"Bukowski claimed the majority of what he wrote was literally what happened in his life. "
" To make himself more picturesque for the reader he did little to elaborate on himself"
Heinrich Karl Bukowski was born in Andernach, Germany in August, 1920.
By 1924 the family settled into LA, living in a two bedroom house on Jefferson Park Rd. LA was paradise in 1924. There was plenty of work in agriculture and the budding movie industry. But the palms and the clean orderly ways of America 1924, passed the bizarre immigrants by.
"A TWISTED CHILDHOOD HAS FUCKED ME UP" Bukowski would say.
Bukowski's Mom dressed young Charles in velvet trousers. He was a mark for the world from the start. Buk was getting shit canned form both ends. His old man ' the Nazi sergeant' strapped him endlessly if he missed a blade of grass doing chores. After the beatings at home, Buk would have to fight for his life at Virginia Road Elementary.
Bukowski hated the world already as a young man. He often would brew his juice by lying in his room looking at light patterns on the ceiling and listening to Brahms or Mahler. Like most outlaw literary geniuses his horrendous struggle in daily life forced him to go further in his inner mind.
Bukowski began writing as a boy, he sensed that what lie ahead was no picnic. Writing because of its solitary nature, and the way it can help a person gain perspective in deep muse became Buk's foil. But his hammer was booze.
By 15 Buk was already a full time alcoholic. He could buy booze anywhere, he looked 33. His was a zit faced kid. His face looked like a deathly horse head . Most people found it hard to look at Buk.
One night Charles came home drunk to the family house on Jefferson. He was 15. He broke a lock to get in and was greeted by his old man. Henry Senior immediately began strapping Buk with a leather belt, metal end. Bukowski puked on the new family carpet. (This could be one of the most famous puke scenes in 20th century literature). Somehow young Henry got the strength to stand up and hit his old man with a straight upper cut ending the confrontation. During the ruckus Buk's mom packed a small card board suit case, eventually pushing the drunken Bukowski out the door before his old man could come to. I mention this suit case as a metaphor for Buk's right of passage. Buk used the case for some years later painting it with a coat of black "Dyn Shine', to look more acceptable to his bar fly chums.
After graduating from LA High, (he didn't bother to pick up his diploma) Buk enrolled in LA City College. He now lived free from his old man the 'sadistic Hymie'. Buk began his bar fly life in a small dumpy room over the "Starlight Lounge" while he was studying journalism and literature. He particularly liked true grit type authors like Sinclair and Hemingway. He supported himself and his boozing by working part time as a janitor at Sears.
Buk was apolitical throughout his life. His twisted fucked up early life and rejection by main stream society made him anti social. He would root for bad guys, out of spite. During the build up to World War II he wrote a short story in support of Hitler. Of course Buk didn't give a flying fuck about Hitler. He got in trouble at LA City College for writing it. But, he discovered the joy of tweaking and outraging the self righteous main stream. Something that was easy for him and would bring him joy until his death.
After a year at LA City College circa 1942, this butt ugly outrageous character, hit the road. He was writing full time now sending stories out to 40s rags like "Popular Mechanics" and "Thriller Detective". Buk was in search of a glue bag of experience to sharpen his writing chops. So he caught a Grey Hound bus from LA to New Orleans. All he took with him was a couple of shirts and his small black card board "suitcase". He had 13 dollars in his pocket.
Aside: While traveling in the 40s, Buk would often run out of money and live on candy bars. The author asked him once at a after poetry reading party circa 1976. "Buk, how'd you do it you sick fuck? and he answered wisely " one candy bar a day"
When he got to New Orleans he lived in a tar-paper shack lit by a single light bulb. Buk couldn't hold down a job in New Orleans, preferring to booze it with the bums and whores. He took a job on a rail road gang and left New Orleans. On the way to Texas he picked up a copy of " Notes from the Underground" by Dostoevsky. The descriptions of Czarist elite reminded him of his days at LA City College. In truth, Bukowski is one of the great writers of the 20th Century having lived underground most his life, breaking through Czarist American oppression and elitism to tell his true grit story.
BUKOWSKI WROTE BECAUSE HE WAS HURT AND PISSED OFF. WRITING, BOOZE AND MAHLER WERE THE ONLY WAYS HE COULD DEAL WITH HIS CHILDHOOD.
