worked with Spielberg, Nolan, Eastwood, Mendes, Boyle, Cameron, not to mention you are a regular with Scorsese. Is there anyone left on your list?

There are a lot of directors I’d still love to work with. Paul Thomas Anderson is someone I’d love to work with. I think Alejandro González Iñárritu is very talented. Ang Lee is very talented. I mean, there are a lot of people. There are many great directors out there.

How much of your life involves making movies and thinking about movies?

A lot of it, that is for sure. (Laughs) I can’t say that it isn’t the most dominant thing going on right now. Look, the truth is that I always wanted to be an actor; it was always my dream and now is the time where I am really able to choose my own parts.

You have been able to do that for a while…

Yes, but I know a lot of actors who I grew up with in the industry – growing up in Los Angeles – that don’t get to do that. I just keep imagining myself thirty years from now thinking, “Why didn’t you take advantage of all the opportunities you had? Look at all the people you could have worked with, the roles you could have done. Go for it.” And that’s what I am thinking.

So do you put other things aside?

No, I don’t. Either they fit in in a natural way or they don’t. I never want to force anything but I do know that ultimately this is what I love doing and those other things will find a way to happen.

So you always knew that acting is what you wanted to do?

I really don’t remember. But I do remember loving to imitate my mother’s friends. I’d do little performances imitating them, making fun of them, making her laugh, making my grandparents laugh.

Sounds like you were a handful.

I kind of am an energetic person. It seems calmer now, but you should have seen me when I was younger. Whew! I would have been very difficult to be around, especially before I became a teenager. I don’t know how my mother dealt with me. I was just running, constantly doing things. I am a lot calmer now, but I still have a lot of energy.

Do you ever think you’ll lose that energy and try something else completely?

I could one day. But I happen to love acting, I happen to love doing movies. We are all shaped from these memories we have as young people and those were my earliest memories: wanting to be an actor, pushing my parents to take me out on auditions. I didn’t even know you could get paid for it but I wanted to do it. When I found out you could get paid for it then I said, “Okay, this is what I really want to do.” I am getting to fulfill that so I am not going to do anything, for now anyway, to change that.

Is it strange when you reflect on how completely you’ve achieved your childhood dream?

I sometimes have to look back and say, “Wow, this is amazing what has happened to me. I have been able to fulfill a lot of these dreams that I had when I was very young.” I would have never guessed that I would have gotten to have one tiny role in a Martin Scorsese film and to have done four now, it’s pretty amazing. I have to say it’s a pretty amazing feeling. But at the same time it becomes addictive! So yes, my dreams have been surpassed.

COOL PEOPLE -Grateful for Bob Weir -An interview by the New Yorker and bio

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COOL PEOPLE -Grateful for Bob Weir -An interview by the New Yorker and bio

Bob Weir Biography

Environmental Activist, Guitarist (1947–)

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Quick Facts
Name Bob Weir Occupation Environmental Activist, Guitarist Birth Date October 16, 1947 (age 66) Education Menlo Atherton High School, Fountain Valley High School Place of Birth San Francisco, California AKA Bob WeirFull Name Robert Hall Weir Zodiac Sign Libra
Synopsis
Early Life
Musical Career
Personal Life
Cite This Page

Bob Weir was a rhythm guitarist for the legendary rock band the Grateful Dead from 1964 to 1995 and later reunited to tour with former members as The Other Ones.

Synopsis

Guitarist Bob Weir was born on October 16, 1947 in San Francisco, California. In 1964, he started a band that was eventually called the Grateful Dead, with Jerry Garcia and Ron McKernan. In 1972, Weir put out his first solo album. He also performed with other bands throughout his time with the Dead. After Garcia died in 1995, Weir toured with RatDog, and later reunited with former Dead members to tour.

Early Life

Bob Weir was born October 16, 1947, in San Francisco, California. He was raised by wealthy adoptive parents in the suburban town of Atherton, California.

Weir started playing guitar at the age of 13. As a teen, Weir first attended Menlo Atherton High School, but his struggles with undiagnosed dyslexia and his poor academic performance led his exasperated parents to send him away to boarding school. There, at Fountain Valley High School, Weir met John Perry Barlow, who would later write lyrics for the Grateful Dead. After Weir was kicked out of Fountain Valley, he spent most of his time hanging out in Palo Alto, California, checking out the Bay Area folk-rock scene. He spent his days at a record store where Jerry Garcia gave guitar lessons, and his nights at a club called the Tangent. At the Tangent, Weir had the good fortune to see several rock legends in the making, including Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and the familiar face from the music shop, Jerry Garcia.

Musical Career

In 1964, when Weir was just 17, Garcia convinced him and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan to start a folk-rock and blues band called Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, with Weir as their rhythm guitarist. After first renaming the band the Warlocks, the band eventually settled on the name the Grateful Dead and expanded to include drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, bass guitarist Phil Lesh and several different keyboardists over the life of the group.

Although the Dead played nearly 100 shows yearly throughout the 1970s, Weir also participated in other musical projects during this time. In 1972 he put out his first solo album, called Ace. He also performed and recorded with other bands, including Kingfish, in the 1970s. In the early 1980s Weir toured with Bobby and the Midnites and contributed to recording two albums with the band. During this time he met recording session musician Brent Mydland, whom he would invite to join the Grateful Dead as a keyboardist in 1979.

Weir refocused primarily on playing with the Grateful Dead in the late 1980s and continued to tour with them extensively until Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. After Garcia died, Weir started touring nonstop with RatDog, the band he had recently started with bassist Rob Wasserman. In 1998 Weir reunited with remaining members of the Grateful Dead under the band name The Other Ones. The Other Ones recorded a new album in 1999 and toured in 2000, the same year RatDog’s first album was released.

Weir would tour with former Grateful Dead band members again in 2009. The 2009 tour made Weir and Lesh nostalgic for the band’s old chemistry, leading them to combine members of the Dead and RatDog to form a new successful band called Furthur.

Personal Life

While Weir has devoted most of his time and energy to music, he has also been active in a number of social causes. He’s been a board member of Seva, a foundation that combats blindness in South America and Asia, and has also been an activist for Greenpeace. Together, Weir and members of the Dead formed the Rex Foundation, which provides community support for creative endeavors.

In his off-stage life, Weir also has two daughters—Monet and Chloe—with Natascha Müenter, whom he married in 1999.
Robert Hall Weir. (2014). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 05:07, May 08, 2014, from http://www.biography.com/people/bob-weir-20878671.

“Robert Hall Weir.” 2014. The Biography.com website. May 08 2014 http://www.biography.com/people/bob-weir-20878671.

 
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     BLACK THROATED WIND BY BOB WEIR

April 28, 2014

Grateful for Bo

 

 

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I went to the Tribeca Film Festival to see “The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir,” because I have always liked Bob Weir, the second guitarist of the Grateful Dead. Usually you would call such a musician a rhythm guitarist, but Weir isn’t anything like a garden-variety rhythm guitarist. To the initial exasperation of his bandmates, who wanted someone to keep time more diligently, he developed one of the most unusual styles in rock and roll, built on lyric asides and cunning contrapuntal remarks that suggest a line of melody travelling through the map of the chord changes.

