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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

On the Passing of Jim Haynes

 On the Passing of Jim Haynes

Jim Haynes outside of Edinburgh Theater, August 1992 . Photo by Crauford Tait

The first person from my past to leave the earth this year, that I know of, was Jim Haynes, who passed away on January 6th, 2021 at the age of 87. Jim did many things in his life and the Guardian, in his obituary, described him very well as, “someone who made extraordinary things happen.” 

One of the many things he was known for was the Sunday dinners he gave in Paris, where he lived beginning in 1969. It is not an exaggeration to say that everyone was invited, because that was true. I went to many of those dinners with Charles Henri Ford whenever we were in Paris, and they were always crowded with people of all kinds. The invitations were spread by word of mouth among friends and their friends, and Jim knew many, many people. 

He was a Southerner like Charles, born in Louisiana, but in the 1950s he went to Edinburgh, where he founded the first paperback bookshop in the UK, co-founded the Traverse theatre, and organized the first Edinburgh international book festivals, where he featured such writers as Mary McCarthy and William Burroughs, among lots of others, some of whom I was lucky enough to get to know. 

In Paris he operated a little publishing enterprise called Handshake Editions, and it was through his press that Charles and I published two volumes of a book project we did together called Handshake From Heaven. 

The books were spiral-bound, using Xerox and photocopies, and one volume included work by Charles, myself, and by another Nepalese artist named Reepak Shakya. The other one was work by just Charles and me. I was doing a lot of street photography then, and I put a lot of it into those books. 

I always enjoyed Jim Haynes’s Sunday dinners when we went. He would provide the food, and everyone who came knew to bring wine. In a lot of ways those evenings reminded me of the early days in SoHo, in New York, when Charles and I would go to all the gallery openings. Those were big social events as much as anything, and there would always be food. Something else I remember about Jim Haynes was that when Charles and I both needed to see a dentist in Paris, he told us that when it came to dentists he preferred women to men, because women’s hands felt so much softer than a man’s did, tinkering around in your mouth. He recommended someone, and after going to her to for my dental work, I agreed with Jim completely. 

I’m glad to have spent so many entertaining hours in your company, Jim. Bon Voyage and bon appetite wherever you end up.

Jim Haynes 


- Indra Tamang

  February 10th, 2021

Copyright © Indra Tamang 2021, all rights reserved.

Thinking of Charles Henri Ford on His Birthday, February 10th 2021

 Thinking of Charles Henri Ford on His Birthday, February 10th 2021

Charles Henri Ford by Cecil Beaton, 1930s.

It was 113 years ago today that Charles was born, in 1908. When I first met him in Kathmandu he was already past sixty years old, which to me, being eighteen or nineteen at the time, seemed very old. Now I’m past the age that he was then, so I can imagine that he still felt quite energetic then, because I still do. Charles was the youngest 63-year-old in the world when I met him in the dining room of the Panorama Hotel. He was very bright and curious. I remember waiting on him at breakfast time and he would always order porridge, which we made huge pots of in the hotel kitchen. When I eventually went to work for Charles after he’d rented a big house in a nice part of Kathmandu, I could not have imagined myself older than he was, and certainly not older and living on the other side of the world. 

The year 2020 that we just left behind has to be one of the strangest that I have lived, and I think everyone I know feels the same way. I would have liked to know what opinions Charles might have expressed about everything as it happened, the crazy politics included. My youngest daughter Zina got to vote for a US president for her first time in the last election, and it felt very good to vote together. Oddly enough Charles never voted. I don’t think he ever registered to vote. And I wonder if he would have, had he been here to witness the last few years. 

I remember a day, in 1984, when Charles and I had a visit in Paris, in Charles’s apartment on the Île Saint-Louis,  from Judith Malina and Julian Beck from the Living Theatre. Ira Cohen came that day too. Charles had been good friends with Judith and Julian since the 1960s, and usually we would see them after going to one of their plays in New York. That day in Paris they spent an entire afternoon talking and reminiscing about the antics of the Living Theatre, the experimental aspect of which Charles very much liked. He also respected Judith for all that she wrote as a diarist and poet. A lot of her work was political in nature, and in her own unique way she was a tireless political activist, but she was one who did not believe in voting. In the case of Judith Malina, I think her refusal to vote was more of a political statement than Charles’s was. In a simple way of putting it, Charles was not political, and Judith Malina was. She put all of her beliefs into her work with the Living Theatre, staging protests and happenings, and into her writing, such as the title poem of her book Love and Politics, with an introduction by Ira Cohen, which begins with the verse:

While off the isle of Cyprus in a boat,

I saw the head of Aphrodite afloat,

And I told her I’m an Anarchist and do not vote.

She answered, “That’s all right.”

Charles Henri Ford with Ira Cohen, Julian Beck & Judith Malina at Charles' apartment in Paris.
 Photo by Indra Tamang, 1984

I wish I’d thought to record the conversation they all had that day. I’m sure that if I had and then put it into a little book there would be lots of people who would want to read it. What I remember most about that afternoon was Judith smoking. Because that was something Charles never, ever allowed in his apartments. Not in Paris, or at the Dakota. But that day he allowed Judith to smoke, which was a truly selfless gesture of respect on his part, and I don’t remember him ever making such an exception for anyone else. 

I photographed them during that visit, all of them sitting together, with Charles in the foreground and the other three in a row behind him. It’s always struck me that somehow, in a way, Ira, Julian, and Judith all looked alike, like three crows perched on a fence. There was something about their style—their dress and manner—it was a fashion and way of being that was very specific to them. 

It’s odd to think that they’ve all gone on to whatever comes next, Julian, Ira, Judith, and Charles. They were all quite a lot older than me, and now I know very well what it feels like to be the oldest one in the room. But if I’m lucky enough to be anything like Charles Henri Ford, I still have decades of life ahead of me, and I fully intend to aim for that. Happy Birthday, dear Charles. You’re missed but never forgotten, and never too far away.

- Indra Tamang

  February 10th, 2021

Copyright © Indra Tamang 2021, all rights reserved.