This following snippet of a Buk poem illustrates some of his "rage against the machine" as well as his frustration from being on the shit end of the Capitalistic system most his life. It is from "Factotum" circa 60s.
….the days of
the bosses, yellow men
with bad breath and big feet, men
who look like frogs, hyenas, men who
walk as melody has never been invented,
men who think it is intelligent to hire and
fire and profit, men with expensive wife's
they possess like 60 acres of ground to be
drilled and shown-off
Buy the early 1950s Bukowski had returned to his beloved LA via Texas and New Orleans. He had been writing since the 40s, mailing manuscripts to editors all over the United States. None were accepted, his work was considered to be dark and morose. It contained unheard of radicalism, sex and reality, unlike the cherished testicluar and simple minded values "The Donna Read Show", " Disney Land" and "IKE".
He worked at the an LA Post Office, fighting with his boss constantly. On off hours Buk would drink at the "Sunlight Inn", write and listen to Mahler. I don't think Buk went to the beach once during all his years in California. But he liked to watch surfing on TV. Bukowski's spot on, toxic, mercurial voice was buried somewhere between the ally and the cracks on the floor of the of the "Sunlight Inn"
One day circa the 50s Bukowski got a letter from Barbara Frye, the editor of "Harlequin Review" out of Wheeler, Texas. Harlequin was hardly the "American Poetry Review" but was a start. Frye told Bukowski in a letter, that she thought he was the greatest poet since William Blake. As their correspondence progressed over two days, she asked Bukowski to marry her. Barbara was missing two vertebrae on her neck and looked like she was permanently hunched over. She couldn't move her neck from side to side. Buk married Barbara in LA, knowing her only two weeks. Barbara Frye published a special edition of "Harlequin" with eight of Buk,s poems.
In seven years the marriage was toast. Their years of marriage had been like a scene out of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe"? Barbara would make fun of Buk (who by this time had been published in the "Paris Review" along side Sartre. Germans and the French have a twisted fascination with sick fuck writers like Bukowski and Victor Burgundy). She would talk shit to him like "why don't you get off your ass and stop drinking, and, get your ugly ass up and go look for work?" The bitch once called Buk the 20th Century William Blake and now she wanted him to go get a job at Monkey Wards as a stock boy!
ASIDE: Frye's comments were not untypical of some American women I have known and loathed. The author has been on long haul hiatus in Bangkok, Thailand and is married to a Thai Women.
John Webb spent three years in the joint for a dope induced bank hold up. Inside the fucking hole he developed a love for literature and poetry. Webb became the editor of the prison paper, which was mostly used for ass wipe and rolling ganja. When Webb got out he contacted William Burroughs, Henry Miller, Lorenzo Ferlinghetti and other underground writers urging them to contribute to his new avant-garde rag "The Outsider". His old lady called herself "Gypsy Lou" and worked with Lou on the rag.
In the early 60s John and Gypsy Lou Webb contacted a like minded publisher friend in LA named Jory Sherman. They wanted him to be the west coast promo man for "The Outsider" and contact Bukowski. They loved Buks work and talked of it's "realness, he is not phony at all, he just seems honest and down to earth". The Webs published Factotum, a collection of Buks poem.
ASIDE: The author believes there is a watered downed, quality amongst allot of entertainers, writers and artist of the day. Post modernist like Stephen King (a great writer, who plays by the rules), Ann Rice and the bitch who wrote Harry Potter have ushered in a era of 'kiss ass" snob intelligentsia and elitism. I would rather puke on their shit and use it as wipe than sell out. And if Bukowski were alive today he would say the same.
In 1966 Buk went into the hospital to have his hemorrhoids removed. His face had always looked as though it was covered with hemorrhoids. He wrote a brilliant account of the operation called "All the Assholes in the World and Mine". Can you imagine sitting in New York with the gang from 'Sex and the City", or going to a party at Mayor Bloomberg's house and talking about your asshole. SICK FUCKS SCREAMING ' I DON'T WANT TO GO THERE'.
