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eNewsletter #18, June 2001

eNewsletter #18, June 2001
1. RE/SEARCH BOOK PARTY Fri June 8, San Francisco Art Institute 7 10 PM! Free!
4. More Reviews of Real Conversations 1

1. RE/SEARCH BOOK PARTY Fri June 8, S.F. Art Institute 7-10 PM! Free!
Friday, June 8, 7-10 PM: RE/Search BOOK PARTY for Real Conversations! S.F. Art Institute, 800 Chestnut St, San Francisco CA 94133.

This is RE/Search’s first book party in over a year, and promises to be a gala event‹and besides, it’s free! Come buy the new REAL CONVERSATIONS book and get it autographed. Search & Destroy and other Re/Search titles on punk rock, Pranks, etc will be available at greatly reduced prices.

We are expecting Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jello Biafra to show up and sign books, too‹ and if the spirit moves them, they may grab the microphone and talk as long as they wish. Additionally, books/CDs by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (City Lights) and Jello Biafra (Alternative Tentacles) will be available for sale and autographing. Comet magazine will also have a table. Bring your checkbook and support local independent media!

We especially hope that anyone who was ever influenced by Punk Rock will make an appearance and see old friends. We’ll be showing rare punk videos, including some by Dirk Dirksen (Mabuhay Gardens impresario) who will be there. Videos will be screened in the S.F.A.I. auditorium for a small donation which will benefit RE/Search.

2. Book Expo America (BEA) 2001
Sorry this June Newsletter is late, less vitriolic, and truncated; a full featured newsletter will appear by July. Blame it on Book Expo America (BEA) which took place in Chicago from May 31-June 3. This annual convention of publishers/distributors (mostly from the U.S.A.) was the least-well attended in several decades‹like, since the Sixties.

Why? It’s no secret that people are reading fewer books and enjoying them even less. Take fiction: most “cutting edge” fiction concerns itself with shock value only: the ole sex-violence-drugs-AIDS-lies formulas. So what if they’re gender benders, sex-worker-oriented, underage, or “authentically underclass”‹about people you “normally wouldn’t care about” (this time, we won’t touch the “race” issue) . . . Our criteria is: if a book doesn’t inspire you to DO SOMETHING, it’s worthless. Repeat, if a book doesn’t inspire YOU to start writing or painting or making music or doing-something-yourself (or doing what you do BETTER, or more poetically), then what good is it? (Too simplistic? Then send us feedback!)

BEA: In years gone by, by the first hour of the first day almost all the giveaway cloth shopping bags (branded with a logo) were all gone. At this year’s event, cloth bags could be had at the very last hour, when booth workers were frantically trying to give them away so they wouldn’t have to ship them back home. At 3 PM Sunday, June 3, piles of books were on every aisle, free for the taking. (BEA ended Sunday at 4 PM.)

There were quite a number of author signings. The thing is, all the books the authors sign are FREE! So not only do you get a free book, you even get it signed by the writer. People, probably e-Bay resellers, were lining up and getting books autographed by authors they likely had never heard of, or cared about. Many of these same folk were getting in one line after the other, like clockwork.

There were some very long lines for a startlingly muscle-bound Clive Barker (wearing a show-off “wifebeater” undershirt). He was signing books plus glossy 8×10 photographs with panache, despite relentless demand. (A muscular man who appeared to be his personal trainer stood next to him, whispering occasionally.) A particularly disgruntled-looking Sebastian Junger was signing copies of A Perfect Storm‹he looked positively hostile (probably knew his account was getting charged for each hardback he was signing.) Somehow, the amount of “valuable” publicity garnered by these giveaways seems dubious, to say the least. Apparently, big corporate publishers are so accustomed to throwing money away they don’t bother doing any cost-accounting . . .

Thursday night’s party at Quimby’s bookstore was about as good as it gets; the store is a concentrated cauldron of subversive thought and art. The best Saturday night party was for Independent Presses, 7-10 PM, given in the Wicker Park neighborhood by an eccentric, quite amazing wood sculptor named Jerzy Kenar and his statuesque wife Dorota. He has his own enormous gallery permanently displaying his work; a huge apartment above, and a large studio next door, plus a commodious roof garden. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Nancy Peters, the Chicago Surrealists Franklin & Penelope Rosemont, and other independent press people wined and dined on the best food to be had in Chicago‹infinitely superior to anything available at the BEA’s overpriced cafes and kiosks. Jerzy Kenar’s warehouse-like quarters underscored, in an amazing way, the difference between Chicago real estate prices and the Bay Area’s–if you want voluminous indoor space, move to Chicago!

