by Andre Coleman, Pasadena Weekly, Sep 14, 2006

As school bells ring in the start of another year of reading, writing and arithmetic, the Pasadena Unified School District is dealing with a unique set of challenges unlike any other it’s faced.

Last month, the district was set to take action on outgoing PUSD Superintendent Percy Clark’s contract, a move that could see Clark replaced by an interim superintendent. That largely political situation, along with continuously declining student enrollment, a budget crisis that forced the district to shutter four school sites, with more closures likely, guarantees that whoever inherits the mantle of leadership from Clark will have myriad issues to deal with almost immediately upon taking charge of the PUSD.

Recently, the district has had to deal with a City Council that not only wants to get more involved, but also has begun questioning the style of district management and how board members are elected.

Things got so crazy that Clark himself even tried to leave the district in March and was one of the five finalists for the top schools job in Cleveland before being forced to withdraw his candidacy after officials there learned of a number of unsavory incidents that occurred during his tenure as superintendent in Lawrence Township, Ind.

Clark himself admits that this past year has been filled with so much turmoil that he was surprised when the recently released results of the California Standards Test showed dramatic improvement.

But while Clark and other district officials have spoken publicly about these events, they have had very little to say about one issue that could cause more turmoil than all of the others combined: Altadena seceding from the PUSD.

The Weekly first reported in December 2005 that unhappy Altadena residents want to see the 10 public schools located in their community placed in a separate school district. Residents there have been collecting signatures since March, after the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) approved maps of the proposed district and the language of the petition that is being passed around.

According to LACOE, 6,291 Altadena residents, or roughly 25 percent of the 25,163 registered voters in Altadena, must sign the petition before the county Registrar-Recorder’s Office will review the signatures and the proposed petition. As in most signature-gathering efforts, a citizens’ committee established a higher goal, 7,000 signatures, to allow for disqualifications.

So far, petitioners have collected almost 30 percent of the needed signatures and expect to complete the process by November.

According to the map of the proposed district and other documents filed with LACOE, the new district would include about 8,500 students and be governed by a five-person board. The district would be bound by Washington Boulevard to the south, the edge of the La Cañada School District to the west, extend into the Angeles Crest Forest to the north, and just beyond Eaton Canyon to the east.

Secession talks began after the PUSD Board of Education voted unanimously to shutter four schools. Three of those sites — Noyes, Linda Vista and Edison elementary schools — are located amidst some of Altadena’s choicest real estate. The decision to close those schools left area residents feeling like the district cared little about their concerns.

“I felt betrayed because we had been told last June that they were going to keep the schools open and if they were going to close them they would have a meeting with the parents and the staff. We never received that,” said Deborah Ann Francis, a former parent volunteer at Noyes who has one child in the district. “Then we were told we would be given an opportunity to speak at the board and we still have not been contacted.”

Another way

In the minds of many, Altadena has always been paired with Pasadena. Even its name, which at one point was thought to mean “Upper Eden,” actually translates to “Upper Pasadena,” according to “Altadena — Between Wilderness and City,” by Michele Zack, the community’s unofficial historian.

But many residents in the 8.7-square-mile unincorporated county area resent the connection and are quick to point out that Altadena is not part of Pasadena. Residents have voted down more than a dozen annex attempts by Pasadena to swallow up the community.

In the last school board election, Pasadena resident Scott Phelps defeated Sierra Madre resident and incumbent Susan Kane in a runoff after Altadena resident Gene Stevenson split the vote.

But Phelps’ victory indirectly ended geographic diversity on the board. None of the members of the current seven-member board live in Altadena or Sierra Madre and, according to some members of the Altadena Town Council, that’s a big problem.

“What we’re doing is a lot like that movie ‘Braveheart,’” said Walt Olszewski, who was recently elected to the 15-member Town Council, which has no spending or decision-making authority but advises the Board of Supervisors.

“All we want is freedom. There is no one on the school board from Altadena. We are not represented. So, in a sense, what we have is the reason America became America. We have no representation with our taxation. That’s really the issue.”

Over the past several years, PUSD officials have met with the residents in Altadena only two times. The last meeting was to

be with LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and Clark, who was supposed to explain the school closures. But days before the meeting, Clark decided to attend a tree-planting ceremony at an elementary school instead and sent a management team in his place to face the wrath of the angry Altadenans.

