the column of lasting insignificance...
—November 2, 2016 by John Wilcock

“Election day is now dominated by a handful of secretive corporations with interlocking ownership, strong partisan ties to the far right and executives who revolve among them like beans in a shell game… Many of the key staffers behind our major voting machine companies have been accused or convicted of a dizzying array of white collar crimes, including conspiracy, bribery, bid-rigging, computer fraud, tax fraud, stock fraud, mail fraud, extortion and drug trafficking… we have actually lost the ability to verify election results.”
—Victoria Collier in the November Harper’s on ‘How to Rig an Election’

IT’S INEVITABLE THAT as we get nearer to December the media will be more and more filled with silly nonsense about how the Mayans predicted the world was going to end next month. The main thing to note, however, is that the Mayans said nothing of the sort, as an art show at Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology seeks to prove. The Philadelphia show, MAYA 2012: Lords of Time which will run until January, was organized by Loa Traxler and Simon Martin “to expose the lie of this prediction”.

K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo'
Ceramic censer lid depicting Copan
founder K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo',
ca 695, 28 x 16 x 15 inches.
Courtesy Honduran institute of Anthropology and History.

It’s true that the Mayans—whose origins date back to 2000 BC—were fascinated with time, but what the date of December 21, 2012 (in our calendar) represented to them was just the close of one of their 5,125-year segments, the way we measure by millennia. “Another myth the show addresses and dispels” says Art in America, “is that with the fall of their cities in the ninth century the Maya disappeared… (but) in the highlands of Central America where over five million Maya still speak over 30 dialects, not only are the Maya alive and well but, astoundingly, they have maintained a certain self-sufficiency and continuity with the past”. Massive ruins are still maintained at Copan, in Honduras near the Guatemalan border, a major Mayan capital from the 5th to 9th centuries. Its first ruler K’inich Yax K’uk Mo’ is often portrayed as the rain god Tlaloc with distinctive goggle eyes.

THINGS A MAN should never say at work is a one-page feature in Esquire’s fall supplement which is devoted to the subject of working. Some listings:

  • Why don’t more of us have nicknames?
  • You’re the boss’’ [When speaking to the boss].
  • That’s not how we did it at my last job.
  • I’m sorry she’s in the bathroom. Can I have her call you back?
  • It’s called Zumba. I’ve lost 12 pounds.
  • Any nautical idiom. Including but not limited to: smooth sailing, hard-and-fast, cut of his job, ahoy, batten down the hatches, learn the ropes, scuttlebutt

FORECASTING THE FINANCIAL FUTURE has been Roger Bootle’s game for more than a decade. In successive books he predicted the bursting of the dotcom bubble and the worldwide housing crash. Now he says the breakup of the Euro zone—with weaker countries dropping the Euro—is all but inevitable and continued bailouts are just buying time. “Far from a disaster” asserts the 60-year-old British economist, “the breakup of the Euro is the only way to bring back growth and get Europe out of this mess”. It will be tough at first for Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain—the so-called PIIGS—because the cost of their productiveness has caused their inability to compete and the only way to get it back is letting high unemployment grind down wages, raising taxes, and slashing government spending. But, as occurred in Argentina after its currency was devalued, the economies would start growing again within a year. “The truth is”, he tells Fortune, “the politicians have got it totally wrong. They waffle and get lots of money from the public sector to buy time, but the markets win in the end”.

“Leadership is about doing what you think is right and then building a constituency behind it. It is not doing a poll and then following from the back…What leaders should do is make decisions as to what they think is in the public interest based on the best advice that they can get, and then try and build a constituency and bring it along.”
—New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Atlantic

NOT MANY PEOPLE are fond of notaries, comments the Economist. Although they may be “important gatekeepers” in many economies, they are also regarded by some as “overpaid bureaucrats who delay the passage of simple transactions and bloat their cost”. But while they are losing their privileges in Europe—in France they can compete with lawyers—their authority is growing in Asia. Almost five million notaries exist in America, largely to satisfy this country’s “maddening appetite for stamps and seals” the magazine says.