Our favorite BEA schwag included: tiny wine-bottle corkscrews and bottle openers, luggage straps, Hersheys kisses (of course), tiny flashlights, triangular yellow-pink-green hi-lighters, the black shopping bag from Chronicle Books, and of course, books far too numerous to list here, although The Penis Book was particularly easy to remember. Ditto for a harmonica instruction book which included a harmonica, and two books by Gil Scott-Heron (remember him?). Yes, “The revolution will not be televised . . .”

Taschen Books were conspicuous by their absence. Apparently they were holed up in a Chicago hotel suite, entertaining their most important clients there (to save the enormous expense of renting 20-40 booths). Benedikt Taschen often thinks “outside of the box”–remember his $1,500 Helmut Newton mega-book which sold out 10,000 copies in advance? (Who woulda thought…)

Our friend Miki Bunge of Goliath Books observed that the Frankfurt Book Fair is about 10 times larger, with well-displayed booth numbers (it was impossible to find a booth number anywhere this year–very frustrating) and with the same publishers at the same booth year after year, thus making it much easier to find somebody. Basic coffee or tea could not be had without waiting in annoyingly long lines‹why no self-service? The huge hall was too warm; the lighting had an eyeball-drying effect (negative ion generators needed?), and the whole general interior design was repulsively corporate without a speck of human idiosyncrasy or humor. Also, there were a lot of “junk” vendors: Christian book publishers, suitcase sellers, promotional pen manufacturers, etc. (Or maybe because there were far fewer “real” publishers, the “junkies” stood out more.)

Speaking of junk, Microsoft had a huge eBooks aisle which was virtually deserted. Oh well, it’s a tax write-off, right? Like, who cares if the amount of display pixels has been “radically improved”‹eBooks still suck. And if you drop an eBook reader on the sidewalk or dowse it in the bathtub–well, there goes $300! (Similarly, a friend’s Palm Pilot has been back to the factory three times in less than a year–you don’t see THAT mentioned in any ad campaigns.) And speaking of e-Books, we heard that super-shark-snark agent Andrew Wylie scored a $600,000 advance for some e-Book deal, and then it ended up selling like 20 copies! In our opinion, anyone who wants to read an entire novel on an eBook deserves to get eye implants . . .

Why does the book fair move from city to city? Another advantage of the book fair being at the same city each year would be: more press. If everyone knows that the Chicago book fair happens annually, then all the TV, magazines, radio, etc can start regularly anticipating and reporting on it, almost mechanistically. This year, the number of attendees sporting red badges (signifying “Press”) were practically non-existent‹we’re glad Joy Press (great name; two people asked me if it was “real”) from VLS was there.
For example, at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year, our friend Miki claims he was interviewed by about 30 TV programs. There didn’t seem to be any TV coverage of this year’s Chicago B.E.A.; nobody doing video interviews or taking photographs, to speak of, except for one or two independents. Maybe cuz there were fewer “celebrities”‹I’m thinking of the time Captain Kirk/William Shatner was there, although this year we did manage to get Wally Amos’s autograph.

Next year’s BEA will be in New York City, and the year after in L.A., but our prediction is: ever-diminishing returns. Maybe it’s time for an Independent Media Association (IMA) Convention; with big corporates barred. A worker for a major book distributor reported taking virtually no orders all of Saturday afternoon. A Pope impersonator was making the rounds, but apparently brought little blessing to the merchants of words. On the bright side, a friend who attended this year’s event managed to take home 3 full suitcases of free books and other giveaways‹one suitcase a day. She considered BEA well worth attending for “the haul”!

For a small publisher, the absolutely best part of attending was seeing a handful of friends and allies whom we rarely see outside of the B.E.A., and meeting a small number of new acquaintances and friends who are encouraging, supportive, talented and funny. Among these are Cynthia Plaster Caster (see the documentary on her), Linda Hayashi (from Seventies Punk days–hadn’t seen her in like 20 years); the Four Graces from our neighboring booth, Really Great Books, who published a favorite mystery, Gary Phillips’ The Jook; writers like Patricia Monaghan and Jon Resh; and assorted people from Black Rose Books (Canada), Soft Skull Press, Gingko, etc, and our distributors and sales people, of course, who are more on a Crusade to Change the World than to make big $$. And lastly, I was happy to see my hosts, Tammy and Dennis, who have definitely kept their edge as far as sociological, political, ethical, anti-corporate and anti-control process theorizing is concerned . . . More on that later.
3. REVIEW OF JOEY RAMONE MEMORIAL Four Thousand Ramones Fans Remember Joey on His Birthday (by Joann Greco–thanks, Joann!)