The Grateful Dead embodied a singular approach to the mathematics of simple song forms. It occurs to me that it represented something like a model of the unconscious as it rises into awareness. The patterns of the drummers, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, suggested pressing impulses and intuitions, the way some poets describe hearing the rhythms of the words before the words arrive. Phil Lesh’s bass playing, the rudiments of which were taken from classical music, especially Bach and Beethoven, amounted to a layer of permeable ground. He was sometimes engaged with the drums and sometimes with the stringed instruments in the range above his own. Jerry Garcia’s guitar was the conversational voice, articulating the thoughts that ascended to the level of social discourse. In between was Weir, following the example of the left hand of the pianist McCoy Tyner, he told me years ago, inverting chords and finding passing phrases among them, mostly supporting but sometimes subverting, too.

Not that the endeavor always succeeded. There were fallow periods, periods of fatigue, and periods when Garcia’s health and drug problems seemed to dog and shadow the music. There were nights of singing and playing out of tune, of being out of sorts, and there were nights when at least one member was not entirely sober. In what they were attempting, failure is, anyway, easier to achieve than success.

Weir is a modest man, unassuming, a gentleman. He says in the movie that he takes no pride in what he has accomplished, because he regards pride as a suspect emotion. He began playing in the jug band that became the Grateful Dead when he was sixteen years old. He would arrive at his parents’ house sometimes at daybreak, after playing all night with the band, and have breakfast and go to school. Eventually, school fell aside. His mother told him that she and her husband and their daughter, Wendy, were a family and that they could no longer live with his comings and goings, and so he left and moved into a house with the band. He ran away with the circus, he says.

His nickname for a time was Mr. Bob Weir Trouble. He threw a water balloon at a cop from the roof and was arrested. When he learned that the draft board had to save every piece of correspondence from a citizen, he began sending his draft board stones and sticks and anything he could fit into a mailbox. At an airline counter, he produced a cap pistol and started playing cowboys and Indians, which got the Grateful Dead banned from the airline. His roommate at the band’s house was Neal Cassady, who is Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s “On the Road.” Weir’s most widely performed song, “The Other One,” which the Grateful Dead played often, in variations, for nearly thirty years, describes his flight from home, with Cassady driving Furthur, the Merry Pranksters’ bus. Weir says that he never listens to old Grateful Dead music, and in the movie he says that the pleasure he took in the band’s first gold record was in being able to give it to his parents and show them that he had accomplished something. Weir was briefly in the audience for the movie, with his wife and his younger daughter—his older daughter was home in California, rehearsing for a school play. I happened to be sitting about four seats from him. I was curious to see how long he could stand to watch himself onscreen. Roughly ten minutes in, he rose and disappeared down a hallway, and didn’t come back. At the end of the movie, he performed for about forty-five minutes.

The last thing I want to say is that I saw the Grateful Dead for the first time, at the Fillmore East, in the fall of 1969, when they were still essentially a regional California attraction. I had gone with friends to the Saturday-night late show to see my favorite band at the time, Country Joe and the Fish, who were the headliners. Bill Graham announced that the order of the concert would be reversed, and that Country Joe would play first. This was to accommodate the Grateful Dead, who were known to play for hours.

The Fillmore was a small theatre. I was sitting in the third row. Not long after the Grateful Dead took the stage, at around one or two in the morning, I fell asleep, for how long I have no idea. I tried not to, but I was seventeen years old, and not used to staying up late. I kept feeling my chin fall forward, and then I would open my eyes to a different tableau, which gave the concert the atmosphere of a dream. Country Joe had performed as a band. The Grateful Dead took the stage like a troupe of minstrels. There were seven of them: two drummers, two guitarists (Weir and Garcia), a bass player, a man who played the piano and the organ, and Pigpen, a small, slight figure in denim, with a thin beard and a crumpled hat, who sometimes played the organ, sometimes the conga drums, and other times just wandered around the stage, standing in front of the other musicians and pointing a camera at them. Sometimes, one of the drummers got up from his kit, walked over, and struck a gong or shook bells, like a shepherd. A man who looked like a gang biker came from the wings now and then, and knelt and held a cigarette lighter to a tube on the floor, and an arrow of flames shot toward the ceiling, like those flames on top of gas wells. The fronts of all the amplifiers were covered with elaborately tie-dyed fabric and were lavish and arresting to look at, like something from a bazaar in a country it was difficult to reach and a little scary to visit. An intricate wooden sign, embedded with lights, descended from the ceiling. It read “Grateful Dead” in the same curving, mysterious, psychedelic font as the cover of their album “Aoxomoxoa,” a nonsensical palindrome.

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I was a senior in high school. The spooky flames, the disorder that seemed only half under control, the carnival atmosphere, and the powerful, serpentine music were my first awarenesses that the world was deeper, more capacious, and more thrilling than I knew. I thought that the music I was hearing would need hieroglyphs, not notes, to represent it. Weir played his guitar as if he were exploring it, with curiously studious gestures. Rhythm guitarists in those days strummed. Weir, however, appeared to be apprehending and enacting possibilities within the fabric of the music. The band itself seemed like the exemplification of a mystery, and the musicians like sorcerers. They were young men then, all in their twenties, and they had a great deal of energy. My friends and I had gone into the theatre a little before midnight, and by the time the concert was over and the doors had opened, the sun had risen. People who had slept all night were walking on Second Avenue in their day clothes. The sudden transit from darkness to daylight made it seem as if I had emerged from a forest or a tunnel. I remember a man carrying a copy of the Sunday Times and a container of coffee. He seemed, obscurely, to have the faintest head start in time on me. We found my friend’s car and drove home to the suburbs and our parents’ houses. I now knew something that they didn’t know: life is more than we imagine it to be.

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Perhaps 1969 was late to be arriving at such an awareness, but it wasn’t so late for a boy at a school in the suburbs of New York. A few of my friends seemed to know about it, but not everyone. It was still a secret to hold, a freemasonry. And what is adolescence but the reducing of the world to a manageable idea that you can share safely with others.

Read “Deadhead,” Nick Paumgarten’s piece about the vast recorded legacy of the Grateful Dead, and Alec Wilkinson’s Talk of the Town stories about Weir, “Blind Date” and “The Musical Life.”

