Robert F. Heinecken
Interviewed by Stephen K. Lehmer
Completed under the auspices
Oral History Program
University of California
Copyright © 1998
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RESTRICTIONS ON THIS INTERVIEW
LITERARY RIGHTS AND QUOTATION
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Biographical Sununary viii
Interview History xi
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (March 2, 1996) 1
Father's history as a Lutheran minister —
Heinecken and his mother move in with his
mother's parents- -Grandf ather' s drawing talent
and background as a Lutheran missionary--Father ' s
siblings--More on father's history- -Heinecken
moves to Riverside, California--Early appetite
for reading--Heinecken' s extended family--Early
interest in drawing and writing--Heinecken' s
rebelliousness as a teenager.
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side Two (March 2, 1996) 28
Heinecken fails to complete a summer session
preparatory program at UCLA--Takes lower-division
courses at Riverside College with the goal of
transferring to UCLA--Meets future wife, Janet
Storey, in high school --Reflections on the
effects of growing up as an only child.
TAPE NUMBER: II, Side One (March 9, 1996) 37
A near- fatal incident Heinecken experienced as a
jet fighter pilot in the Marine Corps- -Percentage
of Marine Corps pilot candidates who drop out or
die during training- -Reasons Heinecken failed to
complete the summer session program at UCLA.
TAPE NUMBER: II, Side Two (March 9, 1996) 63
Heinecken transfers from Riverside College to
UCLA--Enlists in the navy and is accepted for
their flight program- -Heinecken tricks military
medical examiners into thinking he meets the
height requirements for the program- -A second
near- fatal incident Heinecken experienced while
flying for the Marine Corps--Certain people's
fascination with danger.
TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (March 12, 1996) 90
Some background on Lutheranisni--Heinecken' s
father's tattoo--Heinecken' s mother's teaching
experience- -More on Heinecken's early appetite
for reading- -Absence of a clear theoretical
foundation among the teachers in UCLA's art
department in the seventies--Dif ference between
undergraduate students and student veterans
during the f if ties--Marriage to Janet Storey and
birth of twins, Geoffrey R. and Kathe Heinecken
Hull--Art professors at UCLA during Heinecken's
TAPE NUMBER: III, Side Two (March 12, 1996) 113
Heinecken's extracurricular activities while at
UCLA- -Teaches pilots at Pensacola Naval Air
Station--Impact of Heinecken's jet fighter pilot
lifestyle on his f amily--Returns to UCLA via UCLA
University Extension--Earns an M.A. degree from
UCLA's College of Applied Arts--Teaches Donald W.
Chipperf ield ' s art classes on a temporary basis--
Becomes a full-time faculty member in UCLA's
College of Fine Arts--Convinces the art
department to start a photography program.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side One (March 25, 1996) 138
More on the birth of Heinecken's twins--The birth
of Heinecken's daughter Karol Heinecken Mora--The
family's life in veterans housing and in family
housing for UCLA students- -Schools the children
attended- -Karol ' s involvement in Scientology--
Geoff and Kathe 's involvement with the drug
culture of the early seventies--The dissolution
of Heinecken's marriage to Janet Storey--
Beginning of his relationship with Joyce
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side Two (March 25, 1996) 162
Storey's retirement from the nursing profession--
Heinecken is given the name Raoul by Henry
Miller- -Heinecken and Neimanas escape being
killed in an explosion that destroys Heinecken's
studio--Relocating his studio--Heinecken and
Neimanas divide their time between Los Angeles
and Chicago- -Impact of Heinecken's divorce on
storey and on his children- -Heinecken and
Neimanas marry in 1984.
TAPE NUMBER: V, Side One (March 31, 1996) 186
UCLA art department faculty during the mid-
sixties--The first M.F.A. student at UCLA who
concentrated on photography--Polarization of art
faculty around the issue of offering graduate
photography courses--The department's emphasis on
"pictorial arts" --The struggle to have
photography included in the curriculum- -Programs
cut back or terminated upon the establishment of
the College of Fine Arts--Effect of the Master
Plan for Higher Education in the State of
California on UCLA's art program.
TAPE NUMBER: V, Side Two (March 31, 1996) 212
System-wide effects of the master plan--Emphases
of the art programs at individual University of
California campuses--The photography faculty at
UCLA- -Heinecken teaches the role of the art of
photography in relation to other art disciplines--
Teaching students to understand photography as a
medium- -The need for students to learn the history
of photography--Visiting photography faculty at
UCLA--Heinecken' s expectations of his students and
how he graded them- -His pleasure in teaching photo
developing in the darkroom--Exercise in which
students learn to work with a limited range of
color values by using torn paper to create a self-
TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side One (April 10, 1996) 239
Expectations of graduate students in photography
during the late sixties and early seventies--
Heinecken's expectations of graduate students--
Balancing freedom and discipline in the graduate
program- -Heinecken arranges his life to make the
creation of his art his main priority--The
demands teaching places on an artist's time--More
on Heinecken 's expectations of graduate students.
TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side Two (April 10, 1996) 263
The question of whether photography could survive
as a discipline--Supporting a student's strengths
no matter how they manifest themselves --Heinecken
and the "postmodern" label--Considerations
involved in selecting graduate students in
photography- -Seeking diversity among the small
group of students selected--The relative
importance of graduate students' work and their
grade point average- -Evolutionary phases of the
Society for Photographic Education.
Bom: October 29, 1931, Denver.
Education: A.A. , Riverside City College, 1951; B.A.,
Art, UCLA, 1959; M.A., Art, UCLA, 1960.
Military Service: Jet fighter pilot. United States
Marine Corps, 1953-57.
Spouses: Janet Storey, married 1955, divorced 1980,
three children; Joyce Neimanas, married 1984.
Instructor, photography. Department of Art, College of
Fine Arts, UCLA, and UCLA University Extension, 1960-
62; assistant professor, 1962-67; associate professor,
1968-73; professor, 1974-90; vice-chair. Department of
Art, 1979-80; chair, 1988-89; professor emeritus, 1991-
Professor, San Francisco Art Institute, 1970.
Professor, Schools of the Art Institute of Chicago,
Professor, Harvard University, 1971.
Professor, Columbia College, 1983.
Professor, Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of
Board of directors. Society for Photographic Education,
1970; chair, 1971-73.
Board of trustees. Friends of Photography, Carmel,
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS:
Robert Heinecken, Witkin Gallery, New York City, 1970.
Robert Helnecken: Photographic Work, Pasadena Art
Museum, Pasadena, California, 1972.
Light Gallery, New York City, 1973, 1976, 1979.
Robert Heinecken, George Eastman House International
Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, New York,
1976. Circulating exhibition also shown at Chicago
Center for Contemporary Photography, Columbia College;
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Frederick S. Wight
Art Gallery, UCLA, 1978.
Robert Heinecken: Food, Sex, and TV, Fotoforum,
University of Kassel, West Germany, 1979.
Heinecken: Selected Works from 1966-1986, Gallery Min,
Tokyo, Japan, 1986.
RoJbert Heinecken: 1966-1989, Sunnygate Gallery, Taipei,
AWARDS AND HONORS:
Guggenheim fellow, 1976.
Individual Artist's Grant, National Endowment for the
Arts, 1977, 1981, 1986.
Members Award, California Museum of Photography,
University of California, Riverside, 1984.
Polaroid Corporation grants, 1984, 1985, 1988.
Photographer of 1985, Friends of Photography, Carmel,
Honored Educator, Society for Photographic Education,
Are You Rea, 1964-68: Twenty -five Reproductions of a
Series of Photographs. Los Angeles, 1968 (artist's
Mansmag, 1969 (artist's book).
Just Good Eats for U Diner, 1971 (artist's portfolio).
He: /She:, Chicago, Chicago Book, 1980 (artist's book).
1984, R Case Study in Finding an Appropriate TV
Newswoman (R CBS Docudrama in Vords and Pictures ) , Los
Angeles, 1985 (artist's book).
Recto/Verso, 1988 (artist's portfolio).
Stephen K. Lehmer, Photography Area Manager, Department
of Art, UCLA. B.F.A., Photography, San Francisco Art
Institute; M.F.A., Photography, California Institute of
TIME AND SETTING OF INTERVIEW:
Place: Heinecken's home studio, Los Angeles.
Dates, length of sessions: March 2, 1996 (65 minutes);
March 9, 1996 (90); March 12, 1996 (90); March 25, 1996
(90); March 31, 1996 (89); April 10, 1996 (89); April
14, 1996 (88); April 27, 1996 (88); May 11, 1996 (90);
May 25, 1996 (89); May 26, 1996 (80).
Total number of recorded hours: 15.8
Persons present during Interview: Heinecken and
CONDUCT OF INTERVIEW:
In preparing for the interview, Lehmer consulted
available books and catalogs on Heinecken's work as
well as articles, reviews, and correspondence from
various periodicals about or by Heinecken. He also
examined materials from the Robert Heinecken archive at
the Center for Creative Photography at the University
of Arizona and additional materials supplied by
Heinecken himself. Finally, Lehmer drew on the
knowledge of Heinecken's world and life he had
developed as the result of direct experience based on
his years of working closely with Heinecken as a
graduate student, teaching assistant, studio assistant,
and personal friend.
The interview is organized chronologically, beginning
with Heinecken's early years and continuing on through
his stint as a jet fighter pilot in the Marine Corps,
his education at UCLA and his eventual professorship
there, and his career as a photographic artist of
international acclaim. Major topics covered include
the status of photography as an artistic discipline in
both the art world and academia, the development of
UCLA's College of Fine Arts, pushing the boundaries of
the photographic medium, Heinecken's work and
methodology, the Society for Photographic Education,
and the contemporary art world in Los Angeles .
Jennifer E. Levine, editorial assistant, edited the
interview. She checked the verbatim transcript of the
interview against the original tape recordings, edited
for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and
verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by
the editor have been bracketed.
Heinecken reviewed the transcript. He verified proper
names and made a number of corrections and minor
Alex Cline, editor, prepared the table of contents and
interview history. Gail Ostergren, editorial
assistant, compiled the biographical summary and index.
The original tape recordings of the interview are in
the university archives and are available under the
regulations governing the use of permanent noncurrent
records of the university. Records relating to the
interview are located in the office of the UCLA Oral
TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE ONE
MARCH 2, 1996
HEINECKEN: Well, let me just start. [laughs] And we'll
see what we get. I was born in Denver, Colorado, October
29, 1931. People discovered that that's a Scorpio sign,
which I have never paid much attention to, but it does--
People who believe in it use it. It turns out I do have
characteristics that those people who believe in it
associate with [Scorpio] .
LEHMER: What are you thinking of?
HEINECKEN: Well, a Scorpio — I'm not sure. A Scorpio is
a kind of self -centered person, rather direct and-- I
shouldn't say direct. But there is an interest in
sensuality. I shouldn't even be talking about this,
because it's really someone else's opinion about
astrology, which I don't necessarily believe in. But
anyway, I am a Scorpio.
The reason I was born in Denver-- My father [Friedli
Wilhelm Heinecken] was a Lutheran minister who was
assigned to a church in Denver, Colorado, I think probably
the year I was born. It was a mission church, which means
that there is no church there. You go into a community,
try to find the Lutherans [laughs], and get them excited
or whatever, open a church, a mission church, which in
this case I recall — not directly but from photographs --was
a storefront church in Denver, Colorado, which you are
assigned to for a period of time to determine whether
there is a congregation possible in this district or this
city or whatever. So that was his job. So I was born
there. Prior to that time, he and my mother [Mathilda
Moehl Heinecken] had been to a couple of other places in
Colorado doing the same thing, which I presume didn't
materialize. I mean, whatever the survey was didn't
produce enough people or whatever. And then, after the
Denver situation, we also lived in other cities in
Colorado. Golden [Colorado] comes to mind — Now I can't
remember, but they were in the vicinity of Denver and
things like that. So that's the occasion of being born
there. I'm not sure how to begin.
But anyway, in 1939--this would now be eight years
later — my father falls in love with one of the
parishioners of this mission church--right? — which they
had established by that time. I didn't know any of this
until much later, but-- So he falls in love, leaves the
whole situation, runs off with this woman-- And it's not
just that it's some woman, it's because it's a church
person; that's the bad part of the whole deal, right? So
he comes to California, presumably with this woman, goes
to Hawaii, presumably with this woman. Maybe this is now
1940, something like that. The facts are all unclear.
Why and how that happens I don't know.
Anyway, he ends up on Johnston Island, a tiny island
in the South Pacific, maybe five hundred miles southeast
of Hawaii. It's a tiny atoll which the United States is
developing as a fuel stop kind of an idea. So his job is
to go over there and dig these underground fuel reservoirs
so then they could either land airplanes there or-- It's a
very tiny island. I think mostly a ship would stop there,
refuel, go on-- So what's interesting to me is in 1939-40
we're fully aware of the Japanese threat-- We're building
these situations all over the Pacific in anticipation of
this war [World War II]. I've always thought we started
the war, anyway, one way or the other. So anyway, he's
there. The woman stays in Hawaii. I have letters that
are written to me from both places, which are interesting.
Anyway, at that point in 1939 my mother and I, for
maybe six or eight months, moved around Colorado. She was
looking for work. I remember that she took a job as a
dental technician or a dental secretary or something like
that in Colorado Springs, because we lived there for a
while. We lived in Boulder for a while, where she took
some other kind of a job.
But eventually in that same year, or maybe the
following year, we moved to Dubuque, Iowa, which is where
her parents lived and where she had grown up and in fact
where she met my father. So we moved there, which was a
situation where the — Her mother [Emma Moehl] and father
[Heniry Moehl] were there, but there was a maiden sister of
my mother's [Else Moehl] who lived there, and a younger
brother [Robert Moehl] who lived there who was probably
eighteen or nineteen- -at least too young to be going into
the service- -and the two of us were added into this
situation. And in a very small house like in Dubuque —
Her father, by the way, was a confectionary cook- -ran a
bakery shop, a German bakery shop. But anyway, it was
very uncomfortable. And I do remember some instances of
not- -I mean, it was like a tension there somehow that came
from this older sister, who had never married-- I mean,
I'm sort of going back in my mind, or maybe it's something
I realized later, but there was an animosity between this
sister who never married, and somehow a younger sister got
married, but it didn't work, and maybe the older sister
knew that that would never work. He was not the right guy
for her. That kind of stuff was in the air, kind of. And
her brother, who was younger, was-- I don't think he was
abusive in any sense to me, but he was not so happy that
either of us were there. It was just suddenly — Four
people in the house; it was now six people in the house.
And there's this separation and whatever. So it wasn't an
interesting time for me. I think I was very reclusive. I
remember I slept in the attic in a kind of cove. At least
it was private, but it was not a room or anything like
So anyway, that period of time I think was difficult
for my mother. I don't think she worked. She just kind
of — We lived there until something was figured out. So
then, I guess, in 1940--I'm looking at my book here--
LEHMER: Let me interrupt you for a second here. I think
in our discussions previous to this interview I was under
the impression that your family had a long line of
Lutheran ministers or something.
HEINECKEN: Yeah, that's true. Let me just make that
LEHMER: And I am going to guess that both sides of your
family were German, too.
HEINECKEN: That's right.
HEINECKEN: Actually, my father was born in Germany, but —
Let's go back. My grandfather [Friedli Heinecken] , my
paternal grandfather, is really the start of this whole
thing. He was born on an island, actually, between what
is now Denmark and Germany, so he's a northern German guy.
His family is rather large, but I don't know a lot about
what the rest of them did. He had two interests which
came very early on: one was the religion, Lutheranism,
but the other was-- Well, he was a very skilled, natural —
You wouldn't say artist but — Draftsman.
HEINECKEN: Drawing. Right. So all through his life he's
doing these drawings. I know this because he did his
journals and books where the drawings were included.
They're excellent. I mean, they are realistic drawings
but excellent stuff.
Anyway--and this is all sort of hearsay from the
family — at some point, he meets this doctor and the
doctor's wife. The wife becomes interested in his drawing
skills, pulls him out of whatever schooling he's in,
allows him to go to Basel, Switzerland, to study art,
right? And of course, it wasn't an art school, it was
really a craft training school. Basically what he did was
take his-- His drawing skills didn't matter too much, but
he was trained as a lithographer. I remember my father
telling me that like the first year you were there you did
nothing but grind the stones by hand, which is a grueling,
grueling job, right?
LEHMER: Is this like the turn of the century?
HEINECKEN: Let's see. This would have been-- I'd say
1875, something like that. I'd have to figure that out.
But anyway, first year you grind the stones by hand, which
is just a grueling thing. Second year you get to work on
the stones actually yourself under the direction of the
guy who is really producing whatever they're making, which
were like cheap reproductions for calendars, I think, and
stuff like that. And then the third year, if you're
talented enough, they allow you to really execute the
drawing. So my understanding is he did these three years
But at the same time, the other half of his life--the
Lutheran thing--is still present. And I'm not sure on
what basis he makes the decision, but at some point he
gives up the art idea, goes back to school in a Lutheran
situation to become a missionary. His idea--in his
journals he writes this--was that he wanted to go to
Africa. His second choice he wanted to go to the Middle
East to convert the Jewish people to Lutheranism. Those
were the two choices that he thought were the most
important. It was determined that for some reason the
Africa thing didn't work out, and they had determined that
they were not sending non-Jewish people into the Jewish
situation. They had converted Jews who were Lutherans who
would do that work. They sent him to India. So this
would have been somewhere in the 1890s.
It's not clear exactly what his work was, but what is
clear is that he fell in love with a half-caste Indian
woman who-- I'm not sure whether she was converted to
Christianity or was in the process of that or whatever.
But she had one white parent. So anyway, they fall in
love. And there's some controversy about the fact that as
an unmarried person he shouldn't be involved in all this.
He'd gotten in trouble with the church somehow. So they
actually left India without being married. She's now
pregnant. As I say, this is kind of speculation, because
they don't talk about it too much. But they had an awful
time getting out of India. And her journals, or his
journals about the situation, people would throw rocks at
them, spit on them, interrupt their travels. It was like
a bad period- Anyway, they finally get out of India.
They go to Berlin by train or whatever. So my father
is born in Berlin in 1900, I think. He's out of the
church, I think, at this point because of whatever the
situation was. So again all of this is kind of unclear.
But it turns out that the only way that they'll reinstate
him is if he will go to the United States. And apparently
that was arranged. They send him to Nebraska. My
father's brother [Martin Heinecken] is the one who kind of
talks about all this. He quotes my grandfather saying,
"Where is Nebraska?" or "What is Nebraska?" or whatever,
because who knows? So anyway, he gets sent there with my
father and does I don't know how many years of work as a
Lutheran pastor in Nebraska, Kansas, whatever. So that's
where my father sort of grew up. But what's Interesting
to me is his marital situation with this Indian woman, who
dies, by the way, in childbirth of the fourth —
LEHMER: In Berlin?
HEINECKEN: No. They come to America with my father.
There are three other children born then in the United
States. But she dies in the childbirth of the last.
LEHMER: Of the fourth.
HEINECKEN: Of the fourth, which is a woman [Marie
Heinecken Reck] . The other three are men. The other
three go into the Lutheran ministry. The daughter,
actually, marries a Lutheran minister. And some of those
marriages are connections to, then, other families which
have Lutheran ministries. So the whole clan is just
connected to the Lutheran ministry kind of idea.
So at some point in all this, my father, for whatever
reasons I don't know, he runs away. I'm getting all this
from his younger brother, who is actually a very well-
known theologian who is now retired. But he was the only
one who really made it beyond being a kind of pastor. He
was teaching, I think, comparative religion or something
in seminaries. Anyway, he tells me all this. That's
where I'm getting this from. So at some point my father
runs off at probably age fourteen, fifteen, or something
like that. No one knows why exactly, but he was
rebellious. He didn't conform to whatever the familial
LEHMER: I'm curious about the siblings. Where did your
father land in the--? Was he the firstborn?
LEHMER: He's born in Berlin.
HEINECKEN: Then came to the United States, right.
LEHMER: And then there were three more.
HEINECKEN: Three more. Two more brothers and —
LEHMER: And the last one was a daughter.
HEINECKEN: Right, who married a Lutheran.
So at some point he runs off, and they never-- The
way my uncle talks about it is that he would disappear for
six months, he'd show back up for whatever reasons. And
he had been to someplace in Oklahoma to drill old oil
fields, or he'd been stacking hay, and he worked at some
point on the Erie Canal in New York as a steamfitter. So
his trade really was a steamfitter; that is what he got
down to .
But at some point, through all this time- -which is a
long time, like from fourteen [years old] to twenty [years
old] or something like that, no, older than that — anyway,
he decides that he ' s going to go back to school . He has
no education- -none, zero. I mean, like junior high or
something like that. And he's going to become a minister,
which is weird to me. By this time he has a full tattoo
of a dagger on his arm. I'll tell you about that later.
So he goes back to Dubuque, Iowa, to a place called
Wartburg College, which is a Lutheran college. He's now
age twenty-eight, twenty-nine. He's older than anybody
else. And from there goes to the Lutheran seminary in
Dubuque, Iowa, and completes that course with, I think,
great difficulty probably. You have to learn Greek, you
have to learn Latin, and he has no education at all. But
he gets through all this I guess because of his drive — I
think the Lutherans would say his conversion or something,
So that's where he meets my mother. She's living in
Dubuque and had no education. I mean, she graduated out
of high school and actually had an interesting period of
time where she was an itinerant teacher. She would get on
the train in Dubuque and go out to some farm community and
teach for four days and come back on the train for the
weekend. And she used to tell us about riding in the
cabooses of the freight trains for nothing because they
would just take her back and forth. So she was
interesting that way. But she had no profession to speak
of. They get married, I think, in the same year that I
was born, 1931. They go to Denver for this first church
kind of idea. So that's sort of the background.
But there are other connections to the Lutheran thing
that maybe I'll think of later that are important, too.
But the point is, in my history, these two men, my
grandfather, who has this strange, rebellious kind of
idea, the Indian thing and that woman, and my father, who
breaks completely from the family into I guess kind of a
hobo in some sense and decides to come back. So I'm
thinking in some sense some of the moves I ' ve made are not
unlike some of these previous ancestors. But I have a
great deal of respect for my father later on.
I knew nothing of this divorce. They didn't tell me
that. He just-- I assumed. I think I was told that he
was like in the service in the South Pacific, but he
wasn't. He was in--they didn't have this--the Seabees
[United States Navy construction battalions] or whatever.
But the precursor to that was civilians who were all over
the South Pacific building these things.
LEHMER: For the military.
HEINECKEN: For the military, right. So he did that and
was on this Johnston Island on December 7, '41, when the
Japanese-- There are two situations as I understand. One,
they hit this Johnston Island where he was, and they hit
Wake Island on December 6, and then the morning of the
next day they hit Pearl Harbor. Wake Island I know
happened. It's in history. That was like ten hours
before Pearl Harbor, and so was Johnston Island. But they
didn't land or anything; they just shelled the island. It
damaged whatever they were constructing.
The only thing he ever told me about that that was
interesting is that they had marines on the island which
were kind of the governor, you know, whoever was there —
But all the civilians were trained to man these guns,
which they had set up like kind of artillery guns to shoot
at whatever Japanese thing they anticipated. So all the
civilians manned these guns, fired them up. And every gun
failed. He said that the shell went off and the gun would
just move from the cement platform back-- Just broke.
Crack. [laughs] So they never had any-- Nothing worked
was his point. Anyway, they didn't land. They just
shelled the island from these submarines.
At that point they shut down the whole civilian
thing, December 7, and sent them back to Hawaii, and then
back to, in his case, Los Angeles. At that point my
parents reunite. This is now 1940, I think. Let me see
what I had written down here.
LEHMER: 'Forty- two.
HEINECKEN: 'Forty- two, right, where he's now a plumber
and a steamfitter. But he is also working as an assistant
pastor, because that's what he wants to do finally. He
still has his religion, his faith. But it's been broken
off from the church because of running off with this woman
earlier. So I don't know how that all gets reconciled,
but he works as an assistant pastor in Glendale,
California, where we moved. The pastor of that church
became his mentor, I guess you could say. He was
instrumental in getting my father a real church after
another year or something like that, where he's a layman
but actually working as an assistant pastor or something
like that. So this guy gets him a job in Riverside
[California] . He goes there, and then finally he has his
LEHMER: And that's 1946? The family moves to Riverside?
HEINECKEN: That's right. And I actually stayed in
Glendale. I was in the middle of some school term when
they left. I stayed in Glendale, because I remember
living with another family that had a son my age [Jack
Davis] . I stayed there until the end of that school year.
I moved to Riverside later — So that's sort of that kind
Now, I don't know whether it was because of my
grandfather and his drawing thing or what exactly
happened, but I do remember-- Well, my most clear memory
of that period of time is reading. I was just like a
voracious reader — everything. And my mother tells a story
of — It was so obsessive that instead of eating breakfast
I would read the Quaker oats box, or I would read signs.
In some ways I still do that. I don't really study
anything. I don't read for knowledge or for information.
I just read for the love of reading. I mean, I just love
the idea of that in language but not focused really —
Anyway, that was interesting to me. And then at some
point--and I know this only because I have these drawings
and paintings that I made both in Colorado before all of
this and then also later when I get into high school or
junior high- -I have this interest in drawing. And
certainly from the drawings that I made [I had] some
skills in it for a kid that age. So I have some of that
material. And it's not clear to me how that was paid for,
because these were lessons that I got privately from
someone, but this would have been the heart of the
Depression. It's certainly not something that you'd paid
for like you would now. This was something that people
were doing, teaching art to make some money for bread.
Because we were extremely poor. I do remember the
circumstances were always like "Where's the next dollar
coming from?" And I know in his churches in Colorado and
in Denver there was no salary. I mean, the synod had no
money to pay any salaries. Whatever you could get, you
know. So he was paid like in food.
At some point it got so bad that I lived with another
family, because they had a farm or something-- In other
words, at least something to eat. It really talks about
the Depression. But it was a bad period of time for
everybody until we got the war. Then it was good, right?
LEHMER: Right. The war economy.
HEINECKEN: So-- I don't know. The thing that's
interesting here so far is the religious idea as it exists
in this family. None of the children of any of those
people which would be my generation are involved in this
at all. These are all professional people, but certainly
not in the ministry and not religious, so I always
thought. And they're interesting people. One is a
professor [Tom Reck] , one is a rather well-known
experimental musician [David Reck] , one is a publisher
[Theodore Heinecken] . They're all like professional
people like I am. But it stopped. The Lutheran thing
stopped with that generation--it was my father's
Where was I? Oh, this popped into my mind. I never
knew that they were divorced, because they just never
brought it up, right? But at some point there was a
marriage ceremony going on. I don't know how old I would
have been, but not old enough to grasp that this was
really a wedding that was really to remarry one another.
I thought — I don't know what I thought, but I didn't
realize that that was a serious thing. I don't know.
Maybe I thought it was some symbolic ceremony or something
like that. But this older sister that I mentioned
earlier--the one who was antagonistic--told me this at
some point, took it upon herself to open up this scab so
that I knew it. She was really kind of a vindictive
LEHMER: Dour person?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Just, I think, jealous for all her
sisters and brothers who married and she never did and all
of that .
So that gets us maybe to-- There are other things.
The next thing maybe is like in school, when this-- How
the art thing begins to figure in.
LEHMER: Your family moves to Riverside in '46, and in '49
you attend Riverside [City] College, where you get an A. A.
degree in art from '49 to 51.
HEINECKEN: Even in high school I was in a kind of college
preparatory program, but I worked on the yearbook both as
a kind of .writer and did drawings and stuff for this high
school yearbook and was active in-- Oh, you'd have the
literature club or drawing club or art-- None of these
were taught as courses. They were--
HEINECKEN: Extracurricular kind of ideas. So again I
have, or I had--I don't know where they are now--sorae
writings I had done and a lot of drawings and
illustrations, really, for the kinds of things a high
school does. But I did take, not in high school but
maybe — Certainly in junior college I took formal classes
in drawing and things like that.
LEHMER: Well, in high school, if we can back up here just
a snitch, what were the courses that began to set or
direct your interest? Were they like literature or
history or — ? What did you go into? Math and science? Or
did you gravitate towards humanities?
HEINECKEN: This is clear in some sense. High school,
maybe, the period of time. And in a burg like Riverside
it's not as developed as it would be in bigger cities.
But there was one teacher, a woman, who was the literature
LEHMER: What was the name of that teacher? Do you
HEINECKEN: Her name?
HEINECKEN: No. I might bring it up sometime if I could,
but-- She was very enthused about my writing and the
combination, I guess, of the writing and the drawing
interest. So she was very helpful and supportive and
probably in some sense the surrogate kind of mother that a
good teacher becomes, like a woman to a young man, young
Anyway, she got me interested in going to college and
also actually lined me up for exams or interviews to see
if I could go to Pomona College. Pomona College, for
those of us who don't know, it is a wonderful, well-known
private school-- Very expensive, which I-- My memory is
that I qualified for-- But the scholarship that was
offered was like a part, you know, half, maybe, and my
parents just couldn't come up with the money for the rest
of it. I don't think I was aware of how disappointing
that-- I mean, I could have probably become a CEO [chief
executive officer] of a bank somewhere today if I could
have gone to Pomona College or something. [laughs] But
it's a very good school. I could have gotten in, but
there were some money problems, so I didn't go there. But
it was this teacher who made sure that I had the
opportunity to get involved in that. I wish I remembered
her name, but--
LEHMER: Do you remember the kind of literature that you
read that was meaningful to you in that high school
HEINECKEN: No, I don't, nor do I have any real memory of
what was happening in art at that time. It's like a hick
high school, you know?
HEINECKEN: I think it wasn't so much of — It must have
included that kind of reading, but certainly no study of
the history of art or anything like that. But I think she
was just enthused by what she perceived to be talents that
could be developed along certain lines that were creative,
as opposed to mathematics or something like that.
LEHMER: Also what I'm picking up is that you've mentioned
more of an active role rather than a passive role such as
reading, that you mentioned writing versus the reading.
You mentioned earlier that you were a voracious reader,
but in high school at that kind of a critical point where
we begin to see our future, you were actually producing at
that point rather-- You were writing. You weren't
necessarily reading literature where you don't remember
specific types of literature or books or authors, but you
were beginning to-- You're talking about that you're doing
your own writing and drawing. What would be interesting
to me is, what did you write about?
HEINECKEN: It's very interesting, because my mother
through all of this saved everything that I drew. I still
have a lot of it. Some of it's pretty advanced, and some
is garbage and stuff like that. But the writings were
never saved . I don ' t think she saw the importance of
that, or maybe she was simply focused in the other
direction, maybe because of my grandfather's interest in
art or something like that. And maybe in a sense my gift,
if that's what we can call it, was more for the visual
thing than it would be for writing. I remember writing.
I remember being in these exhibitions of drawings. You'd
have readings by students; I was involved in that. I do
remember that. By I have no evidence of what that was,
and I don't remember it. I don't think it was poetry. It
was probably- -what would we call that?--like "This is what
I did for my summer vacation" or something. But in fact,
at this point, and even in the evolution of my artwork,
the what I would call a kind of literature aspect--that is
to say the titling, the writing, the reference to writing,
to language- -in the pictures is very strong. Probably
that ' s the only thing that you could trace that would be
constant through all of it. It's not a visual art per se.
It's an ideational art based on language principles, based
on metaphors, simile, parody, all these things that are
really literature ideas. We can talk about that more,
LEHMER: So that's in high school?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. And also I was very rebellious, which
is the other side of this time period. I didn't want to
leave Los Angeles. I had just entered high school, I
guess. And probably the freedom of living with this other
family was good. I had this very good friend who was the
guy who actually went on to become an Olympic hurdler. I
forget his name right now. So I was not without-- I mean,
I was without my parents, but had this surrogate family.
But it was very good for me to do that, because-- And I
didn't want to go to Riverside. They were insisting,
"Well, you have to come to Riverside. You finished that
school. Now you're coming." So I went, but very-- I went
because they told me to go, but I didn't like it. It was
a hick town. I was from Los Angeles, you know, all of
that. But I went.
I had a very difficult time with my family regarding
the church. My father was very tolerant because of his
background. I mean, he wasn't going to come down on
anybody simply because they were rebellious. [laughs] He
knew about that. But finally, I remember very clearly at
some point, I went to jail once, for which he had to come
and bail me out.
LEHMER: What was that for? Do you remember?
HEINECKEN: I went drinking beer probably or something
like that. It wasn't a serious thing, but it-- You know,
when the minister has to go down to get the minister's son
out of jail, it's not exactly what you want to do. But
anyway, I don't know whether it was the direct result of
that, but I remember having a conversation with him which
really came down to, "You can do whatever you want to do.
I'm not going to tell you what to do. But you do have an
obligation to my profession, which is ministry, so you
will be in Sunday school, and you will be in church every
Sunday. I don't care if you stay up till five o'clock
Saturday night drinking beer, you will be there on Sunday
morning. And that's our deal," he said. And I said,
"Well, this is okay." I could sleep through Sunday
school, church, whatever. "I'll be there" as a kind of
symbol. Because he said, "If you're not there, how am I
supposed to convince these people that their children
should be here?" And I understood. So it was an
agreement between us that was, as I think back-- I would
have never been that gracious or that understanding with
my kids. I just wasn't-- I didn't have that capacity.
And my kids rebelled. I guess all kids rebel. But aside
from this other kind of intellectual thing of the drawing
and writing, I was like into hot rods more than anything
else, and girls, obviously, and drinking beer and smoking,
all of these things that the pastor's son is not supposed
to do. Obviously I did it because I resented something
about the whole thing.
LEHMER: And that rebellion is an interesting idea. I've
always been intrigued by what you are rebelling against.
Are you trying to establish your own identity or express
your own ideas? You're maturing, and you want to consider
who you are versus who your family is. It sounds like you
had a strong family. They were strong enough to be
actively involved with other people's lives, trying to
influence other people's lives, so they're obviously going
to be doing that with you. And at some point you're
trying to establish your own identity, I would imagine.
HEINECKEN: Well, I didn't know all the history of the
family when this was going on. I mean, I know that now,
and I've accumulated all this. But what strikes me about
it as being very clear is that this is a man who made a
big mistake with this woman, got himself in trouble with
the church, lost his job, lost his profession, but decided
somehow to go — Well, first of all, to go back to school
when he was a kid to start this whole thing, and then even
after making this horrendous mistake went back again,
because he finally got it figured out for himself. It
wasn't necessarily just the religion of it but the
morality of it, I think, or something. So he clearly saw
in me some kind of replica of his running away. I mean, I
never ran away, but in a sense running away from
But I liked his deal, which was, "I've got my life
figured out, I'm going to be a minister, and you are going
to cxjnform to the extent that you will not damage my
situation." I thought, "Well, this is — " Again, I'm
remembering. I'm not remembering it verbatim, but this is
an important thing, to have an understanding with your
father that this is the deal. "And you will do it that
way." And of course, for me it wasn't a bad deal. All I
had to do was show up. I didn't have to believe that or
anything. And I'm not sure where my mother was in any of
this. She doesn't seem to enter the picture on this.
This was a deal or an understanding that was made. But he
was very tolerant. So was she.
I remember when I finally had a room of my own. It
was covered with these pretty girls and [Alberto] Vargas
girls, which passed for erotic pictures for a kid.
[laughs] And then there was no objection on their part
that this was there. It was private. That was my room.
I can do whatever I want--masturbate, whatever-- Whew,
right? And I think I still have a streak of-- I mean, I
know what's right and wrong, and I try to do what I think
is right. I'm not perfect at it, certainly, and I've made
a lot of mistakes myself. But I do have a morality which
is not based in formal religion necessarily, but it comes
out of that religion, that there are some rules, right?
There are the Ten Commandments and things like that which
you can adhere to, or try to, without becoming religious
LEHMER: You have learned through your environment,
through direct teachings from your parents, but did you
ever feel like you wanted to rebel against that? Or was
it just that--? Have you ever been able to identify what
you did in high school? Some people I think pursue
activities at that age in direct rebellion against their
parents. Other times they're beginning to figure out what
it is that they really want to do on their own. Or you
know what's right, but — Were you tempted to do what you
knew was wrong for the thrill of it?
HEINECKEN: Oh, I think this is true then and now and
forever, that the environment of-- Or being an adolescent,
the environment of that culture in that school is the
strongest thing there. I mean, the thing about peer
pressure is, of course, true. I forget my point, but I
had figured out somehow, not consciously necessarily-- At
an early age I knew how to do school. Some people know
that. Some people never-- It doesn't have anything to do
with intelligence. It's just like I could do all of my
homework in study hall. I never had homework to do. I
just figured out how to do that. So I wasn't a bad
student or anything. But again, this high school is so
hick, you know. There aren't any bad students in this.