I’ve been a Joey Ramone fan since before there were Ramones…my first
memory of him is standing outside Coventry in Queens, NY, around 1972 or
1973 before a NY Dolls show and complimenting him on his glitter sneakers.
The conversation kind of died out when he didn’t seem interested in my 5
inch silver platforms.

Despite what people say about CBGB booking punk bands and “before you knew
it lines were forming around the block,” there were plenty of empty nights
in the early days…just the band, the bartender, a few music enthusiasts
and the dogs who used the place as their personal restroom 24 hours a day.
I’ve seen the Ramones a lot. They played something like 70 shows in NYC
before they even signed a record deal. And I continued seeing the Ramones
throughout the ’80s and ’90s, up until their last SF show at the Warfield.

I flew to New York for Joey’s 50th birthday tribute, Saturday, May 19.
Four thousand Ramones fans celebrated Joey’s birthday along with his mother
Charlotte and his brother Mickey Leigh at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC.
It made up for all the empty nights at CBGB and all the records that
everyone loved but no one really bought. The birthday party was a production
worthy of an Academy Awards telecast by way of lower Manhattan…Miami Steve
(aka Silvio from the Sopranos) was the emcee…there were live bands
including the Independents, Bellevue, Blondie, Cheap Trick and The
Damned…there were videotaped tributes from Joan Jett and Linda Stein and
Maria Bartiromo of CNBC–Joey’s “Money Honey” from his hopefully-soon-to-be
released solo album…there were live tributes from Danny Fields and Richard
Hell and Lenny Kaye and Legs McNeil and John Holmstrom, who founded Punk
Magazine. And best of all, there were pinheads dancing around a birthday

Fifteen dollars got you in the door, but the stories about Joey were
priceless. Joey’s brother remembering how they created the first slam dance
as kids square-dancing to the Beverly Hillbillies theme and slamming each
other into the furniture. Tommy Ramone remembering the first time he met
Joey when they were 14 year old misfits in Forest Hills who liked music.
And Legs McNeil and John Holmstrom quoting a typical critic’s opinion of the
Ramones first album: “They’ll never put out a second album and their songs
all sound the same anyway” then playing some old phone machine messages from
Joey like “Legs, are your there? It’s time to go out.”

When the show stopped around midnight, the party started. Yankee Doodle
cupcakes and goody bags for everyone (three Joey pins, one Pinhead pin, two
Joey postcards and a laminated 3″ x 5″ copy of Joey’s Spin magazine cover).
Almost 90 minutes of Ramones videos…were they really on that many TV
shows? Even Legs McNeil admitted he missed Joey’s appearance on the Drew
Carey Show.

The Ramones were the best band of my generation (okay, that’s my opinion).
They’ll never play again. But Joey has a solo album coming out, so there’s
something to celebrate and to look forward to. The Ramones were Pure Punk–
they never signed a merchandising deal throughout their career, they
never sold enough records to go gold much less platinum, and they never got

I was told that any profits from the birthday celebration were donated to
cancer research in Jeff Hyman’s (aka Joey Ramone’s) memory.–Joann Greco

4. REVIEWS of OUR NEW BOOK (REAL CONVERSATIONS 1):Again, please support us and order it! Here are some more responses:

Calvin Reid, Publisher’s Weekly, May 28, 2001-
“RE/Search Publications,
 the San Francisco fringe culture publisher, began life in 1977 as Search & Destroy, a tabloid inspired by the beats but focused on the beginnings of San Francisco punk rock . . . Now Vale is publishing a series of pocket-size interview anthologies, ‘for today’s fragmented attention spans.’ Real Conversations 1 includes interviews with rocker/poet/publisher Henry Rollins, rocker/activist Jello Biafra, S.F. poet laureate Lawrence Ferlinghetti and cult rocker, painter and publisher Billy Childish. The interviews are personal, funny, intelligent and often critical of today’s underground publishing. ‘They’re all inspiring people,’ said Vale. ‘I thought I could present them with integrity.'”

