By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
GREG BURK, WRITER
I remember how he used to sit, kind of hunched over, hair tangled, face stubbled. When he spoke in that gravelly French accent, he would draw out the last word of each sentence, his mouth hanging open to expose bad teeth, his eyes rolled toward the ceiling in an expression of constant amazement. He was a huge reggae fan and used to talk about the Rastafarians. "Other religions are always bragging about how powerful and mysterious their god is, but the Rastafarians have it knocked." He pointed to a picture of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, the Rastas' then-living divine representative, on an album cover. "They've got their fucking god on their postage stamps." Another time I was complaining about how he only covered the most hardcore punk. He admitted that he didn't like a lot of it himself. "But you've always got to act more extreme than you are. That way, when you have to compromise, you'll end up closer to what you really want."
GENESIS P-ORRIDGE, ARTIST
He was a quintessential beatnik when that species had become the emasculated darling of academia. It was an honor to have him write the riotous stream-of-consciousness sleeve notes for Throbbing Gristle's Greatest Hits, and to be a regular dinner guest of Claude and Philomena at their home in London, for he chose his friends with as much precision as he ridiculed pomposity and hypocrisy.
KERRY COLONNA, ART COLLECTOR
Claude Bessy entered my life like a tornado, disrupting everything in his path and hurtling French avant-garde culture in all directions. Claude was quick to be sure I was familiar with Rimbaud, Artaud and Celine. He said the best contemporary art was the found -- or ready-made -- work in the spirit of Duchamp. He loved the English language, particularly when pushed to distortion by the likes of Burroughs, the Kipper Kids or the evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman. When I met Claude in 1975, he had just dedicated his singular body of poetic essays Hallelujah, the Madness Is Spreading: "To Philomena, who understands me, and to the Rastas, who don't." The writings were composed entirely in English and read like an amalgamated translation of the radical French literature he insisted I be familiar with. This last year, Claude had been reading Henri Michaux, and when I told him that I had been reading some recent translations of a few French Surrealist writers, Claude barked back that he hated the French.
JUDITH BELL, ANIMATION ARTIST
Claude, Philly and I had coattailed a birthday party for some TV casting heavyweight. It was all Brooks Brothers guys, faux Marlboro Men in long Western dusters with $2,000 Tony Lama cowboy boots, or beige linen Armani dudes from William Morris cruising for new SAG whores. When the candles were lit on the cake and everyone sang "Happy Birthday," somebody handed an uncorked bottle of '65 D.P. to the birthday boy. Claude walked over, grabbed it right out of the guy's hand and started chugging on it like a baby that was late for its feeding. The room went dead silent, and we ran for it and went off to see the Germs, laughing all the way. Come Monday morning, birthday boy and his partner at William Morris wanted to do lunch with Claude. With verbal assurance there would be no violence, Claude went to read for a part in some remake of the Hardy Boys. With no previous acting experience whatsoever, Claude got a contract for six episodes and a SAG card to play "Frenchy," a transient bohemian rock star. The agents just loved the whole bad-boy thing, his inimitable dark, dangerous beauty, his catlike grace and, of course, the lurid cussing in that heavy accent.
STEPHEN RANDALL, EXECUTIVE EDITOR,
Before Slash, Claude's notoriety derived mostly from being a terrible waiter at Al's Kitchen on Santa Monica Pier circa 1973, cigarette hanging from his lips, ashes flicking into your food. He was semivigilant, grabbing the empty plate in front of you, even though you were just taking the first bite of your burger. Of course, because it was Claude, it all seemed like great fun. That was the best thing about hanging out with Claude and Philomena -- everything became great fun. He was never boring and he never got bored, which made it easier to overlook the ashes in your food.
JAVIER ESCOVEDO, ZEROS GUITARIST
When the Zeros played Barcelona in '95, we had dinner with Claude and Philomena, and at the end of our show we got him up on "Pushin' Too Hard." He was so ripped it came out like "PUSSIN Too Hard"! "Pussin too hard" became our battle cry for the rest of the tour. I had a feeling that he wasn't into old punk bands getting back together, but he seemed to have a blast that night anyway.
PHAST PHREDDIE PATTERSON,
WARNER CHAPELL MUSIC PUBLISHING
I took David Johansen to a Hollywood punk rock party in 1978, and Kickboy gave him shit because his solo Blue Sky records weren't as punk as the Dolls' records. That was Kickboy Face. He didn't care if the musicians were inept or not, as long as their message was honest. "Thees ees zee reel shit!"
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