'Influential man nobody knew'

JOURNALIST John Wilcock had a novel way of improving his social life in Sixties New York.

Hanging around with Andy Warhol at his 47th Street Factory, he noticed discarded invitations for parties the pop artist didn't want to attend.

John collected them up and went to the parties himself - then wrote a column in the High Times alternative paper called The Parties Andy Warhol Didn't Go To.

Sheffield-born John, now 82, recalls those days in his autobiography, Manhattan Memories, now available on Kindle and at lulu.com

Just before John was about to leave for Europe he asked Warhol to settle a printing debt and was given a couple of paintings. They'd be worth a tidy sum now but instead he swapped it for marijuana.

A mistake? "I should have put them in storage I suppose," he says from his home in Ojai, California, where he now produces a one-man newsletter, the Ojai Orange.

His journalist career took him from the old Sheffield Telegraph to the Daily Mirror and, via Canada, to New York where he became one of the founders of the Greenwich Village Voice.

John, author of 30 books including The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol, seems to have had the knack of being in the right place at the right time.

He interviewed Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich called him up, he smoked dope with Timothy Leary and loaned his apartment to comedian Lenny Bruce.

John, once called "an influential man nobody knows" by the New York Times, maintains: "I was always in the dark, especially with Warhol, about what was going on. It just seemed fascinating at the time."

Those parties were held in vast Soho lofts which easily fit 400 people. "Few artists had 400 friends. So, in effect, if you heard about a party you were invited," he writes.

He didn't get on with Mailer, already famous for books such as The Naked and the Dead, who wrote a column and insisted it went in word for word.

John, about the only one with journalistic experience, describes "jig-sawing in the Great Novelist's priceless prose an inch at a time… he needed a good editor".

Mailer never forgot John's upstart independence. In all his writings he edited him out of the history of the Voice.

He's written columns all his life, including The Column of Lasting Insignificance, now in its 55th year.

Looking back, he says: "I was most of the way through my life before I realised that I seemed to have had a lucky and uncanny instinct for being around things that had some significance."

Visit www.ojaiorange.com

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