They just show up or whatever. I got grades good enough,
as I said, to apply to this program, and certainly as a
result I-- The summer I graduated I went to UCLA on a
summer thing, which was to introduce you to university
life for three months or whatever. Then you would —
TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE TWO
MARCH 2, 1996
HEINECKEN: So I was saying that I went to UCLA during the
summer of 1949. That would have been to participate in
the program which-- We actually took courses. I forget
what I took, but I maybe can remember that. But it was
really to give you an opportunity to transition from high
school--no matter what kind of high school it was--into
that situation. So they put us up somewhere. I can't
remember. It was like a dorm kind of situation, so that
was controlled. I don't know if they still do this or
not, but they would meet you, you know-- Other students
would-- In other words, it was like a program to acclimate
you to this life, because it's so different from what your
previous life was about. And we took courses, but-- And I
can't remember what I took, but the point is that at the
end of that three months, or maybe even before that, I had
completely kind of washed out of this deal because I could
not handle it. I mean, I was just too young or too
immature, too mixed up or whatever. But in a sense what I
did was fail this summer school kind of thing, which was a
big disappointment, because this was my big move from,
well, high school to college, or in this case university.
I had been accepted, which was no problem, because of the
grades and whatever. But I guess emotionally or something
I just wasn't ready for it. So that was a big disappoint-
At the end of this, or whenever I dropped out of it
or flunked out of it, I went back to Riverside and
enrolled in the community college--then called junior
college — called Riverside College, which was a two-year
basically vocational kind of school. But the lower-
division college courses were all taught that would be
transferable into university programs. 1 went back and
did that. And I think I lived at home, basically. But
there was a small group-- I know I lived at home, basically,
but there was this other place, which was an apartment or
something like that, where similar people like myself lived.
And this was now 1950, right? Or 1949.
LEHMER: Yeah, 1949-50, when you were at Riverside
HEINECKEN: Right. Okay. So the Korean War happens in
1950. Oh, meanwhile, I should mention, in this junior
college were still probably the last vestiges of the World
War II veterans. So it was interesting, because you had
in that age group people who had real experiences with
that war along with eighteen-, nineteen-year-old kids.
And it was really a schism between-- I mean, these guys
were serious and older and had that aura of, like,
veterans. And then you had the regular kids, like the
idiots who were much younger and with no experiences. So
it was initially an educational problem--not a problem for
me — to try to figure out how to deal with these mature
people as opposed to these beer drinking people. Anyway,
toss it aside.
So I did the two years there basically with the idea
of taking lower-division academic courses to transfer to
UCLA as a junior--right?--but also continued because I was
going to major in art when I got to UCLA or anyplace.
LEHMER: So that was your intention even then, to go to
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Well, someplace. UCLA was obviously
the major university at that point in the UC [University
of California] system for Southern California. The other
schools didn't exist. And I guess it would have been the
only public university other than maybe some state
colleges or-- Anyway, that's where I had decided to go.
But I took courses also in this junior college in
art, like painting, finally something like that rather
than drawing and illustration, basically. But it wasn't a
program that introduced me very well into what I
experienced in the art department at UCLA when I got
there. It was more like still a second-class-- Well,
really like an illustration kind of an idea or something
that could be applied art, design, something like that,
and drawing not as an expressive or painting as an
expressive idea but as a kind of skill, a kind of craft, a
kind of — You know, how to make something look like it
should look. I have a lot of paintings and drawings from
that period of time, which are kind of — There is some
skill there, but they're not exceptional. Anyway, I had
like almost straight A's out of this two-year experience
and still continued to-- Most of my time was spent like
with the car culture and something. I wasn't a student
necessarily. But it was easy for me still. I just knew
how to do that somehow.
I forgot to mention that I met my wife Janet — Storey
was her maiden name- -in high school.
LEHMER: In high school?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. She was one of those women or girls, I
guess you'd say, in high school who was part of the elite
kind of group. There's always that group of like
cheerleaders, although she didn't do that, I don't think.
But they were all the good-looking girls, and they were
lively and so on. So she was really one of those girls.
We dated rather consistently — maybe we went steady, I
can't remember- -through high school or the last of high
school. Then, when she graduated, she went into nursing
school in Los Angeles, so that sort of ended our whatever
was going on. Except I would date her. I mean, I would
come into L.A., or when she was in Riverside we would go
out and whatever. And we were in love. I mean, it was
that kind of thing. But it was that she was in L.A. and I
was back — I think that was probably what was
disappointing about not getting into UCLA the first time,
because she was in L.A. And we would have probably
continued that relationship, which then became sort of
less involved. Anyway, I was dating other people, she
was, and so on. But that's how I met her. Later we'll
talk about that, how and when we were married or whatever.
So we'll try and maybe find a place to stop here which
would kind of be easy to pick up on when we start again.
Anyway, I'm graduated from this junior college. I'm going
to transfer to UCLA and take up that life. So maybe we
can stop at this point and pick it up at that juncture, if
that's useful for you.
HEINECKEN: There are probably things that will come to my
mind about this time period that we haven't talked about,
LEHMER: Maybe we can pick that up right at the beginning
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Or if you listen to it and see if there
are some gaps or whatever, because- -
LEHMER: I'm sure I'll have some questions, and we can
fill in things.
HEINECKEN: The only thing here that I thought was
interesting is that as a kid-- Did anything stand out?
And I was trying to think about that. The only thing that
comes to my mind is the kind of independence or something
that maybe comes from my parents or from the situation of
living apart from my father, thinking he was part of this
giant, wonderful military thing when in fact he wasn't,
and that they were divorced and they didn't tell me. I
don't know. These are kinds of things that I think
probably at the time I didn't realize but later I kind of
thought something was wrong there, or there was some-- I
don't think it would be uncommon, let's say, especially
during the war, that you wouldn't necessarily feel
obligated to tell a kid seven or eight years old that
you're divorced. I mean, why not spare him that? But in
retrospect it just seemed like a kind of — I didn't want
to have to hear that from this maiden aunt. I needed to
hear it from them.
LEHMER: You mentioned, I think it was in Glendale, you
lived with a friend. You lived with a family whose son
was a very close friend of yours.
HEINECKEN: Jack Davis. That was his name. That just
popped into my mind.
LEHMER: Jack Davis. Well, maybe you can think about it,
but I'm curious about other friends you had and what kind
of relationships you had with them and what you did.
HEINECKEN: The implication here, which — I never said it.
I mean, I'm an only child. I think for me that breeds a
kind of independence and also takes away any opportunity
to use brothers and sisters as a familial device or-- You
know, brothers and sisters enjoy something that no one
else who doesn't have them ever gets. And I don't think I
miss that, but I think it makes you self -centered. In my
case, I think reading and fantasizing about reading--
fantasizing about everything and constructing your own
internal world--can be beneficial, but it also isolates
you from-- I mean, I think basically you're a colder
person, because you don't grow up with the sense of — And
I had cousins or whatever, but I never saw them or
anything. So that's important. If anything would stand
out, it's that kind of notion. I don't know how to
express it more clearly, but--
LEHMER: A form of survival based on independence or a
form of independence based on--
HEINECKEN: Well, for me, it's a horrible thing to say,
but I think I could probably do without most of the things
that I have. I'd get by. I mean if Joy [Joyce Neimanas]
died it would be awful, but I'd get by. I mean, I adapt
My whole childhood, the period of time with my mother
in Iowa without my father and with this familial problem,
I remember being just completely in my own world most of
the time. I had these soldiers. I would recreate
whatever the current World War II stuff going on was. I
was just absolutely focused on the order and the — These
soldiers had to be the same scale. In other words, if I
got a soldier that wasn't in scale, it would not work. I
mean, that soldier was gone — right? — because it throws the
whole thing out of kilter. I'm very much like that now,
as you know. Things are on the surface very disorganized,
as is my mind, but underneath that is this acute sense of--
HEINECKEN: --order and obsession with not knowing where
all — Well, knowing where all these pictures are and who
has them is a very unusual kind of obsession. I mean,
most people-- Like I was talking with Robert Frank last
night about something like this, and he has no idea where
these pictures-- Nor does he give a shit where they are
[laughs], which is quite different than my-- And I think
it's a kind of — When you say that, it's an admission of
not guilt, it's an admission of a weakness in relation to
what you make. It's as if they're your children and you
want to know where they are. But that's silly. But
that ' s the way I am .
TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE ONE
MARCH 9, 1996
LEHMER: Why don't we start with talking about what you
were mentioning about flight.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Well, as I said, probably everybody has
certain experiences that they can always remember and
always try to put value on. But in my case, basically,
which we have already sort of covered up until, let's say,
when I'm twenty-one years old or whatever-- When I went
into the service I had flunked out of school. I was, for
my age, quasi-alcoholic. I had no goals, no nothing,
except to keep moving somehow. So you go from that state
of mind to eighteen months later when I'm commissioned in
the Marine Corps. I got my wings, and I'm completely
confident, completely ready to do whatever life is going
LEHMER: That's when you were second lieutenant?
HEINECKEN: Right. So you know that you've got four years
that I'm going to be in the service. Eighteen months have
passed, and that's all the training. Then you got two and
a half years of active service to do and four more years
in the reserves. In my case, I did it for a total of
thirteen years. But the confidence that comes from a
program like that is invaluable. Even now in the sense
that — You can't say being able to fly a jet fighter has
anything to do with being an artist except there is
something to it about confidence and knowing that you can
be put up against certain daily problems. Every day is a
problem when you get into that airplane. It's never
perfect. So out of all that you have a great deal of
confidence in yourself to be able to figure out those
kinds of things, not necessarily a philosophical or
intellectual thing. But it is striking to me that in that
short period of time they just take you raw and they make
something out of you. It's amazing. Or if they can't
make you , you ' re out .
LEHMER: When you said "life threatening," can you be more
specific? I mean, crossing the street is life
threatening. Going to work--
HEINECKEN: Well, there were two situations, both of
which-- I could have been killed. I mean definitely. It
was just that close. So I did the right things in both
instances. But right up until the last moment of getting
out of the situation, you don't know. I don't know if I
mentioned this, but in one of these things-- You're on the
radio all the time with the people, and they have the
tapes. I'm praying and I'm screaming like, "Get me out of
this and I'll do this and I'll--" Which I had no idea I
was saying. But when you sit down and play the tape,
you're saying, "Who's that idiot talking?" And that's you
talking, right? That was amazing to me. I have no memory
of that, because you're just panicked. You're thinking
you're going to die. And so you fall back suddenly on
what? Twenty years before that you would have had this
notion that there was a life after death and that you had
to be a good person. So that's just an aside on all this,
LEHMER: Well, to try to clarify that a little more,
because I'm sure it's--
HEINECKEN: On both of these occasions the person flying
in the other airplane with me is dead.
LEHMER: So let's back up just a hair. As an outsider I
don't have a clear picture of what you're talking about.
Obviously you're in a plane, and you're piloting a plane.
But beyond that I don't know what's going on. Did you
stall or — ?
HEINECKEN: Okay. Well, it's a long story. I don't know
if you want to go through the whole thing. I can tell you
very briefly. If you want to talk about it in more depth
I can do that, too. But these incidents only pertain, I
think, to a sense of confidence or whatever I'm trying to
convey about going from one kind of adolescent frame of
mind very quickly into a mature state of mind as it
regards the job of being a naval aviator, jet fighter
pilot, which is a difficult job for anybody to do. But
I'll make it very, very short. It's a long story.
But anyway, there's a mid-air collision with my
wingman [D.R. Roland]. So there are four airplanes; you
have two here and two here. And we're practicing this
dogfighting stuff. So he runs into me- -a lot of technical
stuff that comes with this--but basically what happens is
that my airplane goes out of control immediately after the
crash, and we're at, I think, 25,000 feet. We're going
like 300 knots in this maneuvering stuff when this occurs.
The next thing that I know is that I'm at about 10,000
feet. The airplane is like a leaf. It's just like a
leaf — no control, nothing. And I get it stabilized, so
it ' s flying . But it ' s flying crooked because the whole
tail of the airplane--not the whole tail, but most of the
tail — is missing where the other airplane has basically
hit the tail and hit the canopy of my airplane. So what
happened is as soon as that impact [happened] , the canopy
comes off of my airplane because it's smashed, which means
three or four things happen simultaneously. One, I got a
concussion from where the canopy hit my helmet. So I got
LEHMER: When you're talking about the canopy, you're
talking about the window over the--?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. It's the one big unit of glass.
There's a windshield, and then the canopy meets that.
LEHMER: Got you.
HEINECKEN: So that goes off.
LEHMER: Are you under air pressure then?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. You go from a pressurized situation of
about 8,000 or 10,000 feet-- First, one of the things that
happens is called explosive decompression, which means
that your body suddenly goes from the pressurized state at
8,000 or 10,000 feet to 25,000. You get a big flash of
light in your head, and your bowels empty, and your
bladder empties iimnediately. Just everything goes out.
That's part of the fear, I think, of the decompression.
At the same time, I lose my helmet, which has the oxygen
in it and has the radio where you're speaking, and the
earphones are in the helmet. So that's gone, which means
you're sitting then not only in a-- And it's cold, I mean
definitely cold, and you've got the head banging. You've
got an airplane out of control, basically.
But anyway, I get it under control, and it's flying.
My wingman comes up, not the wingman that hit me, but the
third guy [Patrick Guillfoyle] . He comes up next to me
because the thing is just wobbling like a leaf and
whatever . Because he can see I ' ve got no hat and
whatever, he gives me a hand signal, which is like this
[gestures with hand] to eject. Everything in aviation has
a hand signal for it, because often you don't have radio
or don't have — I'm thinking, "Yeah." But it's a big deal
to eject. Even though you're trained to do it, you know
you're going to do it, it's a big move to get out with at
least some kind of safety in this airplane. So anyway,
the ejection handle is down here, and I pull the handle.
The whole thing just came off in my hand. It didn't fire.
So he's still giving me this [gestures with hand], because
he's seeing the airplane is not going to fly. So I showed
him the handle. Jesus Christ. This yellow handle light
doesn't go out, it stays. The first inch or so after you
pull, the canopy blows off. The canopy is now gone
anyway. The second inch or two would be the explosives
that fire the seat out. But none of that happens because
the system is damaged by the mid-air, and the canopy's
gone and whatever . So that ' s out , and we both know that .
The only thing to do is to try to land it, and we're
out in the desert behind Palmdale [California] . And the
fourth airplane-- Well, there are terms for this, but the
other guy dispatches to the crash site to see what
happened there, so he's gone. I don't hear any of this,
but they're talking. That other guy alerts the
helicopters out of Edwards Air Force Base, because that's
what we're near. And so let's just say I didn't know
this, but he confirms that that airplane has crashed, and
he sees the parachute on the ground , but he can ' t see the
pilot. He's out of gas by that time because he's been
flying around looking for this crash site, so he goes back
to El Toro [Marine Corps Air Station] . But anyway, they
got the helicopters out there, and they confirmed later
the guy is dead. That's the guy who ran into me. The
fourth guy goes back to El Toro. The third guy is the guy
that's with me who's an experienced person just like I am.
The other two were junior people and not as experienced.
So we head to Mojave [Marine Corps Air Station], which is
an urgency kind of landing thing out there. These are all
technical things, but normally if everything is working
you fly in low over the field, you brake, and land. But
whenever you get any damage, especially if you have a
flameout, which means no engine, you make a modified
LEHMER: Okay, because it's a jet.
HEINECKEN: You come over at maybe 8,000 feet over where
you're going to land and then just make a very gradual,
long approach with the engine at idle, so that if it fails
you're still in the position to glide in and make a safe
landing. It's called a flameout approach. You practice
that all the time. It's one of the things that you can
do. But the difference here is now we got the airplane--
Okay, after I showed him the handle, we're figuring
it out. So I figure, well, we're going to land it
somehow, or try to.
LEHMER: There is no way that you can get out with a chute
on your back?
HEINECKEN: No. No, you go right into the tail. It cuts
you in half. You can't bail out of any jet; it has to be
an ejection situation. So we're heading back to Mojave,
but there are a couple of things that come up in my mind.
One is that I know the seat's on because the canopy's off.
I know that the ejection didn't work but that the seat is
definitely charged, because once that handle is out you've
got a live explosive in there. But it's not triggered,
which is what fires the seat out. It's a very heavy
charge — I mean, it's a big charge thing. So anyway, I
know that there is no way that I can get out of the
airplane, but I know that the seat is-- I'm getting ahead
of it a little bit.
The first thing I do is I drop the landing gear. And
again, simply because that's now a new configuration for
the airplane, it loses more altitude, but I get that
stabilized. Then the next thing that you would do is to
drop the flaps, which gives you added lift for landing.
So I dropped the flaps. All of this has to do with the
aerodynamics of the air over the tail. Anytime you change
the gear or the flaps, you're putting a new lift-drag
ratio over the wings. So again it drops another 5,000
feet, because the flaps are disturbing what would
ordinarily be a normal air flow, even though the thing's
crooked. He's staying with me all the time doing the same
stuff. He's right there watching it all and trying to
figure it out. He's talking to Mojave, obviously, about
what's happening. Anyway, I got the flaps up, so again
I've got a stable airplane. I think by that time we're
probably over the field, and I'm in this wide approach to
But then the problem comes up that the seat is
charged. Normally, you land this airplane at about 125
knots or something. Now, the airplane doesn't fly below
about 170 knots--way too fast really for a normal landing.
You practice landings with no flaps, but you never
actually try to complete the landing. You touch down.
You know what speed you need with that, but you just take
off again and you go around. It's not anything that you
would want to complete, because it doesn't make any sense.
So anyway, I recalled that, or it flashed in my mind
that, [there were] two incidents within the past month
with this same type of airplane, one on the carrier and
one not, where they had a charged seat for whatever
reasons, and both times, because the landings were hard--
I forget what happened, but in both cases the seat went
off because the landing was much harder and much faster
than normal. So I'm thinking, "Well, I don't have any
choice about that. When it lands, it's either going to
fire the seat or not . " But there are these other two
instances, and what happens there is the seat just goes
out of the airplane. The airplane keeps going, and you
die because there is no chute opening or anything like
that. It just fires it out, and you're going a couple of
hundred miles an hour and you die. So that was one option
that could happen. I thought probably it would. But it
didn't. It didn't.
Well, the other thing is that you've got a problem
with the runway, which is an emergency runway, I think
4,000 feet, and normally you want 6,000 feet. So I know
in some emergency fields they'll actually have wires like
they have on the carrier which they can raise, and others
have foam things that they put out so that there ' s no
fire. Others have big nets that you fly into that
actually stop you like on the old carriers and stuff like
that. But none of that's there; it's just this emergency
strip. The problem of this is how to get the airplane, if
this is the runway, as close to here so you have as much
runway as possible but not short of the runway, obviously.
So he's flying with me. And I just face the thing.
If the seat fires, it doesn't matter. The airplane's
going to go somewhere down there, and it's not going to
kill anybody or whatever. But that didn't happen.
Then the second thing that I know is going to happen
is that the tires will probably blow at that air speed,
because they're not made to actually brake. So if they
don't blow, that's okay, but I can't brake at that speed,
because if I brake- -
LEHMER: You blow —
HEINECKEN: Well, I can. The tires will just go, and then
you have no traction. You're trained to think about all
this, but this is all happening in seconds.
So anyway, the tires did blow on landing. I did try
to brake it, and it did, in a sense, slow down. I shut
the engine off, and that helps a little bit, so I have no
power. And it went all the way down the runway, off of
the end of the runway, into the sand, but not at a very
high speed by that time. The nose gear collapsed, and the
airplane is just sitting on the sand--very embarrassing on
one level, this whole thing. It seemed like there was one
other possibility in there that was also threatening.
But anyway- -the truck comes out, and they get me and
eventually tow the airplane off. Meanwhile, the other
pilot has to go around. He can't get back to El Toro; he
doesn't have enough gas. So he has to make about- -I think
they told me- -two or three passes waiting to get my
airplane out of the way. Because you don't want to land
no matter what when you've got an airplane at the end. If
something goes wrong, you're going to hit that. Finally
he did land with the airplane still there. I was out of
it. It's so short. But anyway, he landed it.
LEHMER: So he's got a threat, too.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. It's not a big deal, but you just don't
land. They won't let you land with an airplane sitting
out there, but they have to because he's got nowhere else
to go. So that's the one situation.
This whole thing didn't take as long as it takes to
talk about it. The whole thing is like two or three
minutes. I mean, things are happening like that [knocks].
It's just all procedural logic which you're trained with.
If this does this, then you do this. If that does that,
then you do this, and so on. It's rogue in a sense. But
all this was new. You practice all this stuff, but it's
different when-- And plus the problem of the thing is the
airplane is so screwy this way. It's like I know the
airplane's path is going to be like this on the runway,
but the airplane is cocked this way, which means you might
shear the landing gear. Well, the airplane won't fly this
way. Half the tail is gone, so the only way it flies is
at this kind of a cocked angle.
LEHMER: You were attacking?
HEINECKEN: Yeah, you could call it that. But anyway, I
get it down right here, so that it has 100, maybe 200 feet
wide before it goes off the side. Because you can't steer
it. You steer it with the brakes, if anything. I mean,
you could tap one brake, but there's no brakes, no
The one thing I forgot, which is also very weird, is
that you're sitting in this airplane which is going like
initially 250 knots down to 170 or something like that,
but because it's cocked you got this 200 mile[s per hour]
wind going right through the cockpit. Normally the
windshield screen would wrap the airflow around you. All
this time I'm sitting over at one side, because if I'm in
the middle where you should be, you've got all this, you
know — The airflow blows your head off. That whole thing
was just like-- I could shut my eyes and see it. You just
never forget it.
Plus this guy dies, which was a bad thing. There is
another whole story about that, but-- I don't know today
whether I did anything that really did cause this. I
mean, I was absolved of it. And you're never absolved of
it. As flight leader, if anything happens in your flight
you get a percentage of pilot error just automatically.
But they finally assign, I don't know, 80 percent pilot
error on the other guy's fault, some small percentage on
me, and another percentage on the operations officer who
put this guy into this flight at the last minute. Because
when I was preparing to brief the flight, one guy that was
scheduled was sick or-- I don't know. Something happened
to him and he didn't show up. So they got two standby
pilots who were both second lieutenants with less
experience than the two of us. So the operation officer
picked this guy to be my wingman, the guy who hit me
ultimately, and he didn't take the other guy. This is
another decision that people make. You've got two standby
pilots. They're both equal in some sense. This guy is
maybe four or five hours of a certain type more
experienced than this guy, but he doesn't take this guy
and put him in my flight because he thinks he needs this
guy in the next flight, which goes out an hour later, so
he puts the least experienced person into this flight. So
he gets assigned 20 percent supervisor error or something
like that, which goes on his record. They have to come up
with 100 percent, right? That's just the way they do it.
Like even now, pilot error, always, no matter what
LEHMER: Well, in my mind there are two things that —
HEINECKEN: These are not unusual things, by the way.
This is unusual because it's me. It happens all the time
like this. This is very serious because of the mid-air
thing. But during this time period, if you took four
airplanes up, which was what we would do typically, two of
them would lose the radios, one would lose hydraulic
power. None of these were bad things, they just happened.
But the airplanes are old. You know, you fly TWA [Trans
World Airlines] . That airplane lands with two or three
systems that have gone, but their backup systems have
taken-- You know, it doesn't worry you, because that's the
way it is. But the fighter is a very complicated machine.
And these were old airplanes, actually. They had just
come back from Korea.
LEHMER: Well, I want to see if you can expand on this.
There are two things that are going through your head in a
sense when you survive this. One is, "Thank God." You
never know how you're going to react in a crisis. You
were able to keep your head enough to survive, and I think
that, like you say, follows you for the rest of your life.
You know that given a crisis there's a good chance you're
going to be able to figure your way through it. But the
second thing is that a fellow pilot lost his life, and you
were spared. And these are two very different things, but
I think of them as very important. One builds a lot of
confidence. Like you say, if you can think your way
through this or if you could survive this and not
completely freeze up, you figure you can handle just about
anything, I would imagine.
HEINECKEN: Yes. It's not necessarily, as I was saying,
transferable to intellectual or emotional qualities. But
I suppose in some sense some people, if they were
religious, would say, "Well, God saved me." That wasn't
the situation with me. The point is I could have frozen
and not done anything and just died. That happens
sometimes; you just don't know what to do. Very
fortunately, I had this wingman who-- Because I had no
radio. If I didn't have him, the people wouldn't even
know I'm coming there. They wouldn't have had a fire
truck or anything like that. Suddenly an airplane would
appear, which is just--
LEHMER: So when you're on the ground, when you're out of
the plane, you were probably in a physical state of shock,
but do you have any sense of how you felt with those two
emotions? Or were there other emotions that I haven't
HEINECKEN: I wouldn't have been able to recount it
without having recounted it over and over to these people
so that we know how to prevent it. And actually the next
day I showed up-- There was always an accident
investigation team like this made up of your squadron, or
sometimes it will be higher-level people. So they showed
up, and then also the representatives from Grumman
[Aircraft Engineering Corporation] , who make the
airplanes, showed up, because the airplane shouldn't have
been flying the way it was. I mean, it should have just
crashed with what was missing from it. So they were very
interested to see the airplane and make photographs and
test the metal and all that. Because this would be like
the only time, let's say, that you have a particular
airplane with a particular damage where they can say,
"Well, okay, this one flew at x knots per hour with x
damage." This is important that they know that, because
it ' s part of the engineering of an airplane and things
like that. So that was really important to them. And of
course, the accident people want to figure out what
happens to prevent this sort of thing. That's why they're
assigning percentages of error to all people involved in
it, including this officer who did nothing but assign this
guy to this flight.
But there are things like--which is something you
learn- -actual dogfight ing situations that you're involved
in. The two of us are fighting this other pair. And then
you switch advantage, and that's what we're practicing to
do. So you're talking to the other people, but if you're
really in combat you're probably on different frequencies
than we were using. But when I say something, if I don't
want the other section to hear me, then I'm on another
frequency with my wingman. And I think that's what we
were on. I can't recall exactly. So there's a cadence.
Well, I think Love Willie was caller. Anyway, I'd say,
"Love Willie 2, this is 1." He puts in that he's
listening, he knows I'm calling him. And then he has a
cadence where in this case you'd say, "Brake [knock] right
[knock] now [knock]," which means we're going to turn,
hard- turn brake. We're going to turn right and now. It's
the cadence that you anticipate. So first he hears "brake
[knock]." He knows we're going to turn hard. "Right
[knock]." We're going to right. "Now [knock]." So it's
[knock knock knock] . You hear that second [knock] word,
the cadence of the third word [knock], you go. You hear
the word, but you go at the same time. So you can't say,
"Brake [knock] right [knock, pause] now [knock]," because
the cadence is off. Or you can't say, "Brake [knock,
pause] right [knock] now [knock]." Follow what I'm
HEINECKEN: And this is something you learn.
LEHMER: How do you set that up? Do you set it up by
saying "brake" or — ?
HEINECKEN: You're just telling this other guy, because
if — And this is the problem. And it's like he's here
[gestures]. Here are the wings. He has to maintain a
position which has clearance this way, a couple of feet
and down and a couple of feet back, so that he can move
this way or this way and never run into anything. And
you're doing that all the time. You're doing up, down,
around-- So I'm telling him we're going to brake right,
which is into him. He knows that. And on that cadence,
then he knows I'm going to move, and it's going to be
fast. His job is to maintain the position of his airplane
relative to mine no matter what it's doing. He's not even
looking at anything except me, and he has to maintain that
position. Well, the guys who saw it said that it looked
like instead of somehow where you're like this, okay, now
this airplane is going to turn, and because of this
cadence, you're going to turn right at the same time,
because you know that cadence, somehow he got up in here
and tried to go over the top or something like that. It
was a mistake on his part. But it depends on how it was
executed. How was the cadence? Was he trained enough?
Too bad. But the nose of his airplane hit my canopy
because he was sitting back here. The wing of his
airplane hit the tail, which is where the damage was. So
those two points of impact- -one blew the canopy off, the
other blew part of the tail off. And because his wing is
gone, his airplane just goes. They never did figure out —
I guess his ejection seat did fire, but it was too low for
the parachute to open and survive it. He never got out of
the seat. Normally you're in the seat, the parachute
opens, you get yourself out, you drop the seat so you're
just in the chute. But he was still in the seat, so it
killed him. That's why they saw the parachute, but they
couldn't find the seat, or they didn't see him because he
was still in the seat.
LEHMER: Okay. Before we go on--
HEINECKEN: The other one we don't need to go into, just a
different situation where I said I started praying and
whatever, was something that took probably eight to ten
minutes. You have time there to start screaming and get
paranoid, because you're not doing anything really in this
second instance except waiting for something to happen,
and you're running out of fuel. And the alternatives when
that happens are pretty nil. So that's a different
situation. I'm saying that because the thing I just
described, it's all like two minutes at least. It
couldn't be longer than that. You don't have time to
think about anything; you're just doing stuff. The other
one was different than that, but in both instances people
died, which was — Well, it's real. I think in the
eighteen months that I was in that squadron I think we
lost about eight people.
LEHMER: Out of how many?
HEINECKEN: Probably thirty, something like that. That
varied. Twenty- four, thirty.
LEHMER: So you're talking about almost a third.
HEINECKEN: Is it a third? Yeah. And that's normal. I
don't know whether they have a better rate now. Probably
This is another story which I like very much. When
you go into this situation, you have already enlisted.
You're a naval aviation cadet, which is a position.
You're not an enlisted man, but you're not an officer.
You're a cadet like a midshipman. They march you, shave
your head, get you all sort of looking the same, and march
into this auditorium. This is my memory of it, one of
those things which I may exaggerate or have exaggerated.
There's maybe thirty of us or something like that in this
class. We don't know each other. We're just lined up in
there. The naval air training is all handled by the
Marine Corps. You have naval officers who were in charge
of it, but the drill sergeants and the people that are
working you in pre- flight school are all marines, and
they're tough. They're regular drill instructor types
like you have seen in any of those movies. I mean, it's
real. These guys are just-- Their job is to dehumanize
you, make you into a working person along the lines that
they want. That's the whole thing.
LEHMER: A working machine.
HEINECKEN: That's all they're going to do. So anyway,
this master sergeant comes out on stage and introduces
himself. He's the senior enlisted man in charge of this
detachment. He says, "I'm going to introduce you to
colonel so-and-so, and when he appears I'll call you to
attention. You'll stand up and try to look like some
decent human — " Meanwhile I'm saying, "Motherfucker," you
know. "You'll stand up. And when he tells you to sit
down, you sit down, and you listen to him."
So this guy appears. He's got his swagger stick.
He's a lieutenant colonel, aviator. Marine Corps, eighty
thousand rolls of ribbons, and he just looks like the real
thing to me. He tells us to sit down. And he says, "I'm
colonel so-and-so. I'm in charge of the pre-f light
school. This sergeant is running your life now." You
know, this kind of thing. He said, "You'll never see me
again. You'll see me only once more under two different
circumstances." He says, "One, I have to see all the
cadets that drop out voluntarily, so you might see me
there." No, it's different than that. He says, "Well,
the other situation you'll see me in is when you graduate.
You'll see me. I'll be up in the front. This is it.
You'll never see me again. You'll see this master sergeant.
You may see another officer, but not me." I mean, he's
telling it the way that is.
So he says, "Look at the man on your right." Some
were looking, and the sergeant says something like, "The
colonel says, 'Every man look to the right.'" And his
voice, it means he's going to come out and beat you with
this stick or something. You look over here at this guy
next to you. You're seeing the back of his head. The
colonel said, "The man you're looking at will drop out of
this program or be washed out. He'll drop out
voluntarily, or we'll wash him out."
"Now look to the man on your left." You look over
here, and you're looking at the back of somebody else's
head, and he said, "This man will be dead. In the four
years that you're going to be in the service, this man
will be dead. And if we're in combat, that will go up."
So he said, "One- third of you will be gone from the
program, one-third of you in four years will be dead."
These are the statistics. They know this. First of
all, they know they're going to wash out one- third because
they have taken two-thirds--! mean, they've taken a number
of people that they're going to eliminate down to 66
percent. "We're going to get rid of the weakest
candidates from the situation." That's clear. That's a
fixed statistic. The other statistic is real.
So you think, "Well, this guy is going to drop out,
this guy is going to be dead, but I'm going to make it."
But the other guy's looking at you. It's a beautiful kind
of catch-22 thing that the colonel has set up for you. It
doesn't occur to you what he's talking about until you see
the situation. I don't know whether he did that with all
the people, but it was just like-- Then you got it. So
you either accept that even if everything goes right
you've got a one-third chance of dying because of the
nature of the work. If it's combat, it's higher than
that. And a third of them are going to be gone, they're
going to be back doing something else. I liked it. It
was very clear.
LEHMER: Let me back up. I have some follow-up questions
from last week. I think what I want to do is handle them
at the end.
HEINECKEN: Well, I'm sorry to divert from that.
LEHMER: No. But this is really important. I have a
question in relation to this. Something that has come to
mind is you were probably a few months out of that UCLA
program when you went in this? No. Two years. You went
back to Riverside [City College], and went two years to
school there and got your A. A. degree. Last week, you
mentioned that you just weren't ready for UCLA or prepared
for it. You weren't mature enough, or emotionally you
weren't sure. Can you expand on that, explore that in
your head as to what the reasons might be for that return
to Riverside? Just kind of briefly, can we explore the
UCLA experience, the summer out of high school?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. That's not so clear to me, because it
was a short three months. It was a summer thing. I know
I had regular summer school courses. I presume that I
failed these courses. I know that I probably just didn't
go to class. It wasn't something that went on your
records necessarily, because, as I told you, it's kind of
like to put you in a situation where you were sort of
going to real classes and you were living wherever you
were living. It was like a camp or something to kind of —
Anyway, I just couldn't do it. I don't remember why or —
I was just too young, I think. Too big of a place, away
from home, all of which seemed good, but I just couldn't
concentrate, I guess, or I was just outclassed or
something. I guess everybody only does it once, or not
everybody-- But you go from high school into college. It
depends on what the college is, how savvy the college is
in regards to freshmen. So this is like this: Podunk
high school to a very big, high-class university, and I
couldn't do it. I don't know why. It was academic
LEHMER: You feel like Riverside-- You just weren't
prepared? They didn't prepare you for--?
HEINECKEN: Well, it certainly wasn't their fault. I took
all the courses, I got the grades. I told you the grades
were easy. I presume I was not intellectually or
emotionally stable enough to do this. I made that choice.
I mean, I was discouraged, I think, but I knew I just
couldn't do that. So that's why I went back to Riverside.
I'm just guessing now. Obviously that's going to be an
easier situation because you're comfortable there. It's a
small college, your friends are there. You're not like at
LEHMER: But you didn't drop out of school?
HEINECKEN: No, I didn't. It wasn't something that ever
showed up, I think, on my records. It was like a trial
situation or an indoctrination.
LEHMER: But when you went back to Riverside, you went
back into school, not necessarily to work in a garage as a
mechanic or — ?
HEINECKEN: No, no. I went back directly into the junior
LEHMER: So you weren't giving up the academic pursuit?
TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE TWO
MARCH 9, 1996
HEINECKEN: So probably in June I went to start this
program. I don't know how long I was there- -maybe a
month, maybe two--but by the time of the fall semester
beginning I was back in Riverside enrolled in the junior
college. There is another factor in here which would come
up anyway. This is now the fall of 1949, A year, maybe
less, into junior college, the Korean War starts in July
1950, so it's been a year after that. Well, immediately--
I don't know whether they started it prior to that even,
but certainly by the time that Korea broke out — the draft
was reintroduced. So everybody my age and obviously older
and younger were in the draft. Everybody who was in
college got a deferment. The second year of the junior
college I was deferred because I was in college, along
with thousands of other people. But within that year, I
would say 50, 50 percent of all of the men classmates in
my high school class who didn't go to college went to
Korea. They went in the army, and a very high percentage
of those people were killed — very high. This is true all
over the country, obviously. So it was the college thing
that was always — I mean, there are good reasons why they
deferred people to go to college, but it's not really very
good unless you're going to be a doctor or something like
that. But anyway, that was the way the policy was, and
still is as far as that goes, I guess. So you're under
that situation, because that's critical to the next phase
of this, which I think fits at this point.
So the second year of junior college I transfer to
LEHMER: At the end of your second year?
HEINECKEN: Yes. Now I'm like a junior or whatever. I've
had all the lower-division courses except-- Basically I
don't think I took that many art courses, maybe one or
two, because there just wasn't room for that in this-- You
know, the first two years at any university it's mostly
academic stuff. So again I got all A's or whatever.
I go to UCLA only to discover pretty quickly that
again I was in over my head pretty bad. I remember I took
two years of German, and I had to have a third year of
German, and they were speaking like — I mean, I wasn't
even in the ballpark. Yeah, I had two A's from this
junior college, but I needed the third German class. So
that was a problem. I had to drop that. I don't know
whether I was probably going to Spanish, which I knew
better, or something like that. But it was true of all
the classes I took. I really had to fight to even stay in
the ballpark. This was not emotional or whatever. This
was just pure lack of capacity to deal with the courses on
the level compared to the junior college. And I think a
lot of people still have that problem. You get people
from some junior college into UCLA with decent grades, but
then the trouble starts.
Anyway, I did the first year. I got through that.
I'd have to look back at this, but I was put on probation
for a year, I suppose, or a semester or something like
that. This gets more vague for me. But the result is
that after a year and a semester it's clear that I'm not
going to be able to continue. I think I had two
probations. I'd get back a little bit, but then it
wouldn't work out. And this was the art classes as well
as the academic classes. So I'm at that point. This
would have been, let's say, the early spring of 1951. I
get my draft notice, because they had been notified that
I'm no longer in the university. Meanwhile, I didn't tell
my parents any of this, which was stupid. So I'm ready to
be drafted into the army, and I suppose I would have told
my parents then, certainly, but as far as they are
concerned I am ensconced at UCLA and doing fine.
LEHMER: So this isn't a summer after your first year?
HEINECKEN: No. What would have been my fourth year of
school never really happened. I may have gone back
briefly or something like that. But certainly by February
or something like that it's clear than I'm not going to
get a deferment. I finally got letters that said that
"You will be inducted on such and such a date, " which was
about two months down the line. So I was ready for that,
which was not that rare. I mean, a lot of people in the
same situation were losing their deferments for whatever
reasons or graduating and then having to go in the
I don't know whether you want this story, because
it's also long. What happens is I've got these two
friends [Jeff Clark and Lee Weitzel] , both of which are
graduating from UCLA at that time. I don't know whether I
was living with these guys or what-- I was sort of
itinerant, but anyway, I had been out of school. I was
parking cars at like Ciro's restaurant and those wonderful
bars, nightclubs, in L.A. making a lot of money, gambling
a lot, drinking a lot. It was like a perfect life,
because I knew I was going to go into the army. So these
two friends, they explain to me that they were going to go
down and go into this flight training program or inquire
about it or whatever, because they have graduated, or they
are going to graduate. And I decide to go along with
them. And I point this out because it's just the way
things were. We decided we had to be there at like maybe
Monday morning at eight o'clock or something.
So we sort of drank our way down Sepulveda Boulevard
all the way to Long Beach. We show up there, I guess it
was the day before, and we were just wiped out. It was
just terrible. I remember that. We all got into a motel
someplace and showed up in this place at seven or eight
o'clock in the morning. To make this short, both of these
guys flunk out. I mean, they don't pass the test. And I
go along with the ride; it's like a joke to me. I'm just
going to go down there and see what happens and whatever.
One guy fails the medical test, and the other one fails- -
I don't know. After two or three days, you stay there.
They're gone, and I'm left there, and I didn't even want
to be down there . I'm down there because these guys led
me down there. I just stayed with it, and pretty soon
they said, "Well, you're eligible for this program. Come
back in like four days, and we'll finish up the serious
medical exams and all the stuff. We'll enlist in four
days," or something like that. So I'm thinking this is a
wonderful thing that I escaped all of these problems.
I'm now in this program, which I know is going to be
difficult. But the deal was that if you flunk out of the
flight program — First of all, you sign up for four years,
right? If you flunk out of this program you become an
enlisted person in the navy, and you serve out your four
years that way. You might go to Korea, but you're going
to be on a boat or something . You ' re not going to be in
the mud — So it wasn't a bad deal even if you flunked out.
You still had to do four years of military service, but it
will not be so dangerous, I think. Anyway, a lot of
people were doing it because it was a good deal.
Then there is another whole story which probably we
don't need to go into. But getting past the physical
exam — I have perfect health, but I'm a quarter of an inch
too short for this program. And nobody picked it up in
this first go-around, the first four days. Then there's
an extensive medical thing coming, and another set of
intelligence tests and stuff like that before they
actually will accept you. It's a complicated story. Do
you want to hear it?
HEINECKEN: Might as well. We'll lose this whole day, as
far as I'm concerned .
LEHMER: Let's do it.
HEINECKEN: Let me think of the sequence of things. At
some point I run up against this situation where the
technician's measuring me. I'm five foot five and three-
quarter [inches], which is actually what I am, or was.
The limit is five foot six [inches]. Later I learned in
the Marine Corps they don't like it because you're too
short. You don't look good when you're in the line with
all the other people, and that's the macho deal. But at
this point it was you had to be five foot six. The
reasoning was something to do with the airplane. Like if
you were shorter than that, you would have difficulty,
which I actually did run into later. In some airplanes I
couldn't see out of them, or I couldn't reach the rudders.
I always had to have the parachute guys build up a thing
that would put me higher and closer in, which makes it
easier to reach these things. Anyway, so I've got five
foot six. Somehow that gets on the records, but then,
that was the first medical stuff.
Now I'm back for the second thing, and I'm being
measured by an enlisted corpsman. The navy guy is saying,
"You're five foot five and three-quarters. You're not
eligible for this program." I'm saying, "What?" This is
just unheard of for me. They think I'm fat. So he said,
"No, everything else is okay." But he said, "You can't
make it. It's just the rules." So I'm telling him my
whole story and whatever, and he said, "I don't want to
hear this." He said, "It's now four thirty. I'm going
off duty. You're going to be here all night. A new guy
will come in in the morning. I'll just leave this part
blank. You just tell him that you only got up to prior to
the height-weight phase of this, and he'll pick it up from
there. And he'll tell you the same thing, but at least
I'm not going to kick you out. This is the way it is."
So I'm in the infirmary overnight worrying about
this, knowing that my plan is all shot to hell. I'm back
down in the mud again. It occurred to me- -and this is
really weird--but I've got to get a quarter of an inch
taller. It did come up, as he said, sometimes when you
lay down overnight you get maybe a sixteenth taller.
There's no way you're going to get a quarter of an inch.
To make this story short, I'm staying overnight in the
infirmary, and there's medicine stuff there and a bunch of
magazines. So I got this knife or scissors. I got gauze.
I got tape. I got the magazines. I cut out my footprints
out of these magazines till they were at least a quarter
of an inch, wrapped them with gauze with an adhesive tape,
and taped them to my feet. Because I noticed the day
before, you didn't take off your socks. You're down to
your skivvy shorts and your socks. For whatever reason,
they don't want you walking around getting dirty feet or
whatever. So I figured, okay, I can wear my socks through
the whole thing. It's worth a try. What are they going
to do? They're not going to court-martial me. They're
just going to throw me out, anyway. So I spent all night
on this project. Somehow I got out of the building. I
took all the scraps and everything, I got all that out
into some kind of bag and out of the building somehow so I
didn't have any of that stuff around.
The next day, the new corpsman comes in, the doctors
come in, and we start this thing. He said, "Well, the
first thing we do the height-weight thing. I guess that's
where they left off, right?" And I said, "Right." So
they do the height-weight thing. I'm five foot six. I'm
142 pounds or whatever, which is okay. The doctor is
looking at all the other things. At some point, the guy
says, "All right. The next thing is going to be--" I
think I had already had the blood pressure test, which was
sort of okay but a little high or something, but it was
okay. And he says, "Okay, the next thing is we're going
to test your blood pressure again, which we're sure is
going to be okay, and then you go in and the doctor will
examine your feet. And then you will go to this--" And
I'm thinking, "The doctor is going to examine my feet?"
[laughs] "Well, what's he examining my feet for?" And he
said, "You know, just to see whether the bone structure is
right. Everybody passes it, no problem." Well, Jesus,
So he says, "Okay. Lay down on the bunk here. The
doctor will come in and check your blood pressure, and
then you'll go on." So he said, "We'll leave you there
about twenty minutes, so that everything will stabilize."
Well, in the twenty minutes my blood pressure — I can just
feel my heart pounding. I'm thinking, "What are they
going to do to me?" Because this is probably a serious
thing I'm doing here, but I can't change it. It occurs to
me, okay, I've got like twenty minutes here. I've got my
socks on, I've got the magazines, but the next thing is
the foot exam. I get out of the bed, and there's a John
adjacent to the room. I take all the magazines off, all
the tape, all the shit, put it in the toilet, flush the
toilet, and jump back in the bed. The guy comes in, puts
the thing on me, and I got a blood pressure which is like
8,000, you know. [laughs] And the doctor said, "I don't--
What's going on?" I said, "I'm really kind of nervous about
this whole thing." He said, "Well, there's nothing — Your
blood pressure is okay, but it's very elevated. I don't — "
I said, "I'm just upset about this thing." And he said,
"Okay. We'll give you another twenty minutes. Just
relax. It will be okay."
So at that point, the doctor goes into the John, and
I hear this shriek. And the doctor is saying, "Corpsman,
get your ass in here." The guy is like, "What?" And he
says, "What is all this shit in here?" You know, I didn't
look at it, but all the stuff I had put in had come back
out of the toilet. The corpsman is in there, and he comes
back out and says, "The toilet is backed up with something
weird. The fucking thing is full of magazine scraps. I
don't get it." And I'm just like, "I'm dead. I'm dead."
[laughs] Oh, God, it was just-- So they get this squared
away. And the doctor is screaming at this corpsman. He's
saying, "I'm going to get your ass. Somebody is fucking
with this toilet with these magazines, and it's your ass.
You're going to answer to this." I said, "I don't know."
I'm back here trying to physically make my heart stop
pumping like that, but it didn't work. The guy said,
"They want you." He said, "All right. I'm going to give
you another day here." He said, "What you've got to do is
to get yourself under control." Meanwhile they did my
feet, so that was okay. "The only thing stopping you is
the blood pressure, and we know that your blood pressure
is normal." The next morning they come in. I beat this,
because I just know I've got to do this somehow. So I
pass this whole thing. Amazing, but —
So everyplace after that I've got on my records x
pounds and five foot six, which-- You know, you have to be
five foot six. Over the next thirteen years, every six
months you have a physical. I finally learned how you can
stand a certain way on that scale and you can pick up a
quarter of an inch unless they're looking for it. They
say, "Get on the scale. A hundred and forty something.
Five foot six." All that time I had that on my records.
As I said, I did run into problems with certain
airplanes where I had to have a special thing made,
because it's critical that you can reach all that stuff
with your feet. So that's that story.
LEHMER: So you have had this intimate relationship with
magazines for a long time? [laughs]
HEINECKEN: Well, that's the implication, but it's not
true. It couldn't have anything to do with it. I was
like in a box. I knew I had to do something, but--
LEHMER: All right.
HEINECKEN: That was pretty ingenious in a sense, but
that's how desperate I was. I just had to do it somehow.
And I knew that there is no way to grow a quarter of an
LEHMER: A question that I have based on this is--
HEINECKEN: I don't recall anything prior to that where I
really was facing a situation. And I had to invent
something quickly that would work. I still do that. I'll
just makeshift something if I can get by with it, or I
won't pay a lot of attention to something if I can do it
an easier way. It's kind of an improvisational laziness
or something that I have.
LEHMER: Well, a part of that is that independent
thinking, to be liberal with that term "creative." But
you're not bound to preconceived methodology or rules.
Let me run through some follow-up questions based on
last week ' s interview and see how much we can get done on
HEINECKEN: I have another idea. It would be interesting
for me to have this tape when I'm talking about this mid-
air. There is this other situation which I can add on to
that. Maybe we'll lose the day in terms of what we really
need to talk about, but that way I'll get it.
LEHMER: Let's talk about it now.
HEINECKEN: Yeah, I think so, and then we can start clean.
Okay, I think it would have been after-- No, it would
have been before this mid-air collision thing. The whole
military experience, at least in aviation, is that you're
always in training for the next step of what you're going
to do. When you go into combat it's different, and you
have regular things--no, real things — to do every day.
But until that happens, it's like going to school. Every
day you're learning another thing, you're advanced into
another position relative to the flight situation. All
kinds of ratings have to be fulfilled, like instrument
ratings, carrier landings, gunnery ratings--you know, it's
a school is really what it is — every day, except you're
paid to do it, and it's interesting and it's dangerous.
So this situation was having to do with instrument
training, meaning you're flying in the clouds or in
reduced visibility. In other words, you're inside the
airplane, and you're not looking outside of it because
there is nothing to see. It's the thing that I was never
as good at as a lot of people were. I was always nervous
about it even in the flight training, and it was not my
easiest thing to do. But I got through it. In the
tactical squadron, you have to get so many actual
instrument hours. You also have to get a certain number
of training hours where they put you into a two- seated
airplane, they close this hood thing over you so you're
just flying the instruments. There's another guy in the
front, though, who's there all the time. You fly the
whole flight underneath this hood, but it's not dangerous,
because this guy can take it over anytime. *[The final
check flight is done with two airplanes with an actual
instrument approach and landing. You plan the entire
flight, fly it, and the wingman, instruction pilot,
follows you and evaluates your procedures and performance
and passes you or fails you.]
So this flight was scheduled-- It must have been in
the spring. I can't remember the dates. But El Toro,
which is where I'm stationed, has the same weather,
really, as here in Los Angeles, but it's a little
* Heinecken added the following bracketed section during
his review of the transcript.
different. But during the morning you always get low
clouds that burn off by about ten o'clock. We would
always schedule the instrument flights-- If you wanted
actual instrument conditions, you'd fly during that period
of time so you'd get back before the weather clears.
This was to be my first actual GCA landing. GCA is a
ground-controlled approach, where they actually talk you
into the landing. That's it. It's a procedure that
everybody-- I mean, it's just one of the things. Normally,
if you have a high enough ceiling, you'll just fly it; you
won't have a GCA. But when the visibility or clouds are
so low, then you go into this GCA mode where you're
talking to these people.
LEHMER: And what's GCA?
HEINECKEN: Ground-controlled approach, which means that
at a certain point in the approach and landing, you don't
talk to anybody and you just listen to these people, and
they'll tell you you're approaching glide path, you're on
glide path, you're going off glide path, turn right,
you're going low at power-- You just sit there and listen
to them, and you make these corrections. They're watching
you on their radar screen. They can land you in absolute
zero visibility, which isn't common. It's to get either
the airplane on the ground in instrument conditions or get
it underneath the clouds to where you can see what you're
So I think this was--what did I say?--first or second
check flight in this thing. We had two airplanes. I have
to plan the whole trip, which is we take off before dawn,
so that we'll be back in an hour and a half or two. We
still have the clouds, which is why we're doing it at that
time. This happens a lot of times. I'll just describe
the whole thing. So I'm leading the flight.
The guy who's flying with me [Dick Mabrey] is a
captain. He's the instrument rating officer. He's not
only the best instrument pilot but he's shot down four
MIGs [Mikoyan and Gusevich Russian aircraft] in Korea.
He's like one of the big guns on the squadron, but he's
also getting out of the Marine Corps. He's done his time.
He's just in this squadron for the next two or three
months, but he's a very, very sharp, all-business guy.
So I plan the whole flight. I think we went to San
Diego to [Las] Vegas to Sacramento, you know, so that you
get back to El Toro while you still have the weather. So
they have a situation where you're at, let's say, 20,000
feet. You're directly over the base where you want to
land. They have what's called the penetration, which is
to make a very rapid descent in a big — Like here's where
you are, right over the base, right? You make a very
rapid descent on a big loop like this which comes down.
You're using no fuel, you're just diving into this thing.
At some point there you enter the clouds, maybe at about
8,000 feet or something like that. They bring you around
and set you up for the GCA.
It's nighttime; it's still dark. We're getting ready
to go. (This will all figure in later.) I'm leading,
we're taxiing out, and we have to hold because there are
some lights out or something, I think. We have to wait
for about five minutes for that. We get out to the end of
the runway to take off, and there's some other kind of
traffic problem. Again we had to wait about another five
minutes or something, which means we're burning fuel.
Even if you're idling you're burning fuel on the ground
quietly. We don't think anything about this. We take
off. We come back to make our penetration an hour and a
half later, and it turns out that the visibility and the
ceiling are low enough so that they are beginning to stack
airplanes up. It's taking longer to get planes in and get
planes out. By this time it's daylight, and they're
launching planes, so it's just a busier time. We're
sitting up here at like 20,000 feet orbiting for another
twenty minutes or something like that--more fuel gone.
Then we're ready for the penetration, which I am
leading. He's watching everything; he's making sure I do
it right. But it's all on my situation. We make the
penetration. We come back around, and we get down to
about 4,000 feet, and we're in the clouds. They've got
some situation, and they put us in another orbit. Now
it's getting a little bit more critical, because you're at
a lower altitude, you're burning more fuel, and we're
going around in this circle waiting for the GCA thing to
get straightened out so that we can enter that pattern.
They've got other airplanes taking off and landing there
or something. I'm not even paying much attention to the
fuel, but I'm not worried. We're within the bounds of
So anyway, we finally get set up for the GCA. I was
supposed to shoot the GCA. I was supposed to lead it.
They tell us that the ceiling and visibility is such and
such. And the check pilot says to me, "Okay. I'm sorry,
but you can't land with those conditions. I've got to do
the GCA, so you won't get your credit for this." Because
if it were 200 feet and a mile, then I could have done it.
But it was 100 feet and a half mile, and then he has to do
it, because he's qualified and I'm not. That was
disappointing, because I planned this whole flight.
Anyway, I understood it.
Now he's leading the flight, and he's talking to GCA,
and I could hear them. But at a certain point you go into
a situation where you can only listen. They shut you off,
so that if they say "turn right" or "pull up" or "increase
speed" or whatever, you don't answer them, you just do it.
Because while you're answering them, they might want you
to do something else, and you can't hear it. The
mic[rophone] will be live to you all the time. You just
listen and do what they say.
So anyway, he's flying the lead, and I'm the wingman.
We get into the GCA pattern, which is that you're at a
very low altitude until you intersect this theoretical or
imaginary line that they're going to put you on and land
you. Now it's daylight, but still early, and we're in the
clouds. You start this over Dana Point, which would be on
the water. You've got about maybe ten miles or something
to fly into this situation, and you're at a very low
altitude, 2,000 feet or something like that.
So we're in this thing, and it's all clouds. We know
it's going to be all clouds right down to about 50 feet.
I'm not worried, because I'm just following this guy who
has done it fifty times. And at some point I'm listening
to the GCA people, as is he, and they're saying, "You're
going below glide path. Pull up" --or not pull up but "Add
power." He gets back on track. Then the next thing I
hear is that "You're drifting left. Turn right two
degrees" or whatever. Well, what's going on? This guy's
the best. Then he said, "Okay. You're drifting right or
left," whichever. He's kind of jockeying trying to find
the glide path. I'm still not worried. But at some point
we're on glide path. Then they're saying, "You're going
below glide path." We made a correction, and we're back
And all of a sudden his airplane just goes like that,
just turns and disappears into the clouds and crashes. I
mean, we're that close. I could see this big ball of
flame. So I pull up. There was, it turns out later, a
farmer out there who was right under the glide path. And
the wheels of my aircraft cleared this hill by about this
much. I didn't know that, because you've got gear down,
flaps down. I'm just bananas like-- Anyway, they're
saying, "Wave off, wave off, wave off," which means simply
you add power and start over. You go straight ahead, and
you climb out. And by this time, the clouds were like
about maybe 1,500 feet from the ground, and the pattern is
2,000 feet. So I'm above the clouds. Meanwhile, they're
starting me back around. They know that one airplane is
crashed, because they're telling me, and I tell them, "I
saw this. He crashed." They saw the two radar blips
separate, so that screwed them up.
Then they got me again, and I come around for the
next one. They don't descend me, because at this point
they're launching the rescue helicopters and all of that,
the search-and-rescue things. They have to shut down the
GCA to get these people out, because they're using the
same radar to get them out with the bad clouds on the way.
So I'm sitting here orbiting at 2,000 feet for about two
or three minutes, and I'm looking at the gas, I'm looking
at the gas . When you ' re low you ' re burning a lot more
fuel than when you're high, and I'm wondering what's going
to happen here. They finally set me up again, and now I'm
really doing it. They have no choice except to take me,
even though I'm not qualified for this weather. So they
set me up, and I'm in the GCA pattern.
LEHMER: Now, wait. There are two people in the plane,
HEINECKEN: No. No. We're —
LEHMER: Two planes.
HEINECKEN: Two planes.
LEHMER: And the captain, the fighter, he goes down.
HEINECKEN: He crashes. Right.
HEINECKEN: And we don't know why at this point.
LEHMER: All right. Now you're out there.
HEINECKEN: At some point they say, "Wave off, wave off."
So I pull up, because he's gone, and I start this whole
thing over again. And I'm a fucking wreck because I know
he's dead. I've never done this before with this low a
weather condition. I'm looking at the gas.
So anyway, I'm set up again, and I'm entering the
glide path. And they say, "Wave off, wave off," which is
because now they're launching the helicopters or
something. I went around again. I think the second time
or the third time, something else happened. This is all
just coincidental stuff. I finally said, "Look, I'm at
nine hundred pounds . I ' ve got about ten minutes left . "
"We understand. We'll get you in on the next thing."
Well, before that, after the crash they said, "Maintain
2,000 feet in this pattern. We'll see if we can find you
an alternative airport." But all the other airports,
including the best one, George Air Force Base, which is
out by Cajon Pass, have the same weather. I can't go
anyplace else. And I don't have enough fuel to go to the
desert, like to Edwards or whatever. So I'm going to do
this. So I get back into the situation. I think I got
three waves off, which weren't my fault but were the
conditions of what was going on. Everything goes nuts
when they get a crash.
I finally get in the third one. I'm really nervous
by this time, because the guy is — This could happen to
me. I don't know quite what I am doing, but I'm doing it.
I make the landing, and there was a very low ceiling. I
don't remember when I touched down. I was still —
LEHMER: They brought you in on a GCA, and you're lined
HEINECKEN: Right. They just talk you through the whole
LEHMER: And you're doing all right? You're not going off
HEINECKEN: No. I think I was okay. But it wasn't like —
They're very patient, because they know the situation.
And I think they probably gave me a little bit of leeway.
Because their choice is, if they wave me off, the only
thing I could do is head it out to sea and eject. There
is no place to land, and they don't want to lose the
airplane. They don't want to lose me necessarily. But
that was their decision.
As soon as I get that thing landed, it's just a big
relief. You pull into the flight line where you've got
all these airplanes parked. I get it turned in to where
they're going to direct me where to park it, and the
engine dies. It's out of fuel. [laughs] It's like a
minute maybe into the whole thing. I mean, if it would
have been one minute later or another go-around —
LEHMER: Another wave-off.
HEINECKEN: We wouldn't be there. So this is different
than the mid-air in the sense that this whole thing, as I
said, took at least twenty minutes, and I'm fucking
screaming on the radio. It was long enough for me to
really see what the consequences were going to be if this
happens or this doesn't happen. So it was like a bad--
That's even more scary to me. I remember just shaking.
Later that day, they took me out to the crash site,
which was-- Because normally they wouldn't do that. But
for some reason I went out to the site with the accident
people. And this airplane was just strewn over about a
mile. I mean, it just hit and it bounced, and then it
burned. This is so gruesome--I hate to even say this--the
head is in the helmet. It just sheared off his head at
some point. I was throwing up. It was an awful thing. I
learned later-- They want to put you back into reality as
soon as possible so you don't start thinking about it. So
here's the plane; it's crashed. Here's the body; he's
dead. I think they gave me one day off because I was
shook up. The second day I had another flight. I was
sitting around worrying about this stuff.
Anyway, the end of this story is that he had vertigo
problems. Vertigo has to do with the hairs in your ears.
You feel as if — And everybody has it in the airplane.
You have to fight against it. It means when you make a
turn under any kind of g [gravitational] pressure, which
you always have at least one g — This is not technically
correct, necessarily. But the hairs in your ears are
telling you where you are, and if you're turning, it will
tell you. When you make a turn and then you level out,
your ears are telling you that you are still turning. But
if you look at the instrument, it will tell you whether or
not you are still turning. So when you're in an
instrument situation, you're always looking at basically
this thing which tells you where you are and where the
wings are. And he had a vertigo problem once, which it
seems the doctor had covered up for him in Korea because
he wanted to finish or whatever. Then he had a second
vertigo incident on the carrier coming back, which they
didn't cover up, but they reported it. But it wasn't
something that they thought was serious. And this third
incident, as they're surmising, he had it. Otherwise he
wouldn't have done what he did. He made a correction.
Then you're level where you want to be, but you feel like
you're going like this. And so he made a turn to correct
what he thought was this instead of being able to fly by
the instruments .
LEHMER: So he went by his own--?
HEINECKEN: His feeling, yeah, which is the tendency. It
is what you want to do. You have to just fight it. It's
really hard to — See, it's not an airliner, where you're
making these kinds of-- You're making real changes and
you're very close to the ground. But anyway, that came
out in the investigations. That's clearly what happened,
because they couldn't figure out why he would have done it
except when they looked back in his history.
But the other interesting thing was that-- I had
previously met his wife. I guess we all knew each other's
wives. I didn't know this until after he was killed, but
this was the fourth Marine aviator that she had been
married to, all of whom were dead. And she just kept
going back to it. I mean, I don't know. They were
explaining there are people like this, not just with the
Marine Corps, but there is a kind of fascination or
whatever that certain women have with this kind of danger.
And this has nothing to do with me, but it was just a
weird thing to meet her.
LEHMER: Well, it's an interesting comparison between
yours and my near-death experiences . One thing I thought
about is that I am totally at the mercy of my body and
whatever, where you're Involved in the instigation of this
somehow. You're at the mercy of the mechanics of the
plane, but what I'm thinking of is you in a sense elected
to go up. There's a difference, maybe not a lot, but
that's an interesting thing that I'm thinking about. The
wife may elect to go back to this because there is an
interesting adrenaline but also a real sense of life when
you're on the edge. And you choose to go into this
knowing it. It almost seems like-- I bet a lot of people
purposely, even though they might not consciously know it,
HEINECKEN: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
LEHMER: They may move that direction.
HEINECKEN: Well, I point out some of this, because these
two situations would have--
LEHMER: We're running out of tape.
HEINECKEN: Well, anyway, these are life's-- Anybody would
give you twenty, thirty incidents that are similar to
this, where if this goes wrong, that goes wrong. There's
just a way that you get through it. But these two
incidents are the two times where there was extreme
danger. I brought them up because of the idea that I
didn't realize I was screaming to God on the radio,
because that wasn't in my mind. I mean, I just didn't
remember it. But there's your voice on the tape, which is
reality, and that was weird. That tells you you don't
quite ever lose whatever that last-minute plea would be to
whomever you're praying to. But you do it.
TAPE NUMBER; III, SIDE ONE
MARCH 12, 1996
LEHMER: I had a couple of questions before we get started
with today's talk. Your father [Friedli Wilhelm
Heinecken]'s ministry was in which synod? Is your whole
family in one synod, or, you know, the clan? And what is
a synod, I guess I should ask?
HEINECKEN: Well, the synod is an organizational term
which means that- -especially I think in the Lutheran
religion--there were at least three divisions: one was
called the American Lutheran Church, one was called the
National Lutheran Church, and the third was called the
Missouri Synod. The Missouri Synod was the conservative
wing of all of this, I think this question probably is
pointed at the Missouri Synod thing, which these people
were not. They were the kind of radical, right-wing
people. So it was the other two synods that they were in,
although I don't know which one, but those two were sort
of interchangeable. It was a matter of what region of the
country, I think, basically, that they were in.
HEINECKEN: Then also during the time that this happens,
those different synods reorganize themselves. Maybe even
at that point the Missouri Synod splits off or something
like that. There were the three, two of which were
regular, while one was conservative, which was the
Missouri Synod .
LEHMER: I think off tape you mentioned a certain trait
that you observed about Lutheranism being somewhat of a
group that was formed from Catholicism by —
HEINECKEN: Well, historically, yeah. [tape recorder off]
LEHMER: One thing that you mentioned to me about
Lutheranism was that under Henry VIII the Anglican Church
broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. There was a
certain trait that you observed about Lutheranism, which
was a type of rebellious attitude towards-- Well, can you
explain that better than I can?
HEINECKEN: Well, I'm not a historian of this. The basic
reason I think that Luther did what he did — he was, of
course, a Catholic priest--was that certain practices of
the church at that time, namely that you had to pay money
in order to get into heaven-- There's a name for that:
the sale of indulgences. But also the fallacy that the
church is always right, which of course we still have.
The infallible decisions that they make, which is not the
case with the Protestant religions that broke off, where
they have councils. They vote, they make decisions as a
group. I think Luther is in this, because he is a harsh,
common person instead of an elevated person.
LEHMER: One other follow-up question I have here, you
mentioned in our first meeting that your father had a
tattoo of a dagger.
HEINECKEN: [laughs] Oh, yeah, right.
LEHMER: And you said, "Well, I'll talk more about that
later." This might be a good time.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. I don't know exactly when he got it.
This uncle [Martin Heinecken] whom I keep talking about
told me that when my father would run away and come back
and then disappear again, that at some point he had this
tattoo. So this would have been something that he got
when he was a young person, like nineteen, twenty, some-
thing like that. I don't think I knew that he had a
tattoo for a long time because it wasn't the kind of
family or time period where you would see that necessarily.
And I think he always wore long sleeves because of that.
At some point I saw it, obviously, and it was big, like
maybe ten inches. I liked it, because it's like an ornate
Persian dagger with a kind of long blade which goes under
the skin. I guess the only importance of this is that
once you're aware of it — and I'm sure other people were
aware of it as he went on through his life--you cannot
erase this thing as a symbol of a mentality that couldn't
be any further away from what he was trying to project at
the time of his ministry. I didn't think of this until
just now. You could think of it as something that's not
Lutheran. Like you have a tattoo of a dagger through your
arm, but that's a different life. I suppose it would be a
constant reminder to him of his youth, of his failure to
conform to whatever that family was con- forming to in
terms of training and school and whatever.
LEHMER: You mentioned that your mother [Mathilda Moehl
Heinecken] had no formal education. But then by the same
token she ended up traveling by train to rural areas to
teach. Now, was she doing this through the church?
HEINECKEN: Oh, no. It was not connected to the church.
She wasn't educated past high school, that's what I should
have said. She certainly had that and could probably
teach in these farm towns with maybe eight students, six
students, something like that. I don't think you needed
to be trained at that time to do that. Probably you
didn't need to be trained to teach in the city schools at
LEHMER: The date of this is approximately 19 — ?
HEINECKEN: 'Twenty. The thing about the train is
interesting because I didn't know that until later. She
was talking about it one time. That city just allowed you
to get on the caboose of the train. It would drop you off
wherever you were going on Monday morning and pick you up
again on Friday night to bring you back to Dubuque or
wherever. I thought it was interesting that that was
LEHMER: That there was some kind of agreement?
HEINECKEN: Yeah, there must have been. While she was
there she stayed at some farmer's house, different farmers
at different times. She probably didn't get paid much but
got food and whatever. She was actually proud of having
done this. It was one of the things that, after I knew
it, then I could see how it was probably the only real
work that she ever had.
LEHMER: Now, I think we've covered this, but I've still
got this question in my mind. What courses did you take
at Riverside [City College]? I'm guessing that it was
something like college preparatory, but you did mention
that you were taking- -
HEINECKEN: They weren't college preparatory because
you're in college, but they were basic academic courses
that you would be taking somewhere else anyway, like UCLA
or something. This particular college- -and I think most
of them at that time had them and maybe they still do — had
two tracks there: one was for people who were going to
transfer to a four-year school, the other was for people
who were not but were in vocational programs of this and
that. So it was a mixture of those kinds of things. They
still have kind of those two tracks.
I don't recall exactly how many courses I took in
art, but I certainly took some. And as I think I
mentioned earlier, I was active in the yearbook and stuff
like that in terms of designing it and drawing things for
it. I know I took some courses, because I have pictures
that I made during that time period. There was clearly
what they would call-- Well, I don't know what they would
call it. We call it graphic design today, where you were
not being pointed towards a kind of artist idea but
towards an illustrator or a position where you would use a
skill in drawing or whatever in the service of something
else rather than as an artist thing.
LEHMER: A coimnercial approach.
HEINECKEN: Commercial art, yeah. But pictures made from
that time period clearly aren't that, and some are that.
Then, of course, when you get to UCLA it's a different
situation. We can talk about that, too. [tape recorder
LEHMER: You mentioned that you were a voracious reader
and that you didn't read so much for knowledge but that
you just liked the idea of reading. A question comes into
my mind as to whether you could expand on that idea.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Well, I think using the word voracious
would indicate a time period as a kid, a boy. It's that
kind of reading, because no one that age is looking for
knowledge. It's a habit. It's a hobby. It's a pastime.
But I enjoyed it very much, and I had —
LEHMER: What age--?
HEINECKEN: Well, I'm thinking it's when you're ten years
old to twelve or maybe earlier than that. When I got to
be thirteen, fourteen, whatever, I'm not in that mode
anymore. But I still read the same way, without thinking
that I need to know something about this. I won't follow
up with adjacent readings like a scholar or an
intellectual would. I don't know if I said this before in
a different way or something, but I just simply was not
educated, and I'm still not, I should say. [laughs] I
feel like my friends-- Carl Chiarenza comes to mind. This
guy is educated- -right? --and I'm not. It doesn't mean I
can't have him as a friend and we can't talk or whatever.
There's just a whole lot of stuff even in literature or in
art which are the important things and I can't quote you.
You know, I'm not well read. I haven't done that, and I
don't feel the need to at this point. I distinguish
between reading as a hobby as opposed to when you get to
be an adult and you're in school and you're going to be a
professional you're going to read the things that you need
to know about. I just never did that.
LEHMER: I would imagine there are still certain things
that attract you, and there is that selective process that
goes on with reading. There's certainly plenty that we
haven't all read. But there's something that attracts you
to reading, and I had this vision in my head when you were
mentioning that of some of the later collage work that you
did where you're putting bits —
HEINECKEN: Well, that's probably something to consider in
terms of a working method, which is basically collage.
Even in the sense of writing, it's that; it's a lot of
scraps of different things put back together fictitiously
most of the time.
Sort of an interesting thing came into my mind. It
may not be quite true, but I think the visual arts may be
one of the situations where certainly you want to know the
history of art if you can, including the main distinctions
that are made between eras and so on. But in the time
period that we're talking about — let's say 1960 to now--I
think you have more people entering this field of art
without the knowledge that you would expect them to have.
In other words, you don't need to know all this stuff to
be an artist in this culture. It helps you if you do.
And of course, if you're teaching it helps you a lot if
you do. But it's not a time period where-- It's hard to
express, but —
LEHMER: Do you think that's true of the last ten or
fifteen years? I tend to think it might be different than
what you're saying- -in other words, from the fifties to
the seventies maybe.
HEINECKEN: Yeah, which is the time period of my training.
LEHMER: I'm thinking from the mid-seventies on there was
this change where the important context of the work was
beginning to be more theoretically based. I tend to think
that there was a strong influence with the housing of
visual art knowledge being at the university rather than
in the master-apprentice relationship, so to speak.
HEINECKEN: Well, absolutely.
LEHMER: I'm wondering what ideas you might have on the--
maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves--inf luence of the
academic institution on art making? Maybe we should leave
that as a question for later or as something to be thought
about because I don't know if you can talk about that in a
couple of sentences at this moment.
HEINECKEN: Well, if you looked at the whole history of
graduate students at UCLA, let's say, you would see from
1970 on a clear shift into some kind of postmodernist
thinking, although it wouldn't be called that that early.
But people like [James] Hugunin, Ellen Birrel, certainly,
and David Bunn to some extent, are all affected by that
sort of stuff. This may be dumb, but I don't think
someone like myself has to understand all of that to
understand the importance of it to a particular student
and how that student's using theory — if that's the word--
to advance that person through a series of things that are
necessary for a graduate student to do.
Then, if you looked at the history of the people who
were teaching not only photography there but all the other
arts, you don't have anybody like Allan Sekula or
Catherine Lord or whoever. The school wasn't recruiting
those kinds of people, nor were those people interested in
a public university like that. It's not the right place
for this thing. It doesn't mean that students don't read
and that they're not affected by all this. But if you
look at the people who were there, I think when Mark
McFadden came he was the first person who had begun to,
even if not totally, adhere to some kind of theoretical
position. The only other person who comes to mind is Mark
[Alice] Durant, but he's much later. [inaudible] the
teaching thing going up until 1975, where I was there
pretty much most of the time. But from 1975 on is when
this stuff was happening. I'm really not attached to the
teaching job. I mean, I'm there for two years, and I'm
working at it, and then I'm gone for two years. All those
people that filled that in in the earlier days were
[Robert] Fichter, [Garry] Winogrand, and [Lee]
Friedlander, and these people are not theorists, right? I
was just trying to get people in there who would represent
different attitudes about what photography was during this
time period. After 1975, all I was interested in was
getting somebody there whom I thought was a competent
artist who could teach.
