Victor Bockris Papers, 1960-2002 (majority within , 1977-2002)
Using These Materials
- The collection is open for research. Original cassette tapes are restricted for preservation purposes, and CD use copies are available for researcher use.
- Bockris, Victor, 1949-
- American biographer; participated, researched, and wrote about individuals involved in movements central to New York City's Lower East Side, including the Beats and the Punks. Papers include correspondence, notes and notebooks, clippings, other resources, manuscripts (drafts, proofs, galleys), photographs, and audiovisual materials.
44.5 Linear Feet (45 total boxes: 36 record center boxes, 7 manuscript boxes, and 2 oversize boxes)
Printed material in boxes 1-33, and oversize printed materials in boxes 42-44. Photographic material in boxes 34-35, oversize photographic material in boxes 43-44. Audio material in boxes 36-39 (cassettes, CD), and 41 (LPs). Videotapes in box 40. Boxes 45-47 contain CD use copies of reformatted materials from boxes 36 and 38.
- Finding aid prepared by Alexandra A. A. Orchard. Updated by Caitlin Wells, October 2017; Kathleen Dow, June, 2018.
- Scope and Content:
The Correspondence series is comprised of approximately 2.5 linear feet of material, foldered alphabetically by author with individual letters and cards within each folder arranged chronologically. The majority of the correspondence discusses Bockris' professional endeavors, including correspondence between publishers, lawyers, and sources. Additionally included are some personal correspondence such as letters, notes, and cards. Within the series are several notable, lengthy correspondence partners including Isabelle and Jean Louis Baudron, 1984-1997 (5 folders); Gerard Malanga, 1977-1996 (10 folders); Miles, 1977-1998 (7 folders); Elvira Peake, 1984-1999 (5 folders); Claude and Mary Beach Pelieu, 1983-1996 (5 folders); and especially Ingrid von Essen, 1983-2001 (31 folders); Christopher Whent, 1985-2002 (7 folders); and Andrew Wylie, 1974-2000 (41 folders). Correspondence with von Essen is of particular note as she was both a professional collaborator and personal friend of Bockris, and in addition to incoming correspondence, outgoing correspondence from Bockris to von Essen, 1977-2001 (17 folders), is included in the series.
The series also includes correspondence from notable individuals, poets such as Anne Waldman and Allen Ginsberg, John Giorno, Jeff Goldberg, artists and personalities including Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Art Garfunkel, Bobby Grossman, John Waters, Aram Saroyan, and book subjects Bebe Buell, William Burroughs, Debbie Harry, and Terry Southern.
The Notebooks and Journals series is comprised of approximately .5 linear feet, and consists of 17 volumes or items (including one that is oversize). The volumes' contents seem to span the range of Bockris' subjects, although it is difficult to discern the exact contents given the handwriting.
The Topical Files series is approximately .25 linear feet, and contains materials surrounding important topics and persons to Bockris' work. Included in the files are coverage on the subject matter of writing biographies, manuscript fragments, and information on various personalities including those that were featured in some of Bockris' work, like Lydia Lunch, collaborators including Andrew Wylie and Gerard Melanga, and individuals whom Bockris pursued as potential biography subjects such as Art Garfunkel.
The Events series is approximately .1 linear feet, and contains gallery invitations and speaking engagements sent to Bockris. These materials do not correspond specifically to any of Bockris' works, nor do they involve him as an artist or speaker, and thus are separated into their own series.
The Muhammed Ali series is approximately .5 linear feet and pertains to the works that Bockris wrote about Muhammed Ali. Although one of the smaller series of Bockris' works within the collection, it still contains a multitude of information, and is broken down into six subseries: Correspondence; Notes and Notebooks; Scrapbook; Clippings and Articles; Manuscripts; and Reviews. The correspondence is primarily from 1993-2002 and consists of letters between Bockris and his publishers. Within this subseries, items are arranged chronologically by date. The Notes and Notebooks, and Scrapbook subseries both contain Bockris' thoughts and collections of information he gathered on Muhammed Ali. Similarly, the Clippings and Articles subseries contain assorted clippings and photocopies of text about Ali. The Manuscript subseries contains drafts of four works that Bockris wrote about Ali, and the Reviews subseries contains clippings and photocopies of reviews of these works.