COOL PEOPLE -JIM JARMUSCH

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COOL PEOPLE -JIM JARMUSCH

JIM JARMUSCH AN INTERVIEW 2013

Film director
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images (150)James R. “Jim” Jarmusch is an American independent film director, screenwriter, actor, producer, editor and composer. Jarmusch has consistently been a major proponent of independent cinema since the 1980s. Wikipedia

Born: January 22, 1953 (age 61), Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Height: 6′ 2″ (1.88 m)

Partner: Sara Driver (1980–)
Awards: Cannes Grand Prix, Short Film Palme d’Or, Caméra d’Or, More

Albums: Concerning the Entrance Into Eternity
Jim Jarmusch: ‘Women are my leaders’

Filmography
•Permanent Vacation (1980)
•Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
•Down By Law (1986)
•Mystery Train (1989)
•Night on Earth (1991)
•Dead Man (1995)
•Year of the Horse (1997)
•Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
•Int. Trailer. Night (2002)
•Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
•Broken Flowers (2005)
•The Limits of Control (2009)
•Unmade/rumored films
•”The Garage Tapes” (1992)

His new film, Only Lovers Left Alive, is a great romance between two vampires unanswerable to time. But Jarmusch doesn’t want to live for ever – unless it’s with Tilda Swinton or Patti Smith

David Ehrlich

The Guardian, Thursday 20 February 2014 12.15 EST

Tilda Swinton and Mia Wasikowska, in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive
Tilda Swinton and Mia Wasikowska, in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive. Photograph: Soda Pictures/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

‘I’ve seen my dog dreaming,” says Jim Jarmusch over lunch in New York on a snowy December day. His voice is sedate, but excitement pops in his eyes. Other animals have imaginations, too, he thinks. “Once I left a mop outside the window of my apartment, and I saw a sparrow examining it for several days. It kept coming back, and then it started biting through to take away some strands to build a nest. It was thinking, you know?” Jarmusch does a sparrow voice, which sounds identical to his usual voice: “Man, I think this might work …”

Only Lovers Left Alive
Production year: 2013
Country: USA
Runtime: 122 mins
Directors: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston
More on this film

Speaking to Jim Jarmusch, it turns out, isn’t so different from watching one of his films. His work, like his conversation, doesn’t cohere into stories so much as constellations, networks of seemingly isolated ideas which achieve a greater meaning arranged together just so. As a man, he’s immediately identifiable: the Lee Marvin face, that shock of white hair that looks like Andy Warhol touched up with a Tesla coil.

As a director, too, there are recurring elements: a minimalist aesthetic, laconic but lovable characters (often played by musicians), a cool compositional remove that invites humour without sacrificing sincerity. These are films that believe everything is connected; theirs is a cinema of culture in conversation with itself. A young Japanese couple obsessed with Elvis. William Blake reborn into the American west. Instruments that resonate with every note that’s been played on them, the world bound together by cab rides and cups of coffee. “Each one of us is a set of shifting molecules, spinning in ecstasy,” says one character in The Limits of Control. “In the future, worn-out things will be made new again by reconfiguring their molecules.”

Only Lovers Left Alive is a film about the urgency of that recycling process, a snickering genre tale that shacks up with a pair of exhausted paramours desperate to become new yet frustrated that they can’t grow old. Jarmusch has been trying to make the movie for seven years, and whenever a bump in the road had him ready to abandon the project, Tilda Swinton would insist: “That’s good news, it means that now is not the time. It will happen when it needs to happen.” Now that the vampire film has become petrified by its own popularity, Only Lovers Left Alive may be arriving just in time. Every generation is convinced that they’re living at the end of the world, and not a single one of them has yet to be proved right.

I’d happily argue Only Lovers Left Alive is Jarmusch’s best film, but it might be more helpful to say it’s his most fluent. The leads are Eve (Swinton) in Tangier, an ancient city forever on the cusp of rebirth, and Adam (Tom Hiddleston), in Detroit, contemporary America’s most famous icon of decay. Both are exotic in their own way. She Skypes him on an iPhone. He answers on a rotary relic that he’s rigged up through a tube television. They’re vampires, and they’re in love.

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive.
Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. Photograph: Soda Pictures/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

They live apart because they can, because it doesn’t deprive them of time together. “If you live that long, separation for a year might feel like a weekend,” says Jarmusch, his voice a spacey drawl. “It’s not an obligation, it’s an emotional connection.” It’s one so strong that Adam, a natural romantic who sees poetry in science, intimates that his relationship with Eve is an example of Einstein’s theory of entanglement: “When you separate an entwined particle, and you move both parts away from the other, even on opposite ends of the universe if you alter or affect one, the other will be identically altered or affected.”

In Detroit, Adam grows despondent about the stale state of human culture. In Tangier, Eve packs her favourite books into a small metal suitcase and arranges a series of night flights to the Motor City in order to see her immortal beloved, reserving her tickets under the name Fibonacci. “All entities in the universe are spherical, round or spiral,” says Jarmusch. Circles are so crucial to the film that his script was originally threaded with quotes from Rumi, a dervish dancer, about waterwheels and turning. “It seemed a bit pretentious,” he says.

It’s hard not to see the theatrically suicidal Adam as Jarmusch in disguise, the director’s neuroses in almost human form. For one thing, both of them love Swinton. “It’s everything about her,” says Jarmusch, eyes lost over my shoulder. “It’s her physicality, the way that she moves … like a vestigial predator, like a wolf.”

There’s certainly a feral element to Eve’s appearance; her character comes off as a Nobel laureate raised by wild animals. For Jarmusch, though, it’s her clear eyes that are most compelling. “She has an ability to prioritise what’s really important in life. Once I was listening to her, I think we were at lunch with Patti Smith, and I thought: ‘Oh boy, if all culture breaks down, I’m following them. They’re my leaders, the women are the way to go.’ One of the great moments in my life,” he continues, “was when we were shooting The Limits of Control, and we finished a take and I said: ‘Oh Tilda, that was so beautiful, will you marry me?” And she replied: ‘Oh darling, we already are.’ I could have died.”

Adam’s problem, of course, is that he can’t. Or he doesn’t really want to. Like his creator, he’s not suicidal, simply tormented by nausea at the sense that culture has run its course. Convinced that humans – whom he refers to as zombies – are rotting the world, he’s the Platonic ideal of a hipster; how can you think anything is cool when you’ve lived for enough centuries to know that coolness is false? There’s jaded, and then there’s dismissing your old pals as “Shelley, Byron, and those French arseholes I used to hang around with … I don’t have any heroes,” he scoffs. “I’m sick of it – these zombies, what they’ve done to the world, their fear of their own imaginations.”

Adam lives like a hermit, creating ambient drone music in his decrepit house on the edge of town (Jarmusch himself wrote the songs, performed by his band SQÜRL). Having insisted the music never leaves his house, Adam is livid to learn that Eve’s younger sister, Eva (Mia Wasikowska), played one of his tracks in an LA club. He can recite the theory of entanglement verbatim, but struggles to embrace it. He thinks he can go it alone, but through Eve he’s inextricably tied up in all things.

Only Lovers Left Alive director Jim Jarmusch.
Jim Jarmusch. Photograph: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

What Adam learns, and what Jarmusch understands, is that there’s no upside to stepping out of the circle. Survival is an instinct, and for some it’s the only option. Artists need to steal, and vampires need to feed. What Adam perceives as entropy, Eve recognises as hunger. Does Jarmusch desire immortality? “I wouldn’t mind living to be maybe 300 years old … but eternally? Oh man, there’s something about the cycle of life that’s very important, and to have that removed would be a burden.”

