Saira Viola

Staff Writer

Saira Viola is a critically acclaimed poet , author, song lyricist , satirist and creator of innovative lit technique self labelled sonic scatterscript .

She enjoys a hit of Basquait with her tea and can often be found on the sunny side of a cherry whipped waffle .Approach with a smile .

Yippie! Yippie! Pie Aye!

art by Joey Feldman

by Saira Viola

Meet Aron Kay champion pie thrower, grassroots activist,  professional agitator and  ‘unrepentant hippie Yippie Jewish world warrior.’ Saira Viola talks  pies, politics, nuns on the run, and good old-fashioned ‘pot’ with the original Pie Man, a beloved and mischievous figure from the American counter-culture era of the ’60s and ’70s, who continues to exert his unflinching exuberance, influence, and passion for the evolving activist movements today .

Saira Viola: Who or what inspired you to become chief pie thrower ?

Aron Kay: I happen to be a Vietnam war child and a child of the holocausts my mother was a graduate of Auschwitz and Bergin Belsen, my father hid from the Nazis in a polish forest for three years so I was very aware of  political situations. I grew up watching Abbot & Costello, and Marx brothers movies, you know The Three Stooges and my heritage, my Jewish sense of humour is part of my survival. It’s in me, that kind of warped sense of fun. I actually witnessed Tom Forcade pie a member of the President’s Commission of Obscenity and Pornography in 1970  and that was the moment, and it all just followed on from that .

Daniel Patrick Moynihan catches a pie

Senator Moynihan catches a pie


SV: Have you always been involved with the underground movement and counter-culture politics?

AK: Yes, I explained my background, you know where I’m from and my parents, and back in the 60s I was living in LA and I was part of the Griffin Park Love-Ins we gave away free food to the community. I was always a rebel. Even when I was a kid I used to drive my parents crazy, like the time I got back from a Grateful Dead concert tripping on acid and snuck, a young lady into my room. Later on I became very focused on radical politics and believe you have to protest, you have to challenge what’s unjust with society. I protested the Vietnam war, went to all the black panther rallies and witnessed the protest at the courthouse in favour of [former Black Panther] Bobby Seal, campaigned for the legalization of marijuana with other activists, and was part of a wave of underground radicals that really made a difference.

And I’m not done yet, as a cancer survivor, I have a fresh cause to fight for. I believe that health care is an inalienable human right for everybody, and there should be a constitutional amendment on it. Quality healthcare is a right everyone should be entitled to. As someone who has suffered on the frontline with cancer enduring endless rounds of chemo, having my beard and hair fall out, we need a mass amnesty on marijuana. I was lucky I had pot edibles to get me through my cancer treatment, but others aren’t so lucky. We need to de-schedule it so everyone can benefit from treatment and not give in to corporatocracy.

Phyllis Schlafly Post Pie

Phyllis Schlafly Post Pie


SV: Turning back to pie days –who  was the very first person you pied ?

AK:  I  popped my pie cherry by attempting to pie Rennie Davis, who was a defendant in the case of the Chicago 8. Rennie had sold out to the fifteen year old “perfect master” guru maharaja. The pie was thrown during his rally at the Anderson Theater in NYC.

SV: You’ve said and most people would agree that everybody knows somebody who needs to be pied , you’ve successfully pied all kinds of people including William Buckley Jr., Phyllis Schlafly, Senator Dan Moynihan, former New York mayor Abraham Beame,  E.Howard Hunt,and G. Gordon Liddy, Quentin Kopp, Steve Rubella from Studio 54, Jerry Brown, McGeorge Bundy, Edward Teller, Randall Terry, and Andy Warhol. Most of these targets were political,  ultra right-wing, well-known authority figures. Why did you pie Andy Warhol ?

AK:  I believe Warhol had dinner with the Shah of Iran who was a bloodthirsty dictator. It pissed me off.

SV:  What do you think the pie achieves that other protests lack ?

AK:  Well it brings a sense of humour into the political debate and as a political statement it creates immediate impact, deflates the victim’s ego and humanizes them in a way. Some people take it really badly and are offended, others just laugh it off, but it creates an impact .


1978 Smoke-in at Central Park — with Stephen DeAngelo, AJ Weberman, Dana Beal (photo Wayne Angel)

SV: Why do you think pie throwing is becoming an increasingly rare form of political  protest?