The Beat Punks series is approximately 1.5 linear feet, and contains materials related to the subjects within Bockris' Beat Punks book (also published as NYC Babylon) and related works. Correspondence within this series is primarily from Bockris' publisher. The series contains significant information on Allen Ginsberg, including a scrapbook, clippings and articles, and the National Arts Club Literary Aware Dinner manuscript. Other notable individuals mentioned in this series include clippings and articles related to Lydia Lunch and a transcript documenting an interview between Bockris and Legs McNeil.
The Blondie/Debbie Harry series is approximately 2.25 linear feet, and its contents pertain to both Blondie and its lead singer Debbie Harry. Also heavily represented is Blondie member (and Harry's former partner), Chris Stein. Although the Correspondence subseries mostly concerns the book and publishers, there is a handwritten letter by Debbie Harry. The Transcripts subseries features numerous transcriptions of interviews and conversations featuring both Harry and Stein. Other resources noted within the series include both song lyrics and visual materials such as images of both Harry and Blondie.
The manuscript series fastidiously documents the evolution of the Making Tracks monograph written by Bockris, Harry, and Stein. Included are multiple, often annotated drafts of the manuscript beginning with when it was still referred to as Above Fourteenth Street. This documented evolution continues even after the manuscript was renamed to Making Tracks, and includes not only drafts but galleys, sample layouts, second blues, and book covers. In addition to this manuscript, also included are drafts of From Eat to the Beat to Autoamerican and Meeting Famous People.
The smallest series (.2 linear feet) within the collection documenting one of Bockris' works, the Bebe Buell series documents Bockris' and Buell's biography, Rebel Heart. The Correspondence subseries is comprised of two handwritten letters to Bockris from Buell. However, the most notable items within the series are a series of photocopied love letters written by Elvis Costello to Buell. Additionally included are several drafts of Rebel Heart, and documentation of legal issues concerning quotes within the book.
The William Burroughs series is 1.25 linear feet and contains an assortment of materials used by Bockris to write his works on Burroughs. The Correspondence subseries includes letters from publishers and sources, as well as from Burroughs himself, including a small painting sent to Bockris as a Christmas card. The Events subseries includes several gallery invitations specifically sent to Bockris, as well as postcards of his own speaking engagement, In America All We Do is Work.
The Transcripts subseries includes transcripts featuring a wide breadth of individuals such as William Burroughs, James Grauerholz, Richard Hell, Debbie Harry, Christ Stein, Allen Ginsberg, Jean Michel Basquait. Also found in this subseries are transcripts from Burroughs interviewing Patti Smith.
Finally, the Manuscript subseries includes several drafts of many of the works Bockris wrote about Burroughs (including A Report from the Bunker and With William Burroughs). Also included are drafts of shorter works, including the cover, back copy and page mock ups of William Burroughs Cool cats, furry cats, and aliens, but no purring, which Bockris printed in a limited edition of only 100 copies, each of which he signed and numbered.
The John Cale series is .75 linear feet and documents the writing of Cale's biography, as well as the related disagreements about its publication between Cale and Lou Reed.
The Correspondence subseries primarily consists of letters from Lou Reed, Sylvia Reed, and Chris Whent, documenting legal issues and disagreements between Cale and Reed, concerning their past as members of the Velvet Underground, and potential future as collaborators. Also of note are items from Mo Tucker (another member of the Velvet Underground).
Also included is the Other Resources subseries, which contains papers about Cale, his assorted lyrics and writings, and album covers. The Manuscripts subseries provides insight into Cale's biography from proposal, to early draft, to proof, to galleys. The series concludes with clippings and photocopies of What's Welsh for Zen reviews.
At approximately 12.5 linear feet, the Lou Reed series is the largest within the Bockris Collection. Each of its subseries, Correspondence; Notes and Notebooks; Clippings and Articles; Events; Sketchbooks; Transcripts; Other Resources; Manuscripts; and Reviews are sizeable and detailed, providing an enlightening look into Bockris' research and writing processes.