So Adam, it seems, isn’t Jarmusch’s proxy so much as his pale shadow. Unlike Adam, Jarmusch never stops looking for new heroes. It might seem a throwaway gag when Eve drives by the childhood home of a local Detroit legend and exclaims, without a hint of sarcasm, “I love Jack White!” In fact, the praise of a 3,000-year-old vampire is the ultimate artistic validation. “I believe her,” says Jarmusch. “I despise hierarchical evaluation of culture. I go nuts when you say ‘crime fiction is not an academically valid literature, or pop music vs classical music or whatever.'”

Link to video: The Guardian Film Show: Nymphomaniac, Stranger by the Lake, Winter’s Tale and Only Lovers Left Alive

Auteur theory is, unsurprisingly, anathema. “I put ‘A film by’ as a protection of my rights, but I don’t really believe it. It’s important for me to have a final cut, and I do for every film. So I’m in the editing room every day, I’m the navigator of the ship, but I’m not the captain, I can’t do it without everyone’s equally valuable input. For me it’s phases where I’m very solitary, writing, and then I’m preparing, getting the money, and then I’m with the crew and on a ship and it’s amazing and exhausting and exhilarating, and then I’m alone with the editor again … I’ve said it before, it’s like seduction, wild sex, and then pregnancy in the editing room. That’s how it feels for me.”

I tell Jarmusch that I always likened the process to preparing a meal. I see pre-production as listing the ingredients, production as shopping for them, and the pivotal step of post-production as the actual cooking. Jarmusch thinks this over for a moment, his eyes falling back to his empty plate. He stands, abruptly, and extends a big hand beneath a bigger smile: “Cooking is good too, but I prefer sex.”

COOL PEOPLE -GARY OLDMAN

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COOL PEOPLE -GARY OLDMAN

My husband and I used to, stay at the “Chelsea ” hotel in N.Y.C which is known for it’s quirky residents of beat poets writers, and musicians. Once we filmed  a reenactment from Sid and Nancy of the demise of Sid when he and Nancy spent their last day in the Chelsea. We loved the movie and watched it many times. We admired the spunk of themcharacters Sid and Nancy, which wasn’t saying much about us!

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GARY OLDMAN INTERVIEW WITH CHARLIE ROSE
A CLIP FROM SID AND NANCY

Quick Facts

  • NAME: Gary Oldman
  • OCCUPATION: Actor, Director
  • BIRTH DATE: March 21, 1958 (Age: 56)
  • PLACE OF BIRTH: London, United Kingdom
  • Full Name: Leonard Gary Oldman
  • ZODIAC SIGN: Aries

Best Known For

Gary Oldman is an English actor and film director whose edgy, intense style has brought him acclaim in such hits as Sid and Nancy, JFK, and The Dark Knight.

Actor Gary Oldman was born in London, England, on March 21, 1958. From the moment his star fist shined as Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy (1986), Oldman has brought a raw, powerful edge to his roles, which have run the gamut from Dracula to Beethoven to Lee Harvey Oswald.

Early Years

Actor. Born Leonard Gary Oldman in London, England, on March 25, 1958. The son of a welder and homemaker, Oldman grew up in a hardscrabble working class neighborhood of south London. His childhood and later adult years were framed by the absence of his father, who left the family when Oldman was just seven years old.

Hardly a committed student, Oldman eventually dropped out of school at the age of 16, when he found work as a store clerk. But after discovering his ability to perform on stage, Oldman returned to the classroom and enrolled in the Young People’s Theater in Greenwich, England.

Oldman’s work in theater class paved the way for a scholarship and even better opportunities at the Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance in London. Oldman graduated in 1979 with a degree in theater arts.

For much of the early 1980s, Oldman kept pace with a frenzied theater schedule. For the young actor, though, the hard work paid off. Among the recognitions he received from this period was the coveted Fringe Award for Best Newcomer for the 1985-86 season for his role in The Pope’s Wedding.

Commercial Success

Gary Oldman’s big introduction to mainstream audiences came as Sid Vicious in the film Sid and Nancy (1986). Critics praised Oldman for his portrayal of the mercurial punk rocker. His followup role as the gay playwright Joe Orton in Prick up Your Ears (1987) won him equal praise.

Oldman’s versatility, in fact, helps explain his stardom. The actor’s ability to make himself a believable Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK (1991) then turn around and command the screen as Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola‘s Bram Stroker’s Dracula (1992) is evidence of this.

For much of the 1990s Oldman’s talents were on full display. His films included The Scarlet Letter (1995), The Fifth Element (1997), and Air Force One (1997). In 1998 he stepped off the stage to take on the role of director in Nil by Mouth, a heartbreaking look at the life of one working class family in South London.

For Oldman, who wrote the script for the movie, the film touched some familiar ground, mirroring in some respects the troubled, up-and-down life he’d known as a child.

As the 2000s took shape, Oldman’s career continued to roll forward. The actor took on roles in a variety of films, from the Harry Potter series, to the Batman franchise, to lending his voice to the animated science fiction movie Planet 51 (2009).

Personal Life

For Oldman, a recovering alcoholic who claims he once drank two bottles of vodka a day, professional triumphs have sometimes mbeen met with personal setbacks. He’s been married four times, including to actress Uma Thurman and model Donya Fiorentiono.

The Beatle waxes on social change, the infamous Black Dwarf letter and Rolling Stone and never before seem photos of the beatles

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The Beatle waxes on social change, the infamous Black Dwarf letter and Rolling Stone

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John Lennon

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John Lennon

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

In 1968, Maurice Hindle, a college student at Keele University in England, wrote a letter to a Beatles fanzine requesting an interview with John Lennon. Remarkably, Hindle’s letter was answered by Lennon himself, who invited the student and others to his home in Surrey, England to discuss politics, social change and a possible 1969 Beatles tour, among many other topics.

Fab Finds: Check Out Never-Before-Seen Photos of the Beatles

The hours-long audio tapes of this interview were acquired by Hard Rock in 1987 and with the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ U.S. debut approaching, the company is releasing the tapes to the public for the first time. The full interview, alongside transcripts, analysis and a memorabilia gallery, are available on Hard Rock’s website, but to give you a sample, we’ve got two exclusive audio clips from the interviews below.

In the first, Lennon discusses how he can affect social change and references the infamous Black Dwarf letter. That letter, written by music critic John Hoyland in 1968 in the radical newspaper Black Dwarf, lambasts Lennon and the recently released track “Revolution” as being hostile to the growing disillusionment of youth toward authoritarian figures.

