JIM HAYNES

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Yes, he'll get by with a little help from his friends
John Lloyd,
The Financial Times Weekend January 16/17, 1999
Always open to every experience and never one to be shamed, Jim Haynes still believes in the Sixties after all these years. John Lloyd reports:
Jim Haynes is a 1960s man for the connoisseur, for those who saw and see in that period (which lasted to the 1970s) a quite serious and bold venture beneath the silliness, thoughtlessness and hypocrisy.
He was a gangling, slim American soldier from Louisiana working at a USAF listening station outside Edinburgh in the late 1950s. Not the standard biography for a radical; but Haynes, born to a peripatetic family (his father was an oil executive) and spending part of his childhood in a boarding school, had put down no good ol' boy roots. Rootlessness, indeed, is part of his life's theme, part of the 1960s gift to world society.
One day, on early release from the army and in love with Edinburgh, he passed a junk shop "full of cracked cups and three-legged chairs" in the university district. An old woman was pottering about inside. "I'd like to buy your shop," said the brash American, as if Edinburgh was a place where you said what you wanted straight out. "My boy, my boy," said the woman, "I think it's time I retired." Within five minutes, they had agreed a price of £300.
It became The Paperback, a very important place in the Edinburgh of the early 1960s. Haynes hung up a rhino's head he had rescued from the New Club after the city establishment had tired of it and used the shop's scanty space not just to sell books but to mount exhibitions, hold poetry readings, put on plays and sell coffee.
He had readings by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, in the days when the Siberian was the semi-free poet of Nikita Khrushchev's thaw. He put on a dramatized version of David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, in which the man whom Edinburgh University always denied a chair savages the official structure of faith.
Edinburgh was snobbish, puritanical and reserved then. Its festival was only beginning to acquire a fringe; its bohemian world was a little ashamed of itself. It was quite in order, 40 years ago, for a severe woman in a black coat to buy a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover, take it from Haynes with coal tongs, carry it outside, place it on a metal tray, douse it in meths and set it alight while calling it an "iniquitous document".
But Haynes was not to be shamed: instead, he was quick enough to have the event photographed; the picture appeared nationwide. Puritans still had energy and standards then; Haynes had, too. He thought sex should be plentiful and guiltless, and that those out to stop it were crazy.
In The Paperback, in his 20s, Haynes laid down the rules which have governed his life since. Openness to everything, especially sex; seeking out the innovators and giving them space; making connections between and among people. Once these rules were clear he entered, in his 30s, into a hugely creative period. He founded the Traverse Theatre in a little flat at the top of the medieval High Street. The home of everything experimental in the theatre of the time, it has become Edinburgh's first theatre, respected and respectable.
He moved to London and conceived the idea of a newspaper, taking as its model the "underground" Village Voice of New York. That ultimately became International Times (IT), the first (in the UK) of a rash of other underground papers, such as Frendz, Black Dwarf and Ink. He started the Arts Lab in Drury Lane; it was a "happening" place, where musicians, poets, dramatists and exhibitionists turned up and put something on - or took something off.
He has pursued his life's credo:
being a medium between people and societies
Yoko Ono and John Lennon were supporters. They gave it money, and used it as a stage for some episodes in their mission to make the world loosen up. Writing about it in his autobiography, unashamedly called Thanks for Coming!, Haynes writes: "John and Yoko did their bag happening. There wasn't much to it. They just got into a bag on stage and stayed there for I don't know how long and that was more or less the bag happening."
In 1969, Haynes, with Heath-cote Williams and Germaine Greer and others, decided to do a sex paper called Suck. Knowing it would fall foul of UK obscenity laws - the name was enough to mobilize every woman with a meths bottle - they decided to do it in liberal Amsterdam. Haynes wanted it to be missionary, even if against the missionary position.
Meeting Haynes and Greer in London in the early 1970s, when Suck was going full blast in Amsterdam, the American writer Tom Wolfe wrote that Haynes had told him: "The aim was sexual liberation and, through sexual liberation, the liberation of the spirit of man. If... you had read Suck, you were likely to be watching Jim Haynes's face for the beginnings of a campy grin, a wink, a roll of the eyeballs - something to indicate he was just having his little joke. But it soon became clear that he was one of these people who exist on a plane quite ... beyond irony. Whatever it had been for him once, sex had now become a religion, and he had developed a theology in which the orgasm had become a form of spiritual ecstasy."