The Correspondence subseries contains numerous letters both from publishers and sources, the most notable of whom include Shelley Corwin (nee Albin), Reed's former girlfriend, Elizabeth Kronstad, Reed's first wife, and Andrew Wylie, Bockris' agent and former collaborator who struck up a friendship with Reed. The Notes and Notebooks subseries is extensive, containing a variety of notes, some of which were arranged by Bockris by subject, and others which were arranged by year. Bockris also participated in several speaking engagements related to his Lou Reed book, the promotional materials for which are documents in the Events subseries.
In addition to notes, Bockris's research also generated a vast quantity of clippings and articles (11 folders), serials and books (7 folders), and an assortment of Lexis-Nexis article print outs, spanning the years 1950 – 1989. Bockris also filled seven volumes of sketchbooks (the Sketchbooks subseries) with Lou Reed Content. Also utilized as source material, Bockris conducted numerous taped interviews, many of which were transcribed and are contained within the Transcriptions subseries. Interviewees of note include Shelley Corwin (nee Albin), Roberta Bayley, Legs McNeil, Richard Mishkin, Billy Name, Bob Quine, Lou Reed, Maureen Tucker, Chris Whent, and Andrew Wylie.
Other Resources also played a role in Bockris' research, and may be found in the subseries of the same name. Included are Reed's college magazine, The Lonely Woman Quarterly, Lou Reed: The Collected Lyrics, and information from Lou Reed's fan club. However, the most extensive portion of this series is the Manuscript subseries which documents Bockris' Transformer: The Lou Reed Story from early proposal all the way to U.S. galleys as well as the U.K. edition galleys, providing a meticulous documentation of the book's evolution. The drafts are organized based on the various arrangements that Bockris utilized. Similar to the arrangement of the Notes and Notebooks subseries, this results in some of the drafts organized chronologically by year range, and others organized by subject or chapter. Numerous final drafts are also included, which reveal different versions of the monograph in its entirety. The series concludes with the Reviews subseries, containing clippings and photocopies the book's reviews.
The Keith Richards series is approximately 3.75 linear feet, and documents Bockris' writing of Keith Richards. Most of the Correspondence subseries is comprised of communications from publishers and fans, however, there are several handwritten letters from Richards' former girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, although they merely describe materials she sent to Bockris as well as signed certification that the information she provided is truthful. The arrangement of the Notes and Notebooks subseries remains as Bockris sent it, chronological and divided by year. Additional background materials may be found in the Sketchbook, Scrapbook, and Clippings and Articles subseries, the last of which includes copies of Rolling Stones newsletters Beggars Banquet and Basement News. Bockris also made use of taped interviews, the transcripts of which are provided in the Transcripts subseries, including one between him and Marianne Faithful. The Manuscript subseries contains an assortment of drafts of Bockris' work on Richards. These range from drafts focusing on specific people or time period to edited galley proofs and book covers. This broad spectrum of the manuscript provides a view inside Bockris' writing process and style. Finally, the Reviews subseries includes clippings and photocopies of reviews of this work.
The Patti Smith series is composed of approximately .75 linear feet of materials, documenting Bockris' writing of Patti Smith: A Biography. The Correspondence series primarily documents the communication between Bockris and his publisher, Fourth Estate. The remaining subseries, Notes and Notebooks; Scrapbook; Events; Clippings and Articles; and Other Resources all provide background materials for Bockris' writing.
The Manuscript subseries recounts Bockris' writing process, beginning with the early draft of Smith's biography, and ending with several portions of the finished work including the unbound galley, index, cover image, and image galleys. Also included are several drafts documenting the process Bockris underwent to get from early draft to completed galley. The final subseries, Reviews, provides clippings and photocopies of the book's reviews.
At .25 linear feet, the Terry Southern series is one of the smaller series in the collection that describes one of Bockris' works. Correspondence in this series includes a letter written by Southern, as well as several letters by Lee Hill (a Terry Southern biographer) written to Bockris. Also included is a Transcript subseries which features the transcript of a conversation between Southern and William Burroughs. The largest portion of the series is the Other Resources subseries containing several works by Southern and Hill. Unlike the other series documenting Bockris' works, the Southern series provides very little Manuscript subseries content. Indeed, the only item is an untitled early draft. Thus, in this case, little insight is provided into Bockris' writing process or the final work.
