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University of California Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office 
The Bancroft Library 

University of California 
Berkeley, California 

Gerd Stern 


With an Introduction by 
Ivan Majdrakoff 

Interviews Conducted by 

Victoria Morris Byerly 

in 1996 

Copyright 2001 by The Regents of the University of California 

and by Gerd Stern 

Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading 
participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the development of 
northern California, the West, and the nation. Oral history is a method of 
collecting historical information through tape-recorded interviews between a 
narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well- 
informed interviewer, with the goal of preserving substantive additions to the 
historical record. The tape recording is transcribed, lightly edited for 
continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The corrected 
manuscript is indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and 
placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 
other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, 
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete 
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in 
response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, 
and irreplaceable. 


All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement 
between The Regents of the University of California and Gerd Stern 
dated June 21, 1996. The manuscript is thereby made available for 
research purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, including 
the right to publish, are jointly reserved to The Bancroft Library 
of the University of California, Berkeley, and to Gerd Stern. No 
part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the 
written permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the 
University of California, Berkeley, or of Gerd Stern. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be 
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Bancroft Library, 
Mail Code 6000, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000, and 
should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, 
anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. 
The legal agreement with Gerd Stern requires that he be notified of 
the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: 

Gerd Stern, "From Beat Scene Poet to 
Psychedelic Multimedia Artist in San 
Francisco and Beyond, 1948-1978," an oral 
history conducted in 1996 by Victoria 
Morris Byerly, Regional Oral History 
Office, The Bancroft Library, University 
of California, Berkeley, 2001. 

Copy no. 

Gerd Stern etcetera by Bobbi Carey, Cambridge, Massachusetts, circa 1940. 

Cataloging Information 

Stern, Gerd (b. 1928) Artist/poet 

From Beat Scene Poet to Psychedelic Multimedia Artist in San Francisco and 
Beyond, 1948-1978, 2001, ix, 397 pp. 

Childhood and education in New York City; discovering poetry; moving to 
California, 1940s; writing poetry; meeting Allen Ginsberg, Maya Angelou; 
marriage to Jane Hill; marriage to Ann London; writing for Playboy 
magazine, 1960s; living on houseboat in Sausalito; USCO (multimedia art); 
marriage to Sally Shaw; Michael Callahan and Intermedia Systems Corp.; 
entering family cheese import business; reflections on art, poetry, 
counterculture, drugs, and the cheese industry. Includes sixty poems, with 
some commentary. 

Introduction by Ivan Majdrakoff , longtime friend and collaborator. 

Interviewed 1996 by Victoria Morris Byerly, Regional Oral History 
Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 


INTRODUCTION by Ivan Majdrakoff i 

INTERVIEW HISTORY by Victoria Morris Byerly vii 

A Few Lines by Jak Simpson i x 

Immigration to the U.S. 2 
Family Cheese Business 2 
Father and Stepmother s Parenting 3 
College and Leaving Home 4 
The East Village and New Friends 5 
Jewish Background and Education 8 
Bookstores and Village Authors 8 
Black Mountain College and Poetry 9 

Elaine Goldman and San Francisco 10 
Poetry and California Life 10 
Big Sur and Jaime D Angulo 11 
Jane and Wally Hill 12 
Developing a Poetic Style 12 
Virginia City Mines 13 
North Carolina 15 
Back to New York 16 

In the Psychiatric Institute: Carl Solomon and Allen Ginsberg 18 
John Hoffman and the Norwegian M.S. Bowhill 20 
Poetry and Trouble in Brazil 22 
Hitchhiking to California 23 
Hitchhiking with Jane to New York 23 
Arrival in New York and Odd Jobs 24 
New Paltz, New York 26 
Marriage to Jane Hill 28 
The Barge 36 
Boobam Bamboo Company 38 
Lewis Hill 40 
More of Life on the Barge 41 
Bill Buck 42 
Maya Angelou 44 

Marriage to Ann London 47 
Playboy Magazine 52 
The Sausalito Houseboat 54 
Public Relations Work 55 

Sausalito Houseboat Revisited and Maya Angelou 60 

Single Life after Ann on the Barge 65 

Move Back East 66 

Visual Poems 67 

"The Land" Artistic Community 68 

Back to California 71 

Psychedelic Multimedia 74 
Taking the USCO Show on the Road: Vancouver, Seattle, The 
Psychedelic Theater and the Timothy Leary Lecture, MIT, 

New York, Riverside Museum, the LSD Conference, Harvard 75 

Intermedia Continued 106 

Marriage to Sally Shaw 108 

Michael Callahan and Intermedia Systems Corp. 110 
Jonathan Altman 110 
Rabbi Zalman Schachter and Other Eastern Spiritual Influences 111 
John Brockman and USCO 116 
Huey Newton 117 
University of California, Santa Cruz 118 
The Venezuela Project 119 
Intermedia Goes Kaput 123 

Entering the Family s Cheese Import Business 126 
Jamaica 134 
Jamaican Marijuana 136 
Rastafarians 136 
Jamaican Food Imports 136 
Global Village 137 

Writing Poetry and Memories of the Reality Club 138 
John Brockman 138 
Stewart Brand 141 
Israel: Karl Katz and "The House of the Diaspora" 143 
Returning to Poetry 147 
Sexual Identity 148 
Sexual Thesis in Poetry 151 
Kinetic Poetry 153 
Disillusions, Obscenities, Corruptions 155 

Poetry 157 

"The Poet s Premise" 159 

"Reflection, A Fragment" 160 

"PEAK Song" 160 

Elaine Goldman & "Harvest 1" 161 

"He" 163 

"Yin Chant" 163 

"L Autre 1" 164 

"L Autre 2" 164 

Sami Rubinstein 165 

More Poetry 166 

Marga Richter and "Relations (one)" 166 

"Day after Year" 168 

"The Idea of Order at Key West" 170 

"Fragment; after W. B. Yeats" 170 

Afterimage 170 

"Zum Gedachtnis" 171 

"Stern Airlines" 171 

"Afterimage" 172 

"Bad to Believe" 173 

"Grounds" 174 

"Eppes Epic" 175 

"Reflections Before Rising" 176 

"Mirage" 177 

"Mea Culpa" 178 

"Harvest Tale" 178 

"After" 179 

Untitled Poem 179 

"Oh You" 179 

"Why Yes" 180 

Sidonie 180 

"Difficulties in the Beginning" 1 181 

"About Us" 182 

"That Y Am Matt ..." 182 

"Go Man" 183 

Hugh Hefner and "Hip Hip for Hef" 183 

"Baby Blues" 184 

"Prejudiced or Something" 184 

"Strength of Inaccurate Convictions" 184 

Untitled 185 

"My Joint is Out of Time" 185 

"Paradiddles" 185 

"The Cock Horse" 187 

"Enjoy Gravity" 188 

"Watch Out" 189 

"The Priestess Gagged" 189 

"Poetry at the Paraclete" 190 

"One of Many" 191 

"The Bomb Syndrome" 191 

"Now" 192 

"Public Hanging" 193 

"A Dirty Story" 194 

"Necessity is a Mother" 195 

"If You Can t Count Don t Blow" 196 

"Take Five Jungle" 197 

"You Think You re So What" 197 

"Shock Strike Toggle" 198 

Other Poetry; Michael Callahan 200 

More Poetry 200 

"Poppa-Wopper" 200 

"No Man Like to Dead" 202 

"Me without You" 203 

"Caribella Poems for Sally" 204 

"Conspire": A Poem for Radha 216 

"Poemthink" 217 

"Checkin 1 the Set" 226 

"Against the Main Gain Game" 227 

"The Idea of Order at Key West" 228 

Chronology with Leaving Home 230 
Migrating to the East Side 230 
Moving to a Coal Bin 231 
Getting Back to California 231 
Pivotal Occasions 231 
Richard Wirtz Emerson s Archives 232 
Disillusionment in Life 232 
Lew Hill and KPFA 232 
Elsie Petersen 233 
The Post Office 235 
More on Early Reminiscences 236 

Radio 236 

Museum of Modern Art 237 

Almay Cosmetics 237 

Mona Carmel and the Ideational 238 

Music As Major Influence 239 

Ska 239 

Black Mountain and M.C. Richards 240 

Recurring Themes /Targets of Opportunity 240 

John Brockman and The Reality Club 241 

Jimmy the Greek of Greenwich Village 242 

Nature 244 

The Sternist Movement 244 

More on Mining 246 

Early Marijuana Smoking 247 

Maya Angelou 247 

LSD 249 

After the Mental Hospital: Life with Father 250 

Kinetic Art 252 

As a Marginalized Poet 253 

Art as Preoccupation with Technology 254 

Relationship between Poetry and Artwork 257 

Michael Callahan and Video Technology 261 

Steve Durkee and Stewart Brand 263 

X ART 265 
Michael Callahan 265 
The Tape Center 266 
The San Francisco Museum Show: "Contact Is the Only Love" 268 
"The Verbal American Landscape" 269 
The Reviews: "Landmark of a Flop" 274 
The Technology: Then and Now 275 
"Who Are You and What s Happening?" 276 

Billie Master 277 

"Resurrection" 278 

The Billie Master and NO OW NOW 281 

On the Road Performances and Noteworthy Meetings 282 

Salt Lake City Performance 282 
Charles Campbell s Gallery, California State University at 

Hayward, California College of Arts and Crafts 283 

IBM Meeting 285 

University of Rochester 286 

Woodstock Artists Association 286 

The Box Show 287 

Prayer Wheel 287 

Remsen and Rosie Woods, Process for Making Diffraction 

Gratings 288 

Our Time Base Is Real 289 

Visual Gallery Shows 290 

Counter Influences in New York 291 

Bill Graham 292 

The Wetshows 292 

Ronny Davis and the Mime Troupe 292 

Ann Halperin 293 

Harry Partch s Morals 293 

Cramps: A Classic Big Ampex Tape Recorder 294 

Magnetic Tape, 1963 295 

Refugee Syndrome 296 

International Federation for Internal Freedom 297 

The Timothy Leary Lectures 298 

Mekas Brothers and the Avant Garde Film Scene 301 

Carolee Schneeman 301 

Ghost Rev 303 

Jud Yalkut 303 

MIT s Harold Edgerton 304 

Saarinen 305 

Michael s Kick-ass Controller 305 

Paul Lee 306 

Rhode Island School of Design 307 

Richard Kostelanetz 307 

Ken Dewey and Terry Riley 307 

Michael Myerberg 308 

Kublai Khan Styled Pleasure Dome 309 

Lily Ente 309 

Murray Kaufman and the Multimedia Theatre Discoteque 310 

The Incredible Idofor 4 310 

The LSD Conference 311 

On the Cover of Life Magazine 312 

USCO and Jud Yalkut s Film 313 

Llama Foundation 313 

The Confidet Commercial 314 

On the Front Page of the Wall Street Journal 315 

More on LSD Conference 316 

The Institute of Contemporary Arts in Boston 317 

Maverick Systems Company 318 

Michael Callahan Becomes Technical Director at the Carpenter 

Arts Center, Harvard University 319 


Influences of Spiritual Content 320 

Life Below the Skin of Society 321 

San Francisco s Openness to the Arts 321 

The Country Coming to San Francisco 322 

Media s Impact on Style 322 

Taking Advantage of the Historical Era 323 

Bob Rauschenberg 323 

Herb Caen and the "Beats" 32 A 

The Restrictions of Contemporary Technology in Process 325 

The Cheese Industry 326 

Cheese and Its Metaphors 326 

A Profession May Not Be an Occupation 326 

Becoming President of the American Cheese Society 326 

Cheese in California 327 

European Cheeses 327 

Migrating People Replicating Ethnic Foods 328 

Computers and Technology Affecting Cheese 328 

Preventing or Promoting Illness 329 

Being Creative, Responsible, and Ethical in the World 329 



A USCO pamphlet 333 

B Flier, "Don t Flee the Scene Salty" 385 

C Flier, "Twice a Man" 386 

D Letter from Department of Art, University of Utah, 1964 387 

E Flier, "The Beard," 1967 388 

F Flier, "Murray the K s World" 389 

INDEX 391 


INTRODUCTION by Ivan Majdrakoff 

To introduce Gerd Stern, my path is to recall my dehydrated 
memories. It was in New York s P.S. 187 concrete school yard that I was 
first aware of Gerd. Thick glasses and short pants signaled 
"different." His name then was Jack. 

Later in my drama class at the High School of Music and Art, he 
emerged for me as a personality but an outsider. He was going to the 
prestigious Bronx High School of Science. I was aware that he had been 
successfully involved in a science competition with his own biology 
project. He then also became involved with our amateur theater group, 
called "The Rolling Players," named after our director, Hubert Rolling. 
We did many ambitious, passionate, "serious" plays together. About that 
time, and very startling to me, he, Jack, decided to change his name 
back to the original German, Gerd. 

Our friendship grew and I discovered myself as the only one at his 
early graduation from William Howard Taft High School, to which he had 
switched. He now had his own room away from home. I recall drawing 
there from a nude person. It was almost an illicit feeling. Most 
adult ! 

While I worked for a year in my father s portrait photography 
studio, we slightly drifted apart. He, having left home, had another 
life and now was somehow living in Greenwich Village which in those days 
meant beret-Bohemia. The next summer, I worked at a kosher summer camp 
in upstate New York. Out walking on a day off, amazingly, I 
encountered, coming from the other direction, a sandalled Gerd, also 
hiking. We now became closer linked, even though for the next three 
years I was attending the Cranbrook Academy of Art outside of Detroit. 
After Cranbrook, I returned to New York. We connected, did similar 
things, knew some of the same people, and moved in criss-crossed paths. 
I was aware of some hospitalization weirdness of Gerd s but I linked 
this to the vagaries of living in the Village. About then, I 
illustrated, or rather abstractly interpreted, Gerd s first book of 
poems. This really made me confront his chanted, very solo-word voice. 
It was a lean, demanding territory. 

An art gallery job was offered to me at the University of 
Minnesota and I was soon to leave. Gerd now had a west-side apartment 
and was involved with an older woman-- Jane! She had left her husband 
and children for Gerd. Phew! Going away, they lent me their apartment 
where I held a farewell party. I decorated the walls with dozens of 
head drawings. The next morning, I cleaned up, and left for Minnesota 
in a $25, 1936 black Buick. 


That winter, 1 returned to New York to marry the painter and ex- 
musician and artist, Julia Pearl. We spent our first married night in 
New Paltz, New York, with Gerd and Jane. Memorable was the meal of a 
very large white rabbit--a pet that Gerd and I had reluctantly shot and 

After three years at Minnesota where I had become Acting Director 
of the University Gallery, Julia and I decided to move to California. 
Mutual correspondence and criss-cross meetings with him continued over 
these years. Contact was maintained. 

Arriving in California, we stayed on Jane and Gerd s Sausalito 
barge and visited them also on Partington Ridge in Big Sur. Jane helped 
us look for a place to live. One barge night, I remember a group 
conversation about verbal visualization. Say the word "rose" and what 
image comes to mind? The variety of responses was fascinating. To hear 
Gerd claim that he thought of it only as an idea and abstraction, unlike 
my pink Whitman Chocolate sampler box image that flashed in my mind, was 

In later years, another conversation boiled down to his insistent 
phrase, "think of the world as object." Often as a painting and drawing 
teacher, this was to be a useful and important pointer. It focus sed on 
the relationship between meaning and its physical coat, or the 
psychological intertwined with the pictorial. The focus was on all the 
grappling that visual form demands . It encouraged me to expand my use 
of words, numbers, and phrases in painting and assemblage. I spend 
several years working over this territory that Gerd had gestured 
towards. It has never left me. 

To go back, his connection to Jane, an earth and woods mother, was 
profound. There was a first birth, Adam, and a second birth, Radha, 
whom I still remember holding in my arms on that barge . Now that I 
think of it, it was the first just-born that I had ever held. 

Upon arrival in the Bay Area, I immediately got involved in one of 
Gerd s group productions. It was a puppet show, and I recall my 
recording the voice of the newly arrived hip, heavily accented New 
Yorker. Gerd s voice languorously intoned a laid-back Kenneth Rexroth. 
It was originally done in San Francisco s Fugazi Hall, and later to a 
crowd on the Sausalito barge. 

Gerd s life seemed to dramatically change after Jane s departure. 
Ann London arrived on the scene. Ann was good-looking, literate, and a 
poet. Julia and I shared their wedding day. Quickly it seemed, Gerd 
became a public relations person, and actually had some good accounts. 
I recall Alexis 1 Tangier, for one. Herb Caen also seemed part of Gerd s 
expanding territory. Certainly to me, this was a new and surprising 
placeanother world of words. There was Bill Ryan s Contact magazine. 


I contributed a black-and-white drawing and did a composite collage head 
for the Criminal Man issue. It was the literary world. For instance, I 
got to meet Theodore Roethke, and spent time with Evan Connell. 

Ann and Gerd conceived of a very ambitious subscription project, 
called "Poems in Folio," for which I did their logo--a lyre. Also in 
another issue, I did a color drawing for a Louise Bogan poem. Their 
collaboration gave monthly subscribers a beautifully printed broadside 
poem. It was a combination of a fine Bay Area press printing of a new 
poem by a nationally-acclaimed poet. 

Later, after separation from Ann, Gerd returned to the East Coast. 
He eventually took up with Judi. After a while he showed up in 
California with Judi. He was very excited by all the new ramifications 
of Pop Art and the electronic world. I was only too willing to listen, 
as I had gone through a backwash decade of what has since been called 
Abstract Expressionism. He saw that I had been painting words and said 
that it was unlike anyone in New York. When he lectured at San Jose 
State College, I went along and chimed in with my new pop enthusiasm. 
We also did a performance with multiple projectors flashing word slides. 
These I photographed. At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, we 
took over their vast rotunda space. There were screens and constructed 
booths within which personal interviews were held. There were many 
voice-overs and projected words and phrases culled from what Gerd called 
"The Verbal American Landscape." This complex, raucous performance was 
greeted with bewilderment and confusion. The second night, it came very 
close to creating an audience riot. 

Sometime later, at a party, he asked me if I wanted to do a film 
with him. And I said "sure." But I did insist we spend discussion time 
to be sure we understood each other s point of view as much as possible 
before we started. We made the film, and it was an adventure. George 
Walker, the attorney, backed us and eventually we needed his help with 
censorship problems. In a Victorian house next to the Stockton Tunnel, 
I filmed at a six- inch distance a close-up trip upon Judi s body. This, 
combined with road-striping and several hundred road signs, was 
eventually edited into a 12-minute, 16 mm black-and-white film called 
"Y." There were several hundred cuts and Gerd and I collaged/edited it 
together. The soundtrack, done by Michael Callahan, was orgasmic 
breathing and the roaring of trucks. Earlier film of pubic hair (and 
armpit hair) was seized in the lab. George had to threaten legal action 
to get it back. Out of context we were dead, but we prevailed. It was 
a moving, nervous film. Amazingly, it won awards and we also eventually 
showed it commercially in North Beach. 

Gerd also stimulated my attitude towards the presentation of 
events that I put together independently and called performances. These 
were in Fresno, San Jose, and for the San Francisco Art Institute s 


"Farewell to the Back Yard." They used multiple projectors, film, 
slides, tapes, and other diversionsa general audience media assault. 

Later, at the San Francisco Arleigh Gallery of Lee Carlson, I was 
given two backroom galleries. There I made an environment and included 
my painting, assemblages, and collages. Additionally, all the senses 
were engaged- -smell, uneven flooring, flashing lights, Vietnam machine- 
gun fire and the collaged music of that time. Interspersed in all of 
this, Gerd s influence was strong. His earlier participation in an LSD 
conference in San Francisco, for instance, had found me aggressively 
handling a spot-light that continually disturbed the audience. I then 
moved naturally into the assemblage area with a successfully reviewed 
show called "Things." That exhibit announced for me the firm arrival of 
my assemblage attitude. 

Gerd left San Francisco and took "Y" and what seemed like a group 
of people on the road, ending up on the East Coast. I ve just come 
across a lost accumulated correspondence from 1964-1965. There are over 
seventy closely typed pages from his side and I m amazed by his drive, 
rushed energy, and clarity as he described ongoing projects and future 
possibilities. Alas, all my other correspondence with him was destroyed 
in the Oakland firestorm of 1991. We saw each other on my trips to New 
York and vice versa. So I was aware of his multi-media development in 
Woodstock, N.Y., and eventually his move to Cambridge, Mass. My ex-wife 
Julia Pearl was then Intermedia Systems art director. 

When he came to the West Coast, we would often meet together. I 
was now married to Ruth. Our exchanges and interests were personal and 
creatively ongoing. While we were together we seldom saw our original 
high school friends. In fact, a hostility on the part of a number of my 
old friends towards him startled me. They refused to respond or to 
believe in him as a poet. As the years have passed, I have wondered 
about this and recognized on my part a constant conviction and loyalty. 
As an artist, I ve been strongly influenced by him and respond to Gerd s 
myriad world of words. For four decades, I ve been exploring words and 
feel confident in using them in my art. It s a natural part of me. 

His attitude towards classical poetry and that of his 
contemporaries seems to me to be guarded. Broadly, I think, his 
seeming avoidance of nouns and lyric or narrative sweep makes audiences 
work hard. He demands people respond, and the beat-beat simplicity is 
off-putting to many. That, and not publishing traditionally, have 
delayed the evaluation of his poetry. But for me, there was always a 
flow of work coming out. His letter-writing voice is poetry. The 
writing is so mult i- level- -the pun, joke, duality, over and over. This 
alertness is his poetry. 

My own feeling toward "poetry" has always been cautious, even 
confused. I knew it existed, read a bit, and as a heavy book reader 

myself could not avoid considering it. But I ve seen that I m not a 
natural abstractionist, perhaps more an expressionist with formalist 
tendencies and most of this in the fantasy world of the mind. At times 
I do give myself to visual, graphic pictorialization. My ability in 
this world still shocks me and I tend to avoid it. Perhaps for me the 
poetic is represented by the lyric. 

Now comes a newfound power. Gerd began making thingsassembling 
and collaging occurred. His arrival in San Francisco with new pieces 
was a great joy. I liked and approved of the direction. One remembers 
his carpentry skills and his ongoing interest in the contemporary 
painting world. I thought he was trying to fuse the word and object. 
It brings a smile to think that we now hang together in Renee di Rosa s 
collection in Napa. 

As I watch the arch of his life from afar, particularly during the 
USCO days, it seems apparent that a huge part of his medium is people. 
Gerd s involvement with people is part of his palette. He easily moves 
from the "I" to the "We"--a natural collaborationist. 

He has always seemed to intuit where the action is. His multiple 
contacts who were often on the leading edge continually surprised. He 
operated naturally in that area and only occasionally did I get a peek, 
a taste. These introduced contacts and brief events were always 
interesting but I never overly pursued them. Gerd s vision is to look 
out, contact, and then gather people and mold them to make events. 
Projects were always ongoing. It reveals his great creative gathering 

Years ago I asked him if he planned to write a book about his life 
and I lamented having lost most of his letters in the fire. He said 
"no." But he is almost doing it in this vast monologue. He once said 
of my father, the photographer M. I. Boris, that he was the first 
example of a father that creatively seemed to know what he wanted to do 
and was doing it. This finding of one s own way seems one of Gerd s 
quests. He swings through different media. Just to list a few of his 
project involvements would start to reveal his scope. "Poems in Folio," 
"Teleportraits, " poetry, conferences, tapes, films, electronic systems, 
object-making, multi-media efforts and recording. They all add up. I 
used "Billie Master," Gerd s half -hour collage tape of voices made from 
KPFA s archives, in my experimental classes at the San Francisco Art 
Institute. All these are bindings of an intricately wrapped collaged 
figure. And the message is sometimes delivered verbally with ecstatic, 
messianic, almost rabbinical verve. Gerd s taped history is not only an 
attempt to document, but also to unwind and clarify what I am convinced 
is a unique fading historical time span. Perhaps he has verbally 
written a book! 


Let me end here with some personal speculation. He has been a 
hard worker, a builder, and a wordsmith. His life has been one of 
elasticity. The word chain is there, binding it all. There is his 
sense of humor, at times wry, cynical, but most often he sees the 
comedy. There is a collage pounding sexuality to his life. He has been 
criticized as an operator, an entrepreneur. Of course money has been a 
nagging source of concern in his life. It even might be a nemesis to 
him. The role of women in his life seems a drama world in itself. I 
appreciate Gerd s putting on tape his analysis of his relationship with 
his father. There also is a pleasure in hearing Gerd s thumbnail 
descriptions of well-known public figures. Most often there he is 
generous, fair and apparently quite accurate. He is also a thoughtful 
connoisseur of the good life. The section of this oral history on the 
topic of cheese is a passionate gem! 

These remarks --kaleidoscopic in natureare concerned mainly with 
our relationship and are mostly without precise dates. I believe that 
as you listen or read, you will be led through a map of a particular 
fading time. You will also follow an evolving life that develops slowly 
into an amazing photo. Here is the portrait of a person involved in 
recreating and redefining himself as a complex artist. This ground 
breaking time in America s cultural history should be recognized for its 
unique seminal contributions. And Gerd s journey, which is complex, 
rich, and ambiguous, is certainly not yet over. Sail on Gerd! 

Ivan Majdrakoff 
October 1998 


Gerd Stern arrived in San Francisco in the late forties just 
as the Beat scene was emerging here. Shortly after moving to the 
California Bay Area, he found himself with his new wife, Jane Hamner, 
living on a barge in Sausalito in the middle of an alternative bohemian 
culture of poetry and art. There he experienced the spirit of the times 
set against the backdrop of jazz musicians, weed, all-night parties 
around bottles of cheap wine, free love, and the birthing of a radical 
and iconoclastic alternative aesthetic. 

By 1953, Stern was publishing his own poetry and was one of the 
founders of the Boobam Bamboo Drum Company, which produced a musical 
instrument that resembled the bongo drum. Later, he went on to write 
for Playboy magazine and, after Jane, was lover and manager of Maya 
Angelou. By the late sixties, Stern was a counterculture artist 
producing innovative kinetic art that involved light shows and surround 
sound, and as a founder of the artistic company USCO, produced the 
Timothy Leary Psychedelic Theatre. His avant-garde style, which was 
representative of the late sixties and early seventies psychedelic art, 
was taken seriously by both Harvard University and the University of 
California at Santa Cruz where he held lectureships. His artwork drew 
national attention in both Newsweek and Life magazines. 

Stern and colleague Michael Callahan formed Intermedia Systems 
Corporation, in cooperation with a group from Harvard Business School 
during the seventies, which produced multimedia art internationally. 
Stern and Intermedia consulted and produced projects for the Venezuelan 
government under Presidents Raphael Caldera and Carlos Andres Perez, for 
the United States Government, as well as for the National Endowment for 
the Arts and others. As the seventies gave way to a more reserved 
eighties, Stern gravitated back to New York City where, with his step 
brother, he carried on his family s international cheese import 
business, always maintaining his creation of poetry. 

I met Gerd Stern as an interviewee for another ROHO oral history 
project on the San Franciscan bohemian anarchist artist Shirley Triest. 
I leaned from that initial interview that Stern had his own historically 
valuable account of the California counterculture movements of the 
fifties, sixties, and seventies, and after finding the funding to do so, 
we set out to document his story. What the reader will find impressive 
here is Stern s excellent memory of the names of the many people who 
were involved at the center and along the periphery of late 20th century 
California social and political history, a cultural history that 
reverberated throughout the nation. 


This work represents a compilation of twenty-one tape recordings 
of interviews which I recorded in April and July 1996; it was supported 
by the children of Jane Hamner Buck. The interviewer in this particular 
interview exerted little influence on the direction of the interview as 
Stern s intense recollections proceeded without interruption for as long 
as eight hours at a time. These first interviews occurred in the spring 
of 1996. Stern returned to the Bay Area that summer and invited his 
long-time friend and former associate of Intermedia Systems Corp., 
Michael Callahan, to collaborate on this project. The conversation 
between the two of them, included here, deals specifically with the 
early history of multimedia art technology. Also, Stern read some of 
his published and unpublished poems here, an inclusion which represents 
a different style of oral history than is standard for the Regional Oral 
History Office. 

The appendix of this volume includes various memorabilia of art 
shows and other artistic productions. 

I was pleased to work with Gerd Stern on this project and have 
personally benefitted from his intimate connection to and participation 
in the beat and counterculture waves of bohemianism in the California 
Bay Area. 

The Regional Oral History Office was established in 1954 to 
augment through tape-recorded memoirs the Library s materials on the 
history of California and the West. Copies of all interviews are 
available for research use in The Bancroft Library and in the UCLA 
Department of Special Collections. The office is under the direction of 
Willa K. Baum, Division Head, and the administrative direction of 
Charles B. Faulhaber, James D. Hart Director of The Bancroft Library, 
University of California, Berkeley. 

Victoria Morris Byerly 
Interviewer / Edit or 

June 2000 

Regional Oral History Office 

The Bancroft Library 

University of California, Berkeley 


the no you said yes to 

brought yesterday, now 

the way you made contact, love 

made now, so wow! 

so now 

love will show and 

the curtain will rise, and 

the lights will dim low 



[Interview 1: April 14, 1996] ##* 

Stern: I was born on Columbus Day on October 12, 1928, in a place called 
Saargebiet, which means Saar basin. And it s actually the basin 
of the river Saar. It s right on the border of Germany and 
France . In fact , my mother s grave is in a Jewish cemetery in 
Saarbriicken, which is the name of the town. The gate of the 
cemetery is now in Germany, and the actual grave is in France, so 
you can see how borderline a little place it was . 

The Saargebiet was the subject of a major controversy 
between Germany and France for a long time after the first world 
war, in which my father fought in the German army. It was a 
protectorate of the League of Nations, and it was the first place 
that [Adolf] Hitler took over, and he took it by plebiscite, which 
is a form of election. But it was a totally phony election 
because he sent in hordes of native Germans who were not citizens 
of the Saar to vote in the election, and they forced their way in, 
and he won. So we left. 

By that time, my mother had died. She died very suddenly of 
causes that now would have been treated with penicillin or 
antibiotics. My grandmother, who was my closest friend, had left 
for the United States to join her son. My father and my mother s 
sister and brother were married to each other, which kind of 
complicated the familial situation. And my uncle--my mother s 
brother had emigrated to the United States. He was a doctor, and 
he lived in the Bronx in New York. He brought to America his 
mother- -my grandmother- -whom I missed a lot. About the same time, 
my father decided to remarry, and I was deposited in Luxembourg 
with his new mother-in-law. We left the Saar because of all the 
political upheaval, and we were waiting for visas and permission 

L ## This symbol indicates that a tape or tape segment has begun or 
ended. A guide to the tapes follows the transcript. 

to come to the United States. We needed a sponsorship, and that 
sponsorship came through an aunt of mine who had lived in the 
United States for many years. Anyway, I had a period in 
Luxembourg which was rather difficult, and we went to Belgium to 
get our visas, and eventually we boarded the S.S. Washington, 
which some years later was sunk when it became a troop ship. 

Immigration to the U.S. 

Stern: We arrived in New York on April Fools Day in 1936, and I was 

hurried off the ship to the home of my uncle, the doctor, because 
I was in extreme pain. I didn t even get to see the Statue of 
Liberty. I wound up having an appendicitis operation my first 
week in America. My first literary experience in English occurred 
when one of my nurses read Little Black Sambo to me. She gave me 
the book when I left the hospital. I remember the tiger [turning 
to butter] running around the tree. I had been used to German 
children s stories, which are rather horrible: the kid who won t 
have his hair cut, the kid who grows his nails and won t cut them, 
the Suppen Caspar; I mean, they were all punitive, exemplary, 
disciplinary tales. Grimm is grim, right? 

Byerly: Very Grimm. [laughter] 

Stern: So we arrived, and first we settled in the Bronx, and then 
eventually we moved to Washington Heights, which was later 
referred to as Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson. It was a neighborhood for 
refugee German Jews. 

Family Cheese Business 

Byerly: This is in New York City? 

Stern: Yes, upper Manhattan. And my father continued the family 

tradition in the cheese importing business. He had taken over my 
mother s father s--my grandfather s--business in the Saar after my 
grandfather had died some years before. My father had been in a 
different business but he took over the business and rescued it, 
and then transported some of the representations to the United 
States. Those connections became dormant because of the war, but 
he became one of the first importers of cheese from Denmark, 
Holland, and Switzerland into the United States. Switzerland was 
his major importation at that time. 

I went to New York City public schools, then on to high 
school. During all those years I had an extremely difficult time 
with my stepmotherunderstandable later, but not at the time by a 
small boy. I was probably not a very nice child. I wore thick 
glasses, and I was dressed in a European fashion, which was always 
a problem to me because the other kids wore knickers while I was 
wearing shorts. I was an object of derision. And when they wore 
long pants, I had graduated to knickers. [chuckles] 

Father and Stepmother s Parenting 

Stern: My father was a strong disciplinarian. I was shuttled back and 

forth between my grandmother and her son the doctor and my aunt-- 
my father s youngest sister they were the two youngest of ten. 
My stepmother and I didn t get along at all. My father took a 
strong hand, and I was always encouraged by my aunt and my uncle 
to spill all the beans of my horror stories, and of course that 
didn t help anything. In fact, they were a negative influence. 
Although it was in the guise of being my confidants and friends, 
my "rebellions" emanated from those circumstances. 

I was an avid reader; I started going to the local library 
very early when people didn t even think I could read the books 
that I borrowed. I struck up a friendship with the librarian, and 
she allowed me to take out books which were beyond a child s 
permission: The Three Musketeers, Victor Hugo, [Leo] Tolstoy, 
[Fyodor] Dostoevsky, I read quite early. 

I was somewhat an enforced loner. Eventually, before I left 
public school, I found a couple of other outcast members of the 
class, and we spent a lot of time together. My weekends were 
always in the Bronx with my uncle and aunt, and with my cousin who 
was a little younger than me. He and I were very close, but then 
he was somewhat manipulative, and I was somewhat naive. Anyway, 
about the time I was at the Bronx High School of Science I became 
involvedthrough my English teacher, Dr. Gordon at the Museum of 
Natural History in New York where her brother, Dr. Myron Gordon, 
was a research ichthyologist. In the meantime, I had become very 
enamored of tropical fish, and although my father wouldn t allow 
much of an involvement at home, I had friends who bred them and 
who collected them and whose parents were much more supportive. 
So I joined the Aquarium Club at school and at the Museum of 
Natural History. 

Somehow through that connection I met people in the 
Astronomy Club at the Hayden Planetarium which was in the museum, 

and we used to go out into Central Park with telescopes and watch 
the stars . I became friendly with a girl who was going to the 
High School of Music and Art, and I started hanging out there. I 
then re-met Ivan Majdrakoff , a neighbor who had gone to the same 
public school as I P.S. 187, Manhattan. We became close friends. 
Also, there was a circle of friends who had already decided to 
become artists or actors or writers, and I fell in with them. 

We spent gobs and gobs of time together, and I started 
ignoring my studies at Bronx Science. Eventually, in order to get 
finished with high school in a hurry, I transferred to a much 
easier school where my Bronx Science credits helped me, and I was 
able to get out early. Now, that wasn t really early because I 
had started late in public school due to my arrival in the U.S. at 
the age of seven. I was a year behind. Of course, I didn t know 
English the first couple of years too well, although I wound up 
being one of the more literate students by the time I left that 

I wasn t quite sure what my connection was to all this 
creative ferment among my new friends, and I was having more and 
more trouble at home because I would stay out what now would not 
be considered late, but at the time, I would stay out late, which 
meant after six o clock. When my nineteen-year-old gets home at 
three in the morning, I think that s normal. [laughter] Anyway, 
six o clock; that was difficult. 

College and Leaving Home 

Stern: I was also working. My father took me down to the local grocer 

when I was about nine, and I started lugging packages for a nickel 
a shtikel, five cents per delivery. Later, I worked as a 
temporary at the post office. I did that for some time; it paid 
much better than anything else in those days. It was hard work, 
but it was fairly easy to do, and the people were nice to work 
with- -most of them. 

Anyway, I left home when my stepbrother was born. There was 
a lot of excitement around that, and I just kind of slipped out. 
With my earnings from the post office, I rented a furnished room 
just a few blocks away but in a poorer neighborhood than where my 
parents lived. My leaving was accepted because the apartment was 
too small for all of us anyway, and I had been sleeping out in the 
hall, which was not something I enjoyed as a teenager. I had a 
half-sister and now a baby half-brother. 

Byerly: How old were you? 

Stern: Probably sixteen, seventeen. That was much younger those days 

than it is now. I don t have a good idea of timeline and I don t 
remember the years. I couldn t tell you what year I graduated 
high school or exactly when all this went on. 

But my next step was I needed to get a better job. I 
started my freshman year at the City College of New York, although 
I wanted to go to Cornell and study zoology, particularly 

Anyway, I didn t like CCNY; I couldn t stand it. On the day 
that my English instructor asked us to write a composition on "Our 
Summer Vacation," I decided to leave. I mean, I had already been 
through all that, and that wasn t what I thought the university 
was going to be like. And the other thing was the buildings at 
CCNY were connected by underground passages; I felt like I was in 
a totally Rafkaesque environment, having recently read [Franz] 
Kafka- -it had quite a powerful influence on me. 

Anyhow, CCNY was not a long period; it was a few weeks. I 
then somehow gravitated downtown toward Greenwich Village, and I 
got a job through the newspaper classifieds at a place called 
Almay Cosmetics, which, I believe, still exists. At that time, it 
was owned by a liquor company, Schiefflin. They called me an 
assistant chemist, and I was in charge of this little ball mill by 
which I ground up various things to make custom anti-allergic 

The East Village and New Friends 

Stern: The important part of that story is that it brought me downtown to 
what s now the East Village (although it was at that time not 
considered the Village, but very close-- just a few blocks away). 
And I wandered around with some of my friends from Music and Art 
whom I had met through Elsie Peterson, the young woman I had met 
at the museum and who kind of got me into the whole music and art 
crowd. She was working for a jeweler, Henry Lobell, in the 
Village by that time. I visited her there, and I went to this 
pottery shop next door and met a guy who was working there, 
Stanley Gould, and he introduced me to some people. Before I knew 
it, I was sharing an apartment with somebody who turned out to be 
a junkie, but I didn t know a junkie from a hole in the ground, I 
was so naive back then. 

It was really a very intense period; the energy of my youth 
and the dive into a world so different from the world I had grown 
up in. My first apartment in the Village was with a guy named 
Dick Winard, whose real name was Winanski, and he was a junkie. 
We were basically sleeping in the same bed. And I didn t 
understand what he was up to. He was taking injections, but I 
thought maybe he had an illness. [laughter] That just gives you 
an idea of where my head was at . 

And the second night I was there, all of a sudden there was 
a woman in bed with us. She said her name was Rose Gorgeous. 
This was really before I had had any sexual experience. I didn t 
get involved with them, but that was unexpected. I wasn t 
horrified or terrified then; but I was later when I finally 
understood what was going on with the drug-taking. There were 
policemen, and when there were not enough drugs there were 
physical symptoms of trying to kick the habit. This was a few 
weeks now, this wasn t months. Around that time, I had my first 
smoke of marijuana from a guy named Jimmy the Greek. I remember I 
also went to the party of a guy who was a translator at the United 
Nations, and he was gay, and I didn t understand what that was all 
about . 

In the meantime, I had moved to the east side, near the 
Bowery, to a little apartment on Stanton Street. And I was still 
involved with people from Music and Art, and one of the painters 
had fallen in love with me. She insisted that we had to go to bed 
together; that was my first experience, in my apartment, this 
little bedroom which I had painted dark brown. Not exactly an 
illuminating color. [chuckles] I later added one wall in orange. 
It s not a palette that I have any love for. Anyway, here I was 
living near the Bowery among bums, and my father came down, and 
you can imagine the explosion. 

Right next to me, on Stanton Street, right off the Bowery, 
was a family named the Sauers. Augie and Hattie Sauer took an 
interest in me. He was in the window display business and the 
building of exhibits and floats, and, eventually, hired me as an 
assistant. He was in charge of the May Day parade for the radical 
unions. [begins singing] "The Furmakers Union is a very fine 
union." And we built these floats of Bilbo and Rankin; they were 
two federal legislators who were the bane of the liberal and 
radical establishments at the time. They were horrible, gross, 
huge, three-dimensional caricatures which opened their mouths and 
tipped their hats. Those were a lot of fun to work on; I had 
never done anything with my hands. I remember one time when I 
changed the electric plug on a lamp in the house, my father took 
it down to the local hardware store to have them redo it because 
he didn t think that any son of his could handle anything like 

that. [laughter] Of course, at Bronx Science, people were a lot 
more into doing things with their own hands. My father 
desperately wanted me to go into his business. I mean, he thought 
that was the only solution, but I had no intention of following in 
his footsteps. I had been listening to him scream at his business 
associates and haggle with customers for years. I didn t want any 
part of that. It was not a way of life that I was interested in. 
I wanted to be an ichthyologist because I loved the whole 
involvement with the lives of fishes and turtles. I had been a 
nature counselor and I had earned all of my nature badges up at 
Bear Mountain Park. I was really into animals of all sorts, 
mostly reptiles, amphibians, and fish. 

I couldn t get the support from my father to go to Cornell 
Agriculture, I didn t get a scholarship, and I was somewhat 
depressed about that until I discovered that poetry was my call. 
In a sense, throughout my life, I had a strange feeling about not 
having gone to a university, which was balanced out later on when 
I became an associate in education at Harvard, and I taught at 
[UC] Santa Cruz. People are always wondering how, without a 
college education, I got into that, but we ll go into it later. 

Ellis Kramer, the gentleman whom I referred to as a 
translator at the United Nations, lived in the Village. I met him 
at a cafeteria where everyone hung out and where Jimmy the Greek 
sold toothpicks of pot, which had precious little dope in them, 
[laughter] but we managed to enjoy them. And he the translator 
invited me to a party at his house. I stayed overnight. I 
remember I was in his bed with him, and he tried to make an 
approach to me, and I just didn t understand, so I rejected him. 

The next night at the party, I met Elaine Goldman who 
basically dragged me back to her apartment and raped me. 
[chuckles] And I lived with her for months. Elaine came from 
Boston. She was working in a publishing company. She wasn t 
quite sure what she wanted to do. She later married another poet, 
and I lost track of them. 

Now somewhere during that time in the Village, I met a group 
of people who were around a man named Michael Fraenkel, the author 
of a book called Bastard Death. He also had a series of 
correspondences which were in several published volumes with Henry 
Miller. Through that group I met Michael and Henry. That became 
the connection to Israel. 

Jewish Background and Education 

Stern: My Jewish background is rather odd because my father, like so many 
German Jews, was not a religious Jew. Although he had grown up in 
a religious setting, not in this family necessarily, but in the 
community, and gone to a Jewish school, which- -character is tic of 
Germany at that time- -had a Catholic priest who was a Hebrew 
scholar as principal. My family only went to synagogue on high 
holidays. But I went to Hebrew school, and I was Bar Mitzvahed. 
And that was about it. And I was taught rote Hebrew; I was not 
taught the meanings of anything, and when I did my Bar Mitzvah, my 
teacher was very happy because I had learned the cantillations 
perfectly and gave a great performance- -but without meaning. 

Bookstores and Village Authors 

Stern: Then when the whole political situation in Israel surfaced, one of 
Michael s followers, Harry Hershkowitz, who was the editor of 
Death magazine --they had poison rings to keep them conscious of 
death at all timeswell, Harry was the one who introduced me to 
this whole circle of people who were raising money to buy the 
boat, which was an ancient freighter. I met, through Harry, the 
leader of this group, Nick Kisburg. He and his family lived in 
the Village. All these people became very critical to my life; we 
spent a lot of time together, we ate together, we drank cheap wine 
together, we got high together, we listened to music and went to 
art exhibits. They took my poetry seriously, and I took their 
work seriously. When I decided to go to California, it was kind 
of a break in sequence. I had become somewhat isolated in any 
case because of the relationship with Elaine; before that I had 
been really circulating all the time in a fairly nervous manner. 
I was heavily into jazz, also. 

Friends in the literary scene, through another involvement 
with the Four Seasons Bookshop which was owned by a lady named 
Toshka Goldman, was the Partisan Review crowd that hung around 
there. This crowd included Delmore Schwartz and Lionel Trilling 
and a lot of highly intellectual literary types. I worked next 
door to the Four Seasons in a place called the Jabberwocky Shop 
where we made lamps out of vases and bottles and anything that 
anybody brought in. There was pottery and jewelry and really 
craftsy stuff. It was run by a sculptor named David Raucher. He 
was crippled, and he was bearded, and he always wore a beret. A 
real Village character. Having the Four Seasons next door, I 

could borrow any books of poetry. I spent many hours sitting, 
waiting for customers in the Jabberwocky Shop, reading poetry. 

Black Mountain College and Poetry 

Stern: We had interesting customers. I remember delivering a set of 

lamps to Eleanor Roosevelt and her giving me cookies and tea. She 
lived in the Village on Washington Square. But among the people I 
met through the bookstore and Ginny Miller, Paul Goodman s first 
wife, was Isaac Rosenfeld. Isaac was a literary guru of that 
time, and he was very kind to me. He had an academic bent, and he 
really felt that my lack of formal education would be a problem to 
me in the future. Yet he understood my radical kind of leanings. 
He had taught during the summer at Black Mountain College, and he 
persuaded them to give me an interview for a scholarship. I 
hitchhiked down there at his behest, and I loved it. It was 
really the perfect place. There was this idyllic oasis in the 
mountains with a lake and modern studio building- -something 

M.C. Richards, who was teaching poetry there at the time, 
was exactly who I wanted to study with. And they gave me a 
scholarship! Wow! I hitchhiked back down and I arrived there in 
the middle of absolute chaos. The management or the 
administration and the teachers were all fighting with each other 
on philosophical and financial grounds. M.C. s husband at the 
time was Bill Levy, the dean, and he left, taking M.C. with him. 
I was desolate because the guy who then took charge of the school 
was Hans Albers, a painter. Albers was out of the same mold as my 
father: the Germanic disciplinarian. I couldn t take it, so I 
split. Probably a major piece of misthinking on my part, but I 
was young and carefree. 

I met a lot of interesting people in the two weeks that I 
was down there who later on became influential in my life: M.C., 
John Cage, the Williams --Paul and Vera--on and on. 




Elaine Goldman and San Francisco 

Stern: Eventually, I met Elaine Goldman, and I moved in with her. She 

had gone to UC [University of California] Berkeley, and some time 
later her roommate- -a woman whom she had an affair with during her 
time at UC--came to visit, and Elaine was the one who persuaded me 
that I was a poet. "Bard" [Barbara] Norville, who was the friend 
who came to stay, and Elaine decided that I really should be going 
to UC, and Bard invited me to stay with her and her husband when I 
got to San Francisco. I persuaded my father to give me air fare, 
which at that time was very low, and I got on this plane that 
landed four or five times before it got to California because that 
was how things were in those days . 

My father had agreed to send me twenty dollars a week, which 
he reneged on because of another tale. I was followed out to the 
west coast by a young lady whom I had gotten involved with at 
summer camp where I was a garden and nature counselor. My father 
and her father got together, because she had told her father we 
were going to get married. We never had even talked about 
marriage, but my father was very upset so he didn t send me any 
more money. So I was kind of at a loss in San Francisco. 

Poetry and California Life 

Stern: In the meantime, mostly because of Elaine s encouragement, I had 
accepted my role as a poet, and I was writing poetry. At first 
blush, I was totally innocent, and I was starting to read poets 
through people I met and who had libraries . Soon after I arrived 
in California I went to a poetry reading at the San Francisco 
Museum of Art which is now in a different building than it was 
then. I met Bill Everson, who later became Brother Antoninus. I 


met Philip Lamantia. I met Paul Goodman, whose first wife I had 
had an affair with in New York. 

Big Sur and Jaime D Angulo 

Stern: I arrived in California, and I stayed with Bard and Mac [George 

McCarthy, Jr.]. They [Bard and Mac] were breaking up at the time. 
Mac left to get a divorce, and he went up to Virginia City, 
Nevada, in his 1928 Model A Ford with a rumble seat. 

I m skipping a lot of stuff becausethere was the poetry 
reading- -actually, that wasn t the first day. The first day they 
picked me up in the Model A, and they took me down to Big Sur, to 
Partington Ridge, where we stayed with one of their good, close 
friends, Jaime D Angulo. And Jaime and I, through later years, 
became very close, and actually I was the one who got his Indian 
Tales published through Carl Solomon, who was working for his 
uncle A. A. Wynn at Ace Books and I was their west coast rep. It 
was very informal. 

Quite an experience for a New York boy. They pick me up at 
the airport and it was the weekend, so we re heading for Big Sur. 
I m sitting in the rumble seat coming down the California coast, 
and we re going to the ranch. You can imagine what a New York 
refugee thought a ranch was going to be like after having seen 
"Abbott and Costello in the West" or Bob Hope or Shirley Temple 
movies. Anyway, first we stopped at an auto wrecking yard just 
before Monterey in Seaside. And there s this character right out 
of John Steinbeck who runs the yard and then there s this big guy 
who s a fishing boat engineer called Sandy Justice. There s mucho 
alcohol. I ride with Sandy to the ranch in a dump truck, and then 
we go up this winding, dirt road, and it s late at night, and we 
go up the mountain and go over the edge. We have to shovel, and 
it s madness, and I think it was about six o clock in the morning, 
and at dawn we wind up on the top of the ridge and here s Jaime de 
Angulo dressed in basically nothing and with hair coming down to 
his whatever, and his beard, and he s burnt by the sun, and he s 
obviously drunk. And he looks at me and he says, "Shalom!" 
[laughter] I m with Bard and her husband, whom I ve just met, and 
a drunken Sandy--! had never been driven anywhere by somebody who 
was drunk. Then Jaime recognizes my accent and says, "You must 
have come from somewhere in Germany near the French border, but 
you ve grown up probably in New York City; not in Brooklyn, for 
sure ." [laughter] Then we go into his house, and he has a 
fireplace in the middle of the room, and he s made a big hole in 
his roof for the smoke to go out of. I m sleeping on basically a 


concrete slab with kind of an Indian blanket thrown over it. All 
of a sudden I feel at home. I don t feel alienated or strange. I 
feel okay; this is it; life. 

Jane and Wallv Hill 

Stern: Jane lived right across the alley on Telegraph Hill from Bard, so 
that s where I met Jane and her husband Wally [Hill], and I 
believe at the time--I can t remember whether their third daughter 
had been born by then or not. But there were definitely two 
little girls and maybe three little girls. They very soon 
thereafter moved over to the Berkeley Flats. But at that time 
they were on Telegraph Hill. 

Anyway, they invited me for dinner, and I regaled them with 
tales, none of which were true, about my supposed political 
experiences . I had been involved with the Sternist movement to 
send a boat to Israel, which was principally financed by Ben Hecht 
and Harpo Marx. My involvement with that had been peripheral, but 
I blew it out of proportion into some romantic tale worthy of a 
third-rate movie, [laughter] and they believed me. 

Jane was fascinated. But Jane was a person who at that time 
was ready to change her life already and had been involved with a 
lot of other people 

Developing a Poetic Style 

Stern: In the meantime, I had been writing poems. I think I started out 
in a very abstract manner language-wise, and I ve never departed 
from it. It s a style which has never somehow been conjunctive to 
any of the other movements or schisms or literary coteries. It s 
isolated me, which is still true. And I don t understand in the 
least how I developed this particular verbal style; I imagine it 
must have its roots maybe in the fact that I started out being a 
German speaker and translated then to English. The relationships 
that I ve had in the literary and artistic world have all been 
kind of social and intellectual rather than connections between my 
work and the work of other people. 

Virginia City Mines 

Stern: I started looking for a job. At that time, if you were resident 
in California for six months you could go to UC free of charge. 
That was my plan but I got waylaid. I was living with Bard after 
Mac left. I didn t have any money, and I didn t know what was 
going to happen. I was kind of looking for a job, and I couldn t 
find one, and Mac called up from Virginia City, Nevada and said, 
"Hey, Gerd, why don t you come up here? This is great up here. 
I m working in a gold and silver mine; you can work here too." 

So I hitchhiked up to Virginia City, Nevada, and I worked in 
the gold and silver mines for Consolidated Chollar, Gould, and 
Savage [Conchollar] . And that was [laughter] quite an experience. 

In Virginia City, it was incredible how much snow there was. 
It was the blizzard of "48. The blizzard was so bad that you 
couldn t drive. I had just learned how to drive, although I 
didn t have a license yet. I had learned to drive in Mac s 1928 
Model A Ford. We went down the grade to Reno and had a good time. 
Mac liked to gamble. He was from Charlotte, North Carolina. 
Anyway, we were renting a house for ten bucks a month, a former 
whorehouse in Virginia City. It had a lot of bedrooms. [chuckle] 
It was a great old house. 

There was practically nobody in Virginia City in those days. 
It was like a ghost town. There were about ten saloons. It was 
before it become gentrified and before Lucius Beebe and those 
people who I later knew in San Francisco moved up there . We 
worked on the other side from Reno in a little place called Gold 
Hill at the Consolidated Chollar, Gould, and Savage Mining 
Company. Actually, first Mac worked at another little mine--at 
Conchollar. I didn t work in the mine, I worked in the refinery. 

There was no water: we had to get water from a truck that 
came up once a week. Finally, Mac had had it; he was working in a 
smaller mine which shut down. It was bizarre. We went to dinner 
one night at his boss 1 house, and he and his wife had rigged up a 
chair for their German shepherd--a huge, huge dog called Sonny-- 
and he ate at the table. And they treated him just like their 
son. At the mine, the dog could carry a four-foot piece of two- 
by-four in its mouth. It was a big, big dog. 

This was a small old mine, and it was quite an experience-- 
you went down in a bucket. I don t mean an elevator, I mean a 
bucket. It was the same bucket that came back up later with the 
ore. You went down and then along these little sideways shafts, 
and you had a little carbide lamp on your head, and you spent the 


first part of the day mucking out, shoveling the ore that you ve 
blown the night before. What we had to do was fill this bucket 
which is on wheels and take it to the place where it goes up the 
shaft to the surface. In the afternoon, with this pneumatic 
drillit s not exactly a dance, but you shakeyou drill out 
holes into the spot where you re going to get the next ore, and 
you plant charges with a long fuse which goes practically all the 
way to where the up and down shaft is. Then you get the hell up 
out of there in the bucket. [laughter] 


Stern: My job in the refinery was the crusher man s assistant. I was 

called "Whiskers." This was somewhere between a Charlie Chaplin 
movie where he gets caught on the little cogwheels, and a 
nightmare. It was an enormous refinery, and you couldn t see for 
more than a few feet because the air was full of dust; clouds of 
dust. All the people who worked there had silicosis. They used 
to compare the size of the spots on their lungs on their x-rays, 
and when there was a certain amount of square inches then they had 
to stop working. 

The trucks would bring this ore with a lot of big rocks, and 
they would dump them on what s called the grizzle. The grizzle 
was a bunch of metal railroad rails laid a certain width apart. 
If the rocks were too big they would take a charge of dynamite 
called "salami" because it was shaped like a big roll of salami, 
and they would place it on the rocks and blow them up until they 
would fall through the grizzle. When they fell through the 
grizzle, they fell into our crusher, which was these two huge jaws 
that went [makes crushing noises], and they crushed the rock into 
slightly smaller sizes. Once in a while, at least four or five 
times a day, a rock would get caught in the jaws just right so 
that the jaws couldn t close. There was a metal bar over this 
crusher, and the way you handle the situation, as Ike demonstrated 
to me--Ike was the crusher man and my bossthe first day I worked 
with him it was you would grab on to this bar, jump into the 
crusher and try to move the rock with your boots. [chuckle] You 
push on these big rocks until they adjusted themselves. The 
crusher would go boom, boom, and as soon as you adjusted it you 
had better get your damn feet out of the way because otherwise it 
would crush you too. 

They had tales of losing people. Actually, we lost one guy 
while I was working there. You had to clean out these many story- 
high tanks, and they were full of fine ore, and if you slip when 
you were in there, you could really get hurt even though you had a 
safety belt on. When we had to change parts on the fine crushers, 


we used a twenty to thirty foot wrench with twelve men on the end 
to put enough pressure. 

Then one day it was really cold; we were working in a 
completely unheated environment in the dead of winter. Each 
little work station had a fifty-five gallon drum which served as a 
stove. We would throw scraps of wood into it and sit around it 
for lunch. One day, we were sitting aroundthree or four guys-- 
and we were talking about religion and going to church. They 
looked at me and said, "What religion are you, Whiskers?" I said, 
"I m Jewish." They laughed like hell. I was offended and I said, 
"Hey, what s so funny about that?" They said, "Oh. You weren t 
kidding?" [laughter] They had never met a Jew. It was okay. I 
just didn t understand. It was quite an experience. Turned out 
they had also never met a black person. 

North Carolina 

Stern: Anyway, it got so cold, we had no water, and Mac had lost his job, 
so he decided he didn t want to come work for Con Chollar. Mac 
wanted to drive to his home in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 
problem was getting out of Virginia City; all the roads were 
blocked. We decided not to drive to Reno or through Carson City, 
but to go down the middle of the canyon. The Model A was so light 
that it could run on top of the snow. The problem was if you ever 
got stopped, it was hard to start again because the wheels would 
sink into the snow. So we had shovels and everything. Within 
half an hour of leaving, we got stuck behind a bunch of cows that 
were running down the canyon. There was nothing for them to eat. 
Around there there was a lot of cattle left in the fields to 
graze. Fortunately, the cattle had tromped down the snow so we 
were able to get started. We had lots of experiences. We had two 
cocker spaniel puppies in the rumble seat that we had acquired 
somehow in Virginia City. At one point--! mean, it was the big 
blizzard, and the Joshua trees were covered with snow. Later, 
when we were on Highway 66, we were out of the snow, but 
everything was wet where the snow had melted. There were these 
signs that read "Dip". I was driving, and I had never seen a 
"Dip" sign, so I didn t know what it was. Well, we got into this 
dip, and there was like about two feet of water in it. So here is 
the Model A Ford stuck in the middle of this dip. 

Mac gets out to take the distributor apart and dry out the 
points and the spark plugs. He was mechanically oriented. He 
taught me a lot. However, he put the distributor cap on one part 
of the engine, and when this truck came running through the dip 


next to us. The distributor cap goes high up in the air and lands 
in this two feet of water. We can t find it, so now Mac has to 
hitch to the next town to buy a distributor cap for a 28 Model A. 
[chuckle] In the meantimethis was incredibleanother truck 
comes through the water, and I see this distributor cap leaping up 
into the air, and I catch it, dry it, put it on, and off I go and 
meet Mac about six miles down the road. [laughter] Anyway, it 
was that kind of trip. 

We finally got to Charlotte, and we stayed at his parents 
house. His father owned a chemical plant of some kind. His 
parents were really southern types. I had been to Black Mountain, 
but Black Mountain was really not the South. Charlotte, North 
Carolina, is the south. It s different. His father had just been 
to Cuba and had brought back a case of banana liquor which Mac 
proceeded to drink. We were on the way to have dinner with two 
gay friends of his; one of them was a veterinarian. I hadn t met 
them, but on the way there Mac ran into the back of a Greyhound 
bus, and he smashed our Model A Ford, never to be seen again. I 
got cut right here on my chin; there s still kind of a scar there. 
The veterinarian lived in a trailer, and they had prepared this 
really wonderful meal for us. But first, the veterinarian sewed 
up my little cut. 

Back to New York 

Stern: Anyway, now we were without a car. We were on the way to New 

York, and Mac s father was really upset with his son s drunkenness 
and his weird Jewish friend from New York with a beard, etcetera. 
Still, he bought us a burnt-out Willys. A Willys was practically 
like a Volkswagen bug but a little bigger. It had had an interior 
fire, and it was all black, but it drove fine. 

We went up to New York, and Mac only stayed a couple of 
days. He couldn t take the city. So I wound up with this car, 
and I was living in it on the streets of New York. 

There was a bar at that time that we all went to the San 
Remo on Bleeker and MacDougal streets and who should show up at 
the San Remo a few days later but John Hoffman, a poet from San 
Francisco whom I had met there with Philip Lamantia at a bar right 
across the street-- 12 Adler Place from the City Lights. Anyway, 
the bouncer, Trent, was a guy I had known in New York through Fran 


So I m in New York, and the two of us are living in the car. 
For about two weeks, this folk singer lent us his apartment. We 
didn t have anything to eat, and there were about twenty-five 
pounds of oatmeal, and there were a bunch of spices. So we had a 
lot of oatmeal with curry powder and with oregano and with 
everything else even soy sauce. When he came back he was very 
angry that we had eaten up his oatmeal so he threw us out. And 
there we were back in the car again. 

We decided to go to P town [Provincetown, Massachusetts]. 
In New York, they used to deliver bagels about five o clock in the 
morning. They would leave them in front of the storefronts, and 
they would also leave milk. We would kind of cruise around and 
pick one bagel and one quart of milk from one store and another 
bagel and a quart from another--it worked pretty good; we never 
got caught, and that s how we had bagels and milk. We got up to 
Provincetown, and we barely had enough money for gas. We were 
sleeping in the dunes, and we didn t have anything to eat there 
either. We decided to go into Provincetown and try the same 
trick. Well, we picked up a few things outside of a store, and 
all of a sudden we see this truck driver coming after us . He was 
parked down the street, and he obviously saw us take the stuff 
which he had just delivered. We got in the car, and we sped down 
the highway away from Provincetown. We could see behind us this 
big truck chasing us, and we were scared, really scared. Finally, 
we turned into a sand road--the side roads are all sand--and we 
get stuck in the sand. The truck just keeps on going. [chuckle] 
We were relieved, but it took us a couple of hours to dig out. 

We finally drove to Providence, Rhode Island, and on the way 
back to New York we didn t have enough money for gas. So I called 
the local rabbi. That was a stupid idea. He just told me to get 
lost. I finally had to call my father, and he Western Unioned us 
some money. But he was angry. He was very angry, and he said, 
"You better come and see me as soon as you get back in New York." 




In the Psychiatric Institute: Carl Solomon and Allen Ginsberg 

Stern: So I came and saw him, and he dragged me to my uncle the doctor. 
My uncle supposedly discovered I had some kind of a problem with 
my kidneys. They put me into the hospital. After the hospital, 
they made me go see a psychiatrist who was a friend of my uncle. 
The psychiatrist says to me, "Look, I can t help you because your 
father can t afford to pay me, and besides, I think what s wrong 
with you is that you re malnourished, you don t have a place to 
live, you re wearing dirty clothes, etcetera. I ve got an idea; 
listen to me carefully, and I never told you this. There s a 
place called the Psychiatric Institute at the Presbyterian 
Hospital. You call them up; here s the number. You tell them 
that you are a young poet and that you just tried to commit 
suicide and that you need help. They re looking for interesting 
people. " 

So I do it. I get an appointment, and they ask me, "What 
happened?" So I said I m driving my burnt-out Willys down the 
Henry Hudson Parkway, and I have this terrible impulse to drive 
over the railing and into the Hudson River- -which was totally 
untrue. They accept me; now I m in this ward with a bunch of 
really funny people. Nobody violent, but interesting. And I m 
getting fed three times a day, and I have a doctor who sees me 
twice a week- -a Doctor Hambidge, one smart guy, and, over time, he 
listened to me, and finally told me, "Look. This is not difficult 
at all; this is very simple. You ve gotta decide whether you re 
going to live your life or you re going to live the life that your 
father wants you to live. You can t manage both of them; they are 
not compatible. You re not going to make your father happy if you 
decide to do what you want to do, and I don t know if you can be 
happy doing what your father wants you to do. I can t help you 
any further than that." It was amazing. At the time I think it 
would not have been seen as a psychiatric solution; I mean, that 
was still a very Freudian period. 


Anyway, at the same time, one day there walks into the ward 
a guy dressed in a dark blue shirt and dark blue trousers and blue 
suede shoes with huge stacks of books under both arms . He looks 
around kind of dazed, he s got this wild hair, and he s got a big 
face and big glasses. So I walk up to him, being a new patient, 
you know, and I say, "Hello, my name is Gerd Stern." And he drops 
all his books on the floor, and he sticks out his hand, and he 
says, "Define your terms!" That was Carl Solomon. 

Carl had gotten into the Psychiatric Institute because, at a 
lecture by a proto-anarchist named Wallace Markfield at NYU [New 
York University] , he had gotten up and thrown potato salad into 
Markfield 1 s face. [chuckle] Carl was bizarre. He and I had a 
great time for a while. He had just come back as a merchant 
seaman from Paris. There he had acquired a lot of really 
fascinating books. He had Jean Genet, whom I had never heard of. 
I had read [Marcel] Proust, [Andre] Gide, and I was fascinated by 
Gide s journals particularly, because, in a sense, they persuaded 
me that it was possible to be self-conscious, and that was like a 
positive practice, and somehow I think I had grown up thinking 
that was a negative practice being self-conscious. But Genet and 
Celine were something else entirely. 

Carl and I were there together for some time, then one day 
Allen Ginsberg showed up. Now there we were, three weirdos out of 
the literary world. Carl had Christopher Smartthat was a great 
little library that he had brought with himand [Louis-Ferdinand] 
Celine. The problem was that at P.I. they thought Carl was 
really, totally crazy, insane; they gave him first insulin shock 
and then electric shock, which took him pretty far out of it. 

Allen came because he had been acting weird at Columbia 
[University] . Mark Van Doren and Trilling and all those people 
decided there was some kind of problem--! can t remember what 
happened. I think there was a trial of some sort involved, too. 
Anyway, we wound up at P.I. together and we had a number of 
adventures. We drove one of the aides crazy. One of the aides 
had to be taken away in a straight jacket! 

Carl was very mischievous. We used to play ping-pong with 
this aide, and if he was losing, we always changed the score to 
where he was winning. When he was winning, we changed it so that 
he was losing. He wasn t very balanced; I mean, we were patients, 
you know? He should have understood, but he never did. [chuckle] 
What finally drove him over the brink- -it was Easter, and they had 
put these papier-mache bunnies up on the tables where we ate. 
Carl went into the bathroom and masturbated into the inside of 
this rabbit, and then put it back on the table and it drooled out 
this little pool of cum. The aide came and said, "What is that?" 


Carl said, "I jerked off into it." The guy went mad, and they 
took him away. 

Later on, I was at the San Remo with Carl, and a blind man 
came in and asked the way to the men s room. Carl took him, and 
when he came back to the bar, I said, "Carl, that was really 
unlike you." He said, "No, it wasn t; I took him to the ladies 
room." [laughter] 

So there we were. We misbehaved badly and consciously. We 
were in an asylum, and we acted out, and of course they think we 
were crazy. Anyway, eventually, I got out for the weekends 
because nobody thought that I was dangerous. But Carl and Allen 
couldn t get out for the weekends because they were under 
observation. Carl was having shock and Allen supposedly had 
violent episodes. So they asked me if I would bring some grass in 
when I came back. I did, and then they turned me in to the 
authorities. They were acting out Genet did that with his 
confederatesand they felt that was something they wanted to 
experience. Of course, both Allen and Carl were gay, and I was 
not. Anyway, I was ready to leave by that time. 

John Hoffman and the Norwegian M.S . Bowhill 

Stern: John Hoffman was still in New York, and he and I wanted a change 
of scene. So we decided we were going to go to sea. Actually, I 
think I got inspired for that by what Carl had told me about his 
time as a merchant seaman. We couldn t get American seaman s 
papers; it was really a catch-22 at that time. We would go to the 
union, we would ask for union papers, and they would say, "Well, 
you have to get a job first." You d go to a shipping company, and 
they would say, "We can t hire anybody who s not union." They 
would send you back and forth, and it was hopeless. 

We heard that there was a hiring hall for Scandinavian 
seamen in Brooklyn. We finally found the address, and we went 
there, and they hired us on the spot. We left later that day on 
the M.S. Bowhill from Bergen [Norway] --a Norwegian shipfor South 

We had two jobs that were offered to us: one was galley boy, 
and the other was the officers mess boy. John was a space cadet, 
I mean, before the term was invented. He was blond, tall, and 
very skinny, and he came from the peninsula south of San 
Francisco. He was really good-looking, but he had this vacant 
kind of look in his eyes . And he was a really good poet . So he 


said to me, "Which job do you want?" And I said, "I think I would 
take the officers mess boy, and you take the galley, John." And 
John says, "Well, I think I ll take the officers mess boy." I 
said, "All right," but the reason I was going to take it is 
because I think it was the more difficult jobdealing with the 
officers. He said, "I can deal with the officers." Well, he 
should have taken the galley boy job because he got into nothing 
but trouble, he was so spaced out even without any drugs. We 
tried to score some grass before we got on board, but we got 
burned by Bob Kaufman. 

Finally, we got to Rio [de Janeiro, Brazil], and John had to 
clean the cabins. Part of his job was cleaning the cabins. He 
had devised this method of cleaning the cabins by taking a pail of 
soapy water and throwing it on the floor, and he would lay on the 
officer s bunk and read with the door locked until the motion of 
the sea had drained all the water, then run the mop a little over 
the deck and leave a couple of soapy streaks. The officers 
expected him to scrub the cabin deck on his hands and knees every 

So we get into port and we get leave off the ship, and John 
thinks he s a smart guy, and he goes through each of the cabins 
and throws a bucket of water on the floor and then closes up the 
cabins. Of course, the ship was laying at the dock, and it wasn t 
moving [laughter] so the officers all found water on the floors in 
their cabins. Then they understood what had been happening. It 
didn t go over too well. 

I had a good time in the galley. I got to peel potatoes and 
wash pots, and I got to drink a lot of beer because the cook was a 
twenty-one-year-old Dane. He was fantastic. Seamen are very 
particular because food is about the only thing that they really 
get. They don t get paid very much, and it s hard work. He was 
fabulous; he was one of those people who could cut a turkey, slice 
the whole thing and then put it back together, and you wouldn t 
see that it had been cut up. So I had a good life; I ate well, I 
drank well, and the work wasn t that bad. John had it worse. 

We had taken all kinds of books of poetry, and one of the 
books we took was a surrealist work--Les Chants de Maldoror by the 
Comte de Lautreamont who happened to be born in Montevideo 
[Uruguay], which was one of the ports that we were going to. It 
was a coincidence that John happened to have the book. We felt 
that it was very poignant. So we read the poems to each other. 
We would lie out on the hatch under the moonlight. It was a good 


Poetry and Trouble in Brazil ## 

Stern: In Rio, we were looking for suspicious -looking characters, and we 
would go up to them and say, "Marijuana?" One of them started 
screaming and yelling, "Calaboso, Calaboso" which means "jail". 
We ran down the street fast, because he was calling for the police 
to grab us. We never did manage to score. 

I nearly got killed in Santos [Brazil] , which is a heavy- 
duty Brazilian port- -we got into the nightclub and bar scene. I 
wound up spending a few nights with a little seventeen-year-old 
girl, Huda, who was quite precious. We went to Argentina, to 
Uruguay, and when we came back, we went to the bar again, and she 
wasn t there. There were some other young girls that were having 
some drinks with us. I was very friendly with an Australian who 
was an engineer on board and John had done something wrong, I 
remember, and they didn t give him leave that time- -but the 
original girl came, and she and the new one that was sitting at 
the table got into a big fight clawing each other up, and before 
you knew it the whole bar was fighting. Somebody hit me on the 
head with a bottle, and the Australian dragged me out and got me 
back to the ship. Two days later I came down with gonorrhea, and 
the first mate had heard about this whole ruckus and he was very 
stern and so Scandinavian that he could barely speak English. 
"See what that kind of behavior does to you?" And he takes this 
syringe like it was a knife, and he sticks it into my rump, 
[chuckle] I got cured very fast anyway, so that wasn t too bad. 

John and I were writing poetry like mad on that trip. I 
don t know whatever happened to a lot of it. I have a lot of his 
poems; in fact, the famous reading you remember at the Beat 
Conference they were saying who had read, and they said Philip 
read that night but he didn t read his poems. 

Byerly: Yes. 

Stern: That was John s poems that he read that night. John, by that 
time, died very, very young. He was found on the beach at 
Zihuatanejo in Mexico dead. What probably happened is he had an 
overdose and lay down to sleep in the sun, and the drug and the 
sun killed him. 

He was an abuser, you know? The abusive personalities are 
so dif ferent--I ve always enjoyed and appreciated getting high. 
I ve been smoking grass ever since I was seventeen years old. I 
can still get high on two or three tokes. I don t need to smoke 
any more than that. I ve never been into hard drugs; I ve done a 
lot of acid and peyote, but not for many years, and I don t need 


it anymore because those were very ecstatic experiences. One of 
my own sons is a chronic abuser. His mother s family were all 
abusers of one sort or another. He s living on the piers in San 
Francisco at this very moment. 

John and I got back from South America, and, ever since I 
had my appendicitis operation, I had a hernia which kind of popped 
out. The Europeans had very different ways of treating things; 
all through my childhood I wore this belt which had a thing on it 
to keep the hernia in place. Ridiculous. It was terrible--! 
mean, when you re in gym and had to wear a thing like that. So I 
decided since now I had the protection of the Veterans 
Administration because- -even as a foreign seaman, if you have an 
American passport you qualifiedso I went to the V.A. Hospital to 
have my hernia fixed. But it was another Kafkaesque institution, 
and I couldn t hack it so I managed to get my clothes and spirit 
myself out of there after two days . There were all these old men 
with really serious diseases. I was on this big ward --whew- -it 
was not conducive . So it was years before I finally got that 
condition operated on. 

Hitchhiking to California 

Stern: I was living with my friends the Kisburgs, and I got this letter 
from California, from Jane. It was very enticing. As you have 
noted, she wrote well. It was like a clear invitation of some 
sort. I didn t know what it was, but I responded. I got on the 
road, and hitchhiked out to California. By that time, they were 
living in Berkeley, on the flats. Wally, her husband, was a sheet 
metal worker. I wouldn t say he was conservative, but he was a 
working man; he worked every day, and he had a working-class life, 
and he was satisfied with it. But she wanted more, more, more, 
more, more, and more. So she was always extending herself out of 
that family life in many directions. 

Hitchhiking with Jane to New York 

Stern: When I came to stay with themshe was a big potsmoker, tooafter 
a day or so, we immediately fell into bed. She wanted to know 
what I wanted to do, and I didn t have any idea what I wanted to 
do. I mean, I was just hanging out and scuffling my way through 
life. I had come out there basically because I received a letter, 
and because I had liked California the first time. Within days 


she had, with my total assent, decided that we were going to go 
back to the East Coastshe had never been to New York, and she 
had this friend, Violet, who was on the East Coast. But first she 
wanted to go visit various friends of hers to say goodbye. Here 
we were, her husband and herself and her three girls little kids 
--staying in her house in Berkeley, and we re making plans to run 
away together. It was beyond my ken, really. She was much older 
than I was, but she was very attractive and very passionate. 

Off we go, and first we went to stay with some of her 
friends near Los Gatos on a mountain near a town (Alma) which is 
now at the bottom of a reservoir-- Jack and Shirley Shore. He was 
a jazz musician, and Shirley was a singer. I think they only had 
one child at the time. 

Jack was a pacifist. We had mutual friends like Paul 
Goodman and Bill Everson and so forth. But Jack was violent; 
pacifism is often one face of people who have very intense 
emotions. It was true of Frank Triest; he was a pacifist, but he 
also had these violent tendencies, right? I saw Jack Shore the 
pacifist, who had been a conscientious objector both in jail and 
camps, tear a telephone out of the wall and throw it at his wife. 
It kind of upset me. It kept on happening in my life I mean, Lew 
Hill, who was not only a conscientious objector but who started 
KPFA and with whom I worked closely, committed suicide. Self- 
violence. A very odd kind of matching emotions. 

So we visited Jack and his wife for a few days, and this was 
all really bohemian, a lot of pot, poetry, music and having a 
great time. 

Then we hitchhiked up to Eureka [California] , where Jane 
came from. I met her mother. I met her father, which was not a 
very nice experience. Later in life, he used to refer to me as 
his refugee kike son-in-law. He was really some piece of work. A 
dentist, an American Legionnaire, and a Mason. We stayed with a 
good friend of hers that she had grown up with a man named 
Wallace Look, who was a librarian at Arcata, at the CSU 
[California State University] campus there. A gay guy, very 
civilized. We were very friendly in later years. Later, he spent 
some years in a monastery. 

Arrival in New York and Odd Jobs 

Stern: And then we hitchhiked back to New York, which was quite an 

experience. We went to a cowboy barbecue in New Mexico; we were 


picked up by a cowboy and his wife who had just won a race with 
the horse which was in the back of the pickup truck. Grand old 
time. All the experiences weren t positive, but anyway, we got 
back to New York, and we got a cheap place to live. I didn t have 
any prospects for what I would do for work. At that time, in San 
Francisco, wherever there was a public place they had metal 
containers with advertisements from hotels and restaurants for 
tourists, but we didn t have those in New York. I thought maybe I 
could get something together like that. So I tried it, but I 
didn t have the right connections; so finally I gave it up. 

Violet, Jane s friend, was working as a taxi dancer at a 
ten-cents-a-dance place down on Fourteenth Street, and over my 
strenuous objections, Jane went to work there. She enjoyed it; 
she really enjoyed it. She met a lot of strange people there, 
among them Ross Russell he was a record producer. He produced a 
lot of Charlie Parker s music, a lot of interesting jazz. 

In the meantime, we had found a nice railroad flat up on 
101st Street on the West Side. And I was painting it and 
decorating it. I got a bunch of odd jobs, I remember. I got a 
job in a factory where I was supposedly putting plastic insulation 
onto copper wire, you know, electrical wire. The machines were 
very old, but I still couldn t keep up with them. I was the only 
non-Puerto Rican working in the factory, and at the time I didn t 
know any Spanish. It was another disaster in my employment 

Oh, I forgot that when I was out here I did have a little 
job- -that was a bizarre job, too. It was loading tin cans into 
railroad cars. John, I think, had the job, and he got it for me. 
You had this kind of a fork with a lot of pegs on it, and the cans 
came down a belt, and you stuck this fork into them--I can t 
remember if it was ten or twelve cansand you ran from this belt, 
up a little ramp and into the railroad car, and you would stack 
these cans. Now if you weren t in total sync with the other 
person who was doing this same thing, and you didn t get back to 
the belt on time, the cans all erupted into madness and chaos and 
rolled all over the place. I didn t last on that one either. 

So here was Jane working as a taxi dancer and having several 
affairs on the side with people that she had met there, which also 
didn t please her employers. She was supposed to be making money 
for the house. And Violet had--I don t know--a protector who was 
some kind of a criminally involved person. She had a little 
daughter alsowho had she been married to? She was a friend of 
Shirley Triest also. I think she was married to--Radha [Stern, 
Gerd s daughter] will rememberto the diver? 


Byerly: Al Podesta? 

Stern: There was some kind of a mixed relationship there, 
think she had been long gone from that marriage. 

Anyway , I 

New Paltz. New York 

Stern: We decided to go back to California to visit. Jane was getting 
letters from her grandmother who was ailing. Her grandmother 
always finished her letters by saying, "And I don t know how 
anybody could leave God s country." Eureka being God s country. 
Have you been to Eureka? Eureka s quite a place. There s a 
graveyard on the seashore between Eureka and Arcata, and there s a 
redwood tombstone there. I guess it s still there. It says--I 
can t remember the guy s name it says, "Murdered by capitalism." 
He was a Wobbly. 

So we got an ancient car--I think it was an old Pontiac--for 
very little money. We started out in the rain from New York, and 
we got onto the Pulaski Skyway; it still exists. In the rain a 
car hit us from behind, and we hit the car in front; our car was 
demolished. So we had to regroup. So we hitchhiked back out. 

We spent some time here- -we kept actually going back and 
forth quite a lot. When we got back to New York, I had been doing 
babysitting and some odd jobs for a family, the Habermans. He had 
a mother who lived on an old farm in New Paltz, New York. The 
name was Thorborg Ellison. She was a bohemian from the early part 
of the century, and she knew all of the figures of that era. They 
were all her friends, and she had signed paintings and books, and 
she was married at the time to a really mad Yugoslavian. She had 
her farm with a lot of buildings that she wanted to have renovated 
so she could get some rental income. The idea was that she would 
give Jane and I a place to live, and I would work, and she would 
feed us. That was like heaven sent. So we moved into an old 
granary; it was a little larger than this room, and it had a loft. 
It was attached to the barn, and that s the first thing we did, we 
made it into a livable space; it was lovely. We ate with them in 
the big house, and I worked, and I wrote. Jane did little artsy- 
craftsy things, and she helped Thorborg with the kitchen. Jane 
was a very good cook. 

We weren t married yet. There were other places to stay--we 
had visitors. Carl Solomon--at this time, Carl was out of the 
Psychiatric Institute, and he had married a very nice lady, Olive, 
and--I forgot to mention a girl at the time named Fran Deitsch, 


who had been going to Temple Arts School with my friend Mona whom 
I mentioned before. And we had gotten involved in the Village. 
In the meantime, she had married Jay Landesman, who was the 
publisher of a little magazine, Erotica, which featured Carl and 
Allen and a lot of people in those days. We were all quite 
friendly. Carl and Olive and Jane and I were very close; they 
would come up for the weekend quite often, and others of our 
friends from New York would come up and stay, and it was very 

Thorborg--we got along. She was a really odd bird. She 
gave me a piece of land which I later had to give back. We got 
kind of involved in the community. At that time, New Paltz was 
only a teachers college; now it s a rather substantial campus. 
Other artists lived around. Right above the farm, huge properties 
belonged to the Smileys--a Quaker family that owned Mohonk resort 
they were kind of despotic patrons. A lot of the locals there 
were their tenant farmers. 

There was an incident where a farmer down the road who was 
an old radical had painted his barn orange because he had gotten 
some cheap paint. The Smileys didn t like it because when they 
looked down from the mountain there was this orange spot. His 
wife was a teacher, and the Smileys came down and they said, 
"Look. We want you to repaint your barn, and we ll give you the 
paint because it s just an eyesore." And he said, "No way." A 
few weeks later his wife was called into the principal s office 
and was told, "Your husband is making problems in the community, 
and it is going to reflect on your position in the schools. Now 
the Smileys have offered the paint for him to repaint his barn, 
and I think it would be a good idea if you persuaded him to 
repaint the barn if you re really interested in keeping your job." 
I m just telling you this story because it s indicative of that 
period. And the guy repainted his barn- -these people, you know, 
the Smileys --Quakers, pacifists, people who you would have thought 
were of liberal bent, but that was the way they behaved in the 
community. And they kept the local farmers in a position of 
servitude. I mean, you wouldn t have thought it existed in the 
twentieth century, but it did. They got some food, they got free 
firewood which they could cut on the land. They were basically 
kept in bondage. And those properties still exist, but now of 
course there are no more tenant farmers . It s now a very fabulous 
resort. You can t drive there; you park, and then they have 
carriages with horses. 

New Paltz was an experience. I renovated a large chicken 
coop, and a Juilliard composer named Marga Richter, who I wrote an 
oratorio with, moved in with her Steinway piano, and unfortunately 
she left her kerosene stove on--the whole thing burned down. This 


caused some tragic circumstances, and of course Thorborg was very 
angry at us, and it wasn t insured. Marga was insured for the 
piano, but anyway--it kind of disintegrated the relationship. 

Marriage to Jane Hill 

Stern: In the meantime, Jane had gotten pregnant, and we were married by 
a justice of the peace who was watching television over our heads. 
And this was by a justice of the peace. We decided on getting 
married in Austerlitz because it was the town where Edna St. 
Vincent Millay had lived. 

We decided when all of these bad vibes happened at the farm 
that we would go back to California. Coincidentally, this 
musician whom we had known in California- -Keith, his strange wife, 
Barbarawe all drove out together here. It was some trip. I 
think we went through the national parksaw Old Faithful we had 
a high time driving out. And Jane was quite pregnant. 

Jane had an old friend, a doctor, Marion Wagner, who lived 
at that time in San Jose [California] , and we spent some time with 
her. We had actually stayed with her on a previous trip. She was 
gay, and she came from a fairly well-known California family. She 
was a very generous and intelligent woman. 

Stern: We re about at the point where our son Adam was born, which was in 
San Jose, and he was delivered by Dr. Wagner whom I was just 
talking about. 

I did leave out the publication or the printingof my 
first book of poems, First Poems and Others. One of the jobs I 
had in New York one of the times when I was doing odd jobs I 
worked for Clarence, a friend who had a photo offset shop where 
they did mailing and folding and all that stuff. I was kind of 
good at organizing that stuff. I got him to agree to help me put 
out my first book of poems. It was in the [Greenwich] Village so 
we called it the Village Press. It s a handmade book, really, 
called First Poems and Others, and my friend Ivan Majdrakoff did 
the illustrations, and Julia Pearl, his first wife, did the 
calligraphy, the hand lettering of the poems, which I think are 
quite good. And I ve loved Ivan s work ever since we ve known 
each other. And I still do. There s a painting of his right here 
in the next room; in fact, several of his works are, including the 
one hanging right there [points] which is an early piece, about 


the same period that he did the illustrations for my book. It was 
a fairly limited edition, and it was put together by hand and hand 
stapled, and the cover was made by hand. It was a small edition, 
and it was quickly sold outmostly by friends and acquaintances 
and various people. I think it took another fifteen or twenty 
years before the second book, and it s taken over thirty years 
since the second book for anything else left. I m writing now, 
actually, for another book, but who knows? 

I would really rather do a CD--a spoken version CD, maybe 
with some music, because I agree with what was brought up at the 
Beat Conference at the UC, at The Bancroft Library by Lawrence 
Ferlinghetti--that we managed to re-oralize the poetic tradition, 
which had gotten to the point where it had become just words on a 
printed page. During much of my life, I ve written poetry in 
print, but also written in visual print; in artwork rather than 
just in books. A lot of my audiovisual experiments have been done 
with poetry. 

When we came back out here [California] , Adam was born, and 
we stayed here. We lived for a time in Berkeley, also down on the 
flats near the bay. We had a very active literary and social 
life. I m just trying to think, and it isn t coming back too 
quickly, about the following sequence of events. 

Byerly: What was that literary life like? 

Stern: Well, Kenneth Rexroth was kind of the major glue of the literary 
life in the San Francisco world. And he had a weekly salon--! 
can t remember offhand whether it was Friday nights or Saturday 
nights--but everyone was welcome. Whether we were totally friends 
with Kenneth was beside the point; practically everyone went to 
his soirees. Sometimes there were periods during which, for 
instance, Robert Duncan wouldn t be there or other people would 
stay away. But in general, everyone kind of circulated through- - 
anybody who came to town in that world would wind up there. And 
it was an opportunity to meet and to exchange information and to 
listen to people s work. Later, I actually took a workshop from 
Kenneth; the only poetry workshop I was ever involved with except 
for a couple I ve given myself. 

Byerly: Is this at the Scott Street apartment? 
Stern: Yes, I believe so. 
Byerly: So you and Jane-- 


Stern: No, not necessarily; sometimes. Jane and I, I, alone, and later 
on Ann and I would go. 

Byerly: Was Jane into the literary scene? 

Stern: No, not so much. 1 think Jane didn t like the company of well- 
known people, actually. 

Byerly: Why? 

Stern: Well, you may not take this well. Jane liked to be the center of 
attention. She was not comfortable in situations where she was 
not the center of attention. In a salon like Kenneth s, she would 
have been outnumbered, outranked, and outspoken- -not in that sense 
of the word, but you know, there was no opportunity for anyone. 
Kenneth would rap ad infinitum, and you could not get a word in 
edgewise. Some people would scream and yell to get a word in 
edgewise. There was a lot of disagreement with Kenneth because 
Kenneth had opinions about just everything, and they were not 
ordinary opinions or the common opinions either. A lot of them 
weren t even his opinions; they were just provocations. He was a 
very provocative guy. He would do anything to get a rise out of 
people, especially out of somebody whom he found on the other side 
of radical politics, and I don t necessarily mean conservatives, 
but I mean in those days the schisms were--Kenneth was a 
prototypical Chicago product, and there s a certain- -Nelson 
Algren, Kenneth Rexroth, Paul Goodman- - there s a certain 
sensibility that comes out of that midwestern capital which is 
very different than what you get from New York or from the West 
Coast, or even from other midwestern cities like where Michael 
McClure and some of that whole gang comes from. 

I guess, one of the principal connections for Kenneth was 
labor. The labor movement was very important to him. He was 
about as far from labor s proletariat as you could get. [chuckle] 
But, he identified with workers, he wore the clothes, he had the 
street talk. I don t know how much taped archive there is of 
Kenneth; I imagine there would be some, but if you ever listen to 
it, he had great rhythm. And you know, he was unafraid of any 
endeavor. I mean, the man translated from languages which he 
didn t know, which he only knew through the dictionary, and 
fearlessly, and a lot of them are really great translations. He 
was an exceptional being. What I learned from him was one thing: 
I had written a poem with the word "bird" in it. He got very 
upset. "Aw, come on, Gerd, what the fuck kind of a bird is that? 
It s gotta be a bird, not just bird." Precise images are what we 
were looking for. Well, I disagreed with him about the bird, but 
he s right; you need the precise image. Sometimes it can be the 
generic bird; it doesn t have to be a particular bird. I got into 


a lot of trouble later on with that very thing with Hayakawa. He 
published a number of my poems in his magazine. He rejected one 
in which I used the image "washed idol." So he decided that that 
was not a precise image. It happened to be a very precise image; 
I had picked up a little figure of a Buddha outside my barge in 
the dirt, and I washed it off. I was standing there on my barge, 
and I said, "washed idol," and that s what it was to me. We had a 
terrible argument, he didn t print the poem, never printed another 
poem of mine, and we stopped fishing together. [laughter] 

We used to go out in Leon Adams little boat. And Hayakawa, 
who was not really Oriental in the sense of having been born 
there- -he was from Canada, but he was a sashimi addict, and he had 
these sharp knives, and we would catch a striped bass, and without 
further ado we would be eating it within five minutes. Now that s 
really an experience to eat fish right out of the water. Very 
different. Anyway, that s much later than what I m talking about 

I don t know whether we should just jump or not. Should we 
jump? Don t jump. Jump, brother! Jump with care, jump in the 
presence punch it is Mark Twain. Punch, brother! Punch with 
care, punch in the presence of the passenger. It s a rhyme that 
he wrote when he was riding on a train, and he couldn t get it out 

of his mindit was part of a short story of Mark Twain s. 
the conductor s punching of the ticket. 

It s 

Where were we? We were with Jane. All right, so we re in 
Berkeley and we re--! don t know 

Byerly: How old was Jane at this time? 

Stern: I don t know. The age thing and the years thing we re going to 
have to think about. 

Byerly: How much older was she than you? 
Stern: Oh, more than a decade. Nearly two. 
Byerly: Almost twenty years older. 

Stern: Fifteen, maybe. She wound up being over twenty years younger than 
her next husband, but they were never married. They might just as 
well have been. 

Byerly: She was never married to Bill Buck? 
Stern: No. 





She has his name. 

That s what I said: they might as well have been. You can check 
with Radha, but I m 99 percent sure they never married. 

We got involved in the jazz scene also. I used to spend a 
lot of time listening to jazz. 

In San Francisco? 
Yes, in San Francisco? 
What was that like? 

What was it like? It was super duper. I first got into jazz on 
the East Coast. The time, for instance, when I was talking about 
that girl who followed me to San Francisco, Lorraine Oyl--I met 
her when I was the garden counselor at this camp from the 
Arbeiterskreis, a part of the Jewish Workers Circle, a radical 
Jewish organization. A lot of the people you are working with, 
bohemians and radicals from California, came out of that movement, 

I know they used the Workmen s Center; is that it? 
Jewish Workmen s Center? 

Was it a 

Stern: The Workmen s Circle, it was called. David and Belle. All those 
people came out of that movement. A lot of people who were in 
that movement came from New York. 

They had a summer camp called Unser Camp, which means Our 
Camp [in German]. The children s camp was called Camp Kinderwelt. 
You know, Children s World. And I was a counselor there. That 
was the year that Dizzy Gillespie s Manteca came out. I remember 
hitchhiking down to New York to buy it. We had a band at the camp 

that played at night at what was called the casino, 
father was the concessionaire. 

Lorraine s 

I had originally gotten the job because I went to public 
school with a kid named Sheldon Secunda, and his father was Sholom 
Secunda, who wrote [sings], "Bei Mir Bist du Schoen." You know 
that song? That s a famous Jewish popular song. It was a big 
hit, and he sold it for thirty- five bucks, and other people made 
fortunes on that song. He was the musical director at Unser Camp. 
I got this job as the garden counselor, and that was also the year 
that that tune [sings], "There was a boy, da da da da da," which 
was called Nature Boy. That s what they called me. I had my 
beard already. I was called Nature Boy, and they would hum that 
tune every time they saw me. Drove me nuts. [laughter] 


That summer I really got heavily into the new jazz. I had 
been listening to Dixieland and Chicago music, but the first sound 
of Bop really grabbed my ears. It was like what I felt my poetry 
was about . And that s in a sense what I had in common with a lot 
of the people that we were talking about yesterday at the 
conference. I mean, I didn t like Jack Kerouac for various 
reasons. But he had a great ear for jazz. He understood the 
rhythms. So did a lot of other people like David Meltzer, who 
read yesterday. He s got a fantastic connection to jazz rhythms. 
Mine are more of the broken rhythms like Bird. I knew Bird, I 
knew most of those people in that music world. In later years, I 
spent practically every night of the week at the Black Hawk 

Byerly: Here in San Francisco? 

Stern: Yes, it was run by a family named Noga. 

We wound up moving to Mill Valley, to Throckmorton Street, 
with some friends that we had met through the jazz world: a couple 
named Pam and Bill Loughborough and a single guy named David 
Wheat. But nobody called him by that name; everybody knew him as 
Buckwheat. He was a jazz bass player and guitar player. Bill was 
an electronic engineer working for the government, and they were 
both big heads. That was a time at which pot smoking was a big 

Actually we didn t move directly to Mill Valley. We moved 
to San Francisco first. We moved to San Francisco and then to 
Mill Valley. We got involved in a kind of a crafts business. It 
kind of developed slowly. Buckwheat was working on athere s so 
many threads to this, I don t know which one to tell first. 