LEHMER: I think we're jumping ahead.
HEINECKEN: Does all that make sense?
LEHMER: I think I've got it.
HEINECKEN: This just popped into my mind, that when I
went on leave in 1971--I went to [the Schools of the Art
Institute of] Chicago to teach for a year--the first
person I called to see if she would come to teach at UCLA
was Joy [Joyce Neimanas] . I didn't even know her, but I
knew her work and I knew her reputation. But she wouldn't
come. I thought that was interesting.
LEHMER: I wanted to see if you could expand briefly on
something that attracted me. A little light went off in
my head. You described the environment, and I want to
find out in what institution this was happening. There's
like two different kind of students: the ones from
Riverside, possibly, and the veterans from World War II —
HEINECKEN: And the Korean War.
LEHMER: Korea and World War II, okay. Can you expand
briefly on what you observed, why this has impressed you
to this day, the difference between the temperament of
someone who had been through that experience and someone
who hadn't? Are there any observations you have about
HEINECKEN: It is somehow important, maybe not important,
but I guess interesting. I think it has to do with an
understanding that some socioeconomic event or whatever,
such as World War II or the Korean War or the Depression
or anything like that, does change the character of
people. So I think the people who came back as veterans
of either of those two wars were obviously older and they
had experiences. What occurred to me was the contrast
between an eighteen-year-old kid out of high school going
to college with people who were at least four or five
years older than them and who bring a kind of maturity to
their studies or whatever. Although, I'll tell you, there
was a lot of hellraising with those people as well. But
they simply were back in school because they wanted to go
back to school, and they were being paid to go back to
school, which was the case when I got to that situation
later. I'm not sure I can say why it's important. I
think it's just clear that if you go to some undergraduate
school and then you go into a graduate program, it's
always the people who have not gone to the university
directly from high school to be artists but have kicked
around somewhere or done something else who-- Maybe it's
simply that you have a few more years. Or if you happen
to be married and have children and you have all those
responsibilities you're a different person. You're a
student, but you're not there for a sorority idea or a
social idea, which is basically what universities can
become. I mean, a big part of their influence is
socializing people and trying to introduce them to culture
and so on.
LEHMER: Okay, as a segue into today's discussion, I think
we'd like to talk about the start of your family. We
could back up to your wife and high school sweetheart,
Janet Storey, how you met. Another question that came
into my mind that I noted was that you had mentioned to me
on or off tape something to the effect of around 1949 you
had a courtship that spanned between Riverside and Los
Angeles, and I'm wondering, how long did it take to drive
back and forth? There's not a freeway at that time.
HEINECKEN: [laughs] Right, yes. Let's see. Well, I
will just go back. Janet and I were, I guess, going
steady by the end of high school . I mentioned that she
went off to Los Angeles to go to nursing school. I tried
the UCLA thing, which I didn't-- So for two years I was in
Riverside and she was in Los Angeles, and it got to be
less and less of a relationship. We were just kids
anyway. I mean, we dated. She dated other people, and I
dated other people during that time period. By the time I
went back to UCLA- -not back, but when I finally went there
after junior college--she had finished school or almost
finished school in Los Angeles. So at some point there
she goes back to Riverside and goes to work. I guess
essentially we were friends or something like that, but it
wasn't serious or anything.
We must have become reinvolved with each other
romantically, because I was always writing to her when I
was in the service, and she would write to me. When I had
leave I would come back and see her and my family. I
think that just continued to escalate or become more
serious as it got closer to when I would graduate from
flight school and find out where I would go and what I
would do and things like that. So by that time, which had
been January 1955 or December before that-- But anyway,
this is a good part of the story, because what happened- -
And this is really something I don't talk to many people
about, but it should be here, I think.
For some reason I came back maybe in November or
December on leave, but I had to go back. What happened is
that my mother--! don't know what her deal was- -announced
our engagement in the paper. My mother called the paper
and announced our engagement. Janet was furious. I was
already gone, so I don't know what effect that had on
anything, except that we did get married in January. And
that was something that would have happened to us anyway,
because, I mean, I was serious about getting married. She
was, too. But it wasn't that we were engaged. We decided
to get married late in January, I think it was, of that
year. So we did. The whole thing was just screwy in
terms of like-- In one sense it might have been good. It
might have forced us to think seriously about whether we
would be married. But it was something that never left
our minds in terms of our relationship with my mother
after that. I mean, it was just an insane thing for her
to do. Well, she knew we were sleeping together; that
probably hit her wrong. She's thinking babies and stuff
like that, which could have happened as far as that goes.
The twins [Geoffrey R. Heinecken and Kathe Heinecken Hull]
were born six months later or something like that, or
The point of this is that someone was trying to
manipulate a situation to fit her set of morals and ideals
and whatever, even though it turned out to be okay. But
it was just unforgivable what she did, and we never
forgot . I never forgot . I'm sure she was acting out of
whatever best instincts she had, but-- So anyway, we got
LEHMER: Now, after you were married you had the twins.
HEINECKEN: Right. Well, first thing that happened when
we got married was that we moved to Laguna Beach- -maybe
not right away. I think the first couple of months I was
commissioned and went to the squadron at the U.S. Marine
Corps in El Toro [Marine Corps Air Station] . I was in
school in San Diego and Alameda and different places like
that. I think she stayed in Riverside. When I finally
got back to El Toro and went in the squadron, we moved to
Laguna Beach, which was a wonderful place and close to El
Toro, ten minutes or something. The twins were born in
August of 1955. I was on maneuver someplace, either--
Let ' s see. Where would I have been? Fallon, Nevada, was
one place we went a lot, or Yuma [Arizona] or something
like that. Anyway, they were born prematurely. She went
to the naval hospital in Corona [del Mar] , where they were
born. So I wasn't there when they were born. I got back
like a week later, after they were born. So then we moved
to Laguna with these two kids-- Or we didn't move. We
lived there already, but we went into a different house.
Karol [Heinecken Mora] was born four years later, which
would have been 1959, I guess. I guess we were stationed
in Florida when Karol was born.
LEHMER: The names of the twins: Geoffrey and Kathe.
HEINECKEN: Right. Geoffrey, Janet liked that name for
some reason. And he got my name for his middle name.
LEHMER: Geoffrey Robert?
HEINECKEN: Geoffrey Robert. Kathe was a name that I
liked. We spelled it like Kathe Kollwitz, kind of German,
you know, K-A-T-H-E. And Marie was the name of this aunt
that I had that I was so interested in, the one that was
political and so on, so that's how she got that name.
LEHMER: Now, I know Janet worked in Riverside for a
while. When you moved to Laguna, did she work?
HEINECKEN: No, she quit.
LEHMER: She pretty much had her hands full with two kids.
HEINECKEN: Right. I don't think she worked until I got
out of the service. Then, when I was back at UCLA, she
worked full-time, all the time, while I was a student
there — or part-time. She had always preferred to work
what we would call a swing shift, which is like three
[o'clock] in the afternoon to eleven [o'clock] at night.
I had arranged all of my courses or whatever so that I
would be through with school, if possible, by two or three
o'clock. Then she would go to work, and I would have the
kids. So for, well, a couple of years we did that.
LEHMER: I want to get a few things straightened out here.
You may have already said it on tape, so this might be
redundant, but you had this friendship, and you did some
dating. And you dated other people while you were at
Riverside and Janet was in Los Angeles. Then, after two
years there, you transferred to UCLA, and she moved back
LEHMER: Okay. So you guys were still apart.
LEHMER: And then you were at UCLA for two years and then
dropped out. At that point did you get married?
HEINECKEN: No, no. Well, the two years that I would have
finished school, of course, I didn't finish, right? At
that point I went into the service. I was in training for
eighteen months. We're now at January '55, and that's
when we got married.
LEHMER: Okay, got it. Let me back up and try to close
this one open spot. You had transferred to UCLA. I'm
finding that an interesting period, because you're moving
from the country back into a more urban environment that
you liked as a kid when you lived in Glendale.
LEHMER: Now you're coming to the University of
California. Were you a liberal arts major or--? Can you
give me a description of what you studied and what you
HEINECKEN: Yeah. I was an art major. UCLA at that time
was one of the best, if not the best, art departments in
the country. There were articles about UCLA. Life
magazine gave them a twelve-page spread during this time
period. It was notably a good art school. I took maybe
for a year basically academic courses- -maybe two-thirds
academic courses like you would do even now — and then I
had courses in drawing, painting, sculpture, and
printmaking. I don't think there was at that time any
application of art to commercial situations, which
happened later and had happened before in junior college.
It wasn't just the academic courses that I finally
couldn't handle, it was also the art courses. I couldn't
get myself focused on what I was doing.
LEHMER: But you were there for two years.
HEINECKEN: No, I was there for a year. I think I
completed one the first year, but by the end of that year
I went on probation. My grades were below what were
required. I don't remember whether the art courses were
any higher-- Probably the art courses were higher grades
than-- Because I know I flunked this German course. I
know I flunked some other kind of technical course. So
I'm on probation at the end of the first year. Beginning
in the fall of the next year I had to get off of
probation. At the end of that semester- -that would have
been January 1953 — I flunked out. I did not get the
grades that I needed to get off of probation.
This intersects the time period when I was telling
you that the only reason I was kept out of the service is
because I was in college and could defer it. I'd
mentioned the frame of mind of like, "What am I going to
do?" I'm going into the army in a couple of weeks because
I got my draft notice. I'm out of school, just hanging
out, really. I didn't tell my parents this because I knew
that would tear them up. I didn't tell them, actually,
that I was going into the service until I had already done
it so they wouldn't put something in the newspaper that--
[ laughs] That's a joke. I shouldn't say "they." That
was my mother. My father would have never done that. He
probably spoke harshly to her about that.
LEHMER: Let me back up. You mentioned that when you went
to UCLA you-- I don't know if you knew this beforehand,
but — Well, you can answer that, too. But you discovered
or knew that it was one of the best schools in the
country. What I'm also wondering about is, who were the
faculty at that time?
HEINECKEN: I took a lot of courses- -not a lot, but some
courses- -with Jan Stussy. He was alive when you were
HEINECKEN: Sam [Samuel] Amato, Gordon [M.] Nunes. Two
women painters were there, I think basically because this
is still shortly after World War II when they were there,
not because they were women, but because there were no
men. What's her name? [Annita] Delano is one woman's
last name, and Dorothy [W.] Brown was the other one.
Annita Delano and Dorothy Brown. And then maybe those
three guys that I mentioned. Oh, and John Paul Jones, who
was the printmaker there, although I don't think I studied
with him until later, when I came back.
One of the courses I remember I had a lot of trouble
with and probably flunked was this anatomy drawing course
that Jan Stussy taught with a passion, right? This guy
was just a terrific teacher, but I couldn't do it. I have
pictures from these courses which are reasonable pictures,
I think. But again, it was just a matter of not being
capable of performing for whatever reason. I don't know.
I mean, clearly I was outclassed in the sense that I
wasn't able to handle the academic courses, and I wasn't
doing all that well in the art courses. That's my memory
of it, at least. I had to leave school because I didn't
get the grades I needed to get off of probation.
In March of that year, which is now three months
later, is when I told this story about going down to Los
Alamitos with my two friends and actually joining that
[navy flight] program.
LEHMER: That's March of '52?
HEINECKEN: 'Fifty- three.
LEHMER: March of '53.
HEINECKEN: Something like that. March or earlier.
HEINECKEN: July of that year is when I actually went into
LEHMER: I wanted to try to pry into more about what it
was. You're saying that you just weren't prepared. You
were outclassed. That's hard for me to accept. I'm
wondering if your priorities at that time were simply to
HEINECKEN: Basically that's right, yeah.
LEHMER: And that that distracted-- When you're in school,
no matter how sharp you are, like you said in early-- You
had figured it out. You had gotten your work done in
study hall. I can't imagine that you were outclassed in
that sense. But there is a certain amount of physical
attention that you have to give to getting work done,
especially at UCLA. Can you think back as to what might
have been the reasoning behind it, because I have a hard
time buying that you were outclassed or--?
HEINECKEN: Well, maybe that's not the right word, but I
wasn't a good student. And I had gone into this
fraternity kind of halfway. This other guy [Kenneth
Knight] who also came from Riverside and who was a couple
of years older than I-- We both came together. Or maybe
he was already here. Anyway, we had this apartment in
Westwood, and at some point we decided that we could live
more cheaply and without as much difficulty if we went to
TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE TWO
MARCH 12, 1996
LEHMER: You decided to go into the fraternity because it
would be cheaper —
HEINECKEN: Cheaper and — I don't know. Maybe part of our
mentality would have been that that would be the thing to
do. That's part of what the university offered that we
didn't have before.
LEHMER: Which fraternity was that?
HEINECKEN: Sigma Nu. But anyway, during this time period
I had worked almost continually parking cars, even when I
was in school, which made a lot of money, which you had to
actually steal. I mean, you were supposed to pay the
doorman all of it and then he paid you, but everybody
would rake off that. So I worked at all of the main
hotels and nightclubs on Sunset [Boulevard] --what 's now
the Sunset Strip--all through this time. I had a lot of
money. I got into playing poker. In fact, there was a
poker thing in Westwood that people would go to. I guess
I didn't lose much or win much, but it was a kind of life.
And I was drinking. All of those things I think
contribute to-- First of all, parking cars for eight hours
a day doesn't contribute very much to studying. Then
having the money to spend and an interest in trying to
screw everybody you can--which probably wasn't much, but--
All those are factors, I think.
And finally, I remember at the end of this period of
time when I was-- I said these other two guys and I went
down to look into this naval aviation thing. This other
guy- -not the same guy that I talked about before, but
another friend that I had-- We were living in the basement
of this fraternity house where we had sort of carved out a
little room back there. The fraternity people didn't even
know we were there I don't think. And down there is where
he would run these poker games. But that guy went on to
become a very--and still is--inf luential-- Not a
stockbroker. He's beyond that even. He's a financial
LEHMER: Investment officer?
HEINECKEN: He's the one always who was running the poker.
He had actually made book on the horse races out of that
place. He was that smart. He could figure out all that
stuff. Marty Bullock is his name. I still visit him.
LEHMER: A question I just thought of from last Saturday
when you were talking about you and your buddies going
down to enlist in the navy: What were their names?
HEINECKEN: Jeff Clark was one. I don't remember. There
were two guys and me, and Jeff Clark was one. Maybe that
other name will come to me, but I do remember Jeff,
because I actually knew him very well. He was an
interesting guy whose father was a big hotshot doctor. He
lived in Ojai [California], because I remember we'd go up
to Ojai sometimes to this house on the lake, and it was
just beautiful. I can't remember the other guy's name,
but it will come to me, maybe.
LEHMER: Both of them are from UCLA.
HEINECKEN: Yeah, right.
LEHMER: And all three of you had chummed around.
HEINECKEN: Right. They were graduating that June.
That ' s why they were going down there in March to look
into this, because they anticipated that that's what they
wanted to do. They did both graduate. I don't know what
happened to them, but--
LEHMER: And both of them washed out of--
HEINECKEN: Well, they never got in. They failed either
the physical or the mental or both of them, the
combination of those things . I think the other guy ' s name
was Lee something. I'll think of it later. Lee Weitzel,
I don't want to characterize all this as being morose
or whatever, but the whole time period, let's say after I
graduated from high school until I went in the service,
which is three and a half years, was a series of not being
able to do whatever was being asked of me to do in terms
of the institutions that I was in, especially UCLA. I had
two years to go there, and I would have finished. I got
through the first semester, but by the end of that year I
was on probation. I went back for the third semester and
didn't make it. So at that point, January of 1955, I'm
dead meat as far as the draft goes.
LEHMER: That's what heads you in there. Okay. In our
last meeting we talked about the service and what went on
HEINECKEN: Yeah. We don't need to go into that anymore.
But I did mention, which I would stress again, that at the
end of this four-year period I'm teaching in primary
flight school, and I remember the very positive
gratification of working with people who were like I was
four years ago: just kids with no expectations, really,
of how they're going to get through this. And as I said,
I was tough on them, because I realized you just-- It's
not like giving someone a "B" or a "C" or an "A." It's if
this guy is going to go from your teaching to the next
teaching to the next, and at any point during that it's
clear that they're not going to make it, you wash them
out. It's a difficult thing to do, because their life,
their career, their whole thing is ruined at that point.
Anyway, I didn't have it in my mind I would be a teacher,
but I really enjoyed that work. It was very, very
gratifying work to do.
LEHMER: You took it seriously. And this is after your
being in the squadron and going through what you had gone
through, the two real close calls--
LEHMER: — which I think are very important. They add a
new perspective to life.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. I want to say a couple more things.
During this time period there were two or three things
that were interesting. One was that I was put into a
special group of people-- Well, let's see. Normally what
you do, you'll take maybe five students or something, and
you'll fly with those people through the certain stages
until they finish that phase of what they're doing.
LEHMER: This is in Pensacola [Naval Air Station]?
HEINECKEN: This is in Pensacola. They formed a subgroup
of this which was supposed to be the most experienced,
And then we taught two interesting groups. One, I
think they must have been Cubans. They were up here going
through flight school. They all could speak English, but
we had instructors who spoke Spanish in this group, as
well. And in 1957--I think '57--the government gave back
the right to Germany to rebuild their armed forces. There
was a law passed after World War II that in nineteen so-
and-so they could start building their army back and their
navy and whatever. So we got groups of these German
pilots who were coming back to start from scratch, just
like they had never flown. Some of them were aces; they
had shot down many Spitfires. They were forty-year-old
guys, or thirty-five, or something like that. It was very
interesting to work with them, because the airplane that
we were flying at that time--it's a propeller-driven
airplane, but a very good airplane- -had almost the same
flight characteristics as a Messerschmitt [Bf 109] did,
which they all flew, right? The 109 I think it was
called. They were all going to be generals. These guys
were beyond the point where they would be doing any
flying, but for some reason the German government probably
said, "You guys have to go through this school again.
We'll recommission you as an officer, and then you'll
build up the new German army, navy, air force, whatever."
I could speak enough German after I worked with these guys
long enough that I got kind of, not fluent, certainly, but
I knew all the terms that I needed to know technically to
talk with them. They were wonderful to work with. And
the Cubans were also interesting. So those two
experiences were interesting to me.
LEHMER: And both of those were at the same time?
HEINECKEN: Well, they were at separate times but the same
block of time. I thought the German thing was
interesting, because I had no idea, really, until later
that these people would-- I don't know how they selected
them, but obviously these were people who were candidates
for very high-ranking positions in the German armed
forces. Some of them went to the air force, some of them
went to army training bases. We happened to get this
group of aviators.
LEHMER: Last Saturday we were talking about the two
pretty intense close calls that you'd had when you were
flying. A question I have at this point is, were you
married to Janet at that time?
HEINECKEN: Yes, we were married when I was commissioned —
LEHMER: And the twins were--
HEINECKEN: With us there, yeah.
LEHMER: You've mentioned that they tried to get you back
in the air as quickly as possible after one of those kinds
of events. They took you to the crash site; you went
through that experience. What my question at this point
is, can you relate how you take your military career and
meld it, blend it, and merge it with your family life?
When was the first time that you had reached home after
that? Was it that same day? Or was it a day later? And
what did you describe to your family? Or how did you
handle this other world?
HEINECKEN: Well, let me think. The kids were two years
old, or three, maybe, so they're not involved in this,
really, except as-- You know, as they grow older they-- My
son's actually very interested in all of that, because
he's interested in aviation. But I think Janet-- I
certainly accepted the idea that this was dangerous
business. As I mentioned, a lot of people were killed one
way or the other. Not a lot, but enough--
LEHMER: At least a third.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. You're not without an understanding
that that could happen to you, and certainly the wives of
all these people understand that, because they're sitting
in the middle of the whole-- They know what's going on. I
think Janet was very proud of me, because she saw me go
through all of this, what I've described to you, and
finally emerge at the end as some kind of professional
person able to make a living and able to do the job well.
And I can say I was good at it, or it fit me.
Well, this is complicated, I think, but we were
stationed during one accident--the mid-air--in Mojave, so
I didn't get home. The thing came out in the newspaper,
but I had called her, or the Marine Corps called her, so
that she knew about it, but I didn't get back there till
maybe a week later.
LEHMER: Oh, I thought you were stationed at El Toro.
HEINECKEN: I was stationed there, but we were detached to
the Marine Corps Air Station at Mojave. Usually it was
for either two weeks or a month. We'd be detached to
other facilities, but the base was at El Toro. Well, this
isn't important, but the whole thrust of the Marine Corps
at that time was that, like now, they're the only service
that can actually pick up and go immediately. All the
desks are wooden things that fold up and go kind of stuff,
and the mobility of these units was a very important thing
during the cold war. So anyway, we were up there for at
least two weeks, and I can always look at my logbooks to
see when I went back. Well, I had scared her, scared me,
LEHMER: You're saying that she knew that, she dealt with
it. She knew it wasn't something that she could change —
HEINECKEN: That's right.
LEHMER: --and that she had to live with it.
HEINECKEN: I don't know whether the divorce rate would
have been greater during that time period than another
time period, but there are a lot of rocky marriages in
this business because of things like this. And not only
that, but because of the macho things that you develop you
are not the most agreeable person to live with, and you
get very cocky, and we drank a lot. The Right Stuff, did
you ever read that or--?
LEHMER: I saw the film.
HEINECKEN: It's a very good book on this whole situation.
It very much gives you the picture of how people are
formed to be not machines but something like that.
LEHMER: You have to have confidence.
HEINECKEN: Your job is ultimately to fight, right? And
win. So it develops in people a kind of cockiness. You
believe in yourself. You always know somebody's going to
die, but you never think it's going to be you. And I
think the wives of people in that situation-- Janet
adapted to it, I thought, quite well. Some people didn't.
As I said, I stayed in the reserve for another nine years.
That's how we made our living. And she was okay about it.
At this point, I'd like to discuss your return to
UCLA. I guess the twins are five years old?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. They were born in '55. I went back to
school in '57. They were two years old when I started.
And I was there for a couple of years, so they would have
been four or five at the end of that.
LEHMER: And Janet has a job as a nurse. What was her
HEINECKEN: I don't know. There wasn't much of a
specialized thing in it. She advanced very rapidly
through whatever situation she was ever-- I mean, she was
very good at it. By the way, her mother and her
grandmother were nurses also, so that was in her family.
My daughter Kathe thought she would be a nurse, but she
didn't make it. But anyway, Janet was advanced through
various supervisory roles and so on. She continued to
work at UCLA even after we were divorced. She retired
from there a couple of years ago.
LEHMER: You went back to UCLA after the service. I'd
like to pick up there and see if we can cover some of that
ground. You obviously have changed, because you've gone
through some pretty impressive experiences.
HEINECKEN: Right, and I'm older.
LEHMER: You're older. You also have a family- -
HEINECKEN: I also have a family. I mean, this has got to
turn into something for me as a job or profession,
whatever you want to call it. I did very well, I think,
during that time period. I finished up everything that I
needed to get done, including academic courses, because
I'm ready to do it, and I know I have to do it.
LEHMER: How did you get back in if you had flunked out?
HEINECKEN: I had to go to [UCLA University] Extension,
which at that time was not a separate program like we have
now. It was exactly for this purpose. Like if you needed
courses that you were not eligible to take at the
university you went to the Extension, which was downtown
in one of the old city halls or something like that. So I
went there, I made up whatever courses I had failed. I
got off of probation by making acceptable grades there.
They all recognized that you were here five years ago and
you've done all that and you're ready to go to school, so
you go there and take the courses-- Which was no problem.
I did it. I think that was maybe only one semester that I
went down there. And maybe it was even that you could be
at UCLA-- Again, you're on probation until such a time as
you complete these Extension courses. But I have a
feeling that I was enrolled probably as taking art classes
at the same time that I'm going to Extension to make up
these other courses.
LEHMER: Did any of your experiences in the service work
HEINECKEN: Well, I mentioned the other day that they did
give me credit for some of the courses, which I now
LEHMER: That's right, I remember that.
HEINECKEN: Or I don't regret it, but it's kind of ironic.
They're trying to help you as much as they can. And as I
said, they want you to get in there and out of there as
soon as they can make it happen. They were paying me to
go to school . That ' s the way it was . I think when I
graduated in 1959 I certainly had grades that were
acceptable enough to graduate.
And I became interested during that time period- -
Then there was a guy named Don [Donald W.] Chipper field,
who was very influential on me. And I started making
prints with John Paul Jones, who was the printmaking
person. Chipper field was the guy who introduced
photography to me. There were no courses or anything, but
he got me started in that. A third person was John
Rosenfield, who is an art historian and an orientalist. I
think both John Paul Jones-- Well, I know this was John
Rosenfield 's first teaching job at a university. John
Paul Jones had just gotten out of the service or
hospitalization or whatever, and he was very fresh to the
thing. And Chipperfield I think was about the same. So
these guys were probably only two or three years older
than I was at the time. By that time I'm an older — You
know, the four years that I was, in a sense, not doing
anything. Those are the three people who really helped me
get focused. I'll tell the story about Chipperfield
Now, in this course of study there was a component of
commercial art as well, and although the major was art,
there were courses-- There was no design department there,
but there was something sort of floating underneath this
which was to become the graphic design curriculum later.
I don't know whether it was when I was an undergraduate or
a graduate student, but I got very interested in what now
you would think of as experimental typography or ideas
about how you perceive language, all having something to
do with advertising or something like that. At the same
time, I was taking conventional art courses, you know, and
painting courses, drawing, whatever.
Then I went to work for the UCLA [Wight Art] Gallery
when Frederick [S.] Wight was the director of it and who
it's now named after. I was designing the announcements
and the catalogs, and I worked as a preparator in the
museum. I won an art director's medal for one of the
catalogs I did. So I had begun to understand here that
the art thing was what I had always been pointed towards,
but I didn't really understand until this time period that
there's a whole industry out here which is not advertising
but like serious designers.
And this guy I mentioned the other day, Jim [James
A.] Cross, he taught, but he was not a permanent faculty.
He was a very up-and-coming designer of books and
typography and things like that. I could see that here's
a guy who's got it figured out in terms of how to apply
art ideas to advanced design and principles which were
maybe Bauhaus principles, and things like that. So at the
same time I'm going to school I'm doing this job with the
gallery, which was very helpful to me. This is 1959, when
*[I decided to apply to the M.A. program in art, was
accepted and formed a tentative faculty committee of Don
Chipperf ield, John Paul Jones, John Rosenfield, and Tom
(Thomas) Jennings. At this point UCLA was charged to
instigate new graduate M.F.A. programs and to develop the
new College of Fine Arts to begin in the fall of I960.] So
it was at that point when all these things were happening
that I got out of undergraduate school. It took me one
year, and I think it probably took everybody who was in a
master's program one year. It was not a big deal.
Especially since they knew the M.F.A. was going to come in,
they were sort of cleaning up the trash of the previous
graduate program. Basically you did an exhibition at the
end of this thing. You put up the work, these guys show up,
you discuss it, and then they sign the papers. It's not
nearly as rigorous as it would be now. It was a very
short period of time, and that's probably one of the
reasons why I always said in discussions that the longer
period of time should have been the case. I always wanted
* Heinecken added the following bracketed section during
his review of the transcript.
a three-year M.F.A. program.
By this time I think I'm working full-time for the
gallery as a combination preparator and designer of the
announcements and stuff like that. I also worked for UCLA
Extension designing the brochures that went out for all
those courses and catalogs. By that time I didn't know
all of that stuff, and I wasn't sure what I was going to
do. There was no idea of teaching; that was out of the
question. It just wasn't in the cards for me. I didn't
even think about that very much. And I don't think that
my state of mind would have been that with this-- Now this
family is beginning to be people, so I needed a job. I
was very much pointing myself towards this design thing,
because I could see I was interested in it, and I was very
good at it, and it was this guy Jim Cross who told me,
"You are good, you could move in this." And it was never
tainted by the idea of commercial art. It was a whole new
field opening up. I'm now thirty years old approximately.
HEINECKEN: Twenty-nine, right. I was working at
Extension and at the gallery. You have to do the work,
but it wasn't like you had to take courses or stuff like
that. I mean, it was not a setup, but I knew these three
people were the people who wanted me to go to graduate
school, because they recognized some capability, and
they're obviously going to be on my committee, so It's not
like I'm sweating It, you know? Like now people have to
sweat this kind of thing, because It could fall out at the
last moment or whatever. It was only a year. So I got my
M.A. degree In 1960, and I had this job.
But anyway. It must have been probably August or
sometime late In the summer of 1960 that this guy
Chipper field had a heart attack or something.
LEHMER : And he ' s young .
HEINECKEN: And he's young. Yeah. It was serious. I
think It was a heart attack. He was completely
incapacitated. So he —
Also, we had a new chairman that year, i960. His
name was Lester [D.] Longman. He was a real asshole, but--
Oops. [laughs] He was from the Midwest. He was an
educationist kind of guy. He was actually hired to make
the transition from this [College of] Applied Arts to the
College of Fine Arts. He was the one who was going to
develop all the programs and so on. You had to get along
with him, but he was not very honest or something.
Anyway, he had come to my M.A. exhibition. Maybe he did
all of that as a course routine, but I remember he was
there. He was very Interested in what I was doing because
it was part of what he could visualize as a design kind of
situation like maybe he would develop. So he knew who I
was, and he told me he thought what I was doing was
interesting for whatever reason, right?
So anyway, this guy Chipper field has this heart
attack. He's scheduled to teach in the next month, which
is September or whatever. He recovers enough to say--
because I had TA'ed [acted as a teaching assistant for]
his courses all the time — "Just hire him. Don't do a
search. I'll be back out of this in two months or
something like that. He can do it, and he'll do it well.
So that's what I recommend you do." So this guy Longman
hired me as an instructor, which was the lowest possible
rank. It simply means that you're full-time, but it would
be like a lecturer now.
For one semester [inaudible], so I don't even
remember. I know there was certainly a drawing class that
he taught. I also had TA'ed in printmaking, so I took
[Chipperfield' s] class. I think there was a drawing
class. It might even have been some kind of printmaking
class or an illustration class.
He never did recover from this. So the next semester
they hired me to do his courses again.
LEHMER: Did that include printmaking?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Although John Paul Jones was the
printmaking person, I did teach, either that first
semester or the second one, some printmaking course. I
remember that. But it was mostly like a drawing course,
and then some kind of typographic course or something like
that. The expectation was always that he would be back,
he'd get well. That's why they kept me on for the whole
year, right? That was the end of 1961, I guess. I can't
remember exactly whether he-- At some point it was clear
that he wasn't coming back and that I would have this job
as an instructor for an additional period of time.
So someplace in here, maybe 1961, '62, I proposed as
part of the forming of the College of Fine Arts and the
restructuring of the art department that we introduce
photography into this. I made that case to the faculty
and to Longman and to the deans and all that.
LEHMER: That's a lot of work.
HEINECKEN: It was a lot of work, and it wasn't
altogether-- I mean, a lot of the painters weren't
particularly interested in broadening things out when in
fact they had just gone through to throw things out. They
threw out jewelry, they threw out ceramics, silver-
smithing. All these things were in the art department,
and they just dumped everybody. Art education was a big
part of it, and they dumped all of those people. It was
like trimming down rather than trying to expand it. So
they kept giving me--
Backing up here. Chipper field was the guy who had
developed the photography department in Extension. So I
also was teaching photography courses in Extension at that
time, which were not offered in regular session.
LEHMER: So your first photography classes that you taught
were actually Extension classes?
LEHMER: You had some sense as to what the potential was?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. By this time I know about the SPE
[Society for Photographic Education]; I'm going to those
meetings. I know that this is going to work out at some
point. I just didn't know whether it would work at UCLA
or how soon or how long it would take to convince people,
because these people, the painters, were not ready to
accept this, with the exception of a few of them. So it
was a fight. And that went on for basically, I think,
five years. I had other courses, but I was teaching
photography, and that wasn't in the curriculum. It wasn't
like you could major in it or anything like that.
I kept working in Extension all through this time.
So by 1966 I was pretty much well into making photographs.
And my first one-person exhibition was in '64, which would
have been in the middle of this. Extension was going
well. I was being accepted enough to at some point be
made assistant professor and put on a tenure track.
LEHMER: We should get into that, I think, in our next
discussion, with a little bit of--
HEINECKEN: Well, anyway, let me just finish this thought.
So 1966 was my sabbatical year, which was also the time
when I was either going to be promoted to associate
professor with tenure or let go. That was the way-- Well,
it still works the same way.
LEHMER: In '66?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. For the academic year of '66, '67, I
took a year of sabbatical leave, which is also the time
when I quit the [Marine Corps] reserve because of, as I
told you, planning the trip to Europe and stuff like that.
So that year-- I really didn't think that they were going
to buy this, because it-- When I left, I had written
endless things. I cited the whole SPE litany of what's
happening to photography, not only as an art but its
importance in a social way and things like that. I wasn't
certain that they were buying it, though. Some were, some
weren't. So that whole sabbatical year I would have
gotten one more year, but I wouldn't have been promoted,
and then I'd been gone. But anyway, they decided that
they would make me associate professor and I would develop
the photography program as part of the curriculum. So
this is all--I mean, I worked for it and it got done--very
lucky. Very right time, right place.
LEHMER: But you worked for it because you had to make the
HEINECKEN: Well, I convinced them, yeah.
LEHMER: You had to educate them.
HEINECKEN: There weren't any other photography programs
that were part of the curriculum in the UC [University of
California] system. [University of California] Berkeley
had a workshop that they ran through the architecture
school. None of the state colleges had — at least this is
my memory- -any kind of photography program. It was a
breakthrough, really, to get it at UCLA. Berkeley, of
course, never had one, never saw clearly that they should
have it. That art department just folded up, anyway. And
then all this sort of mushroomed into the state colleges
and so on. That's all history, but--
What I'm trying to suggest here is a whole series,
maybe ten years, twelve years, of things happening which
were sometimes bad things, sometimes good things, but they
all sort of keep adding up just by luck. This thing with
Chipper field, him having faith in me to do that job while
he was sick and then not coming back, was-- I mean, who
would have expected that? And then to have the right
skills to convince the faculty and the administration that
we should actually start a photography program there,
which would never have happened except due to the fact
that they were restructuring the College of Fine Arts. At
the same time you have the [Center for] Afro- American
Studies starting, you have the Chicano Studies [Research
Center] starting, you have all these effects of the
student riots. The university is suddenly opening;
they'll take anything that is going to get the students
off their backs. So it only could have happened in that
time period, something like this, with somebody who wasn't
really experienced in any of it.
LEHMER: Briefly let's back up so we can close this one
idea. At our next meeting we'll go into this a little
more thoroughly. But let's back up and catch this one
thing that we ' ve lost . Can you expand more as to what you
did for a thesis and what you got your degree in? It was
obviously an M.A., but was there an emphasis like in
printmaking or in drawing or--?
HEINECKEN: I think what I showed were basically prints.
I don't recall. I might have had some photographs in
there. They would have been [inaudible], figure studies,
sort of [inaudible] at that time until 1964, when I had
this show, which was a rather complete thirty pictures
that all sort of looked like something.
LEHMER: Who was your committee?
HEINECKEN: These three guys.
LEHMER: The three. You said someone else, too.
HEINECKEN: Chipperf ield, Rosenfield, John Paul Jones, and
HEINECKEN: And this other guy, Jim Cross, was teaching
part-time there, and he was the one that I looked to,
because he was a successful professional book designer.
He actually probably got me the job at Extension.
LEHMER: One last question. You had some skill in art and
drawing. You're into the service. You have survived some
close calls. Did you consider becoming an airline pilot?
HEINECKEN: I was too short for that, by the way, but
LEHMER: What pulled you back to art? That's the last
thing we need-- We don't have much room on this tape, so
we might have to continue this.
HEINECKEN: Well, I think it's simply--it's not luck,
because nothing is luck — that there were these sets of
circumstances that happened to me which were fortuitous.
None of it was really at the expense of anything, but it
was at the-- Because of my motives of knowing that I had
to go to work at the end of this and that I couldn't be
hanging around the university anymore, I had to get a job.
You know, everybody needs to get a job. But being able
LEHMER: But I was thinking back earlier, when you're in
the service. I mean, you're deciding to go back to the
HEINECKEN: Well, I wasn't trained to do anything, really,
except be in the Marine Corps. I was too short. I
applied — I mean, I looked into the airline pilot thing,
but I wasn't interested in that anyway.
