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Samuel M. Steward

1909-1993

 

University professor, writer, tattoo artist, pornographer Samuel M. Steward spent the final years of his life in the East Bay and donated an extraordinary collection of Stein/Toklas memorabilia to The Bancroft Library. Born in Ohio in 1909 and educated at Ohio State University, Steward taught at Washington State University, Loyola University of Chicago and DePaul University before abandoning his academic career to pursue his passions of writing and tattooing. In the course of his life he became acquainted with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Lord Alfred Douglas, André Gide, Thomas Mann, Thornton Wilder and Alfred Kinsey. While he published extensively under his given name, he is best remembered for the extraordinarily literate short stories and novels published under his nom de porn, Phil Andros. Some of his pornographic works are set on or around the Berkeley campus.

   

From Shuttlecock (originally published in 1972 as Renegade Hustler)

The fresh Pacific winds blow almost unceasingly across the wide basin of San Francisco Bay; they sweep over the water and cleanse the air of smoke and smog. By nine in the morning the fog has usually burned away in Berkeley, and the light is everywhere — the hard, severe, eternal sunlight of northern California, scorching the eyeballs, closing pupils to pinpoints, and encouraging most people to don sunglasses.

One fine morning I was near the entrance to the University’s Sproul Plaza, lounging against a concrete post and letting the sun warm my back through my leather jacket. I gazed idly at the passing throngs of students and compared them in my memory with their counterparts I knew as an undergraduate at Ohio State. A mere ten year ago they were short-haired, clean-cut, and sleekly dressed, the boys in tight slacks and the girls in tight sweaters and knee-length skirts. And now there had been a startling change. The boys’ hair was long, and jeans were patched decoratively in many places, American flags on their butts, peace symbols on chains or sewed on their shirts and blouses. Beards were the sign of maleness, braless breasts of femaleness. These were the eternal adolescents searching in the flea market of fads for therapies of all kinds — polysexual, mystical, vegetarian, holistic, homeopathic, transcendental. They were the true inhabitants of the land that time seemed almost to have forgotten....

The raggletaggle bobtail crew of students seemed hardly to know what to make of me. As they came across the street to the campus, I noticed that the stream divided like the Red Sea, part to the right, part to the left, leaving me on a small island alone. My “costume” puzzled them. My black curly hair was shorter than theirs, my beige chinos cleaner and tighter — and why should I be wearing motorcycle boots on a hot day instead of being barefoot as so many of them were? Moreover, I wore a short-billed cap pushed to the back of my head, and most of them were uncovered. In their eyes I hardly looked like a member of the Establishment, nor was I scarcely one of the over-thirty group with whom they could not communicate. But I could not help seeing that as many of them passed, one would whisper something to his companion and then both would look in my direction. I kept my expression as stony as I could, frowning a little, pretending to be unapproachable.

   

From Chapters From an Autobiography

Berkeley by the 1970s had cooled off considerably after the riotous tumults of the 1960s. I adjusted rather rapidly to the loss of my “authority” which I had enjoyed in the tattoo shop — where I was absolute boss; if I didn’t want to work on a person who was drunk or obnoxious or offensive I would tell him to get the hell out, using the “tone of authority” which the classroom years had developed. Nonetheless, I could understand why so many executives of corporations, or those in authority, crumpled and declined and even died when their power was diminished.

The drug culture in Berkeley had begun to settle down to the relatively harmless use of pot — which only insidiously and slowly weakened the will and the urge-to-work of its heaviest users. Heroin had been discouraged among the university students. And the fashion of LSD had passed — the great drug of hope, the mind-expanding magic that would turn everyone into Einstein, Mozart or Leonardo, that would make Everyman a genius. Nothing had turned out the way it had been predicted. The hallucinogens helped its takers to produce rock noise, psychedelic posters in fluorescent inks, artsy-craftsy belt buckles, puka-shell necklaces, copper bracelets, zodiac pendants, elaborate roach-holders and joint clips — all the eternal and enduring kitsch of the half-talented and ignorant who (knowing nothing of the past) had to reinvent for themselves even such symbols as yin and yang. In Berkeley there were spawned and flourished the rock groups with weird names and mayfly lives, playing at tiny clubs to ears no longer functional; here too were the little presses, publishing the arcane incomprehensible nonsense of young “poets” talking to themselves in public. The sidewalks of Telegraph Avenue were lined with street merchants displaying their crudely fashioned wares on blankets. And the long straggly hair, the full beards and mustaches, persisted in many pockets and communes long after it had become old-fashioned everywhere else. Unwashed clones still quoted Chairman Mao long after he had fallen into disfavor and been abandoned even in China. If you wanted to see the scruffy barrel-bottom scrapings of the 1960s, you should come to the Land That Time Forgot — Berkeley.

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Read More About It

  • Samuel M. Steward. Chapters From an Autobiography (San Francisco : Grey Fox Press, 1981)
  • ---------- Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos: a Social History of the Tattoo with Gangs, Sailors, and Street-corner Punks, 1950-1965 (New York : Haworth Press, 1990)
  • ---------- Collection of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Material, 1934-1971. The Bancroft Library, BANC MSS 72/133c
  • ---------- Photos of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and friends . The Bancroft Library, BANC PIC 1972.017 PIC
  • Phil Andros. Shuttlecock (Boston : Perineum Press, 1984)
  • Gertrude Stein. Dear Sammy: Letters From Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas / edited by Samuel M. Steward (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1977)
  • Paul Padgette. Samuel M. Steward Letters and Miscellany, 1974-1994. The Bancroft Library, BANC MSS 99/194c
 
 

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