It was through my fellow American expat friend, “The Famous Zack,” a black Christian science-fiction writer originally from Ohio, with a short story coming up back then in the now-defunct “AMAZING STORIES,” that I first heard about the wild parties thrown by the legendary Jim Haynes, whom some sour-grape artists deemed an apocryphal “traitor.”
So well known was Haynes as a manic socialite host that he even felt propelled to write a megalomaniacal manifesto about himself called “THANKS FOR COMING!” (I might have just located the very last used copy extant on Amazon.com.) Surprisingly, the book, which is very pink and sophomore-looking, wasn’t self-published on a vanity press at all, but had actually been contracted by a known-quantity publisher: Faber and Faber!
One of the world’s greatest name-droppers, Jim Haynes–resembling Charles Bronson from “The Mechanic” and sporting a CIA stash on the back cover–eagerly sets us up for a fall. He is left like a purple microdot psychosis, bragging about psychedelic meetings with John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Germaine Greer, and Mick Jagger. But who are Mary Whitehouse, Lord Goodman, Kenneth Tynan, Richard Neville, Heathcote Williams, and Jean Shrimpton?
I don’t know; you tell me.
I had, however, vaguely heard of “Vangelis”?
So arriving at the BCBG (Bon Chic Bon Gout) bash with some of my Servas operative friends–Julie Dawson from Great Britain, a Slovenian beauty with a forgettable surname, my needy American girlfriend Susan, and big black Zack–we immediately said hi to the host, whom, to my surprise, I was pretty certain I had met before.
Was this the blunt American guy who almost sold me the smallest apartment in Paris for a laughable amount of pretty polly?
The only thing was, with his obvious haircut, Jim Haynes now just looked like anybody else, almost invisible behind his fabulous Middle Eastern-style mustaches. He must have been making a pile on the side from his priced-out parties, because immediately after shaking our hands, he asked for 200 francs to help cover costs, which included a fancy gourmet meal for over 100 guests landing at this particular star-studded bash in space and time.
Immediately, Zack pointed out the legendary black African-American poet, Ted Joans, whom I had already met several times hanging out at “Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company” (a bookstore now owned by a Whitman, related to both the former pre-New Age poet and the former New Jersey governor, who once offered me a writing space in their attic when I handed in “Old Gringo” to their book exchange).
Ted Joans somehow remembered my name. “Hi John,” he said swiftly before looming over where the Nouveau Beajolais vino flowed like the Seine or maybe the Mosel. But Ted Joans obviously had not a clue who Zack was. He didn’t remember meeting him, especially when Zack was overdoing it, drunkenly handing out business cards to everyone like a sad clown trying to sell flowers in a boit de nuit (night box).
My gorgeous unnamed Slovenian friend, with evident hilarity, exclaimed, “Look, there is The Famous Zack!”
“Yes, The Famous Zack!” I crowed like a town crier.
“Aha! The Famous Zack!” Julie Dawson added with an excitable holler, already in tears.
Our laughter was instantaneous and combustible, as hard to put out as a kitchen fire.
Zack, more wasted than I had ever seen him before, ignored the comments and flirted wildly with anything that moved: man, woman, or dog. Apparently The Famous Zack had completely forgotten in the mood indigo, Nouveau Beaujolais atmosphere, that he had a live-in “French” Venezuelan girlfriend named “Viollaine.”
When Zack started talking knowledgably about the “Harlem Rennaissance” to Ted Joans, the poet looked a little defensive. His output had really come out of the tail-end of that movement, way afterwards.
However, as a published poet myself, who had studied “poetics” under Peter Cooley at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, and who was friends with Frank Bidart (my father’s favorite student at UCR in Riverside, California, USA), I thought Ted Joans’s prolific output could be categorized in one word:
Never in a million years, though, would I ever tell Ted Joans about my underhanded compliment about his effortless oeuvre, that I thought this highly about his work.
Whoops, I just did.
Now, I got.
Meanwhile, Jim Haynes was handing out mimeographed questionnaires, to supposedly match people up for clandestine and amorous activities.
Anybody could also see that this was also a ploy to get classified information about the foreign expat community here in Paris. There was the normal-looking guy resembling the writer Paul Bowles (author of “The Sheltering Sky” and the short story “Pages from Cold Point”) who claimed he was from Morocco (whom I thought was lying); the Egyptian girl who made the devil sign and held it to her head like a phone and mouthed “Call me!”; the gorgeous aloof Slovenian girl whose company I preferred over my jealous argumentative girlfriend and rival.
