Previous Page


A Lust for Life
by Alan Taylor
Evening News (Edinburgh)

April 8, 1999, Thursday

He Swung Staid Edinburgh Into The Sixties' Sexual Revolution And Became A Darling Of The Dazzling Carnaby Street Set. Now On The Point Of Retirement, Jim Haynes Is As Full Of Zest As Ever, Finds Alan Taylor.


SEX in the city of Edinburgh began in the spring of 1959. We can be so precise about the date because it was at that point that a tall American moseyed into town. His name was Jim Haynes and he inspired a sexual revolution that was to put the ancient, stuffed-shirt Capital at the forefront of the Sixties' counter-culture.

Incredible as it may seem, Haynes is now 65 and about to retire, having been there, done it and written about it in an autobiography with a lurid pink cover, suggestively titled Thanks for Coming!

For the past 20 or so years, he has been based in Paris, where I caught up with him recently. For such a pivotal figure in the sixties, he has no nostalgia for them. "They were great," he says, "but of absolutely no enduring significance. Tough you weren't there." Paris is the perfect place for a man who has a lust for life and women. He makes no bones about it and his eye roves constantly as we talk. "Jim loves to flirt and he loves women," says Stephanie Wolfe-Murray, who got to know him soon after he arrived in Edinburgh.

"You can't get much more scandalous than him, but he is entirely without guile.

He never puts pressure on women, which is perhaps why they like him so much."

Not surprisingly, he has been teaching, among other subjects, sexual politics at the University of Paris, but that comes to an end in June. It is not something he is keenly anticipating, though his duties are hardly onerous.

"My weekend begins on Tuesday afternoon," he says, "and ends at lunchtime on Monday." In between times, he loafs around enjoying the cafe ambience, dabbling in artistic ventures, browsing around galleries and bookshops.

Leisure to Haynes is a way of life he takes very seriously.

He has published anti- Marxist pamphlets exhorting the workers of the world to unite and "stop working!" It all seems wonderfully batty, but the underlying ethos is sound: Why work if you can find a way not to? But whileJim Haynes is the personification of a sixties' free spirit, he has scarcely been lying in a hammock ever since.

Born in Louisiana and having lived in Venezuela in his teens, he arrived in Edinburgh at the fag end of the Fifties "thanks to Uncle Sam and the United States Air Force." Having served almost three years in the Air Force at Kirknewton, listening nightly to the Russian Air Defense Command, he obtained permission to be de-mobbed in Scotland.

Originally, he wanted to go to university but instead decided to open a bookshop. The Paperback was located between the Old Quad and the new George Square expansion, but it didn't only sell books. It was an art gallery, theatre and coffee house as well as notorious pick-up joint.

In the spirit of the times, the Paperback's stock was risqué. "I sold a lot of books that were supposedly not to be sold for one reason or another - so-called obscene," Haynes said in his autobiography.

"My main definition of obscenity is any form of violence: pictures of violence, movies of violence, anything of violence.

"I've other things I find obscene as well: the Rolls Royce and the Cadillac, for instance. But any two or more people making love together, or any graphic or written image describing this, I find not obscene at all, just sexual information that's desperately needed." One day, he recalls, a woman walked into the shop and asked if he stocked Lady Chatterley's Lover.

'Yes', said Haynes, and she asked for a copy to be put aside. Thinking something funny was up, he alerted the Press.

"She arrived holding a pair of coal tongs; she put the money down and wouldn't touch the book, but picked it up with the tongs and carried it out in the front of the bookshop.

There she poured some kind of liquid, probably kerosene, on top of the book and proceeded to rant and rave and put a match to it."

The resulting publicity did wonders for trade and demonstrated that while Haynes may have been a hippy, he was pretty clued up when it came to business. The Edinburgh- born historian, Arthur Marwick, recalled that while Haynes was "consistently controversial", he was also an entrepreneur.

His next significant venture was the Traverse theatre, that hotbed of licentiousness. Though officially he severed his connection with it in 1966, he still visits when he makes his annual pilgrimage to the Festival.

But it is a very different beast now, he says, to what it was in its formative years. Then, the Traverse summed up the sexual revolution.

"The whole building, bar, dining room, tiny theatre, art gallery, seemed suffused by sex, an energetic lead being taken by several of the most prominent Traverse figures," recalled Marwick.

Chief among them was Haynes, whose reputation as a lady-killer was legendary.

Those were heady days and Haynes, whose marriage to his Swedish wife collapsed without rancour in 1963, embraced them whole-heartedly. He was one of the movers and shakers of the theatre conference in 1963 when a nude girl was wheelbarrowed across the organ gallery in the McEwan Hall, to predictable outrage from the city fathers.

But as the song says, nothing good ever lasts and Haynes left Edinburgh after a power struggle at the theatre.

London beckoned. By now he was a celebrity and seemed to know everyone.

In Thanks for Coming! he acknowledged some 3000 people, a ruse to make those who liked to see their name in print purchase the book, and an indication of his capacity to name-drop. Marianne Faithful, John Lennon and Yoko, Tom Wolfe and Leonard Cohen; he knew them all.

One new venture followed another. He founded the influential Arts Lab and edited the International Times, which promoted sex and drugs before rock and roll, and published Suck, "the first European sex paper", together with Germaine Greer and Heathcote Williams.

Looking back, he regards the end of the Sixties as an anticlimax, a time of "incredible collapse".

When he was offered a job at the University of Paris, it seemed too good to be true.

"It could only have happened in France," he says, "and it certainly couldn't happen now."

Recipients of his newsletters (of which there have been 450) are kept in touch with his tireless travelling and endless capacity to make fresh friendships.

Once a month on a Sunday, he holds open house. On average 75 people turn up for a buffet dinner and make a contribution to the cost. "I have a talent to connect people," he says.

He estimates that some 75,000 people have dined at his apartment in the last 20 years.

In recent years, however, life has not been so much of a breeze. The newsletter has been full of his dealings with a lawyer dubbed "Emile-the-Rat", who Haynes alleges has stolen 400,000 from him and is attempting to steal a further 200,000.

"I arrived in Paris in the autumn of 1969 completely broke, became a property millionaire without really trying in the late 80s and now I am broke again," says Haynes.

Lately, he made a breakthrough in his case against the lawyer when he was disbarred. But there's a long way to go. A civil trial is in the offing and he could lose. It is an awesome prospect but one he seems to view with a certain sanguinity. If he is bitter it doesn't show, and for Jim Haynes, the man who spiced up sober, snobbish, sexless Edinburgh, the refrain today is "je ne regrette rien".

©1999 The Scotsman Publications Ltd.



1999 Evening News (Edinburgh) : A Lust For Life

Previous Page