I met Charles Bukowski twice before he opted out, or maybe I should say I observed Charles Bukowski twice before he died. Twice though, was more than enough for any man with any degree of sensibility or an iota of self respect. Not that I disliked him you understand. I didn't know him enough to dislike him, and the truth was that I enjoyed his weekly columns in the LA Free Press as well as finding more than a modicum of humor and raw truth in the several bizarre and perverse ramblings I had discovered in various off-beat periodicals. This was at the tail end of 1967 mind you, before he gained real recognition here at home, though he was already being hailed as a genuine, honest-to-god genius by the intelligentsia of France. Which, in retrospect, certainly makes wonderful sense, considering that Jerry Lewis earlier had been deified by the same cabal.
I had heard stories of course. Drunken rages and obscene performances seemed to be Bukowski's stock in trade, if one were to believe all the tales one heard. I didn't give them much credence however, knowing how tales grow in the telling, but suspected there might be a grain of truth hidden amidst the outrageous anecdotes. I was about to discover, much to my disgust, that more than a grain lay there; in fact, bucketsful! Carloads!
I was off to a party, somewhere up in Laurel Canyon, at someone's home I didn't know; dragged along by Val, one of the transient ladies in my life. She had dropped off a tape of songs at my office earlier that afternoon. With nothing better to do, and in hopes of getting some of her transient ass, I willingly went along, suspecting rightly that the party would only be a prelude to several hours with her in the sack upon my promise to listen to her tapes and try to place her songs.
We arrived late, after skidding into a clay bank negotiating one of the tight turns off Lookout Mountain Drive. Our hostess Bruno, (if one could classify a black six foot five transvestite, wearing a puce mini which graphically displayed a set of the nappiest legs this side of Ainuland, a hostess) greeted us in a high falsetto, examined my ass with seductive eyes, and then, all atwitter, informed us that Bukowski was arriving shortly. I gathered that this was to be the high point of the evening; a soiree with that little known author and man about the wrong side of town, Charles himself!
The crowd was eclectic, no doubt about that, a motlier group of troglodytes you never did see. In contrast to our hostess, who was almost svelte despite the hirsute legs, I noted a gent who had obviously been pumping massively at iron for some time. He was barechested and bulging, clad only in a pair of black stretchpants which left little to the imagination. The only problem was the guy couldn't have been more than three foot tall with a head which took up a good third of that height. He looked so odd in fact, with that huge neckless head sitting atop the stumpy little frame rippling with muscles, that I couldn't help staring, eliciting a punch in the ribs from Val and the comment that dwarfs always overcompensate. Judging from the size of the little dude's dick, highly apparent through his skintights, he must have been pumping a considerable amount of iron with his whang also. Talk about your overcompensation, that sucker would have given John Holmes some competition!
Val seemed to know everyone, which was giving me some second thoughts about greasing my candle in her probably well seasoned box. Thoughts of highly virulent strains of social disease danced through my head, no matter how much she sounded like Joni Mitchell, and the amount of tracks and sores exhibited on the arms and legs of many of the partygoers did little to assuage my doubts. There were, of course, several familiar faces, rock and roll denizens whose names escape me today, and, serving the hor douvres, the much in demand Okay Freddie, whose forte was to place his immense salami of a cock on a tray surrounded by piles of chopped liver and canapés. Okay Freddie spoke little but his dick spoke volumes, especially when hefted by the slim fingers of some of the scantily clad ladies present searching for a bit of pate. Neither Val nor I were particularly inclined to sample the edibles that evening!
Toward midnight, when things were well underway; the stereo blasting, couples here and there locked in peculiar embraces, and our hostess, with nimble digits encouraging Freddie to provide some special sauce for her consumption, Bukowski arrived. He was drunk, there was no mistaking that, armed with two bottles of red wine under his arm and another upended over his gross lips. Now to say that he was ugly was an understatement. Christ! If Carlos Casteneda had been present he would have been ecstatic, for at that moment Bukowski looked like nothing more than Mescalito, warty and pockmarked, his bulbous mushroom of a nose livid with drink and what appeared to be a growth of some kind protruding from a nostril. He waved his hand archly, took a swig of wine, and lurched into the kitchen after careening into a wall.
Our hostess, dropping Okay Freddie's anaconda into the mayonnaise, fluttered about the room, screeching "he's here! He's here!" She followed Bukowski into the kitchen on mincing heels. It couldn't have been more than a minute or two later when a warbling scream echoed throughout the house. Actually it was more like a siren going off beginning at middle C and working it's way up the register. For a moment everything stopped, then, when another shrill shriek echoed off the walls, everyone tumbled into the kitchen to see who's throat was being cut.
Bukowski was climbing off the sink, sucking on his bottle, his pants down around his ankles, whang and balls swinging in the breeze, with Bruno emitting shrieks at the rate of one per second. Bukowski waved his bottle cheerily with one hand, attempting unsuccessfully to pull his pants up over his oddly massive thighs with the other. Finally he dropped the bottle, pulled his skivvies and britches up over his almost albino white ass, cinched his belt, and, with an elaborate sweep of his arm displayed his efforts.. In the sink behind him lay two large and odoriferous turds.