“I think an Altadena district is long overdue,” said Stevenson, who said he wants to be involved if a new district is formed. “What I see is that we have a leadership issue in the district. One of the things that points to it is that we have so much intellectual talent in Altadena, Pasadena and Sierra Madre [yet] we can’t form an infrastructure that can come up with solutions that are facing this district.”

One of the problems that district officials are struggling with is falling enrollment. This year district enrollment slipped below 20,000 students for the first time since a judge ordered the district to implement busing back in 1969. Many blame the declining enrollment on housing costs, or lowering birth rates.

Last year then-district spokesperson Janet Pope Givens told the Weekly that there will likely be more school closures this year.

One pro-AUSD teacher who works for the PUSD and did not wish to be named because of fears that the district will retaliate against her, said she thought parents of students in private school might be enticed back into public schools by a new district in Altadena.

“I think some of those people who have left the district would be willing to give us a look,” the teacher said. “Most people who don’t send their kids to school in Pasadena see some of the dysfunction. They go around and look at different schools and they are looking for certain things. If they don’t see it they don’t think their child is going to get a whole education in every area, like the arts and the sciences, so they’re not interested. That’s what’s missing in Pasadena; we don’t give kids a whole education. It’s not enough to just do Open Court and Saxon Math. You have to stress everything. I don’t think a district in Altadena will be as dysfunctional.”

Save our schools

Steve Lamb sips on a coffee at the Coffee Gallery Backstage. Located down the street from Eliot Middle School, the site of the last battle between Altadena residents and the district after PUSD officials proposed the site be turned into a continuation school for problem students, the Coffee Gallery is one of a handful of places where folks gather to share news and discuss local politics.

The school closures and even the idea of placing continuation schools at Noyes and Eliot were widely considered slaps in the faces of Altadena residents, Lamb said.

“They closed these schools because the sites are in Altadena,” said Lamb, a longtime Town Council member. “And that’s because they have a long-range plan to sell off the sites for housing. That plan existed in the ’80s when I was on the [Town Council’s] Strategic Planning Committee, and they talked about it openly then.”

The three Altadena sites are on prime real estate. The 7.3-acre Noyes campus, for instance, sits on seven acres of land that is easily worth several million dollars. However, Board of Education member Bill Bibbiani denies there are plans to sell that or any other site.

“There is no plan to sell any sites that I am aware of,” Bibbiani said. “I get tired of conspiracy theorists that say there are. Selling the property does not generate any money we can use. I’d like to figure out a way to reopen those sites.”

But even if there is not a plan to lease or sell the sites for housing, there still has not been a dialogue concerning the sites. One Altadena resident sits on the board-appointed 7-11 committee, which is determining the future use of those sites and considering the possibility of selling them.

But even with all that’s transpired, there still has not been any official open discussion between the Town Council and the school board.

“There is nothing that says they have to consult with us,” said Justin Chapman, former chairman of the council’s education committee. Chapman, a student at Pasadena City College, is also a freelance writer for the Weekly. “It’s disrespectful on some level that they don’t at least have a dialogue with us.”

Past is prologue

The PUSD began after it seceded from the San Pasqual School District in 1878 and eventually would govern schools in Monrovia, Temple City, La Cañada Flintridge, Sierra Madre and Altadena, along with several other unincorporated areas. At that time, Pasadena itself had not yet incorporated into a city.

For nearly 100 years the district remained unchanged. Then in March 1953, Temple City schools seceded to form their own district. Ten years later, La Cañada Flintridge residents followed suit, establishing their own school district, ultimately changing the racial demographics of the PUSD and contributing to a chain of events surrounding school desegregation that influences district decision-making to this day. A year after Temple City left, Monrovia also seceded from the district.

“We have had a colonial structure in the PUSD for over 100 years,” Lamb said. “Everyone else has gotten free. It’s time for us to get free. Pretty much all of them were told that they couldn’t make it. Especially La Cañada , the PUSD board was absolutely convinced that La Cañada would not survive. Altadena is the last part of the empire that has not decolonized itself.”

Altadena resident Jerry Rhoads, who runs the Web site, admits that during the 100-plus degree weather of the summer signature gathering slowed down.

“It’s hard to collect signatures in 105-degree heat,” he said. “It’s picking up again now.”

After the signatures are collected and authenticated, they will be forwarded to LACOE. From there, public hearings will begin and a feasibility study will be generated.

But after the hearings, there are no guarantees. Once the signatures are verified, the issue will definitely go to LACOE for review and a vote to send it to the state Board of Education in Sacramento. If approved, Sacramento will determine who will vote on the issue.

If the board decides to put the issue before the people, it could be just an issue decided by Altadena residents, or all residents living in the PUSD district.

“We are determined to get it to Sacramento,” said Rhoads. “After that it’s out of our hands.”

But signing the petition will not automatically bring about a separate district.

“It would bring about a county feasibility study,” said Chapman. “Signing the petition only means that we would get more information, and that information could only benefit Altadena, Pasadena and Sierra Madre.”

According to Rhoads, that study could reveal flaws in the way the district is run.

“We have never followed the money in PUSD. [There has never been] a real audit by a true private firm that goes in and figures out where the money is going and does not do the bidding of the board,” Rhoads said.

“If you had that, I think everything that is wrong with this district would come falling out in an avalanche,” he said. “The review done by the LA [County] Office of Education that this petition drive will trigger will not go into the same depth as a Big Five accounting firm audit, but I think it will begin the process of peeling some of that information out. Not only will Altadena end up with a better district, but indirectly Pasadena will also.”

Naturally, the current administration is not happy about the secession efforts. Clark did not return multiple calls for this story.

“I believe it’s far more complicated than the advocates assume,” said Bibbiani, who has called for a thorough management audit of the PUSD multiple times. “I think it is highly unlikely that the state and the county will approve this. Certainly the folks in Altadena are justifiably upset about the school closure process.”

PUSD Board President Prentice Deadrick said the goal of the board is to represent all students, regardless of which city or town they live in.

“The governing body is responsible for representing all children in the district,” said Deadrick. “It is impossible for one person to live in three cities to represent all children in the district. At different times elected school board officials have lived in Altadena and Sierra Madre and hopefully newcomers in the next election may come from those cities. Children in Pasadena attend schools in Altadena and Sierra Madre. Children from those two cities attend schools located in Pasadena. The school facilities in those two cities have been modernized and you will not find evidence of disparity in school facilities in those two cities versus Pasadena.

“What the citizens in all three cities deserve is representation on a board that has equal concern for successful achievement for all students regardless [of] where they live or attend school,” Deadrick continued. “This statement does not really make sense to me unless Altadena just wants Altadena residents going to Altadena schools. If that is the case, the new school district will have to face the daunting task of deciding what schools to close since there are not enough Altadena school-age children to fill all of the schools located in their city.”

“The people who live in Altadena think differently and act differently,” said Olszewski. “It’s a different mindset. Sometimes to protect a tree, you have to trim a tree, but you don’t have to destroy a tree. There is a big difference.”

Bad Buzz

L.A.'s growing medical pot movement is outraged after feds shut down Van Nuys clinic in surprise afternoon raid.

By Justin Chapman, LA CityBeat/ValleyBeat, 9/14/2006

At about 2 p.m. on August 30, a man with a ponytail walked into the Trichome Healing Caregivers (THC, get it?) medical marijuana dispensary in Van Nuys with an attitude and a fake prescription for medical pot. When a security guard wouldn't let him pass, the stranger pleaded.

"Come on, man. I'm just trying to buy some weed for a friend. I heard you sold to anybody," he said, according to what witnesses have told attorney David Kestenbaum, who represents THC, and posted to the Internet. Then they heard what sounded like radio noises, and noticed the man's gun as he tried to push his way past the guard, at which point the guard stopped him and demanded he identify himself.

"Please don't hurt me," the man said into his radio.

Seconds later, nearly a dozen federal agents with guns drawn kicked down THC's door and had everyone lie on the floor. Several hours later, they got a warrant from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brett Klein and, with the help of a safecracker, seized pounds of marijuana and other supplies, as well as cash, computers, records, and surveillance tapes that had recorded the incident, according to Kestenbaum. No arrests were made and no charges have yet been filed, but during the 12-hour raid, agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration held several THC employees without food, water, or access to lawyers.

DEA Special Agent Sarah Pullen said the undercover agent -- from the DEA, it turned out -- was at THC as part of an intelligence-gathering operation. A raid wasn't initially intended to happen that day, she said, but occurred only after the agent felt he wasn't being allowed to leave.

