Jim Haynes, the Johnny Appleseed of the Sixties counter-culture in London,
Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Paris, disarms criticism by dedicating this 'open
newsletter' to me and several thousand named others, from Abbul
to Zwerin. Haynes actually knows this number of people (and more) whom
he counts as personal, contactable friends. He is amazing, a true nature's
child of the arts with extraordinary 'green fingers'. Almost everything
he touched, from Edinburgh's Paperback Bookshop which developed into the
Traverse Theatre to London's Arts Lab and beyond, burst into wild and
glorious bloom. It is hard not to be swept along in the swift current
of this Charles Bronson look-alike's vitality and sheer love of the cosmos.
I were around, solo and together, in those prehistoric days, the fabled
Sixties, when the structure shook a little. (Did it, or were we just tripping
out?) We recall it differently, of course. I almost became a victim of
all that dope, booze, karma and smarma, alternative blues and politically-inspired
schizophrenia, not to speak of my own drugged stupidity. I came to know
the dark side of the mad moon. It wasn't so hot, Jim-boy. You could get
hurt, badly. And hurt others. The American or Yankee-inspired 'Swingin'
Sixties' ego was terrifying to behold in action. Like Donovan's Brain
or Jaws in 3-D, it swallowed everything and everybody in sight. Some never
did come up for air, while Jim and I hardly paused for breath, in our
fruitful imperialising of the local culturewhich needed it, to be
I hope nobody
ever draws up an accurate balance sheet of that periodthe dead and
walking wounded versus noteworthy productions of multimedia events. Jim
certainly isn't the person to do it. His autobiography (and I use the
word loosely for this entertaining and bitsy collage) reads like an avant-garde
Elsa Maxwell's guest list for the longest party of the decade, which in
some ways it was. It's also slightly depressing to be reminded it happened
such a long time ago, and how bureaucratised or extinct so many bold experiments
of that period have become. Part of me yearns for that strange time; part
of me hopes I never see its like again.
Jim Haynes drops okay names like the social climber he never really was,
and salts his meandering narrative with enough naive enthusiasm to power
the next Space Lab, I'm really glad to be reminded of how it all looked
from the Chief Operator's viewpoint. He had a hell of a good time hobnobbing
with Sir this and Lady that and the cream of the Western European artistic
establishment-to-be. His solemn, genial tolerance for artsy-fartsy phonies
is legendary. It doesn't matter to him as long as they're saying the Right
Thing: screw the puritans, it's party time!
well by us. Louisiana-born, he came to Britain in the early 1950s with
the US Air Force. Even while in uniform, at Kirknewton AF base, he attended
nearby Edinburgh University, where he started his fabulous paperback bookshop
next to the campus. It burgeoned into an all-in meeting place which Haynes
parlayed into the spectacularly successful Traverse Theatre.
Haynes: 'love of the cosmos'
It was very exciting, introducing talented writers like Heathcote Williams,
putting on Pinter and Beckett before it was fashionable, and laying the
groundwork for much of today's better dramaturgy. Haynes had shrewd instincts
and even better contacts. His list of friends in the arts-favouring Harold
Wilson regime is impressive: Jennie Lee was his darlin', Arnold Goodman
his protector (until Jim began defending evil dopesters); there was Ken
Tynan, Arnold Wesker, Uncle Tom Cobley and all ('... many, many quiet
little dinners with Jennie...', a 'warm relationship' with His Holiness
the Goodman, etc).
has always hated routine. (And domesticity: one shudders to imagine his
present sexual arrangements.) When something is successful, that's a signal
to fit off and begin anew. Bored with the Traverse, he came south to London
and started ITInternational Timeswith its famous
Theda Bara logo (it was supposed to be Clara Bow but they used Theda by
mistake)and the immortal Arts Lab. With some justice Haynes can
claim to be the midhusband of at least the chic, artistic end of London's
underground at the time it was the world's psychedelic capital. I remember
him hawking IT copies outside the Aldwych, serving coffee behind
a bar, lazily leading squats. Jim did everything himself, seldom stood
on ceremony, and asked only if it contributed to his Emersonian ideal
of a community of kindred spirits. An aristocracy of talentMonica
Vitti, Peter Brook, Antonioni, the Beatlesfluttered around him.
Respectability rose like a beast from the depths to devour innocent Jim.
The US ambassador's lovely wife platonically fell in love with him, he
got phone calls from Buckingham Palace, and once he even escorted President
Johnson's daughter to a do.
terribly political, even though little of this would have been possible
without an infrastructure of protest to support his experiments. Partly
because he's into sweetness, light and the bisexual revolution, he does
not appear to understand the complex relationship between the volcanic
outpouring of creative energy in the Sixties and the essentially square
radicalism which was its natural manure. But no matter. The Arts Lab brought
people together. You never knew what to expect. Underground film, futuristic
theatre, 'happenings', chats by the lady next door'It was like an
enormous party night after night.' Great fun, and it probably produced
more changes in more people's lives than many if not most of our marches.
Well no, there I go again, borne downstream by the man's alarmingly open
personality and restless generosity. The Arts Lab may have changed nothing
at all. But it was wizard at the time.
Jim is in his 14th year as a professor (a what?!) at Vincennes University
outside Paris. He keeps his hand in with magazines like Suck and
playing around on the wilder shores of sex. A perennial 16, it's hard
to believe he's fifty. More power to his arm, he did us a lot of good
when the going was good.