KINKY BEATNIK SEX: LAWRENCE LIPTON AND THE BEATNIK MYTH

By Jim Linderman

Lawrence LiptonLawrence Lipton. Fake beatnik and father to tedious film critic James Lipton. Lawrence Lipton insulted all with his book The Holy Barbarians and a year later tried to position himself as the real deal… literally the KING of beatniks. A royal fraud dressed in attempted “beat” garb. A “wheatnik” as it were.

LiptonYou can see Lipton here among as many “beatnik” things as would fit in the picture, including the tiki collector and freshly-bearded Big Daddy Nord holding Lipton’s book. Do they look anguished by the unholy atomic bomb? Nah. They just look silly.

You can also see Lawrence ham it up as a west coast version of a beat in the legendary stinker The Hypnotic Eye, one of the worst movies in movie history. A good deal of the film’s well-earned reputation is directly traceable to the ridiculous performance by Lipton. In this critical scene, he reads the ponderous “Holy Barbarian Blues” while accompanied by what he calls “the beatest beat” of a bass player. Lipton is the only beatnik who ever wore a bolo tie. His fourth wife Nettie Lipton once wrote “Lipton began experimenting with poetry and jazz in 1956… he perfected his concepts of the integration of poetry with jazz music,” but as shown, that statement is highly questionable… this performance having taken place three years after he achieved perfection.

The Holy BarbariansNo Caucasian poet should ever to pair his prose with bebop. That includes former poet laureate Robert Pinksky, who has recently sullied his reputation by attempting the same.

When The Holy Barbarians was published, Lipton was already 61 years old. Older than William S. Burroughs at the time! I can only think the young “angel-headed hipsters” took to him because he was already published while they aspired. Lipton wrote mystery novels in the 1930s and knew Edgar Lee Masters.

Miss BeatnikOther than one or two really smart folks like Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder, there WERE no beatniks on the west coast. Just bongo bashing beret wearing Hollywood stereotypes like Maynard G. Krebs, Hot-Rod painters like Big Daddy Roth and a few finger-snapping, jazz loving method actors drinking coffee while emoting. Oh… and some black turtleneck wearing dames who immigrated from Iowa. (Only to achieve no more equality in the espresso clubs than they already didn’t have back home, unfortunately.)

In fact, there were no beatniks AT ALL! There were a few writers, like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg who happened to know each other and wrote very well, but Life magazine needed a hook to sensationalize a non-existent “scene” so the beatnik was invented. In LA, they literally held a “Miss Beatnik of 1959” contest. Four contestants here pose on a dingy beatnik couch. Even Kerouac was hard put to explain the meaning of the phrase, so along with fake beatnik James Clellon Holmes he came up with a “beatitude” justification. And again someone ads horrible music to prose. This time Steve Allen. Nice riffs and trills, Steve.

Beat really came from heroin addict Herbert Huncke. Rhymes with junkie and he was. In fact he was so “beat” he was likely the only heroin addict/soldier to storm the beaches of Normandy during the big one. Huncke was everything Lipton was not and then some. A low life criminal.  Lipton’s crimes were merely literary, and I don’t think he would have even felt safe in the same “pad” as Huncke.

Actually, it was brilliant gossip columnist Herb Caen, whose relevancy extended all the way through “hippie” as well, who added the suffix “nik” to beat. Like sputnik, nudnik and refusenik, beatnik entered the vernacular forever. Lipton took it to the bank with his best seller.

The Erotic RevolutionIn the mid 1960s there was huge interest in things kinky among those who wanted to be kinky. Or were actually kinky but didn’t dare participate. Or who thought they could make a career out of helping the squares understand kinky… whether there were any FACTS about kinky or not. So a bunch of writers like Carlson Wade, Edward Podolsky and yes, Lawrence Lipton started to write charlatan-quality essays, some posed as scientific research, to get around the censors. Kinsey opened the door and the hacks peeked in. By the way, guess who pimped for Kinsey? Herbert Huncke. THAT guy again!

The Magazine Of Modern SexLawrence Lipton’s contribution to our tentative sexual social awakening was The Erotic Revolution. Since Larry already “owned” the concept of beats from Holy Barbarians, I guess he thought he could “own” sex too!

Lipton even became contributing editor of the silly Magazine of Modern Sex which aspired to legitimate, scholarly “peer review” status but never quite made it. A scientific journal as reputable as Lipton’s phony bearded friends.

In The Erotic Revolution, Lipton did make a few legitimate points… like wife-swapping was good and that the “negrification” of American morals through Jazz could jazz up our libidos.

What a goon.

SubscriptionNOTES: The University of Southern California Special Collections Department holds the Lawrence Lipton papers (purchased in 1986) which contain, among other things, the original typed manuscript of The Erotic Revolution, a manuscript titled “It’s What’s Happening, Man” and files of his correspondence with nearly one hundred publishers. Photograph Credits: Lawrence Lipton with Beatnik Robot, and Miss Beatnik Contestants courtesy Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library. Copyright Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library. Lawrence Lipton with Beat Detritus (animate and not)  source unknown. The astounding and authentic Herbert Huncke now lives at the Herbert E. Huncke Tea Company: http://huncketeacompany.com

Jim Linderman is a Grammy-nominated collector, popular culture historian and author. His network of blogs is approaching 4 million page views, and his VINTAGE SLEAZE BLOG which tells a true story from the golden age of smut every day has over 300,000 Facebook followers. For several years he has been working on TIMES SQUARE SMUT which will tell the story of several long forgotten writers, illustrators and mob-connected publishers from the 1950s who ultimately influenced contemporary culture.

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