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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lou Reed, Writer

A little surprised but happy to see in today's NYT an essay by chief book critic Michiko Kakutani on Lou Reed's visions of New York City over the years.  Heaven and hell.  Pretty good.  And a reminder that the public memorial for Lou takes place this afternoon at Lincoln Center outdoors, with non-stop music.

Reminds me that back in early 1971, I helped edit a lengthy essay/memoir by the late Lou Reed for Crawdaddy, and I wonder if it's his first published piece.  Of course, years later, he wrote many articles and reviews and, of course, poems, but I don't know if he did before 1971.  He had left the Velvets and worked in an accounting office for a spell, before signing with RCA.  He was about to launch a solo career that would soon go well.  I had just started at Crawdaddy as the #2 editor and we put together a special feature section on Stars with pieces by Lou,  R. Meltzer, Lenny Kaye, Viva, and others. (I also contributed a profile/interview with Ray Davies.)

Anyway, Lou stuck to the subject of stardom, under the title, “Why I Wouldn’t Want My Son To Be a Rock Star, Or a Dog Even.” He observed that "being a star means you get fucked.  Not only by groupies, male, female and neuter, but by family, friends, promoters, record company men and managers."  Being a star, therefore, mostly means learning "to say no."

But not everyone can be a star.  Among other witticisms, he noted that “Today, even Katharine Hepburn, who is a real lady, is not a star since:  She does not play guitar or piano. She is not vulgar. She does not take acid.  She wears bell bottoms only on holidays.”

On a more serious note, he recalled a poet friend who “died quite ignominiously in the Hotel Dixie after a drinking bout.”  He was “a real star…but since he did not act like a star no one believed him.” (Different hotel, but I wonder if this was Delmore Schwartz.)   He closed with advice to your rockers on how to reach stardom and get the double-album, girls and a billboard in Times Square.  Then you will "deserve to say anything at all.  Or, not say anything at all." (Photo: Lou with raisins in Crawdaddy, 1968.)

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