Goodbye Liz


Elizabeth Taylor died today. As she passed out of this world so to did a powerful illusion, a bittersweet, glamorous mystery. This beautiful brunette wonder embodied desire. She was an anachronism of sexual grace  that barely exists anymore,  not in this epoch of pornification and manufactured allure. We’ll miss you, like we miss Marilyn, and Audrey, and Lana.

I remember as a boy being overwhelmed by LT’s beauty in Cleopatra, and wondering what it must be like to touch , or smell or be close to such a creature.  She could provoke desire that was as clean as a razor’s edge, that made you give in to the demands of the siren’s song or lash yourself to the proverbial mast in futile resistance. Even though she was a siren( a lost art in these times), she was no princess of pruriance, no skeezer of the floodlights. She was a queen; ditz, glitz and glamour be damned…a queen. RIP Liz.

Interviews, Outliers

Kay Taylor (Parker), Taking the light behind enemy lines, Part 1.


Kay Taylor (Parker) is perhaps best known as the star of the (in)famous pornographic film series Taboo, which fetishized mother-son incest and oedipal desire. The controversy around the film is well-known, but what is little known is the story of the real-person of Kay Taylor. Kay remained in the industry for 10 years, and has reached a sort of iconic status by some purveyors of porn, but she could not exist farther from that world, spiritually, ethically, emotionally.

Taylor lives and works in Santa Monica, California, and her work as a spiritual healer and intuitive could be seen as the polar opposite her work in her past life, but that would be a misguided view. Taylor is a person that has graciously lived and seen her life as a continuum, a process of refinement, a work in progress, always towards the eventual goal of more light, more grace, more peace and truth.

This two-part interview took place at her  home in Santa Monica, where she instantly made me feel comfortable. The conversation ranged from her upbringing in the UK and Malta to the impetus for her coming to America and getting involved in “The Industry”, from her reputation as “the prude of porn” to her associations that influenced her spiritual path and current community.

Kay’s website offers more detail about her life journey and work: http://www.starsourceonline.com/

The first part of the interview deals with Kay’s upbringing, history, and involvement in the industry, and part 2 is a  conversation concerning her spiritual work and focus. The interview begins after my having answered some questions posed by her concerning my career path and what sustains me.

KTP      …Yeah, well, there are no mistakes.  Obviously you know that’s what you’re meant to be doing, and uh, you know, personally I’ve always worked outside the box so you know, there are uh, challenges with that.

PH        Hm.

KTP      (Laughing)

PH        Yeah.  We’ll talk about that because I wanna know what some of those challenges are because one of the things that I’m interested in is how people  sort of take these circuitous, interesting paths, and how the experience sustains and enriches them,  You know what I mean?

KTP      Yeah.

PH        I mean, just being able to sort of make things work.

KTP      Trust.

PH        Yes, you know what I’m talking about!

KTP      Trust my relationship to God.

PH        Yeah.

KTP      It’s that simple.

PH        Yeah.

KTP      God provides.  One way or another.

PH        The more simple the better?

KTP      Yeah.  I mean, I could elaborate upon that of course, and I’m sure we will as we talk on.  But essentially you know, people say how do you do it? And I say, well I have my challenges but wherever I go, I always go back inside, go back to God and remember who I am, why I came here to this planet, what my mission is and center myself in that, and then suddenly everything gets handled.

PH        Yeah, yeah.

KTP      You know, one way or another.

PH        Have you always felt that way?

KTP      Well, I mean, I’ve been on my path, this path, in this lifetime for over 30, maybe 35 years so, always? No of course not.  You know, we all vacillate,  we all go through our ups and downs and times where you just wanna say… what?  Just, “I gotta be crazy” you know, but I’ve always had a sense of self meaning since I was a child that there was something different about me.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      I wrote about this in the book, you know, it’s like, the voice inside that said you’re one of the chosen ones which really translated that I was one who had chosen to be different, to be here and be what I call a light worker on the planet.  And because of that my path would not be like everybody else’s. If you would have asked me when I was a kid growing up and certainly as an adolescent, and perhaps even a 20 year old, I still had the dream of finding the perfect mate, having children, etc., etc.  But it just was not my destiny in this lifetime. I do believe that we all have a destiny and destiny lines us up with certain persons, places, events, that we need for our soul growth.

PH        What was pivotal in your understanding that facilitated your changing gears and adjusting to your current path?

KTP      Well  what changed was actually coming to LA after having already sort of gotten into film for a short while and then moving to LA, even though that was not my idea of an acting career you know.

PH        I understand.

KTP      So I think if I’m really serious about this I should move to LA, that’s the place to be.  I was in San Francisco at the time.  And so I came here and within a couple of weeks I met, number one, a numerologist who blew my mind with what he told me just by reading my numbers, and I went whoa, you know. I then joined a meditation group, and shortly after that I met two individuals, both men, who were my teachers, and then entered into what was really a seven year spiritual study program. During this time I met a friend of mine  who lives just around the corner now, with whom I’m doing a major project and it just started to become clear that this was a path that was already laid out long before I was aware of it, and that there was a destiny involved. That really my job was to align myself, and to surrender to that which is not easy to surrender to, because it means you have to relinquish your attachments to certain things, maybe everything.

PH        What was the hardest thing for you to detach from?

KTP      That’s a good question. It wasn’t hard for me to detach from my family, I had already detached from my family.  I mean, I love them and they’re still in my life but, I moved to the other side of the planet practically, away from them. There was a certain sense of oppressiveness in terms of living in England at that time. So, I guess the ongoing process of just surrendering the ego.

PH        We all get stuck in stuff.

KTP      Yeah.

PH        What I mean is that we all have our thorns in the flesh or the thorns in the spirit. We have things that trip us up and which are sort of consistent obstacles for us, and which if we are fortunate and diligent and open, maybe we get to navigate them so that they don’t become oppressive.

KTP      Yeah.

PH        So I guess, what, might be that thorn for you? What was that thing?  Or was there that thing? Not everybody has to have that, you know.

KTP      No, definitely.  As a child I had asthma, and uh, I’m sure you’ve run into this, but asthmatics, um, do you know who Louise Hay is?

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      Yeah, okay, so in Louise Hay A to Z, you know, illnesses may be a result of the consciousness that created the illnesses and then the affirmation.  Asthma, and I’m just referring to her definition, asthma has to do with smother love or, in my interpretation of that, is not having the space to be who you are to expand, to be who you really are.  I was just writing about this actually for my website because I’m doing it over.  So, it was a constant search for who I was and not surrendering, not succumbing to anybody’s idea of who I am.  Even after being in the porno business for 10 years, it was like that’s not who I am.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      It’s something I happened to be doing.  Who I am is, is light, is love, is God, is spirit.  I had a father who was a strict disciplinarian, you know, naval person, and a rageaholic, you know, and consequently I struggled in my relationships with men, always had, and perhaps still always do, always will, because that in a sense keeps me on a certain razor’s edge, you know, where you’re, you’re always checking, it’s always like well, am I giving away my power?

PH        That’s interesting.  It’s interesting that you say that even when you were in the porno industry that you had a strong understanding that that was not your essence.

KTP      Uh-huh.

PH        Because you know the interesting thing about it is that it you have come notable for this deep compassionate otherness coming across in the performances.

KTP      Right. I hear that all the time, and by hearing that I know that I did my job. I don’t know if you had a chance to read this but there is a chapter called “Orgasm” in the book.

PH        I have not.

KTP      Okay.  It’s worth a read. Every once in a while I go back and read it. I refer to one of my dear dear teachers who taught me the wonderful art of kinesiology which I use, muscle testing, which I use extensively these days, always have.  He was an amazing man and he was one of these eccentric geniuses who had discovered all these tests for specific, specific consciousness’s shall we say.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      One day Henry called me up very excited and  said “ I’ve discovered the muscle test for passion” and I could tell this was very important, this was a man that didn’t get excited you know, he was a very sort of neutral, very evolved being. But he was excited and I said okay, I’ll be right over. Because I knew if he was excited that this would be something that would excite and interest me.  So I went over there in a flash and he said okay, sit down, knees about a foot apart, and your fingers interlaced behind your head.  I want you to think of a time when you were in passion.  So I said okay and thought of a dear friend of mine that I was in love with for many years, a Soul Brother by the way, and a well-known actor, no names mentioned.  But we were in each other lives for a long time. He was in and out of my life, but we had such a soul connection it was just a lifeline for me.  So, so I thought of one evening when he showed up with the yellow roses and the Sherry, because he knew I loved Sherry at that time, and crackling fire, you know, sensuality and…

PH        The whole thing.

KTP      So Henry said okay now, I’m going to try to push your knees together, so resist. So I’m thinking of this beautiful moment in time, and he pushed and my knees went like jello, didn’t hold. He said that wasn’t passion.  So I said whoa, okay.  So okay, he said, think of another time.  So I thought of another, same person, and same thing happened.  He said there wasn’t passion.  So I went what? Then I said wait a minute, okay, I’ve got one for you.  And I held in my consciousness the scene in Taboo, what’s called the seduction scene with the son.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      Held that in my consciousness and he tried to push my knees together and without even trying my knees did not budge.  He said that was passion.  And I said whoa. You know, it’s like, what are the implications here?

