On October 20th, poet, playwright, and novelist Michael
McClure, will celebrate his 80th birthday at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts
Center in Venice California. Fictionalized in Jack Keoruac novels Big Sur,
Desolation Angels and The Dharma Bums, McClure is the acknowledged promoter and
role model for Doors front-man Jim Morrison and the co-author, with Janis
Joplin and Bob Neuwirth, of the song Mercedes Benz, popularized by Joplin. He
is easily the most under-recognized influence on the hippie and post-hippie
happenings of the 1960s and 1970s. McClure’s influence on art and performance
has continued to grow, as has his body of work, over the past four decades.
McClure gave his first poetry reading in 1955 at the age of
22 with Allen Ginsberg at the legendary Six Gallery event where Allen Ginsberg
first read HOWL. McClure and Ginsberg would become forever bound by the
litigious nature of their work and its place in challenging the laws that
attempted to put boundaries on artistic expression. No stranger to controversy, The Beard, McClure’s venture
into theater tells the story of an encounter between Jean Harlow and Billy the
Kid in heaven and ends with the Kid performing cunnilingus on Harlow. It was
closed down by the police in San Francisco, for “lewd conduct in a public
place,” a fate the show met in Berkeley and Los Angeles. The play moved
to New York where it ran from 1967-68 and received an Obie award for its
director and leading lady. The Beard has been being performed successfully
since then. Michael Grieg, reviewing the 1965 production, wrote in the San
Francisco Chronicle that it was the "most effectively upsetting and creatively
stimulating work by a local writer that the (Actor’s) Workshop has ever
McClure has continued to be a creative force in the music
and literary worlds for over six decades producing novels, music and poetry as
well as touring the world to perform his works. In a recent interview in the
Huffington Post, McClure said, “My poetry at its truest is an extension of my
He is currently working with Ray Manzarek, former
keyboardist for the Doors, mixing their new CD Live from San Francisco. A
dedicated Buddhist, McClure is the subject of the recently completed Dutch
Buddhist Television Channel documentary Touching the Edge. Additionally, this
year Optic Nerve Films released a documentary about McClure entitled
Abstract Alchemist of Flesh, which features cameos by Dennis Hopper, Peter
Cayote, and Allen Ginsberg. McClure has also continued to publish and his new
selected poems, Of Indigo and Saffron, was just released by UC Press.
McClure’s 80th birthday celebration will take place October
20, 2011 at Beyond Baroque Literary/ Arts Center in Venice Beach, California.
Founded in 1968 by George Drury Smith, Beyond Baroque is the acknowledged home
of the Venice Beat movement and the stomping ground for the early years of the
Los Angeles punk scene. Its stage has hosted performances by Patti Smith, Wanda
Coleman, Allen Ginsberg, Michael Ondjaate, Amy Gerstler, Diane Wakoski, Viggo
Mortensen, and countless other cutting edge artists and musicians.
McClure will be joined by Los Angeles poet Michael C. Ford and
McClure’s old friend from his Wichita days, Beyond Baroque Artist-in-Residence
Robert Branaman. Branaman will unveil a special edition serigraph that he has
created especially for the occasion.
Beyond Baroque’s director Richard Modiano said, “That a poet
of Michael McClure’s stature would choose to celebrate his landmark 80th
birthday at Beyond Baroque is an honor. This also presents a rare opportunity
for the public to hear this modern renaissance artist in an intimate theater
The event begins at 7:30 P.M.
Tickets are available at the door. Admission is $7 General, $5 for Students & Seniors, and Free for Members.
About Beyond Baroque:
Beyond Baroque is one of the United States' leading
independent literary arts centers providing a public space dedicated to
literary and cultural production, contact, interaction, and community building.
Founded in 1968, it is based in the Old Town Hall in Venice, California, near
the Pacific Ocean and offers a program of readings, new music, free workshops,
publishing, bookstore, archiving and education.