AK:  The short answer to that is people are too candy-assed  to take a risk. It creates legal problems for people and people nowadays don’t want to take that risk. You could end up behind bars.  In some places it’s deemed assault and you could get a stiff fine or jail time .

SV: Tell me about the time you attempted to pie Billy Carter brother of President Jimmy Carter?

AK:  Billy Carter was testifying before a grand jury due to various arms deals with Libya. I decided to throw a meringue pie at Billy. The courthouse area was full of reporters. I thought I was going to be able to score a bonanza. Finally I see him in a taxicab. I decided I would approach it. I was surprised by the fact two  or three US  Marshalls jumped me. I was taken to a jail cell in the courthouse. I was released after 45 minutes

SV: Jake and Elwood Blues Brothers were on a mission from God when they got the band together. Is it true you  tossed a pie at a nun?

AK: Two girls found out about my “pie for hire” service. They asked me to pie the principal of their school who happened to be a nun. I arrived as school was letting out for the day. The nun was watching all the kids go home. Meanwhile I was able to outrun the nun. I let her have it with lemon meringue and I lost them after a block. The girls and I arranged to meet at my apartment for a wild party

SV:  The recent pelting of Rupert Murdoch by Johnnie Marbles seems to have started a renaissance in the pie activism. What are your feelings about the new generation of pie throwers, Biotic Baking Brigade and Al Pieda? Biotic Baking Brigade were responsible for pieing Bill Gates and Ann Coulter.

AK:  Everyone  knows someone who deserves a pie!!! let a thousand  pies fly!!!

SV:  At the Occupy New York Protest, you targeted Geraldo Rivera and he was pied how did he take it?

AK: I sprinkled some powdered strawberries….Geraldo handled it rather well. He interviewed me.

SV: Who would you most like to pie now ?

AK: The Queen, she needs a drastic pieing irish pudding flavour. David Duke needs a knuckle kosher fist pie, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O Reilly.  And of course paedophiles, Nazis, extreme right-wingers–they all need pieing.

SV: What about the Donald ?

AK: Trump ? He needs a female to pie him. He’d feel castrated then.

SV: Is there anyone you wouldn’t pie ?

AK:  There is a pieman etiquette I adhere to. I would never pie anyone disabled or in a wheelchair, anyone hurt or blind. There’s ethics involved.

SV: And finally, as someone who’s taken the ride, been there and bought back the t-shirt,  do you think the alternative culture of the underground has been successful ?

AK:  I’m positive we made changes, but there’s still so much more we have to do and can do. Fifty years have passed since the era of the Summer of Love began …it ain’t over till it’s over !!!




art by Unitas

Editor’s note: Saira Viola’s following script for a TV series idea is on NetFlix’s shortlist for possible selection.

by Saira Viola

This Business is Killing Me


There are grubby stains on the walls, dust and debris, sealed boxes, cobwebs on the ceiling, disused broken furniture, a large stash of unopened radio equipment, a locked safety deposit box, an assortment of weapons including a Heckler and Koch 9mm. And an array of vacuum packed dildos, life sized inflatable rubber dolls and dozens of multi coloured rabbit vibrators.

What the fuck’s that?
(A monster sized purple rubber cock swings from a hook and smacks him in the chops. He ducks out of the way.)

Sorry boss that’s stock for the city boys’ corporate jamboree, you know their annual bonking fest.
(Grins, rolls his eyes.)

(Starts poking around in boxes and undoing packets removes some of the merchandise and inspects bits and pieces. Holds up a pack of circular discs.)
Not exactly Hugh Heffner is it Mickey? Bloody yellow butt plugs! All this tack feels like I’m in a Taiwanese brothel sadly without any of the talent. Get rid of this shit now!

Yes, boss.
(Starts packing the sex toys in boxes and crates and moves them to the far end of the lock up there is an old chair in the middle of the garage.)

(Turns to Tezza.)
Bring the lady in but before you do stick that on.
(He shoves a Ronald McDonald Halloween mask in his hand.)
And make sure she’s covered up before she sets foot in ‘ere. Mickey you got a choice of Michael Meyers, or our very own face of modern protest Guy Fawkes.