Dear reader,

Today's column is on of the almost 500 columns I ran on the Ojai Orange site between 2006 and 2014. These will, of course, be free as is everything on my sites, and has been for the past decade or so. But, I do request that if you find these columns interesting, that you consider sending a donation, which you could possibly write off as a gift for my birthday on August 4, when I will be 89. —JW


John Wilcock
The Gables
701 N. Montgomery St.
Ojai, CA 93023

RUSSIA IS AT A CROSSROADS writes Lilia Shevtsova and if it doesn’t move away from the personalized rule that is “suffocating” it, the country is headed for disaster. “Putin’s return to the presidency leaves no doubt as to where Russia is going. It proves that Putin himself will never voluntarily give up his monopoly on power and his team is not going to carry out either political or economic reform… today’s authorities” she asserts, “are ready to fight for their power until the bitter end”. One of the problems outlined by Ms. Shevtsova, a director at the Carnegie Moscow Center, is that those she terms Russia’s “systemic liberals” have been co-opted, not only working within the government but by trying to “monopolize the right to speak on behalf of liberalism and democracy”. And making it worse has been the “acquiescence” of the West by ignoring the brazen, even criminal behavior of Russia’s elite who have thus come to believe that the West will always accommodate it. The writer, one of several discussing Russia in the October edition of Current History, adds: “If the current trends continue, Russia will inevitably head into economic, social, and geopolitical decline. A country cannot renew itself, after all, if the authorities are intent on maintaining the status quo indefinitely:”.

BY YEAR’S END, 300 bars will be participating in a game by Miami’s Drink Exchange which is described as making the ordering of cocktails much like playing the stock market. The way it works, explains Wired, is that via some algorithm program the price of drinks will rise or fall according to its popularity at any given moment. Television screens denote constantly-changing prices, enabling an alert patron to switch drinks from the crowd at a nearby table orders by conversely ordering some obscure mix that nobody’s currently drinking.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Apparently the U.S. military has decided to sacrifice a lot more men, and kill a lot more Afghans, as the Taliban waits another 14 months for us to leave. How grateful will all those bereaved parents be for our continuation of this fruitless war?...….”The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it” declared a prescient Billy Graham in 1981….A recent study in Psychological Science about reducing stress levels suggested that making an effort to smile while you’re experiencing a stressful event—such as getting trapped in a traffic jam—may benefit your mood and health….…. Applicants for New Jersey driving licenses have been told not to smile when their photograph is being taken…Is the New York Times searching for a new CEO yet? Mark Thompson, the ex-BBC boss who was due to take charge of the paper of record this week, must be either incompetent or in denial to an almost unimaginable degree. During three decades with the broadcaster, he claims he was “unaware’ of a multi-pederast who was notorious throughout the company…. Eager to know how Britain’s satirical magazine, Private Eye, felt about the matter I asked if they would be kind enough to send me relevant issues from which I could quote. PE editor Ian Hislop, a pretentious jerk, replied tersely in four words: “We don’t do that”….A new faster and cheaper way of erecting skyscrapers by a tycoon in China (wouldn’t you know). is being tested with a 220-story high rise going up in Hunan province. It’s built by stacking prefabricated modules atop one another and then connecting wires and pipes on the site…..Impresario Bill Graham (d. 1991) commissioned 287 posters for his shows

The Byrds poster

at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium in the psychedelic Sixties, and music fan Tony Newhall was savvy enough to collect the first 62 of them, which he’s now donated to the Huntington Library. Almost all of these including the one for The Byrds and Moby Grape (above) were done by Wes Wilson, now 75…… DEFT DEFINITION: Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web….…Smoked beer is hot right now reports Details, listing various brews created mostly with malt that’s been infused with smoldering birch, beech wood or peat….…...“Until the for-profit health insurance industry is replaced with single-payer national health insurance program, Americans will continue to suffer and die for the sake of excessive corporate salaries and shareholder profits”—writes New Yorker Dr. Elaine FoxStores magazine reported the arrest of a man in Florida who admitted his goal had been to shoplift in all 50 states within the same year….A Peruvian root vegetable called maca, ground into a powder and mixed with milk, is the latest fad among the health bar crowd which is always seeking a new one…. In last week’s issue of America’s least-needed magazine—it should be called Paucity instead of Parade—a woman wrote a full-page essay about how she hasn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey…. Along with a note from the Dalai Lama and an appeal for funds to help keep the pressure on China, the Campaign for Tibet ( encloses a charming Nepal-woven prayer flag…. Why doesn’t the TSA just confiscate the guns of airline travelers who “forgot” they were in their bags?....”You won the elections, but I won the count.” –Anastasio Somoza (1925-80)

Goodbye Mittens. And don’t come back,
‘cos a third time
wouldn’t be any luckier for you...