PH        Yeah, that’s what I wanna know.

KTP      Okay, well what is passion?  One has to define passion, right.  So passion to me is when you are connected, there’s a total connection, mind, body, spirit.  There are no rational logical thoughts, nothing in the way of you connecting on an almost tantric level. Tantric.  Whereas the other two incidences that I thought of, there was always something amiss, I was idealistic, I didn’t feel worthy of having the relationship, so I accepted what was given to me, with great relish. I definitely loved this man, but, he was off doing his thing and having multiple relationships, you know.  What I’m saying is that was what was delivered to me and that’s what I took.

PH        Right.

KTP      So it was not resonating as passion because, excuse me, um, there wasn’t a total connection.  Are those chimes too much?

PH        No, they’re wonderful, it’s fine.

KTP      Yeah they are wonderful, they just get a little loud sometimes, I can always close the door.

PH        No, they’re fine.

KTP      So, so when I thought of that and I thought whoa, and I thought no wonder that movie sold so many copies because you know, the camera doesn’t lie, and a person, even though a person may not be conscious of what they’re seeing, they are witnessing true passion, what a blessing, what a blessing.  It just so happened that my body was being used for this. And this is why spirit used me, even though I was entering a period of time where I was not comfortable with the fact that I was still doing movies. And I said Henry, why can’t I break away?  And he said well somebody’s gotta go behind enemy lines and take the light…., those were his very words.

PH        Someone has to go behind enemy lines and take the…

KTP      Take the light.

PH        The light, the light.

KTP      Consciousness, love.

PH        And so you were that somebody.

KTP      That spirit chose me. I chose back, but you know.

PH        What  were the responses  to you by the people that you worked with doing the years that you worked in porn, because obviously you were very atypical of many people who worked in that industry.  How did the men and the other women respond to you as a person?

KTP      In the business?

PH        Yeah, in the business.

KTP      They didn’t get me, they didn’t get who I was.  I mean, there were a couple of people that I deeply connected with, for reasons that they certainly weren’t conscious of, but I knew why. But for others I was just way too…I think deep was the word that was used about me, because I cared about what I did, even though this was undeniably something that was sort of taboo, it still mattered to me that I  connected deeply as I was performing. I would meditate before each scene; I would do this little sort of chanting thing where I called in the light and protection, always asked for protection. I did it very consciously, though a lot of people weren’t aware I was doing that part of it.

PH        Right, right, right.

KTP      But that, that was fine but, and then when I was done I would go home. I did not fraternize with people in the business, it wasn’t of any interest to me because I don’t do drugs, don’t drink, don’t smoke. I labeled myself for the longest time as the prude of porn.

PH        So you never did any of those things?

KTP      Oh yeah, I did them, but at that time I was weaning myself off of everything because it just didn’t work for me, it was like why do I do this? It was just peer pressure that’s all.  And I’ve always been the kind of person, it’s like don’t tell me not to do anything, I will do it and I will find out for myself.  So you know, um…

PH        You have to touch the stove, as it were.

KTP      Yeah, but it was really becoming clear to me that sexuality’s not something you mess with in an unconscious way which so many people do.  I mean, I saw in some cases the people who were making the films and their rage and their anger and it’s like, I’m not gonna put that on the screen, I’m not gonna put that in my performances because I care.  It was very idealistic, but there were several of us at that time who were really dedicated to doing something different.

PH        Well, what other people would you consider in that category?

KTP      Seka cared, and Richard Pacheco who is still to this day a buddy of mine, I love him dearly. We did a lot of TV talk shows at that time and I’m trying to remember who was…? There were a couple of women who were on the other end, on the production end who were also very dedicated to that.  Um, can’t remember the names at this point. But there were a few. I think Juliette Anderson who recently passed. She died about um, I wanna say about six months ago, and then Jamie Gillis went soon after actually. Annette Haven, Annette in her own weird and wonderful way was also dedicated to that and took no guff from anybody you know.

PH        I would this is an industry that has changed tremendously over the years.

KTP      Yeah.  And really I have to, I mean I only hear, I have no interest in it whatsoever anymore, it’s like, as I told somebody my banner has changed so much over the years, it’s not, it’s like, it’s like a dream that came and went but I, yeah, I think it inevitably has changed tremendously.  But I hear all the time about people who were still drawn to, to the vintage films because they, they had more heart and soul. We had scripts; we had multiple days in which to shoot.  You know, I mean…

PH        Some “story” or what have you.  But I have one question that I wanted to ask and then we can move on to other things.  There’s an element to the whole pornographic experience that has a strong flavor of compulsion and addiction for the men who are purveyors of it…

KTP      Yep.

PH        Men who use it on a regular basis.  When you were acting, did you ever connect to being part of that reality at any level at all, I mean, did you ever ask yourself about that?

KTP      Sure. 

PH        Yeah.

KTP      Sure, because there were gentlemen that I would run into from time to time that admitted to me that they were either hardcore addicts, or just addicted, you know, that it was far easier for them to sit at home with films than go out and actually seek a relationship.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      There was actually one very well known film producer who( this was after I moved to LA), called me up and told me that he had a job for me in a low budget mainstream film that he was doing that turned out to be just a ruse to…

PH        To try to get to know you?

KTP      To try to get to know me, and what was interesting, one of the amazing experiences I ever had was to sit with him while he consumed two bottles of wine, by himself because I don’t drink, and I had to walk him to his car that night. He had admitted to me over dinner that he had jerked off to me many times and he said I would much rather do that, it’s easier for me to do that than to seek a relationship or to go through the steps of having a relationship.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      So, as I was closing his car door, I don’t even know why I let him drive, I should have insisted, but anyway, that’s beside the point, but he said to me, he looked at me and very sort of wistfully said lady, I don’t wanna go to bed with you, I’d like to wake up to you. And I said well, I would just ask you one thing…. remember this conversation that we’ve had tonight.  Because first of all, I was brought there on false pretenses, you know, and that I’m a pretty intelligent person, I know what’s true and what’s not. But there was higher purpose in that whole situation, that whole meeting and uh, I’m sure it left an impact, it left a mark on his spirit. But it was interesting hearing, coming from somebody like him, he probably could have had the pick of all the young starlets in Hollywood and yet what he was saying was he’d rather just stay home uh, and watch, he said me, but I’m sure he watched other, I mean, I’m sure it wasn’t just me, I’m sure it was other women, but….

PH        Well that’s, that whole sort of compulsion, it pulls people into a  netherworld to where I think if they go deep enough it’s quite difficult for them to find the boundaries, you know,  and that’s hard and it takes effort, and transparency and vulnerability to actually be in a relationship. 

KTP      Yes.

PH        And then when he was actually confronted with the real person he found out that he liked you.

KTP      Yeah.

PH        And you know, finding out that he liked you, you know, really turned things on their side.

KTP      Yeah.

PH        And I think that’s, that’s really a wonderful process, that if we open ourselves up to all kinds of people on different levels, people can surprise us and we can surprise ourselves, and then it’s easier to sort of let go of this nasty murky stuff that we create that has nothing to do with other people.

KTP      Yeah, I mean it is, yeah, I mean, to go deeper into that, it was, I was saddened by the fact that there were addicts in the world of individuals who are lonely, who are um, unable for whatever psychological reasons to reach out and to be vulnerable enough to expose themselves to uh, meeting women.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      Yeah, I mean I was aware that there were tons and tons, there was a time when you know, there were a lot of magazines, I don’t know if they exist anymore today but I was in touch with a lot of the magazine publishers and people who wrote a lot of articles for them and it was a whole different time…

PH        Right.

KTP      And so I had much more exposure to a lot of different areas and it was really obvious to me that there was one slice of society who were totally okay with their sexuality and they were very um, experimental and open, something that I had never been, believe it or not, I used to call myself the prude of porn because, because I um, hold on one second.  I wanna make sure he takes this envelope here.  She did.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      But that, but that one area of the lonely, the lonely men or the lonely middle aged virgins, and there were a lot of them, you know, were sad, and again there was a time where I was very idealistic.  I used to write a lot of letters to these people, I handled my fan club myself, I used to spend a lot of time writing letters and also to men incarcerated because my position was not to judge but rather to shed some light where I could and always, until it got to the point to where it’s like oh my God, I’m spending way too much on this, I’m not making any money, I’m losing money if anything, but it was kind of like my mission at that time, you know, it was kind of like a, what do you call it, um, ministry. You know, so, and then I, then I let that go.  But still today I get letters from individuals, from men who are obviously lonely and inept at the whole art of interacting with other people, um, painfully so.

PH        Then there’s some men, that’s not so much their dynamic, they just are consumed with lust.

KTP      Yeah, oh yeah, they are different.

