Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Heroin

Kitty Winn

Kitty-Winn_BannerKitty Winn (born February 21, 1943) is an award-winning American Actress. Katherine Tupper (“Kitty”) Winn was born in Washington, D.C. As the daughter of an army officer she traveled widely during much of her childhood, including, time spent in United States, England, Germany, China, India and Japan.

panic_in_needle_park_PosterHer career has spanned a wide range of drama productions on stage, in motion pictures and on television. She studied acting at Centenary Junior College and Boston University, graduating from the latter in 1966. During her college years Winn acted in student productions at Centenary Junior College, Boston University, and Harvard College and summer stock for two summers at The Priscilla Beach Theatre south of Boston. Shortly after college she joined the company at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco where she remained for four years.

Panic-in-Needle-Park_Kitty-Winn_Al-Pacino_BTSIn the fall of 1970 Kitty left American Conservatory Theater to play opposite Al Pacino in the film ‘Panic in Needle Park’ for which she won the Best Actress award at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival. The film portrays life among a group of heroin addicts who hang out in “Needle Park” (the nicknames of Verdi Square and Sherman Square on New York’s Upper West Side near 72nd Street and Broadway). The film is a love story between Bobby (Pacino), a young addict and small-time hustler, and Helen (Kitty Winn), a restless woman who finds Bobby charismatic. She becomes an addict, and life goes downhill for them both as their addictions worsen, eventually leading to a series of betrayals.

Kitty-Winn_The-ExorcistTo set the atmosphere, no music was used in the film, much of which features cinéma vérité-style footage. It is believed to be the first mainstream film to feature actual drug injection.

Although she went on to do several more films, such as ‘The Exorcist’, she always returned to her great love, the theatre. In The Exorcist, Kitty played Sharon Spencer, movie actress Chris McNeil’s friend and personal assistant who acts as Regan’s tutor.

The Exorcist_Kitty WinnKitty co-starred in Peeper (1975) with Michael Caine, before returning to the role of Sharon in the Exorcist sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977).

Kitty retired in 1978 but returned to play Cordelia in “The Tragedy of King Lear” for KCET in 1983. She did not return to the stage again until 2011 when she played the lead in “The Last Romance” at the San Jose Repertory Theatre. For this performance she was nominated for a best actress award by the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle.


Hubert Selby, Jr.

Hubert “Cubby” Selby, Jr. (July 23, 1928 – April 26, 2004) was a 20th century American writer. His best-known novels are Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964) and Requiem for a Dream (1978). Both novels were later adapted into films within his lifetime.

Hubert Selby Jr. lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bay Ridge. He attended various New York state school, including Stuyvesant High School. His childhood nickname, “Cubby,” stuck with him his entire life.

Selby dropped out of school, and at the age of 15, was able to persuade the recruiters to allow him to join the Merchant Marines, which his father had recently rejoined. In 1947, while at sea, Selby was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis; doctors predicted that he would live less than a year. For the next three and a half years, Selby was in and out of the Marine Hospital in New York for treatment.

Selby went through an experimental drug treatment, streptomycin, that later caused some severe complications. During an operation, surgeons removed several of Selby’s ribs in order to reach his lungs, one of his lungs collapsed, and doctors removed part of the other. The surgery saved Selby’s life, but left him with a year-long recuperation and chronic pulmonary problems for the rest of his life. The medical treatments also marked the beginning of Selby’s dependence on painkillers and heroin, an addiction that lasted for decades.

With no qualifications, no work experience aside from the Merchant Marine, and his poor health, Selby had trouble finding a job. He spent most of the time at home, raising his daughter while his wife worked in a department store.

For the next ten years, Selby remained bedridden and was frequently hospitalized with a variety of lung-related ailments. A childhood friend, writer Gilbert Sorrentino, encouraged Selby to write.

With no formal training, Selby used his raw language to narrate the bleak and violent world that was part of his youth. He stated, “I write, in part, by ear. I hear, as well as feel and see, what I am writing. I have always been enamoured with the music of the speech in New York.” In style, Selby also differed from other writers. He was not concerned with proper grammer, punctuation, or diction, although Selby’s work is internally consistent; he uses the same unorthodox techniques in most of his works.

Like Jack Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”, Selby’s writing was often completed in a fast, stream of consciousness style, and to facilitate this he replaced his apostrophes with forward slashes “/” due to their closer proximity on his typewriter, thus allowing uninterrupted typing. He did not use quotation marks, and his dialogue might consist of a complete paragraph, with no denotion among alternating speakers. His prose was stripped down, bare and blunt.

His experience with longshoremen, the homeless, thugs, pimps, transvestites, prostitutes, homosexuals, addicts and the overall poverty-stricken community, was to become the subject matter for his work.

Selby started working on his first short story, “The Queen Is Dead”, in 1958. At the time, he worked on his fiction every night after his day work as a secretary, a gas station attendant, and a freelance copywriter. The short story evolved slowly for the next six years before it saw the light of publication.