The Velvet Underground series is approximately .5 linear feet, and documents the making of Bockris' Uptight: The Story of the Velvet Underground. The Correspondence subseries mainly contains communication from publishers. The bulk of the contents in this series are research materials, including subseries Notes and Notebooks; Clippings and Articles; and Other resources which includes an interview with former Velvet Underground member Moe Tucker. The Events subseries provides information on several speaking engagement of which Bockris was a part.
The Manuscript subseries has two drafts, but is primarily composed of galleys, both for the U.K. edition in 2002 and the new edition. The Reviews subseries contains numerous clipped and photocopied reviews of the book. Also of interest is that some of Bockris' materials, ranging from notes to drafts also appear to have been referenced and utilized during the writing process of his Transformer: The Lou Reed Story book. The Andy Warhol series is approximately 3.5 linear feet. The bulk of the Correspondence subseries is comprised of communication between Bockris and his publishers. However, there are two letters of note, both from Warhol's brother, John Warhola, written directly to Bockris. Also included with one of these letters is a photograph of Bockris at Warhol's grave, taken by Warhola.
Much of the background research for the work is found in the Notes and Notebooks, Clippings and Articles, and Other Resources subseries. The Events subseries includes promotional materials for several speaking engagements made by Bockris as well as student feedback on a lecture presented by Bockris. The Manuscripts subseries documents the evolution of Bockris' The Life and Death of Andy Warhol from original manuscript to page proofs. Additionally included are drafts of related pieces written by Bockris including How I wrote a Biography of Andy Warhol and Pittsburgh Andy. Also included is the Reviews subseries which provides numerous clippings and photocopies of reviews of Bockris' pieces on Warhol. The series concludes with the Scripts subseries which includes several scripts based on Warhol's life and Bockris' biography. These include a potential script for Andy Warhol the Motion Picture and several annotated copies of the script Pop.
The Proposals and Drafts series is approximately .75 linear feet and documents an assortment of research on proposed subject including Ornette Coleman, Dennis Hopper, Fred Hughes, and Charles Plymell. Also included are collaborative pieces with Andrew Wylie like Which Way Did Doris Day Go? drafts of Bockris' shorter works such as Negative Girls and some of his Gadfly pieces. The Photographs series is approximately 2.25 linear feet. The photographs are primarily arranged by subject, including many of the subjects of Bockris' books (Ali, Blondie/Debbie Harry, Burroughs, Cale, Reed, Richards, Smith, the Velvet Underground, and Warhol). Photographs featuring unidentifiable or multiple subjects were filed under "Various." Additionally, there is a folder of negatives. Also included are three volumes of Bockris Contact sheets, chronologically divided into three binders, and covering 1972-2001 in total. Three more binders create the three volumes of Photographs by Victor Bockris, with each binder focusing on a different subject, Burroughs, Warhol, and Ginsberg respectfully. Finally, additional photographic materials may be found in the two oversize boxes, including the AliWarhol 24 Panel Piece, a Debbie Harry photograph, and various photographs. The Audiovisual subseries is approximately 2.5 linear feet, primarily containing cassettes of taped interviews conducted by Bockris. Of particular interest are interviews including Burroughs, Jaguar, Warhol, Ali, John Warhola (Warhol's brother), Buell, Harry, Stein, Cale, the Allen Ginsberg Memorial at the Poetry Project, Gerard Melanga, Legs McNeil, Roberta Bayley, Chris Whent, and Sterling Morrison. Also included among the cassettes are various published materials such as Lou Reed albums. In addition to the cassettes, a Terry Southern CD is also included. The VHS tapes found within this series are primarily published and feature Lou Reed. Similarly, the LPs in this series are all published. Most of these records feature Bockris' subjects including Blondie/Debbie Harry, Cale, Reed, and the Velvet Underground. Other notable individuals include Susan Sontag and Maureen Tucker. Cassette tapes from boxes 36 and 38 have been reformatted and CD use copies have been created. Use copies are located in boxes 45-47
- Biographical / Historical:
Author and photographer Victor Bockris' works include over ten books focusing on a variety of cultural icons, many of whom were active in the Beat and Punk movements. Indeed, he was referred to as "The Poet Laureate of the New York Underground" in his Beat Punks book published in 2000 (Ashby, 2002). In addition to these full length books, Bockris was also an active poet, interviewer, and wrote extensively for a variety of magazines including High Times and Gadfly.