This column first appeared on
November 3, 2012

National Weed (1974, issue #3)

it's here...
Marijuana--The Weed That Changed the World


Over the past year, my combined medical and support costs from a stroke I had in April 2014 have been more than $100,000. If you'd like to help, use the Paypal donate button, or better yet, buy one of my books, and thank you. —JW

comments? send an email to John Wilcock

recent columns

- Complete column archives: 2006 - present

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John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part one, Soho Saturday
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John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
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John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve--Andy Gets Shot: Max's Kansas City; Jane Fonda's gesture; Christo & Jeanne-Claude
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John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eleven (continued)-- We go to Rutgers, Ann Arbor ... What people say about Andy
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John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eleven -- Andy Warhol First encounter....People talk about him....His movies...
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John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Ten (continued)--The 'Movement' splits: Eldridge Cleaver Year of the Great Hoax…The OZ trial
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John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Ten--Tom Forcade's smuggling funds High Times; Rolling Stone's underground sabotage
Week of December 19, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Nine (continued)--Rip Torn on stardom… Robert Mitchum's gift; London: Julian Beck’s critique; Emmett Grogan and the Diggers; Greece: The Junta, Charlotte Rampling, and art hero Daniel Spoerri
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John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Nine--Bob Dylan in the Village, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, Richard Neville and OZ, What Does London Need Most?, The International Times
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John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight (continued)--Japan: a working honeymoon; The Shinjuku Sutra
Week of November 28, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight--Art Kunkin's LA Free Press; In LA with Hunter Thompson, Lenny Bruce; Visit by Warhol; Hakim Jamal plays god; The San Francisco 'Be-In'; Underground papers meet
Week of November 21, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seven (continued)--The Underground Press; Army revolt:  fragging officers; Bowart goes to Millbrook
Week of November 14, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seven--The singing Tit-o-Gram; The East Village Other; Art & Forgery; Birth of Black Power; The Underground Press
Week of November 7, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
Week of October 31, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six—The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
Week of October 24, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Five—Reefer Madness (continued)--Jan and Stan change my life; The man who turned on the world
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Manhattan Memories: Chapter Five—Reefer Madness--The man who turned on the world; Tested by Harvard professors; Jan and Stan change my life
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Week of October 3, 2015

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Manhattan Memories: Chapter Three--The Village Voice (continued) --Lasting insignificance: the 3-dot column, ECHO  and Larry Adler, Woody Allen plays classic nerd, A sample Village Square column
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Manhattan Memories: Chapter Three--More trouble with our star novelist; Lasting insignificance: the 3-dot column; Jean Shepherd’s phantom novel
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Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Chatting with Marilyn Monroe
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- column archives: 2006 - present

in the press...

Now on Boing-Boing!

JOHN WILCOCK: Leaving the trial, I realized Kennedy had just been killed.
February 12, 2015

The New York Years - Boing-Boing

July 13, 2012

Manhattan Memories: an autobiography
By John Wilcock (, 2010)
excerpt from A Book Review By Marshall Brooks
Provincetown Arts Annual 2012/13

On the Ground
John Wilcock had lived in the Garden of Eden he would have started the world’s first under- ground newspaper there. One can easily picture it: a paradisiacal incarnation of John’s 1960s legendary tabloid, Other Scenes, featuring a lively threesome on its cover and an interview inside with the snake, who, it turns out, really dug (in the argot of the day) cool, mellow people. An Eden on $5 a Day guide would have been sure to follow, precursor to the dozens of travel books that John Wilcock actually has methodically researched and authored over the years, beginning with Mexico on $5 a Day in 1960 for enterprising guidebook publisher Arthur Frommer. Still traveling the world at age eighty-four, no moss grows on John Wilcock, which Manhattan Memories makes clear. But there is more.