Decisions, decisions do I opt for our beloved antihero Mr. Fawkes or a psychopathic murderer idolized by slash artists and serial killers worldwide? Hmm, gotta be gunpowder Guy. Continue reading

Interview with Rude Boy and Punk Agitator Ray Gange

(((All photos courtesy of Ray Gange)))

Revolution Rock !  Return of The Rude Boy ! Gonzo Today’s own Saira Viola talks to Cult Punk Agitator and Bonafide  Rebel Ray Gange .


Godfathers of Punk : The Clash released their first feature film a mix of rock doc and fiction in 1980 to less than ecstatic audiences . Produced and directed
by Jack Hazen and David  Mingay the film boasts electrifying footage from The Sort It Out , and On Parole Tours , and shows the band in the studio recording Give Em Enough Rope, but was largely panned by critics as an empty bag of tricks with no real staying power .The undisputed star of the film however,was  not the band but rude boy Ray , who slides from scene to scene juiced up on Special Brew and H. For a long time The Clash tried to have the film edited down to a concert movie . Years later its casual effectiveness, unintentional irony and social awareness secured cult status for Gange in Britain and beyond .Gonzo goes back to the punk daze .



Saira Viola:  Can you explain what The Clash means to you ?


Ray Gange:  Awareness, using anger positively, and not allowing yourself to be pigeon-holed by others. Most exciting live band I’ve ever seen, lyrical brilliance. An education. “give it all you got or forget about it”



Joe Strummer and Ray Gange

Joe Strummer (of The Clash) and Ray Gange

S.V.  The Clash  emerged at the beginning of the punk era: a time when   Britain was crippled with race riots, poverty, and post Vietnam war angst – aligning themselves with Marxist revolutionaries  they were the soundtrack of a politically conscious youth , how did you become their roadie ? Tell me about Rude Boy ?


R.G. The Roadie thing is a misconception from the RudeBoy movie having that ‘fakeumentary,’ feel about it.  I’d become friends with Strummer while I was working in a record shop in Soho, and just used to go to gigs or the pub or over to where he lived & play records etc. One day I was talking to a film maker customer, David Mingay, in the shop and he mentioned his company were about to start working on a film about The Clash, I mentioned I knew them and was friends of Strummer, a few weeks later he told me they were looking for a fan-type character to be in this film and would I like to do it. Mr Mingay by the way, appears to remember this origination somewhat differently but it was a long time ago. Anyhow after some thought and discussions with Strummer I agreed to be in it.



S.V.  So you’ve never been a punk rock roadie ?


R.G.  Nor any other kind , I have an aversion to heavy lifting and long hours .


S.V.  You were only 18/19 in the movie but were roundly criticised for  having dissenting right wing views in the movie – was that accurate ?


R.G. To be honest, at that time I didn’t really have any political views at all,  those were for old folks I thought then (as I’m old and political now maybe that was true?)

When we were shooting that scene of Joe & I in the pub,  I was listening to what Joe had to say and for lack of prior thought on the topic, I decided to respond from the position of the older ,south London working men I used to drink in pubs with and react as they would,  as up until that point those would have been the only expressions of political thought I’d  have heard.

Along with some other bits of dialogue, had I been less naïve, more serious I might have realized how these things might later, be interpreted&I’d have put more thought into it.


S.V. Did Joe influence you and shape your later political views – tell us about the Brigade Rosse scene in the movie ?


R.G. I’m not sure that I reaped the benefits of his influence until many years later. I  know that he was the first older person that I had any real respect for. If he had a part to play in my later political views it would be from realizing that his thinking and the lyrics of The Clash’s songs have, in my opinion, become more relevant as time goes on

I knew from news reports ,that the Red Brigade were a so-called terrorist outfit but in that scene, which like most was an improvisation, as a counterpoint to the seriousness of the subject matter I was trying to reference the comedy of Leonard Rossiter/Joan Collins Cinzano TV ads of the time and mimic Joe’s voice back at him, neither of which seemed to be too successful.


S.V .You’ve done another movie since, a Western , can you  describe your role in that   and did you have  a role in Absolute Beginners, would you like to do more acting in the future?


