February 28, 1974
by Craig Copetas
William Seward Burroughs is not a talkative man. Once at a dinner he gazed down into a pair of stereo microphones trained to pick up his every munch and said, “I don’t like talk and I don’t like talkers. Like Ma Barker. You remember Ma Barker? Well, that’s what she always said. ’ Ma Barker doesn’t like talk and she doesn’t like talkers.’ She just sat there with her gun.”
This was on my mind as much as the mysterious personality of David Bowie when an Irish cabbie drove Burroughs and me to Bowie’s London home on 17 November (“Strange blokes down this part of London, mate”). I had spent the last several weeks arranging this two-way interview. I had brought Bowie all of Burroughs’ novels: Naked Lunch, Nova Express, The Ticket That Exploded and the rest. He’d only had time to read Nova Express. Burroughs for his part had heard only two Bowie songs, ‘Five Years’ and ‘Starman’, though he had read all of Bowie’s lyrics. Still they had expressed interest in meeting each other.
Bowie’s house is decorated in a science fiction mode: a gigantic painting, by an artist whose style fell midway between Salvador Dali and Norman Rockwell, hung over a plastic sofa. Quite a contrast to Burroughs’ humble two-room Piccadilly flat, decorated with photos of Bryan Gysin - modest quarters for such a successful writer, more like the Beat Hotel in Paris than anything else.