Suck ended in acrimony. Greer, having contributed a picture of herself nude in a posture which showed all her orifices simultaneously, to be published with similar studies of all the other editors, felt betrayed that the others, in her view, finked out. Haynes protests (it is evident the old row still distresses him) that it was a mistake.
In any case, it marked a shift. He moved to Paris and accepted a job as a visiting professor of communications at the experimental University of Paris VIII at Vincennes. He found a studio in a row of 19th century buildings in the 14th District and ceased to do Big Projects.
Instead, he has pursued what seems to be the main credo of his life: that of being a medium between people, between societies, even between continents.
Always a voracious traveller, he travelled more, especially (when it became possible) in eastern Europe. He began to produce People to People guides, which were simply lists of people, addresses and phone numbers, with a few lines about each of the entries in their own words. Essentially, each was saying, "I am like Jim Haynes. I am open to the world, open to every experience."
Yet it is precisely this which now afflicts Haynes. In the 1970s, his friend Jay Landesman wrote to (and of) him that "how you have anything left in the world after this lavish display of affection to it is beyond me". He was prescient. Haynes lavished affection on, or at least gave attention and time to, almost everyone who crossed his path, especially young women. In the 1990s, it went wrong.
He was pulled into the depths in a very Haynes way. One of his many projects was the creation of a "Citizen of the World" passport. Diplomatically dodgy, it managed to convince the Thai authorities to release a young, passport-less American named Will Reed whom they were holding in jail and to whom Haynes had sent a passport after Reed had written asking for one. Reed came to Paris, moved into Haynes's studio, and began to get on his feet with Haynes's help.
A friend and a stranger had suddenly rounded on Haynes and left him facing destitution
One day in 1989, Reed came to Haynes to ask him for FFr 500,000 (£50,000). He had started a property company and needed a bridging loan to buy a hotel. Haynes had by this time acquired another studio in the row - someone had given it to him: these things happen in his world - and raised the money with the studios as collateral. The company went well at first, and Reed made the arranged repayment of interest. Then, one day, he came to Haynes to say he was broke.
At the same time Haynes and his long-time friend Jack Moore were making a movie about Marlene Dietrich using cuts from her films, and needed FFr 200,000 to finish it. They had been told it would get a showing at Cannes, and expected great things of it.
Enter the man he calls The Rat, properly named Emile Gouiran, a French-American lawyer refused a licence in New York, disbarred in New Jersey and recently disbarred (after a long struggle) in France.
Gouiran, recommended by an acquaintance, offered to get Haynes out of his troubles. He paid off the loan, taking Haynes's second studio as collateral.
The studio has been worth as much as FFr 2m on the Paris property market, but Gouiran has refused to accept the house as full repayment, claiming a further FFr 800,000. Haynes says he can only pay by selling the studio in which he lives - his only wealth. The case is pending; if it goes Gouiran's way Haynes could be ruined.
A friend and a stranger had suddenly, and in unison, rounded on Haynes and left him facing destitution. But then, in his philosophy, he was not supposed to have money. And he has risen to the challenge by mobilising the 1960s virtues. He is getting by with some help from his friends.
On the November evening I visited Haynes in his studio, a play was staged on its ground floor. An English actress, Phyllis Roome, put on a one-woman show based on the simple idea of a young Englishwoman in Paris for the first time, finding a flat, a job, romance.
It could have been corny but Roome made it sing through personal force, shifting in and out of French and English, dancing, crooning and intoning while flirting desperately with the pianist. About 40 people crowded in to watch her, as they had the previous three nights; the money goes to the Haynes defense fund.
He has started an Association des Victimes et des Amis des Victimes d 'Emile Gouiran, held together by his networking genius and his desire to get something for those he believes have been tricked.
Thus, he is sharing his autumn in the way he has his spring and summer. Battered and at times bitter, he holds to the 1960s beliefs. Most who were with him have dropped them, or made money from them, or now make war on them. Haynes lives in them. When his phone rings, as it does continually, he says: "Come by later" or "I'd love to see you; what was your name?"
One of the much derided sayings of the late Timothy Leary was: "I did not get the question but the answer is Yes." That remains Haynes.
 
©The Financial Times Weekend, 1999

 

 

1999, The Financial Times Weekend: Yes, he'll get by with a little help from his friends

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