Rolling Stone’s John Lennon Album Guide

“I’ve changed a lot of people’s heads,” Lennon says in the clip below. “I believe in change. That’s what Yoko and my scene is, to change it like that…And you’re not preaching to the converted … Well, what are they doing? What can they do? [Referencing the Black Dwarf letter] All I’m saying is I think you should do it by changing people’s heads and they’re saying, ‘Well we should smash the system.’ Now, the system smashing scene’s been going on forever, y’know? What’s it done?”

John Lennon on Social Change

Quotes/excerpts provided courtesy of Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc.

The second clip finds Lennon discussing the growing weariness of The Beatles toward each other and asking the interviewer if he’d heard of Rolling Stone, which published its first issue only one year before. “I’ve said it all, y’know, somewhere or other,” says Lennon. “It’s just a bit of a hassle to say it…Just read the Rolling Stone article. There’s quite a lot about it in there. Cause I went through it a bit, just about the album and different things. Have you heard of it? It’s a good paper.”

See Ringo Starr’s Lost Beatles Photo Album

Lennon notes that contrary to other publications, Rolling Stone accepted an ad for Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1968 album Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins featuring the couple standing naked. “International Times wouldn’t take the front cover photo unless we gave them an indemnity against it, y’know,” says Lennon. “They’re so established… Amazing. But [Rolling Stone] just took it, and this paper…was cooled by it, cause they’ve had the biggest circulation they ever had.”

John Lennon on Rolling Stone

Quotes/excerpts provided courtesy of Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc.

In a 2009 interview with the Guardian, Hindle recalled traveling to Lennon’s house for the interview. “We students crammed into the back of the Mini and John drove us up the bumpy private road that led to his house, Kenwood,” said Hindle. “In a sitting room at the back of the house we sat down on thick-pile Indian carpets around a low table, cross-legged. Yoko said little, as we all knew this was primarily John’s day – and he said a lot. Apart from a short break, when Yoko fed us macrobiotic bread and jam she had made, Lennon talked continuously for six hours.”

On Sunday, CBS will air The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles, an event that took place last month and featured a rare performance from Paul McCartney and Starr (who also played together during the Grammy Awards). The program will also show tributes from Stevie Wonder, Katy Perry, Dave Grohl, Pharrell, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Gary Clark, Jr., Joe Walsh and a reunited Eurythmics.

The Beatles’ momentous trip to America was the subjectyy of a recent Rolling Stone cover story, which details everything from the band’s early trepidation about the trip, the U.S. press’s early criticism of the group (“They look like shaggy Peter Pans,” Time initially wrote) and their generation-defining three-night stint on Sullivan

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/listen-to-never-before-heard-john-lennon-interviews-from-1968-20140207#ixzz2sf5RJpUW Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

Johnny Depp coolness and the interview with Allen GInsberg

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tpinterviewJohn Christopher Depp II was born on June 9, 1963, in Owensboro, KY. The son of a waitress and a civil engineer and the youngest of four kids, Depp was a fourth generation Kentuckian with Cherokee roots. The family moved constantly while Depp was growing up, first from Kentucky to Florida when Depp was six years old and from house to motel to apartment endlessly thereafter, racking up over 20 addresses by the actor’s estimation. His father left the family when Depp was 15 years old, at which point Depp had already been in trouble with school and the law from the use of drugs and alcohol. He had also been playing guitar for several years, and having experienced some initial success playing club gigs (and sneaking into bars as an underage performer) Depp dropped out of Miramar High School in the 11th grade to become a guitar player. In a bout of remorse, he tried to return two weeks later, but his principal suggested he might make a better rock star than student. Depp pumped gas and worked construction jobs while his band The Kids paid their dues, recorded a demo, and eventually began to land prestigious opening slots for bands like The Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, and The Ramones. When Florida became too small for an ambitious rock band, the aging “Kids” renamed themselves Six Gun Method and headed to Los Angeles in search of a record deal.

Six Gun Method were struggling little fish in a big pond in the L.A. music scene of 1983, so poverty plus Depp’s youthful marriage to fellow musician Lori Anne Allison that same year only increased tension within the band. They managed to land a few gigs and during the day, they all worked at the same telemarketing company, selling pens for $100 dollars a week. Depp’s wife introduced him to a former boyfriend, Nicolas Cage, and Cage urged Depp to pursue acting. In need of a better job, Depp followed the leads to a casting audition for Wes Craven and came away with a role as the heroine’s doomed boyfriend in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) – in a quick blur, Depp being sucked into a demon bed became his auspicious cinematic start. Following his blood-soaked debut, he co-starred in the teen romp “Private Resort” (1985) and landed a small role in Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning “Platoon” (1986). In the meantime, the band fell apart, his marriage ended, and Johnny Depp the accidental actor was about to become a teen idol.

With his mop of classic movie star hair, his deep serious eyes, and his beyond chiseled cheekbones, Depp as a teen idol was a no-brainer, and was just what Fox needed to complete the cast of its first original TV series, “21 Jump Street.” As Officer Tom Hanson, Depp played one of a unit of cops working undercover in high schools – ironic considering he had spent the better part of his youth on the other side of the law. The show was a hit with young audiences and Depp became an overnight sensation, his character’s leather jacket and rebellious attitude earning the actor a bad boy reputation that would follow him for years. It was an invaluable introduction to show business for the newcomer, but Depp was uncomfortable with his star status – to the point that one night, he was even caught defacing his own image on a billboard. After fulfilling his contract for three seasons, Depp was ready to move on and eager to distance himself from the career-limiting curse of teen idolhood.

Depp immediately seized the opportunity to satirize his image in John Waters’ musical “Cry-Baby” (1990). As a sneering, crooning, 1950’s juvenile delinquent, Depp established his offbeat sensibility and displayed a smoldering sexiness that could easily have paid his bills for the next two decades, but which he promptly left behind to play “Edward Scissorhands” (1990). A challenge for any actor, Depp was captivating in his nearly wordless portrayal of a mad inventor’s creation – a boy with scissors for hands who finds himself adopted by a well-meaning suburban family. Tim Burton’s gothic fable resonated strongly with audiences, Depp’s physical grace and expressive features reminiscent of the sympathetic silent characters like Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, and worthy of a Golden Globe nomination. The film not only put him on the big screen map officially – it also introduced him to two very important people in his life. First, director Burton, with whom Depp would collaborations with on project after project, so fond of and in tune with each other were they. On a different note, “Scissorhands” also introduced Depp to co-star, Winona Ryder. The two quickly became an inseparable couple, and as a unit, developed into hip icons of the early 90s with their disheveled thrift store clothes, rock star friends and devil-may-care chain smoking. Depp even stamped his love for the actress permanently on his skin, resulting in the famous “Winona Forever” tattoo.