R.G. In the western called The Price of Death, directed by the great Danny Garcia, I play Sam Crenshaw, a member of a gang of desperadoes on the hunt for the loot a former gang member stole from us, which of course we’d stolen in the first place but that don’t matter to us. Suffice to say in the grand tradition of spaghetti westerns’ it doesn’t all go to plan.

As for AbsoluteBeginners, Julien Temple kindly found the role of an extra for me to play which he then expanded with dialogue, unfortunately my increasing drug dependency meant I failed to show up on set for my big scene with Steven Berkoff, this resulted in my only on screen appearance lasting about 2 seconds as I rush across the street .

I’ll do more acting if I get offered any for sure. I really appreciate the whole production process of a movie much more than I did when I first experienced it so many years ago .


S.V.  Ray ! You  missed out on a great cinematic moment with Stephen Berkoff! Shame ! But the movie sounds like a crowd pleaser when’s it out and is there a trailer for us to see?


R.G.  I think it was scheduled for November this year but this appears to have been delayed because the director has a few projects running simultaneously .


S.V.   What was it actually like living in London during the Punk years ?


R.G.  London for me in late 70’s – late 80’s was generally a blast as I was working in a record shop which was great fun, going to see bands almost all the time or ‘partying’ as they say these days.

I don’t really remember things like ‘the 3 day week’ or ‘the dustmen’s strike’ or those other great doom n gloom stories of the time. Too busy having a good time. I think I was probably living in LA for much of the time that folks regard as the worst of it.


S.V.   How serious was your heroin addiction ?


R.G.  In a nutshell: “Goodbye the 80’s”. the descent from recreational usage of late 70’s into full-on addiction is not something that I noticed until one day I had an inkling that this might not be the best way to live and then discovered that stopping isn’t so simple. That friends had been distancing themselves for some time didn’t register, neither did lost career opportunities (I know I know), lost girlfriends etc.

The  only thing that seemed to matter was getting and using more drugs.

Eventually I had an epiphany that I was going to die in squalid circumstances and found the wherewithal to not want that demise. This awakening led to a two year to & fro’ battle including a rehab stint before eventually, with the help of others, I discovered that the easiest way to give up drugs and alcohol is to give up drugs and alcohol.

Twenty  years later that sounds so simple and obvious but when you are trapped in that cycle of self-destruction that’s the last thing that it is.


S.V.  Yeah, and would you say it’s a constant battle with yourself to keep away from drugs and alcohol ?Any advice for those in the thick of it ?


R.G.  Hasn’t been a battle for a long time, I’d sooner stick electrodes on my testicles, one day at a time . Of course,  tomorrow  is forever a mystery. My advice to anyone struggling is to seek help from those that have been through the same experiences

(Moving on then – such a graphic image ..)


S.V.  You’re an art school grad, DJ, actor and activist what’s your view on the future of Britain ?


R.G.  Without wishing to appear too dystopian, unless we have a major shift in peoples thinking & voting, if it isn’t already too late for that, then we will become a country of bread slaves convinced that we are at liberty as long as our electronic devices aren’t taken away from us.

Folks need to liberate their thinking, start forming barter communities and using local currencies such as those that currently operate in UK towns such as Totnes, Brixton & Lewes.

The problem is that everyone’s waiting for someone else to lead the revolution but that person’s busy playing Call of Duty or GTA X or some such.

I went to a talk by Bernie Rhodes(Former Manager of The Clash) recently and at the end of his stage ‘thing,’ he stood at the front of

the stage, looked into the crowd and said “I’m seventy two , I’ve done my shaking things up bit, a few times. When are you lot going to get off your arses and do something” This  was met by polite applause and a few uncomfortable sniggers.


S.V.   Hmmm,  why do you think there is such cynicism in the younger generation,and a reluctance to make trouble , agitate and rattle cages ?


R.G.   Because they get everything they want from a screen so they don’t see any problems as long as they have a good wifi connection .


S.V.  Views on Simon Cowell  the pop puppet Svengali and his influence on the music industry ?


R.G. Ah, Mr Homogeneity? Does he have an interest in music?


S.V.   He is a supreme puppet master me thinks , but as someone who was part of the rich spontaneity of the punk  era, what do you think about how he’s dominated the music industry ?