Bukowski took to the "flower power" and the drug culture like a cat takes to a dog. Buk started writing what would turn into his novel " Notes of a Dirty Old Man" as short stories for the hippie rag the "LA Free Press", published by John Bryan. Buk would ass whip the other writers on the paper calling them "scummy commie hippie shits" His thinking was more in line with the Hells Angels and the Nazis, than the self righteous hippies from rich families at the time.
One time Buk met Neal Cassidy of Beat fame. Cassidy was on his way to Mexico and John Bryan offered to put him up at his house in Hollywood. Cassidy had a 63 Black Plymouth wagon with a V8. The three of them decided to go for a ride. Cassidy the x parking lost attendant who could back a semi truck into a donut hole, took the wheel. Buk sat in the back seat, John rode shotgun. Buk offered Cassidy a beer and Neal slugged it down like a pro. "Have another" Buk said, once again down the hatch. Buk felt OK with Cassidy.
By the late 70s Buk's " Notes of A Dirty Old Man" was published by Ferlinghetti's Black Sparrow Press out of, San Francisco. This wasn't his best book, but it was a big seller and brought him world fame and moderate wealth. He still was living the bar fly life, drinking 24/7. He bought a track house in San Pedro. a mansion compared to his rooming house shit holes of the last 30 years. He also bought his first car at this time, a BMW which he kept till his death. He loved to drive the new BMW, his first car, to the track at Santa Anita in the morning. He would sip beer, hidden in a bag, watching the "stiffs" going the opposite direction on the expressway to Thousand Oaks Banks. It gave him a real sense of satisfaction. Usually the crouch of his baggy chinos was wet with beer by the time he got to the track. He would walk to the betting window looking like he just pissed his pants. He liked the look.
BOOZEHOUND POET CHARLES BUKOWSKI WRITES A HYMN TO HIMSELF IN HOLLYWOOD AND STARTS SINGING.
So ran the profile in "People Magazine" on Charles Bukowski when the publicist of the film "Barfly" started the media blitz. This film would never have been canned without the mammoth production effort of Dennis Hopper's Venice Beach friend, Frenchman Barbet Shroeder. The stories surround the making of this film are legendary. Barbet was a mixed of Mossed hit man and Yakuza. He pushed the film through, showing up at the the suite of Golan-Globus (the bank rollers) with a chain saw threatening to saw the room up if they didn't give him more money.
The advent of "Barfly" changed Buk some. He would strut around his house at times , loaded, feeling the part of the sheik of Sunset Blvd. But his constant inner companion was a very sad man that even booze and pussy couldn't kill. The part in the film "Barfly" were Henry Chinowski (played hilariously by Mickey Rourke) is pensively alone is his room, feeling his heart as he listens to Brahms is spot on. Underneath the wild man there was a sensitive and hurt soul.
Buk had as much respect for Hollywood Stars as he did hippies. The only films he cared for at all were "All Quiet on the Western Front" and "Who's Afraid of Virgina Wolfe". One time Buk met Arnold Schwarzenegger at a snob party for some actor and called Arnie a "piece of shit" in German. The most hilarious scene ever was when Sean Penn, who was in awe of Buk, and a regular visitor, brought his new wife Madonna to Buk's San Pedro house. Bukowski's neighbors new him (Buk) only as the neighborhood drunk. A little girl who lived near by asked him, "Mr. B was that MADONNA at your house"?
By 1987 following the premier of 'Barfly" Bukowski's health was beginning to go down hill. Years of constant boozing was catching up with him. He was writing his last novel "Hollywood". He felt like his was dying and could not eat or sleep. "Hollywood" was the story of his experience on the set as screenwriter during the making of "Barfly'. Who would have thought that a ugly drunk bum like Bukowski dealt a deuce, had a chance to make it in Hollywood?
Buk finished "Hollywood" writing as always, loaded, late through the night. He was feeling very ill and close to death. Writing kept his pain at bay. Buk finished his book roaring in laughter. Knowing that the modern world of "Hollywood" was crazier than any of the shit he had been though.
Charles Henry Bukowski's body gave in to booze on in March of 1994. He was 74. Considering the voracity of abuse he directed at himself with booze, it is amazing he made it as far as he did, both physically and career wise. He wrote to find a way to understand and cope with everyday life. He wrote about the world's "losers" which for Henry Chinowski were his "Winners"!