Memory Lane: Interview with Allen Ginsberg (Between the Sheets)

This evening, I watched a documentary called Walt Whitman, part of the Voices and Visions series, directed by Jack Smithie, and copyrighted in 1988 by the New York Center for Visual History. The documentary includes numerous excerpts from interviews of Allen Ginsberg, including one snippet where he mentions a sexual lineage that connected him to Whitman through Neal Cassady, Gavin Arthur, and Edward Carpenter (a claim he also apparently made in a Gay Sunshine interview).

I had a flashback to the time I spent with Ginsberg in Cambridge, MA, in 1982, when he told me that I was part of an erotic lineage that connected me to Whitman through him and Carpenter and others I didn’t remember from that time. I now know much more clearly who Neal Cassady is, although Gavin Arthur remains a mystery. One result of a quick Google search identifies Arthur as ” a certain astrologer and San Francisco character, Gavin Arthur (grandson of president Chester A Arthur), who gave lectures at San Quentin while Neal was a prisoner.” Another entry reports that he studied astrology with Ronald Reagan before Reagan started his political career.

I had interviewed Ginsberg for Gay Community News in an issue published on August 21, 1982. The funny part of the interview was how we decided to end it in print, that is, with Ginsberg’s question to me about whether I was going to refer to the conditions of the interview in publication, my question to him about what he meant, and his reply that the interview was conducted when we were in bed together.

A month or so ago, I found a cassette tape containing the whole interview and listened to it for the first time in more than 20 years. I was surprised at how fresh and relevant Ginsberg’s words remained to me and to the current political situation in the U.S.

Perhaps an archive somewhere would be interested in the recording? If so, please contact me. Or perhaps I should just transcribe the whole thing and post it on this blog. The incomplete interview, as published in Gay Community News, is now apparently selling for $22 an issue on the web, so I guess I should scrounge around in the basement to see if I still have any copies, eh?