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
Manhattan Memories is an important book. To understand why, you'll need to understand why its author John Wilcock is also important. That's no small order, because in a very remarkable way John has been responsible for everything interesting that has happened over the past fifty-five years. And not just here in the US but in a broad swathe of nations beyond our shores. Or at the very least for reporting all those remarkable events, while often deeply involved in what made them happen in the first place. And in some cases even making them happen himself.
Way back in 1956 he was on hand among the very founders of the Village Voice, which brought a bright, skeptical tone to American journalism. And he took his leave from them at exactly the right time--when they canned him for among other things having the temerity to mention the diabolical word "pot" in print and promote the writings of such troublemakers as Paul Krassner.
Wilcock then moved quickly forward to becoming one of the co-founders of the East Village Other, a paper which truly transformed journalism in the US and beyond. Here he would soon once again spark conflict by championing the work of Andy Warhol, an artist then as controversial for his sex life as for his art. Seemingly unfazed, John moved quickly forward again, following his deskbound career as a NYTimes editor by authoring the earliest Five Dollars a Day-a-Day travel books anout Greece, Japan, Mexico and India.
He took advantage of his journeys to write for underground newspapers in London, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. This naturally led to his own mythic paper Other Scenes, which he would concoct from whatever city he was visiting at the time.Read more ›