Now I'm not one to say that taking a shit in the kitchen sink is always inappropriate. There must be times when the call is so urgent that the nearest receptacle is better than no receptacle at all. Any port in a storm so to speak. But from the sounds Bruno was making it was obvious that this particular gift of Bukowski's was not appreciated, especially as to it's proximity to plates of cucumber, cauliflower, and celery, not to mention the chopped liver. I was, to put it mildly, appalled. Perhaps it was my innocence, never having been exposed to Bukowski before, but Val seemed to take it all in stride. "Jesus," she said, "Did you see his legs?," as if the two glistening lengths of excrement, stark brown against the white porcelain, were merely something interesting to be observed in passing. "Jesus, he's got the biggest legs I've ever seen.."
It was true I suppose, his legs were disproportionately large for his frame, but why this should elicit much comment under the circumstances was beyond me. "Let's get out of here," I said, my stomach beginning to feel a little queasy, "I think I'm going to puke."
Bukowski, smiling broadly, was viewing his deposit with relish. He nodded his head approvingly, then with the greatest of aplomb, turned to the audience and bowed. Grinning at the still stricken Bruno, he ambled out of the kitchen into the living room.
"Well," said Val, "if you really want to...." She seemed disappointed but I had had enough. Hollywood parties, it seems, have a tendency at times to get a bit extreme and I was still naive.
The next time I saw Bukowski was at the home of, ( oh shit, I forget his name). You might remember him though; an old dude with a Russian or Rumanian wife and a little kid who performed obscene acts upon command. Eventually the kid falls off the roof, breaks his neck, and the old man cremates him on the spot there in the driveway. At least that's how the story goes. Anyway, this was before any of that shit happened.
The party was in full swing, lots of nubile young stuff the old man liked to have around to fuck, and a bevy of literary, music, and artsy types who came along for the ride. I'm not sure who I came with that night, though it might have been Dewey Martin, drummer for the Buffalo Springfield, or Charlie Brown the roadie. We made a lot of parties together in those days, Dew and I and Charlie Brown, and this may have been one of them, but my memory flags a bit. Actually, for a Hollywood get together it was pretty subdued; the old man with his hands up the dresses of the two girls he had on his lap and his wife expounding on Picasso, Miro, and Gary Puckett, while the rest of us were sitting around getting high and drunk trying to pick up on the stray stuff. Around one in the morning Bukowski rolls in. Well rolls isn't exactly the word, weaved is more like it, with a six pack of beer in one hand and the most ancient crone I'd ever seen in the other. She must have been eighty if she was a day, though it was hard to tell through the stringy gray locks and smears of lipstick and rouge which besmirched her face. You bet, Baby Jane almost to a tee, only worse; much worse!
He didn't say a word but nodded drunkenly at several people he knew, then pulled a chair to the center of the room after carefully setting down his six pack under a coffee table. That showed some style, making sure his beer was safe before going on to other things. The next thing you know he had the toothless hag half undressed, hauling out her limp hanging breasts with their inch long nipples, and pulling off the filthiest pair of soiled underpants it had ever been my displeasure to see. It was deathly quiet. The old man with his two nymphets had stopped groping and was viewing the scene with some interest while several others recoiled in revulsion as Bukowski began sucking on those withered mammaries, his fingers embedded in probably the grossest pie I had ever seen. Even for some of his more blatant aficionados this effrontery was too much. Several people left while others giggled self consciously. Bukowski, unbelievably, seemed to be enjoying himself, transferring his attention to the red slash of toothless mouth which was presented to him. His tongue flicked in and out of the orifice with such rapidity that his partner was hard put to it to capture the wriggling thing long enough to suck on it. "Oh Jesus," someone behind me mumbled, "he's not gonna go down on that is he?" I was wondering the same thing myself, viewing the whole surrealistic scene with a kind of a numbed fascination. If he does, I thought, or if she starts giving him some head with that awful drooling mouth, I'm out of here! We were fortunate. Head lolling, the crone belched, farted, and passed out, slowly slipping out of the chair as her black dress rode up her flabby thighs. When she hit the floor Bukowski nodded. Draping one of her limp wrists over his knee, he wiggled it reflectively. "If she's dead," he said, "she'd probably be a good piece of ass!"
One thing you could say about Bukowski, at least from my limited perspective, even at his worst, he still had some romance left in him!
John G. Hill
John Hill agreed to publish this excerpt from a forthcoming book about his experiences in L.A. in the 60s-70s. He suggested that some buk aficionados may not appreciate such a portrayal of the bard. We decided that most fans of bukowski would like to make that choice for themselves and would prefer to see it, editorial narration and all. Thanks to John for sharing his experiences. You can provide your feedback on the piece to: firstname.lastname@example.org -- cc: me, too. thanks. silva