Weekend links 465


The Star (1970) from The Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini.

• Artist David Palladini died in March but I only heard the news this week. His poster for Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu has been a favourite of mine ever since the film’s release, while some of his other works have featured here in the past. Still popular among Tarot users is the Aquarian Tarot (1970), a deck published a few years after Palladini had helped with the production of the Linweave Tarot. From the same period as the Aquarian deck is a set of Zodiac posters, all of which exhibit Palladini’s distinctive blend of Art Nouveau and Deco stylings. In addition to posters, Palladini produced book covers and illustrations, and even a few record covers. A book collecting all of this work would be very welcome.

Erotikus: A History of the Gay Movies (1974? 75? 78?): Fred Halsted presents a 90-minute history of American gay porn, from the earliest beefcake films to the hardcore of the 1970s, some of which Halsted also helped create. Related: Centurians of Rome [sic]: Ashley West and April Hall on the bank robber who made the most expensive gay porno of all time.

Peter Bradshaw reviews Too Old to Die Young, a Nicolas Winding Refn TV series described as “a supernatural noir”. Sign me up.

Naomi Wolf’s Outrages establishes the context for [John Addington] Symonds’s desperate efforts to justify his own sexual feelings. Since he was born in 1840, he was 15 when the first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass appeared, the same year that legislation in Britain streamlined the laws against sodomy and ensured that men found guilty of it served long prison sentences. With intelligence and flair, Wolf uses the various responses to Whitman to show the levels of intense need in the decades after the publication of Leaves of Grass for images and books that would rescue homosexuality from increasing public disapproval.

Colm Tóibín reviews Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalisation of Love by Naomi Wolf

• Record label Dark Entries has discovered 40 more reels (!) of music by Patrick Cowley dating from 1974 to 1979.

• “Is Stockhausen’s Licht the most bonkers operatic spectacle ever?” asks Robert Barry.

• Sex, Spunk, Shoes and Sweet Satisfaction: A Q&A with artist Cary Kwok.

• Tripping his brains out: Eric Bulson on Michel Foucault and LSD.

• Paul O’Callaghan chooses 10 best Dennis Hopper performances.

• “More obscene than De Sade.” Luc Sante on the fotonovela.

• Karl Blossfeldt’s Urformen der Kunst (1928).

• The Strange World of…Gong

Neonlicht (1978) by Kraftwerk | Brüder Des Schattens, Söhne Des Lichtes (1978) by Popol Vuh | Lichtfest (2017) by ToiToiToi

William E. Jones on Fred Halsted


Presenting an interview by John Wisniewski with William E. Jones, author of Halsted Plays Himself (2011). The subject is gay filmmaker and performer Fred Halsted (1941–1989) whose 1972 film LA Plays Itself was a pioneering piece of low-budget cinema which combined a fragmented view of Los Angeles with explicit liaisons between several men, one of them portrayed by Halsted himself. Halsted took advantage of the period between 1970 and 1975 when porn in the US was no longer illegal but hadn’t yet been industrialised. As with Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour, what you get on the screen isn’t a product, it’s the representation of an obsession. It’s this that makes LA Plays Itself a still surprising and provocative piece of work.

I arrived at this film and Halsted somewhat belatedly, in fact I don’t think I’d read anything about him at all until William E. Jones was interviewed when his book was published. (Matters haven’t been helped in this country by the way hardcore porn of any kind was still illegal into the 1990s.) LA Plays Itself fascinates for the view it gives of the LA cruising scene which John Rechy described in considerable detail in The Sexual Outlaw. It’s a curiously hybrid film, neither straightforward porn—many of the sex scenes are fragmented—nor is it narrative fiction or outright documentary. Together with the recently reissued films of Peter de Rome, it’s the kind of thing that few people would be likely to make today, despite the easier access to film technology and the relaxing of censorship. And like all porn films of this era, it now has a unique look simply because it’s been shot on film.


None of Halsted’s films appear to be on DVD at the moment, and as William Jones notes below, Sextool (1975), the film Halsted regarded as his major work, may only exist as a single fading print.

Here’s John and William.

* * *

John Wisniewski: Why did you choose to write your book on filmmaker Fred Halsted?

William E. Jones: For several years I made money in the adult video industry, producing budget DVD compilations (4 hours for $10) sold in adult video stores. Before technological innovation rendered my job redundant, I watched over 700 hours of gay adult film and video produced between 1969 and 1999. In such vast quantities, the material, especially from the second half of the period, began to seem nightmarish in its ugliness. I would relish the opportunity to see any earlier title, produced before 1985, directed more or less like a movie, shot on location, and sometimes even acted fairly well. I can say without hesitation that Fred Halsted’s films were my favorites of all the videos I saw during those years in the porn industry.

Fred Halsted’s films have many fans but few advocates, and I thought my book could intervene in a decisive way before his legacy – the films and the memories of those who knew him personally – disappears completely. I also chose him as my subject because of his connection to Los Angeles. He lived and worked in neighborhoods I pass through nearly every day. But there was something else that drew me to his films, the uncanny power of work by a novice, and a self-taught one at that. His films are crude, idiosyncratic, and at their best have the force of a revelation.

Continue reading “William E. Jones on Fred Halsted”

Weekend links: 2012 edition


The Hand of Fate, Life magazine, October, 1912. Artist unknown.

In Search of Barney Bubbles: the great graphic designer is profiled on BBC Radio 4, Monday, 2nd January. And speaking of album cover designers, Cool Hunting talked to Storm Thorgerson about his work.

• FACT mix 310 is a hugely eclectic two-parter from Moon Wiring Club. Grab it while it’s still available. And there’s also Solstmas 2011/2: The Final Countdown, a mix by El Minko Misterioso.

• One of the music events of the new year will be the release of Captain Beefheart’s Bat Chain Puller album. Pre-order it here.

In 1972, at the age of thirty-one, [Fred] Halsted released L.A. Plays Itself, a film which drew upon Kenneth Anger’s surrealist eroto-expressionism, and went way beyond Anger’s sublimated homoeroticism to explicitly portray gay male S/M sex. In 1969, when Halsted first decided to make a sexually explicit film, he decided to create a part for himself, and then be that part.

Halsted Plays Himself by William E. Jones reviewed at Lambda Literary

• Lunar Rover: An interview with Steve Moore and extract from Somnium.

Battersea Power Station, a graveyard of architectural schemes.

Editors might admire a fine book, but are overridden by marketing and accounting departments who now have the final say. I know of a novel that wasn’t accepted by one publisher after the manuscript was first submitted to W.H. Smith, who said that it wouldn’t sell enough.

Jenny Diski on the state of fiction publishing in the UK

• EU copyright on James Joyce‘s works ended at midnight.

Dressed to Kill: Dispelling the Myths of Men in Drag.

The Geology of the Mountains of Madness

Mandala of the Day


The Floppy Boot Stomp (1978 mix) by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.