After graduating California State University, Los Angeles, with a degree in Journalism in 1972, I began freelance entertainment writing for Los Angeles area magazines and alternative newspapers. That fall I hooked up with a group of actors and artists in the Hollywood area and helped found a 501(c) non-profit performing arts center — The Century City Educational Arts Project (CCEAP) — in West Los Angeles. We rented a small 99-seat theater near Rancho Park and began avant-garde theatre productions (including a multi-media version of “The Devils” using synthesizer music, laser lights and a set made out of sprayed foam — all quite experimental for its time). We also began Southern California’s first all-woman (produced and directed) theatre group, conducted poetry readings and jazz jams, and ran underground films midnights on the weekend.
As administrative director for the CCEAP, I was constantly in contact with artists and musicians seeking venues for their work. This was an era of “Yellow Pages People’s Resource Guides” and it became apparent to me that there was a need for some type of directory/guide to art and media resources in Los Angeles, and so, with some of my savings (and donations from friends and family), I began to put together a “yellow pages” magazine for writers, artists, musicians and media workers.
The name InterMedia came from Dick Higgins’ Intermedia manifesto. I had long been interested in the underground press and the avant garde, and immersed myself in the Happenings and Fluxus literature, including Higgins’ Something Else Press and Great Bear Chapbooks, and felt that Higgins’ vision of interdisciplinary art was the wave of the future (I actually was in correspondence with Higgins and got his permission to use the word Intermedia for the title of my magazine; later on, while living in San Francisco, I had the pleasure of meeting with Dick and spending some time with him).
According to art historian Ken Friedman, Higgins (one of the inventors of happenings, a co-founder of Fluxus), coined the term “intermedia” in the mid-sixties to describe the tendency of the most interesting and best in the new art to cross the boundaries of recognized media or even to fuse the boundaries of art with media that had not previously been considered art forms. It was a new way of approaching the arts.
As I began work on the first issue of InterMedia, I somehow (time clouds the memory) got wind of the Hollywood Edition of Arts Birthday: the 1,000,011 Anniversary of Art held at the Elks Building in Los Angeles, attended by more than 800 artists and members of the Eternal Network, in February of 1974.
While there I met up with a host of correspondence artists and got linked in to the international Mail Art Network, which introduced me to the San Francisco Dadaists (headed up by Anna Banana and Bill Gaglione, who enlisted me as one of the New Dada Brothers; that’s Bill on the right), among other loosely defined groups of artists. This created a foundation for reaching out to and collaborating with artists around the world for InterMedia.
The first issue of InterMedia came out in the fall of 1974 and featured artwork and manifestoes by Jaki Besgears (on photography), R’Wanda Lewis (Black Dance L.A.), William Mohr (Poetry L.A.), Anna Banana, a “Humanifesto” by Jack Hirschman, work by literary genius and editor Richard Kostelanetz, and much more, all wrapped around a 16-page yellow page resource guide to art service organizations, art and multi-media groups, publications, and more. I did all the typesetting and layout. The 44-page magazine was subtitled Arts Communications Resources. The press run of 500 copies cost me $500.00. (I’ve attached here a PDF of the original philosophic statement from that issue).
The second issue, which came out in June 1975, expanded to 60 pages, and featured more work by S.F. artists, including Tim Mancusi (who designed the InterMedia logo), Anna Banana and Carlo Giovanni Cicatelli; it also included an interesting multi-media piece created by S.F. writer Geoffrey Cook comprised of work by several artists, including photographer Lew Thomas (who later became my mentor when I moved to San Francisco); sound poetry; articles by Richard Kostelanetz and jazz composer and musician Carla Bley; and literary work by Opal Nations, Guy Beining and John M. Bennett. In keeping with my philosophy, I included two articles on health hazards in the arts as well as 24 pages of resources. As with the first issue, I typeset, designed and laid-out the issue by myself. By this point in time I had received some grants from the California Arts Commission.
The third issue arrived in December 1975. This 60-page issue featured photographic art by Lew Thomas on the cover (the two previous issues had stark white covers with just the word InterMedia), performance art by Jaki Apple, the “Impossibilist Manifesto,” visual poetry, articles on “artists rights,” photocopy collages, a music piece, and the center yellow pages section of resources. Again, I put the issue together by myself; again it was supported in part by grants from the California Arts Commission.
Issue No. 4 was billed as a Special Literary Issue, printed as a tabloid newspaper (48 newsprint pages) and featuring all sorts of literary experimentation by the likes of Bruce Andrews, Geoffrey Cook, M.D. Elevitch, Raymond Federman, Dick Higgins, Karl Kempton, Henry James Korn, Richard Kostelanetz, James Krusoe, Bill Mohr, Opal Nations, Paul Vangelisti and Jeff Weinstein — among the 45 contributors. Included was a small chapbook by John M. Bennett; “Modulations,” an eight-foot ladder book of constructivist fiction by Kostelanetz; and “The Poontoon Manifesto,” by Korn, which consisted of 35 fictional “beginnings” to be shuffled and read in any order; the last two pieces were printed on hard paper stock and required the reader to cut apart and reassemble the pieces. This issue — which was given away free in Los Angeles — came out in the Spring of 1976, and was funded in part by the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines. Though I again did all the typesetting, design and layout by myself, when it came time to assemble the issue and mail it out, I sponsored a dinner at my apartment (I was a darn good cook) in which my friends all pitched in to label, stuff and stamp envelopes (this “publication party” became a regular feature of subsequent issues). By this time I had abandoned the yellow pages concept for just running art, literature and criticism.