Meanwhile, KPFA had been organized by poets, basicallyby 
Lew Hill. Lew was I mentioned him in terms of the conscientious 
objector Lew was from a very wealthy family down in Oklahoma. 
His theory was that what America was lacking was a practice of 
real communication- -of cultural communication. And he was 
determined to give that to the nation, and he was determined to be 
president of the United States. I ve never met anyone else in my 
life who was determined that he was going to be president of these 
United States. And he was serious about it. In a sense, I think 
it killed him. He managed to persuade the Ford Foundation, which 
was under the leadership of --you know, as I get older my name 
memory bank somehow disappearsbut you know, the famous youthful 
president of the University of Chicago- -Robert Hutchins who then 
became the head of the Ford Foundation. We ll recover it; it s an 
easy recovery. He believed Lew s concept; he believed in it, and 
he funded the beginnings of KPFA which was not an easy thing to 

do. It was the first listener-sponsored station; it was a brand- 
new idea. It was a station which was FM--frequency modulated in 
a day when very few people had FM receivers, and the content was 
not something that was available over the airwaves. 

The other poet who was seminal at KPFA--Pacifica Foundation 
was the parent organizationwas Dick Moore, Richard Moore, who 
then later went to KQED. I don t know whatever happened to 
Richard in poetry; I admired his work very much. But he kind of 
got sidetracked into broadcasting. I m not sure whether he kept 
on writing. 

Lew lived up in Duncans Mills, very close to Shirley and 
Frank, and they knew each other. And I became the public 
relations director of KPFA. My basic job was to persuade people 
to subscribe to the station, but there wasn t much point in 
subscribing to the station unless they could listen to it. 

I was lucky enough to somehow get involved with a company 
called Granco, which I believe was Japanese. The Japanese made 
these little FM receivers which you could plug into your amplifier 
and your speakers. They were cute little things, and they were 
not very expensive. What we did was we devised a system by which 
you could buy one of these as part of your subscription, and then 
we would send in a crew to install an antenna- -you had to buy the 
antenna. And we went all the way down into the valley- -into 
Stockton and Bakers field and down through the Monterey Peninsula 
and up north. We got hundreds of new subscribers. It wasn t that 
that could support the whole budget of the station, but it brought 
credibility to the funders--like the Ford Foundation- -that we 
actually had a viable, intellectual, cultural audience in 
California. It was a very satisfying practice. 

The problem was that Lew s ambition was so much greater and 
his weakness was that he was so into diversity of opinion that he 
hired people who could not work together. It was a continuous 
battle on intellectual and conceptual grounds at KPFA, and it 
obstructed the working. We did some incredible programs that I 
was involved with. We did a series on poetryit was his idea 
and he got it funded by Ford. Wallace Stevens, you know, various 
voices reading the poems and then explicating them. We produced 
Alan Watts and Grace Clements, whom I talked to you about the 
other day. 

It was the first time that I had really gotten seriously 
near tape recorders. I had a wire recorder, which was a very 
difficult technology, but it preceded tape. I was always 
interested in sound and the preserving of sound. At KPFA, at this 
point, I was also working with Harry Partch Harry, you know, was 


an American composer, now dead, who developed the system of music 
which depended on a non- tempered scale and which required the 
building of instruments, which could play non- tempered scales of 
various and exotic designs. Some of them are based on Greek 
models , and some of them on more primitive models like marimbas . 

I was really impressed by Harry as a person. Jaime de 
Angulo was the first person whom I felt was a creative genius and 
totally out of the ordinary. I had met Henry Miller, but Henry 
was kind of--I mean, you could sit around with Henry, and he was 
like people. There are some figures that transcend that; Jaime 
was like that, and Harry Partch was even more so. There was only 
one of him. 

I met Philip Lamantia, and I remained close to him for 
years, until the last couple of decades. Philip was a very young 
protege of some of the French surrealists. He was in San 
Francisco, and he came from an Italian family here. His father 
was a produce merchant. 



One day Philip and I went to visit the Onslow-Fords, who lived up 
here on the mountain in Mill Valley, in a large Victorian mansion. 
Jacqueline was a San Francisco heiress who married an English 
baronet who was a painter and also part of the surrealist group in 
Paris in the early days . He then became kind of an Orientalist 
who was a patron of Suzuki Roshi s and Alan Watts --that whole 
group of people. Gordon owned the ferryboatthe 7allejo--which 
lay outside of Gate Five in the shipyards and belonged to a 
Portuguese Sausalitan man, Donlon Arques. The Vallejo was on one 
side of Gordon s studio, and, on the other side, it was the studio 
of Jean Varda. Do you know who he was? 

Byerly: I ve heard the name. 

Stern: Yes. Well, Jean also came out of that Parisian world. He was 

Greek, though. He was a fabulous painter and a social animal of 
the first degree. I mean, he had parties, and he had a marvelous 
boat with a lateen rig that we sailed around the bay on. You 
could fill it up with everyone in the art world in the San 
Francisco Bay Area. 

We met Harry at this soiree of the Onslow-Fords, and he was 
carrying on about his musical theories, and I was enthralled. 
Then I heard his music, and I was further enthralled. He needed 
someone to manage his ensemble; he didn t have a penny to squeeze 
together, and I volunteered. And I was with Harry with some 
years. We never had any money, but we had absolutely incredible 


experiences of putting together very complex works and building 
instruments . 

Harry was the child of American missionaries in China. He 
was born in China, but he was 199 percent American-grade person. 
He had been a hobo, he was in the Southwest and California, he 
traveled all over the country on the rails, and one of his works 
was called U.S. Highball, which was the story of his hobo days and 
the whole hobo life. I still think it s one of the greatest works 
in American music. 

At the time, he had his studio in one of the old shipyard 
buildings down there. We were by this time living on Throckmorton 
in Mill Valley. One day after I spent so many months working with 
Harry, Gordon invited me to lunch on the Vallejo. Gordon 
stuttered I don t imagine he s still alive. He was a wonderful, 
kind of comical figure. He was so British, and his paintings were 
unique. They were kind of hard to take seriously because they 
were sowhat should I say?--they were formula paintings. He had 
ideas he had this, like, spirals, for instance, which he used as 
an element in many of his paintings in this period that I m 
talking about. I m not speaking badly about his paintings; I 
really enjoyed his paintings but they were more of an idea than 
actual--. He was so wrapped up in calligraphy and Zen and that 
world. And that s a world of ideas. 

The Barge 

Stern: At this lunch he said to me, "G-G-G-Gerd, Jacqueline and I," she 
wasn t thereshe was a beautiful, beautiful woman, and she had 
one of those high voices, and she always wore flowing robes and 
scarves that were transparent. Jacqueline was too much. Anyhow, 
Gordon says, "Jacqueline and I are so appreciative of what you ve 
done for Harry. I want to give you something, Gerd." I was ready 
to be given something, you know? [laughter] I think maybe dollar 
signs were dancing in my head, because they were rich. He had a 
lot of trouble bringing it out. He says, "Y-Y-You know I own this 
land here on the waterfront . " He had a little piece there which 
was right in the middle of the Arques shipyards . "What I would 
like to offer you is a berth for a barge." There was a lot of 
stuttering which I m not going to try to imitate. I was 
dumbfounded. It was like, you know, what kind of an offer is 
that? A berth for a barge? I didn t have a barge. I didn t have 
much money to eat, much less buy a barge, you know? But I was 
nice, I said, "Thank you very much. It is a great gesture," and 


so forth and so on. To be a neighbor of his and Yanko--Jean Varda 
was called Yanko--would have been great. 

About two weeks later, I was having a drink at the Tin 
Angel, which was owned by Peggy Tolk-Watkins . Peggy was a Black 
Mountain product, and although we hadn t been at Black Mountain at 
the same time, it wasanybody who had ever been at Black Mountain 
had a bond with anybody else. Peggy was a fantastic character. 
Do you know something about her? 

Byerly: Peggy. What s her last name? 

Stern : Tolk-Watkins . 

Byerly: And it was a barge? The Tin Angel? 

Stern: The Tin Angel was not a barge, it was built on stilts. It was 
right on the water in Sausalito, right on the middle of the 
causeway. Peggy was a raging dyke. I mean, she was something 
else- -not a violent person, but an intense, strong, raging 
personality. One of her good friends was a sculptress named 
Blanche Sherwood. We were talking at the bar and drinking, and 
she was muttering on about, "Blanche has a fucking problem, blah 
blah blah." I said, "What s the big problem?" She says, "Well, 
there s this barge, and it s stuck on the mud in Don s shipyard, 
and it s costing a fucking fortune, and what are we going to do? 
We should burn the bloody thing." I said, "Barge?" She says, 
"Yeah, it s this big old navy laundry barge, 135 feet long, 30 
feet wide, and Blanche had no business buying it. She should just 
get rid of it." I said, "I ll take it." 

So within a week I owned a barge. A huge barge. And it was 
stuck on the mud. And I went to Arques, whom I didn t know- -great 
guy, a really great guy. Big heavy belly, and he drove tugboats 
around Sausalito. A very ethnic Portuguese, although I think he 
was born here. His father had started the shipyard, and I guess 
it had been a big deal during the war. You know, those were all 
Kaiser yards down there. What were they called? Liberty Ships- 
Kaiser s specials, which were not great boats but they served the 
purpose during the war. I went to Don- -everybody called him Don; 
it was Donlon [spells], which I guess is a Portuguese first name. 

So he said, "You can do it; I ll help you get that barge off 
the damn mud." He didn t like the two ladiesin quotes, 
"ladies". I said, "Hey, tell me what to do." He says, "Well, 
you ve got to get some guys to help you, and it s--" No, no, I m 

sorry; I got this mixed up. 
happens much later. 

I got this completely mixed up. This 



Okay, now we re back at the Tin Angel; we re going to cut 
this whole little part out. I get the barge. The barge is 
sitting in his shipyard, and we get it upthat s right; she 
didn t have anyplace to put it. That was it, she didn t have any 
place to put it. She couldn t live on the barge because you re 
not allowed to live in the shipyard. And the barge was about to 
sink because it had a lot of holes in it. So I went to Don, and 
he knew exactly where Gordon s place was because it was in the 
middle of his shipyard, and he says, "I m sure we can get it out 
there." So we get it out next to the Vallejo, and Buckwheat and 
Bill and Pam and I and Jane and Adam move on it. And we re living 
on the barge. 

Pam? Did you say Pam? 
Yeah, Pamela Loughborough. 
Who s she? 

She was married to Old Bill, 
engineer I told you about. 

Bill Loughborough, the electronic 

Byerly: Right. 

Boobam Bamboo Company 

Stern: Now there was another guy involved with us named Jak Simpson. We 
had founded a little business, and the business was called the 
BooBam Bamboo Drum Company. What we did was we made drums out of 
bamboo. Buckwheat was working on the President Lines as a bass 
player, going to the Orient. 

Byerly: On what lines? 

Stern: President Lines. The ship line that used to take passengers and 
freight. In the Philippines, which was one of their stops, he 
would buy this large diameter giant bamboo and bring back a number 
of sticks of it on the ship. This really came out of the Harry 
Partch world. I had enlisted Bill and Buckwheat into helping 
build instruments for Harry. We had built a marimba which 
delivered tones down to about sixteen cycles, which is barely 
audible. And in order to build something like that and to get the 
coupling of the bar which you hit with a big soft mallet over the 
chamber which resonates --when you can t hear so well, you ve got 
to figure out a way to measure vibration. Now Bill had 
instruments that he borrowed from the Navy Yard which could do 


that. So we were able to work on a new technical level that 
hadn t been possible before, and we were able to tune these 
instruments using an oscilloscope and an audio oscillator and a 
device that read out what the cycles per second were. It used to 
be cps [cycles per second], now it s called hertz, after a man 
named Hertz, who was kind of the progenitor of audio engineering. 
Heinrich Hertz I think his name was Heinrich. 

We had two kinds of drums . We had the drums that had two 
nodes on the end, and we carved an H out of them and tuned them to 
the size of the resonating chamber. You could play them either 
with your fingers or with mallets. And then we took the ones in 
between which were open at both ends, and we put skin caps on them 
like bongos, except we tuned them in half -steps so that if you 
had, like, one -two -three, or you had one-two-three-four-five-six, 
you could play an actual scale on them. A lot of the jazz groups 
and a lot of people generally were fascinated and added them to 
their percussion sections. 

We went to the big music conventions; Jak Simpson and I 
drove there in a Volkswagen Bus filled with drums, and we played 
them and showed them, and we got more orders than we could 
imagine, but we could never fill them. There wasn t enough 
bamboo, and we weren t into making money. The prototype of this 
to me was when I really understood what business was about and 
what--. Many years later I was in Venezuela, and I was into 
cigars, and I found an incredible cigar through--! 11 tell that 
story some other time. But I went to the guy and said, "I would 
like to import them to the United States." He said, "You re a 
friend of friends. I m going to explain to you that I make enough 
cigars for my country. If I wanted to, I could sell cigars all 
over the world. But I just have a few people working with me; 
they ve worked with me for years. I have small fields. I have 
enough money to live here the way I like to live. I don t want to 
be bigger; I just want to be what I am. Do you understand?" And 
I understood. I thought back to the BooBam Bamboo Drum days, and 
I said, "Hey, we didn t have a ghost." If we had just continued 
making them for friends and for jazz musicians, and making them by 
handbut, you know, right away we went to the music convention 
and we were drowned in a world which was beyond us . 

Here we were, and Jane gets pregnant again. We re living on 
the barge. 


Byerly: Did you build a house on the barge? 

Stern: No, it had a house on it. It was a laundry barge, and it had a 
house on it. Blanche had done some work on it. There was a 
beautiful fireplace with a copper hood. 


Byerly: Is that the picture of it? [points] 

Stern: Yeah, that s the picture, but many years later. This was long 

A fabulous place to live. At that time, it was in fairly 
good repair. Anyway, we were attached to the electricity. We had 
electricity, and we had water. What we didn t have was sewage; 
the sewage just went into the bay. Later onwell, that s a later 

Pam had lost a baby. She was pregnant again, and she had to 
spend all of her time in bed. We were heavily into the jazz 
scene, and all of the famous jazz musicians came to the barge. I 
was still working at KPFA for a very meager salary. 

We were all big potheads, right? And we believed we should 
be able to smoke them legally instead of illegally, so we did this 
secret program at KPFA. There were like five people talking about 
pot, and it was broadcast, and the authorities were, I mean, it 
was headlined in the papers. People were really upset, and they 
were looking for us. They didn t know who produced the program in 
the station; most people in the station didn t know. Several 
people who did, refused to talkacted like they didn t know. So 
they never found out who produced it. I think it was like the 
first act of actual media aggression against the authorities on 
that level. Even to this day, I don t think anybody knows who 
produced that program [laughter]: yours truly. It didn t improve 
my position at the station, by the way, among the several people 
who knew it. 

Lewis Hill 

Stern: Lew Hill- -we were extremely, extremely close. We would spend 

weekends up at his place up in Duncans Mills , and he had a little 
printing press there on which I printed one of my poems, and he 
printed his poems . And he accused me of being a typical Jewish 
anarchist, and I wasn t an anarchist by any means. But he felt 
that I was chaotic, and that I wasn t organized, and that I didn t 
understand the agenda which was necessary. His next step was to 
have a first of all, he was trying to replicate KPFA in other 
cities, and then he wanted a chain of newspapers, and once he had 
a chain of newspapers he could get elected president, you see, and 
he needed me and a few other people to be his henchmen. And we 
didn t share his ambitions. [laughter] We enjoyed the concept 
but we didn t want to do the work; I wanted to write poetry, and 


other people wanted to do their thing, and nobody wanted to be in 
politics for sure. Except Lew. 

Now Lew was a terrible womanizer. I mean terrible in the 
sense that it was destructive to him. He had a marriage to a 
childhood sweetheart, he had two children, but he had a long-term 
affair with Richard s wife, Eleanor, which was destructive to his 
marriage. It was kind of a triangle which everybody thought was 
all right, but nobody really prospered under it. And then I had a 
lady who was working as my assistant in public relations. They 
started having an affair, Lew and she, and it got terrifying- -she 
had a husband too, and blah blah blah. 

One day Lew was discovered in his garage. He had connected 
the gas pipe to a tube and committed suicide. I was so angry. I 
don t get angry much, but I felt, like, betrayed and 
disillusioned, you know? Here was this exceptionally intelligent, 
wealthy, talented, organized person, and he had let what I 
considered just a stupid emotional bind that he had gotten into to 
lead him to the point of killing himself? I found it 
inconceivable. Just totally inconceivable. I have never really 
gotten over it. I don t--after all these decades later-- 
understand how that was prompted in him. I understand that he and 
his wifebut a man of his capabilities--. Anyway, that was 

More of Life on the Barge 

Stern: In the meantime, we were on the barge, and Harry Partch--we had 
thirty to forty people involved in an orchestra and a dramatic 
performance with singers. We had finished doing Plectra and 
Percussion dances, and we were on to his Oedipus. A very complex 
piece of work. Harry s main righteous remark on how one led one s 
life was, "If you want it done right, do it yourself." That was 
completely counter to writing a work which involved thirty to 
forty people. And the conflict was enormous; he was an irascible, 
strange dude, you know? He was basically gay but he was in the 
closet for most of his life because of the times. He was a- -what 
do you call people who really are not in tune with women? I can t 
think of the name. 

Byerly: Men? [laughter] 

Stern: Yeah, men. You know what I mean; there s a word. 

Byerly: Misogynist? 

Stern: Yes, he was a misogynist. He had women friends, but he was always 
critical of them. Jacqueline was so good to him. There were many 
women in his life who supported him and were his patrons, who 
really understood what he wanted to do. I don t think he had an 
idea of why he had this strange relationship, but he really liked 
young boys. Eventually, [chuckle] he got into it, which was good. 
He was also an alcoholic, and he didn t use drugs at all. He was 
kind of terrified and against them. 

I was lucky; I managed to interest a lot of people in his 
work. Carl Haverlin, who was the head of BMI [Broadcast Rights 
Incorporated] , and who gave him money from then on for the rest of 
his life. BMI is a rights association like ASCAP [American 
Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers]. You know, every 
time something is played on the radio or television, the composer 
has the right to collect money and do it through these two 
organizations. Carl really appreciated him. He s been dead for 
many years . 

We did Oedipus on the waterfront in Sausalito for a number 
of days with great critical acclaim. A lot of our band I had 
recruited from the Presidio military band. There were a lot of 
jazz musicians who were part of that band because they got into 
the army and, what do you do? You re a musician? Oh, we need--. 
Well, these guys were great musicians, and they loved being in 
Harry s band. They learned the instruments, they learned the non- 
tempered scale, they were super duper musicians. 

Then one day one of them brought this gangly- -in Yiddish you 
call him nebbish--! mean, a guy who just doesn t somehow fit in, 
you know? And I felt sorry for him. Bill Buck. He was in the 
army, and he was hanging around the band. He wanted somehow to be 
involved with Partch, and Harry didn t want any part of him. I 
finally talked to Harry and said, "Let him turn the pages on the 
harmonium," which was this reed organ that Harry had converted to 
a non- tempered scale. Bill started hanging around the barge, and 
we turned him on and kind of changed his life. He was wearing 
like old clothes when he wasn t in uniform, and he drove a ratty 
old Ford. 

Bill Buck ## 

Stern: He did not appear to be from any wealth, or any fine family; he 

looked like something that the cat had dragged in. He would sleep 
on the couch, and you have some idea of what Jane was like. He 
was introduced into Oriental philosophy and art and all kinds of 


literaturethings he never had really known about, and he took to 
them like a proverbial--. Then one day Jane is gone, and the kids 
are gone. By this time, Radha was born. Radha was a baby, less 
than a year old, I think. I m not quite sure about the time and 
everything. But Jane s gone; she s disappeared with the kids. 
It s like ten days or two weeks before I find out what happened. 
But Bill Buck is also gone. It turns out thatremember I told 
you about Wallace Look, the librarian? In the meantime, he had 
come back out of the monastery which was on the Hudson in New York 
State, and he had a little apartment in Sausalito. He had 
sheltered Bill and Jane and the children. They went to Nevada, 
and they lived in Nevada while Jane was getting a divorce from me. 


But in the meantime, we found out that Bill Buck was a 
millionaire. He had just turned twenty-one, and he inherited the 
first part of his fortune. He bought her a Mercedes, which at 
that time was not something that you saw every day. And they had 
my children! They were not friendly; they were unfriendly. I 
wasn t the nicest person in the world; I m not saying that I was a 
virtuous husband or anything like that, but on the other hand I 
wasn t expecting this at all. I was not pleased. I was hurt. I 
was particularly hurt because I was the guy who had brought Bill 
into our group the other guys, Buckwheat and Old Bill, had 
thought that Bill Buck was the FBI. I said, "You ve got to be 
kidding. This nebbish kid couldn t be the FBI." I was right 
about that, [laughter] but he turned out to be even worse in a 
sense. Now it s all turned around kind of strangely. 

There was this sequence of bizarre events. I know I ve used 
that word a number of times. One day, I came back to the barge 
and Old Bill and Pam and Buckwheat are gone. They ve moved 
everything out while I was somewhere, you know. And now it turns 
out that they- -Bill- -has formed a company and financed them to 
build drums out of redwood in the same pattern that we were 
building them out of bamboo, but square instead of round. They 
now have capital and a company, and they ve left me. 

The next thing that happens is all of sudden there s this 
book of poetry. The poetry is Jane s and Bill s and Look s. I m 
beginning to think that I m being co-opted, and I m right. 

The next thing I get is an anonymous offer to buy the barge. 
I was a little slow, but it didn t take me very many days to think 
about who was making the anonymous offer to buy, and it turned out 
it was Bill Buck. 


Maya Angelou 

Stern: In the meantime, Jak Simpson and I had remained fast buddies. He 
had been a good friend of Old Bill s and Buckwheat s the same as 
me, but when they left, he was quite offended. He stuck with me. 
Jack was from Kansas City, he was a friend of Bird s, of Charlie 
Parker s, and a lot of people. He knew a lot of people, and among 
them was a Greek guy named Tosh Angelous. Tosh had been married 
to Maya. They had a breakup, and Jack remained a friend of 
Maya s, and he introduced me to Maya. Maya at the time was 
between jobs. She was trying to get into the Purple Onion [Club], 
and she had been on the road. She just came back from the road; 
she was the primary dancer in the Porgy and Bess company that 
toured Europe. 

One of my neighbors was John Drew. He lived on the 
waterfront, and he was a real queen. Wonderful guy- -from the 
Barrymore family. He was the manager and impresario of the Purple 
Onion. I became Maya s manager, and we got her into the Onion. 
She was an instant star there. 

Byerly: What was the Purple Onion? 

Stern: Well, there were two hip clubs in North Beach. One was the Hungry 
I, and the other was the Purple Onion. Enrico Banducci was at the 
I. That was before your time, huh? You know, Mort Sahl, the 
Kingston Trio, Phyllis Diller. Phyllis and Maya and the Kingston 
Trio was the bill. Great bill. 

Byerly: And Maya danced? 

Stern: She sang and moved. [Sings] "Don t let the sun catch you crying." 

Anyway, we lived together, and we had a great time. 
Byerly: She moved into the barge? 

Stern: Yes. With her son, Clyde. Clyde was, I don t know, eleven or 
twelve at the time. 

She came from a very difficult family. I never knew her 

father, but I knew her mother. Her mother was basically lesbian. 
And Maya was very bisexual herself. Her mother ran a kind of a 

coffeeshop in the Fillmore with her lover. They were really tough 
dykes, man, oh boy. One day a guy came in and held her up, she 

pulled a gun from under the counter and shot him dead. Boom. No 
problem, right? 


So Maya and I, you know, we--. She got in the Purple Onion 
because she was a great talent. She still is a great talent. She 
was a performer. She could magnetize an audience; wonderful, 
wonderful onstage personality, and a good repertoire of songs. 
She moved, and she wore these very simple strap gowns with nothing 
under them. She was over six foot tall and skinny, and when she 
moved people just gasped. She had studied originally with Pearl 
Primus, New York, who was the black modern dancer. 

We were together for some time. Maya is not an easy 
temperament; she s a difficult woman. She used to introduce me to 
men as, "This is Gerd Stern, my manager, and my man." But if it 
was a woman, it would be, "This is Gerd Stern, my man, and my 
manager." It was very clear, right? [laughter] 

It was a difficult life. We lived at night. In those days 
we had to live in the black world. Not in Sausalito, but like in 
Los Angeles. We couldn t stay at a hotel; we had to stay at a 
hotel in the ghetto. Well, not ghetto, but in the black section; 
it was a nice hotel. I m not saying it was a dump or anything. 
It was difficult for me being accepted in that worldeven though, 
for instance, in New York, I had had black friends. 

Just about that time, problems started developing. Percy 
Heath of the Modern Jazz Quartet wasyou know, he and I had even 
slept in the same bed together, not sex--and then it got to the 
point where John Lewis, who also was a friend of mine, was saying 
to Percy, "Look, Percy." Pussy, they called him. "You ve got to 
think of the race. I mean, all these white friends and all this 
pot smoking, you know? You re not thinking of the race." There 
was a lot of ambivalence toward white people. It was very 
painful. Like in Chicago. In New York there s no problem, no 
line at the hotels. I mean, there were hotels where you couldn t 
stay at, but one knew which ones. But in Chicago and in the South 
and in other places, in Los Angeles, hey, if you re a mixed couple 
you had to stay in a black hotel, and you got a lot of bad vibes 
even there. 

We were very friendly with people. She had a lot of fans. 
You know, the famous black singer, Lena Home. Lena loved Maya s 
work. Lena played the Fairmont, and we were very friendly. Her 
husband was still alive then. He was a fabulous arranger and 
pianist. He was white. 

So one time we came homewe had had some difficulties. Her 
son was not easy to deal with, and school, and so forth, and so 
on, and living that life and not having anybody to take care of 
him. Her brother was in jail for murder, etcetera. One morning 
about six or seven o clock in the morning she woke me up and said, 


"Oh, your baby s so dry; go get your baby some water." And I 
said, "Bitch! Let me sleep!" [laughter] And she took this 
bottle of Dixie Peach--you know what Dixie Peach is? It s a hair 
gel, and she smashed it onto the floor. "No white motherfucker is 
gonna call me bitch !" [laughter] And she went after me with 
this bottle, and she cut herself. Then she started crying. 
"Waah, you made me cut myself!" That was it for me. I just 
couldn t take that, and within a week we had come apart. It was 
all right. We both understood it, and she went on, and I went on. 



Marriage to Ann London 

Stern: Anyway, that was right after Jane. In the meantime, I had left 

KPFA. I mean, after Lew, and after--. The guy who had succeeded 
me was a guy named Henry--Sandy Jacobs. He had become public 
relations director. And he then became a partner of my partners 
who wereyou know, Old Bill and Buckwheat. Henry, whom I had 
known because of KPFA, was going out with a lady well, there were 
other friends that came out of this group. They were from 
Chicago. One was a sociologist, Howie Becker, and his wife, Nan, 
and his sister-in-law who was part of the Second City troupe, you 
know, the comedian. Anyway, Henry--or Sandy--was going out with 
Ann London, and that s how I met Ann. Sometime after Maya left, I 
ran into Ann somewhere, and- -you know, she was a poet also- -we got 
to talking, we went out together. Before we knew it, she was 
living on the barge with me . 

We were very much in love, and we had many similar 
interests, although she was a lot more classical and academic than 
I was . And we knew a lot of the same people in the literary 
circles . 

Carl and I had kept in touch all this time, and he was 
working for his uncle, the publisher of Ace Books. I had some bad 
trips in New York after the hospital- -with Allen and Jack and the 
gang and people around him. At one point I had been in an 
apartment, and we had all gotten high--I think I was the first guy 
to actually turn him on. They held me down and tried to get this 
guy to fuck me in the ass because they decided that what was 
really wrong with me was that I didn t understand homosexuality. 
But the guy couldn t get it up. So I was saved that experience, 
[laughter] It didn t endear them to me. I never did like Jack; 
Jack was a fucking voyeur. He was a dirty alcoholic; he just 
really liked to get drunk, and he wasn t nice to women. He 
treated women badly. I m not attached to any feminist causes, but 


I ve always somehow felt differently about women than I think that 
a lot of men do. 

Byerly: In what way? 

Stern: Well, women have been very important in my life as confidants and 
as romantic and intellectual peers. Elaine, whom I talked to you 
about, was the foundation of my self-confidence as a writer. 
Jane, I learned an incredible amount of cultural knowledge from 
Jane--like I told you, she was a dilettante; she knew a little bit 
about everything, whether it was archaeology or anthropology, 
Buddhism, etcetera. It wasn t deep but it was enough to get you 
started in practically any direction. Maya was a fantastic 
experience for me; I must say I don t regret any piece of any 
relationship that I ve had. I think Maya s the only person, the 
only relationship that I would have voluntarily broken up. 

I guess I have a very deep-seated fear of violence. I will 
notstrange thing about my grandson s murder--! can t stand to 
have guns around, and I never have been able to since I was very 
young. I don t know where it came from. I won t tolerate 
physical violence. And it isn t like I haven t been bad about it 
once or twice in my life. I used to be very hysterical. I had 
absolute fits during my relationship with Jane, all the way up 
until much later in this tale when I took acid. I haven t had a 
hysterical episode since my first acid trip, which is somewhat 
different from other people s experience. 

Ann and I were a very successful couple for some time. We 
lived together for quite a while. Ann was the West Coast editor 
for McGraw-Hill at the time, a job which her father had gotten 
her. When I met Ann, and even when we started living together, I 
didn t have a ghost about who her father was. I mean, I knew what 
his name was. His name was Dan London. I wasn t into San 
Francisco society; I didn t know, you know? Ann had all these 
fabulous connections; she knew everyone. She never believed until 
the moment that she died that I didn t know who her father was, 
that I didn t understand what I was getting myself into. But I 
had no knowledge of it. And the fact that she didn t believe me, 
which didn t come out for a long time, was somewhat devastating to 
me because why would I? A refugee boy from New York. [laughter] 
Sure, I was involved in the San Francisco kind of poetic scene, 
but I never read the Chronicle. Once I was with Ann we had the 
Chronicle every day so I started reading it. I had no idea who 
Herb Caen was, who later became a very close friend of mine. I m 
really pleased as punch that he got the Pulitzer. 

Byerly: Herb Caen was her father? 

Stern: No. Herb Caen was just somebody she knew. Dan London was her 

father. Dan London was the manager of the St. Francis Hotel, he 
was the Commodore of the Golden Fleet, he was a director of the 
Golden Gate Bridge, he was a personal friend of the Shah and of 
President [Dwight] Eisenhower, and etcetera. He was a bigshot, a 
big deal. It wasn t my world, and I didn t understand the world. 
Later on, when I got to know him, we got along fine. He was 
unfortunately another alcoholic, and the whole family was 
alcoholic, and it was very sad. But he was all right. He was 
only happy when he was piloting or driving his seventy- some-odd- 
foot cruiser, the Adventuress, which was the leading boat of San 
Francisco s Chamber of Commerce Golden Fleet. You could invite 
fifteen people to sit at the table on this boat and have dinner 
while you were cruising around Alcatraz [Island]. Wow. We used 
to do that; we used to have literary dinners on this boat, 

It was a whole new world for me. But Ann was convinced that 
part of my original motivation was that she was a rich girl and a 
society girl, and it couldn t have been further from the truth. I 
didn t have any idea. The family had come from Seattle 
[Washington] ; she had gone to the University of Washington. And 
Ted Roethke, who was her teacher, was a friend of mine; he was a 
poet . Remember I told you about Ruth Witt-Diamant at the San 
Francisco Poetry Center? When Ted was here reading, I was the guy 
who drove him around and took him to the right bars and etcetera. 
And he was one of the few poets who appreciated my work. She was 
his student, so that was the major connection. 

The London family lived in the St. Francis Hotel. They had 
a floor basically or half a floor there. Of course, it wasn t 
until somewhat later on that I met her mother and father, and I 
had met the sister, Mimi, who was a fashion model, younger than 

But Ann was rebelling from her family at the time, so she 
wasn t very attached to them. Well, all of a sudden, some 
reporter at the Chronicle realized that here Dan London s daughter 
was living on a barge in Sausalito, and I can t remember, but they 
came and took pictures, and they published this big story with a 
picture of Ann. I can t remember--! think I was in it also. And 
it was very embarrassing to the Londons because here was their 
daughter living with somebody. So Ann was called in and read the 
Riot Act. She had been married before to a composer in Seattle. 
The marriage had broken up- -without children. Ann pleaded with me 
that we had to get married immediately and that actually it should 
be thought of that it was retroactive, et cetera. Hey, big deal. 


So we went out to Inverness [California] with my friend 
Ivan, who at the time was married to his first wife Julia Pearl, 
another painter. Ivan and Julia were the witnesses, and a justice 
of the peace married us, and that was the time he was watching 
television over our heads, and we just thought it was the funniest 
thing in the world. We got back to the barge, and I cooked--! was 
a very good cook--I remember I cooked oxtail soup. That was our 
wedding feast. So we were married. 

Now all of a sudden I understood. They didn t come to the 
wedding. But now I got to meet Dan and Claire and have dinner at 
their apartment. Now I got some idea of the world that she had 
come out of. I mean it was a world which was like Madeline s-- 
that book about the little girl who lives in a hotel. 

That s how Ann grew up. She grew up with room service and 
had practically never seen her parents. And she had this awful 
ambivalent relationship with her father. He had abandoned her, 
and he hadn t spent any time with her, and he demanded that she be 
this kind of person, and she wasn t, and he was basically an anti- 
intellectual, and she was a highbrow. He was a dead-conservative 
Republican, and she was a liberal Democrat; he was for the death 
penalty, she wasn t, and so on. 

[Interview 2: April 15, 1996] ## 

Stern: Ann and I were each deeply involved with poetry. We decided early 
in the relationship to publish something in the nature of single 
broadsheets of poems. It was called Poems in Folio. It was a 
monthly subscription where people who subscribed got one poem per 
month. Each one was printed by an artisan printer, most of them 
here in California- -the Grabhorn Press was the first onethey did 
William Carlos Williams Sappho version or translation. A very 
beautiful poem. We did it for a year; there were twelve poems. 

As usual, Ann and I were on kind of opposite sides of the 
coin. She was a fairly strong-willed woman, and she won the day. 
What that involved was that I felt that we should publish young, 
unknown poets such as myself at the time, and Ann felt that the 
only way that this would be successful is if we had important 
poets who would get people to subscribe and who would give the 
whole thing a cachet. I understood that that was a reasonable 
point of view. It didn t match my feelings about what I wanted to 
do in terms of my poetry or others of my peers and contemporaries. 
But that s how the thing went . 

Ann had had an affair with a very well-known older poet who 
also--I think she had attended one or two of his workshops when 
she was still up at SeattleStanley Kunitz. Stanley was one of 


our editorial board, and we had--I can t remember at this time, 
but it s a matter of record the poets that were on our editorial 
boards. It was a very uptown kind of a presentation. We also had 
a binder which was very handsome, and Ivan, my friend, designed 
the logo for Poems in Folio. It was a lyre, which is a long-term 
symbol of poetry, of barding. I wouldn t say it was a great 
business success, but they were beautiful, beautiful poems. There 
was a limited edition, and then there were some other poems. We 
certainly didn t make any money, but it created a little bit of a 
stir, and the press people were very happy with it. Most of the 
well-known hand presses did one of the poems. It did point out to 
me the vast distance between the respectable world of academic and 
prestigious poets and my own world, which was kind of a poetry 

At more or less the same time, Ann and I were involved in a 
small group of poets. We gave readings and published a little--! 
can t remember whether it was mimeographed or photo offsetit was 
called Seven Stray Cats . There were seven of us . It was our own 
poetry. It brought us together, and we discussed a lot of the 
issues involved in our poems. One of the people- -probably the one 
who has gotten most well-known- -was Jack Gilbert. 

Jack and I wrote a satirical puppet play which was done at 
the San Francisco--! can t remember exactly what it was called 
Art Fair. It was kind of an open-air thing. There was a group--! 
can t remember the namebut Helga Williamson was the puppeteer. 
And it was called "Don t Flee the Scene Salty," after a tune by 
Lionel Hampton. 

We did this in the studio; we recorded it with music in the 
studio of Richard Wirtz Emerson. Dick recorded a vast array of 
Bay Area poets. He was one of the first people to have the 
technology; he worked for a big company (Shell) during the day, 
and this was his passion in the evenings and on the weekends. He 
lived in Sausalito, and he was really a big help to a lot of poets 
in terms of not only appreciating their work--. There were a lot 
of interesting people around that time: Bern Porter, who had been 
involved in the Manhattan Project and was somehow assuaging his 
guilt by publishing in the arts. The "Don t Flee the Scene Salty" 
music, the tune, is by Lionel Hampton, and the play was a satire 
on friends like Allen Ginsberg and Kenneth Rexroth, and the music 
was Charlie Parker and Hampton, etcetera, etcetera. It was very 
well accepted at the time. The strange thing is that it s a lost 
piece of work. I don t know what happened to Richard; I lost 
touch with him. I m sure that it exists on tape, but I ve never 
been able to recover a copy of it. It s definitely a very 
interesting typical kind of take on that time. It would be a good 
addition to this archive if we can figure out how to find--! don t 


know if Richard is alive. I wouldn t be surprised if he were. I 
think he was a little older than I am. But I m sure that 
somewhere his treasure trove exists . 

Byerly: Who were the other "seven stray cats"? 
Stern: Oh, you would ask me that. 
Byerly: You and Ann-- 

Stern: And Jack. I ll get it for you. In fact, I will send you a copy 
of the Seven Stray Cats; I think I have three or four of them 
left. I ll make a note of that. Laura- -well, let s just go on. 

Playboy Magazine 

Stern: At that time I hadn t been working. We needed money, and as I 

think I said on an earlier tape, Ann was extremely well-connected 
in the Bay Area, and one of her friends was Herb Caen. Herb at 
that time was married to Sally Caen, several wives ago at this 
point. It turned out that Sally and I had quite a lot of mutual 
acquaintances in the past, in the Village: Mason Hoffenberg and 
Stanley Gould and other people that we knew in common. She came 
from a much wilder side of the world than Herb did, certainly, but 
Herb and I wound up with a very close friendship. The four of us 
saw a lot of each other. He helped me to get work. I had never 
written really any prose, and he hooked me up with August C. 
Spectorsky at Playboy. 

Augie Spectorsky was another incredible human being. He was 
a fantastic writer, and he had been enticed out of New York by 
[Hugh] Hefner s money very early on to become the associate 
publisher of Playboy, and he was the one who injected the 
intellect and the appreciation for both fiction and articles of 
socially positive content into that magazine. He took it from a 
kind of medium success to its peak. Unfortunately, he passed on 
very early. He was ultra-sophisticated. His book, The 
Exurbanites , was a best-seller. It was about people who lived 
outside of New York City and commuted in. When Hef found him, he 
was the major writer on the Arlene Francis Home Show. He kept 
saying no, and finally the money got to be so much, and the perks 
got so much that he and his wife moved to Chicago and took over 
the leadership of Playboy. She was the personnel director and he 
was the associate publisher. 


Spec had conceived of a series called "Playboy On the Town" 
done on certain cities, and he had asked Herb to write the San 
Francisco "On the Town." And Herb s policy was that he only wrote 
things with a byline. I mean, he was already very well-known, and 
there was no reason for him to write something which would be 
house-written. He said to me, "Gerd, you write it. I ll 
introduce you to Spectorsky, and you write it." I said, "I ve 
never done anything like that." You know, write about restaurants 
and nightclubs. He said, "Look, it s easy. Believe me. I ll 
introduce you to three or four PR people here; they ll take you 
around, and you write about it. And I ll look at it." 

Sure enough, it was a ball; I had a marvelous time writing 
it. Spectorsky and I hit it off immediately. They sent me a 
ticket to come back to Chicago to meet with them. And here all of 
a sudden I was writing for a major national magazine, totally 
courtesy of Herb s rep. Then I met all these flacks: one of the 
principal ones was a guy named Frank di Marco. He was Ernie s PR 
guy and a number of other places. We became friendly while he was 
taking me around to all these restaurants and introducing me to 
the owners and getting my story down for me. It was a little 
coterie of people in that world, like any other coterie. All of a 
sudden I was in this little world. Then Frank said to me, "What 
are you going to do when you finish this story?" I said, "I don t 
know; I ve never done this before." He said, "I ve got an idea 
for you. I have a friend who owns a restaurant, and I can t 
represent him because he is in competition with Ernie s--or at 
least Ernie s thinks he is. I don t think he is, and Ernie s 
doesn t want me to represent him. So I ll take you there, and you 
write about them in Playboy, and you take the public relations 
post. You ll get a good fee every month. And from there on, Herb 
will help you." 

Now all of a sudden I was in the public relations business. 
I represented the guy who was Alexis Merabishvilli of Alexis 
Tangier, which was, basically, as far as I was concerned, by the 
time I got to know it, the premier restaurant in San Francisco at 
the time. And Alexis was some character. He was born in Tbilisi, 
in Georgia. He had been a movie actor. He worked with Pudovkin 
and [Sergei] Eisenstein--! mean, these people were to me heroes of 
the avant-garde; I found it rather unbelievable when he first told 
me the story. I don t think I really believed him but it turned 
out to be true. He also taught me most of what I know about 
wines . 

At the same time, I had become friendly with Leon Adams, who 
was the head of the California Wine Institute. They represented 
all the small wineries. I knew his son, Jerry, who was a 
reporter. Leon would invite me--we were still living on the barge 



in Sausalito, and we would go fishing in his fishing boat for 
striped bass. He wrote one of the first books about California 
wines, but he also wrote the first computerized survey of where 
striped bass were caught in San Francisco Bay. Very early use of 
computers for something that you wouldn t even think you could 
compute. And it worked; people could understand where and when 
and how the fish bit. 

Spec was also an old friend of Hayakawa s--now this was long 
before Hayakawa was either at the university or in politics. 
Hayakawa s wife s brother was Frank Lloyd Wright s principal 
associate. They lived in Mill Valley, in a Frank Lloyd Wright- 
inspired house. When Spectorsky and his wife Theo came out here 
we had dinner together, and I got to know Hayakawa, and that s 
how, as I mentioned--! don t remember; was that on the tape?--he 
published some of my poems, and we got into this stupid argument 
about the washed idol. 

[inaudible] ? 

Yes. Anyway, Hayakawa used to come out with us too on the boat-- 
with Leon Adams. It was a very "ferment" time in Sausalito. We 
got into a lot of political fights because there were people 
trying to kick out the barges because of sewage problems and 
because of land values. We managed to win most of those battles 
at that time, and eventually we did connect to the sewers. Most 
of the boats at least the ones that were close to the land like 
ours . 

The Sausalito Houseboat 

Stern: I ve now skipped before Ann. Somewhere in there, you know, after 
Gordon Onslow Ford s ultra-generous offer to me of a berth for my 
barge, he went ahead and sold the land [chuckles] that my barge 
was on, and I had to move. By this time, the barge had a lot of 
holes in it because there s a marine worm here in the bay called 
the torridos. They re really ferocious little critters. The 
torridos had eaten a lot of the timbers. I had to go back to 
Arques and say, "What am I going to do? Can I save the barge?" 
He says, "Ah, don t worry about it. I ll give you a place up on 
my land. We ll move it." I said, "How are we going to do that?" 
He says, "What you gotta do is you gotta get a bunch of old 
mattresses, and you go down below, and you stuff all the holes up 
with mattresses, and you cement them in," and he went through 
that. "Then, at high tide, we put the pumps on board, and we pump 
the rest of the water out, and we move the barge up." 


I spent a month with a few friends who volunteered to help 
me. It was a filthy, dirty job in the mud. It was dark down 
below and not quite headroom, you know, so you bent over, and we 
did all this work and stuffed mattresses and hammered boards 
behind them and with cement and all kinds of stuff. The time 
came, and we put the pumps on board, we pumped out, the tide rose, 
the barge stayed where it was. No way was it going to move. 

I was ready to give up. At the No Name Bar in Sausalito 
this became a cause celebre. People were betting on whether the 
barge could be moved or not. Don Arques kept telling me, "You can 
do it, you can do it!" With one more month, right? Okay. So now 
I got about twelve people from the No Name Bar who are all betting 
on me, so they re helping me stuff mattresses. Of course, you can 
only do it at low tide. So another month goes by, and the pumps 
get going on board, and I m below fixing last-minute leaks, and 
the tide rises, and all of a sudden there is this thunderous 
crack. I mean, it was like the world had ended, from where I was 
down below. Everybody thought I had had it, you know? The barge 
popped up, and the tugboat towed it to the new site. Nobody could 
figure out what this noise had been. I mean, it was really earth- 
shaking . 

The next morning at low tide we went to the site where the 
barge had been and what had happened is the bottom planking of the 
barge was left in the mud with the nails sticking out of it. It 
had been so stuck to the mud that the barge, with its main 
timbers, lifted up. But the bottom planking just stayed in the 
mud. The guys who bet on me won. That was quite something. 

Anyway, the barge was there for many years --long after I 
left it. That s another story. 

Public Relations Work 

Stern: I represented quite a few clients, and I worked very hard at it, 
at this public relations business. It was a lot of fun. One of 
the accounts I worked for was a guy named Angelo Sabella. The 
family was one of the original Sicilian fisherman families on 
Fisherman s Wharf. Angelo was one of the side sonsnot the main 
family that s on the wharf. He had just opened, right by 
Richardson Bridge, Sabella s of Marin. He was dying for lack of 
business. It was this big round restaurant, and it was empty. He 
asked HerbHerb was kind of the guru of all restaurateurs and 
night club operators-- "What can I do?" Herb sent me over, and I 
worked for Angelo for a number of years. He was a wonderful, 


wonderful human being. Tough. He looked like something out of 
the sea himself: he was short and squat and not by any means 
handsome, but he was generous, warm-heartedand the whole family, 
wife, daughter, and son, worked with him a wonderful family. 

I devised a lot of really silly, stupid stuff to promote 
that restaurant. First, we had a grand opening, and I brought in 
waters from the seven seas of the world. And we got the volunteer 
fire department with hoses to baptize the building with all these 
waters from different places. We got pictures in the papers. 
Then we entered a frog in thethey served frog legs in the 
restaurantCalaveras County jumping frog contest. We got 
tremendous space- -the Independent Journal here was a great help, 
and the Chronicle. In those days you could do things, and people 
just responded. There wasn t a whole bunch of problems to relate. 
These days, you try and get a reporter to take a free meal, and 
it s iffy. I m not in that world anymore, but I know it for a 
fact- -in those days, you would invite people, and they would come. 
You could get twenty or thirty journalists to Sabella s of Marin, 
and it wasn t exactly a gourmet s hangout but it was before the 
whole culinary movement took over in the United States and the 
food was fresh, well prepared. 

One of my very good friends--he and his wife, Ann was Fred 
Lyon, who was a nationally prominent magazine photographer. Leon 
Adams introduced me to a wonderful couple, Mary and Jack Taylor of 
Mayacamas Vineyards, which was on the slopes of an extinct 
volcano, Mount Veeder. And Jack had spent his life being a 
refinery designer for Shell Oil. He was an Englishman. And Mary 
had been a student of Gurdjieff , whose work I was familiar with 
"All and Everything". There were such wonderful people around. I 
mean, there still are wonderful people, but all of a sudden in 
this little period I was meeting all these great characters. Mary 
was a superb cook, and she had a line of spices which [actually?] 
still exists in the marketplace. She sold the company. 

But Jack had bought this vineyard. His lifelong ambition 
was to be a winemaker. He had personally, with very little help, 
terraced the side of the volcano in very Italian fashion, and 
planted vines there. And Mayacamas was according to him an 
Indian word, meaning "the cry of the mountain lion." He used to 
when he would tell you that, he would howl it out; I won t try to 
imitate it. It was a beautiful old stone winery up there. They 
made remarkable wine very early on. I devised a concept- -because 
they were having trouble selling this little bit of wine that 
people would buy shares-- 


Stern: --shares. And the privilege for shareholders was to buy a certain 
amount of this limited-edition wine. It worked well. The reason 
it worked well is because I brought Fred Lyon up, and he made some 
incredible photographs of the terrace and the Taylors. It was 
published in the Chronicle s Sunday magazine. Well, [snaps 
fingers) the shares were sold out very quickly. I went from an 
unknown poet to a successful public relations man practically 
overnight. It was very amusing to me. I, however, didn t let it 
go to head. For instance, when Vic Bergeron from Trader Vic s 
offered me a job, I refused it. I refused it really because I 
thought he was an awful man. 

Byerly: Who was this? 

Stern: Vic Bergeron was Trader Vic. Trader Vic s was the place where San 
Francisco society went. First the original one in Oakland, and 
then the one in the alley downtown in San Francisco. I don t know 
what it was that drew them to him. I don t think it was the 
excellence of the food because it wasn t really--it was kind of 
tricky dicky Polynesian food. Of course, society here in San 
Francisco was to a great extent based on alcohol. That may have 
been it because alcohol consumption at Trader Vic s was 
prodigious. But you see, now you ve got kind of a line between 
the St. Francis Hotel and Trader Vic s and maybe the Fairmont, and 
you have this little world. Here I am kind of bouncing back 
between the Beat poets and San Francisco society. My wife was 
usually driving around not in our old beat-up car, but in her 
father s black Cadillac with the Golden Gate Bridge Director s 
badge on the back so that no matter how fast she goes, she doesn t 
get stopped by the police. Kind of a bizarre little world that we 
were living in. You know, famous poets coming in from the east- 
Robert Lowell--. And we re giving a dinner party on the 
Adventuress, and Robert Lowell is groping my wife, and I go after 
him, and nearly threw him overboard. [laughter] 

It was kind of heady. And I was writing a lot of poetry. 
It was at that time that Allen Ginsberg showed up in San 
Francisco. Of course, I was still in touch with Carl Solomon, and 
we were in the publishing world because Ann was the West Coast 
editor for McGraw-Hill. It was a job her father had gotten her 
because he was a friend of the chairman of the board s. Allen 
worked for a short time for an ad agency here, and then he got a 
job on a ship--I think he was an assistant purser or something. 
Then came the Howl period and the reading at the gallery--! wasn t 
one of the people who read that night. Philip read John Hoffman s 
poems. That was in 55. By the way, we had a date there you 
asked yesterday about when Adam was born. And Radha says he was 
born in 51; we were thinking more like late forties but it was 
later than that. 


Jane and Bill Buck had come back from Nevada. You remember 
I mentioned that one of my friends who stuck by me was Jak 
Simpson. He was married by this time and living somewhere in the 
East Bay. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Jane and Bill went off 
to Thailand, an Asia trip, and they left Adam and Radha under the 
care of Jak Simpson and his wife at their house. And while they 
were gone, Adam and Radha contracted polio, which in Adam s case 
later on developed into muscular dystrophy. He died when he was 
about, I don t know, fourteen or so, I think. As you ve 
discovered by now, I m not very good with dates. We ll have to 
check that. Radha wasfirst she had to wear, I think, a brace, 
but her polio disappeared after a couple of years, completely. 
She did have some after effects which are no longer evident. Adam 
was crippled badly; he had to be in a wheelchair with braces. 
They eventually came back; it was hard to contact them at the time 
in Thailand. There was some bad feelings involved, whether the 
Simpsons understood what was going on, et cetera. But Jak and I 
remained friends . I used to take the kids on the barge on the 
weekend. There are a lot of pictures of them with Ann and I. We 
established that much of a re- relationship with Jane although Bill 
would never be seen--I mean, he would not physically be in the 
same space with me, and I kind of understood it although I 
realized that there was a guilt trip going on which had some 
legitimate rationale to it because from one day of being basically 
my friend--boom! He absconded and tried to take over much of my 

The reason I m concentrating on this is because as you know 
already, this whole thing has turned around with his son who 
appeared on the scene slightly after the time we re talking about, 
and who at this point is an important and positive part in all our 

By this time, I was going off every few months to write 
another Playboy story in some town. Acapulco I think was next. 
Hotel people throughout the world are, you know, kind of related, 
and they all comp each other. I was in Acapulco with a 
photographer and models and the whole big deal, and we were hosted 
by a lot of the important people--Miguelito Aleman, the president 
of Mexico s son on his yacht, et cetera. We were staying in this 
hotel which had Chagalls in the elevator. My wife, Ann, wanted to 
join us so she got, through her father, a suite in the hotel that 
was made available to us free of charge. She arrived in about two 
days and I got a telegram from Hef at Playboy saying, "Playboy 
writers are not married." [laughter] I called up Chicago, and I 
said, "What do you mean they re not married? I m married; you 
knew I m married." "Not when you re on assignment!" I didn t pay 
any attention. 


I had a couple of run-ins with Hef. He s a funny guy. He 
was at that time young and very unsophisticated, and he came to 
San Francisco for the first time. I introduced him to Herb, and 
we had dinner and so forth and so on. He had this friend who 
owned a big nightclub in Chicago. I remember running around the 
streets with them and them pulling out hundred -dollar bills and 
waving them at people--! mean, and that was not San Francisco 

I took them to Ann s 440, a night club where Lenny Bruce was 
working. I already told you I was quite involved with the jazz 
scene, and I didn t really cover that so much when I was talking 
about Buckwheat and Old Bill and on the barge, but we knew all 
those people, and they would all come to the barge, and they would 
go to Harry s studio to see the Partch instruments. I told you we 
were all big pot smokers; in fact, on the barge this is before; 
this is still when I was living there with Jane and Bill and Pam-- 
we had a bathtub, and we had rigged up the whole bathtub as a 
water pipe. It was absolutely too much for most people. 

Byerly: How would that work? 

Stern: Well, we had a bowl which probably held about a half ounce to an 
ounce of grass, and we bubbled it through the bathtub full of 
water in kind of a glass distillation tube, so it was cooled, you 
know? When it came out, you could barely get any throat burn on 
it, so it didn t taste like it was very much that you were doing, 
but actually one was overpowered. I remember one time we took-- 
Old Bill had an ancient Cadillac limousine, I mean really ancient. 
Kind of square. We took Count Basie back to his gig on Grant 
Avenue--! can t remember the name of the big club there. As he 
got out of the limousine he shook his head at us, and said, "I 
don t know whether to love you or to hate you." [laughter] 
Actually, I used that line in a poem somewhere along the way. 

Two of the jazz musicians I d gotten to know were a couple 
named Lorraine and Herb Geller. They lived down in L.A.. One 
time when I went to L.A., they were playing out in the Valley in a 
strip club. Jazz musicians really had a very hard time making 
enough money to get by, and they were excellent musicians; they 
had, as I remember, classical backgrounds, and here they were 
playing a strip club in the Valley. Not just a strip club but a 
freak s strip club--a midget, a lady who probably weighed about 
three hundred and some-odd pounds, a bearded lady. And Lenny 
Bruce was the M.C., and his mother was the cocktail waitress, and 
Herb and Lorraine were the band, the orchestra. They played the 
strip music, not their usual jazz, but with a touch of their 
music. But they thought it was kind of a kick to take me out 


there, and we got high when we went there, and it was really 
strange. Anyway, that s how I first met Lenny. 

At the time, Lenny wasn t really interested in being a 
stand-up comedian. His ambition was to write movie scripts, and 
he had written quite a lot of them, and none of them were bought. 
He was married at the time. Later, I was able to help him get a 
job up here in San Francisco. 

Sausalito Houseboat Revisited and Maya Angelou 

Stern: During the time I was with Maya- -and now we re going back again; 

you don t mind going back and forththis semi-mobster came to see 
us, and he owned one of those stripclubs on the Barbary Coast. 
You know, that one-block thing which was like an unbelievable 
little microcosm of--the closest thing that San Francisco still 
had to a red-light district. The D.A. [district attorney] was 
closing up the stripclubs because of the bar girls and the whole 
tourist thing. He came to see us when we were working at the 
Purple Onion. Maya was on the bill with Phyllis Diller and the 
Kingston Trio, and it was a great time. They were all friends. 
He said to us, "I got this problem. I gotta shut down- -I don t 
want to shut down; you guys know what you re doing. Look, you got 
the I 1 over here and the Onion here; I want to do the same thing. 
It ll be three or four months and then everything will die down, 
and we can go back to the girls." He had his wife and his sister- 
in-lawa menage-a-trois. The two of them were really "B girls", 
but they were his family. It was a bizarre scene. I keep using 
that word; it s embarrassing. I named it the Hollow Egg. We sent 
out these invitations in hollow eggs--you know, those Chinese 
eggs --to everybody for the opening. 

Helen Noga from the Black Hawk at that time had said to me, 
"Gerd, you gotta help the boy- -I found this fantastic boy. He s 
still in high school but he s such an incredible voice, you 
wouldn t believe it. Johnny Mathis." [laughter] So the bill was 
Johnny Mathis, Mayathere was a female lesbian comic who was a 
protege of Edgar Bergen s. And Edgar Bergen was supposed to come 
up for the opening, which is how I met his daughter who- -later on 
we became fairly good friends Candice. We had a little 
orchestra, and sure enough the I and the Onion were really kind 
of comfortable little clubs, but the Hollow Egg was a stripclub, 
and it had these tables which were just very narrow tables with 
seats behind them that the Johns watched the girls from. Well, he 
didn t want to change the seating or anything, so here we were in 
this reconverted stripclub, which had been slightly decorated to 


be the Hollow Egg. And everybody came; all the society people, 
and Herb, and it was a big laugh. But it worked. And sure 
enough, a few months later, things died down, and it went back to 
being a stripclub. 

There were fabulous entertainers. The guy who made Ann s 
440, a female impersonator named T.C. Jones--he later was on 
Broadway; he and his wife owned Persian cats. This man did a 
fabulous show. Oh, I remember how I had gotten into it: because 
of Hef. So I took Hef to Ann s 440 club, and his nightclub 
friend, and Lenny totally bowled them over; they couldn t believe 
Lenny. Lenny was unbelievable. When he did his- -drive the car he 
drives or- -the genie comes out the bottle, and he was going to 
grant any wish, and the guy doesn t believe him, and he says, 
"Make me a malted." He says, "You re a malted." [laughter] The 
obscenity and the humor. So they hired him immediately for 
Chicago, and that was the beginning of Lenny s big fame and 
downfall. It was a very disillusioning experience for me as the 
guy who had made the intros. I had a few of those. Another one 
was when I introduced McLuhan to Gossage. 

Ann got more and more involved in political consciousness 
and organizations. At the time I met her, shelike most 
everybody we knewwas smoking grass. At one time, we went to a 
party, and they had pot brownies, and I think Ann didn t realize 
how strong they were, and she ate too much, and she got into a 
really paranoid scene, and after that she turned into a real 
prude, and she didn t want anything. It was difficult for me. 
Also at the same time, she got pregnant. By this time- -I told you 
the story about how we got married because of the Chronicle. It 
got to the point where I couldn t have any grass in the house, I 
couldn t smoke in front of her. 

It really bothered me because I ve always kind of used pot 
to change my head. In other words, likenow I m in the food 
business. In order to get my head out of the food business and 
into my poet self --if I would take two or three tokes boom! It s 
like a transformation, you know? I ve always used it that way 
not as some people to "get out of it." I don t want to get out of 
it; I want to get high, and I want to get on it. And I do, and as 
I said before, I m still at the point where I can take two or 
three or four tokes, and I get very, very high, very stimulated 
and inspired. Now I don t know whether that s actually the drug 
or my kind of acquired behavior. But whatever it is, it works. 
If it works, it doesn t need fixing, right? 

It was a complicated situation. Ann was getting less and 
less into me and more and more into other things and other people. 
It got kind of very mixed up. There was a group around the No 


Name Bar who published a little magazine called ContactBill Ryan 
and Herb Beckman, and some of the writers were Evan Connell and 
Calvin Kent field. I wrote some things for them which I don t 
think they ever published. I ve had that kind of historyas I 
say, my poetry is not of a very acceptable style; it s too 
abstract and obscure for most people, which is okay. To tell you 
the truth, I ve kept a consistent voice ever since I ve started 
writing, and I really like my poetry; I know it s good. It isn t 
that I don t give a damn what other people think; I do give a 
damn, but nobody can convince me otherwise about my work. Also, 
I ve steered away, really, from putting myself out into the 
public. A number of timesand it ll come up later when I 
surfaced, I didn t enjoy being out there; I really enjoyed more 
being just in the it s funny because the other day at the 
conference I talked about margin and mainstream. I think I m on 
the margin of the mainstream, or maybe I ve submerged in the 
mainstream. I don t know. But I was thinking that the image is 
not an accurate image; you re not either /or. 

So now I went off to New Orleans to do another "Playboy on 
the Town." There was a strange little story, and maybe I 
shouldn t tell it, but I think I will. I had an apartment over 
Brennan s restaurant that was given to me as the Playboy writer 
and I had twenty-four hour room service from the restaurant, and I 
met a young painter there, and she stayed with me through the four 
or five days. When I got back to Sausalito, I discovered again 
that I had gonorrhea. I went to our wonderful doctor, Doctor 
Mackenzie. "What are you going to do about Ann?" I said, "I m 
going to tell her. What do you mean what am I going to do about 
Ann?" He said, "You re serious?" I said, "Sure, I m serious." I 
said, "Now I m going to have to tell Georgia too." [laughter] He 
says, "Oh, I see. Well, I ll tell you something, Gerd. This 
isn t the first time that I ve heard this situation; this is the 
first time I ve ever met somebody who I didn t have to talk into 
telling people that they re sleeping with." I said, "What are you 
going do? Are you going to try to hide it and take really big 
risks?" So I come back for a second shot, and here in the office 
is Calvin Kentfield. I say, "Hey, Calvin, what s up?" He says, 
[mutters inaudibly] . He said, "What are you here for?" I said, 
"I m here to get a second shot for the clap." He says, "Yeah?" 
So I look at him, and I say, "Who are you sleeping with? With my 
wife or with Georgia?" [laughter] Anyway, kind of a funny story. 
But that was typical of that time. I don t think it s very 
typical of this time that we re living in. 

Next thing that happens we have this friend, Les, who was 
kind of an architect. He was living in Muir Beach. He was my 
connection. I can t smoke at my house anymore, and who wants to 
go all the way to Muir Beach. In the meantime, I m having a 


little thing with a reporter on the Sausalito News, and she turns 
out to be also his friend except they had a big argument, as it 
turns out, and I go to Tiburon Tommy s to score with Les. We re 
having lunch, and everything works out fine. I give him money, 
and he gives me, you know. I get back to the barge, and a couple 
hours later I get a phone call from Sheriff Louis Mountanos, whose 
campaign I had worked on. He says, "Gerd, I need you to come down 
here." "No problem, Louis." So- 

Stern: --I get down there, and he says, "Let me play a tape for you, 
Gerd." They had a tape under the table at the restaurant, and 
they had taped me buying from Les. Sheriff Mountanos said, "Gerd, 
how could you do that? This is terrible; I don t want to book 
you, but I don t have any choice." So he takes me up to San 
Rafael, to the jail, I get a cause celebre- -headlines in the 
Chronicle about being Dan London s son-in-law. What can you do? 
We had another friend, because Ann had worked on the publication 
of his book Never Plead Guilty-- Jake Ehrlich. We go to see Jake. 
Jake says, "Son of a bitch. Don t you believe what you read?" I 
said, "What do you mean?" He says, "What the hell is the name of 
my book?!" I said, "Never Plead Guilty." He says, "So what did 
you do?" I said, [sheepishly] "I pled guilty." He says, "That 
was the stupidest thing you ever did in your life; I could have 
gotten you off no problem. That was an illegal tape." 

So it cost us some money, and I got probation, and I had to 
go to a psychiatrist. The judge was the head of the law office, 
and a former partner represented me. My father-in-law forgave me 
eventually, although he couldn t believe that people use drugs -- 
after all, he was an alcoholic. 

It kind of worked out. Now I m going to this psychiatrist 
who also happened to be in Tiburon [California] . His name is 
Doctor Richard Prest. I called him D. Prest. [laughter] He was 
a very interesting guy. He grew little miniature trees. He 
didn t like them to be called bonsais because they were American 
trees. Every week he had a different little tree in his office, 
and they were beautiful. Sometimes he had a row of aspens. But 
he was a lot better at doing that than he was at psychiatry, as 
far as I was concerned. So I tell him the story, and I said, 
"Look. I think it s time for me to break up this marriage because 
it just isn t working anymore for me. We re both playing around, 
and we have a son, but she doesn t like the way I relate to kids, 
she doesn t like me anymore. I mean, I know what happened: she 
was rebelling, and she met me, and she had been married before, 
and then we had to get married because she felt embarrassed to be 
living with me, and it just isn t working." He says to me, "No 


way. You re just like a cock on a leash." Not a rooster, but a 
penis. "If you divorce Ann now, you re just going to redo it one 
more time. That s the worst thing for you; you ve got to try to 
make it work, and see what happens, all right?" 

It gets worse and worse, and we re barely talking to each 
other now. All this time that I ve been with her she s been 
taking Dexedrine to keep her skinny. She thinks she s heavy; I 
think she s great. This woman was a beauty. She was a beautiful, 
beautiful woman, and she had a great figure. She danced well. 
Marvelous and intelligent, but fucked up from family and from 
wanting to be a super duper intellectual. She [wound up being? 
wanted to be?] a professor of Anglo-Saxon. And she screwed up her 
next marriage too. Then, you know, cancer. She smoked like a 
chimney also. She could drink me under the table easily. 

Finally he says to me, "I think what would be wise would be 
for me to have a session with Ann and see what s going on there." 
So he has a session with Ann, and he advises her that she should 
see a psychiatrist after all, marketing. Not only does he advise 
that, but he says, "I have a colleague right across the hall." 
Same office, very convenient, right? 

Okay, so we decide she s going to go see this guy. The 
second session he tells her, "The only solution for you is to 
divorce." So the next time I go in and see Doctor Prest I say to 
him, "You know, I think your conduct is miserably unethical." 
"What do you mean?" I say, "When I tell you that I want to get 
divorced you tell me that I m supposed to stay with this marriage. 
You then see my wife, then you send her to your damn colleague 
across the hall, he tells her to get a divorce when you tell me I 
gotta stay married. What kind of shit is this?" He says to me, 
"You surely don t think, Mr. Stern, that I have any influence over 
my colleague s policy?" It was just too much for me. I said, "D. 
Prest, this is it. Goodbye." And I walked out. I explained the 
situation to my probation officer, and my probation officer 
understood. Very nice. I was nearly through with probation by 
that time. 

We were in this kind of unsteady relationship now. Now from 
years and years and years ago when I was living with Jane in New 
Paltz--! was redoing the house from the fire; you remember the 
whole story there? 

Byerly: Yes. 

Stern: All of a sudden we get a call from this guy, Joe Kerrigan. Joe 
was married to the farmer s daughter next door--Mort DePew s 
daughter. He was the dairy farmer where we used to get our milk. 


He called me, and he s driving out, and can he find a place to 
stay? Sure, I invite him to stay on the barge. Three days later, 
he and Ann run off together. It lasted about two weeks [laughter] 
but then she was gone. Finite. Finite. 

Single Life after Ann on the Barge 

Stern: Now I m living on the barge alone. I m tired of public relations, 
and the Playboy thing is kind of wound down. I started working 
odd jobs. I had kind of learned to be a carpenter when number 
one, I was fixing up New Paltz and Jane s mother s house, and also 
originally when I did that work on the floats with Augie Sauer on 
the display for the Labor Day parades. I worked in a display shop 
too at that time, which I haven t mentioned. Actually, I was 
doing spot welding. Then I get a job at the Bay Model in 
Sausalito. The U.S. Engineersas a carpenter; it lasted about 
four days because they asked me to hang doors . I was a failure at 
hanging doors. They were ancient doors which had been ripped off, 
and the frames --this was not the kind of thing that you give a new 
employee to do but they were putting me on. So I ve been put on. 

But I wound up doing odd jobs, and I did a lot from an old 
lady who lived right near here, actually. Right down the road 
from here. She got to the point where she was so sick and so 
alcoholic that she couldn t drive anymore; she gave me her car. I 
drove her around, and it was in my name. An old Austin. 

I was living on the barge. I went to a party. A composer- - 
Steve Reich--! didn t know him at the time, but it was his wife 
who I took to the party, and I met there a lady named Barbara 
McCallum. She was out from the East Coast, and we had a good 
time, and we got pretty high, and she came back to the barge with 
me. We had a nice fire in the fireplace, and we made love, and at 
breakfast the next morning she looked at me, she said, "Boy, that 
was the best fuck I ve had in weeks," which I didn t expect 
[inaudiblelaughter] . But you know, she was a California girl, 
raised in southern California, and it was very- -her remark really 
got to me; I thought it was so genuine. 

She was there for a few more days , and I kind of told her 
what had happened to me through the years. She says to me, "Hey, 
why don t you come back east? You re from the east; what are you 
doing out here?" Then she started telling me about where she 
lived, and she lived right across the road from a community of 
people who had left Black Mountain. 


Black Mountain fell apart. There was a guy named Paul 
Williams, and Paul s father had made a lot of money, and Paul was 
a student at Black Mountain. He was an architect, a designer. He 
bought Black Mountain; they were in a lot of financial 
difficulties. Despite the fact that he solved a lot of the 
difficulties, there were always tensions in the faculty, and they 
just couldn t make the thing work anymore. They decided to close 
down, so Paul sold the property to a seminary, and he bought this 
fairly large property up in Rockland County in New York. The 
people who were living there were M.C. Richardsthe woman whom I 
had wanted to study with, and who I kind of kept in contact with-- 
John Cage, David Tudor, and Karen Cams, La Noue Davenport --who 
was an ancient music instrumentalist, formerly a jazz musician- 
there were a lot of interesting people. She kind of whetted my 
appetite, and I was beginning to get a bad taste in my mouth from 
having lived on this barge with three different women, and nothing 
ever working out. And I kind of blamed myself, but on the other 
hand , you know- - . 

Move Back East 

Stern: So I decided okay, I ll move back east. I rented the barge to a 
transvestite, it turned out. I didn t know he/she was a 
transvestite until later on. He was very convincing. He didn t 
speak English too well; he was Scandinavian. But it turned out 
later he was a she. So I rented the barge, and I took off in my 
car with my little tape recorder, and a good stash, and I drove 
across the country making poetry on the tape recorder as I went 
along, singing. 

I arrived, and I had called Barbara to tell her I was 
coming, and I moved in with Barbara. Actually, I didn t go 
directly to Barbara s; I went to some friends of hers, and it 
turned out that the woman, Ethel Hultberg, was somebody I had 
known in the Village, on the East Side, years before when John 
Hoffman and I were banging around before we went on the boat. 
There was an interesting group around at that time of anarchist 
poets, like Bob Stock, who also had been here in California. 
Jackson McLow. A lot of people who made an impression on that 
world over time. 

Before John Cage became so famous, he had a lot of influence 
because of his work with random ideas and his knowledge of 
technological theories. Now I arrive here, and I meet people that 
I met at Black Mountain years ago also Paul and Vera Williams-- 
and M.C. welcomes me with open arms. It was like coming back to a 


richer intellectual environment. Let s face it: the East Coast 
and the West Coast both have extraordinary virtues but they re 
very different. In those days, I think what happened and this 
happened again the next time I came to Californiathe people on 
the West Coast were very receptive and laid back and welcoming, 
but the people who came here from the east and the midwest had a 
lot more energy and a lot more drive and a lot more motivation to 
succeed. It was easier to succeed on the West Coast in the arts 
in any of the artsthan it was on the East Coast. The East Coast 
had establishment, you know, and there were a lot of barriers 
especially to young people and especially to anybody who had ideas 
that didn t fit in to the academic and the commercial ends of the 
arts. It s different now; that was a different time. Anyway, all 
of a sudden I felt reinvigorated and reintegrated into an East 
Coast environment. 

Visual Poems 

Stern: I got into kind of two modes. I started doing visual poem 

collages. There were a lot of painters and sculptors around, and 

I saw that they had a world of exhibitions and performances and 

all kinds of ferment was going on. A lot of them were successful. 
John Chamberlain 

So I was surrounded by a lot of people who were more into 
the visual aspect of things than I had been. I had always been 
very involved in going to museums and galleries ever since I first 
got my friendships with the whole Music and Art crowd. They 
really turned me on to painting and sculpture, and I had a lot of 
connections to painters and sculptors in those days, and now here 
I was kind of coming back to that scene. 

M.C. Richards had been given by John Cagethey lived just 
across the road from usa report to the National Association of 
Educational Broadcasters, the NAEB--I knew what the NAEB was all 
about because of KPFA and KQED by Marshall McLuhan, which later 
became the verbatim manuscript for the book Understanding Media. 
Now when M.C. got that manuscript, she immediately thought of me. 
She gave it to me to read. She said, "John, I need it for a few 
more weeks . " 

I read it, and it was a revelation; I understood immediately 
that his perceptions were seminal for my development. 
Particularly things like his statement that what you need to do is 
pay attention to the effect rather than the content. But there 
were a whole slew of insights which just kind of got me turned on 


and working. I was particularly taken with what I then 
considered--! don t agree with myself anymore nowthe limitations 
of the written word in poetry. I started making these word 
collages, and I wrote a proposal for a work titled The 
Transformer. It was a total audio-visual experience of words and 
images, and it never went anywhere. Nobody really was that 
receptive to funding it or to building it at the time, but it was 
an important step forward for me. 

I then started developing a concept called the Verbal 
American Landscape. I was cutting up words out of magazines and 
posters and anywhere I could find them, and then I kind of 
expanded that into road signs and advertising messages, and I was 
really beginning to collage my mind and physically, and a 
landscape of words which were not necessarily linear. I mean, the 
whole McLuhan perception from Gutenberg type to electronic media 
was [snaps fingers] hitting on me, and it was also very somehow 
compatible to the "high" state of mind in which you tend to 
associate more than to just build from grammatical sentence 
structure. My poetry, even though a page had become less and less 
linearbefore this, it just was like a fantastic mish-mash of 
these ideas with where I was heading. 

"The Land" Artistic Communitv 

Stern: Among the people I didn t know and met at that time, was a painter 
named Steve Durkee and his wife Barbara. They were living 
downtown on the lower East Side, and his gallery owner helped him 
to buy an old church which was very close to Gatehill Co-op, which 
was where we were in Rockland County. the co-op was known as "The 
Land," this little artistic community of Black Mountain people. 
And people had been added. We became friendly immediately. Steve 
was a skinny, red-headed giant--! loved his paintings and I still 
do. He was a great painter, and he s given up painting now but I 
had a lot of work, which was left behind to me. He was, and I 
assume still is, a very difficult personality, but brilliant both 
visual and conceptual ideas. We got on famously, and we wanted to 
work together. He was very taken with my ideas. Steve s wife was 
a San Franciscan. The patron of this whole group was Paul 
Williams because he had inherited money, and he designed people s 
houses , and he helped people buy land and things . He funded The 
Living Theater, and he was a primary f under at that time of 
radical causes and artwork. And he was a very modest and 
hardworking guy. 


Barbara s house was old and needed a lot of work. I did a 
lot of work on it for her while we were living together. And then 
Steve and I decided he would help me to rebuild the bathroom. We 
built a really wild little bathroom with trees growing through it 
and a mandala stone floor. Barbara and I had a very good 
relationship but she was one of those people who always wanted 
more. And after we got through with the bathroom she wanted me to 
redo the kitchen. 

In the meantime, I was very busy working on what I 
considered my new three-dimensional poems. I had designed some 
ideas for sculptural poems which I was so enthusiastic about, and 
I talked to Steve, and I talked to a lot of people. I talked to 
Paul Williams, and it got to be, conceptually, an idee fixe. Paul 
offered to build them for me; he said, "We could do that." And 
Steve s gallery was a very prestigious gallery, the Alan Stone 
Gallery in New York. The gallery owner said that if we built 
them, he would show them. Here I was in seventh heaven. 

In the meantime, I was near my parents again. We had a 
rocky relationship which had been somewhat repaired during my 
marriage to Ann, because- -wow- -she represented real middle-class 
splendor beyond any--. We went back for my brother s bar mitzvah, 
and I was called up to the Torah for an aliyah. I had a nice bass 


Stern: After years of basically not talking to my father and my 

stepmotherthere s really kind of a disconnected scene going 
down. But now I was divorced from my nice society wife, and I was 
living up in a bohemian scene in Rockland County, and it started 
coming apart again. Barbara and I had had a big fight because I 
refused to get involved in this kitchen remodeling, and I stopped 
talking. I would not talk, and various people around there would 
come around and tell me, "I know you re not talking, but I won t 
tell anybody; you can talk to me." Things like that. I just 
wouldn t open my mouth. I was on strike. I would go to Paul s 
shop, and we would work on the pieces. There were some really 
exciting things we were making. 

Then it was the high holidays, and Ethel [Hultberg] offered 
to take me to the synagogue. I went, but I still wouldn t open my 
mouth even to say the Shmah or anything. I was in total 
withdrawal but I was working full time. People would feed me, 

This went on for weeks. They wanted me to go see a 
psychiatrist, and I wouldn t do that. Once in a while I would 


write notes to people. I had another friend, Arthur, who was 
living with M.C. Richards. He was an artist, a wonderful guy, and 
he said I was bewitched. One day, in the evening, I went over to 
one of the houses on the land where Betsy and Ep Epstein lived and 
they weren t home. There was a woman there, Judi Wilson, and I 
may have seen her once before, I don t know. Anyway, I got this 
fixation that she was the Angel of Death. I was writing notes 
back and forth. She was very attractive. And when the Epsteins 
came home she put me in her Volkswagen Bug and took me up to 
Woodstock. And I started talking. 

Byerly: Woodstock was ? 


Stern: New York. Woodstock was where she lived. 

Byerly: She took you to her house? 

Stern: Yes. 

Byerly: Oh, okay. 

Stern: So now I had left Barbara. But I had to keep going back and forth 
from Woodstock to Rockland County because we were building all 
these pieces. Some of which were fascinating: there was a garbage 
lid on a restaurant table pedestal with a little mechanism there 
where the word "enough" except it was spelled "enuf" [ spells ]-- 
you know those letters they used to use on postboxes on the road 
that had little things that caught the light, little reflectors on 
them? The garbage can lid was filled with crankcase oil. About 
every minute or so, the word "enuf" would rise out of the oil, 
dripping oil, and after about fifteen seconds or so it would fall 
back into the oil. [laughter] It was a great piece, it really 
was. And Paul the idea was simple, but to build these things was 
complex. I helped him, but basically he designed the things. He 
didn t want his name used when they were shown. That piece 
unfortunately--! wasn t there when it happened, but it was 
standing in the foyer of the gallery on a plush red rug, and a 
delivery man came in with a delivery book, and he needed to put it 
down. He threw it in the oil. He thought it was a table because 
it looked like it reflected light; it was when the "enuf" was 
submerged. He threw the book; the book got wet but it splattered 
oil all over the red carpet, and Alan was furious. I mean, this 
was a very expensive red carpet. 

I was so devastated by the--the other thing that happened 
was the day the show opened there was a newspaper strike in New 
York. So there was no possibility of reviews. And this was a 
big day in my life, my first show. It was a group show; there 


Byerly ; 

were three people in it. So Judi and I got into the Volkswagen, 
and we went to California- -leaving the show up. 

In the meantime, Steve had moved into the church, and I had 
helped him with building walls and things. We had gotten very, 
very close. I mean, Steve was the guy who arranged the show for 
me. Our mutual appreciation of each other s work was a very, very 
powerful bond. 

As a fascinating side story to this, Judi and Steve had 
lived together, and Barbara had come to visit them with two 
Mexican friends of hers. She was on her way, I think, from Europe 
back home to California, and she had decided that Steve was going 
to be hers. And she invited him to Calif ornia--she comes from a 
wealthy family, related to the Mellons. And Steve bit; he left 
Judi, whereupon Judi allied herself with David Weinrib, who was a 
sculptor and who had been married to Karen Cams. He was one of 
the founders of the community at The Land. That had been just 
kind of breaking up when I met Judi that night. 

All three of us are LibrasSteve, David, and I. Now there 
was obviously some not- so-great feelings both between Steve and 
Judi and between Barbara and Judi. David and Steve were also 
friends, but the bond between Steve and I, and, ergo, Barbara, was 
so strong that it overcame that. In the meantime, during the time 
I was living with the other Barbara, a lot of people had come 
through--! mean, this little community was a central focus -- 
Michael McClure and Allen Ginsberg and all kinds of people from my 
past and from other people s pasts. A lot of black activists and 
anarchists, Igal Rudenko and Bayard Rustin and David Keren, for 
instance . 

Say that again. 

Rudenko was a printer who was an anarchist and a very close friend 
of David and Belle s, for instance. And Vera Williams did all the 
covers for Resistance, which was the anarchist publication. And 
what was his name now--a big figure in the black movement, a gay 
guy-- Anyway, Ethel and Paul, in the meantime, had lived at The 
Land, but they had had a lot of philosophical differences, and 
they had been kind of pushed out, but they were around. There 
were a lot of strong inputs and outputs. 

Back to California 

Stern: And Judi and I went to California carrying all my collage 

materials and things with me. I was designing new works on the 


road. We stopped to see friends along the way, including her 
parents who, of course, I hadn t met. Her father was a dirt 
farmer in Tennessee. He called me "Santi Glaus," which was better 
than Jane s father s "refugee kike son-in-law." 

I was really turned on to audio-visual, electronic use of 
words in media. I had made a lot of kind of excerpts out of the 
McLuhan thing which I took along. We didn t have copy machines in 
those days, at least available to us. But I had written it out by 
hand. Eventually, Understanding Media came out. I don t remember 
when that was in this context. 

I got to California, and by that time we were able to move 
back onto the barge. The transvestite had absconded. I had 
evolved on the way a concept for a piece called "Contact is the 
Only Love." I built a paper mock-up of it; it was a seven-foot 
octagon with flashing lights and audio components. It was a 
sculpture, kind of a pop kinetic sculpture. Some of it was 
somewhat derivative, to tell you the truth. I had met Bob Indiana 
through Steve, and I was extremely taken with his work which--! 
love wordswas another kind of very strong pop image. It was 
different from what I wound up doing but it had given me a very 
strong hint that it was possible to do things in a completely 
different manner that I had conceived of before. 

I started building pieces, and I related to Ivan Majdrakoff 
--again, after years of not seeing him, we got very closehe was 
living here in Mill Valley. We started working on a film 
together, the first film that he had ever made. 

I m getting confused again about the timeline. There was a 
certain problem about this piece; it was a very ambitious piece, 
this big one. In the meantime, I was doing collage works. I got 
back together with Herb Caen, and he was still married at the time 
to Sally. Herb helped get Judi--I referred to Judi as my nurse; 
by this time she was no longer the Angel of Death although that 
was in the background of my mind, but people here thought of her 
as my nurse, that s what I told them she was, and Herb got her a 
job working in David s delicatessen as a waitress. 

I needed several thousand dollars to start buying the 
equipment to put into this piece. One of the people I had known 
well through Sally Caen was Rene di Rosa. Rene is the major 
collector of California art. He has a place called Winery Lake. 
He was another element of San Francisco society whom I knew when I 
was married to Ann. I was just writing poetry then. In fact, 
there was another guy who lived in that same section, Frank Granat 
from Granat Brothers Jewelry. He wanted to be a songwriter, and 
Ann and I wrote some lyrics together with him. Now Rene, when he 


saw my collagesat that time I was working not only with a lot of 
words, but I was superimposing other words on top of them, and I 
had a Superman figure that swung back and forth on a little motor. 
Rene was the first one who bought my work. It s in his museum up 
in Napa [California] ; there are three pieces there. That was a 
big help even though he got them for very little money. It was a 
big help. They are very nice early pieces. 

The connections started developing. I went to see, at the 
time, George Culler, who was the director of the San Francisco 
Museum of Art, and I went to him cold. I showed him this thing 
and this was this roll of paper, which was a seven- foot octagon, 
red and blue and yellow; it was a little like a highway sign. I 
have a film of it, and I have photographs of it, etcetera. He 
really got turned on by the idea, but he didn t have any money to 
fund it. 

So he told me that the museum would accept contributed 
funds; that would be a tax incentive. We started meeting every 
few weeks, and he was wonderful. I mean, he didn t know me from 
Adam. Then I was having difficulty raising the money, so he 
suggested, "Well, you re a poet; why don t you do a poetry reading 
at the opening of your show. We ll charge money for it. It ll 
help you defray the cost." 

In the meantime, I got to know some other people. There was 
a gallery owner who was the heir to the Piggly-Wiggly grocery 
fortune--! can t remember his name now, but it ll come back. Hal 
Babitt, who was one of Henry Kaiser s assistants and had been with 
Kaiser forever, got interested in the project and gave it some 
personal money and some Kaiser money. And a number of other 
people contributed hundreds of dollars , and we got enough money 
together, and we built the piece right here on Mount Tamalpais. 
An old friend of mine who s a wild constructor/designer/architect/ 
carpenter /guru named Roger Somers--he s still there. He was a 
fantastic craftsperson; he could make wood do anything. He s 
particularly good with routers and making curved edges and things. 
A little too much for me; I needed some hard edges, and we made 
some compromises . 

I needed audio help. I got an introduction to Morton 
Subotnik who at the time was with Ramon Sender, the co-director of 
the San Francisco Tape Music Center, which later moved to Mills 
College, but at that time it was on Divisadero Street. There was 
a young guy there about sixteen years old named Michael Callahan. 
By this time, I decided, Poetry reading? Who wants to do a poetry 
reading? I mean, that was old stuff, right? I started working on 
plans for a multimedia experiencemultimedia, mind you, wasn t a 
word that was known in those dayscalled "Who are You and What s 


Happening?" I got all my old friends involvedIvan Majdrakoff 
and Allen and Michael McClure, and what we finally wound up with 
and I needed audio help to set up this elaborate thingand 
Michael Callahan was their technical director at sixteen. Morton 
and Ramon said, "Okay, Michael, this is for you." It was much too 
big a job for him at the time, but he was incredible. He borrowed 
a lot of equipment. 

It was in the auditorium of the museum. We had transparent 
isolation booths onstage in which each of themthere were four 
people all together- -you know, Herb Caen, Allen Ginsberg, et 
cetera, et cetera- -we were able to broadcast and switch the 
signals from the various booths onto a series of speakers. In the 
meantime, we were projecting a series of slides which came from 
the Verbal American Landscape. Those had been chosen by me I 
didn t do the photography; Ivan and Stewart Brand did the 
photography. We borrowed some closed-circuit television 
equipment, so there were television images. We were able to 
switch the whole thing. There were people in costuine it was a 
very elaborate affair. 

Psychedelic Multimedia 

Stern: The technology was not by any means perfect. We had telephones 
and microphones, and there was a lot of feedback. There was 
absolute chaos. In the meantime a little antecedent to this we 
had started getting into the psychedelic period, and I had had my 
first acid trip at Roger Somers in kind of an orgiastic setting. 

Roger was close to Alan Watts and Elsa Gidlow. Alan and 
Elsa both lived on the same property down here on the flank of Mt. 
Tamalpais. There was a picture of Elsa in this week s Chronicle, 
and the books that they were reviewing. 

The acid had kind of given me an even more precise idea of 
the kind of mixture that I wanted to create. Mixed media. 
Between that and McLuhan and et cetera. 

We did this for two nights. Alfred Frankenstein was at that 
time the San Francisco Chronicle arts and music critic, a 
nationally or even internationally known critic. I found out 
later on he had wanted to go to some [Bela] Bartok quartets that 
were playing that night, but his city editor had gotten the 
release of this thing at the museum, and it had really sparked his 
interest so he insisted that Alfred go to this affair. Well, the 
next day on the second page of the Chronicle there was the 


headline: "Landmark of a Flop." Some enormous eggs have been laid 
in the history of San Francisco art, but "[laughter] he went on 
and on, and he slammed the hell out of this performance, which 
absolutely delighted me. In fact, a couple of years later I was 
on a plane and sitting next to me was Alfred Frankenstein. I 
started talking to him, and he said, "I didn t think you would 
talk to me after that review I wrote of your work." I said, "That 
was the best review that I could have ever have expected. It was 
a success; it was incredible. The second night, we were turning 
away people because of this review." 

Well, the second night was even more chaotic than the first 
night, and I was on acid during the performance. At one point, 
some guy--there was a piano on stage which had just been left 
there from something elsesome guy jumped up on the stage and 
started playing terrible chords. It was very disruptive. Michael 
McClure and I jumped up on stage- -it was the period when he was 
doing his "Beast" poems, and we started roaring, "Ahrg, Grahrr!" 
at each other. It was really a very exciting piece of work. 

Judi and I were living on Hayes Street at the time; we had a 
big apartment, and I had huge collage tables. The show was about 
fifteen different pieces by this time. With part of the money I 
gathered, I had the pieces from the show in New York sent out, and 
I had made a few more things . I d had a little show at the Art 
Institute which had been arranged by friends of mine before that. 
Anyway, things were really rocking and rolling. The soundtracks 
we had made were with FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] , Billie 
Holiday, Alice B. Toklas, etcetera and Michael and I had spent 
night after night collaging sound in a way that hadn t been done 
until that time --although now it s old hat. He and I just became 
co-workers; it has been an amazing collaboration. 

One of the people who had been thereit was part of the 
material that came out of McLuhan--was Alvin Balkind, the director 
of the University of Vancouver s art museum. He just happened to 
be in town. He called me up about a week later; he had gotten my 
number from the museum-- 

Taking the USCO Show on the Road; Vancouver. Seattle. The 
Psychedelic Theater and the Timothy Leary Lecture, MIT. New York, 
Riverside Museum, The LSD Conference. Harvard 

[Interview 3: April 16, 1996] ## 

Stern: I was telling you about the director of the gallery up at the 

University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, who had called me 
and who had been at the performance at the San Francisco Museum. 


He had also read McLuhan, and he noted the inclusion of the 
McLuhan ideas in the performance. Actually, there was a quote 
from McLuhan in the handout that we gave at the performance . He 
asked if we could repeat the performance at the university, and I 
said I thought that would be possible. He said he was going to 
invite McLuhan to speak. He wanted to know if I could bring up 
some of the smaller pieces that were in the show and show them in 
the gallery. So that was all arranged. 

I persuaded Ramon and Morton to let Michael come up with us, 
and Michael, Judi, and I got in a little Volkswagen bug--I don t 
quite understand how we managed that. I think we had a roof rack, 
and we tied all these collages and pieces, they promised to give 
us whatever equipment we needed up there, and we took all of the 
softwareyou know, the slides and the films and the tapesand 
off we went. 

It was really quite a great experience because originally 
the idea of doing this multimedia performance was simply to raise 
money to support the making of "Contact is the Only Love" because 
I still owed quite a bit of money for the parts and the 
electronics and so forth. Most of it was not exactly electronic; 
it was like electromechanical because we were using the kind of 
equipment that s made for display signs and neon and so forth and 
cam-operated switches . It was before the days of fully electronic 
switching capability. 

Of course, we couldn t take "Contact is the Only Love"; that 
weighed--! can t remember how much it weighed, but it took four 
people to lift it, so you can imagine. The base of it was a tire 
filled with concrete, and the little pedestal that the octagon 
rested on itself weighed hundreds of pounds. Anyway, the notion 
of "Who Are You and What s Happening? "--as it was titledor "The 
Verbal American Landscape" as being portable was not something 
that I had anticipated. I was communicating back and forth with 
the East Coast; they were fascinated by what was happening- -Steve 
Durkee and the rest of people I had been working with there. 

Now we met Marshall, and we recorded him. He was somewhat 
taken aback by the performance because he was kind of a Victorian 
gentleman, despite his very forward ideas about media transforming 
twentieth-century consciousness. We got along well. I remember he 
said he was the kind of person who didn t even like pop-up 
toasters; he liked the kind of toaster where you have the two 
sides, and you open them up, and you turn them around, and you 
would close it again. That was his kind of technology, even though 
he was writing about the most forward kind of media experiences . 
His expertise came out of studying the Middle Ages and medieval 
manuscripts originally and then on to Gutenberg and forward. 


He had an extraordinary way of expressing himself. He would 
field an idea, and he would talk a few phrases about it, and all 
of a sudden he would be switching, and he would be on some other 
track immediately. And that just kept happening. To me, it was a 
very dynamic and engaging experience listening to him; I had never 
heard anybody express themselves that way. To some people it was 
ultimately confusing. Since I ve never been into totally linear- 
type expression, it suited me to a T. He followed the 
presentation, the multimedia piece, and he spoke about it--not 
entirely appreciative, because it was a very noisy little piece. 
He did have some remarkable insights into it, and we continued 
relating from that time on for many years both up in Toronto where 
he was headquartered and in New York when he came down to take a 
year-long position at Fordham Universitya controversial 
appointment at the time because it used government money, and the 
question was if it was right to bring someone in from Canada, and 
also he was not exactly accepted as an establishment figure. 

From Vancouver, we packed up the little show- -they paid us 
what to us was an interesting amount of money to come up there. 
It was really just expenses, but it certainly kept us going. Then 
we went on to Seattle, and we stayed there with a friendly 
collector and his wife the Bagley Wrights. It turned out that I 
knew that Ted Roethke had died, but I hadn t realized that he had 
died in Bagley s swimming pool. It was kind of a- -here we were. 

Bagley owned the restaurant on top of the Space Needle in 
Seattle, which was one of the first restaurants that turned 
around, and you could view the whole city. I stayed in touch with 
him for a few years. He was very generous to us. He bought one 
of my pieces. Then we went back to San Francisco. 

Sometime not too long thereafter, Steve and Barbara came 
out. Steve and I created several pieces together which were shown 
in a San Francisco gallery. Things were going on at quite a 
hectic pace. After Steve and Barbara went back to the East Coast, 
Judi and I decided it was time for us to reassemble there with 
them. We did a number of other performances at various campuses 
around the Bay Area, and Steve had attended one of them, and he 
wanted to get involved in making more materials for the 
performances. They were developing: we were getting more images 
and more sound material, and Michael had become very strongly a 
part of what we were doing. Our initial technical difficulties 
were being solved, so there was a lot less feedback and a lot more 
supposed clarity. 

