JIM HAYNES

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20/20 Haynes-Sight
by Kyle Roderick,
Heavy Metal, 2nd December 1984

A whole generation ot artists, punks, non-conformists and poseurs have evolved (or devolved) into these stylishly alienated eighties, totally unaware of the influence that characters like American expatriate Jim Haynes have had on contemporary culture, and hence their lives. A pioneer on the Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, and Paris art scenes for twenty-seven years, he embodies the libertarian concept of "think global; act local." Haynes had a creative hand in the avant-garde theater, underground films, alternative newspapers, happenings and sexual politics that electrified the 'Swinging Sixties."

Testament to Haynes's karmic impact on our global hipoisie/intelligentsia/demi-monde is his recently published autobiography, Thanks For Coming! (Faber & Faber). Dedicated to over 3,000 of Haynes's friends and bedmates- including Germaine Greer, John Lennon, David Bowie, Dick Gregory, Buckminster Fuller and Xaviera Hollander - the book is a compulsively readable flashback on a life spent outside the conventional boundaries of art, behavior and commerce.

Haynes and I met one evening during his annual visit to N.Y.C and discussed his past, present. and future projects; long-time concerns, and how it feels (at fifty) after fighting in the trenches against dominant culture for over two decades. Nonchalant and unpretentious, he looks ten years younger than his age. and speaks in a soft drawl that is half Louisiana (where he was born), and half-indeterminate Western Europe.

"The belief behind everything I do is that people should be brought together, and we have to create environments and situations to bring them together." Haynes started in Edinburgh in 1959 by opening Britain's first paperback bookshop. stocking "obscene" books like Lady Chatterley's lover and the works of Henry Miller - who was then still banned in the US. People's enthusiasm for the readings held there, coupled with a desire "to create platforms or mediums for kindred spirits to transmit information about what we had discovered to others" spurred Haynes to form the Traverse Theater Club, where he produced and staged plays by Brecht, Beckett, and Pinter years before they were seen by mainstream audiences. In 1962, Haynes also co-organized the first International Writer's Conference at that renowned gathering of the cultural tribes, the Edinburgh Festival. Among others, Haynes invited Norman Mailer. Mary McCarthy and William Burroughs to speak. When his energies outgrew Edinburgh, Haynes moved to London and started a Traverse Theater Company there, staging Joe Orton's Loot, Kenneth Anger and Andy Warhol film festivals, and Yoko Ono's first in a long line of happenings.

"The style in the sixties was the most revolutionary attitudinal statement made - as far as I know - since we've been on the planet, and that's 'do your own thing: accept and respect everyone else's right to do theirs... I think that I got caught up in, and maybe even contributed, to certain philosophical rumblings that made life for me, and for others, exciting and fun." Ever in search of "social animation," 'he resigned from the Traverse and founded the alternative newspaper International Times (IT), just when that parafictional fantasy - sixties reality - burst into psychedelic London bloom. Pink Floyd played and projected slides at IT's launch party; The Soft Machine motorcycled around the stage at the start of their set. Guests included Paul McCartney disguised as an Arab, Michaelangelo Antonioni, and 2500 others. IT became the counter-cultural Bible, and was also a prototype for the now-ubiquitous listings magazine format.

IT's success not withstanding, Haynes itched to create a multi-media arts space, "where people could perform whatever they wanted to, where they could try out new ideas or even fail; where they could shake off, relax, and come together." He chanced upon a derelict Covent Garden warehouse, and with like-minded friends, created the Arts Lab. A cinema-theater space-dance-studio, video-workshop, restaurant, art-gallery, crash-pad, etc. that drew thousands of people to view each other's projects. to rehearse for free, to participate in happenings, and to become friends with Jim Haynes.

"It was like an enormous party night after night." he says, and it sounds like one indeed, what with John and Yoko, Marna Cass, James Baldwin, and R.D. Laing hanging out, performing, and eating dinner into the early morning.