"I stand by what we knew at the time, and what we still believe was that the agent was not being allowed to leave," she said. "Whether the employees felt he put them in danger is not really a question -- the agent felt he was not being allowed to leave.

"They realized when they got there that they would need a search warrant. That's what happened," added Pullen, who would not discuss materials seized from THC, as they might be used if any charges are filed later.

Since the raid, attorneys for THC have told patients, staff, and other witnesses not to speak for attribution to the press but criticize the incident as an unwarranted violation of patients' rights under voter-approved state law.

"The federal government is directly targeting patients, despite their public position [that they will not]," said Sean Tabibian, another THC attorney. "This recent raid has made Van Nuys an unsafe place as a result. They allow drug dealers to flourish, because patients need to go to the streets to get their medicine instead of a controlled environment. They're wasting resources by going after patients. We don't know why they chose THC, but we're investigating their actions."

As agents sacked the dispensary, the first to open in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles police were called in to mediate a growing demonstration of patients, activists, and owners of medical cannabis co-ops.

"Early on, when there were only like seven activists, the DEA took a camera from one patient who was taking pictures," said Dege Coutee, an organizer with Americans for Safe Access. "But he couldn't figure out how to erase the pictures, so he gave it back and told the patient to erase them. Then the LAPD showed up, and they said it was fine if we took pictures."

An LAPD spokeswoman referred all calls about the incident to Pullen, who said that local police had no knowledge of the DEA intelligence-gathering operation. However, rumors abound in the medical cannabis community that local police, members of the North Hollywood Narcotics Division in particular, are working with the DEA. On August 11, LAPD Det. John Smith made a presentation to members of the North Hollywood Neighborhood Council attacking medical cannabis clinics and promised that narcotics detectives would pursue action against medical pot clubs despite the protections afforded by California's Compassionate Use Act, also known as Proposition 215, according to an account published by the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Allison Margolin, a lawyer who handles marijuana cases and calls herself "L.A.'s dopest attorney," attended the neighborhood council meeting on behalf of clients who want to start a dispensary. Smith, she said, "told me in a conversation that he was going to forward the names of the people I advise to the DEA when he found out they wanted to open."

Smith did not return calls for this story and, according to the message on his voice mail, has been off duty since August 30 while recovering from a minor injury. The North Hollywood and Van Nuys narcotics divisions also did not return calls.

Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of California NORML, says local police often work with federal agents despite state laws protecting medical marijuana use. "For the last three or four years, the DEA has not gone after any medical cannabis operations in California without cooperation from local police," said Geiringer. He described the Valley raid as "amateurish," and believes the feds are hunting for any evidence that distributors aren't following state laws in order to undermine the medical pot movement.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles City Council members are considering a moratorium on new dispensaries -- and new regulations for existing ones -- due to what Councilman Dennis Zine described as a proliferation of facilities over the past 18 months.

"It's gone from a few to many. There are now 60 to 150 operating in L.A.," said Zine, who is crafting proposed regulations based on those passed by county officials in May and could introduce them as early as this week.

"Meanwhile, we find the federal government is doing as they wish to do, the municipalities vary in their response, and we have to look at what the voters voted for," said Zine, who is a reserve LAPD officer. "They're all conflicting. We have to bring some order to this while making sure people in need have access to their medicine. A lot of people who suffer from various ailments say medical marijuana helps them. I look at patients as the ones being victimized because there's so much uncertainty."

Bruce Mirkin, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the DEA is sending mixed signals. "It's been kind of weirdly on-and-off with DEA operations. They've picked a few places here and there, but there hasn't been a broad crackdown. It's a little confusing," he said.

In San Diego County, both federal and local law enforcement agents raided 13 dispensaries and arrested 15 owners and employees in July. So far, five people have been charged with the federal crimes of conspiracy to distribute and conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, while others are being charged in state court with drug sales and possession. In July, Damon Mosler, head of the San Diego County District Attorney's narcotics unit, said that the raids were a warning to dispensaries, and a short time later the DEA announced plans to eventually arrest San Diego's remaining dispensary operators if they don't voluntarily close.

On September 6, nearly 200 people demonstrated at the federal building on Van Nuys Boulevard to protest the THC raid. Some brought signs with pictures of the DEA agents that had been taken during the raid (several of which were posted to Employees on the second floor of the federal building flashed middle fingers through the windows down to the protesters on the street below.

