American Rimbaud: An interview with Steve Richmond
“The only thing Bukowski ever asked me for was that painting, but I was too fucking cheap and stupid to give it to him.”
BP: Where did you meet her?
SR: First time I saw her, remember the Lafayette Café on the Venice boardwalk?
SR: On Westminster and the boardwalk, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. She was working, I walked in there one night, I had the candle [shop]…went down there it was dark, nightfall, and there was nobody in there except the waitress and the owner, this old Greek guy, when I knew him…and she was the waitress. She was striking, just striking, I mean just the way she moved, animated, you know, she was a… seductive black widow… just gorgeous. She was a witch. [laughing] She read Lautreamont, before I ever heard of him. And she lived at the top of this old three-story apartment house, it was like The Addams Family house, …almost to Santa Monica canyon, on Ocean.
BP: I remember that. It was a beautiful house.
SR: Morning Glories all over and it was magic.
BP: And she was on to a lot of illegal chemicals.
SR: Yeah, she was…main-lining…took me a year to make love to her. Even though she’d offered herself to me for ten bucks at the beginning, but I just, you know, I was right next to her on her bed, and she had goose pimples, and I thought ‘This girl doesn’t want to make love?’ She just wants to get high… and I wanted it to be more than that…
BP: Because you sacrificed a great deal for her.
SR: She taught me to oil paint. I always wanted to oil paint, she told me to get a tube of zinc white, and a red, blue, get some primary colors. And she put down a big blob of the zinc white on a paper palate and just a tiny speck of red, cadmium red or something, and the whole pile turned pink, this little tiny piece of red makes the whole thing light up, you know, and that just opened it up to me, right there. I said ‘God Damn,’…
BP: That picture you did with the unicorn was just a beautiful… I think it’s in Lory Robbin’s [Lawrence “Lory” Robbin] photograph. I loved that painting. I don’t know where it went, somebody took it obviously. It’s the one with the waterfall.
SR: Yeah… Bukowski…the only thing he ever asked me for was that painting, but I was too fucking cheap and stupid to give it to him.
BP: Well, it’s out there someplace. At least, there is a photograph of it because Lory got a very nice shot.
SR: Is he still alive?
BP: Oh Lory’s fine, you know. He’s gonna pass on the photograph to this woman in Montreal. I’m in touch with Lory, you can contact him anytime…
SR: No, I’d prefer to talk to you, here for lunch once every, whenever you feel like it.
BP: That’s fine.
SR: I told ya, I think, I was walking down to the little Santa Monica library and they had 15 different Bukowski books, and every time I went in there they had three more books…and I just burst into laughter. My god, you know, all these things coming out, it’s just…
BP: Well, I think what’s incredible: a lot of poets, while they’re alive they are great promoters and they are out there and everybody reads them, and then they kinda drop dead. Because he’s been dead for 15 years, for christ’s sake, and his books are still coming out!
SR: Well, I told you his wife said to me, his widow said to me, thanked me for what I was doing, it killed me. I don’t know what she was doing. I think it had to do with the Love Bukowski play and opera and all that stuff.
BP: Yeah, they were actually going to do a sitcom on Bukowski at home, or something like that. You can you imagine [laughing].
SR: I think she murdered him [laughing]. And I always figured, if I was the judge in her case (he was very difficult to get along with, I’m sure), I would hold her ‘not guilty,’ ‘justifiable homicide,’ you know.
BP: You’re the lawyer [laughing]. There was one thing he did, that I think was very bad: he wanted to leave all of his money to his daughter…
SR: Yeah, but his daughter married a black kid, and he didn’t like blacks, you know…
BP: He was from India. That’s right, but in the end he left her nothing. I think what happened partly is that originally it was 50-50, half of it was supposed to go to Marina, and half of it was supposed to go to Linda, and she slipped him a piece of paper and he signed it, and it said all of it went to her. Had it been 50-50, it would have been a real problem, ‘cause both would have had to agree about anything.
SR: She met him at a reading; he was a holiday drunk genius, you know. And she was running a health-food restaurant. And she was a nice woman, I met her, you know.
BP: She was not a nice woman.
SR: Well, to me she was. Sort of quiet.
BP: She was a vampire.
SR: Of course she was, they’re all vampires…The problem he had, he should have known, a woman who’d never heard of [Robinson] Jeffers, was not a woman to marry. She’s after him for…he didn’t care; he’s a horny old drunk, you know.
BP: I think, actually, Linda King was great for him in a lot of ways. I think she really cared about him.
SR: She tried to kill him. But out in the open, she tried to run him down on the sidewalk.
BP: When was that?
SR: You’ve read that, haven’t you? He writes about it all of the time.
BP: I never believed anything he wrote.
SR: Linda King was a crazy artist.
BP: She was a pretty good, really good sculptor.
SR: Yeah, she gave me a sculpture once; it was a torso of ‘Venus,’ excellent thing. I broke it finally after a years of moving around…plaster of Paris.
BP: I never really knew her. I met her once…and then she threw all of Bukowski’s stuff out onto the street. At Carlton Way.
SR: She threw all his stuff out, she beat up his girl, the girl he was with that night, she took his typewriter and threw it out into the street and stomped on it.
BP: I picked it up and carried it back in.
SR: She… tried to run him down while he was walking on the sidewalk. And then he…called the cops…there was a party she had at her house, about 50 guys… and about three or four women, and she was just flirting. Poor Linda King, she was just trying to make him so jealous, she was so awkward.
Oh, I don’t want to be sued for defamation. But that’s the rumor. I would say the chances are about two out of three that Bukowski was murdered for his royalties and that he deserved it.
BP: Yeah, he would have been a very difficult person to live with.
SR: It’s a funny thing, the way he wrote. When he wrote about real people, he would lie, but his lies brought out the truth in a better way, you know?
BP: Well, you got it right when you wrote that thing,’300 Poems,’ where you said he turned the knife, he liked to do that.
SR: Yeah, so did D.H. Lawrence. He got that from D.H. Lawrence.
BP: Let’s go back to you. It’s interesting how Bukowski died; I guess we could interview the nurse.
SR: He’s probably living in Bermuda.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, January 6th, 2009.