There was an idea in my mind that because I did a lot
of engineering stuff, as everyone does in flight training,
I was interested maybe in something like that, but that
didn't last very long, because that would have meant
starting over in college, really. So I just took the easy
way, which was to take the courses that I needed to get
back off probation, finish my undergraduate degree, and
see what happened. But then these guys just said, "Well,
we're interested in what you're doing as an individual, so
why don ' t you go ahead and j ust take the M . A . ? " Because
they were going to drop the M.A. then and go to the M.F.A.
and so on.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE ONE
MARCH 25, 1996
LEHMER: Today what I'd like to go into would be the early
years when you started to teach. I think we introduced
how you began your career as a professor at UCLA; you
might want to start there. But before we get into that, I
wanted to do a real brief outline of your family life,
kind of bring that up to your separation from Janet
[Storey]. We'll start out with what the marriage with
Janet was like. Was it January '55?
LEHMER: You were eighteen months into the service.
LEHMER: I guess you'd finished flight school?
HEINECKEN: Uh-huh, at that point. You couldn't be
married, by the way, and be in this program. I mean,
there were people who were, but they had to keep that a
LEHMER: Then you moved to Laguna [Beach] --the family,
you , and Janet .
LEHMER: What I remember was that the twins were born in
August of '55, and you moved to a new home, but also in
LEHMER: And they were Geoffrey [R. Heinecken] and Kathe
[Heinecken Hull] .
LEHMER: It's probably not very important, but I was
wondering, who was first? Who's the oldest?
HEINECKEN: Geoff was first, I think.
LEHMER: Geoff was first.
HEINECKEN: I'm pretty sure. Yeah. He's always talking
to her about he's the older brother.
LEHMER: [laughs] By a couple of seconds or minutes.
HEINECKEN: Actually it was quite a long time, because-- I
think I have this straight. Kathe was much less developed
and was born maybe an hour or something like that after he
was-- I'm not sure of that. But I know when I first saw
them, which was about a week later, I think he was more or
less formed, but she looked like some kind of a rat rolled
up in a paper towel, because she was just much more
premature. They were both premature, which is common in
twins, I guess.
LEHMER: Where were they born? Was there a base hospital?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. They were born in the naval hospital in
Corona [California], which was between the beach and
Riverside [California] .
LEHMER: Okay. That's got to be awfully close to El Toro
[Marine Corps Air Station]? Is that right?
HEINECKEN: It's about an hour or something like that.
No, not that far. But anyway, everybody at El Toro went
to that hospital if there was other than what they did
LEHMER: I remember photographing my daughter before the
umbilical cord was cut and singing "Happy Birthday" to her
in the hospital. You found out about this, and you were
on a mission or flight.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. We were deployed somewhere--I 'm not
sure--but either Yuma [Arizona] or Mojave [California] or
Fallon [Nevada] is where we always went. It wasn't that
far away, but we were-- It was one of those situations
where you take all the stuff — all the airplanes, all the
men. You go someplace for a month or two, which is why I
didn't get back right away. *[I think I came back in a
day or two, stayed a few days, and went back.] Oh,
remember that Janet's a nurse and a very good,
professional one when she goes through all of this. And I
remember I was really appalled — or not appalled exactly--
but the way that things were handled at a military
hospital was much more expedient, and they kind of run
* Heinecken added the following bracketed section during
his review of the transcript.
you through. This is the way they have to do things,
obviously, compared to what she was used to in terms of a
university hospital or whatever else she worked at.
LEHMER: Care versus maintenance.
HEINECKEN: Well, yeah. Or I think no matter where a
military hospital is they use the same sort of procedures
they would use anywhere, which is exactly what you're
saying. It was like get them in, get them out, because
it's a different mission that they have than at a regular
LEHMER: Then four years later Karol [Heinecken Mora] was
born. That's a big gap.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. She was definitely not planned. I
don't know whether this is something to keep in there, but
between the twins and her there was I think maybe one
miscarriage, but a couple of abortions, also. We weren't
really smart about what we were doing. I think there was
also an abortion after she was born. Where was I going
with that? Those things I should really-- I mean, that's
my memory of it, but I could check that out with Janet.
But where was she born? Probably UCLA [Medical Center] .
'Fifty-nine. I would have been there. Yeah.
LEHMER: Where were you living at that point?
HEINECKEN: Let's see.
LEHMER: Was that Westwood? Or was it — ?
HEINECKEN: Well, when I went back to school we applied
for the veterans housing, but we had to wait until
something opened up. They had another kind of an adjacent
student housing in Mar Vista, Barrington [Avenue] and
National [Boulevard], kind of. We were lined up to go
into that, and somehow that fell through. It wasn't
veterans housing, but it was the university housing, the
apartments in Mar Vista, which we got into. So that's
where we were probably when Karol was born. No, that's
not quite right. I have to think about this, because- -
Well, we moved to Beverly Glen [Boulevard] in 1960. So
probably Karol was born in the veterans housing, when we
were living in the veterans housing at UCLA on campus.
Yeah. Because it would have been that year before that.
LEHMER: You had mentioned to me earlier--maybe it was off
tape--that the kids grew up in this ideal-like
environment. There were lots of other kids around, young
couples' housing. Can you describe that housing a little
HEINECKEN: Well, I think the point I was making was that
it was a unique situation in that it was like an apartment
in a sense. I think there were twelve families in each
building. There were five buildings. So you got a
population of maybe five hundred people in this complex on
campus on Gayley [Avenue] across from the fraternity
houses. Each building was really a kind of microcosm--!
wouldn't say an intellectual community but professional
people on professional tracks. We had doctors and law
students and mathematicians. I always remember those math
guys, because you could never figure them out. It was a
thing where you never had to worry about a babysitter,
because there was always someone. You were always
babysitting for someone. It was like a commune in a
strange way. We kept in touch with a couple of those
families for a long time after that. Now we don't see
them. But we became good friends with people here.
Everybody is in the same-- You've got no money, you've got
a bunch of kids, you're sweating school, and — So it was
great, a great thing to have.
LEHMER: Geoff and Kathe obviously would have strong
memories of this. And you moved into Beverly Glen a year
later, in '60?
HEINECKEN: I think so. It was 1960, yes.
LEHMER: So she's still pretty young?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. She's a kitten, yeah.
LEHMER: We visited, again off tape, with Geoff briefly
about his experiences in the Glen. I have a feeling that
it may have been a bigger territory, but he was fairly
social and able to make friends throughout the Glen. It
was kind of an adventuresome place to live and grow up.
HEINECKEN: Uh-huh. And there weren't a lot of kids.
Well, I guess there were probably the same amount of kids
that there were anywhere. But the nature of the canyon is
such that you have kind of an immediate group like we do
here on Viretta [Lane]. And you don't see everybody that
way. But Janet met a lot of people through a play group
situation where she actually volunteered, and the kids, I
guess, went to that for a while. But it was a nice place
for them to grow up. They went to Warner Avenue
[Elementary] School, which is in Holmby Hills down there,
which was one of those schools that was affiliated with
the university as a teaching-- In other words —
LEHMER: A satellite.
HEINECKEN: If you went to UCLA you would go there to do
your student teaching and stuff like that. So it was a
good school that way.
The other thing about the school thing was that when
I got appointed at UCLA, which was 1960, as an instructor,
they were ready to go to school. The UES was there, which
is the University Elementary School. This was an
experimental school where the idea was that kids would be
taken into that program, but you had to guarantee that
they could go the whole six or seven years, because they
weren't teaching them sequentially the way that they were
teaching in conventional schools. As far as the school
was concerned, it was an experiment. It was research
oriented to the university. But if Kathe and Geoff went
there together- -same age, identical--one might be in a
program that is studying what happens if you don't teach
them writing and reading in the order that would normally
happen. What if you put them in a situation where they're
reversing the order in which things are conventionally
given? The point is that because I was employed at UCLA
in the academic section, you could almost automatically
get your kids into this school, because they wanted a
range of kids, not only from that kind of family but from
completely different backgrounds. It was a real
interesting situation. We wanted them to get in there,
but you had to guarantee or sign something that said
they're not responsible if you have to leave this after
three years, because you wouldn't be able to take that kid
into a conventional school because he would be completely
screwed up. Based on that, we decided that obviously we
couldn ' t guarantee that we would be there seven years . I
didn't know whether I would be there a year or two or
what. So they went to this other school.
LEHMER: To Warner.
HEINECKEN: And if they would have gone there, I mean,
those kids, at least as far as I understand that program
and how it works, they were very successful with this
program. Those kids automatically went through high
school, junior high school, and college with a different
attitude about education. It was a good program. It's
too bad that they didn't get to go there. It probably
would have been better for them.
LEHMER: And Karol obviously started school.
We talked earlier--and I think this is on tape--about
your transition around 1966, when you finally resigned
your commission from the Marines Corps. And Karol ' s just
starting school, too. Another element is you were going
up for tenure. And Karol ' s in like first grade. I think
it's '66. She's about six or seven years old.
LEHMER: So she's starting school, too. So your life is
on the edge of solidifying into a whole other direction.
HEINECKEN: That's right. Well, it's beginning to become
more or less permanent employment on the one hand, and
moving to a place like this obviously could be a permanent
situation. So, yeah, I think at that point, as far as
Janet and I were concerned, everything was working very
well. The twins were pretty wild, actually, both of them;
Geoffrey especially was for a while. The time period here
is, even in lower-level schools, you're beginning to
experiment. Not in the sense that I was describing
earlier, but even at that level the schools did reflect
the attitudes of what was happening to older students
everywhere in terms of the protests and the [Vietnam] War,
the free speech, free love, all of this stuff that was
going on there. They were not unaffected by that, I
think, as any kid at that age ordinarily would have been.
Maybe I'm jumping ahead here a little bit. The twins went
to University High School, in West L.A. Good school,
obviously. But when Karol went--
LEHMER: What year was that when Karol went?
HEINECKEN: Well, she's — what? — four years younger, so I
guess they would have been out of high school by the time
she started, obviously. But anyway, what she got into
was, I think they call it a free school, which was
differentiated from the regular curriculum. It was taught
by — All this I learned later. We were excited about that
program she was in. It was a kind of experiment within
this conventional high school. To make a shorter story,
as it turns out the people who were teaching this and who
were setting it up were est [Erhard Seminars Training]
people. I don't know what that stands for, but it was a
sort of a quasi-crazy kind of a way to approach things.
It was run by this guy Werner [Erhard] . I mean, est was a
LEHMER: Yeah. I remember that term. It's — I don't want
HEINECKEN: It Stands for something. Anyway, I think it
was a philosophy that accepted principles of freedom for
each individual in ways that were much more radically
defined than had been previously. We knew all of that,
and Janet and I weren't concerned about it too much. It
seemed okay to me. But by the time she graduated it turns
out that the est people who were teaching it were also
Scientologists for a large percentage. She came out of
that high school as a Scientologist, and if you know
anything about that — At eighteen it's a little early to
make a decision as radical as to be a Scientologist, but
she was, and all her friends were.
LEHMER: And this was a public school.
HEINECKEN: Public school, yeah. When it got to that
point, it was too late for us to do anything, but we were
pissed. You know, you follow what a kid does. She's
getting good grades, and she's a free kid. She does kind
of what she wants as far as the school goes. I thought
all of that was fine, because if she went to college she'd
have to do whatever they had to do. I wasn't worried
about it. But then it turned out that--I may be too
radical--but Scientology is a kind of brainwashing, as far
as I could figure out, and I still think it is. But it
has an immense appeal to a certain kind of individual and
to a certain age where you don't know what you're going to
do. It's like another faniily--bigger, better, more
empathetic to you.
Anyway, she was in that, and we were a little bit
disturbed. But the twins were very disturbed. They were
old enough at that point that they felt they had something
to say about what she was going to be and do and whatever.
They gave her a bad time. I couldn't tolerate it. I
couldn't stop it. I used to share what they felt, but I
just didn't feel like I wanted to start stepping on
things. So she stayed in that until-- Actually, she could
still be in it. She married a guy who was in it. All her
friends were in it. I think that's changed now,
certainly. But the principles that were espoused I think
she still holds. If you really are in this, as I
understand it, it is a closed family. It's like the
Mormons kind of. You want a plumber, you get a
Scientologist. If you want this, you get a-- You keep it
all, in a sense, so that you're helping each other to find
employment and whatever.
In fact, this is an interesting aside. This was much
later, certainly. Karol ' s husband John [Mora], who is an
interesting guy, by the way, was among other things a kind
of general contractor. He and some crew that he put
together actually worked on Tom Cruise's house in Malibu.
Tom Cruise is a big Scientologist. That's the kind of
networking that was a part of this.
What ' s important about it is that it was disturbing
to some extent to Jan and I and to the other kids. And
they were at an age where they would have much to say
about it. They loved her and didn't want to see her go
into something that they recognized to be something that
they did reject or would reject. There was a tension
connected to Karol and this Scientology thing that lasted
on kind of an intense level for several years and still is
something that's there. I think it's over in the sense of
her becoming hardcore or being really dangerous about it.
If you have the will to decide how to run your existence
without having been told exactly how to do it — It's like
another religion, but it's a strange one.
LEHMER: I had a question. I want to back up.
HEINECKEN: One more thing about that. One other thing
about Scientology is that you have to produce more and
more money, take more and more of these courses, which
begins to elevate you in certain steps in the hierarchy of
this organization, and it costs a lot of money to do that.
At some point, I think in the initial stages of this we
had to help her, and even after Janet and I separated. I
know, because we had talked about it still. Janet said,
"I'm not giving another penny to this." And I said,
"Well, I won't either." So we didn't. At that point I
don't know whether that had anything to do with her
getting out of it or lessening her relationship to it, but
nobody can afford the money that they want to train you to
be — It's like a pyramid club. You start raising money,
and then pretty soon you'll come to the top of that
pyramid, and you'll get the money. Anyway, that was what
LEHMER: Karol was born in '59?
LEHMER: It must have been the end of '59 if she's four
years younger. August.
HEINECKEN: In the fall sometime, yeah. September maybe.
LEHMER: Okay. So she was graduating from high school in
'77. This was going on in the mid-seventies, early
seventies, in high school. Now, five years earlier, then
that would be '73, when the twins are eighteen years old.
So they graduated from high school and went to high school
in the late sixties, early seventies. Definitely —
LEHMER: It's a real war protest period. I understand
what you ' re saying on that .
Can you expand on that idea you were saying that the
twins were wild?
HEINECKEN: Well, they probably weren't any wilder than
other kids, but they were not-- I mean, I thought I was
wild. The drug thing worried us a little bit, because
they were obviously using whatever the current thing was,
maybe not so much Kathe as Geoff. But Geoff will tell me
now that he did everything there was to do, to ingest or
whatever. There is no trace of any problem with him at
all or probably with any of those kids. But they had
friends who committed suicide and walked off of buildings
from LSD, stuff like that. It was weird because of my own
background. But I just didn't get a sense of drug use, as
opposed to what my drug was--beer--which is not doing
anything really bad to you, or so I thought. So I was not
a very apathetic person in relation to the drug thing. I
didn't get it. I didn't want to have my kids involved in
it, but they were.
Kathe at one point was living with a full-blown
heroin addict. I mean, he was just zonked all the time.
They were living together in Venice in this kind of shack,
which was romantic, I'm sure, and wonderful, but this guy
was just zonked.
LEHMER: And this was after high school?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Yeah, probably well after high school.
And this kid, by the way, was in-- We met his parents, who
were both medical doctors and had a very high socio-economic
level. Well, this guy's name was Bobby. With all the
promise of education and whatever, they could not
understand what was going on with him. And we met, I
guess, in the sense of what should we do about this, or
should we do anything about it. They finally separated.
I think he died, not during that time period, but
So that's the kind of drug thing I'm talking about.
I don't think Karol was involved nearly as much, because
that time had shifted, and she was into this other
situation where you certainly wouldn't be taking drugs. I
don't think she ever did it. And I don't think my
experiences are much different than anybody who had kids
of those ages in this environment here in a city like
this. Probably it's the same. It's not a special
LEHMER: No. And Janet as a nurse and —
HEINECKEN: Yeah. And there's that whole-- I mean, she
understands. The highest rate of professional drug users
are doctors and nurses, because they have high pressure
situations, and the stuff is available. All you've got to
do is go get it. No problem.
LEHMER: I didn't know that.
HEINECKEN: Oh, yeah.
LEHMER: So she's aware of the signs, or she's figured
HEINECKEN: Yeah. She had several professional friends
who were working with her who had their licenses taken
away and got hospitalized. It's not an uncommon thing at
all. You don't hear about it as much in doctors, but it's
a real — They were the only people who had access to it,
and they could sell it. Even if you're a doctor you get
hooked. It's a problem.
LEHMER: Now, Janet was working at this —
HEINECKEN: One more thing. I keep thinking of things. I
forget where we went. We left for a year maybe to Chicago
or to New York or whatever, where I was going to teach,
and Geoffrey refused to go. He would have been in high
school, I think, still at that time. Whereas we had just
expected that we would all go and whatever. And he
LEHMER: What did you do?
HEINECKEN: Well, we had to go. And he stayed for at
least maybe six months, eight months, maybe a year with a
family in Beverly Glen. The most striking thing I
remember about when we left is about his appearance. When
we got back, he had gone through some stage of puberty
that we hadn't experienced yet. He had long blond hair,
scruffy, torn clothes, all the stuff where you just kind
of went, "Oh, shit." Anyway, we got through that, too.
LEHMER: How long were you married to Janet?
HEINECKEN: Well, I married her in 1955.
LEHMER: January of '55.
HEINECKEN: Right, January '55. At some point, I'd say
about 1965, things sort of began to go wrong with us. I
start screwing around. I think she did a little bit, too.
It never bothered — I mean, it never came up. But it was
always that I was married and at home or whatever. Again,
the time period is such that this was not an uncommon
situation. It may still not be uncommon. It was part of
this whole attitude about individuality, I guess. I
always reconciled whatever I did with her. She knew about
it. She was certainly not pleased about it. I think
probably because of the family and the situation, the
stability--as screwy as it might have been--was more
important than anything that she would have to do about it
or I would have to do about it, and we sort of continued
along those lines. Obviously in a marital situation it's
not ideal .
At the same time, professionally I'm more visible,
and I'm traveling more and doing talks. All those things
open up a lot of possibilities during this time period for
extramarital affairs. In fact, it was endemic in places
like SPE [Society for Photographic Education] conventions,
which were nothing more than a kind of party for this
purpose. But they got things done, too.
So anyway, in the siimmer of 1969 I went to Buffalo to
teach for the sununer at the state university there [State
University of New York at Buffalo] , and I got seriously
involved with this woman there. And we had discussed
that — I mean, that came out. That was the biggest
scandal problem that we had about a situation like that,
and it was certainly not something that she could accept.
So we got it figured out and reconciled, and I stopped
doing that sort of thing. Well, I shouldn't say I stopped
doing it, but it was not a situation where I was
destroying the marriage or it was a bad thing.
But anyway, in 1975 I went to this Ansel Adams
workshop in Yosemite. I met this woman whose name was
Twinka [Thiebaud], who was a model. She was rather well
known in her own little world, and beautiful and
intelligent, all of those things. An absolutely loose
woman. So I fell in love with her, which was just nuts,
but I did. I never really came back home after I got back
into town from this workshop. We took off somewhere for a
couple of weeks and just did that.
LEHMER: This is in '75?
HEINECKEN: ' Seventy- five. Summer, fall of '75. I'm
trying to think. Well, it was during this period of time
that she lived in Henry Miller's house in Pacific
Palisades. She ran the household. She did the cooking.
She had this small apartment within the house itself. I
lived in a place in Venice on Bay Street, which was just
this one-room situation, but I spent most of the time with
her in his house, because there was enough room for both
people. I would just go back and forth like that. That
was a very exciting time period for me romantically,
sexually, whatever. Because, as I said, she was probably
the most obvious model for all these different people like
Jack [W.] Welpott and Judith Dater and other people.
People just knew her.
LEHMER: There is a famous Judy Dater photograph of Twinka
sneaking around the trees, and there's Twinka.
HEINECKEN: That probably went on for six months or
something. I see her occasionally. We're good friends.
But what I'm trying to get at is that she had ambitions
certainly beyond being a model . She had been to acting
school. She had been to dancing school. By the way, she
is the daughter of Wayne Thiebaud, who is a painter who
taught at the University [of California] at Davis. All
during her life, from the time she was a very young kid,
she was a model for her father, who always used her as an
individual to paint from or draw from or whatever. That's
her story about how she got into modeling and what it
meant to be a model and differentiating an artist model
from a clothing model. But her ambitions were to actually
be something beyond what she was, which was a good figure
While we were together, two things happened for
whatever reason, probably due to my psychic state or
whatever. I started drinking more than I should have,
which was a problem off and on anyway. And she began to
get into situations where the phone would ring in the
middle of the night, and her agent or some guy that was
helping her said, "Love, so-and-so is in town. He needs
some companionship, " and she would have to go no matter
what, because that was what a person in that situation- -
You do that. I mean, anything you can do that's going to
put you into the professional circuit is necessary. And I
couldn't take it. I was just that conventional, in a
sense, that I thought-- Well, what's perverse about it is
that I expected Janet to accept my behavior, but I wasn't
ready to give this woman the same freedom that Janet had
given me, and I was troubled. I don't know exactly what
happened, but I couldn't handle this lifestyle. Also, I
had no studio, and I'm either living in this room or I'm
at Henry Miller's. So I'm not doing anything really
except trying to collect my thoughts. It wasn't a time
that I accomplished very much.
LEHMER: And you didn't have a studio at school?
HEINECKEN: No, I always worked here, actually. I never
was involved in anything that was so large or whatever
that I couldn't actually do it in a conventional room.
LEHMER: Here on Viretta Lane.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. So anyway, that ended.
LEHMER: That went on for a year or six months?
HEINECKEN: I think six months. I think Twinka had
explained to me at one point it wasn't even that long. I
guess it was so intense that it felt like it was a longer
period of time. She was unhappy with what had happened,
but not to the point that she would change it. I mean,
she had to do what she had to do. So anyway, we split up.
I got this place on Venice Boulevard at some point in
there, maybe 1975. I moved there, I had this studio, and
I was beginning to set that up to get going. I'm not
involved with Twinka anymore, although I remember having
her over there. There must have been some overlap between
when I moved into this place-- I was probably still seeing
her. That was the end of that situation. But as I said,
we've remained friends ever since. She's now in Portland
[Oregon]. Joy [Joyce Neimanas] and I saw her a year or so
So the next situation, I guess, is in May of 1976--
April I think. I went to Chicago to do a week's workshop
at Columbia College and at the Art Institute [of Chicago]
in a split situation. Somewhere in the middle of that
week I went to dinner with the faculty of the Art
Institute, and Joy was there. I had known her before from
SPE meetings, but I had never had any real direct contact
LEHMER: Well, I remember she was one of the first people
you asked to come out and teach.
HEINECKEN: That's right. That was 1971, actually.
LEHMER: 'Seventy-one. And for one reason or another she
couldn ' t do it .
HEINECKEN: Yeah. She was on sabbatical that year. As
she would relate it now, she was interested in it. If it
weren't that she was on sabbatical she might have come,
which might have changed the whole thing, or would have
As I said, I had met her, but mostly I had seen her
work often through this time period. I knew obviously she
was an interesting artist, and thought that she would have
fit in with whatever was going on at UCLA, but she
couldn't come. So four years later I meet her again in
this social situation, and we went home together. That's
when all this started obviously, just bang, bang. Of
course, at that point I'm not divorced, but I'm free. I
mean, I'm obviously not going back to that situation.
LEHMER: It's not resolved between you and Janet, but it
seems like it's a separation that may not be formal. It
sounds like you didn't deal with it on a formal level, but
it was like--
HEINECKEN: Yeah. It's not that I don't want to talk
about it, it's just blurred. The whole thing is blurred.
But in her mind, Janet and I formally left here in 1975.
So this would have been a year or something later than
LEHMER: Left the Viretta house.
HEINECKEN: I would have to talk to Janet further about
her feelings or attitude during this point. I think both
of us understood that we were not going to be living
together, whether we should be married or not in relation
to the family. We weren't divorced formally until 1980,
which is a long time to wait to do that. I don't know why
we did that.
So anyway, I came back to Los Angeles, and Joy and I
were on the phone all the time and all the letters and
stuff that goes on like that. In the summer of that year,
1976, she came out to visit me for a week in this new
studio that I had moved into.
LEHMER: In Venice.
HEINECKEN: No, not in Venice, in Culver City, but on
TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE TWO
MARCH 25, 1996
LEHMER: Okay. We finished up where you were moving into
a studio in Culver City. I think you'd mentioned that you
and Janet had moved out of Viretta.
HEINECKEN: No, she stayed here.
LEHMER: She stayed here. Okay.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. She lived here with differing
arrangements between us financially since 1975--when I
left — to 1984. So that's nine years that she-- I'm
looking this up. I'm trying to remember exactly when we
were divorced. I'll have to look these dates up.
I always paid half of the mortgage, the insurance,
everything like that, and actually she lived here free
during that whole time period. At some point we bought
the other half — This is after Joy and I were married. I
bought the other half from her. At that point she left
and went to where she lives now. I have to think about
the dates there more.
LEHMER: Where does Janet live now?
HEINECKEN: She lives in West L.A., like the Pico
[Boulevard] -Sepulveda [Boulevard] area.
LEHMER: Okay. When you came to school here--I'm jumping
back now — in I960-- No, no. It was earlier than that.
When you went back to school full-time, she went back to
HEINECKEN: Right. Or part-time. I'm not sure exactly.
LEHMER: Was this always at UCLA?
LEHMER: Okay. So she's in the medical school at UCLA.
HEINECKEN: Well, it's a teaching hospital.
LEHMER: And she's there all the way through the sixties
HEINECKEN: Uh-huh, until she retired, which was, I think,
after I did. She had been there a long time.
LEHMER: You retired in '91, so she retired after that.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. I think so.
LEHMER: So she's looking at thirty years.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Yeah. Her story about her profession
in relation to that school is interesting but not
necessarily relevant. The reason she retired is that she
became convinced that what she, a professional registered
nurse, was being, at least at that institution-- They just
kept elevating these people until you are no longer a
nurse. You're running a floor or you're supervising other
nurses who aren't registered nurses but are nurses' aides.
That was what happened to the medical profession during
that time. She wasn't interested in being the supervisor.
She wanted to be what she always was, a nurse with the
She also realized that the doctors she's worked with
over a long time period and the residents and interns —
She's begins to sniff out this kind of HMO [health
maintenance organization] attitude that they had and that
they were no longer compassionate to the degree she
thought they should be. They were, in fact, becoming
administrators, and even more of the medical stuff was
being handed over to people who previously weren't thought
of as qualified to do that work. That was her whole
dissatisfaction. She stayed on, I guess, until she had
I was just thinking also at some point here before
1975 — this was not a conscious thing, but it just kind of
happened- -I always went by the name Bob. I mean, anybody
who knew me, like Linda [Connor], will still call me Bob.
Here's two people who when you know someone that long,
that's what you call them, no matter what they call
themselves. At some point in there during this time with
Twinka and Henry Miller, somehow I got this tag name from
him which was Raoul . So I began to use that name . I ' ve
got some picture that he gave me, of his drawings or
whatever, that says, "To Raoul, the mystery man," or some
shit like that. I'm not pretending that I had any
relation to him other than just as this guy hanging around
his house or whatever. But I have a very clear impression
of what he accomplished and how he lived his life, even
though he was like eighty years old by this time and died
shortly after all of this. It was a very interesting
experience to be certainly not inside this circle, but an
adjacent or tangent individual who saw what his life was
like day to day. This was inspiring in terms of someone
who was so important to a certain body of literature or
certain time period still being this renegade person who's
almost dead but still having writers over for dinner and
lunch. They wanted to see him before he died, and he knew
all that. And he played this renegade person. He was
very outspoken, as older people are, about what's going on
with no bullshit. He was a big--this has nothing to do
with anything--Ping-Pong player, and I was a Ping-Pong
player, and we did that. It was a very interesting
But anyway, what I'm saying is somehow I took this
name, which I thought to be kind of romantic, like Raoul
Hausmann. Then at some point I decided I would not be
called Bob anymore; I'd rather be called Robert, because
it was a new life. It was a shedding of whatever had been
my life up till that point with my family, my marriage. I
thought that was sort of typically romantic.
LEHMER: This is '75?
HEINECKEN: Well, someplace in there, yeah. But within
that short period of time I was Raoul. Still when I talk
to people or write people who I knew then-- Like Irene
Borger always calls me Raoul as a joke. She's another
person whom we don't need to get into right now but whom I
was very much affected by- -with her and by her. I still
Okay. So I'm in this studio now in Culver City.
It's July. This I'm not quite certain of, but we can
check it with Joy. We were on the phone all the time and
writing letters all the time. But I'm in the studio. I
was on the second floor, and there was no doorbell or
anything, but there was this bell kind of thing that was
outside, and when you pulled this rope it rang the bell.
I looked down there, and there was Joy just out of the
blue. I didn't have any idea she was coming. She's with
this friend of hers named Robert Loescher, who's this big,
huge, fat guy who's a gay man. He's her best friend
LEHMER: And he's the art historian from the Art Institute
HEINECKEN: Yeah, right.
LEHMER: Where she's employed?
HEINECKEN: Right. His field is pre-Columbian art
history. His subfield is the whole history of sex in art,
particularly gay sex and gay people within art. So he's
very interesting. His is a side of life that I never
really understood. I think one never understands it
unless you are in it or you have someone very close to you
in it or some context for it. For me he was the context
whereby I began to really understand what this was without
a sense of it being strange. Because I just never had any
contact with it. I probably had a typical bourgeois
attitude about it. But he helped me, and Joy.
Anyway, they just show up, and it's like midnight.
They have a cab. I see who it is. I go down and get her,
and he goes off to whatever he's going to do in the cab.
That was like the first time that she ever made a move
that was clearly something like I wasn't visiting her or I
wasn't following her around. She was there.
Then I'm not sure whether it was that visit or a
later visit, but it's now July 6, 1976.
LEHMER: July '76.
HEINECKEN: Right. So we're both living there, but
briefly. I mean, maybe it's a weekend, or maybe it's
she's visiting, or maybe she's been out here a while, I'm
not sure. I can straighten that out with her.
But anyway, what happens is Darryl [J.] and Doris
Curran were obviously-- He's been a good friend of mine
for a long time. We were socially involved with them. He
let us know that he and Doris were going out of town for
the evening and coming back the next day. Would we feed
the cats? --which there were a dozen cats or whatever. We
agreed to do that.
LEHMER: In West L.A.?
HEINECKEN: Yeah, in West L.A. So we did that. We went
over there probably at eight or nine o'clock in the
evening. This would become pertinent later.
But anyway, I have these books. I think I mentioned
they were my grandfather [Friedli Heinecken]'s journals
with his drawings or whatever. I had one of those books
with me in the studio in Culver City. I didn't have a lot
of stuff there. It was just a meager art place rather
than anything comfortable. So I had this book, which is
really a treasure to me and the only original book that I
had. The others I had in storage. I had it with me. I
was always telling Joy how interesting this was. I think
she said, "Well, bring it along. I'll take a look at it."
Anyway, I took this book over there to feed the cats. I
don't know whether we decided we were going to stay over
there before or not. I think we got there, and it was
late. We just thought, "Well, we'll just stay here rather
than go back down to the studio." Maybe we had to come
back the next day or something to feed the cats again.
Anyway, we stayed overnight.
It's early the next morning that this explosion
happens on Venice Boulevard in the block where our studio
was. I can tell you about the explosion later, but it
just levels pretty much the whole block-- Maybe ten
buildings are gone, one of which is this building that we
would have been in that morning if we wouldn't have gone
to feed the cats. If we didn't decide to sleep over there
rather than go back, we would have been dead, there is no
question. There were like forty people who died in this
thing who were the occupants of that entire block. There
were survivors, but--
LEHMER: This is the third close call.
HEINECKEN: Well, we didn't know anything about this,
because we're still over there having breakfast. When the
phone rings, I think one of us is in the shower and one
person answers the phone. It's Eileen Cowin, who had a
studio or a house also in Culver City near where we were.
She's calling Darryl to find out if he knows anything
about what happened--! think she knew Joy was there
probably--to me and Joy. I think I'm in the shower and
Joy picks up the phone to get this message from Eileen,
"Do you know what happened to Heinecken?" I can't
remember who was on the phone or whatever, but she's
calling to tell Darryl that the building is gone, and I
think her assumption was that we were gone, because the
block was this level plane. So we weren't. We were safe.
Bart Parker was teaching at UCLA at the time. He
lived not too far from Culver City, too. She called him,
also. But anyway, it was one of those lucky situations
where we weren't there.
So that place is destroyed. I was absolutely
despondent, because I had just come off of a Guggenheim
[Fellowship] on a sabbatical leave. I had the whole
studio laid out with all these prints. I had just
finished printing a whole edition of these Cliche Vary
prints. I had a lot of other materials stored there that
were all gone, which was very devastating. We just got in
the car and drove for maybe a week or two. We went up
north and tried to forget the whole thing.
But what happened on Venice Boulevard, it turns out,
is that the main pipeline for raw gasoline going from the
LEHMER: El Segundo.
HEINECKEN: --E1 Segundo or wherever down to the next
assisting main distribution, it's a pipe maybe ten feet in
diameter which has raw gas in it, just like it comes out
of the pump. It's moving it from one place to another.
The city of Culver City is doing some repair work not on
the gas pipeline but on something else. There's a
bulldozer in that median there. Now there's no median,
but there was a parkway down that street. He's got a bad
map that he got from Standard Oil [Company of California],
who owns the gasoline, how deep he should go to do
whatever he's doing. He's correct on the map, but the map
is wrong. He hits this pipe and breaks this pipe open,
which instantly vaporizes into the air under extremely
high pressure. So what you've got is this raw vaporized
gasoline, and somewhere somebody lights a cigarette or
there's a spark or something, and it just boom! They
never even found this guy or the bulldozer. That just
disappeared. Because the map was wrong. Standard Oil was
responsible for the accident. Standard Oil is
represented, or it's a conglomerate situation.
I didn't mention before that the guy who owned the
building was a sculptor who had all his sculpture stuff on
the first floor, and on the adjacent lot were his big
metal outdoor sculpture pieces. Mike Todd was his name.
So he owned the building and also lost a lot of his work.
His wife actually was a lawyer.
We took them all to court. It took like eighteen
months to get it. I think I probably got $30,000 or
something like that. I used that money to get into the
next studio, which we also made some money on. We moved
to Inglewood to a studio there, which we turned around
okay, which finally gave me the money to get back in here
[Viretta Lane] . So it was fortuitous that that money
happened as a result of a tragedy.
LEHMER: But the sacrifice for that money was losing that
HEINECKEN: Well, in the long run-- I was upset at the
time, but it's not as bad as losing your life, which we
would have. The place was a two-story building. All of
these were two-story buildings. There were bars there.
One of these buildings was a place where the Mexican
families all lived, where all the guys were working here
and there. So there were about, I don't know, forty women
and children in this one building living in this
destitute, crowded poverty, and that whole building went.
LEHMER: Okay. So you get back in here after three
HEINECKEN: One of the reasons we went away was we just
had to get out of town definitely. I'm pretty sure that
the lease — Or that I was going to leave that building
within a month or something, because I had lined up the
other studio on Washington Boulevard, which is only a
couple of blocks from this one. Joy wouldn't remember it,
When we came back after our drive, we moved into this
other studio, anyway. So we had a place to go.
LEHMER: This was during the summer?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. I think it was right around July 4,
'76. It was the bicentennial celebration of 1776.
LEHMER: Okay. So now you're with Joy.
HEINECKEN: Well, I think I'm wrong. I didn't go into
that studio inunediately.
Stan Mock-- By the way, do you know him?
LEHMER: I know the name. I've heard the name.
HEINECKEN: He and I eventually bought this building
together. He was already on the ground floor of the
studio, and somebody else was in the upstairs where I
I think before that happened we went back to Chicago.
I went back there with her, because whatever leave time
she was on was over. I have to check with Joy about this,
because she's more accurate with it. I think we went back
to Chicago and lived there, and she went back to teaching.
Then probably a year later we came back and went into this
other studio. Because '76 was the first year. I think I
was still on leave through the academic year there, and I
went to Chicago at that point. I have that written down
LEHMER: So you set up a studio on Washington because you
were in a transitional state, ready to do that within a
HEINECKEN: I think. I'll get this straight.
LEHMER: And then you ended up going back to Chicago for a
HEINECKEN: Or maybe six months the first time or
something like that.
LEHMER: I was going to say that you and Joy had worked
out an interesting cooperative arrangement where you would
spend a couple of years on leave from UCLA and she would
HEINECKEN: Well, that actually developed a little bit
later, I think. Initially, I know the first time that we
did this, it wasn't two years. It was one year or
something like that, and maybe she came out here for one
year. But within the next three years we had established
this two-year, back-and- forth plan. That, again, I can
look up to be accurate. I think the point simply is that
it was this huge destructive thing- -
Oh, the book. I forgot about the book. So we took
this book to Doris's. If I had lost that book I would
have been very upset, because it's a family treasure. I
never should have had it in that studio in the first
place. So that was why I was telling it that way.
Of course, people like Stan, who is living in this
studio there — Eileen was there. Bart Parker lived down
there someplace. They all assumed we were dead. Because
you couldn't even get within a half a mile of this thing.
It was just a disaster area with all the fire people. The
fire didn't even get put out. It's just like the top of
an oil well with this stuff burning off until they can get
it all capped off.
LEHMER: Incredible. Okay. I'm trying to wrap up this
HEINECKEN: Yes. The situation develops out of this fire
thing. I'm pretty sure we didn't move into that studio.
We went back to Chicago.
This is important, too. At some point in here--I
guess it must have been before this- -I had this
opportunity to go to Hawaii, or I was doing an exhibition
there and they wanted me to come over and do a workshop
and a lecture and whatever. And I said yes, I would go.
I think Joy was in Chicago still. I called her and said,
"Look, you need to go to Hawaii with me." Well, she said,
"I don't have any money." And I said, "I don't have any
money," because I didn't. She borrowed the money from her
grandmother or something, which was about $500, and went
to Hawaii with me. I remember at that point we got to
talking more seriously about what we were going to do. I
think she was still married at that point or recently
divorced or going to be divorced. But it was on this
Hawaii trip where I think we had a rather serious
discussion about what we were going to do as adults and
possibly even discussed going back and forth. Actually,
we said we loved each other and decided that we would try
to figure out what to do with it.
LEHMER: Yeah. That's a tough situation. I'm sure the
initial thought, which would be more traditional, is that
one of you is going to have to give up your situation if
you love each other and you decide you want to live
together. I think it's kind of ingenious. I don't know
that I ever heard of people being able to create a
situation where they actually don't give up their careers.
HEINECKEN: Well, it could only happen if you're two
higher-education teachers. No other teacher, like at a
high school or whatever, could do that. And most people
who are in business or whatever, they can't do that.
LEHMER: I wonder how many higher-education teachers can
do that, too, in a sense. I mean, you have to be fairly
reputable for them to give you that leave.
HEINECKEN: Well, maybe. You have to be more willing to
accept the idea that you're really going to work for half
pay. I mean, you're going to work half-time. There are
going to be blocks of time with full pay and zero pay.
Well, we've got two people with tenure making the decision
to spend their time differently. It wouldn't have
happened unless you had two artists or two similar people
in regards to their personal work.
LEHMER: Robert, what's the date of Hawaii approximately?
HEINECKEN: I can tell you that, probably. It's one of
the things that didn't show up in this book, but I think I
wrote it in there. In fact, let's just look while we're
thinking about it. You can shut that off.
At some point Geoffrey gets married briefly. I don't
know exactly what year, because it's not in here. Janet
can figure that out. But he lives in Los Angeles.
LEHMER: Okay. He's graduated from high school. He and
Kathe graduate from high school in '73, approximately, or
early seventies. Then a few years out he's married.
HEINECKEN: Well, they're born in '55.
LEHMER : ' Fi f ty- f i ve .
HEINECKEN: ' Seventy -three they're out of high school,
LEHMER: Okay. Karol graduates approximately four years
later, '77. That's when you're in Chicago on a leave.
She's living with Janet, and Janet is living in West L.A.
HEINECKEN: Well, she's living here [Viretta] , actually.
LEHMER: Oh, that's right. Okay. Karol is going to
school at Uni[versity] High School from Viretta. She's
another Beverly Glen-Uni High kid. Then she graduates,
and Geoff marries.
HEINECKEN: Somewhere in there, yeah.
LEHMER: And you said briefly or something.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Well, this is vague because I was
disinvolved. I think he was married for less than a year.
I remember the wedding.
LEHMER: This is approximately that same time period that
Kathe was in Venice?
HEINECKEN: Yeah, it would have been. Right. Karol ' s
still in school or just getting out of school.
LEHMER: Now, you said disinvolved. When you were
separated from Janet and you were living in Culver City,
what kind of a relationship did you have with your kids?
I mean, time-wise did you get together with them weekly or
monthly? Or was it more sporadic than that? What kind of
relationship did you have with your family and Janet, too,
at this time?
HEINECKEN: Well, we had a plan that we would get
together, the kids and I. They were certainly-- Kathe and
Geoff were completely devastated by it. I don't know how
much they knew about what was going on that Janet and I
knew about between us. You sense things like that, but
they certainly weren't ready for this eventuality. And
Janet I don't think would have seen me. I would say
disengaged, or this state of mind where your focus is not
on what you did wrong or your devastation but you ' re
leaving. It's on what the opportunities are now, with
Twinka in this case, and so on.
They, like all tragedies, they got over it. Janet
certainly got over it, even though there was no
reconciliation of it. But it was a resolution that they
understood as time passed. It had to happen; there was no
question about that. It was one of those things which I
just did wrong. I mean, I could have done it completely
rationally like some people do--trial separation,
counseling, trying to figure out how to get back together.
All of those things we never did. I don't think Janet
would have. She was too hurt. I think luckily they were
gone from the household, the older kids.
LEHMER: The twins.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Because it would have been even worse.
Karol probably took the brunt of that problem.
LEHMER: You mentioned earlier that the kids, the twins,
were devastated or hurt by this, but you didn't mention
Karol. Karol 's in high school, I think, and--
HEINECKEN: Or just finishing, '77.
LEHMER: It's got to be.
HEINECKEN: We wished we'd ended it the following year,
LEHMER: Was she more independent from the family, do you
think? Or how do you think she responded to this?
HEINECKEN: I haven't discussed it with them, actually.
Maybe I will just in terms of a more full record of
everybody's feelings. That's possible to expand that in
some ways with them.
Now, for instance, everybody understands what's now
is now. I certainly understand that whatever was going on
with Janet and me was not productive for anybody. I think
there was a period even when I was not pleased with all
this. I had remorse. Everybody has that. But you kind
of move on.
I think I am very fortunate that because of Janet ' s
personality and her temperament we're on better terms now
than we ever- -not ever were- -but I mean during this time
period. So she's completely or probably pleased with what
finally happened out of all this rather than going through
more time, which was not a good time. I think of her as a
good friend now. We were over there yesterday. Joy and
she fully discussed her medical problems and whatever.
She's empathetic to things like that. She knows what the
inside of her operation is and so on. So it's like a
family again in the sense of we see each other, we get
together, we have dinners with Janet and the group. Joy
is simply a part of that extended group.
LEHMER: Well, on the surface it might seem that you
didn't necessarily resolve the devastation, but it sounds
incredibly well resolved when you think of how many
relationships never get resolved. It's a working
situation that I think is somewhat unique.
The chain of events is marrying, having children, and
the children growing up. You and Janet separate and then
finally divorce around '80.
HEINECKEN: ' Eighty- four .
LEHMER : ' Eighty- four .
HEINECKEN: I think that's it.
LEHMER: You and Joy marry at that point.
HEINECKEN: Nineteen eighty divorce, yeah. But '84, I
think, is when we bought the house from her.
LEHMER: So she lived here till '84 in the Viretta Lane
HEINECKEN: She actually lent me about $100,000, Janet
did. She took the mortgage on this house, and we paid her
until that loan was paid off. That was another clear
indication that she was trying to help us, at least
financially, and fully understood the situation, or else
she wouldn't have lent me the money, which I thought was
just amazing. In fact, she called me and said that she
had found this house that she liked and she could afford,
and would I like to buy my half of the house. I'd always
been asking her every once in a while, because I wanted to
get back here, obviously.
LEHMER: To the Viretta house.
HEINECKEN: So she's the one who actually initiated that
exchange. And I said, "Then lend me the money," which was
I may have said this before, and I don't know if it's
pertinent, but she never wanted to be married. I told you
that whole story, I guess. Marriage was something that
was sort of pushed on us. She dates people. It wasn't
because our marriage failed that-- She just never was a
person who would have needed to be married or needed to
have children. She had her own professional goals in life
that didn't necessarily include the conventionality of
marriage and family and things like that. Her father
left. She has a younger sister [Doris Storey], maybe two
years younger. She never knew her father; he was never
there. When the second child was born or was going to be
born, he left. They never saw him again. Nobody ever saw
him. She grew up with her mother and this younger sister.
Her mother was a nurse, her grandmother was a nurse, her
great -grandmother was a nurse, that kind of thing.
LEHMER: You marry Joy in '84.
HEINECKEN: I think so.
LEHMER: Joyce Neimanas. I don't know if I mentioned it
HEINECKEN: This is her married name from her first
LEHMER: She kept that, like many artists do.
HEINECKEN: Yeah, because that was the name she was known by
professionally. Incidentally, we're good friends with these
people who lived a couple of blocks from us in Chicago.
LEHMER: The Neimanases.
HEINECKEN: The Neimanases, right. I don't think she
minds me saying this. The thing that broke them up really
was — I don't know, certainly there were probably other
factors, but he [John Neimanas] definitely wanted to have
children desperately. I don't know why. His father's a
Lutheran minister in Latvia or Lithuania and is a
fantastic person in another right, this guy. As I
understand it, the situation with them was that at this
point Joy would be either out of school, beginning to
teach, or whatever, but realizes that there's no way she
can have the career she wants if she has children. As
much as she might love children, there was just no way
that she was going to do that. For a woman at that age to
have the insight to know that that isn't something-- She
has to make a choice there that's either you're going to
work hard at being an artist or you're going to have to
dilute that if you have a family. He now has four kids or
something like that, which he's very happy with, I'm sure.
He was also an art student and taught art in high school
but left that.
LEHMER: Okay. You're married in '84. At that same point
you and Janet work out a system for you to move back into
the Viretta house.
HEINECKEN: Or buying it.
LEHMER: Buying it.
HEINECKEN: Buying my half. In the divorce settlement we
switched from joint ownership to joint tenants or vice
versa. As I said, I paid all the taxes and repairs and
the stuff during that time, because it just seemed
appropriate to do that.
LEHMER: Now, after going through a divorce, why--? One
last question: Why did you and Joy finally decide to get
married after you'd both been through marriages?
HEINECKEN: Well, that's a good question. I'm not sure.
We certainly wouldn ' t have had to be married to have the
same life that we had. But I think both of us agreed
that — I certainly would feel this way now, at least, that
with our relationship developing the way it did we had to
do something symbolic to, I guess, solidify the idea that
nobody's going to screw around anymore. Her list of
people that she slept with is extensive like mine, because
it was the time. So I think the marriage was not
important for any legal reasons necessarily, although that
always helps. It was a commitment to say, "Okay, we're
going to be together until we decide not to, but we're
going to have a life that's the two of us; no extramarital
bullshit and all that." I think that's the way I think of
it, and I think she would agree.
LEHMER: Where were you married?
HEINECKEN: In Boston. I don't know why we did it there.
But it was because Carl [Chiarenza] was there. Carl and
Deke Morrison were the best men or whatever.
LEHMER: Deke from your Marine fighter days?
LEHMER: And Carl from your teaching.
HEINECKEN: Right. And actually we got married-- There
was a church next to Carl's house, which I think was a
Unitarian church or something. We did it there because it
was close, and then we had this reception at Carl's house.
LEHMER: And that was in '84?
HEINECKEN: I think so.
HEINECKEN: I don't know.
HEINECKEN: August, I think. I'll ask Joy what her
perception of that was, because it would be interesting
for me to hear it or know it, I guess. I don't think
there was a long discussion about it. We had been
together for nine years and had been in a sense married
that long-- I mean, living together and not having any
other activities outside of that.
TAPE NUMBER: V, SIDE ONE
MARCH 31, 1996
LEHMER: Today, Robert, I wanted to go over a few things.
I wanted to back up just a bit to the beginning of your
teaching. We've covered the start of that somewhat, but I
had a few questions I wanted to start out with on that.
Then that will get us rolling into teaching up to '75 or
something like that, which is where you were pretty much
continuously teaching, except for sabbaticals. If I'm not
mistaken, from that point on you started doing two years
on, two years off.
HEINECKEN; Yeah, that's correct.
LEHMER: Okay. First question I have, who were the
tenured faculty at the time of your coming up for tenure?
I think you had mentioned to me before that it was not
simply you coming up for tenure, but the art department at
UCLA was going to expand their curriculum to take in
photography. Second- -
HEINECKEN: There are two distinctions there. One-- Well,
I talked about the undergraduate program versus the
graduate program, because those are two different entities
in a sense.
HEINECKEN: I interrupted you, which I shouldn't.
LEHMER: Okay, maybe we could start out with that. Then
the third question that I have gets into the faculty.
First, who were the tenured faculty at that time, if you
can think back. Secondly, who was in support of that
expansion, because I know you had mentioned that there was
a concerted effort. Maybe we should go into a brief
description of the consolidation of the curriculum and the
elimination of some directions in the art department and
the effort to narrow the scope- -then at that moment you
were asking them to broaden to accept photography. It was
a lot to ask. Maybe you could back up enough to tell us
what the struggle was in that case. But first off, who
were the tenured faculty at that time? I've got some
names down here. Maybe we can add to it.
HEINECKEN: Right. Some of these people, like the younger
ones like Elliot [J.] Elgart, maybe wouldn't be tenured at
that point. Bill [William J.] Brice, which you have
there, and [Jan] Stussy and [Samuel] Amato and Gordon [M. ]
Nunes you don't have here. And I think Diebenkorn —
LEHMER: Richard Diebenkorn.
HEINECKEN: Richard Diebenkorn came at some point in here.
I can't recall his direct participation in these early
debates, because maybe he came after that, but I think
that's really all the people that were there. You note
they're all men, although-- Let's see. I guess I did
mention that when I was there at first there were women
LEHMER: Two, I think.
HEINECKEN: Yeah, principally two that I had studied with,
but by this time I think they would have been gone.
Although-- Well, I shouldn't say gone. They were probably
there, but they were at the edge of their career, being
ready to retire. They probably weren't involved in these
confrontations, because I don't recall that, but they
might have been there. Dorothy [W.] Brown, I think I
actually worked for her while I was in school. I'm just
not sure whether it was prior to this time.
LEHMER: That name reminded me of Ray [Raymond B.] Brown,
and he ' s not on the scene yet .
HEINECKEN: Ray Brown would be a contemporary with me but
not involved in this decision. Ray Brown's situation, I
think, was interesting, because-- Oh, and John Paul Jones.
I forgot Jones .
LEHMER: Okay. And Chipper —
HEINECKEN: And [Donald W. ] Chipperf ield, right. Although
he was not part of this so-called pictorial arts
department; he was in the design department.
LEHMER: John Paul Jones was--
HEINECKEN: A printmaker.
LEHMER: The year of that was 1966? 'Sixty-five, '66?
HEINECKEN: Yeah, I would think something like that.
LEHMER: Even though you didn't come up for tenure until
'66, I'm sure this was beginning to take place beforehand.
Was It a year, two years before?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Maybe this Is a good time to just kind
of start It. I would be kind of hard-pressed to come up
with an actual number of classes or whatever in the
undergraduate division, although, from the time that I
started there in 1960 there would have been courses in
[UCLA University] Extension that I was teaching and
actually using as a way to construct teaching ideas, even
though these were adult people rather than students. But
their motives and their Interests in the medium were
pretty much the same as anybody ' s . They don ' t know
anything about art and photography. They're interested in
photography; they know what that is. So the point I'm
making here is that Extension served as a basis for the
inclusion in a regular program, because we used Extension
that way all the time. If students weren't sufficiently
prepared, whether it be undergraduate students or
graduates, they would go to Extension, as I mentioned that
I did, which was a different situation. So Extension was
a kind of proving ground not only for students who were
not adequately prepared but for faculty. Like all of the
part-time faculty in painting would have come out of
Extension first. That's where they would have started.
Not these guys, but all of the part-time people were
chosen based on their experience with Extension classes,
because they could be observed, graded, evaluated,
whatever. That's aside from the point, I guess. So let's
just put the undergraduate thing on hold for a moment here
until I can collect more data about that.
It was clear that at that time I was teaching drawing
courses-- I taught all the courses that this other guy
had. Chipper field, which would have included beginning
drawing classes. I'm trying to think of his courses. He
taught these drawing courses, basic design courses.
There's something else here I'm forgetting about. Oh, he
was involved in what we would have thought of as practical
work in terms of exhibitions, and he was connected to the
[Wight Art] Gallery, also. So there were courses he would
see as like putting together exhibitions--
HEINECKEN: Yeah, preparator, but not really the physical.
But there was just stuff that he was interested in which
were exhibition ideas--
LEHMER: Exhibition design?
HEINECKEN: Design, exhibition content. He actually worked,
I suppose, on top of everything else he did, in the
gallery or for the gallery in their program. Somewhere I
probably have good records on that.
I think what we want to suggest or understand here Is
simply that beginning in 1960, when I started, it would
have been with those courses. Throughout that year or
year and a half he was still thinking that he would come
back, and then at some point he doesn't.
By 1962 we have the first — This Ken [Kenneth]
McGowan guy that I mentioned before, who was a painting
student, excellent graduate student or undergraduate who
then went into the graduate program-- But in 1962 I think
he took his degree. What he showed in his M.A. show were
photographs, personal photographs he had made, along with
his drawings and paintings. I can't help but think,
because he was such a talented guy, that-- I mean, he was
sort of the star of that graduate period of time. If it
would have been some other student who wasn ' t so talented
in some of the other fields it wouldn't have had the same
effect as he did. And he was terrific. Now, he later
died of AIDS, which is simply a side note on him. But
after he got out of graduate school most of his personal
work remained in photography. That's how he got his
exhibition record going. As gifted as he was in these
other fields, he just sensed that photography was
something that he wanted to do.
LEHMER: So he died of AIDS?
HEINECKEN: By that time he had established himself as a
photographer. He was showing In different places and had
publications going, was Included In group shows and things
LEHMER: This must have been like twenty years later.
LEHMER: His graduate show was In '62 —
HEINECKEN: ' Sixty- two, yeah.
LEHMER: So It must have been like twenty years later. He
must have been one of the first people to —
HEINECKEN: Certainly It was Interesting, because the time
period wasn't that someone was In or out of the closet. It
was that he was who he was. His pictures now would
suggest that kind of lifestyle or that kind of method, but
no one had any problems. It wasn't an Issue. Of course,
the AIDS thing Is always an Issue, but that was certainly
HEINECKEN: I wish I had my records on this, because these
things are easy to look up but hard to remember. Like who
those guys were making the decision about this. But was
Diebenkorn there? I don't know. Things like that. But
that we just have to float with at this point.
LEHMER: I think what would be good in this segment of the
oral history is, to the best of your recollection, now —
What I think will come out is not necessarily the cold,
hard fact, because for all we know we might be able to go
through-- I don't know if there were very well-kept notes
of the art department faculty meeting, and I don't know--
HEINECKEN: Well, there would have been, but whether they
survived any time period I don't know.
LEHMER: Yeah. And then in a couple of weeks you're going
down, and then I'm trying to get down, to Tucson. We
could probably look up what they have there.
What I think would be interesting on this level at
this moment was you were trying to recall--and I put a lot
of value in that- -who you would feel was, of that tenured
faculty-- I think we probably pretty well figured out who
they were. Who was really in support of that? And who
resisted it, to the best of your recollection? And you
probably know why they resisted it.
HEINECKEN: Well, I think I mentioned Bill Brice as a
proponent, and I cited that not only was he a broad-
thinking individual, his family had come out of the
entertainment business and so on. I think he definitely
would have been the most supportive person. I don't know
what their discussions were about, but his discussions
with me were always very positive about what I was trying
to do, and I think it's simply because he was a broad-
I think Gordon Nunes would probably have been the
most adamant detractor in this. He's an interesting
character in all of this, because he's probably there
longer than any of these people. He was like the
patriarch. He was older than most of those people by at
least five years. He pretty much ran it philosophically.
You just didn't do something offhandedly. Or you wouldn't
have set up a proposition to vote on that you thought you
could win over him, because it wouldn't win. It's hard to
explain a guy like this. He constructed the whole UCLA
art department philosophically in some sense, which was a
very rigid, serious business. Art was a serious business,
and it wasn't decoration and all of the kind of things
that fly around art. He was definitely the leader of this
group, and he was not convinced that photography was going
to fit into whatever he determined that department to be.
I don't know how that was reconciled within this group,
but I keep stressing it's not anything that was like one
day it wasn ' t there and the next day it was . When I start
there till when I get tenured, that's a seven-year period
in which these things are constantly being evaluated. I'm
pushing it, not knowing whether I'm going to be there or
not, but it's not, bang, someone decides this. It's a
working process where not until probably 1967 do we have
our first graduate student graduating. Something like
that. Even that we can look up in our notes.
Prior to that it was this McGowan guy or Carl Cheng
or Pat [Patrick] O'Neil, who were working mostly in other
fields. The structure of the department at that time was
that you could have, as I did, one artist, one historian,
one design person was my committee. So now it's rigid.
You have to have four people. They have to be from the
art department and so on. It was much more flexible then,
because no one knew what they were doing yet . I don ' t
know what the point was there.
LEHMER: Where would you put Elliot Elgart on this scale?
HEINECKEN: Well, I think he's contemporary with me, or
maybe he came a year before.
LEHMER: He's newly tenured.
HEINECKEN: No, he's not tenured.
LEHMER: He's not tenured?
HEINECKEN: No. He would have been an instructor or
assistant professor or something. I think because of our
similar situations he's the only person there that I ever
became friends with, really--close, personal friends. I
think it was because we were in the same system of being
evaluated, although I think he was a year or so in front
of me, because he was there when I came. All of the rest
of them remained colleagues--some closer, some further.
Nunes, for instance, I don't know of anybody that got
really close to him except Ray Brown. They were sort of
buddies. This is not a criticism, but Ray Brown got a lot
of his attitudes, his way of behavior, his way of
obstructing things that he didn't feel were right, from
Gordon Nunes. That was exactly the way that he controlled
LEHMER: You might say Gordon Nunes was his mentor.
HEINECKEN: Yeah, exactly. And they had similar
personalities. Nunes was like that. You never quite knew
what something was going to turn into. You needed someone
like Gordon Nunes holding this whole thing together in
terms of philosophy and direction. Maybe Ray saw himself
in the same position, and he was also very effective in
some ways as a leader.
LEHMER: Let's back up on a couple of people. Jan Stussy
had been there since the forties, if I remember correctly.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Brice and Stussy and Amato all came at
the same time. They were all right out of the service,
probably, 1946 or '47. And those three people, maybe with
Nunes, were in fact the-- I mentioned before UCLA was
rated one of the highest-ranking art schools in the
country somewhere in the late fifties, and it was
primarily because of these three or four people. They
were the ones that were there.
There were other people in that time period like
LEHMER: Did he teach down here?
HEINECKEN: You know, as a part-- Not part-time, but a
year or two--
LEHMER: Visiting lecturer or--
HEINECKEN: It wouldn't have been that, but something like
Fred [Frederick S.] Wight, who was the director of
the gallery at that time, was a very well-known local
painter, even though he was an older person, but he
painted right up until the day he died. He was a very
visible name in many artist circles here.
John Paul Jones was probably the most visible
printmaker in Los Angeles during this time period, along
with maybe four or five other people.
These people were important. They were young
artists, but they were all very ambitious in terms of
their own work and creating at UCLA basically what was
called pictorial arts at that time. They renamed it
because that's exactly what they wanted it to be.
Photography doesn't fit in or outside of that,
necessarily. They're seeing it as something you — You
manipulate paint and manipulate whatever to make it a good
picture, whatever they determine that to be.
LEHMER: So they're looking at having a lot of control
over the medium- -creating, manipulating the canvas, the
paint, the print, the ink —
HEINECKEN: But see, it's —
LEHMER: --where a straight photograph would not fit into
that. Where all you're doing is click and turn.
HEINECKEN: No, I wouldn't say that, but that's an
interesting question, because I think in a lot of people's
minds — You can certainly say Edward Weston to these
people, and they would say, "Yes, this is an artist." His
photographs, of course, are not manipulated, but they
certainly recognize that the quality of his own work is a
contribution to the idea of art in photography. So I'm
not sure that that would have been the case.
Stussy, I think, made montage photographs either
during this time or before. His inclination towards
photography was the collage or montage, that type of
LEHMER: So he would probably be on the side that would be
supportive? He'd be on Bill Brice's side of--
HEINECKEN: Well, yeah. When I was first in school I took
courses with Stussy, and I got to know him. For some
reason he remembered me, and he was always telling me I
was a bad-- Not a bad student, but not a good student of
anatomical drawings. It might have been one of the
courses I flunked, I'm not sure. He was a stickler for
that anatomy stuff. That, of course, is all gone now. In
fact, he gave it up. But you knew every bone in the body,
and you drew it endlessly from skeletons and whatever.
LEHMER: And Sam Amato, I think of him as a serious
painter. Now, the reason I'm asking this is that if we
look ahead from this point, you've definitely made some
nationally recognized contributions to photography
education, and you, I'm sure, have won over a lot of the
faculty. I think you contributed to the conversion of a
lot of people as to the credibility of photography. But
at this moment it's new, and you're trying to educate
them. You're trying to justify the medium. You're trying
to explore something that's new. I'm not trying to set up
a situation where there's good guys and bad guys, but it's
a situation where there's at least two things that you've
mentioned that could contribute to the resistance of
photography. One, of course, which I think is interesting
and that we should explore more, is, does it fall into
that category of pictorial arts? The other is-- And now
I'm forgetting what my point was, but there are various
reasons. It's new at that point, and--
HEINECKEN: Yeah, and it's not maybe dissimilar from other
institutions at the same time beginning to have the same
inclinations. I think UCLA was different, with such a
strong painting art department that it probably took
longer, in a sense, to get something really going there
than it would have in San Francisco State [University] ,
where you have the same thing going on. Jack [W.] Welpott
is starting a program there, not a graduate program at
that point. And the [San Francisco] Art Institute there
had photographic programs from Minor White and Ansel
The difference here is I don't think there would have
been any question--and maybe there wasn't really any
question in their minds- -about whether photography could
be an undergraduate course. Anybody would think if you're
going to be a painter, or whatever you're going to be, you
are going to use photographs in some way, because
everybody does for models and even for stupid things like
documentation. You have to know that in order to really
be an effective artist of any type. You have to know
something about it .
And maybe it ' s not the easiest thing to convince
anybody of, but one of the more simple things is that you
put that camera up to your head, and you make a photograph
of that, and you make a print of that, a black-and-white
print, and you realize you can print it any way that you
want. It's not like seeing it. And we all know that;
that's the simplest thing there is about it. You make a
snapshot of your kids or whatever. You sense the
difference between the event and the realistic
representation of that or the facade of that event. And
to make that distinction for a student artist is
important. Not that the photograph matters so much, but
there is something that is different.
So I think any mature artist in any medium during
this time period would certainly understand that if you're
educating someone you certainly can ' t leave out
photography. But whether that becomes a viable vehicle
for personal expression as they would want it was
LEHMER: In other words, whether you —
HEINECKEN: I mean, it's almost like saying you want to
know how to photograph and know about it so that you can
reject it in favor of the manual methods. In other words,
it's to understand the difference so that you don't even
have to go through the problem of how to make it into art.
It's just what it is. It's just an important medium that
any person should know about that's going to be an artist,
or be an educated artist.
What I was trying to say about the undergraduate
program was it was really being supported by that idea
that it's not whether undergraduate students or Extension
students make art or not. They're involved in something,
and there's a definite sequence of things that you learn
about making photographs that can be taught . And it ' s
valuable. That was never a problem, never a question.
Whether this became part of the undergraduate curriculum,
which is different than having a course, and certainly
whether it became part of the graduate program, that was
the issue. Whether you would actually take students in
not just because they understood photography and how to do
it or not do it, but they would use it to be artists.
That was the big question. It still is a big question, I
think, for some people.
LEHMER: You may have been on committees, graduate
committees, but you did not have a graduate with an
emphasis in photography until '67 or '68 or '69--
HEINECKEN: Well, for that we have to look at the —
LEHMER: What you're leading to is that UCLA did not have
a graduate program until you were tenured. And UCLA
didn't really have photography as part of the curriculum
that you're discussing until you are tenured.
HEINECKEN: I think that's correct. That's something we
should look at, definitely.
LEHMER: Most of the time I think of people coming up for
tenure based on their qualifications as a faculty member,
based on the teaching, research- -
HEINECKEN: And their promise as an artist. Yeah. But
all these people were functioning artists. It wasn't
about what you sold or even if you exhibited. You had to
have the lifestyle that these people represented. It's
not unique to UCLA.
LEHMER: No. But you've got another roadblock that you
have to circumvent, and not necessarily circumvent but
tear down, and that is the whole idea that your career is
also based on whether or not they accept photography into
HEINECKEN: On a graduate level.
LEHMER: On a graduate level.
HEINECKEN: As it now is. I mean, now it's just a unit
more or less equal to anything else as opposed to
something where you-- As I said, the first students
really- -McGowan was one, Pat O'Neil was another, and Carl
Cheng — very skilled and very highly developed in other
fields like sculpture and painting. Pat O'Neil was still
in the design department or something but doing
experimental films which were right up there with the best
being made in the city.
LEHMER: So he's well respected for —
HEINECKEN: You wouldn't say those people were given an
M.A. degree or even an M.F.A. later on the basis that they
were-- Well, they were filmmakers, they were sculptors,
whatever, but — I'm just reminiscing — that seems okay. The
film is obviously something, and experimental films at
that time were a very big thing at UCLA in the film
department, so we understood all that. Not to bring up
McGowan again, but it's like all of these early people,
whether they were in the photography graduate program or
not, were viewed as being as good as young artists as
anybody else was, whether they were painting or not.
LEHMER: Where do you think Sam Amato fell on this
HEINECKEN: I think Sam probably was, as he is today, a
modulator kind of guy. He's not ever going to raise his
voice at anything, or rarely. He's a-- What's the word I
LEHMER: Consensus- -
HEINECKEN: Well, he's a mediator. And I don't think he
ever likes-- Like Gordon Nunes would sit down and want to
argue with you for an hour and a half. Sam would never do
anything like that. It just wasn't worth his time, or it
wasn't that interesting. So I think he was probably
someone who was understanding of the whole thing and
probably was helpful in it. I can't imagine that he was
resisting it, because it wasn't his nature to resist much.
LEHMER: And then Richard Diebenkorn was there. He might
have taken part, but he wasn't like a voting member.
HEINECKEN: There's a whole other story about him which we
don ' t need to go into here . I'm not even sure he was
there during this time period. At some point he was a
good friend of Bill Brice's. They were friends before any
of this. And it was largely at Bill's, I think —
Actually, getting Diebenkorn even to consent to be
teaching- -because he wasn't that famous at that point, but
he knew that he would be- -was really a-- He sort of
consented to do this work. He was full-time, but it
wasn't like he was there all the time.
There was the other story I'll tell you later. I
think it was probably after this time period. We'll see
where the dates fall here, because we have to look that
up, but at some point you have the first person--I'm going
to have to look and see who that might be- -who is not a
well-rounded graduate student but is there to make
photographs and is convincing in what he or she does and
has that-- It's an M.A. or M.F.A. in photography. That's
what we don't know. I have to look and see who that is,
because there will be a time associated with that.
LEHMER: And I'm wondering if William Doherty would fall
HEINECKEN: Doherty wasn't — He was also —
LEHMER: A filmmaker.
HEINECKEN: — a filmmaker, right. His photographs were so
demanding of him that he gave up filmmaking. He switched
that moment when he first saw what that could be. If he
wouldn't have killed himself he would have been-- He
wouldn't have been [Garry] Winogrand, but he would have
been someone like that. He was so intense about
everything he did. I don't know what happened to him, why
he did it.
LEHMER: Okay. I want to get this on the record but not
go into it at this moment. I want us to think about down
the road. As a tenured faculty member you're facing the
same decision with someone else who faced it with you, and
I'm thinking of new genres and Chris Burden. I think
that's important for us to discuss too, because this is
part of your career as a faculty member.
HEINECKEN: I forgot one thing. Oliver [W.] Andrews was a
sculptor in this, which I forgot, and he was very
HEINECKEN: Andrews, right.
HEINECKEN: This is not so important, but sculpture at
that time was not a major force at this program. So I
think Oliver and I always — We weren't close friends, but
we were like the outsiders in a sense. When certain votes
would come up about this or that, we would discuss how we
would vote, because we represented the non-painting
faculty, which is always interesting to me, that he —
LEHMER: Robert, what I've learned that I never really
understood and obviously still don't have a full grasp of,
but I have begun to respect since I've been at UCLA, is
this relationship that you have with other tenured
faculty. In a sense you're in bed with them for thirty
years on a certain level. You have to coexist. I'm
wondering if you could go into that, as an artist and as a
faculty member what it was like in the art department.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Let me just think of something here.
Well, one thing which I keep mentioning, and I'm thinking
that I'm not clarifying it much, but 1960 starts either
the first M.F.A. degree given or is when that program
starts as opposed to the M.A. degree. Every art -related
teaching unit within what was then the College of Applied
Arts in the university is figuring out how to respond.
Home economics was part of it, all of the things that are
still part of — Music, dance, whatever, although dance
probably wasn't developed much at that point — maybe, I
don't know. The point is that in the spirit of re-
evaluating what kind of educational divisions you will
make within the newly formed College of Fine Arts — Right?
So I don't know what happened exactly in the music and
theater and the other departments, but in the art
department the first thing that was dropped was art
education completely out of the university. So all those
people who had those jobs, bang, they're gone or they're
given notice. We had silversmithing. These were all
within the-- I guess at that time it was called the
Department of Art History.
The ceramics program, which was a big program under
Laura [F.] Andreson. Students would come from all over
the world to study with this woman.
LEHMER: What was her name?
HEINECKEN: Laura Andreson. She was probably the most
well-known ceramicist in Southern California. And it was
her program. She was older. I actually took courses, or
took a course, with her when I was there as a student.
Ceramics remained, but for some reason she was gone, the
program was cut. Ceramics was probably half of the design
department. She had all kinds of famous people in there
all the time in one of the largest teaching areas. But
that got cut back severely.
LEHMER: Was it that time that she was there that Peter
Voulkos came in? Or later?
HEINECKEN: I would think later, but I'm not sure. She
was a pure ceramicist. She made these vases that were
just beautiful, and glazes were her whole thing. She was
famous for this. But it's one of the things that got cut
So the thing is, how are we going to redesign the art
department in terms of what's no longer there? I think
pictorial arts was what the name of painting people was.
Design was split off, which part of that time it wasn't,
into the Department of Design. Art history separated
later, in a sense, into their own unit. So there were
three teaching units in the Department of Art during this
time period after 1960.
LEHMER: So it's been there for quite a while, because
that was up until three-quarters of the way through the
eighties. Because when I came in in '86, art history and
design were all in one department [Department of Art,
Design, and Art History] .
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Well, that was — Maybe it was later.
But you see, art education would have been another
division in there which was gone completely. There are
other things that are escaping me at the moment — courses,
not necessarily programs- -that simply were deemed not part
of what the College of Fine Arts was to be.
LEHMER: So in 1960 you redefined the curriculum and you
narrowed it to pictorial arts. Or is that a term that
maybe was dropped?
HEINECKEN: No, I think —
LEHMER: When did it become fine arts?
HEINECKEN: Well, let me just stop here a minute. College
of Fine Arts — When you said fine arts it struck a thing.
This was a big decision to make on the part of the
university, because what it meant was that there was
something called fine arts that they were going to teach.
And associated with all of these changes was the
introduction of graduate degrees in things like dance,
musicology, and whatever else. Film, for instance. Then
it was a department of film, theater, and television, or
something like that [Department of Theater Arts], as
opposed to now it's cleaned up into whatever else. So you
cannot ever not consider what the university was doing--
UCLA--what the UC [University of California] system was
doing. This is when [University of California] Santa Cruz
is someplace in here, which was set up as an alternative
kind of university. You've got [University of California]
Riverside becoming something. In other words, it was sort
of the glory days, I would say — 1960, 1970 — before all the
money got to be a problem. So it's a restructuring of
the — This is important, although it may not seem to be.
This is when the Master Plan [for Higher Education in the
State of California, 1960-1975] is invented. The master
plan designates that [University of California] Berkeley
and UCLA would have graduate programs. Nobody else would
have graduate programs.
LEHMER: In art.
HEINECKEN: Anything. This is the plan. All of the other
UC campuses are somewhere between Berkeley, UCLA, and the
next level. They have certain programs, but Ph.D.'s are
basically what they don't have.
Then the state college systems were set up to feed
into the graduate programs in the UC system. The junior
colleges were to develop the first two years of education
in California. It was a system by which the lowest level,
community college, would still be vocational but would
give you the first two years, and you could get into any
state university--not into the University of California.
TAPE hfUMBER: V, SIDE TWO
MARCH 31, 1996
LEHMER: So the defining of the role of the community
college, which would feed into both the state —
HEINECKEN: Then-called state colleges.
LEHMER: State colleges — But also the UC system?
HEINECKEN: Well, there was no-- [University of
California] Irvine wasn't there. Santa Cruz, maybe, is
later. Riverside is an agricultural division that's
really called an experimental station before it was a
university. So these things are all happening. The seeds
of all this are happening during this time, at which point
everything happens. But definitely UCLA and Berkeley were
going to give the advanced degrees. The state colleges
would have no graduate programs. Now they all do. So
this plan, whatever it was, got altered by the money, by
the change of attitude, or too many people, or who knows.
They modified it. In the United States higher educational
system this master plan for the university and the arts
within that was the biggest thing that happened in
education. A lot of states immediately began to follow
this thing where you'd have the junior college, the state
college, university, because it made sense.
LEHMER: All right. I want to go back and briefly touch
HEINECKEN: So all of this master plan stuff affects
everybody in the university from the ground level up in
redefining. It's because of the redefinition and the
Utopian view of what this could become, where all of this
stuff is allowed to happen, and some things are not
allowed to happen, like art education. So it was kind of
a big housecleaning .
Painting — and I don't argue with this--is, or
certainly at that time was, the most flexible medium in
which a lot of things could happen. And drawing was the
basis of painting. I don't think that's changed
necessarily; I think that's still the way it is. Although
things like videotape, performance, new genre, whatever
you want to call that-- The absolute change in filmmaking
and in photography really, all those broadening effects,
are because of what schools like UCLA did. They did it
right, I think.
It doesn ' t ever change the idea in anybody ' s mind .
If on an airplane they say, "What do you do?" you say, "An
artist." "Well, what do you paint?" I mean, that's just
LEHMER: Yeah. And if you say you're a photographer they
don't understand, either.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Or if you said, "I work in new genre,"
they — "Wow. Swell. What's that?"
LEHMER: So you got your —
HEINECKEN: And let me finish something there I forgot.
Now what we have in 1990-whatever, you have new genre,
which includes video, you have--
LEHMER: And performance.
HEINECKEN: And performance. You have sculpture as a
separate entity but obviously very much inclined towards
new genre thinking. You have others, like photography.
What else do you have? Printmaking in some ways was still
there, but reduced. All of which point to a distribution
of money and faculty to the divisions of painting and
drawing, which now still, as I understand it, would be
twice as much money, twice as much faculty, twice as much
space as any of these so-called equal things. Obviously
it was a good device to double the--
LEHMER: The budget?
HEINECKEN: Well, yeah, and double the graduate students,
double the undergraduate courses to provide for what
probably still is thought of as the most important unit
within the art department. And maybe it is. I mean, I
could say it is.
LEHMER: Something that I have observed is the number of
applicants received — I think photography was down to like
twenty-one, twenty- three, something like that. I thought,
well, maybe that's because we were in transition from your
retirement. But I also heard that the numbers were low
on, like, sculpture. And there we have an internationally
renowned, highly visible person at this moment, Charlie
Ray. And Nancy Rubens.
HEINECKEN: And Paul [McCarthy]. Well, Paul's not in
sculpture per se.
LEHMER: But I think we had well over a hundred painting
applicants, and so in a sense what you're saying is not--
The applicants are not strictly a representation of the
visibility of the faculty, which one might think would be
possible. What also seems to be even more important is
what you're alluding to, and that's the power and the
strength of the tradition of painting and drawing.
HEINECKEN: I don't think it's necessarily that much
different in any other university, that things would fall
differently, but the thing is the principle is there.
LEHMER: There's a question that I want to get discussed,
and that is that by not being part of the painting or
drawing faculty you are supposedly a contemporary, an
associate, and yet represent somewhat of a minority in
thought in some ways. I don't know exactly the right
term. How did you delicately work with faculty who might
vote differently from you in meetings? I think of you as
someone who has shown great skill in being able to coexist
with very diverse people and their philosophies.
HEINECKEN: Okay. Well, my situation or UCLA's situation
maybe isn't that different from maybe the English
department at UCLA, which has completely changed itself
from one thing to another with the postmodernist kind of
thing. I'm just saying that it's probably happening to
some degree similarly all over this country, which I think
is interesting, with certain things emerging.
Like a place like Irvine. If you go to Irvine to do
graduate work in photography, you're going there because
of that faculty and the program and the clear emphasis
which is there.
If, on the other hand, you-- [University of
California] San Diego has emerged because of the faculty.
Political photographs basically is what they make, which
is fine. I may not know enough about it to speak this
way, but generally, you can see this.
Riverside has no graduate program at this point.
What you have there is the [California] Museum of
Photography associated with that place. I guess maybe you
have better historical or philosophical ideas developing
for those undergraduate students because of that museum
and because of what seems to be a critically focused
faculty. Not John [Divola], but the historians.
LEHMER: That's right.
HEINECKEN: On the other hand, UCLA, with the art history
department moving to the history department, there was
nobody on that faculty interested in contemporary art,
video, whatever. They wouldn't hire anybody who would
ever teach that permanently. It wasn't a big blow to us
that they left. In a sense it might be more so to the
painting people, because they were teaching the whole
history of art, which painters need.
Anyway, it's the political shifts of this. Berkeley,
for instance, still has never developed their graduate
program in art. They have it, but you never see anybody
coming out of there, and you never know anything about it.
LEHMER: That's true. They've elected to go a certain
direction or moved into a certain direction. How would
you define Berkeley versus UCLA as far as their art
HEINECKEN: I really don't know much about it, but it's
simply not visible. There isn't anything to know about,
as far as I can tell.
LEHMER: Did you ever have any intercampus meetings or
HEINECKEN: We did, actually, yeah. Mostly they turned
into kind of drunken arguments when it became social-- We
had one in this house once. Some people that I'd never
seen before in my life stayed three days.
But look at [University of California] Davis. Davis
has, or did have, and still-- If you're going to study art
in the University of California in Northern California,
you go to Davis. You don't go to Berkeley.
LEHMER: People from San Francisco State [University]
ended up at Davis. Faculty-wise there was a connection —
HEINECKEN: Well, and San Francisco State probably has a
better art department than Berkeley.
LEHMER: I've heard that.
HEINECKEN: But Berkeley is not-- I suppose when all the
people that are still associated with it who should be
dead by now are dead, then maybe they could just stop it
or something. They have the architecture school. They
have no art department. I think it's all sort of --or
photography is certainly- -funneled through the
architecture department still.
LEHMER: Well, do you think their art history is where
their emphasis went historically or critically? In other
words, how would you define Berkeley versus UCLA? I'm
thinking there's a studio direction, or a theoretical,
critical direction, or —
HEINECKEN: Well, for those of us--
LEHMER: Or even a draft direction- -
HEINECKEN: It's kind of a joke, but, I mean, you can't
compare — I mean, UCLA has got a football and basketball
team. Berkeley has the intelligence. They're the
intellectuals. Nobody at UCLA that would-- This is
bullshit, kind of, but I never compared the two. If you
look at the list of the ten best universities in the
country, Berkeley is number two. UCLA doesn't make that
list, I don't think. It's just not an important
university in that sense. It's like the difference
between Los Angeles and San Francisco somehow. We have a
population here, we're supporting twenty or thirty
universities in Southern California. Above Santa Barbara
you've got like four or something. You go to Berkeley,
you take a Ph.D. in history or something, you have
something. I'm not saying UCLA doesn't, but Berkeley is
Berkeley. It was first. It's still first.
LEHMER: You're saying that the state of California
whether intentionally or by default, that art was not
fostered in the most serious institution.
HEINECKEN: Well, no one has room to do everything, right?
You have places like Harvard [University] , Yale
[University] . They have photography courses, but you
don't go to school there to study it. It's for the
undergraduates to learn about it.
HEINECKEN: You know, get their hands wet in something.
It's terrific, but Yale and Harvard, they have the
museiims. Berkeley's museum, not much there.
I don't know how important all this is, but there's a
bigger picture than I'm able to describe here. I'm just
sitting in the bottom level of all this, but there's an
education-- For instance, when the student riots happened,
UCLA had a little bit. We had a few helicopters and the
National Guard, but Berkeley came apart.
HEINECKEN: They were the ones. Santa Cruz didn't even
know what happened.
So it's a very interesting system that began with
this master plan, and then it simply lost track of that
and modified it in ways that are probably very effective.
At some point in here you can take [California State
University] Fullerton, and now I think probably other
places have the M.F.A. degree. Wouldn't you rather go to
Fullerton, where it costs half as much, have a studio, or
have facilities, and study photography rather than UCLA?
It's an equal program, the degree is equal. If they
didn't get the M.F.A. , they had the M.A., then people
would have to go to UCLA to get the highest degree. Well,
somebody figured out that these state universities should
be able to give those degrees. There are enough students
LEHMER: All right. Now, what I want to get into in the
last section of today- -
HEINECKEN: We're all over the place today.
LEHMER: — would be your decisions, your choices, your
evolution of curriculum within photography. We can bring
it back down to, how did you teach photography? How did
you structure your course? Did you actually have a
conscious structure? Or did you let it just kind of flow?
How much emphasis did you have on the classroom, the
discussion of the work, versus the darkroom or the studio?
How did you start out? And how did you finally level out
into a curriculum?
HEINECKEN: A couple of things come to mind. One is that
there's a, I suppose, curricular idea which goes
undescribed in any field, and the content of the
curriculum is dependent upon each individual instructor.
So you might have someone like Paul McCarthy working next
to who knows-- But Paul McCarthy is an absolute individual
in what he does and the way he teaches and so on. I
shouldn't put it there; I should put it in photography.
So a person like Mark [Alice] Durant, or even Mark McFad-
den, very strong theoretic base. In Mark [McFadden]'s
case, a failure to bring whatever wonderful intelligence
he had to what he knew all the time was a necessity to
make pictures that at least you could look at, at least
they'd be exhibitable. He failed to do that, so that was
a big blow, actually, to me, because I thought he would
come through and do it. It was my fault. That was a very
bad choice on my part, because he took a lot of the space
for a long period of time there without ever fulfilling
what he knew he was supposed to do. He was a very
effective teacher. All the students that worked with him
got stuff that they'd never get from me or anybody else.
I mean, he had particular kinds of insight that he
brought. I think his interest was probably not so much in
the pictures they made as much as the basis on which they
would make them or the theory behind all of that. So he
was excellent that way. I know no student that ever took
him seriously who was not absolutely committed to what he
was as a teacher. He was very good. But wrong time,
wrong place. How did I get on that? I don't know.
But you can't say exactly what the curriculum is if
you have someone-- Like for one year, two years, [Robert]
Fichter and I taught together. We were the faculty.
LEHMER: Robert Fichter?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. So that people who did either
undergraduate or graduate work during that time period
probably got a hard push of iconoclastic stuff from
Fichter and using offset and a completely different kind
of thing than when Winogrand would have been there or
[Lee] Friedlander. If you look at the whole long picture
you have a kind of balance. At any given point you can
look in there and see, well, if you got [Edmund] Teske
teaching, you know what's going to happen there. Or if
you have, well--
LEHMER: Michael Bishop.
HEINECKEN: Michael Bishop, yeah, or any of these people.
They're all people who either were beginning to be well-
known as artists and as teachers or who were well known- -
people like Winogrand or Friedlander, which were just one-
shot things .
LEHMER: What you're saying is that--
HEINECKEN: So back to my own thing. What I would try to
do with an undergraduate class was conform, to some
extent, to this idea which I discussed earlier about when
you make the photograph you learn something about the
difference from what the photograph is to whatever else
there is, drawing or reality or whatever. I was always
very interested in having people understand that. If they
never understood anything else, that it was not a passive
tool, not a mechanical tool — or it is, but it's not —
Because it's like eyeglasses. They're not mechanical, but
you see things differently when you wear them if you need
them or you don't. They're not neutral; they do
something. Or a hearing aid or whatever. This is not the
So anyway, that idea was always something that on an
undergraduate level I would think of as a primary idea,
that this is different. You don't expect undergraduate
students in any course to become artists. That's not why
they're there. They're there to see, in this case, how
making art with photography is different than making art
with painting and sculptures and so on. The balance
between what an undergraduate student has should allow
that person to have formed an effective, practiced notion
about how these things work; a history, to some extent, of
each of these media, which in our case we had to provide
rather than the art history people providing; and a sense
that art can be made, and it's hard to make art. It's
work. It takes time. You have to think about it. I
mean, you have to do something, and, in fact, it can be
made. You can make something that you weren't capable of
making ten weeks earlier and so on.
I never actually taught lower division courses,
because that started after I left. I would have liked to
have done that, because I think that was the place to
start people with these ideas rather than upper division.
Try to identify within a period of four years or two
years where are the people who are your students who can
actually compete for graduate school with other students
from outside or who can compete if they go to another
graduate program, if they can't get into UCLA-- That's
maybe--what?--two, three people a year? Where you really
can say, "Well, you've got something. You may not
understand it, but trust me, you need to go further with
this. Not necessarily UCLA, but somewhere." So what I'm
getting at is the other 97 percent or whatever are simply
taking another course in studio art--a different medium, a
different set of tools, a different set of principles,
whatever. But it's basically, in my view, that at a
university like that, you major in art, you take twenty
courses out of two hundred or something in that major.
You're really getting a whole different education than
what you major in. It's a much more practical set of
things that you learn about than art could ever teach you--
except art history, which is good.
I think, incidentally, a lot of the time for all
people teaching in this which could have gone to teaching
photography and whatever went to teaching art history or
photography history, which is a shame, because you can't
get that-- I mean, you can make people read, and we had a
wonderful library — which was my library, which I lent out,
basically — but you can't get the history of this medium
that way. You have to have somebody organizing it for you
and presenting it, people like myself or Mark [McFadden]
or even Mark Durant, who are amateurs at this. But you're
trying to allow them to see that they are not sitting in a
vacuum. Albeit a short history, you are in a history of
people who have made photography what it is. It goes back
far enough that you can relate it to other countries and
other time periods and impressionism and all kinds of
I spoke to the art history faculty numerous times
about this, and they knew that they were deficient in
this, but it was too recent for them. That's not an
excuse, that's just saying, "Look, we're still trying to
get people to cover Egyptology here and the Renaissance
before we even get to film or photography." That's just
the way it is. Or even contemporary painting. There are
surveys of contemporary painting but no scholars on that
faculty working on it. Maybe Al [Albert] Boime is an
exception. That's aside from the fact, I guess.
Is that a clear answer about what I'm trying to do
LEHMER: It gives us an idea of, philosophically, how you
made decisions. It sounds to me like this begins to make
it more understandable as to the importance of and your
conscious choices in faculty who worked with you or came
in and worked in the program that you had elected to bring
in, and that list is impressive. You were capable of
convincing and arranging to have some of the best artists
in the country come in and work in this program. When I
look at the faculty list of people who have taught here
while you were here as visiting faculty, it's a very
LEHMER: Maybe we could list some of them. It would be
Edmund Teske, Robert Fichter-- I'm thinking we should get
these down on tape.
HEINECKEN: Lee Friedlander.
LEHMER: Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Michael Bishop,
HEINECKEN: And Winogrand is in there. Well, he's later,
I guess, in this list, but--
LEHMER: Robert Cumming, Carl Chiarenza, Bea Nettles, Bill
[William] Larson, Henry Holmes Smith, Anne Tucker, Todd
HEINECKEN: That last group was at some special summer
symposium. Are those the end of this?
LEHMER: Judith Golden, Bart Parker. It's an incredible
HEINECKEN: And John Divola.
LEHMER: John Divola.
HEINECKEN: Judith Golden starts at UCLA. Karen Truax,
Mark McFadden, Ken [Kenneth] Josephson, Garry Winogrand,
Barbara Jo Revelle, Lee [Leland] Rice, again, John Divola,
George Legrady, and Chris Enos. That's up till 1984.
LEHMER: And now we have people like Mark Durant and
Kaucyila Brooke and —
HEINECKEN: Connie [Constance J.] Samaras--
LEHMER: Connie Samaras and Judy [Judith Anne] Fiskin and
Joyce Neimanas. I'm sure we've left some people out.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. The other thing that comes to mind in
relation to this is that because of photography being a
small unit within this, as were sculpture, new forms,
whatever, there's never more than two full-time people
there all through all those years, as opposed to the
painting, drawing, printmaking component in later years
with Ray Brown, which would have been half of the faculty
in those things, or more. So what I'm saying is that none
of these people other than myself, probably, and Mark
McFadden and later Mark Durant had any continuum in the
thing. Most of these people are in and out of there,
obviously, for shorter periods of time. Robert Fichter
would have been the other one who was there a long enough
time to make an effect. There was never a possibility of
broadening the number of courses or faculty to start to
cover other areas that would have been — I mean, if you
had had someone like Nathan Lyons in here, for instance,
for a year, you'd have another thing entirely, which would
have been very valuable. But there was never that
opportunity, even in any three-year period, which had been
a graduate student's period of time, to build any
comprehensive kind of faculty. Maybe by that time you
don't need a faculty that much, anyway. You're looking
for faculty comments and assistance and whatever, but —
I forget who it was, but somebody, whom I can't
necessarily identify, afterwards we were talking and
saying, "What was the most valuable experience you had
with Winogrand?" I think it was [Robert] Flick who said
this. "Because he absolutely rejected everything that I
did or made, and it was a valuable lesson to learn." It
wasn't somebody telling him what to do; he was telling him
what not to do. So that, in his view, was as positive a
way of having a faculty relationship as any other one.
LEHMER: That's interesting. Let's try to explore a
little more in detail the way you set up your specific
courses on the undergraduate level. Your intent, as
you've described, is to expose these people to the
potentials of this medium, and you're talking about a
comparison. You're always reminding them, or you're
consciously trying to remind them, of the comparison of
photography to other mediums- -how they compare, their
uniquenesses, their strong points. But in the actual
structure of your teaching you have to get them operating
within the program. There's got to be some technical
exposure, training. There's got to be a discussion,
critique, of the results. There's got to be some final
projects. Can you just explore those?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Something comes to mind here which I
think is not necessarily unique to me, but in any
undergraduate class, especially in the beginning class, I
try to explain the problem of grading this kind of
material. It's not something you can be tested on. And
the university runs basically on a system of testing and
rating people and graduating some and not graduating
others. As I said, you can't do that here or in any of
these courses that you'll take here. It's a different
thing. So I would lay out a series of general assignments
around some idea that everybody would do throughout the
LEHMER: What were some of those general assignments? Can
you think of a couple offhand?
HEINECKEN: Bring that up again. But the point I'm making
here is that I say, "If you do all of these assignments on
time, and you're working at it, then you'll get a passing
grade. Automatically. No failures. This passing grade
is a 'D.'" Then their jaws dropped. Nobody wants a "D."
And I said, "If you do all of these exercises and you show
up all the time and you participate in whatever it is that
we're doing and these problems are done in my judgment or
in the TA [teaching assistant] 's judgment in a superior
kind of way, then you get a 'C, ' which is a perfectly
good, average grade. Nobody gets an 'A' out of this
course unless you really do something outstanding, which
is what 'A' means." So I don't give "A"'s, whereas--and
this is not a negative comment- -the grade point average of
art students is rarely below 3.8 or something like that.
Most people think--and I could agree with this--that there
isn't any reason to grade these people anyway. But if
you're going to have to grade them, you might as well give
them "A"'s and "B"'s and not sweat it, not worry about
making those other distinctions, which I personally don't
agree with, but I--
So that ' s a condition I think everybody understood
right from the beginning, that probably there's going to
be one or two ''A"'s out of these twenty people or fifteen
people, no more. How could there be? If you simply don't
show up or don't participate, then you will not pass the
course. This is not a course that's impossible to fail.
I would take a kind of hard-nosed, drill sergeant kind of
approach to them. I'd say, "This is the way it is. If
it's not something you want, then don't be here."
LEHMER: Okay. You've discussed the grading situation,
HEINECKEN: And their participation.
HEINECKEN: "The studio room and the darkrooms are open at
these hours, and you will need x dollars to do this, and
you will need this much time to do the work that you're
being asked to do. If you can't do that, then you won't
LEHMER: Okay. At the beginning, part of your curriculum
is to try to lay out a clear picture of what is expected.
Then you go into teaching some fundamentals so that as
soon as possible they can get self-sufficient in the
HEINECKEN: Well, my whole thing really — I hadn't thought
of it until just now, but I always had the TA's do the
technical stuff, to get the film and the camera, because
it ' s not something I ' m interested in nor did I know as
much, really, as a competent graduate student would know
about that. But the printing I always liked to do,
because that's where it is for me. All the things are
going to happen in there, and that's just amazing to
people who all their lives have been sending something to
the drugstore and getting it back in a fixed way and
mostly in color. They don't have any idea about that
until you get them in there doing it. I love the
darkroom. You know, it's like magic stuff goes on. You
could take any negative that anybody makes and make ten
different pictures from it, all equally interesting, and
each completely related but different.
LEHMER: If I were teaching a class, one thought I had on
this whole idea of exploring the subjectivity of
interpretation would be to take our slide duplicating
machine, and instead of duplicating slides you would
duplicate negatives and hand them out in an envelope to
every student, identical negatives.
HEINECKEN: Well, this is interesting.
LEHMER: And then have them print it, and then put the
work up on the wall.
HEINECKEN: Well, I don't think so much at UCLA, but in
workshops I'll do that. I'll say, "Give me a negative,"
and I'll redistribute them so they're not working from
something that they saw or even care about necessarily.
That's a good exercise.
LEHMER: I think the proof of that would be one of the
things that I remember at San Francisco Art Institute. In
Jerry Burchard's Monday night classes, we had some
interesting people come through, and we all went out on
photo shoots together. We went everywhere, from the local
Tick Tock burger stand to somebody's apartment to whatever
event at different places, but we all went together, and
then we all did the same work or the same subject. The
work was always incredibly endeavorous in results. That
was a very impressive exploration.
I don't know that we ever discussed what this meant.
You've got product now. I don't know if I'm jumping ahead
too much, but in a course, in a foundation-level course,
you've got product. How did you explore that? Did you
discuss it in a class? Did you put it up on the wall?
HEINECKEN: Yeah, I suppose in that sense it's sort of
conventional. I mean, some exercise has been assigned,
and it's due on a certain day, and you're going to put
everything up and discuss it. In those discussions,
whether I'm saying it to them or not or I'm making it
happen, I'm one individual. I'm running it. "You've got
the TA's there, who are as skilled as I am in their own
way about looking at things, and each of you are as
skilled in your own way at looking at these. If you don't
feel like you have enough intelligence or insight to
discuss each of these pictures, then it's going to be
difficult for you, because it isn't something that — " It's
not that it can't be graded necessarily, but it's only —
Each one of these things, which is a kind of exercise, is
designed to fit into the next one into the next one into
the next one, and I'm the only one that makes a judgment
about how that's going. You won't see all of people's
other work in relation to where I'm seeing it, because
that's my job to see and to make corrections and
recommendations or whatever. And to some extent it's the
TA's job to do that, too.
But I'm very convinced that if you've got people who
aren't able to participate and be open and not be
frightened by it, then something's wrong. We have to open
that student up differently. Everybody's embarrassed
about this stuff. They don't know anything about it. But
if they're convinced that there's no right or wrong way to
do something and that everything could be something, it's
very freeing for people. And I think in a lot of ways
other media-- Like a bad drawing is very simple to see. I
mean, it's hard to make a good drawing and to make a good
painting, much more than like the way a photograph is
going to be something. So it's not like what it looks
like, it's what it fits into in sequence to some other
thing. How you can take something that's so public and
make it private is the real issue.
LEHMER: That's very interesting. I've never thought- -
HEINECKEN: Even as undergraduates, I mean. And of
course, a lot of these students are taking one course, two
courses, but you might have ten or twenty people, like you
do now, that take three courses, four courses. They get
involved in it.
LEHMER: How did you start out your foundation courses?
Did you give direct assignments? Were they very specific?
Or were they very abstract, open to individual
HEINECKEN: Well, yeah. There were maybe five different
basic ideas I would always try to introduce. One exercise
would be to--it wouldn't be this didactic, maybe, but--to
photograph only early in the morning, late at night, and
late in the afternoon, so you have some angled effect of
light on the things rather than down on it. Always make
three or four exposures of the same thing using a
different depth of field and a different shutter so that
you get effects of movement, you get effects of focus.
You get all the things that have to be retaught, because
basically their background in it is to do it right the
first time. Then there's only one negative to make — which
is why color doesn't work very well for this idea. And
then to try to make pictures that are about what's in
focus and what's not, pictures about what's moving and
what's stopped, pictures that are basically leaning toward
an abstraction because of the harsh light that's being
cast from the side, these kinds of things.
One of the first things I would do in maybe a second
course would be to have them make self-portraits of
collage using black paper, white paper, and newsprint.
You have only three values basically to work with. You're
looking at yourself in the mirror, you're tearing a piece
of paper to conform to an eye socket or something that you
see. You teach them how to squint. These things are
fantastic. This is a weekend thing that they do. When
they bring all those things in, I put them in a stack,
face down. They're all the same size like this. They're
all self-portraits. And I put them up on the wall and
have them look at them. Some of them are very crude, and
some have maybe got five hundred scraps of paper, some
have thirty. So you get the whole range of what's
possible. Then I have one person just walk around the
room and stand next to each picture and see that every one
of those pictures, even though when you get down to the
end and its process of elimination, you can see who that
person is. It's a life-sized head seen only in three
values. Basically what photography does is crush those
values. I mean, you can do that. It's a fantastic thing,
and it gives you confidence that you would never have in a
drawing class doing a self-portrait or something like
that, because it's so crude. This shape, paper, is going
to designate one of three values. That's all there is in
LEHMER: This reminds me of that piece that you did of
HEINECKEN: It's like that in a sense, yeah. It's not a
mosaic kind of idea, but it just makes you look at
yourself and learn that you're not dealing in colors,
you're not dealing in a whole range of values in this
piece, you're dealing with three values. And because the
third, the middle one is newsprint, then you get all this
text stuff coming into it, so that it's not just a value,
it will say something, which I always like.
TAPE NUMBER: VI, SIDE ONE
APRIL 10, 1996
LEHMER: Today, Robert, I wanted to go over some of your
objectives, maybe an outline of how you developed the
graduate program in the photography area of the art
department at UCLA. One of the first questions I wanted
to ask-- Let me start out with some quotes from the
catalog that commemorated two decades of photography done
by the Grunwald Center [for the Graphic Arts], an
exhibition that I guess you formed or curated.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. Well, Cindy [Lucinda H.] Gedeon, who
was the staff person at the Grunwald, was the curator. I
simply contributed the pieces of writing and kind of
oversaw it. It was really her job as curator. Then she
had- -I can't remember who they were- -maybe four or five
students who were active at that time still working on
that, so they also had input into that.
LEHMER: This was in 1985?
HEINECKEN: Yeah, whatever it says.
LEHMER: Okay. Here are some quotes. I think these came
out of Jim [James] Hugunin, who was one of your students.
He wrote a very good article describing your program, kind
of a historic overview of your program and the times them-
selves. I have some ideas that I'd like to elaborate-- I
think this oral history interview is the place where we
can expand on some of the ideas that are always touched
on. There are a lot of code words and terms that define
and are signposts for that era that are delineated. I
think what we can do is maybe expand on a couple of those,
which will help.
LEHMER: Here are some quotes: "Doing your own thing."
"Counterculture." "Idealism." Another quote, the last
one, is "Sixties: elite and popular consumption of fine
art," which was being established. There was economy,
there was money. There was money for social programs, and
the arts were expanding. The combination of
counterculture-- Jim Hugunin, I read in the article, was a
pre-med[icine] major, and he ended up in art. It was a
unique period where people elected to pursue another
direction, from, what Jim said, the sciences and
engineering to the arts and humanities. You were there at
that moment to receive these people and to expand that
educational pursuit. Can you, with that idea beginning,
expand on--? Do any thoughts come to your mind as to what
you were dealing with in that kind of an environment as
far as graduate student intentions, how you pursued it,
how you worked with that environment at that time?
HEINECKEN: Well, it would obviously be an evolution of
all of that through the time period that we're talking
LEHMER: Which would be what? The late sixties?
HEINECKEN: Well, I'm just saying the concepts or
intentions that were set up in the sixties evolved, I
suppose, without anyone really knowing it. It evolved in
ways that were parallel to other educational developments,
which is what he touches on with "counterculture" and all
of that. They always say "the sixties." It was really
the seventies when all of this took effect. I mean, in
the sixties the germ of it starts.
But the radical part of all of that-- I don't
remember when the riots were- -what year, for instance.
Well, this is an aside, kind of, but at some point the
school shuts down briefly. We didn't have nearly the
problem that [University of California] Berkeley had, but
the school shut down. The National Guard was there and
stuff like that. So I'm trying to figure out whether-- I
know that all that's important for all the students who
were in universities at that time. They'll never forget
that. Because I think for the first time- -at least in my
history--the students actually took things over and
demanded educational reforms that I suppose most faculty
would have agreed with, but the administration didn't
necessarily. I'm not talking just about UCLA but all
over. There is a kind of empowerment students feel. Not
Just graduate students but the whole range of people were
affected. Their attitudes were affected by what I think
was then perceived to be a power they didn ' t know they
LEHMER: How does that relate to--? I mean, if we can take
that lofty thought or philosophical idea and put it into
the classroom or into the seminar room, what were some of
the concerns of the graduates with their work? What were
your concerns? How did you respond to their production?
HEINECKEN: Well, one thing comes-- Basically I think the
effect of, let's say, the cultural and educational changes
that were going on would support the premise that I would
have had anyway, which was that it's largely a matter of
the graduate student to determine what their education
will be. They have certain resources there — faculty and
studios and libraries and slide collections--but it's no
longer even a possibility of thought that you would follow
some curriculum that everybody else was following. As I
said, this was not an idea that would have been new to me.
But certainly when you suddenly have the support of the
university or at least partial support — If the attitude
in a graduate situation is opened up suddenly, the
students realize, even if it's unconsciously, that the
faculty is not going to fill in what's open. It's up to
them to fill that in, I support that very much,
obviously. That's what graduate studies should be, an
independent personalized investigation of what it is that
art is for them, each one of them, given in this case the
loosest definition of what would be considered to be
Because often there were cases when you would go to a
graduate M.F.A. exhibition and sense that it wasn't
necessarily photography that was being talked about, but
the metaphor would be there for it-- Or even a kind of
sense of what photography does could be present in
something which wasn't photography. I think probably UCLA
was a good model for that. That is to say, basically it
was opening up the definition of what photography is as an
art idea beyond formal constraints, which of course is
where it all starts. You can say that the same decisions
about structure and all of those kinds of formal ideas can
be put as an overlay over any medium, including
photography. But what it looks like is actually quite
different than what theory it's from, if that makes sense,
or what it can be or should be. So I just-- I don't know.
I'll say things as they come to me.
But I think one of the things that every graduate
student right from the beginning would have had the sense- -
The way that I approach it was that they had to invent
something that we've never seen before. I parallel that
with Ph.D. work, which is when you have to reveal
something about something that no one else has ever done
before. No one has ever researched a certain thing. And
there's a form and a way that a dissertation is put
together. I don't know if I'd use the word, but these
shows are dissertations in the sense that they're
personal. They're using history and theory, but it's a
personalized account of that particular — I wouldn't call
it research; it's not research — activity of making art.
How is that personalized to an individual? That's the
basis of the whole thing. You don't have the opportunity
to refine something that already exists in a research
situation. Research is new. So in a sense my attitude,
because it's an academic situation at a major university,
was you can get away with that because that ' s what
everybody else does in graduate school. It's simply that
it's not research but its motives, its ideals, its
obviously originality, which every artist has to have
anyway. So you're really forcing that situation on them.
Nobody's going to tell them what to do. They have to do
LEHMER: This is an interesting twist, because my
observations for thirty years — As you know, my first
introduction to a serious approach toward photography was
in the spring of '66, so we're celebrating that thirtieth
anniversary here in this intejrview. I've always felt that
art education was always bucking the system. Yet what I'm
hearing from you is you have turned that, in a sense,
research environment-- You've always approached it in a
positive way. In other words, you have somehow understood
the idea of research and exploring the unknown to
complement art aesthetics, that creative pursuit, on a
positive level. Rather than fighting the system, you used
the system as a vehicle, which is kind of interesting.
HEINECKEN: Right, yeah. There's a point here I want to
mention. It would be understood, I guess, but because
it's photography and because it's this time period in a
department that ' s recently accepted this idea and is
obviously looking at how graduate work in that area
compares to all of the other areas-- And of course, when
you have new forms or new genres and the shift in
sculpture or whatever, you have other models that we
haven't seen before. The new genre was a big thing to do
then. That was certainly more problematic in a lot of
ways than photography was. I mean, you're talking
performance, you're talking conceptual art. All of these
things were fresh. So it's not photography per se that
I'm talking about here. Because, as you know, while each
of us had our own special courses, obviously we were
looking for the bigger picture of the department rather
than anything as a separate element in it. [tape recorder
LEHMER: That goes along with the whole idea that we've
discussed earlier, which was that it was a very
interdisciplinary attempt by the department to encourage
students to work in multiple areas.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. The development of the university, of
the College of Fine Arts, as I keep saying, and of course
the individual departments within that college and then
the areas within them-- I mean, it is like a hierarchy
starting with the students, working up to the chancellor.
There are like five steps there or something that are
But I think for our purposes here it ' s the idea that
it's not a matter of a student refining, let's say,
concepts that were set up by [Edward] Weston or someone
like that. That's not going to do it. I mean, it would
be good if a particular student used Weston or knew
something about Weston and whatever-- Also, I think
implicit in this is if you're asked to be original, the
people — faculty in this case — making judgments about this
may or may not have enough intuition or insight to know
exactly where the quality is. How do we determine what
the quality is as opposed to just being original? At that
point the corollary between it and a dissertation stops,
because a dissertation is all written in English. It has
to go into a particular form. If you can read, you can
understand this. It's different in the arts--dance,
theater, whatever. You suddenly don't have a common
language that you can revert to. If, in fact, the work is
truly original, you should have no language to understand
it. It has to speak to you. You have to learn how to
look at something like that. That's particularly true of
something like performance, where there's no tangible
ob j ect .
LEHMER: One of your former students made a statement that
I'd like you to respond to and elaborate on. In a sense
other disciplines could look at it as a sign of an
irresponsible program, so I want you to defend the
statement or elaborate on it. Victor Landweber said in
the catalog that we're working with today:
It was understood that students admitted to the program
were always working as artists. I always felt that I was
respected for my work. It wasn't required that I do
anything other than what I was doing or learn anything
more than what I needed to know. I appreciated being left
alone in the sense of not needing to change, knowing that
so long as I continued to produce satisfactory work I
would be supported in the program.
Now, that could be looked at as "I'm going to just
continue doing-- This program has no influence on me."
Can you defend that? What does that statement mean?
HEINECKEN: Well, of course, this is one person's way of
articulating his experience there. I think it's actually
kind of telling about Victor. He was one of the more
interesting students because of things like he's talking
about-- He's taciturn, you know. He was a person who I
think had some difficulty aside from what he's saying
here. But in the end, as so many people do, somehow they
see the light after three years of it. And they're
looking at these other thirty graduate students who are
their peers and seeing what they're doing--not necessarily
in his sense — and seeing what you're not doing. You're
not in competition with them. You're in competition with
that degree and all other degrees. That's my point about
it, that no one actually has to understand what you're
doing except you and the four people who are giving you
this degree. But if there are not four people there's no
degree and so on. So something has to be original, but
has to ultimately be understandable over a period of time
of, in this case, three years working with a variety of
people, getting their opinions, getting their takes.
Eventually it has to come together to look like something,
to show that there's an individual behind this.
