Chicago 1968 (Terry Southern & Michael Cooper)

‘Announcing  the publication of the new book by Terry Southern and Michael Cooper, Chicago 1968: The Calm Before the Stormedited by their sons, Nile Southern and Adam Cooper.  This is different from the hardback book Nile and Adam published a few years ago with a similar title, Chicago 1968, The Whole World Is Watching

The new book, which came out earlier this month, is completely re-envisioned and is available now in a large-scale paperback.

From the publishers notes (New Galleon Books/Genius Book Publishing) :

“In the late summer of 1968, writers Terry Southern, William S. Burroughs, and Jean Genet were deployed by Esquire magazine to cover the Democratic Convention in Chicago. With photographer Michael Cooper and poet Allen Ginsberg inseparable parts of their coterie, the “fab 5” (as Michael Simmons dubs them in his introduction) were unflappable, capturing the calm and riding out the storm…”

These were unquestionably turbulent times – Chicago 1968   the growing opposition to the Vietnam War, the escalation on the domestic front of police-state violence.

The book offers, the publishers inform us, “an intimate and wry, world-weary account of a pivotal cultural moment whose city-sponsored violence has echoed throughout history and offers us a cautionary reminder for today” – Indeed it does!

Nile Southern – “For Adam and me, this project is more relevant than ever and, unfortunately, even more timely than when we first conceived it in 2018 for the commemoration of he 50th Anniversary of the police riots at the DNC in Chicago.
As much as our elegy is a mosaic homage to that fateful week in 1968, this book also commemorates the friendship between the “poet of the lens” Michael Cooper and his “boss scribe pal” Terry Southern, and perhaps most important of all, their legacy of Resistance – and getting by with a little help from their friends.”

Allen is quoted and dutifully honored throughout the book  ( Terry’s “Trib to Al”)

AG:  All is Poetry, the political convention’s fake images mobilizers conspiring with Reason to demonstrate American Unconscious, hippies chanting AUM the first word of the Universe under cloudy new-moon  light and brilliant sun. When the Arms of the Police were filled with flowers and their mouths filled with AUM there was civic order. Authorities of the city are the authors of loudmouth bad poetry – noisy pistols put into police hands not wise flowers, tear gas substituted for the vital breath. I got gassed chanting  holy AUM with a hundred youthful voices under the trees. Jean Genet a little gassed wandering among crowds of children at night. We wanted to sleep on the grass all night, not confront tired historical phantoms armed with tear gas revolvers acting definite roles written for them by egotistical poets in the City Hall. The Daily Mayor has written a bloody vulgar script for American children.

Soldiers in Gas Masks Surround A Car, Chicago, DNC, 1968 – photo: Michael Cooper

Terry Southern (recollecting in the Esquire piece – “Groovin’ in Chi “):

“We sat down with the others and joined the Om-ing, which especially delighted Genet; we stayed there for maybe half an hour, while the circle grew steadily larger, and the “final warnings” were repeated. It was now nearing midnight. Burroughs looked at his watch and with that unerring awareness of which he is capable muttered, “They’re coming”. At that instant, the banks of searchlights blazed up on the armored van which was already moving towards us. Fanned out on each side of the van were about a thousand police.

“Well, Bill, I think we’d better pursue some other tactic”, I suggested, getting my feet. What the hell, we were supposed to be here as observers, not as participants in any of Allen’s crackpot schemes..”

“Everybody stay cool”, said Allen, momentarily interrupting his “Ommmm” – and I saw his face for an instant, upraised and illuminated by the firelight: serene, beatific, and greatly reassuring.

But then, just as one of the prowl-cars eased into our immediate vicinity, less than 20 feet away, a guy stepped out from behind a nearby tree and threw a brick squarely against its windshield,. The car stopped abruptly, its searchlight went on, and two cops jumped out, unhooking their riot sticks as they came. They had obviously radioed the rest of the cars, because now, half over the park, the searchlights went on, the cops jumped out, riot-sticks in hand and beat the shit out of everybody they could reach. This was not quite the case in Allen’s domain, however

When the first  gargantuan harness bull arrived at his circle, club raised for the kill, Allen gave him the kind of look that seemed to say, “We are not of your kind, tiny man – do not fear”. And he actually murmured something that sounded like “Go in peace, brother”. Whatever it was, the guy’s mouth went slack and agape in dumb wonder; then he emitted a coarse animal grunt and lumbered on, muttering about “crazy hippies”. A few minutes later, of course, the tear-gas came, and not even Allen’s great power could cool out the rumble  which ensued.”

William Burroughs, Terry Southern, Allen Ginsberg and Jean Genet, Chicago, DNC, 1968 – photo – Michael Cooper

One comment

  1. I was born in November, 1968. In Skokie. The books and videos help me too connect the dots( or micro dots).👍

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