She ‘just loved him’

Linda Lee Bukowski gives thumbs up to Hollywood’s latest take on her husband’s life and work

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 9/14/2006

The legacy of poet, novelist and underground cult icon Charles Bukowski is alive — not only at The Huntington, but also with the release of “Factotum,” a new movie chronicling the drifting poet’s misadventures in labor before his immense talent was recognized by millions around the world.

In the film, Matt Dillon plays Hank Chinaski, Bukowski’s longtime, thinly veiled alias in his books. Adapted and directed by Bent Hamer, the new film’s story is very different from 1987’s “Barfly,” in which Mickey Rourke played an exaggerated caricature of Bukowski, according to his widow.

“Hank would have loved this movie,” Linda Lee Bukowski told the Weekly in an exclusive telephone interview from her home in San Pedro. “I don’t think there’s one thing that I questioned at all when I saw the film.”

That’s quite an endorsement. But more important than the silver screen is the man himself, whose complex legacy Linda has tirelessly preserved in her home and her heart.

Pasadena Weekly: How did you two meet?

Bukowski: I’d been a reader of his for many years, when he was being published in Open City and LA Free Press in the ’60s and early ’70s. I had read all his books and gone to his poetry readings. At one of his readings I decided to introduce myself and it began a friendship that evolved later on into what ended up being our loving marriage. It was interesting because it was at the time he was doing “research” for the book “Women.” He was just curious; I was another curiosity. But he was a curiosity to me, too, because I felt that I knew him in a certain way through his books, and I think I knew him in a spiritual way before I met him. I think people feel that about him because he speaks the truth from the gut.

Why did you decide on The Huntington for his archive?

There are several reasons, but ultimately because of the nature of The Huntington. Just who they are and every single thing they do, whether it’s botanical gardens, archiving libraries, art, landscaping or architecture, they’re the best.

Everyone I’ve met there is so genuine and focused on their particular area, and that gratifies me to have Hank taken care of in such loving hands. Other places were always an option because I didn’t want to let the archive just sit and stagnate.

I love The Huntington, personally, and I’ve been going there for about 30 years. When I met Hank, I had been going there already. He knew I loved that place; he didn’t particularly care to go walking in gardens, but he understood it for me, and it inspired me because after he’d gone I created a little botanical garden myself.

Do you still live in the same house?

Oh, yes. We moved here in 1978. It’s like a living museum. The Charles Bukowski Foundation will continue after I leave this world, and our home here in San Pedro is going to be a museum. Great writers have their little houses; I think Ernest Hemingway has three or four of them around the world. I’ve kept it the same as it was. I haven’t touched his room and dining room. I go dust a couple times a year or just sit in there and turn his old Mac computer on.

What was your involvement with “Factotum”?

I met Jim Stark, the producer, and Bent Hamer, the director. They got in touch with me eight years ago. They both flew out here and came over, and we had a grand time. For some reason we all clicked and connected.

They kept within the parameters of Hank’s truth without elaborating or exaggerating like some people have done in films and sort of made them almost caricatures or cartoonish. But everybody has their own way. It’s hard to walk the line with that because you can go too far in either direction. I think “Factotum” is straight on. I think they nailed it. It was a long haul, but they worked hard and pulled it off. I don’t think there’s one thing that I questioned at all when I saw the film. That’s the neat thing about Stark and Hamer; I trusted them implicitly within the first few moments I met them. I don’t know why. It was this intuitive awareness that they were going to make this happen the way Hank would have loved this movie. “Barfly” was like a fluff piece.

This is wonderful. Now there’s more to come. All of his other books have yet to be made into films. “Post Office” is owned by a film director who’s hopefully getting interested in actually doing it. He’s owned it for about 35 years. He bought it from Hank when he was alive. There’s hope that within the next couple years that will come to fruition. Wouldn’t that be cool? And then “Women.” Can you imagine? Oh, my God. And “Hollywood”?

That’s the thing about his work, there’re so many things to enjoy and laugh at. People take him so seriously sometimes. They take that he’s a mythological dirty old man drunken misogynist so seriously it’s hard for those who criticize him to let that go and read the mastery of his words, for crying out loud.

Do you think success helped Hank later in his life with his writing?

