“You are going to celebrate your 35th birthday in a psychiatric hospital after you lose someone very close to you,” a man I met in a bar the first night I arrived in Toronto told me. He continued, “Don’t worry about it. When you come out you will become the richest man on earth.”
I was nineteen. That morning in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario the principal of the SIR JAMES DUNN COLLEGIATE & VOCATIONAL SCHOOL has called me into his office where he roared, “YOU HAVE ENTIRELY THE WRONG ATTITUDE. IF YOU LEAVE THIS SCHOOL TODAY YOU WILL STARVE IN TWO WEEKS.”
I arrived in this city friendless with just enough money in my pocket to buy a beer. Drinking age was twenty-one.
It pays to have the wrong attitude.
When I got here people on the streets of this city were cold and unfriendly.
I decided to warm the place up. It needed it.
People have been telling me I am crazy from the year I turned six. My first grade teacher asked us to draw stick figures of men and women. While everyone else drew women with triangles for skirts I drew them with circles for breasts and us with our gear. My teacher said, “Ah, you are an artist.” She gave me colored bits of scrap chalk.
My second grade teacher took one look at my stick figures then said, “You have a dirty mind.” She beat me. I learned to take the beating.
You won’t find me invited to program at TIFF and I’d turn them down if they dared ask. However, over a beer in her home the late Jane Jacobs (author of THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES) said to me, “The best part of what you have to offer is what you have to say.”
That ain’t too fucking shabby.
In an interview Mrs. Jacobs said, “I had wonderful teachers in the first and second grades who taught me everything I know. After that, I’m afraid, the teachers were nice, but they were dopes…”
Not all my teachers after grade two were dopes just most of them.
In 1981 on the eve of my 35th birthday my second youngest brother killed himself because the woman he loved did not love him.
I had gone through one Hell of a year with a person I loved who did not love me. Though my family knew nothing about this they thought I was going to follow my brother’s lead and kill myself. I had no intention of doing that. They stuck me against my will in McMaster Psychiatric Hospital where on June 12, 1981, as I cut into the cake my sister had made to celebrate my 35th birthday the head shrink said, “Do you know what is wrong with you?”
I told him.”Nothing. I am on time and on schedule.”
I was then. I am now.
The first venue I used in Toronto was called THE PUBLIC ENEMY. The year was 1968. THE PUBLIC ENEMY was 39 steps above a pool hall on the east side of Yonge at the end of Yorkville before Yorkville became the embalmed corpse which it is today.
I was pre-punk punk, rail thin, dressed head to foot in black. I called the place THE PUBLIC ENEMY after the film that had made James Cagney a STAR and because I was an out fag at a time when most fags were trembling in the closet. Fags were seen as public enemy number one. Jean Cocteau, the great French artist/writer/filmmaker, fag, said, “Whatever the world condemns you for make it your own. It is yourself.” I had not read that then. Intuitively I did the right thing (which is always the wrong thing in the eyes of the gutless cowards of whom the bulk of humanity is formed).
I prefer honest hate to dishonest love. The so-called gay rights movement has led to a ton of dishonest love. I liked having sex with women as well but no one will kill us for that. It takes balls to make love with a man. Boys can’t do that.
That year, 1968, some hippies who came to The Public Enemy told me about Rochdale College of which I knew nothing and about a woman who lived there of whom I knew something, Judith Merril.
I knew Judy from THE YEAR’S BEST COLLECTIONS OF SCIENCE FICTION which she edited.
1968 was also the year Jane Jacobs arrived in Toronto. One of the first places they came to was THE PUBLIC ENEMY. They were regulars.
“You belong here,” said Judy when I went over to Rochdale to meet her. Rochdale College was incredible. It was eighteen floors. Thanks to Canada’s then government under Pierre Trudeau Rochdale was the only place on earth one could use hashish, LSD, marijuana, mescaline and peyote. At Rochdale I taught film and studied LSD.
My programs have, thankfully, always been in places the boring people do not go.
Like Jesus I prefer the company of the Damned to that of those who see themselves as Saved.
So when Colin brought me THE LAST POGO to screen I told him I needed more films to make a feature length program adding that the films should be in as bad taste as possible. Then I had a poster designed that was intended to upset mothers and fathers.
The show was a huge hit.
Now Colin has expanded THE LAST POGO into a massive four hour document of the vibrant music scene Toronto had once upon a time.
Brit painter Peter More calls The Cineforum “the best place on earth in which to see a movie.”
THE LAST POGO JUMPS AGAIN is being praised as the best document of a scene ever. So buy the dvd to see it on your small screen (and to support Colin). Then come here to see it on my big screen.
For those of you who like to smoke pot before watching a movie please remember that smoking is not allowed in the screening room. The smoke is bad for the equipment. May I suggest this recipe from THE ALICE B. TOKLAS COOK BOOK: BRION GYSIN’S HASCHICH FUDGE (which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)
This is the food of Paradise—of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of hot mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to be ravished by ‘un évanouissement reveille.’
Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon coriander. These should all be pulverised in a mortar. About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of canibus sativa can be pulverised. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.
Obtaining the canibus may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as canibus sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognised, everywhere in Europe, Asia and parts of Africa; besides being cultivated as a crop for the manufacture of rope. In the Americas, while often discouraged, its cousin, called canibus indica, has been observed even in city window boxes. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.
Al Aron0witz, the fabled Blacklisted Journalist, preferred his pot in cookies. Al was a great friend and an awesome mentor. He knew his shit. Stop smoking. Start cooking.