Meeting William Burroughs…


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.


Other people there included Kathy Acker and J.G.Ballard. I hope you enjoy these pictures, they bring back happy memories!