My intentions in these works were to extend concepts of 
poetry into more elaborate modes of expression. I felt that it 
worked. For instance, the slides in "The Verbal American 


Landscape"--each were slides of one word. Now if you had three 
screens of one-word slides, the three words together would create 
some kind of an associative pattern, and you wouldn t necessarily 
change all three of them at once. Some of them related to others, 
but all of the words were either cut out of print or they were 
shot on the street, out of signsit would not necessarily be the 
whole sign; it could be just one word out of the sign. Sometimes 
it would be two or three if it was the correct kind of meaning. 
It got a lot of impressionistic feelings going from the audience. 
I think that was not on tape what I said about the Aha Syndrome: 
if you throw enough information up simultaneously not just a 
narrow focus of people but a lot of people can draw something out 
of it because there s so much. They tend to identify with 
something that for some reason does that association for them, 
which may not do it for the person next to them. 

Somewhere along the line I wrote a sentence, an explication 
of some of it which went "in a world of simultaneous operations, 
you don t have to be first to be on top." As I said, Ivan, my old 
friend--! call him Ivan [stress on long i, not e] , but the really 
preferred pronunciation is Ivan [long e, not i]-he and I had made 
our first film together. It was used as part of some 
performances, and it also won an award at the Los Angeles 
Experimental Film Festival. It was titled "Y", just the letter Y 
out of a highway sign. It was a physically cut montage of highway 
signs and the center line on the highway and a nude female figure, 
very close up and panned over as if it were a highway. It had 
orgasmic breathing sounds and traffic noises also mixed. It s 
quite a powerful film. 

There was kind of a complex thing going on here with the 
Northwest Review which was up in Eugene, Oregon. I had somehow 
gotten them- -I think it was through M.C. Richards, a translation 
that she had done of Antonin Artaud, a poet maudit from France--in 
fact, I had become acquainted with his work through Carl Solomon; 
you remember how I had told you about how he had brought all the 
books to the Psychiatric Institute. Artaud also had written about 
a Mexican journey he had made trying shamanic, psychedelic 
mushrooms; it was a very interesting piece. I can t remember what 
magazine it was published in--maybe Transformation. It really 
grabbed a lot of us; it was extremely intense poetic imagery, as 
was all his work. They published that, and then they found out 
about what I was doing. 

We had a friend who lived on Lake Siltkoos in Oregon, in a 
log cabin. He was a former professor of Latin and a friend of 
Martha Graham s, and he had been dismissed because he had had an 
affair with one of his male students many years before. He 


retired to this lake. Jane and I had actually stayed with him, 
and I kept in touch. 

We didn t do a whole performance in Eugene, but I showed 
this film. A couple of days later I went back to a presentation 
at the university, from Lake Siltkoos. Another filmmaker and 
critic whom I knew from San Francisco was lecturing and showing 
some avant-garde films of the time I think, Bruce Conner and Stan 
Brakhage. After the films, he got up to talk, and he was saying, 
"Well, I hope what had happened to one of my friend filmmakers a 
few days ago here doesn t happen to me. I understand the police 
are still looking for him." I kind of listened to this; at first 
I didn t quite understand what was happening. Then I realized he 
was talking about me. [Laughter] So I quietly snuck out of the 
auditorium and fled back to Lake Siltkoos. And I then called the 
people at the Northwest Review who had sponsored me there. It had 
really hit the fan the day after my showing. A twenty-year-old 
student had complained to her mother that she had terrible 
aftereffects from seeing this movie because of the orgasmic 
breathing, it was obscene--and I can t remember all the details, 
but the Regents of the university got involved, and the editors of 
the Northwest Review lost their positions, and the Regents even 
threatened to dismiss the head of the university. It was like a 
ridiculous cause celebre. And I disappeared quickly. For sure 
the police would have arrested me. 

After that we decided to go back to the East Coast, and 
several people arrangedIvan and other people arranged stops 
along the way with performances . One of them was in Salt Lake 
City, Utah, and when the first nude imagesthis was in the art 
school, mind you, at the university- -hit the screen, they stopped 
the projector, they gave me my film back, and they ushered me 
quickly out the door. At that time, you were not even allowed in 
that art school to draw from the nude. Mormon edicts. 

We went on, and we did four or five little performances on 
the way. Michael was not with us; it was just Judi and myself in 
the Volkswagen bug. We then arrived back in Woodstock at Judi s 
little house in what was called "The Maverick"; we thought it was 
a very appropriate place to live. There was no running water, 
there was an outhouse, but it was a lovely little place. Very 
quiet and very conducive to doing creative work. 

We started spending quite a bit of time at the church in 
Garnerville [New York], which was a little over an hour away, and 
which belonged at that time to Steve. I think I mentioned that 
his gallery owner, who also was showing my work- -Alan Stone- -had 
helped him buy this church. It was $5,000 for an old church. Not 
too bad, huh? Even in those days when money was worth more. 


I forgotafter the show in San Francisco, there were a 
number of galleries that became very interested in my work, 
including the David Stewart Gallery in Los Angeles . We also had a 
show down there, and a lot of the movie and art people were 
fascinated. David also showed Dennis Hopper, who at the time was 
doing visual arts it was before he was really in the movies, 
although he was married to the daughter of a well-known movie 
starand I met him, and we became quite friendly. And by that 
time, John Chamberlain, whom I had known on the East Coast, had 
moved out to Southern California- -there was a lot of great 
associations with people who were working hard and who were either 
not known or well-known in the arts. A lot of the people who were 
at the Beat show at the Whitney, which is coming out here--Wally 
Hedrick, etcetera, were living in the canyons there. We had some 
friends who were involved in the popular music business. You 
know, those crowds at that time were very kind of mixed up and 
hung out together. We stayed with Barry Maguire for several 
weeksthe guy who did "Eve of Destruction". 

My first psychedelic experience- -my first LSD [lysergic acid 
diethylamide] experience, rather, because I had taken peyote both 
with the Indians and with Philip Lamantia. Philip and I had gone 
down to the de Angulo ranch. It was my first peyote experience. 
There was a little cabin on that property called Gloria. We had 
an amazing night together eating peyote with very anthropomorphic 
and mandalic imagery. At the time I was working with Grace 
Clements- -this goes back to the time when I was around KPFA we 
had an idea for a rather elaborate work called "The Symbology," of 
taking international and interreligious symbols and doing kind of 
a comparative analysis and exposition and imagery both from a 
philosophic /psychological standpoint from her side, and from my 
poetic standpoint. We, through her connections, applied for a 
number of grants to realize that project but none of them ever 
came through, so it just remained a proposal. I might actually 
have a copy of it somewhere. It never occurred to me until this 
moment that that Symbology project and later the "Transformer" 
project, which had some conceptual relationship, not on a subject 
[form?] but the idea of synthesis, bringing together elements in 
that kind of a locus --anyway, where am I? That s always a good 
question, huh? 

Now we re already on our way to the East Coast after that, 
doing performances along the way. When we got back- -as I said, we 
were spending more and more time at the church, and both Michael 


Callahan and I were really missing working together. Michael had 
decided to leave school, and we arranged for him to come east. He 
joined us; he had a little extra room in Woodstock in the cabin, 
and there was room at the church. Michael and Steve got along 
very well. 

I had turned on Steve to grass, and it kind of changed his 
life. It somehow made him a lot less neurotic. He also then had 
LSD experienceshe and I, it seems to me, are the only people I 
know who instead of getting more out of it, got less out of it. 
Timothy Leary and his group always resented the fact that I felt 
that I had gotten more rational on 

Stern: --the LSD experiences rather than further out of it as had 

happened to them. Most of the people involved in the psychedelic 
movement were very straight people before acid, and they were 
looking to get out of their strait jackets. I was kind of a 
hysterical--! wasn t strait jacketed because I didn t allow myself 
to be, but when I got hysterical the only way to calm me down was 
either to put me in a hot tub or to fuck me or do something that 
would break the pattern. It was only after Michael and I had 
worked a long time together that I understood the nature of 
feedback loops. Actually, he started explaining them to me after 
the experience at the San Francisco Museum. 

A feedback loop is the relation between a transmitter and a 
receiver, and once they start interacting- -unless you somehow 
break the loopthey just keep accelerating, and they don t stop. 
It s called positive feedback. There s no way to stop it except 
when the mechanism or organism breaks down or if you are able 
yourself or somebody elseto separate the elements. It s a nice 
metaphor for hysterical behavior. I think once I understood it 
from the theoretical and electrical or acoustic point of view, and 
also the chemical point of view from psychedelics, I was able to 
handle it myself instead of needing somebody outside of myself to 
handle it. 

We kept on developing these multimedia performances, and 
Steve got incredibly involved in making super-eight millimeter 
movies and developing image banks with us. We did electronic 
music, mostly meditational in nature, and before long we stopped 
doing the performances as individuals . Without our names , we 
decided to call ourselves "USCO", the company of Us, because we 
were anonymous artists. 


Now this actually came out of something I had learned from 
my time with Grace Clements. Grace had introduced me to the work 
of Ananda Coomeraswami , who was curator of fine arts at the Boston 
Museum, and who had written a lot of work on the artist in 
traditional society. The artist in traditional society was 
incorporated in the society; it wasn t a ego trip: he didn t sign 
his work. He made objects and images that were used by the 
community, and he was no different, supposedly, than the other 
craftsmen or the other people who produced food and clothing and 
shelter and whatever. It seemed to me at the time that that was a 
much saner and compatible role, at least for me personally. 
Steve, who has always had trouble in terms of his ego, was 
entranced by this idea, and now we became USCO, the company of Us. 

We were always looking for more material and more people. 
By this time we had gathered another five or six people who were 
working together with us, some of them living at the church and 
some of them not. I had met in Woodstockbecause we were 
neighborsan artist named Bob Dacey. He did tie-dye work, and he 
did work in which he collaged a lot of things and then burned them 
using glue that he set on fire. 

We all got involved in everything, and Dace had a friend 
named Jud Yalkut, who was working as a stockboy at a big record 
store in New York, Sam Goody s, but his ambition was to be a 
filmmaker. At the time, I had gotten very involved in the 
Woodstock Artists Association; I was the vice-chairman, and Dace 
was on the board, and a lot of our other friends and there was 
quite a conflict developing between the old traditional artists 
who felt that they were the artists and that we were not. But we 
had the backing of the most powerful conservative person who had 
been one of the founders and one of the chairmen, Arnold Blanche, 
and he taught at the Art Students League, and he was a fairly 
well-known painter. He backed us 100 percent against a lot of his 

In any case, there was a woman there whose son had died in 
an automobile accident, and she happened to have a movie camera 
that he had used, and she gave it to us. And I gave it to Jud. 
We had another friend, Jonathan Ayers, who had a remarkable 
motorcycle; it was called "The Ghost." I was fascinated by the 
concept of real time and time as it was represented by the number 
of frames per second in film and how you can really manipulate 
time on film by simply- -somehow, either mechanically or 
electrically or electronically slowing it down and speeding it up. 
We conceived this piece of film work, which we used in our 
performances it was filmed simply by Judd sitting behind Jonathan 
on the motorcycle running down roads around Woodstock- -fairly 
woody roads. What we did was we printed three of these films-- 


identical films and we projected them on three screens right next 
to each other, and we would adjust the speeds so that they would 
go in different directions through each other. We also 
superimposed slides of words on the three images. Single words in 
black and white. The accompaniment through four channels of sound 
was the sound of this incredible motorcycle which was like- 
somehow it reminded us also of Tibetan chants [simulates]. In a 
big auditorium with big speakers, it was definitely an overload 
experience. We kind of got into overload for a while. 

Byerly: That was the trend. 

Stern: It was the trend, and there weren t many people at that time doing 
multimedia work; we were pioneers according to Life magazine. We 
performed this in various places: the University of Rochester, 
where we had some friends who were professors; MIT [Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology]--. 

I haven t talked about Santa Cruz. Paul Lee, see, we were 
starting to get very involved with Timothy Leary and Richard 
Alpert and Ralph Metzner. We were at the church which is in 
Garnerville. Garnerville is in Rockland County on the west side 
of the Hudsonyou know, New Jersey starts opposite New York and 
then goes back into New York. Millbrook--at that time it was 
called the Castalia Foundation, after something in one of 
[Hermann] Hesse s novels. I had met the people up in Boston 
sometime before, but I didn t really know them. My psychedelic 
experiences and their psychedelic experiences had not been 
connected to this time, but we were invited to come up to 

Millbrook was an incredible estate which was owned by the 
two Hitchcock brothers and their sister. They were very wealthy 
socialites who became patrons of Timothy s, and of the psychedelic 
movement. There was a house which probably had forty or fifty 
bedrooms which they turned over. They lived also on the property 
but in other houses ; it was quite an estate . There was even a 
bowling alley. 

Byerly: This was the Hitchcocks? 

Stern: Hitchcocks. Billy, Tommy, and Peggy. Billy, I think, at the time 
was working as an investment banker with Lehman Brothers. I mean, 
there were private planes; on the other hand, there were 
indigents, hangers-on, living there. Sometimes you d come up 
there, and there would be a hundred people. Can t remember that 
famous moviewas it ftfarienbad? The estate reminded one of this 
kind of setting. 

We somehow became involved. They thought that our 
multimedia performances were kind of simulations of psychedelic 
experiences . One of the people who had been one of Timothy 
Leary s early subjects with LSD was a guy named Paul Lee, a 
professor of philosophy and religion at MIT and Paul Tillich s 
assistant. We became very friendly with Paul, and Paul invited us 
to do a performance firstwell, I m getting ahead of myself here. 
He was first [the protestant chaplain?] at Brandeis [University], 
and then he moved back to MIT. We did performances at both 
universities. By the time we got to MITthere s an incredible 
auditorium there; it s kind of like a diaper shape, designed by 
Saarinen. We had started building strobes. Strobe lights. Among 
the audience when we did this-- We had done a series of 
performances in New York City for-- Jonas Mekas and his brother 
Adolphus were the leading figures in the avant-garde film movement 
on the East Coast. Jonas had decided that he was going to do a 
festival, "Expanded Cinema." I ve got all the materials for this; 
my problem is I ve got an attic full of stuff in dreadful chaos 
which needs to be organized, and a lot of the stuff you should 
have access to. 

At the same time, Jonas had arranged to go to Europe. I 
believe he was Latvian, and he was going back home. So he turned 
over the Expanded Cinema festival to a guy named John Brockman. 
John contacted me, and we arranged to do performances --and we also 
put him in touch with a lot of the other people who were working 
in the media by that timeboth using theatre media and 
performance pieces. We added at that time to our performance in 
New York an artist named Carolee Schneemann. Carolee is a dancer, 
a performance artist, and a filmmaker. She and her dancers would 
get up during one portion of the performance on stage where we had 
this white photographic background paper, very large, and as the 
slides and images were projected, they would take paintbrushes and 
paint portions of the images with dance motions. They were 
dressed up as painters in white overalls, which also of course 
caught the images, and each of them had a white ladder. Then when 
they finished painting those, they would rip down the pieces of 
paper, and there would be more paper behind it. 

After a while, we were kind of getting out of overload, and 
we felt that we had freaked out too many people. We were changing 
the name of the performance, and we finally changed it to "We Are 
All One." Now what we did is we would build up to overload, then 
from overload we would come down to a meditational transformation 
and just [hums] "ommmmmmmmmm." There would be these hundreds of 
images just multiplying and overloading and sounds. Eventually 
the only image there would be on a big display a CRT [cathode-ray 
tube] monitor- -an oscilloscope sine wave which looks like the 
infinity sign or a Moebius loop just dancing for fifteen minutes 


just very low "ommmmmmmmmm. " It would cool everybody out; it was 
our intention to excite people and to give them the multiplicity 
sensation and then to bring them back to unity. It worked 
beautifully; it was amazing. 


By the time we got to MIT [Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology] , you know, here was the motorcycle film--Kresge 
Auditorium, I think it is. I think it s Saarinen who was the 
architect. Woodstock is near Poughkeepsie, which is where IBM s 
research and development and some of its manufacturing facilities 
were centralized. There was a place there called P&D Surplus, 
where you could go and buy incredible electronic devices and parts 
and things which weren t ordinarily available. This was Michael s 
world; he knew what everything was. We would go- -whatever we had; 
a few dollars in our pocket--and Michael would save thousands of 
dollars. His technique was "Wow! We could buy this for forty 
dollars! This cost somebody $6,450!" [Laughter] We weren t 
saving anything; we were spending everything we had, you know? 
But we got some incredible thingslike this big CRT. Now this 
[points] is considered a large screen, this television, right? 
Well, this thing was twice as big. It couldn t show television 
programs, but Michael was able to build the circuitry so we could 
show very elaborate wave forms that were taken off one or two 
oscilloscope inputs into this display tube, and it was the central 
piece on stage. After a while, we had somebody sitting in the Zen 
meditation position on top of this piece of equipment. We flashed 
images on him, and that guy had to stay totally still during the 
whole performance [laughter] . It was a kind of obsessional 
madness intended to get across our "We Are All One" message. 

With the strobes and the overload with the three motorcycles 
going, after our performance at MIT, we got a phone call from this 
professor who first developed the strobe and who worked with 
[Jacques] Cousteau and who was head of the department at MIT. His 
name was Harold Edgerton. He s an extremely famous and brilliant 
guy. You probably have seen some of his strobe photographs of the 
milk drop which looks like a corona. He wanted to talk to Michael 
and me. He said, "This strobe you have is puny. Next time you 
have a performance, I ll lend you a real strobe," and he took us 
into his laboratory, and he showed us these enormous strobes, and 
he gave Michael some circuitry. It was a very, very generous 
gesture. He said, "I didn t really enjoy the performance, but I 
understand what you re trying to do. If you want to use a strobe, 
at least get a powerful strobe." 

He explained to us that his reputation and his career had 
been made on the strobe light. He had arrived at it simply 
because his original field was motors, and to measure the rpm, 
revolutions per minute, of a motor was very difficult. It used to 


be done mechanically by holding some kind of a counter as the 
motor was revolving. He developed the strobe to count the 
revolutions on a motor, and everything came after that. There was 
a big manufacturing firm of grandiose proportions that he formed 
with two associatesEEC, it s called, and it s a big military 
supplier. We were a little put off by all this, but he was so 
forthcoming. It s a relationship which we kept going for many 

Now we had met John Brockman because of the Expanded Cinema 
festival. John, who came from Boston where his father was the 
Carnation King of New England, had gone to business school at 
Columbia and had become a china buyer at Bloomingdale s but he 
wanted to be in the arts. 

Here we were: this group of poets, engineers, and painters 
living in an old church in Rockland County. You saw one of the 
pictures of the church, I think, in that thing I sent you, the 
USCO retrospective brochure? 

Byerly: Yes. 

Stern: Right, okay. That was all of us at the church. 

John decided that we were something that he wanted to 
represent, and he got involved with a guy named Michael Meyerberg. 
Michael Meyerberg was a theatrical producer; he had brought 
"Fantasia" to Walt Disney, and he was the first one to produce 
"Waiting for Godot," and he was by this time very old and very 
frail. He had leased the airplane hangar from which [Charles] 
Lindbergh had taken off at Roosevelt Field, and he wanted to put 
in a major kind of a nightclub, youth center, entertainment 
complex. His original concept had been to put a movie studio 
there, but he couldn t get somehow the use permissions, and there 
were things that stood in his way. He was looking for people to 
put this thing together. Somehow John met him- -and John organized 
a bus, and all of us and Andy Warhol s group and Ken Dewey s group 
and a lot of arts people got on this bus and went out to the 
airplane hangar, and we were supposed to make proposals on how to 
turn it into this kind of avant-garde rock music palace. 

Steve and I and Michael got our heads together, and we wrote 
this proposal. I don t know if it was because we were cheap or 
whether it was because we were more adventurous and mind-blowing, 
but we got the contract to do it. 


Stern: We tried to negotiate a cooperation of collaboration with Andy 

because we really felt badly that he had been passed by for this 
fairly ambitious project, but he was involved in the Electric 
Circus, and he decided he didn t want to work together, which was 
also typical of Andy. 

We went on with the project. We had, I think, around the 
whole hangar about thirty slide screens, and we also had one of 
the first video projectors. It was black and white, and it was an 
Idofor, a Swiss machine; it could deliver an image which was, I 
think, about twenty-five feet across, and we had three cameras 
that could takefor instance, the jiggling behind of a young girl 
on the dance floor, blow it up across that whole screen, or back 
off and take practically the whole dance floor. 

The place was at first called "Murray the K s World." 
Murray the K was a well-known macho disc jockey out of New York, 
and he was a very powerful personality, and he didn t get along 
too well with Mr. Meyerberg so "Murray the K s World" became "The 
World . " 

It was a great scene for us because, number one, it allowed 
us to work with some technologies and programming that we hadn t 
worked with before. Michael was able to build a very large-scale 
programmer for all of these thirty slide machines. They were in 
pairs because they dissolved, and we had to make them match with 
the music, so there were all kinds of little effects that we could 
do with them. We actually programmed the slides to go with 
certain tunes. I remember one of the popular tunes of that time 
was Nancy Sinatra s "Boots are Made for Walking"; we had these 
great boot shots all over the screens, and when they dissolved 
into each other it looked like they were walkin . 

There were fairly well-known groups that played there: The 
Rascals, the Isley Brothers, and so forth and so on. I mean, not 
the top levelnot The Beatles, you knowbut the levels just 
below that. The groups alternated with the recorded music, and 
the recorded music is what we had programmed the slides to, 
because we had decided ahead of time what music would be played. 

Michael actually had the job as an employee to run the 
shows. I think it was three a nights a week Thursday, Friday, 
and Saturday. It made the cover of Life and the inside of Life. 
We had two Life stories within that year. The reason we were so 
excited about making the money from "The World", which was not 
something we were particularly into- -making money- -was because we 
had been offered a very large space at the Riverside Museum in New 
York to do a show of our work, an installation of environmentally 
installed pieces. 


It was somewhat ambitious for us; they didn t have any 
money. It was a very interesting museum. They had two sides: one 
was probably the best collection of Tibetan tonkas and other 
Tibetan objects in the country that had been collected by the 
founder, Nicholas Roerich--and the other side was devoted to 
contemporary work. At the time, we were living up in Woodstock, 
and there was this sculptor: a lady named Lily Ente who was very 
friendly to our work, and she was the one who recommended us to 
the museum, and Steve was in seventh heaven because Tibetan 
philosophy and Tibetan art was one of his passions. Somehow drugs 
and Eastern mysticism seem to go very well together. 

This was a huge space. We had, I think, six rooms. By that 
time, we had a lot of associates of various kinds --members of 
USCO, including just about anybody who wanted to get involved, 
practically, as long as they were marginally compatible. We had a 
lot of conflicts because Steve was an irascible and difficult 
person. I mean, one time he went so far as to chop a hole in the 
wall to prove to us that he wasn t going to compromise. On the 
other hand, he was one of the most intensely creative and generous 
and hardworking artists I ve ever met in my life. Brilliant 
insights into visual and conceptual possibilities. I think he 
still inhabits that kind of persona. Later on, he became a Sufi, 
a mosque designer, and a Muslim. He has just recently moved from 
Alexandria, Egypt, back to Virginia with his present wife who was 
his ex-wife s sister-in-lawa development which started while we 
worked together. 

The Riverside Museum was probably the peak experience of our 
USCO time. Paul Williams, whom I talked about when he constructed 
my ideas into visual poetry and didn t want his name mentioned, by 
this time was making works of his own and was using his own name 
and had left "The Land" and had moved to a studio in the city. He 
had severed his marital relationship and had gone off with Betsy 
Epstein, who was David Weinrib s sister and who had been married 
to Arnold Epstein. We were all living on or near "The Land." 
Paul contributed one whole room of a light garden- -fabulous work. 
Dacey had a tie-dye meditation environment, and we had everything 
from the old "Contact is the Only Love", which had been shipped 
from San Francisco, to a what we called "The Tabernacle," which 
was later installed at the church. "The Tabernacle" was a series 
of paintings hung inside a hexagon, and in the middle of the 
hexagon was kind of a lingam made of metal with light internal to 
it and turning, and a fountain, and speakers on each side with 
multichannel capability. It was a big draw. We had oscilloscopes 
set up where people could do their own sine wave adjustments. 
Rooms full of exciting, kinetic, audiovisual artistic experiences. 


Dion Wright had done a painting of the evolution of life --a 
huge, huge painting. He had come to Woodstock sometime previously; 
it was an incredible piece of work later printed as a poster. We 
filled all the rooms, and it was the far-out art event of that 
year. They had to extend the weeks of time that it was supposed to 
be shown, and there were crowds, I mean, there were lines standing 
in the streets. Life magazine came out, and we were interviewed on 
television. It was a big deal. Too big a deal, really, for us. 
It put us in the limelight, and it exposed us to a lot of publicity 
and scrutiny, and we attracted hundreds of young students and 
hippie wannabes, and wannabeats who then congregated around the 
church and made life a little difficult for us . 

At that time we also incorporated the church as a free 
church under the laws of the state of New Yorkthe Church of the 
Living God, believe it or not. After the Riverside we had set up 
"The Tabernacle," and we opened it to the public every weekend. 
The town of Garnerville was overrun this was after the show 
closedby people whothe local blue-collar citizens really 
didn t think we re what the town was all about. We had a lot of 
police action. We cooled it all out, but it was difficult. It 
caused a lot of strain inside the community, inside USCO, and it 
was a great idea to put "The Tabernacle" there but it destroyed a 
large part of our workspace. We were all living there; by this 
time, there were quite a lot of people living in this church. 

Barbara was working as a teacher, and Barbara and Judi were 
doing silk-screened psychedelic posters which we were selling to 
head shops in various parts of the country and selling at our 
performances. We had quite a busy scene going. 

We were also getting a lot of critics from all over the 
world. You know, art critics who had heard about it and who came 
and wrote or needed material. We were trying to sell copies of 
the paintings in "The Tabernacle." The paintings in "The 
Tabernacle" also had lights embedded in them; they were meditation 
images, some of them of Shiva Shakti, others simply of geometric 
images that seemed to move with the strobes and the pulsing lights 
and the various audio inputs that were in there. We had a little 
isolation room behind "The Tabernacle" where if you were on a bad 
trip or you needed some help, you could stay for a week at a time, 
and we would take care of you. It was an odd period. 

Across the river, our friends--! mean, an hour or so away by 
car at the [Castalia?] Foundation who were having a hard time 
keeping their scene together asked us for help. We really didn t 
know how to help them, but finally everybody got together. There 
was a theater that we were able to I can t remember if it was 
entirely contributed, but it was fairly little money, and it was 


called the New Theater, and it was in a very good location in New 
York. We presented, as a benefit, six or eight weeks, I think, 
one time a week, what we called "The Psychedelic Theater." All 
the proceeds except for the bare expenses went to the [Castalia?] 
Foundation which was Timothy and Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner 
and their cohorts. 

The Timothy Leary Lecture 


Stern: We did a multimedia show which we had programmed particularly for 
this theater event, and Timothy lectured about psychedelics. 
Timothy, you know, had been a brilliant psychologist at Kaiser. 
He developed various instruments for analyzing personalities. 
Nobody doubted his professional ability. His wife committed 
suicidefirst wife, I guess. He came to Harvard to teach at more 
or less the same time as Richard Alpert, a young psychologist. 

Richard was the son of the head of a big railroad. He had 
grown up with fairly immense wealth, flew his own airplane. He 
became totally involved at Harvard, and they were all proteges of 
a motivation psychologist named David McClelland, who was the head 
of the Social Relations department at Harvard. He didn t really 
quite know what he was getting into. David was a Quaker who had 
followed Murray s work in motivation being divided into three 
areas: achievement motivation, affiliation motivation, and power 
motivation. This is what people s behavior was divided into. 
This was a way of looking at the behavioral world. Richard was 
probably the most magnetic and the most successful lecturer in 
psychology ever to teach at Harvard. Psychology 1, or whatever it 
was that he taught, always needed the largest auditorium, and 
there was never even standing room available. The guy is a snake- 
oil salesman of the first order. I mean, he can go on any subject 
and persuade you that this is absolutely it. Wonderful ability, 
but also a frightening and destructivebecause you can lead 
people very easily down the garden path and he did. 

Here we were at the "Psychedelic Theater," and Timothy was 
really and always has been an alcoholic. I don t mean this as an 
ethnic slur, but what s called a "black Irish" personality. Just 
subject to a lot of drink. He allowed the drug world to become an 
additional layer on this alcoholism; he never gave up the alcohol, 
by the way. Alcohol and drugs are not the greatest mix in the 
world; they re destructive physiologically. Especially together, 
and when they re taken in large quantities. He s one of the 
several people that I ve known that have really burned themselves 
to a crisp. Anyway, at that time he was an extremely popular but 
also under attack- -he had been thrown out of Harvard as had 
Richard under very painful circumstances. They had turned on 
students, and that was absolutely a no-no, and they had kind of 
destroyed their relationship with the powers that be. On the 


other hand, they had drawn with them a group of people who were 
totally convinced that this was the way to go- -among them a lot of 
people who became close friends of ours. 

The "Psychedelic Theater" showed up a lot of schisms between 
our group and their group. Timothy started lecturing, and he 
wasn t Richard Alpert; Timothy was kind of a dry, boring lecturer 
in those days. He got more lively as time went on. But we were 
appalled; it was the middle of this really turned-on show, and 
here was this professor standing up in the front going on and on. 
We happened to have a tape of Artaud screaming on a radio program 
whilehe was incarcerated in an asylum, but he had been allowed 
to do this radio program. Michael McClure had given me a copy of 
the tape, which I don t know how he got. In the middle of 
Timothy s lecture, we played Artaud screaming. It stopped 
everything; people didn t know what was going on. Then we 
stopped, and Timothy went on as if nothing had happened, you know? 
Then about eight minutes later he was still going, and we played 
another little gob of Artaud screaming. Ralph Metzner came 
running up to where our media control booth was and said to us , 
"You ve broken your contract!" [Laughter] We just thought that 
was so terribly amusing. 

It was a great success. The auditorium was always full; 
everybody paid except Harry Smith. Harry Smith was someone who 
was a spectacular creative being who died recently. I first met 
Harry--! think the first time I came to San Francisco he was 
working as a photographer for the Examiner, and he was living in a 
black hotelhe was pale whitein the Fillmore. He had done 
these way-ahead-of-their-time murals at Jimbo s Bop City which 
was just like it sounded in the Fillmore in return for food. I 
think it was Philip Lamantia who introduced me to Harry, and we 
sat there eating Harry s favorite food which was casaba melons on 
the house; they kept them there just for him. Then he took us to 
see some of his visuals at his hotel. But when we reached the 
lobby we had to take our shoes off, and we had to not say a word 
between the time we got in and the time we left. We then crept up 
the stairs, and he whispered that there was a whore living in the 
next room, and she was in the pay of the FBI or some government 
agency to keep an eye on him. It was a paranoid, delusional 
complex that he had going. He took us into his room, and it was 
totally dark. He turned on a flashlight which had a cardboard 
tube attached to it. He put these works on the floor, and he 
illuminated them slowly so that we could see them, and in total 
silence we crept out holding our shoes and went down the steps and 
put our shoes on. That was Harry Smith. 

Harry came to one of the "Psychedelic Theater" pieces, and 
he started screaming about how he was whatever he was, that he 


wasn t about to pay, these were all old friends of his. Timothy 
and Richard had said there were nothing but spongers and people 
who didn t have any money in this world of ours, and they all 
wanted to get in free, and they all were friends of ours. We had 
set a definite policy: No one was going to get in free. Well, 
Harry got in free because I told Timothy that if Harry didn t get 
in free, there wasn t going to be a show and there d be a riot. 

I keep talking about alcoholics, but there happened to have 
been a lot of them, and there are still a lot of them. Harry was 
one. Most of these people in this world mixed the alcohol with 
drugs, so there were episodes of total insanity. 

Anyway, the "Psychedelic Theater" went on very well, and 
Timothy came to me at the end and says, "Gerd, this was 
incredible. It s a little chaotic, though. The next thing I want 
to do with you is the life of the Buddha. And we re gonna start 
at the time he was born, and we re going to wind up at the end. 
We re going to have logical progression." I used that famous Lone 
Ranger line of "What do you do mean we 1 , Kemosabe?" [Laughter] 
I wasn t about to do the life of the Buddha starting from the 
beginning. But he found some other media artists to do it. 

The other thing at the "Psychedelic Theater" is we had left 
openings, and we had invited any other media artists or any kind 
of artists who wanted to participate, and they came out of the 
woodwork. There were some incredible people who had projection 
things and various instruments and very much in the psychedelic 
mainRichard Aldcroft, Jackie Cassen, Rudy Stern, Isaac Abrams. 
It opened up a lot of new relationships. Part of our interest was 
not to just do it ourselves but to include others. 

It kind of got us off on a track which turned out to put a 
lot of conflict into the system. About that time in Woodstock, 
there were a group of people who were adherents or followers of an 
Indian guru named Meher Baba. I was very impressed by Baba, and, 
as a matter of fact, at our shows we sold posters that we made of 
Baba s face. The idea that somebody in a world where he lived in 
in India, which was a world of poverty and illness and really 
desperate distress, could say "Don t worry, be happy" as kind of 
his major contribution really got to me. His other thing of "I am 
God, and you re God; the only difference is I know I am" was also 
something which appealed to my religious sensibilities. Then the 
fact that he hadn t spoken for all those years and only 
communicated with an alphabet board, was somehow an attractive 


Stern: Baba had this group of Woodstock people who were very strong-- 

maybe believers isn t the right word. A number of them were very 
talented artists . A lot of beautiful paintings about the 
circumstances of Baba s life came out of the group. They related 
to a group that was in New York City, and they related to a colony 
of Baba followers who were in Myrtle Beach in the Carolinas, and 
we knew them all. When we had done our performance at Brandeis 
University- -we were already having these images of Baba on the 
screen; they were part of "We Are All One." Baba fit into "We Are 
All One" like hand to glove. 

There was a guy named Bob Dreyfus who was into the drug 
scene heavily and who got totally turned on by the Baba thing. We 
sold Baba posters and used to carry around little brochures about 
Baba and little pictures--Baba loved to give out pictures of 
himself. And Bob bought a poster at the first Brandeis show and 
got heavily into Baba. He decided to go to India to meet him. He 
did; he hitchhiked through Turkey, and it was a very difficult 
journey, but he arrived there. He told Baba about all of us and 
all of him and what we were all doing. And Baba sent this very 
strong message that drugs were destructive and that we all had to 
stop using them. Dreyfus came back to the church and said, "You 
guys were the people who got me into this, now I want to tell you 
that--" of course, Baba didn t speak; he wrote this out, and he 
communicated through his brother-in-law. His sister s husband, 
maybe. Anyway, it was his principal assistant. Bob got the 
message loud and clear, and he went all over the country to all of 
the groups that were involved in drugs, and he told them that they 
had to stop using. 

Now some of us, like Steve, really got the message, and it 
was very hard for him to stop. And he didn t stop for very long, 
by the way. Other people were totally offended: "How can somebody 
[Baba] who never tried it tell you to stop doing it? He doesn t 
understand what he s talking about." This was Richard Alpert. 

At the time, we hadyou remember I told you about Robert 
Indiana and how I had been somewhat influenced by his paintings 
and the way he used words in the paintings. Among that group that 
used to hang around there was Richard Baker. In the meantime, 
Richard had settled in San Francisco, was working as an event 
coordinator for the University of California, and was also the 
principal disciple of Suzuki Roshi, the first Zen master to settle 
in San Francisco. Richard and his wife, Virginia, and the whole 
family were good friends, and we used to stay with them. 

One of the events that Richard put together was called--! 
can t remember nowthe LSD Conference. It was a conference with 
speakers, and we were the featured show. This was at the campus 


of UC Extension in San Francisco a big gymnasium. By this time, 
we had started projecting on weather balloons. Huge eighteen- foot 
balloons. We would float them above the audience, and the 
audience would push them, and we would follow them by hand- 
manipulated projectors. That was just one part of the 
performance; we were always adding new things. We put on an 
enormous, enormous performance. Richard, for his lecture, talked 
about Baba, and he made this whole thing very clear that nobody 
was going to tell him, no guru from India- -this was a very ironic 
piece of business, by the way, which we ll get to later, because 
later he went to India and found his own guru who told him to 
stop, and he stopped. But that guy ingested the LSD, and it 
didn t do nothing to him according to Richard. Then Richard 
turned into Baba Ramdas, selling a very different line of 
enlightenment . 

Anyway, that s way ahead of the story. Now we had enormous 
conflict not only in our group but in this little world of people 
who were into drugs and Eastern religious philosophy and painters 
and everybody took sides. Steve and I were on opposite sides of 
the issue. I said I m not going to advise anybody how to behave 
in this way. I was getting to the point where I had had enough 
LSD trips, and I didn t want any more acid. But I was and still 
am a confirmed pot smoker. I wasn t going to stop for anybody 
whether I got a divorce as with Ann- -of course, I don t have a 
habit, you understand [laughter]; it s just something I like to 
do, and I ve been doing it for fifty years. What I mean 
realistically, aside from joking, is that I don t have a habit- -a 
habit means you ve got to increase your dose. That s one of the 
things which hasn t seemed necessary. And it also means that when 
you don t have it that you re physiologically deprived, which I m 
not. Sometimes I don t get a high for weeks or months or even 
longer, maybe because I m too busy or maybe because I don t have a 
source of supply, or whatever. I ve never experienced any 
discomfort from either stopping or starting. 

The schism became very strong. On top of it, we were still 
experiencing huge crowds at the church, and it was becoming a 
hassle. Everybody needed this and needed that and wanted to be 
fed, and it just wasn t what we were into. We were an artist and 
engineer group trying to do creative work; we weren t a charity 
service organization. 

We decided thatand Steve was kind of at the helm of this-- 
what we needed was the high-energy charge of the church in 
Rockland County, but we needed was a low-energy center somewhere 
else where we could go and cool out and meditate somewhere in 
nature. Steve and Barbara went off to look for the place in their 


Volkswagen bus, painted holy orange with the Shiva Shakti figure 
mounted on top of it, which I also had one of on my Corvair. 

They went off, and they basically started out in California 
where Richard Alpert was living at the time. Richard had a huge 
house down on the peninsula. He was always wealthy. They lived 
with him, and there was another lady, Jane, who was also living 
with them. Dick was basically homosexual, but he has always had a 
feeling--he may not now--but he was always trying to pass as at 
least a bisexual if not a heterosexual. He doesn t have thehe s 
neither an auntie nor a real faggot in terms of being flagrant, 
but he does prefer young men. 

Jane and I met for the first time, and we were attracted to 
each other. No big passion or anything. She had a little girl 
who was the daughter of the later fairly well-known novelist Bob 

Richard and Steve were lecturing throughout the country and 
doing very well at it. They were being paid fairly well, and the 
subject of the lecture was "LSD: Illusion or Reality?" What Steve 
didn t know at the time was that Richard, after the lectures, was 
selling acid in large quantities to big dealersnot just a few 
hits at a time, you know? This was after periods where Timothy 
and Richard and the whole groupbefore Millbrook [they had been?] 
down in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, where they were tossed out because 
they were running an acid experience center. The Mexican 
authorities had been pointed out by the U.S. authorities that they 
were doing bad things. One of the funny stories was that Richard 
had at the last minute packed a suitcase with a liter of vodka 
which was full of acid, and he had wrapped it in his white linen 
suit, and he put it on the plane, and it broke. For months they 
were eating little pieces of his white linen suit because it was 
all embedded with LSD [laughter] . It was a wild period. 

Later on, Steve was quite disillusioned because Richard 
hadn t explained to him what was going on. Richard and I did not 
get on, and the reason that Richard and I did not get on was 
because Steve and I were very close, and Richard was in love with 
Steve. Richard and I both had organizational ability. He was the 
organizing principle for the whole movement with Timothy, and I 
was the organizing principle of USCO. He felt there was only room 
for one. I was not about to take USCO into their orbit because I 
didn t feel that their orbit was our orbit, you know? As simple 
as that . 

Now we ve got all of that background, and we re here on the 
peninsula, and I m ready to go back to the church but I came out 
to see my kids, really. And I stayed with Dick and Jane and Steve 


and Barbara down there. Before I leave, I wanted to see my old 
friend Ken Kesey, but Ken is hiding because the authorities are 
looking for him. Jane says, "I m sure we can find him." So we 
get in her car, and we drive around all night long. Finally, 
somewhere in the middle of the night in a car somewhere in the 
woods we make love together, then we go back to the house, and we 
wind up sleeping together. In the morning Richard finds us 
entangled, and he throws us out of the house. And I m saying to 
Richard, "We are all one." [laughter] And Richard says, "No, 
we re not ! " And Barbara and Steve are like wigging out because 
they don t know- -they re not sympathetic with Richard but they re 
dependent on him. So I understand the situation; I say, "Okay, 

Now I got me and Jane and her baby, and we re flying back to 
the church where Judi and Michael and my scene are . Now this is a 
very difficult entrance, right? Very difficult entrance. And I 
take a lot of shit for a few days . But it turns out that Michael 
and Jane get along very well [laughter], so the whole thing turns 
around, and now we just have a few more people living at the 

We always had lots of people coming in and out of the 
church. People would stay for days and weeks and months and 
years. We had little bedrooms all over the place and lofts and 
mattresses, and it was free and easy. The only thing that wasn t 
free and easy was the kitchen. 

"The World" went on for a long time. It finally collapsed 
and died, and Meyerberg wanted to move it down to Florida, and 
they kind of did, but it never worked out. Michael went down 
there. We did lots of other shows in the meantime. Some of them 
were just installationsprojection environments, like in Boston. 

About this time, along comes--Zalman, my son, is born. 
Barbara and Steve had a daughter at the church, and when Barbara 
was working, Steve not only was painting but he was also taking 
care of Dakota, his little girl. Steve tended to stay up all 
night painting, and then he wouldn t wake up in the morning, and 
Dakota was always awake and trying to get her father to feed her 
or something. One time she went to the extreme length of laying a 
turd right on his face [laughter] . After that things were a 
little more timely. 

Byerly: Who was Zalman s mother? 

Stern: Judi. Also about that time, Radha came to live with us for a 

little over a year. Actually, a little before this time. "The 
Land" had atsome distance away near the church, there was a 


school called the Collaberg School, which was patterned after the 
English- -what was his name, Neil? 

Byerly: Summerhill. 

Stern: Right. Patterned after Summerhill. And Radha went there with all 
the kids from "The Land," and other hip kids from around. That 
was when Paul Williams had a place on the Cape, at Wallfleet, an 
A-frame that he had built. It was, and is, a really nice little 
house. Lots of us used to go up there for kind of a refuge. 

Radha knew that everybody was taking acid and smoking pot 
and things. She was thirteen years old, and a lot of the kids at 
the school had decided to do it, and had done it. She wanted to 
try it, and I didn t want her to try it with the kids because you 
never knew . So I took her up to the Cape, and I took her on a 
trip, and it was a beautiful trip she had. Of course, I didn t 
take any acid; I was there to guide her through. A lot of people 
were bummed out that I would do that. I thought it was absolutely 
the correct move for a parent, and fortunately Jane agreed with 

By that time, Bill had committed suicide. We don t know if 
he committed suicide. Radha? [Radha enters room.] How old were 
you when Bill committed suicide or O.D d or whatever he did? 

Radha: I was young. I was probably like twelve. 

Stern: It was just before you came to the church. 

Radha : No . 

Stern: No? I thought you were thirteen when you were at the church. 

Radha: I ll have to think about this. 

Stern: All right, we ll think about it. 

Radha: It s in that--I think my sisters took it, but it s in that--I want 
to say it was 67. 

Stern: I don t know. Anyway, it s just one more artifact date that we re 
going to have to figure out, and as I said, I m hopeless about 
dates. But at some time, Radha and Jane were out camping; it was 
long afterBill had gone from being a recluse to being pretty out 
of it, let s put it. Jane and his mother had put him into an 
institution. When he came out, he didn t go back to Jane; in 
fact, he had another relationship. I don t remember whether he 
actually got married or not. Then one day they were out camping, 


and they came back to their house in Fairfax, and they found Bill 
dead on the floor. Nobody ever quite established--! think 
partially because of his family s influence and partially because 
of the circumstances, whether he had O.D d from a drug dose, 
whether he had committed suicide, or whether something else had 
happened. He hadn t been living there; he had not visited them 
for ages and ages. His son Paul was living in the house also, but 
was not there at the time, so it was rather mysterious. But Jane 
always kept her doors open. 

Byerly: I see. Jane and Radha discovered him. 

Stern: Yes. When they came back from their camping trip. At least 

that s how I was told the story. You never knew with Jane. Jane 
could make hay out of sunshine. 

Byerly: [Laughter] Jane was a trip. 

Stern: Yes, she was a trip. It wasn t always a positive trip for people. 
It was not a positive trip for Bill Buck. 

Byerly: Obviously. 

Stern: I mean, he thought he was the beneficiary, and he was taken on a 
big ride for part of his life. It s nice for a young man to have 
an older woman to guide him through a certain amount of passage or 
vice versa, but then the young man wants to be his own person, and 
that didn t suit Jane s needs. 

I don t know if you know that when Bill was living in 
Bolinas, California with Jane, he translated two esoteric works. 
We are conscious of the fact that the University of California 
library was financed by family money to publish those books. How 
Bill, who had no formal education in Sanskrit or any other Asian 
language, was able to translate those books is another question. 
It s one thing for Rexroth, who was an extremely well-educated 
person with a high poetic sensibility to translate haiku and other 
poetry from foreign languages by the use of a dictionary and by 
the use of this experience and understanding. It s another thing 
for a kid who had basically no background but a kind of a desire-- 
or in German we call it Sehnsucht, which is a much broader word; a 
strong emotion that you want to do something --that he was able to 
carry those off. I have the books; they re very well done. I 
don t know the originals obviously, but they seem beautifully 
done. Whether he had help, I don t know. Who knows? It s an 
amazing story. 

Now Radha lived with us, then she went back to California. 
In the meantime, we had been visitedactually, it was through 


Paul Lee. At one of the performances that we did--I can t 
remember whether it was Brandeis or MIT Paul Lee had to go to a 
formal party in Cambridge with the director of the media center at 
Harvard, Bob Gardner. He didn t know what to do with me because I 
was staying with him and his wife. He called up a friend of his, 
Andre Ruedi, and said, "Andre, you gotta take care of Gerd." 

So I went to Andre s. Andre was at the time at the business 
school. He was about to graduate, and he was writing his thesis, 
and he was also doing case studies for the school, and he was very 
psychedelically oriented and also a pot smoker of the highest 
persuasion; we had a great time together. He was a great cook, 
and he spoke German. He had a lot of girlfriends, and we grooved 
together. Andre started coming down to the church and working 
with us and helping us schlep our I mean, part of the real 
problem that we had at USCO was that everything we did was very 
heavy. We would travel with a Volkswagen bus and trailers and 
thousands of pounds of equipment. Schlepping. In fact, I once 
wrote a piece for one of the art magazines called "The Artist as 
Schlepper." The cheese business is just as bad, by the way. 
Cheese is also heavy. 

Andre was very interested in the media possibilities that we 
pioneered, and he talked to his professor, George Litwin, and the 
powers that be at the business school that they should be 
exploring the use of these forms of media to do case studies and 
to do various presentations as part of the business school s 
activities . George Litwin happened to be another one of the group 
that had originally been around Tim Leary. We didn t know him. 
He was a short guy, kind of a Napoleon type, and he immediately 
went to David McClelland, who had been Richard and Timothy s 
sponsor. He talked David into the fact that in the school of 
education and in Social Relations where David was operativehe 
was still department head at the time, I think- -that this was a 
wonderful idea to apply these techniques. David agreed, and he 
got me an appointment on the faculty- -you know, a legitimate 
appointment from the fellows of Harvard University as an Associate 
in Education. 

Stern: So I m flattered because here I am, not a college product, a few 
weeks in the underground halls of CCNY and a few weeks at Black 
Mountain College, and an aborted attempt to go to UC Berkeley, and 
all of a sudden I m an associate in education with a faculty 
appointment at Harvard University. And I m flattered, which is a 
big mistake. Don t get flattered in this world. 


I m coming up there, and I m meeting David McClelland, and 
I m not even telling him that I m a friend of Timothy and 
Richard s because [laughter] I know there would have been some bad 
vibes in there for him. The university wasn t very happy with 
him. But he managed; he s a very well-known person. His book, 
The Achieving Society, was a bestseller in sociology, although for 
years he has been under great attack because he worked a lot in 
the Third World developing countries, and the accusation was that 
all this achievement training was simply making capitalists out of 
people who had no business being capitalists. But he was a 
Quaker, and he believed in social good, and he believed he was on 
the right side of whatever. An incredible man. 

Intermedia Systems Corporation 

Stern: George Litwin, who is the guy who has gotten me the appointment, 

and Andre Ruedi said, "We didn t just bring you up here to do this 
thing at Harvard. What we want to do is we want to form a 
company, and we re going to do multimedia productions, and we re 
going to make multimedia equipment." Michael Callahan and I and 
these two guys and later on other people formed a corporation, 
Intermedia Systems Corporation, and we rent a space with an 
office, a media production facility, and an electronics shop. 

Michael s moved up from the church, and I ve moved up from 
the church. But Judy doesn t like Boston. She s not going to 
move. She and Zalman, the baby, are back in the church, and she s 
going to stay there. Now we re commuting. And I m pissed. I 
really am. "What do you mean you don t like Boston? What s the 
matter with Cambridge? It s a nice place to be." No, she s 
adamant. And I m getting kind of tired of her trip anyway. And 
she s getting tired of mine. 

In the meantime, we re doing various things. One of the 
things we re doing Michael McClure is an old friend, and he s 
written this play which was produced in San Francisco, The Beard, 
and he wants to produce it in New York. Rip Torn agrees to direct 
it, and we agree to do the media background, and it s at a new 
theater called the Evergreen Theater put up by Grove Press. Our 
media ideas get very elaborate: we project the whole theater, the 
side walls, and the stage with projections and sound. It s pretty 
super duper. The play is wonderful; I love this play. I m not 
trying to upstage the play; I m trying to enhance it, you know? I 
think it s a brilliant raise en scene. 

My accountant, who was the artists accountant in New York- 
he s Rauschenberg s and Martha Graham s is Rubin Gorewitz. He 
happens to have as one of his other clients and as a friend of his 
the theater and sometimes arts critic of the New York Times. The 
guy comes to see the opening, and he writes a long review, and 


among other things he basically says that the media tops the play 
and the acting and the directing, and all of a sudden we re not so 
popular with Rip and Michael, which was a drag because it was not 
our intention, and it wasn t true, by the way. I think he thought 
he was doing us a favor but it wasn t really a favor. Just the 
course of life; it s only a little hitch, but it was kind of a 
funny hitch which we didn t need. The play ran for a while off 
Broadway but not as long as it should have. 

We also did an elaborate piece of kinetic sculpture for a 
play of Norman Mailer s. Norman and I had known each other 
through various other connections. The Deer Park--a play about 
Las Vegas, which Rip--in fact, that came before. Rip was the 
principal actor in that. That s really how I got to know Rip. 

We were very busy doing all kinds of things . We were doing 
another very elaborate projection environment for a stage 
presentation about Lenny Bruce which was done by Alan Douglas, a 
record producer. He had an office in New York, and we did record 
covers for him. Kelly was a psychedelic artist who worked for us 
at that time at Intermedia although he was really a Californian. 
Kelly Mouse studios. They did a lot of the Grateful Dead covers 
and Big Brother and the Holding Companyyou know, that whole 

Light shows were a big thing; we were into light shows. But 
we never did wet shows, liquid shows, which was a kind of a 
different form. 

This guy comes to visit us in Boston. He grew up in Boston, 
and he takes us to a Russian schvitz, a steam bath. We knew him 
as Douglas, and we get into this schvitz, and there was a bunch of 
old guys sitting around there, and they look at him and say, "Hey! 
Rubenstein!" I look at him and say, "Rubenstein?" He says, 
"Yeah. Did you think I was born Douglas?" [laughter]. 

The same with Bob Dylan. There was another scene, a really 
bad scene I had with Bob. Bob admired our work, and when we were 
in Woodstock he came to our performances at the Maverick Gallery 
which was a communal gallery we had, and at the Woodstock Artists 
Association. He was always asking us questions how it was done. 
One day we were at a party at somebody s house, and there s this 
big picture window, and my wife and a bunch of other people are 
standing inside, and a lot of people are standing outside on the 
wall smoking dope and outside on the grass and various things. Al 
Grossman, who was Bob s manager, and Bob and a bunch of other 
peoplesomebody had a rifle, they had just bought a rifle. He 
showed it to Bob, and Bob picks it upnow he didn t know anything 
more about guns than me. I ve always had a phobia against guns. 


He picks it up, and he points it at the window just about where my 
wife, Judi, was standing. I knock it down, and he says, "What the 
hell s wrong with you, Gerd?" I said, "I don t like guns. And I 
don t like people pointing guns. Do you know whether it s loaded 
or not?" He says, "I m very careful." I said, "Have you ever 
held a gun in your life before?" He says, "No." Well, from that 
day on Bob and I were not friends, and it s ridiculous. It s 
okay; I didn t need Bob Dylan. He was good friends with Allen 
Ginsberg. But we lived right near each other in Woodstock. 

How did I get on that? I got on that through Boston, 
through Rubenstein. What was his name? Douglas- -he changed his 
name from Rubenstein to Douglas. And Dylan from Zimmerman. 

Intermedia Systems Corporation was now making hardware of a 
fairly advanced sort, which hadn t been put forth by others yet, 
to control audiovisual programming, and we were doing multimedia. 
We were working for David McClelland. We had a little room about 
20" by 20 where we could project all over the walls, and the 
projectors were in boxes and movies and four channels of sound. 
We had a little sound studio behind this wall. He would bring his 
classes in, and there were categories of mood which involved 
colors and certain images, and we would see if we could change 
people s moods. Then we did simulations of climates of 
organizations for Harvard using the students to do the filming and 
photography and recording. We would do the climate in an 
insurance office which had a twenty- or thirty-year-old office 
with everybody sitting at desks one after the other in rows, and 
then we would do a modern insurance office where everybody had a 
little cubicle with rugged walls. The difference in the mood and 
the climate of those organizations --we recorded the employees and 
the kind of tensions that happened. We did classroom climates, 
where we would go into different classrooms with different 
teachers, and then we would project all the way around. You would 
hear the students voices and the teachers voices . It was an 
opportunity for teachers who were in training to analyze the 
climates of those classrooms and to judge how they felt and what 
worked and what didn t. It was an instrument. 

I didn t enjoy Harvard. There was a lot of politics. I 
didn t have a degree, and I was attached to the school of 
education which is very degree-oriented, and everybody realized 
that I was just kind of an adjunct of McClelland s who was a big 
deal, but they weren t going to bring me into the fold. Even Ted 
Sizer, who was the head of the school of education and a brilliant 
and interesting man- -you know how academics are. 


Then a little later I was taken up by another professor, a 
philosopher named Nelson Goodman who wrote Languages of Art. He 
got me on the board of the summer arts institute they had a 
program where they trained arts administrators . For many years 
now, I had been on three or four proposal evaluation panels of the 
New York State Council on the Arts: the literary panel, the 
television panel, the media panel. And even after I moved up to 
Boston, they paid me to come down. I mean, those were the days 
when federal money for the arts was really flowing. It was 
fascinating; we considered all the grants in our areas, and of 
course I knew most of the people who applied, and it s an 
important kind of function. People like Erica Jong and Toni 
Morrisonyou know, before they were well-known- -were on those 
panels--Ed Emshwiller [sp?], the avant garde filmmaker. It was a 
great experience. 

I was also involved very strongly with the National 
Endowment [for the Arts], and I was on the board of Planning 
Corporation for the Arts. Kenneth Dewey, who was a descendant of 
the admiral s, was a performance artist and an arts philosopher, 
and he worked for the New York State Council. I mean, he was 
employed by them, and he started this national Planning 
Corporation for the Arts to advocate the long-term agendas on what 
the meaning of arts were to minorities and what the meaning of big 
cultural institutions were. Being associated with the other 
people on that board was a very inspiring and important role that 
I occupied. Eventually, we also worked with Ken on four of five 
commercial and artistic projects. 

One day Ken--he did come also from wealthy people, which is 
true of a lot of people in that world because you can t support 
yourself, you know? So either you have money or you have some 
other kind of occupation to supplement what you can do in your 
profession. One day he got in his little plane and he flew, and 
he crashed and died. It was another of those experiences which I 
told you about like with Lew Hill. I mean, for me Ken was at the 
height of his powers ; he was a great influence in the 
international and national art world and at the New York State 
Council. His work was admired by a lot of people, and all of a 
sudden, banghe s gone. Why? And I think again, like Lew Hill, 
it has to do with his romantic and emotional life rather than his 
work life. Both those cases. But I m not sure. How can you be 
sure? We did a huge memorial for him at his parents estate in 
New Jersey. We floated hundreds of balloons in large masses which 
floated away. A few artists and I spent hours blowing up these 
balloons and tethering them and then letting them go all at once, 
and a lot of people--! "m not even sure if Yvonne didn t do a piece 
that day. I think he did. I know Yvonne knew Ken. 


We had a gallery at that time for our kinetic works, a 
fairly uptown gallery, Howard Wise, on Fifty-seventh Street. 
There was a show--I can t remember the name of it--of kinetic 
pieces. They were all pictured, the principal pieces including 
ours, in color on several pages of Newsweek. One day I got a call 
from Howard, and he said, "Your piece has been bought." I said, 
"Oh, yeah? Who bought it?" He said, "Well, Malcolm Forbes bought 
everything that was pictured in Newsweek without ever seeing the 
pieces except in photos." I said, "Oh?" He said, "Well, you re 
gonna have to put it in really top shape, and you re gonna have to 
deliver to his place in New Jersey." All right. It was a few 
thousand bucks I mean, wow. 

We fixed it up, and we took it downit was seven 
diffraction grating hexes rotating with strobes. A fairly 
complicated piece. We had a wonderful relationship with Rem Wood, 
the man who developed diffraction gratings. Do you know what they 
are? Those little rainbow jewels? He gave us lots of the 
material, and he also commissioned a piece from us. Actually, 
this piece that Forbes bought was a development out of that first 
piece that we made for The Diffraction Company of Riderwood, 
Maryland. We came to the grounds of the Forbes estate, and the 
butler let us in, and he took us down to this other building, and 
this was a heavy piece, and Michael and I were schlepping it. We 
had to go down some stairs; it was like a bunker. Turned out it 
was Malcolm Forbes 1 air-raid shelter, which he had turned into an 
art gallery. They were dismounting a show of op- art which he had 
donated to Princeton [University] in toto; it had hung up for 
about a year. Now he had this show of kinetic art which he 
boughtin another year he donated that to Princeton. I wasn t 
particularly struck by this, and we were introduced to Malcolm 
Forbes, and he gave us a drink. He showed us what he said was his 
favorite piece of art, which was a bronze casting of his Marine 
boots from the war. We were not thrilled by this experience. But 
it s not untypical of the experiences that artists have with 
collectors. It was not a relationship that I enjoyed. 

Not long thereafter we got out of making pieces for museums 
and galleries because I found that the social demands of being a 
fiscally successful artist were worse than being in business, and 
that museums--! mean, we had museums not only in the U.S, all over 
the country, but in Europe asking for pieces. But everybody 
wanted something new; hardly anybody wanted to show something you 
already had. To make the kind of pieces that we or I were 
conceiving was extremely expensive, and nobody had any money. 
They would always say to you, "Well, you know, we ll extend to you 
our not-for-profit; I m sure that you have a patron that would be 
happy." Most of the collectorsthe pieces that we wanted to do 
were much too ambitious to put in anybody s house. 


The next piece we made, which was one of the last big pieces 
which Michael and I and others were involved with- -including 
Jonathan Ayers--was called the "Fanflashtic." It was a 
transparent gazebo which was raised up from the floor with a metal 
subway grating under which there were rather powerful fans. There 
were four strobes mounted in the gazebo. It had a roof. It was 
filled with balloons, and the fans blew the balloons up, and the 
strobes picked out the balloons, and people got inside it, and 
there was sound. We toured it throughout New York State for the 
New York State Council on the Arts. At one point in Rochester, it 
was filled with nuns in habits. Incredible. There was a 
photograph in Horizon, a kind of a book magazine, and they sent up 
a very well-known photographer. He took a picture of it; it s in 
one of those Horizons [points]. It s in other books, too. It s 
really the last big piece we made. It was also before Ken s 
death, because Ken was part of that tour also with a piece of his. 
And so was Carolee Schneemann. 

The tour was very successful and very satisfying. That was 
at the time when Ann London, my ex-wife, was a professor of Anglo- 
Saxon studies at SUNY [State University of New York] Buffalo, and 
I wanted to see my son, Jared. She didn t want me to see him. 
She and her father had used detectives it was a bad trip. The 
funny thing is later on after he died, and she died, her mother 
and I grew very close trying to take care of Jared who very early 
on turned into a terrible abuser stealing his mother s diet pills. 
But anyway, I wanted to see my son, and she was a professor at the 
university, and I was touring for the New York State Council, and 
she said no, so I called up the head of the New York State Council 
on the Arts, and he called the governor, and the governor called 
the chancellor of the university. The chancellor called Ann and 
said, "We have a visiting artist here, and he happens to be your 
ex-husband. I understand he wants to see his son. I think it 
would be a good idea, Professor London, to make that possible." 
So I got to see Jared. [laughter] 

Years later Ann and I got back into a reasonable 
relationship, when she realized that Jared had become an addict, 
and she didn t know what to do nor did her present husband, so she 
wanted my help. It was too late. There were years when she 
wasn t even conscious of the fact that her supply of Dexedrine was 
being raided day by day. How could you not be conscious of that? 

Here we were still working somewhat with John Brockman, who 
was our agent on commercial things. Another job we did at 
Christmas time was Bendel s department store, a collection of 
fashion boutiques on Fifty-seventh Street in New York. Geri was 
the manager, and she wanted something psychedelic, so we created a 
black light environment made out of stretch fabric that we 


stretched as a ceiling all over the store. She had approved the 
design, and her display manager, who was very, very fey- -when we 
got it all finished, they didn t like it. So they made us take it 
down, and they didn t want to pay for it. We didn t know what to 
do. Bendel s was owned by a large corporation, so I called up the 
corporate office, and I asked for the CEO, and of course I 
couldn t speak to him, so I sent him a telegram telling him that 
if we didn t get paid, that the next day they would have two dozen 
Greenwich Village artists picketing Bendel s. About half an hour 
later, I got a telephone call from his assistant saying, "Mr. 
Stern, you will have a check brought out by our driver within the 
next several hours as soon as he finds your place. One proviso: 
you cannot tell Geri that we paid you." [Laughter] "She s a real 
enfant terrible, and Mr. so-and-so doesn t want to have to deal 
with that. But the money s not a problem." So we got all our 
money . 

Intermedia Continued 
[Interview 4: April 10, 1996] 

Stern: We ve been kind of playing with details and dates which are not 
necessarily in sequence. Some of the things that I just talked 
about were before Harvard, and some of them were during Harvard. 
As we were progressing with the days at Harvard, Intermedia was 
growing very rapidly. Early on, we were up in Porter Square- - 
remember where that is? 

Byerly: Sure. 

Stern: Then we ran out of the capital from the people from the business 
school who had started this company with me. It was a very 
interesting conjunction. It was a conjunction of my naivete and 
their hubris. George Litwin, who was a professor at the business 
school, thought he was a businessman because he taught at the 
business school. The truth was he was a psychologist. They had 
done a lot of training work and various kinds of work for business 
organizations, but they were no more business people than I was. 
They were involved in the subject of business on an academic 
levelno idea about numbers or how to run a business, profit and 
loss statements, balance sheets. Theoretically yes, but 
practically no. 


We needed money, and we needed investment. The original 
policy and the original way that this business was set up was they 
said to me, "We ll take care of the business end and the marketing 
and the sales. You, all you have to do is be creative." Oh, was 
that a lot of bull. Now we re dead broke, and we have these 
hardware lines that we re develop ing- -Michael needs money for the 
parts and for the subcontractors and for the techies that have to 
do the work. And for the software we need equipment, and we ve 
got a little sound studio going; we need more equipment for that. 

They don t know where to come up with the money so I call my 
accountant and friend Rubin Gorewitz, and he comes up [to Boston]. 
No problem. He introduces us to an investment banker in New York, 
Larry Teicher, and the investment banker introduces us to a little 
guy on Wall Street named Jesse Krieger who s a one-man share 
f logger. And we go public. What do I know from going public? 
I ve never even heard of it. What stock market? I mean, I knew 
about the stock market from the New York Times. 

Now, all of a sudden, I have 100,000 shares, and we re 
selling shares to the public, and we get $600,000. My good 
friends from the business schoolthe president of Intermedia 
Systems Corporation, Dr. Litwin, goes crazy. I told you he come 
out of the whole Timothy Leary group, and he drives a Corvette, 
and he s a high liver in ways I never experienced, reallyeven in 
the days of the Londons . That was civilized compared to this shit 
that s going down. All of a sudden George buys he s also into 
scuba 50 percent of the Underwater Explorers Club in the 
Bahamas. We had no business we were going to do a surround media 
experience there, and we re all involved. That s not the only 
thing he invested our money in his money, he s the president, so 
he spends it, you know? 

At the end of the day, we ve moved to Central Square two 
floors in a big old building. I don t know if you remember it 
with the arched windows; beautiful old building. Later on there 
was an Indian store that we rented the bottom floor of, but at 
first we installed big environmental projection installations, and 
now we re in bigger business. 

Then some dreamer has built a sound studio on Newbury 
Street, and he copied the Deutsche Grammophon studios in Germany, 
and it was going to be for classical music for groups out of the 
Boston Symphony. Two or three weeks or a month after he s got it 
together, he goes broke. We take over the sound studio, and now 
we have the first sixteen-track studio in the country, with the 
first Ampex sixteen-track machine, and we re Intermedia Sound. 
Another of the psychologist/dopester/psychedelic group, Dr. 
Gunther Weil, who we ve known for a long time and who was a buddy, 


takes over Intermedia Sound. He was at the time a psychology 
professor at Brandeis. 

We re going great guns, but basically we re heading into 
deep debt. We have a board of directors including David 
McClellan. We re prestigious, and we do a lot of interesting 
work. We re bouncing around, we re working for corporations, 
we re working for the U.S. Information Agency, we re working for 
the Commerce Department. By the time we get up to speed, we ve 
got maybe somewhere between thirty and forty employees. I m the 
creative director, and I ve got a big office overlooking Central 

Walter Gundy is at this point no longer roadie for The 
Lovin Spoonful but he s now with The Incredible String Band, and 
when they come through Boston there s a lovely high party and I 
wind up talking to one of their friends, Peter Beren. A couple of 
days later he calls and tells me he wants to interview me for a 
piece in the Boston Phoenix and he winds up titling it "Intermedia 
Systems: Cinderella Sweeping Up on Desolation Row," and writes 
things about me and USCO and ends with, "Intermedia Systems, then, 
is a new type of corporation, a living contradiction in our 
present vocabulary. A corporation born in art, aiming at 
expanding horizons in business and education." 

Anyway, throughout the years, Peter winds up being a close 
friend, and he s one of the few people who keeps touching base to 
find out what s happening with me and us and I do the same with 
him. Now he s publications director for Sierra Club and also acts 
as literary agent for on or close to the edge writers about 
spiritual, musical, health, and literary topics. We have an 
uncanny way of sensing when one another is down and giving in 
person or by phone support for each other in words and feelings . 
That mutuality helps. And I ve always had a problem with one-way 
type relationships- -you know what I mean, people with whom you 
need to do all the initiating, the "Contact Is the Only Love" 
transmissions and if you don t do that, they re out of touch. 
Now, when that happens, after a while I give up on them. But 
Peter and many other friends through the years are a two-way 
street. And, now, with email, the flow increases. 

Marriaee to Sally Shaw 

Stern: In the meantime, Judi has kept on her path of "I m not moving up 
to Boston." So I m commuting back and forth. Then Judi, with 
another friend of hersthey want to go away somewhere. So I 


borrow Rip Torn s house in Mexico, and off Judi goes with little 
Zalman and with her friend Patti with her daughter Ever. I m 
beginning to feel like I m not involved in a relationship anymore, 
that I ve just got dependents. 

I m still spending a lot of time with Andre Ruedi. Andre s 
now a partner in Intermedia Systems. We re really buddy-buddy, 
and he had a girlfriend, Sunny, who s going to Simmons College. A 
really well-endowed and hip young lady. One day he takes me over 
to her apartment, and her college roommate Sally from New 
Hampshire is sitting there. It s in the middle of the summer, 
nobody s wearing very many clothes, and we re sitting around the 
floor getting high, and we re practically naked. We re listening 
to music loud, and we re having a great time. After a couple of 
hours or so there s a big noise from above, and some guy comes 
practically falling down out of the skylight. Apparently this is 
Sally s boyfriend, and he s been calling, and he s been ringing 
the doorbell, and nobody had answered, and nobody has remembered 
that he s supposed to be arriving. We leave, but in the meantime 
I ve gotten a fixation on this young lady whose name is Sally 
Shaw. In the next four or five hours, which is probably between 
two a.m. and seven a.m. in the morning, I call her four or five 
times. In the meantime, she s with her boyfriend. But I don t 
give a damn. 

The next weekend we drive up to New Hampshire- -Andre and 
Sunny and me, and we go to her house, and from then on Sally and I 
are a thing. This is a young lady going to Simmons, and she s 
from a real Yankee New Hampshire family, with both sides of 
Scottish ancestrybeen here since the 1600s on king s grant land. 
Peterboro, right? You being from New England will get the 
picture. I m not exactly welcome. In fact, I m not that much 
younger than her father. He s a doctor, and he was at that time 
the doctor at St. Paul s School. They re living at the school, in 
a house on campus. I eventually get invited to dinnerby Sally, 
not exactly by her parents. I get there, and I m there all 
evening, and this man doesn t talk to me. We sit at dinner 
together, and really nobody talks to me except Sally, so I m 
feeling like--. 

Doesn t matter. We get together, and I m really enamored. 
I m so enamored that I m not very long thereafter asking her to 
marry me, and she says no. But by this time we re living 

In the meantime, of course, Judi is getting vibes that 
something else is going on. Eventually I go down to Mexico, and I 
have a very bad experience there. I get sick with "Montezuma s 
Revenge", and I m also not being very happy about the 


relationship, and I m feeling bad about my young son one more 
time. By this time, this is the fourth child I ve kind of lost. 
But Judi and I were still trying to keep it together. Everything 
is in limbo now. Judi comes back to the church, and we get a job 
doing environmental coverage, an in the round media room at Hilton 
Head Island. Judi is also no slouch; she s a good photographer, 
she does silkscreens, and she paints. Unfortunately, she never 
really does anything with any of it. She s also completely 
dependent on me. So we send Judi as the photographer on this job 
down to [South] Carolina to Hilton Head Island. She meets a young 
rock musician there, and she finishes the job, and she takes 
little Zalman and her new friend, Todd, and they go to Colorado. 
Now I m definitely out of this relationship. Willy-nilly. 

I m determined to make something better out of the 
relationship with Sally who is now in 1996 still my wife. It 
takes many years for us to get married. In the meantime, she 
graduates from Simmons, and she goes to work for an architect. 
Eventually, she comes to work for us at Intermedia. I teach her 
the elements of sound editing, which I m very good at and she gets 
even better. These days sound editing has developed into a 
completely different technology, but Michael and I come from the 
days where you actually cut the tape and spliced it. We teach 
this to Sally, and Sally gets very good at it. She edited Huey, 
and she edited Rabbi Zalman Schachter, and she did a lot of great 
work on our audiovisual pieces . 

Lilly and Otto Stern, circa 1927. 

Unser "our" Camp with Ivan Majdrakoff (in the striped shirt) 
et al, circa 1946. Gerd Stern bottom right and Lorraine Oyl 
top right. 

Gerd and Jared on barge, circa 1959. 

Gerd Stern and John Brockman, circa 1963, 

A.C. "Augie" Spectorsky and his wife, Theo Fredericks (Spectorsky) , with 
Ann London Stern and Gerd Stern on the back deck of the barge at Waldo 
Point, Sausalito, circa 1964. 

Michael Callahan, circa 1964. 

Willow Grove Road, Rockland City, New York. 

Back row: Jane, Sheridan, Radha, and Michelle, 
Front row: Adam, Kristin, and Paul. 

Gerd Stern, Michael Callahan, and Steve Durkee--otherwise known as 
Beardo, Electro, and Weirdo--of UCO, Woodstock, New York, circa 1965, 

At the Garnerville workshop, USCO, getting ready for Intermedia 68, 

Ivan Majdrakoff and Gerd Stern, circa 1970. 



Michael Callahan and Intermedia Systems Corp. 

Stern: Now Michael Callahan he and I are the closest of friends, and we 
work together. We were partners in Intermedia he was not quite a 
shareholder on my level, but he s a director and an integral part. 
The problem with Michael is that he s drinking, and he s drinking 
more and more. His father, who left his mother when he was just a 
baby, was an alcoholic. This was surfacing, and it was surfacing 
in a fairly destructive manner. I mean, Michael is not above 
taking a few tokes but he s basically into alcohol. 

Jonathan Altman 

Stern: It s a very, very hectic kind of atmosphere because we ve got 
things all over the place. In the meantime, Steve and Barbara 
have continued to explore for a place to buy for a low-energy 
center. There s a guy who came into our little world when we were 
still at the church named Jonathan Altman. Jonathan is the son of 
a wealthy Jewish family, the family that bought the Dead Sea 
Scrolls for Israel. His stepfather is the architect for the 
shrine of the Scroll, and Jonathan is really into what we re 
doing. He has promised to put up the money to buy the land for 
our low-energy center. 

One day- -and this is probably before what I m talking about, 
again. I keep remembering that I m not catching up certain parts 
of it to the other parts. You know how that is: it s like you re 
swimming in a school, and you don t stay in place; you swim a 
little faster than the last guy or a little slower, and you get 
caught up in some kind of a time lapse. One day they call up, and 
they say, "Gerd, you ve got to get your butt out here because 


we ve found the place." Believe it or not, the man s name is 

Now I ve got to go back further, on a completely different 
strand. I m brought up obviously Jewish. I told you I learned 
Hebrew by rote. When I was still in New York, in the days when I 
was living in New York with Jane, I spent a good portion of time 
studying the mystic Jewish tradition, which is Qabbalah 
particularly a little book called Safer Yetzira The Book of 
Light. It s been very influential on my poetry and on my way of 
thinking. Another mystical strand, one of my favorite poets in 
the world, was Yeats. Through Yeats, I get into McGregor Mathers 
and into that whole mystical world. Then later, when I come to 
California, this gets kind of vermischt with Grace s syncratic 
impressions that she s got me reading all of Jung. I had read a 
little bit before. And I m also into Robert Graves. 

So the whole thing makes sense, right? In terms of Judaism, 
I m not observing but I m connected to the tradition more so than 
my family. One day, when we re still at the church, Ralph Metzner 
calls me up. Ralph was one of the original psychedelic trio of 
Tim, Richard, and Ralph. They did the Tibetan Book of the Dead 
together I mean, there was also Tibetan tradition that comes into 
it. He called me up and says, "Gerd, I know you re into this 
Jewish thing," he s a Jewish refugee too, but he s not into it at 
all. He says, "You ve got to meet this guy. I took this wild 
rabbi from Canada on his first acid trip last week here at 
Millbrook. He s something else, and you ve got to meet him." 

Rabbi Zalman Schachter and Other Eastern Spiritual Influences 

Stern: So next time Zalman Schachter comes down from Winnipeg, where he s 
the head of the department of Judaic studies at the University of 
Manitoba, Ralph calls me, and we meet on Second Avenue at 
Rappaport s. And we fall in love. I mean, this man is a wondrous 
human being and an incredibly learned Judaic scholar. I take him 
up to the church, and he stays overnight, and I stick him in the 
"Tabernacle." He doesn t believe that this exists in the world. 
We had really locked right in to each other. 

It s now 96, and so it s thirty or forty years later, and 
Zalman and I are still very, very close. He s gone through a lot 
of different stages. We see each other whenever he comes down, 
and the next time Judy and I travel across the country, we don t 
go straight across; we drive up through Canada, and we go to 
Winnipeg. We stop and see and stay with Zalman and his then-wife. 


That was his first wife. He had married an Orthodox wife, and 
slowly he got more and more interested in studying other 
religions. There was a Catholic monastery nearby; he was very 
friendly with all of the people there, and he studied a lot of the 
eastern religions, and he knew most of the other gurus that were 
floating around that world at the time. 

And so did we--Swami Satchinanda used to come up to the 
church, and the head of the Hare Krishna movement came up to the 
church. Suzuki Roshi, when he came east, came up to the church; 
that was great. Barbara and Judi didn t know what to cook for 
Suzuki Roshi, so they went out and got just the finest vegetables 
that they could, and they made a clear soup with little things 
floating around in it. He liked the soup, and he says [imitates 
Japanese accent], "Ah, what you call this soup?" I m not good at 
imitating the accent, but it was a very strong accent. They said, 
you know, a little bit of this kind of vegetable and a little kind 
of that vegetable and some broth. And he said [again with 
accent], "Oh, we used to make that in the monastery. We call it 
garbage soup." [Laughter] I very much liked Suzuki Roshi. 

We knew him through Richard Baker, who later on became 
Suzuki Roshi s dharma heir and became the head of the Zen Center 
here and was later scandalously dismissed. Richard and I were 
very close; he and his wife Ginny and their daughter and the rest 
of their extended family. I ve lost touch with him regrettably in 
the last few years, but we hear about each other. 

When we were living in Cambridge, Sally and I were living on 
Broadway in Cambridge. Richard came and stayed with us for some 
months because one of the major contributors to the Zen Center was 
a Boston banker whose wife was one of the leading exponents of the 
tea ceremony. The banker suggested to Richard that he come and 
spend some time in the investment bank learning about finances 
because he was running a fairly major enterprise by this time: the 
Zen Center in San Francisco, with Tassajara down in the Cannel 
Valley, and they had just managed to acquire the Green Gulch Ranch 
here on Mount Tamalpais. 

When we visited Reb Zalman in Winnipeg, he had established 
in his basementin his little studyan array of psychedelic 
lights and toys. He had a little strobe light and lava lamps and 
black light and tie-dyes, and he had surrounded himself. This 
whole interest level of his eventually estranged his 
conservatively Orthodox wife and his children because this wasn t 
the Orthodox way. He was developing ideas in writing and 
extensions of Judaism, and he understood that the gender approach 
in Orthodox Judaism was intolerable in terms of the twentieth 
century. If a woman couldn t, for instance, read from the Torah-- 


it didn t make any sense anymore. He extended the potential of 
Judaism into the twentieth century like nobody else was able to 
do. Now there are other groups that have followed, but his is the 
seminal energy of New Age Judaism. 

Stern: Zalman came from a similar background, Germanic Jews. He was born 
in Vienna, which is a little different- -Austrian rather than the 
German/French border. But we both spoke German. He was a little 
older than I am by just a couple of years. We forged quite a 
close relationship which has lasted over the years. When I talked 
about the apartment on Broadway, that was an apartment that we 
took over from Reb Zalman because he had been at Brandeis for his 
sabbatical year, which wasn t his first experience in New England. 
He had had a congregation in Fall River earlier. 

Zalman came out of Lubavitch, the main Hasidic secthe was 
a shliach, a "messenger", which is what the word means in English 
for the rabbi of the sect. He traveled through the Caribbean 
gathering funds. He slowly rose out of that Orthodox mindset into 
a very twentieth- century renewal tradition. If a religion doesn t 
renew itself in every century, it doesn t work that well. He has 
been the principal renewal agent in contemporary Judaism. And he 
was friendly with all of the elements that we ve been talking 
about, like Ginsberg, and he now has a chair at the Naropa 
Institute in Boulder [Colorado] . 

I m getting ahead of myself again, but when his marriage to 
his Orthodox wife broke up because he was expanding his 
consciousness in ways which were intolerable to the Orthodox set 
of mind, he had converted his secretary at the university, who was 
a very Protestant young lady. He had then married her. It was 
his second marriage. When he was in Cambridge, they were there 
together, and they had a child. He had children who were in their 
late teens by that time from his first marriage- -three of them. 

We saw a lot of each other when he was in Cambridge. There 
was an old Orthodox synagogue which had gotten kind of 
conservative. He did the high holidays there, and we went there 
every year, Sally and myself. Of course, Judy had known Zalman 
also, so there was a back and forth. In fact, when Judy s and my 
son was born, I called up Zalman, and I told him we re going to 
name him Zalman. Zalman said to me, "You know that s not in our 
tradition. We don t name people after people that are still 
alive." I said, "Zalman, you break rules every day, and now 
you re telling me that this is something that shouldn t be done; 
besides, I m naming our son after somebody else whose name was 
Zalman." He laughed, and it was fine. 


Zalie Yanovsky from the Loving Spoonful calls me up. We had 
done their very psychedelic program book, which their manager- 
after paying us some thousands of dollars to do and having to 
print it for many more thousands of dollarshad destroyed because 
he didn t like the psychedelic image for the group. A real macho 
Italian mafia type. I suppose that s an unfair characterization. 

So Zalie Yanovsky calls me up, and he says, "Gerd, wow, you 
named your son after me?" [Laughter] I said, "Well, not exactly, 
Zalie; I named him after Rabbi Zalman Schachter." And he didn t 
like it because, you know, he was still alive. But it s 
everybody s name who s named Zalman. So about a year later, Zalie 
calls me up, and he says, "Hey, we just had a baby! Guess what 
we re going to name him?" I said, "What are you going to name 
him?" He says, "Gerd. After a friend of ours who runs a kosher 
deli in Nashville." [Laughter] It wasn t true at all. 

One of the people who lived at the church, Walter Gundy, was 
the road manager for the Loving Spoonful, which is how we had 
gotten this whole thing going with the Spoonful. There were a lot 
of involvements of various kinds with music, with architects, with 
collectors, with scientists. 

Anyway, now we re back in Boston. Where were we? 
Byerly: You were living on Broadway, on Central Square, with Intermedia. 

Stern: I was talking about Richard Baker. Roshi Baker. And now, Sally 

and I, after years of living together, I finally persuade her that 
we should get married. You might well ask me why, but I m pro- 
marriage. Like I said, I don t thinkexcept for the 
circumstances that I would have gotten unmarried, even from the 
relationship where we hadn t had a formal marriage with Judy. But 
I wanted to be married. For a long time, Sally thought that 
something different, maybe something better was going to come 
along. I was a lot older than she was, and she wasn t quite sure 
what she wanted to do with her life. I kept hitting on her, and 
finally she decided okay, we re going to do it, because we wanted 
a baby. 

Neither of us wanted our parents involved for reasons which 
I think are fairly obvious the way I ve talked about mine. Her 
parents were very staid. It just seemed like we wouldn t do that. 
So I asked Roshi Baker, who by this time had gotten Green Gulch 
going, and we had been there and visited, whether he would do the 
marriage, and he agreed. Then I called up Reb Zalman because I 
knew he was going to be in California more or less at the same 
time because his daughter from his first marriage was getting 
married in Los Angeles. I said, "Zalman, would you come up and be 


with us during our marriage? Roshi Baker is going to marry us." 
And I gave him the date, and he was very cold on the telephone. I 
said, "Hey, what s going on?" He said, "I can t understand it, 
Gerd. Why didn t you ask me to marry you?" I said, "Zalman, you 
don t do mixed marriages." He said, "Who s not Jewish?" 
[Laughter] Now he had known Sally for some years by this time; 
she had cooked for him--funny thing is, she has some kind of an 
impression that she s the reborn of a Holocaust survivor. 
Eventually she converted, but at this time she was pure, both 
sides, Protestant stock and had no real connection to Judaism 
except through Zalman and myself. I was amazed because it would 
never have occurred to me that Zalman, who knew Sally that well, 
would think that she was Jewish. But that was his impression. 

It was a great wedding. It was at Green Gulch, and it was 
in the Zendo. When we first went into the Zendo, Richard said we 
were going to do the marriage here, and we re going to have these 
big candles. I had brought theseoh, I haven t even talked about 
Venezuela--! had brought these enormous candles from the 
Venezuelan Andes, and everything was set, and I said to Richard, 
"Couldn t we do it outside under the redwoods?" He said, "We do 
all our marriages here in the Zendo." I said, "I know, but--." 
He asked, "What s wrong?" Well, there was this enormous Buddha, 
like fifteen or twenty feet high standing there, and I said, 
"Richard, one of the Ten Commandmentsgraven images." He looked 
at me and said, "Oh. I ll tell you what. You walk over to the 
Buddha and invite him to be a guest at your wedding, and 
everything will be okay." [Laughter] 

Now, by this time, Reb Zalman had agreed to come up because 
he understood that he couldn t perform the marriage. So when he 
came I told him I d invited the Buddha to be our guest, and it was 
fine with him. And during the ceremony he gave us a great 
blessing, which he is able to do. On top of this Paul Lee I was 
teaching at Santa Cruz at the time who is a Protestant minister 
and a philosophy professor--! told you about him; he was the guy 
who sponsored us at Brandeis and MIT and then got me the job at 
Santa Cruz is in the wedding. He s not supposed to do anything 
except maybe say a few words. But he gets up, and he goes through 
the whole damn marriage service. And Sally is stunned; she 
doesn t want any of this "to honor and to obey" and all the crap 
that we had managed to do without. We were somewhat upset, but he 
was an old friend, and there was nothing we could do. He just 
started it, and then he went through it. [laughter] 

We had Bagavandas play the Indian instruments and chanted, 
and it was a great wedding. We had my favorite cheese--! come 
from a cheese family, and I m now in the cheese business, but I ve 
always loved cheese. One of my favorite cheeses in the world was 


and is Peluso s Teleme Jack, which is a Calif ornian cheese and 
which Jane had introduced me to at the Crystal Palace. Anchor 
Steam beer and Teleme Jack: a great combination. The Teleme has 
to be dead ripe so that it s completely liquid in the center. We 
had a lovely wedding meal at Green Gulch, and went off on our 
little honeymoon to the Santa Cruz mountains. 

John Brockman and USCO 

Stern: When I had been working with John Brockman in New York, we got a 
lot of publicity- -The New York Times magazineand there was 
national and international interest in our work. People would 
call up and ask us things. One time we got a call from Hollywood, 
from Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, asking us if we would be 
interested in consulting with them about a project that they were 
doing at the time. Bert is the son of the former head of Columbia 
pictures, Abe Schneider. A very substantial force in the 
industry. They met us in New York, and they explained to us that 
they were doing this film with the Monkees, and it was a very far- 
out film. They were both big heads. Mucho smoke, in quantities 
that were impossible for me to even conceive of. The Monkees were 
not exactly what we thought of as our kind of culture, but they 
brought us out and paid us royally. John got the lion s share: he 
wound up with a yellow Jaguar sports car out of this gig. This is 
still during the days of USCO at the church, what we re talking 
about, more or less. It was winding down; I think it was after 
Barbara and Steve had left for the coast. 

We weren t quite sure of how to handle this scene, but it 
was interesting; it was a very odd movie, the way it was shaping 
up. It had a lot of surrealistic aspects to it. The problem that 
they had was how to promote and how to name it and just kind of 
we were communications experts, right? We were friends with and 
worked with McLuhan, and all these things and they were hip. I 
decided a great name for the picture would be "Head." Don t ask 
me why. It seemed like a name that people would really grab on 
to--and they loved it. Then I said, "The poster has to be 
somebody s head. It s gotta be a really wild poster." I decided 
that it should be Rafelson s head; Rafelson was the director. We 
set up in Hollywood a photography appointment, and we were all 
sitting thereJohn doesn t touch drugs at all; he s a real 
straight guy. And Rafe and Bert and I were kind of out of our 
minds, and Rafe says, "It s gonna be John s head!" I said, "Come 
on, that s ridiculous; it s not going to be John s head. You re 
the director, you re the head. That s the idea. The head." He 
says, "No wayit s going to be John. We re paying you; you re 


not paying us." [Laughter] This totally typical kind of 
Hollywood trip. 

It winds up being John s head. John s head gets transformed 
by Judi. We do this color poster on mirrored mylarwhich is now 
in the collection of the Museum of Modern Artand it s an 
incredible poster. But to me it s totally meaningless because 
it s the wrong head. John doesn t want to have his photograph; 
he s really reluctant. But what can you do? I mean, there s the 
yellow Jaguar to pay for, right? [Laughter] 

We compromise. Besides, Judi s really anxious to do this 
poster. It s a great poster: it s just a head in psychedelic 
colors and underneath it says, "Head." The problem was how to 
conceptually connect it with the picture. The picture didn t do 
well, and it s a very funny, very great picture, I think. But, it 
became an underground fad success in the years that followed, and 
it s done quite well. It s played on college campuses all the 
time and so forth. It worked out after a while. 

In the meantime, while we were in L.A. for a few times 
running, we met a lot of people. One of the people who was 
associated at BBS, which was Burt s and Rafelson s and their 
partners company, was Jack Nicholson. My old friend from the 
gallery, Dennis Hopper, was at the time making a movie with Peter 
Fonda and Jack Nicholson. Bert was putting up the bread, and I 
was asked to do the sound for that picture. But I was too busy. 
You know, the motorcycle picture. 

Byerly: "Easy Rider." 

Stern: "Easy Rider." Right. From then on, Jack and Bert and Rafe and I 
and John stayed pretty friendly. Bert was married to his 
childhood sweetheart from Mt. Vernon, New York, and had two 
children. And he had never sown his wild oats. All of a sudden 
he ran off and bought another magnificent house in the hills and 
lived with Candice Bergen for a number of years. And it was 
through Bert, who was the major financial supporter of the [Black] 
Panthers and a lot of other radical groups, that I met Huey 
[Newton] . 

Huey Newton 

Stern: I was drawn to Huey Newton because he was an intellectual of great 
depth who had read practically everything that there is to read 
and who liked to talk about it. He needed people to throw his 


ideas against who would listen and be able to respondhopefully 
respond very shortly so he could have 95 percent of the time to 
speak. My father had always told me that I should listen. In 
business, in anything, it s a lot better to listen than to speak. 
I m not following his injunction. But I usually do; in business, 
he was absolutely right. In a lot of human affairs, you can 
manage and negotiate better if you listen more than if you talk 

So Huey and I became very friendly. When I was at Santa 
Cruz, I introduced Huey to Paul Lee, and we managed to get Huey 
accepted as a student there, and he actually got a degree there. 
That was quite an accomplishment. 

University of California. Santa Cruz 

Stern: It was kind of a strange scene at Santa Cruz because Paul was very 
interested in our multimedia work, and he had decided that Plato s 
Myth of Er was an incredible thing to do in multimedia. And he 
was right. And he s still right. I m sure he s around; we ve 
lost touch with each other. Paul and I had first met in Boston--! 
had told you about how he introduced me to Andre Ruedi when he 
sponsored us at Brandeis and then MIT, and we had visited him in 
his summer home in Wisconsin several times with a woodburning 
sauna which you then ran into the cold lake. Oooh, oooh. I can 
still feel the cold. We were great friends. He got me the job in 
Santa Cruz, first at College Five. He wanted me to produce the 
myth with my students, but it was a very difficult piece of work, 
and there were no funds. He didn t have the time to get involved, 
and I just couldn t bring it off. I was teaching a course in the 
History of Consciousness program which I had conceived of as a 
communications course about the history of technology, which is 
what they wanted, and which I wanted to call, "Turning Tools into 
Toys." I was thinking about McLuhan s ideas of tools as 
extensions. I was really into trying to get these doctoral 
students to understand the successive impacts that various 
technologies have had on human activity. I mean, the plow, the 
stirrup, electricity, capacitors, resistorsthese are all 
concepts that are mechanical, they re electric, they re 
electronic, they re philosophical, and trying to bridge all of 
these different levels that are contained in the technological 

The course appeared in the catalogue as something like, "The 
Role of Technology in the History of Consciousness." They wanted 
a much more doctrinaire kind of an approach than I was taking. 


Norman 0. Brown, the author of Love s Body, was in charge of the 
History of Consciousness program, and he and I definitely did not 
see eye to eye. He felt that humanism and the humanities depended 
on ideas, not on things, and he resented the fact that I brought 
the engineer from the communications center to talk to my students 
about electricity. He didn t like the blue-collar approach. The 
guy was by no means blue-collar; this engineer was a Brit who had 
been one of the first video television engineers at the BBC. He 
was a sophisticated guy. Brown was up the wrong alley completely. 
Later on I had the pleasure when Brown came to consult me- -he 
wanted to do a series of videotapes of his ideas and his work, and 
he wanted to know from me how he could protect the videotapes so 
that people couldn t copy them. Instead I explained to him my 
ideas about freedom of information and the technological 
unfeasibility of being able to protect a videocassette from 
piracy. And those were the early days; they weren t the 
videocassettes we have now. And they didn t have any warnings on 
them the way videocassettes have now. 

Talking about video--! m going way back-- 
The Venezuela ProiectM 

Stern: The potential of using video for other than broadcast television 
started out when Sony first put its first half -inch portable on 
the market with a small camera, and we got the set practically 
immediately. We were involvedas I mentioned, I had been on the 
video panel and was still on the video panel at NYSCA--and we were 
friends with Charlotte Moorman and Nam June Paik and the Video 
Freaks, Global Village, the Vasulkas, and all of the groups that 
were involved in producingvideo, documentation, and in the arts. 
In fact, I wrote a chapter in a book which was eventually 
published by the MIT Press regarding the funding of experimental 
television, which is an interesting history. I did some 
experimental videotapes at WGBH in Boston at their workshop. I 
also did a little work in New York: public television workshop. 

One day when I was sitting in my office at Intermedia in 
Cambridge, I got a call- -it was obviously a long distance away-- 
and this guy in a very accented voice said to me, "Are you the 
Stern whose work is in this magazine that I m reading?" It was an 
audiovisual magazine. "Is this Intermedia?" I said, "Yes, this 
is me." He said, "Well, this is Jose Ignacio Cadavieco from 
Caracas. Are you going to be in your office tomorrow morning?" I 
said, "Yes." He said, "Please save some time tomorrow morning 


because we re going to come up and see you." And he hung up. I 
figured some friend of mine was joking around. 

The next morning, these two characters are waiting for me 
when I come in to the office early in the morning. They re from 
Venezuela. One of them is Jose Ignacio, and he is the director of 
public relations for the Ministry of Public Works in Venezuela, 
and he brought along this painter and sculptor, Fernando 
Irrazabal, who is a kind of a jolly, chunky guy, and Jose Ignacio 
is a skinny- -it s real Latino Mutt and Jeff country. They tell me 
this story about how they have to do this multimedia audiovisual 
for the World Bank about a project called "Col de Sur," which is 
the opening of part of the Amazonian jungle at the intersection of 
Venezuela and two other countriesBrazil and--. They ve never 
done multimedia like this before, and they want to buy equipment 
from us like they saw in the magazine, and they want us to teach 
them how to use it. And they want to buy the equipment that day 
and leave back for Venezuela. They have about three weeks to do 
this show, and I tell them, "Forget it." I couldn t do it. 
"Don t worry, don t worry, we have a lot of people, and--" blah 
blah blah. I said, "But I can t sell you equipment. We make this 
equipment to people on order; we don t have it standing." "Well, 
tell me what you have and--" blah blah. They talked me into it. 
Three or four hours later they bring out this huge package of 
hundred-dollar bills and off they go, and the last thing they tell 
me is, "As soon as we get this finished we re going to invite you 
down so you can see it, and we want a seminar so that from now on 
we understand how to make multimedia. The minister will be in 
touch with you." 

I figure, you know, we got thousands of dollars in cash, and 
we have no equipment. All right, Michael will make more 
equipment, right? We all can t believe this. A few weeks later, 
sure enough, I get a telexthis was before fax and phone calls 
from the Minister of Public Works, and he invites us down to do a 
seminar on audiovisual in Caracas , and we get tickets for three of 
us me and Sally and one of our photographer technicians, Nick 
McClelland, David s son- -we fly down there, and we give a seminar, 
and we meet artists and photographers, and people from all the 
government ministries, and we have a wonderful time. At the end 
of the seminar we get fed well and put up at a great hotel--! 
don t know any Spanish at this point, but we have translators and 
we get taken to the museums. They have incredible modern art. We 
meet poets, and a lot of them speak English. 

At the end of the seminar, Jose Ignacio comes to me, and he 
says, "The minister says we can either pay you or if you would 
like a week to see our country, we will instead give you a tour of 
the entire country with a guide--" Fernando the sculptor, who did 


speak some English, "will take you around." So I think of my poor 
treasurer, Stuart Vidockler up in Cambridge, but I managed to 
forget about him, and I said, "We ll take the tour." 

I didn t even know what the tour would entail, you know? 
The next morning we get a limousine not to the international 
airport but to a little airport in the middle of Caracas , and we 
have a military jet with two military pilots, and the three of us 
plus Fernando get in the plane, and we take off. We fly up to the 
Andes, and we land, and we see the whole scene there, and then we 
go to the hotel, and the next morning we take off for Maracaibo. 
I keep saying at each place, "Wait a minute; I m not ready to 
leave," because you don t have enough time to--. All of these 
places are really super wonderful in various ways. We go to 
Maracaibo, which is where the oil fields are, and we go to the 
Amazonas, and we see Angel Falls, and we go to the gold and the 
iron Mines. It was just too much. And then we get on the plane 
and go home to Boston. 

But it s not over. Now we re into the Venezuelan scene, and 
the next thing they ask us isthere s this famous Czechoslovakian 
group which did multimedia, and they had done an installation at 
the battlefield of Carabobo, which was the last battlefield on 
which Bolivar won independence for a lot of South America, 
including Venezuela. They asked me if I would consider producing 
a second production for the battlefield because the Czechs didn t 
really do much of a job on the software. The monument is 
incredible; a contemporary architect did it. We met the 
architect, but the production is kind of lame. This is a major 
production. "No problem; money s not a problem." All right, so 
money s not a problem. 

We get an apartment that the government gives us at the 
Anauco Hilton right in the center of Caracas. Now I m introduced 
to historians, and I start researching Simon Bolivar. Now Simon 
Bolivar was an incredible figure; a Venezuelan but studied in 
France at the time of all of the revolutionary thought. He wore a 
medal of Washington and Jefferson. He spent some time more or 
less exiled in Jamaica. He came from the upper class and by no 
means had any financial problems, but he was a philosophical 
democrat, and he wanted independence from tyranny. Without any 
resources to speak of, with military expertise learned along the 
way, and with help from Irishmen and all kinds of odd people from 
around the world, he managed to assemble to peasant army and drive 
the Spanish out. Unbelievable story! And then, because of 
political infighting, this hero dies penniless under a bridge in 
Colombia. And it s all true. 


We managed to put together quite an audiovisual, and we 
installed it, and this took well over a year, and we had a few 
other projects going in Venezuela. So now I was commuting between 
Intermedia and Harvard and Venezuela, and we had some staff 
members down there, and we got very involved with the art world in 
Venezuela. I became very friendly with the director, Sofia Imber 
Rangel, of the Museo de Arte Contemporanio . I was able to bring 
down for an additional seminar video artists Woody and Steina 
Vasulka. We did a show of video art at the museum with Charlotte 
Moorman and a lot of the American and South American artists who 
were working in video. It was creative ferment. We made a lot of 
good friends down there in the art world, and project after 
project developed. 

Our major source of influence- -this was in the days of 
President Caldera, who was a sociology professor and is now the 
president again except he has gotten really old, and he s more of 
a puppet than the president that he was the first time around. I 
became friends with the former president who really took Venezuela 
out of tyranny and then to democracy, Don Romulo Betancourt. He 
was a sophisticated, generous, and wise politician. Our principal 
source of influence, who was originally the Minister of Tourism, 
was a man named Diego Arria. Diego had been with the World Bank. 
He was an internationally known figure, and he persuaded me that I 
could really be of great help in bringing liberal ideas and 
communications and American expertise to Venezuela. I brought 
people, consultants, from all walks of communication and political 
consultants, like Pat Cadell, to Venezuela. We were involved in a 
lot of work there. 

There was the art level which was no problem because it was 
art . I was beginning to understand what we were doing not only 
for companies like Armco Steel in the United States --we did their 
seventy- fifth anniversary media spectacular in a geodesic dome 
which traveled all over the country to Armco plants. And they 
persuaded me that they were a people-oriented company. A 
beautiful show, but there were conceptual cracks in the 
propaganda. Now we re doing things in Venezuela, and now we re 
putting a huge geodesic dome in the Plaza Bolivar, and we have 
this program called "Caracas Para Todos"--Caracas for Everyone. 
By this time, Diego was the governor of the Caracas Distrito 
Federal, and I m beginning to realize this is also all propaganda. 
I m playing idealist and doing good by going into the barrios and 
photographing people who are helping to rebuild their own houses, 
and Diego being stopped by a woman whose heartwhat do you call 
those things? 

Byerly: Pacer? 


Stern: Her pacer has run out of batteries, and he snaps his fingers--"Go 
get this woman a battery immediately," and all these great things 
are happening, but it turns out to be all kind of surface stuff. 

Eventually- -and I m skipping a lot, a lot of high cultural 
points--Diego decides he wants to run for president, and we re all 
telling him he can t do it, he shouldn t do it. But he s 
determined to do it, and he announces, and the next day we are 
persona non grata because we re on Diego s trip. And as I say, 
I m leaving out a tremendous amount of relationships and things. 
In the meantime, Diego has got to leave the country. He s married 
to, by this time, not to the lady he was married to when we first 
met him, but Tikki D Asencio, whose family is one of the heavy- 
duty oil families in the country. Diego and Tikki have mucho 
money, a huge house in the country club section of Caracas, and an 
important art collection. 

I go to dinner with the president; not Caldera by this time, 
but Carlos Andres. Carlos Andres is at dinner with his ministers, 
but he s not with his wife; he s with his mistress. He s a 
policeman, really; he started out as a policeman. He s stupid. I 
could tell you some very funny jokes thatthe Venezuelans are 
very jokey people. We re having a marvelous dinner, and all of a 
sudden we have this wine which has been sent by Hans Neumann, who 
is an industrialist who was a refugee from Europe and now owns a 
chateau in Spain as well as an enormous industrial empire in 
Venezuela and is a director of the Museum of Modern Art in New 
York, married to a ballerina. I take a sip of the wine, and the 
wine has turned to vinegar. I say to the Tiki, the hostess, 
"Psst-- [mumbles] " and the butler with the white gloves comes and 
takes all the glasses away. Carlos Andres says, "Hey! Give me 
back my glass!" I mean, this is all in Spanish. He says, "That s 
one of the best wines I ve had for years." Believe me, it s pure 

Now not only are we out of it, and we go home, but we are 
owed a lot of money by Venezuela which is uncollectible. When 
you re through, you re through. Politics is very strong. And it 
basically puts Intermedia into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

Intermedia Goes Kaput 

Stern: We had another couple of disasters at Intermedia, and Intermedia 

is kaput. So we fold our tents, and we move into a little office, 
and we go Chapter ll--we probably should have gone totally 
bankrupt, but I m trying to save; we owe a lot of money, and I 


don t like this idea of leaving people stuck. So I decide I m 
going to spend a year or so closing it down in a civilized manner. 
We owe people projects that aren t finished. We were doing one at 
the time for Sangamon University, funded through the NEH [National 
Endowment for the Humanities], a transformation of the Lincoln 
Shrines, mostly in Illinois, into Lincoln sites. We did 
multimedia environmental settings in the courtroom where Lincoln 
practiced, the railroad station where he came back to on his 
campaign trail, one of the cabins where he grew up; it was a 
beautiful project. We had film and slides and sound. It was a 
solid research job, writing and production, and I did it myself 
because I really enjoyed it. 

In the meantime, Sally and I were married, and we decided we 
were going to have a child. But we were going to live part of the 
time in Venezuela until that whole thing broke up, and we named 
our son Abram [spells] because, number one, I was working on 
Abraham Lincoln--! liked it. And in Spanish, Abram sounds kind of 
Spanish, too. In fact, one of Diego s bodyguards was named Abram. 
And then when we had the baby we told this big guy with the 
muscles, "We heard your name, and we named our baby that: Abram." 
He said, "That s just my nickname; my name is Abraham." Of 
course, Abram was the name of Abraham before he became the father, 
you know, in the Bible. 

Now we have a baby, and we ve moved back to Porter Square. 
Not to the same place, but to the same area. We ve given up our 
great offices and we ve sold our sound studio, and we re really 
three people instead of thirty to forty people. 

We more or less satisfied all the Intermedia needs, and in 
the meantime my brother, Raymond, gets in touch with me. This is 
my half-brother who s about eighteen years younger than I am. And 
my father s getting much older. I think my father s by this time 
eightyit was his eightieth birthday. Raymond says to me, "I 
know you have difficulties in Boston. I really need to have 
somebody whom I can trust to work with me; Father can t do it much 
longer." Ray s been in the business for a few years by this time. 
He says, "Why don t you come down and talk to me and see if you re 

Well, I was offered a job at WGBH in experimental 
television, and there were a couple of other possibilities, but I 
was a bit burnt out. I was also strapped. I talked to my father, 
and my father said, "It has nothing to do with me; this is you and 
your brother. I wanted you to come into the business years ago. 
If you want to do it--I don t want to influence you." I don t 
think he really thought it was a good idea at the time. Raymond 


and I made a deal, and I started commuting down to New Jersey 
three days a week. 



Entering the Family s Cheese Import Business 

Stern: So I was closing up Intermedia on one hand and starting to learn 
the cheese import business on the other hand. And through all 
this I m writing poetry. Actually, Intermedia was a fairly low- 
production period for me because I was so busy creating, writing, 
producing. Sometimes we had three crews going. What I mean by 
crews is people doing photography, film, sound, and then having to 
put it all togetherand design, visual, and actual presentation 

While I was commuting, I was staying in the Soho loft of a 
good friend of mine, an experimental filmmaker and professor named 
Phill Niblock. He had done some work for us on the Lincoln piece, 
and he had done some work for us in Venezuela. I had first met 
him when I was on the New York State Council panels because he was 
one of the artists who had made a grant application, and we went 
to his studio to see his work, to evaluate whether we were going 
to give him a grant or not. I was one of the first people who 
really pushed for public support for his work. He s a first-class 
creativenot only filmmaker but also composerand he s now quite 
well-known throughout the world of international avant-garde. 

It was kind of odd because on the one hand there was all 
these arts endeavors, and on the other hand I was getting into the 
cheese business. Of course, I grew up hearing about cheese, and 
my father would take me down to the office, and I would go to the 
warehouses. It wasn t like I had never understood what the 
business was all about. And I have always loved cheese, which is 
different because for most of the people in the cheese business- 
it s just something that they sell. 

One of the first pieces of advice my father gave me- -which 
was, by the way, a very good piece of advicewas he watched me 
starting to get involved with cheese, and he said, "Gerd, we re 


not in business to sell cheese; we re in business to make money." 
I have never, in anything I ve done, been able to concentrate on 
that aspect of thingson making money. It has never seemed to me 
to be a positive motivation. Why? I grew up in a family in which 
materialism was everything. I guess I rejected it because I 
didn t like the vibes, I didn t like the principles, I didn t like 
anything that concentrated on money as an objective or goal. 

My father was a very interesting, a very special person, but 
he wasn t nice. Ninety- five years old the man was when he died. 
Not once in my life of like over sixty years with my father did he 
tell me he loved me. When I said this to my stepmother sometime 
after he died, she said, "How many years do you think it was since 
he told me he loved me?" He was incapable of that kind of 
expression. You couldn t please the man. I had spent so many 
years estranged from him that the last years of his life I felt 
like, "Hey, he s my father, and I m going to do anything that he 
needs me to do, and I m not going to tell him he s full of shit, 
and I m not going to argue with him. If he needs me to drive him 
someplace, sure." You drive him someplace, and you either go too 
fast or too slow. If he knew where we were going, which he 
usually did, you never took the right road. You couldn t do 
anything right for the man. And he was a cheapskate; he had 
plenty of money but he was a fucking cheapskate. He fought in the 
German army during the First World War on the Russian front as a 
cavalryman and he got frostbitten feet. They gave him up for 
dead. He was about eighteen, and at ninety- five he is still going 
and he s driving a Mercedes Benz in New Jersey. 


Stern: I was commuting. And these commute experiences--! ve had a number 
of them: I commuted between Cambridge and Santa Cruz when I was 
teaching there; I commuted between Cambridge and Venezuela; and 
now I m commuting between Cambridge and New York. What this does 
isyou re in two different places, and you have different things 
going on in the different places, and somehow you manage to both 
separate and integrate those two lives. Coming back to my family- 
-re-relating to my father, to my stepmother, to my half-brother 
and my half-sister-- was an experience, and I felt very positive 
about it because I was trying to understand and to empathize and 
to use the wisdom or emotional stability that I had gained over 
the years to try and deal with a situation which had always been 
on my mind as negative relationships and now make them functional 
and positive for everyone involved. 

However, there were attendant difficulties. Number one, I 
was the dependent. When I started out working with my family, 
they paid me in a sparse manner, and they put me on short shrift. 


I very quickly understood what the business was about. From the 
time when I expressed myself that I knew nothing about business, I 
had some disastrous experiences with my associates in business, 
with attorneys, with accountants, with clients and customers. I 
wasn t educated or trained in business, but one does learn from 
experience, and by this time I could read fiscal reports, and I 
knew how to deal with business problems. 

I came into a situation where the dynamics of the company, 
to me, were difficult and disorganized: the potential profit of 
the company was not being realized, and there was a personality 
conflict between my father and my brother which was not in the 
open. My brother was very biisy. He was very occupied, but he 
wasn t working very hard, and he didn t put his mind or his 
energiesas far as I was concerned to the benefit of the 
business. We had a secretary or a clerical person working in the 
office who spent most of the time on the phone talking to her 
friends and who was involved with a guy next door who was also in 
the same business and who was pumping her for information and 
giving her money on the side and using our company to make money 
for himself. That suited my brother because the guy was doing the 
work and my brother wasn t, so he had a lot of extra time on his 
hands to play. 

My father was by this time in his eighties but he was 
totally compos mentis and had business principles which went back 
to the beginning of the century. He disliked the things that were 
going on, but in a sense he was afraid of my younger brother 
because he was my stepmother s darling, and my brother had 
attained some kind of ascendancy over my father which was very odd 
to me. When my brother first went into the business, they had 
their office in downtown New York where the cheesemongers were all 
congregated. They had a very small office with one telephone, and 
during the first week my brother said to my father that they 
should get another telephone. My father s answer to that was, 
"Can t you wait to call until I m finished?" My brother waited a 
while, and he finally just ordered a second telephone. He found 
that that was the only way to cope with my fatherto do instead 
of ask. By the time I was there it had gotten out of hand. 

My brother, quite a few years back, had eloped with a Mormon 
while my parents were traveling- -my father and my stepmother. And 
when they came back, this was a fait accompli. They were 
dumbstruck; they couldn t believe that, number one, he would 
elope, and number two, that he had married a Mormon- -outside of 
the religion- -had converted to Mormonism. So there was a hiatus 
when they didn t even speak. His first wife became pregnant very 
soon, and the family got themselves back together. The history 
goes further back. The only way really to cope with my parents 


was to deceive them because they were so strict and so doctrinaire 
and so unwilling to bend in any way that you either had to do what 
they said or you had to deceive them. My brother always chose to 
deceive them. He was a good liar. For instance, they sent him to 
college--my brother got things which neither I--of course, 1 
wasn t even from the same marriagenor my sisterwho wasever 
got from them. My brother, when he was supposedly going to 
college, wasn t going to college at all; he deceived my parents, 
and they didn t find out about it for about a year. He was just 
going to the movies and having a good time. 

Anyway, to start with, he was not working for my father, and 
he didn t want to go into the family business. He was working for 
another company in the office products business. My father wanted 
him in the worst way, and when Ray and his wife Dixie Lee were 
about to have a baby and were living in a small apartment, my 
father said, "Look, if you come to work for me, I ll buy you a 
house." Quid pro quo. Sure enough, Raymond decided "Hey, yeah, 
I m going to have a house." 

He started running the business on his principles rather 
than on my father s principles. He got my father to move out of 
downtown New York into New Jersey with the business. He 
incorporated, which my father had never done some of these moves 
were very positive moves and smart moves. Some of them were 
totally against my father s style of life. He adjusted because, 
like I said, he was kind of afraid of my brother. Here I came 
into this equation, and I saw the problems, and I saw that I had 
to establish a role for myself which had nothing to do with that 
dynamic. Instead of just following instructions, I started 
branching out. I built new pieces of business and new customers- 
some of them things that both my father and brother thought were 
not possible to do or not wise to do or wouldn t work. And most 
of them did work in the end, and I also developed new cheese types 
which I thought would have some reason to fit into the market, 
which was not the kind of thing that they did. I used the kind of 
dynamic and kind of metabolism that I had used in the arts and 
then the media business, and transferred them to the cheese 
business. Basically, it worked. 

In the meantime, the government regulations and other 
elements in the business were changing. My father was coming in 
every day, but he was tired a lot of his buddies had retired or 
had died, and he was kind of out of the daily grind of things, but 
he was very critical of everything that was going on. 

My brother had divorced his wife after starting an affair 
with the daughter of one of our suppliers. My father was very 
disturbed by this because this was a man he had known for many 


years, and he thought it was going to wreck the relationship. 
There wasn t much he could do about it, and finally they decided 
to get married. My brother s new wife was very young and very 
beautiful, and they quickly had children. She changed rapidly, 
and although she was European, became more U.S. -style 
materialistic than anybody else. My brother had to buy a bigger 
house and bigger cars, and he became strapped for money, and then 
started playing games which skirted import regulations. 

Things started getting out of hand, and we had an employee 
who managed all these matters and who was privy to all the tricks 
that developed. Eventually one day--I am getting ahead of myself 
and leaving a lot out- -five guys stormed into our office with flak 
jackets with "Police" on them. They were U.S. Customs agents, and 
they took 150 boxes of papers and arrested us and took my father s 
private papers, and there was hell to pay. Actually, I m still 
suffering from what happened. My brother was absolutely stupid 
because he had not kept the papers from all those tricky 
transactions separate from anything else, and the proof was all 
there of what had taken place. Since we were both officers of the 
company, we had to plead guilty, and we were heavily fined, and I 
was put on probation which just ended last month. I still have 
six years more to pay the government. On top of it, I decided to 
leave the company at that point. I had wanted to leave the 
company a couple of years earlier. Things had gotten out of hand, 
and the employee I was talking about left because she couldn t 
take it anymore. My brother was becoming more and more outrageous 
because as he saw that nothing happened to him, he felt that 
everything was going swimmingly. What he didn t realize was that 
some of his escapades in Europe involved him with people who 
didn t give a damn about him and who had no problem turning him 
in. He felt he was out of harm s way. 

I was figuring that my father, who was by this time ninety, 
wouldn t be around for much longer. I didn t really want to leave 
the company while he was still around, but finally after the 
police and everything, and after my brother lied his way through 
the next series of events--! had a very good friend who is a 
criminal attorney here in San Francisco. We knew him through the 
Caens and through Beth. He came and defended us and made a deal 
with the government. The other attorney that my brother had 
originally gotten for us had told us simply to plead guilty and go 
to jail and serve time. My friend George Walker really broke that 
pattern and got us out with money penalties and probation. 

I left. I tried to tell my father the truth, and among 
other things, to tell my father how my brother and his wife talked 
about him, my father. My father didn t believe me. He told me 
that I was abandoning my brother, and he didn t approve of it, but 


I did it anyway. Now I had a difficult choice. By this time, I 
had learned the cheese business; there were people whose respect I 
had, and who wanted me to continue doing business with them. I 
was very tempted to leave the food business. On the other hand, I 
knew I was up against paying the government. I also needed to 
support my wife and my young son. 

I wanted in the worst way to go back to the art world and 
the more civilized pursuits. I considered the options; I looked 
around to see whether I would be offered anything. There were no 
real opportunities in that world. I decidedwhen both our 
English supplier and our Israeli supplier wanted me, not the 
family company, to represent themto open our own business. 

I persuaded my wife, who had not been working but had been 
involved in some not-for-profit education in the child abuse arena 
and had been thinking about going back to school to get a degree- 
that she should help me in the business, at least to get it 
started. We worked out of our house, and it was heartening 
because here there had been all this bad publicity. I had the 
mindset that my brother had led us into this dark passage. On the 
other hand, I wasn t entirely ignorant and innocent. I could have 
left at any time, but as I explained, I didn t want to leave 
because my father was elderly, and I felt that I was so connected 
to him and that it would be painful to him. On the other hand, I 
knew that there was a lot that was wrong and that I was abetting 
it and sometimes even helping my brother. This is not really our 
central issue about my life but it s part of it. 

At one point, my brother had made a deal with a guy, and he 
then made the same deal with somebody else. The first guy was an 
Italian, a Sicilian, an older manpractically seventy. He came 
into the office one day, and he said to my brother in very 
Italianate speech, "Hey, you made a deal with me, then you went 
back on it." Then he grabbed him by the crotch, and he said, 
"Your wife likes you that way?" Raymond says, "Yeah, uh-huh." He 
says, "Your wife likes you that way. You want to stay that way, 
you had better fix this deal." And he left. Our employee and I 
were there, and Raymond kind of laughed, "Ha, ha- -he didn t really 
mean that, did he?" I said, "Damn straight he meant it." He 
said, "The old man is going to what?" I said, "The old man isn t 
going to do anything. He s going to pay somebody a couple of 
hundred bucks. What s the matter with you? Don t you go to the 
movies or read the papers? You know where he comes from?" 

He managed somehow, with my help, to reconstitute the deal, 
but that was how he behaved. Our employee just shook her head, 


and she said to him, "Get real. You re really asking for it every 
day . " 

We were fortunate, myself and my wife slowly started getting 
involved in the business together. She had never had anything to 
do with this type of work, particularly in the sales area. She s 
developed a lot of expertise, and we now have two little companies 
which manage to support us not in very luxurious style, but it s 
never easy, in my experience, to earn a living. Despite the fact 
that there was maybe a blot on my reputation, I became president 
of the American Cheese Society. My brother has kind of dropped by 
the wayside in terms of the industry; he s still around, but very 
few people want to do business with him. 

The next step wasone of the things when I left the 
business my brother had promised to take care of the bank 
situation where he and I had both signed personal guarantees. He 
reneged on that situation, and hung up the bank for a couple of 
hundred thousand dollars, and of course eventually the bank went 
against both of us. I have a garnishee on my wages, and as a 
result of this and the total situation, my brother and I are not 
talking to each other. 

My father died at the age of ninety- five, and the business 
problems weighed heavily on his psyche: First of all, the business 
had his name, Otto Stern and Sons, and it had gone downhe had a 
really high-level reputation all over the world in that trade. He 
took it very hard. He blamed me: "You re the older brother." My 
brother owned 100 percent of the company most of the time, because 
my father gave it to him, but that didn t make any nevermind to my 
father. I had come in late after everything had been organized, 
but to him the fact that I was older, I should have had influence 
over my brother which my father never had or never exercised. So 
that s what I meanthe man couldn t talk to him. Reb Zalman, 
whom I had always talked to about all kinds of situations whenever 
I had a problem, had advised me that somehow I should manage to 
make peace with my father. But I was never able to do it; I 
tried, but my father, number one, wouldn t listen. Number two, he 
didn t believe me. Although I helped him in all kinds of ways, it 
just didn t work. It didn t work. 

Our practice when somebody dies a parent, a close relative 
is you say kaddish, which is a prayer. It s a blessing to Ha- 
Shem. We don t really mourn, because we celebrate life; we don t 
celebrate death. I said kaddish for my father for eleven months. 
Nobody else did. [chuckles] What gets into these strange 
relationships between parents and children. What really pleases 
me incredibly is that my children and I have a loving 
relationship all of them. Even Jared the abuser. I can see that 


the significant difference between my father s generation and me 
as a child, and my generation and my children. My children love 
me, I love them, we express it to each other. They know who I am, 
they re not afraid to tell me anything or for me to tell them. 
We re close, even though we may not be close geographically. We 
see each other a few times a year at least. It s a relationship 
without- -there are no stop signs. 

I think that that s not just something about me; our 
generation was able to achieve that with its childrenthose of us 
who had children. Tragically, a lot of the people who we ve been 
talking about in terms of the world of the arts and the worlds of 
the bohemians and radicalsa lot of them had broken marriages, a 
lot of them did not have children. It s a really wonderful 
experience to be able to have that relationship between the 
generations which works. I guess a significant demonstration of 
it is why we re here . It is such a touching experience to me that 
Paul, the progeny of my ex-wife s running away with his father, 
should have had the idea and suggested that we do this oral 
history which he has supported. It s the kind of turnaround which 
one could never conceive of. It s a generosity and an openness of 
spirit which I think is typical of the next generation--! don t 
mean mine, but I mean his. And it s not just that he has the 
money, it s the kind of mindset that is capable of it. I think 
what it tells me is that history, as badly as we see that progress 
is not maybe 


Stern: ...Sometimes we think that civilization is not necessarily 

progressive, that sometimes it s retrograde. Particularly in the 
Jewish context, a lot of people think for instance that the 
Holocaust is an indication that barbarism down through the ages- 
there has been no improvement, there is no progress in 
civilization. I don t think that s true. I think both from a 
viewpoint of ethics and a viewpoint of technology that our 
communication as human beings has been progressive and that people 
are in general not in specifics, but in general- -kinder and more 
conscious of each other than they have ever been before in 
history. It s maybe not a popular point of view, but I hope it s 

In any case, during the time that I was involved in the 
business and when the business was really doing well, we were 
making more money than I had ever made before. I was actually 
able to take vacations, which I don t think I had ever done before 
in my life. I mean, I had gone places but there had always been 
some kind of a reason. 


When I talked about Reb Zalman, I neglected to mention that 
when we had the sound studio we had produced a double album, 
"Tales of Reb Nachmann." Reb Nachmann was a major figure in 
Hasidic Jewry, and he wroteor he actually said, and they were 
written down by a scribestories. They were tales that could be 
seen as moralistic. Not in the narrow sense of the word- 
spiritually moralistic. A lot of the Hasidic tales have the same 
kind of quality that Zen Koan s do. Reb Zalman translated these, 
and he told them, chanted them, and they were accompanied by music 
and by sound. There were two brothers, the Siegel Brothers, who 
were young rabbis --twins --and they did some accompanying music in 
the studio to it, and I got to know them, and I then produced an 
album of their songs titled, "Hallel." Hallel means "praise" in 
Hebrew. One of them is actually a niggun, a kind of a chant 
without words that the Hasids sing. One of them is called "Reb 
Gerd s Niggun" because I kind of improvised it. 


Stern: The Siegels did yearly trips to Negril on the island of Jamaica, 
and they talked so much about Jamaica to me and to Sally that we 
got intrigued. For years, we had not had a chance to go down 
there, and- -we had actually had reservations to go somewhere else, 
St. Martens, but there was a hurricane and the beaches were wiped 
out. We just decided on the spur of the moment to get on a plane 
to Jamaica. 

It was a wonderful experience. I had missed the black world 
a lot. I grew up and went to school in New York, and I had a few 
black friends, and they were just friends. The distinctions had 
not arisen. In the jazz world, I had a lot of friends. I won t 
say that Bird, Charlie Parker, was my friend, but I knew him. 
Percy Heath was a close friend. Other musicians and artists and 
poets that I knew- -what had happened is that there had been a lot 
of noise in the system between blacks and whites. Then I was with 
Maya, and there were tensions and conflicts. Originally not 
between us but with the rest of the world. I can t remember 
whether I had talked aboutwe had to stay in black hotels, and it 
was difficult for me; I was the odd man out, right? Very odd man 

Here now we were in Jamaica, a totally black world except 
for the tourists and the remnants of British colonialism. I made 
some very close friends there, and I understood that we 
represented for them a source of information, of food, of money 
on the other hand, it wasn t like in Mexico where everybody s poor 


and trying to take advantage of you. We had relationships, and we 
kept going back. Eventually, I felt like I wanted not to have to 
schlep everything back every time and that I wanted to acquire a 
place in Jamaica. One day a lady who used to give aloe massages 
on the beach in Negril said to me, "Gary, "--they have a hard time 
pronouncing Gerd, so they called me Gary "I live up the way, and 
I bought this house, and I thought I bought the land but my cousin 
only sold me the house. I think somebody is going to buy the land 
and throw me off. I know you are looking for some place. Come up 
and take a look." 

We had been looking in Negril, and it was actually my wife s 
birthday, and she didn t want to go, so I went up. It was a piece 
of land right on the Caribbean in a cove and right on a coral 
reef --not on a beach. She had told me to bring snorkeling gear. 
I went snorkeling--! love snorkeling. I love to be in a world 
where somehow nothing is conscious of you but everybody allows you 
to be there with them. It was like paradise. I thought to 
myself, Is it really possible that a piece of this could be mine? 

She had told me that the land belonged to a Mr. Farmer and 
that she thought he lived in Toronto. She gave me a couple of 
phone numbers. It took me about six months. I thought I was 
looking for a Jamaican named Farmer, but what I really found was a 
Hindu named Varma whose family had been in Jamaica and moved back 
to Canada during the days when Jamaica had, in Manley s first 
administration, gone toward the Cuban Communists. And a lot of 
the people who had built some kind of wealth had left. 

Indeed, I flew up to Toronto, he picked me up, we went to 
his house, he excused himself to meditate and pray in his little 
shrine room. I thought, "Hey, this is an okay kind of guy." And 
indeed, we made a deal for the land. It turned out that it wasn t 
just a little piece of a few acres, but it was eleven acres right 
on the seafront. It was really cheap, and I thought to myself, 
"How can one possibly own this?" In most places in the world, you 
can t even own seafront land. It s a narrow piece, but a very 
beautiful little cove. We built a house there, and the property 
is called Poetreef. It s been my place to write and to lie in a 
hammock on the veranda and look out at the sea and to understand 
how one can be in more than one place in more than one time in 
one s life. Slowly and slowly I ve gotten to the point where I go 
there four or five or six times a year for a week at a time, and 
I m able to separate from my business self. Until last month we 
didn t have a phone and a fax there because there weren t any 
lines. Now we ve just gotten that, which will change things 
considerably. A lot of our friends have gone there to stay. 


Jamaican Marijuana 

Stern: It would be wrong of me not to mention that the grass, the 

marijuana, in Jamaica is maybe not the best in the world but I 
would say the equal of anything anyone can get anywhere. It s 
fresh, which means that you get the feeling that you have 
something organic and unaged and unpreserved--and it s a somewhat 
different feeling than when you get something that s been lying 
around for a few months or even a year. Although it s illegal, 
it s fairly open as long as you don t try to commercialize, and I 
have no interest at all in being a dope dealer, and I never have 
hadand it s not expensive. So that makes for a very pleasant 
kind of environment. 


Stern: Our associate and caretaker is a Rastafarian, which is a very odd 
religion or sect with mostly no organizational or institutional 
structure. Most Rastas are just single Rastas; they don t attend 
any kind of a community, but the principles and the practices are 
the same. They don t eat any flesh, they don t use salt, they 
don t use alcohol, they don t drink coffee- -now various of them 
have different levels of orthodoxy, and they speak a slightly 
different language. The food is called Ital. "I" is very 
important, but it s not an ego "I"; it s always "I and I", not 
just "I." It s a very poetic involvement; the music and the 
lyrics are extremely socially conscious. The people all the way 
from Bob Marley down to the latest DJs aremost of them very un- 
or even anti-commercial. The sense of justice and ethics and 
moral practice are very high. 

Jamaican Food Imports 

Stern: We ve also gotten into business with a line of Jamaican food 

imports, mostly condiments, with some people who are exceptionally 
civilized and artistic people. That s been a wonderful kind of 
extra added attraction in the last ten years. A lot of the poetry 
that I ve written has either been written there or finished, 
transformed, there. I have a series of eight poems that are poems 
with silkscreens by an artist friend of ours, David Weinrib, whom 
I mentioned, and who long ago had been Judi s lover between Steve 
and myself. 

Global Village 

Stern: The big mistake I made isthere are always these temptations in 

life, and Negril is a beach town which has been in the last decade 
urbanized and touristicized. Where there were little places, now 
there are large resorts, and I didn t want this to happen to the 
community where our house is, Cousins Cove. Across the road from 
us, more or less, there was a parcel of thirty-eight acres which 
also belonged to my--by this time--friend, Ashoka Varma and his 
family. I was negotiating with him somehow to buy it all, 
although by this time I no longer had the kind of money that was 
needed. Some years ago, Ashoka fell down; no one knows whether he 
fell down because he had a stroke or he had a stroke which caused 
him to fall down, but his speech disappeared and his liberty of 
motion, and he has been in very bad shape. 

I visited him a number of times, and then I spoke to his 
sons, and I said to them, "Look, there s this piece of land that I 
was negotiating for. Why don t you give it to me, and I will 
raise money, and we ll have a foundation in your father s name, 
and we will do things that are for the good of the local people. 
They need a medical clinic. I d like to bring artists and 
scientists to live there and to learn and to teach at the same 
time, and I think it could work out." They thought about it, and 
they said to me, "We have a problem because we don t really own 
just thirty-eight acres but within a few miles of there we own 
about 400 acres. We re not interested in keeping it. We would 
like to sell it. What we ll do is we ll sell it to you at a price 
where you think you re getting the thirty-eight acres for free, 
but figure out how to buy the whole thing." 

And I went to some people I know in Woodstock, the Wapners, 
and we got involved with old friends, an attorney whose wife is a 
sculptress, and they were very interested. We made a deal, and we 
paid a down payment, and then my friend the attorney had a heart 
problem and a triple bypass. On top of it, there were about a 
hundred squatters living on the land. What I did was I wound up 
with an enormous headache. [laughter] I was still involved in 
trying to get this not-for-profit foundation, the Global Village, 
together and to try to deal with the fact that I am now the white 
colonialist owner of land to the inhabitants who think that I m 
trying to take advantage of them when I m not. And I feel very 
compromised and ambivalent about being involved with it. I feel 
that what I should have done is kept my Poetreef acreage and not 
had been tempted by this ambitious project. That s life. One 
does these things, and then one has to deal with them. 



Writing Poetry and Memories of the Reality Club 

Stern: My poetry has beenI ve been writing more and more every year, 
which has surprised me. There were periods in my life when I 
wrote precious little. I sometimes have a hard time breaking out 
of the business set of mind. However, when I m driving or 
basically when I m alone or when I m with somebody who really sets 
me off, I ve gotten to the point where there are very few 
situations where I m unwilling to take out a piece of paper and 
pencil and write. I don t care whether it s business or love or 
what it is, but it s a necessity for me because I know that a 
phrase is there only for a moment. Memory is unreliable. Even if 
you remember the sense, you often change a word here and a word 
there, and it s not to the good. If you have it down and you want 
to change it later, that s one thing, but that feeling of it not 
being the way you thought it or spoke it is a strange experience. 

John Brockman 

Stern: This takes me back to John Brockman. At some point along the way, 
John Brockman, with a few other people, including myself--! wasn t 
one of the conceivers of this; it was really John s concept- 
formed "The Reality Club." We met mostly in New York, and we met 
to hear one another or some remarkable person in any field of 
endeavor talk about his present work and get the response of 
supposedly his peers. Multidisciplinary, not necessarily in his 
or her field. It was a tremendously inspiring thing to go to 
these meetings which were held sometimes in John s house and 
sometimes at the Rockefeller Institute and various other venues. 
Anything from six to twenty-five people would attend. Soon, the 
only way that you could become a member would be to ask to address 
or be asked to address the group and do a presentation. I was one 


of the original members. It took a while before I had my turn, 
and actually it was the only time we came to San Francisco for a 
meeting, and we had programs, and I was on the program right after 
the psychologist Rollo May. I addressed the group with a poem 
which is titled "Poemthink." The idea of "Poemthink" came to me 
one day while I was lying in bed, maybe not ready to go to sleep, 
and I thought of the idea of thinking of lines of poetry and not 
writing them downyou know, as kind of a practice of what one 
could do with words in one s mind when one had maybe nothing else 
to do, when one was waiting for something. So instead of not 
writing that idea down, I started writing, and it got longer and 
longer and longer, and it turns out to be a very long poem which I 
gave to The Reality Club at this session in San Francisco. Heinz 
von Foerster, who was a cybernetician of some note, was in the 
audience; he was one of our members. He came up to me afterwards 
and congratulated me, and said that he felt--in fact, he got up 
and said out loud during the question-and-answer period, that 
scientists, who had logical minds and who were trained to think in 
ways which sometimes were not totally creative and constructive, 
could use this technique to enhance their process. Heinz was a 
cybernetician who was involved with Norbert Wiener and the initial 
group in cybernetics, and he invited me to publish the poem in a 
journal called Cybernetics, which unfortunately was short-lived. 
But it lived long enough to publish the poem, and I was very 
grabbed by that because to be in that kind of a context rather 
than in a context of a little poetry magazine was much more 
communicative with the world. I ll give you a copy of it. 

It was even more of a gas--the piece just before my poem in 
the journal was a piece by Heinz titled "To Know and to Let Know," 
and I think it s an incredibly perspicacious and on-the-dot 
examination of knowledge and the psychology of how to think about 
what you know and what you want to know. It was an address that 
he originally gave to a librarian congress. Certainly the 
Bancroft probably has it, but I will give you another copy of it 
because it s kind of a manifesto for librarianship. 

The Reality Club, unfortunately-- John and I had been 
contracted to write a book together for a publishing company about 
media. We went up to the Cape--this was years and years ago--to 
start writing it. At the time, I was just starting to see Sally, 
and I invited her to come up to the Cape and stay in the motel in 
P. Town [Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts] on the sea where we 
were staying. We got involved in long hours of lovemaking, and 
John was a bit perturbed by that. We weren t doing the work he 
was expecting that we would do together. We never wrote the book, 
but during the many hours where he was next door in his room by 
himself, he started writing, and he published a book called "By 
the Late John Brockman." It was a series of aphorisms and 


interesting ideas. He followed that with another two books, and 
they were very abstract and abstruse; they didn t have a very wide 
audience, but among the cognoscenti John became kind of a 

John was looking for a way to use his talents, and he became 
a literary agent. Later he allied himself with a very talented 
and beautiful woman named Katinka Matson, who was the daughter of 
one of the grandmasters of literary agents. They have developed 
their agency, John Brockman and Associates, into probably the 
leading literary agency in the country, and have become wealthy, 
very wealthy. Unfortunately, we ve kind of lost touch with each 
other, which is a pity. The Reality Club, at first not only fed 
his intellectual curiosity but also fed his client base, kind of 
moldered and is no longer active. Its president, who was a 

Stern: Heinz Pagels I said physicist; he was really a cosmologist--was 
the director of the Rockefeller Institute, and he was an odd, 
somewhat perverse person. He was married to Elaine Pagels, a 
MacArthur Fellow who wrote the book on the Dead Sea Scrolls . A 
very impressive lady and thinker and representative of the kind of 
persona that were involved in the Reality Club. Heinz fell off a 
mountain near Aspen, Colorado, some years ago to his death. I 
don t think he really had any business being there; I don t think 
he was in physical condition for such a climb. It was a somewhat 
strange way to go. 

We had various odd scenes at the Reality Club. It started 
out with some very interesting people who were unrecognized. I 
think that would include myself. It wound up with fairly 
prestigious and established figures, which was kind of a 
progression not necessarily to my personal preference but 
certainly fascinating. For instance, one of the later people was 
Hugh Downs. Now Hugh Downs happens to be an extremely articulate 
and intelligent person but he wasn t representative of the people 
like Paul Ryan, the video philosopher that I ve referred to early 
on, or even in the middle, people like Dennis Hopper. Dennis was 
a disaster; I had to take him out of the room. He was cursing and 
screaming and being the bad boy, which is an image that he 
cultivated in a certain period of his life. I ve lost track of 
him, although I was very fond of him during the first years we 
knew each other when he was doing visual arts rather than acting 
or engaging in the Hollywood world. 


Stewart Brand 

Stern: One thing I ve kind of skipped over which was brought back to mind 
by my talking about the session of the Reality Club in San 
Francisco was Stewart Brand. Stewart came into our life at the 
time I first met Steve Durkee. He was in the army- -he had become 
an army photographer and, although starting out as an enlisted man, 
they had switched him over to a lieutenant because he was taking 
pictures of generals and command people, and they couldn t have 
enlisted men associating there closely with officers. So they made 
him an officer. He was very fond of heights and parachutes. When 
we started renovating the church and when we did USCO and even 
before that when I was in San Francisco, he became involved with 
our multimedia efforts. He had been in New York, but he wanted to 
move out to the Bay Area. I rented him the barge. 

And as I say, he liked heights. There was one time we were 
all on a psychedelic trip at the church, and we went outside, and 
there was Stewart climbing a high-voltage tower which was outside. 
I mean, this was a really tall tower. A number of people kind of 
freaked, and we couldn t figure out quite what to do; it wasn t 
like we wanted to let anybody know what we were up to--or up on 
[laughter]. I finally said that we had better go inside and if 
we re lucky he ll just go up and come down, which turned out to be 
true--he just came down, and nobody noticed. 

In fact, the first time I came back to the barge in 
Sausalito when we arrived from the east, we went in, and I 
couldn t find Stewart. I finally saw him sitting up in the 

Stewart was an excellent photographer, and he had a 
companion- -wife, eventually: Lois Brand- -who came from an Indian 
tribe, and Stewart branched out from our multimedia shows and put 
together one of his own which we also used parts of for a poster 
in our work. It was called "America Needs Indians." Again, we 
had a mylar poster which was done at the church by Barbara and 
Judi. A really spectacular poster. 

Barbara had studied silkscreening, and as I said before, she 
was teaching art at the time we were at the church, but she had 
studied silkscreening at a nearby convent with an artist named 
Sister Adele Meyers. Adele became very involved with us later on, 
and in fact she left the sisterhood with a number of her fellow 
sisters, but they stayed living in the convent as lay people for 
many years. She ran the Intermedia Gallery which was part of our 
foundation that came out of the church and which still exists. 
It s a 501(c)(3) and it s not as active as it was at one time, 


partially because public funding has become so difficult and 
partially because some of us have scattered about. David Weinrib 
is the executive director; I m still the president of the 
foundation. There are some activities going on at the church; the 
church is the property of the not-for-profit Church of the 

Stewart, of course, went on to do the Whole Earth catalog. 
It started out with him wondering why we don t have a picture of 
the whole earth. He made little buttons, and eventually this 
became a kind of a cause celebre with him, and he did the whole 
catalog, which was an incredible success, progressively, to the 
point where I think it commanded one of the highest advance 
figures in the history of publishing. And guess who was the 
agent, and guess who introduced who to who? Stewart Brand and 
John Brockman introduced by me. 

At the Reality Club here in San Francisco, Stewart attended 
he was very interested in a lot of these ideas, and he was there 
for Rollo May, and he came up to me afterwards. I was to go on 
right after Rollo, and he came to me and said, "Gerd, I know 
poetry is important, but I think I ll get a better deal going out 
and lying in the sun on the beach, so see you." Kind of typical 
of Stewart. Passive-aggressive type behavior, right? It was 
interesting because I had talked before about the kind of 
attitudes that Richard Alpert had had about Steve. It was 
mirrored by Stewart s attitude. I mean, Steve was and I assume 
still isthat kind of charismatic character that people want to 
glom on to. I ve never been competitive about people s affections 
and relationships--! certainly value them, but who is who s best 
friend is hardly the way I go into relationships. [chuckles] 

Stewart then put together a foundation with some of the 
money that he had earned. The relations although I felt that we 
had been extremely supportive and got Stewart going, he had other 
fields to plow. Although Lois had been very influential in all 
his enterprises and had worked fingers to the bone, so to speak, 
with the beginnings of the catalog and so forth, when Stewart 
began to be rich and famous and a friend of Governor Jerry s then 
Lois was left by the wayside for younger and sweeter fillies, if 
you don t mind the expression. [laughter] I felt slightly amused 
by that kind of behavior from someone who supposedly is in the 
front ranks of the ethical environmental movement, right? 

Israel: Karl Katz and "The House of the Diaspora" 

Stern: I ve left out a few things. One project which came through Karl 
Katz Karl Katz had been the director of the Jewish Museum in New 
York during the time of our heyday at USCO. One of the rather 
elaborate multimedia shows we did had to do with the Lower East 
Side, an exhibition which showed the past and present of the 
Jewish neighborhood which had turned into a black and Latino 
community in New York. We did this with our usual techniques of 
multi- screens and multichannel sound, and I think it was one of 
our best efforts. 

We got to know Karl. I worked well with him during that 
show, and he then asked me to become involved in a project in 
Israel: Beth Hateputsoth, "The House of the Diaspora." It s a 
museum in the middle of Tel Aviv University which deals with the 
2,000 years of Jewish wanderings. The process at that time was 
just beginning, and they wanted me to come to Israel. There s 
some kind of a custom that you re supposed to, when you come to 
Israel as a Jew for the first time, you re supposed to do it on 
your own volition and your own support. I was in no position to 
finance a journey to Israel, and I also felt that since they were 
seeking my professional consultation and design and concepts in 
this project, it was inappropriate for me to do it on my few 
pennies. The gentleman, Nahum Goldman, whose project this 
basically was happened to be a very important personality who had 
actually negotiated the exit of the Jewish population from where I 
was born--in the Saar--at the time of the plebiscite when Hitler 
took over. In a sense, he probably saved me and my family, so it 
was a very interesting meeting in New York when Karl took me to 
meet him. He asked me what was going on, and I explained to him 
that I was very interested in working on this project, and he 
said, "No problem. I will personally pay for your stay." So I 
felt a little justified in my attitude, and Karl was pleased. 

When we arrived in Israel- -this was my first trip there--! 
met the two people who were the Israelis in charge from their 
side. One of them was a well-known poet named Abba Kovner, now 
deceased. He had been the leader of the resistance movement in 
his own country, and he had been effective in the wars for 
independence in Israel. He was a real hero figure. The other 
fellow, Shakje Weinberg, was the managing director of the 
principal theater in Tel Aviv. 

The odd thing about this project was that the building had 
already been built--! mean, before the design and the concept of 
what would be in it; that s unusual in a museum that s built for a 
specific purpose. The Israeli government, during the period just 


preceding this, was very hard up to find money to finance their 
military expansion which was necessary to protect the country. 
But the money had been raised for this project, and the fear was 
that by some compulsion, the government would take it over. So 
instead they decided to commission the architect and build the 
building before the design and plans for what would fill it would 
be ready. It was a quite magnificent building; it wasn t 
completely finished when we were there, but the spaces were 
already established. 

Abba and I, at the first instance with a number of other 
people both from America and from Israel, were responsible for 
developing the concept. The basic ideas that we forwarded were to 
divide the museum into a series of Sharim gates . The concept of a 
gate or an opening to experience is very central to Judaism. That 
is how eventually the concept was developed. 

I also decided that--my area of expertise was audiovisual 
designwe should collapse the 2,000 years of the Diaspora into a 
six-minute presentation which would be in a planetarium-type dome 
as a projection environment. The historians who were involved in 
the project were supposed to deliver to me a precis of the events 
and the structure what this six-minute experience would contain. 

Well, the research just kept going on forever. In the 
meantime, there was also a need for a fairly sophisticated 
computer component in the museum for genealogy and for storage of 
information. This was some decades ago, and it was not as 
sophisticated technology as it is now, but Eric Teichholz, who was 
at the school of design at Harvardremember, I was connected to 
Harvard at the time--I involved him in the project, and he 
designed the original computer infrastructure technology hardware 
and software. 

The name in Hebrew is Beth Hatefutsoth, which translates to 
"House of the Diaspora." Historians just never came up with the 
research, and time was passing, and I got very frustrated, so I 
had the chutzpahthis is a Yiddish word which means "nerve" to 
construct and submit a script. It isn t like I m a historian, but 
I did know Jewish history, and I did have books to do the 
research, and we had done for another museum in New York a series 
of presentations on Jewish history which went along with models of 
synagogues throughout the ages that were constructed by craftsmen. 
And Beth Hatefutsoth had commissioned another set of these same 

I apparently offended the professional acumen of these 
historians who were bigshots in Israel, and I got a telex back 
telling me that this was very embarrassing; how could I, someone 


without professional historian experience, come up with this 
timeline? I was so pissed by the whole confluence of events that 
I resigned the project. Not until many years later when I was in 
Israel for cheese purposes did I visit Beth Hatefutsoth and 
discovered that a lot of the ideas that Abba and I had fielded 
were incorporated. They had taken the audiovisual experience-- 
they didn t understand audiovisual, so instead of a planetarium 
dome, they had a kind of a frontal diaper screen. What you need 
in order to really get people involved in such an experience is to 
have full surround. There s no way you can get it with a frontal 
screen; you can get various effects, and there are other things 
that help like three-dimension, but then you have to wear those 
ridiculous glasses, or surround sound, but it just doesn t work. 

To me, this was the kind of compromise which people who 
don t understand what you concentrate on in McLuhan s terms is. the 
effect, not the content of what you re doing. They don t 
understand it. That s got to be a basic design principle when 
you re designing communications. Why are you doing it? Not to 
achieve an aesthetic sense of, you know, "Wow," look what this 
person was able to do with space or with time. What you re 
looking for is the impression that you re able to make on people 
with the information that you want to communicate. The concept of 
2,000 years of wandering of the Jewish people is not easy 
information to deliver- -where, why, when, who, how--but it can be 
done. It didn t work, so I was again somewhat disillusioned by 
that realization. 

An interesting Israel reverberation: I spent some time with 
Abba on his kibbutz. As you may remember, I had been involved 
with that kind of fundraising where I never got to go- -by the way, 
that boat that we bought at the time to bring refugees from after 
the war from Europe to Israel, the Ben Hecht--I told you it was 
funded by Ben Hecht and Harpo Marx. Harpo didn t want his name on 
the boat because his brother Groucho didn t approve of the whole 
enterprise. [laughter] So it was named the Ben Hecht. He was a 
screenwriter and a famous Jewish persona. He was gung-ho. But 
that boat was seized by the British, and all of my friends 
including Harry Herchkowitz, the editor of Death magazine, were 
imprisoned in Acre prison. So I was really lucky that when we 
drew lots, I wasn t one of the crew. I guess I was lucky; I don t 
think it s an experience that I needed, to tell you the truth, 
although I m sure it would have changed my life. 

Here in the cheese business, we were approached through 
other associates to buy cheese from Israel. My father, in his 
particular class of wisdom, told me to forget it: "You can t make 
any money, and they re impossible people to deal with. They came 
to see me before; they think they re always right, they don t 


listen, the prices are no good," you know, total rejection. I was 
the kind of personand I think I still am--who, number one, knew 
that the industry was changing, and number two, nobody else wanted 
this opportunity. Well, there weren t that many opportunities 
left which were open. So I grabbed it despite my father s and 
brother s protestations. And when our business fell apart, and I 
moved on to my own, it was something that I had started, and the 
Israelis wanted me to continue it. It was a little more 
complicated than that, but over the last ten or twelve years, 
we ve managed to grow 

[ Interview 5: April 18, 1996] ## 

Stern: --managed to grow it from a business of importing from Israel 
maybe forty tons of cheese a year to a business of about a 
thousand and more tons of cheese a year. Now that it s there, 
there are other people who would like to have had a piece of it, 
but since so far we ve been able to maintain our privilege of 
representation without too much competition. Business is a whole 
different world than art, but it has its own principles and 
satisfactions. I must say, I ve gotten a lot of satisfaction out 
of doing business in Israel and making it work. And also I ve 
gotten to go to Israel several times a year, and that has been 
influential in my poetry and my thought processes. 

I tend, as I said before, to be interested more in the 
mystical and spiritual parts of Judaism than in the ritual and 
observances. Although I deal on a daily basis with kosher 
products, I don t keep kosher myself. Through Rabbi Zalman 
Schachter, I was in touch with the most liberal elements of Jewish 
observance. His congregations --women read from the Torah. But 
for instance, I can t take reformed Judaism because what happens 
there is that they do all the work for you; the spirit of Judaism 
as far as I m concerned is that the prayer comes from the people 
and not from the stage. In the reform movementat least the kind 
of traditional American reform movementthe rabbi and the cantor 
perform, and the congregation sits and listens. It s not 
conducive, I feel, to partaking of a spiritual experience. The 
saying out loud and the chanting of the words are what carries you 
into the significance and the meaning of the relationship with 
whatever binds the community, and the community to the Godhead or 
however you prefer to refer to it. The sound of Hebrew, the 
sonorities, are something which I think come out of the same place 
that my poetry comes out of. 

So at home I attend a small Orthodox Labavitch congregation 
which happily appeared very close to home within the last year and 
a half or so, and it s made my life much easier in terms of being 
able to participate in some kind of formal practice. Before that, 


I was kind of isolated and only when I could get to where Reb 
Zalman was did I really get into that conduit and that experience, 

Returning to Poetry 

Stern: So I m not quite sure where we are in terms of timeline. I think 
we re fairly close to the present. During the past years, from a 
time when I really only engaged in my visual and kinetic and 
audiovisual poetry, I ve come back slowly to the point where I 
mostly only write poems on paper and say them as breath. The 
return has been quite satisfying. 

It s not satisfying in the public mode, but I ve never 
really experienced a measure of success in the public mode as a 
poet who writes poems . When we were doing our audiovisual and 
multimedia and artworld thing, there was a lot of success but it 
had fairly negative side effects. It tended to emphasize ego 
gratification which for some reason doesn t settle well with me. 
It also has to do with pushing your work out into the world in a 
fairly aggressive and competitive manner which also doesn t suit 
my personality. I will admit that I have certain resentments and 
feelings of not being appreciated as a poet, both from my family 
and friends and from the world at large. But in the balance those 
don t come very often, and they re not very important compared to 
the fact that I know that my poetry is me, and that it satisfies 
my standards of excellence and my standards of communication. It 
happens that I m quite aware that my poetry is particularly 
obscure, and it s significantly experimental. The major reaction 
is that people don t understand it, and I keep telling them it s 
not necessary to understand; it s just necessary to listen and to 
take whatever there is, and there are things to take. 

What I mean by, for instance, "resentment": at one period of 
my life, I really felt that the homosexual clique in poetry was 
rejecting me and not allowing me to have the kind of exposure that 
would otherwise have been possible. I certainly was aware that 
the academic portion of the poetry world had no use for what I was 
doing. During the time I was married to Ann, she at first 
couldn t even understand how people like Ted Roethke and Stanley 
Kunitz, and I had known Dylan Thomas, and how these people could 
actually take me seriously as a poet; after all, I didn t have a 
degree, I hadn t studied poetry, I didn t know the difference 
between a villanelle and a sonnet. It happens that I do know the 
difference between a villanelle and a sonnet, but you know, that 
kind of attitude; she was not only a graduate but a post-graduate, 
and there s a kind of elitism. Of course, the fact that she had 


been so powerfully attracted to this kind of a rebellion at first 
--that kind of reversal that happens so often, and which has 
happened often in my life in my relationships with womenis 
something that I would like to get into. 

Sexual Identity 

Stern: What I feel is that throughout my life, my drive toward sexual 
gratification and satisfaction has been both a compulsion and a 
direction, and it has been a very positive influence in terms of 
imagery and motivation and intention, and also a rather negative 
effect on limiting my ability to understand the limitations of 
relationships and to achieve some kind of rapport devoid of desire 
and need and emotions which aren t necessarily- -in the end 
positive. They seem positive, and I have a feeling that it must 
I grew up in an era where Freudian ideas floated around, and I 
haven t even talked about the period when I was leaving home and 
being exposed to a lot of ideas which I had never heard of whether 
they were political--Marxism--or Freudianism in both the 
sociological, psychological, and even political terms in which 
they were seen in those days. 

My mother s death at a very early age--I really can t tell 
you how that affected me. I was protected from it by my maternal 
grandmother. I had a rather strange experience of my father 
withdrawing his presence and being taken care of first by my 
grandmother and thenwhen she left for America by my 
stepmother s mother and sister when I really didn t even know my 
stepmother much less understand who her mother was and I didn t 
understand the relationship. And then the journey to get the 
visa, which was a kind of a terrifying experienceaway from home 
and not like going to Switzerland for vacation and swimming in the 
Vierwaldstatter See on top of a St. Bernard dog with a bridle with 
my grandmother, but being, as I remember it, in a single bedroom 
with my stepmother who was a very attractive woman but who was 
neurotic in the extreme and a lot of tension with my father going 
to get papers. I had no understanding, and then getting on the 
boat and winding up here and getting off as an invalid and getting 
into the hospital. 

My stepmother was a very attractive woman, and I was a young 
boy, and she would expose herself when I was around. I didn t 
have my own bedroom because my sister had been born and took my 
bedroom. My father, as always, was this very strict 
disciplinarian, and I often had to eat in the kitchen because I 
ate too slowly and I didn t eat correctly. I was wearing shorts 


when everybody was wearing knickers or long pants. Not too long 
thereafter I was able to integrate and facilitate, especially 
after my experience at the Psychiatric Institute, I took Dr. 
Hambidge s advice and I understood that I had to go out and live 
my own life. I wasn t going to live my father s life, so it was 
rather ironic eventually that I came back to the business and 
helped take care of my father in his later years. 

But it worked because by that time I didn t have a lot of 
negative energy going on the relationship anymore or resentment. 
I resented the fact very much for many years that he was not 
willing to cough up the money to send me to college. He hadn t 
gone to college, but I understood afterwards; I mean, here s a man 
who was born in the 1800s, who grew up before telephones and 
electricity, really. What can you expect? Sometimes what our 
children expect of us is a whole different level of what I would 
consider a real luxury. Our children take it for granted. I 
didn t take it for granted; I didn t get a watch until I could buy 
one of my own, and I got one for a Bar Mitzvah but I was only 
allowed to wear it on special occasions, not on a daily basisit 
was an object of value, so weekends maybe. 

When I was in high school, my male cousin and I were 
obsessed with masturbation and with young girls. But I had heavy 
glasses, I was a sissy, I didn t know how to make friends and 
influence people, and I just couldn t get it together. Finally, 
when I met all the people from the High School of Music and Art, 
and I started making friends and spending time with them listening 
to classical music and jazz and folk music, joining a square dance 
group here was this refugee boy dancing American square dances 
with the Margo Mayo group on the ice rink in Rockefeller Center 
for the United Nations. Looking back on it, it s pretty out of 
it, but it didn t seem strange at the time. What seemed strange 
to me is that when I was doing that, and I came home late at 
night, that my father acted like I was some kind of criminal and 
all I had been doing was square dancing or looking at the stars in 
Central Park with the Junior Astronomy Club from the museum. 

I remember my first experience on the roof of Julia Pearl s 
apartment when Naomi Sternberg stuck her tongue into my mouth. I 
mean, it like was a revelation, right? 

Ginny. Ginny was much older than I was, and she was a tiny 
little lady, very pixie Irish- -her hair floated around her, and it 
was like being with the Faerie Queene. I met her through this 
homosexual United Nations guy, Ellis, and she was Paul Goodman s 
first wife; they had been apart for a long time. She took me 
home, and as a favor, really, she took me to bed. It was a 


totally transformational experience for me; it changed my life 
from A to Z. Why? I don t know; I can t tell you. 

But from then on, I was confirmed--! wanted it, I really 
wanted it very badly. I looked for relationships, and I found 
them. They were always, I felt, in the first few years, more 
serious to me than they were for the women. I was wrong about 
that. I was scuffling through life: I was working at something 
where there was never enough to pay the rent and to do everything. 
Most of the young ladies, girls, artists that I knew and went to 
bed with, came from well-to-do families, and here I was living in 
the Village, basically on a level which I equated with the 
romanticism of things like Dead Souls--! was into Russian novels. 

I had been involved with an acting group when I was in high 
school and all my friends from Music and Art were involved in it; 
we did Ibsen, and we did Chekhov and Pirandello at little library 
theaters in New York public libraries and also down at the Cherry 
Lane Theater in the Village, which was a historic little old 
falling-apart theater where Eugene O Neill had produced some of 
his plays. And we re-did one of his plays there. 

I was envious of other people s sexual relationships. When 
I finally kind of fell into Jane s arms, I didn t think of it as 
being a maternal relationship. But the whole idea of consummating 
relationships and oral and coital sex were much more than physical 
experiences; they seemed to me--and of course I was familiar with 
literature, but at that time the whole idea of sex and literature 
was very different than it is today. I was also familiar with the 
mystical literature which alluded to sex as a spiritual 
experience. I ve never been faithful in my life. I ve lied about 
it. And I ve never had a serious relationship in which the woman 
was faithful in my life- -up to the present time. I don t know 
whether I believe even the possibility of such a relationship. As 
a result, my level of trust is not very strong. I tend to feel 
that I am a trusting person, and I trust people until they become 
untrustworthy whether it s in business or other relationships. I 
learned that this was an area, the area of sex and physical sexual 
relationships where you can t trust people. That doesn t seem to 
matter to me anymore. It did; I was very jealous when I was with 
Jane. I mean, I couldn t do much about it because she was in 
charge, and I was hysterically jealous thereafter. I now can 
experience the emotion but it doesn t have the intensity for me, 
and I can shrug it off. But I don t trust my wife; I know she 
lies to me about that and about other things. I feel that that 
was true with all the other women that I ve related to in my life, 
that they lied to me. I don t know what that means; I don t 
generally feel that I can extend my experience to everyone s 
experience. I believe that there may be people who were very 


different in the world and have had different experiences . And I 
know that in other cultures, things are different. In the culture 
that we re speaking of, I think this is extremely typical and the 
majority experience. I ve heard it from lots of other people of 
both genders, whereas people claim to a level of propriety--! 
don t think it exists, actually. Most people that I ve dealt with 
have a very sexual side, a very wild side, of their persona, and 
when they have an opportunity to engage in it whether it s a 
positive experience for them or not, they go for it. They don t 
think of --hey, this is not going to work for the rest of my life; 
they do it, and they hide it. I ve done that over and over and 
over again in the past. I m at a period in my life where I am sad 
that it no longer happens to me, and I don t know why. I don t 
know whether it is just that the climate has changed so much 
because of AIDS and other kind of reasons or whether it s my age. 
I mean, I know that I m not capable of very much sexual 
performance at all any more. Basically because of the fact that 
my wife and I are not intimate, for some years I ve had to resort 
to things like massage parlors, which is something that in most of 
my life would never have occurred to me to be even a possible kind 
of experience. Now it seems like an adequate release, especially 
when it s not too expensive, and a way of avoiding the pitfalls of 
getting rejected. The rejection experience is something that for 
decades I hadn t been familiar with. I was familiar with it when 
I was in my teens, you know. Over the decades, it just about 
never happened until the last few years in my present marriage. 

Sexual Thesis in Poetry ## 

Stern: I would say thatand you ll see it when you read my poems that a 
lot of my poems either touch on or are centrally about this topic. 
It s not that I want to expose all the relationships that I ve 
had, but I ve had affairs which have lasted fifteen or twenty 
years through various marriages on either side, which were very 
intense affairs and which changed my thinking about life. For 
instance, when I was here in San Francisco with Judi, my nurse, 
and I was preparing to do the performance at the San Francisco 
Museum and to mount the show, I needed help. Two long-term 
friends of mine- -a wonderful, wonderful painter and poet, Bob 
Rheem, and Liam Gallagher, who had lived together for many years 
and were friends of people like Huxley and Jimmy Merrill lovely 
peoplethey introduced me to a young extraordinarily beautiful--! 
don t know what to say anymore; whether to say girl or womanin 
any case, another angel named Judith McBean. 


She was interested in the arts , and she was looking for 
something to do. She helped me organize the show and this 
performance. The attraction was extremely magnetic, and it took a 
while, and it really wasn t consummated by a sexual relationship 
until much later, but it was so intense that she asked me to go 
away with her to Greece. I was strongly tempted, but I had been 
involved already with a society marriage which had failed, and I 
had been involved with someone who had grown up with a lot of 
money; it had been a destructive influence in our relationship. I 
couldn t do it. But on the way to Greeceby this time I was back 
in Woodstock- -she came through New York, and I took her up to Paul 
Williams place on the Cape, and we made love. It was a 
transcendent experience, at least for me. I had very mixed 
feelings about my decision. We wrote, and we stayed in touch, and 
she then married a friend of oursanother socialite here in San 
Francisco- -and our relationship was just kind of touch-and-go. 
Then she had a child, her marriage broke up, she went into a 
horrible period of drugs and alcohol and self-destruction, and she 
called on me for help. I tried but she was too far gone. It s 
taken like twenty- five years for her to get herself physically 
rehabilitated and psychologically rehabilitated. She bought one 
of my big kinetic pieces years before and donated it to the 
Oakland Museum. Now she s remarried to a cowboy; she s a horse 
woman. We haven t seen each other for a number of years, but the 
tug of that relationship and the thread of it has persisted 
throughout my life for decades. 

I couldn t really say that it s a question of regret, but my 
image of Judith- -it s odd; I ve been with a number of Judiths in 
my life. My wife whom I was never married to was Judith. Judith 
is Judith. My present wife s name is Sara Judith. [laughter] To 
a poet, the sound of names is a sonority which has significance. 
Judith is also resonant to "Jew." The fact that none of them were 
Jewish [inaudible; laughter]. 

There s my other friend who is also from San Francisco 
society and with whom I actually- -while I was married to Ann, we 
had a little secret retreat in North Beach at which we would meet 
for lunch and engage in hours of acrobatic sex together. Through 
her three marriages and my- -well, the first one had been over 
already when we met and our friends in the artistic and social 
circles in San Francisco we keep meeting and remeeting and keeping 
the relations going, although no longer maintaining the sexual 
union. She s been like a mother to my daughter. 

Now we haven t had a physical relationship for ten or 
fifteen years, but the reality of the physical relationship that 
we had is still very much part of our relationship. It s a bond, 
and it s not a cause for suffering; it s a cause for joy. And the 


fact that, for instance, at this time when I m sixty-seven I 
haven t had a holding physical relationship with anyone for the 
last four or five yearswhile I haven t been actively looking for 
a new relationship, the fact that I ve missed that contact, I 
mean, for a person one of whose important poetic phrases was 
"contact is the only love"--I had a response from an artist who 
made for me a beautiful graphic piece which said, "Love is the 
only contact." [laughter] I don t think this is one of those 
places where both directions work equally well, though; I think 
"contact is the only love" is the correct sequence of that phrase. 

These things that go two ways are fascinating to me. I wear 
a ring which I was given first by Rabbi Zalman Schachter--a little 
silver signet ring that he had gotten in Israel saying "Gam Zeh 
Yavor"], which means "This too shall pass." The incredible thing 
about that phrase is that if something is really painful and 
disturbing and destructive, "this too shall pass" is an effective 
mantra. If you are in the midst of awhether it s sensual, 
sexual, emotional, artisticexperience of bliss, "this too shall 
pass" is also a very interesting piece of information. 

For many years, I was conscious of Goethe s last words which 
were "Mehr Licht" ["More light"]. Now I ve always been involved 
with light as a medium, as a source of illumination- -lux. "Mehr 
Licht," in my early years of thought, meant that he was asking for 
more light as he was going out into darkness. I was sitting at 
Millbrook years ago with a lady named Susan Firestone, and we were 
talking about this, and she said, "Gerd, he was seeing the light." 
He said "Mehr Licht" because he saw the light; it was an out-of- 
body experience. You can read about it all over the place. I 
mean, read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. You don t understand it? 
He saw the light, and God knows which one it was or whether it was 
either, but both those possibilities are there. 

Kinetic Poetry 

Stern: One of my favorite expressions, a mantra which I wrote during the 
USCO days which kind of came out of this ring funny thing is, 
this ring, I was snorkeling on the reef at [Negril?], and my 
little silver ring which was fairly tight on my finger just fell 
off, and fell into the coral reef. I couldn t recover it. That 
ring had passed through many hands because my custom with that 
ring was if I saw somebody who was in trouble or somebody died or 
somebody was sick, I would take it off my finger and slip it on 
theirs and say, "Wear this for a while." It always came back to 
me. But within recent years I had these made for myself and my 


wife and for Radha, my daughter, and also for Reb Zalman. It s an 
important kind of symbol to me. But the mantra goes, "Take the No 
out of Now, then take the Ow out of Now, then take the then out of 
now." Of course, you can repeat it ad infinitum. I ve given it 
to a number of people who say it works . There s a short form of 
it, which is "NO OW NOW." When we were doing our kinetic poems, 
we built electronically--! still have one of them; we built quite 
a few of these things which flashed "NO OW NOW" because you ve got 
the three letters, and the three words are composed out of the 
same three letters. 

We built the first one on a commission for Sister Mary 
Corita and Magdalene Mary who at the time were involved in the 
Convent of the Immaculate Heart in Los Angeles ; these were two 
artist nuns, and they had incredible energy and an incredible 
collection of art, a lot of it kinetic, and they taught--and I did 
some workshops for them. I was introduced to them by a German 
professor of art who lived down there and who had worked with the 
Bauhaus crowd, a friend of Ivan Majdrakoff s, Paul LaPorte. You 
know, the networked friendships in my life have been, I think, in 
a sense the most important sort of intellectual and artistic 
influences . 

The opportunity to do this oral history is kind of an 
endgame product of this networkby endgame I don t mean to 
suggest finality, but I m feeling now that I m recouping and 
regenerating materials and experiences that have been influential 
and effective effective in terms I was talking about "never mind 
the content; look at the effect." In all of the multimedia work 
that we did, that was the principle that I had taken out of 
McLuhan and that I was trying to put into practice. 

One of the performances that I conceived ofwhich happened 
in San Francisco in those same years as the first museum show at 
an old movie theater in North Beachwas called "The Destruction." 
You will see in that brochure I gave you a copy of the 
announcement for it. The idea there was to have people come and 
bring objects which were meaningful in their life, but which no 
longer were necessary to them. We would destroy them on stage in 
a symbolic act that would perhaps free them of whatever possession 
that that object had of them or whatever necessity that it 
represented. It was a period when the world was conferring about 
destroying weaponry. The question was what reverberant effect 
mounting such a performance in a tiny little place with a small 
group of people would have on the world at large. We got network 
television coverage, we got print coverage on the wire services, 
and we got local coverage, aside from the effect on the hundred or 
so people who were in the theater and who paid admission to come. 


We had a crew on stage; every object that was presented was 
destroyed in a different fashion. It was an exciting evening. 
What I wanted to illustrate was the content of that evening was 
not the important solution; the attempt to influence was the 
reverberant effect that it had on both the people who 
participatedthe audienceand the millions of people who were 
exposed to it through the media. It probably costaside from the 
rental of the theater which was fifty or sixty bucks or something 
like that I don t think we spent $150 on doing it. The media 
probably spent fifteen, twenty, thirty thousand dollars on pushing 
this thing out. That was the kind of idea I was experimenting 
with in the same sense as when I was talking about the three 
simultaneous movies of the motorcycle, we were trying to basically 
fuck around with people s sense of time and to impress them with 
the effect that distorting time perception had on their personals. 
What is really real? Is it the motorcycle on the center screen 
which is ninety or a hundred frames ahead of the one on the left, 
or maybe the left and the right sides which are in total sync. 
What s in sync in your life in terms of time? What s happening 
out there? What s happening in here? Talking about it is one 
thing; putting it into the form of art is a completely other 
thing . 

Disillusions. Obscenities. Corruptions 

Stern: Working in the media was very exciting, and it was very engaging. 
Over time, I lost it. Didn t want to do it no more, no more, no 
more, no more. Why? Partially, I and the other people who were 
working together started it experimentally and on a pure level of 
dealing with consciousness and artistic forms. I m not saying 
that I wasn t personally responsible for it, but over time these 
ideas and these ways of dealing with each otheryou know, using 
strobe techniques, cutting up film into tiny little segments, 
dealing with multiple channelsgot out into the world. We used 
it, other people used it, in ways which had to do with buying 
things, selling things, dealing with material which I find obscene 
and unsavory mostly violence. [chuckle] That s about the only 
thing that I really feel is obscene and unsavory. Like I told you 
about Venezuela, I got disillusioned. Here we were, "Caracas Para 
Todos," and we had this 360 degree projection environment, and we 
had this little boy playing an old tire hoop as if it were like a 
toy hoop, and you could see him going straight around you on the 
screen, and there was a beautiful song that was written by a 
folklorical Venezuelan, Fredy Reina. A gem of a genius of a man. 
A cuatro player a four-stringed little folk guitar. 


Yet, at the end it was propaganda for a regime that was 
repressive, unconscious of real democratic intention and 
motivation and I, we had been used to promote their agenda, and 
here I was showing the president of Venezuela and his retinue what 
we had done. I was already conscious of the corrupt nature of 
what had happened to our original experimental impulses. So now 
to be co-opted as propagandists for something which I had felt was 
for the people "Caracas Para Todos," "Caracas for Everyone. "-- 
became painful. It wasn t really Caracas for everybody; it was 
Caracas to make the president and his ministers rich and enable 
them to be bigshots. That wasn t the only experience of that kind 
that I had. And I kind of withdrew; I kind of decided that 
writing poetry in the stillness of myself and dealing with cheese 
which, despite what nutritionists say, I think is a healthy thing 
to eat and is not harmful to other human beings , was a better way 
to go than to stick your head out into the world and deal with art 
collectors and museums and other patrons who want to use your work 
toward their purposes rather than your own. 

We have two words in Hebrew; one of them is "dayenu"--used 
in Passover--which means "it would have been enough." It s like 
if he had parted the Red Sea and drowned all the Egyptians, it 
would have been enough. In that way, I ve always asked at each 
Passover Seder my friends to say what would have been dayenu in 
their own life. I used to say to my father, "If you had brought 
me to the United States out of Germany, and you hadn t done 
anything else for me in your life, it would have been enough." 
And he would say, "Oh, what did you think I was? Stupid? Of 
course we had to leave." But I didn t feel that way. 

And the other thing that you say is "omain," which is like 
"om" and "amen." That s how I feel right now, like "dayenu" and 



[Interview 6: April 19, 1996] ## 


Stern: Poetry. I m going to read from First Poems and Others, a book 
which was copyrighted in 1952 and which I haven t looked at in 
years . The frontispiece and the drawings for the poems were done 
by Ivan Madjdrakoff and the actual lettering of the poems by Julia 
Pearl, who at the time was his wife. It says, "Reproduced in 
direct image multilith, Clarence Roth, New York." This is a 
private limited edition, and the one that I m looking at is my 
daughter s. I think it s 207 of 280. I must have still had some 
copies when she was born some years later, although the time this 
book was put together was when I was living with Jane. I think it 
was before we were married or about the time we were married, but 
I m going to have to look that up. 

We were living in New Paltz, and our very close friend, 
Herbert Vogel--he came from Europe, and his father was in the 
business of cashing checks in New York City after he arrived as a 
refugeea philosopher and a small man with an intense stare 
through heavy glasses and an accent, and a person with whom I 
spent countless hours discoursing about various philosophical and 
aesthetic theories and ideas and constructs. A circle of people I 
hadn t really mentioned around an early love of my life named 
Doris Adelberg from Vienna, whose parents were middle-class but 
relatively cultivated, and whose older daughter, Lotte, wasand 
still--an outstanding painter coming out of the Expressionist 
school- -Eric Harder, a practically violent presenter of 
Nietzschean ideas; Henry Loeblowitz Lennard, a Columbia and 
University of California psychologist, with later bonds to the 
mediaa documentation of family situations at UC; he had a lab 
with video cameras. It kind of fascinated me that our multimedia 
ideas that was really oh, I knew him, the great theoretician who 


was married to the remarkable anthropologist, Margaret Meadwhat 
was his name? Gregory Bateson. 

Anyway, I think I will start reading Herbert s introduction 
so you can get somewhat of the mindset of the time. 

All art is an expression of spiritual freedom. 
It is a unique transmutation of the universe 
through the artist s representations , but 
since all Beings partake of this universal 
fountain and bring forth the fruit of 
interaction with their natural surroundings, 
they all contain aesthetic truths. Wherein, 
then, is the artist exceptional in his 
comprehension of the universe, in enveloping 
in his breath the latent meanings of life? Is 
it in his possession of a scope whereby the 
manifold nuances of nature may be encompassed 
and thus provide a beacon for the endless 
manifestations which life affords ; or is this 
ultimate truth, to be founded upon 
renunciation, a liberation of the soul from 
the circumstantial determinations of life, 
that is, that the latter are to serve as 
points of reference, as vectors of life, 
without being life itself. Those who see an 
inexorable psychogenic nexus in our Being will 
find in these verses a proclamation of 
freedom, perhaps illusory, perhaps mad: for 
them, I reserve the words of Santayana: "Had 
we not license to be mad, we should not be our 
own masters, but the ignoble product of other 
things; and to be mad is simply, in spite of 
Gods and men, to be indomitably free." For 
others who find in these works an elevation 
above temporal reality, there will be revealed 
an asymptotic movement from the conditional to 
the unconditional, from the finite to the 
infinite. Our situation is only the 
initiation of universal truth within us, but 
in conceiving of it in its circumstantial 
arbitrariness, in experiencing the fact of 
experience; rather than in participating with 
it directly the tie toward life and its 
determinants becomes increasingly tenuous 
until in its perfection it remains wholly 
aloof and an end to itself. This emancipation 
must remain ideal, because, however remote to 
life, the thought remains incarnated within 


the protagonist. Nevertheless it is that to 
which he aspiresto depict life in its 
eternal truth. Thus the artist becomes a 
mirror of humanity: as he encompasses the 
world in the sanity--no, no--in the vanity, in 
the unity of his Being. He is as plastic and 
malleable, almost chimerical in his catalyses, 
as the creations of the universe. 

September 1952, Herbert Vogel. 

"The Poet s Premise" 

Stern: My own preamble, titled "The Poet s Premise"--you understand, I 
haven t seen or read this for many years. I m as amazed at 
Herbert s ideas as I was in 1952, particularly as applied to early 
poems. "The Poet s Premise": 

Poetry, as any art, is necessarily 
perfect, therefore inviolate. The Poet, 
contradistinctly, remains subject to unlimited 
question and criticism. His definition 
provides delimitation, an afterthought 
attempting that measure of analysis which 
would approach full knowledge of the (poetic) 
experience itself. 

As Poet I demand meaning, the universal 
relating terms of existence. I intend my 
poetry attain the effect of reception, be 
impression, neither description nor imperfect 
facsimile. I posit that impression as 
meaning; define content as active 
manifestation of meaning. Form 1 becomes 
inherent, being discretely the temporal 
definition content assumes. 

Belief I extend to knowledge, dogma, 
tradition. These products of analyses bear 
their beauty in structure. Dead, they exist 
staticly; existing, enhance function. 

Faith I place in my senses. Impressions 
actual, fantastic, contrived, are intensely 
alive beyond subject. Then create my poetry 
in their excess 


And it s dated New Paltz, 1952. 

"Reflection, A Fragment" 

Stern: The first poem in the book is a poem that I wrote that I deemed as 
publishable. It was not the first poem, and I don t have any idea 
what happened before this. It s gone, I m sure. It is not only 
called "Reflection," but it is part of a series through the years 
of reflections which are not titled "Reflections" but which have 
some type of mirror image content . But this is called 
"Reflection, A Fragment." 

I fist the mirror. 

Crashing, it spreads the cracked lines 

Doubling and redoubling 

The he s to she s, and him s to her s, 

The I s to them, those me s that were. 

I see in this poem- -of course, I ve been aware of its 
existence but I haven t even looked at its physical reality for 
many years, but I have known that this poem and the poem I wrote 
about ten days ago in Buenos Aires, which is the last poem that I 
have in typed form--I have probably since then a hundred scribbled 
pages of notes for poems that I m still working on--is a direct 
descendant of this "Reflection, A Fragment," and the experience 
and the handling of sounds and words --which are sounds-- from then 
to now is, as Herbert put it, inexorable [laughter]. Inexorable. 

"PEAK Song" 

Stern: The next poem in the book is called "PEAK Song." Interesting; 

this is long before "The Peak Experience" fromwhat was his name? 
We ll have to get that. This is an interesting story. When Reb 
Zalman was doing his year of sabbatical from his post at the 
University of Manitoba at Winnipeg, he was living on Broadway in 
Cambridge in the apartment we later took over. This psychologist 
came over, and I happened to be there at the time, and said to 
Zalman, "I m Jewish, but I don t know very much about being 
Jewish. What happened to me is a story which I will tell you: I 
had a fairly ordinary academic career, and I wasn t getting very 
much of any place when I had this idea. The idea became a 
compulsion with me, and I said to my wife, If I follow this idea 
out and publish, everyone will probably think that I m mad and 


that I ve lost it completely, but I really need to do it; I want 
to do it, and I must do it. 1 She said to me, Do it. So I went 
ahead and did it and within a year I was published, and I was 
becoming the president of the American Psychology Association, and 
I was known throughout the world very soon thereafter; it 
completely changed my life. Now I m not carrying so much of a 
load, and I would like to go back and find out what it is to be a 
Jew. So what I came to you, Rabbi Schachter, for- -because I ve 
heard a lot about you- -is I would like you to give me a reading 

Now Zalman and I were, as usual, somewhat out of our heads. 
After our distinguished peer had departed, we laughed like hell. 
Why did we laugh like hell? Because we felt that this man had 
taken the first steps on a spiritual path, and if we do the 
reading list, it wasn t going to do him a damn bit of good. But 
it was in his world a necessary key to a door which he doesn t 
understand what it would unlock. 

Then I realized sometime later that the "Peak Experience"-- 
I had written this poem called "PEAK Song": 

inf initesimally faster 
slower and faster and Faster 
firster and laster my Faster 
infinitesimally FASTER. 

imperceptibly faster 
firster then laster my Faster 
slower then faster then Faster 
imperceptibly FASTER. 

Elaine Goldman & "Harvest 1" 

Stern: Actually, I m wrong about what I said about that being the first 
poem. The first poem is this poem; it s earlier than "I Fist the 
Mirror," and it s dedicated to E.G. --Elaine Goldman- -who was the 
first leading- to-mature relationship that I had with a woman. She 
was a great lover. She was very motherly. She was a large, well- 
endowed woman who was educated in literature beyond anyone that I 
had ever met to that point and who opened a lot of doors for me. 
I m sorry that somehow she disappeared out of the mainstream of my 
existence. It s called "Harvest 1." 

In my spring; when yellow fruits hung with green leaves 


I saw brown fruits fall, the brown leaves wither. 
Brown in my season was that love s red colour, 
as she, mine, lay on our dead bed. 

Dead bed of our loves, red bed of our dreams... 
I awoke in fall, walking the streets. 
My pockets were full of viscous fluids. 
Kissing the passerby; I became assassinated. 

I guess you can tell the poem fell into place when our 
relationship was over. The drawings in this book by Ivan, with 
whom I had dinner last night and acquired another one of his 
paintings for my collection of his works through the years 
because--! immediately knew, and I wrote eight or nine lines about 
his new paintings last night, I immediately knew when I looked at 
his new paintings such a stream of pleasure and recognition and 
understanding of the path that as an artist he has taken and the 
reverberations of images through the years and of objects. It was 
a transcendent experience. We are almost of an age- -he s a bit 
older than I am, and we ve been together a long, long time. Last 
night he thanked me for putting him into touch with people and 
situations throughout his life which have been transformational 
for him and which had actually effected his creative doings 
strongly. I was very touched, although I have not had that 
feeling that I had really done anything for him. The process of 
working on a film together with him was one of the finest 
collaborative temporalities that I ve experienced. The other one 
was working with Michael Callahan particularly early on, and then 
later too, when we were able to assemble tapes. The extraordinary 
tape of that period, which was a tape that we used at "Who Are You 
and What s Happening?" and which still exists, is called "Billie 
Master." It s named after Billie Holiday, who appears on it along 
with Franklin Roosevelt and Alice B. Toklas and others too 
numerous to cite. It s a tape which must be placed in the 
archive . 

Byerly: Let me ask a question about the drawings. Are they representative 
of the early fifties? 

Stern: Representative in what way? 

Byerly: Well, I ve looked at a couple of journals The Circle, The Ark-- 

and what struck me right off was the drawings they reminded me of, 
the drawings in this particular--. 



Stern: Yeah, well, you see the one on the wall right up there. Ivan came 
out of the High School of Music and Art, a very sophisticated 
institutionof course, we didn t realize at the time what we were 
in- -and he later attended Cranbook in Michigan, which is a leading 
modern art school- -he and Julia Pearl both, and others of our 
friends. I visited there while they were going there, I think 
twice. It s outside of Detroit in Bloomfield Hills. Actually, 
there s "Harvest II," too, but I m not going to read it, and 
there s a bunch of poet songs. This poem, "He," is interesting 
because I refer to Hashem, and there s always been that vein with 
God in one form or another in my poems. I think that when I was 
younger, I thought I might be an atheist. But it didn t work. I 
think I have an excessive faith; too excessive to become either an 
atheist or an agnostic for sureeven at an early age. It goes: 


Drew fish from that belaboured sea 
and snared birds from one illicit heaven 
Murdered the Carnivores 
after his own fashioned 

Became again from this punished limb 
and feared shades from an open door 
Doubted the Deity 
after his own fashioned 

Caught breath from his burning throat 
and swallowed liquid from a barren vine 
Assassinated the Chosen 
after his own fashioned 

Willed havoc 
Fell victim 

"Yin Chant" 

Stern: I remember this "Yin Chant" as a poem that I fell in love with 
while and after it was written. Again, I see it being the 
ancestor of a concept of construction that I have worked on over 
the years and which- -there have been a lot of modalities but they 
all lead in the same direction. It always amazes me not only to 
go back but to go on. "Yin Chant": 




Penning scrawl to lie with mine 
Cover down this blackened sheet 
Name these letters a word to dye. 

Give way we dozened lie with yours 

Cry me in whose mouth you trap 

Believe her bereaved, prick nether be whether. 

Thinging together to childe will ball 
Foundered on merry griffins roc 
Flew on or stippled ocean bloc 
Name these letters three words to dye. 

Bespoken a token we married 
He broken asked for a glass 
his pain to wipe 

There are touches in these poems which need both sound and vision 
because "roc", for instance, without a k. And "dye" is d-y-e. 

"L Autre 1" 

Stern: This poem I wrote for Antonin Artaud. It doesn t mention his 
name, but it s called "L Autre": 

Je suis enchant e 
Suis que je suis 
Suis un pauvrete infini 

J ai 1 argent d au j ourd hui 
Et 1 odeur d ici 
Suis que je suis 

It s very odd; I wrote these two poems in French, and I 
don t know French. Remember, though, where I got the French. 

"L Autre 2" 

Stern: This is "L Autre 2"; 


Je suis 1 et abolie 

"le rat et cheval est aussi animaux" 

Le tigre et le negre 

le poete et 1 autre joue 

par le visage de Dieu 

Sur son lit secret 

un demon crie "Ci git". 

et tout le monde repondit "oui" 

Sami Rubinstein 



We were living on 101st Street and Columbus Avenue in a railroad 
flat, and for a long time we had someone living with us whose name 
was Sami Rubinstein- -no relation to that other Rubinstein. Sami 
was from Belgium, and he was the son of a world-famous chess 
player named Akiva Rubinstein. He also was a chess player. He 
didn t have any money, but he would go down to the Marshall Chess 
Club and play and come home with a few dollars all the time. He 
was not his father s equal, but he was tops. 

He was an artist; he drew like Rembrandt --and I don t mean 
to put them on an equal level. By "like Rembrandt," I mean that 
he drew in that style. He knew all Rembrandt s work, particularly 
the drawings. He would draw portraits of you in that style, and 
they were fantastic. 

He was a crazy guy. 
he went mad. 

The white queen? 

He got hung up on the white queen, and 

On the chessboard. It reverberated through his mind. His father 
had gone mad. What had driven his father mad is that he was on 
his way to Russia to play the chief player of the world. I can t 
remember if that was Capoblanco or Alekhine. I m not even sure 
I m pronouncing them right. And the war broke out when he was on 
his way, and he couldn t go. He went mad. 


More Poetry 

Marga Richter and "Relations (One)" 

Stern: Some of these poems are very sad. Here there s a cantata libretto 
which I wrote with Marga Richter. Marga was at Juilliard; she was 
a composer. I think I mentioned early on that she had moved up to 
New Paltz into one of my reconverted--! don t mean mine; they 
belonged to Thorberg but I had reconverted themchicken coops. 
And then it burned down, along with her grand piano. This was 
previous to this. Marga and I also had an affair; short-lived, 
but lived nonetheless. It [the cantata libretto] was later played 
both at Juilliard and by a small symphony orchestra in New York 
performed, that is. A lot of it is based on mystical or 
kabbalistic texts but transformed to a different level of my own. 
It was called Relations, and in parentheses it says One to 
Infinity, but it s not the word infinity; it s the symbol. There 
are quite a few parts to it: one to four are called "The Concepts 
of Realities"; five to eight, "A Relational Progression"; nine, 
"The Catalyst"; zero, "The Destruction," and then infinite, 
"Operating Function." 

"Relations (One)" goes--of course, this is with lots of 
music, somewhat atonal musicand chorus: 

One Is enough 

All Is 

(All Is only everything (Is)) 

One and All Is One and All 

Am I It Is 

I Am Is Am It Is 

Be ings (End and Beginning) 

All Is and enough 
All Is enough 

Yesterday I was driving to the East Bay, and on the radio 
station I was listening to a partial broadcast of Gertrude Stein s 
Four Saints in however many acts. Three, I believe. But there 
are more than four saints and more than three acts . It s a great 
work, I think. It s a lovely work. This has nothing to do with 
that work, although people have wondered whether I had used it as 
a kind of a model, but to tell the truth, in 1952 I had never 
heard Four Saints in Three Acts. Sadly. 


The last part of it, "Relations (<*>)" is: 

Universe id est relation id est Universe 
and being relation is 
Universe and I am 

Are Relations 

It keeps on doing it in slightly different ways. There s a 
little poem called "Dicotomie": 

was only Is being Chaos 
Still no-thing moved 

forbicause d it done Divided 
up to down with plus fro minus 
Yes and No 

I used to even get some laughs when I read these poems . 

How too and wherever was when 
toward always possibly 
perhaps returning then 
forever without end 

This one I really thought I was --it took me a long time to 
write this one, and I kept changing it until it finally took this 
form not long before the book came out. I think I was really 
conscious of the fact that we were working on the book, and I was 
finishing it. I was really pleased with this poem. It was the 
longest poem--except for the cantata--that I had written at the 
time. That seemed significant to me at the time, although it 
doesn t any longer. I mean, I write short poems and longer poems 
--I prefer short poems, really, maybe because it s nice when 
something completes itself. I have a lot of incomplete poems and 
a lot of fragments. I have what I call a line bank. Whenever I 
start a piece of paper, and I have a few lines, I write "line 
bank" and the date on it. None of those lines usually ever get 
employed; it s hard to find jobs for words in this world, right? 

I ve had a hell of a time to find jobs for lines that don t 
fit into poems [laughter]. Then you try and make a poem out of 
it, and it doesn t work. It never works. I get very frustrated 
when I look back on some of those sheets, which I usually don t. 
They are push-down storage; the worst kind of storage. I m 
talking about archivism, and that s what I ve got: boxes of push 
down storage. The problem with push-down storage is that you 
can t retrieve what s on the bottom without going through the top, 







And if you don t know where it is in the pile even if you know 
what the pile represents, what are you going to do? You re going 
to spend hours. Most of the time I don t even know what the pile 
represents anymore. That s a poem, in case you didn t notice, but 
it s never been written down. Now we have it, see? Now you 
don t . 

That s tape. I wonder about tape. It s much harder to deal 
with than paper even, because retrieving something on tapeunless 
you ve got some kind of digital control over the analog process- 
is mind numbing. 

For video they have SMPTE code. It s an acronym for Society 
of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. You can take a piece 
of equipment, and you don t have to do it when you re recording 
the image, and you can subtract it out of the image; it isn t 
inevitably there. You put a frame code so that time and identity 
are established basically for each scan, for each raster image. 
You can stop it, you can cut, you can edit, you can order the 
editing equipment to make a fade or a dissolve or whatever you 
prefer. And if you have the right equipment computer-wise, you 
can just give that number after you ve jotted it down because you 
saw it go by and you needed it. It will recover it for you fairly 
quickly. The further move now is that it s now all on computer 
rather than on a video tape, or it s on CD-ROM and the retrieval 
of it is getting speedier all the time. Retrieval time is 
history, right? Terrible. I mean, the more retrieval time you 
get, the less reality is in whatever you re redoing, re 
collecting. Why are we re-collecting when we could be collecting? 

That was a long answer. 
Oh, it was? 
Yes. [laughter] 
Well, we have time. 

That could have been the response to expound on the philosophy of 

"Day after Year" 

Stern: Could it? Okay, well, this is about that. It s called "Day after 
Year" : 


Hear on this sing song day 
Here he me lay down 
Sound on a sound at 
of or if too 

Why for to can with those will 
there could do full as that no 
nor way finding down done 
found some did think these not gone 

How if than piece did fair best 
losing all more from last try 
sure now been then and see too 
lost you are lest when was so 

Sex of a one and eleven 
Pair quadrupled breaks seven 
Numbers out letter is same 

When would better be least 
ever stay under cry which 
whether near neither while none 
being but always brought each 

Where may since become still 
might hardly sometimes just seem 
could every either yet pray 
rightly should pass leaving by 

Sex of a pair in eleven 
One quadrupled makes seven 
Letter out numbers are same 

What withal fallen together 
chosen about beside nearly 
dropped came apart through believing 
fell without moving the matter 

Ask any almost makes even 
true taken next on the changing 
gave a first bit until finished 
wait itself end never really 

Here on this sing song day 
Heard he me lay down 
Sound on a sound (at 
of or if too) 


"The Idea of Order at Key West" 

Stern: One of my very favorite poems--if we have some time, maybe I ll 
read it to you because it also reverberates through my lifeis 
called "The Idea of Order at Key West" by Wallace Stevens. I 
didn t know that poem at the time, but the whole "sound on a 
sound, sing-song day," I now realize reverberates for me in that 
poem. That poem was one of the poems that we worked on for the 
Ford Foundation at KPFA to illustrate listening to poetry and 
thinking about poetry Lew Hill s project, which I worked on with 

"Fragment; after W. B. Yeats" 

Stern: At the time, my favorite poet was W.B. Yeats. He still definitely 
is in my top ten of all time. This was called "Fragment; after 
W.B. Yeats," and it was dedicated to Herbert Vogel: 

Red Rose, new Rose, this Rose of all my days! 
Come free me, as I find these finite ways: 
Remembrance hoarding every loss to hide 
The Past, lay full-knowing, ready- tried; 
So seems false Future gone, and Present bold; 
And your same Beauty, bearing blood grows old 
While reaching Time; where Passion always free 
Flees Search in Love of our Reality. 

I finished with this poem which seems a little tough line to 
go out on at this point: 

Know that you as the forever sun 

light brightly through my emptied shell 

the ineffable breath of decayed virtue 

and Find in this one consolate word 

a memory of now and is 

which lingering knew me as I am 


Stern: Somewhat odd. There were a number of poems published in other 
venues, but that was the bookuntil Afterimage was published. 


That was dated 1965, the copyright. So we ve got thirteen years-- 
that was 65--and now we ve got thirty-one years, and I haven t 
published another book. Not, by the way, for lack of having 
enough poems, but I think of not having enough koiach--strength-- 
to go through the process and not wanting to publish it myself. I 
did publish a set of eight poems with silkscreen lithographs by 
David Weinrib called "Conch Tales." A conch is a shellfish that 
lives in the Caribbean and various other places . They were done 
in Jamaica. 

But Afterimage was printed and first published in England by 
Villiers Publications, Ltd., London, N.W.5, for Maverick Books, 
Woodstock, New York. This is when Judi and I and Michael were 
living in Woodstock. The Maverick Press didn t exist. We had 
these books printed and bound; there were two editions. One was 
paperback and the other was hardcover. I had started, in the last 
few years before that, in doing collages, and we had one of the 
collages which I particularly did for the coverprinted black and 
white. It doesn t have the textural quality of--. But these 
collages are not just meant to look at or just pick out words 
from, but you can read them if you have a mind to. 

"Zum Gedachtnis " 

Stern: "Zum Gedachtnis" is a German phrase for "to think"--no, this is 
more like "memory," something you have or will have in memory, 
[reading from collage] 


Promise to you 
In our tough 
Om harvest 
Age tubes 
On the spot. 

"Stern Airlines" 

Stern: Then there s "Stern Airlines." That was a throwaway, obviously. 
It goes: 

Hey, grow up 


Byerly : 

Hundred million 
Our apart 
One of a kind 
Body s squeezed in 
All the way in 

I mean, these are justthese last are all in a row, but 
usually I don t do all in a row; I skip from one part of the 
collage to the other as I m gluing. First I do rough cuts, and 
then in order to fit things in I do fine cuts. The question is 
whether there really is sense as I see here this little phrase: 
"Contact is made." Contact, keep it coolit s not "keep it 
cool," it s "keep in cool." 

It s fascinating; it s more fascinating, I think, to do it 
than to experience it. I really got off on it because these words 
would bounce around in my head, and they got down on paper and 
people bought them, what s more. Which is more than you can say 
about written poems, usually. 

Afterimage, the hardback edition, was meant as a limited 
subscription edition, and I did get a number of subscriptions 
which covered the printing costs, and then of course I had books 
left over. I still have a few but not very many. 

How many were printed? 

It should say, but I m not sure that it does. No, it doesn t say. 
I think there were 150 of the hardbacks and 500 of the--. I m not 
sure. The dedicatory phrase in the book is from "The Last Sun" by 

Theodore Roethke: "Snail, snail, glister me forward." 
lovely poem. He was a great poet. 

It s a 


Stern: The first poem, as the first poem is in First Poems and Others, is 
a mirror image poem. In fact, it s somehow very close even though 
it s a completely different poem. And it s the title poem of the 
book, Afterimage: 

When I struck down 

by rod 

or my soft mummy mate 

was laid in the mimic twitch of tick 

and knock by all who would 


who didn t find me wandering 
when the stranger curves inside 
were margins for my sibling pain 

By last and always swore 

when I struck down 

to find by vein, the pool in rock, 

the core; a cry, cry 

for next and last again 

when is a time 

and where a place I can t go on 

to find by name 

is nothing but this same, dumb, 

easy source of faith in glass 

When I struck down my image 

then the roots took fire 

my years grew scattered 

few and inbetween 

I took the fast and hollow slide 

down was it where I am 
and count the broken glass 
I know the mirror s fist 
that struck me down. 

Byerly: And when was this written? 

Stern: Well, I don t think I know. It certainly was written late 
fifties, early sixties. 

Byerly: Do you know what part of your life the poem was written about? 

"Bad to Believe" 

Stern: My first book is very clear in terms of timing. It was published, 
or it was madethat s a more correct expressionat the time I 
was with Jane in New York, and the poems were all from then and 
before then. From then on, you have the whole period of Jane and 
I in California, then the Maya period, the Ann period, and now 
here I am with Judi in Woodstock after having been with Barbara. 
You see how I mark my periods. I don t really mean that to be 
ironic; it sounds ironic, I guess. A lot of these poems past- -in 
the first book and this bookare about those relationships. Talk 
about relationships; this next poem is called "Bad to Believe": 


Not as man in woman 
tests against the rest 
his tail of woe and prime 

My ring in the box wife 

goes breech tonight 

High cards, sly laugh, 

quick stakes for chance-a-beast 

Ass, snake, owl 

Toll round-eye home 

Swing noose to knell 

Peals layered back from back 

Heart pipe is glut 
with father s right 
by child spent rage 
A man he never was 
splits limb and root 


Stern: The next one is called "Grounds"; 

that chick so far out 
she got to fake 
witch doctor route 

mother waiting 
along one track 
when the real thing 
comes go now 

paying later 
back she splits 
here and where 
her balling pawns 
on broken wind 

terrible cat 
flushing my chain 
take the ride 
or bump your log 
in a hole bottom 
of the sea 


You know that song, don t you? [sings] "There s a hole in 
the bottom of the sea." We used to sing it at camp. "A bump on 
the log in the hole on the bottom of the sea." And that s where 
that image came from. These images kind of fly in or they rocket 
in; they just jump right out of your past into poems all the time. 
I love them. 

We used to sing this other song. When I was a counselor- - 
you know, you had a bunk, and you all sat at the same table 
together. Our group used to sing, "There are no flies on us, 
there are no flies on us; we brush them off. There may be just a 
few great big black flies on you. There are no flies on us; we 
brush them off." 

Byerly: Did that show up in any of your poems? 

Stern: I don t know. Undoubtedly, but not as itself. This one is like 
the other one. 

"Eppes Epic" 

Stern: Eppes is Yiddish for "something." "Eppes Epic": 

for the father, Old Sol 
and that other member 
of the triple dick litany 
who was no Jew 

Man can you get strung out 
on the cross begat 
a holy spike of grace 
His eye is on 


don t get high 

they can t look down 

and fly 

up your 

nailed not screwed 
crucified seed 
Who needs it 


and all that jazz 
like stained glass 
"Christ, geometry 
is an Almighty cope" 

"Reflections Before Rising" 

Stern: And this one is definitely when I was married to Ann, as a lot of 
them are. It s called "Reflections before Rising," and it s a 

She flipped the lid at him. 

Man you got any want, 

An overcoming desire like? 

Baby don t wriggle me, 

Can t we slip without touching? 

I m done in, screwed; Stop! 

The grotesque advantage you take; 

Gimmeup, Cave, you hear, we don t want no struggle. 

What kinda nadir every morning? 

Quel bring down, Riiiing, Raaangng, Ho Had 

Brother Murican attention 1 addition. 

Itchygoo, fire up delink, 

Break fast in a hurry cause it s a short day s biz 

and someone s coming up fast. 

Who s manic in their company? 

That s le bull vraiment. 

Friends there are few of us, 

If you re under thirty, 

This warm bit of everyday is for you. 

So what arya gonna do with the little ones? 

Why succor muthamia? She s gone daddy, 

and you too could find yourself empty one of these. 

Make it. Go to it already. 

Believe me baby I m with you 

and so long it s nothing he wanted , 

the least you could say is: 

"We re up." 



Stern: These poems reflect what we were talking about yesterday. I m not 
going to read a lot more of them, but this one was also written 
with Ann on the barge, and it s called "Mirage": 

All horrid noises in my throat 
as life becomes this burning boat 
where voices probe beneath my mind 
to seek the me they dare to find 
and leave the self pronounced by rote 
with these same noises in my throat 

Who cannot sense the low or high 
of drift or wrack which passes by 
and leaves your spindrift bottled note 
in time to set these lines afloat 

Be with me mine by burning boat 

Her ashes over stern I reached to haul 
there seemed no bottom rise or fall 
of tide laid heavy by the moon 

I wrote at night with friends 

beside my burning boat 

a heart of rime sick in my throat 

For love and labor could not float 

this foundered berthed and burning boat 

That s too much; I shouldn t let myself get away with this 

You remember my tale about moving the barge. [laughter] 
This was all about moving the barge and about Ann. "Her ashes 
over stern I reached to haul"--that s too-- [laughter] I really 
hadn t remembered that. That s funny. 

"Mea Culpa" 

Stern: I m not going to read this poem. This is a strange poem called 
"Mea Culpa," and I think I mentioned it previously. There was a 
magazine published in Sausalito called Contact by Bill Ryan and 
Herb Beckman. There was an issue that they were doing on 
prisoners and justice and crime. I had obtained some of the 
content for them, and I was supposed to be co-editor of that 
issue. And if you ask me with whom, I won t be able to tell you. 
I don t think it was with Philip. Anyway, I wrote this poem for 
the issue specifically; they wouldn t publish it because it was 
too abstract. 

"Harvest Tale" 

Stern: I wrote some things which at first I really thought were prose 

poems. This is a very long harvest tale, but the first strophe or 
stanza goesand it s called "Plow": 

A probability of the sentence demanded paradox, 
which eliminates any purpose that could dilute 
the possible sequence of events, 
or resolve these following improbabilities: 

And it goes on from there. It has a lot of sexual images. 
The next part is called "Furrow": 

They had achieved this fusion in the past, 
but now, with the maturity that follows success, 
celebrated marriage as a matter of course, 
and became inseparable. 

The next portion is called "Seed". If I had had the choice 
today, I probably wouldn t have published it. 

Byerly: Why? 

Stern: Oh, I don t know. It s lame. It s all right, but it s kind of 

lame. I love a lot of the poems in this book very much. "After": 


Stern: The color I give things 
is mine remembered 
shared when the familiar past 
comes between us 

To give you my joy 

I wake you 

Disturb and pain you 

Take you by words and patience 

stiff with the memory of laughter 

and the young girls 
ran after purple grapes 

Was your dream only tonight 

Or did wings burn 

when I touched your name 

and sang our breath 

into my quick shadow 

left by the turning light 

Untitled Poem 

Stern: I stand behind myself to see the same 
To find this other world 
where there could be 
another me that was tomorrow 

Today the difference never being new 

You are myself 

for I have found 

the nothing that there is to do 

"Oh You" 

Stern: This is "Oh You": 


a word like interesting 




leaving your dirty panties 

smelling of someone s sperm 

near the telephone 

for me 

I was requested to leave that poem out of the book. Not by 
Ann, but by it was real. It was real that I wanted to keep it. 
Was it real? I don t know whether it was real or not. 

It s how you were feeling, right? 

Yeah, and that s what my image of it was. Were there really a 
pair of panties by the telephone? I say there were. She s dead. 
Who knows? Do I really know? 

This is just a four-liner: 

in bed 
I try 

against you 
to laugh 

[laughter] Same period. 
And the other one I read to you the other day: 

"Why Yes 


a brief enthusiasm is hardly the thing to be 

of someone else s 

it s roses in the snow and of that genre 

not quite so much of a surprise 

but really shocking 

if one s in love 

After Ann. 



I don t know if you can manage this story, but let s try it. 
There was a madam and grand whore in San Francisco at the time 
named Sidonie. Sidonie was a complete gasse. She was 


sophisticated, she was bawdy, had an incredible body with skin of 
alabaster, and she knew everyone. When I first met her, she was a 
lady kept by Ben Swig in a grand apartment on Nob Hill- -all white, 
white couches, white rugs, a view. She entertained Percy Heath 
and me in this apartment unbeknownst to Ben. She was on the jazz 
scene, she was on the arts scene. She was around. She had a 
mouth like the proverbial velvet glove. She moved like the purple 
sea described in Greek poems. 

She did not come from some elevated station; she came from 
Bakers field, the Valley. But she was fashionable. Her musical 
and artistic tastes were high level. Still she could get right 
down to it without any trouble at all, right? Many years later I 
was having dinner in a restaurant in New York, and I met there a 
friend of minean artist and photographer who also came from San 
Francisco--and he was having dinner with a lady friend named 
Carolyn Zacca. We started talking, and I began to realize who the 
lady friend was. I said to her, "You know, I shared a mistress 
with your grandfather." She started crying. She said to me, "You 
know, that s the nicest thing I ever heard about Grandpa." 

I love that. I felt so good, because it had come out 
unbehested. I wasn t sure that I had said something that would 
embarrass her about her grandfather. But she was a real swinger, 
in any case. Her grandfather was one of the major powers-that-be 
in the City by the Bay. 

" Difficulties in the Beginning 1 

Stern: All these poems now sound to me that they re about the same thing, 
you know? I m not sure whether I m getting the right take on it. 
This is called "Difficulties in the Beginning": 

Get her 

Right out of King Arthur 

and his Arabian Knights 

No eyes for the cross 

No ears for the magic fart 

Big blame 

Lots of reward 

"Perseverance furthers" 

In the I Ching 
there is "No Blame" 


Why peace 

when there s hate 

why not love 

when we re together 

why scream 
why not 

empty your head 

"About Us" 

Stern: The practice of each word is its constraint 
A line s four corners and the place 
Where tension was a form 
That held space round us 

Now and then we stuck to fact 

Tracing the pattern with a lack of method 

Up to date in copied records 

and the act of love 

"That Y Am Matt ..." 

Stern: And this one, the title and the last line are from the Sixty-first 
Ballade of Charles D 1 Orleans. The line is: "That y am matt." 
That s from the ballad; it s a chess poem. That one line is not 
mine . It s not mine . 

To have no body for the one you love . . . 

Only two voices touching through the wire strung 

seeking the tightness of each other s clasp 

Asking themselves what substance lasts 
when the opposing click chants dark 
Ravens we are sparks of image 
thinned by reluctance on our own stages. 


Draw me no pittance bargain 
waged in the fire of my middle days 
sweet musician must I pay your scale 
that I prevent myself from rut or sale 
"without so be y make a lady newe". 

And that last line, "Without so be I make a lady new," is 
also from Charles D Orleans. Of course, it refers to getting a 
new queen by taking the pawn all the way to the other side of the 
board. This was long after Sami Rubinstein and going mad and 
being taken away because of his hangup with the white queen. 
Talking about reverberations. 

"Go Man" 

Stern: I m driven not driving 

All I m allowed is to shift the gear 
Or blow my horn 

Where will they take me 
Who s turning the key 

You understand that these poems which I was writing, and 
other poems which are not published, I felt that I was somewhere 
in thewhatever you want to call it--the hierarchy or the world 
of poetry and that it made sense. But I couldn t find very often, 
practically never, could I find other poets to whom they made 
sense to- -in the sense that they felt about each other often. For 
many years that disturbed me a lot. 

Hugh Hefner and "Hip Hip for Hef" 

Stern: This is when I was really frustrated with Hugh Hefner at Playboy. 
I wasn t really working closely with Hef because I was working 
with Spectorsky, but Hef kept getting in my way. I think this was 
when I offered to write a major story on marijuana, and I was 
about ten years early or five years early, and Hef really blasted 
me--how could I think of doing such a thing? Of course, later on 
they got right into it . But I was by that time out of it . Not 
out of pot but out of touch. Spectorsky had died, but he would 
have done it. Hef was a prude, believe it or not. "Hip Hip for 
Hef." It s a little thing from Wittgenstein which says, "It is a 



sign of an elementary proposition, that no elementary proposition 
can contradict it." It goes: 

Are the indefinite they? 

Ennui is wee-wee with boredom, 

On the rocks, or straight. 

Who needs questions? 

I go along with you-- 

We are not making Our life. 

"Baby Blues" 

This fits right into that jazz line which a lot of people were 
writing. This one s called "Baby Blues": 

Far out people 
Whoever they are 
Break me up 
Like dig the cat 
Blowing his ass off 
Or the chick 
Turning herself on 
The end 


"Prejudiced or Something" 

if the Son was a Jew 

you know Jesus the carpenter 

the Father must have been one too 

Some of my best friends 
are Holy Ghosts 

"Strength of Inaccurate Convictions" 

Stern: And here s one I told you about--Dr. D. Prest, the psychiatrist; 

cock on a leash 
walking the dog 
throw ball 


after tail 
follow beast 
or man 


Stern: Only time is kept 
Who will for us 
Put it away 

Keepers never finders were 


Plain clothed keepers 

Out of our mind 

In time 

Byerly: I like that one. 

"My Joint is Out of Time" 

Stern: There was a guy in the Village named Hube the Cube. What was his 
name? Hubert? He wrote things, and he had a tattoo. The 
subtitle for this is his tattoo, which was "Blessed blessed 
oblivion--Hube the Cube s tattoo." And the name of the poem is 
"My Joint is Out of Time": 

Old Golds are straights already 

Soon bread will be so scarce 

they ll be selling grass on the streets 

I used to be a swinging head 

now under stone 

I m rolling my own shit 

like a syllogism 


Stern: This thing I did on television with a famous bongo player named, I 
think, Jack Costanza, on one of those, like, magazine shows that 
they had at that time in San Francisco. It was written 


specifically for that, so it needs that rhythm behind it. It s 
called "Paradiddles" which is a form of drumbeat. 

Them that wants 
and those what get 
if they re not the same 
who s to blame 

money is funny 

when you don t have any 

even things are fine 

one at a time 

many to go 

bet the winner 

much too slow 

calling heads 

flipping tails 

is not success 

with a capital 


to fit the crime 

Them that wants 
and those what get 
if they re not the same 
who s to blame 

thrown on water 
count it like bread 
authorities say 
two heads are better 
than one for what 

Them that wants 
and those what get 
if they re not the same 
who s to blame 


sell for more buy for less 
close your eyes take the rest 
put it in a bank 
laughing at the kill 
if you can t count it 
nobody will 

Them that wants 
and those what get 
if they re not the same 
who s to blame 

you know what I mean 
straight with the scene 
if you have no eyes 
don t want any 
odds on a penny 
are just as good 
to try your luck 

Them that wants 
and those what get 
if they re not the same 
who s to blame 

"The Cock Horse" 

Stern: There are different sections to this book. This is called "The 
Cock Horse": 

What are you 

I need a precise image 

to look through 

Who got into my merry-go-round 
Was it a broomstick horse 
or your toy soldier 
Is it my glister on the trail 

Bless you 

Keep you 

Hold me down Moses 

Dig me back Pharaoh 


It s fixed 

Hands in their laps 

they fly again 

come hung 

from a silver yoke 

on doubled chains 


The precise image is from Kenneth Rexroth. In a workshop I 
think I mentioned this before when I wrote "bird" he fulminated 
and exposited and said, " Bird is never enough. It s gotta be a 
precise image; it s gotta be that bird, not just any bird." 

"Enjoy Gravity" 

Stern: This was in Life magazine, actually, with a dancer, a wonderful 

black male dancer who I worked with. It s called "Enjoy Gravity," 
and it says, "This poem is an interlude for dancer and voice." 

Enjoy gravity 
Swing wild 
moving with air 
as you are 

Swinging free 
the child within 
breaks the ground 
leaping away 

Move the world 
with pushing air 
swinging the wind 
Enjoy gravity 

The wind flies 
where when it moves 
does the air 
stop swinging 

Held from above 
with each swing 
the earth s pull 
brings us down 


Sparrows and apples 
fall swinging 
the harvest weight 
takes us down 

Our moon turns the sea 

one swinging star 

is light for the world 

Come down where you are 
the sky is swinging 
your body in time 
with love 

Swing wild 
moving with air 
as you are 
Enjoy gravity 

We performed it quite a few times around San Francisco. 

"Watch Out" 

Stern: No peeking around corners 
to see what is there 
No looking behind 
it just isn t fair 
Lots could be said 
for looking ahead 
to find yourself 
riding a tiger 
in bed 

"The Priestess Gagged" 

Stern: She was really a Leo. Philip was living with a lady named Gogo 
Nesbit. Gogo is still around; a very fine poet, as a matter of 
fact. She had a line which was "The priestess gagged." I really 
got into that. The name of this poem is "The Priestess Gagged": 


Night is curtains 

woven by a friend in New York 

falling three times 

to mews i eke 

the Tarot pasted on glass 
hides her dishes from the room 
She gave herself one at a time 
to the black and strong 
She had it coming when she went 
further out of the continent 

Take your journey to the East 

with Leo from Morbio Inferiore 

back to the Seilergraben 

They say he s stolen the original manuscript 

Doesn t dig the sacred document 

"Poetry at the Paraclete" 

Stern: The journey to the East, and Leo, that s from Hesse. This is 
called "Poetry at the Paraclete." "The Paraclete, a New York 
bookstore specializing in Catholic materials presents poets 
reading from their own work." And I won t say who the poet was, 
She will know because the line is from her poem--the title is 
"Poetry at the Paraclete": 

"The poem ascends," she finishes 

with her broken smile. 

In the front row 

a black f rocked father nods agreeably. 

His svelte blonde consort 

exclaims , "Marvelous ! " 

The poem ascends . . . 
weightless I wonder, 
flies or floats gossamer, 
exercising some mystic form? 

The poem ascends . . . 

out of reach, 

explodes height, 

to disappear, 

one with the universe? 


The poem ascends . . . 
elliptically perhaps, 
by virtue of named nature, 
assuming familiar shapes, 
down to earth? 

One of Many" 

Stern: Here s the one I told you about that Hayakawa objected to, 

stone of god 
easily laughed at 
who needs an object 
to know love 

washed idol 

cure me 

with my power 

to keep you on the shelf 

or throw you out 

"The Bomb Syndrome" 

Stern: In New York I did a lot of demonstrating and meetings and thinking 
of dramatic street theater and performance art type of public 
actions. Some of these poems came out of that. "The Bomb 
Syndrome" : 

Poets are what 

poetry is all about 

ideographs and history 

delirious serious 

Making it is no 

cure for constipation 

Hair in the bath 

Elephant tail 

keep me quick 

zipped from Africa 

where they kill like lovers 


(If you don t catch them 

the words are gone 

like money or an erection 

falsie illusions 

mountains cut by dozers 

Blown pine don t drop 

needle green sky frame 

crissed lights dusty through 

recollection of stretched sound: 

Screaming like peacocks 

Bamboo growing 

You under me) 

where they throw, shoot, push 

hard like fuckers 

into blood, shit, sperm 

tear people for good 

with their own screwing 

quick on the point 

of coming death 

No person-to-person kill flash 
for you mother suckers: 
Truman, Ike, JFK and big red K. 
Testing your hard ons: cream us 
by panic button megatonmania 
down-home ass-hole buddy style 
a Nero capping sensational act 
of total destruction and anonymity 


Stern: This sound of one hand clapping has always been something which 
has gotten me into a silly frame of mind. It s taken a lot of 
manifestations. This poem is called "Now": 

driving is important 
a way to get there 
nails through the savior 
one into another 


if now is true 
was something else 
what will be 

touching is important 
through the always space 
between hands words circles 
you me they 

if now is true 
was something else 
what will be 

believing is important 
only made like tree 
flood miracle with fish 
two by two to bombs 

if now is true 
was something else 
what will be 

nothing is important 

when you know 

the sound of one hand clapping 

is nothing 

"Public Hanging" 

Stern: This is a strange poem because it was written in a car, a VW bus 
driven by the sculptor John Chamberlain, and it was written in a 
car when I was going to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I 
was going through a block, and I couldn t go because cars were 
stopped ahead of me. Over my head there was a crane--not too many 
feet higher, but high enough to be extremely dangerous this big 
steel beam. It was turning, and I could just see it out of the 
windshield, and it s called "Public Hanging": 

Sweet hanging steel 
Bigger than thou 
Smashed in blacktop 
Like an Indian head 
Before a crossing 
Because a red light 
This very now 
Was here too 
And stopped us dead 

"A Dirty Story" 

Stern: This is one of those poems I was talking about regarding walking 
on those endless resistance demonstrations of that time. It s 
called "A Dirty Story" and the subscript is "...nothing to fear 
but fear itself," from FDR. 

Told by three wise guys 

to two far out strangers 

you and me at the bar 

had a few bucks in common 

a degree and a couple of broads 

living it up and down the hatch 

sorry about not being safe 

without faith to move molehills 

scared of the bomb 

the nothing to fear there is 

one had jokes about new cereals 

kikes wops niggers bitches 

in case of fallout put it in again 

civil war military logistics 

prepared him for emergencies 

said love was a cloud 

to wipe his trembling blood 

Him with you and all of us 
living up wild high 
down the hatch ma pa 
afraid of the nothing bomb 
the nothing to fear but fear 

the other sat superior 

peeling a sodden onion 

free of skin seed roots 

as if stripping cells 

discarded layers 

would get him to the bottom 

not of this being 

but becoming 

said love was a cloud 

mushroom to his music 

He with you and all of us 
living up kicks crazy 
down the hatch to shelter womb 
afraid of the nothing bomb 
the nothing to fear but fear 


took her kids to picket for peace 

believing we would drop it or they could 

unless you and I and all 

find a way without end 

the way of peace 

said love was a cloud 

her miracle of fish 

She with you and all of us 
living up nervous on 
down the hatch to cave grave 
afraid of the nothing bomb 
the nothing to fear but fear 

we puts arms around each other 

you me brother 

first time touching 

not a bad get together 

making up for lost time 

live it up and down the hatch 

afraid of the nothing 

to fear 


"Necessity is a Mother" 

Stern: I read an essay byI m sure it was Hannah Arendt, and she said, 

"Love, according to Augustine, was I want you to be. " I used it 
in a poem, couldn t find the quote out of Augustine, wrote her a 
letter, didn t hear from her for a long time. Didn t know her, by 
the way. Finally got a note saying, Sorry, couldn t remember 
where she had picked it up, but it wasn t necessarily somebody 
else. I read a book recently by one of the new California 
novelists, Jim Dodge; he used the line. Now I wanted to write to 
him, and I haven t; I will, I hope, if I get around to it. I 
don t get around to everything. Do you? I want to ask him if he 
read the essay by Hannah, if he took out of my poemhe s a friend 
of Kesey, so Kesey would have had the book or did he actually get 
it out of St. Augustine, right? [Laughter] The poem is called 
"Necessity is a Mother": 

I m going to tell you 

I want you to be 

love according to Augustine 


we sat too close not to touch 

I tried to fly 

your brush got stuck 

the bell was going to ring 

I d had enough 

break your neck 
under the ice 
my boot made a hole 
kissed old luck 

I want you to be 

about the subway Priscilla 
we didn t do it together 

I m going to remind you 

there about here /now about then 

because that s who I am 

"If You Can t Count Don t Blow" 

Stern: "If you can t count don t blow." It s a quote from a musician 

named LaNoue Davenport- -originally a jazz musician who was in the 
Pro Musica Antiqua. Playing baroque music, medieval music. But 
the poem is "If You Can t Count Don t Blow": 

it s the same fear 

of falling from heights 

when under me 

you hold on 

to yourself 

Eat Eat Eat 
flash on a coming beat 
but won t explode 
losing my poke 

not spit, balm 
always the receptacle 
for bread 

does a centipede 
move every other leg 


if you count 
you don t let go 
believing is not knowing 
like Jake said 

does she dig or complain 
if you count to make sure 
of only what was 

record and possess 
how many fractions 
of whose law 

"Take Five Jungle" 

Stern: This one has something to do with writing a sonnet. It was 

written it doesn t say that, but I know it was written for Bird, 
for Charlie Parker, listening to his music. I ignored Kenneth s 
axiom about precise images as far as "bird" was concerned, because 
it goes: 

if only some unbelievable turd 
that falls keeping his eye 
makes out to happen bird s 
sound turn on out mothered sky 
riffs blue flash given skin 
wheels straight stone swinging night 
blow bombed kicks too much in 
nowhere scene screwed spade tight 
like beard is mask a map for trap 
counted down out of your head 
split burn take loaded crap 
score bang dig ball through bed 
jump heavy hard push under sick 
lay flip come crack up stick 

"You Think You re So What" 

Stern: This one is written for John Chamberlain, a close friend of many 
years; haven t seen him for a long time. He s the sculptor who 
sculpted mashed car parts. He had an incredible understanding of 
polychrome, color, and form. Wild man, a terrible, terrible wild 


man. At least he was; I don t know what he is. "You Think You re 
So What" for John Chamberlain. 

show me the top of the world 
where everything is 
you can be there 
without knowing 
where we are 

put her on upside down 
below BOMBED sand and white 
stenciling LIKE above 
in Slomon s glue 

can you see 

say show me 
by early light 
you said what? 

two of them in a row 
one a spade two a jew 
were only trying to tell me 
my left blinker was flashing 


the leader 

s got to go faster 

than the man on his tail 

got to make it coming 

like a hill turning 

morning all day 

once was two bit broke 

now am ten buck flat 

now passing 

The Museum of Natural History - 

driving my black Singer 

1 read incised in stone 

I think the face is Caslon 

"Shock Strike Toggle" 

Stern: Then here s a poem which has as the subscript "Goethe dying: Mehr 
Licht . " 


tripped out 
switch gone on 
one pole 
double throw 
(bat handle 
no balls) 
your time 
field base 
here now 

double pole 



in focus 

the way coming 

high through free safe 

together distance 

who knows you 

time after time 

is again 




going the distance 

base real 


x and y 

are either 

way out 

one hundred eighty degrees 

block flowing 

hard stop 

not going anywhere 

why know x 

when one s vertical 

the other s horizontal 

input any ow 
out of now 
yours and mine 
turns on the light 
and i am here 
turns off the light 
and i am there 


Other Poetry; Michael Callahan 

Stern: And that s really the last poem in this book. These last poems, 

we were already living in Woodstock, and Michael Callahan had come 
to join us to do the engineering, the design of the equipment, all 
the technical work, the sound editing, also visual editing. I was 
beginning to get very metaphorically language- involved in the 
names of the various electronic and electromechanical parts like 
"double-throw single-pole switch." I was using a lot of that kind 
of language in some poems . 

More Poetry 


Stern: Then there are the poems since then. There are various kinds, and 
some of them are quite long. I m not going to read them in 
sequence. I want to read this one which is called "Poppa Wopper". 
It was written for Radha. Was it? No, for Abram! Is this the 
one? Well, I would like to read it anyway. It s December 94; 
not that long ago. "Poppa Wopper": 

for Abram the avid Aphid at eighteen 

quest like do she care 

if there nothing to lose 

attention but what itself 

except perhaps to come 

Lenny s favorite preposition cum verb 

humming sotto voce lonely as cloud 
scored for and by itself 
connection bridging ampersands 
out of our limbo and into de light 
Count signified, "don t know 
whether to love you or hate you" 

"I do," said, gave head 

way to indian given go 

window of blue-note oportunology 

recognition over frequency modulated air 

Bird s mantic lick rising 


how rare to be right; left mostly behind 
whatever eight-ball fancied her cue 
that /then I and I introduced as 
"manager and man" or "man and manager" 
depending who you, heshemale, was to 
badmouthering Maya, "no ofay mothafuckah 
gonna call me bitch" 

all in the crossing, pass ahead 

drives Dylan said, "my green age" 

spun off impasto diffracted rainbows 

heady pools of polychromatosoming compositions 

Ted s dead line glistering us forward 

featherweight birdbrain airhead 

what did you think this was 

an elegiac jeremiad on madness at St. Elizabeth 

Ezraversity s unwobbling imagiste fascishtick 

Rex Kenneth prescribing precise images 

rules what and how many times when 

to get every littlething accomplishcated 

bedstead atilt on underlying bargain piles 

when image makers /takers turn 

turn, turning time for every season 

evoke Electro s, "I Inc. representing USCO" 

it ; whatever will be over soon 
used to cut ice off Rockland Lake 
to melt, cool, lower, change, 
has-beens, would have-nots, tryers, 
leftover unmarrieds without duration 
can t even make love to each other s 
frustrate incompetentialities 
Paul suggests Kaddish cheese for funerals 

plastic shopped holidays branches lit 
pedesterasting crosstown scambams 
"and on her hat that awful quill" 
be lilly, tiptoe through tulips, try, try 
again sweet hard home, soft core poem spin 
anachronisting motionless type icons 
Marshall s wit focussed for me equation 
effect over content relation 

controversial blackmailed scripscraps remembered 
clambering up to not jump off Pi s anchor fenced 
pushshove ping-pong score to wronged winner 
leaking easter bunny s sperm 


freaking nursekeepers into angerspace 

genetwise turning me on, in, then out 

poetknown eachself inbeat time 

Allen corresponded, "I ll pay 10% for any good ideas" 

twirling tongue bemused 

rhymes with schmoozed 

the night astray; what says the phrase 

flew past forgotten 

tripping through the pull 

my love me, love me not daisies 

out of Tim s faith, "you can be 

anyone this time around" 

pointillism behind the eyeballs 
"dot s wot" short shrift Pissaro et al 
blowing bone lows harder than highs 
are all animals really sad afterwards 
Michael roared, "GHRAAAAAAAAR" 

if you re right, I m wrong 

ambivalently verbalistic conundrums 

why not take two how now 

while noone s looklistening, picking 

preset (mush) rooms in his honor at Mount Fuji 

Uncle John bespeakspoke, "Silence" 

hip-hop, hip enough 

to get away calling the dog 

a "great cat" meaning no harm 

losing no sleep over facing the music 

Lord Buckley riff ratified, "people 

are the true flowers of life 

and it has been my pleasure 

to walk in the garden" 

This is not the poem I thought I was going to read. This 
was not the poem that was written for Radha. In a sense, this was 
more written as a kind of mini-memoire for my now nineteen-year- 
old Abram about some of the things that had happened to me in my 

"No Man Like to Dead" 

Stern: This comes out of Jamaica. The title, I was having a conversation 
with a man who at the time was approaching his [seventies?] 


Stern: --Mr. Clark is the father of Jah Morris, an associate of mine in 
Jamaica. Morris is a Rasta who lives on the land we have there. 
He is a great carver and a very fine chef and a good friend. But 
he comes from such a completely different culture that sometimes 
needs a lot of adjustment to understand where he s coming from. 
What his father said to me when we were talking about somebody 
was, "No Man Like to Dead." 

when any might be last 

time, trip, tango, come again 

my brethren searching for de light 

dead said died for us ahead 

now alive alive orgasmic 
last could be least most 
be more den more 

already down drain against 
the grain against all odds 
again raise gain 
matching impedimentiapedance 

imamountcountmeasurable waves of currentcy 
phasebeat overunder sinusoidal 
scancrossed powers of zenthenten 
infinitrying, immutable, glowriffied 
in your namegame time after time domain 

"Me without You" 

Stern: This is also somewhat Jamaica-referential. It s called "Me 

without You." I was trying to write a message which never got 
through- -which I think is true of a lot of the poems I ve read 
today. They re messages that were either too late, or not 
properly in time or not properly in space delivered, or question 

for Sara 

Taken at hearsay my passed time 
told second person past presence 
particulating straight out of 
belief sys s mamemoried persistence 
one on one after each other s 


idea of order reified 

ital bonnet peppa hit mouthquick 

no too weak no too strong 

pray stay each ev ry sweethot bite 

time worthiest vegasensational 

right in your face 

ing the music riffrapped 


beyond bonding is bond age 
retentious inward bound rearview 
who else on the cutting table 
but this begoner loner boner 
keeping wrung hands off 

"Caribella Poems for Sally" 

Stern: Well, whatever. This is an intensely long poem called "Caribella 
Poems for Sally." Many, many years ago when we were first going 
to Jamaica I think I had better read it. And I ve got to read 
"Poemthink," and then there are the two most recent poems, one for 
my murdered grandson and the Buenos Aires poem. So maybe we ll-- 

[tape interruption] 

Stern: "Caribella Poems for Sally." Caribella was the place where we 
stayedsome cottages on the beach before we built our house. 


like honey 

moon saga 


we tick 





to lose a little 


took; take 

the holy must throws away 

asks for more 

"one draw" 



wave by form 

mold; that is to cast 

sea surface: slight motion 

"Made constant cry," of... 

Sonnens che in ; fragments 

of light net 

or light scales; fish 

could it abin HASHEM 

had a thing about shells 

that mustabeen 

a latercomer 

tick, tock: 

blue sky says clouds 

white wisps say sky 

black clouds give rain 

quicker, louder than 

tock toke 

(pepper rock 

some seed however) 

later is at last next 
and at most never 
when they say later 
they mean next year 

dick toke; take the digital 
twofer convert analog 
noisy, diverting, jiggling 
fuzzing the NE-ON beam 
rippling split 
off sine 

light net 



is on or off 

black or white man 

sun figure on shadow ground 

HASHEM 1 s geometry 

tick time 
toke time 
real time 
in paradigm 

zwei herzen 

im drei-viertel takt 


time out -then 
for refufleeing 
applying then to here 
there to now 

ein denkmal 
oder poem- think 
take a word image 
just before you 
MT your mind 
and put it up there 
so HIGH 
on the screen 
for the whole set 
when they say later 
they mean when 
tick bites clock 

in the heart 

of how many jewels 

lies a crystal harp 


like Hertz said 

"the consequence of the image 

is the image of the consequence" 

or could it habeen 





by one figure 

plus or minus 

in front 

how many 
do you want 
on the head 
of a chip 


you light it 

says Coolbrown 

passing the Chalice 

challenge and honor 

aliyah mit mishabaiachs 


und auch Gut Yontev 


einz. tick, zwei, zwo. tock, 

drei. vier. fiinf. sechs. sieben 

in der schule wird geschrieben 

in der schule wird gelacht 

bis der Lehrer pitsch-patsch macht 

tick pitsch. toke patsch. 

corporeal information 


Burlean war ihm zu gross 

da scheist er in die hos 

The Capital? No: the principle! 

It was too big, so HE shit in HIS pants 



chick s blood 

or cock s 

Under the corner post 

Keep the blessing 

on the house 


du bist ausgespielt 
between cycles 
makes more sense 
than when later was 
"the circumference 
of a circle 
infinite in size 
is a straight line" 

discontinuous intensity 

ie: perscriptive description 

it s all downhill 

the effective zenith noise temp 

proving big bang cosmology 

Pagelsaid or like shticknick s 

"to is a preposition, come is a verb" 

plus or minus one click tock 

someoneelsewhere teetertots 

over charged threshold capacity 

triggervolting void 

tail to mouth 

what does (all) that mean 




have sheet music 
will travel 
but can t read 

"if you can t count 

don t blow" tach 

on the autobahn 

von OSSIstrasse Koln 

zum Diisseldorf Flughaft 

the 230E sprung de speedreader 

as we spritzed to the double line of trees 

no tick 
spring raang 
no toke 
flight instead 
precise image 
snow on the tube 

project the net 
each throughbetween 
golden tracegrid 

surface rippled 

bottom ridged 

x wind, z tide 

and y sky 

by Yah s way 


within the rain s bow 

as in the beginning 


netsfull cloudstuff 




tops toke to tick 


too shall pass: tock 

fighting the waves 

easier to ride 

in the going direction 


"trot trot to Boston 
trot trot to Lynn 
trot trot to Salem 
and home home agin" 

keine heimat 
gibt auch heimweh 
viele fraeen 
ohne worter 
out of focus 
hocus -locus 
tockless token 

only one day right 
the day before too early 
the day after too late 
the song of Reblochon 
according to Entremont 

64K: just a little memory 
to hold a few transactions 
in hard copy 
original erased 
magnetic memory only 

pig poke 


to the stretch 

of momentum 

drives pendulum 

peg after peg 

cog, bit, byte 

like net 

yet not line or dot 

pattern or particle 



"He who dig the pit 

gonna fall into it" 

such hard work pit-diggin 

too toke to tick 

along ahead 


reading, saying 
the same words 
every day 


s too much 

one boss enuf 
between rat n pack 
goose n egg 
pit n fall 

"what laid the golden egg 

don t kill the goose" 

who wants to think so fast 

that it moves 


take it down 

by half -step at a time 

easier than riding the gains 

tryin 1 to be good 

plus or minus really 

sick of tick already 


cool running 

you don t even know 

how to make the corners 

share a bed 

right forever 


in your bowl 
salty nip n 1 thrust 
come to ocean bed 

under the sea grape 

over the fallen dreadnoughts 

The Philosopher King 

& The Rasta Dreadlocks 

yook a yut 

seed is for the next 


later shock 

Lovebird, Lilly, Pipe 
"Never break the chain- - 
pick up the pieces and go home- 
yesterday s gone" 

climbing backup 


thout toke 


on the going 

to come stroke 


where would you be 



from either end, 

side, edge, 

special rate 

excuse me please 

that s easy 

Are you The Happy Apple? 


"cat fur to make 

kitten britches" 

Esther, the Eureka 

I found it 

cake baker 

first mother-in-law 

dark roots of 
extended lines 
out of the way 
they really push 
play by play 
cheers and whistles 
let highgones be 

I feel up 

to recongnizing it 

but not investing, transforming 



"makes me feel 

feelfeel. . ." 


a non- illuminating source 

low-threshold hard-to-get 

gated to the power of quarg 

"your love is lifting me 


when you can t fly 

substitute don t satisfy 



Mucho me lor con salsa 
with hot chops 
sticks and gums 
Condado Lotus Flower 

picante; coionudo 
sin cebbolos 
Corona frio 
headrising meniscusward 

insert fortune cookie 

"it is better to know 

nothing than to know 

what isn t so" 

over to 756 

cross the plastic bridge 

where the Great Wallenda 

fell off the wire 

licking the knotless Corona 

Alhambra florfino 

"Hiio. Hi io" 

Maduro seguro 

the morning net 

scurrying, oscillating, rebeating 

sun- jewelled 

and this only 


the surface to penetrate 
edging closer 
mounds revealing 
threatening, promising 
soreness after lust 


into experience 

the medium 

too deep to glimpse bottom 

fathomable, yes 

but reflective 

onyxive, mirrorable 


sun spliffed down 

by Kaiser s: snapper, king or conch 

"is the hat part of your worship" 

the whole thing 

good for the structure 

overpowering intelligence 



seen; over stood 

the days blow away 

JAH blows 

some trip 

lots of shit 

to spread 

pure blossom 

like cotton 

red pepparock 

after Good Hope, 

after Mount Airy, 

after Orange Hill, 

JAH said way 

up to all levels 


Many are called but few are 

(I thought these were 

to pass around) 

chosen to be 

or to act 

und auch meer licht 

bei mir bist du 


Goethe s last look 

when it falls 
into your head 
you gotta catch it 
das meer ist blau NOW 


earth rain and sunshine 
hits pain frame 

Alice Dee Tokeless 
almost a square 
as a rollin 1 stone 
wider tick easy 
weiter tock 
noch einmal 

broaden thy 



to get there 


throughput line 



safety or 
hertz ing from 
the pulse toke 
pollutref solution 

like Borges 

I & I saw a number 

nor beast nor bird 

"between ten and one 

but not nine, eight, seven, six, five etc." 

or like Ezekiel s 

wheel in the middle 

of the air 


dump who and what 

I & I & I THREE 

a company of us 

indefinite; no count 

Hanschen klein 

geht alein 

auf die weite welt hinein 



Down is just a point 

of view along the beam 

converging, pre-discrete 

post-impact prismatic 

regenbogen like 

Torahtext fragmented 

eachevery fragparticle 

mit message intact 

when MESH1ACH shoots his load 





like top 


web keeper of secrets 

where is falling 

off my horse 

in the Koran 

I hear you 

it s all there 

you are only responsible 

for what you understand 

can be forgiven 

for what you have 



"rolling your own shit 
like a syllogism" 
when both have one 
they don t do it 
drop it, blow it, 
tickless TACHLIS 

speak in the language 
they understand 
how could you know 
what I discovered 
a broken reflection 
I & I am G-D 
and you are G-D 
the difference being 


Byerly: So Jamaica inspired your German or Hebrew? 

Stern: Oh, I don t know. The whole nine yards. That was a long time 
ago; that was over ten years ago. It grew, grew, grew, and it 
didn t all get written at once. One doesn t even necessarily 
remember all the poems. I love this title "Hy(and dry)perbole. " 
[Laughter] I m not going to read it. 

I m looking for one which I m not sure is in here. I talked 
about "Poemthink" during the tape--. As I said, it s a poem that 
I thought of when I was in bed one day, and I thought about not 
writing down poetry, but then I wrote it down. I delivered it as 
my contribution to the Reality Club. It was published in the 
issue of Cybernetics which I gave you a copy of. It s still meant 
as an idea of not writing things down. I do still think that s an 
interesting practice. 

"Conspire": A Poem for Radha 

Stern: Oh, here s the poem for Radha, which was from 83, wow. It s 
called "Conspire," which means "breathing together," right? 

to the present 
personal particular 
synchronized to 
cumulative eventuality 

but stuck in the middle 
right here now 
stuck is always 
some point 
in the middle 

not before before 
like before first 
or in the beginning 


to breathe with 

con spire 

the great unstuck 

nuthin to worry about 

relaxed behind 

waiting, not breathing stress 


pounding, accelerating 

double time or whatever 

next week, ninety days, always 

blow out your drum 
take it down deep 
swallowing love, 
gold n 1 stuff 
criss n 1 cross 
wheels n 1 world 

to eight-sided dying 
is not exactly STOP 
but conspiring 
breathing together s 
out; one two three 


Stern: There s a lot of poems here, but I just am not going to read them 
all. There is one that I wanted to read, but I can t find it. So 
I will get myself on to "Poemthink": 


is a process 
I can describe 
but not demonstrate 
for you: describe 
but not demonstrate 

first about think 

do you know much 

how you think? 

how other people 

thank, thunked, thoughted 

how conscious thought? 
your thoughts? 
can you hear yourself 
thinking? you can? 
one way of thinking? 
an only way? 


if you can hear it 

is it in words thinking 

I don t know 

if I think 

that most thinking 

is in words 

or can be heard 

but the think 


I m describing 

not demonstrating 

is in words 

and when I poemthink 

I can hear it 

inside hear it 

if that s hearing 


I even catch myself 

moving my mouth 

though I m not speaking 

out; not out loud speaking 

there s not a large literature 
on the mechanics of think 
as something to learn 
there s lots on thought 
of all kinds 
but how to think 
to use the generators, 
switches, crossings... 
pardon the metaphors, 
semaphores, phospors... 
just how to think 
have you conversation, 
communication, learning 
on think process? 

the next jump 

( . .with care. . 

in the presence..) 

personal history 


in re: collection 

ever since before thenwhen 

it s been necessary 

for me to write (down?) 

words, phrases, poemparts, wholes 


once up on that time 

I thought, felt, heard 

near that threshold 

where there s just so much 

you can remember 

and you write 

to not let it spill 

into forgotten 

as I in bed lying 

about to get up and grab 

for extensions 

paper and lead 

overstood that this moment 

with these words 

moment with words all mine 

connected me-circuit 

around the positive 

amplifying looped feedback 

to me-circuit 

contact was and is 

contact is the only 

love circuit 

in bed then 
with my unnamed 
poemthink riff 
vanished, disappeared 
but recognized 
evanescent artifact 
trace element 
flashing imagination scan 

follow or not to be 
motion enormous scale 
off the balancing act 
between now and then 
sometimes you can keep it 
to yourself 
one to three forever 


this time around 

provides plenty 

more or less 

alone time: frinstance 

driving, waiting, being 

and a lot of time 

around others 


not with them 

enuf moment inertia 

language compatible 

with your head 

for poemthink mindware 

you: programmer, artificer, 


however many 

you can fit, squeeze, allow 

in this /that moment 

of poemthink consciousness 

along a thread 

through your maze head 

on stretched, condensed line 

jump-rope words 

for each point 

in figure 

nude, of speech, geometric 

catch it 

when it falls 

into your head 

wrap or trap it and gofer it 

reach high over 

one follows another 


jump brother 

in the presence 

of a word care 

center as in potwheel 

or scatterseed 

you a muthahword grabber 

only if you do 

poemthink poem think 


stuck on a noun 

in your deck 


and single-breasteds 

a little tight-assed 

like the Troppian cow 

by the stream 

plop it go 

loosen word-rein 

or chop em into alpha bet 


any foreign language 
especially those you 
don t know well 
a poemthink fountain 


if you don t like it 

you don t have to do it 

not like drugs 

something you can 

make up your mind about 

without trying 


a totally different head 

than poemwrite, speak, read 

having described 

not demonstrated 


others have tried it 

liked it and not 

changed, added, used 

it replicates 

there s that how many question 

of holding like a bowl 

how many letters, words, lines 

can you maintain, juggle 

transform and back out of 

momentum to loop 

the moebius strip, klein bottle, 

ryan tube topology 

are you coming along 

or copping 

are you in poemthink 

let s take 5 

first poem thinks 

for everyone 

Then I waited a few minutes. Then I went on: 

take whatever you had 
weigh it as experience 
could this become something 
truly meaningful in your life 
get into it 


off on it 
rubadub poemthink 

not a blanket or a towel 

tell the truth 

there s no weight 

when you re carrying 


because the only rule 

is let go 

when you re through 

don t hold, write, store 

memory is both a virtue 

and a vice 

as the Roshi bakes 

and the Rebbe comes 

years ago I quoted 

"if you can t count don t blow" 

for poemthinking mindware 

counting is slowing 

bubbles is more like 

the kind of blowing it is 

in your mouth like pebbles 

in your head like 

poemthink words 

a few rattling 





WORD esses 

but there s a limit 


poemthink no regrets 

for lost nuggets, shards 

a word for each eye 

behind the retina 

with fists against closed eyeballs 

phosphoring in the Rodinpose 

the Poemthinker at it 

if you re remembering 
you re doing it 
--you re not doing it 
if you remember 
you can do it 
do it 


jump cut or fast fade 

why not try a hexagram 

barnstorming was also 

a popular pastime 

like mah-jong 

still on your first poemthink 

have another quickie 

on the house NOW 

take the no out of now /NOW 

(I had another space in there, and then:) 

"Do words and thoughts 

follow normal rules or do they not" 

Stern: Is poemthink that question? 

or maybe according to Hofstadter 

poemthink is an "isomorphism" 

"an information preserving transformation" 

more likely Ovidian metamorphosis 

now tell me the difference 

which is one of the connections 

between words 


its not the poemthinking words 

that really get to you 

give you the juicy joy 

of insight breathing together 

but the web; connective tissue 

intervals, silences, voids 

poemthink: how to 

just keep it going inside 

for your my self 

not really enuf play 

to get your bearings 

not enuf happening 

for keepsake 

insufficient nutrition 

for the spirit in media res 

according to William James 

"much of our thinking 

consists of trains of images 

suggested one by another 

of a sort of spontaneous revery... 


(which) leads nevertheless to 

rational conclusions both practical and theoretical." 

Jung has thinking divided: 
"active; an act of will... 
passive; a mere occurrence..." 
and writes, "thinking... 
brings the content of ideation 
into conceptual connection. . . 
linking up ideas . . . 
to an act of judgment... 
whether intentional or not..." 

he quotes Baldwin, 

"The individual must use his old thoughts 

his established knowledge 

his grounded judgments 

for the embodiment 

of his new inventive constructions. 

He erects his thought... 

in logical terms, problematically, 

conditionally, disjunctively 

--projecting into the world 

an opinion still personal... 

Thus all discovery proceeds ..." 

and Wundt 

"a further important consequence 

of the interaction of sound and hearing 

is that many words come to lose 

their original concrete significance 

altogether and turn into signs 

for general ideas... 

In this way abstract thought develops..." 

and Anatole France 

"What is thinking 

we think with words . . . 

the perfected cries of monkeys and dogs . . . 

onomatopoeic cries of hunger, fear and love.. 

to which have become attached 

meanings that are believed to be abstract..." 

high headstart 

drawing away from: abstract 

coasting between the edges 

in formation 

out of formation words fly 

try poemthink 


as re-creation, sport, pursuit 

of words, stepping-stones 

poem think way 

time-passing, concentrating climatic 

aware magnetic practice 

words to and from 


edutain, elevate con 



blessed aha syndrome 

down and out with it 

take full count 

instant word 

pattern recognition 


no end of wordtences 

meaning sound 

on the going to come 


description not demonstration 

aren t you ecstatic 

you have the rest of your life 

to poemthink 

no iwouldn t call it 
a kind of meditation 

true i do think 

just about anyone can do it 

maybe it is something like 
whateverthename s ideas about 

yes open to questions, advice, 
insight, love, peace 

it is possible 
that it is possible 
it is possible 
that it is possible 
it is possible 
that it is poemthink 

So that was a lot of fun at the time, and it was well 
receivedwhich in a sense was surprising to me, but welcome 

"Checkin 1 the Set" 

Stern: This is a poem which was written in March of 96 for my grandson, 
Christopher, who was murdered that week. It s titled "Checkin 1 
the Set." The kids around here go up to Bolinas Ridge on Mount 
Tamalpais to check out the sunset. "Checkin 1 the Set." For 

there was nothing to forgive 
then murder impossible to forget 
drove your express spirit beyond 
this back beat of no time 
like no-ow-now presence gone 

remembering your cramped tears 

homesick ready for return 

stone buddy cool dude games 

Gofer Topher an 1 Rasta Grandpa twogather 

inhaled our drug o choice 

voicing synched to Stop The Violence 

snorkeling over Poetreef coral heads 

life s thick if it s not 
where is it there you re gone 
to be scattered ashes 
on Tamalpaian peak 
highbeam grin turned to us 
from twenty one years of photolit 
token keepsake images portending 
immediate fatal finality 

that shot too unexpected 
to be so true 

I read it last night to Ivan and his wife, Ruth, but I broke 
down in the middle of it. But I managed it this time. It s 
still, I guess, very recent. He and I were quite close, but 
simply in an emotional bond. He and I were very far apart in what 
our intentions and motivations in going through life were. I was 
hoping [chuckles] that we would get closer on those points, too. 
Cut off in a horrible way. 


"Against the Main Gain Game" 

Stern: This is the last poem I put into type. I always carry my little 
portable Canon Typestar number 10 typewriter with me, either on 
batteries--. It s the most wondrous little extensionas Marshall 
referred to toolsthat I ve ever found because I need to see 
things in print. I write in longhand to start with, but it isn t 
until I see it in print that I know how the meter of the words 
really works against the meaning and against the sound or for the 
sound. That s a heaven-sent instrument to me, to be able to have 
somethingeverybody says, "Why don t you have a laptop?" Then I 
have to bring a printer, right? Or I have to go find one. But 
this little thing, for a little over a hundred bucks, I get 
hardcopy, and I can retype, and it has a little bit of seventeen- 
letter memory, and I find it the most useful thing for me. This 
poem which I did in Buenos Aires a couple of weeks ago- -right 
after the death, actually, but nothing to do with that, I don t 
think. It s called "Against the Main Gain Game." 

out of whose mind are you 

when you re out of your mind 

hard to find original audiofactotem 

sound bit by byte gebissen 

iiber gewissenschaftereisen 

made em up as you go along did ya 

astral travelers already waiting for whatever 
comes and goes against their gain scale 
sounds of many hands ; one being all or more 
as clapstick cuts take in and out to fin 
the end of . . . 

changing lanes as if you were jellyroll 

fill full passed the convexed meniscus 

& he that has no time to long for succor 

overstood up for the record gap 

down, back and forth, round and round 

that sound of no; no hand is raised to thee 

resuwrecked speakers cone ripped beatific highglows 

took it; left it begatting obscure memoria 

disappointments of expectation 
happenings to be or not 
even that it is possible 
to be possible repetetition 
history being still now 
Baruch Sholomain 


I tend to make up words, especially in recent years. I have 
a lot of made-up words in my poem. I mean, the German is a made- 
up word, and this is the first time I ve ever made up a word in 
Hebrew. It s made up of shalom, which is "peace," and omain, 
which is "amen." I think it works. 

"The Idea of Order at Key West" 

Stern: Last, I wanted to read this poem of Wallace Stevens . Why would I 
want to read somebody s else s poem? Number one, as a kind of an 
homage and as a reverb. This poem has driven me through the 
yearsas I said before, it was the subject of a radio poetry 
series that the Ford Foundation sponsored when we were at KPFA, 
and I believeand I don t mean this immodestly --that because I 
read it for so long and for so many years that I understand this 
poem at least as well as the poet. And we had him reading it, and 
I remember his faltering that tape exists in the archive at KPFA 
--and we have a tape of Lew reading it, who understood it very 
well. But I feel I ve reached a higher stage of this poem. This 
is a poem which I think has more levels on it and is more 
perfectly created or wrought than anything that I know of in the 
world of poetry, and it s called Wallace Stevens "The Idea of 
Order at Key West." 

She sang beyond the genius of the sea. 
The water never formed to mind or voice, 
Like a body wholly body, fluttering 
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion 
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry, 
That was not ours although we understood, 
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean. 

The sea was not a mask. No more was she. 
The song and water were not medleyed sound 
Even if what she sang was what she heard, 
Since what she sang was uttered word by word. 
It may be that in all her phrases stirred 
The grinding water and the gasping wind; 
But it was she and not the sea we heard. 

For she was the maker of the song she sang. 
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea 
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing. 
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew 
It was the spirit that we sought and knew 
That we should ask this often as she sang. 


If it was only the dark voice of the sea 

That rose, or even colored by many waves; 

If it was only the outer voice of sky 

And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled, 

However clear, it would have been deep air, 

The heaving speech of air, a summer sound 

Repeated in a summer without end 

And sound alone. But it was more than that, 

More even than her voice, and ours, among 

The meaningless plungings of water and the wind, 

Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped 

On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres 

Of sky and sea. 

It was her voice that made 
The sky acutest at its vanishing. 
She measured to the hour its solitude. 
She was the single artificer of the world 
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea, 
Whatever self it had, became the self 
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we, 
As we beheld her striving there alone, 
Knew that there never was a world for her 
Except the one she sang and, singing, made. 

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know, 
Why, when the singing ended and we turned 
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights, 
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there, 
As the night descended, tilting in the air, 
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea, 
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles, 
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night. 

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon 
The maker s rage to order words of the sea, 
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred 
And of ourselves and of our origins, 
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds. 

Gerd Stern, Raymond Stern, and Otto Stern, circa 1985, 

Rene Di Rosa, Gerd Stern, Zalman Stern, and Abram Stern at the Di Rosa 
Preserve, Winery Lake, Old Sonoma Road, circa 1990. 

Tikki Arria, Gerd Stern, and President Carolos Andres Perez of Venezuela 
inside 360 projection dome, "Caracas Para Todos". 

Gerd Stern and Radha, 

Gerd Stern and Randolph Hodgson, owner of Neal s Yard Dairy, London, 
circa 1995. 


[Interview 7: July 2, 1996] ## 

Chronology with Leaving Home 

Stern: The chronology is something that tends to evade me in any case, 
and I have a feeling that during our first taping sessions at 
least, I got confused about the dates of my own escapades during 
those years. What stability there was, I think, was in where I 
lived, the sequence when I left home first to move into a 
furnished room, and when I moved on to the Village. Then the 
apartment that I shared that I described with Dick Winard who was 
born Winansky. That s just kind of a New York or East Coast 
thing, it s on the West Coast too, the Jews changed their names, 
right? Winansky becomes Winard, Rubenstein becomes Douglas, 
Zimmerman becomes Dylan. 

Migrating to the East Side 

Stern: Anyway, so I moved down to the Village, and then from there I 

migrated all the way over to the Eastside, Stanton Street off the 
Bowery. And each place had a different effect on me. You know, 
my first acquaintance with sex and drugs. I don t think I ever 
had had even a notion that there was such a thing as narcotics or 
drugs, sequestered in Washington Heights, known as "Frankfurt on 
the Hudson." The whole idea of consciousness expanding was later. 
The use of drugs wasn t really thought of as that then, it was 
just thought of as getting high. Whatever that meant to whoever 
said it. Certainly it meant different things to different people 
that I knew. 


Moving to a Coal Bin 

Stern: And from there, I moved to a coal bin, an actual coal bin in the 
Village on the corner of Fourth Street. It was really cheap. I 
had to clean it out and it kind of suited my Germanic-Jewish anal 
temperament, probably, cleaning out things and painting them and 
reconstructing them. But I did enjoy all that stuff. It was 
later on, as I told you, when I tried to make it as a journeyman 
carpenter that I felt out of sync with people who could hang 
doors, especially old ancient doors with coming apart frames, 
thrown on a pile. I was a good carpenter, I really was, but you 
know when people don t like whiskers and they don t like Jews, 
they get rid of them one way or the other. 

Getting Back to California 

Stern: Then it was from coal bin to David Raucher s, up in Chelsea. He s 
mentioned in the first interviews. And then from there to Elaine 
Goldman s. To Black Mountain, back to New York, back to Elaine s 
out to California. And I m still doubting that I ve got it right. 
Somehow, there are so many circumstances and so many relationships 
compressed into what seems to me now to have been an extremely 
short period of time altogether that I can t weave them into what 
I view as the actual design of that time, you know like there s a 
thread there which is obviously escaping some part of the fabric. 
But that s how it is. Now, certainly there are--Ellis Kramer, 
okay. Ever since we started I ve been trying to remember the name 
of the translator from the U.N. and it was Ellis, was his first 
name, Kramer his family name. 

Pivotal Occasions 

Stern: You know the pivotal occasions. I remember meeting both Virginia, 
Ginny, through Isaac Rosenfeld, and Elaine at Ellis s and how that 
fits in to where I was living. Sometimes it makes perfect sense, 
then at other times when I try and go back I hit time s stumbling 
blocks, out of sync with each other. I find it a rather 
fascinating experience to go back and do some research about 
things that have real locuses, like when one went to a hospital or 
when one published something, things you can use as points of 
reference. I m trying to do that, and I will over time, 


particularly if we get to deal with all the artifacts in my attic, 
I think we will come up with a fairly well constructed timeline. 

Richard Wirtz Emerson s Archives 

Stern: There are some people that need to be relocated. For instance, I 
do not seem to own a tape of the puppet play that I wrote with 
Jack Gilbert called "Don t Flee the Scene Salty". That was 
recorded by Richard Wirtz Emerson who at that time lived in 
Sausalito. He probably had the largest archive of San Francisco 
and Northern California poet recordings, and he started recording 
when recording was still in its earliest stages. I ve never 
managed to recontact him and he may not be alive, I don t know, 
but if he is--I mean he s got things which the Bancroft would 
probably be strongly interested in. And then the puppet play was 
one of them. He has recordings of all the people that were around 
the San Francisco Poetry Center and all of the poets that came to 
visit. There were a lot of people in the Bay Area at that time, 
Spicer and his group. Well, we know the groups and the groupies. 
There s nothing that I ve said which is tangible. I mean I 
haven t given you any examples except for the places I lived, but 
it seems vague to me. For instance, I left Black Mountainhow do 
I characterize that event? It was some kind of a disillusionment. 

Disillusionment in Life 

Stern: I have periodic disillusionments with situations or personas in my 
life. I note that those are critical points, like leaving Black 
Mountain. Okay, so I thought that Albers was like my father and I 
didn t want to study with the person who came to replace M. C. 
Richards. What does that have to do with the fact that when I was 
working in Venezuela and we were performing all these idealistic 
social action courses with ministers and potentateswhen that all 
fell apart, I experienced the same sort of disillusionment, and I 
described it when Lew Hill committed suicide. 

Lew Hill and KPFA 

Stern: I described that that was the central event in the creative 

community in the Bay Area, I believe. KPFA was a major input into 


Stern: Recall. And I was trying to recall a lady English poet, I 
couldn t remember who it was. And yesterday on the plane I 
remembered it was Edith Sitwell. Why not? I was comparing the 
kind of voice quality that Jacqueline Onslow Ford had to Sitwell. 
I think it s legitimate. The threads, you know, of Ivan and my 
interaction. I mean, Julia did the lettering for my first book of 
poems, which is hand lettered and lithographed, and Ivan did the 
drawings. Ivan and I made the first film we ever made together 
with Michael Callahan s help on sound. He worked on our 
multimedia pieces with us here. He s the person really in my life 
except for my sister and brother and stepmother who I ve known 

The Post Office 

Stern: The post office is a kind of subculture, at least it was at the 
time that I worked there as a young man. It affected my 
experiences profoundly because I hadn t grown up in anything that 
resembled these kind of large, darkish rooms with fairly frantic 
activity going on with people handling hundreds and thousands of 
mail and sorting them manually into bags, which I guess is no 
longer the way it s done. At that time I worked both at our local 
Washington Heights post office delivering mail, which- -heavy bags 
you know, very heavy bags on your back, leather, trudging through 
snow. The temps are hired especially during Christmas season. 
Anyhow, later I worked in the general post office downtown, and it 
was I mean they were factories, they didn t make anything, they 
just transferred pieces from one place to the other. 


Stern: And people stole from the mail, I mean I was amazed. 
Byerly: From the mail? 

Stern: From the mail. I worked with this guy who had a specialty. Every 
time a little bag which had a dental laboratory s name on it would 
come by, he would snag it and stash it somewhere, and later in the 
day he d somehow get it into the John and he d look into it and if 
it had gold crowns, he would take the gold crowns out. Now, you 
know, I suspected something. We were fairly friendly and he was 
an older guy than me. I asked him what was going on, and he 
freaked out, but he finally told me, and I found it impossible to 
believe that this guy had been doing this for years and nobody had 
ever caught on, I mean how many dental laboratories can there be, 
you know? Losing crowns every time. Of course he didn t catch 


Byerly : 



all of them, but he caught quite a lot of them, it was like 
fishing. Every day s a fishing day but not every day s a catching 
day, they say in Jamaica. 

The post office was an unsettling experience, a lot of 
hierarchy and a lot of bosses and a lot of resentment between the 
workers and the supervisors, and I began to understand things that 
I hadn t understood, like Marx for instance, right? I mean, how 
can the middle class really understand what was going on in labor 
environments? I had a series of working experiences which have 
put me into contact with very different worlds . The mines and 
refinery in Nevada which I talked about, the Puerto Rican electric 
wire factory, carpentry, the difference between working with an 
old ship s carpenter, Ivar, who was Jane s mother s last love, and 
working, putting nails in endless tract roofs, these are 
completely different worlds. I experienced all of them. 


Okay, should we go on? 


More on Early Reminiscences 


Stern: Moving out into the hall from my bedroom had a number of 

consequences because I had a habit of reading under the covers or 
at least in the dark, the more or less dark in my original room. 
There was a door with glass panes which were covered, but I had 
managed to get a little corner out of the bottom of one and let 
some light in. I could put the book on the floor, I had to get 
out of bed to do that, and I would read for some hours after I was 
supposedly asleep. I was always upset with my schedule. My 
Germanic father s idea of when one had to go to bed if one was my 
age had the effect of my never being up to listen to what I wanted 
to listen to on the radio. The radio was a major experience in 
those days. 

Byerly: When was this? 

Stern: This was when I was nine, ten, twelve, thirteen. It opened up 

whole worlds which, you know, I didn t read the New York Times, we 
didn t have television. President Roosevelt was a major hero in 


my extended family, and he spoke very often. Whether it was 
serials or variety shows, the breadth of life that radio 
demonstrated was very exciting. 

Museum of Modern Art 

Stern: Finding the Museum of Modern Art s film archive and being able as 
a student to get in without having to pay at all in those days was 
completely out of my experience and I immediately understood 
that s where I belonged. 

Interesting thing is that even though I had all this visual 
input at that time, I never considered becoming a visual artist 
until much later when I returned to New York from California and 
started turning my poems into objects, or simulacrums of objects. 

All this from reading under the covers. Well here I got 
moved out to the hall, and the hall was out in the open. I 
couldn t do nothing right. I had to get my grandmother to buy me 
a flashlight and batteries so I could really--! remember reading 
The Fountainhead under the covers. The Fountainhead was published 
a long, long time ago. 

Byerly: Was it really? Ayn Rand? 

Stern: Yes, I believe so. Well, let s check that one. 

Byerly: Yes, she became very popular in the early sixties, right, but she 
could have been around then, and that was her classic. 

Stern: Maybe that s just a figment of my fertile imagination, you know. 
If it wasn t Ayn Rand, what was it? 

Almay Cosmetics 

Stern: Since Almay Cosmetics was a part of Schefflin, we had an 

extraordinary supply of liquor which somehow wound up in our 
office through various, not necessarily straight maneuvers. And I 
became very popular over in the Village because I was able to 
bring bottles of scotch, I think it was--I can t remember what the 
brand was, I think it was Black and White or something like that, 
but it was really good stuff which most of my friends could never 


afford. Anyway, I didn t keep that job very long. That s the end 
of that one. 

Mona Carmel and the Ideational 

Stern: The people from Music and Art High School just kind of spread out 
all over the place. Mona Carmel, a fine painter from there, 
followed me down to the Village. She had I guess what you d call 
a crush on me. She used to bring me food. Each painter s visual 
sensibility kind of took me in a different conceptual direction. 
I related very strongly, I think, in the late forties to the 
potent possibilities of visual images. I read a lot of, you know, 
Arnheim. Of course that also involved a lot of the people who 
were down in Black Mountain, thinking or writing or painting along 
those lines. Ideational--you know, the interface between the 
image and the idea. Remy de Gourmont wrote that the image was 
just a worn out idea. I can t remember the exact quote. "The 
idea is merely a worn out image" is probably the exact quote. 
That s the reverse of what I was saying, see. You got to figure 
ground reverse rightly. What does that do to time when you get 
that? It doesn t make sense, doesn t make sequence. If you think 
sense is sequence, you re in trouble anyway. 

Byerly: It s a philosophical question. 

Stern: Mona was in Philadelphia at the Temple School of Art with Fran 
Deitsch. Fran was the daughter of a rather cultivated, wealthy 
Jewish family that lived up on Central Park West. Had a lot of 
interesting art, and had an actual room which had been removed 
from some manor in England and reconstituted, but not totally 
museum- like. You could actually, if you were permitted, sit in 
the chairs. She had been involved with a jazz trumpet player and 
junkie, Frankie Newton. We were pretty close for a while. 

She later married a Landesmann who came from a St. Louis 
antique furniture family, and he had the magazine Neurotica in the 
Village which published Allen and Carl Solomon and various people 
in that period right after I got out of the hospital. I was on 
the men s side, and I needed somebody to take me out for weekends. 
Elsie Peterson would come in and sign me out. Various other 
people would sign me out. But from signing me out once or twice, 
Elsie became aware of the hospital, and before I was whisked out 
when I was finked on by Allen and Carl, she was on the women s 
side. I mean, here was somebody that I d known outside, and all 
of a sudden we re in a Friday night hospital event, which is the 
only time when men and women are together, we re dancing. 


Byerly: You mean she had been admitted? 

Stern: Yes, she had been admitted. 

Byerly: From taking you out? 

Stern: Well, that s how she found out about the place, but-- 

Byerly: Oh, and so she decided she needed to be here too? 

Stern: Right, right. I mean, she was crazier than I was, for sure. Like 
I said, she wound up as a real bag lady. Terrible. But I saw 
the Landesmanns a couple of years ago in London where they ve been 
living for many, many years. Fran wrote a lot of popular song 
lyrics. I saw them after like, what, thirty years of not having 
seen them, or just about. It was kind of reminiscing. But I 
couldn t quite match the periods, I couldn t get a good sync going 
with my now and their now. We didn t have that much trouble 
syncing the past. With some people, it s like you see them twenty 
years later, it s just like you had been with them all that time 
and others, you know, there s that hiatus gap. 

Music As Ma lor Influence 

Stern: But you know, jazz has been a major input all through my life, and 
then music in general. Always, I ve woven a blend of ethnic and 
classical and jazz. Of course, in the last fifteen years, reggae 
and ska and all of the Caribbean modalities. 


Byerly: Explain ska. 

Stern: Ska is very poetic in nature because the Caribbeans tend to rap 

and chant and go into rhythmic, verbal convolutions, which I can t 
follow. It s a backbeat. I understand what a backbeat is, but I 
can t, you know, verbalize to it. Although I m fascinated by the 
conventions of those forms, they re not forms that I want to 
experiment with, really. I do like to speak my own poetry. I 
prefer to do that than to print it really, but one gets limited 
exposure that way, I mean only when one chooses to read to 
whomever one s with. 


Black Mountain and M.C. Richards ## 

Stern: --the question of exactly when it was will have to be settled, but 
I went there with great expectations of being able to study with 
M. C. Richards, whose work I was not really that familiar with, 
but with whom I had met when I went down for the interview, and 
she was really inspiring. Isaac had told me about her, also, 
ahead of time. It seemed like that would be an experience in 
poetry that I could really get into. But the Germanic influence 
of Albers combined with the advent of Edward Dahlberg--who was 
definitely from another camp altogether and whose mannerisms were 
not appealing to mecaused me to split. And I must say that 
splitting has been a-- 

Byerly: Recurring theme? 

Recurring Themes /Targets of Opportunity 

Stern: Recurring themes in my transit through the world. Splitting back 
to New York wasn t exactly a successful strategy. The idea of 
California first came from Elaine because she had gone to the 
University and she knew the literary climate and she thought that 
it would suit my temperament. And then when Bard came along and 
invited me, it just seemed like a natural need to go west, and I 

Seemed to be what I was saying is that the call of somebody 
who says, "Come," is another repeated thread in my life. There s 
a call, I m in San Francisco, and Mac calls his ex-wife and me who 
are there together. I m still looking for a job, and he says, 
"Come on up, work in a mine." Okay, work in a mine. So I come 

It was the same thing with Jane. Jane sends me a letter and 
basically says come on. "Come on," and I come on, right. There 
is a strategy that they teach in the business school at Harvard 
called targets of opportunity. I mean, you could interpret your 
whole life as response to targets of opportunity, right? It s one 
of those rather horrible phrases that is so inclusive. It s kind 
of like Arnold Toynbee s theories, right, that you can just kind 
of do anything and his ideas will somehow reinterpret themselves 
in that particular modality. So, now, here we re interpreting all 
these things as targets of opportunity when some other people 
would call them coincidences, and what does that mean? What does 
being at the same place in some space-time continuum infer, aside 


from that it is coincidental? So this is like a whole web of 
coincidentals, and where theit s called in Hebrew kavana-- 
intention comes in, is to me very questionable as I tell all these 
tales about heads and other people. But a lot of them are about 
heads, and you know the head world is a peculiar and particular 
world, and, like so many in-groups, it has all kinds of supposed 
moralities which are not necessarily actuality. 

Byerly: You mean consistent with the mainstream, or actual moralities that 
they claim to have and that they don t live out? 

Stern: That s right, just like in the mainstream. Loyalty. The same old 
virtues . 

Byerly: When you mean the head world, you mean heads as in people who 
smoked marijuana like from the seventies? 

Stern: Yes, yes. And before the seventies. I mean, it was supposedly a 
fraternity, right, certain different rules. They weren t 
different and they weren t rules, just like you said. Just like 
in the mainstream, they were just as opportunistic as anybody 
else, and they were just as unable to perform those virtues of 
loyalty or whatever they happened to be. But there is the 
different bond of doing something which is extracurricular or 
illegal or frowned upon. It does put one apart. The apartness is 
not as cohesive as people would want you to think it is, in the 
same sense that any society or any group has those kind of 
behaviors, even our American Cheese Society. You have the same 
kind of behavior. It s not really a cohesive in-group. Certainly 
we had the Reality Club for many years, boy, I mean people going 
in all directions and-- 

Byerly: Who was we? The Reality Club? 
cheese thing? 

Was this a seventies thing or a 

John Brockman and The Reality Club 

Stern: No, the Reality Club is a post-sixties/seventies/eighties thing 
which was founded by John Brockman. John comes in later. You 
want me to go through it now? 

Byerly: Yes, this is relevant to what we are talking about. 

Stern: John Brockman came out of Chelsea, Massachusetts. I think I 

talked about John and his father toward the end of the tape. Did 
I? Yes. 


He became a leading literary agent in the eighties or maybe 
earlier. He formed a club at the time that his literary agency 
was really blooming, a club with founding members of which I was 
one, The Reality Club. It was simply a convening of a group of 
people, one of whom would speak to the rest about something that 
he was doing in his field which was current or fairly current 
before it became necessarily full-blown or public: maybe parts of 
a book or--it dependedscientists, artists, movie people, 
whatever. Interesting group of fairly recognizable names. 

The protocol was that you couldn t become a member unless 
you had addressed the club. Now, that wasn t true. The founding 
members, although they eventually all wound up addressing the 
club--my address, which came--I think I told you about itafter 
Rollo May was "Poemthink", one of the poems that I read to you. 

I think what John was doing, and I m very sad that it no 
longer exists, was providing a real charge of inspiration through 
these convenings. I got a lot out of them. It wasn t necessarily 
a matter of who the principal speaker was. Also, it had a lot to 
do with who the people were who were sitting around the table or 
in the room, what they had to say, and their reactions, because 
there was always time for comment, and sometimes it could be very 
criticalnegative critical. Scientists, physicists not agreeing 
with their con-freres or people in judgement on other people and 
even on the literary scene. But it went on for years. 

I just spoke today to Paul Ryan, who s a video philosopher 
whom I met through working with Marshall McLuhan. He was a 
member, and he also misses it quite a bit. There aren t so many 
opportunities for people who are in multidisciplinary fields to 
get together and just kind of gab. 

For John, it was a source of clients because his specialty 
was basically non-fiction books which needed to be presented to 
the publishing world. Stewart Brand, who as I told you was part 
of our early multi-media work and who did the Whole-Earth catalog, 
was a client or is a client of John s and John has gotten him 
tremendous advance monies . 

Jimmy the Greek of Greenwich Village 

Stern: Yes, there were in the Village, as is classically sensed in the 
stories of the Village, a lot of characters, and they were very 
broadly drawn. Jimmy the Greek (his family name was Panagakos) 
was basically what we would call at this point homeless. He sat 


in the cafeteria all day long and he drew. He didn t know that he 
was an artist, but he sold his work. He drew straight lines. He 
had an incredible ability to draw these straight lines with a very 
thin ink pen, and they would go on and on on the one page, they 
would cross each other, and then they d become very dense. It 
would be some cheap pad that he was working on, and he would sell 


Stern: The piece would be finished either when somebody would buy it for 
maybe a cup of coffee or maybe even something to eat, or when the 
paper was covered with so much ink that you couldn t get anymore 
on it, right? 

His ability to rap while he was doing this was intense. He 
had endless stories, and they were entertaining. And he was a 
pusher; he would sell you little toothpicks of grass. I don t 
know how we ever got high then. We were probably 
hyperventilating . 

Anyhow, he was one of a whole cast that sat in the 
cafeterias in New York. There was one on Sixth Avenue, the 
Waldorf, just below Eighth Street. There was another on the East 
Side. It wasn t like you didn t know who was going to be there 
when you got there; there were people who were always there unless 
there were some real mishap. And many of them didn t have places 
to live. And others of them lived alone in little rooms or 
whatever. It was both men and women, and a lot of the 
conversation had to do either with the arts or with politics. The 
literary groupsthere were definitely divisions nowa lot of 
these people were bi-coastal people. Very few of them had any 
relationships with anywhere else in the country, but from New York 
to San Francisco and from New York to Los Angeles there were 
steady exchanges of people, and I think that s continued to this 

Ellis Kramer was a translator for the United Nations, and 
somehow, I don t he used to come to the Waldorf because he found 
the characters to be extremely entertaining, a lot of them were 
old friends of his. People from uptown would come down to relate. 
There was Joe Gould who was writing the oral history of the world. 
When he died there were many volumes supposedly. I think some of 
it was published eventually, or maybe his manuscript never 
existed. He had a long beard, kind of like Father Time. 

Byerly: Do you have a timeline, anything up here? What s the timeline on 
this? It s the forties, fifties? 


Stern: Oh, this is like the forties, because the late forties, I believe, 
was when I was back and forth from the west coast, when I went on 
the ship to South America with John, when I lived around the 
Village both in the east and the west. I think that s enough from 


Stern: I ve always had this rather pervasive interest in nature, 

particularly in fish, amphibians, and reptiles. At one point we 
used to--I thought I had told this, but I don t remember it in the 
transcription. We used to go at a certain point, I think late 
high school, a friend and I, hunting rattlesnakes and copperheads. 
It was during the war when you could sell them to the Bronx Zoo 
and they used them for anti-venom, even in the Pacific. We did 
this, I guess, two years in a row, just when the snakes were about 
to stop hibernating. They re very comatose then, and they lie out 
on these rocky ledges in the pine barrens in the southern part of 
New Jersey. They were fairly easy to catch. We would just throw 
them in these canvas bags, heave them into our knapsacks, and then 
we would hitchhike home. We used to laugh like hell in the back 
of the cars, and the people would wonder why we were laughing. It 
was because of the image of what people would think if they knew 
that there were all these poisonous snakes in our knapsacks. Once 
in a while they would move around and it would just get us totally 
hysterical. I think we got seven dollars a piece for them, which 
at that time was a lot of money. And we were aiding the war 

But I really had it in my head that I wanted to be an 
ichthyologist, which came from having worked with Dr. Myron T. 
Gordon of the Museum of Natural History. He was my English 
instructor s brother. It s funny, I really thought I talked all 
this out . 

The Sternist Movement 

Stern: The group revolved around a family called the Kisburgs who lived 
at that time in the West Village. Later on when I lived with 
them, they lived way over on West Street, you know the final 
street before the Hudson River. Next to them lived a cellist 
named Seymour Barab. He was an extremely talented musician, 
instrumentalist, and I enjoyed listening to him practice. I mean, 


there are these opportunities one has in one s life which-- How 
do you get to be in the room when somebody who s a great musician 
practices? That s an interesting experience. 

But the Kisburgs--he was in the labor field, he was a labor 
organizer, and he later became rather well-known, but at the time 
he was organizing this group around the principles of a poet in 
Israel named Stern. And I became involved in that. My political 
leanings at the time were fairly leftish, although it was social 
causes that attracted me, as it did I think most of the people at 
that time. 

Byerly: Social movements you mean? 

Stern: Yes, and the problems of people caught in minority or critical 

situations. The refugees who were trapped in Europe after the war 
weren t really refugees; they were survivors who couldn t get out. 
I wasn t that much into Israel as a nation-state or as a military 
presence, as it later turned out, but I was really into these 
people who had survived what I survived. But I survived in such a 
luxurious state really, compared to them, so the opportunity to 
try to raise money to buy ships to get them out of Europe seemed a 
rather logical extension of what I believed in. Because I wasn t 
up to raising money when it came right down to it, but I was up to 
sealing envelopes. 

It was interesting. One was conscious at the time of the 
kind of combination of ideology and the potential of violence that 
existed there. And, of course, the guys who got on the ship by 
luck, which I think I talked about, spent some time in Acre 
Prison, which was no pleasant environment by any means. In fact, 
not a month ago I passed Acre Prison and it s still on display, 
obviously a horrible place where the British kept their enemies. 

My family s interest in Judaism was so peripheral and so 
robotimous really. It wasn t until, I think, through Yeats 
really--! early became practically addicted to Yeats and his 
writing about McGregor Mathers and the Kabbalists--that I became 
interested in the Kabbalah. I wentthis is somewhat later but 
not muchup to the Seminary which is near Columbia, because they 
had all those works and you could read them therelike the Sefer 
Yetzirah, which is one of the concise mystical texts of Kabbalah. 
The spiritual side of Judaism has surfaced in me periodically, and 
later I told you about meeting Rabbi Zalman Schachter, but this 
was in this group of Sternists, which was really the first 
organized Jewish based activity that I became involved in. 
Although it was actually after I had been the counselor at Camp 
Kinderwelt which was the group that your anarchist San Francisco 
friends came out of in New York originally or their parents-- 


Byerly: From Italy? 

Stern: From Eastern Europe, from anywhere. 

Byerly: Oh, the Jewish side. 

Stern: Yes, the International Workers, the Worker s Circle. Workman s 

Circle. This was the Workman s Circle camp. The other person who 
came into my life in the Village, the East Village, around that 
time was Ethel, now Ethel Hultberg, at the time Ethel Slutsky. 
Ethel came out of that world also, and she and a lot of her 
friends had been at a farm experience which is supposed to prepare 
people to make Aliyah--you know, to go to Israel and become 
agricultural on the kibbutzim. She never went, but she had 
another vast circle of friends from John Cage, and later on she 
and her husband Paul were at Rockland County when I went up there 
from California. And we re still very close friends, even now. 
Actually her son Lawrence has a gallery on Hayes Street and he s 
going to do a show in October. And he s invited me to show some 
of my early pieces there. 

More on Mining 

Stern: On page twenty-six, I pointed out that they had tales of losing 

people in the mines. Actually we lost one guy while I was working 
there. You had to clean out these many-storied-high tanks. They 
were full of fine ore, and if you slipped when you were in there, 
you had the safety belt on, but- 

Stern: You could slide down the hole, which is at the bottom, where it 
went into the next stage of milling, which is a ball mill. 

This was the second ball mill in my life. The first one had 
been this tiny one at Almay Cosmetics which used little porcelain 
or ceramic balls . This ball mill at the Concollar Gould and 
Savage Mining Corporation was like a huge tank which rolled around 
and used hard steel balls which were about six inches in diameter, 
five or six inches, to further grind the ore into finer particles. 
There were four different stages of different processes to get the 
ore down to the point where you could separate it out with 
basically a chemical process. 

There were silver and gold ingots. You weren t about to 
steal them because they had to be carried out, they were really 


heavy, but when we cleaned out the ball mill, which we had to do 
every once in a while, you would get these little flat pieces 
which would be all that was left of a five or six inch steel ball. 
And they might have traces of gold and silver on them. 

It was interesting, because you couldn t see it in the ore. 
The ore was called Andersonite, it was blue with kind of quartz 
veins running through it, little rusty places along the veins. 
Truly, this one guy I think he didn t have his safety belt on 
properly- -he was gone in this tank. He must have fallen into the 
ball mill and gotten- -nobody knew. It was a very noisy 
environment and you couldn t see very far because of all the dust 
and- -goodbye. An employee, and then no trace right? 

Early Marijuana Smoking 

Stern: I mentioned that when I was in a hospital for supposed kidney 

problems. After the hospital, my family made me go to a friend of 
my uncle s who was a psychiatrist, but in between there I d like 
to add something. They really thought I had a problem with my 
kidneys. What the doctor told me--not my uncle whom I hadn t 
confessed it to, but the doctor at the hospital whom I had told 
that I had smoked dope- -was that after doing all these tests and 
worrying that I had to have a kidney operation, he told me it 
wasn t anything but the traces of the marijuana in my system that 
had caused the warning signs. Now, I ve never really known after 
that whether that was some kind of a ploy or whether it was 
actually the truth, but I know that he told my uncle about it, my 
uncle was very forbidding. Thank God he didn t tell my father, 
for whom it would have been even more of an issue, not that I had 
easy issues with my father anytime in his life. 

Maya Angelou 

[Interview 8: July 4, 1996] 

Stern: As you know, Maya has written quite a few books, among them some 
books of poetry and kind of inspirational stuff, but also her 
multi-volume autobiography. After I read the first volume which I 
truly enjoyed, she s a good writer, I was somewhat apprehensive 
because the relationships that she had had with men with which I 
was familiar, because she had told me those stories, were in this 




book and I was due to come soon thereafter. But when the next 
volumes came out she had done me the enormous- 


Honor of leaving me out, which I considered a real boon on her 
part. Actually, I mentioned it to her when I saw her, and she 
smiled at me and she said, you know, how that wasn t a 
relationship that she wanted to write about. She was very angry 
about some of her other relationships, both in her family and 
outside of her family, and I think in a sense the autobiographical 
experience managed to kind of dissipate her anger into this kind 
of a- -what do you call that? Would that be sublimation? No, not 
exactly. And despite the fact that we had a bad scene at the end, 
I don t think our relationship had caused her or me very much 
grief. We both got some creative energy out of each other, and, 
also, the time we spent together was usefully occupied, both in 
working and in social events . 

I have a question. Did she consider herself a part of the Beat 
scene at that time? 

Stern: Hey, none of us did. We thought that the concept of Beat was a 
media creation. We used to joke about it, and we used the word 
beatific, you know, off-beat, on-beat, out of beat. It s 
interesting because the connotations are so broad: there s the 
musical connotation, there s the exhausted connotation, there s 
the beatific, I can t characterize at the moment connotation. But 
nobody that I knew of considered themselves as Beat. 

Byerly: Right. 

Stern: So to ask if Maya considered herself part of that world, the 
answer is yes. But I m sure she never would have thought of 
herself as-- 

Byerly: A Beat poet? That makes sense. 

Stern: As Beat. And she s certainly not a Beat. Her poetry is very far 
from the beat tradition. It s more in, I would say, maybe even 
the spiritual tradition, and she is a great verbalist. She can 
capture an audience with her charisma in a way that very few 
people can. She s a really great performer in that sense, and she 
has a set piece where she speaks and sings of her experience in 
the United States. It s just incredible. I mean, it makes you 
laugh, it makes you cry. Brings out all the emotions. That 
wasn t at the time when I knew her; at that time she was a cafe 
singer, but I recently heard her at a university in New Jersey and 
I was extremely impressed. 


I think unfortunately she s suffering from a lot of 
arthritis. She s gotten very heavy. And all of us do 
inconsistent work. I thought the Clinton poem was a rather 
inconsistent piece of work. 

Byerly: What did she sing when she was a cafe singer, what kind of 

Stern: She did songs like I think I sang part of it to earlier: "Don t 
let the sun catch you crying /cry ing at my front door" etcetera, 
etcetera. She did pieces in which the emotions were very vivid, 
where the message was very clear, and she moved that enormous 
skinny body with very little clothing in a way which was so 
evocative that the audiences just went mad. As I said in the 
previous paragraphs here, with a bill which included Phyllis 
Diller and the Kingston Trio, it was really a great evening s 
entertainment. Those kinds of clubs--that was at the Purple 
Onion--! don t know that they exist anymore, that genre of talent. 

Byerly: Well the Kingston Trio and Phyllis Diller are playing here in San 

Stern: Really? 

Byerly: Yes, I saw it in the paper. 

Stern: Right now? 

Byerly: Yes. 

Stern: Where? 

Byerly: I saw it in the paper, I didn t see where. 


Stern: When I talk about acid, what I was talking about is that after my 
initial experiences with acid, I got less hysterical, which was a 
revelation to me. Most of the people in the acid world, like 
Timothy and Richard and Ralph, etcetera, were people who d been 
fairly straight and for whom acid turned them into whatever you 
want to call it--freaks or liberated consciousness or fanatics. I 
had not been straight; I d been fairly far out, more or less crazy 
in some sense of the word, which didn t bother me. I didn t feel 
bad when people said I was crazy, I felt that it was true, that I 
wanted to be there. But after acid, I got a lot straighter. So I 
think one of the things it does is that it takes you where you 


haven t been, or it gives you the possibilities of taking you 
where you haven t been. It certainly did that for me. 

It was a brief experience. I wasn t one of those people who 
kept taking it forever. I never did it often enough to have the 
experience wear off completely during the year, year and a half, 
two years that I tripped. I had some very good experiences which 
reinforced my visions and my ability to deal with the outside 
world, strangely enough. Then, at the end, I had a couple of 
death trips which caused me to stop using it. I figured I d had 

Byerly: What kind of trips? 

Stern: Death. 

Byerly: Death? 

Stern: Yes, you know, feeling like you were going to die. 

Byerly: Oh yes. Very familiar with it. 

Stern: Yes. Anyhow, I actually have recordings of one of those trips. 

Byerly: You could ask The Bancroft if they would like to have that one (ha 

Stern: They re welcome to it. 
Byerly: "Gerd Stern on acid." 

Stern: Well it s not only me, it s a few other people too. Hey, those 
are, I think, recordings of that time which-- 

Byerly: Yes, historical artifacts of the seventies. 

Stern: This was in Paul Williams s A-frame at Wellfleet on Cape Cod. We 
used it, actually, at the psychedelic theater performances in the 
New York. Anyway. Okay, I think that finishes that part. 

After the Mental Hospital: Life with Father 

Stern: After I had gotten out of the hospital in 1948 and Dr. Hambidge 

had pointed out to me that I had to choose whether to live my own 
life or the life that my father was trying to impress upon me, I 
chose my own way. I basically abandoned the relationship with my 


parents except for very desultory contact, and I didn t feel it 
necessary to relate to my father and my stepmother. 