Looking a little peeved, Jim Haynes, as if remembering our slight altercation over egregiously unsellable real estate, bounded toward me and snatched the questionnaire out of my hands. “You, sir, will not be needing this!” he hinted with only a trace of a smile.
What an outrageous hypocrite Monsieur Jim Haynes in reality seemed. His parties obviously were motivated solely by greed and gain, not our on-par natural gregariousness.
However, I was thankful that both Bob Bishop (of The Paris Voice) and David Applefield (of Frank Magazine) were not in attendance. Both of them had at first accepted and then rejected an essay of mine on Prague—with which years later, after repeat visits, I carefully revisedfor the ex-web mag Travelblogger, and with poetic justice, I won a
NATJA Award for “Best Internet Piece.” What is this situational conundrum called? Pawn takes Bishop and levels the Applefield!
As all the guests left abruptly, Jim Haynes bellowed his signature bon voyage, “THANKS FOR COMING!”
Which you will remember after my reminding you is also the title of Jim Haynes’s very entertaining book, which, unfortunately, “The Famous Zack”–left behind by accident by his own friends like a suitcase on a carousel spinning to the opening evil carnival muzak from “Betty Blue”–had never had the chance, nor time, nor inclination, to read. He was merely a party favor now.
Indeed, years later, The Famous Zack came to Manhattan for a visit once, informing me that he now worked for The Sultan of Brunei, one of the richest men in the world, adding, “No one says no to The Sultan of Brunei!” (Except for maybe a well-known Miss America.)
I also reminded Zack of the Jim Haynes party we had crashed, and the genesis of a pained scowl came over his face, perhaps remembering how he was in the doghouse for months afterwards with his live-in Venezuelan girlfriend.
“I didn’t like that guy. . . .” Zack admitted.
More comfortable with his own kind in “Harry’s Bar,” Jim Haynes had made it to Paris on a long strange trip indeed. Legally AWOL from the U.S. Air Force, he flew first to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he set up Britain’s very first paperback booksellers and the experimental theater company “The Furry Arts Lab.” He also edited IT and Suck, the sexually frank forerunners of Time Out and McSweeney’s, if not “Screw,” invented by Jim Haynes’s good friend Al Goldstein, before making things happen with the inspired Wet Dream Festival.
One of the great organizers in the Psychedelic Sixties, Jim Haynes hobnobbed with the likes of Norman Mailer, William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary, as well as Mick and Keith and John and Yoko. He proves he isn’t lying by including photos, letters, and clips about how fun it was to be a countercultural “closet hippy” way back when, even being a
little dangerous about the designation itself.
It was only by accident, though, when he was offered a teaching position as a “lecteur” in Paris, that he threw in his lot and became a famous socialite.
But rather than educating his students he preferred entertaining them.
Here now in my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City, I am about to re-read the book written by my well-known acquaintance in Paris, wondering if I might be mentioned it it?
Without giving anything away.
Anything is possible when dealing with “known quantities.”
A cracking good read, Jim Haynes’s book somehow clears up why he set off to make his name as a famous socialite, rather than a writer, friendlier than a Quaker, paying lip service through his company Handshake Editions, to the new mambypamby imitation “Lost Generation,” bigger even than the canine comradeship of German-Jewish-wit Gertrude
Stein and American-Fascist-poet Ezra Pound.
I took back what I had said about Jim Haynes while I read his well-meaning and very funny book. Realizing that Haynes had no qualms about meaning business in the art of life, attaining a cultural attaché with enthusiastic fundraising, I even forgave him for his attitude problem with the United States, realizing he had a lot to turn his back upon, including, peradventure, plenty of bad memories.
After all, most real expats do not move abroad in search of the ideal place in which to live, but instead to forget.
Just like a French Legionnaire.
With “Where are you from?” being everybody’s favorite conversation starter, I no longer thought it candyass for someone like Jim Haynes to call himself grandiloquently, as he had dubbed himself at his party from so long ago, “a citizen of the world!”
By some weird coincidence, involving real recherche du temps perdu, I noticed my name in print in the comically lengthy acknowledgements: “John Edwards.” Even though the book was published several years before I had even stepped into one of his Paris parties and met him in public in the first place. As if coming upon a magical “Paris Dreambook,” I preferred to regard Jim Haynes’s bio as a foregone conclusion and a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Maybe I should return to one of his furiously paced freelance parties to work on that “secret handshake” of his a little bit more. . . .