Born in 1949 in England, Bockris was raised in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1971 (Amorosi, 1995). After graduating, Bockris partnered with Andrew Wylie and Aram Saroyan to form Telegraph Books, a "small poetry press," (Ashby, 2002, p. 4) located in New York. The group published ten books during their collaboration.
Eventually Bockris moved to Philadelphia where he and Andrew Wylie again collaborated, but this time as a duo, although they presented their collaboration as a single entity and named it Bockris Wylie. Bockris Wylie wrote "The Electric Generation," a column in The Drummer, an underground paper based in Philadelphia (Ashby, 2002, p. 6). The pair eventually transitioned into interviewing, and in 1973 crafted a list of "the hundred most intelligent people in New York," (p. 8) and set out to interview them. It was during this time that Bockris begin to meet people who would later become the subjects of some of his works including William Burroughs and Andy Warhol.
In 1975 the duo split, and Bockris began to work on his own, although he still collaborated, often with his subjects, as he did with Debbie Harry and Chris Stein on the book Making Tracks. Over the years Bockris continued interviewing and wrote a number of biographies including works on Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, Keith Richards, Patti Smith, and Andy Warhol. He also wrote for numerous magazines, was a contributing editor for Interview Magazine and High Times Magazine, and coeditor at Travelers Digest (Bockris, 2012).
A trilogy of memoires that will discuss the highlights of 44 years of his career, from 1971 to 2005 have been planned. Additionally, Bockris has conducted lectures, workshops, and readings on subjects and personalities including the Beats and Punk movements (Bockris, 2012).
Amorosi, A.D. (October 26, 1995). "Mr. International Velvet: An interview with Lou Reed biographer and relentless name-dropper, Victor Bockris." Philadelphia Citypaper. http://archives.citypaper.net/articles/102695/article033.shtml
Ashby, R. (2002). Victor Bockris: Frankenstein and the Third Mind. Goodie Magazine, (14), 24.
Bockris, V. (2012). [Linked In Profile]. LinkedIn. http://www.linkedin.com/pub/victor-bockris/9/9ab/81a
- Acquisition Information:
- The collection was acquired from Victor Bockris beginning in 2002.
The Victor Bockris papers are divided into nineteen series: Correspondence; Notebooks and Journals; Topical Files; Events; Muhammed Ali; Beat Punks; Blondie/Debbie Harry; Bebe Buell; William Burroughs; John Cale; Lou Reed; Keith Richards; Patti Smith; Terry Southern; Velvet Underground; Andy Warhol; Proposals and Drafts; Photographs; and Audiovisual.
- Separated Material:
Researchers should note that books and serial publications from Bockris' library have been separated from the collection and cataloged individually.
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
American poetry -- 20th century.
Artists -- United States -- Michigan.
Authors and publishers.
Beat generation -- United States.
Bohemianism -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
Experimental poetry, American.
Poetry -- United States.
Social change in literature.
Women rock musicians.
Manuscripts for publication.
Blondie (Musical group).
Ali, Muhammad, 1942-
Beach, Mary, 1919-
Burroughs, William S., 1914-1997
Foye, Raymond, 1957-
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997
Richards, Keith, 1943-
Waldman, Anne, 1945-
Warhol, Andy, 1928-1987
New York (N.Y.) -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
United States.--Intellectual life--20th century.
Using These Materials
The collection is open for research.
Original cassette tapes are restricted for preservation purposes, and CD use copies are available for researcher use.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from the University of Michigan Special Collections Library and the individual copyright holder.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
[Item title, folder title, box no.], Victor Bockris Papers, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan