I was just going through some papers and came across a couple of photos I took some years back when I met William Burroughs. I chanced upon one of the greatest of (then) living writers at an opening at the October gallery. He was really rather lovely, considering he wasnt exactly fit. And I did see a man grab him, kiss him on both cheeks and thanks him for changing his life. That kind of thing must get kind of annoying. When a chance came to have a few words with Burroughs I grabbed them. I was a few days later going to visit America, so asked Burroughs what he would advise me to do while there. He drawled in his deadpan narcotic voice ‘Nicky, I wouldn’t go there, it’s too big.. just move to London, and don’t forget to get yourself in trouble’.
Well, I did go to America, but that’s another story… And then I moved to London. And got myself in trouble!
I also asked him some silly question about writing. I cannot remember the exact question, something about getting into print. But I do remember his answer : “Become a filmmaker, it’s so much more collaborative”. At the time I was painting and writing, and I took his words to heart. So William Burroughs, I both thank you and blame you for lighting the touchpaper of filmmaking in my life.
I got him to sign a catalogue for his painting show (as you can see above). This is one of his paintings, ‘Black Smoker’:
Here is a photo I took of William Burroughs chatting to Francis Bacon.. two of my heros together. I was too shy to say hello to Bacon!
And here’s another picture I took, of Burroughs chatting with Genesis P.Orridge, of Throbbing Gristle fame. Years later he became my landlord! And in the background you can see one of Burroughs’s ‘shotgun’ paintings.