Onscreen, Depp continued his quest to explore distinctive material, starring in “Arizona Dream” (1992) as a young man unwillingly called upon by his uncle (Jerry Lewis) to take over the family car dealership. “Benny & Joon” (1993) presented Depp as a modern-day circus performer who, in the course of romancing a mentally disturbed woman (Mary Stuart Masterson), performs set pieces – again reminiscent of the great silent film stars, though this time more Keaton than Chaplin. That same year, in the title role of Lasse Hallstrom’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” Depp played it straight as a Midwesterner trapped in a small town by familial obligations. The film hearkened back to Depp’s own past, and the actor brought a gentleness and melancholy to his moving portrait of family dysfunction and unfulfilled ambitions. Most particularly touching were his scenes with mentally disabled younger brother Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and obese “Momma” (Darlene Cates).

At the same time, in 1993 Depp launched the Viper Room, a low-key Sunset Strip rock club popular with famous and non-famous music lovers who came for lounge music-themed martini nights and live bands. Depp donned his guitar and made occasional appearances with P, an informal group including Depp, Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers), actor Sal Jenco, and a roster of local guests including Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Steve Jones (Sex Pistols). The world at large learned of The Viper Room on Halloween 1993, when actor River Phoenix died from an overdose of heroin and cocaine – a “speedball” – outside the club. The press made the event into a sensationalized story of the excesses of young Hollywood, and Depp reacted with a statement condemning the media for turning Phoenix’s death into a circus. Meanwhile, his over three year relationship with Ryder was coming to an end and the actor sought solace in a period of drugs and heavy drinking. He recorded and played live dates with ex-Pogue Shane McGowan in early 1994, which was not likely to cure him of his bender but most likely lessened the pain of all the loss he had recently experienced.

In 1994, Depp reteamed with Burton and won considerable critical acclaim for “Ed Wood” (1994), which chronicled the career of the angora sweater-wearing “Plan 9 from Outer Space” (1959) cross-dressing filmmaker and his friendship with fading horror icon, Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau). Depp brought a bouncy, post-war optimism and unflagging confidence to the portrayal, and his handling of the absurd comedy was pure genius as he chomped cigars in high heels and skirts – apparently fearless when diving into a characterization. He followed up “Ed” with a rare role that actually embraced his good looks, donning a mask and Castilian accent for “Don Juan DeMarco” (1995). The film afforded him the opportunity to act opposite the legendary Marlon Brando, who played the therapist to Depp’s Don Juan, a modern day patient with delusions of being the world-renowned 14th century Spanish libertine, with the outfit to match. Though the film did little to further his career, he looked good and worked with Brando. That was apparently enough for Depp, as it would be for any actor worth his salt.

The actor who, despite a wild image, often appeared to be a serial monogamist, announced his engagement to English model Kate Moss the same year. The two made headlines in 1994 during a stay at The Mark hotel in New York, when what was described by the actor as simply a “bad night” resulted in destruction of furniture in the couple’s suite and Depp’s arrest for felony criminal mischief. The charges were dropped, but the press had a field day, painting Depp and Moss as a tempestuous couple on a rampage. In a brief foray back into music, Depp’s band P released an album, and though the members kept the side project fairly low profile, the single “Michael Stipe” did enjoy a bit of airplay.

In John Badham’s “Nick of Time” (1995), Depp was a surprising sight as a father racing the clock to rescue his kidnapped daughter, but the stylized thriller ultimately failed to deliver the unique results audiences came to expect from Depp. He rebounded with Jim Jarmusch’s artfully filmed “Dead Man” (1996), playing a mild-mannered accountant mixed up in a whorehouse shooting and forced to go on the lam across 1840’s western frontier with a bullet in his chest. Jarmusch’s and Depp’s subtle sense of absurd humor proved to be highly compatible. Adding to his cast of oddball outsiders, Depp essayed the title role in Mike Newell’s “Donnie Brasco” (1997), an FBI undercover agent who infiltrates a crime family, befriends its volatile leader, and begins to morph a little too well into his surroundings. Depp won praise for his layered portrayal of the real-life Joe Pistone – and especially for his interplay with co-star Al Pacino, who served as Depp’s mentor onscreen and off.

The year 1997 marked Depp’s feature directorial debut with “The Brave,” a film he co-wrote with older brother D. P. Depp and in which he starred as a father who agrees to play the victim in a snuff film to earn money for his family. The film also featured Brando and Clarence Williams III, but earned mostly negative reviews following its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Depp returned to the recording studio to lend guitar work to Oasis’ Be Here Now album before tackling the mighty portrayal of Raoul Duke, the drug-crazed alter ego of Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson in Terry Gilliam’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998). Depp gave a hilarious and eye-popping performance that seamlessly blended with the film’s lush, undulating, fantastical feel, and the film earned Gilliam a Golden Palm nomination at Cannes. That year, Depp and Moss finally called it quits, after a break-up and reconciliation the previous tempestuous year and press speculation of drug use.

Depp may have chosen “The Astronaut’s Wife” – the first of his three 1999 thrillers – for the opportunity to play good boy-gone-wrong under alien influence, but the result was sadly a rare one-note performance. From one movie resembling Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), he moved to “The Ninth Gate” (1999), which was actually directed by Polanski. As a rumpled, bespectacled book dealer in search of a 17th-century volume allegedly co-authored by Satan, Depp was the soft, unassertive core of a film thought by most – but not all – to be a journey to nowhere. The film was forgettable, but shooting in France was not, for it was there that he met French singer- songwriter Vanessa Paradis and essentially never went back stateside again, except for work. The lovers had a daughter named Lily Rose Melody on May 27, 1999, providing the renegade drifter of sorts with an instant attitude adjustment in Depp, who now waxed poetic that the love of his daughter had caused him to finally understand the world. Several months prior to the birth, however, he had landed in a London jail after threatening a paparazzi whom he felt was being disrespectful of Paradis’ pregnancy.

With “Sleepy Hollow” (1999), based on the Washington Irving legend, Depp again paired perfectly with the imaginative gothic vision of Tim Burton. The studio nixed his notion of playing Ichabod Crane with a long pointy nose, though he did insist on going against the heroic archetype with his prissy, neurotic characterization. It became Depp’s biggest box office hit to date, but he followed up with a pair of films that barely saw the light of box office day – Julian Schnabel’s “Before Night Falls” (2000), the story of Cuban poet-novelist Reinaldo Arenas – in which Depp again cross-dressed – and the period drama “The Man Who Cried” (2001) where he starred as Christina Ricci’s gypsy love interest in post World War II France. Between films, Depp returned to the recording studio, co-writing two tracks with Paradis and playing guitar on one track of her 2000 release Bliss. He also directed music videos for the singles “Que Fait la Vie?” and “Pourtant.”

Depp returned to the screen to take on another interpretation of a real-life figure in Ted Demme’s “Blow” (2001), where he chronicled the rise and fall of George Jung, a major cocaine trafficker for Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar during the 1970s. In the moody thriller “From Hell” (2001), Depp took on the role of Inspector Frederick Abberline, a London detective and opium addict embroiled in the Jack the Ripper murders of the 1880s. Depp and girlfriend Paradis welcomed their second child, John III (Jack), into the family on April 9, 2002, and by all accounts, restless Depp seemed to be settling into a satisfying real life role as a family man abroad with a steady stream of moderately successful, artfully-oriented films.