Absolutely. You can’t deny it. When you physically leave an element that has been oppressing you in certain ways due to circumstances throughout your life, leaving that and finding wider horizons is something that would help anybody. He had detractors on that. People got mad at me because they said I changed him. I said, “Well, I didn’t change anybody.” We don’t do that. We change ourselves. He just saw a larger opportunity to be free from the heavy burdens he was carrying around with him all those years.

Hank was on a certain wavelength; he was just evolving. People got mad because he didn’t keep talking about fucking whores with big fat thighs and all these things, which is fine to have, but enough is enough, and you move on in life. A lot of those people are bitter in their own selves, maybe unsuccessful writers — that’s what Hank would say. He didn’t mind it. He was a great guy. He was the best. Beyond all that wild and crazy stuff, which was there, but he evolved. If you have any kind of sensibility in your life, you evolve. Hopefully it’s positive and in a way that’s loving to oneself and to others. He decided to open a little door of compassion. And I didn’t try to tell him anything or teach him anything. That’s not my thing. I just loved him. He was a man to me, and then he was a writer.

His way

The ‘absolutely honest’ Charles Bukowski finds a home at The Huntington

By Nikki Bazar, Pasadena Weekly, 9/14/2006

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens has officially announced the donation of a significant literary archive of Los Angeles poet and novelist Charles Bukowski to the institution by Bukowski’s widow, Linda Lee Bukowski.
Charles Bukowski, who lived from 1920 to 1994, penned more than 50 novels and books of poetry such as “Ham on Rye,” “Women,” “Hollywood” and “Factotum,” which was recently made into a film starring Matt Dillon.
For the first half of his life, Bukowski worked assorted odd jobs, including a decade-long stint with the US Postal Service. He wrote about his dead-end work, his abusive childhood and his dramatic bouts of drinking and debauchery. He also often wrote graphically of sex and violence, and became known for his potent depictions of “life on the streets” that resonated with readers who felt disenfranchised or marginalized.
By the latter half of his life, Bukowski began to be seriously considered as a great contributor to American literature. His books have sold millions of copies and have been translated into almost every European language.

A ‘stunning’ gift
Sue Hodson, curator of literary manuscripts at The Huntington Library, received a call a couple of years ago from an attorney for Linda Lee Bukowski inquiring about placing a literary archive. Hodson was happy to help, although she knew The Huntington would probably not be able to win a bidding war over the collection. But a year later, Hodson heard from Linda again and, learning it would be a gift, carefully detailed The Huntington’s access policies and preservation tactics.
“Seeing the stuff go out of the house, that’s hard for any donor to do, especially a surviving spouse. It was important for us to recognize that and be aware of it,” says Hodson.
Unlike many university or public libraries, The Huntington does not allow just anyone from the public to access their research collections. Researchers who do not already have a Ph.D. must formally apply for reader privileges, which include providing two references. Once accepted, readers view materials in a specially monitored reading room where bags and pens are prohibited. Readers are able to handle original material, but if the material becomes too fragile, it is retired from use and replaced by a copy.
Beyond its sterling reputation for taking great care with historic works, what also helped was Linda’s longtime relationship with The Huntington as a visitor.
“When she and her husband would drive up this way from their home, he would drop her off here, and she would spend the afternoon in the garden while he went over to Santa Anita and spent the afternoon at the races betting on the ponies. So she already had a great affection for The Huntington. It all just came together,” says Hodson. “The fact that Linda could see her way to make this a gift is just a stunning and incredibly generous thing for her to do, which you don’t often see in this day and age.”
The collection is still pouring in, and even Hodson doesn’t know how big it will eventually turn out to be. In the meantime, The Huntington has received hundreds, if not thousands, of corrected typescripts of poems and also of Bukowski’s popular novel “Ham on Rye” and the screenplay to “Barfly,” a 1987 film based on his life. Many of the typescripts are decorated with original doodles by the author. The archive also contains nearly every first edition of Bukowski’s published books, scores of fine press and foreign editions and several dozen early small press publications containing his work.
One fine press 1968 edition of “At Terror Street and Agony Way” is one of only 75 hardbound editions published by Black Sparrow Press that have
original signatures and illustrations by the author. Early grassroots publications include several issues starting in the ’40s of a small literary journal titled “Matrix,” which Bukowski continued to contribute to even after he became famous. Linda also donated many first editions of books including “Screams From the Balcony,” “Open All Night,” “Betting on the Muse,” “Reach for the Sun” and “What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire,” to name a few.
Additionally, The Huntington has received a number of Bukowski’s fan letters. Many of them, despite the graphic sexual nature of his work, are from women. “He wasn’t handsome, certainly,” says Hodson, “but there was a lot of character and a lot of mystery in his face. He was extremely charismatic, and I think a lot of women responded to that.”