R.G.  Well, it’s pretty tragic but it dovetails perfectly into the lack of discernment that folks seem to have for the content of popular culture. The Hunger Games edges ever closer to being humanities reality.


S.V.  Who do you think was the ultimate subversive ?


R.G.   Throbbing Gristle ,Duchamp and Warhol


S.V.  Any heroes?


R.G.  Lee Marvin


S.V.   Ideally where would you like to be Ladbroke Grove or LA? 


R.G.   Los Angeles, not the cultural desert many perceive it to be and, despite appearances,  in fact much more subversive than West London will ever be again. Plus its easier to hide from excessive sunshine that excessive grey


S.V.   Who’s your favourite  writer, artist , actor , politician ?


R.G.   Writer: John Fante or Chester Himes or Colin MacInnes

Artist: Richard Diebenkorn

Actor: Geoffrey Rush

Politico: Robin Cook RIP, Bernie Sanders

unnamed (3)

Left to right, Ray Gange, Don Letts

(from Big Audio Dynamite), and Kirk Brandon

S.V.   What’s the most worrying aspect to you about Britain today?


R.G.   That too many of the working class/lower middle class seem to believe that The Tories have their best interests at heart. And that we are sleepwalking into a proto soft-fascism


S.V.   Hilary or Trump ?


R.G.  It’s a real dichotomy .HRC will probably pursue a  foreign policy that continues to destabilise half the planet whereas the apparent  domestic policies of a future President Trump would seem to give a lot of unpleasant people permission  to behave in very unpleasant ways especially if  female non – white or just plain different , plus God knows what DT might push for  as CIC.


S.V.   Best memory of the Clash?


R.G.  Going with them to see The Village People at La Palace in Paris late 78


S.V.   Favourite song of all time ?


R.G.  Move on Up – Curtis Mayfield

For what its worth – Buffalo Springfield

Rockaway Beach- Ramones


S.V.   Would you ever admit to listening to Abba or  show tunes like Oliver?


R.G.  (Smiles ) When working in a Soho record shop I was given tickets to the premiere of Abba: The Movie, Joe Strummer was delighted to come with me to that

A Chorus Line (Original Broadway Cast) is one of the most prized albums in my collection


S.V.   What if anything keeps you up at night ?


R.G. CrampL


S.V.   Sorry to hear that . A cool tip from a greatfriend of mine is turmeric, hot water honey and lemon that might do the trick. Give it a go .


R.G.  Thanks .I’ll try it


S.V.   If you met Taylor Swift , Justin Bieber or Kanye  what might you say ?


R.G.  Other than the money, WHY?????????


S.V.   Is there still or was there ever beef between you and The Clash?


R.G.  Nope, they had a beef with the makers of RudeBoy which made things a bit awkward at times but even when things were fractious the band and I still got along. Not so much with their crew. Post-RudeBoy I was always a guest at any of their gigs whether Clash or BAD or what have you. I was chatting with Topper just recently and often see Mick and Paul at various happenings.

S.V.   How would you describe Punk ?


R.G.  A loud ‘n’, snotty technicolour explosion in a world of grey.


S.V.   Do you think there’s a punk renaissance now ? Why ?


R.G.   Musically there seems to be a much larger renaissance of new punk in the US ,than the UK whereas here it seems to be much more nostalgia based. Probably as so many of the old punks have a feeling of creeping mortality and want to re-live as much of those formative good times as possible and because we find it difficult to get excited about much that’s come along in the post-grunge era.

I think the unexpected early death of Joe Strummer woke a lot of people up to the reality that those days aint coming back so get out and do it again. Demise of the record industry probably helped, in that anyone that was in a band remotely connected to those days has to get back out gigging if they wanna make any dough from that part of their lives and careers.


S.V.   You also had Indie chart success yourself with your own  music why didn’t you proceed with that ?


R.G.   That was as a manager/label owner and that ground to a halt as I made the mathematical error of putting the drugs before the success rather than vice versa


S.V.  Tell me about your art , and the concept of urban hieroglyphics?


R.G.  Those are a series of paintings autobiographically based on relevant pages of the classic London A-Z, using all the information on the page apart from any words or names. Along the lines of modern cave paintings if you like.