Closed after two years due to financial trouble, the demise of the Arts Lab freed Haynes to pursue his great spiritual project: sexual liberation. "My drug of choice has always, only been sex." he explains with a shrug. (A serene survivor of sixties sensory overload, he drinks neither coffee nor alcohol; does not smoke or do drugs.) To continue his campaign against sexual confusion and guilt Haynes started Suck. "the first European sexpaper." in 1969, along with collaborators like feminist superstar Germaine Greer. "We wanted to enlighten peuple about sexuality in all its aspects, to demystify it through educational and amusing homosexual, heterosexual, and pansexual articles and graphics." Under the motto, "Suck turns words into flesh." the paper printed a gay guide to Europe, how-to's on giving ace blow jobs, and articles like 'Women Need Whorehouses," and "S & M Software". Published in Amsterdam but immediately banned in the U.K., Suck brought Scottand Yard to Haynes's door and became instant cult literature on the Continent.

Amsterdam set the scene for further celebration and demystification of sexuality. Haynes organized the world's first erotica film fest there: The international Wet Dream Film Festival. This infamous event sold out two years in a row, cutting a swath for popular acceptance of sexually explicit films that were not pornographic nor exploitative. One year, ticket holders were treated to a five hour North Sea cruise, complete with chamber orchestra, "love room" filled with water beds and potted palms, and food for everyone. " It's a fact that sexual expression is no longer subject to the tabous it once was." Haynes stresses.

"It's okay to write about sex, to do it, talk about it, whatever. And today, movies are shown in mainstream cinemas that would have put people in prison for ten years during the sixties." Haynes was lured away from Amsterdam in late 1969 to assume a visiting professorship at the (what else?) new and experirnentai branch of the University of Paris. As to his curriculum and methods, he says, "I teach Media and Sexual Politics and try to inflict as little damage as possible on my students... in fourteen years, I haven't failed anyone!" Besides teaching. Haynes spent the seventies writing, publishing, and distributing books, and, with fellow Citizen of the World Gary Davis, producing - in seven languages - World Passports. Challenging the world's immigration authorities, however, involved a certain degree of risk. When the French police warned him that if he continued he'd be deported, he had no choice but to stop.

So what does this veteran counter-cultural enzyme have to say to those of us, who - in these callous, material oriented eighties-sometimes yearn for a revotutionary time and spirit we neyer lived?

"Most of the people I knew then felt it was possible to build Utopia in our lifetime. And, at the end of the sixties, it was revealed that it was not going to happen. For some, disenchantment and cynicism followed. But others - many, many others - realized that we could each build it for ourselves. How? By living our ideals. By banishing fear of the other, fear of the unknown, and instead, sharing our lives fully with everyone. I' m a now person, always thinking about what and where my energies should be placed now ... there's no such thing as going backward, you know. Just go ahead and do what you have to do!"

As the saying goes. "Better dead than mellow." and Haynes's manner bears none of the earmarks of an ex-hippie on permanent spin-cycle. When I ask where his head is at now, he ventures. "l'm a neo-romantic." Currently at work on a book which explores traditional romantic ideals and their various philosaphically/morally/behaviorally elitist reverberations, Haynes is zeroing in on our society's prevailing greeting cardesque mentality, wherein we search for and hope to find a a life-mate - an idealized "better-half" who will fulfill all of our needs. "The book is an attack on romanticism and what I call couple attitudes, because these habits limit us from thinking, living, and loving as freely as we could. Romanticism is a villain, and yet almost no one questions it," he argues with a smile.

After all this talk about living in the neo-romantic now, I mention to Haynes that Buddha, when asked to sum up the experience of his life and thought, simply replied, "Now." lt seems appropriate to try posing the same question to Haynes before turning off the tape recorder, since he obvious!y knows a thing or two about the nature of experience.
A thirty-second pause follows, then laughter, as he looks me straight in the eye and exclaims ... "Wow!"
 
 
 
Kyle Roderick ©Heavy Metal, December 1984

 

 

December 1984, Heavy Metal : 20/20 Haynes-Sight

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