So, now, here Gerd gets divorced from his society wife and 
he s back being the old reprobate again, and, in fact, my next 
experience in which I met my parents was with Judi. 

When we got together, I persuaded my parents to receive us 
and I came to the house, the apartment building in Washington 
Heights right, and I m wearing this buffalo coat. It s like the 
shaggiest furriest, big and ancient, not something I bought, it s 
something we found right. My hair is like incredible. 

The doorman says to me, "Who might you be visiting in this 

And I said, "Otto Stern." 

He said, "You re not visiting Otto Stern." 

I said, "He happens to be my father." 

The doorman called him up, he says, "Mr. Stern, there s this 
guy down here who says he s your son." 

My father comes down in the elevator, he reads out the 
doorman--! mean, first of all, the doorman is standing over there 
and my father s standing over there and the doorman says 
something. My father says, "If you want to talk to me, come over 
here." Yucky scene, and then he tells him, "Who are you to 
question whether this is my son or not?" 

Okay, then we get in the elevator and then I really get 
hell, right? I m there, I walk into this house looking like this, 
all right. So, you know, my relationship with my father is 
wrecked again. 

On top of this, it s just before Passover and they take the 
bit in their mouths and invite Judi and me to Passover. I said, 
"Well, I would like to bring along Michael Callahan," who they 
don t know. Why would anybody named Callahan want to come to a 
seder? No! 

I walked out the door and told my father, you know--I don t 
know if you know the custom, but you put a cup for Elijah the 
Messiah or the messianic messenger on the table, and you open the 
door and then you say, "Let all who want to come in here, come in 
here." It s part of the seder because it used to be held 
basically close to the street and poor people who didn t have 


enough food could come to any seder. I said to my father, "If 
Elijah was to knock on your door, you wouldn t let him in." So 
that ended another chapter with my family. 

Anyway, eventually toward the latter part of my father s 
life, and as I got older, we got back together and I felt that I 
was doing something which was very necessary in helping him. It 
was gratifying, I must say, although it took me away from my own 
preferred path. But I ve done that a number of times in my life. 

Kinetic Art 

Stern: Pieces in the show in New York which Paul Williams and I had 

worked on together were basically technology of various kinds of 
switching. I was trying to deal with matrices of words and having 
the words fit so that they could go in any sequence, and to do 
that with lights and mechanical devices seemed to me a very 
interesting and exciting way of expressing the relationship 
between words which couldn t be done on a page. And Paul, who had 
a certain style as a craftsman, developed the boxes and the way it 
worked . 

Later, on the west coast, I showed those pieces and other 
pieces. The collage period was secondary to this initial kinetic 
period. There weren t any real collages in the show in New York. 
The collages started happening about the time that I went to 
California, right after the opening of the New York show. The 
principles of combining word and words and small worlds and 
universes and matrices rather than in either grammatical sequence 
or non- grammatical sequence on a page was an enormous liberation 
for me. When I stopped doing the collages and the kinetics and 
the audio-visual and started writing pages of poems again, the 
poems were of a more developed matrix style. In other words they 
more resembled the things that I had been doing in collage and the 
audio-visual, so it was a process of visualizing and then the 
visualization was kind of a liberation of my ability to put words 

I m still involved in that, although restrained by time and 
by not being close geographically to Michael Callahan who did all 
the audio engineering and the building of the technology which we 
used in audio-visuals. Being away from him, I haven t done any 
sound work, and I m beginning to feel now that I need to return to 
using words and sound and voices. 


As a Marginalized Poet 

Stern: I lived in so many periods in worlds which were full of poets and 
painters and dancers and other people involved in the arts, and 
they were very different worlds, different cliques and coteries 
somehow, except for very short periods of time like the Seven 
Stray Cats where there were seven of us poets kind of working 
together, but each person s poems were very different. 

I ve never felt accepted by fellow poets. In fact I have 
felt a certain rejection or disdain for the kind of techniques I 
work in. That hasn t bothered me particularly, because I really 
like my work. The acceptance that I received in the visual world 
was so unexpected and so gratifying that, for years, I didn t even 
think of involving myself in the literary circles or of submitting 
poetry. I mean, what is the equivalent of showing at the Whitney 
and the Museum of Modern Art here and in New York and being asked 
to exhibit and do performances in Europe? I mean, this was all 
ferment. And then to submit poems to the little magazines even of 
smaller reputation or of larger reputations, or even the New 
Yorker or Poetry magazine, and you get instantly and repeatedly 
rejected, and you think, hey, what kind of a world is this? 


Byerly: And many poets of your era in the end self published, like 

Stern: Well, you see, when Ferlinghetti first came here, he didn t think 
of himself as a poet. 

Byerly: He didn t? 

Stern: No, not at all, he was just out of the navy, and he had written a 
navy novel. He was a prose writer and then he got involved in the 
bookstore. Wasn t until after he was involved in owning the 
bookstore that he started writing poetry. 

Byerly: Oh, okay. Well, he had a Ph.D. in English though. 

Stern: Oh absolutely. Oh yes, he s a first class intellect and he s a 
great writer. I thought that his new work and poetry was way 
beyond anything he d done before, and when I heard his reading at 
The Bancroft recently, I was really impressed and also gratified. 
It s nice to know peopleso many people sink beneath the waves 
through the years . To see Larry with such a great audience and to 
know how many copies his books sell, I think it s really 
wonderful. He writes in a vein which the public really 


understands and I don t, and I don t expect that kind of level of 
understanding . 

Art as Preoccupation with Technology 

Stern: Well you see, my art spans the historical era of the Beats to the 
preoccupation in art with technology, which was a major influence 
on me, art and technology, to the psychedelic era, which was also 
a technology. There s really not very much difference between 
psychological technology, chemical technology and electronic 
technology. They re all in the world of vibration and feedback 
and the principles obtained through them all. 

As far as I m concerned, LSD is frequency modulation. A lot 
of people don t agree with me, but I see that very clearly. And 
you know, the 60 cycle or multiple scan lines on the television 
don t appeal to me. I don t even like very heavy electric 
presence around the house. I mean, 60 cycles disturbs me when it 
gets too pervasive, but maybe that s simply because I have a lot 
of consciousness of it, having worked with technology and having 
thought about it and the effects of it. But the era of 
technological innovation, let s not even talk about computers, I m 
talking about silicon controlled rectifiers, talking about chips 
in which you can contain information, audio-visual techniques in 
the arts, the back and forth between commercialization and 
advertising and media and the arts is what the context of my years 
in art have been all about. The speed from which an artistic 
movement, let s say, or an artistic style is pictured and 
multiplied and sent out can be very deteriorating to the process 
of art. Instead of developing a long term approach to your work, 
a lot of my colleagues and peers chose very easy solutions which 
seemed like that they would be profitable in the art world, and I 
always felt that that was not what I was into. I wasn t 
interested in exploitation of style as a way of making a living 
for instance. 

Byerly: So you re saying that your art is a reaction to this kind of 
electronic media? 

Stern: Not really, because I probably understood more about what the 

electronic media was all about through my work with McLuhan and 
through the work that we did in multimedia, overload work, and 
meditation environments than a lot of other people did. We used 
it, but, for instance, from the days of USCO to the days of 
Intermedia Systems, when our work was taken out of the context of 


art and into the context of commerce, I very quickly lost interest 
in it. 

Byerly: What is this guitar that I m looking at with the collage on it? 
What is that about? That s a little bit of what I m hearing you 
say that you are resisting. 

Stern: Could you give it to me? Well, no, I m not resisting that at all. 
That s what I consider the possibilities of poetry not being 
necessarily a poem on a page. In other words, there s no real 
sequence in this work. However, these are little associations 
that make sense. "How to get everything" --"how to get" is one 
line. "How to get everything from", on top of it is "spend". 
"And you can, what you said, leading nowhere / Yes people make for 
talent to receive your important, fixed assets it works with 
business, focus, up to the world...." I mean, you can read into 
it things which aren t necessarily any property of any of the 
individual pieces , but they are connectable if you want to connect 
them. The work on the surface can be viewed simply as materials 
that are used to cover a form. What does the guitar mean? And 
this guitar, which is a wooden guitar form for electric guitars, 
resembles for me the guitar formsthis guitar form to me 
represents the same guitar form that you see so often in Braque 
and Picasso and the art of that time as a kind of a symbol of 
muse, you know, of music, of the ability to express. And in 
Wallace Stevens s famous poem "The Blue Guitar", I mean, the 
symbol of the guitar is powerful. I found four of these which 
were being dumped, so I grabbed them. I ve used a lot of 
dimensional forms to collage words on, but it seems to me this is 
the tune that you played on the guitar, Wallace Stevens on the 
blue guitar, but I don t care if it s blue. There s a lot of blue 
in this one as a matter of fact. 



When was it done? When was that piece done? 
process always, right? 

It s a work in 

This particular one was done in February of 1982. Radha knew this 
period of my work because she was around when I was doing it and 
there wasn t another piece that I wanted to give her. I wanted to 
make one especially for her as my daughter, so I chose the words 
for what I felt would be an attention focus that had to do with 
her world. 

Byerly: What you just described to me sounds like lots of ideas that 

haven t been categorized. You can associate, you can read into 
things, you can see what you want to see in some you know, and you 
can connect things . Do you think the symbol of the whole Beat 
generation and the seventies was an opening up, of getting away 


from the staid, repressive fifties and kind of an opening up of 
new categories of kind of free thinking, free spirit, openness? 

Stern: Well, that s one way of looking at it. I mean, I think the other 
way of looking at thatand it s really the same principleis 
that what you re dealing with is not product, you re dealing with 
process. And I m saying that very purposely. I think I brought 
it up beforethe question of understanding that process is 
effect, rather than being product, which is content. This is what 
we re getting at. 

These are words that I used all the time, and when I was 
asked with John Brockman and Michael Callahan to consult for 
General Electric s Lighting Institute, I went down there and their 
motto is "Progress is our most important product." I changed it 
on what we made for them, and I said, "Process is our most 
important product," and the guy who had hired us freaked out. I 
was talking, he got up on stage and he said, "But Mr. Stern, 
that s not our motto, our motto is progress." 

I can t remember his name, but I said, "I m quite well aware 
of that. What I m trying to tell you is that Progress is our 
most important product thirty years ago may have been a motto 
which led you to where you are today, but you asked us to come 
here and tell you what you could do to further yourself in this 
particular era and what I m saying to you is think process. 
Particularly when you re talking about illuminating the world. 
Don t just think about light bulbs, think about illumination." 

It was definitely above their heads . They hired freaks 
because they thought it was interesting and exciting and they 
might get insight, but then they blocked themselves from our 
insights. The problem with the Lighting Institute was that they 
were teaching detail product production and they were not dealing 
with the issues which people deal with when they decide what sort 
of illumination they need in their lives from light, and I m not 
even talking about mystical illumination. 

I love to work with light. I particularly like to work with 
white light, and with intense white light. You go to a restaurant 
and the illumination is supposed to be intimate; it s very low, 
and you can t see what you re eating, but it s supposed to create 
an ambience which fosters the relationship that you and your 
fellow diners want . I think that is appropriate for certain kinds 
of nightclubs or bars even, but, for instance, in a restaurant 
where you are eating preparations which your chef has spent time 
creating, the illumination needs to illuminate the food. I ve 
made that comment to a number of restauranteers and they re 
incredulous: "It s to eat, it s not to look at," which is baloney. 


Presentation these days is what chefs are so involved in as a 
parallel to what the recipe and what the preparation is; the 
presentation is as equally important as the preparation, so you ve 
got to illuminate it. And that s true in so many fields. I mean, 
in the museums there are principles which have to do with how you 
perceive an object, and a lot of those principles have to do with 
how you illuminate it. 

Byerly: Literarily? 

Stern: Yes, literarily. And that s true in works of art. For instance, 
if I m not careful about the balance of black and white and color 
in a piece like this, it starts to get a surface that no longers 
involves you in the words. You just look at it as an image. But 
if it had enough vibrancy here and a lack of consistency there, 
then the words pop out at you, it s not just one little surface. 
So in all those things you think about it and then you do, and 
maybe they work and maybe they don t. 

Relationship between Poetry and Artwork 

Byerly: Is there any relationship between your poem, "Poemthink" , and that 
piece of art? 

Stern: No, not really, I mean-- 
Byerly: None whatsoever? 

Stern: Well, sure, it relates, but the idea of poemthink, and I can 

relate it to this, I think I can probably relate any two things 
that you ask me to relate. 

Byerly: Well that s what I m asking. 

Stern: I don t know if it s specious or not. In other words, the idea of 
Poemthink came to me one night when I was sleepless and thinking 
up poems. I thought to myself, "Now, do I really have the energy 
to get out of bed?" I had left my notebook and my pencil 
somewhere. Usually I ve got one at the head of my bed because I d 
write day and night sometimes. So I thought, do I have the energy 
to get up or should I just play around with these lines and not 
write them down, I mean why do I have to write everything down, 
it s fun to just make them up and hold onto them andthen I was 
immediately struck, this was a concept which turned into 
"Poemthink". I started writing it. When it was my turn to talk 
to the Reality Club here in San Francisco, I got on the plane and 


was going to do something else entirely as my presentation, but by 
the time I got off the plane I had finished the poem. 

Byerly: But Gerd, to me your poetry seems like collage. This art work is 
collage, and I see a lot of similarity in your poems. 

Stern: Well, I should hope so. 

Byerly: But you re saying that there s not, it s not of the same- 
Stern: Well, it s not connected, but sure they re related. This, in a 

way, you could think of as poemthinking , you take these words and 

you paste them down together. 

Byerly: Yes, it s an action. What you re saying is that there are all 
these thoughts running around in the brain, and there s ways of 
connecting and associating and putting them together, and you 
think this is product of that and poemthink is a product of that. 

Stern: If what you re asking is are my poems collages, the answer is yes, 
yes, yes. I started a poem yesterday and what am I collaging, you 
might ask. Very often what I m collaging are words out of 
peoples mouths, or off the radio or anywhere that I find them, 
and the associations are originally mine. Whether those 
associations are powerful enough or have the energy to convey my 
association to the reader is always a question mark. But, then 
what else you have is what s called the a-ha syndrome. You drop 
enough different information into any matrix and there s some a-ha 
for somebody to pick up. That s what we were dealing with in 
multi-media. When you ve got one channel going in the literary 
continuum, like even an old-style movie plot, rightif a person 
isn t into it, they re not into it. There s no way you can 
persuade them that that s something-- Well, when you got forty or 
fifty channels going, number one, if one or two of them gets lost, 
big deal, there s plenty there. There s bound to be something for 
every person there to make a weave for themselves of some kind of 
informational and emotional content which is meaningful, and if 
you superimpose on that a level of meaning which is what your 
intention is, then you have an audience, and you have them in your 
hands, in your power. 

Our major show for many years was called "We Are All One." 
Before that, the name was "Hubbub." Hubbub was from Martin 
Luther, but We Are All One was ours. The content of We Are All 
One is beside the point. We were trying to deal with effect, and 
sure, it came out of the psychedelic movement, it came out of the 
peace movement, it came out of the Beat movement. We Are All One 
is very obvious, right? How to make people feel that in their 
minds and hearts is what we did is we presented this matrix of 


images and we built it up to the point of critical overload and 
then we came down off the overload. Originally, we would stop 
there and it would leave audiences really fucking jangled, you 
know, in an impossible state of mind. It wasn t our intention, 
but we were experimenting; we didn t know what we were doing that 
well. But then we would come down into chanting and images which 
were much more conducive to mandalas and things and people would 
leave ecstatic. You know, oscilloscope images, waving infinity 

Byerly: So people liked that, people responded well to it. 

Stern: Very well at that time, particularly. That was the time when 

people wanted to be reassured that we are all one. I don t think 
that s a reassuring concept in the 1990s. 

Byerly: We are all one. Well, I don t think people relate to it. 
Stern: Not at all. 

Byerly: Now, you said that there was a reaction to your poetry that was 
not as affirmative as to your art, to your multimedia work. So, 
why do you think that was? 

Stern: Well because, first of all, the visual arts is a more friendly 
community, or was then at least. They were more receptive to 
innovation and to experimentation, and wewhen I say we 1 mean 
USCO--were ahead of the game. We were really pioneers, and we 
were playing with stuff which nobody else was playing with, and it 
was very timely and we knew the inputs and outputs relationships 
very well, and we had the venues. In other words, the 
universities and the museums were receptive. They didn t 
necessarily reward us very well for our efforts, schlepping tons 
of equipment around the world, but they wanted to see it and they 
wanted to expose their audiences to it. These days are very 
different. We couldn t do it in the nineties. 

Byerly: Right, right. 

Stern: And California was the epicenter. 

Byerly: Say more about how that world was closed off to you. 

Stern: Well we ve talked about the homosexual coteries, we ve talked 
about the rejection of women. The academic scene was another 
level of removal in terms of poetry. Even to this day, the 
American Poetry Society, which is the national poetry forum- -where 
Allen Ginsberg is a big shot, a number of people I ve known well 
through the past are people who were on the boardthey will not 


accept me as a poet member. I m supposed to pay a subscription as 
a, like, I don t mean this badly, but like you would, like a lay 
person, because I don t have the status as a poet. That pisses me 
off. I wrote a letter to Stanley Kunitz who s another board 
member I ve known. I don t know if he ever got it because I sent 
it to the society and not to him. I don t have his home address 
at this point in my life, and he never answered me. Of course 
he s a man in his eighties, he has that prerogative. But what do 
you have to do to prove that you re a poet in this culture? 

Byerly: To the Literati? 

Stern: Yes, what do you have to do to prove to the academy that you are a 

Byerly: What do you have to do? 

Stern: I don t know. You have to have a certain amount of poetry 

published, and it s got to be published by real presses, and 
you ve got to have awards and grants and things. Now the truth is 
that the ferment in poetry today way exceeds what existed in the 
sixties or the seventies. I mean there are literally hundreds of 
little magazines being published today rather than dozens. 

Byerly: It s still really tough, I understand. 

Stern: You can get published all you want if you don t care where you get 
published. I publish in a little magazine called Ozone which, I 
think the stands for orgasm, and it s got kind of dimly offset 
black and white pictures of naked women in it. Why do I publish 
in it, I don t know, because they like my poetry, right? It s not 
that I don t submit poems to other places, but it s just like 
sending signals out into the storm with nobody to see them. And 
I ve done enough work to do another publication, but I m damned if 
I m going to publish it myself. I think if nothing happens I may 
just put them all on the Internet. I m not intending to make 
money on it anyway, so what s the difference. 

You know my answer to the dichotomy of media technology and 
book culture is kind of a sentence which goes: in a world of 
simultaneous operations, you don t have to be first to be on top, 
and if you apply that to looking at the guitar collage, you can 
see the level of meaning that you can achieve by simultaneity. 
Simultaneity does not necessarily imply equality of each input, in 
other words if you re dealing with x inputs, some of them may be 
foreground, some of them may be background, some of them may have 
inter-relationships and some of them may just serve as carriers, 
there s a lot of possible relationships involved, but if you re 
conscious of the fact that you ve been dealing with a simultaneity 


rather than a sequence, I think it gives you a lot more liberty to 
express yourself in that type of form. I m not saying it s 
necessarily a better form by the way. It s a very different form, 
it s a very different intention, and it s a very different 
communication. It happens to be something that I am very 
interested in. 

Michael Callahan and Video Technology ## 

Stern: Michael Callahan was of the first generation to be exposed to 
solid state electronics and to technological theory which was 
behind the communications media that we were all using, whether 
that was audio tape technology or video technology or switching 
technology, telephonic, whatever it was. Michael was fascinated 
by it and he studied it and he worked with it. He was seventeen 
at the time that he and I locked into each other immediately and 
into new worlds. I don t even remember, you can ask him tomorrow 
how he got to what we were doing to develop into the tape center, 
which is an interesting California artifact. He not only knew how 
to do it, but he knew how to talk about it, I mean, I did not 
understand what a capacitor was all about before Michael. I mean 
that not on a physical practical basis, but on a philosophical 
basis, on a metaphorical basis. If you think of a capacitor as a 
device which charges up to a certain level, and then when that 
level is reached, the threshold becomes apparent, and the device 
discharges, then, as a metaphor, communications-wise, you can 
understand how it has a lot of reverberations. 

He and I shared that type of universe, verbally, and he 
could talk endlessly on that level, and I would write it down and 
feel like I was getting a degree of some amazing kind and I felt 
privileged. We started collaging audio material, which at that 
time meant cutting them because there was no real electronic 
editing then. And it was a delight to work with him because he 
understood music, he had rhythm. He understood poetry even though 
he had no acquaintance with it. We worked together the rest of 
the time I was in California. Before I left for the east and when 
I returned to the east coast and kept on working, I felt like I 
was lost without Michael. Steve and I by this time had achieved a 
working relationship and I explained it to Steve and he said, 
"Well, I don t understand. Why don t you just call him up and 
tell him to get on a plane?" So I did and he did. For the next 
many many years we worked together. 

Byerly: This was in 


Stern: This was first in California, then in Woodstock and Garnerville 
and then in Cambridge. 

Again, we come to a personal problem here. Michael, which 
we may want to excise from this. Should I just not talk about it? 
I don t know. I ll talk about it and you make the decision. He 
comes from a home where his father abandoned them when he was very 
young, and his father was an alcoholic, and indeed Michael became 
or was an alcoholic, and it was very difficult to work with him. 
He would start drinking, and it would get to the point where he 
was totally incoherent. Eventually it was our little public 
company, Intermedia Systems. And one dayI m cutting this all 
short, these problems kept on really--he was crawling up the 
stairs and down the hall and I fired him. It was hard, it was 
harder than divorcing my several wives, you know. It really was, 
but I had to do it. 

And it took about two years and he finally got on antibuse 
and corrected the situation, and he came to me and told me that it 
was the best thing that I had ever done for him. That really made 
me feel good, because I had felt very guilty about doing it. And 
he hasn t had a drink since, and this is maybe a decade and a half 
ago. And he s now very successful in building communication 
controlling devices. He has a business called Museum Technology, 
I wouldn t be surprised if the library or at least the university 
used their CD controllers somewhere. Most museums and educational 
institutions, commercial institutions use the stuff. 

The relationship has continued on that level, if I have a 
question that relates to technology, I call Michael and he 
explains it to me not on the level of solder wires A and B 
together because I couldn t care less, I don t do that. But on 
the level of trying to understand for my poetry what the 
principles that flow through the currents. I think those are the 
rare kinds of minds that can impart these things to one another. 

I think I told you about the incident when I was teaching in 
UC Santa Cruz, when Norman 0. Brown got very upset with me because 
I had the technician from the media center come and talk to my 
students about electricity. He said, "This is not a trade 
school." I said, "You can t live in the twentieth century without 
understanding electricity." And he of course didn t have a ghost. 
Couldn t tell a volt from a watt. How can you understand what s 
going on in the world like that? 

Steve Durkee and Stewart Brand 

Stern: At the time I first met Steve Durkee and we started working 

together on various projects, a friend of his was Stewart Brand, 
who at that time was a lieutenant photographer in the U.S. Army. 
He had been promoted to lieutenant because they had gotten him 
involved in photographing a lot of generals and officers and 
enlisted men weren t supposed to associate with the officers in 
that kind of situations where he was needed so they made him a 
lieutenant, even though he had been a noncommissioned officer, and 
he was a very, very good photographer. He had also done quite a 
bit of parachuting in the army and we knew him in the transition 
period when he was getting out of the army, and he started being 
very interested in the work we were doing in multimedia and got 
involved in photographing for us. 

After he d been involved a while, he moved to the west, he s 
from the midwest and actually he lived on my barge. Stewart loved 
heights. He would climb high tension towers and trees and 
anything that he could. So now, Stewart developed this multimedia 
show with his at-the-time wife called America Needs Indians, 
whichand Lois was a Native American, or is a Native American. 
And it kind of catapulted us into a relationship with Native 
Americans. I had previously had some association in the peyote 
times up in Nevada, and Stewart became very heavily involved in 
the peyote cult. He actually acted as a road man in the ceremony 
and he led several of them. He had a big tepee which wound up 
being a very strong kind of a bonding experience for a lot of 
people that we worked together with. 

See, as I said before, the relationship between the chemical 
technology and the electronic technology is a parallel and 
integrative kind of experience and psychedelics and the borders of 
such technological theories as chaos and even deconstructionism 
are examples of how this kind of experience opens you up to 
understanding what can happen in the physical and emotional 
universe. That s the subject of poetry and it s the subject that 
we were dealing with in multimedia. 

At USCO and our multimedia or environmental arts group, our 
high point was the show at the Riverside Museum in New York, and 
then we moved this tabernacle into the church and we opened it to 
the public. We became a kind of a focus for groups of young 
people who were involved in these streams of consciousness and 
yes, most of them were using drugs of one sort or another but also 
most of them were studying and working and became, you know, 
influential thinkers and doers. When they recycle back into my 


life, I m always quite impressed. The beat, you know as they say 
the beat goes on. 

All right, beatniks--how can you recognize a beatnik, by the 
hair or the thinking process. The people who were attached to us 
were not the same kind of people for instance that were attached 
to Allen [Ginsberg] and Jack [Kerouac] . It was a whole different 
world, it was a world which was much more interested in the 
developments in technology, I mean, in a sense the Beat world 
looked backwards, they looked with sentimentality on alcohol and 
drugs . The psychedelic world looked forwards into a world of 
mystical experience and a world of peace and the use of technology 
for mankind s good. The political agendas of the beats were 
basically rebellion. I think the political agendas of the-- 

Byerly: Hippies- 
Stern: Was raising consciousness and the peace symbol was the major 
symbolic element of the era. 



[Interview 9: July 5, 1996] 

Michael Callahan 

Stern: Michael, a bred Calif ornian, if you will, came into my life at 
a time when I needed a lot of help, and what I d like to do 
today is review the relationship in the context of the work and 
the play and the love and the life that we shared together for 
many years and we are sharing now, though with less an 
intensive day to day schedule, but that s our loss not our 

Callahan: Right. 

Stern: You want to go over, Michael, what you were doing when I met 
you and some of the characters that were involved? 

Callahan: Well, I guess that I first heard about you, I don t remember if 
it was the Life magazine article or Herb Caen or whatever. 
Yours was a name I certainly recognized or was familiar with. 
I guess I first heard about you in 56 or 57. I don t 
specifically remember the context, but certainly as a Beat. 
Then, around 60 or 61, always having been involved in 
electronics, I heard about Ramon Sender and Pauline Oliveros 
and Morton Subotnik doing electronic music, at that point, at 
the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. So I attended a 
concert there one evening when I was in high school, I d say 
probably around "61. And then the tape center, or that group 
outstayed their welcome at the Conservatory and set up 
operations in a quite nice house on Nob Hill, on Jones Street 
which was lent to the group. It was at the tape center that I 
started to meet the people I d heard about, the poets. 

Interview with both Gerd Stern and Michael Callahan. 


Michael McClure was a neighbor of Morton Subotnik s, which I 
believe was the direct connection Gerd and I had. 

Stern: Right, McClure told me to call Morton, and I came down and you 
were there . 

Callahan: Yes. 

Stern: On Divisadero. 

Callahan: Yes, and then I got involved with the tape music center as a 
technician. I had no idea really what I was doing but I 

enjoyed audio. 


Stern: He says technician but he was really technical director. 

The Tape Center 

Callahan: Yes, I was technical coordinator or whatever, but the tape 

center was only temporarily on Nob Hill. That wasn t a good 
place for it because the neighbors were not too cool I 
remember. There was one great eveningI m trying to remember 
who was reading--! think it might have been Gregory Corso who 
was reading at the tape center on Jones Street, and this is 
just a couple of blocks down from the Mark Hopkins, a fairly 
genteel neighborhood. I forgot what the aesthetic dispute was 
about, but it was being picketed by other poets carrying signs 
and saying "Fuck Gregory Corso." This didn t go over terribly 
well with the neighbors. That and the noise. 

So, the tape center found space at 321 Divisadero Street, a 
lovely large old building which had formerly been the 
California Labor School, but I think the California Labor 
School might have packed up when the House Un-American 
Activities Committee came to town. We moved from Jones street 
over to Divisadero Street, I m trying to remember maybe late 
"62, early "63. At that point I was just out of high school 
and going to City College, but basically I was virtually living 
at the tape center, wiring things up. We had a concert 
schedule. There were two studios there on the first floor, one 
of which we sublet to Ann Halperin s dancer s workshop. The 
other studio we sublet to KPFA. So this was a real sort of 
magnet, I mean between the dancer s workshop and KPFA and the 
tape center, it certainly made for some interesting times, and 
we had a performance schedule and KPFA had events and the 
dancer s workshop had events. 


Stern: The performance space held- -do you remember how many people, 
quite a few-- 

Callahan: Yes, at least a hundred. 

Stern: About a hundred, right there on Divisadero Street. It was a 

nice performance space because if there were only forty people 
or if it was filled, the sound still worked. The acoustics 
were good, I remember a piece by Ramon Sender in which he gets 
naked in an old bathtub. There s a little bit of water in the 
bathtub, and with his elbows and his arms and with his knees 
and his legs, he makes all these incredible noises. Really a 
forward-looking definition of music. It took me years to 
persuade Ramon to find that tape and to make me a copy, what 
was it, twenty years, twenty-five years, but finally he did. I 
think we should have a copy of that. So what happened was 
endless milieu. I needed help with performance which was 
cooking, it was definitely not yet done. [laughter] Half 

Stern: So Michael called, I talked to someone I think he said come 

Callahan: Michael McClure. 

Stern: Yes, and there I met three of them, Ramon, Morton, and Michael. 
I don t think Pauline was there. 

Callahan: She wasn t. 

Stern: Which was just as well. Pauline was the, what would you say-- 
the anal influence, because tape generates mess. Lots of 
things generate mess but tape generates a lot of mess and 
Pauline was one of those people who was able to be like my 
father and try to manageabsolutely everything had to be here 
and there. She wrote, how long was the memo that she wrote? 

Callahan: That was fairly long. Was it Pauline who wrote it, or was that 
the PR woman she hired? 

Stern: I don t know, it had her name on it. 
Callahan: Okay, yes, right, yes. 

Stern: It was like five or six pages of instructions on how to keep 

the tape center clean. We had a marvelous time deconstructing 


Callahan: I don t know if that tape exists but Gerd deconstructed this 
five or six page memo and read it as a poem. 

Stern: I read it rather ironically. So I met Michael, I met the three 
of them, and I laid out this idea that I had and what I needed 
was a very complex audio system and Mort just took a look at 
Michael and said, we d love to help. It s Michael s project 
right. Delegation. And the truth is neither Ramon or Morton 
had anything to do with it thereafter. 

Callahan: They were there, at least Ramon was there. 

Stern: They left the whole thing for Michael, this was like, why don t 
you describe the system and the process? 

The San Francisco Museum Show: "Contact Is the Only Love" 

Callahan: Oh boy. It was called "Who R U and What s Happening?" because 
Gerd had a show at the San Francisco Museum, downtown, you 
know, now the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In the show 
was the epic piece, "Contact Is the Only Love", this eight-foot 
octagon with sound, neon. Gerd was very much into exploring 
the authority syndrome of the highway upon, as I recall, the 
contemporary sexual dynamics of America. 

Both: Freeway, highway, safeway. 

Callahan: Freeway, highway, safeway, throughway. 

Stern: Throughway. 

Callahan: You know, you know, you know what I mean, but that came later. 

Stern: So did I. [laughter] 

Callahan: And George Culler, who was the director of the museum at the 
time, was asked to help raise funds to assist in the 
construction of "Contact Is the Only Love" and some other 
pieces in the show. Gerd was living on Hayes Street around 
Gough, Buchanan. The 600 block of Hayes Street. That was 
pretty bohemian, definitely. So George offered Gerd the use of 
the auditorium, probably thinking it would be a poetry reading. 
At about this point, who was it that gave you the manuscript of 
McLuhan s ? 


M.C. Richards, before I left the East Coast 


Callahan: Yes, M.C. Richards. 

Stern: --agreed to stall John Cage about my returning it. I mean this 
was before today s technology. 

Callahan: You couldn t xerox anything. I mean, just totally incredible 
to think, you know, just fax out another one right now. But 
Gerd, I m trying to- -which one was that, that was Gutenberg- - 

Stern: No, no. Understanding Media. 

Callahan: I m sorry, yes of course, as a manuscript of Understanding 

Stern: It was the report that Marshall had written for the National 

Association of Educational Broadcasters on a grant when he was 
still in Canada. He then turned it into Understanding Media 
with very little, if any, editing. The sound for "Contact Is 
the Only Love" is something that Michael and I put together. 

"The Verbal American Landscape" 

Callahan: That was the first sound project, sound- -it was a collage of 

highway themes --it actually was a prototype of what we did for 
the following number of years. The octagon which was what, 
eight feet? 

Stern: Seven. 

Callahan: Seven feet and had a speaker on each side and we had an endless 
loop tape machine so it would just play over and over and there 
were motor- driven cam switches which would cause the sound to 
move around from speaker to speaker. That was "The Verbal 
American Landscape". It called VAL. 

Stern: Yes, I had conceptualized the VAL actually when I was at 

Barbara s as part of the transformer concept. I don t remember 
really whether it was a phrase of mine or whether Steve and I 
in conversation came up with it. Cause I remember that Steve 
was very into the term. It was such a concise description of 
what you could do, I mean I could certainly use it today. For 
instance, when we talked yesterday about the collage, that s 
"The Verbal American Landscape". It s all out of the scape. 
Do you remember, I had a feeling that Stewart did some of the 



Photography? Yes . 





Stewart and Ivan and I went out in the streets of San Francisco 
and I would point to a sign or some word, but I wouldn t just 
want the whole thing, I would want a slide of some part. You 
can t crop afterwards, or you can but it s complicated even 
now. It was even more impossible back then. 

Beyond our technology, then. 

So I would want one word close up out of the sign or out of the 
manhole cover and those slides exist, and should be part of the 
archive. We spent days running around the whole Bay Area 
photographing words . That was actually Stewart Brand s , you 
know the Whole Earth Catalog s first exposure to media, 
multimedia let s say and he and Lois doing "America Needs 
Indians" and a lot of other things before he did the catalog. 
But let s get back to how we managed. 

I think you might describe a little the technology that you 
had available. Michael was able to put into reality ideas 
which had floated around in my head of how you can deal with 
words on tape. My only tape background had been with a little 
wire recorder and so forth of my own, and, at KPFA, I had 
produced and been involved in editing. But fairly doctrinaire 
stuff, notation really, not artistic efforts, poetry, things 
that I told you about that we did. Anyway, this was a long way 
from that, although Michael was quite familiar with the KPFA 
setup . 

Well, I guess just briefly touching on the technology, this 
little cassette machine here is recording in stereo with 
several multiple microphones. In 1963 that weighed a couple 
hundred pounds, literally, and big Ampex tape recorder with the 
separate mixer and the microphone, I mean it was a schlep. 

Was it reel to reel? 

Yes, ten inch reels of tape. Technology like tape recorders 
was around, but decent ones were hard to come by and expensive. 
Everything was expensive because nobody had any money. So 
everything was expensive and it was just early in the 
technology and things were more expensive, so basically we just 
had some loudspeakers, three or four stereo tape recorders 
roughly, a mixing panel, some microphones, not really a great 

You had built the whole system, 
switching bay. 

You had some kind of a 


Callahan: Yes, we had switching bays to make it useful. And we did have 
a three-track, which was very state of the art then, to start 
doing some mixdown. I d briefly like to acknowledge the 
generous donations of Hewlett-Packard, who gave us three audio 
oscillators which we used. And also to JBL that gave the tape 
center a pair of really fine speakers. This was just great, no 
strings generosity, and those are both California companies. 

Stern: JBL s still in business? 
Callahan: Yes. Harmon owns them. 
Stern: No kidding. [laughter] 

Callahan: Sid owns the entire professional audio business. He bought 

Studor, he bought AKG, I mean he just- -yes, but that s another 
story. The main thing I remember about the auditorium at the 
San Francisco Museum is that it was reverberant. The other 
things, well, I was like eighteen or nineteen years old at the 
time. Even with the ensuing thirty-odd years of experience I 
don t think that it would have turned out much different, I 
mean that was a difficult hall to deal with. The idea was to 
have two performances, two evenings, is that right? On stage 
we had a pile of TV sets and some closed circuit cameras which 
were--I mean television hadn t been around that long, you know 
Stern: I don t know how we managed to borrow those, but we did. 

Callahan: Yes, from Sylvania or somebody, somebody big. And the phone 
company, they didn t quite know what they were getting into, 
loaning us a bunch of telephones. You see, you just couldn t 
go out to the hardware store and buy a telephone, because the 
telephone company owned all the telephones so the only way you 
could get a telephone was to steal it. 

Stern: We had the imprimatur of the San Francisco Museum of Art and we 
used it. George was a paragon of help to artists who had no 
reputation, and San Francisco was famous for them. You 
couldn t get in New York in those years, and there was no 
parochialism out here when George Culler was the director. 
Anyway . 

Callahan: I don t quite know where to begin so I ll just start with the 
panel of sociologists, okay. 


Panel of sociologists? 

















Yes. This is as good a place to start as any. So there s a 
table up toward the front of the auditorium that included Howie 
Becker, he was at Stanford, right? 

Yes, and then he went back north 

To Chicago. He wrote the book on marijuana use called The 
Outsiders. His daughter Allison who was twelve or thirteen at 
the time was one of the greeters, if you will, and she was 
wearing a stop sign or yield sign. 

Yield and merge, we have the photographs, we have beautiful 
photographs taken by Fred Lyon. 

Yes, and Barbara Somers, wife or ex-wife of Roger Somers who-- 

At that time wife. 

Wife of-- 

Soon after, his ex. 

For "Contact Is the Only Love," the octagon was built at 
Roger s place in Marin. And Barbara- -bubblepacking had just 
come outBarbara was wearing a bubblepack dress and nothing 
else. So there were four sociologists I believe at a table, 
each one with a phone. Then there were four groups. 

And there were four transparent kiosks on stage. 

Around the periphery, weren t they? And each one, there were 
sixty- four people altogether I think who took part in the 
booths, Allen Ginsberg, who else? 

Herb Caen. 

Lots of people. 
Lots of people. 

They were in groups of four. 

Yes, and each one was the responsibility of a sociologist who 
had the telephone. There was a microphone in each one of these 
four, and there were microphones all over. There were slide 
projectors showing "Verbal American Landscape," and speaking of 


technology, these were the lovely slide projectors where you 
put a slide in one side, slide it in. [laughter] 

Stern: So we had four operators. 

Callahan: Yes, I can t remember. You know. 

Byerly: God, I m starting to feel really old. [laughter] 

Stern: You know, the intention was that this was a phrase. In other 
words there were four slides next to each other each with a 
word or maybe even two words on it from the landscape. These 
were supposed to make context as they went across the screen 
and as they didn t all change at once either, so that the 
associative matrix that I was talking about which is at the 
heart of the possibilities of the logic here, that was like a 
breakthrough for me to be able to put up words on the screen. 

Callahan: It was beautiful, it was really beautiful. 

Byerly: Words like-- 

Callahan: UNO, off a candy bar, U-N-0. 

Stern: Little types of different text and it would be distracting. So 
you can imagine the complexity of the audio because we wanted 
to hear the sociologists. 

Callahan: The sociologists could monitor what was going on, and if they 
thought that things were stalling out, then the sociologist 
could ring up a booth and get things moving. 

Stern: Intervene. 

Callahan: Yes, intervene. 

Byerly: With? 

Stern: With the conversation. But we had four conversations going on. 

Callahan: With four people. 

Stern: At the same time, and we were feeding them into various 
speakers or Michael was. 

Callahan: Yes, we were mixing all these conversations, and we also had a 
number of tapes playing. 


And we were trying to tape it at the same time. 


Callahan: Yes, and we were also mixing in tapes, like we had the time 

signal, we just recorded the time off the telephone. The time 
is--and then we had a lost dog, and all kinds of information. 

Stern: It was definitely a high level of input channels, the highest I 
had ever experienced. We had two levels of actuality 
happening, because we had the intention that we were trying to 
put together this system [for effect?]. And then we had the 
environmental reality of the whole, the people and the 
different space systems that we had set up, and when they all 
interacted, they kind of blew their top. 

Callahan: And howled. 

Stern: And howled. Howl, this was before [Ginsberg s] Howl, was it? 

Byerly: After. 

Callahan: No, this was after Howl. 

Stern: And then we d howl. 

Callahan: Howled, I mean you know because this marble room with all these 
speakers, with all these microphones and all the-- 

Stern: Feedback. 

Callahan: Its feedback was lovely. 

The Reviews; "Landmark of a Flop" 

Stern: It was really nice but it overcame everything and at that point 
in time feedback was not exactly an appreciated phenomenon. As 
you will see if you read, which I gave you Mr. Frankenstein s 

Callahan: "Landmark of a Flop." 

Byerly: What? 

Callahan: "Landmark of a Flop." Page one. 

Stern: It s rare to get an art review of a flop. 


The Technology; Then and Now ## 

Stern: Michael conceptualized the system so that it would work and if 
indeed we hadn t done the environmental situation, it was a 
very clean system theoretically. 

Callahan: I think given the same equipment and the same space I m pleased 
and I don t think it would be much different today, you know 
unless one threw 1990s technology and a lot of money in it. 
Just a quick aside on that, there was a retrospective concert 
of the tape music center in 1990 in a theater in the Mission. 
That was performances or at least playbacks of compositions 
which had been done with the tape music center from say 62 to 
66. And listening to those pieces by Ramon Sender, Morton 
[Subotnik], Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, hey, 
the technology never got in our way really. I mean, this was 
all done on equipment which would be laughably primitive, but 
it was great work, and it struck me that people made damn good 
use out of the technology as it came along. There was 
technology coming along which had been developed for other 
applications. Magnetic tape was certainly for radio and 
phonograph records, but then people started using it to collage 
poems and to compose music. We could have sometimes used some 
better speakers, but we did alright with what we had. 

Stern: Michael, until a year or so ago, was in charge of technology at 
the Carpenter Center at Harvard for many years and there he had 
to cope with a completely different generation of equipment, so 
he has the perspective of over thirty years on equipment for 
audio and visual imagery. By the way, we should mention that 
some pieces of equipment which Michael designed were built at the 
time of USCO at the Garnerville church which we haven t gotten to 
talk about yet, but we will. We thought about giving them to the 
Smithsonian, but if the archive were interested in them we could 
give them to The Bancroft. They re physical, they re not huge 
but they re not small either. They definitely have historic 
importance. In terms of "Contact Is the Only Love." Michael 
helped put that together also, basically electro-mechanical in 
nature, and for many, the first years we had use of electro 
mechanical switches, what do you call those things? 

Callahan: Cams, stepper switches. 
Stern: Stepper switches. 

Callahan: Basically a stepper switch was a telephone device, an 

electrically controlled switch which could make a number of 
contacts. It was huge, they had hundreds and hundreds of 




contacts on them, and we used those to do all sorts of things, 
like we semi- automated the slide projector routine. Three or 
four people out of work. [laughter] 

And also the audio channel. 

Yes , and the audio channels . I totally respect Alfred 
Frankenstein, I mean he was a person whom I grew up reading, 
and he wrote a good review. As I recall, the headline read 
"Landmark of a Flop," and he says, "Some horrendous eggs have 
been laid in the public hall of San Francisco in my time but 
none so horrendous as to score a kind of success." I mean 
that s a good review. 

Yes, exactly. 

"Who Are You and What s Happening?" 





Oh, okay. Yes, "Some colossal flops have taken place in the 
public halls of San Francisco in my time, but Gerd Stern s show 
called Who Are You and What s Happening? 1 is the only one I 
can recall that laid so vast and horrendous an egg as to score 
a kind of success." [laughter] Yes, and there s Allison with 
her traffic sign. But you know, we kept going. One thing I d 
like to mention too, my dear late mother from the south but she 
had come to California in the thirties, was supportive of this 
sort of work. I think a lot of parents would have wigged out, 
but mother, and my Aunt Edith but particularly my mother, were 

Oh yes, they became very friendly, 

Yes, they really moved into 

Yes, they caught on to what it was about. 

In general I think at that period in time, our audiences after 
this time were very mixed. A lot of them were in universities 
and museums, but I would say we had quite a contingent of older 
people and we usually did very well. And then the next step 
was that we got invited and we had to move this whole system up 
to Vancouver. 

Right, in a Volkswagen Bug. 

[laughter] Three people and all of it in a Bug. 
remember the name of the guy there? 

Do you 


Callahan: It s not Alan. I remember what he looks like. 

Stern: Me too. It was like Alan or Albert or, Alvin? 

Callahan: Alvin! 

Stern: Alvin, right. Can t think of his last name. 

Callahan: Horn-rimmed glasses. Alvin yes. And he had a companion, 
didn t he? 

Stern: Yes, they were a bunch who were into early male bonding. 
Billie Master 

Callahan: That was in January, okay, so "Who are You and What s 

Happening" opened like a week before Kennedy was assassinated. 
Then Gerd and I basically went back to work and started on what 
was to become the "Billie Master" collage tape, which you 
should get a copy of if you haven t already. The idea was that 
we were going to make up, which we did, four tapes to be played 
simultaneously and mixed and switched. I think we had to have 
a proto, I guess today it would be called a beta. A beta 
"Billie Master." There was another tape track which was music. 
I mean it was the Beatles , "I Want to Hold Your Hand" radio 
collage. And I guess we also recycled some of the museum tapes 
like Time, the time is 

Stern: And I think we actually used some of the news tapes too. 

Callahan: Yes, and we had some of our own voices because all our 
conversations had been recorded. 

Stern: And that was for Vancouver. 
Callahan: For Vancouver, yes. 

Stern: I mean you can imagine how we felt, having immersed ourselves 
in Marshall s ideas, and then to have this guy Alvin, 
happenstance, to be at the performance in San Francisco and say 
that we ve got to come up to Vancouver and he s going to get 
Marshall to come and speak from the other end of the country. 
He obviously had a little money. But it just seemed prophetic. 
Turned out to be . 


We just kept on working together. In the meantime, I had a 
commission, right? What was that next from the 

Callahan: From the nuns, from Mary Corita and Mary Magdalene. 


Stern: From the sisters. They run, do you know Mary Corita s work? 
Silkscreen, very inspirational stuff, I mean very avant-garde 
inspirational. Kind of the next step from Gerard Manley 
Hopkins. They were two nuns who taught at the-- 

Callahan: Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles. 

Stern: And I had a good friend from the Bauhaus days who, he and his 
wife, he taught art there also. 

Callahan: Paul LaPorte. 

Stern: Paul LaPorte. A submerged talent. I mean a critic of the 
highest ability, and he had gotten me to come one day to do 
collage poetry with the students at Immaculate Heart, they were 
all young ladies. It was not a co-ed institution. I still 
have some of the poems that they put together. I met Magdalene 
and Corita at that time because it was their program, and we 
started talking. They had a collection of-- 

Callahan: Automatea. 

Stern: Some of them very old from the French- - 

Byerly: Automatea? 

Callahan: Yes, music boxes, hurdy gurdies, mechanical toys. 

Stern: Things that moved. 

Callahan: Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful collection. 

Stern: Some things that were wound up. And they had a few 

contemporary pieces, I think they had a Tinquely. And I 
described to them some of the things I was doing and they said 
they would like to buy a piece. At the same time we were doing 
another little commission for that jukebox company. We had a 
friend there-- 


Callahan: It s the same name as everybody--Geor-- 
Stern: George Walker s friend. 
Callahan: Associated Coin Amusement. 

Stern: He was a consultant or something for them. And he got us a 

comission to build a little piece for their headquarters, which 
was in L.A. 

Callahan: No, this was a pinball and cigarette and jukebox exhibit, 

Stern: They gave us a whole bunch of old pinball machines, right? I 
mean, quite a bunch. 

Callahan: Which promptly got moved over to Hayes Street. 619 Hayes? I 
can t remember. 

Stern: Michael took them apart, and that s where we first got into 

stepping switches, right? Out of those pinball machines. And 
we built a "Resurrection." A really amazing piece out of these 
pinball machines, and we delivered too. 

Callahan: On Easter. Or Good Friday or something. 

Stern: And they were so thrilled, and it had a coin thing that you had 
to start it with and we had inactivated it. 

Callahan: It took a nickel to stop it, you could start it for free, 

Stern: Magdalene cut out a little diagram. We had left it so the 

coins would roll on the floor but she attached a little bag to 
catch them. 

Callahan: On the backboard, the display board on the pinball machine 

where normally the scores are kept, we put a piece of --is there 
a picture in here? We have a film of it in action somewhere. 
But in this white plexiglass which could be lit up, Gerd wrote 
a poem so like one corner said "high", "free", "safe" and 
"through" were in the corners, and the middle was a big "way". 
It was also written to the sound of all these hundreds of 
relays, because these were all electromechanical and they were 
noisy. But the thing I really remember about it was we had 
UNO, U-N-0, and then "What I mean," but there was this 
wonderful- -"UNO, UNO, UNO what I mean, UNO, UNO, UNO what I 
mean. " 


Stern: I m sure that piece exists. I don t know, they left the 

convent afterwards, so I wonder what happened to those pieces. 
They also bought a new one, right? 

Callahan: Yes, that was a few months later. I d forgotten about that 
picture. Except it s named in Drama Review. 

Byerly: You have this picture here? This picture, do you have this 

Stern: The actual photograph, you mean? 

Byerly: Yes. 

Stern: Probably. 

Callahan: Yes, I think there s a film on it, an old Bolex film maybe. 

Byerly: Is this Yvonne Rainer? No. This is your friend Ivan right. 

Callahan: Does he go by Ivan or Yvonne? 

Stern: Ivan. 

Callahan: Yvonne Rainer was later. At this point I was pretty clear to 
me what I was going to be doing. So I left City College which 
was boring anyway. And then I sort started doing the tape 
center and then working with Gerd. We would tend to do the 
collage work at night, start when the studios were free, go 
until morning, and then over to the tape center during the day. 
Schlepping out to City College wasn t worth it. Something had 
to give. 

Stern: It was fairly sleepless. 
Callahan: So were you. 

Stern: Sometimes he was in a real comatose state. That is not the 

kind of state that you want to be in when you re cutting tape 
and trying to get it to beat, I mean the problem was that when 
you had to cut it instead of electronically edit, you didn t 
really have a precise enough plus or minus point of reference. 
You had to be very intuitive, certain, even the inches weren t 
that easy to do, because each machine stops at a different 
pace, right? And as the days go on, the machine gets a little 
tired even the pace changed, in those days. 


Callahan: You know, when you cut the tape, you had to be careful. You 

always made another copy of the tape, a backup copy before you 
start cutting. But then that would get messy. 

Stern: Yes, you could lose quality very easy, and there was no way of 
regaining it . 

Callahan: Yes, I mean quality--! mean pre-Dolby, pre-everything. Hey but 
that was part of the dynamic, I mean that was it, that was the 
process. Process was our most important product. 

The Billie Master and NO OW NOW 

Stern: The "Billie Master," as far as I m concerned, I think Michael 
agrees with me, still stands up. We wouldn t want to make it 
any better or worse. It s a beautiful piece. A lot of it is 
thanks to KPFA. How did we, what did we do, we raided them? 

Callahan: No. Went over one Saturday, went over there and Irwin 

Stern: Okay, you remember I worked at KPFA right? I mean Irwin who 
had been-- 

Callahan: He was the chief engineer. 

Stern: We talked him into letting us come over and do some work there. 
I don t think he was aware that we wanted to use a lot of 
material, which I had really been responsible for a lot of it. 
It wasn t exactly policy to let independent artists use up all 
the tape archive. We copied a piece out of that and we copied 
pieces out of a lot of things, and that made the "Billie 
Master" possible. 

Who was the architect? Anyway 

Callahan: Yes, the guy at Berkeley. Maybeck, yes. 
Byerly: Maybeck? 
Stern: So, but you ll get the whole list. 

Callahan: "NO OW NOW" was the first thing in Woodstock, but that was a 
few months later. 


Stern: And we actually did it for them in Woodstock. We built three 
of them, right? 

On the Road Performances and Noteworthy Meetings 

Salt Lake City Performance 

Stern: Eventually, Judi and I took off across the country. We did 

some performances along the way, including a disastrous one at 
Salt Lake City, Utah, which I did not arrange. A friend of 
Ivan s taught there but I guess he neglected to tell the friend 
about the subject of the film which he, Ivan and I made and 
which Michael did the sound for. That was another project we 
did all in just a few short months. The soundtrack executes 
entirely the intention we had with mixing the highway signs 
with the travel across a nude body. When that hit the screen 
in Salt Lake City, Utah they turned off the electricity, packed 
me up without much ado and sent me packing. 

Callahan: Didn t they issue arrest warrants or something for all of us? 

Stern: That was Eugene, Oregon. Same film, I think I already told 
that story. 

Callahan: I ve never been able to get over that. I had this dream a 

dozen years ago when my children were little. We were flying 
out to San Francisco and the back door of this big plane blew 
open and my son was sucked out but I grabbed him and was 
holding him by his legs and he s hanging on. A flight crew 
says, "Oh, we ll be landing right away," and I look down and I 
see it s Utah and I call back, "No, I m okay, keep going." 

Stern: Anyway, so when we got there, Michael had met Steve and Barbara 
by this time because they came out when? 

Callahan: Yes. 


Charles Campbell s Gallery, California State University at 
Hayward, California College of Arts and Crafts 

Stern: Or was that afterwards, no it was before. We did that one 
piece at the gallery at the architects . Was that Charles 
Campbell s gallery? I don t remember. 

Callahan: We also did a thing over at California College of Arts and 

Stern: We were doing all these performances and the essential thing 
for the performances was of course electricity. So we had to 
cement relationships with, never mind the professors and the 
administrators, janitors were the important scene. 

Callahan: Janitors are the true flowers of life. We were always blowing 
fuses . 

Stern: Never had enough juice. 

Callahan: We had never seen such old slide projectors, basically from the 
gas age. 

Stern: That was true with California, it s still is we blew lots of 

Callahan: Yes, we also blew Hayward in 66. And the panels were locked, 
circuit breaker panels. 

Stern: We committed mayhem at various institutions through the years 
just trying to get the show on the road, or in the street. We 
usually managed to deliver despite the obstacles. 

Callahan: I remember coming back from CCAC, Gerd and I were driving back 
to San Francisco. Ken Kesey was over there, first time I met 
him. I remember we were stuck in traffic, Gerd rolls down the 
window of the Volkswagen, hollers to no one in particular, "I m 
Gerd Stern and I ve got to get through." [laughter] 

Stern: I don t remember those years. That was on the way to the 

Callahan: Yes, I can t remember, yes, I remember I was over in Oakland. 
Stern: We were often late. 
Callahan: No, not that often. 


Stern: Not that often. I mean it took forever to set up these things. 

Callahan: You never knew what the reaction was going to be, because there 
could be some hostility but some people would get it. It would 
be like there s this guy in Rochester, an English professor who 
sponsored us. He said, "You know, I never could stand the 
supermarket, I always hated the supermarket." That after 
seeing "The Verbal American Landscape" he could see, because a 
lot of the collage, both Gerd s collage and the collage that we 
were doing on the screen with multiple projectors, a lot came 
from the marketplace. From commercials. But, at the same 
time, this other English professor came staggering up, this was 
after performance, came staggering up, the same evening, the 
same reception and said, "You know, you re nothing but a 
middle-class bourgeois apologist." So we had those responses, 
and now Rochester was fairly tame, New York. I m skipping 
ahead, that is the second time we did a joint thing with 
McLuhan, later that year. 

Stern: We had a lot of negative reactions from people. 

Byerly: Steve [Durkee] had hired the band? 

Stern: The band which was local to that school, RISD, actually Steve 
had heard them rehearsing somewhere. While we were setting up 
he wandered about so he asked them if they would play during 
our show. That enraged this professor. The next day--oh I 
don t know, you know, it was so noisy- -he was literate, you 
know. Nineteenth century literature professor-- 

Callahan: There was enough going on without the band. We had three or 

four movie projectors or a half dozen slide projectors, and the 
audio mix. 

Stern: Anyway, the next morning he invited us to a seminar of his, and 
he absolutely took us apart in front of his students. 

Callahan: Oh yes, it was vicious. For the RISD student paper, there were 
some students there with the long lens getting our faces . They 
took a picture of me rubbing my temples under the headline 
"Visual Rape". [laughter] 

Stern: We had a good time, and they had a good time. 

Callahan: Just one more thing on that. A couple of years ago, a very 
talented media producer in Boston, Fred Brink, and I were at 
some Christmas party or something, and I asked him what he 



thought about a particular new technology and he says oh, no, 
that s just a rehash of the old stuff. I mean, there really 
have been only two good things. One was the Czech pavilion at 
the 1967 Montreal Expo, and he said the other, when he was a 
student at RISD, these people showed up in this old limousine 
with a trailer full of slide projectors and they had dancers 
and they had strobe lights, and they had slide projectors, and 
they had a rock band, and they had film, and they had a big 
oscilloscope that some guy was sitting on. [laughter] And I 
said, "Oh yes, that would have been around December 6, 1965, 
wouldn t it?" And he said, "Well yes, how do you know?" "Well 
I was sitting in the orchestra pit at the control panel." 

I think maybe Fred s case is extreme but seventies 
psychedelic art really catalyzed his career for him. He got 
it, and he knew exactly what was going on. 

There was a lot of that, we attracted a lot of people who were 
coming out and hadn t quite understood the possibilities. That 
was very gratifying. 

IBM Meeting 

Callahan: In the summer of 66, we went to see IBM to straighten them 
out. I think also to get grant money from them. 

Stern: We went to where? 
Callahan: IBM on Madison Avenue. 
Stern: Oh, right. 

Callahan: Sounds egotistical because the technology was not really there 
to implement it, but basically we tried to explain our work to 
this guy who had this like ten foot wide desk. You and Steve 
and Stewart and I were there and this was IBM white shirt 
Madison Avenue. But we laid out the whole damn multimedia 
world to them, and boy, did they blow us off. We were out of 
there in a hurry. It would have been interesting if the guy 
had paid a little more attention. 

Stern: So, Michael arrived in New York. Steve and I were very anxious 
even to have him come and eventually it happened. We were 
actually commuting because I was still living at the Maverick 
house in Woodstock, Judi s house really. Now there were three 
of us in a fairly confined space. It was so confined that 


Michael used to pile up everything under his bed, and after a 
while the bed arose from the floor, and was ensconced on top of 
piles of other things. But it was a lovely little house with 
electricity but no plumbing, and an outhouse. We did a lot of 
concentrated work there, but we commuted back and forth from 
the church in Garneville and eventually we moved down there, 
but that was some time later. What was the first thing we did 
Michael when you came back? 

University of Rochester 

Callahan: I left San Francisco, let s see August 18th 64. Then got to 
New York and went to the church, then we went up to Woodstock, 
you all greeted me at six o clock in the morning at Kennedy. I 
think that at that point, was getting ready for the October 
event at University of Rochester with Marshall McLuhan. They 
basically gave us like a month or a month and a half or 
whatever to build whatever. And also there was a, what was the 
name of the box with mattress ticking? 

Woodstock Artists Association 

Stern: Oh, I don t know. This was a piece that we built for the 

Woodstock Artists Association annual show, I think I was at 
that time vice chairman of the association which is a very old 
artists association in the center of Woodstock, New York. It 
played a fairly large role in our work during a couple of years 
there, because a lot of the younger artists in Woodstock became 
involved with and worked on our pieces . 

Callahan: Yes, I think that I worked on that piece and showed it in New 
York, someplace on Fifth [Avenue]. Wasn t really a museum. 

Stern: Architectural Forum or something? 

Callahan: Yes, something. Architectural Forum or whatever. Oh yes, and 
the Byron Gallery. 

Stern: The Byron Gallery Box Show is what we were fixing "NO OW NOW" 
for. It was interesting 

The Box Show 


Callahan: The box show. 

Stern: The box show, we had built some pieces which were basically 
boxes and we were solicited for this box show and the guy 
looked at our work and he said, no, no, no, no, no I can t 
manage. They were all very funky pieces, and he was a kind of 
a glitzy gallery, so-- 

Callahan: Upper Madison Avenue. 

Stern: We had to repackage the "NO OW NOW". "NO OW NOW" comes out of 
a mantra which somehow came to me while we were high at the 
church, it goes, "Take the NO out of NOW, then take the OW out 
of NOW, then take the then out of NOW-NO-OW-NOW-NO-OW-NOW." 
And Michael found these pieces, you tell about them. 

Callahan: Getting back to the available electromechanical technology, 

there s this wonderful place in Kingston, New York called P and 
D Surplus, Phil and Don. And Kingston, at that point, was home 
base for a very large IBM mainframe computer factory where they 
would make big computers. In 1964, IBM had just brought out 
the 360 series of computers, which was designed to replace 
everything they made. IBM, at that point, was leasing 
computers, so they were able to call in all their older vacuum 
tube and early computers on lease and basically get people to 
upgrade to 360s . So P and D was where all these old computers 
would go, and so this was a great source of parts, I mean like 
the stash of pinball parts we had here, this was even better. 
So we found these little tiny light bulb matrices which we 
wired the bulbs in to form the letters N, 0, W. And then had a 
stepper switch which made a resounding clunk, which would go 
and turn on the lights in the order that Gerd just described. 
And it had a remote control for your convenience at the end of 
a twenty foot cord so you could vary the rate at which it 
stepped through, or it could be single stepped, you had push 
buttons. It had a manual and auto switch on it, so it would 
either run by itself or you could flip it to manual. 

Prayer Wheel 

Stern: If you want to know what kind of the prototype or the, you 
might even say, inspiration for this kind of a piece was, I 
don t know, maybe you could guess, but it was prayer wheels. 


had been exposed to ghost traps and prayer wheels at some 
lectures here years ago. Also, one of those influences that I 
haven t talked enough about was Grace Clements. She and I 
produced a series of talks on Jung at KPFA, and she got me 
involved in helping her garden for money because I was really 
strapped at the time. We worked in her terraced, succulent 
gardens in Richmond, developing this idea of a symbology that 
we were going to produce together which we never could find any 
funding for. But, the prayer wheel is a fascinating kind of 
exercise, taking prayer outside of the mouth and "NO OW NOW" 
was simply an extension of that kind of idea. 

Remsen and Rosie Woods, Process for Making Diffraction 

Callahan: So we worked on "NO OW NOW", and we also had a commission from 
Remsen Wood who founded the Diffraction Company in Riderwood, 
Maryland. Rem had invented a process for making diffraction 
gratings, and that was the first time that it was possible to 
produce a really brilliant spectrum, because with this 
technique, they were just stamped out like miniature phonograph 
records, rather than being produced by an extremely expensive 
laboratory process. And the diffraction gratings are certainly 
around today and they re all made using Rem s process. So we 
were working on various diffraction grating. We had some 
diffraction gratings imprinted with "NO OW NOW" around the 

Stern: Talk about the piece that we built the technology for that you 
figured out for the triple diffraction hex and the seven 
diffraction hex. The one that was sold to Malcolm Forbes. 

Callahan: Right. That was, go down to P and D Surplus, Kingston is only 
fifteen miles from Woodstock. Make these frequent trips down 
to P and D and Phil and Don are both very sweet and gave us a 
charge account, which was very helpful, not that the stuff was 
all that expensive. We got some motors and Judi made up these 
elaborate diffraction grating wheels about six inches in 
diameter. We were also starting to work with strobe lights. 
We were interested in time, time and motion. So we had this 
box with these three spinning diffraction wheels and again 
controlled by a stepper switch with its thunk. The wheels 
would spin in different directions at different speeds and 
incandescent lights would come on at different angles to bring 
out the color, and then there would be a strobe light to stop 
the motion. We still have that, Gerd s triple diffraction hex, 


and that was shown quite widely. Yes, and then there was a 
larger piece that Malcolm Forbes wound up buying, which was 
seven. In the USCO retrospective book, that s "Our Time Base 
Real." It s called "Our Time Base Real". And that was sort of 
a "NO OW NOW" as it went together, dots there are the 
lightbulbs. And that s the circuit that drove it. 

Stern: Yes, tell her about the circuits, it s a fascinating circuit. 
It depended on something which had just come in, right? 

Callahan: Yes it was in the early sixties, about that time in the sixties 
certain types of transistors and semiconductors were just 
coming on the market, I mean which allowed things to be done 
which just really either couldn t have been done before or just 
not practical like things we take for granted today like little 
light dimmers built into walls is no big deal, but up until the 
invention of the triac and the silicon controlled rectifier, it 
was just not easy to dim lights up and down. We were trying to 
get away from motors. "Contact Is the Only Love" was basically 
driven by a motor. A motor would turn around and there would 
be these cams and there would be switches, riding on the cams, 
sort of like a music box. It wasn t very versatile in terms of 
being able to change the program. So this point we were taking 
surplus IBM, old computers. We weren t really using them as 
computers, but we were taking these computer parts, trying to 
advance our own state of the art if you will. 

Our Time Base Is Real 

Stern: This, "Our Time Base Is Real" is a timing circuit, right? And 
what does it depend on? It s a triac or-- 

Callahan: A Unijunction transistor. And that was the basic circuit that 
we used for years, because as it turns out we could control 
lights in it, we could control when slide projectors changed, 
we could control how bright the slide projectors were, so that 
was a very useful circuit. I think that s probably why it s 
included in that book as "Our Time Base Real" , or as Durkee 
would say, "Is Real". 

Stern: But, having a foundation like that, a technological foundation 
of a circuit which Michael developed just made all kinds of 
things possible and the shows that hadn t been possible before. 
And it was possible to do them as a control function rather 
than as a manual function. We didn t have to go actually 
manually trip the slide projectors, they tripped themselves and 


we could decide when they tripped either beforehand or during 
the show itself, so there were dynamic possibilities that were 
opened up for such a performance. It was really the basis for 
us eventually going up to Boston and putting together a little 
business, because it was Michael s circuits that made the 
hardware. There were no hardware control units at that time 
available, now there are what, twenty companies making things 
like that? 

Callahan: Now at least. Countless. 

Stern: Michael himself has more lately developed control units which 
of course are what, two or three generations ahead of where we 
were then at least. 

Callahan: Yes, so far ahead because everything has a little microcomputer 
in them. You know what we ought to do in our retirement is go 
back and apply nineties technology to our sixties aesthetic and 
see what we could come up with. What do you say about that Mr. 

Stern: I m all for it, 100 percent. IBM went right ahead and did 

exactly what we suggested to them was the next step, except it 
took them about five or ten years. They put together a very 
elaborate audiovisual, multimedia remote communication center, 
and it was I would say nonfunctional at the end because it was 
so highly designed that they designed the people right out of 

Callahan: Just jumping back a little bit, when the tape was off I just 
wanted to go over what seems to be incredible how much we did 
between October of 63 here in California and Easter of "64, 
you know the six-month phase included "Where Are You and What s 
Happening," "Contact Is the Only Love," and "Resurrection," for 
Magdalene Mary and Mary Corita. I mean there was just 
something happening constantly, "Billie Master," we pretty well 
finished the "Billie Master" here, the tape. 

Visual Gallery Shows 

Stern: Two or three different visual gallery shows and another couple 
or three, didn t we go to San Jose too? 

Callahan: Yes. 


Stern: I remember I did a poem about pop art with slides at San Jose 
State which I think I found the other daythe poem, I don t 
know that I have the slides. It was quite an interesting 
history, I ve got to get that for the Bancroft Archives. 

Callahan: And also during this time in March of 64 approximately, the 

tape music center had the Tudor Fest. And David Tudor and John 
Cage came out in a week long concert series. That certainly 
attracted a crowd, and a very interesting crowd, those who 
would come for John and David. That was a major event. 

Counter Influences in New York 

Stern: Absolutely, David, I knew him from New York because he lived 
with M.C. Richards in the community, at "The Land" and John 
also, he had an apartment in New York but mostly he lived up at 
"The Land." There were a lot of the counter- influences, in 
other words M.C. and David were very involved in anthroposophy. 
We were doing multimedia and the rock world was very receptive, 
then the psychedelic world intruded and these liquid light 
shows became very popular, we never got very involved with them 
because we were dealing with actual images more but a lot of 
our associates and friends were involved, Tony Martin for one. 
I had originally met Tony because he was David Stone Martin s 
son. David was a famous cover artist and kind of political 
painter who afterwards settled in California from the east. 
Tony was his son and he was probably the best of the light show 
artists. When Subotnik went to NYU he went with him or shortly 
afterward and I think he s still there. 

Callahan: Yes, Tony s in Brooklyn. Tony did some light shows at the tape 
music center which were the first ones that I had seen, also a 
fellow who I ve never heard of since, Elias Romero. 

Stern: [laughter] That s right, I forgot about him. 
Callahan: Did a wet show at the-- 
Stern: And we called them wet shows. 

Callahan: At the tape music center, and then Tony was doing light shows 
at the Fillmore in 66. 

Stern: That s right. 


Bill Graham 

Callahan: I remember I went to visit him there and Bill Graham chased me 
out of the booth. 

Stern: [laughter] Bill, he was an interesting type, you know? He was 
a refugee, that wasn t his name at all. When I first knew him, 
he was doing the management of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. 
He had a lot of ideological tension in those days, and of 
course he kind of kept them on a super level, even later on but 
he got very greedy. Very greedy. Greed has transformed a lot 
of people in our worlds into kind of monsters. 

The Wet shows 

Stern: The wetshows, that has a slightly pejorative flavor for us, but 
I don t think we initially meant it that way, do you? 

Callahan: No. 

Stern: It s very easy to do a lousy wetshow. It is not quite that 
easy to do a lousy show with images, because they speak for 
themselves. We took later on a huge wetshow down to Venezuela, 
probably at that time the best in the business, the Pablo Light 
Show. That was an immense success, they had never seen 
anything like that, it was on an immense screen. Anyway, that 
was much later. What are we up to Michael? 

Ronny Davis and the Mime Troupe 

Callahan: I was just doing a quick rehash of the period of fall 63, 

spring 64, the Tudor Fest. Ronny Davis and the Mime Troupe 
were also in and out of the tape music center at 321 
Divisidero. Everybody was in and out, as I started off by 
saying, between KPFA, the dancers workshop and the tape music 

Stern: Ann Halprin. 


Ann Halprin 

Stern: Ann Halprin was one of the most respected artistic 

personalities at that time in the Bay Area. We had bumped into 
her through Harry Partch and she was a good friend of the 
Onslow Fords, et cetera, et cetera and Ann- -I tried very hard 
to get Ann to commission a piece for Harry Partch and you know 
how some peoples egos were. She felt that-- 

Harry Partch s Morals ## 





--the power of the visuality of the instruments of the music 
would overpower the dance. So she wanted him to write a piece 
for normal, as she called them, instruments. Well, I mean this 
was total anathema, right? Harry had spent his whole life 
developing a theory and a practice of music and here she was 
supposed to be one of his fans and she was asking him this, I 
mean it was war. It was often war with Harry, Harry was no 
compromise, I mean we had an opportunity to do a science 
fiction movie in Hollywood with his music and he just 
absolutely wouldn t hear of it. You got to remember he was the 
child of missionaries in China, had a strong moral sense. And 
Michael became involved with Harry also. I dragged Michael 
into every situation that- 

Needed recording, 

And here I am still holding the microphone. 

You want to say something about Harry? 

Well, in 64 Harry was living in a chicken coop in Petaluma and 
had just I believe finished, I don t know if it was his last 
but certainly one of his later compositions, "And on the 
Seventh Day, Petals Fell in Petaluma." And we recorded it in 
this chicken coop, he had all his instruments there, beautiful. 
And Gerd had helped build- -what all instruments had you worked 
on, I mean the marimba, or the Eroica. 

Quite a few of them. The Kithara, the Marimba Eroica, and then 
a lot of variations of other instrument. But Harry, I think 
I ve said this before, Harry s main phrase was if you want it 
done right, do it yourself. And then he would get together 
works which took twenty or fifty people and yet, everyone of 
those fifty tasks, he believed wholeheartedly that he could do 
it better himself. Not an easy guy to work with. 


Callahan: We had a number of recording sessions in this chicken coop, and 
among the other technical difficulties, one was the wavelength 
of the sound of the Marimba or Eroica, which was just too big 
for the room so it was difficult to record. That was putting 
out sixteen hertz or something close, so it posed a number of 
problems there, and not the least of which was that the chicken 
coop was being demolished around him. I guess in 64 real 
estate values were going up in Petaluma so this chicken coop in 
Petaluma had more value to the owners than renting it to Harry 
Partch for probably not much money. That was quite an 

Stern: What were you recording on at that time? 

Callahan: Ampex and some Altec microphones. 


Stern: Now where did you get, is it Grandpa? 
Callahan: Cramps, yes. 
Stern: Cramps, right. 

Cramps; A Classic Big Ampex Tape Recorder 





Cramps was actually a classic big Ampex tape recorder, 
that out of Alexis . 

Ah hah, right! I forgot all about that. 

I got 

One of the things that delayed my departure to Woodstock was, 
Gerd used to do public relations for Alexis Merab, of Alexis 
Tangier Restaurant. 

This was in a previous incarnation, right, when I was married 
to Ann, but I kept up old associations, like a free dinner at 
Alexis was not something that you passed off very easily. So 
Alexis wanted a sound system? 

Yes, I think he was getting on in years a little bit and he had 
the idea of having a discotheque in a converted banquet room at 
1001 California Street, Nob Hill, diagonally across from the 
Fairmont and the apartment building where the Hearsts had their 
San Francisco place. It was quite a scene. So we put in a 
sound system, discotheque sound system, July and August of 64 
and that s what delayed my getting back to Woodstock. But that 
was a funny scene. 


Stern: But how did you abstract Cramps from that scene, I mean this 
was at the time a valuable, valuable piece of equipment. 

Callahan: Well, he had a background music system and they had this big 

tape recorder there andyou know, it d use big ten inch reels 
of tape but even on ten inch reels of tape in those days, 
you ve only got an hour. And then you d have to rewind it and 
put on another reel of tape every hour. This task was assigned 
to either a waiter or Andre, the maitre d 1 , who was fearful of 
it because you d have these 2400 foot reels of tape that would 
rewind in sixty seconds, you know, start torquing out and he 
was terrified that it would put an eye out. 

Stern: A prototypical Frenchman. 

Callahan: So, I replaced that with a background music machine which 

played at a slower speed and would automatically reverse. So 
part of my compensation with Alexis was that I got this tape 

Stern: That tape recorder served us for--you still have it right? 
Callahan: Still have it. Used it just the other day. 

Stern: It s a classic, it s what KPFA was built on and what all the 

early music recording studios were built on. I mean, then when 
we got our music studio in Boston, we got the first of the 
sixteen track models of that same machine really, not 
descendants, two or three generations up from that. And it 
wasn t very different really, except that it was bigger, and it 
used two- inch tape instead of quarter inch tape. 

Maenetic Tape. 1963 

Callahan: Basically, the one enabling technology was magnetic tape, 

because collage performances were all made possible by magnetic 
tape. Speaking in 1996, that sounds a little strange, but in 
1963 magnetic tape had only been a practical- 
Stern: Medium. 

Callahan: Medium really for about ten years. I mean certainly the 

earliest was 1948, 1949, but it didn t really get out there. 

Stern: Where did it come from, Michael? 


Callahan: Well, largely from Germany. Ampex, Jack Mullin who lived in 
San Francisco brought back two German magnetophones and Ampex 
was casting about for products. People at Ampex improved it 
and brought the magnetic tape recorder into production. 

Refugee Syndrome 

Stern: I felt kind of funny at first, because I was aware that it was 
German war technology. I mean the refugee syndrome is 
definitely a paranoid syndrome which has to be repressed often. 
And it s pursued me all through my life. I haven t allowed it 
to get the best of me yet I don t think, but it affects your 
whole thought process, having to flee from what? 

Byerly: Marriages? 

Stern: [laughter] That too. 

Callahan: Utah. 

Stern: Utah, Germany, I mean having to flee for your life. So I m 

fleeing from, I m continually fleeing from my life, right? And 
she s right, marriages. "Cave canum" , you know, right? Beware 
of the dog. 

Callahan: You know there s one thing too which I don t think in any of 
the earlier times we ve gone on record thatin USCO okay we 
triumphed for weirdo, beardo and electro. One thing. 

Byerly: Weirdo, Beardo and Electro? 

Callahan: Yes, I didn t have a beard then, but all of us had lost a 
parent at an early age. I mean Gerd his mother, Steve his 
mother, and me my father. I don t know how that affected us, 
it s hard to say exactly how that affected the dynamic of us 
working together but I m quite sure it did, in many ways, some 
subtle, some not so subtle. I don t really know what to say 
about that but I did just want to work that into the record, 
that that was something that has not really been addressed in 
any previous historyis that right Gerd? 

Stern: Yes, absolutely. In each case there was a feeling of 

abandonment. I don t think I ve expressed it too much in my 
work, it certainly influenced my work. Steve expressed it very 
literally on a number of occasions. Michael-- 


Callahan: Yes, my father was an electrician and I think at age four I 
picked up his wirecutters, soldering iron and just continued 
his work. So the loss of my father basically determined my 
career. I had his tools and my mother, bless her, didn t freak 
when I started plugging things in at an early age. 

Stern: Unlike my father, who when I fixed the lamp took it back to the 
hardware store and said, "fix it" and they said it s fixed. He 
said "I want you to check it out." He didn t believe any son 
of his could fix or even unplug an electric wire. 

Anyhow we went on to Rochester. Yes. We had this 
relationship going with the people across the river at--what do 
they call themselves? 

International Federation for Internal Freedom 



International Federation for Internal Freedom. 

AKA Castalia 




Castalia Foundation, Millbrook the center, the epicenter of the 
psychedelic movement with an enormous house belonging to the 
Hitchcock clan which were kind of Mellon-connected and also the 
father, Tommy Hitchcock, had been a famous playboy in American 
annals . 

Polo playing. 

Yes. And his two sons and his daughter were completely 
involved in the movement and extended the hospitality of their 
humongous estate- - 

A hundred rooms . 

All filled with freaks. Unbelievable, including us. You never 
knew who would be there when you got there, you know? 

G. Gordon Liddy. 
G. Gordon Liddy? 
Well he busted the place, you know. 

All kinds of music people and jazz and rock, and artists and 
academes from all over the place, religious figures, and just 
kind of hangers-on. And a lot of nubile twits, who were 


constantly taken advantage of, as if they didn t like it, 
right? It wasn t nice, it was not a nice environment. It was 
an environment where a lot of people were using, a lot of 
people were manipulating, and a lot of people were hanging on 
because they didn t have any other place to go. On the other 
hand, politically and in terms of a movement towards 
consciousness and toward liberation, was definitely the major 
sense of what was going on there. And we became involved 
because we believed what they were doing was akin to what we 
were doing. On the other hand, I believe that they were simply 
fascinated by the surface of what we were doing and felt that 
it was something that they could use to further their ends. 
When they kind of ran out of money and got badly into debt, a 
friend of theirs in New York extended a theater, what was it 
called the New Theater. 

The Timothy Leary Lectures 

Callahan: The New Theater. Midtown. 

Stern: And, what are we going to do that evening, I mean their natural 
impulse was to call us up and say, you do the media show and 
we ll do the lecture. Lecture, mind you. 

Callahan: Oh yes, Tim would lecture. 
Stern: And we were bored. 

Callahan: As I recall, ostensibly Tim and Dick saying, well we re looking 
for some way to give people a taste without actually ingesting 
anything, which I never totally bought. 

Stern: I mean simulation. 

Callahan: Yes, they were using us for simulation. But on the other hand 
we got some bread out of it, we split the gate or something. 
You know, we didn t have any money. And it was interesting, 
but it was also quite a schlep into New York every week from 
Woodstock to set this thing up and tear it down. 

Stern: Was that where we had the fucking perforated screen? 
Callahan: Yes. 

Stern: Ay yai, this was the brilliant idea executed in a dangerous and 
essentially--! mean this is what you get into in technology, 


right? What we wanted was to be able to strobe images from the 

Callahan: Yes, strobe lights. 

Stern: So we needed either transparency of some kind or a perforation, 
well we selected perforating and the easiest thing to buy that 
was preperf orated were masonite panels you know which had-- 

Callahan: Pegboard. 
Stern: Pegboard. 
Callahan: The thing that did us all in. 

Stern: At one point it crashed onto the stage, I mean it was heavy, 
and we were flying it, in theater terms. We were very lucky 
not to have any dead bodies under it. 

Byerly: Not to have killed anybody. 

Stern: Under that. It worked fine, but it was impossible to 

transport, we gave it up pretty soon thereafter. They were 
very successful performances and we had also gave the 
opportunity to a number of other light artists to participate. 

Callahan: Oh yes, that s true. 
Stern: Jackie Cassen. 
Callahan: Richard Aldcroft. 

Stern: I can t remember, Jim- -light machine people. And there was a 
real sense of camaraderie among the media people . As I told 
you before, we didn t get along too well with the purposes and 
theatrical ambitions of Dr. Timothy Leary. We remain close 
friends, but he wanted something that we weren t interested in 
delivering, and he bored the shit out of us with his--I mean he 
thought that the crowd that was coming to see this, which was a 
very hip crowd, wanted to be told on an academic level about 
psychedelics. I don t think there was a person in the audience 
who hadn t taken a few trips themselves. And then when we 
played part of our death trip and part of Antonin Artaud s 
screaming in the middle of his lecture, we got severely 

Callahan: Tim had announced the week before that next week he would be 

talking about God. So back in Woodstock, setting up the trusty 







Ampex around the table, we-- just all of us were sitting around 
going "Oh, God." 

But it was an acid trip. 

Yes, we had about a dozen people on acid going, "Oh God, God." 
Then we mixed in a little Artaud screaming and a few other 
things, and I was up in the catwalk above the thing with our 
trusty Ampex from Alexis restaurant, having hoisted the thing 
up there. That was also the Public Address system which Tim 
was using, so it was easy to mix the Ampex sound. About 
halfway through his lecture I just hit the start button and the 
the theater fills up with this "Oh, God." And then it stopped, 
a few minutes later, give them another little taste. 

At first he thought it was an error, you know, that we had just 
hit the button at the wrong time, then the second or third 
round he got the message. [laughter] He sent Ralph back to 
tell us we had violated our agreement. 

Yes, he was suspecting Harry Smith, 
charging up, "Is Harry Smith here?" 

Ralph Metzner came 
Nope, just us. 

We had a contract that nobody would get in free. At that time, 
everything was supposed to be free, you know. But, this was 
raising money, we needed to sell tickets so we couldn t let 
everybody in free, and everybody had some reason to get in 
free. But Harry Smith was an artist from here, very special 
person. He certainly didn t have any money and he was a raving 
drunk, and there was only one way to take care of him, which 
was to let him in free so Timothy and I had a big argument and 
finally Timothy gave up and Harry Smith got in free. But he 
started screaming from the audience too, right? It was a very 
public event, and it was very successful and how many weeks did 
we do? 

I think eight, six or eight anyway. 

Full every time, and I mean a big theater too. 

Was it all for Leary? 

Well part of it was for deficit financing for Castalia 
Foundation but we were doing probably 90 percent of the work 
and we split the gate for our efforts, so it worked well for 
us, and from then, we went on to do the first expanded cinema 
festival performances. 


Mekas Brothers and the Avant Garde Film Scene 

Stern: The avant-garde film scene was the property at that time of the 
Mekas Brothers. Jonas and Adolf us Mekas. Their understanding 
and their advocacy and their involvement in the film scene made 
avant-garde film production in this country, even other parts 
of the world, not only possible but viable and fundable. Jonas 
decided he wanted to do a kind of extended cinema festival 
because people were starting to work in other techniques using 
not just single film projection. At the same time he came from 
Latvia, and he needed to go back home. He was in the middle of 
planning this festival and he turned it over to a guy who had 
just graduated from Business School at Columbia and who was 
working as a china buyer at Bloomingdale s . He wanted to be 
involved in the arts and somehow had met Jonas . That was John 
Brockman. Well John got terribly confused by all these 
unreliable characters in the movement, and we became his 
bedrock, because he considered us comparatively reliable. 

Callahan: Yes, we showed up. we were highly reliable. 
Stern: And that was the Carolee Schneeman thing, right? 

Carolee Schneeman 

Byerly: Carolee? 
Callahan: Schneeman. 

Stern: A quite well-known performing artist and filmmaker and sexual 
liberationist. Lot of nude pieces, beautiful, beautiful 
performance artist. 

Callahan: Dancer. 

Stern: Yes, I don t care for all her films. Kind of endless Warhol- 
style films. 

Callahan: I think that was where we were using the perf- screen. Well, 
Gerd had written a poem. 

Stern: They were to go with Ghost Rev. 





Oh yes, right, to go with the film. These words would project 
on the screen and Carolee was there wearing a painter s 






And with a bucket of paint and a brush, she would paint the 
words as they appeared on the screen. 

We had hung several layers of no seam photographers background 
paper over the perforated screen so she and her two dancers, 
also in overalls could paint wherever they liked and when the 
screen got full of paint they could tear it down, and there 
would be another layer that they could paint on. Eventually it 
exposed the perforated screen. She did that with us on a 
number of occasions. Evenat MIT Kresge? 

I don t think so. 

There was somebody doing it though. Maybe we found somebody 

I think it might have been somebody else. 

Steve maybe. Because Steve was no longer sitting on top of the 
oscillator, we had-- 

Norman Berg. 

Norm Berg, yes, I talked to him just two weeks ago. 

No kidding. 

He s still on the same trip. Anyway, there were always people 
who wanted to be in the shows, right, or be-- 


in the company and we were willing to include other peoples 
work as long as they put their egos to rest when they became 
involved. Norm Berg wanted to be in the show very badly, so we 
created a platform for him. His job in the meditation section 
of the performance was to sit in the zen position on top of the 
oscilloscope, which was a large display oscilloscope, and not 
to move. He was centered. We should talk about Ghost Rev. 

Callahan: Ghost Rev was made in the fall of 65. 

Ghost Rev 

Byerly: Ghost Rev? 

Callahan: Ghost Rev, Rev. The name comes from this particular motorcycle 
called the Ghost. 

Stern: Racing bike. Fast and loud! It belonged to-- 
Callahan: Jonathan Ayres. 

Stern: Another person who became very involved in our activities. 
Ayres. He runs a mule packing trip up in the Sierras now. 

Callahan: But- -Jonathan drove this motorcycle in the countryside around 
Woodstock at high speed, and Jud Yalkut who was sitting behind 

Byerly: Who? 
Callahan: Jud Yalkut. 

Jud Yalkut 

Stern: No, just one t. 

Callahan: Jud had been working at what was it, Sam Goody s? 

Stern: Yes, he was still working at Sam Goody s as a stock clerk in 
the record basement. He had this ambition to be a filmmaker. 
He was a friend of Bob Dacey s, who was another person who 
worked very closely with us, and is still around, in Woodstock. 
We had been doing these performances and gallery shows at the 
Woodstock Artists Association, and one of the members sons had 
died and he had left behind a Bolex 16 millimeter camera. 

Callahan: And some film. 

Stern: And some blank film, and his mother got a hold of me. 

Callahan: She was a nice woman. 

Stern: Really lovely woman. She got a hold of me and said. 

Callahan: Not Brown, not Brown, what was her name? 


Stern: I can t remember. But she got a hold of me and she said I know 
you re doing all this work, would you have use for a movie 
camera and some blank film, I said sure. It was another one of 
these great happenstances where at the same time the camera 
came around and Jud wanted to make films, and we had Jonathan 
Ayres . What Michael and I were playing with is taking things 
out of real time. This seemed a very opportune image. We put 
Jud behind Jonathan with the Bolex tied to him. 

Callahan: And a tape recorder. 

Stern: And a tape recorder, and they zipped around these roads and the 
camera was pointed straight ahead. But then you could see the 
helmet, and we had three of these, we edited it, and we had 
three of these- - 

Callahan: Copies of the same film. 

Stern: Then projected them simultaneously on the screen, next to each 

Callahan: Three projectors. 

Byerly: All on the same wall? 

Stern: Yes. And the sound tracks were-- 

Callahan: Three tapes, we had three tapes and we would vary the speed of 
the projectors slightly so things would phase in and out and do 
the same on the tape. It was really beautiful. 

It was, the image was on the screen in front. Our classic 
thing was we would put a speaker in each corner and have a 
control box where we could mix and match the speakers. 
Generally we always had four available soundtracks at least to 
switch under the four speakers as the spirit moved us. But 
Ghost Rev was really lovely. 

MIT s Harold Edgerton 



We used it at quite a number of performances, and it became the 
overload vehicle. It s how we met Harold Edgerton. Harold 
developed the strobe. 

Very famous professor of electrical engineering at MIT. 
photography of course. 



Stern: He was the one who did the famous milk drop photograph and he 
was the one who worked with Cousteau on underwater photography 
and he was a founder of a major I guess you would call it 
military complex company. 

Callahan: Well, it s still around multi-billion dollar. EG&G Inc. 
Edgerton, Germerhauser and Greer. 

Stern: Harold was already, what? 

Callahan: Well into his sixties, yes, he was sixty something. 

Stern: At the time. 

Callahan: Yes, in the sixties. 

Stern: And he came across from the EE building to Kresge Auditorium 
which was the grandest and the most famous and interesting 
auditorium we ever blew in. It was like, who designed it? 

Byerly: Who? 


Stern: Saarinen. Anyway he came and he was a little put off, he was a 
motorcycle rider it turned out. He was a little put off by the 
way we did the engine sound- -he thought it was too much 
overload as I remember. But he was also very disappointed in 
our strobe and he wrote us a note and asked us to come see him 
in his laboratory. Now the other thing we had as we did this, 
we superimposed as Michael said, slides of words on the screen. 

Callahan: See, we could fade the images up, fade these words up using the 
time-based circuit. 

Michael s Kick-ass Controller 

Stern: By this time Michael had built a really kick-ass controller, 
which looks like a piece of magic sorcery type of equipment. 
It was very funky, but it controlled everything for us for some 
years. Before we got into totally electronic. So we went to 
see him at his laboratory the next day. 


Callahan: Well he had some constructive criticism on the strobe lights we 
had been building and invited us back, so we made a number of 
pilgrimages up to Cambridge. He had been concerned I wasn t 
using a large enough flash tube. EG&G made flash tubes. 
Several months later, came back to Cambridge and I remember him 
taking a look, smiling approvingly and saying, "Glad to see 
you re using a man s tube to do a man s job." [laughter] 

Stern: He s a sweetheart. He lent us equipment actually. 
Callahan: For the performance. 

Stern: And he gave us circuit diagrams that he thought we could use, 
and he showed us his giant strobes. He had strobes, where was 
it that he had the strobes installed? Big building. 

Callahan: The Prudential. 

Stern: The Prudential Center in Boston, I mean for aircraft warning, 

Callahan: Very bright. 

Byerly: I ve seen them. Is it the one that s there now? 

Stern: Yes. Well, descendant of it probably. Is Harold still with 

Callahan: No, he passed on about five years ago. 

Paul Lee 





He used to come visit us when we were at Intermedia, and he was 
really interested in the arts and in encouraging efforts, which 
is unusual in that community, believe me. We had a lot of 
support people around the country who understood what we were 
doing and wanted to help us, a lot of them came out of the 
psychedelic world. Brandeis and MIT for instance were the 

product of Paul Lee. 

And Paul was a Tillich s assistant at 


Yes, famous religious philosopher. 

Paul also became the Protestant chaplain at Brandeis. 


Stern: And he was part of the religious group that Timothy and Richard 
had turned on to LSD. When they were conducting, quote, 
"experiments", at Harvard. And Paul got us these performance. 
He later moved to Santa Cruz, teaching there, and he was the 
one who got me positions there when I taught there later on. 
At every place we went, there was somebody who had heard about 
us or seen something and then invited us. RISD was the 
sculptor who had seen one of our performances in New York. 

Byerly: Who? 

Callahan: Rhode Island School of Design. RISD. The RISD performance. 

Rhode Island School of Design 

Stern: Italo Scanga. 

Callahan: I think also at this point we were starting to get a fair 

amount of publicity, which I think we were ambivalent about. 

Stern: And we got more ambivalent about it as time went on. 
Callahan: We were reviewed in Newsweek and Life. 

Richard Kostelanetz 

Stern: Richard Kostelanetz 1 s first article, and then books, and all of 
a sudden we were the object of a lot of attention, most of it 
wanting to get involved by people who really had no business 
being involved, thinking that we were rich and famous, which we 
weren t. You know, all that kind of syndrome, and really--we 
enjoyed a little bit of it, but mostly it kind of pissed us 
off. But we were asking for it in a way, because we were 
putting ourselves out in public a lot and we did more and more 
of it. 

Ken Dewev and Terry Riley 

Stern: The next thing, John Brockman--! mean I won t go through the 
turmoil of the experimental cinema festivals. You know there 


were problems with real druggies, hard drug artists and there 
were problems with people who just didn t show up and people 
who were totally boring, and yet there was some of the most 
beautiful media events, among them Ken Dewey and Terry Riley s 
piece called "Brides", which we later recreated after Ken s 
death at the Gugenheim Museum. Ken was a remarkable artist, 
unfortunately tormented. He had a thing called Action Theater, 
and he got me involved through the New York State Council on 
the Arts and a national organization that he founded called 
Planning Corporation for the Arts which unfortunately fell 
apart after he passed on. 

Michael Myerberg 

Stern: So, really next John Brockman, who had business school 

background and a kind of commercial outlook, got involved 
somehow with a producer named Michael Myerberg. Myerberg was 
ancient by this time, he had been the person who had put on 
"Waiting for Godot" on Broadway. And he had been involved with 
Walt Disney on Fantasia and he was--how would you characterize 

Callahan: Irascible? 

Stern: Irascible, weird in a kind of a Charles Dickens way. 

Callahan: Exactly what I was going to say. 

Stern: A Charles Dickens kind of character. I mean he was so old and 
infirm that they would bring him in on a stretcher to 
rehearsals, right? But he was a control freak, total control 
freak. So he had gotten this lease on the airplane hangar 
which Charles Lindbergh had taken off from at Roosevelt Field 
in Long Island with the intention of making an East Coast based 
movie studio out of it, you know, that he could rent to movie 
production people. And for some reason the zoning didn t come 
through . 

Callahan: He outfitted his studios, I think there was some commercial 
shot there, but it just didn t fly. 