S.V.   Hmm, mystically evocative with direct imagery , and now


R.G.  I’m now working on a series of works that are based on cult or classic moviesusing dialogue as a reference back to the days of silent movies, an attempt at illustrating the circle of life from a filmic perspective.


S.V.  Advice to  young Ray – What would it be if you  had an hour  with him?


R.G. Don’t abuse drugs, alcohol or self,  respect others and remember that you have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason. Oh, and do some fucking work

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Young Rudeboy Ray Gange 

S.V.  What ‘s new Ray’s manifesto for now


R.G.   Create, be of service to others and behave with integrity whenever possible.


 S.V.  Any regrets ?


R.G.   What can you do with regrets?


S.V.   And as  everybody who’s anybody knows , no one knows what the rude boy knows !








art by Unitas Quick
Read from Chapter One

 “Superman don’t need no seat belt.” – Muhammad Ali

Chapter 19

As Richard made his way back to his offices at Snow Hill, right next door to the Serious Fraud Office, he smiled to himself thinking of all those number drones at their desks. What would they think if they knew lawyers like him were right on their doorstep? It was that “wasp” mentality (white Anglo-Saxon pricks), that saved him from detection. They always picked on immigrants and people with foreign-sounding names much more than their own kind. His mobile phone kept bleeping. He had already missed twenty-seven calls. Could it be work related? The number looked familiar.

He checked his messages. Some of them were from his uncle Marvin who owned a gold shop in Hatton Garden not far from where he worked. He dialled the number wearily. (He would respond to the other messages afterwards; they were all from the same demanding wealthy client Seymour of Deer Hurst).

“Hi, Uncle Marvin. It’s me, Richie,” but it was his aunt who answered the phone.

“Oh Ritchie Bubblie, come over come over now, we’ve been robbed!”

“Don’t worry I’ll be round straight away.”

The thief had escaped with some of his personal items, including a gold Rolex watch and an envelope with his name on it. Richard’s heart missed one two three beats. Fuck the gold Rolli. That isn’t fucking important, he thought. He immediately called Eva at the office and told her he would be back late. Then he called his uncle again and told him not to report the theft to the “old bill,” at least not the loss of his items anyway.

Marvin was sceptical the insurance wouldn’t cough up the money to replace the stock if the theft wasn’t reported and he couldn’t afford to lose such a huge amount of money. Anyway, he had already reported most of the items to the police, but not Richard’s. They were kept separately in a smaller safe deposit box. Richard sighed; at least the “the old bill” had no idea of what was missing. He had to make some urgent calls and find Poncho Khan’s missing key and paper note with the encrypted figures or else they were all for the chop. Continue reading

Goodbye Champ


art by Joey Feldman

King of The Ring and King of Hearts, The Louisville Lip Muhammad Ali was more than just a boxing star. He was some kind of wonderful from Grand Avenue to global icon. Born on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, Cassius Clay, the grandchild of a slave, began boxing as a child to teach himself self-defense to ‘whup’ the thief who’d stolen his bike.

Prize fighter, poet, activist, none could match Ali’s intoxicating blend of charisma, athletic brilliance and historical prominence. The champ has taken his final bow but leaves us with some of the most profound social missives of our time.

The world is in mourning — three-time champion Ali battled Parkinson’s for decades. As the tributes flood in we pay tribute to a humorous, humane man who mesmerized the world with his shuffle, wit, wisdom and his stirring call for justice. At a time when America was deep in the throes of political racial, social and economical turmoil, Ali proclaimed:

“I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be me.”

Converting to Islam the day after he dethroned Sonny Liston as world heavyweight champion, Ali was a shiny, super-charged figure of youthful hope at a time when America was nose-diving into unprecedented social turmoil. Rather than sit back and count the cash, he stood firm and refused the Vietnam war draft. For a prize-winning boxer to turn principled pacifist was unheard of.

Ali sacrificed arguably the best years of his boxing life, his credibility, personal freedom and his livelihood to a greater cause. The American government stuck the knife in, overruling his conscientious objector status, stripping him of his title and his boxing licence, and sentencing him to five years imprisonment (this decision was later reversed).

When Ali refused to support the Vietnam War, many Americans turned their back on him. Bertrand Russell British philosopher and Nobel laureate wrote to him personally telling him that he had, “spoken for the oppressed everywhere.”