John J. James, Music News
Real Conversations is
 a pocket-sized powerhouse of interviews and rants from some of the most explosive minds in variant tastes‹monologist and former Black Flag helmsman Henry Rollins, Dead Kennedys and Alternative Tentacles founder Jello Biafra, poet laureate Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and British jack of-all-trades Billy Childish. Taking common themes such as the overwhelming information overload of the 21st century, freedom to be an original thinker, and an undying commitment to truth in the arts, this 240-page discussion is an obsessive page turner and comes highly recommended. Some of the subjects riffed upon include the Internet, record-industry evils, consumer culture and product branding, punk-rock ethics, and do-it-yourself gusto. Can’t get enough? The subject’s listing of his favorite books, Web sites, and films follows each interview. I also like how it is devoid of swear words, thus opening the book up to inclusion to many libraries and high schools that might otherwise censor these powerful dialogues.”

From George, San Francisco Street Sheet
“Having once been in a punk band, I thought I knew who Henry Rollins was. But Real Conversations gave me a completely new and different picture of the man.”

Benjamin Cossel, Nightshade Books
“Your Real Conversations book turned me on to Henry Rollins. I went to his Web site and ordered a bunch of books.”‹

Stacy Wakefield, Index Magazine
“I read your new book; it’s interesting to think about small publishers and independent culture now . . . a lot has changed in the last few years. I also liked it when you got spiritual w/Billy Childish.”(incidentally, check out Stacy Wakefield’s latest publication, Notta Lotta Love Stories (done w/twin sister Amber), $6 cash from POB 1318, Cooper Station, NY NY 10276.

Phil Glatz, a reader-
“V. Vale has recently published
 the first RE/Search book in the last few years, and it’s a winner: Real Conversations. It is a series of conversations with four notable observers of the current cultural scene with Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Billy Childish, and Lawrence Ferlenghetti.

“Much of it has to do with the changes to the quality of life as corporations swallow things up, including control of the popular media and sources of information. But it’s also about the indomitable human spirit; each of the interviewees has bucked the trend and are surviving by independently publishing their own works and working outside the main system. And they all have interesting and enjoyable things to say.

“Vale is one of the best interviewers around today, right up there with Terry Gross and Studs Terkel. He started his publishing company in the early days of the SF punk scene, after being disgusted by the way the mainstream media was covering emerging cultural trends. He ran a typesetting service as a way to pay for the publication of the early influential ‘zine “Search and Destroy”, which later morphed into RE/Search. His back catalog isn’t for everyone, but there are few who have covered the extremes of outsider culture (body modification, punk, lounge music, fetish, DIY publishing) with such passion and intelligence. He deserves our support.

“But I wouldn’t be saying this if Real Conversations wasn’t a fun read too. Check it out – and preferably from an indie like City Lights, or from his web site (and while you’re there, pick up a copy of Pranks!, probably my favorite book of all time)”

BEA Program
“This book gives the reader an up-to-the-minute critique of the New Corporate Feudalism and its encroachment on Independent Creativity. Sardonic, funny!”

To find out more about the book:
See more! Click here!

Henry Rollins, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jello Biafra & Billy Childish discuss:

– The Internet, dot-com backlash and SillyClone Valley-
Sex, relationships and the population explosion-
Napster, Courtney Love & how the record industry screws consumers-
Celebrity, fame, and selling out to The Man-
Mind control, Michael Jordan, branding, Levi’s, consumerism-
Beat history, literary censorship and the fascist mentality-
The punk rock revolution and D-I-Y culture production-
“Originality” as fetish; weird travel advice-
LISTS, LISTS, LISTS of recommended books, films, websites
AND many more issues relevant to every creative artist and thinker.

Real Conversations 1 will interest musicians, literati, and pop culture enthusiasts alike….Theory that isn’t stuffy.

Rollins: World-traveler, Cultural critic, Rock icon
Ferlinghetti: Beat poet, Unheralded living legend
Childish: U.K. Painter, Poet, Leader of Thee Headcoats
Biafra: Ex-Dead Kennedys frontman, Sardonic social critic

5″ x 7″, 240 pages, 30 illustrations
Trade paperback $12.95 US, $4 shipping plus 8.25% state sales tax if applicable.
ISBN 1-889307-09-2 order by email or phone 415-362-1465.

June 2001 Newsletter written by V. Vale

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