Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs Make the LSD Scene — and Hunter S. Thompson’s First Voice Appearance!


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February 23, 1967, Vol. XII, No. 19

An Opening to the West: Ashram on Hudson Street

By Don McNeill

The setting was West, two blocks from the river on Hudson Street, but the inclination was definitely East. With a host of folk heroes present, an informal housewarming of the League for Spiritual Discovery’s Manhattan headquarters also became the initial meeting of a conspiracy designed to introduce some San Francisco ecstasy to grim New York…

The LSD Center, still under construction after weeks of expensive delays, is in a corner storefront at the unlikely location of Hudson and Perry Streets. Mandalas and a poster-sized portrait of Timothy Leary are taped to the windows below the ornate sign that identifies the place…

Earlier, Leary had called from JFK Airport, Nina Graboi, director of the LSD Center, spoke to him on the telephone, quietly spoke to Susan Leary, sitting nearby, and announced to the group that he was coming. Now Leary had arrived grinning but silent.

The front door of the Center opens. Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, and a tall, tin, spectacled man walk in. William Burroughs is recognized in seconds. Alpert simultaneously cracks “he looks so straight.” They laugh as Burroughs and Ginsberg pick their way through bodies to the head of the room, and sit on the floor…

Ginsberg mused about the pragmatic aspects of an ecstatic revolution in New York. A meeting like the Be-In, “an apolitical pow-wow in the style of the American Indian,” is a lot of work, he explained. The Haight-Ashbury scene is “a structured organization without a single head but with lots of competent ‘heads.’ I imagine that it could happen here, but somebody has got to do it. I’m not going to.”

Ginsberg continued, and Orlovsky rapped loudly in reply from the back of the room. Orlovsky was in prime form, and the interruptions were comic and gross. “Here we don’t have anything like the Fillmore,” Ginsberg said. “We have the Dom, but that hasn’t developed into a sacramental meeting place.”

“You can’t have anything up there because it’s a goddamned lonely place,” Orlovsky broke in. “It’s full of green.” Laughter. “He takes speed,” someone said. “I’m off it now, folks, just take vitamins,” he rapped back. Roars of laughter and, with a flurry of parting words, Orlovsky worked out…

Sleazy Cowboys Ride The Existential Range

By Ross Wetzsteon

“They’re the Wild Bill Hickocks, the Billy the Kids — they’re the last American heroes we have, man.”

Hell’s Angels, pioneers of the human spirit, mythic folk heroes, the last free, unrepressed men — new recruits initiated by having a bucket of piss and shit poured over their heads…

A kind of ambivalence seems to me to be at the heart of Hunter Thompson’s new book, “Hell’s Angels” (Random House), a violent book which denies much of the violence attributed to the Hell’s Angels, an exciting book which reveals that their life is ultimately boring, a subdued book which graphically details their viciousness, a sober and ugly book written with swagger and irony, a book intending to de-romanticize the motorcycle outlaw yet a book which will feed the fantasies of thousands of readers, its brutal cover displayed glamorously on thousands of book counters…

He got involved with the Hell’s Angels, he said last week, because he wondered “why Time and Newsweek (and the New York Times) felt such a need to draw a phony portrait of them.”

…Thompson, a 29-year-old freelance writer who hung around with the Angels for a year, not so much researching as absorbing, a kind of writer-in-residence whose tenure finally expired with a stomping, felt this fascination and revulsion on another level. After talking to him for a couple of hours, one can see that his fascination wasn’t based on any rapture – of – the – depths mystique but simply on his beer-drinking, hanging – out – with the guys stance, and that his ultimate revulsion wasn’t hysterical and exhilarating fear but just that he got fed up. Tough enough to mix, sense enough to quit. A Hemingway pose to make his book sell, a Hemingway seriousness to make it truthful. The only way a book could have been written about the Hell’s Angels.

Thompson said that the question most often asked of him is: “are the Hell’s Angels really as bad as we’ve heard?” He has to answer yes and no. Because almost everything one has heard about them, he insists, is wrong — and yet the truth, in a way, is just as bad. Many of the things they’ve been accused of have been exaggerated, and yet “the scurvy ugliness” is still his final impression.

Another reaction to his book — “it really surprises me — the woman thing.” He goes into “the national rape mania” in his book but apparently the nerve-ends were rawer than he’d thought. While on his promotion junket, he’s found that the most interest has been expressed by daytime women’s television programs. And his mother, a librarian in Louisville, tells him that almost all of the library’s 24 copies have been taken out by women…

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]