PH        Men can be just as simple as that.  You know, there’s nothing else to it, there’s no psychological, you know, whatever, they’re consumed with lust, they have regular relationships, they have lots of sex, they have successful jobs and whatever.

PH        But let’s shift gears a little bit.  I’ve read a few  cursory things about your background, but I’d like to hear you talk about that a little bit more… when you were in England, what your family situation was like, what were sort of the precipitating things that led up to you leaving and coming over here.  Like how did you get to San Francisco?  You know, what was that path?

KTP      Right, well, um, I actually did not spend that many years of my childhood in England because my father was in the Navy as I said earlier.

PH        The United States Navy?

KTP      No, no, no, British Navy. And so we, we spent about five years over-seas, on the island of Malta actually. It was great, it was like another lifeline for me because when I was in England I was depressed, the weather was cold, I mean, I didn’t wanna be there, for whatever reason.  Often, you know, even as a child, I would um, kind of look up at the heavens and say “why here? “You know, it’s like, this doesn’t make sense to me.  And I remember as a kid  spending a lot of time struggling for breath because I had asthma, which was as far as I’m concerned just as my resistance to my circumstances and the constriction and the oppressiveness of my father, and a post-World War II depression.  I mean, it, it was tough, and so when I spent all those hours sort of struggling, holding on for dear breath, I talked to God.  And then when it was summer and I was outside I would lay on the Earth and I remember just loving the smell of the Earth! Every British person has a garden so you know, I mean, if you’re fortunate enough to have a little strip of land behind your house you got a garden and you grow vegetables and I loved to go up to the garden and pick the vegetables and just smell things and just be in touch with the Earth.  I’m a Virgo so maybe that’s what that was but…

PH        When’s your birthday?

KTP      August 28th.

PH        Mine’s September 6th.

KTP      Oh, so you’re a Virgo too.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      Ah-ha, okay.  So I had these, not visions, I suppose they were sort of visions, of other realities. What does a child know except lots of kids talk about the fairy kingdom and things that adults don’t talk about, and they talk about them until adults tell them not to talk about them and try to shut them down, you know, but it’s all, as far as I’m concerned it’s all very real. It’s not just a fantasy land.  So I was aware you know, of, I was aware of let’s say another reality.  So, I grew up and got back to England and was enrolled again in a girl’s school and I hated it, it was just so completely ridiculous as far as I was concerned.  I wasn’t aware I was learning anything, so as soon as I could get out, I got out, which was interesting because my parents let me and I…

PH        How long were you stuck at this school?

KTP      Well, I was actually out of school at 15½.

PH        Okay.

KTP      Now there’s, the English, the way that the English school curriculum goes is that, is that for grammar school students, grammar school being college prep, it’s different from here, there’s an exam called the 11 plus, which determines which school you go to. But at 15 you take the GCE, which is the certificate of education Well, I failed miserably because in Malta I’d been studying the Cambridge syllabus where at the school in England they were studying the Oxford syllabus so it was screwy you know, so, and my only choice at that point was to go back and redo two years and it’s like you gotta be kidding, no way. So I left school and I, I took a couple of jobs, you know, in shops, and started commuting to London… and it just was like one of those things where I just need to leave, I just needed to go.  And as it so happened, I met a German boy in the summer, I met a German boy, soul connection, so it became my ambition to leave and go to visit him in Munich, and he lived in Munich.  And in a sense, he was my carrot.

PH        He was your…

KTP      Carrot.

PH        Your carrot.

KTP      To leave.

PH        Right, right.

KTP      So, just shy of my 18th birthday a friend and I left and we hitchhiked around  Europe for a bit and I landed in a town called Wurzburg, which it has an American military base. Because I had met a boy.  The girl I was traveling with, her money got stolen in a youth hostel so she had to go home, her parents called her home and I said I’m not going home.  Because my father’s words to me as he put me on the train to Europe was you’ll be home in, I think, what was it, he gave me six weeks I think and he said you’ll be home, mark my words and it was kind of like one of those things where it’s like, there’s no way I’m gonna go home and give him…

PH        He threw down the gauntlet.

KTP      Yeah, the satisfaction, so, sounds to me like you know these kinds of things.

PH        Yeah, a little bit.

KTP      Little bit.  So anyway, so I decided I was going to stay and I had met um, not the friend who originally drew me there but another boy and he ended up taking me to his family in Wurzburg who were so sweet and wonderful to me and put me up for a while and then I was there for about nine months. I was working for Americans actually at that time, but I was realizing that I really wanted to speak the language and so my goal had been to learn another language and I wasn’t doing it because I was just speaking English all the time.  So I ended up moving to Munich, I took a job with a family, a very prestigious family who were involved in the world of opera, worked for a gentleman who is very well known in German opera, throughout Europe and theater, and it changed my life.  They were so wonderful to me.

PH        In what way, I mean, just the exposure, the acculturation…

KTP      Just the exposure, yeah, the exposure to the culture and uh, and within about three months I had picked up fluent German, this was amazing, and um.

PH        You still speak?

KTP      Not much, not much.  I’ve forgotten, I’m very rusty.  I mean, I could pick it up again.  But what I realized, I came to realize many years later was the reason it came so easily to me was I was just retracing old steps, that I was German in my last lifetime.  And, this is when I became interested in past lives and looking at the bigger journey and it was also very familiar to me, even Wurzburg by the way was familiar to me, so I had for some reason, somehow, I had been guided back there.  So anyway, so I worked for the family in Munich for about a year and then my father was taken ill and I had to go back to England and I quit the job because I wasn’t going to spend my life working as an au pair, you know, so.

PH        Right.

KTP      And once again, my father was kind of like the catalyst for me moving on. After three months you know, he had recovered enough and I left and went back to Germany again, not quite knowing what I was gonna do.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      But the American people I had worked for came through and they pretty much handed me not only a ticket to the States but a green card and I ended up spending the first year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, because that’s where they were going.  They were getting ready to retire from the Army and  they were headed to Santa Fe because they had relatives there and so that was my first stop which was amazing, you know, for somebody you know, young and wet behind the ears as I was at that time, the first stopping place to be Santa Fe, New Mexico.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      It was amazing, I loved it.  And then I went from Santa Fe to Boulder, Colorado for a year.

PH        I love Boulder.

KTP      Yeah.  Not knowing that several friends who I would later meet were there at the same time that I was, including Aaron, my mentor, my dear mentor.  So that was about a year and then I got pregnant and it was one of those things where okay, what am I gonna do.  So I was fortunate enough to be able to get an abortion and right after that I got on a Greyhound bus and came west to San Francisco.  So I landed in San Francisco in ’68. Slap bang in the middle of the flower child era, sex, drugs, and rock and roll baby!

PH        Uh-huh, absolutely.

KTP      Yeah.

PH        Yeah.  Yeah, I was 8 years old. 

KTP      It was an amazing time.

PH        Yeah.

KTP      It was an amazing time.

PH        Yeah, people keep trying to recreate it so I assume that it is a…

KTP      They do?

PH        I mean, they try to create the aura of it but they don’t do a good job I think, recreating the conviction of it.  I mean, you could go to Haight-Ashbury now and it’s still hippies and stuff but it’s…

KTP      Is it?  I had no idea.

PH        You know, it’s different.  I think that was a special time in the history of this country.

KTP      Well, you know, I moved around for a while within San Francisco and then I, I moved to Sausalito.  I don’t know if you know the area…

PH        I know that area very well.

KTP      So across the Golden Gate Bridget here’s a little town called Sausalito which is a little tourist area…

PH        Right, yeah.

KTP      And I ran a store there, a little head shop. Marin County was the home of so many of the bands and musicians; it was music central during those days.

PH        Jefferson Airplane.

KTP      Well, my old man for a while was Joey Covington who was the drummer for Jefferson Airplane for a while.  Joey and I met in the store that I ran, this is the funniest thing, he used to come in and buy all this stuff right, and I ended up living with it all, and it’s like, oh God, there’s some kind of weird karma here but you know, but um, that’s how we met.  And we ended up having a relationship for a while.  I actually saw him last year by the way um…

PH        Any experiences with Grace Slick?

KTP      What, sorry?

PH        You know Grace Slick, the…

KTP      Well, actually, I never actually met Grace.  I knew Marty Balin because Marty and Joey were very good friends and uh, and so many other musicians from that era but never met Grace.  Um, what’s funny though is that, and Joey was saying this last year, that they, they have a bond that’s kind of like, it’s just unbreakable, it’s kind of like a fraternity, they just hang together year after year after year and they’re all in their 60s now.

PH        Right, yeah.

KTP      It’s like all these old musical codgers, but, it’s kind of funny.  But Joey’s a hoot, I mean Joey’s one of these ageless type of people..

PH        It’s interesting to me, you know, that you get from the Bay Area, you know, from San Francisco, to LA. This is quite trite, but you know, we all do it, we sort of type people as to locations  It’s like even just after having spoken with you for just for a little while, you just seem so more suited to be in Northern California than Southern.

KTP      Yeah, yeah.

PH        It’s just interesting.  I mean, how did you make your way down here?