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In 2003, Disney executives got their first peek at the dailies for “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” and began rounds of panicked phone calls. They initially had not had high hopes for the film, as earlier attempts to build a narrative around the popular Disney World ride had failed. Convinced by director Gore Verbinski that Depp could be trusted, they fretted over the film’s release and were stunned when the finished product was a runaway blockbuster. Capping his teeth with gold and basing his performance on the swaggering, dissipated rock star Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Depp was a lively tour de force, finding himself in the unique position of not only being nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for a comedic performance, but for appearing in a commercial blockbuster at long last. The film was the fourth highest grossing of the year and Hollywood wrongly assumed that the now mainstream viable star would be accepting scripts for blockbusters. Predictable only for being unpredictable, Depp’s next appearance was in indie icon Robert Rodriguez’s “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” (2003), the third of the filmmaker’s trilogy and one that positioned Depp as a corrupt CIA agent who lures El Mariachi out of seclusion for a dangerous mission.

Depp drew little attention for his uninspired turn in the Stephen King adaptation “Secret Window” (2004), playing an author caught up in accusations of plagiarism and stalked by his accuser. However, with his follow-up, the actor mesmerized critics as Peter Pan scribe J.M. Barrie in the highly-praised “Finding Neverland” (2004). Depp delivered a subtle but deeply emotional performance as the playwright who, despite his age and wisdom, wished to never grow up. Depp earned his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance. He also unloaded The Viper Room and launched his production company, Infinitum Nihil, in June of 2004, taking on the role of CEO and cutting a first look deal with Initial Entertainment.

Considering his infamous history of pulling off outrageous characterizations, Depp was an ideal choice to play magical candy maker Willie Wonka in Burton’s adaptation of Ronald Dahl’s “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” (2005), a remake of 1971’s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Burton’s darker interpretation hewed closer to the book, while Depp’s Wonka was both inspired and a bit more unsettling. The film received favorable reviews and Depp, the new superstar of family entertainment, raked in box office receipts of $475 million dollars. That same year he provided the voice of Victor Van Dort, a Victorian lad whisked away to the underworld to wed a mysterious undead woman in Burton’s stop-motion animated feature “Corpse Bride” (2005).

Depp was pleased to revive Captain Jack Sparrow for the inevitable sequel, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (2006), a harrowing, energetic and worthy addition to the swashbuckling franchise. Depp outweighed co-star Orlando Bloom and displayed fine chemistry with a game Keira Knightley in a story that pitted the three against undead pirate Davy Jones – and sometimes themselves – in a quest to find a valued treasure that would enable control over supernatural forces. “Dead Man’s Chest” broke several box-office records, including biggest single-day gross and biggest opening weekend ever, paving the way for the third installment, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (2007). “At World’s End” focused on the desperate quest undertaken by heroes Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Knightley), both allied with Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush reprising his role from the first “Pirates”), to rescue Sparrow from the trap of Davy Jones’ Locker. Detractors criticized the film as convoluted and the weakest of the franchise, but Depp’s built-in fanbase brought in over $300 million.

Hollywood’s number one expatriate returned to the box office for the Christmas release of “Sweeney Todd” (2007), the highly anticipated film adaptation of Steven Sondheim’s macabre musical. Bringing the bloody British saga of a wronged man’s revenge to the big screen was the brain child of Burton, and promised to deliver he and Depp’s signature hybrid of gloom and wit, though the R rating would mean that the Sparrow fans would be left at home with a babysitter. Having conquered every other medium, accent and quirk, Depp, in singing debut, did not disappoint, earning him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

Depp returned to the screen two years later to portray famed Chicago bank robber John Dillinger in Michael Mann’s period docudrama, “Public Enemies” (2009). Depp’s long overdue return to a dapper, non-freakish character was a breath of fresh air, though Mann’s emphasis on visuals and pyrotechnics left Depp’s potential to explore the notorious outlaw character unrealized. Regardless, the fedora-heavy crime film brought in over $100 million in receipts. Later that year, Depp was one of three actors tapped by filmmaker Terry Gilliam to substitute in the starring role left behind by the tragic death of actor Heath Ledger in “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” (2009). Depp shared duties with Jude Law and Colin Farrell in the role of a tarnished “white knight” who comes to the aide of the immortal doctor in an attempt to keep his daughter out of the clutches of the devilish Mr. Nick (Tom Waits). The actor began the next year with another of his by now signature extreme character roles as the Mad Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland” (2010). Reteaming with director Burton for the seventh time, Depp’s highly affected Hatter played more childish than insane, ultimately being eclipsed by the scene-stealing performance of Burton’s wife, Helena Bonham Carter, as the stark raving mad Queen of Hearts. Burton’s take on Lewis Caroll’s fantasy tale may have leaned more towards action-adventure, but audiences flocked to the 3-D feature in droves, and the turn provided Depp with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.

Near the end of that year, Depp paired with fellow film superstar Angelina Jolie for the action-thriller “The Tourist” (2010). Turning the dial way back, Depp’s low-key portrayal of a frumpy Midwesterner caught up in a deadly game of mistaken identity with femme fatale Jolie failed to ignite much chemistry with his co-star, or impress the majority of critics. However, despite some reviewers’ charges of sleepwalking through his performance, the role nonetheless garnered Depp yet another Golden Globe nomination for the year – oddly, in the same Musical/Comedy category as his Mad Hatter turn. Even as Depp basked – however reluctantly – in the glow of his awards nominations, audiences awaited his next effort, this time as the voice of a chameleon suffering from an acute case of identity crisis in “Rango” (2011). Directed by “Pirates” helmer Gore Verbinski, the animated family adventure boasted an all-star cast, including Ray Winstone, Alfred Molina and Ned Beatty. Depp also found time to swagger on deck once more in his fourth outing as lovable, laughable rogue Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (2011), this time directed by musical veteran Rob Marshall, and adding Depp’s “Blow” co-star Penelope Cruz to the cast’s motley crew.

Returning to the world of Hunter S. Thompson for the underwhelming, if mildly entertaining, book adaptation “The Rum Diary” (2011), Depp next camped it up as out-of-touch vampire Barnabas Collins in Burton’s cheeky and somewhat misguided “Dark Shadows” (2012), a riff on the vintage TV show of the same name. Sticking to reworkings of classic characters, he next surfaced as Tonto, the Native American ally to Armie Hammer’s masked cowboy crusader in Verbinski’s “The Lone Ranger” (2013), a would-be blockbuster that flopped mightily and left Depp overdue for a clear-cut well-received movie.

