Bill Wolf





            Of course, what made it all bearable, besides a bit of money Bell Labs was paying us, was the wondrous City of New York, and the theater which I was doing and my little studio on Ridge Street which I loved so much.


            Ridge Street, on the Lower East Side, full of history.  Today it was a rough


            Across the street from my studio in New York was an elementary school and the garbage from the students’ cafeteria was put on the sidewalk each day.  The garbage spread along the street and overturned milk cartons leaked out a wide, slow-moving river of white across the sidewalk.

            It was my habit, when walking to my studio, to step carefully as I neared the school or I would carry the sticky, white liquid onto my studio floor.

            One day as I approached, perhaps not quite awake, I felt my foot slip on the walk.  I looked down.  Something was wrong.  I looked up.  There was the schoolyard ahead.  It was not milk flowing into the gutter.  I was standing in a pool of dark red liquid.

            At the store that afternoon they said it was a shotgun that did it.  They said when they took him away his liver was still on the street.


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I had gotten a big piece of paper, heavy sort of buff colored, and, with some heavy oil pastels of black and red that I had, I drew a big, sort of abstract man lying in a pool of blood, and pinned it to the wall.

            Jeffery was in town those days and saw the drawing.

            “Bill,” he said, “I’ve never seen you do that before, that kind of thing.”

            I looked at the drawing.  And then I saw more, and others.  I did a little drawing of a little amoeba type of guy, x’s for eyes and obviously dead.  Out of a hole in his side poured a stream of glutinous liquid.

            Other odd pieces of rough paper, I covered with dark images of lurking men, standing in doorways, collapsed on the ground, cut in half.

            It was finally spring and the glutinous muck of Ridge Street outside my studio, was drying up.  May it was of my first year in New York and I decided to make a little poster of the amoeba man and call it Bill Wolf “Works” and have a showing in my studio one Saturday afternoon.


A bunch of people came, Jefferey, Maria, others, even Maria’s mother, Marie.  She looked at the amoeba man and the blood pouring out of him and said, “A candle!”  Maria rolled her eyes, “Yes, Mother.”




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            Later, someone would look at my little amoeba man and say, “Oh, the AIDS virus.”

            AIDS was certainly raising its ugly head.

            The gay community across America was reeling.  I was, of course, in close contact with our friends in San Francisco, and so was always hearing the latest, who was rumored to have got it, friends or, mostly at that time, friends of friends.  I remember one of first was Sam D’Alesandro, Jeffery’s friend and a long time hanger-on at Triple A Productions.  I thought back to his evening of poetry at the studio, only last year; “Nasty, Disgusting and Suicidal...” something was the title.  I remembered that I had been in Los Angeles, in my studio in the old hotel, at that time and hadn’t seen his show.

            And in the theater business in New York, on the periphery of which I found myself, AIDS consciousness came quickly and thoroughly.  There was a lot of talk about AIDS and I had been making a lot of gay friends, in the theater and art communities.  I remembered back to the conference at Brooks Hall of three years ago.  I remembered the very clear instructions on how you got AIDS and how you didn’t; medical information which would not change in the years to come.


            So, I shuddered, as I gawked at the potential harm of this disease, but I guess I took a certain amount of heart from my past and my knowledge, and felt confident personally, for myself and Russell, at least.

            So I charged ahead in my life and I found myself in a wonderland in Lower Manhattan and I did my art and I did sets in the theater and I loved it.


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            An accompanying phenomena, of which I can report in some detail, is perhaps also of some interest here.  I had, long ago in San Francisco, hooked up with a few individuals and then small groups of individuals for whom the “primary sexual interest is the mutual masturbation,” end-quote.


(NOTE: the squeamish can jump ahead to Chapter 18, if they like.)


            First in some dirty-movie houses and then in people’s homes, we would get to know each other and tell each other about upcoming parties or impromptu events.  Some times we would all be naked or other times just sitting around with our pants pulled down and, well, going at it.  It was fun.  Nobody was thinking about safe sex in those days; we just liked to do it.


Well, pretty soon in San Francisco some of the guys started to form a club, with meetings and such, you can imagine.  They (we?) were called the “San Francisco Jacks,” for “jack”-off, of course, and it grew to be a big club.  Somebody started a “newsletter” to report on the parties and announce future events.





At first it was a sort of crumby, typed page or two and a couple pictures, but then pretty soon got a bit slicker and nice paper and better photos, natch.




The club grew fast and had club nights, sometimes fifty or a hundred guys, naked, standing around doing it to themselves.  I thought it was Heaven!  They even had a Christmas party and you could sit on Santa’s lap and masturbate. 




            And, there was always news of a new Jacks opening in another city, soon there were the Dallas Jacks, the Miami Jacks, and, of course, the New York Jacks.  That first winter in New York, I had to look them up.




            It was a big scene, of course, just being New York, and had been for a long time.  But now a new element had appeared; the gay community was suddenly very conscious of safe sex, or NO sex, and you couldn’t get much safer than jacking yourself off.  The Jacks was the place to be, and large numbers of guys started coming to the clubs and the New York Jacks even divided into two groups.  They were crowded and popular.




            Well, it happened that a lot of these recent converts were not really into it but were coming around to just talk or sit around and socialize, if you know what I mean, and it was sometimes not very, well, as intense as it could have been.

Meanwhile, of course, those of us who were more, well, “original-intenters,” could spot each other a mile off.

            “Hey, you ought to go to ...such-and-such,” they’d say to each other and a sort of underground network of alternative-like places started to form.  Like a bar or sex club would decide to make one night a week for masturbation only.




Sometimes there would be specialty masturbation nights, like leather, or diapers, or uncircumcised, you know.  Well, they were always more interesting than the big clubs, at least, to me.




            Some even featured "performance art" (!).




            It was at one of these when I was walking around and happened to lock eyes with a cute, little kid across the room.  He was going at it pretty hot and heavy and he gave me a small, sweet, crooked smile.  I slowly edged over to him and we stood staring at each other and doing it hard and fast.  I was about a foot taller than him.

“I could do this for two hours,” I whispered looking down into his smiling face.  He started nodding his head up and down, "Me too."  We stood there for a while enjoying it and then I said, "Let’s go to my studio."  He began nodding his head again and we made our way out the door into a taxi.

His name was John Cockran, and I say “kid,” well, I was 37 and he was 20 or so.  We had a great time and saw a lot of each other for a while.  We got into doing a lot of daddy-son type fantasies together, the father teaching the son to masturbate, "Daddy, am I doing it right?", that sort of thing.  Sometimes I’d take him to a small gathering or such, and we’d do our daddy-son routine for other people to watch.  It was fun.

In one place there was this, like, stall with a peep hole where I could put John inside on a little seat and close the door and convince other guys to come up and look at my son in the peep hole.  I’d whisper in the door, “Show the nice man how you like to masturbate, son.”  He’d sit there looking all timid or sucking his thumb and go at it like crazy.  The guys all thought it was hot.


            Plus he was a nice guy.  We would occasionally go somewhere just social, you know, mostly galleries or museums, or out to eat, and we always had a good time.  He was in school studying something, I can’t remember.  In fact he came to my show at my studio on Ridge, and was real nice and met a lot of people.  A few of my friends were like rolling their eyes, but John didn’t know that and he enjoyed the show and meeting my friends.  At least I hope.



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