KTP      Well, and it’s interesting you say that because before I moved here, I had only been here a couple of times, once with Joey as a matter of fact, and one of the times that we came down here was we actually stayed with Papa John Creach, does that name mean anything to you? 

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      Papa John was amazing and his wife was even more amazing.  We stayed with him because Joey discovered Papa John in the unemployment line, I mean, this is story after story after story, this amazing gentleman who was absolutely, he was, he had arthritis so badly but the minute he stepped on that stage he came alive.

PH        He could play, yeah.

KTP      And it was gone.  So um, but I couldn’t stand LA, even that time, I mean, as much as I enjoyed our time with the Creach’s, you know, it’s like, it was like get me out of here, to me it was like this cultural wasteland.  I didn’t enjoy the life, you know, it wasn’t time, it wasn’t time.  So I had to go back. Joey and I broke up and da-da-da, and then finally uh, after I got involved in film, it finally became time for me to move down here and once I was here I never looked back.  This is my home.

PH        Yeah.

KTP      But Santa Monica’s my home, I mean…

PH        Yeah, Santa Monica, Santa Monica’s like an island to me.

KTP      It is, it is.

PH        I really like Santa Monica, I’m not that fond of the rest of LA.  I used to spend a lot of time here for a lot of different reasons and…

KTP      Yeah, I mean, just being by the ocean and plus my family, my spiritual family is here, this is the whole thing is I came down here to reconnect to my spiritual family and they’re all around me now so this is where I was meant to be.  That’s the journey, you know, you, you kind of follow the flow and here you are. 

PH        Right.

KTP      So, yeah.


Excavating The Soul; an interview with Anthropology Of An American Girl Author Hilary Hamann

Excavating The Soul; an interview with Anthropology Of An American Girl Author Hilary Hamann

 Hilary Hamann’s new novel is at once lyrical, filmic, confounding, poignant, anachronistic, and timeless. It blurs the boundaries of semi-autobiography and lucid fiction. The Protagonist, Eveline Auerbach is a container for personal and historical experience, a template upon which Hamann draws a history of the process of maturation  of a  young women rooted in a particular time, the late 70’s, and a place, Long Island,  but does not limit the impact of this history, this templated experience, to that time and place. It’s a universal story in a unique container. The best kind of story in fact.

 Hamann’s novel has exposed the engines of maturational angst; immaturity, sexual confusion, the false sense of immortality that dopamine- soaked teenage brains revel in, and not least, the toxic self-righteousness of youth. Hamann does a masterful job in creating characters that radiate truth while not being the least bit cloyingly likeable. This is part of the strength and genius of the story. You don’t need to be Spielberged or Ronnie Howarded into some false emotional experience with these young people. Their struggle and blindness is palpable, and beautiful. It is a synthesis of teenage maturational experience writ large. You just accept the reality, and that can be uncomfortable. Hubert Selby-like uncomfortable without the gratuitous sex, violence and utter spiritual decay. 

 In the following interview we talk about the novel, but also about the process and context of remaining human and artistic in the present environment, as well as the motivational context and fabric of her upbringing.

 PH The title of your novel, “Anthropology of An American Girl” is evocative, not only of the search for meaning, the soul-mining and exploration of one girl, Eveline, but of a process of potential discovery that may be resonant with every or anyone. How did you write this character to be so much an individual while remaining so recognizable?

 HH I didn’t try to write the character necessarily. I tried to speak in as small a voice as possible, and that particular character [Eveline] is what emerged. Not “small” meaning powerless, but “small” as in near and known. For me, writing is a matter of proximity. I don’t try to write from someone’s perspective so much as from beneath their skin, behind their eyes. In Anthropology, I tried to juxtapose the narrowness of Eveline’s voice and the near-sightedness of her vision against the “vastness” of culture and the “infinity” of the environment. For a while I studied acting in Manhattan. I had this teacher who would advise us to focus on “small moments of truth” when striving for a genuine performance. I thought of this a lot while writing. I didn’t want to deny the specificity of who the character was—a middle-class, heterosexual, white girl in the 1980s. Nor did I want to resort to generalities or stereotypes to make the work more accessible to many. The more specific those moments of truth are, the greater the chance that people from diverse backgrounds will share them. It’s funny, but, often generalities serve us least. Also, the novel covers ground with which many are familiar. Many share feelings of being lost, lonely, and confused, of being non-essential components of some unfeeling socio-economic machine with tremendous reach and endurance. Many know what it’s like to have identities that are evolving and in flux, or to be unfairly judged based on looks, backgrounds, education, values. I wanted to examine stereotypes and the degrees to which we participate in them.

 PH I’m very interested in scene and setting being used as a  character in film, books, and songs. The Hamptons are an entity unto themselves in this book. How were you able to create a personality of the Hamptons so strongly without veering into the rocky terrain of cliché?

 HH Because I worked so hard to avoid clichés! Ultimately, clichés are just time-saving devices used to communicate efficiently—though not effectively. My hope was to look at known things as though encountering them for the first time. Every time I confronted a potential stereotype I tried to soften into it. No matter how much it is discussed, there is still a surplus of art out there—literature, film, music—that treats humans inhumanely, as though they exist in some fixed state, without possibility for growth or need for compassion. I tried not to contribute to that. I share your interest in setting as character. Of course, having the Hamptons as a primary location presented its share of challenges. Most people are familiar with the “Hamptons” of media hype, a Frankenstein hybrid of sensational parts—parties and pools, shoes and cars, real estate and restaurants, celebrities and magnates—sewn together and paraded about as though it refers to an actual entity. I looked between the seams to see what had been cut out—all the concessions and compromises that were made in the selling/trading off of the East End. The “Hamptons” as a phrase has become synonymous with luxury and leisure, but the physical environment out here is complicated and divine, and very much at risk. Obviously it is to everyone‘s benefit if it is treated respectfully, if development decisions are made with extreme caution, if public and political discourse centered on environmental sustainability rather than on a celebration of personal profit. But that’s not the case. I refer to that in my writing.

 PH Your novel is immanently musical. So much so that I have taken to constructing a soundtrack to it in my head that is coming together quite nicely! I shudder a bit when I think of what the typical Hollywood musical director will do to the inevitable film. How do you hear a soundtrack to the work if you do hear one? What songs are evocative of the time and feeling of the novel? Were you listening to any particular artists during the creation of the book?

 HH Thank you for saying that it’s musical. When writing, I always use music for pleasure and for research. Not just the songs I like or the character might like, but ones that represent the moment, ones that the character might have encountered. For Anthropology, I secured the rights to include a few lines from the lyrics to 26 songs in the book. Here is the list:


                Follow you, Follow me, Genesis

                Can’t Find My Way Home, Traffic

                You’re All I’ve Got Tonight, The Cars

                Cow Cow Boogie, Ella Fitzgerald

                Here I Am, Come and Take Me, Al Green

                Who’s Gonna Be Your Sweet Man When I’m Gone? Muddy Waters

                Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More, Allman Brothers

                Turn the Page,  Bob Seger 

                Jesus Met the Woman at the Well, Peter, Paul, and Mary

                Rock On, David Essex

                Bernadette, The Four Tops

                Tell Me Something Good, Chaka Kahn and Rufus

                Bennie and the Jets, Elton John  

                Mainstreet, Bob Seger      

                What’s Going On? Marvin Gaye

                Hey You, Pink Floyd

                Fire, Parliament

                Let the Sunshine In, the Fifth Dimension

                Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You, Four Seasons 

                Romeo and Juliet, Dire Straits

                Point Blank, Bruce Springsteen

                She’s the One, Bruce Springsteen

                The Cisco Kid, War 

                My Cherie Amour, Stevie Wonder

                How Soon is Now?  The Smiths

                Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Bob Dylan

Of course, if the book were ever to become a movie, it would have to have an independent soundtrack because the inclusion of these songs would cost too much money. In this case, I like the ethereal and melodic piano scores and vocal minimalism of French New Wave films. I would need something nostalgic, something that speaks to a time that has “already been.” And you wrote a piece inspired by your reading that is just lovely. You should put a link to it here!


 PH So much of our high school experience was a blur to me, but you seem to have captured the essence of that transition from HS to young adulthood in your characters. Maybe that’s an element of feeling free to be present, which I did not have, with my church and sports impositions….Did you journal a lot during that time? How eclectic was your social group?

 HH My social group was extremely eclectic. I was class president for the first three years, and instead of having the traditional president, vice-president, and treasurer, we elected to have a class “congress” to give fair representation to kids from all the different feeder districts. It was really great. But by senior year, kids with competitive families began to compete for power, all that democracy went by the wayside, and the traditional political roles were restored. In the end, three kids out of 200 got to sweeten their school resume without doing any major work since it was senior year and there was not a whole lot to legislate. It was all very Reagan-esque. An indicator of things to come. I abstained from running. I guess I’m observant by nature, and I’m interested in people and their stories. I like the way everyone is the protagonist of their own account, and the way their personal concerns are of central importance when people tell their own story. I even like the way people act bored when listening to each other’s stories, but become animated when speaking of themselves. Of course, it’s obnoxious, but honest. The emphasis people bring to their own stories is impossible to predict. If you choose to work realistically—in filming, writing, acting, recording—that kind of unpredictability is priceless. Look at the work of the monologist Anna Deavere Smith, or I should say her art—it’s difficult to know which to call it, “art” or “work,” when it’s both, and yet, to call it “artwork” is somehow insufficient. She brings new life to the stories she hears simply by recounting them with their original emphasis, by honoring the first release or issue of the words, so to speak. She is a genius of capturing essences, the perfume between the bodies, the story between the words. I was fortunate enough to have had her as an acting teacher when I studied at NYU.

 I did journal a lot in school, but not in the typical sense. I mostly recorded details. Clothes, sports, weather, television, things people said. I didn’t write about feelings. I still record details and sometimes feel quite boring, but the boring details end up being the triggers that work best for me. I also hate to use a journal to be negative or secretive. It feels like bad luck. That doesn’t mean I won’t think or write critically, but to me there’s a difference between deconstructing and destroying. Regarding differences in memories, church and sports are great reasons for distraction, and can actually be indicators of a balanced life! I’m more concerned with those who say they remember nothing.

 PH I feel that Anthropology of An American Girl is a work that perfectly hits the seams of commercial viability and intense, individualistic artistry, much like The Corrections, or The Emperors Children, or, most notably Elliot Perlman’s amazing 7 Types of Ambiguity. Some work is too good to be denied by both the public at large, and the literary intelligentsia.

 HH Again, thank you for the compliment. It sure would be nice if you’re right. To tell the truth, it felt good to have done it. I wrote the book to tell a story, to extract it from my mind and memory, to get it on paper. At the time, I didn’t intend for it to be widely published, so the story unwound more organically than it might have if had I been thinking of the target needs or a target audience. It was a luxury I no longer have. It wasn’t until after it came out in the original “self-published” version that I “met” my audience. I had no preconception of readers while writing. That’s not to say I never imagined anyone reading and enjoying it, just that I didn’t exactly write for a “market.” Maybe that is the individualistic stamp you’re referring to. With this recent release, I’m meeting a whole new audience, and it’s been even better than it was the first time. I am meeting a lot of older women this time around, and that has been a pleasure.

 PH You had the interesting experience of splitting your time between East Hampton and The Bronx when you were growing up. Some might not see that as a potentially strange bifurcation of time, but I do. East Hampton and Manhattan sort of makes sense, but the Bronx? What were the benefits of growing up in both of these places?

 HH I was born in Manhattan. When my parents divorced in 1965, my father went to live with his family, who had moved from New York City to the Bronx. Four years later, my mother left the city for the East End of Long Island. Though the period of the late 1960s and early 1970s is remembered as a culturally rich time, it was actually an impoverished time for New York City in terms of resources, jobs, services, and safety. Each of my parents, being poor and young, did what they had to do to survive and live sustainably.

My life in the Bronx felt idyllic, though we carved out our existence on acres of concrete divided by strips of broken asphalt. It was pretty much a dead zone. The tiny street we lived on was a turn-around point on a garbage truck and city bus route. If you Google map my old street, there is this massive fan of lines on the end of block. It looks like a lunatic pitchfork with hundreds of tines. In fact, it’s a train lot for subway cars. We used to call it “The Lots.” It was sort of the equivalent of Boo Radley’s house in “To Kill a Mockingbird”—a place that weighed heavily on our imaginations if not on our practical realities. We avoided it at all costs. Though it extended for as far as the eye could see, I never knew how far it went until about a week ago. I’m still shocked.

 By comparison, my life in the vivid, fragrant, living landscape of Long Island was terrifying. In the Bronx I had extended family and a net of friends. It was fun and funny, safe and exciting. We played cards and dice, rode bikes, had water fights and watched television together. It was the place to be—everything was vital and real. The film “Dog Day Afternoon” with Al Pacino and John Cazale is how I remember childhood to be.   But on Long Island, things were private and protective, lonely and secluded. There was a lot more alcoholism and drug abuse close up. You needed a car to get around, and you still do today; so if you’re young, there are limits to what you can experience. Love and loving are harder to find.  Subsequently, I’m in respectful awe of nature as experienced on Long Island, and most confident with character as experienced in the Bronx. It might seem hard to believe given its reputation, but I found people in the city to be more accepting of diversity. There was more tolerance of difference, a “seen it all, done it all” quality to life. Though things could be divisive racially, people of differing ethnicities had to manage on a practical level, working together, shopping and commuting together. I’m not suggesting it was paradise—far from it; but too often people of lesser means—of all races—bear the brunt of racism and or being referred to as racist, when basically they’re trying to survive while competing for scant resources. Togetherness is a day-to-day reality they face, for better or worse, not some theoretical abstract. They are in the trenches together. That’s what it felt like then.

 PH The publishing industry, like the music industry, is in a state of decline, and the existing paradigms of commerce, as well as artistry, are not serving artists or the industry. The magic of the internet has not harnessed the promised results, and consumers increasingly see the fruits of an artist’s work (their recordings, writing, etc.) as being able to be had for free. What are your thoughts about doing your work in this environment? How should the artist respond to these challenges?

 HH Whether or not change is inevitable, I regret the often reported suggestion that it’s consumer-driven, that corporations are simply trying to meet the demands of new generations of consumers. There is a false populism to all this. Corporations are in the business of making profit, and what’s profitable at the moment is supplying people with a constant stream of disposable devices—and the applications to make those devices addictive. In turn, these devices shape taste and tolerance. It’s like a closed circle with little or no room in the system for the cultivation of originality or the protection of ideas and ideals. Creative content hasn’t even entered the race yet, and in the interim, the focus is on “reality.” Reality material fills the airwaves and the shelves while the deep, rich story stuff struggles to get up to speed—though perhaps it never will.

So, the wholesale conversion to digital information systems might be a given, but at the moment, the transition is not occurring responsibly. Quality is being sacrificed and many quality content providers—large and small—are at a loss for how to make a living. As a culture, we are being somewhat short-sighted. Consumers still demand great stories, but they are withdrawing their support, consciously or not, from the systems that provide long-term support to story-tellers. Journalism is a prime example. How can tomorrow’s journalists possibly break Watergate without someone, somewhere making an investment in mature, career reporters? I always tell people to watch Alan Pakula’s All the President’s Men (1976) for a primer in old school journalism. I mean, two journalists with the backing of a good publisher, take down a presidency. No faxes, no cell phones, no internet, no Fed Ex—just instinct, determination, teamwork. Sweat.

 I worry about public access to properly vetted, balanced information. The public has greater access to information, but not “greater access to great information.” So much of what is shared is sloppy. Somehow when I get my news online, I am always about three clicks away from a Beyonce video. Consumers are distracted, our time is wasted, our relationships begin to disintegrate, and to what end? Ultimately, we are less informed. Going a step further, a distracted, uninformed public is ripe for all sorts of abuse. We’re like guinea pigs for the new technology. Sadly, we won’t know what we lost or gained until the experiment is over. One last thing. I think the general reporting on the changes has been too soft, too tongue-in-cheek. There tends to be a lot of talk on networks about friendship and networking, etc. The conversation is limited to “the new ways we get the news.” Few people are talking about what is at stake for the public in terms of loss of political power and potential abuse of rights.

 PH I was pleased to see, in my view, that the sexuality in your novel is not political sexuality, is not a plasticized iteration of what young women of Eveline’s “type” are supposed to experience, but deeply personal and individualistic, and in that, oddly enough, becomes universal….was this process purposeful?

 HH Absolutely. I tried to cross a minefield of familiar tropes. I tried not to romanticize sex, or to resort to violence. I tried not to be too graphic, but not to be too symbolic either. I tried to provide a new perspective to something well known. I tried to be very personal, but not too intimate. Lots of times when you read what’s written about sex, it seems too detail-oriented. I tried to remain impressionistic. There is a rape scene, though, which is very minute-to-minute detail oriented. I like that scene.

 PH What are you working on next?

 HH Two different novels. One is based on my childhood in the Bronx in the 1960s and the other is based on a woman in contemporary culture who experiences a major reversal. I want this to be like a Russian novel. Or like Kafka’s Metamorphosis, when the guy (Gregor Samsa) wakes up as a giant bug. One take on this is that, one day you wake and everything’s completely different. Another take is that one day you wake up and everything’s exactly the same, and you WISH it could be different—so different that you’d even elect to be an insect. I am hoping for a quick turn-around on the next work. The paperback version of Anthropology is due out next spring, and I am working on the screenplay this fall.


Chaim Gur-Arieh, blending science and beauty

Chaim Gur-Arieh is the proprietor and owner of CG Di Arie , A Sierra Foothills winery in the Shenandoah Valley in Northern California (http://www.cgdiarie.com/). I can say without reservation that his elegant, complex, utterly robust wines are my favorite. To my Palette, Chaim has succeeded in combining very intense and “dense” flavor profiles in wines that are consistently punctuated by the stimulation of an immediate, hedonistic, and emotional experience for the drinker. Sublime. I wanted to talk with him as his history is decidedly unusual from that of the “typical” Sierra Foothills Winemaker. A food Scientist by training and history, he has emerged as a truly artistic Vintner.