In 1961, one of Selby’s short stories, “Tralala”, was published in a literary journal, The Provincetown Review. It also appeared in Black Mountain Review andNew Directions. With his unstructured style and coarse descriptions, Selby examined the seedy life (ridden with violence, theft and mediocre con-artistry) and the gang rape of a prostitute. He quickly drew negative attention from a number of critics. The editor was arrested for selling pornographic literature to a minor and the publication was used as evidence in an obscenity trial, but the case was later dismissed on appeal.

As Selby continued to work on his writing, Amiri Baraka, Selby’s longtime friend, encouraged Selby to contact Sterling Lord, who at the time was Jack Kerouac’s agent. In 1964, “Tralala”, “The Queen Is Dead” and four other loosely linked short stories appeared in Selby’s first novel, Last Exit to Brooklyn. The novel was accepted and published by Grove Press, which had already released works by William S. Burroughs.

The novel was praised by many, including Allen Ginsberg, who predicted that it would “explode like a rusty hellish bombshell over America and still be eagerly read in a hundred years.” But as with any controversial work, not everyone was happy. Because of the detailed depictions of homosexuality and drug addiction, as well as gang rape and other forms of human brutality and cruelty in the novel, it was prosecuted for obscenity in the U.K. in 1967. Anthony Burgess was among a number of writers who appeared as witnesses in defense of the novel.

In 1967, Selby moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in an attempt to escape his addictions. That same year, Selby met his future wife, Suzanne, and they married in 1969.

Even though all his work was written while he was sober, Selby continued to battle drug addiction. In 1967 his heroin addiction landed him in Los Angeles County jail, where he spent two months for heroin possession. After his release from jail, he kicked the habit and stayed clean of drugs and alcohol until his death. He even refused morphine on his deathbed, although he was in pain.

In 1971, Selby published his second novel, The Room. The novel received positive reviews. The Room was about a criminally insane man locked up in one room in a prison who reminisces about his disturbing past. Selby himself described The Room as “the most disturbing book ever written,” and he noted that he could not read it for decades after writing it.

Requiem for a Dream (1978), concerns four New Yorkers whose are all initially searching for the key to their dreams, only for their lives to spiral out of control as they succumb to their addictions.

His last published novel, The Willow Tree, was published in 1998. As bleak as his writing before, it follows the story of a young African American boy and his Hispanic girlfriend who are viciously attacked by a local gang… things get worse.

Selby continued to write short fiction, screenplays and teleplays, and his work appeared in many magazines, including YugenBlack Mountain ReviewEvergreen ReviewProvincetown ReviewKulchurNew Directions AnnualSwank and Open City. For the last 20 years of his life, Selby also taught creative writing as an adjunct professor in the Master of Professional Writing program at the University of Southern California.

A film adaptation of Last Exit to Brooklyn, directed by Uli Edel, was made in 1989, while Selby’s 1978 novel Requiem for a Dream was made into a film by Darren Aronofsky in 2000. Brooklyn featured Selby himself in a brief cameo as a taxi driver; in Dream he appeared in a small role as a prison guard. Ellen Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress for her role in the latter film. During the filming of Last Exit, a documentary was shot, following Selby and some friends around the neighborhood as they reminisced.

In the 1980s, Selby made the acquaintance of singer/writer Henry Rollins, who had long admired Selby’s works and publicly championed them. Rollins not only helped broaden Selby’s readership, but also arranged recording sessions and reading tours for Selby. Rollins issued original recordings through his own 2.13.61 publications, and distributed Selby’s other works.

During the last years of his life, Selby suffered from depression and fits of rage, but was always a caring father and grandfather. The last month of his life Selby spent in and out of the hospital. He died in Highland Park, Los Angeles, on April 26, 2004 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Selby was survived by his wife of 35 years, Suzanne; four children and 11 grandchildren.


William S. Burroughs

William Seward Burroughs II (February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, poet, essayist and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be “one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century.” His influence is considered to have affected a range of popular culture as well as literature. Burroughs wrote 18 novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays. Five books have been published of his interviews and correspondences. He also collaborated on projects and recordings with numerous performers and musicians, and made many appearances in films.

He was born to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri, grandson of the inventor and founder of the Burroughs Corporation, William Seward Burroughs I. Burroughs began writing essays and journals in early adolescence. He left home in 1932 to attend Harvard University, studying English, and anthropology as a postgraduate, and later attending medical school in Vienna. After being turned down by the Office of Strategic Services and U.S. Navy in 1942 to serve in World War II, he dropped out and became afflicted with the drug addiction that affected him for the rest of his life, while working a variety of jobs. In 1943 while living in New York City, he befriended Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, the mutually influential foundation of what became the countercultural movement of the Beat Generation.

Much of Burroughs’s work is semi-autobiographical, primarily drawn from his experiences as a heroin addict, as he lived throughout Mexico City, London, Paris, Berlin, the South American Amazon and Tangier in Morocco. Finding success with his confessional first novel, Junkie (1953), Burroughs is perhaps best known for his third novel Naked Lunch (1959), a work fraught with controversy that underwent a court case under the U.S. sodomy laws. With Brion Gysin, he also popularized the literary cut-up technique in works such as The Nova Trilogy (1961–64).

