Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Remembering William Burroughs Jr. Billy Never Lived Long Enough To Use The Internet But He Would Have Loved It So Here Is A Letter From Him To Me From Nov. 1973

Above is the cover of Billy's second book Kentucky Ham.
Below is a link to a recent book about Billy Burroughs Jr. titled

Billy was a friend of mine.I knew him at Green Valley School in Orange City, Fla. in 1972 and afterwards until his death in 1981. I think this book tells his story the way he would like. Literary Outlaw is the other good bio of Bill Burroughs, Sr. in which Billy's life is well told. Read both of these books and you will know the Burroughs. The old man was a genius and a great writer but a lousy father. The son was cursed from birth(that title is something Billy wrote himself and signed a letter with to his father).
Above is a photo of Bill Burroughs Jr. taken in the late 1960s or early 1970s at Green Valley School in Orange City, Florida. This is the way Billy looked when I met him in 1972. And it is the way I like to remember him.

I tried to tell Billy to change his name in 1972. I thought that would be his only chance of surviving the Burroughs name. But of course his course was set. He was and would always be a Burroughs. To have your father kill your mother when you are 4 and then to be sent to grow up with your grandparents(abandoned by your father)and then to learn in your teens that your father is the notorious junkie homosexual genius author of NAKED LUNCH well how would you handle that? So self destruction was Billy's fate. This is an excellent book and anyone who is interested in either father or the son should enjoy and learn from it. One thing though. Billy enjoyed his life VERY MUCH until he got sick. So his life was not that short and was certianly not all unhappy. Just the last ten years.

Below is a letter Billy wrote to me from Atlanta in Nov. of 1973. Click and double click on the pictures to enlarge and read the letter.

Click and double click if necessary to enlarge and read this letter from Bill Burroughs Jr. to me from Nov. 1973.

Bill Jr. never had a chance. Not as long as he

played the part of Burroughs,Jr.

In the summer of 1972(I think it was) Esquire

Magazine printed a bit of the unpublished Kentucky

Ham. Reading this piece which is the chapter on Green

Valley I became interested not only in Bill Burroughs,

Jr. but Green Valley School. I had heard some 3 years

before of the school and had read GVH's book(How To Live With Your Special Child) that

year. And years before(maybe 1969)I had seen GVH on a

noontime talk TV show in Washington, D.C. Needless to

say he was interesting. So adding all those things up

I decided to go to GVS(Green Valley School) as a staff member in late

August 1972. But it was always in the back of my mind

that I wanted to meet Bill Jr. I really lucked out on

that because Bill and Karen had left GVS for good

sometime before my arrival. It was only because Bill

Jr. decided to leave Dobbs Ferry,N.Y. and come to

Deland, Florida to finish Kentucky Ham that I had a chance to

meet him.

I was in the Big House(administration building)front

room when in walked a young man who I had never seen

before. I over heard him mention his name to the

receptionist. I introduced myself and we adjourned to

the kitchen of the Big House to have some coffee.

Bill Jr. asked to see GVH. He was told GVH would

not see him. When he asked the person to ask why. I

think it was Cathy  told Bill that GVH said Billy

would not follow instructions. And no one will ever

dispute that.

My first conversation with Billy went like this:

Me: "Have you ever thought of changing your last


Bill: "Yes on the drive down here from New York I saw

a sign that said SNEAKER CITY. I think I will change

my name to that."

I told him in regard to his vices that he could

change vices. I told him "one vice is as good as

another". Bill Jr. used that line in his dedication of

Kentucky Ham to GVH.

Later Bill,Jr. gave me a signed copy of the hardcover

first edition of Kentucky Ham. Which I am glad to say

I still have. Nice dustjacket too.

 Bill Burroughs Jr and I ran around together in Deland, Orange

 City, and Green Valley School in the Fall of 1972. Much drinking

 ensued. I met Karen and her parents in Savannah when I

 stopped there to see Billy in Jan. of 1973 on a field

 trip with 8 GVS students to Washington D.C.

Bill and I exchanged many letters. For some reason he

 liked to write long letters to me. I saw him one last

 time in the summer of 1974 when he and Karen were in

 Atlanta. She was managing a bar. They were getting

 ready to split. All three of us went out to a lake

 outside of Atlanta to a house owned by the owner of

 the bar to spend the weekend.

 Karen was a really splendid looking young woman. She

 told me that she wanted to sun bathe nude and that the

 locals were looking at her and what should she do. I

 suggested she climb up on the roof of the house so they

 could not see her. That is what she did.

 Bill and I went to see Jeremiah Johnson(the movie)at the local

 movie house. He loved that movie. Before the movie he

 said, "Listen to them". I said what? He said, "Listen

 to them chomping on the popcorn". Billy really did

 have sharp sensitive hearing. He mentions his acute

 hearing in Kentucky Ham.

 I knew him at Green Valley School when he came down from Dobbs

 Ferry,NY to finish Kentucky Ham in the fall of 1972.

 He was staying at the Motel. Some time later he got an

 apartment in Deland.

 One night after we had been drinking we came back to

 GVS and he drove in odd S curves on the way back. More

 off the road than on. Once we got back to GVS I

 declined to get back in the car when he wanted to go

 out for more music and drinking.

 The next day I got a note from the receptionist in

 the Big House to call Billy at the hospital in Deland.

 He had been in a car wreck but survived it OK. He

 asked me to bring him some cigarettes and science

 fiction books. I did both. But then he wanted me to go

 to the drug store and get him some paregoric which I

 refused to do. I asked him what he was going to do

 with it. He said he would soak the cigarettes in it

 and smoke them. I said no way. He felt the doctors

 were cutting back on his pain medication. I told him

 to listen to his doctors.

 I like to remember Bill Jr. like he was in the Fall

 of 1972 and the way he was in 1973 and 1974.

 When he and Karen split in Atlanta he went to

California and fell on really hard times. And also in

 Boulder. He was in great pain the times he called me

 on the phone over the next few years. I met his old

 man twice here in Washington D.C. Once at a reading

 at Georgetown University and again at Lisner

 auditorium on the G.W.University campus after a

 reading with Allen Ginsburg. Both of them were

 friendly and happy to meet a friend of Billy's.

 But he really was cursed from birth.

 The first time I met him in the fall of 1972 in the

 Big House kitchen I suggested he change his last name

 to something else. But obviously his whole career was

 being the son of William Burroughs. Before he died he

 told his father that he(Billy)had ruined

 his(Billy)life trying to be like him(the old man).