PH Chaim, I’m very interested to know a bit about your roots. Where are you from, and how did your culture, family experiences and life choices shape your path to becoming a food scientist and then winemaker?

 CG-A I was born in Turkey to a Jewish family.  I grew up during WWII in a Muslim country that was sympathetic to Germany while it stayed neutral during the war.  I saw my dad taken to a labor camp and I felt strong anti-Semitic sentiments in school.  After the State of Israel was established in 1948, as a young boy I left my family in Turkey and immigrated to Israel to live with my uncle. When I face difficult situations in my life I always think about my dad who inspired me with his optimism and positive attitude that helped him overcome many adversities in his life.  My dad was a great example to me.  He was always very supportive and tolerant of me even when I did some crazy things in my life.

 I come from a culture that encourages learning and achievements.  As a young boy and later as a young man I was very rebellious.  At the age of 14 while I lived in Turkey I was cutting school and then in Israel I dropped out of high school in the 12th grade and joined the Israeli Army.  It was there that I learned discipline, commitment, responsibility and perseverance.  While I was in the army only for a relatively short time, I would say that it was an important milestone in my life that shaped my character.

 After I was discharged from the Israeli army I went back and took my high school diploma and was admitted to the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology where I graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering.  Like many other things in my life that happened by serendipity I met a young professor at the Technion who had received a Ph.D. in Food Science at the University of Illinois and he got me interested in this subject.  I applied to the University of Illinois, was accepted to their Ph.D. program and received an assistantship in the Food Science Department.  Coming to the United States and going to the University was one of the greatest experiences in my life.  I was able to get a Master’s and a Ph.D. in three years.  From there I started a career in Food Science that lasted for 38 years.  First I worked for large corporations in food product development and then in my own consulting company and finally in a flavor company that I founded named California Brands Flavors.  While working for large food companies I was involved in the development of Cap’n Crunch, Pudding Cups, Fruit Cups, etc.  In my consulting company I created the Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing and Power Bars.

 I sold my flavor company in 1998 to pursue my lifelong passion for wines.  The transition from Food Scientist to Winemaker was very natural.  Especially since I was I involved in the development of so many food products that wine to me was another new product.  Since I viewed it in this manner I was able to think outside the box and come up with some innovations.  Becoming a farmer was a lot more challenging.  As a farmer I’ve had to accept the fact that I don’t have total control.  I do my best but have to accept Mother Nature’s final verdict.  This brings me to where I am at now.

 PH The path from food scientist to wine-maker seems to make perfect sense to me, and I think that there is artistry in both. How do you, as a scientist see this?

 CG-A Maybe what you call artistry, I call creativity.  Obviously there is room to be creative and think outside the box in every field.  Wine is not an exception.  While science enables you to make a wine that technically has no flaws that doesn’t guarantee that it will be a great wine.   I think that to make a great wine you need a creative touch or passion or artistry, as you say, and in some cases the end result may reflect the personality of the winemaker.      

  PH What is the genesis of your love for wine?

 CG-A   I acquired my love and passion for wine after I met my wife.  Until then I drank only beer and Scotch and Martinis on occasion.  When I met my wife she was dancing ballet and I was introduced to wine by her groups of friends who were wine drinkers.  At first it was Cabernet and Merlot, the early Napa wines that were made with an abundance of oak.  I thought then that this was how good wine should be.  Then we started travelling in Europe and my palate became more refined.  It was then, in the early 80’s that I started having the fantasy of owning a winery and making wine.  What really attracted me to making wine is that I perceived wine to be an elusive entity that would be a tremendous challenge to conquer.   In this I was not wrong.  

 PH The fact that the physical structure, the art, every detail of your winery’s environment seems to bend towards beauty. Do you and your wife work hand in hand to create this aesthetic environment?

 CG-A The credit for the beauty and the aesthetics of the environment should go to my wife Elisheva.  She had the vision for the architecture of the winery and the surrounding areas.  She is very detail oriented, has a strong mind and an enormous amount of energy.  My contribution to this part of the project was to act as an expeditor. 

 PH What is your favorite wine?

 CG-A This is a tough question to answer.  If you ask me who is my favorite child this is easy.  I will tell you right away that it’s my daughter.  I only have one daughter but I make at least 15 different wines every year. What makes it even more difficult is that I have seasonal favorites.   I can tell you that among the wines that I make Syrah is my favorite variety and one of my favorite wines is my 2005 Southern Exposure Syrah.  Having said that, I also love to drink my 2007 Petite Sirah, my 2007 Sierra Legend, my 2005 Cabernet Franc and my 2008 American Legend Zinfandel.  Next month I will be releasing a blend that I call Amalur which translates as “Mother Earth” from the Basque language.   This is a blend of Syrah, Tempranillo and Grenache.  It’s an understatement if I said that I am very fond of this wine.

 PH Much has been written about the dulling of the American palette due to Robert Parker’s influence on taste. Your wines, to me, are outrageous with flavor, passionate, excessive in the most respectful, best use of the word. Do you feel that your wines are resonant of the Parker aesthetic?

 CG-A Not at all!  I don’t like to send my wines to Robert Parker because he gravitates to a different style of wine than mine.  But at times I wonder whether he is consistent in the way he rates wines.  I have tasted wines that he rated in the 90’s that were robust with excessive amounts of oak alcohol and residual sugar.  But I have also seen that he shows appreciation for elegance.  In general I am not in favor of allowing anyone to have so much power to prevent people from uncovering their own taste.  I heard a quote attributed to Socrates that I would like to repeat: “The expression of taste is an expression of freedom; the moment you abdicate responsibility for your own taste, you voluntarily abdicate your freedom”. 

 PH From where do you receive joy in your life?

 CG-A What gives me joy is having a sense of purpose in life.  People ask me if I will ever retire.  Not if I can help it.  There is no question that being passionate about something will cause pain, but how can we appreciate joy without feeling the pain?

PH I love the artwork and design of the bottles and the labels. Who is responsible for this, and what was the inspiration?

 CG-A The artwork was created by Elisheva.  The 2 lions or sphinxes with their tails entwined symbolize the two of us.  The part of my name “Arie” translates from Hebrew as lion.

 PH How has the business of making and selling wine fared throughout the economic crisis?

 CG-A We have not escaped the economic crisis.  While the overall consumption of wine in the US has increased slightly since the beginning of the recession, the price point which people are willing to pay has decreased.  Wines priced under $10 per bottle are doing better in this economy than two years ago.  Wines priced over $20 are difficult to sell.  We are doing everything to adjust to the present situation and hoping that we will see this through.

 PH What is the most interesting story you might be able to relate from your years as a food scientist?

 CG-A I left Quaker Oats in the late 60’s and moved to California to take a job with United Technology Center in Sunnyvale.  This company was in the aerospace business dealing mainly with government contracts.  I joined the Life Sciences Department as a Food Scientist and I was assigned the project to develop foods for the astronauts that would go into space for short durations.  These foods were going to be synthetic in nature providing the essential nutrients without any fiber and creating no waste.  The goal was to get the astronauts not to have bowel movements while travelling in space.

 I formulated a diet that consisted of the 8 essential amino acids, a carbohydrate source for calories, an essential fatty acid like linoleic acid and all the minerals and vitamins required to sustain life.  Since this diet contained no fiber at all, the idea was that all of the nutrients would be absorbed into the body before they reached the gastro-intestinal (GI) tracts and this way the astronauts after going on this diet for a few days before their flight would cease having any bowel movements.  In working on this project I faced numerous challenges.  First the food had to be palatable to get people to want to eat it.  After months of experimentation I finally made it in the form of a gelatin dessert. 

 The second challenge was to test the diet with people to determine its efficacy and intermediate term effects of taking it.  We were 5 people in the Life Sciences group and we all volunteered to go on this diet exclusively for periods of a week or two at a time.  The results were fascinating.   After two or three days of going on this diet we all stopped having bowel movements.  While on the diet we were taking stool samples for analysis and discovered that each one of us had different strains of E. Coli micro-organisms in our stools.  My strain was exceptionally unusual.  We were also testing our blood chemistry and my level of cholesterol was extremely low.  The department chief, Milton Winitz, thought that there was a correlation between the low cholesterol and the strain of E. Coli.   Since his cholesterol was unusually high he decided to try to implant my strain of E. Coli into his GI tract.  We grew my E- Coli strain on Petri dishes and several times he tried to get this strain implanted in his GI tracts without having any success and always going back to the E. Coli strain that he had originally. 

 While this was an interesting period in my life where I learned about nutrition and physiology, after a couple of years I decided to move on.  I left Dr. Winitz cultures of my E-Coli strain and who knows maybe by now he was able to make an exchange with his culture and thus control his cholesterol.  As for me I moved to San Francisco to take a job with Del Monte, I met Elisheva and my life changed.