In 1983, Burroughs was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1984 was awarded the Ordre des Arts et Lettres by France. Jack Kerouac called Burroughs the “greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift,” a reputation he owes to his “lifelong subversion” of the moral, political and economic systems of modern American society, articulated in often darkly humorous sardonicism. J. G. Ballard considered Burroughs to be “the most important writer to emerge since the Second World War,” while Norman Mailer declared him “the only American writer who may be conceivably possessed by genius.”

Burroughs had one child in 1947, William Seward Burroughs III, wiith his second wife Joan Vollmer who died in 1951 in Mexico City. Burroughs was convicted of manslaughter in Vollmer’s death, an event that deeply permeated all of his writings. Burroughs died at his home in Lawrence, Kansas after suffering a heart attack in 1997.


Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh (born 27 September 1958 Leith, Edinburgh) is a contemporary Scottish novelist, best known for his novel Trainspotting. His work is characterised by raw Scottish dialect, and brutal depiction of the realities of Edinburgh life. He has also written plays, screenplays, and directed several short films.

His first novel, ‘Trainspotting’, was published in 1993. Set in the mid 1980s, it uses a series of loosely connected short stories to tell the story of a group of characters tied together by decaying friendships, heroin addiction and stabs at escape from the oppressive boredom and brutality of their lives in the housing schemes. It was released to shock and outrage in some circles and great acclaim in others; Time Out called it “funny, unflinchingly abrasive, authentic and inventive”, and The Sunday Times called Welsh “the best thing that has happened to British writing for decades”. One critic (Welsh’s personal friend Kevin Williamson) went so far as to say that Trainspotting “deserves to sell more copies than The Bible”. It was adapted as a play, and a film, directed by Danny Boyle was released in 1996. Welsh himself appeared in the film as Mikey Forrester, a minor character. Review here.

Next, Welsh released ‘The Acid House’, a collection of short stories from Rebel Inc., New Writing Scotland and other sources. Many of the stories take place in and around the housing schemes from Trainspotting, and employ many of the same themes; however, a touch of fantasy is apparent in stories such as The Acid House, where the minds of a baby and a drug user swap bodies, or The Granton Star Cause, where God transforms a man into a fly as punishment for wasting his life. Welsh himself adapted three of the stories for a later film version, which he also appeared in.

Welsh’s third book (and second novel), ‘Marabou Stork Nightmares’, alternates between a typically grim tale of thugs and schemes in sub-working class Scotland and a hallucinatory adventure tale set in South Africa. Gradually, common themes begin to emerge between the two stories, culminating in a shocking ending.

His next book, ‘Ecstacy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance’ (1996), became his most high-profile work since Trainspotting, released in the wave of publicity surrounding the film. It consists of three unconnected novellas: the first, Lorraine Goes To Livingston, is a bawdy satire of classic British romance novels, the second, Fortune’s Always Hiding, is a revenge story involving thalidomide and the third, The Undefeated, is a sly, subtle romance between a young woman dissatisfied with the confines of her suburban life and an aging clubgoer. Most critics dismissed the first two as relatively minor affairs and focused their praise on The Undefeated. Welsh’s narration imbued both characters with surprising warmth, and the story avoided easy, pro-ecstacy conclusions.

A corrupt police officer and his tapeworm served as the narrators for his third novel, ‘Filth’ (1998). Welsh had never avoided flawed characters, but the main character of Filth was a brutally vicious sociopathic policeman… and being his worst creation, also happens to be a Hearts fan, local football rivals to Welsh’s beloved Hibernian.

‘Glue’ (2001) was a return to the locations, themes and episodic form of Trainspotting, telling the stories of four characters spanning several decades in their lives and the bonds that held them together. Having revisited some of them in passing in Glue, Welsh brought most of the Trainspotting characters back for a sequel, ‘Porno’, in 2002. In this book Welsh explores the impact of pornography on the individuals involved in producing it, as well as society as a whole, and the impact of aging and maturity in individuals against their will.

At the request of the Daily Telegraph, Welsh travelled with a group of authors and journalists to the Sudan in 2001. A book called The Weekenders: Travels in the Heart of Africa was the result, to which Welsh contributed a novella called Contamination, about the violence and warlords in the region. A second book, The Weekenders: Adventures in Calcutta, was published in 2004. Welsh, Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith each contributed a short story for the One City compilation published in 2005 in benefit of the One City Trust for social inclusion in Edinburgh.

Welsh’s most recently published novel is entitled Crime, whose main character is Ray Lennox (who appeared in Welsh’s previous work, Filth). Detective Inspector Ray Lennox is recovering from a mental breakdown induced by occupational stress and cocaine abuse, and a particularly horrifying child sex murder case back in Edinburgh. The story takes place in Florida.

Welsh is currently writing a prequel to Trainspotting, to be called ‘Skagboys’, which follows the fortunes of Trainspotting’s main characters on their path to drug addiction, helped along the way by the same problems faced by many people in the 1980s.