An ‘odd’ fit?
In 1965, John Martin was new to the world of publishing and sought out Charles Bukowski, then working at the Post Office, and recruited him to join the upstart Black Sparrow Press. A few years later, Martin offered Bukowski part of his own salary as a monthly stipend to help the then-budding author quit his job and dedicate himself entirely to writing. A relationship was born, and Bukowski would stick with Black Sparrow for the rest of his life.
Bukowski’s writing, he said, found a way of connecting with all sorts of different people.
“The whole drift in American letters has been communication — clear, concise, accurate communication — and that’s the way that Bukowski wrote his novels, his short stories and his poems: without any artifice, without any desire to implant hidden meanings or dodge issues. He had the talent to articulate what he felt and saw, so that made him very important, and it changed the whole course of American poetry,” says Martin, now retired from publishing.
Yet, it’s the graphic nature of Bukowski’s work that may have some raising their eyebrows at
The Huntington’s latest addition. Hodson is quick to dismiss the suggestion.
“The Huntington has this very staid, proper, conservative image, and Bukowski is anything but, and we like the fact that he’s here. It pushes the envelope a bit, and that’s good for us. We’re not all Jane Austen and high tea here; there’s more than that. The overwhelming response I’ve gotten from people is completely positive,” she says.
Martin also believes the two are a good match.
“Bukowski does have a reputation as ‘the outsider’ and as ‘the rowdy poet,’ but that’s exactly what they said about Walt Whitman a hundred years ago; his work was once referred to as ‘barbaric yawp.’ Now, of course, we know that Whitman was the most important poet of the 19th century in America, and who knows where Bukowski will end up? It could be the same thing,” he says.
Still, Hodson acknowledges that some of the material may present a challenge when it is displayed as part of the debut Bukowski exhibit, slated for late 2010.
“I do have to think about the fact that families come through and that school groups come through. However, we’re not in the business of censorship here. I don’t know yet in every detail how we’ll handle it, but I’m not going to censor or sanitize or lighten Bukowski. He is one of the most important and original writers in American literature, and we can’t pull the teeth. He is what he is.
“We collect authors that we think have a lasting legacy as writers, whose works will stand the test of time, and who are worthy of research and study and appreciation by the public. Bukowski fits all of those, so I’m not concerned if people disagree with us,” she says.

Mass appeal
Like it has in other controversial exhibits, such as the one on 20th-century novelist Christopher Isherwood that elicited criticism because the author was gay and not part of the typically accepted literary canon, The Huntington may provide a forum for visitor comments that can later be incorporated into the collection.
Naysayers aside, Hodson predicts that this will be one of the most popular collections at The Huntington. Already she has received numerous letters, emails and phone calls from people excited to get at the archive, which won’t be available to researchers for at least a year, if not two. And a sold-out Sept. 20 event in celebration of Bukowski was two-thirds filled before The Huntington even made an official announcement.
“I’ve just been stunned by this,” Hodson says of the overwhelming response, “and yet in retrospect I shouldn’t have been. His writing speaks to the common man and woman. I had an archivist, a colleague of mine, email me after we made the announcement. He said that at one point in his life, when he was working a dead-end job, very much as Bukowski did, he would paste Bukowski’s poems on the walls and that would help get him through those hard days.”
Perhaps part of his appeal, says Martin, has something to do with the man himself.
“I used to tell people who had this erroneous view of Bukowski, ‘I never saw him drunk, I never heard him raise his voice, I never saw him angry.’ Granted, everybody has a private life that people don’t see, but I never saw any of those things. I considered him the most intelligent, kind, careful, honest person I’ve ever known. If I really needed the answer to a difficult question and there was one person I could ask, the only person I know who would give me an absolutely honest, straight, unadorned answer would be Bukowski, because that’s the way he thought and that’s the way he did things,” he says.