 PH Now for the inevitable: Cap’N Crunch is an iconic cereal, and you created the flavor profile? What is it like to know that billions of mouthfuls of this cereal have been consumed? Also, I think the flavor has changed over the years, as I was a huge consumer of CC when I was at University!

 CG-A I worked on this project in the early 60’s never thinking that it was going any place.  Actually I did not create the flavor profile of Cap’n Crunch.  I worked on the development of the technology for manufacturing of this breakfast cereal.  At the time the project had a number and the Cap’n Crunch name came much later in the development process.  While recognizing that a lot people have very fond memories of this product that they grew up with, personally I can identify myself more with the wines that I make rather than Cap’n Crunch.  The reason?   Cap’n Crunch was the creation of many people from different disciplines, from the technology to the manufacturing, marketing, advertizing, etc. while the wines that I make are all my creation.  Am I egocentric?  I hope not.


Lydia Lunch will not go quietly

**All Photos by Richard Kern, Collage by Lydia Lunch

I have written about a few modern prophetesses this year, and Lydia Lunch falls within that broad category. She will provocatively call to the front of our consciousness the impact of our collective violences, those both monstrous and petty. It’s not pretty at times, but it is true. LL has had a prolific career as an artist. The emphasis is given here in that little, if any of her work reeks of the stench of compromise, or the machinations of any market driven scheme. This has not created an easy life in a material sense, but has created one that is able to rest within a world-friendly consciousness, a pattern of forward movement, and ultimately kindness and grace.

I could give the history, the full resume, as it were, but it would take as much time as the interview. An essential player in the No Wave movement of the early 80’s, she has been a profound influence on  a generation of multi-genre performance artists, her output spanning the worlds of film, spoken word, music, memoir. From Teenage Jesus and the Jerks to her recent project Big Sexy Noise, and current film projects, she continues to infuse the world with her immovable, beautiful, astringent, and urgent refusal to compromise.

PH Lydia, I’d like you to “tell the tale” if you will. What were the environmental, geographic, spiritual, and familial circumstances that led to the development of your artistic and aesthetic perspectives and output? I mean were you raised in the woods with nihilist hippies or in a convent with fascist nuns or something? Do tell.

 LL I was raised in Upstate New York supping on a toxic stew of environmental pollutants thanks to Kodak, Xerox and the Hooker Chemical Company which contaminated Niagara Falls and the surrounding townships. Born to a small time card shark who grifted through a series of door to door (starting with bibles) sales jobs and a long suffering Sicilian psychic, I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and have not managed to find a way over the other side yet. By the time puberty hit, Glam broke, and after feasting on a diet  of Cream, Rock Scene, and Circus magazines, The Midnight Special &  Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert on weekend TV, as well as scamping my way in to almost every concert that came to town, it was obvious the direction I was about to take. I blame The New York Dolls for inspiring me to sneak out my basement window, jump a greyhound bus and hitting NYC for the first time at 14. Although literature truly saved me from committing more crimes against humanity than  I have already admitted to (Miller, Selby, Genet, deSade) music made me run out into the night screaming and I haven’t shut up since.

PH One of my interests now is the issue of power and the fungible exchange. Flesh for money, or control, or relationship. This exchange plays itself out in porn, prostitution, pro sports, marriage…what are your views on why we trade flesh for goods, money, or power?

 LL I can understand why women trade flesh for money, power, control, what I DON’T GET IS WHY MEN ARE STILL STUPID ENOUGH TO FALL FOR IT. Ever since it was invented Pussy has been treated as a magic elixir, a voodoo that some men just can’t seem to resist or get enough of. The hyper-sexualization and commoditization of women in all forms of media, culture and music has NOT BEEN TURNED ON IT’S HEAD by middle aged pop porn princesses running around in lame aerobics costumes playing brain dead disco as they sell mega-units for mega-corporate record company pimps. More useless entertainment which tells us nothing and only serves as a distraction from the real issue…..ahhh…I forgot the original question….

 PH You have been very busy as of late, your collaborations with Gallon Drunk (Big Sexy Noise), and Philippe Petit, a re-release of Queen of Siam, a film score, film narration …Please talk about the genesis of these projects, why they have appealed to you, and your working method that allows you to juggle so much intense work at one time.

 LL I have been working with Terry Edwards & Ian White of Gallon Drunk for more than a decade in a variety of different live ‘illustrated word’ projects. (Text based performance accompanied by music and sometimes visuals) Occasionally inviting James Johnston into the mix. Gallon Drunk invited me to a duet. I thought they meant duel. Big Sexy Noise was formed. A relief from 3 decades of political ranting and apocalyptic nay saying as the No Wave Nostradamus. All my predictions have come all too obviously true. Especially MOTHER NATURE GETTING PRETTY PISSED OFF AT THE MADMEN WHO HAVE BEEN RAPING AND PILLAGING…although truth be told, global warming and weather manipulation ala HAARP is no doubt to blame as well. It was just time to fricking RAWK. And so Big Sexy Noise does… Collaboration fuels my existence; it takes me out of that dark dirty cubby that writers are prone to lock themselves in. And Percy, you called it…I always refer to myself as a ‘juggler’…just what I do. When I’m not deep in ‘creating’… I’m the laziest bitch in the cathouse. Trust me, I love to loaf.

 PH Way before Chloe Sevigny and The Brown Bunny you performed as a character in a film, an actual artistic film, in which the character was having (non-simulated) sex.  Back to the issue of the fungible exchange. What was the value of this experience over time? What were the parallel processes that Lydia Lunch was encountering in lockstep with the character, if there were any?

 LL The films I did with Richard Kern were an experiment in public psychotherapy, an attempt to deal with my own obsessive desires. A need to express a specific type of psychosexual behavior that I felt hadn’t been addressed thoroughly enough. What’s most interesting to me is the different ways these films have impacted people, or the different reactions they have elicited. 

 PH In Will Work for Drugs you detail a life that has been a constant balancing on a razor’s edge of danger. A life begun in the dark tunnel of the womb that has seemed to only take occasional forays into the sunlight…. Have these experiences been resonant of somewhat constant despairing for you, or fuel, fuel to give you impetus to regurgitate stark reality or… am I full of shit and barking up the wrong tree?

 LL I focus on intense emotions, situations, experiences that may appear negative, but that my stamina and stubbornness do not only survive but blossom is the root of why I continue to exist. If extremes of passion, love, desire, and genius often wound with their inability to contain a primal violence and an insane urgency (resulting in a temporary agony), I will go to the mat again and again.

Pain always subsides, but wisdom, love, intensity, and genius feed the soul. And the soul is a hungry motherfucker. In my day-to-day reality, at this point at least, the demons are kept at bay. I’m incredibly steady, patient, encouraging, supportive, and funny. But who the hell wants to hear about that shit?

 PH You have been long thought of in some circles as a sort of Queen of Punk…I’ve never quite seen you that way. I don’t see your work as any more punk that I would that of Rimbaud, or Baudelaire, or Andre Gide. Punk has always struck me as reactionary fashion and what you have created and how you have lived seems more psycho-emotionally expressive and well, dangerous, for lack of a better word. What are your thoughts on this?

 LL  I AIN’T NO PUNK YOU PUNK. Never played punk rock. Never dressed punk rock. No Wave all the way. I view myself as more DADA, a surrealist, a situationist even, or just straight up CONFRONTATIONAL.  A CLASSIC IN OTHER WORDS.  hahahah

 PH How do you receive love in this world Lydia? Who do you love, how and why?

 LL A Beautiful question. My loves are long and many. Even though my nomadic nature insists that I relocate every few years, my dearest friends have been such for decades. And I keep in touch with them. Traveling allows me to connect with people I care most about, as well as allowing me to meet new people all the time. I give a lot of love so Darling, I GET A LOT BACK. I’m loving you right now!

 PH You have long operated deep within the confines of DIY when it has come to promoting and selling your work. The music, publishing, and to a lesser degree film industries are in complete decline. The internet has not proved to be the environment of salvation for artists that it was promised to be. How does an artist that wants to make a living as an artist move ahead in this environment?

 LL The only way I can manage is to live in Europe which supports and understands the ‘artist’ as an ‘artist’ and not a mere commodity. Between spoken word shows, solo multimedia performances, festivals, rock concerts and all my releases, it’s still a struggle and I’m still poor. But I didn’t start creating thinking it was going to be a moneymaking venture. I do it because if I didn’t the world would be even LESS SAFE. And I would be even LESS SANE.

 PH How does a Lady GaGa come to be, in your opinion, and why is the culture so drawn to these overblown inhabitants of the fashion simulacrum?

 LL Unmitigated ambition. A pillaging and plundering of every last cultural icon. Pop Pornography as spectacle. Robotic hypnosis. Immense amounts of money spent to make immense amounts of more money. The most insulting aspect of Gaga, Beyonce, Kylie Minogue, Madonna…is the fraud under the extreme exhibitionism. They’re all selling SEX (showing us everything, telling us NOTHING) but none of them are having much of it. At least Gaga admits she’s celibate. It’s still ridiculous and creepy. Fuck Lady Gaga. I’m coming out as LADY GAZA, Bitch.