As much as Victor might have thought he was being
left alone, he wasn't. That's the ideal educational
situation, I think, where you feel like you're generating
your ovm movement but you're being guided in ways that
you're not even aware of. It's this little rejection here
or that little praise there. You know, those are the
things that add up. It ' s a good statement. I think it's
accurate for an attitude that certainly I would project.
But it shouldn't suggest that there's a softness involved
in this, because there isn't. It was unusual, but there
are people who didn't finish these programs. Some maybe
because they couldn't handle that freedom, or others maybe
who couldn't handle the discipline. I don't know if that
I think basically--again using the dissertation as a
model --there are times when you have to meddle in
something with a student because you can just see that
it ' s not going anywhere or it's wrong or it's been said
before. You have to control that development. But if
you're a good teacher it's a subtle kind of thing. The
best thing would be--it's almost like brainwashing--where
you don't even know that you're being taught anything.
Someday you wake up and you know all this stuff.
LEHMER: Let's see if this goes along with it. Hugunin
HEINECKEN: I wanted to say something about that. Again,
back to the dissertation, no one gives a damn, really,
what that history Ph.D. student does after graduating. At
that point the university is through with that person. He
or she may find a job teaching or researching, whatever.
It's not--for me, at least — the problem of the university
or faculty to worry one bit about that. You want to keep
track of them, you want to help them if they need help,
but your job is over at that point. They're only at the
start of something. It's not like the end of — Well, it's
the end of formal schooling. But the real work obviously
LEHMER: I always liked that idea of commencement
HEINECKEN: Yeah, as something forward from that.
Also, it should be noted, because it's very important,
that — I don't know when that time period would start; maybe
right at the beginning--all of these students who now are
full professors at USC [University of Southern California]
and so on graduated in a time period where it was very
likely that they could get a teaching job in photography,
because the whole field was expanding all over the
country. So all of these people-- Victor was an
exception, who probably was so taciturn he wouldn't have
been able to teach anyway. This is not a negative thing.
He's just not that kind of person. He found another way
to do it, that's all. But the educational system of the
country in the arts is, especially in photography and
video, beginning to need new, young teachers to teach this
stuff. So there's a whole group of people in here- -we
don't need to name them- -who were very fortunate, because
their graduate studies ended at a time when there were
Now, of course, there are no jobs, which is much
healthier, I think, in a sense. It's very easy to get
kind of fat and sloppy at a university-- I'm not saying
who is or who isn't-- But there is no job in the world
better than a university professor. I mean, there's
freedom, good money, all the time you need. So it's not,
I think, particularly conducive to generating more
artists. It's generating more teachers of art. There is
a distinction always to be made there, I think. I mean, I
think — I hope — I'm the exception to that, but it's hard
work. You can't do both of these jobs without some--
Well, in my case I just simply didn't teach that much. I
left and came back and so on.
LEHMER: I think that should be noted.
HEINECKEN: And the students are not unaware of this.
They're seeing it — If I'm a model of anything, I'm a
model of "I'm interested in what you're doing, but at five
o'clock I'm not interested in what you're doing. And I'm
not interested in what you're doing until I see you next
time, because I have a life to live here as an artist.
I'm not here just to teach you." I mean, I'm getting paid
to do that, but it's not my job to-- It's not my interest
to take this job so seriously that I stop being an active
artist. Of course, in universities and in our art
department we have several people who- -and all the
universities would have the same thing- -go right through
their thirty years and never do anything except teach.
It's that kind of system. The system is bad that way.
LEHMER: Well, when you say-- I mean, I understand your
HEINECKEN: Well, the point is I think the graduate
students would recognize, certainly, a difference between
myself and someone not like myself. It doesn't mean that
you can ' t get equal amounts of information from these
kinds of people. But their respect, I think, of someone
who is actually doing what you're trying to teach them to
be is a very big point.
LEHMER: Yeah. I have observed that very directly. I
think if there's a difference between you and me — There
are many differences, but one very important distinction
at this point is that you have always been and continue to
be very productive in your own work, where I have taken on
a very input-absorption type of approach, where I'm just
not outputting. When I know something and I am very firm,
I still don't have the clout or the influence that you
might have, because I lack the credibility. You know,
talk is cheap. Where is this coming from? Where's the
product? Where's the experience? So in a sense, yes,
there may be people who are very knowledgeable about the
subject, but without the actual practice it's hard to make
students believe in that. That is a very important point.
HEINECKEN: Also, it better defines what the roles are of
all the individuals in situations like this, from the
faculty on down to the teaching assistants--they ' re always
confused about what they're supposed to do--and the lab
And Bill [William] Bowman-- He's nothing, in a sense,
but he's organized along lines that make him very
effective in certain ways and not in others.
I'm just trying to say that--not your job
necessarily--all lab assistants in the sciences are there
because they provide technical assistance to the faculty.
That's basically what they do. It's obviously a very
valuable job. We thought that because it wasn't science
there were no lab assistants for years. You know, it
takes another 20 percent of your time to do all the work.
So getting lab assistants in the department was a very big
thing to get.
LEHMER: I think what I was talking about was more when I
was teaching previous to my coming here.
HEINECKEN: I don't want to interrupt you, but you'll
remember things that I won ' t .
The point--which I've now lost--is that a lab
assistant is working forty hours a week. Well, nobody can
work forty hours a week and be an artist unless you're a
writer and you don't need anything but a pencil or
something . So it ' s almost unusual that you would have
someone like Bowman. But you never expected him to do
anything. He did his own work, but he had no ambition for
it. He had no drive to make it go to the point that he
could quit being a lab assistant. Once you get into a job
like that, as you know, you can't quit it. I mean, you
could go to another job like it, but it's also a full-time
LEHMER: It's a strange kind of trap.
HEINECKEN: But very valuable. I'm relating that to the
idea that it's the same as the faculty, because the
faculty could consider teaching to be a full-time job.
Let's say if you're not an artist but you're a scientist
or something, if you're not able to take the work that
you're teaching about and apply it to what you're doing as
a scientist, you also wouldn't have time to do this.
Teaching has to somehow overlap what it is that you're
interested in or else you wouldn't have time to do it.
LEHMER: Which is why even though you're paid a full-time
salary, people don't understand that just because you work
a portion of the work week for the university directly you
are expected to fulfill the rest of that week for the
university on an indirect level .
LEHMER: That's part of that "publish or perish"
mentality, I think, that is just so very important for
establishing credibility with students.
HEINECKEN: But the very term "publish or perish" is, of
course, a negative way of looking at this. And like a
negative thing, it's true. You know, it's not a bad term
for it, but it has a derogatory kind of sound to it.
Whoever coined the phrase meant it to be derogatory. It's
LEHMER: But I think on a positive note it's establishing
HEINECKEN: Also, I'd have to say, not only in our
department but other departments, you do have people who
emerge out of this. [Richard] Diebenkorn is an excellent
example. Here's the premier West Coast painter. He can
have any job he wants. He can sell whatever he makes.
He's an excellent teacher and a wonderful person, but he
couldn't handle the system because — Well, it's a
complicated story. Anyway, you can't have people — and
maybe this is happening even more now- -where the
credibility of someone as an artist surpasses their
capacity to function in the university effectively. Some
of our current faculty would fit that.
LEHMER: What do you mean? Can you expand on that? You
would think that the greater the artist- -on a naive
level — the better the educator.
HEINECKEN: Well, the better the artist, the more time
that you have to put into that career. You have to
travel. You have to go to shows. You have to do
everything, all of which comes off of the time for
teaching. If you can go in there for four hours and still
wander around behind people's easels watching them paint
and be a thousand miles away in your mind, all you have to
be is in the room if you're that kind of person.
LEHMER: Right. But I can also justify the limited
contact, because I've known faculty who were so effective
in just a short period of time. They were able to
accomplish in a couple of hours what would take someone
else a couple of days. I knew an architectural instructor
HEINECKEN: Well, sure. What I'm trying to say is it's
still trying to strike a balance between being an
effective teacher, and to some extent everybody has some
administrative work to do and be effective at that. If
you're an area head or something, you spend a lot of time
on that. It's still trying to strike a balance between
all these things that are — My point is, the career can
become something that takes up so much time. You get the
notoriety--! 'm not speaking of myself--but at some time
the university is no longer important to you intellec-
tually or financially.
LEHMER; I see in your own situation where at a certain
point you opted to work approximately two years on, two
years off. On the two years off you were doing primarily
your own work, which you've never really discontinued when
you were teaching. But you obviously had to split your
production with your teaching responsibilities. This
allowed you to continue to effectively produce your work.
HEINECKEN: But there's a caveat which you really have to
fight in that you're there two full days. So those two
days are gone- -Tuesday and Thursday or whatever. This
means that if it were Monday and Tuesday it would be
better, because then just those two days would-- So
anyway, what I'm saying is that you lose Wednesday. It's
not even worth getting set up or getting in a frame of
mind — You just have to do something else that you have to
do. So you really have four days. And if you're married
and have a family, you lose Sunday, and maybe you lose
Saturday. So what it does give you is, let's say, twenty
hours that you have to work, which is not enough time. I
mean, ideally you stop work, you go to bed, you get up,
and you just get right back at it where you left off. You
don't have to wait a day or a week. So what I'm getting
at is that the art that's made--at least this was my
observation of myself and others--is sort of quick art.
It ' s something that you can almost put together in a day
or two without necessarily having it be a longer-range
kind of thing that you keep adding to.
Painters, I think, are fortunate in this way. You
can have a painting or two or three going at once. You
can walk in there and work four hours and accomplish
something and then stop. But other fields, I think- -
Well, I could never do that. Maybe because there's a
process involved which involves getting set up. You have
to get things organized to work. You have to have a
studio, obviously, which can stay the same while you're
So I think university artists tend to be no less
significant in some ways, but their work is not — They're
small ideas that you can pull off. That's a problem, I
LEHMER: That's something I have never thought about.
HEINECKEN: Well, I don't know. Some people may have a
different temperament and can just shut it off and start
it up again. The reason that this comes to mind and the
reason for leaving the university during those times is
exactly to counter the problem of having to show up even
those eight hours or sixteen hours.
LEHMER: So then you have to have a space, a studio. You
have to have an environment where you're not interrupted.
HEINECKEN: And not having to think about someone like
Victor Landweber or whomever and to not give up part of
your time to other things.
LEHMER: Here is a quote that you made in this Grunwald
catalog. Hopefully it's not too far out of context for us
to be able to deal with it: "That out of such
'university' of beliefs might come a diversity of
HEINECKEN: Is that Hugunin?
LEHMER: That's Hugunin quoting you. That's actually
something that you observed or favored or hoped for. What
does that mean?
HEINECKEN: That sounds clever. [laughs] It means — it's
a kind of language idea--that universality would imply a
leveling or — what's the word here? — commonality. I don't
know that the word "university" comes out of universality;
it's probably the other way around. But a "university," I
guess, would define- -
LEHMER: Giving people weight.
HEINECKEN: Yeah. I mean, that's the last level of formal
education, usually, that people have. It's defined by
grades, units, common courses that everybody takes in a
university. So the word "university" would tend to be a
kind of leveling device--which it is; it's a high level,
but it's a leveling device--and doesn't call for
diversity, which is part of the word or sounds like the
word. If we could coin a different word which would
suggest commonality but with differences, then that's
diversity. So it's really just kind of a comment in which
I think I'm trying to say something. But it's too-- Like
I'll often do, I'll use language in ways to make it a
little bit more unique or interesting to look at or read
LEHMER: But you have "a diversity of aesthetic
production." In other words, I'm thinking of the
individuality of the graduate students, that you respected
that. You weren't trying to mold them into--
HEINECKEN: Quite the contrary. It gets back to the
originality idea and the kind of innovation that I've
always felt was necessary for artists to have. What I'm
trying to say is that the nature of the university is to
not produce diversity. Its goal is to elevate everybody
to some kind of common level of intellect except on the
graduate level. And artists just don't fit that
LEHMER: The next question I have is if you could expand
on a quote of yours: "Pushing the boundaries of the
photographic medium. " Can you think of some examples of
what that meant to you during your career? More on the
level of an educator at this point.
HEINECKEN: Well, I have to go back again to the model of
the dissertation in the sense that it ' s got to be
something that only you know about, that you put it, in
the case of the dissertation, into a language that can be
read by other people who can understand what you ' re
talking about. That's where the model of the dissertation
breaks down. It's not a dissertation. It's not being put
into English, in most cases, so it can be read. It's
another language. It has to be something that — I use the
word "photography, " but it could be used with "painting"
or "dancer" or whatever. At a university graduate program
you have to originate something. It has to be in some
ways made clear what that origination is, how does one
project individualism. Six paintings in a room that show
you what an idea is, not six paintings that represent six
different ideas. That's not a way to make something
The boundaries are no less interesting in any medium,
but in photography, especially during this time period,
this is a fresh idea. You have Weston, you have [Alfred]
Stieglitz, and you have this whole history of people who
laid the groundwork for whatever else would happen,
because each one of these people either had an idea that
looked at the medium differently or-- Stieglitz tried to
make artwork which pushed the boundaries of what was
acceptable. Weston was doing that. We don't tend to see
it that way, but we didn't live then, right? I'm just
saying that it isn't-- Using the word "boundary" implies
at least a kind of pushing or stretching of some idea
rather than just stopping this and starting that. That's
not stretching; that's reinventing something.
So I think graduate students are caught--well,
everybody's caught — between some kind of expansion of
ideas as opposed to radically stopping something and
starting something else, like a revolution, like Marcel
TAPE NUMBER: VI, SIDE TWO
APRIL 10, 1996
LEHMER: I'd like to be able to expand on this idea that
we've been exploring here. We have in front of us an
outline of academic years- -faculty that taught and the
students that received their M.F.A.'s. You can kind of
get a handle on what graduate students worked under what
faculty in what time period without going-- This is a copy
that maybe we don't have to put on tape. I'd like to use
this to have you expand on some of the ideas. Are there
certain projects — ? And I'm sure we're going to leave some
important things out this way. But I think what we want
to get across in this interview is some ideas that — Maybe
there ' s a product that we can talk about that would
confirm some of these ideas that you've discussed, such as
"pushing the boundaries." There was certainly attention
paid to process but also to content, as you mentioned
earlier. When you look over this list, are there any
people here who you can think of whose work as a graduate
student reassured your ideas?
HEINECKEN: Well, let me go back to one thing first, which
is the kind of notion that you run into — I don't want to
say regularly. But if you're putting pressure of any kind
on an individual to conform to whatever it is that you
want, two things can happen: either the person rejects it
for whatever reason, and that's not so good, or they
follow it too much to the letter, and that's not so good.
So it's always a thing of trying to find some approach
with each individual that may be completely different than
it would be with another person- -which is not inconsis-
tency, it's trying to tailor whatever comments you're
making to that individual. You know them pretty well
after three years or so. I think the point I'm trying to
make here is that it's a very interesting job in the sense
that you have your own ideals in mind and in my case for
the program, which was always, during the early time
period, under fire in a sense. "Well, we're trying this
out, we're trying — "
The same with the other — I keep saying "new genre."
Whenever that came in, same thing. You had to fight or at
least justify your students' work in light of a group of
people who weren't understanding it necessarily but saw
the value of it. It's a common idea.
But I guess I'm missing my point here, which is when
the student reaches a point, let's say, when pushing the
boundaries of photography is no longer useful for them
because they've pushed the boundaries in photography as
much as they're willing to do-- I'm thinking of Susan
Hornbeak [Ortiz], for instance, moving even at the last
year of her work out of photography into sculpture, which
was much more inventive and much more powerful and
demanding than anything she had made before. Well, that's
wonderful. That happens sometimes.
But there's also the sense that when you're in a
minor program here--you're not in painting and drawing--if
you begin to paint, let's say, and it doesn't develop
along lines that have anything to do with photography or
doesn't even depend upon in its thinking anything about
photography, then you wonder if that's a mistake in one
sense. I mean, I would say this to people: "You're
sitting in a chair; there are only six chairs here, and
you're using up a chair--" I wouldn't say this because
they had moved out to something else. But if they're not
really doing anything, I'd say, "You're occupying a chair
that somebody else should be in." That sort of thing.
LEHMER: How does that differ from someone who moves from
one medium to another but who is active? In other words,
you're saying someone who's nonproductive is taking up a
HEINECKEN: Well, that, but I'm also trying to get to this
idea that you obviously want the student to develop along
whatever lines are the best for that student in relation
to making art. That's the picture. All I'm saying is
that when you're in an evolving media, you do have a sense
that — I'm back to how to choose the graduate students In
my mind. You can't guarantee what they're going to do,
fall or not. You can't even determine what they're going
to make. But that's why we have something called a
"photography area" or "new genre" or "sculpture." There
are certain implications there that if it's conventional
sculpture it's something that has volume, whatever. And
of course, they break that down right away. They did that
in photography, which is wonderful.
What I'm saying is that through the early years of
this, if you had people defecting to other areas of art,
something would be wrong. Because that would in a sense
prove that the medium of photography, no matter how far
you can press it out of what it's been may not be enough.
Maybe it ' s not a medium that belongs in this art
department. Or maybe "new genre" wasn't a medium that
belonged — There were certain strong feelings that it
wasn't. Chris Burden proved that it should be, that's
all. I proved that photography should be here, and those
students did. Certainly whatever permutation will be next
will have the same problem.
During this time period then — these are my friends —
the painting faculty were beginning to see the idea that
painting is dead. I mean, that was the watchword for
this. And it was true. They no longer were sitting on
the top of this media heap in this university. In some of
them that produced attitudes which were good and some
which were bad. The students reflect that. That's what
I'm getting to, is that you want them- -graduate students--
to move into whatever realm of the unknown that they can
originate in. But you also--
I mean, I've made a lot of different things, but
somehow there's a photographic idea in it or even just
using the process or something like that. But once you
run out of that, then you don't have an area. The
photography area is not characterized by the undergraduate
courses; we all understand that. Neither is painting nor
undergraduate courses in anything. It's the graduate
students who are getting the highest level of education
with their degree. That makes sense. It's kind of like
there's always a dilemma there, and no less a dilemma for
painting at certain points.
LEHMER: When we look through this list, what were some--?
HEINECKEN: Well, what comes to my mind first, before I even
start thinking about this, a very good example of someone
like this is Ellen Birrel. She wasn't someone who moved out
of photography. She's moved out of everything, in a sense,
to become a kind of theoretician. She was very effective in
that, especially as a graduate student. I tended to try to
use her as a TA [teaching assistant] with me as much as I
could, because she knew a lot of stuff, and she was
developing a lot of stuff that I had no idea about. So I
used her, in a sense, that way for myself, mostly I think
to test how effective or how necessary the theoretical
approach was for these students at this level of
development. I mean, I'm still not sure of that.
Luckily, I don't need to worry about it. But in any
event, when someone like Ellen-- I don't know whether
she's making artwork now, nor do I care one way or the
other. I do know that she's an effective educator. She's
been elevated through the ranks of that field. Without an
M.F.A. degree from somewhere, she would never have been
employed , and she ' s a person who needed to be employed in
order to develop these ideas. Initially in her work in
graduate school she did that, but it wasn't anything that
anybody else could relate to, probably, except me, because
I knew what she was doing and why she was doing it. So it
doesn't bother me that she's not making art, because she's
doing something probably more interesting than making art.
There are other people like that, too.
LEHMER: What about some other examples of people that--?
HEINECKEN: See, because they're a couple it's kind of
strange, but David Bunn also was similar. Maybe it's
because they were together or not, I don't know. He's not
making photographs anymore, but he is definitely a working
artist. Whatever it is he's doing it's being seen and
being talked about. So that's the difference I'm trying
to make. These two people, even if they were not a couple
I would still compare them that way. But if someone began
to develop-- [tape recorder off]
LEHMER: Well, that would be an evolution whether it was
still anchored with photographic ideas but that it moved
into a theoretical —
HEINECKEN: My point is that Ellen's M.F.A. show was a
model for what she perceived to be not only her exposition
of a certain set of ideas, kinds of didactic ideas, but
was the model for what she would begin to be interested in
as a teacher and theorist. So I think in some ways a
person like that is more important to the program. I
mean, when she puts down "M.F.A. , UCLA" and people
understand what she does, that can only throw a good light
on the program, even though she's not, or seems not to be,
a functioning artist. Which doesn't matter, right? If
she were living on the streets I would worry.
LEHMER: That brings me to another question that I had.
Maybe we can expand on that through your ideas that are at
the surface at this moment. The quote is--let me see if I
can paraphrase it- -you came into an era of "problematic
zone, a postmodernist 'quotation and effect,'" which is a
statement from Jim Hugunin. How can we define that? What
effect did that have on the program, if any? It's called
the "problematic zone" of postmodernism. I would imagine
it's problematic because it's colliding with modernism or
HEINECKEN: Right, sure.
LEHMER: But when he's trying to define that as "quotation
and effect, " do you have any idea--? Can you expand on
HEINECKEN: The first answer is no. I don't know.
Hugunin knows. It just always seemed to me that-- Well,
I'm not a person who works out of a theory, so it's always
difficult for me to actually grasp in what ways other
people could be happy with that, but obviously they are.
It's just so far removed from my temperament or my way of
thinking about art that it's not anything that I'm clear
about. I've been called that, and I don't even know why
I'm being called that.
LEHMER: You're being called what?
HEINECKEN: A postmodernist or whatever. I think in some
ways I invented it without knowing anything about it,
which is not to invent "it," it's just to do whatever you
LEHMER: Well, the word "quotation" means that you are
using someone else's thoughts, I would imagine. In other
HEINECKEN: It's a vague term. It's an art history terra.
We have a lot of them. What's "quotation"? I don't know.
You'd have to ask them what's the difference between that
and the next term and so on.
LEHMER: Well, the next term might be that it's an
original thought, but a quotation is like appropriating
other ideas or other people's theories.
HEINECKEN: Artists have always done that. Nobody comes
out of the blue with any of this stuff that I know about.
I mean, it starts someplace--with education, or you see a
painting. You can hardly do anything- -see, I won't even
use the word "quote"--that ' s absolutely original. It has
to come from something. If you were that kind of person,
you wouldn't be an artist. You'd be something else.
You'd be schizophrenic or something.
LEHMER: Well, I'm sensing--correct me--that the
difference between postmodernism and modernism could be
possibly that in modernism you may have appropriation, the
use of ideas that preceded you, but that what you have
done is to dovetail these ideas for your own use to
express your own ideas . Where what I ' m sensing in a
postmodern environment is a disassociation of you from the
work and that it's ant i -personal.
HEINECKEN: Yeah, I think I would agree with that.
There's also no stylistic identification in postmodernism,
or there theoretically shouldn't be. There obviously is
when someone makes enough things along a certain-- Like
Richard Prince. You know that that's his picture. Or
Barbara Kruger, if she fits this — I don't know--style.
But I've never made anything, no matter how automatic it
might seem, that isn't looked at and changed or discarded
because of its look. So I'm tied to that, I guess, as a
modernist idea. The structure of it is what makes it
interesting to make, not the quotation of it. Well, it's
part of both, I guess. Making the photograms of the
magazine pages, which you made dozens or hundreds of, we
ended up with twelve pictures there, all of which were
based on what the structure of the picture is and what it
looks like, not its meaning. All of them have the same
I just looked at-- [Allan] Sekula had a thing in
Camera Austria — it's a slide show--a hundred and some
slides, which the article didn't reproduce. You see the
description of the slides, and you see five examples.
Well, I understand they're not going to print 120
pictures, but there's just no distinguishing
characteristic about these pictures. They're just
pictures of people standing around or doing something.
It's the social or the economic position that they're in,
none of which is visible in the picture. It's explained
in the text. I don't know why I'm bringing this up, but I
was just struck by this guy. He's obviously brilliant.
He knows exactly what he's doing. He's so wonderfully
focused. I really respect this, but I don't get it. I
just don't get it. I don't know why anybody gets it,
except if you're in the frame of reference which is to
understand how this fits into the next biggest overview of
My point is that I don't know if I even care to-- I
never worry about what it is I am or what I'm doing. I
don't want that worry. It can make you stop. But I do
know how I pick the pictures : it's how they look . I
mean, whatever education I've had--which I've begun to
reveal is not much, I guess — was modernist. We didn't
call it that. But it was what the thing looked like. How
complicated was it? How interesting was it to see? To
experience it visually. It's still very much a part of
what I do. As far as the materials, maybe, magazines and
stuff like that are not conventional art materials, but
the ideas are very conventional .
LEHMER: Why do you think people would say that you are
one of the original postmodernists?
HEINECKEN: I think because I was doing things before we
had the term.
LEHMER: What were you doing?
HEINECKEN: I was using as subject matter public images
but with no theory, no quotations, no appropriation.
These are all terms-- Appropriation, actually, in my
understanding-- I forget what I was reading, but there
were five or six critics in New York who sat down, in a
sense, and invented this word to represent what it was
that they were interested in or talking about.
LEHMER: This may seem like we're off the subject, but I
don't think so. Let me try to tie this together. You are
an artist and an educator- -
HEINECKEN: Was an educator, except through exposition, as
we talked about.
LEHMER: I balk when you say that "was," because I figure
we're always learning from--
HEINECKEN: Well, it's true.
LEHMER: Well, I'm always learning from you. But with
this idea that you're an active artist, and when you were
an active professor, the head of the photography area in
the art department, one of your critically important
responsibilities — and we've laid a lot of groundwork in
this interview- -was to select graduate students from an
application pool. It may seem oversimplistic, but you
have a hell of a batting average for what the students
have done. For instance, the year of this publication
that we're using--1985--six of your alumni were given NEA
[National Endowment for the Arts] grants. It's a small
pool, but that's an incredibly high percentage for one
HEINECKEN: Yeah, that's a very high percentage.
LEHMER: Others of your alumni have received Fulbright
[scholarship] s, Guggenheim [ fellowship] s, and are in very
prestigious-- Not simply teaching, which is rare, but
they're teaching in some of the most prestigious
institutions in this country. Simple question: How did
you select your grad applicants? What did you look for?
HEINECKEN: Well, I don't know how to rank all of these
things, which I may have mentioned. But one consideration
I think always exists is, after some initial looking, to
try to figure out — Well, I would try to avoid bringing in
what I would think was maybe a marginal student who was
doing work along the line of a student who was already
there. Like Ron Kelley. By the time that he showed up
here, nobody was doing so-called documentary photographs.
Clearly he had a vision very early on in his-- He was a
writer. One wouldn't expect him to make pictures that
were not literate, in a sense understandable. The subject
was there and so on. His vision of kind of the
apocalyptic character of all of this was unique. But if
he were in graduate school and another person like that
showed up — If it's only going to be six people, you don't
want to start something that makes one-third of the
students moving in similar ways.
LEHMER: You don't want to typecast the--
HEINECKEN: You always have fifteen people that could be
accepted in this program, and each year you're going to
choose two or three at the most. So I'm just saying one
thing I'm always conscious of is it's so small a situation
that you can't afford to double up something. You have to
contact that person and say, "You're certainly acceptable,
but you're not accepted here. I hope you find the right
place." And maybe you say, "Look at Yale [University] or
[University of] New Mexico."
LEHMER: So you're looking for diversity. You're trying
to maintain diversity within the program.
HEINECKEN: That's right. Because it's so small you can't
accommodate — I mean, if you've got three people doing
stuff like Ron Kelley it begins to look like a deal or a
setup or something, which is what we don't want. So
that ' s one thing .
It was interesting, the other night, when we were
talking about the interview-- I've been extremely — I
mean, I've had both sides of this, where the [prospective
student's] slides look like really something and you
accept them. Later you meet this person and you have no
understanding of how this person ever got to that.
[There's] no way to talk with that person about it,
because it's just a fluke, maybe, that they did these
things. So I don't know. There is definitely a kind of
intuition. I think you don't have intuition until you've
done it enough that there are gut feelings about
Another thing which I-- It's kind of hard to define,
but you're looking at something you don't quite get, but
you know something's in it. That's very important.
That's a characteristic that you don't necessarily want to
have them achieve, but if they already have that coming
in, somehow that's an advantage. It's like seeing
something you never saw before, and you're seeing twenty
slides. You can sort of figure out whether this is a
fluke or not.
LEHMER: Well, the criteria of the department is twenty
slides of your most recent work and also a statement of
HEINECKEN: I don't think we required that statement very
much until recently.
LEHMER: You didn't?
HEINECKEN: I mean, I don't think the department did.
LEHMER: So it was another means of pursuing whether or
not this person knew what they were doing or on what level
the work should be addressed. You may be reading too much
into it or something like that.
HEINECKEN: Well, I think the first kind of go- through of
something like that-- I would not want to know where that
person went to school or what they were writing about or
whatever. Because if it doesn't look like something to
me — I don't want to have to read something to understand
LEHMER: So the hierarchy is that the visual work has to —
HEINECKEN: Also, I think you develop — it's beyond an
intuition- -how to read slides, because they're just not
the work. Especially if it's painting or something, you
have no sense, really, of what that thing is. There's no
surface, you know, all those things.
But it can't just be my intuition. You always have
at least one other faculty member, who usually would be
someone who has a completely different frame of mind than
you do. So you're using that person's particularized set
of intuitions coming from a different point of view.
Also, I can't really be clear about how the graduate
students fit into this, but I always use the graduate
students first and let them look at the applicants' slides
and rank them. It doesn't mean we're going to accept
their opinions, just that we want their opinions. Because
their state of mind would even be something where this
person is too good, this person is better than I am. That
kind of thing comes up, you know. Do we want this person
here? But mostly it's just to take their opinions
seriously. Look at the current group of students, look at
the applicants, try to figure out-- Well, let's say Ellen
Birrel is graduating this year. We don't count her in
this because she's gone. But what is the next three-year
period going to look like? What kind of students would
seem to expand the possibilities of that? And on top of
that, the slides have to look like something.
Once I get beyond that, the age of a person is
interesting. If a person is right out of undergraduate
school, I see that as a kind of a disadvantage as opposed
to someone who's not. If you see somebody from an art
institute versus university or college, you assume certain
things about that. If a person has never lived in the
city and they come to Los Angeles, that's going to take
you a year to sort that out. Things like that. And these
are all minor points, but I guess what I could say is that
it's not something that I took lightly. It's a serious
thing to do. You know, it's hard to do. I guess you
could identify five, six, ten factors. Once you get a
group of people that maybe is three times the number you
want, and they're all equal, then you can start looking at
things like age — I would look at things like age--or where
they come from or who they might study with, things like
that, but not before having made the decision about what
they looked like first and getting that set up.
LEHMER: The work?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. And maybe secondly how it would seem to
fit into-- Like if you got somebody whom you might
recognize as being- -
Well, another thing comes into this. Let me think
about this for a minute. The thing about women and
wanting-- At some point they are very consciously aware of
what you have not been achieving before in that regard.
And then the gay and lesbian thing is equally important to
that. But again, if you've got six slots, you can't
always accommodate for that. I don't know when it would
have happened in here, but I don't even think it would
have been conscious to say, "Well, we need half women."
There was certainly in my mind a kind of consciousness
what that was about. I never could figure out accurately
how the sexual preference thing would affect being an
artist. At one point we had, I think, three gay men in
this program at the same time, which changed it. I'm not
saying it was bad or good, it's just--
LEHMER: It was interesting to me because it happened, but
it wasn't a conscious choice that I could figure out. It
happened when I was around. It seemed to be always the
quality of the work. I mean, it just happened to be that--
HEINECKEN: Oh, yeah. Sure, sure. I'm just saying — I
would guess that they were in three different years, if it
was recognized that they were gay.
LEHMER: I think you're right. I think they were. And
then at that time we also had a faculty member who was
HEINECKEN: Yeah, right. Well, that's interesting too,
because all of these would be constructs about justice. I
think universities and most large institutions were not
conscious of this or were not sympathetic to it. It goes
against the grain of the way —
You know, my thinking about this always was an
antiquated idea, but at some point I recognized that.
It's more difficult to balance a program given such new
factors when it's small. So you could get down to some
point when it would be a political decision. Is it
Democrat or Republican or communist or liberal? You can't
represent all these groups. Basically, if you're making a
decision on two or three people a year, and the
department ' s making a decision about forty or something
like that, it's still a very small situation. But, I
mean, the idea of each area screening the slides first
already gives you — Let's say if you have a woman running
an area, that woman's going to be conscious of this. Or
if you have a gay person, as you mentioned, conscious of
it, then obviously they have their own set of principles,
agendas, beliefs, all of which have to be reconciled.
Then the quality of the work as is has to be modified by
all these other important factors.
LEHMER: I think what I'd like to do is see if we can tie
this up today with an overview. Maybe some of the
evolutionary, transitional highpoints of a very important
institution connected to the academic program--that ' s the
Society for Photographic Education. Is that the right
LEHMER: Which we call SPE. You were in, I think, from
the very beginning on this.
HEINECKEN: Yeah, pretty much.
LEHMER: There are some points I can think of where there
were evolutions, changes, transitions-- There was always
the defining of the educator or the defining of the
program or defining of photography in general, and the
redefining. What this institution did was to kind of
formally lay out the redefinition. I remember listening
to a program where you were on a panel with other people
to define graduate programs. I think there was a woman
from [University of] Indiana who said, "We look at their
grades first. We know that most of these people are going
to go out into the teaching environment. We want to make
sure that they can survive with the other academically
astute faculty in a university." And you came with a
different approach. At that time you said, "We look at
the work . "
HEINECKEN: Which is a wonderfully arrogant kind of
position to take, but yeah.
LEHMER: And then, "Based on that, if we like the work,
and their grades aren't good enough to get in"--let's say
didn't meet the standards of the graduate school--that you
would petition to get them in. Since I've been involved
with the program, I have observed not one situation where
these people weren't incredibly intelligent. But your
parameters were unique in the sense that you would do
whatever you had to to get that person in based on the
quality of their work, not necessarily on the quality of
HEINECKEN: Well, they have to have a certain [grade
point] average to apply, right?
HEINECKEN: But obviously that can be changed by petition.
LEHMER: But your priorities were that of the quality of
SPE went through a lot of transitions. Can you think
of some of the ones that would stand out in your mind?
Let me give you one example so that you can see where I'm
headed. I'd been out in the middle of nowhere up in
Montana, and I came down to an SPE conference at Asilomar
[Hotel and Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, California].
Someone that I had known from my days in the sixties and
the early seventies while studying at San Francisco Art
Institute-- There was a body of work that was very strong,
Les [Leslie] Krims's The Deerslayers. So he's the honored
educator at this conference. It must have been 1978 or
something like that. There were a lot of people in the
audience who rejected his work and his ideas to the point
where they practically booed him out of the auditorium. I
was stunned at the assertiveness and the confidence of
these people to act so disrespectfully in this situation.
But there must have been other defining moments within the
SPE, that this institution could show us, as to the
evolution of, the change in, the ideas of art and
photographic education. Can you think of any other
HEINECKEN: Yeah. I think the first distinctions that
were made would be around the technical idea. Techniques
were seen to be in the service of something- -in most of
our cases for an art idea. It had no value beyond
servicing some other thing, as opposed to a group of
people that were teaching in programs which were basically
technical. That's all there was in the very beginning.
So that was a kind of crisis. There was a division,
certainly, between the technical versus whatever else.
These things don't happen like UCLA, and then only slowly.
The idea of commercial photography, again, was a very
strong component of a lot of undergraduate situations,
including places like Art Center [College of Design] at
that point and Pratt [Institute School of Art and Design].
Probably the institutions that would come to mind if you
wanted to study photography would have been one of these
places. Or you went to RIT [Rochester Institute of
Technology]. So there's that hitch of not just the
technical but the commercial application of the work.
Commercial photography is what that is. There's nothing
wrong with it. But it wasn't anything that a Society for
Photographic Education would center on. It certainly
would be in the beginning of that organization. The
people you would have come, like Art Kane or people like
that, were basically commercial photographers, but they're
good at it. Somehow, slowly that became something that
was no longer interesting. Because now all the programs
for commercial photography were identified as opposed to
something with an art idea to it. So that shifted. It's
reflected in the programming and in the people who are
asked to speak. [tape recorder off]
Then I think maybe the next thing is how any of what
I was previously talking about affects education per se.
Not really graduate education, because that was still
something that was developed later or at least became an
important kind of issue.
Then I think there's a period of time when it's
finally stable — nothing, no real problems.
LEHMER: What kind of year range are you thinking?
HEINECKEN: I don't know.
LEHMER: Was that the late sixties or--?
HEINECKEN: Yeah. I think maybe early seventies,
something like that.
But at some point you get- -I think first it would
have been the students- -the question of whether students
were to be accepted into this situation, or were they
simply visitors to the conferences. Could they actually
belong to the organization? These were issues that were
discussed. But the student revolution that was going on
in all these places anyway made it very clear that
students were to be an active part of this. And then at
some point it's the feminist movement, which changes it