Throughout his ban Ali was resolute in his convictions despite risking jail: “I have nothing to lose by standing up and following my beliefs ….We [black people] have been in prison for 400 years.”

After three long years in the wilderness Ali returned to the ring to win the world title, not once but twice, heralding the rise of a global superstar who was also a fierce political activist, revered poet and world class showman. Part of the fame drain, he became public property: women would burst into tears when they saw him, carpetbaggers hounded him with business opportunities, and he belonged to the world.

Hunter S Thompson frantically chasing Ali for an interview in a New York hotel wrote, “We both understood the deep and deceptively narrow-looking moat that eighteen years of celebrity forced Ali to dig between his ‘public’ and ‘private’ personas.”

A gifted fighter, boxing pioneer who broke all the rules, he remains a pivotal influence to all those trailing in his wake. In his own words: “I get hit, but all great fighters get hit. Sugar Ray got hit, Joe Louis got hit, and Rocky Marciano got hit. But they had something other fighters didn’t have: the ability to hold on until they cleared up. I got that ability, too, and I had to use it in each of the Frazier fights. That’s one reason I’m a great defensive fighter. The other is my rope-a-dope defense – and when I fought Foreman [in Zaire], he was the dope.”

In his final years Ali pushed for peace and rapprochement, his influence hailed across the world, he electrified, mesmerized and inspired. At heart a humane, humorous man who was undoubtedly Champion of the People:

“I’d like to be remembered as a black man who won the heavyweight title and who was humorous and who treated everyone right,” he said, a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him and who helped as a many of his people as he could – financially, and also in their fight for freedom, justice and equality.

Bruised, Brilliant and Unapologetically Raw

Jonathan Shaw cover portrait by Joey Feldman
photos and additional art courtesy Jonathan Shaw


Rocker, Sage, Artist, Poet and Proud Outlaw of Our Age: This is Jonathan Shaw bruised, brilliant and unapologetically raw. Think you know Shaw? Think Again!


Saira Viola: What was it like growing up with a famous Hollywood screen actress as a mother? (For those unaware your mother was Hollywood femme fatale Doris Dowling – best known for her roles in Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend and the neo-realist Italian classic Bitter Rice — and your father, jazz legend Artie Shaw.) How would you describe growing up in old school Hollywood with such famous parents?

Jonathan Shaw: Well, I’ve covered a lot of that ground in my memoir books (SCAB VENDOR: Confessions of a Tattoo Artist, to be released by Turner Publishing in early 2017) so there’s not much I can add to a story that’s taken me almost 20 years to write. But for simplicity’s sake, I can tell you that, sadly, it was a childhood not unlike that of too many children growing up in America. A very unhappy one.

art by Jonathan Shaw


My parents were both complicated people, geniuses really, but they had a lot of, um, how can I put it, deep existential personality disorders, problems stemming from their own miserable childhoods. And that made them pretty unqualified to be successful parents, God rest their souls. My mother was a hopeless alcoholic, a raging, violent mess in a dress. Despite being a beautiful, talented, intelligent woman, she was pretty much insane during my formative years and beyond, mostly due to her alcoholism. She loved me and she meant well, she really did, but she just didn’t have the emotional tools to do very well as a mother, poor thing. And my father, Artie, well, even though he didn’t drink, he was every bit as nuts as my mother was, with his own weird pathology. I mean it’s the good old law of attraction. Like attracts like, right? He was basically what could be described as a narcissistic sociopathic personality, traits that were pretty much exacerbated by the extreme level of fame and success he attained in his music career. I mean the guy was basically like Elvis or Mick Jagger in his day. It was that kinda deal. That and his undeniable genius, not just as a musician, but as an intellectual, a writer, a philosopher, a curious mind. All those factors contributed to making him a very difficult, conflicted, unhappy man, personality-wise. He was also what’s known today as a sex and love addict, a textbook co-alcoholic, who kept getting tangled up with, um, problematic women. It’s a classic pattern for people like that, repeating the same dysfunctional behaviours, always expecting different results, Einstein’s classic definition of insanity. I think my mother was like Wife Number 7 by the time they hooked up. It was all love and kisses at first, but predictably, the relationship degenerated into a battle of raging artistic egos. And that’s what I was born into. A fucking battlefield. Continue reading