B100: When did you meet Burroughs?
Propst: I had been introduced to him in social situations a few times but the first time we were alone together was in early 1981. William hadn't moved here yet, he was still scouting houses. James [Grauerholz] brought him to visit my farmhouse north of town one afternoon.
William and I went walking in a field behind the house and he was showing me a pistol he was carrying. It was a LINK Harrison & Richardson 22-caliber revolver, what they call an H&R Flip-Top. He gave me that gun later on.
There was a clump of weeds about 20 feet from where we were standing. William said, "I'll bet you five dollars I can hit those weeds." It wasn't a particularly tough shot but I said OK. William took aim and sheared the weed off at the base, a clean shot. He was a skilled shooter. He turned and looked at me. "Good shot," I said. No response, he just looked at me. Then I realized he was waiting for his five dollars, so I forked it over. "Thank you, Wayne," he said. Not long after that he moved to town.
Eventually I learned that he was my teacher and I was his student. It wasn't just a one-way street, but I was often a facilitator.
Propst: We did this at Fred Aldrich's place. I had a piece of 3/8th-inch plexiglass over the front of the box, to slow down the bullet and to keep the paint spatter somewhat contained. There was a can of spray paint in the box with a shooting target fixed dead center on the can. William got close, about 10 feet. We found out later he hit the can exactly on the seam, so the whole box exploded and the plexiglass became shrapnel. William shouts, "I'm hit!" Some plexiglass had grazed his hand, a minor injury. We took him in the house and while he was being bandaged he said, "If there is no blood, there is no art." In a way, he loved that he got hit. It was exciting, we pushed the edge.
Propst: He picked up his magazines at a local newsstand, long gone now, called The Town Crier. Knife stuff, Guns & Ammo, Cat Fancy… He had subscriptions to some of the scarier magazines not always available at the newsstands, like American Handgunner.
He really liked carefully made knives--he must have had 50 folding knives. I don't know how many times he cut himself demonstrating the sharpness of his knives. It happened all the time. He used to cut pieces of paper and the pieces would get smaller and smaller. That's when he cut himself, usually the index finger. He took pain well.
I went over one day to show him my latest treasure: an expensive, Italian-made stiletto. He loved it. He flicked it open a few times, brandished it, then put it in his pocket. "Thank you, Wayne," he said. I had no intention of giving him that knife. That's when I knew he was the master and I was the student.
"To make the round shapes, he would take a suction cup, dip it in ink, then smear it across the paper."
© Wayne Propst
Propst: William liked to discuss his art in process. He would point to an area in a painting: "See the boy being chased by the demon? There's the boy, there's the demon."
The front bedroom was his art room. There was a bed in there too, for guests, mostly Ginsberg. He had a set of old metal bed springs propped on the south wall. He would clip his paintings on them to dry or display. Every painting had a story. I would knock, open the front door: "I'm here to fix the sink, Bill." He would call from the art room, "In here. Come see."
Propst: It says April 1986 but thats when I finally got the film developed. I'm positive this picture is from Christmas Day, 1985.
B100: How do you know?
Propst: William's gold tie. He wore it every Christmas. This was Christmas dinner at LINK David Ohle and Sue Brousseau's house. Jennifer, David's step-daughter at the time, got the doll for Christmas. She asked William if he would like to feed her doll. "Yes, I would," said William. He was a polite man. Note the cigarette and vodka Coke in front of him. So William is feeding the doll for a while and he says to Jennifer, "You know, I think there's something wrong with your baby. It doesn't look quite right. This arm is misshapen…" Jennifer knew William pretty well. She said, "That's enough," and took the baby away.
Propst: The viewing was at a funeral home on Massachusetts Street. It was closed to some degree, not a free-for-all. Laid-back, not too solemn. Lots of people were kissing William in his coffin. Giorno was doing deep meditation, very reverent. William had a snubbie in his jacket.
This was when it really sunk in that he was dead. I saw him dead at the hospital but this was different. I knew he wasn't going to snap out of it.
This interview for Burroughs 100 was by Tom King, who resides in and takes care of, with extreme prejudice, William S. Burroughs's house in Lawrence, Kansas. Previously on Burroughs 100 Tom interviewed James Grauerholz see
and Philip Heying
-  "If you had to, you could eat a bowling ball."
- Wayne Propst at Review KC http://ereview.org/2010/09/22/reality-my-way/
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