Q.M.I. Presents
The Blackboard Newspaper
Mystical Journey

Chris Bunch Meets Charles Bukowski

by Dr. Derek Lamar 

Chris Bunch, well known popular science fiction writer, was in the 60's mix and the underground newspaper scene at this time . Right out of the Viet Nam war he began a sort of apprenticeship in the political world of underground sensibilities as he rapidly adjusted to this lifestyle of bohemians and freaks.

One night Charles Bukowski went over to Chris' house for a party, all depressed about his 50th birthday. Jim Martin, then editor of Coast Magazine, was there with some gay guy from Cal State (worked in the library and microfilmed everything Open City newspaper put out). As Chris put it:

"And then Big Tall Carol came home, and Hank (Buk) decided, drunkenly, that he was gonna whip my ass and take her to bed. Carol loved all this. So Buk would threaten me, and I'd jerk him to his feet and say, 'Outside MotherFucker', and Martin and the gay guy would freak squealing, 'violence... violence'. And then , when I threw everybody out, having a party to go to, Bukowski wanted to go along. I wouldn't take him, because he was in his 'REALLY-shitfaced-and-puke-on-the-hostess' stage, and so he drew a cock and a pair of balls on my apartment door. The landlady got pissed . She didn't think it was funny when I told her: 'It's a Bukowski original, and if you had any class you'd have the door framed.'" To all of this Chris mocks: "Ah, the good ole days. Don't miss 'em a bit."

(Above: Christopher Bunch, author* and "Big Tall Carol, Cara Bryan in 2006)

Chris used to scare me. When I first met him he was standing in front of the editor's house where I lived. Now out of the army he looked every bit a Nam bam thank you ma'am soldier. He had short hair and a gruff attitude. He still has the attitude. Chris began letting his hair grow immediately and completed the affect by sporting a moustache and a beard: that sort of Che Guevara look. He would rumble up the alley everyday on his motorcycle, park it and then open the back door with a slam as he took off his gloves like an S.S. Officer.

(Left: Bukowski, doing his Tony Quinn impersonation; Right, Bukowski & Linda King sculpture) Bukowski images

When "rock critic" Jim Martin would come into the office I would flirt with him. And he would laugh at me nervously and say something polite in his Texas drawl. Bunch would pull me to the side and say: "Leave Martin alone. He's crazy. He's a schizophrenic psychopath and you're gonna get yourself into trouble with that one." I would laugh and go back to my desk wondering why I would be afraid of the rock critic when it was the guy on the motorcycle who scared me to death.

One day the Texas terror decided to let me down easy: "Derek, look here, if I ever decide to go to bed with a guy, you'll be the first guy I do it with." That was a big mistake. Not exactly a Queer Eye on the Straight Guy, more like a peek into the rock critic's closet. He wasn't just keeping records in there, he had some magazines too.

Leon Russell came by one day with his then partner Marc Benno. They did some promo shots for an ad they were doing for Shelter Records. They were standing on the stairs with some naked model doing some rather revealing poses. When the ads were published they came and arrested John Bryan for publishing such "filth". That was to be expected. But when it came time to go to court Leon Russell wouldn't agree to being a witness for the defense. That was the shocking part. Such was life in the 60's.

Well, they came and arrested Bryan again for some "vulgar lewd anti-social" thing which Bukowski wrote. It was putting censorship on the line for sure. It had little to do with the crudeness of the newspaper as much as its stance on left wing politics. Open City was pretty small fish for it to have been a Washington concern. It was more in the way Bryan would take on the L.A.P.D. Mark Fuhrman was probably still in high school at the time but the city politics was very waspish and they just couldn't take a joke. It all boiled down to "anti-establishment" versus "establishment".

It was enough to make you drink. And when it came to drinking there was really only one place to go. Los Angeles, and Hollywood in particular, mostly had coffee houses, unless you went to a gay bar. And gay bars weren't very Bohemian. Most of the coffee houses were so dark you couldn't find the sugar on the table. Let's see, there was the Purple Grotto, the Omnibus, the Fifth Estate, Pandora's Box, Scorpio '67, and the Epicurean among others. And most "hipsters" didn't think of themselves as drinkers, but rather scientists doing research "experimenting with drugs". So the left wing Bohemian crowd only had one place to hang out and drink and that was Barney's Beanery.

Well it was one of those nights a lot of us got together and went on down to Barney's. The publisher and his wife were there, Bukowski was there, some musician named Tim Rose, Larry Gaynor of Jaybird Magazine (naked as...) and Jervis Hill of Hot Rod Magazine (Peterson Publishing). Both Larry and Jervis did important lay-out work for the newspaper. They hung out at Barney's all the time but usually sat on the bar stool side where the famous sign "No Fagots Allowed" hung tongue-in-cheek above the bar.

(Left & Right: Barney's Beanery)

One night there was a brawl. A real bar fight. It spilled out of the bar side and made its way into the middle where the restaurant was. The fight continued with drunks rolling around on the floor. While this was going on, change was falling out of their pockets onto the floor. This French chick, Colette, a local bar fly, Bukowski would note, was busy on her hands and knees picking up the coins like she was a hungry fountain in a busy Paris intersection.

But this night there was no bar fight. Joan Bryan was busy telling me all about Tim Rose. I was in a band at the time, the Purple Backlash, and so she was interested in me meeting this Tim Rose character. I never heard of him before. She introduced us and we chatted. It was hard to hear but we exchanged some conversation. Finally Joan interjects that he wrote Morning Dew on Jeff Beck's first album. Now suddenly that got my attention. It wasn't long before we got raucous and Barney decided to kick me out of the bar for being under age. I was only 18 at the time.

It would be years before I would realize that being kicked out of Barney's Beanery by Barney himself was a sort of badge of honor. It's not like I was wrestling on the floor with Colette looking for change. But it was a time of change and the Magic Bus was still running and raring to go.

*Chris (Christopher R. Bunch) Bunch (1943 - 2005) was the author (with Allan Cole) of the Sten series and the Anteros trilogy for Del Rey. As a solo writer, he is the author of the Shadow Warrior science fiction series also from Del Rey. Both Ranger and airborne-qualified, he was part of the first troop commitment into Vietnam, a patrol commander and later a combat correspondent for Stars & Stripes. Later, he edited outlaw motorcycle magazines and wrote for everything from the underground press to Look magazine, Rolling Stone, and prime-time television. He was a full-time novelist until his death on July 4th, 2005. (photo & bio copyright Time Warner Bookmark)

Next issue the saga continues with Jim Martin, Tommy Smothers, Phil Ochs, Donovan Leitch, Gene Clark, among others waiting at the bus stop. Email at Derek Lamar Next Installment: Tommy Smothers Meets Phil Ochs

More Bukowski photos at: Charles Bukowski

© 2003 Derek Lamar
music by Derek Lamar © copyright 2006
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