Kublai Khan Styled Pleasure Dome 

Stern: There was some use permit problem there I remember. Anyway, he 
decided he wanted to create a pleasure dome, you know, Kublai 
Khan style. But he didn t know how, so John Brockman, 
entrepreneur, goes to work for Myerberg and he recommends three 
groups to put this place together: Andy, Ken, and us. Now, 
Andy, had he started the club on St. Mark s Place, or was he 
about to? 

Callahan: The Electric Circus? Just about to. 

Stern: He wanted it and Ken wasn t that interested in it. Of course 
Ken didn t need the money, Ken came from a rich family, very 
wealthy family. 

Callahan: Admiral Dewey. 

Lily Ente 

Stern: And also on the other side even more money. And we saw it as 
an opportunity to fund the show was coming up, and another 
sculptor in Woodstock. We had been involved in this 
cooperative gallery with a lot of artists, and one of the 
people was Lily Ente, who was a sculptress living in Woodstock, 
friend of Grace Wapner s who was another friend and sculptor 
who was involved in the gallery. And she d seen a lot of our 
work and she was involved teaching at the Riverside Museum in 
New York, which was a little museum on the west side that had 
an extraordinary Tibetan collection and that fielded 
contemporary shows on the other side of the museum, and also at 
an art school in a building which had been originally connected 
to an artist called Nicholas Roerich. Anyway, she arranged for 
us to have this huge space. I mean there were like what, six 
rooms, something like that? And we were like overcome by this 
opportunity to really put our work in a space where people 
could experience it for, what was it, weeks? 

Callahan: Opened on Mother s Day, closed on Father s Day 1966, it was 
like six weeks or whatever. 


Murray Kaufman and the Multimedia Theatre Discotheque 

Stern: And we didn t have the bread to get the scene together and they 
gave us a little bit at the museum. Hey, all of a sudden comes 
along this opportunity to do this discotheque and we were told 
that money wasn t a real object, and they went for us. We did 
presentations what we would do and so did Andy and Ken. And we 
got the go ahead and then we asked Andy if he d like to 
cooperate with us, and Andy was not into cooperation except 
with his own coterie which, you know, I m sure you ve read 
enough about so you understand what they were into. And Ken 
really backed away from it. So here we were designing a really 
multimedia theater discotheque and the surprise after a while 
was that Myerberg had hired a famous at the time disc jockey, 
Murray Kaufman, otherwise known as Murray the K--he called the 
whole thing Murray the K s world. Anyway, Michael can talk 
about the technology there, which was at the time, way ahead of 
what they were even expecting. 

Callahan: We had twenty-one slide projectors mounted- -well it was an 

aircraft hangar, this building must ve been like a 150 feet by 
70 feet or whatever. And there was a steel beam running around 
and we had twenty-one slide projectors and twenty-one screens. 
On one end we also have two large, beautiful sixteen millimeter 
movie projectors which were surplus from the world s fair. And 
also we had a television projector which was quite rare at that 
point, again surplus from the world s fair, an Idofor A. 

The Incredible Idofor 4 

Stern: Idofor A, incredible machine, tell how it works. 

Callahan: Yes, well--it was really a bizarre lovely machine. It had a 

pot of hot oil--it was built in Switzerland so you know this is 
all done with Swiss precision. But there was a pot of hot oil 
so it would take an hour to warm up, and there was this glass 
disk which would rotate fairly fast and the bottom half of the 
disk was in this oil, and this disk was spinning, and this was 
all done in a vacuum, and it took a while to pump it to a high 
vacuum because there was an electron gun, not unlike that in a 
TV set, but rather than the electron gun hitting the screen, 
the electron gun would hit this hot oil, which would form an 
image, and then a very high powered xenon movie projector light 
would refract off this image into a complex optical system that 
would give television pictures bright as the brightest movie 


theater. And we had like three or four TV cameras with these 
straight union projectionists operating them. They would track 
the kids dancing. 

Stern: There would be like 1,000, 1,500 kids on the floor, going like 
mad and we had lenses that you could see a girl s behind at 
forty foot wiggling on the screen. First the camera men were 
so straight. They wore ties, you know, they were real old 
style union guys . After a while we got them to move their zoom 
lenses in time to the music, then they stopped wearing ties and 
came in T-shirts, it got real comfy. And Michael had to go run 
this thing all the time because the slide projectors were 
controlled by a new controlling unit that Michael had built 
especially for it. And they had some great groups there: The 
Rascals, the Isley Brothers. 

Callahan: Del Shannon. 

Stern: It was a gas. We had a great time, and we made money. 

Callahan: One reason I had to run it was that Myerberg ran out of cash 
and we had an agreement where I d go out there and work the 
weekends. Friday and Saturday night, drive out to Long Island, 
I got paid for doing that but then also he d work off whatever 
amount he owed us at three hundred a week, and I d get a 
hundred or two hundred bucks for what he owed us. You know, 
that s five hundred bucks a week in cash, which is, in today s 
money, two or three thou. Not bad money. And so that helped 
support the Riverside show, and also that got us out to 
California for the acid conference. 

The LSD Conference 

Stern: The LSD Conference which was put together by Richard Baker 

before he became Roshi Baker was probably the peak of our media 
grandiloquent expressions because of just the amount of 
materials we threw out at the audience. But we also returned 
to California, so it was euphoric. But before we get into 
that, at the Riverside show, we involved a lot of artists whose 
work we promoted and got exposed. Dion Wright was one of the 
painters. He did a creation painting which was enormous. 
Incredible painting. Paul Williams built a light garden and 
there were a number of other devices such as Bob Dacey s tie- 
dye cave. The rest of it was really our own work, which by 
this time had filled up the church and the tabernacle, which 
was a wooden hexagon. 


Callahan: The wooden cover for the tabernacle was built later when it was 
at the church. 

Stern: We later put the tabernacle in the church and we had to rebuild 
it for that, but it was originally the major installation piece 
at the show, I can t remember what we called it there. But it 
was a total experience where you sat down and saw paintings and 
projections and heard multi-channel sound. It was kind of a 
place where hip druggies would gather for six weeks, you 
couldn t barely get in because they would all be lying on the 
carpeted floor watching the strobed fountain in the center. 
Michael outdid himself at that show, I mean it was very hard 
work and he was also working at the World. Now Murray the K 
left very soon, so it was just called the World. Murray and 
Myerberg didn t get along, for various reasons. The Riverside 
show got us into a very, very heavy publicity trip. We 
couldn t quite figure out how to include it in our lifestyle. 
Would you say that s right? 

Callahan: That s true, because we were reviewed on the Today show, on NBC 
nightly news. There was newspapers, Time, Newsweek, Life. 

Stern: We were deluged. Every hippie and every psychedelic hanger-on 
in the country was drawn to Garneville New York, after the 

On the Cover of Life Magazine 




It was something we weren t prepared for. It was on the cover 
of Life, and an article was written by Murray Kempton s 
daughter, Sally. Sally flew out to New York to follow us 
around . 

She followed us around and I followed her around. 

Yes, we followed her around. And that s thirty years ago, just 
about, almost to the day. But then the Life article came out 
later in the summer, at which point the show had already 
closed. But a lot of people all of a sudden were coming to see 
it and not seeing it there, came up to Garneville. So things 
were starting to get a little out of hand. 

Was this the time we started thinking about another locale? 



Stern: And- -we have a marvelous film of the building of the tabernacle 
in the church. It s a documentary. 

USCO and Jud Yalkut s Film ## 

Stern: Like happens in so many creative enterprises, here we were, 
USCO, nobody s name you know. Now Jud was beginning to feel 
ambitious on his own and wanting to be a filmmaker and not to 
be part of USCO. And as Michael referred to it-- 

Callahan: USCO, represented by I Inc. 

Stern: That was the first time Jud put his name on a film, unbeknownst 
to us and when it hit the screen we were-- 

Callahan: Less than pleased. Yes, I mean it was like- -something like a 
film by Jud Yalkut for USCO. 

Stern: Exactly. It s called Turn, Turn, Turn. And we had provided- - 
Callahan: Everything. 

Stern: All the access, all the images. It is still a beautiful film, 
and it s been shown a lot because Jud has kept his work going 
through various periods . 

Llama Foundation 

Stern: Steve started working on a graphic image of what he considered 
another extension of USCO would be at first. He felt that we 
had this high energy place near New York and we needed a low 
energy place somewhere else. What did he call the drawings? 

Callahan: Solux? 

Stern: They re also in thatsome of them are in that folder. 

Byerly: Solux? 

Stern: Yes. Here s the first representation of it, and it was later 

built in New Mexico, not exactly like that, but in that spirit. 
It turned into what s still known as the Llama Foundation. Did 
you know they had a big fire there? 


Callahan: Yes. 

The Confidet Commercial 

Stern: All right. So this was a breaking point where Steve and 

Barbara left and we were left at the church. John Brockman was 
representing us and he wanted us to do more commercial work, 
because he was interested in making money and he was supposedly 
putting us in the way of making money. We did a few projects, 
one of which Ken Dewey really worked with us on which was for 
Scott paper, an introduction of a tampon actually, or was it a 
tampon or a sanitary napkin? 

Callahan: Sanitary napkin. 

Stern: A sanitary napkin called what? 

Callahan: Confidets. 

Stern: Confidets. It was kind of a-- 

Callahan: I mean you can see the sphincter, starting to get a little-- 
[ laughter] 

Stern: It was at the same time a low point and a kind of a high point 
because it confronted us with people that we weren t used to 
dealing with. 

Callahan: Yes, like marketing men, shirts or suits. 
Stern: And it was a comedy of errors. 

Callahan: Yes, I mean like when we did the gig in Boston or something, 

they wouldn t let us stay in the hotel--! mean we were totally 
behind the scenes, right? They wouldn t let us eat in the 

Byerly: They wouldn t let you eat in the restaurant? 

Stern: With them, you know. We were like slavies. 

Callahan: We were the roadies. 

Stern: The hired help. But in addition they didn t listen to us. 

Byerly: What were you doing for the sanitary napkins? 


Stern: We were introducing a very difficult product to the sales 

Byerly: And you were coming up with the-- 
Stern: It was a multimedia show. 

Callahan: Yes, it was probably one of the first travelling multimedia 

sales booths because the problem was, the Scott paper salesman 
could go into a supermarket representing the entire Scott line 
and they could walk out with an order for toilet paper and 
paper towels and that was easy. I mean it was difficult to get 
them to go ahead and convince the supermarket to carry 
Conf idets. 

Stern: We had a beautiful Conf idets girl, girlfriend of John 
Brockman s. Michelle, right? 

Callahan: Yes. 

Stern: And she also appeared live at the presentations as well as on 
the films and in the slides. And we had them wearing the kind 
of uniforms that people wear at the plant when they made the 
Conf idets, the salespeople, which got us into trouble because 
when the President came, they looked at us his assistant 
looked at us--"He s not wearing one of those." I said to him, 
"I thought he wanted to be one of the boys." And he said to 
his assistant, "Never mind, I ll wear it." So there were a lot 
of interesting byplays there, but it wasn t our thing and John 
wasn t really happy at our attitude so, there were no more of 
that order of projects. 

On the Front Page of the Wall Street Journal 




Yes, however, all of a sudden we re on the front page of the 
Wall Street Journal because Conf idets sales went up 40 percent, 

And all of a sudden multimedia became a tool, which we didn t 
want much to do with. Was the big thing in Washington next? 
We did a big show for the National Endowment on the Arts, or 
that was later? 

That was later, 

We did General Electric, but that was a year 


More on LSD Conference 

Stern: And then we went out to the coast to do the LSD conference. 
Now the LSD conference was very odd. I mean what was the 
University of California doing putting on an LSD conference, 
right, at a time when the drug enforcement people were freaking 
out completely and busting people right and left. And here we 
were, a conference which Richard Baker, not with complete 
consciousness I think, had not realized what he was getting 
himself into. He had invited all the major figures to speak 
and us to do a performance, and it was what, a three or four 
day conference. The headline speech was by Richard Alpert. It 
was at the time when Metier Baba had sent his messenger who had 
been inspired to see Meher Baba by us, Bob Dreyfuss, to come 
back and tell us to stop using drugs. And Richard demurred. 
Steve stopped using, because he was into Baba. 

But Richard said nobody who has not experienced LSD can 
tell me what to do. But later he gave acid to his guru, an 
Indian. He says the guru was not at all affected, so then he 
took a different attitude about that. Richard is a snake oil 
salesman, no doubt about it. He was the most popular 
psychology lecturer ever at Harvard and he could get people to 
try LSD who you would think would never have assented to 
anything that radical in their life. And then he sold himself 
as Baba Ram Dass. And I m not saying that totally pejoratively 
although he and I did not get along at any time because he was 
very attracted to Steven. The major reason he was so attracted 
to Steven was because Steve and I were so close although we 
certainly didn t have any sexual relationship. Steve wasn t 
into homosexuality. But, you know, those lives are dangerous 
lives anyway. Tell about the psychedelic show we did there. 
It was a different type of show, wasn t it? 

Callahan: Yes, because it was in this auditorium built onto a-- 
Stern: Gymnasium. 

Callahan: Yes, it was in a gymnasium, yes. And so we just papered the 
walls with photographic paper so we were projecting on many 
more surfaces. 

Stern: We had a huge scaffold in the middle of the gymnasium. This 
was at the San Francisco campus . 

Callahan: Yes, at Haight. You know Page and Market, down there. 
Byerly: So next to the medical school? 


Callahan: Extension. Extension school. 

Byerly: Oh, Extension. 

Callahan: Yes, down on Page and Market. 

Byerly: Right, Page and Market. 

Callahan: Yes, we had the scaffolds. That worked really well, 

construction scaffold with planks and we just piled the 

Stern: We had so much material by that time and so much audio and so 
much visual that it was a transcending experience, and of 
course a lot of the people were on LSD, we weren t, but they 
were. So they were totally into it. Did we use balloons at 
that show? I think we did. 

Callahan: Might have. Weather balloons. 

Stern: Yes, the first place we did that was in Antioch I think. 
Wasn t it? In the chapel? 

Callahan: Antioch was later. 

The Institute of Contemporary Arts in Boston 

Stern: We had a ten, twelve foot diameter weather balloon being pushed 
around by the audience up and down and back and forth, and 
turning projectors on it at the same time. We did that a 
number of times, and then actually we installed a piece at the 
Institute of Contemporary Arts in Boston, which we also got 
into trouble with because Dion and Margaret were nude in the 
Shiva/Shakti posture. Beautiful film with beautiful slides, 
rotating, and they were projected on these balloons. When we 
got up to see the show in Boston, it was abstract color images. 
I went to see the director and she said to me well, we had some 
problems because Boston is not the most permissive climate, so 
I just defocused the images. 

Callahan: Yes, Sue, yes, she also at one point thought one of these 

weather balloons was too big. And so to take some air out of 
it, she stuck it with a pin. Weather balloon like any good 
balloon pops when you puncture it. 


Stern: You know, and we re coming to the transition between USCO and 
Intermedia, which is an interesting set of affairs. Andre 
Ruedi was a doctoral candidate from Harvard Business School who 
wrote case studies on various industries. And he was a skier 
and an avid smoker if you know what I mean, which I know you 
do. He saw one of our performances and he became rather 
addicted. He used to spend time at the church with us. He 
helped us schlep, and he was sure that this was something which 
could be of use and would be of interest at the business 
school. So he talked his friend and erstwhile professor George 
Litwin into inviting us up there. And all these people were 
also connected to Paul Lee and to Gunther Weil and to Timothy 
Leary and the whole gang. 

Callahan: Yes. It s very circular here because Litwin, George Litwin and 
Gunther had shared a house with Tim at Harvard. So it was all 
very circular in a way. 

Stern: They invited us up there and the initial idea which Michael and 
I accepted was we would do the creative work and they would do 
the business. It turned out that they weren t any more, maybe 
even less business minded than we were. 

Maverick Systems Company 

Callahan: Yes, I mean the irony of it was that USCO had set up this 

separate company Maverick Systems which made strobe lights and 
media control equipment actually. I don t know how much we 
took in, and this is 1967 dollars, it was sixty, seventy 
thousand. So basically we were operating toward the end, in 
1996 dollars, maybe a third of a million dollar business down 
there. Actually these people at the business school weren t 
running anything, basically. In retrospect, we had more 
business experience than they did, running a small business. 

Stern: And it was kind of a long term disaster with a lot of great 

things happening because we got a lot of interesting projects. 
It was not successful as a business, but Michael got an 
opportunity to develop new generations of equipment. On the 
other hand, he was overworked and underpaid and not necessarily 
well massaged in terms of the business climate. I got kind of 
co-opted into doing things I never wanted to do. 

Callahan: Like being president. 


Stern: Yes. But, vanity is a dangerous thing and having an 

appointment at Harvard and going publicHey, even when we 
needed money, we had to find the guy in New York who took us 
public. All they had at Harvard Business School were big deals 
and big connections which meant they knew how to spend money 
but didn t know how to make it. They really knew how to spend 
money, I ll say that for George Litwin. 

Callahan: Dropped a quarter million pre-inflationary dollars on redoing 
the office. 

Michael Callahan Becomes Technical Director at the Carpenter 
Arts Center, Harvard University 

Stern: Anyway, eventually we got out of that and Michael went to 
Harvard to become the technical director at the Carpenter 
Center where he stayed for many many years and I kind of wound 
the company down into chapter 1 1 and went to work for my 
family s company in the cheese business. And we have 
continued. We haven t done much actual work together but we ve 
talked about it a lot and I think one of these days , maybe not 
too far away, we will do another nineties project before we get 
to 2000. 

Callahan: Yes. 

Byerly: Better hurry up. 

Stern: Well, you know, one millennium ain t so much different from 
another. [laughter] 

Byerly: Is that it? 

Callahan: Okay, I think it s been very interesting. My experience 

certainly would not have happened anywhere but in California, 
or at any other time. So I am grateful to the people who made 
it possible including the beats, the bohemians, the poets. So, 
it s been fun. 






: . 

Gerd Stern s Turn Ahead. 

Photo by Vano-Wells-Fagliano. 

Over by Gerd Stern, circa 1962. A flashing light kinetic poem four feet 
high and eight feet long with circuitry by Michael Callahan. 

From the collection of Judith (McBean) Cosper. Donated to the Oakland 


Contact is the Only Love, 1963. 

Busted Head Monument collage column with votive light, 
circa 1963. 

From the collection of the artist. 

Gerd Stern working on NO-OW-NOW, 1963-64, 

Take the X out of Crossing collage on wooden pipe casting form. 

From Gerd Stern Collection of Judith Cosper, circa 1965. 

The Six Minute Day underground exhibit center, Bear Swamp Pumped Storage 
Facility, Intermedia Systems, circa 1974. 


[Interview 10: July 9, 1996] ## 

Influences of Spiritual Content on or Not on Intention 

Stern: There s a question of foundation and information and influences on 
the spiritual content or spiritual intention involved in this 
exercise of oral history. A lot of our interview is somewhat 
inchoate and non-defined, or non-descriptive because it s an in 
toto, it s not a fragmented kind of principle that one is talking 
about when one describes decades of one s own life. However, the 
recognition of where it comes from and where it comes around to is 
certainly something that is a considered element. I know that 
from certain points of view and certain happenstances in my life, 
the reverberations still resound. 

Obviously the initial leaving of Europe, of Germany because 
of Hitler and his cohorts, the fact that my mother died at a very 
early age, the adaptation to a new language and to the culture of 
New York, the city. The exposure I had to the refugee mentality 
of my parents and theirour relatives and their associates who 
were mostly from that same group. Washington Heights where we 
wound up living was a refugee colony as I think I ve said before, 
it was called Frankfurt on the Hudson, for good reason. That 
community has been documented, by the way, by a number of 
sociologists and filmmakers. Then, in New York, my exposure to 
radical politics, to communism, to the ideas and the actualities 
and the kind of interest but then reaction to the excesses of 
political climate and not just in the United States but elsewhere. 


Life Below the Skin of Society 

Stern: The translation I think of those kinds of radical impulses from a 
political arena to an artistic arena, the life so to speak under 
the skin of the society, below the acceptable surface and the 
realizations that most of these people who were living below the 
surface represented very different strata. You had the 
preponderance of people who dove into a subterranean lifestyle 
coming out of the upper-middle classes, and then you had certain 
representation from the poorer segments of society, but everybody 
knew who everybody was and where they came from. It was obvious 
by their language, by their clothing, by what they drank and how 
they related to each other, their manners or their rejection of 
manners. That includes a lot of the pre-beat scene because I knew 
Allen and Jack, and Hunky, and Solomon, and I could name another 
dozen people of that group or people that I knew and associated 
with first in New York. 

San Francisco s Openness to the Arts 

Stern: The fact that the eventual locus of the so-called beat scene 

turned out to be San Francisco is important. The reasons behind 
it I think have not been exposed that much. It s just been 
accepted that this was the place where it happened. It happened 
basically because people were attracted here not by each other but 
I think at that point San Francisco was a fairly inexpensive place 
to be. It was a place where deviation of all sorts was accepted, 
it was still the post-goldrush era in a sense. 

With due deference to the talents of my ex-father-in-law and 
mother-in-law, it would have been impossible for a couple to come 
out of the backwaters of Montana and the state of Washington and 
to arrive in New York City and become the President of the 
Metropolitan Opera and the head of the Chamber of Commerce s 
golden fleet, and you know, being two of the most important people 
in the city s society world. But it was possible here for Mrs. 
London to become president of the San Francisco Opera and for Dan 
to be that persona who welcomed the Shah and Eisenhower and all of 
the VIPs of the time. This was an open city in that sense, and it 
was open on a social level, it was open on the artistic level, it 
was wealthy enough to support people, there was not a tradition of 
workaholicism as there already was in the east. There was a lot 
of leisure, a lot of the people who had the leisure were also 
supporters of the arts. And it didn t matter whether they were 
interested in painting, poetry, the theater, whatever. 


The Country Coming to San Francisco 

Stern: It was an exciting place. Things like the Mime Troupe, the Poetry 
Center were San Francisco phenomena. But, and it s a big but, 
they were fed by an influx of people from other parts of the 
country. And I m not just meaning the East Coast. The Midwest, 
the Northwest, the Southwest. San Francisco was the real hub. 

It was Baghdad by the Bay and Herb Caen was the person who 
understood this energy that existed, and, on one hand, documented 
it, and, on the other hand, exploited it for his column. And if 
you think that these deviants and weirdos and hippies and beatniks 
didn t enjoy being mentioned, you re wrong. They thrived on it. 
Publicity and public relations were not practiced as a discipline, 
but they were very much appreciated and they were heavily 
cultivated in those days by the people who we have referred to. 
The word of mouth that spread so easily was encouraged. You 
couldn t have an event without it being full or more than full. 
In New York, if you have a poetry reading you catch flies, right. 
In San Francisco you have a poetry reading and there wouldn t be 
standing room. I mean airfares were inexpensive, gasoline was 
inexpensive, old cars were inexpensive. Buses, Ken Kesey s trip, 
everything seemed possible, and it was possible without a great 
deal of expenditure of either time or money. 

I believe that the influences of that kind of ambient on 
myself and other characters in this tale are self-evident. The 
lack of discipline, the inconsistent values of the work that was 
produced are also very indicative of that time, and they exploded 
even more in the subsequent periods, the bohemian era, the Beat 
era, the psychedelic era, and ever since then, which is a period 
that I can t think of a characterizing phrase for at this point. 
Perhaps you can or perhaps someone will. 

Byerly: Post-modern. 

Media s Impact on Style 

Stern: Post-modern. Post-now. Now was then, right? Butthis 

phenomenon for instance of style, and of the quick passing of 
style because of an extreme exposure in the media, of a painter or 
a sculptor or an environmental artist puts out a small body of 
work and it s pictured and imaged and reimaged and broadcast all 
over the place, well, by the time this has happened, and this can 
happen within weeks, it doesn t take months or years anymore. Is 


that artist going to spend the next decade working out the 
problems of that period or that style, the answer is usually no. 
When that artist is more or less insulated somewhere and only a 
few people understand what he or she is doing, the developmental 
characteristics of a style become very different. 

Ivan Majdrakoff , who worked with me on our first film, why, 
I think he has more of that story than I have delivered. I ve 
known his work for over fifty years, really. Since we were in our 
teens and he was already producing. And the work is consistent 
all the way through, I mean you can see the development. He s 
taught at the Art Institute in San Francisco for decade after 
decade. He s basically on the verge of being emeritus at this 
point. The influence that he has had has been low-key and below 
the surface, and he shows his own work all the time but not in any 
kind of grandiloquent or heavily publicized way. His art one 
would figure then had the opportunity to develop over years in a 
slow and distinct way. 

Taking Advantage of the Historical Era 

Stern: The development pattern now is get it out there and become famous 
and hopefully rich and disappear, because the next period doesn t 
coalesce or become publicable or publishable. I think in my own 
case, I became very disinterested in being out in public when 
Michael, Steve, and I experienced the problems which came with 
life in that lane, and really all of us withdrew from it. In a 
sense we ve all pursued our work and our career paths away from 
that kind of attention, because we didn t enjoy it. 

Bob Rauschenberg 

Stern: That s been a choice that a lot of people have made. At one time 
we were going up to a birthday party for Jill Johnston who was a 
really well known writer, documenter of the art scene in New York 
for the Village Voice, et cetera. We were going up the stairs and 
Bob Rauschenberg was coming down. Bob looked at us and said, "Hey 
John, how s business?" And John looked back at him and he says, 
"Bob, how s art?" If anybody was an art businessman it was Bob. 
I mean he businessed his way through art in a very successful 
fashion, and it was because his work fit the image, his work and 
his persona fit the image of what the media and what the 
communication potential thought that an artist could be. He was 


presentable in that sense, he enjoyed that light and that lane and 
it benefitted him in a lot of ways. But there are other 
approaches . 

Herb Caen and the "Beats" 

Stern: The factor of this resurgence of interest in a period which we 
call beat and the very resonance of the word beat explores the 
kind of limits and the kind of nonsignificance of the term. I 
think what you will see about it is that first of all, when you 
think of beat in the musical sense, you have the whole arena of 
rhythmics and time period which is so important in all of the art 
forms then. You have the interpretation given by the dharma bum 
school of beatific and beatitude. Then you have the other side of 
it and beat being defeated or tired or exhausted or, you see now 
what are we talking about when we say beat? Does the beat go on 
or does it go off? Is it really an expression of beatitude or are 
we so tired and exhausted and is everybody so entranced by that 
state, and how did we get to that state that it s kind of relaxing 
and reassuring that you can share those kind of vibes with the 
people who are the apogee of the beat image. 

You take Allen [Ginsberg] and you see the photographs of him 
and his kind of rapturous ecstatic state when he delivered poetry 
and that s the beatitude or the beat goes on part. When you 
realize in a poem like Yage the Ginsberg struggle toward 
understanding and toward linking himself with his own past and his 
basic inability to manage that to his own satisfaction, then you 
understand the other side of beat. 

You realize that where did it come from- -I really think you 
ought to talk to Herb [Caen] and ask him where did he draw that 
from, what part of beat--how did he get that beatnik image? In 
fact, we believe that he created the word. In the beginning was 
the word and the word was question mark. It wasn t question mark, 
we start in the Hebrew scripture with "in the beginning." I think 
I m, as always, more interested in the process than the product, 
and what I m talking about in myself is the process of that 
ongoing experience. I was there, okay. In one sense I was there 
and I was not particularly present in the hierarchy of the time. 
The reasons for that I think are evident in this chronicle. 

It always puzzles me that when I look back and I remember 
that I was there, I mean who was where? I was there when they 
crucified our lord, I didn t want to be there, you know. I was 
there at the Howl trial, why? Why was I present when all, as 


McLuhan said, all these crossings, who knows what you get when the 
crossing takes place. But I was. So it s a question of 
acceptance, it really isn t anything that you question in your 
life and I m not interested in the gossip level, but the process 
of getting to this place and writing poetry for the last fifty 
years in my life has been a very satisfying process. Whether it 
satisfies anybody else in the world, either in the academic or in 
the relational world seems to be beside the point. One manages to 
relate to one s work and to be either despairing or appreciative 
and satisfied and I ve always somehow managed to be satisfied with 
what I have done, and what I m doing. 

The Restrictions of Contemporary Technology in Process 

Stern: That s a little different than exposing oneself to the judgment of 
one s peers or one s critics, which I ve done also. The USCO 
period was very exciting because the appreciation and the critique 
of what we were doing was so immediate and I think again that s 
what gave me some of the insight into what happens in the world of 
contemporary technology when you can just go out there and do it 
and you get instant replay and instant criticism and instant 
response and you can play with it all in the same way that a 
football or basketball game is played. It s not a waiting game. 
After a while, the stress and the inability to give real long term 
consideration on a conceptual level to what you re doing and what 
the process is I think restricts you. You don t want to do 
anything that fast. The response time is not necessarily 
something that gratifies you in the end. You realize that the 
work you re doing is progressing at such a rapid rate that you 
don t have the responsibility factor involved that you would 

But, here we are in 1996 talking about the years mainly from 
1948 to 1978, and I think we pretty well covered the high and the 
low points. 

Byerly: Thank you. 

The Cheese Industry 

Cheese and Its Metaphors 

Stern: The whole involvement with cheese, and my family is really a 

matter of some four generations in Europe and here in America, is 
something which I didn t understand in my youth. I never thought 
of cheese as either a process or--it didn t occur to me that it 
was the turning of a liquid perishable nutrient, an important 
ability of nomads and primitive people to keep themselves alive, 
and the discovery that this very perishable liquid could be turned 
through fermentation into a keepable product which would nourish 
you on a journey or at home and months to come. And of course, 
there s the whole metaphor of fermentation, whether it s bread or 
wine or cheese or processing in the human organism. Those kind of 
metaphors I think escaped me for decades until I kind of 
inevitably sank back into the arms of my ancestral generations and 
rejoined the cheese business in order to make what we call in 
Hebrew parnosa, which is you know, a living. 

A Profession May Not Be an Occupation 

Stern: In other words a living isn t necessarily what you do, and that s 
why I say by profession I m a poet and by occupation I m a cheese 
monger. Because it s a question of parnosa, making a living, it s 
not what I choose to profess. On the other hand, compared to some 
of the other things I ve done to make a living in my life, it s a 
relatively noble pursuit because despite all the people who will 
tell you about no fat and no cholesterol, cheese is a notably 
beneficial food. 

Becoming President of The American Cheese Society //// 

Stern: Cheese does have a lot of health values. In addition, the entire 
ethnic domain of cheese is fascinating. You take California as an 
example, and you have a lot of counterinfluences here, the major 
one is Italian. I m a cheese importer really, but my interest in 
cheese goes beyond that which is why I became the President of the 
American Cheese Society, which is an organization that promotes 
the making of farmstead and specialist cheese making in America. 

Cheese in California 

Stern: Cheese in the United States, small production cheeses are a medium 
of production, not commodity factory type cheeses. Two, I think, 
to my mind, best cheesestwo of the ten best cheeses in the 
United States are produced here in California. One of those is 
Ignacio Vella s; he calls it Dry Jack. We were just up there in 
Sonoma the other day and I had a very pleasant conversation with 
him and I certainly enjoyed his cheese. I mean here s a man who 
can age cheese for up to two years and by that time you get a 
structure which is certainly equal to, maybe not similar and 
certainly not identical to a two-year-old Parmesan from Italy, and 
it s a cheese which is less than ten pounds where the parmesan is 
eighty pounds. So it matures quite differently but it is of the 
highest order of perfection that you can find in the world of 
cheese. And then he s developed this way of rubbing it with an 
oil and with cocoa powder and it has this lovely brown sheen of a 
rind. To me rinds are edible, some people don t like to eat them. 
The fact that he chooses to call it dry jack, I think, happens to 
be a problem, because people think of Jack as kind of a fresh and 
a commodity type cheese, which this is the very opposite of is 
beside the point. 

European Cheeses 

Stern: It s a pinnacle in the idea of being able to produce cheese. The 
other one is Franklin Paluso s Telleme, which is a cheese that 
probably came as an attempt to produce something like an Italian 
Tellegio or some other fairly fresh ripening cheese. It s a 
cheese which when it is dead ripe, which can take a few months 
actually, is totally ambrosial. If you like a pungent tasty 
cheese, that s a square cheese. What we do, we wait until it 
really totally softens up, and we then inscribe a line on the top 
of the square, we peel back most of the skin and we actually spoon 
the cheese out, and eat it. It s the kind of eating experience 
which is hard to compass, hard to experience, and I m glad I m in 
this little world where I can have that experience a few times a 
year. And I feel the same way about a cheese that s made in 
County Cork in Ireland named Gubbeen, which is a washed rind 
cheese in which, probably, again is a simulacrum of cheese that 
comes from France, the Reblochon, what we call croute lavee, or 
washed rind cheeses but it s made by a woman named Giana Ferguson 
and she is a cheese angel. I mean this woman treats each cheese 
as if it was a living product of her own breast. She has that 
poetic quality that the Irish are so special about. They live in 


an enchanted place and as a result, from the cow to the mouth of 
the person who eats the cheeses, there occurs a remarkable 
experience . 

Migrating People Replicating Ethnic Foods 

Stern: The migration of people whether Italians, Russians, or 

mideasterners--who are used to eating certain cheeses have these 
two choices. You ve either got to pay a lot, go out and make a 
lot of money and pay a lot of money for what you want from the 
place where you came from, or you ve got to replicate it. And I 
think you take a look throughout the United States and you will 
see that people have done that, whether they re Swiss who came to 
Wisconsin and made Swiss cheese there, maybe not exactly the same 
but basically close to the original, or whether you make English 
type cheddar on the Oregon Coast or Dutch style cheese here and 
there, it s a remarkable kind of identity with the homeland. And 
it s not the same thing as for instance teaching your children to 
dance the dance or sing the song, because it involves a lot of 
real dedication and expertise and business savvy to survive in 
that world, and it s also true for a lot of other foods that are 
replicated here by ethnic peoples. 

Computers and Technology Affecting Cheese 

Stern: But the products of fermentation and the involvement in producing 
them are a unique experience in life. It s a feel, and a see, and 
a smell, it involves the senses. These days people will tell you 
that computers and technology can control the making of cheese, 
and it can. But it tends to wind up for the consumer with a 
product which is always the same, always rather mediocre and 
always part of a production and packaging culture which I find 
rather ludicrous . When you compare it to a person who milks their 
own animals , makes the cheese themselves and everyday that that 
cheese is made, the cheese is a little bit different. It s a 
little bit different because of the temperature and the climate, 
it s a little different because the cows are eating different food 
or the goats or the sheep. It s different because the cheese 
maker isn t feeling well one day, and the time, the temperature 
makes the cheese different. That s the nature of organic 
products, it s not the nature of organic products to be identical 
all the time but that s the attempt of a lot of our culture, is to 
make things the same all the time and to package them for optimum 


length of shelf -life, which usually kills the product in one way 
or the other. 

Preventing or Promoting Illness 

Stern: These two tendencies are coexistent and in our industry there s a 
lot of aggression and bad feeling between the camps. The bad 
feeling comes mostly not from the cheese makers for each other for 
instance but from the government which attempts to regulate the 
industry in what they consider rationales of sanitation and 
consumer protection. Often due to naivete and due to bureaucratic 
misunderstandings. They obviously do the very opposite of what 
they are attempting to do. Instead of preventing illness they 
promote illness. Instead of protecting the consumer they endanger 
the consumer as far as I m concerned. But there are a lot of sane 
people around who have made progress. 

Being Creative, Responsible, and Ethical in the World 

Stern: I think it doesn t matter whether you re working in the arts or in 
a pursuit like cheese mongering, the principles of being creative 
and being responsible and ethical are more or less the same, and 
as long as you are able to operate on that level and to understand 
what you re doing on that level, you can survive and feel that you 
are living for the world, not just in it. 

Byerly: Okay, good. 

Transcribed by Gary Varney and George Chen 
Final Typed by Caroline Sears and Shannon Page 


TAPE GUIDE- -Gerd Stern 

Interview 1: April 14, 1996 

Tape 1, Side A 

Tape 1, Side B 

Tape 2, Side A 

Tape 2, Side B 

Tape 3, Side A 

Tape 3, Side B 

Tape 4, Side A 

Tape 4, Side B not recorded 

Interview 2 : 
Tape 5, 
Tape 5, 
Tape 6, 

April 15, 
Side A 
Side B 
Side A 


Tape 6, Side B 
Interview 3: April 16, 1996 

Tape 7, 
Tape 7, 
Tape 8, 
Tape 8, 
Tape 9, 

Side A 
Side B 
Side A 
Side B 
Side A 

Tape 9, Side B not recorded 

Interview 4: April 17, 1996 

Tape 10, Side A 

Tape 10, Side B 

Tape 11, Side A 

Tape 11, Side B 

Tape 12, Side A 

Tape 12, Side B 

Interview 5: April 18, 1996 
Tape 13, Side A 
Tape 13, Side B 

Interview 6: April 19, 1998 

Tape 14, Side A 
Tape 14, Side B 
Tape 15, 
Tape 15, 

Side A 
Side B 
Tape 16, Side A 
Tape 16, Side B 









Interview 7: July 2, 1996 

Tape 17, 
Tape 17, 
Tape 18, 


Side A 
Side B 
Side A 
Side B 
Side A 

Tape 19, Side B not recorded 

Interview 8: July 4, 1996 
Tape 20, Side A 
Tape 20, Side B 
Tape 21, Side A 
Tape 21, Side B not recorded 

Interview 9: July 5, 1996 
Tape 22, Side A 
Tape 22, Side B 
Tape 23, Side A 
Tape 23, Side B 
Tape 24, Side A 
Tape 24, Side B 

Interview 10: July 9, 1996 
Tape 25, Side A 
Tape 25, Side B 







A USCO pamphlet 333 

B Flier, "Don t Flee the Scene Salty" 385 

C Flier, "Twice a Man" 386 

D Letter from Department of Art, University of Utah, 1964 387 

E Flier, "The Beard," 1967 388 

F Flier, "Murray the K s World" 389 


IN i 




.*>--- * 

. >*- -i-*- .- 




2-5 EM. 














Koulr 140 SlWMklll. ^J 

from USCO through INTERMEDIA 1962-1 7 


Gerd Stern 201-569-3373 (office) 

569-9428 (home) 

Adele Myers914-359-6400 Ext. 233 


Multi-media, film, video, collage, painting, and kinetic sculp 
ture will be shown at the Thorpe Intermedia Gallery, Route 340, 
Sparkill (Rockland County), New York, opening Sunday, September 9, 

from 2 to 5 p.m. 


The retrospective exhibition titled, from USCO through INTERMEDIA 
1962-1979, highlights the work of USCO and INTERMEDIA, two groups 
active in the 1960s and 70s. The first group consisted of poets, 
engineers, painters and sculptors, who used the acronym USCO and 
worked out of an old church in Garnerville, New York during the 1960s. 
INTERMEDIA Systems Corporation is a small public company, founded 
in the late 60s, engaged in media design and production, operating 
out of Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

This exhibition is conceived as the reprise and documentation 
of well over a dacade and a half of work, and as a statement of past, 
present, and perhaps future, artistic purpose. The work shown ranges 
from collage and kinetic pieces to multi-media performance materials. 
Sounds and images first shown in San Francisco in 1962 as "Who R U 
and What s Happening and in combination with lectures by Marshall 
McLuhan at the University of British Columbia as, "The Verbal American 
Landscape" are supplemented by more recent audio- visual production 
fragments, out of 360 degree panoramic shows for the Venezuelan 
government and a piece on Lincoln and the Law produced with funding 
from the National Endowment on the Humanities . 

The works are from the archives of USCO and INTERMEDIA, lent 
by the artists and by private collectors. The efforts of over a 
hundred talents are represented. Two publications, one a booklet, 
the other an audio cassette, will provide the factual and conceptual 
background for the exhibition. 

Thorpe Intermedia Gallery is locatedon Route 340, Sparkill, New 
York. The gallery, under the durection of Adele Myers, works in coop 
eration with Intermedia Foundation, an arts organization directed by 
David Weinrib and operating out of the old USCO church in Garnerville. 


from USCO through INTERMEDIA 1962-1979 

The exhibition has been assembled by Michael Callahan, Linda 
von Helwig, Gerd Stern and Zalman Stern, all of whom were associated 
either with USCO, with INTERMEDIA or with both groups. 



Stereo sound chair with cut paper poem collage and continuous loop 
audio collage. The tape is, "Billie Master", first made in 1963 
and used as part of the San Francisco Museum of Art presentation, 


Collage wall of graphic and dimensional materials. First on the 
office wall at USCO church this assembled collection grew at the 
first INTERMEDIA studios, then in a long hall of an aparment on 
Broadway in Cambridge, a house in Medford and now in the gallery. 
At present, the accumulation amounts to about 400 square feet of 
assemblage. 1965-1979 


One of the Steve Durkee paintings out of the Tabernacle, installed 
at the USCO church in Garnerville from 1967-1972. The "Tabernacle" 
environment was first shown at the "Down By The Riverside" exhbit, 
Riverside Museum, New York, in 1966. 


Collages and Kinetic Sculptures and Programmers 

1. NO OW NOW - a contraction of an USCO mantra -take the no out of 
now - then - take the ow out of now - then - take the then out of 
now - then - ... an electro mechanical mantric device , with 
manual and automatic modes, utilizing the basic, Our Time Base 

Is Real, USCO timing circuit. A limited edition of three pieces 
out of IBM surplus. One in the collection of Immaculate Heart 
College, Los Angeles, one in the collection of Judi Stern, one 
in the USCO archives. 1965 

2. TRIPLE DIFFRACTION HEX: a three wheel, programmed array of mosaics 
constructed of diffraction materials. Geometry revealed in 
rotation by stroboscopic light. Shown in U.S. and Europe 1965. 

A larger relative, SEVEN DIFFRACTION HEX, 1967, was shown at the 
Howard Wise Gallery, N.Y. and sold to Malcolm Forbes, who later 
donated the piece to the Princeton University Museum. 

3. MONOLOG TO DIGITAL: (if you can t count don t blow) A voice 
operated assemblage of first-generation solid-state counting 
modules and other selected IBM surplus. 1966. Collection of 
John Brockman. 

4. BUSTED HEADS MONUMENT: Collage column with candle. 1963 

3. from USCO through INTERMEDIA 1962-1979 


5. BOGGLE THE TOGGLE: Surplus switches from IBM tape tester plus 
collage. Good featured as immanent, bad as a temporary system. 

1964. Collection of Grace and Jerry Wapner. 

6. D slide programmer; first piece of USCO programming equipment 

1965. D-10 punched paper tape programmer, INTERMEDIA 1968. IBM 
hand wired stepping switch, 1964. 

E. Video cassette works, "Teleportraits" and "Artists, Babies, 
Bodies" made under grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and 
the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, at the WGBH Experimental 
Television Laboratory in 1976-1977, and shown at the Museum of 
Modern Art, N.Y. and over public television. 

F. Strobe and mylar environment with rotating sounder: a recreation 
somewhat akin to USCO strobe pieces of the 60s. 

G. Documentation of, "from USCO through INTERMEDIA 1962-1979". 
Panels created for this exhibition, tracing the time/space 
lines with original and copied materials. 

H. Willie s Piece: an electro- luminescent traffic sculpture by 
Paul Williams. 

I. USCO AT THE CHURCH (mostly) : an assemblage of 60s footage 
filmed by Jud Yalkut. 

Projection Environments: featuring materials from "Verbal 
American Landscape", "We Are All One" and other USCO shows. 
Also partial panoramas from INTERMEDIA 360 degree projection 
surrounds and a single image slide show, "Lincoln and the Law" 
produced by INTERMEDIA for Sangamon State University with 
funds from NEH and installed at the Lincoln Law offices in 
Springfield Illinois. Also a group of USCO and Intermedia 
documentation slides. 

We are interested to know your reactions to this exhibition and 

will try to answer any queries or comments. 

A number of the pieces in this exhibition are for sale. We are 

also prepared to consider selected commissions and design/production 


A limited edition of 25 reel-to-reel (7^1. p. s. Jjtrack stereo) and 

cassette copies of the "Billie Master" tape in individually collaged 

boxes, numbered and signed are available at $50. A one-hour edited 

conversational audio cassette on the history of USCO is available 

at $15. Additional copies of this booklet are available at $3.00. 

All postpaid from Intermedia, 5 Cresskill Ave. , Cresskill.N. J. 07626. 



Michael Callahan, a native of San Francisco, was the San Francisco 
Tape Music Center s first technical director. He was president of 
Maverick Systems, Inc. of Woodstock, N.Y. As a founding member of 
USCO he was responsible for the design, construction, operation, and 
maintencance of the group s electronic and electro-mechanical tech 
nology. He traveled for the group to exhibitions and performances 
throughout the United States and Europe. 

From 1969 through 1975 Callahan became technical director for 
Intermedia Systems Corporation in Cambridge, Mass. During the past 
several years he heas held an appointment as Supervisor of Film 
Services, Harvard University. He is also engaged in consulting and 
in the design of audio visual systems technology. 

Linda von Helwig, is Vice-President and was Art Director of Inter 
media Systems Corporation, Cambridge, Mass. She has specialized in 
the design and creation of graphic materials for multi-media, laser 
projection, and other audio visual formats. Her work has been 
utilized in production for government, education, the arts, and 
business. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting 
from Syracuse University. 

Gerd Stern, poet and media artist, was one of the founders of the 
USCO group. He is the author of two volumes of poetry, First Poems 
and Others, and Afterimage . He has been an Associate in Education 
at Harvard University and a visiting lecturer in the History of 
Consciousness program at the University of California in Santa Cruz. 
His work has been shown at museums and galleries throughout the 
States and abroad. For the past eight years he has been President 
of Intermedia Systems Corporation in Cambridge, and is now associated 
with his family s import business. 

Zalman Stern, attends Vail School in Tucson, Arizona. His interests 
lie in computer language, photography, and music. 

USCO was a group of artists, poets, engineers, who worked out of an 
old church in Garnerville, New York during the nineteen sixties. 
Their work included images, sound, and technology executed by a 
community of participants, some living at the church, and others 
in various parts of the country and world. The performances and 
exhibitions were sponsored by universities, museums, galleries, 
theaters, etc. and became the subject of a considerable body of 
journalism and critique. 

During the late sixties some members of the group initiated the 
Lama Foundation in New Mexico. A number of others helped found 
the Intermedia Systems Corporation in Cambridge, Mass. 

Intermedia Systems Corporation is a small public company which, 
since 1969, has been engaged in the production of multi-media, film, 
video, and laser graphics for business, government, and the art 
and education fields. 

Intermedia Foundation, which was formed during the latter days of 
the USCO group, now operates out of the church in Garnerville, 
New York, under the directorship of David Weinrib, sculptor, film 
maker, and educator. The Foundation supports various artistic 
projects, sponsors workshops and seminars, presents performances, 
and is involved in the operation of the Thorpe Intermedia Gallery. 


FLASH - DOT - DOT: from Doubt and Certainty in 
Science as quoted in The Gutenberg Galaxy by 
Marshall McLuhan. 

"The effect of stimulations, ex 
ternal or internal, is to break up the unison of 
action of some part of the whole of the brain. A 
speculative suggestion is that the disturbance in 
some way breaks the unity of the actual pattern 
that has been previously built up in the brain. 
The brain then selects those features from the in 
put that tend to repair the model and to return 
the calls to their regular synchronous beating. I 
cannot pretend to be able to develop this idea of 
models in our brain in detail, but it has great 
possibilities in showing how we tend to fit our 
selves to the world and the world to ourselves. 
In some way the brain initiates sequences of ac 
tions that tend to return it to its rhythmic pattern, 
this return being the act of consummation of comple 
tion. If the first action performed fails to do 
this, fails that is to stop the original disturbance, 
then other sequences may be tried. The brain runs 
through its rules one after another, matching the 
input with its various models until somehow unison 
is achieved. This may perhaps only be after strenuous, 
varied and prolonged searching. During this random 
activity further connexions and action patterns are 
formed and they in turn will determine future se 
quences . " 




4-o a 


a4 41*. 


qp.M-3R.M- c.oH4i*KS 

[.SO dJk icsuh a44U 

urv\p a pi-e.ce 


DO) SITKK, th. local poK, ta x 

tbe "eootroUed tup- 
of Art audUortum 

HMR H for tack tatter 

of Art 
-Mn- wttb flMhin( 

to th. Uy JOT..- . tan* 

HOP. TOLD tut OO an to tk* 

M tor M. Mr. SUn 








.tivOu C i i^D Xi*lA jiliO 

out of 

conceived .arid produced iv by poet G&rd Stern, In association 
with painte^ Tvan Majdrakoff , sociologist Howard Becker 
and the San Francisco Tape Music Cente~. 

Starting at 8:00 p.m. sharp 
Tuesday, Nov. 12 - Thursday, Nov. 14 

in the audit or-ium of 
McAllister St. at Van Ness Ave. 

Tickets: $2.00 general public - $1.50 Museum menders 
available at the Museum Book Shop, by sending your 
check to the S. F. MUseum Education Department or at the 
door. Student tickets $1.00 with student cards at the 
Museum Book Shop or at the doo~. GET YOUR TICKETS NOW. 



e- j 




- fflOGRAM - 



"... in the electronic age whose madia substitute 
all-at-onceness for one-thing-at-e-tiaeness. The 
movement of information at approximately the speed 
of light baa became by far the largest industry in 
the world . . . Patterns of human association based 
on slower media have become overnight not only Ir 
relevant and obsolete, but a threat to continued 
existence and sanity." - H. Marshall McLuhan 

These performances are studies toward a larger multi-media presentation, 
The Ver^l VT !?* Landscape. In my Guggenheim Foundation proposal for 
this work, I wrote "The audience nay be regarded and valued, from a 
viewpoint of effect, as still another recording apparatus capable of 
aulti-llval operations." - Gerd Stern. 

Sociologists on the control panel are Howard Becker, Sheldon Heasinger, 
David Sudnov and Paul Verden. Intermission inquiries by Paul Verden. 

Word- images for the slide poem were chosen by Ivan Majdrakoff and Gerd 
Stern and photographed by Ivan Uajdrakoff who is also in charge of 

mo R n? 


Conceived and pro4uc<>i by poet Gerd Stern in associa 
tion with painter Ivan Majdrakoff , sociologist Howard 
Becker and the San Francisco Tape Music -Center . Judy 
McBean, eo-crdinator . 

Starring Live Public Figures, Tape, Telephone, 
vision, Projected laagea . . . 


Simon Perkoff . . 

for Tuesday are "at Finstein, Jacques Overhoff and 

Projectionists for Thursday are Ron W. Davis, Carl Glicko and Joe White. 
The performance photographer is Fred Lyon. 

Audio engineering is by Michael Callahan and -MM^-HW by Michael 
Callahan, Ranon Sender and Morton Subotnlck - all of the San Francisco 
Tape Music Center. Moot of the audio equipment is by courtesy of the 
San Francisco Tape Music Center. 

Telephones courtesy of Pacific Telephone. 

Closed circuit television earners and monitors courtesy of Sylvania Elec 
tric Products and Boulters courtesy of Airtronics, S.F. - specialists 
in closed circuit television. 


Television receiver* courtesy of the Women s Board, S.F. Museum of Art, 
Victor dl Suvero and George Walker. 

On Tuesday, November 12, 1963 
& Thursday, November 14., 1963 
at The San Francisco Museum of Art 

Publicity by Lorrle Bunker of Consultants Inc. 

Much thanks Is due the entire museum staff, Julius Uasseratein and the 
ln<+/l.l encouragement of the museum s director, George Culler. 

These performances are experiments in the effects of simultaneous 
c i mi I cations. We would be grateful for any observations, impressions 
and critique. Please address such to Gerd Stem, In care of The San 
Francisco Museum of Art, McAllister St. at Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, 


PAfit FHE* 

y. Nov. 13, 1963 

A Landmark of a Flop 

t eoloaaal flopa have 
taken place In the public 
balk of San Fraadsco in 
my time, but Gerd Stem s 
snow called "Who R UT" 
and "What 1 ! Happening 
k the only one I can recall 
that hid so vast and bor- 


At least 
ed ttt Oat Button laat 
alfht at tha Sea Fnacfceo 
Bfaaeanof Art en set like 
ly to forget Una hurry. It 
k annnumud. Gad enc i 
to be doea again tamem 
Bjfnt-at thy aama place. 

tan aever provided a 
dear ilisiinl ef hk UU 
Hess sad it k dUfkatt ta de- 
acribe what want ee. Aa oaa 
arrtveda lorar/ child 

Jn keepiBg wttfa thai phO- 
aaaphy. aame aena talevk- 
iamasti wan placed aa tha 
stage of tha araan 

rt sad they raa 
all Illlllllj on 

aUeany. Three 
encted for th* 

vDablai aad many wan COD- 
Tha idea, It would 
i was te nOact tba bom 
bardsiant with wordi that 

A vait tamou of elactrOD* 

ic r"* llM f eq uiprorat wu on a 
table, and expertf from the 
Saa Fnaeiaeo Tkpt Oaater 
d ever m aU enamg ai 
if it waaat working ptufiailji, 
which wat probably true: the 
bow started 45 
Fear gnepi ef people mi 

of ninubly tba eaovenatioa of 
the paopla around the table* 
waa part ef thk. but not i 

Two of tease gnapi vere 
(apparaaUr) ia eeverad 

ethar twa wen la flw ka|* 
aa either rid* of UM 

ef started. Tha Uftata wen lew. 

at a law. They wan 
hetncnnhed by haa Mad- 
MnC( and mur ef then 

quit. bMBUfuL Thar 

luahnaat sad ehaaiata. butitraffic slcnak, tradu, 
a threat ta eoatmaad exkt- almttar thingj 

Mast ef them wan mono- 

thla warkad, for a time. But 
K began to be a bora, 
aaaattan tha tape w 

oaimaf a eoBOBoow. nerva- 

IB the faoaral apraar. 
Thu west on lor 40 Bin. 

mtiiwihwinii AfUr-tha Inter- 
ton the ame thine (tart- 
ad aU over afain. with lone 
ef the saaa aUdaa aad the 

aad waMlinc. A 
i went to the piano 
played -Choparlrti." 
both straight aad to ton* 
as If to mj tha 


we arc all one on and off in and oat a switch 1m thrown contact 

1 the only love open up your hearts floshlnr along the through 

free safe high way baby baby can t you hear -r heart beat .l.ctron. 

ilailpate enerxy In realatanee o do urrender aaatary through 
servitude they re In the MM place we are herenow don t neglect 
our builn.i. advortlaa for there la one light eallehtena the 
orld hlgheat of the w>et high 1 lorn you god la great turn on 
he lutheran layaana league final eolation to thla age old problem 

right of nay why not hold on one. you ham taken aw Into your 
heart let go It doean t aatter iihoae are am like antlMtter 
ayncroacali tine shirting phaae 1 never let Myaelf to out at the 
new eanaan barrier rock la haf nappenlmc atop and flow ekataala 
aavage arn we croaa ouraelTea terrltorlec field* lendaeapea 
discipline, down aaroaa to the holy ghoat aprlng we eee the 
unlveraal Joint our own god luge atay clear at all tlawa when 
container la off ground keep aaarloa beautiful 
we are all ua at aahwart*. hall brandela unlveralty aprll C 1965 




usco 21 church street garnerville n.y. 10923 phone ^ 14-947-?5 4 9 

at MIT 

Something called "Hubbub" was present 
ed in the Kresge Auditorium at the Massa 
chusetts Institute of Technology last night. 
Employing an "audio-visual collage" tech 
nique. Usco. a group of some 20 experi 
menters utilized an oscilloscope, rapid- 
elide projector, movie projector, multichan 
nel speaker system, and assorted stage 
devices, to create a ahow which strove for 
strange new effect*. 

Six episodes, or "movements. com 
prised this "meiSia mix." The Brat featured 
a bare-chested youth straddling a TV set 
whose screen showed the waving lines of 
an oscilloscope. Slides and film clips at 
subliminal brevity were projected on the 
wall behind him while gongs, sirenlike 
wails, country music, and unidentiDable 
sounds were played over the apeaken. , 

- Fria.r. December U. IMS 



In the second section, the same fellow 
painted cryptically reUgiexu messages on 
backdrop while lifhts and partially dis- 
tinfuishable images nickered around him. 

Most qf the remainini episodes reflected 
this pattern : flashing slide or movie frames, 
dazzling light effects, blanng. undecipher 
able electronic sounds, and other unfa 
miliar impressions. 

While arresting at times, the presenta 
tion often seemed peculiarly repetitious and 
tedious. Ideas with an initial impact often 
became self-defeating through interminable 
extension, even though . a cumulative effect 
was being sought And preoccupation with 
gimmickry tended to distort or destroy 
whatever was being communicated. 

But the whole concept is a relatively new 
one. Through refinement -it may eventually 
evolve into an accepted means of artistic . 
expression. . A. N. B. 



FILM-MAKERS CINEMATHEQUE 125 W.41at St., New York..Y. Tal. 564-3 818 
NOTES ON THE JANUARY 18-23 PROGRAM (CSCO SHOW) Shows at 830 dally 
Oaring the last few months we have heard much about "expanded" cinema (the 
term used by Jonas Mekas for the "Expanded Cinema Survey" at the Cinematheque 
last November); "psychedelic" theater (the term used by Timothy Leary group); 
"media -mix" (the term used by USCO) ; "combine-cinema" (the term uaed by Stan 
Vanderbeek); etc. The writings of Marshall McLuhan have provided a aocio-philo- 
ophical basis for this new audio-visual "movement 1 artists such as Stan Vander 
beek, Angus McLise, Gerd Stern, Nam June Faik, Jerry Joffen, Robert Whitman. 
Barbara Rubin, Ed Emshwiller have provided the practical examples of such worksu 
Painters, dancers and composers such as Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, 
Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Elaine Summers, LaMonte Young have used or 
contributed to such shows. Timothy Leary, the LSD scientist, employed it as part 
of the Psychedelic Theater last summer. And since last Christmas, when Stan Van- 
derbeek took half a dozen projectors into the Berliner Stadthaus for his "Feedback 
No. I" Europe has been talking about it. 

The Film-Makers Cinematheque has been supporting these experiments since 
its inception. Last year, the Cinematheque held an extensive survey of the whole 
development with more than 3O artists participating. Now we feel that tkis work ha 
reached proportions important enough for wider audiences, to come and see what it 
la all about. 

We have singled out one program which we think is well suited to serve as an 
Introduction to this new, multiple cinema experience. FOR ONE WEEK, BEGDOiSif 
TUESDAY, JANUARY 18th. EVERY NIGHT AT 8 JO, the Film-Makers* -Clnemath. 
eque-wffl jrooeut HUBBUB, prepared arai-performed-byHhe-CSCO group. 

NOTE-ONTHrlB SPEClFKTPBOGRAMr KUBBtmjmulli-chaiinel media-mix -rf 
films, t^tj>omillo*cap^Mtxi>bo*cap^Jai>eat>+ai1tre-iaage*. Effects, from one 
fixilvn ctinnnrl mlr. . 

x Cinematheque s Hubbub 

~\ When it was all over and Hubbub" had been expe- 
rienced quite loudly. Jonas Mekas. Cinematheque s High i 
o Priest, apologized. The "multi-channel, media-mix of films I 
8} tape, oscilloscope, stroboscope, kinetic and live images"! 
g had been .deprived of its stroboscopic element due to the 

; defection of certain electrician.7 

> -This reviewer had not mlssril 
,_- it. or could he. In conscience 

this* that the lull -effect would 

have em belter 
tenths of It. 

than nine, 

Mr. Mekas has suggested that 
P this- picture, aptly named "Hub 

bub. showing each evening- at 
$8 JO at the US W. (1st SL 
!S basement theater through this 

Sunday, will serve well as a* 

ana.- Ike avant-garde s latest 
audiovisual creation. Let 
think about It 

one moment of blessed silence. 
It is an extremely noisy pie- 
tare. A* many as live Images 
ahnuhaneously fill the screen. 
OB either aloe of the screen two 
man boxes reflect a repetl 
tiolisly changing Image of col 
ored lights. In front of the 
ereen an oscilloscope seems to 
represent the sound, large, 
small, shrill ar loud, that yon 
re hearing. The seated figure 
at a man who does nothing. 

says nothing, u 


Meanwhile the pictures, either 
still or live, continue on the 
screen. frequently flashed so 
fast that the effect is sub 

liminal. If any. In one section 
of the movie devoted to road 
and traffic signs, a speedin-! 
camera, and sounds of Inerras- 
Ing ecstasy ("One- Way." "Icy." 
"Elevation SOOO." ~1 Lanes.- 
"Oear Road." -Summit") there! 
were subliminal glimpses of the I 
body. Including a belly-button 
which was more highly defined. 
In another section there was 
a heartbeat magnified to huge 

Tfce Crete Sawi 

la another aectlon the roar 
of motorcycles look over and 
we careened along parallel. 
roads looking from behind the 
helmet of the two cyclists. This i 
roar was amplified until you i 
felt It in your bones. II was at i 
this point that Willard Van 
Dyke, the new movie curator 
at the Museum of Modern Art, . 
after an hour of experiencing. 1 
departed saying. In character- 
Islic gentle understatement. 
"Enough Is enough." 

Almost Immediately the scene . 
changed. Water was heard bub- , 
bUng. Yea. It was water on the 
screen. Then sounds of a jungle 
ook over, with all those dls 
cavaant piercing sounda one as- 
| aodales with Tarzan 

of media. Thaae -are-titled tlfcTHODE RAX. fllGHTHEETHBUSAFE- 


THJLAimSTS- INVOLVED IN THE PROGHAMi.USCO is a group rrf peoplejrho work 
together - posts, film-makers, engineers, composers - but they prefer to remain 
nameless. "We are all one," saya an USCO spokesman. "In a world of simultaneous 
opermtlMuu you do not have to be . first to be on top. The material IB contributed 
by many people woridiis^*alrT*taally-orHja_grwip-all over the country and is assem 
bled at our church in GamervOle, New York. As has always been the case with 
artisans la traditional societies, the work remains anonymous." 

MEDU-MIXE8 by USCO have been performed at the San Francisco Museum of 
Art, The University of British Columbia s Vancouver Arts Festival. Univ. of 
WUooMln, Univ. of Hnnhestnr. .Psychedelic Theater, M.LT. , and the Flint-Makers 

ales with Tarzan movie 
pound-tracks. As dlmax there; 
%saa an enormous croak of a . 
monstrous, unseen bullfrog, the, 
wlggest and best I ever heard. 
You could almost see him swim 
ming magnificently down the: 
Hudson, the size and sound of a 
super-liner. i 

This was one of the few who* \ 
ly satisfying moments of -Hub 
bub." I am not prepared to say . 
that there cannot have been oth- . 
an. The motorcycle sound. lor, 
instance, was overwhelming. It 
ha* a Masting, masculine g 
gresaiveneas that might some-! 
iday be used for a worthy artis- 
Be purpose. 

I-auppose that the sounds at 
OK female do have a message 
Ohat can be grasped by most; 
adults and some adolescents.; 
-though this has been used most , 
effectively In a sen-avant-garde, 
story telling dim (~Repuuuon") 

II "Hubbub" Intends to under 
line the obliterating, multiple 
nd pressures of 
life, giving you some- 
irag you d as soon avoid, per 
lhacw It make, a point. My mis- 
gMng with this picture, as so 
iaany others of the group and 
(pavement. Is mat It has the tor- 
tan effect of rapetlUousness 
amrratd on too lone far comfort. 
anas la oot-emphaais. If. Pavlov 
dudngalsep In dogs by means 
Vl boredom. The creators of this 
kacp themselves 
l by means at the machines 
which hav* to be watched for 
Malfunction, but those of us who 
amply erne to waun will re- 
-MJJ, to ana, gr n. in-listed 
enough to go out Into the sud- 
4Mey peaceful, bucolic streets of 
Ibumattaa where all la peace 
wad quiet 


i^gi - i^ai IJL : i>iai IJL iMai i-i. | 






May 8 -June 19. 1966 

Riverside Museum 
310 Riverside Dr. ( 103 St.) 


a a 

tM 4- 

30 30 

R.verside Drive at 1 03rd St.. N. Y. C. 1 0025 

UNnHy 4-I700 

l<u>o Mow 7 1 <Jfifi 

An environment by Usco 

May 8 -June 19.1966 

From Sunday May 8 through June 19 the Riverside Museum {310 River id Drive at 
103 St.) will present a four room "be-in* by Usco. This MMt will include 
paintings, sculpture, weaving poetry, kinetic*, electronics, light, and sound. 

Usco is a group of people at work together on the new electronic environment, making 
waves: analogs of bead and heart for love and peace. "We are all one,* says a 
member, " in a world of simultaneous operations you don t nave to be first to be on 
top. Our center is an old church at Garnervllle. New York, but much of the work comes 
from individuals and groups in the city and all over the country. As with artisans in 
traditional societies, the work is essentially anonymous. The Usco show is con 
ceived as a "be-in" to get out of the art gallery "walk-through" world. Comfortable 
furniture combined with the pieces will make it possible to spsad tine living with the 
work. In one case visitors will sit In a fourteen-foot rotating cave . 

Most of the nieces in this exhibition will be shown for the first time. An early Uaco 
work, "Contact Is The Only Love" (1963) has been brought from the San Francisco 
Museum of Art. It is a seven-foot octagon. Interlocking rhythms of sound as wall as 
neon, fluorescent, and incandescent lights. The paintings are ehakras. totems, 
waveforms, scriptural messages, tie-dyes, caves, mandates, premises, portraits 
rf*=tlons. The sculptures turn, turn and turn. There will be several works in a 
newly developed diffraction medium. "Ideas of Order." mads of IBM surplus, plays 
random game-e-minute of tlc-tac-toe . 

1 Sun 

2 Mandate 
2A Mandate 

3 Tiger 

4 Black Cross Weave 

5 Vision of the Mystic 

6 Buddha Lite Thru 

7 Quetscoatl 

8 Indian Spirits 

9 Slva/Shakti 

10 Shakti 

11 Siva 

12 Earth Song 

13 Siva-Shaktl Fire 
H Spheres 

15 Thousand Petal Lotus 
ISA Om Sine 

16 Garden 

17 49 Bulbs 

18 Weather 

19 Projection Door 

20 Contact is the Only Love 

21 Blue/Gold Cube 

22 Ram Around the Rosle 

23 Ideas of Order 

24 U-2 

25 Psalms 

26 Diffraction Mosaic 

27 Making Waves 

28 Cave 

29 Cave Paintings and Tie Dyes 

30 Mandalic Drawings 

31 Babe Box 

32 My Father and I Are One 

33 Zoo 

i for this show will be 

Much of the light and sound environ 

of the variables, including stroboeeopic light and oscilloscope images, will be 

- *** by those who come. 



- V 

1 * 
\i - 

w " 

-1 * 


re r 


I a !,! 






1 O 3T <" MM O j 

- r 



,.. _!.. cv. .. < , 4r - -.,... _i. ;-.V4r. 

c^^^ SBiiijjj^jB !> """ " " "^" t * : ^* s <% 


Light: Obiect and image 

Whitney Museum ot American An 

New York 

USCO Inirrmrd.a ikrlck for ImnK.mniion igM |The work inrll n in ll> nhibilion.l 


Founded 1964. ai Garnerville. New York. The 
US Company represents a merger of talents, 
pamlcr. poet and engineer, and media, light, 
motion, sound and object. Devoted to producing 
situations of intense sensory and psychic 
stimulus. Unites the cults of mysticism and 
technology as a basis for introspection and 
communication. Presentations based on the 
thifiry that "illumination is a way. yoga, 
discipline, search, discovery, the making of each 
thins in light. Light on/the mirror, light 
ihruuRh/the window, reflection, projection or 
whatever method we find to fulfill our desires or 
In rrvisii the inner vision." 

Exhibition, and Performances 
Onr-man: "Who R U." San Francisco Museum 
uf Art. San Francisco. 1963: University of 
California at Los Angeles. 1963: " V.A.L.." 
I Inivnrsity of British Columbia. Vancouver. 
British Columbia. 1964: "V.A.L.." University of 
Oregon. Eugene. Oregon. 1964: "Immaculate 
Heart Mosaic." Hollywood. California. 1964: 
" V A.L.." University of Rochester. Rochester. 
New York. 1964: California College of Arts and 
Crafts. Oakland. California. 1964: "V.A.L.." 
Carleton College. Carlelon. Minnesota. 1964: 
V A.L.." University of Wisconsin. Madison. 
Wisconsin. 1964: "Yield." "We R All One." 
Brandeis University. Wallham. Massachusetts. 
1965: Woodstock Artists Association. 
Woodstock. New York. I960: Rutgers University. 
New Brunswick. New (ersey. 196S: "Hubbub." 
Mansachusetts Institute of Technology. 
Cambridge. 1965: "We R All One." Berkeley. 
California. 1066: "We R All One: a Be-In." 
Riverside Museum. New York. 1966: 
"Knvironmenl II." The Architectural League of 

New York. 1967. Croup: "Kunst Lichl Kunsl." 
Stedelijk van Abbemuseum. Eindhoven. The 
Netherlands. 1966: "The Projected Image." 
Institute of Contemporary Art. Boston. 1967: 
"Shiva/Sakti, Sine/Pulse." Riverside Museum. 
New York. 1967; "Lights in Orbit." Howard Wise 
Gallery. New York. 1967; "Lighl/Motion/Space." 
Walker Art Center. Minneapolis. & Milwaukee 
Art Center. Milwaukee. 1967: "Light and 
Movement." Flint Institute of Art. Flint. 
Michigan. 1967: "Festival of Lights." Howard 
Wise Gallery. New York. 1967: "Fanflashlic." 
Intermedia 68. N>w York Stale Council on the 
Arts and The National Council on the Arts. 
New York and tour. 1968. 

Feigelson. Naomi. "We Are All One. Who R U." 
Cheetah. 1 :30-35. 74-76. May 1966. 
Houston, lean, and others. Psychedelic Art. 
New York. Grove Press. Inc.. 1968. 
Kostelanetz. Richard. "Scene and Not Herd 
USCO." Horper s Bazaar. No. 3073:52. 71. 75. 84. 
December 1967. 

Kostelanetz. Richard. The Theatre of Mixed 
Means. New York. The Dial Press. Inc.. 1966. 
Lester. Elenore. "Intermedia: Tune in. Turn On 
And Walk Out?" The New York Times Magazine. 
30-31. 66-76. May 12. 1966. 
Tulane Drama Review. 11. Fall 1966. 
Public Collection. 

Immaculate Heart College. Los Angeles: 
Oakland Art Museum. Oakland. California: 
San Francisco Museum of Art. San Francisco. 




(Continued from page 71) 
judges, "you can become pretty 
much ommattentive." 

From McLuhan. along with the 
Indian aesthetician Ananda K 
Coomaraswamy. they took the 
theme that the contemporary artist 
should be as anonymous as the 
medieval artist: but interpretations 
of "anonymity" create a constant 
argument within the USCO house. 
Their work is clearly anonymous in 
the sense that it contains neither 
an individual signature nor ear 
marks o( personalized expression. 
However, to Stem, their impersonal 
result does not deny ; nJividual ar 
tistic contributions. 

USCO has done so many things 
in its short life that future histori 
ans will have difficulty collecting 
all the data; what I list below is 
merely a rough summary of their 

1.) Psychedelic posters and other 

2.) Various kinds of machines and 
electronic devices, such as strobe 
lights and programming units. 
3.) Electronic audio-visual aids, 
such as a counting unit for the 
New York production of Norman 
Mailer s The Oeer Park. 
4.) Mixed-means presentations for 
corporation sales conferences. 
5.) The setting up and operation 
of a mixed-media discotheque. 
6.) Kinetic artistic -informational 
displays, such as a much-appre 
ciated media-mix about the Lower 
East Side for New York s Jewish 
Museum and. this autumn, the 
Smithsonian Institution in Wash 

7.) Miscellaneous sound and light 
effects for all kinds of hippy and 
pacifist benefits. 

8.) Theatrical performances in doz 
ens of museums and universities. 
9 ) An elegant kinetic, medrtational 
tabernacle in their own house. 
10.) The construction of a com 
munal village in the New Mexican 

11.) Consultation in environment 
creation, including hyped-up roams 
intended for psychiatric purposes. 
The more USCO does, the fur 
ther from convention it goes: the 
more imitators they have, the 
stronger is their, desire to. mo /e be 
. yond even media mixes. They will 
.probably move out of quasi-art ob 
jects and even theatrical displays 

into larger and more comprehen- 
sive creations. "If we are con- 
cerned environmentally." Stern 
says, "we might as well plan our 
own environment." The New Mexi- 




. (Continued from page 75) 

co project will be their first attempt , 

at building a human community j he met both Allen Ginsberg and 

from scratch 

Home base for USCO is still the 

Carl Solomon in a psychiatric hos 
pital in the late forties. Born in 

one-time church in Garnerville. A! 1928 in the Saarbasin. and a few 
rather large building, it has one I years later a refugee from Hitler s 

huge room which was formerly a 
workshop but now houses "The 
Tabernacle" (1966). a kinetic en 
vironment that USCO opens to the 
public every Sunday afternoon. A 
hexagon, about twelve feet in di 
ameter. "The Tabernacle" has such 
a rich gallery of sensory effects that 
the experience of sitting in it con 
firms Stern s promise that. " The 
Tabernacle stimulates people, 
shows them things they haven t 
seen before, makes them contem 

All receipts from USCO activities 
go into maintaining the establish 
ment, purchasing new supplies for 
pieces, and transportation. The 
telephone rings a lot. and a collec 
tive passion for long-distance con- 
versat ions earns Mother Bell several 
hundred dollars each month. 
USCO s annual income runs about 
thirty thousand dollars per year, 
mostly from Maverick Systems. 
Inc.. a subsidiary in electronic 
manufacturing. As expenses in 
variably run more than income, 
donations fill the deficit. "We 
have all the same administrative 
problems of a small business." 
Stern judges, "and none of the! 
conventional incentives no fringe 
benefits and time off." The 

Germany. Stem came with his fam 
ily to New York City in 1936 and 
later attended the Bronx High 
School of Science. He has worked 
as a carpenter, a mucker in a gold 
mine, a public relations executive 
and a travel writer for Playboy; to 
the USCO division of labor, he 
brings competencies developed in 
all these experiences. He is the 
poet and the carpenter, as well as 
the coordinator and the publicist. 
It is Stern who usually deals with 
the outside world; and perhaps be 
cause he is considerably older 
than his partners, he usually as 
sumes the mediator s role in in- 
tra-USCO squabbles. Medium in 
height and build, he has an im 
posingly long, untrimmed and un 
furling reddish-brown beard, thick 
unkempt black hair and thick eye 
glasses, which have a small re 
flecting disc at the zenith of their 
bridge. His appearance conveys a 
faintly Hassidic image which Stern 
sometimes cultivates; usually in 
demeanor he is disciplined and re 
sponsive, generous and practical. 
Steve Ourkee is so different 
from Stem that their relationship 
strikes some outsiders as an in 
explicable puzzle. Born in 1938 in 
Warwick. New York, about fifteen 

building itself has a legal identity miles from Garnerville. he grew up 


in New York State as "The Church 
of the Tabernacle, Inc.." whose 
"ministers" are USCO. To earn a 
tax-exempt "free church" 
USCO must keep the Church s 
pews, which is to say "The Taber 
nacle." open free to the public one 
day every week. Within the shell of 
an ok) church thrives a new kind 
of religion, as a new Church. 

in New York City, quit high school 
at. fifteen and soon embarked on a 
career as a painter. Some of his 
early work incorporated English 
words into an abstract field: and 
perhaps because he also lived near 
Robert Indiana. Robert Rauschen- 
berg and Jim Rosenquist. the crit 
ic G. R. Swenson included Durfcee 
in his pioneering survey of Pop 

The core members of USCO are Art, Art News (Sept-Oct.. 1963). 
hardly anonymous and amenable Objecting to this premature class!- 
types who could facilely blend into fication. Ourkee abandoned that 
an organization, let alone a crowd: I; way of painting to concentrate on 
yet their diversified talen.s and j large, cleanly executed pattern 

personalities make everyone. Stem 
insists, "mutually supportive." 
About a dozen years ago. Stern had 
a reputation as an undistinguished 
poet on the fringe of the Beat 
Movement- He went to Black 

paintings in general, objective 
creations designed to induce sub 
jective responses. In 1962 soon 
after their marriage, the Durkees 
purchased the abandoned church 
from a patriotic organization. He 

Mountain College for a spell, and considers himself a follower of the 
(Continued on page 84) 

Hjrorr s B.IZUI 

mute Indian prophet Metier Baba, 
whom he calls "The Avatar of the 
Age:" and it was a personal di 
rective from Baba himself that per 
suaded Ourkee to terminate his use 
of psychedelic drugs. In USCO s 
work, he is not only the painter but 
the ideologue and visionary: state 
ments of principle and ideals are 
almost his specialty. His appetite 
for mystical literature is almost 
scholarly. When presenting his 
ideas, he speaks with the surly in 
tensity and commanding presence 
of an incipient prophet. 

Michael Callahan is consider 
ably younger than his partners, as 
well as possessed of distinctly dif 
ferent habits and competencies. 
Born in San Francisco in 1944. he 
joined Ourkee and Stem at Garner 
ville just before his twentieth birth 
day. Prior to that, he had attended 
San Francisco City College for 
nearly two years, intending to ma 
jor in psychology: and he also 
helped design and construct the 
Bay City s first tape music center, 
eventually becoming its vice-presi 
dent. The son of an electrician, he 
learned precociously the languages 
of switches and circuits: as he puts 
it. "Although I don t have a de 
gree. I ve always known people 
who have needed something elec 
tronic done." As chief maker of 
the strobe lights and other bread- 
fetching equipment. Callahan is 
officially president of Maverick 
Systems: and electronic manufac 
turers and distributors occasion 
ally give or lend him instruments 
that USCO cannot yet afford. The 
machines and devices he realizes 
for mixed-media displays are often 
more intricate than his limited 
budget would allow a lesser talent. 
The young producer-consultant 
John Brockman does so much work 
with USCO that he is an asso 
ciate in all but name, and along 
with Gerd Stern and Michael Calla 
han, Brockman is co-authoring an 
introductory textbook on inter 
media. At one time anyone was wel 
come to join USCO. and strangers 
who can contribute to the current 
activity win cordial hospitality. 
Nonetheless by now USCO seems 
more of an example of what can be 
done a recognized avant-garde 
revolutionary elite; and just as 
their innovations in the arts of me 
dia-mix have influenced scores of 
other artists and groups of artists, 
so USCQ itself has become a model 
for other new American tribes m 
sync with the electronic age. * 



the electronic mantra 

under construction 

with basic timing circuit 






USCO. USCO those mysterious initials that 
magisterially appear in various places and con 
texts signify US Company (or company of us), 
a collective of artists who operate out of a for 
saken church in Garnerville. New York, about 
an hour north of New York City. USCO func 
tions as a frame, as well as a signature, for 
indi -<ual artists who move in and out. con 
tributing to the collective effort and yet pre 
serving their personal identities. The quickest 
measure of USCO s impact is the relation 
between its age and achievement; for in less 
than four years, it has completed a multiplicity 
of projects and established an international 

The core members of USCO are its founders 
a painter in his late twenties named Steve 
Ourkee; a younger man with a considerable 
aptitude for electronics. Michael Callahan; and 
a thirty-eight year old poet who had occasion 
ally plied conventional trades. Gerd Stem. 
Their paths crossed in the early sixties, as 
they "helped each other with their respective 
works. "Gerd was living near here." Ourkee 
remembers, "and he was just turning his poet 
ry into on-the-wall objects. As I had been 
making objects on the wall for a long time. I 
helped him. Since I understood that very 
thoroughly, he was able to say X. Y and A. 
and I was able to say A. B and 1. That was 
how the relationship started." A short while 
later. Stern, then in San Francisco, needed 
some technical help in making a tape col 
lage, and Michael Callahan. as a technician 
at the local tape music center, became his 
collaborator. Not until 1964. however, did they 
all gather in Ourkee s studio-home, the Gar 
nerville church, to combine their collaborative 
instincts into USCO. 

As each moved out of his respective art 
into collective work, the results of their coilabo- 
ration became inter-media works that strad 
dled the walls which traditionally divided one 
art from another. USCO has produced ob 
jects of all sorts posters as well as machines 
but their primary medium has been the- 
theatrical event. Some have been conventional 
performances, where (Continued on page 71) 



(Continued from page 52) 
an -audience arrived at a certain 
time, paid an admission price and 
4thefl took their seats, but USCO 
prefers to work in what Stern calls 
"trie environmental circumstance." 
where "you take a space and an 
open-ended piece of time, and you 
see what you can make it do to 
people." In producing an environ 
ment USCO metaphorically creates 
a world of activity just as. Our- 
fcM adds. "God created the uni- 

The best USCO theatrical pieces 
qsfftain a plethora of communica- 
thfc stimuli slides, films (some- 
takes looped), colored and/ or puts- 
ief lights, sounds, objects and even 
odors all of which usually func 
tion to evoke archetypal themes; 
.a particularly successful piece 
they characterize as "a beautiful 
mix." The four-room environment 
USCO constructed at the Riverside 
Museum in May, 1966, was prob 
ably their most elaborate and bril 
liant exhibition. 

USCO designed this "system" 
to be a "meditation room." full of 
basic symbols- and materials 
Tnale and female, heartbeats, and 
Above, seven spheres representing 
the seven planets. "We also had 
five elements." Durkee remembers. 
"We had sand in the box in the 
middle: fire in the candles: we had 
air: we had water in the fountain 
around the periphery of the col 
umn, which was also the lingnam 
inside the yoni a psycho-sexual 
situation. There was an om tape 
playing on a stereo tape recorder. 
Have you heard of em"? Dome, 
home. womb. tomb, bomb: the 
onV is in a lot of important 
things. Om was the original 
sound of the universe. What we 
had in that room, in short, was ev 
erything that is." Most of USCO s 
oldest admirers consider the Riv 
erside Museum display its greatest 
single work, and the exhibition has 
been memorialized in. Jud Yal- 
kut s color film. Down by fne Riv 
erside (1966). 

The effect of an USCO environ 
ment is somewhat similar to the 
psychedelic experience, for in both 
an awareness of sensory overload 
disrupts all attempts at concen 
trated focus- and also initiates a 
gamut of emotional and psycholog 
ical changes. An intrinsic purpose 

of such an environment is the 
challenging of linear habits of or 
ganization. "We re dealing with the 
question of now you can gel into 
the mind with information and im 
ages and whether literary, sequen 
tial ordering is really the only de 
cent, rational and reasonable in 
put." Stern remarks. Therefore, 
the connection with psychedelic*. 
while valid, does not explain every 
thing: although Ourkee once ex 
tensively iectured on the new drugs 
(which he has since given up), 
USCO s pieces are designed to 
turn people on. not to themselves 
but each other. Their principal 
theme, Ourkee says, "is that we 
are all one. Once we have the un 
derstanding that you re not threat 
ening to me and I m not threaten 
ing to you in other words, that 
you are myself outside of myself, 
then we can begin to work to 
gether." USCO s environments pre 
sent a field of elemental images 
precisely to make everyone under 
go a common reception and then 
experience a shared awareness. In 
deed their conception of art s pos 
sible purposef ulness evokes echoes 
of the American Thirties, but the 
content of USCO s message is 
more ecumenical than parochial. 

The close connection between 
electronic media and shared aware 
ness has McLuhanish overtones, 
and sure enough McLuhan s ideas 
are conspicuously among USCO s 
influences. Back in 1960 Gerd 
Stern read an early draft of Under 
standing Media (1964) in the form 
of a report McLuhan submitted to 
the National Association of Educa 
tional Broadcasters in 1959. and 
that experience persuaded Stern 
to consider the artistic potential of 
the new media. Soon after, his own 
poetic impulses took off from the 
problems of black words on white 
paper and were channeled into 
tape collage. McLuhan himself has 
joined USCO for two performances, 
speaking after and sometimes be 
fore a mixed-media presentation. 
USCO concurs with his prophecy 
that today s cities win soon disin 
tegrate into small communities, 
electronically interconnected; and 
from him. they also recognized 
how sensory overload in their home 
environment could recircuit their 
own sensibilities. "When you live 
in a twenty-four channel system, 
day in and day out es we did 
when we were doing our things at 
home, running them for twenty- 
four hours a day, almost" Ourkee 
Continued on peg* 75) 




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With light, color, motion, sound 
and a little McLuhanist theory, 

USCO tunes us in 
on the real vibrational universe. 

by Naomi Feigelson 

A continuous flow of images projected on the the 
ater s cave-like walls assaults the audience. Flowers, larger 
than life, open and close, zooming in and out. The eyes, 
lips, face and shoulder of Jean Harlow; penguins, eagles, 
birds of prey. A volcano erupting. On the screen up front, 
a lion licks her cub. Over all this is a mixture of sound 
animals roaring, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, 
music from Bach, Tristan, and Cone With the Wind. In 
the semi-darkness, three musicians walk up to the stage 
with yahrzeit candles, sit a while in the light of the 
remembered dead, and sing about energy and love. They 
leave and the play, Michael McClure s The Beard, begins. 
The prologue and theater design are by USCO (for US 
Company), a group of artists who live as a family and 
work in intermedia and environmental art. Combining 
lights, colors, moving images, sounds, and often human 
actors, intermedia is the end product of half a century 
of under and above-ground art. It shows the influence 
of psychedelic drugs, pop art, op art, junk art, kinetic 
sculpture, light sculpture, electronic music, and happen 
ings. It has absorbed the perfumes of Oriental mysticism 
and the precepts of Buckminster Fuller, who emphasizes 
man s relation to environment, and Marshall McLuhan, 


who describes technology as man s extension in time and 

The prologue for The Beard, which lasted a full 35 
minutes, excited responses ranging from delight and re 
ceptivity to boredom and even outrage. This was not too 
different from the effect of the play itself. During the pre- 
opcning previews, producer Jim Walsh reported some 
anger in the audience during the prologue and occasional 
walkouts. At least one viewer asked if there was really 
going to be a play. She was afraid the prologue was "the 
whole thing." 

USCO frequently does just part of the thing. For Nor 
man Mailer s Deer Park. USCO devised an elaborate elec 
tronic toteboard which marked the passage of time and 
divided acts and scenes with a bell to suggest a boxing 
ring. As consultants to John Brockman Associates, the 
group has worked on mixed media sales meetings for 
Scott Paper Company, a Christmas lighting environment 
for Henri Bendel s and the East Coast s first psychedelic 
discotheque. The World, in Garden City, Long Island. 
These ventures have provided USCO with a living and 
the chance to develop and acquire new equipment. 

But collaborations have drawbacks. The effect of an 
USCO production depends to a great extent on the audi 
ence s willingness to be drawn in. Ideally USCO should 
control the space, the program, and the viewer s state of 
mind. When it does the effect is spectacular, as it was at 
USCO s Riverside Museum show, which attracted so much 
attention that even Life mentioned it in a cover story 
about psychedelic art. USCO called it a Human Be-In, a 
coinage popularized by the organizers of the famed San 
Francisco Gathering of the Tribes, which took place 
several months later. 

The Riverside Be-In was an environment where lights, 
music, painting, sculpture, all the elements invited the 
viewer to participate, to come in and meditate. USCO 


wanted lo get away from the usual museum experience of 
walking from one object to another. As spokesman Gerd 
Sicrn describes it, "We wanted a place where people 
could communicate more with themselves than with any 
one else and in which there was a period of, in John 
Cage s terms, silence." 

USCO turned one room of the museum into a light 
garden, where visitors could activate flowers made of 
lights by walking on floor switches. Inside a second room 
was a circular enclosure of painted cloth, called a cave 
because "that s where we re all from. We wanted to turn 
people back to their subconscious." Viewers came into the 
cave, lay down on a rotating couch, and contemplated 
the pictures of demons, gods, and humans painted on the 
ceiling and the walls all around them. 

A third room was subsequently dubbed the Creation, 
because it sought to encompass the basics of life. It too 
was for meditation. In it were five nine-foot high paint 
ings representing the planets in their orbits, the seven 
ipheres, the Tree of Life, a male figure of Shiva, Hindu 
!iod of energy. His outflowing energy was symbolized by a 
icntral, pulsating light from which painted lines radiated. 
V dancing female, the Hindu Sakti. represented woman, 
vith the light lines- radiating out. In the center of the 
limly lit room was a sandbox with a rotating light column, 
t passed the light to the paintings, illuminating them. A 
immcr circuit lowered the lights every second minute, 
"he other lights all flashed, pulsed. Over all was a tape of 
ic original sound of the universe: "Om." 

In McLuhan s terms, the spectators in that room 
ere having a low definition experience: when individual 
etails are not clearly delineated, the viewer becomes a 
articipant, feeding himself back and forth into what he 
.es. In Stern s terms, the "input" was from spectator to 
cperience, from person to painting. "I doubt if one out 
: 100 people who came to the exhibit saw the dancing 
ikti in that painting," says Stern. "That doesn t matter 
(cause it worked. That Sakti was out there vibrating in 
fe painting. Who cares if they re arms or legs? They re 
,rt of the vibrational universe." 

The staff at the Riverside Museum was stunned at the 
sow s reception. A small gallery far off the circuit, its 
ehibitions were generally more sedate, and counted five 
o six visitors a day usually school children and 
tuchers or middle-aged ladies a crowd. Suddenly, 
UCO was bringing in teenagers and people in their early 

twenties, and bringing them in by the hundreds. Many 
brought their lunch, settled down, and stayed for the day. 

Gerd Stern believes that circuitry explains a large part 
of the show s effect. The key concepts are the computer 
terms "digital" and "analog." Digital experience involves 
a succession of discrete steps: analog experience refers to 
a continuous process. Flashing lights, going on and off, 
are digital phenomena. Pulsing lights are analogs. Stem 
credits Mike Callahan, another member of USCO, with 
turning the group on to the analog experience, which is 
more like what happens in the real vibrational universe. 
Before USCO. when Stern was working by himself, he 
used flashing lights. "It wasn t until Michael came along 
that I understood the whole contemporary preoccupation 
with whether a phenomenon was digital or analog, whether 
you had this organic process going or were always chop 
ping things on and off. In electrical terms, the difference 
between digital and analog is a relationship basic to the 
last decade." 

It is also part of the religious nature of the exhibit. If 
the viewer starts by forgetting the content, says USCO, 
and looks at what s happening as experience, he begins to 
see the religious reality that exists in the vibrational uni 
verse and in the nature of light. The reality is the 

Stern, who looks a bit like Allen Ginsberg, is USCO s 
bearded, bespectacled, long-haired guru. At 38 he has 
been in, around, and of most of the underground art move 
ments of the last 20 years. He made the beat scene. He 
was a hippie long before Haight-Ashbury. A founder of 
Pacifica s first listener-sponsored radio station KPFA in 
Berkeley, he is a poet (two published volumes), a car 
penter (he has a union card), a gold-mucker, film-maker, 
and kinetic sculptor. 

Stern was just switching from written to concrete 
poetry when a friend gave him Marshall McLuhan s "Re 
port to the National Association of Broadcasters," later 
expanded into Understanding Media. McLuhan s stress 
on the effect of the medium itself rather than its content 
influenced him enormously. "It took me on a long jump 
from poetry, to lights, sound, and film." he says. 

At about this time Stern met Michael Callahan, USCO s 
22 year-old hardware head. Mike, who had been experi 
menting with electronic music in high school, was then 
president of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, where 
he had designed their control (continued on page 74) 



(continued from page 35) 


system. Along with Stern, Callahan 
made the jump from his groove into 
mixed media. Stern claims that the idea 
of hybridizing various media was made 
possible for them by the invention of 
Michael s circuitry, which allowed them 
to control, randomize, and program 
multi-channel operations. 

The third founding member of USCO 
is Steve Durkee, whom Stern calls the 
visionary, architect, painter of the 
group. Durkee and Stern had been 
working together in New York since the 
early sixties. Durkee was responsible for 
most of the paintings in the Riverside 

USCO s first performance, given in 
California, was called Who R U? It in 
volved 64 people, one of whom was 
Michael McClure, and was an attempt 
to explore the mysteries of communi 
cation, both electronic and interperson 
al. McClure and a number of other 
participants were placed in booths 
around a central auditorium. Their con 
versation was fed by loudspeakers into 
the various other booths, and into the 
auditorium as well, along with 18 chan 
nels of mixed media sounds, films, 
and images. 

In the beginning, claims Stern, they 
weren t too sure what they were doing. 
He adds that they were more strongly 
influenced by ideas at first "in terms of 
motivation for the performances. The 
materials have grabbed us more strongly 
as we ve gone along." 

Later group productions, like Hub 
bub, which USCO did for the 1965 Lin 
coln Center underground film festival, 
were less chaotic. Hubbub, which Stern s 
wife Judy, herself a weaver and graphics 
designer, describes as "a hard-driving 
performance all the way through," was 
a kind of programmed pandemonium. 
Using slides, films, sounds, etc., the 
emphasis was on frenzy high decibel 
noises and frantic images. It was de 
scribed by one critic as "an accumula 
tion, not only of the senses that create 
the present, but also the past, all to be 
Experienced simultaneously. One s life 
is accumulated and experienced in the 
same way." Another critic claimed the 
total effect was "stunning, almost to the 
point of physical impact upon the 

There are good reasons why USCO 
has made it as a communal art family 

while so many other groups with simi 
lar pretensions have failed. For one 
thing, USCO started out as a group of 
artists and ended up a family, not the 
other way around. For another, the kind 
of work they do demands certain skills 
used in combination in metalwork, 
electronics, electricity, kinetics. The na 
ture of the mix requires that a group 
produce it. Finally, while they have 
as little patience with the hypocrisies of 
straight society as any other "hippie" 
group, they have an artistic point of 
view, a critical, philosophical approach 
to life, and a goal beyond today. They 
are a group of individuals and artists, 
each disciplined in his own craft, and 
all together they are on a work trip. 

Stern, in fact, likes to define USCO 
as "a lot of us working together. It 
isn t trying to get out of names or re 
sponsibilities. It s not we who are anony 
mous, but our work. We re trying to get 
out of that pictures on the wall thing, 
that museum thing where peope are like 
chickens, peering down to the left-hand 
corner to see who the artist is." 