 PH I am interested in your definition of the word obscenity. I think that it has been misappropriated, and there are some potentially good uses for the term that some dilemmas of the present age present, like describing the motivations and actions of the players behind the universal economic meltdown.

 LL THE REAL OBSCENITY is the war whoring, greed and incomprehensible disregard for human suffering that The Amerikkkan Corporatocracy in their race for a NEW WORLD ORDER is perpetrating against the entire prison planet.

 PH Who are some present artists (writers, filmmakers, musicians) who you consider to be making vital, timely, and significant work, who are in short, contributing to a more meaningful understanding of the human condition?

 LL Music : Bryan Lewis Saunders (the finest stand-up tragedy performance artists out there) Sage Francis, Carla Bozulich,  JG Thirlwell, Sandy Dillon, Oxbow, Scarface, Eminem, Ice Cube

 Writers : Charlie Smith (Three Delays, Chimney Rock), Craig Clevenger (Dermaphoria, The Contortionist’s Handbook), Virginie Despentes (Baise Moi, King Kong Theory)Jeremy Rifkin (Entropy, The Age of Access, The Biotech Century) Naomi Klein (Shock Doctrine, No Logo) John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hitman), Mike Davis (EVERYTHING), Jerry Stahl (Permanent Midnight, I, Fatty)

Films: Intacto by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 21 Grams & Babel written by Guillermo Arriaga, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Devil’s Backbone Guillermo Del Toro, In A Glass Cage, Augusti Villaronga

 PH Do you have what some might consider a spiritual practice? What sustains your soul, replenishes your motivation, keeps the blinds open in the room of your heart?

 LL Meditation, spending a lot of time alone in silence, unplugging fully, living in Barcelona, boxing, random acts of kindness, a cat’s smile, the smell of calla lilies, the irrepressible urge some people have to hug me and a sense of duty, a calling, that somehow what I have been trying to express for 33 years is rooted in an ancient, universal plea for, if not justice, at least to give voice to the screams of our collective refusal to go quietly into the gaping grave of man’s violence, ignorance, greed and domination.


Jesus of the Safeway

He is there, sitting sentry by the door entrance garbage can of the Safeway on 19th and R. Sitting silently, not quite meeting your eyes, or so you think, until you take the time to really look for his eyes.  Jesus’s eyes are soft with compassion and resignation as he carefully reaches up to pat his matted afro, and yawn, and settle into himself once again. In the past three months I have never seen him beg.

He is not emaciated. He is not seemingly, mentally ill. He is observant, the personification of quietude, and willing to accept gifts of money and food. Offers of companionship, company, or physical human solace have never been seen by me on any of these mornings.

I am his witness. I feel his spirit, and believe him to be one of the myriad eyes of God, set among us to watch, and smell, and feel our rushing preoccupied otherness.

I am his servant, and brother, and pledge to listen, watch, and feel for what he can show me on these cool distracted matins.


Flannery O’Connor; An Altogether Difficult Character

I have long been an admirer of Flannery O’Connor’s work, and this admiration has been a difficult one, considering her curious and conflicted views towards race and religion. O’Connor was a woman who was very much a product of her time, and at once transcendent of it. She is an example of the difficulty of separating an artist’s work from what might be considered extreme views, all the while trying to give as much “rope “as  possible for them to exercise aesthetic license in order to draw forth truth…by whatever means necessary. The canon of work left behind, most notably Wise Blood, The Violent Bear it Away, and Everything That Rises Must Converge,  is indisputable proof of her genius, her ability to weave threads of realistic wisdom concerning human experience into the novels,the reading of which catalyzed individual humans  becoming more aware of themselves. It’s Curious that this was probably not her intention concerning the writing of them (the novels).

There are some allowances for genius we must make if we are going to pull the fruit  from the vines, or in some cases haul the pony out of the shit, but we make those allowances because of the value of what we pull forth. I think it’s necessary to deal with the work and life of Flannery O’Connor like that,  as we would the lives and work of Ezra Pound, Hemmingway, or Howlin Wolf.

O’Connor was born in Savannah Georgia in 1925, a town that pulsed with the tensions, struggle, and pain of the experiences of Black people, and the confusion, hatred, ignorance and fractured self-image of White  people. The Sting of the civil war was not far removed, and is still not, in many instances. Black and White were embroiled in a bloodknot , in relationship in perpetuity, like it or not. Blacks were one step removed from slaves, performing many of the same functions of servitude that they had when they were slaves. The difference lay in the degree to which Backs were exploitable flesh. There was just enough space around the black body for attentive whites to observe some cursory aspects of humanity. Cursory in that it was not enough to approximate any exchange between equals. This was the environment that O’Connor was raised in. 

Complicating the racial tensions and struggles in the South of that Era was a strong resentment on the part of Southern Whites regarding their portrayal by “liberal” Northern Whites. The qualifier of liberality meant to express that those same whites were still mired in a racism that was, in its own right, as paternalistic as Southern racism. Southern paternalism functioned on the assumption that we know how to treat “our niggers”, and northern paternalism functioned on the assumption that, like children, blacks needed to constantly be “shown the way home”. Southern Whites resented the northern liberal portrayal of backwardness, ignorance, and violent inclination as being definitive of the southern white character. They resented the fact that these northerners misunderstood the cultural nuances and graces, the sheer complication of the southern way of life, but felt they were qualified to judge this life, this culture, in Toto. O’Connor was not immune to this response, and expressed feeling along this continuum quite often in her correspondences with her great friend Maryat Lee.

O’Connor was by nature critical of sentimentality and emotional drama, never one to dig into the core of the experience of the other and feign understanding  or emotional connection outside the realm of her own experience. This was probably to her detriment in some ways, but also energized her monstrous ability to be both witness and scribe to the evil that is a by-product of our greed, avarice, desire and prurience. She examined these elements of our humanity and built characterizations around them.  So, it is not surprising to me that she could say, concerning trying to understand the “souls of Black folks” as it were:

“I can only see them from the outside. I wouldn’t have the courage . . . to go inside their heads”.

 Of course she would not. It would have been disingenuous for her to do so, and presumptive. Humanity and the truth trumping sentimentality and the need for righteous correctness.

 There is the well-known instance of O’Connor being asked to meet with James Baldwin in Savannah by  Maryat Lee. When Lee wrote her asking her to meet Baldwin she replied:

 No I can’t see James Baldwin in Georgia. It would cause the greatest trouble and disunion. In New York it would be nice to meet him; here it would not. I observe the traditions of the society I feed on—it’s only fair (emphasis mine). Might as well expect a mule to fly as me to see James Baldwin in Georgia”

 On the face of things this might be seen as further indication of deeply imbedded racism. The effect, the personal impact, is indeed racist, and somewhat cowardly. The intent was anything but. The intent was imbedded deeply within a southern psychological construct of always, always, respecting the order of the community. The way of life, the sensitivities of those like yourself you might offend. This was so imbedded in her it was almost an autonomic response. In New York it would be nice to meet him….O’Connor probably felt she was stretching her politeness to write thus much, about a man whom she once said:

About the Negroes, the kind I don’t like is the philosophizing prophesying pontificating kind, the James Baldwin kind. Very ignorant but never silent…[Martin Luther] King I don’t think is the age’s great saint…My question is usually, would this person be endurable if white? If Baldwin were white nobody would stand him a minute.”

I do not believe she saw this statement as an analysis of a Black Man per se. Although she mentions his Blackness, the comment was made concerning a man she saw as  irritating and self-important. She felt the need, in my opinion to mention his Blackness because she felt it thrust against her, like a gauntlet being thrown down. She probably felt that her opinion of his essential “Blackness” mattered little in the context of what troubled her (in her view) about Baldwin as a man. She obviously would not have held much admiration for him if he were White.

 O’Connor’s following words are probably the most indicative of how she truly saw the world and its inhabitants, all of its inhabitants, independent of race, creed, or religion:

Love and understanding are one and the same only in God. Who do you think you understand? If anybody, you delude yourself. I love a lot of people, understand none of them. This is not perfect love but as much as a finite creature can be capable of.”

 Again, she professes her ignorance of the understanding of any individual. O’Connor was first and foremost concerned with our collective nature, with the truth about humanity, not individual humans. She knew a damnable amount about many individual humans, but contributed a universe of significance to our understanding of human nature, writ large.

 It is most interesting that O’Connor’s response to the impetus of the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement was to say that “she did not understand” how anyone could not see any efforts to improve the situation in the South concerning race relations as not being a good thing. This is not surprising, because it is not an elicited opinion at the expense of the reality of the southern way of life. It is an independent assessment of what is right to do concerning the treatment of humans, not an adversarial trap, to her possible thinking.

 In the end, genius that recognizes the truth must be given its way. Flannery O’Connor was a difficult character, but one who ultimately left behind much more illumination than shadow.