the column of lasting insignificance...
—May 26, 2018 by John Wilcock

From the archives...

(May 28, 2011) THE WILCOCK WEB: For about $1,100 the Hong Kong McDonald’s offers a McWedding with invitations, a buffet for 50 people and a wedding “cake” composed of stacks of apple pies…“Conservatives define themselves in terms of what they oppose.”---George Will (1941- )

(January 29, 2011) THE WILCOCK WEB: When jewelers announce sales with dramatic price reductions (10ct diamond solitaires from $215,500 to $59,850 or a diamond cross from $1,250 to $398) does it mean they lose money? Of course not, just that their obscene profit margins become merely exorbitant. What suckers diamond-buyers are…. With zirconium and crystals replacing the diamonds and sapphires, China’s Zhou Mingwang, 31, has sold hundreds of thousands of replicas of the engagement ring Prince William has given Kate Middleton. Britain expects to gain $1.6bn in souvenirs and tourism from the April 29 wedding….

(December 4, 2010) AND SPEAKING OF GREED, what a bunch of selfish snobs most Indian tycoons are, says a columnist in Hong Kong’s Asia Times, pinpointing the likes of steel baron Lakshmi Mittal who spent $65m on his daughter’s wedding or liquor magnate Vijay Mallya who drapes himself in gold and diamonds. This in a land where millions try to survive on a dollar a day or less. Instead of giving to the poor or building schools, writes Sudha Ramaachandran, the moguls concentrate on “flaunting their wealth”.

Rutland Arms Rutland Arms c.1800

(May 28, 2011) BAKEWELL DIARY Beside a traffic roundabout at the main entrance, it’s the town’s major landmark—and it has WiFi! Opening my Kindle, beside a pint of Boddington’s, I check my email. The Rutland is by far the largest hotel in town and competes with the 19th century Town Hall to host weddings. And that Jane Austen once stayed here is a tale repeated everywhere, too iconic to relinquish, although the town’s semi-historian, Trevor Brighton, says there is no evidence for the claim. This year being the bicentennial of Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s name is frequently evoked. “Does every single article mentioning Jane Austen have to begin with that ‘truth universally acknowledged’ bit?” asked Rose Wild in the Times last week. “Yes, I fear so”.

(July 9, 2011) BREAST MILK, distributed informally and sometimes on a one-to-one basis, is starting to become big business. There’s always a need because, despite the experts’ advice that breast-feeding should continue for the baby’s first six months, few mothers have the time or patience to sustain it. And even the best commercial product compares unfavorably with the real stuff. Wet nurses can be found everywhere, some providing the fresh milk in quantity (a newborn usually needs 30ozs per day) to hospitals or so-called milk banks. Wired magazine introduces us to Desiree Espinoza, 19, who had a two-month-old baby girl “but was pumping out enough milk to feed triplets”. Selling the surplus ($2 per oz.) via the website Only the Breast, the college student made enough money to pay for a laptop and her wedding dress, estimating if she could keep it up, she could garner $20,000 a year.

(January 7, 2012) THE WILCOCK WEB: Thousands of pounds have been invested by various companies in making commemorative plates for the anticipated (so far unannounced) wedding of Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton….. Friendly tax breaks and accessibility are credited with London’s appeal to billionaires according to Forbes which says that of the city’s 23 billionaires, only a dozen are British whom the best known is Sir Richard Branson ($2.8 billion)….Using plastic resin instead of wood pulp for the pages, London publisher Charles Melcher will produce a series of waterproof books for reading in the bath or at the beach…..A new powerful pogo stick, the Flybar 1200, costs $400 and can bounce its rider six feet in the air…Denying charges that his tactics turned Oscar campaigns “nuclear”, Harvey Weinstein said that what he actually did was “democratize the process” from being merely a studio club. “Every year, the studios would award themselves Oscars. If you were an independent it was pretty hard to get in there.

(September 19, 2015) Manhattan memories—chapter 3: the village voice I was always running into Mary Travis around the Village—usually at the laundromat—although after attending her wedding party at the Figaro, I didn't see her again until 20 years later when I went backstage to see Peter, Paul and Mary after one of their Tokyo concerts. Was their famous 1963 song Puff the Magic Dragon actually about marihuana as has been rumored? I never asked and doubt if she would have answered if I had.

Wed, Sept. 20: A Polish film which opened today’s screenings failed to grab my attention and I left at the same time as Screw’s Al Goldstein who gave me a lift downtown in his chauffeured Rolls Royce. Artist Ruth Kligman was at the 3 P.M. screening of the Robert Altman’s A Wedding which was better than RA’s usual trash. Ruth, with impressive credentials from Cashiers du Cinema, told me how a mutual friend of ours had once made a twin-pincered grab down her blouse and up her skirt simultaneously. It was very different from my un-aggressive style, I said, and she replied: “Oh I don’t mind aggressiveness. But it’s got to be with some finesse.”

(February 4, 2012) THE WILCOCK WEB: After a small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital, his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was. 'No change yet,' said the nurse…..“Talk to people about themselves” said Disraeli, “and they will listen for hours”— The American Automobile Association has deployed vehicles capable of recharging stranded electric vehicles in six regions so far, and plans to eventually cover the entire country…More and more couples are choosing cemetery funeral homes for their wedding parties reports the AARP Bulletin…....Reporting on the Olive Garden’s efforts to recover from a slump in sales, Smart Money attributed it to the chain introducing “culinary forward dishes—most notably, Gorgonzola and pear ravioli with shrimp to the menu, and then wasting millions of dollars promoting them. Customers balked...

(June 2, 2012) A MATCHING ARTICLE in the Boston Review devotes 16 pages to the views of various academics discussing How Markets Crowd Out Morals offering such examples as the (short-lived) plan in which Facebook offered ‘friends’ for a price; and items as varied as wedding toasts, human kidneys and blood for sale. Author Michael J. Sandel also wrote about the remote Swiss village that patriotically agreed to accept a nuclear waste repository but showed only half as much support when offered money to do it--”the price effect is sometimes confounded by moral considerations”, being the explanation of the economists studying the situation. “Altruism, generosity, solidarity and civic spirit” Sandel concludes, “are not like commodities that are depleted with use…one of the defects of a market-driven society is that it lets these virtues languish”.

(August 4, 2012) WITH THE AVERAGE cost of a wedding now topping $25,000, says Smart Money, some intrepid couples are seeking something a bit more impromptu. “Many of my clients run away from the traditional scary wedding planning” says NY wedding photographer Kim Coccagnia. “They want small and intimate”. This was the way things were done early in the last century—before the bridal ‘industry’ started pushing ‘white weddings’—when couples often said vows at home and then went out to dinner. Some modern couples seek out unique backgrounds, such as a famous painting in the Museum of Modern Art, having sneaked a wedding dress and tux past guards and then doing a quick change on the spot (the Museum throws out any couples it catches). But such guerilla weddings require lots of planning and coordination. Early Friday afternoon is said to be a good time and the mag advises waiting until you get outside to take photographs.

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National Weed (1974, issue #3)

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


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John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part two, Soho Saturday
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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 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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- column archives: 2006 - present

in the press...

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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.

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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.

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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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