Their belief in anonymous art and 
group living as a social mode is con 
scious and deliberate. Stem rarely talks 
ahout it without reference to Marshall 
McLuhan or Amando Coomerswarmi, 
former curator of the Boston Museum. 
They agree with McLuhan that with 
television and "electronic trihalization." 
the world has shrunk to the dimensions 
of a global village. "We re going back 
to the more traditional society, where 
the craftsman does his work and never 
mind what his name is. If you went to 
Chartres when they were building the 
Cailiedriil." says Stem, "you wouldn t 
he likely to look up and say, Hey, that s 
Charlie who did that gargoyle on the 
left. " On the other hand, he adds, "We 
don t go around saying No names. No 
names. No names. " 

USCO s headquarters are an old 
church and connecting house in Gar- 
nersville, New York. The church por 
tion has been converted to a tabernacle, 
incorporated by the State of New York 
as a non-denominational church. It is 
open on Sunday and usually attracts a 
crowd, mostly teenagers. Inside, USCO 
has created a new environment from the 
rotating light column and around it five 
paintings from the Riverside Museum 
show. Also from the show is a piece of 
kinetic sculpture exhibited in California 
in 1963, a large yellow octagon, using 
the highway for a metaphor. It is called 
"Contact Is the Only Love." "Contact" 


has sound circulating through eight 
speakers, neon lights, and flashing lights 
ranging 1 - from 480 flashes per minute to 
one. All the sounds and lights are putting 
across the messages "GO ON. GO ON, 

Some people never did get the mes 
sage. The television reporter who inter 
viewed Stern in front of the octagon in 
sisted on calling it a Stop sign. Stem 
still marvels at it. "You ve been im 
printed for so many years with a small 
red Stop sign that a seven-foot yellow 
octagon which says Turn Ahead, Go 
On, Go On," and is called "Contact is 
the Only Love" is perceived as saying 
Stop. 1 " 

Anywhere from six to 30 members 
of the USCO family drift between Gar- 
nerville and Woodstock, New York, and 
Taos, New Mexico. Woodstock is the 
site of Maverick Systems, a company 
which Michael Callahan runs for manu 
facturing USCO s hardware. At the mo 
ment. USCO is working out another 
corporation scheme with a group of 
Harvard Business School students and 
professors, who want to market some 
of USCO s equipment. 

Steve Durkee is in New Mexico with 
his wife and family, supervising the 
building of an USCO retreat Although 
original plans for the retreat are quite 
grand, so far only one large adobe dome 
on 150 acres has been completed. 

In a rather lengthy description of this 
community, USCO calls it 
... a spiritual center planned for con 
struction in a remote area of the 
Southwest, US free from the in 
tense psychic vibrations of large ener 
gy centers. [It] is meant to accelerate/ 
facilitate reintegration processes by 
tuning into elemental realities. . . . 
Solux [a name since discarded] antici 
pates a radical change in current 
social structures, envisioning a co 
operative, self-supportive multi-tribal 
union created for the release of love 
by spiritual awakening . . . The com 
munity will base some part of its 
economic structure on ... the hard 
ware and software of current technol 

ogy . . . It is not a matter of forms, 
rituals and ceremonies, but of acquir 
ing discipline, developing a sense of 
perspective, and focusing awareness 
in real time. To find God is to come 
to one s own self. 

Collectively and individually USCO is 
hung up on light and its symbolic mean- 
ings, on the Kaballah and mysticism, on 
the divine geometry of living things and 
electrical phenomena. But as their flier 
on the retreat suggests, they are not 
seeking God or themselves through 
drugs. Some of them have made that 
scene and left it, choosing, as one put 
it, "other ways to get perspective on a 
mundane existence." Mike Callahan 
has never taken LSD, prefers liquor, 
and gets his vibrations from oscil 
loscopes. And Gerd Stern says: "I ve 
been involved in the general world 
of drugs for about 20 years. People 
seeking revelation . . . can find it there. 
But for relief and escape, hallucinations 
are unsatisfactory. The product is very 
low-grade and the claims made for it 
are not supported. I m an old friend of 
Tim Leary s, but I- don t see his life as 
being that beautiful or his being as that 
radiant. The chemical way is the most 
sophisticated way to get certain places, 
but there are simpler ways in art, for 
instance, and science." Though the 
group does not condemn drugs, they are 
prohibited in the sanctuary. 

While USCO is developing a group 
style and point of view, in matters of 
individual style, including dress, there 
seems to be no pressure to conform, 
even to each other. Gerd Stern, for ex 
ample, is just as likely to show up in a 
yellow corduroy vest and pants with 
flowered shirt as in a $200 Brooks 
Brothers suit, boots, and tennis socks. 
The latter outfit (minus footgear) was 
laid on him by John Brockman, the 26- 
year-old incorporates of Brockman As 
sociates. John, who organized the Film 
Makers Cinematheque, where he met 
Stern, is a short-haired, button down, 
conventionally turned-out whiz kid of 
the new technology. 

One night, according to Brockman, he 
convinced Stern that anyone who lived 

in as many worlds as Stern did might 
find more than one way to dress. (Gerd 
had just returned from Montreal, where 
he was talking to Expo 67 people from 
Philadelphia, where USCO is designing 
an overstimulation chamber for the Al 
bert Einstein Hospital, and from Minne 
apolis, where they are setting up a mu 
seum guide for the Walker Art Gallery.) 
The next morning, according to Brock 
man, Stern walked out of Brockman s 
Central Park West apartment "with 
about $1000 worth of my clothes, most 
ly on him. He had his beard trimmed 
and hair cut and went home to Gamers- 
ville. When he got there, his wife Judy 
was busy mopping the floor. It took 
about ten minutes before she recognized 

Although Mike Callahan grew up in 
Haight-Ashbury, he is no flower child. 
While Stern tends toward the flamboy 
ant, Callahan is deceptively quiet He 
dresses in a blue shirt and dark pants, 
wears ordinary plastic-rimmed glasses, 
and looks as straight as anyone from 
Middletown. According to Brockman, 
"Mike is in love with electronics." The 
romance started in* childhood. His 
father, who is an electrician, remembers 
him dragging around an electric cord 
much as Linus drags around his blanket 
Mike lives by himself, somewhere be 
tween Woodstock and Garnersville. 

As a group, USCO has gone from 
the "you" of Who R V to the "we" of 
We Are All One. We Are All One, a 
line from the mystic Meher Baba, is 
the title of another USCO performance. 
Using slides, films, strobes, oscillo 
scopes, music, and a dancer, its theme 
is "the journey of being." It presents 
a series of visual and aural images, 
among them details from Bosch and 
Breughel, goblins, monsters, grotesques. 
The audience often sings along sway 
ing to the music of Turn, Turn, Turn." 
The performance ends with 10 minutes 
of total darkness, during which an 
"Om" tape is played. 

Gerd Stern believes that the title ex 
presses what USCO is all about. "It is 
very hard to sense at any one moment 
to what extent the message "We Are All 
One applies. At any moment the two of 
us or the 13 of us that-live hi the church 
may not be capable of that idea, in either 
living or working. But that is what we 
aim for. It becomes a question of hu 
man beings sharing time, of making the 
material productions of this world hi 
an environment where community is 


"Intermedia is the breeding ground of everything that will 
replace it." Above: Periscope sequence from Black Zero by 
Aldo Tambellini. Straboscope, light machines, hand-painted 
slides. Photo by George Erlich. Below: Strobe Room at En 
vironment II: Prisms, lens, water, light. Collaboration between 
USCO and sculptor Charles Ross. Architectural League, N. Y. 

ing Inter 

Passage Beyond 


Everything grows out of everything else. 
Op an is the crystalization of formal inves 
tigations into divine geometry, a continuous 
force in man s history of visualization. 
Kinetic art is an active step towards Inter 
media, recalling motions in time to man s 
collective consciousness. Anything presented 
as a work of art that inspires the mind, 
emotions and senses with even a glimpse 
of the total awareness of conscious being 
could be termed Psychedelic art. These 
manifestations, together with Happenings 
and Events, have become the grass roots 
of an entirely new phenomenon, variously 
called Expanded Cinema (a term originat 
ing with film-makers ), Mixed Media (not 
to be confused with traditional painting 
techniques) and Intermedia. 

What is Intermedia? A glance at the 
myriad facets of expanding performing 
arts in the Film Culture Expanded Arts 
issue would give halt to any lexicographer. 
The very sense of the interpenetration of 
many forms of expression implies passage- 
beyond definition. Film Culture Ex- 
pantlcd /Ir. .i includes "Happenings, neo- 
Baroquc and neo-haiku theaters, expanded 
cinema, kincsthetic and acoustic theaters, 
events, readymades, puzzles, games, gags, 
jokes, etc." The etcetera indicates the 
growing dimensions of an experiential 
experimentation requiring the greatest 
organic play. Approaches to Intermedia 
have been made from the avenues of musi 
cal composition, an area expanded by 
avant-garde composers like Nam June Paik. 
Takehisa Kosugi. Dick Higgins, Joe Jones. 
Ben Patterson, Yoko Ono, Tony Gix and 
La Monte Young, by the composition of 
pieces incorporating the other senses as 
well as the auditory. Dancers Carolee 
Schneemann, Merce Cunningham, Yvonne 
Rainer, Beverly Schmidt and Mary McKay 
have composed and participated in Inter 
media-related events. Painters have pre 
sented pieces incorporating live action, 
slide and film projections t Robert Whit 
man, Aldo Tambellini, Brion Gysin, Al 
Hanscn and Claes Oldenburg) as have 
slide-makers and photographers like Don 
Snydcr, Jackie Cassen and Rudi Stern. In 
termedia work has included Happening 
people from theatrical backgrounds ( Ken 
Dewey), painting (Allan Kaprow and 
Robert Watts) and poets (Jackson Mac- 
Low, Gerd Stern, Emmett Williams and 
The Black Thumb and Something Else 
Presses;. The use of multiple projection 

techniques, with or without live interfer 
ence patterns, is characteristic of not only 
the film-makers approach to Intermedia 
(Ed Emshwiller, Takahiko limura. Jerry 
Joffen, Ben Van Meter, etc.), but also in 
dicates the importance of the filmed image 
to our contemporary language. Most re 
vealing of all the manifestations of this 
cross-pollinization of the arts is the con 
tinuing emergence of groups of collabora- 


tivc rtiits and engineers like Experiment! 
in Art and Technology utili in the state 
of coalescing), the Once group. Multi 
media, and USCO. Such a compendium of 
diversified artists cannot avoid the confu 
sion of the individual classifications and 
presupposes the emergence of a species of 
mixed-media renaissance man. Many of 
the artists mentioned, and others, have 
already transcended the boundaries of their 
original choices of expression. 

The Total Theater concept embodied in 
the Intermedia trend 1 is not new. It threads 
the fabric of art. Early experimenters who 
approached the superimposirion of occur- 
anccs entered from the avenue of theater 
to find a reinforcing focus for their 
dramatic continuums. Walter Gropius 
wrote of his Total Theater design for 
Erwin Piscator in 1926, "... by using a 
system of spot-lights and film projectors. 
transforming wills and ceiling into mov 
ing picture scenes, the whole house would 
he animated by three-dimensional means 
instead of by the flat picture effect of die 
customary stage. ... If it is true that the 
mind can transform the body, it is equally 
true that structure can transform the mind." 
Moholy-Nagy postulated a new theater 
(Theatergestalter*) operating with "simul 
taneous, synoptical and synacoustical repro 
duction of thought (with motion pictures, 
phonographs, loudspeakers)." The Ikuhaus 
experiment, embracing the entire range of 
visual arts, is archetypal, related to die 
artist group communities of today. Their 
commitment to "seeking a new synthesis 
of an and modern technology" is con- 
commitant with the present need for 
beautiful natural functioning between man 
and his environment. Collaborative efforts 
by engineers and artists, nurtured by mu 
tual understanding, are required for the 
integration of man s total vision. 

Intermedia is the breeding ground of 
everything that will replace it. Out of tech 
nological and aesthetic interaction will 
come die transforming devices of our 
cognitive tools. The sheer hulkincss of 
unity s equipment (film projectors, light 
machines, electronic equipments dictates 
the format of present intermedia perform 
ances. The difficulties of transportation, 
the vast soft-ware of image-retaining cel 
luloid, the shape and nature of any given 
theater environment, may all be changed 
with growing technology. Later Holo 
graphy, now in its Daguerreotype-like 
primitive states, makes possible the dream 
of creating in three dimensions with light. 
The holographic plate, with its ability 
to retain and recreate countless images, 
may well replace the strips of frames in 
motion picture film. An entire projected 
presentation may be contained within a 
small rectangle of material. The develop 
ment of laser projection devices with in 
finite scanning positions would move 
forms in space for long durations from 
this single photographic plate. 


The environmental aspects of Inter 
media stress its integnuiveneu with human 
life patterns. Each individual will be able 
to program by his own sequence of simul 
taneities, to spend as much time as he 
likes in one situation or another at any 
time he chooses. Man s home may become 
his own programmable vibratory environ 
ment. Bedrooms programmed to produce 
sound sleep, living-entertaining areas and 
playrooms, complete communication chan 
nels with die outside world, and ecstatic 
meditation rooms are within the realm of 
realization. Timothy Leary has said, "We 
are gods; let us live in die surroundings 
of gods." We are like die children in Ray 
Bradbury s Tat Vtldt, in a nursery which 
brings to full realization our wildest 
imaginings. The programming of beneficial 
vibratory food to man s nervous system is 
hence of vital importance. As Gerd Stern 
says, "... in terms of understanding 
humanity and understanding die possible 
relationships with God, die way is not 
either by looking in a mirror or by look 
ing through a window, but by being able 
to see in die window die mirror and in 
the mirror die window. Then die reality 
becomes possible." 

Thrndfty. January 8. 


Intermedia Systems: 

Cinderella Sweeping Up on Desolation Row 

Goethe died with two worth on 
M< Up.: "More Light." That 
comes closer lo defining the es 
sence of Intermedia Symtemt Cor 
poration thin a librmry. In tbe 
arty Sixties, environmental, mul- 
n-unage art was an embryonic 
urge In the minds of a few crea 
tors. Revitalize the dead museums 
when works hone like signed 
sausages to be displayed and not 
eaten. An art form more attuned 
to this culture and Its electronic 
nervous system. 

The media people began lo Dome 
together: poets, painters and tech 
nicians with chlldlikr interest In 
machines and gadgets Kinetic 
Art. Not since the Social Realism 
of the Thirties was there a trust 
which promised so much lor art 
In Its relation 10 the culture. Sbel- 
Iry: "Poets are the unacknowl 
edged legislators of the world." 
Psychedelic art. Hind expansion. 
Shows were held In the San Fran 
cisco Art Museum and at the 
Riverside in New York. Tbe cut- 
tare zapped from both flanks. 

The man media began to pick 
up on it. Because the artists could 
not sign their live, ongoing per. 
tormancec and had no Interest in 
persona! notoriety, they called 
themselves: USCO Company of 
Us. The art world was exploding 
with pop and op and now kinetic. 
environmental art: the media 
called them a "TRIBE" and they 
were famous and rorlrtail party 
due. Imagine. Virginia, all moat 
massive machines, slides, visual. 
audio, happenings, kinetic theater, 
all lor Art. how marvy. 

But they moved on. The media 
freaks turned lo tbe art farm that 
lives best In a total environment 
wtth Its audience Rock music. 
Par sample, they created en 
vironments lor New York s 
Cbseuh and Murray tbe K s 
WorkL The World was located in 
Roosevelt Field, the same spot 
Lindbergh had taken off tram far 
Orly Airport in 190. Lindbergh 
Inaugurated the first step In global 
consciousness. USCO was involved 
la spiritual ntpanslon within the 
global village. 

USCO crossed .radUional boun 
daries In Its anomalous art For 
example, they combined painting, 
theater, sculpture, slides, movies, 
computers and a galaxy of seem 
ingly contradictory torras of ex 
pression. Similarly. Iron-dad duv 
tlnctVni about art and its rela 
tionship to Its audience were also 
erased. When they felt they had 
completed a good snow or a food 
envirumiiviit. they characterized it 
as a "food mix" 

Cerd Stem, originally an old 
Mme buck poet North Beach beat. 
then media poet: college dropout 
years later ; 

Creative Director of Intermedia 
and an Associate In Education at 
the Harvard Graduate school. 

USOO presented Its energy 
charged art form in Museums, 
institutions and discoteques. Every 
time we walk down the street, 
our senses are bombarded by mil 
lions of inputs, but our minds dis 
criminate and dose out much of 
our environment. The same thing 
is true of our relations with others. 
USOO provided a simple switch 
function, they turned people on. 
They overloaded senses by creat 
ing multi-leveled experiences and 
made people realize me extent to 
which they were censoring the In 
formation that was flooding their 
hearts and minds daily. 

Sign on media poet Michael 
Callahan s wastebasket: Data Re 
duction System. 

These early USCO projects dem. 
onstrate an important facet of 
Intermedia Systems. Every child 
lives in a universe of wonder and 
discovery that is gradually dimin 
ished as be grows older. USOO 
attempted to give people back the 
childhood grace of their senses. 
This relationship to the universe 
is one of the most natural of 
man s riches. To give this primi 
tive gift back to mankind. USCO 
utilized the most, sophisticated 
techniques civilization could pro 
duce The same is true of Inter 

media Systems, only on a larger 

Intermedia s "family" still 
maintains their original country 
home, an abandoned church in 
Garnerville. N.Y. 
In the museums and discoteques 
they turned people on ... momen 
tarily. What happened after the 
audience left the kinetic environ 
ment? Would the ok) blindness 
gradually set" in? The art form 
was still in a developmental stage. 
but USCO knew instinctively that 
other modes were needed lo open, 
up people s heads. They had a 
road show. "WE ARE ALL ONE." 
and toured the country. Then they 
grew, making their biggest tran 
sition, they became Intermedia 
Systems Corp. 

George Litwin became the Cor 
poration president. Or. Litwin. 
Assistant Professor of Organiza 
tional Behavior at the Harvard 
School of Business. Faculty Re 
search Associate at the School of 
Education and prolific author, was 
interested primarily in organiza 
tional climates. Under his direc 
torship Intermedia became inter 
ested in the problems of Corporate 
America. One of the problems was 
to help people inhabit their 
"organizational climates" more 
easily. Intermedia developed the 
concept of the Media Report." 
first used at a Scott Paper Com 
pany sales meeting. Executives 

see their interaction on film, sales 
men learn how they are relating 
to people, not "clients." not ob 
jects described in a book or 
statistics, .j a chart. Each com 
pany is treated as an organism 
with its own ecological system. 
The concept permits an in- 
progress picture that provides an 
emotional learning experience, 
not just a summary at the end of 
the Quarter. Overreactions to In 
termedia as a Corporate Hippo 
crates come in basically two ex 
tremes. Some "liberal" executives 
greet them as White Knights who 
can solve all of their company s 
problems with the waving of an 
electronic wand, while more tra 
ditional types view their procedure 
as tripe and ding to methods more 
apt to be found in Dickens than 
McLuhaiL The actuality resides 
in the simple fact of moving a 
very rigid part of our culture, lot 
petrified bureaucracies, more 
dose to the second half of tbe 
Twentieth Century. 

.Intermedia Systems is also con 
cerned with another anachronistic 
part of our culture, our educa 
tional system. Whether they are 
dealing with America s corpora 
tions, or its educational structure. 
Intermedia is ultimately con 
cerned with giving people easier 
access lo their full inheritance. 
Formal education often deputes 
more of a child s imagination 

than any other force Learning. 
Ideally, should be part of a total 
environmental experience, not a 
fragmented part of a child s world. 
Intermedia is developing ways to 
create and Integrate such environ 
ments within our present educa 
tional structure. Intermedia peo 
ple have been invited to partic 
ipate in this year s National 
Educational Association meeting 
on audio-visual techniques. They 
are the pioneers who will enable 
my children and my children s 
children to have their full Inherit, 
ance as human beings, not Just 
dogs in a technetrontc society. 

Intermedia is also currently en 
gaged in developing an uninhabited 
West Indian island. East Calcos. 
part of the British West Indies, 
will be the site of the implementa 
tion of a centuries old dream. 

Man and his technology will at 
tempt to construct a perfect 
environment. The natives who will 
move to East Cakns Island from 
neighboring islands will have tech 
nology, according to Intermedia, 
without disruption of their folk 
ways. The plans, obviously, are 
exceedingly ambitious. Surveys of 
the Island s n sources have been 
conducted. A viable economic base 
aimed at supporting the life styles 
of the inhabitants, not the enrich 
ment of a foreign imperialistic 
power or individual plutocrat, is 
being mapped out Fishing, farm 
ing and other activities are being 
planned, the concept at Inter 
media is that In maintaining Itself, 
the island community will learn 
annul itself. Land at "Monastery 
Point" has been set aside a* a 
sanctuary, a spiritual retreat for 
individuals or troop*. A Qty. 
"Harbour Town." a place tor re 
plenishing physical and emotional 
resources, is also being planned. 
The only buildings on the island 
at prejtnt are the rutting remains 
f colonialism s guano boom. The 
ecology of the island Is being care 
fully considered. Nature s gifts 
win be utilized and enhanced, not 
exploited and destroyed. The 
island community win have 
variety and vitality, growing out 
of its recognition and accommoda 
tion of a host of different life 

The Caicos Islands share other 
distinctions. Columbus made land 
fall there in 1492 and John Glenn 
splashed down utaiUy In 1962. 

Intermedia Systems, then, a a 
new type of corporation, a living 
UNI tr AQicuon in our present vo- 
cabulary. A corporation born hi 
art, aiming at expanding horizons 
in business and education. When 
the Navy approached Intermedia 
with the problem of making the 
euviiuiuiieiit on Atomic sob- 

marines more livable, Intermedia 
replied that some eBvlruume&ts 
needed to remain nkjfctmartati 
and turned the Job down. Doing 
the Sixties, they (few enormously 
from tbe original "tribe" within 
IMd that Is KoO being bom. 
Their potential IB future decade* 
aaons to be *-^" Some 
grey tunneled MacNamara wffl 
shudder at the sacrilege of using 
computers IB holy work, while 
others will realize that Intermedia 
moat be the pattern tor Corporate 
America. If the nation la to return 
to it* natural 

One-stroke Bodhidharma : Sly spirit 


Media in the Market 

Seven years ago Gerd Stern, one of 
the founders of USCO the "Us Com 
pany," pioneers in mixed media staged 
an extravaganza at the San Francisco 
Museum of Art that plugged 64 live per 
formers plus spectators into a barrage of 
simultaneous electronic messages sent 
to the eye and the ear through televi 
sion, telephone, audio tape, slide pro 
jections and more. On the seventh an 
niversary of that spectacular day, Stern 
recently performed in another way, be 
fore conservatively dressed stockholders 
in a company he partly owns, Intermedia 
Systems of Cambridge, Mass. 

It was probably the world s first multi 
media stockholders meeting but, com 
pared with USCO s previous electronic 
free-for-alls, it was tame stuff: three 
screens, slides and gentle rock music- 
nothing more. Stem himself, once ad 
dicted to denims and sandals, is natty and 
neat "I didn t wear a tie for fifteen years 
before Intermedia," he says. When it 
came time to talk, he did not shout the 
old USCO message, WE ARE ALL ONE; be 
talked about new products, expanding 
markets, invested capital 

The fact is that USCO has gone public. 
Its core members Stern, engineer Mi 
chael Callahan, artist Robert Daceyand 
psychologist Gunther Weil are now at 
tempting to market on a broad scale -the 
multimedia avant-garde techniques that 
once blitzed esoteric lofts, galleries and 
museums. In this sense, they are pioneer 
ing again, making a move with wide so 
ciological implications. USCO s associates 
in Intermedia are all solid businessmen. 
One of them is Ruben Gorewitz, a wizard 
at the financial organization of the avant- 
garde, who specializes in saving the fiscal 
lives of preoccupied geniuses such as 
Martha Graham, John Cage and Merce 
Cunningham. Another, Dr. George Lit- 
win, left a full-time post at the Harvard 
Business School shortly after he met 
Stern. "I could tell right away that USCO 
had a fantastic ability to create intense 
experiences through multimedia," he 
says, "and I was sure we could market 
those insights to both education and 

Award: After a year of haggling with 
the Securities and Exchange Commission 
in Washington (over the precise meaning 
of a term like "multimedia experience"), 
Intersystems went over-the-counter in 
November 1969 and sold $600,000 worth 
of stock. Installed in an old theater build 
ing hi the heart of Cambridge, Intersys 
tems is now selling both its products (a 
line of low-cost, audio-visual programing 
units) and itself. "For a thousand dol 
lars," Stern tells his investors, "we will 
make a media survey of a plant or a 
school or a church and recommend what 
to program as well as how." 

The investors are cautiously optimistic. 
They share Litwin s belief that the fu 
ture belongs to communication and edu 
cation that hits the senses as well as the 
mind. They are encouraged by the award 


of an important contract to Intermedia by 
the New England Power Co.-to consult 
on a multimedia showcase for the public 
at its new power plant near Beaver Dam, 
in Massachusetts. Only the USCO group 
has reservations. There was less hassle 
in the art world," one of them says, "or 
even in building discotheques." 

Stern himself has no regrets. The gal 
leries and museums never supported us 
the way New England Power does. 
That s the major project of my life. I m 
going to visualize the country s electric- 
network in that display, showing how it 
brings us all together, which is what I ve 
been trying to do from the start." Stern 
.is attempting to realize one of the strong 
est directions in contemporary art away 
from the cloistered gallery and the pre 
cious object toward strategies that direct 
ly affect the world. "I don t care whether 
I m called an artist or not," he says. "All 
I care about is the work, creating an 
experiential flow of information, making 
a physical impact." 

November 30, 1970 



TIM Heights 

Tunodcy, April 29. 1969 


beyond. U tk. da* dBTKal to ten |oeko m^ cole* thk 
l Itbyt it <mr b. drib drte or any. The tarc bank. of bjktt o> 
pSL ttit to rto W wiD PW t.t ta .D pmtabiity . dte 

the 0. whk* directly ahead. p 


0aooeof tfc.pale.tker.Bi h. appeared it tkc Alt. 
*. Tk. poto to ea*k tato tke frenunibly, MIR .mbitiou. u. 
Ta* comer of two of tke tochucel fceBttke to aha 

Thorn k watte tattermi on e then. U e way. tke ana of < 
dcik beckeround. U tbe only and audio nnul technoloiy ktke 

Sr?rtde.r ta tfc. > " color of tk. iTT place. The Alk k definitely 
the mo.i tccknoloticclly 

competent multne4l. emporium 


tat It 

be bee*. The Mtorial 
Awn*.- The 

concrete of tke nWenlk to Tke old perkiai 
CUnpltd end roufk to tb. touch, been niccfmmed by 
M Ik* mjht Tke ccne of the (. " 
k follow, to tkc Ml Ike 

ed paper tape proanm. hot 

aai>cn.lilo *-- I t 

tt to 
me any 

_ follow, to the Ml Ik* -wcrtotlM* of fleer turn, 
of a* nod. Tke eua acy* .ed e.rtitioeiai io n 
Street." Than k a 

kemcturetotkencht. Hit. (to Ik* fkoMktc wear), taw 

ntiHr- but tkt keeoc k hiHtt far We tkt Aik. Fraedom ad 

(rom *e- by . tarn. W.IL To the IteUbty. U tk. A*, aa can 

Ml k . whu. ucco weB. Mow Mdcr around, *-d on* of 

there k a door la the w. U on the annl different 

__*> *MM it oOt tTpp* at * 

Tk* Alk k hxnted el li nctljnetr room who* 
ticcniieai Street, in Boeton, 

rejfc. It k a throughout. Not only en there 

now kBcad by alffi 
Aru. Inc. ad 

by, Inc. of kmceonlad in the dccton. The 

. Tkt ant between tk* "teat" ana k 
Alk ad lattoatdk k rti 

axe*. <lhoue not flcancklly). IHed wtth projection* and oot of 

.mo. Gerd Sm. one of the .* of the enae. Ton toaMtknr 

fiioeilcri of USOO, k both room lighted oaly hy 

ontfceboerdoftheforaeer.USCO othti. Tkto k tkt mom when 

k tkc pioneer communll art * "body painting- Ocean (head. 

techneleey poop wkkk aiiiniit and face*, dayfjo paint). 

Tkc World." nm of tk* A rafinhoal outar k 

DUlti-flVMl U diaOOtlWlUM. . ttmitfil far- *t Oat Mid of tbC 

I would Ike to aa Tk* Ark * \ Mil g and pact the "tent.- Tkc 

ditcotkeqM. tclub..inurUmedi. eon of Ike ea*e k at ant 

" ilka main room, wtth it. 


nl of tkt erograav To -... 
heeaan the Ark k not compkud , 
the fun nnety of egectt eoeeok 
an. not been nttlaed; to fact, tkc 

CBMC tk* Imiinay nptBicg: the 
Bit k Ik* *w>dneaT eetnll of 


The Ark , pound cycoB w) 
nathim avt of ned*k I Tim 
watt, wtth W* dktortioo, amennc 
frequ.ncr nepoBic. Sack a 
eyntem can eke u nn tnly freak 
eipenence of beenna . record one 
akeady one. Let me 

Ark contribute, erectly to it. 
ctawMcocn of freedom, na t 
policy k naty jot the 
> of the on " 

otb Aik 

. Tbey <R < 
e.liikt..d im n<*rd to 
icUu. I k*** lredy 
mtmttmmmt tkr ptao to cm Upot 
to a Ik* budi ttat pUy Ikm. 
Bud* on ko oMom**i to a 
*ooM tkre^h krip with mttimt 
kotel room ad by bBB* 
pneidol mth knt pcmt* 
room ud lota of b*or 

oo. IB m of boti 
Rktic Mploration 
ad fnaoa. tk. bet tb*l tk. 
Alk to 

< a*k*d. m -cy! *o 
Mkod. fnmtam k oMMy 
Umted, k) ottar votdt. At fir M 


I ru tcraoL Stu 
Vldaekkr. of latonMdi*. k kit o> 

wkk wktl k to) tkt afctw 
ad kaw ocVcrat pkxom to 
taoctkcr to "BMek" (ud atcrtaia 
too. ccrakdy). Tkk OMtol 

tt caablt to 


mm mmu mm* 10 noeton, eo tee 
Ark ncBt hint Ike money, and k* 
ekaear ecroe. kaat the nooBOy to 
Ike Alk. Once hen to. Bocton. 
btfton helped him bo* up piece 
- ntay. He played a couple of 
ii _. ,k* at tk* Ark. 

Or a 
Prcclccly kcccci* it 

mulii-mndi.. tt k a notenticl Theee wmB. ka ont wjchtly; at 

lanae ciim nttkBr a won* or a buttock a.khl then k a todnc for 

mouth. Tkc weeknem of tbe rwa*s watry knnw. Tkc atone. 

echuenet k that it k to onkl under crdtonry orcumeuncei. 

tail Ha nJCantarkn potential k face* Ike kccnt port of the room. 

not pioed I hi- been to The aad behind , tke dneter of raked 

Alk three time, aad w nonr dance floor, and hiuncmt 

CBCBtfcd mout hlie; forcef uUy. IB *Bndl*i." nMtly okcBtar in 

terror, lion often, I aa, kohl inywken from fin to 

a fna. And one., -when tkt tWrty-fm people. At tkt extreme 

OimtofBl Dead wan on, tka toft nar eoner of tkt 

to -fcoot of 4kc eta*. 
ntmi, tt k puaili. witk tea 
Alk . 


lh "tr.ffic pit." u yot 
KOtote, wkjch k ibaia uo 
tbe floor ct tkrt 

m tbe muoc. butilpouiiioultbe 
Mtilr-Hrc omHty of tkt Ark . 
cd let fact tkM. 

i ejiicill to at a toer for BBB. 
mm old urat JM dJdct wren 
of cccdiBf tan ont tokr. kc 

MwMy Wiun. Fkmly. Katm 
I foBCd lomeooc who due. 
tt-jr-keer-ccd tkk acect teat 
Otto to EacjaBd for u SRO 
concert. Aad before ke d beea 
oktiBB jci Ckjeacp witkoet e job. 
But **ea tke lecal bccdt fare 
well. Tkt poop. 
ftpotopewM of 
wowld ect between ecu tad pay ic 
" cot paid at tkt Alk. U 
l owe nd to* 
k profited free to local arocp*. 

Tkn.nitude aed procnai oqr 
weJJ do more for BOcton at a 
oty tkaa .nytbmi Dkk 

reOeitinn of iBtcnBeak t heck 
IncoNtBiiBl IB enveation. Jack 
tmtmmmm. tdimlklct director of 
tbe Alk. bet ako a teduucal aw 
witb .o MIT keckiroaBd. 
reprei.nt. tke "pkynlolocy" 
trannl. or tbe -form" toaooL In 
tkk one. tb. form of tkt Ujkt 
effect* it calcalated on 
pkraMaBical propntltot of tke 

poumtiet of Ike ow-lkk k tk* 
totilitarian multi-medi. 
eenvonnent tkM I 
earlier: tbe -content" directed 
enrkoBBBBtt ntulti *ener.ny, 1 
thick. IB tbe type of low-key 
chow that tka Aik now aroducei. 
Tke nkyaolQckal procrtm. on tke 
, k BOB-onmmerckl in 
It could only be 
for tk* fear people who 
want it and who wonM be 
fatty (were of what they would be 

nboa ar 

pukUctty nacht kaply. 
beetuet the Ark u . 
flntlklltty to the keynote of.ttt 
operation. Tk* inltiil 
rapetitrtelinn of I300.0OO ku 
oca mmt up aad cow tkt Ark k 
oe tti own. It hu to ante money 
r k med prkeiiaT on 
i tkM lit Aik k onoted oc 
week en.. Bet cum* the net of 
the weak. CBMC "artktic" enntf 
** kc pianntid. bee tk* San 
Vroeka Mune Troupt, at 
LIiB| Tkeeter. ead tke 
hBwBMttua Cocean, at of wkeck 

. (eaten ** tka flexibility denm irom M. 
cstraordinarUy complex 
euajokual hcidenic. Ran off 
Intermedi. i ekkorate DC-9 
control eyetem, at kaet fn"ty vtonal 
toune*. both dide and film 

into the house lyetea. Attkoofh 
they etui tc tkcir own eound 
leeated oo the etacc. 
t cu in tome way* be 
I better crick Ike Unhl 

nhlftto. OOBMC of kfht. color, and 
Imir The DC-9 cee, control eeihl 

OB Ike Aik t 
it. Tba it i pUn ttat ku 
cot yet beee effected; eentecly 
*Mry group tact pieyt at tke Art 
wffl be tm*. a recordiag of tt* 
peri onwju Ctwn tke teckcicel 

A few weeks aca. 
benefit" wu beld to kelp oat 
recently for drae. 
. Keeewtyt often no CM 
krip-ot acy koor. Tk* 
-DevTt Dnciplie.- tkc >kjiit 
New Eacknd cyde cnramune. are 
eepecial fritndi of tkc Ark. Tkcy 
net a* Ike entity force; to tome 
decree, tkc "traffic pit" erati for 
tkcir cdalcatioo, and la then 
eonor Woe* I wat Ikon to~eae 
Ike Grateful Deed, ewn tke 

k eldfll reel tke Alk k not 
fkiiiktit. It opened in January, 
tenral month, akead of tcbtdule; 
to tkk date. Ike ouad tyttem k 
noi complete. Ike kwil mctrix k 
not IB ton ocenlioa. and tkt 
"tratric nit" bu not keen 
fniwnil It k. therefore, really 
trnpoosbk to jaKlyindce tbe Aik. 
With ill drawback!, the Aik k 
ttill Ike Biott ambitiont 
atertainment epol hi Boatoa. 
rtmieilim. it k oommercM. and 
tt k alarttlnment; dont be 
Baled! Bui with tt. poKey of 

under end > 


i at nuicb 

torwexd. i a. Met. mom. aad dart; 
on, off. dba and eartohto rime 
beet attemttei. aeaoma. and 
patoaa. team pane*, can be aaput 
on an or recorded ewac. Tke 
DC* k ordinaray run by a i 

offect wak on witk a eo bit 

There k am to tkt Aik then 
Ike equipment A Boat k not a 
home. etc. While tbe denan of tke 

at aayone-iuet Uke Eric Butdoe 
1!) mid. Of aoune, etpecmOy on 
witk led., eipecieuy if croup 
hat cattce a tot of AM proaMku. 
a kM of Bp4hjht barbaa.Ma ead 
neks nhow up. But they en 

Ike week and iu flexible udunal 
bcHttk*. tktn k a mat deal of 


FEBRUARY 7, 1971 


ii u 1 1 i-iiiccl ia thing 

By Deckle McLean 

Photos by Gilbert Friedberg 

a blurring of the lines 

between psychology. 

business, art 

and some other things 9 

cultural communi- 
x is a basic industry. 
is baste- as oil. steel and 
rasportation. in its way. 
,<eeloping along with it. 
aborting it. and suhservi- 
vto it is an organized net- 
i*k of functions that are 
ratine, administrative. 
: r pagan di stic .ed ucation- 
. recreative, political, ar- 
is,c. economic and cultur- 
: . aken as a whole this en- 
t-rrixe involves what <C. 
V riht) Mills called the cult- 
iri apparatus. Only the 
>itrf cannot see that whoev- 
i ontrols.the cultural ap- 
ntits . . also controls the 
ciiny of the United States 
everything in it." 

Harold Cruse 1967. 

1 s trying to tell her about 
ie ntermedia Systems Cor- 

Gerd Stern, president of Intermedia 

her, I really wanted to ex 
plain it - a tactile thing I 
wanted to touch her with in 
formation, any information 
But I was up against my old 
ambivalence about practi 
tioners of media conscious 
ness, and so I sidestepped 
back and forth over that line 
of boredom and interest; fail 
ing to get the message across 
and wishing I d chosen some 
other subject. The land of the 
disciples of Marshall McLu- 
han can alternately seem 
preposterous and essential; 
but the terrain is so soft and 
currently so verbally inac 
cessible, that it is difficult to 
determine who is talking 
nonsense in it. and who is 

So I said to her it s a corpo 
ration formed by some old 
multi-media artists, with 
some businessmen, to sell 
some things. Like what? 
Well, audiovisual equipment 
for example, for schools and 


>!/* a Int 

of gadgets themselves. They 
also sell techniques and skills 
to people who want to do pre 
sentations for advertising or 
publicity, or for theater. And 
they have a recording studio. 

At this point I could see I 
was getting nowhere, so I 
dropped a few electro- 
technological terms that the 
Intermedia people had 
dropped on me dissolve 
units. 16 track, multi-channel 
equipment. She just looked at 
me. And what could I do but 
just look at her. Then, deter 
mined to jar loose the conver 
sation, I fashioned one of 
those foul nuggets of pop 
journalism; I said. "Let s say 
it s the post-psychedelic 
nitty-gritty." Quickly adding, 
to impress, "the people in the 
corporation are pretty inter 
esting; one of them was 
studying with Leary and Al- 
pert in the early 60s during 
the first drug experiments, 
and another guy introduced to his publisher " 

After a bit. we left the 

"No society has ever 
known enough about its ac 
tions to have developed im 
munity to its new exten 
sions or technologies. Today 
we have begun to sense that 
art may be able to help pro 
vide tuch immunity . . .The 
artist picks up the message 
of cultural and technologi 
cal challenge decades before 
its transforming impact oc 
curs. He then builds models 
or Noah s arks for facing the 
change that is at hand . . . 
In the electric age there is 
no longer any sense in talk 
ing about the artist s being 
ahead of his time. Our tech 
nology is also ahead of its 
time, if we reckon by the abi 
lity to recognize it for what 
it is. To prevent undue 
wreckage in society, the art 
ist tends now to move from 
the ivory tower to the con 
trol tower of society." 

Mnr*.hnll Mr I nhurt Qfi S 

"Somebody said, nothing 
artists are doing can be 
shown in galleries." Michael 
Callahan. technical director. 
Intermedia Systems Corpo 


1 EN years ago Gerd Stern 
was a poet. He still is but 
when he spoke of poetry a 
few weeks ago it was in 
terms of a mixed media de 
sign for the New England 
Power Company. The electric 
company wanted a display to 
help tourists at its new Bear 
Swamp power reservoir near 
North Adams understand 
what was going on. Inter 
media won the contract from 
a field that included some 
"very professional conven 
tional companies." "That 
says a lot about the climate 
today." remarked Stem. The 
display, called "the six min 
ute day" because it con 
denses 24 hours of the reser 
voir s activity into six min 
utes of flickering and simul 
taneity, is. said Stern, "a 
kind of a poem." It is also, 
one might add. an example of 
Intermedia s software servi 

"Software" is one of the 
things Intermedia does, or 
sells. Software is techniques, 
or really, total conceptualiza 
tions to handle or solve prac 
tical problems, in this case, 
the problems of coordinating 
images, sound and architec 
ture to convey information. 
"Hardware" is another of In 
termedia s enterprises. That 
is electronic hardware, the 
equipment you use and cre 
ate in applying the software. 
The Bear Swamp project re 
quires both software and 
hardware from Intermedia. 
When WGBH requested a 
rear screen projection device 
to point its cameras at, it was 
asking for hardware. But 
when Arthur D. Little sent its 
audio-visual people to the In 
termedia Institute for train 
ing, it was requesting soft 
ware. One of the characteris 
tics that marks Intermedia as 
unique is that it is probably 
the only hardware producer 
staffed by people from the 
arts. There are some other 
roughly comparable software 


Gunther Weil, recording director 

outfits, like Raindance in 
New York. 

STERN, 40 years old and 
now president of the corpora 
tion it went public in No 
vember 1969 has spent the 
past decade developing 
multi-media art. Most of the 
time with an art-technology 
cooperative he helped form, 
USCO, which for many years 
worked out of a church base 
ment in Garnerville, New 
York, on the Hudson. Long 
ago. Stem worked for an ad 
agency. He dropped advertis 
ing for poetry, and then, after 
encountering McLuhan be 
fore most of us did (in 1960 
John Cage, the clang-clang 
composer, gave him an early 
mimeographed draft of what 
became Understanding Me 
dia) took to the so-called ar 
tistic application of electronic 

"When we were begin 
ning." he says, "art was the 
only place where we could 
get a good reception. The rest 
of society was frozen for a 
long time. But now that it s 
thawed, the place to be is 
outside art. There is some 
land of sad romantic thing 
about the art world. It s re 

moved; and after you pro 
duce something, it s dead. 
But in business and educa 
tion, what you do is absorbed 
and recycled and keeps mov 

THOUGH he is relatively 
unheard of. Stem can be as 
sessed as a substantial influ 
ence on the past decade. 
USCO was probably the first 
group to put the principle of 
sensory bombardment to 
work. In 1962, 3 and 4 it took 
"total environment" shows 
on tour, joined some of them 
to lectures by McLuhan; and 
at least to some observers, 
thereby instigated that wave 
of be-ins, hippies and rock 
shows that has moved steadi 
ly toward the social middle. It 
is safe to say that USCO got 
in on the ground floor. The 
first multi-media disco 
theque. The World, in New 
York, was its work; and 
served notice in the mid- 
sixties, that the media artist 
was not far from commerce, 
entertainment and money, or 
rather, that from the media 
standpoint, such categoriza 
tion is pointless. 

"The existence of the hie 
archy of power has bee 
largely neglected by htimai 
istic thinkers because 
does not conform to the 
ideal of man. But an order* 
society can only admit tk 
equality of all men in fiei 
other than those which d 
termine the hierarchy i 
power at any particuli 
time. The establishment 
religious equality was ont 
possible at the Reformatit 
because political power ha 
displaced religious poin 
and the various sections 
the community had a 
cepted their places in th 
new political hierarch 
Similarly political equalii 
could be realized during th 
nineteenth century in con 
munities where financl 
and economic elements a 
ready effectively dete 
mined the hierarchy i 
power. The overthrowing 
an old social system / 
within is only possible I 
those who can call to the 
aid a new principle for t 
organization of power." 

L.L. Whyte, The Next 
velopment in Man, writte 



JTOR the sake of sport, v 
can paraphrase and ask i^ 
question here: what equali l? 
is being realized during tl ^ 
late 20th Century in comm .^ 
nities where media elemeniy 
already effectively determii; ^ 
the hierarchy of power? Ar, , 
to see where it takes us, le 

It s not that Marx w ^ 
wrong, only that the w <" , e( j 
used him for its own purpos . 
and then didn t wait for 
to prove himself; in the 
he served as a device for sta 
capitalization while in th |(g 
West he was eclipsed by th fc(j 
unforeseen; the Marxian re-^ 


olution has already been a 
complished by technology? 




If R Gunther Weil says 1 .y 

got involved in USCO, whic tt , 
became, or is. Intermedia, b ., , 
cause he was interested , 
psychological tolerances ^ 
multi-media stimulation . 
Now he lives in an environ^ 
ment of constant amplific 
tion he manages the corp 

ration s recording studio on 
Newbury Street. The studio 
itself means something, the 
first big league recording fa 
cility in Boston, signalling 
again what has already be 
come a quiet migration, the 
filtering northeast of creative 
people who find New York 
uninhabitable. The motion 
became noticeable among 
film makers several years 

Weil is still a psychologist 
and insists that he "can t af 
ford to. lock himself in the 
basement of the studio over 
here." He says. "It s just that 
I ve got to get this thing off 
the ground." He has taught at 
Harvard and Brandeis- he s 
the one who was with Leary 
and Alpert at Harvard and 
now teaches part time at Bos 
ton College, appropriately a 
:ourse earmarked "psycholo 
gy of media". 

MN the different toler- 

nces to stimulation." he 

uggests, "one factor that 

omes to mind is the age fac- 

or, but that s not the only 

ne. Older generations, now, 

re less tolerant to increased 

ound levels: and multi- 

nedia presentations with 

iree images are enough for 

lem. Any more images and 

pey start to get confused and 

on t enjoy it But generally 

;;ople are more open to si- 

hultaneous information and 

resentations of material in a 

in-linear way. Take the 

unger people working in 

e studio. They ve grown up 

th a tremendous amount of 

edia stimulation. Their 

iole lives have been built 

ound the television set and 

e record player. Their expe- 

Jnce has propelled them 

.o the technical end of it. 

d they re acutely sensitive 

tisound and to what can be 

ine with it." 

One reason Intermedia 
sbuld be accepted by the 
pblic is that a large part of 
tfe population is geared to 
tls land of experience, many 
snsory inputs. Another rea- 
sh is that very few people in 
A country understand the 
-rpact of media, and the var- 
ic s different impacts of the 
v.ious medias, and when 
tl y need to know they have 

at a 


to come to 
tants. Of c 
look like b 
though I m 
committed I 
tie. But if i 
in here; let i 
for five mini 
in the eye ; 
catch on ti 
honest and 
tive Actual 
away from tl 
is some way 
supposed to 1 

I asked i 
about the bi 
that linked 
goings-on ii 
society. Hi; 
was to McLi 
the word "i 
"People pr 
work in sra 
flexible g: 
there s a dio 




Media" and produced by 
Barzyk. Noted enter- 
Max Morath served as 
itor for the event, which 
died upon the many uses 
which video has already 
put by artists through- 
it the country, as well as 
ospects for the future. The 
eduction, supported by the 
itional Endowment for the 
. was conceived as a 
Jot for a possible 90-minute 
special an the same topic. 
Among Vho*- at the ses- 
>n were such arts and we 
ft notables as Fred Wise- 
an. Eudora Welty. Rise 
evens, Giancarlo Menotti, 
chard Leacock. Gyorgy 
tpes, Lawrence Halprin, 
Ida Fichandler. Merce Cun- 
njrham. and J. Carter Brown. 

2, 1972 





4 Arts/Media * Aum M 

"magic" color concert 
* was performed on a vi- 
synthesizer, computer- 
crated poetry, an 
Jerground" television 
azine. laser art, holo- 
ns, infra-red photogra- 
and liquid-crystal im- 
/ were some of the won- 
on display at the "Arts/ 
a" symposium yester- 
at the National Acad- 
of Sciences auditorium, 
ree large movie 
ns, banks of giant elec- 
consoles and televi- 
monitors dispersed 
gh the hall were in 
ant service for the au- 
tual portion of the prc- 
which also included 
and demonstrations. 

The two-day conference, 
under the auspices of the 
Xational Endowment for the 
Arts, is intended to generate 
creative ideas and projects 
involving the new communi 
cations technology and the 
arts. The first day s session 
was presented to a specially 
invited audience of artists, 
media specialists, govern 
ment officials, and repre 
sentatives of public, private 
and educational organiza 

President Nixon sent a 
message of welcome to the 
members of the National 
Council on the Arts, who 
are attending the "Arts/Me 
dia" conference both as 
guests and participants. 

In addition, the White 
House was represented by 
guest speaker Clay T. White- 
head, director of the presi 
dent s Office of TelecmnniL 
meat-ions Policy. 

Among the highlights of 
the day was a "per 
formance" by video art- 
tct Ron Hays, the first ever 
done for a live public, on 
the Paik-Abe Video Synthes 
izer, an electronic apparatus 
that can produce endlessly 
varied abstract or realistic 
imagery on a television 

The synthesizer demon 
stration came at the end oi 
an hour long audiovisual 
presentation by WGBH-TV oi 
Boston, entitled "Arts, Ac 

cess, Media" and produced by 
Ffced Barzyk. Noted enter 
tainer Max Morath served as 
narrator for the event, which 
touched upon the many uses 
to which video has already 
been put by artists through 
out the country, as well as 
prospects for the future. The 
production, supported by the 
National Endowment for the 
Arts, was conceived as a 
pilot for a possible 90-minute 
TV special on the same topic. 
Among Vio*e at the ses 
sion were such arts and me 
dia notables as Fred Wise 
man. Eudora Welty. Rise 
Stevens, Giancarlo Menotti, 
Richard Leacock. Gyoray 
Kepes, Lawrence Halprin, 
Zelda Fichandler. Merce Cun 
ningham, and J. Carter Brown. 




-collaged bouquet of quotes and, to serve as signal for the noise of my 
remarks at the Systems Council, National Audio Visual Association 
Convention, July 18, 1971, Cincinnati: - Gerd Stern 

Where by the love of wisdom do we go from there 
as Heinrich Hertz, he who made waves, said: 
"The Consequence of the Image 


will be the Image of the Consequence. " 

a pre -video scan in the same sense 

as the pointilists 1 , "Dot s what!" 

Remember - turn tools into toys: Zoom, 

don t pay no never mind to, 

"that narrow place where three roads meet" 

Focus, the real-time clock, to floating point zero 

and believe Yoko Ono - "The Past that I remember 

is the Past that I create Now because of the necessity 

of the Present" - which is by no means the 

for everything there is a season 

and a time for every purpose under heaven 


"The business of art is to reveal the relation between man and his 
circumambient universe at this living moment. " according to D. H. 
Lawrence. If that is the business of art, is the art of our business 
"-The image library, newsreel of dreams, culture intercom, " which 
Stan Vanderbeek proposed in a 1965 manifesto? He suggested, "that 
immediate research begin on the possibility of an international picture 
language based on motion pictures. . .that we combine audio-visual 
devices into an educational tool: an experience machine. . . ", echoing 
my own 1961 Transformer proposal, ..." a Verbal American Landscape 
poem -instrument, played from a keyboard or pre-punched score 
projecting images and sounds in a multi-sense performance arranged 
so that each audible, visible image associatively develops the possibilities 
of its own expanding universe. " 

page 2 

I read that Campanella in his Utopian, City of the Sun, dreamed 
about a universal knowledge depicted on central walls in powerful 
images. In the sixties we had Eames and Expo, VanDerBeek s 
Movie -Drome, USCO s Tabernacle and multiplicated environments, 

industrials and light shows. In these early seventies we have Dr. 


Henry Ray s heuristic Special Experience Room at the Comprehen 
sive Elementary School, Warminster, Pennsylvania and Miss 
Dorothy Bennett s Educational Programming of Cultural Heritage 
in Berkeley, California, both environmental learning surrounds, 
practicing the preach. And preaching the prophesy, VanDerBeek has 

it again, "Unconsciously we re developing memory storage and trans 
fer systems that deal with millions of thoughts simultaneously. Sooner 
than we think we ll be communicating on very high levels of neurological 

R. L. Gregory perceives, "The seeing of objects involves many sources 

of information beyond those meeting the eye when we look at an object. 
It generally involves knowledge of the object derived from previous 
experience, and this experience is not limited to vision but may include 
the other senses; touch, taste, smell, hearing and perhaps also tempera 
ture or pain. " In his introduction to Gene Youngblood s "Expanded 
Cinema", R. Buckminster Fuller data-links "The human brain is like a 
major television studio -station. Not only does the brain monitor all the 


incoming, live, visible, audible, smellable and touchable 3D shows, it 
also makes videotapes of the incoming news, in order swiftly to design 
new scenarios of further actions. . . " 

William Blake had it, "Systems struggling with systems to overcome 
systems. " Now Lennard and Bernstein write, "Though different kinds 
of systems may vary as to the specific amount of intrasystem input 
required to maintain the system, most systems cannot continue to exist 
without specifiable minimum inputs from participants. "These inputs 
are the same cognitive and affective behaviors which the U. S. Office 
of Education is attempting to systematize for media specialists. Re 
cently, introducing The Educational Technology Act of 1971, Senator 
Eagleton remarked, "It should be made clear that when we refer to 

page 3 

educational technology, we are not talking about hardware, nor even 
software. What we are talking about is a systemized approach to 
education. . . a tool to be used to enrich the teaching experience through 

a proper blend of planning, training and implementation. " 


Papers have appeared entitled. Botanical Lights or The Light Show 
as a Teaching Technique and Learning Archaeology: The Use of 
Multi-Media in a Lower Division Course. In parallel, Bryant Pillion 
advises in The English Journal, "Although we must not make of media 
study the overly-cognitive dull pedantry we have made of literary 
criticism in the schools, neither can we simply show movies or con 
duct multi-media happenings. We should encourage students to 
examine such matters as image intensity, juxtaposition, sequence, 
and proportion, to ask what goes with what to create a rhetorical impact. 

((Why all these quotes? For the love of wisdom, philosophy! 

A Hallelujah chorus.)) 

According to Youngblood, ". . .the intermedia network of cinema, 
television, radio, magazines, books and newspapers is_ our environ 
ment, a service environment that carries the messages of the social 
organism. It establishes meaning in life, creates mediating channels 
between man and man, man and society. " He quotes our Intermedia 
Systems definition, "Intermedia refers to the simultaneous use of 
various media to create a total environmental experience for the 
audience. Meaning is communicated not by coding ideas into abstract 
literary language but by creating an emotionally real experience through 
the use of audio-visual technology. Originally conceived in the realm 
of art rather than in science or engineering, the principles on which 
intermedia is based are grounded in the fields of psychology, information 
theory, and communications engineering." 


In point, from (pre-1948) Norbert Wiener, "In the case of communication 
engineering, however, the significance of the statistical element is 
immediately apparent. The transmission of information is impossible 

page 4 


except as a transmission of alternatives. If only one contingency 
is to be transmitted, then it may be sent most efficiently and with 
the least trouble by sending no message at all. . . " and John Pierce, 
"in communication theory, information can perhaps best be explained 
as choice or uncertainty. . . All are merely choices or decisions 
between alternatives, and one can be represented by any other. By 
means of a sequence of such elementary choices one can enlarge the 

number of choices. " 

Information overloading is one of the easiest output possibilities 
in multi -media, a recognition by quantum jump from Luther s 
doctrine, "The whole world is God s masquerade, in which he 
hides himself while he rules the world so strangely by making 
a Hubbub. " and McLuhan s voice, "The ecumenical movement, 
the liturgical movement, in the Catholic Church is entirely along 
the lines that you saw on the screen tonight. That is, teaching 
people how to yield and how to involve themselves in other people s 
lives. But it can, you see, in terms of programming, it can have 
strangely different contexts . Now let us suppose for a moment and 
I m not trying to promote such a notion, just let us suppose for the 
moment, that the Western world has been hugely fragmented and 
splintered in its consciousness and its individualism for many 
centuries. And that under electric conditions it is being integrated 
and merged together again at a very fast clip. The question for us 
is, alright, if this is happening, what is a valid human strategy for 
conduct. Should we resist it, should we recognize it and detach 
ourselves, should we involve ourselves? There has been exactly 
no attempt at clarifying the issues. In as far as the artist can 
clarify issues in this way, he s doing a very important work. " 

Assembled by Gerd Stern, Intermedia Systems Corporation 
711 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02139 



Brian M. Fagan, "Learning Archaeology: The Use of Multi-Media 
in a Lower Division Course", Experiment and Innovation: New 
Directions in Education at the University of California, Vol IV, 
No. 1, May 1971. 

Bryant Pillion, "Turning On: The Selling of the Present, 1970", 
English Journal , Vol 60, March 1971. 

R. L. Gregory, Eye and Brain: the Psychology of Seeing, McGraw- 
Hill Book Company, New York, 1966. 

Wm. A. Jensen, "Botanical Lights or The Light Show as a Teaching 
Technique", Bio Science , Vol 20, #23. 

Henry L. Lennard and Arnold Bernstein, Patterns in Human Interaction, 
Jossey - Bass, Inc. , San Francisco, 1970. 

Marshall McLuhan, taped question and answer period, USCO performance, 
University of Rochester, 1963. 

John R. Pierce, Waves &. Messages , Science Study Series, Anchor 
Books, Doubleday & Co. , Garden City, New York, 1956. 

Stan Vanderbeek, Culture: Intercom 1 and Expanded Cinema", 
Tulane Drama Review, Vol. 11, fl, 1966. 

Norbert Weiner, Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the 
Animal and the Machine , M. I.T. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 
1948 and 1961. 

Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, E. P. Dutton & Co. , Inc., 
New York, 1970T" 



Design and 


Maine Yankee 

Visitors Center 

Government of 


Multimedia Monument 

Battlefield of 



Wall for The 



. Where to 

, Get Off in Boston" 

for Public Television 

* WGBH Boston 

.- -.- -> -^ ->* ***>.!.,,.. o^e*** ? ***- -al* f I. 

I* -. 

- - ~ * > 

Intermedia Systems Corporation 711 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, Massachusetts 02 139 617868-9880 

-**>**** ****** 


Development on * 
Indian Reservations, 
Economic Development 

Adminstration, U.S. ^ 

annual report 

through February 28, 

and Film for 
Expo Zulia 




. .... Leonard Bernstein 

"".ZJll. at Harvard University 

-~irr"" Norton Lectures 

Production : 


Cybernetic Map 

of the Diaspora 

Yeshiva University 

New York 



EL UNIVERSAL - BtbadO de Agnate de 1S7B 


Gerd Stern 

. : 

y Carlos Penaherrera 

con la Sensibilidad del Nino 
Hacia las Comunicaciones 


profBcto . ff ~ It 

taaclta cnu*i * 



Con una amplla sonrlsa y 
una gran barba. estaba 
Oerd Stern aentado en un 
cafe con un oompanero de 
trabajo. Cartoa Pena He- 
rrerR. que ea un fotagrefo 
ecuatortano, que cotabora 
con Stern, en Venezuela por 
ahora. Stern slempre bten, 
con sus Ideas nuevas sobre 
la vida. loa medlos de co 
munlcac!6n. el video, el 
dne. la TV. Multimedia. 
Intermedia. Mixedmedla. 
Ea un hombre aUnpiUco, 
que quiere eomuntcane a 
como de lugar con ta gente. 
No babla. mucho eapanol. 
pero preflere conversar en 
eate tdloma para enlender 

-Uno debe traUr de 
comunlcarae dice 

Cuando le preguntamoa 
que eata haclendo reaponde 
que ea un poeta y un pre- 


-31 -conteata- de la 
compania .- Y aonrie. 

Oerd Stern ea el presiden 
ts de una compania liamt^f 
Intermedia Statems Oor 
poratlon. que ae ocups de 
hacer programas au- 
dwvlsuales de todo Opo, 
para oocnpaniaa. 

Carlos Pent 

bernaclon del Dtatrlto Fe 
deral, lo podemos ver en el 
Dome que eata en la Plaza 
Bolivar, que hie Ideado por 
Stem. Tamblen fue el or- 
ganizador del Primer Fes 
tival de Video que se realize 
hace mas o menos ano y 
medio en el Museo de Arte 
Oontemporaneo de Caracas. 

Usted dice que es un 
poeta, 4 como es su poesia? 

Yo he eetado trabajando 
con Juegoa de palabras 
durante mucho* anos. y 
deapufe fid camblando eaoc 
Juegoa y combtnactones a 
trabajoa audlovtsuales. 
Pero la audlencla que Uene 
eate Upo de programaa es 
muy reducida. en camblo en 
la poesia eatructural y de 
eatructura dnetica hay mas 
audlencla, pero ea un pu- 
bllco para el arte y yo quiero 
que todos ae pueden- 
comunlcar. pero creo que 
con el Uempo ee tiara ma 
yor. Por abora es mac facll 
cornunlcaree can laa em- 
preaaa y.el goolemo-. y a 

su com- 

bumos. Trmbeja mucho er. 
las eo 


QUC yo V*sHfi&XbaB> 
n la -Unlvanldad de Hmr- 
j-vard y en Cambtrge. Maa- 
-achuaets. T hace e u afloa 
de . Odmumcadon Au- 
dloviaual. deade ew alto yo 
he malliartn mucho* tra 
bajoa en Venezuela para la 
Oobemaclon y para el 
Museo de Arte Contem- 
poraaao. taoibien he tra- 
b^ado para otraa dependen- 

Cert Stern. 

da* del Goblerno y aigunaa 
empreaas prtvadaa. Ha- 
cemos diaenoa de Co 
municaciones. hemoa hecho 
muchos de eatoa trstbajos en 
Multimedia. . 

En el Domo de la Plaza 
Bolivar se presenta un ea- 
pectaculo con nueve ca>- 
maraa. y varlaa pantallaa. 
Eate es un metodo de de- 
aarroUar la eenslbllkiad y la 
percepclon en otro aentido. 
Stern hace exhlbldones en 
muaeoa. con eacultura cl- 
netlca. multimedia en los 
Estados Unldos y en otras 
partea del mundo. El ex- 
puca que eon para publlco 
muy pequeno. porque at ae 
lucleran para mayor nu- 
mero de personal habria 
que utillzar grandes ea- 
pacloa y no hay suflcientes 
(ondoa para pagar el gaato 
de alquller de las salas y el 
mantenimtento de mayor 
numero de eoulpoa 

iTrabajan con todo Upo, 
de medtos audlovisuales? 

Trabajamoa eon dla- 
poatttvaa. video, cine, o una 
mexcla de todo eao expllca 

iHacen trabajoa comer- 
dateaono? . 

SI reapopde Carlos. 
pero skfinpre que -aea po- 
alble eombmar ei a-pecto 
artistioo eon el eamerdal. 
Nosotros . ereemoe que 
atempre ea poaible hacer 
eao. Bueno. si se podria 
declr que la mayoria de laa 
producdones que hacemos 
im-uUus eon de objeto co- 

En todo caao. contt- 
nua Gerd Stem no son 
problemas ordlnartoa. slno 
expoatctonea -apeclal-s y 

"Un poems an SpangJIsh", nalixado por Gerd Stem. 

expllca tones de proceaoa 
tecnlcoa. didacticamente 
tratadoa. mottvacion para 
que kw obreros pn<i 
trabalar en mejores con- 
dlclones. tratamoa los 
problemas de comunicaclon 
tanportantea para el mundo 
y ahora noaotroa 

cornpania con la Or- 
gantatacion Diego Oaneroa. 
Noaotroa produclmos tra 
bajoa en dne y en television 
en varlaa formaa. yo he 
producido obras de arte de 
video y television y do- 

CUII HI lltl M^t PMtCTtffm^Tltf 

de. en lot Eatadoa Unldos 
el Planetarlo. donde 

slno la oportunidad de par- 
Uclpar en muchaa experlen- 
clas creatl vas y luago puede 
eacoger qua ea lo qua mis le 

de laaaer. programado por 
on oomputador. aconv 
panaitft de muslca. fiamatto 
Luces de Amor. Tamblen 
hiclmos una aerie de cor- 
tometrajea aobre Football, 
para enaeAar a los en- 
trenadorea c6mo son laa 
condlckmes flslcas optlmas 
que deben tener los deportla- 
tas. aobre todo para el entre 
namlento de lo* nlnoa de loa 
bceoa. para evttar poalblea 
acrtdantaa en la pracUca. 

Carlos Pens Herrera es un 
eapeciallata en educacion 
creatlva para nlnoa y eata 
trabajando en Venezuela en 
un proyecto de deaarrollo de 
la aenaibuidad del nlno. 
aobre todo en areas mar- 
glnaJes. hacen experlenclas 
eon dne. fotografia, video, 
arteaania, plntura y arte 

iQue tlpo de experlenclas 
hacen con los nlnoa en eate 

El programa eata. ba- 
iado en la Idea de que el nlno 
Uene la oportunidad de 
reeJizar la labor de un to- 
tografo. o de un cb leasts y 
da near ana carnara de 
video expllca Carlos . 
antonrea se le enaancha el 

Pero at son nlnoa de areas 
margtnalea. deapues que" 
tengan eata expertencia y nol 
puedan contar con loa- 
medioa tecnlcos para rea-" 
llzarto de nuevo ique paaaT 

Entonces, parte de lav 
recomendactanes de eate" 
programa. en aw sentido. 
aeria que eate ttpo de tra-" 
bajo ae prolongu* o as haga 
en varlaa etapas. 

Yo creo que el puntb 
Importante dice Gerd 
Stern ea la expertencia Oe, 
abrtr loa camlnos de la 
percepclon en otr os sen- 1 - 
tldos. Eata ea una experten 
cia unlca. pero que les va a 
abrtr loa o joe a eatoa nlnoe y. 
luego ellos van a eatar 
motlvadoa para buscar 
nuevaa experlenclas. pues, 
ya se lea ha dado la opor- 




Cuando el nlno ha hecho 
algo con BUS proplas manos 
atgue expUcando Carlos 
ya eata abierto el eamlno de 
oonocbniento y de cu- 
rtoatdad Para eate objeto. 
que el va y la proxlma vez* 
que tenga la ocaaion de ver) 
una foto o tener an sus. 
manoa una camara ae le 
abrtra la mente hacla el. 
proceso. ya eatara dotado de* 
otro aapecto de aenatbuldad. ; 

.Como ae eatshlocfi e*u. 
relaclbn? ; 

Los nlflos aaben que las, 
rural exlaten dicen Ster-> 
n pero no ae atenten per-J 
aonalmente Involucradoa. 

-EUoa miran a dlarto la; 
television contlnua Ca-, 
rtos y ven los dlbujos* 
aiumadoa. pero medlantej 



. ellos tteneni 

am a ver las coaaa de otra 
forma. Puede tener una 
expertencia ff^jp^fi^ 

eompleta. el nlno puede 
tomar laa (otoa deade el 
Interior de la camara y 
darae uuenta del proceso, 
tiene expertenciaa de con- 
ciencla amblental con va- 
rloa materlales como mex- 
eladorea de aonldo proyec- 
don. ceramica. entonces 
Oene la oportunidad de 
expreaarse, no eblo en una 
forma artiatlca y creatlva. 

contacto eon todo el me-| 
canlsmo que rodeael hecho. 
de .que eaoa Olbujo* anl-i 

-En loa Eatadoa Unldos. 
eenala Oerd Stern- eate; 
programa de areas mar, 
*" as hace como un 
programa de mUarsclbn. de, 
demoatracion de per-* 
me-JbUldad social entre laj 
daae media y dichas areas, 
margmalea, Ea muy impor-; 

iDe donde aacaron la Idea, 
de hacer eate Upo de pro-; 
gramas con los nlno* . 

To trabaje -expllca 
Cartoa en un programa da, 
eate Upo en Cleveland-* 
cuando vine ac4 penes que 
eeria una buena Idea, eate es 
el primer pais la- 
Unoamertcano donde se vaa 

..this is a particip; 
hat we have been accu.< 
c call physical real; 
urns out to be largely 

>apier machi construe 

o: our imagination 
Mastered in between t 
iion pillars of our ob 
tese observations con 
:lz only reality. . . 
Ifzbil we see why the u: 
.1 built this way, we 1 
Ua first thing about : 






^ : J.8 :15. 9:30PM. F 9 30 10 45PM 
SAT 530. 7:00. 8.15. 9 30. 1045PM 
SUN 530. 700. 8.15PM 


Tcfcee a a TiCKETRON ouneis ana ai 

For mkxmamn call - 723-4586 
Doors ckase oromoiiy at snownme 


AT 10: 15 





.- .9:30PM. F 9 30. 10 45PM 
SAT 5M. 7:00. 8 15. 9:30. I04SPM 
SUN 5.30. 700. 8:15PM 


Tows at al TCKETRON ouMR and ai tw 

For rtormaiicin call - 723-4586 
Doors close promptly at snowdme 

SCM Three Loelighk 


Of tJftit* litjht 

bright. r by far 

thn oythirvj norwtofor* 

TIM now than torn* 
into wtMMlinq rainbow 
rryd owr tha ntir don* 

Most tb* dona is 

fllld with whirlinq points 

of lifitt in four colon 

35:55 colors coal*ea into two rinaa 
old and turquoiM 
vhich orbit on* another one* 


Im aravity s 

bacoittwj tlM infinity halo 

Wbila .il.Miltanously 

36:25 ulo M taMM eoaduct liqht 
* ch couple toraa 

head., lipa. fturi 
Multiply and ! 
diaol OIM into >aoThor 
la aioft.i vitk to. lyrle. 


o o 

.... a suataiMad ploiion. roar b**in 
softly, wvlli. 

Citploaton crossCad** into arpaovio* on 

Chorua. awl* and Catula, humnirvg, soothinq. 
.. qult but powerful aajor stooa chorda. 

As tha two huMans couch on another the 
strains of Lovali^ht COB up. triumphant, 
happy and unraatrainod. .. . 

. MM OM C cunt oft ** on. 

-r* will J*IM yw uw r* 

tov*litbf ia dvtat. aceoayaniad by 
oapal-trP* elAppii.** vry dac*y. . 


385 APPEN1UA > 




^ 2 7 AfT tt: 4L> PM SK>T 25 AT 10^15 




and Only ihowlr* In San Franclic* 
Th drama of a man torn between 
hit love for hi* mother and his malt lover. 
nDr n v MARKOPOULOS 1 "***" 




lvn MJdr.koff. 



A nr* J,n,n.. rp, r f nlwrtl | 


TIekrt* Now AvilUblil 


Chestnut nr. Scott 
. WA W931 



Department of Art 

Gerd Stern 
Maverick Road 
Woodstock , New York 

Dear Mr. Stern: September 21, 1964 

Let me make a brief reply to your letter of September 9th and 
if you desire further informational will be pleased to write you 
again. f _. 

Your afternoon performance here at the University stirred up 
considerable resentment and . trouble. Within an hour of your 
departure our administration had received angered protests which 
labeled your performance as crude, pointless and morally distaste 
ful. I was not present for the film in the afternoon and felt no 
immediate reaction of those present but realized after that most 
of the faculty had walked out hoping the students would do the same. 

Our overall evaluation of your performance was very negative. Per 
haps if you had had something to say in support of your films, 
etcetera, it would have had better acceptance. 

We felt it important to suggest to other schools on your trip that 
they preview your material simply to save them the embarrassment 
that we found ourselves burdened with. We have not pursued this 
cautioning since that time. 

We do hope that you will not include our school on your list of 
successful performances. 

No malice simply a very unimpressed community of viewers. 

Edward D. Mar yon, Head/7 
Department of Art V 






"The sexual map of a 
relationship, where 
emotion is only the 
candy bar held out 
as high pitched f nil- 
f illment ... imagine 
Norman Mailer mated 
with Gertrude Stein 
and yon have the pic 
ture...! was reminded 
of Strindberg s Miss 
Julie, for here again 
was the sexual parry 
ing, the momentary 
advantages, the repul 
ses, advances and re 
treats . . the acting 
of Billie Dixon, blue 
voiced, platinum- 
haired, and Richard 
Bright smiling with 
oily confidence, could 
no more have been 
bettered than could 
Rip Tom s direction." 


.shock provofcer." 


"A milestone in the 
history of hetero^ 

sexual art, 

"Could run as long as 
the Fantastiks." -WINS 



"A boistrons, funny 
and novel look at 
American sexual folk 

"The Beard is about 
sex and its words are 
the brutal, funny ones 
the streets obscenely 
apply to it.. .it is the 
poetry of today*.. 
Mlchanfl McCJure is a 
genuine poet. 9 


"A way -way out piece, 
heavily laden with 
four-letter words,- and 
ending with the 
graphic depictation 
onstage of an act of 
sexual aberration." 


"An interesting play 
about the external 

The .Beard is re- 



"Not for the kiddies 
or timid Aunt Min." 


alphabet soup 
iof four letter words." 


,-"It would make a 
(sailor btash* -isiiuBn$,c8s-Tv 


YHIT "Mich*?! McClure 
AJnJC* Billie Dixon ..H^ 
Richard Bright ^BmyTb.^ 

directed by Rip TOWl 

Design and Media Mix by USCO 

Costumes by Ann Roth Lighting fcy c. Morawski 

Tues, Wad., Thurs. 830. Sun. 3 & 730: $4.50, 3.50, 2.50; FrL 830. Sat 730 & 10:00: $4.95. 3.95, 2.95. Make checks payable to: Ever 
green Theatre 53 E. llth St 533-5325 Enclose self -addressed, stamped envelope. List 3 alternate dates. Telephone orders accepted. 

EVERGREEN THEATRE 53 E. llth St. 533-5325 


- .. .. 
, c" 

"" --, 
- -^ *^ 

< 2 .^^ -? ;> ^? ^. l ?i~S<-.C;<<: >^X-"- * i - " . - "--. -7 ; .r ; 




xjlli^Ss^au.-? : ._ 1^ - ; ::g^5&:Ba^^ 


INDEX- -Gerd Stern 

Adams, Jerry, 53 

Adams, Leon, 31, 50, 53 

Adelberg, Doris, 157 

Adelberg, Lotte, 157 

Albers , Hans , 9 

Aldcroft, Richard, 92, 299 

Aleman, Miguelito, 58 

Algren, Nelson, 30 

Alpert, Richard, 83, 90, 92, 93, 

95, 99-111, 142, 249, 307, 316 
Altman, Jonathan, 110 
Andres, Carlos, 123 
Angelou, Clyde, 44 
Angelou, Maya, 44-46, 60, 134, 


Angelous, Tosh, 44 
Arendt, Hannah, 195 
Arques, Don, 37, 54-55 
Arria, Diego, 122-124 
Artaud, Antonin, 10, 78, 91, 164 
Auden, W. H., 151 
Augustine, Saint, 195 
Ayers, Jonathan, 82, 105, 303-304 

Baba, Meher, 92-93, 316 

Babitt, Hal, 73 

Baker, Richard (Roshi) , 93-94, 

112, 114-115, 311, 316 
Baker, Virginia, 93, 112 
Baldwin, James, 224 
Banducci, Enrico, 44 
Barab, Seymour, 244 
Bartok, Bela, 74 
Basie, Count, 59 
Bateson, Gregory, 158 
Beatles, 87, 277 
Beats, 254-255, 258 
Becker, Allison, 272 
Becker, Howie, 272 
Beckman, Herb, 62, 178 
Beebe, Lucius, 13 
Berg, Norman, 302 
Bergen, Candice, 60, 117 

Bergen, Edgar, 60 
Bergeron, Vic, 57 
Betancourt, Don Romulo, 122 
Big Brother and the Holding 

Company, 101 
Blanche, Arnold, 82 
Bolivar, Simon, 121 
Brakhage, Stan, 79 
Brand, Lois, 141-142, 263 
Brand, Stewart, 74, 141-142, 242, 

263, 269, 270, 285 
Braque, 255 
Brink, Fred, 284-285 
Brockman, John, 84, 86, 105, 116- 

117, 138-140, 142, 241-242, 

256, 301, 307 
Brown, Jerry, 142 
Brown, Norman 0., 119, 262 
Bruce, Lenny, 59-61, 101 
Buck, Jane and Bill, 58 
Buck, Pearl, 133 
Buck, William, 31, 42-43,97, 133 
Buckley, Lord, 202 
Buckwheat. See Loughborough, Bill 
Burstein, Beth, 130 

Cadavieco, Jose Ignacio, 119, 120 

Caen, Herb, 48, 52-53, 59, 61, 
72, 130, 265, 272, 322, 324 

Caen, Sally, 52-53, 72 

Cage, John, 9, 66-67, 202, 269, 

Caldera, Rafael (President of 
Venezuela) , 122 

Callahan, Michael, 73, 76, 81, 
85, 96, 100-101, 105, 107, 109, 
110, 120, 162, 171, 193, 197, 
200, 202, 234, 246, 251-252, 
256, 261-262, 265-267, 269-270, 
273, 275, 281-282, 285-287, 
289-290, 293, 296, 305, 311- 
312, 318-319 

Camel, Mona, 233, 238 


Cams, Karen, 66, 71 
Cassen, Jackie, 92, 299 
Celine, Louis -Ferdinand, 19 
Chamberlain, John, 67, 80 
Chaplin, Charlie, 14 
Chekhov, 150 

Clements, Grace, 34, 80, 82, 288 
Clinton, Bill, 249 
Connell, Evan, 62 
Conner, Bruce, 79 
Coomeraswami, Ananda, 82 
Corita, Sister Mary, 154, 278, 


Corso, Gregory, 266 
Cousteau, Jacques, 85 
Culler, George, 73, 268, 271 

Epstein, Betsy, 70, 88 
Epstein, Arnold (Ep), 70, 88 
Everson, Bill, 10 

Ferguson, Giana, 238 
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence, 29, 253 
Firestone, Susan, 153 
Foerster, Heinz von, 139 
Fonda, Peter, 117 
Forbes, Malcolm, 104, 288 
Fraenkel, Michael, 7 
France, Anatole, 225 
Francis, Arlene, 52 
Frankenstein, Alfred, 74-75, 274, 

Dacey, Bob, 82, 88, 303, 311 

Dahlberg, Edward, 240 

D Asencio, Tikki, 123 

Davenport, La Noue, 66, 196 

Deitsch, Fran, 26, 238 

DePew, Mort, 64 

Dewey, Admiral, 309 

Dewey, Ken, 86, 103, 307-308 

Dickens, Charles, 308 

Diller, Phyllis, 44, 60, 249 

Dodge, Jim, 195 

D 1 Orleans, Charles, 182-183 

Dostoevsky, Fyodor, 3 

Downs, Hugh, 140 

Drew, John, 44 

Dreyfus, Bob, 93, 316 

Duncan, Robert, 29 

Durkee, Barbara, 68, 71, 110, 

116, 314 
Durkee, Steve, 68, 76, 110, 116, 

141, 261, 263, 269, 284-285, 

Dylan, Bob, 101-102 

Edgerton, Harold, 85, 304 
Ehrlich, Jake, 63 
Ellison, Thorborg, 26, 28 
Emerson, Richard Wirtz, 51, 232 
Emshwiller, Ed, 103 
Ente, Lily, 88, 309 

Gardner, Bob, 99 

Geller, Herb, 59 

Geller, Lorraine, 59 

Genet, Jean, 19 

Gide, Andre, 19 

Gidlow, Elsa, 74 

Gilbert, Jack, 51 

Gillespie, Dizzy, 32 

Ginsberg, Allan, 18, 20, 47, 51, 

57, 71, 74, 102, 113, 233, 238, 

272, 274, 321, 324 
Goethe, 153, 198 
Goldman, Elaine, 7, 10, 48, 143, 

161, 231, 233, 240 
Goldman, Toshka, 8 
Goodman, Ginny, 233 
Goodman, Nelson, 103 
Goodman, Paul, 9, 11, 24, 30, 149 
Gordon, Dr. Myron, 3 
Gorewitz, Rubin, 100, 107 
Gorgeous, Rose, 6 
Gould, Joe, 243 
Gould, Stanley, 5, 52 
Gourmont, Remy de, 238 
Graham, Martha, 78, 100 
Granat, Frank, 72 
Grateful Dead, 101 
Graves, Robert, 111 
Grossman, Al, 101 
Gundy, Walter, 114 
Gurdjieff, I., 56 


Gutenberg, 76 

Haverlin, Carl, 42 

Halprin, Ann, 266, 293 

Hambidge, Dr., 18, 149, 250 

Hampton, Lionel, 51 

Harmon, Sid, 271 

Hayakawa, S. I., 31, 54, 191 

Hearsts, 294 

Heath, Percy, 45, 134, 181 

Hecht, Ben, 12, 145 

Hedrich, Wally, 80 

Hefner, Hugh, 52, 58-59, 61, 183 

Hershkowitz, Harry, 8, 145 

Hesse, Hermann, 83, 190 

Hill, Jane, 12, 23-26, 28-31, 38- 

39, 95-96, 97-98, 111, 133, 

150, 157, 173, 236, 240 
Hill, Lewis, 24, 33, 40-41, 47, 

103, 171, 228, 232 
Hill, Wally, 12 
Hitchcock, Billy, 83 
Hitchcock, Peggy, 83 
Hitchcock, Tommy, 83, 297 
Hitler, Adolf, 1, 143, 320 
Hoffenberg, Mason, 52 
Hoffman, John, 16, 20-23, 25, 57 
Hofstadter, 223 
Holiday, Billie, 75, 162 
Hope , Bob , 1 1 

Hopkins, Gerard Manley, 278 
Hopper, Dennis, 80, 117, 140 
Horne, Lena, 45 

Hotchkiss, Christopher, 204, 226 
Hube the Cube, 185 
Hugo, Victor, 3 
Hultberg, Lawrence, 246 
Hultberg, Ethel Slutsky, 66, 69, 


Hultberg, Paul, 246 
Huncke, Hubert, 321 

Ibsen, 150, 234 
Indiana, Robert, 72, 93 
Irrazabal, Fernando, 121 

James, William, 223 
Jimmy the Greek, 6-7, 242 
Jones, T. C., 61 
Jong, Erica, 103 
Jung, Carl, 224, 288 
Justice, Sandy, 11 

Kafka, Franz, 5 

Kaiser, Henry, 73 

Katz, Karl, 143 

Kaufman, Bob, 21 

Kaufman, Murray (the K) , 87, 310, 


Kempton, Murray, 312 
Kempton, Sally, 312 
Kentfield, Calvin, 62 
Kerrigan, Joe, 64 
Kerouac, Jack, 33, 47, 264, 321 
Kesey, Ken, 96, 195, 283, 309, 

310, 322 

Kisburg, Nick, 8, 23 
Koren, David, 71 
Kostelanetz, Richard, 307 
Kovner, Abba, 143-145 
Kramer, Ellis, 7, 231, 243 
Krieger, Jesse, 107 
Khan, Kublai, 309 
Kingston Trio, 44, 60, 249 
Kunitz, Stanley, 50, 147, 260 

Lamantia, Philip, 11, 16, 35, 57, 

80, 91, 178, 189 
Landesman, Fran, 238, 239 
Landesman, Jay, 27 
LaPorte, Paul, 278 
Lauteamont, Comte de, 21 
Leary, Timothy, 81, 83-84, 90-92, 

95, 99-100, 111, 249, 298-299, 

307, 318 
Lee, Paul, 83-84, 99, 115, 118, 

306, 308, 318 

Lennard, Henry Loeblowitz, 157 
Levy, Bill, 9 
Lewis, John, 45 
Lincoln, Abraham, 124 
Lindbergh, Charles, 86, 308 


Litwin, George, 99-100, 106, 318, 


Lobel, Henry, 5 
London, Ann, 30, 47-50, 56-58, 

61-64, 72, 94, 105, 147, 152, 

176-177, 180, 251, 294 
London, Claire, 50 
London, Dan, 48, 50, 321 
London, Mimi, 40 
Look, Wallace, 24, 43 
Loughborough, Bill, 33, 38, 47, 


Loughborough, Pam, 33, 38, 40, 59 
Lowell, Robert, 57 
Luther, Martin, 258 
Lyon, Fred, 56, 272 

Magdalene, Sister Mary, 154, 278- 

279, 290 

Maguire, Barry, 80 
Majdrakoff, Ivan, 4, 28-29, 50- 

51, 72, 74, 78, 103-104, 154, 

157, 162-163, 234, 235-236, 

240, 270, 280, 282, 323 
Majdrakoff, Julia, 50 
Marco, Frank di, 53 
Marder, Eric, 157 
Markfield, Wallace, 19 
Marley, Bob, 136 
Martin, David Stone, 291 
Martin, Tony, 291 
Marx, Groucho, 145 
Marx, Harpo, 12, 145 
Marx, Karl, 236 
Master, Billie, 162, 277, 281 
Mathers, McGregor, 111, 245 
Mathis, Johnny, 60 
Matson, Katinka, 140 
May, Rollo, 139, 142, 242 
McBean, Judith, 151-152 
McCallum, Barbara, 65 
McCarthy, Jr., George (Mac), 11, 

13, 15-16 
McClelland, David, 90-91, 100, 

102, 108, 120 
McClelland, Nick, 120 
McClure, Michael, 30, 71, 74-75, 

100, 266 

McKenzie, Dr., 62 

McLow, Jackson, 66 

McLuhan, Marshall, 67-68, 74-77, 

116, 118, 145, 154, 227, 242, 

269, 284, 286 
Mead, Margaret, 158 
Meltzer, David, 33 
Mekas, Adolphus, 84, 301 
Mekas, Jonas, 84 
Merabishvilli, Alexis, 294 
Merrill, Jimmy, 151 
Metzher, Ralph, 83, 90-91, 111, 

249, 300 

Meyers, Sister Adele, 141 
Miller, Ginny, 9 
Miller, Henry, 7, 35 
Monkees, 116 
Morris, Jah, 203 
Morrison, Toni, 103 
Moore, Eleanor, 41 
Moore, Richard, 34, 41 
Moorman, Charlotte, 119, 122 
Mount anos, Louis, 63 
Mullin, Jack, 296 
Murray the K. See Kaufman, Murray 
Meyerberg, Michael, 86, 308-310 

Nachman, Reb, 134 

Nesbitt, Gogo, 189 

Neumann, Hans, 123 

Newton, Frankie, 238 

Newton, Huey, 109, 117-118 

Nibloh, Phill, 126 

Nicholson, Jack, 117 

Noga, Helen, 60 

Norville, Barbara (Bard), 10, 11, 

13, 89, 96, 112, 141, 233, 240, 


Oliveros, Pauline, 265, 267, 275 
O Neill, Eugene, 150, 234 
Onslow-Ford, Gordon, 35-36, 54 
Obslow-Ford, Jacqueline, 35-36, 

42, 235 
Oyl, Lorraine, 32 


Paik, Nam June, 119 

Parker, Charlie (Bird), 25, 33, 

44, 51, 134, 197 
Partch, Harry, 34-36, 41-42, 59, 


Pearl, Julia, 57, 149, 163, 234 
Pegels, Elaine, 140 
Pegels, Heinz, 140 
Peluso, Franklin, 327 
Peterson, Elsie, 5, 233-234, 238 
Picasso, 255 
Pirandello, 150 
Plato, 118 
Podesta, Al, 26 
Porter, Bern, 51 
Prest, Dr. Richard, 63, 184 
Primus, Pearl, 43 
Proust, Marcel, 19 
Pudovkin, 53 

Rafelson, Bob, 116 

Rainer, Yvonne, 280 

Ramdas, Bab a, 115 

Rand, Ayn, 237 

Rangel, Sofia Imber, 122 

Rascals, The, 87 

Raucher, David, 8, 231 

Rauschenberg, Bob, 323 

Reich, Steve, 275 

Reina, Fredy, 155 

Rembrandt, 165 

Rexroth, Kenneth, 21, 30, 51, 98, 

188, 197 

Rheem, Bob, 151 
Richards, M. C., 9, 60, 66-67, 

70, 78, 232, 240, 268-269, 291 
Richter, Marga, 27, 166 
Riley, Terry, 275, 307-308 
Roerich, Nicholas, 88, 309 
Roethke, Ted, 49, 77, 147 
Rolling, Hubert, 234 
Romero, Elias, 291 
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 9 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 75, 162, 

194, 236 

Rosa, Rene di, 72 
Rose, Marion, 234 
Rosenfeld, Isaac, 9, 231 

Roth, Clarence, 157 
Rubenstein, Douglas, 101, 230 
Rubenstein, Sami, 165, 183 
Ruedi, Andre, 99, 100, 108, 295, 


Rudenko , Igal , 7 1 
Russell, Ross, 25 
Ryan, Bill, 61, 178 
Ryan, Paul, 140, 242 

Sabella, Angelo, 55, 56 

Sahl, Mort, 44 

S ant ay ana, 158 

Satchinanda, Swami, 112 

Sauer, Augie, 6 

Sauer, Hattie, 6 

Schachter, Rabbi Zalman, 109, 

111-115, 132, 134, 146-147, 

153-154, 160-161 

Schneeman, Carolee, 84, 105, 301 
Schneider, Bert, 116 
Schwartz, Delmore, 8 
Secunda, Sholom, 32 
Secunda, Sheldon, 32 
Sender, Ramon, 73, 76, 265-268, 


Seven Stray Cats, 253 
Shakti, Shiva, 89, 95 
Shannon, Del, 311 
Shaw, Sally (Sara), 108-109, 112- 

116, 124, 131-132, 134, 139, 

152, 203-204 
Sherwood, Blanche, 37 
Shore, Jack, 24 
Siegel brothers, 134 
Simpson, Jak, 38, 45, 58 
Sinatra, Nancy, 87 
Sitwell, Edith, 235 
Sizer, Ted, 102 
Smart, Christopher, 19 
Smileys, 27 
Smith, Harry, 91, 300 
Solomon, Carl, 18-20, 26, 47, 57, 

78, 233, 238, 321 
Solomon, Olive, 26-27 
Somers, Barbara, 272 
Somers, Roger, 73, 74, 272 
Spectorsky, August C., 52 


Spectorsky, Theo, 154, 183 

Spicer, Jack, 232 

Stein, Gertrude, 166 

Steinbeck, John, 11 

Stern, Abram, 124, 131, 200, 202 

Stern, Adam, 38, 57, 58 

Stern, Dixie Lee, 129 

Stern, Jared, 105, 132 

Stern, Lily, 1 

Stern, Otto, 124, 126, 128, 130, 

145, 236, 245, 247, 251-252 
Stern, Radha, 25, 32, 43, 55, 57- 

58, 96-98, 152, 154, 157, 200, 

202, 216 

Stern, Raymond, 124, 128-131 
Stern, Rudy, 92 
Stern, Sara, 203 
Stern, Zalman, 96, 100, 108, 113 
Sternberg, Naomi, 149, 234 
Sternist Movement, 12 
Stevens, Wallace, 34, 170, 228 
Stewart, David, 80 
Stone, Alan, 69, 79 
Stock, Bob, 66 
Stone , Bob , 95 
Subotnik, Morton, 73, 76, 265- 

266, 268, 275, 291 
Summerhill, Neil, 97 
Suzuki, Roshi, 35, 93, 112 
Swig, Ben, 181 

Taylor, Jack, 56 
Taylor, Mary, 56 
Teicher, Larry, 107 
Teichholz, Eric, 144 
Temple, Shirley, 11 
Thomas, Dylan, 147 
Tillich, Paul, 84, 306 
Toklas, Alice B., 162 
Tolstoy, Leo, 3 
Torn, Rip, 100-101, 108 
Toynbee, Arnold, 240 
Triest, Frank, 24, 34 
Triest, Shirley, 25, 34 
Trilling, Lionel, 8, 19 
Tudor, David, 66, 291 

USCO, 81, 254 

Van Doren, Mark, 19 
Varda, Jean (Yanko), 35 
Varma, Ashoka, 135, 137 
Vasulka, Steina, 122 
Vasulka, Woody, 122 
Vidockler, Stuart, 121 
Vogel, Herbert, 157-159, 170 

Walker, George, 130, 279 

Wapner, Grace, 309 

Wagner, Marion, 28 

Warhol, Andy, 86-87, 301, 309-310 

Watkins, Peggy Tolk, 37 

Watts, Alan, 34, 74 

Weil, Gunther, 318 

Weinberg, Shakje, 143 

Weinrib, David, 71, 88, 136, 142, 


Wiener, Norber, 139 
Williams, Paul, 9, 66, 68, 70, 

88, 97-98, 152, 250, 252, 311 
Williams, Vera, 9, 66, 71 
Williams, William Carlos, 50 
Williamson, Helga, 51 
Winard, Dick (Winansky) , 6, 230, 

Wilson, Judi, 70-71, 75-77, 89, 

96, 100, 108, 109, 111, 113, 

114, 117, 136, 141, 151, 251, 

285, 288 

Wise, Howard, 104 
Witt-Diamant, Ruth, 49 
Woods, Remsen, 104, 288 
Woods, Rosie, 288 
Wright, Bagley, 77 
Wright, Dion, 89, 311 
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 54 

Yalkut, Jud, 82, 303, 313 
Yanovsky, Zalie, 114 
Yeats, 245 


Zacca, Carolyn, 181 

Zalman, Reb, 112, 115, 132, 134, 

147, 154, 160, 161 
Zimmerman, Bob (Dylan), 181 

Victoria Morris Byerly 

Grew up in the rural industrial Southeast coming of 
age during the late sixties and early seventies. 
Immediately following graduation from Western 
Carolina University in 1971 traveled to Europe and 
Asia on a journey to Katmandu. Traveled twice to 
China. Student of East Asian Studies, Harvard 
University. Assistant Editor of Publications, 
Radcliffe College. M.A. in philosophy and 
psychology from the University of Massachusetts in 
1988 and, in 1994, awarded the Ph.D. in U.S. 
History from Boston College with special fields in 
U.S. resistance movements, women s studies, 
cultural history. 

Lecturer at the University of Massachusetts, Boston 
College, and at the University of California, Santa 
Cruz. Full-time lecturer in Women s Studies and 
Cultural Pluralism at San Jose State University 
since 1996. 

Author of Hard Times Cotton Mill Girls; Personal 
Histories of Womanhood and Poverty in the South, 
Cornell University Press, 1988. 

Assistant Editor in the Regional Oral History 
Office since 1995, interviewing in the fields of 
social protest, women s studies, cultural and 
countercultural histories. 

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