JOHNNY DEPP AND ALLEN GINSBERG TALK

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Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and actor-on-the-beat Johnny Depp in a conversation that spans the nation and the generations… il v24 Interview June ’94 p16 (2)

JOHNNY DEPP: Hi, Allen.
ALLEN GINSBERG: Hi, Johnny. So you left New York a couple of days ago.
JD: Yeah, yesterday morning actually.
AG: I taught that class I was telling you about.
JD: I wanted to come but I ran into weirdness.
AG: Well, maybe it’s just as well. You probably would have gotten tangled up with all the students passing in and out who recognized you. Do you have much trouble in moving around freely?
JD: Not so much. People are pretty O.K. about stuff like that. I think they’re generally just kind of curious.
AG: Yeah. I have a reasonably good situation. I’m semifamous, but not really famous, and the people who recognize me tend to be quite literate. So it’s usually a pleasure to meet them on the street. Sometimes you might even find someone to make love with! Years ago that used to happen to me occasionally.
JD: You’d just meet someone and begin talking and then…?
AG: I remember a kid come by St. Mark’s [Place in New York City] and asked if he could help me get my harmonium box home. One thing led to another, and… we lived together and took a long cross-country trip together. This was in 1965. Now he’s a businessman and married. But we’re still in touch. I have a nice paternal role.
JD: The other day, when I came to the studio to do that bit, I was hoping that you were going to be there.
AG: Well, I knew that you were going to be there. So I went and saw your movie, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
JD: I haven’t seen it yet.
AG: I haven’t read my biographies yet, either. So why haven’t you seen the movie?
JD: With an actor, after your job is done and the director and the editor step in, it’s none of your business.
AG: That’s what I felt about my biographies.
JD: It must be an incredibly odd thing, though, having a biography written about you. On a much smaller scale, I have had articles written about me–most of which were completely false. I guess the difference is, the biographies of you are literate; I get the tabloid skewer.
AG: So the question is what to do with fame. Weren’t we talking about that the other day in my kitchen?
JD: Yeah, we were bouncing it around.
AG: Maybe I’m just reacting to a limited amount of fame, so that it doesn’t get to be a burden–like with Dylan, who is cursed with it. But if you have a Buddhist view, that life is somewhat like a dream as well as being real, then by turning the wheel of dharma fame can be helpful in enlightening people.
JD: It’s just an odd thing because I still feel like I’m this seventeen-year-old gas station attendant in south Florida, and that it’s other people who place this strange stigma on you. When you are in some ways a commodity, a product, people create an image that could have absolutely nothing to do with you, and they have the power to sell it and shove it down the throats of people and…
AG: Well, I always say, “Don’t get distracted in trying to fight the ocean.” Don’t give energy to that. Just go ahead and do what you want to do artistically, or spiritually, because the one thing you can control is your own actions and your own mind.
JD: I guess the thing is to just keep walking forward.
AG: Yeah. So what are you interested in walking forward into? What’s your spiritual ambition?
JD: I couldn’t begin to tell you. I can only say that in a weird way, walking forward seems to be it.
AG: Do you believe in God?
JD: I believe in something. If it’s called God, I don’t know.
AG: Have you ever had any sort of visionary or religious experience?
JD: I’ve had moments when I felt very calm about everything around me, about everything inside.
AG: When was the last time you had that period of calm?
JD: I would say it was about two months ago.
AG: Do you remember where you were?
JD: Yeah. I was in the south of France at a friend’s house. I was sitting on a couch out in this field with my girlfriend, surrounded by trees.
AG: Do you remember what you heard in the moment when you were relaxed?
JD: There was this beautiful silence, and something very comfortable in that there was no need for us to say anything.
AG: Any other sounds?
JD: Yeah, the leaves. Feeling her hand. Holding her hand.
AG: Any recollection of smell?
JD: There’re a lot of flowers out there.
AG: I don’t suppose there was anything tasty?
JD: Oh, the taste I remember is kissing. It tasted warm.
AG: Well, when I write poetry, what I do is take a spot of time like that and try to recollect all the elements–the sight, the smell, the touch, the taste–and reassemble them, to see if they make a picture that can transmit the sensation in a work of art to others.
JD: It’s very, very, similar to sense-memory exercises in acting. For instance, a song can sometimes take me back to when I was four years old, sitting in the back seat of the car driving down the street with my parents.
AG: Yeah, I have a number of songs that recall my childhood. You know, I’m sixty-seven, and singing the songs that I heard when I was eighteen or twenty now awakens a whole lifetime tremor of memories.
[laughs] It’s a very beautiful feeling, actually. But it’s also very strange, because when you get older, you realize, well, you’re coming to the end of your term, the end of your life, and now everything is speaking to you.
JD: Do you know the piece [William] Saroyan wrote at the beginning of The Time of Your Life? Hang on one second. I think I actually have it here. I carry this thing around with me. [reads] “In the time of your life, live–so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness, or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it be free and unashamed.”
AG: When did you first read that?
JD: Probably when I was about twenty. About ten years ago, I guess.
AG: So you’ve had that for a decade now, more or less, in your formulation of how you’d like to be?
JD: Yeah, in a way.
AG: You know the basic Buddhist view is very similar to that, in the sense of alchemizing any situation and turning bricks into treasure, or shit to roses. How to use the energy of anger, fear, apprehension, as an aspect of wisdom. Like I was with a student who came from a disturbed family, and it had made him very tolerant and understanding of other people’s troubles or phobias. A little bit like yourself. His father, I think he said, was an alcoholic and had some kind of chemical problem. Which was my experience with my mother. I found that it ultimately made me much more tolerant of wild behavior and more calm in emergencies, since I had to take care of my mother with the ambulance coming to take her away. You had some similar experiences with your own family, didn’t you?
JD: Yeah, growing up, definitely.
AG: So in that sense, you draw the wisdom out of the ugly situation.
JD: When you were telling me before about the ’40’s and the ’50’s and how different things were then, it just seems like such a difficult time now to see goodness in things.
AG: Well, it’s not so hard to see goodness in yourself. And the realization of pain and deprivation, and the realization of violence in the world, is another kind of goodness, because of your understanding that you’re actually open to messages from the outside world rather than evading it and saying: “I want more and more. I want to own it all. I want to destroy it all. I want to eat it all. I want to master it all.” But I wonder what’s happening to the whole world now. Recently a friend of mine in India sent me a very mean letter saying: “How dare you cut down acres of trees just to satisfy your ambition to be a poet and have your work printed. When the earth is in such a fantastic crisis why must you be adding to it?” And I flashed on something Gregory [Corso] had said, that “no good news can be printed on bad news.” He was talking about the New York Times, but also about us using paper. So the question is, what would be an interesting, skillful means to deal with this problem, rather than ignore it or reject it? I’m still puzzling over it. If you get any ideas, let me know!
JD: I remember we talked about using hemp.
AG: Yeah, that was the best idea. Was that yours?
JD: Yeah, because they used to make everything, rope and paper, out of hemp.
AG: That would certainly change the war on drugs a bit. [laughs] Well, shall we continue this talk another time?
JD: Yeah I would love to. Anytime, I’m, around.
AG: O.K. I love you.
JD: Hey, thank you, man. I love you, too.
AG: Bye.