(The complete review begins on p.175)

December 1, 2011

On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S
reviewed by Steve Heller in Imprint
On the Ground
The Underground Press, as it was called, was a groundswell of media activity running the gamut from radically political to seriously satirical. A new book, On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S. (PM Press) Edited by Sean Stewart (who between 2007 and 2009 owned and operated Babylon Falling, a bookstore and gallery in San Francisco), recalls the Underground epoch. Through interlacing interviews with Emory Douglas (Black Panther), Paul Krassner (The Realist), Art Kunkin (The L.A. Free Press), Abe Peck (The Chicago Seed), John Wilcock (Other Scenes), Jeff Shero (The Rat), Trina Robbins (Gothic Blimp Works) and many more (including Al Goldstein of Screw), the remarkable journals that shaped my life (and career) are revived as oral history.

(read more)

November 28, 2011

The Book Bench - Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department
New Yorker Online
Check out the first installment of Ethan Persoff's serialized comic-book biography of the publisher and writer John Wilcock.

(read more)

October 22, 2011

The New York Years

An authorized comic book biography of John Wilcock,
art by Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall

This is a book length comic series on John Wilcock. People who enjoy focusing on underground and alternative media are occasionally familiar with John's work, but most often the response is "who's that?" Outside of small press historians and collectors, John remains very unknown. Which makes no sense, the more you learn about him. We're very excited about the opportunity to tell his story. Art for THE STORY OF JOHN WILCOCK is by me and co-conspirator Scott Marshall. Story comes from an extended and ongoing year-long interview with Wilcock, himself. The focus is John's years in New York, roughly 1954-1971.

(read more)

January, 2011

The Return of the World's Worst Businessman

Sneak Peak “The Return of the World's Worst Businessman”
Tyler Malone
PMc Magazine

John Wilcock is not what you would call a household name, and yet, he has had a measurable impact on art, journalism and culture-at-large over the last century. He co-founded Interview with Andy Warhol. He also was one of the co-founders of The Village Voice. He has written for countless print and online publications: Frommer’s, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, The East Village Other, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Ojai Orange, etc. So why, one feels inclined to ask, is he relatively unknown? The answer seems simple: Wilcock has called himself “the world’s worst businessman.” This self-description makes sense because listening to him one hears the voice of a writer and a traveler and an enthusiast, not at all the voice of a businessman. In an age when it seems like everyone is all about business—art as a business, fashion as a business, everything as a business—it is refreshing to hear someone self-identify as “the world’s worst businessman.” It seems less like he has failed as a businessman and more like he has refused to become one. In addition to all his other accomplishments,...

(read more)

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Reader Comment from the recent New York Times Frugal Traveler post
RN—Sydney, Australia

Not only did John Wilcock shake up staid publishing in the USA, from the Village Voice to the East Village Other, his influence extended to several continents, including Australia & the UK, where - in his mild mannered way - he pushed the boundaries of image and speech. The counter culture was nothing but a dull puddle, until John kicked out the jams and ignited the Underground Press, which attracted absurd prosecutions, that of course boosted circulations. An unsung hero of the sixties,

indifferent to self promotion and the hoarding of gold, it is great to see John get a dash of recognition.

(read more)

October 27, 2010

A Budget Travel Pioneer on a Time When $5 a Day Was Real (Frugal) Money Frugal Traveler

by Seth Kugel
John Wilcock at the New York Times

It was the first handwritten letter I’d received in 5 years. Or maybe 10. Signed by John Wilcock, a man I’d never heard of, and postmarked Ojai, Calif., it was waiting for me when I returned from my São Paulo-to-New York summer trip. Mr. Wilcock wrote that he had been an assistant editor at The Times Travel section back in the 1950s, and had written the first editions of “Mexico on $5 a Day,” “Greece on $5 a Day” and “Japan on $5 a Day” for Arthur Frommer in the 1960s.

By George, I thought. This man was the original Frugal Traveler.

(read more)

and in print...

Manhattan MemoriesManhattan Memories
An Autobiography
by John Wilcock

"A GOOD WAY to describe John Wilcock is to say that he is a talented bohemian counter-culture journalist who once played a major role in the emergence of America’s underground press. Born 1927 in Sheffield, England, he left school aged 16 to work on various newspapers in England, and on Toronto periodicals before moving to New York City. There in 1955 he became one of the five founders of the Village Voice in which he and co-founder Norman Mailer wrote weekly columns. Wilcock called his column “The Village Square”, an intended pun. He and young Mailer were not quite friends, although Wilcock was at times annoyed, but always amused, by Mailer’s monstrous ego."

-From the preface of Manhattan Memories, by Martin Gardner
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