I moved to San Francisco in mid-1977 to participate in the burgeoning art scene there, a scene that ranged from punk rock openings to gala S.F. Museum of Modern Art events. It was quite exhilarating; a golden time in the late 70s. Though the magazine was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, I supported myself by working as an auto supply store counterman (making quite good money with benefits). I worked full-time for several months, saving my money, then took time off to hang out and publish issue No. 5; I repeated that schedule for issues No. 6 and 7.
As I became more immersed in the art world of the time (remember, my background was really news journalism), I became concerned with conceptual art and photography, the juxtaposition of the everyday and art — or the possibilities of the transformation of the everyday into art (the back cover of Issue No. 7 included a photo of a an industrial plant with the InterMedia logo superimposed over a truck maintenance yard sign), and art as information. From my reading of information theory, Issue No. 5 (Entropy) was born.
Issue No. 5 (1978) was an issue devoted to information in art and how it is presented. I invited a dozen or so artists and writers and asked them to create poster-broadsides that I would then publish in a tabloid newspaper format (17 x 22). Out of this came what I feel is one of my most successful issues, featuring 20 pages of “information, graphics, photographs, collages, visual mechanics.” Included were political postcards by Rolf Staeck, Hal Fischer’s sociological study of San Francisco’s gay community (“18th Street Near Castro x 24″), Laura Kipnis’ semiotic analysis of “Two Weeks of Obscene Phone Calls,” Martha Rosler’s “Know Your Servant Series #1: North American Waitress, Coffee Shop Variety,” a collage of COUM art (put together by me), and a lengthy editorial and self-criticism, also by me.
Issue No. 6 (1978) was a boxed issue of artworks and printed artifacts. I long had been intrigued by the original Box Magazine from Cal Arts as well as Richard Kostelanetz’ Assemblings (in which he requested artists/writers to submit 1,000 copies of their work and then bound them into magazine format). For my box (which shipped with a packing slip/shipping label/table of contents affixed to the top of the box in a shipping envelope, just like the kind you get when you receive a freight box), I requested 1,000 copies of art from a long list of contributors — many of whom were from Western and Eastern Europe and South America (some of the latter were soon to be or were imprisoned because of artistic/political views). This included Uruguayan artist Clemente Padim’s revolutionary manifestoes, photo postcards by Jorge Caraballo, a mini-poster by Paulo Brusky, a new music score by Anthony Gnazzo and a “playful potpourri of posters, postcards, manifestoes, documentations, photographs and artifacts.” One artist friend, Lionell Glaze, who was into fly-fishing, contributed a photographic image of a fly to which we affixed a real fish-hook and nylon line. Unfortunately, the post office rejected all 1,000 copies of the box, saying that the “sharp object” was a danger to postal carriers (even though it was in a sealed box). I had originally hosted a magazine party/dinner to assemble the issue; I had another magazine party and we covered the tips of the hooks with plastic dots, then resent all the boxes — and they went through.
For my last issue, No. 7 (Spring 1979), I once again returned to literature … in a way … by putting together a magazine that looked at different ways in which to tell a story: with art, photos, words, lines, text, images, etc. This 96-page magazine format issue was printed on newsprint and saddle-stitched with a glossy cover. Artists and writers included Opal Nations, Marilyn Krysl (with one of my favorite stories, “This Is Peace, This Is Perfect Peace”), Geoffrey Cook, D.L. Klauk (a prison inmate whose poetry was gloriously poignant and beautiful), Exene Cervenka (later lead singer of X), typewriter poet Karl Kempton, Dick Higgins, Bill Mohr, Lionell Glaze, Richard Kostelanetz, Clemente Padim, Joaquim Branco, Paulo Brusky, Language poet Bruce Andrews, famed Los Angeles creative writing teacher/author Sam Eisenstein, Harley Lond (whose cover piece was a visual story on “Changing Your Oil Filter”), and many, many more visual artists, experimental and exploratory writers.
After issue No. 7, however, times got tough. Reagan was elected president, arts funding began to be slashed, a melancholy mood seemed to hang over culture. Many of my friends and collaborators either moved away or were making preparations to leave the city; Meyer Hirsch to San Diego, Anna Banana to Canada, Lionell Glaze to the Sierras, Lew Thomas to Texas. I left San Francisco in 1981 and moved back to Los Angeles, where I had met my wife-to-be.
I soon got a job in the entertainment publishing business, working on a directory of movie distributors; that lead to a job at Boxoffice magazine (a trade journal for motion picture theater owners) and then on to The Hollywood Reporter (where I worked for 13 years before being laid off December 2008).
The momentum for InterMedia ended when I left San Francisco. I had always wanted to put together a European art issue and/or a South American art issue — I had been in correspondence with many, many Eastern European and Latin American artists (and, in fact, InterMedia had a big following in those areas) and had been gathering material for such an issue. Unfortunately, between leaving Boxoffice magazine in 1994 and starting work at The Hollywood Reporter in 1995 I was hard-pressed for money and sold my archives to a Northern California dealer. It broke my heart.
Publishing and editing is in my blood, however, and I currently maintain a couple of Web sites (OnVideo.org, which covers DVD releases) and Dreamsville.net (a blog about the 60s generation). I recently was a start-up editor for TheWrap, a writer/night editor for Moviefone’s Inside Movies blog (where I contributed the weekly DVD column) and will soon be writing FilmCrave’s weekly DVD column.