The Teleport Caper: Beyond the Pale
by David Wills
One grey day Sunday in January 1976, after I had been visiting with the graphic-designer Barney Bubbles, I walked from The Barbican four miles to stay at what had been my old flat on Basset Rd. with the vivacious Lucinda Cowell*, whom I had met one Saturday in the Bridge kaff on Portobello.
Somewhere on the journey, around Camden Town, I found a sombrero that added to my somewhat odd appearance. By the time I got to Notting Hill, and having sprayed my recently cut stencil in a couple of places, I got too careless and was busted, literally red handed, spray paint dribbling, as I stenciled, on a traffic-light control box, “Street Lightnin’ Gang Rules Easy, OK.”
This art was one of a series of cardboard stencils I had designed that related to SLG President Molly (now Mrs. Mark Bode) Rodriguez’s ‘World Teleport’ system of world free transport. It was an early green solution to reduce world pollution from cars and planes, World Teleport’s tag line is “Get’s you where you want to go, in your own time.” (A line that was later adopted by the Grateful Dead.) All one has to to do is brand a space with a stencil, (it can be on paper) and there’s your teleport. If you really want to, you’ll get there one way or another.
Back to the story. I was apprehended by Sgt. ‘Bootsy’ Frankton of the Notting Hill Gate constabulary. (The guys who had targeted the underground magazine Oz I had worked on back in 1970.) Bootsy drove up, unnoticed in his Honda civvy car, yelling. “Stop that! You’re under arrest!”
I was delivered under guard by police Constable Michael Moody, whom we picked up on the way to the station. In the booking room, while being questioned at his typewriter by Sgt. Fraser, I drew portraits of the assembled coppers.
I drew PC Moody (who had once booked writer/artist Heathcote Williams) as he discussed with Sgt. Fraser how to get Bootsy back home the quickest – because Bootsy’d had a hellava week and deserved an uninterrupted trouser-roll at the seaside he’d booked on his week off.
So Moody looked up, in a big legal tome, a lesser offense than the felony ‘Malicious Mischief’, or similar, that Bootsy was going to throw at me – and which would have taken him all week to report and try. Moody came up with a misdemenor, an old Victorian statute, one of the applicable citations being, ‘Defacing a Pale.’
The tea-lady walks in and says, “Anybody for tea and biscuits, you want some too dear?” And I swear to god – I was served tea.
The deal was that Bootsy could get priority on the roster with a nice simple case, so we could both appear in Marylebone Magistrates court first thing, at eight in the morning on Monday along with the easy cases. I’d be the first case (Fraser had pull with the clerk) and so get Bootsy home for his break – as long as I plead guilty.
This is where it got funny. Bootsy lived forty mile away in Abinger, Kent, so to save traveling to and fro for our first thing in the morning trial, the arrangement was that he, the cop, slept overnight in the cell – while I conveniently went off to the joy of Basset Road.
I got to sleep with Lucinda up in the loft in what had been LA antique restorer, Rita’s room, in the apartment we shared back in ’70. It was in her boudoir that I’d first tripped in ’68, after sipping unknowingly on the acid-spiked-orange juice on Garry Rusoff’s dining table (see my last post about Garry’s visit with Bruce Connors).
The judge said “Do you know what you are accused of?”
I go, “Defacing a pale,” titters in court.
“What have you got to say?”
“Won’t do it again, can I have my stencil back?”
The clerk tells him that I said it was an “art object.” The judge fines me maximum, but gave me back the stencil.
I gave that stencil to a fellow artist, to use in my absence. (He may have been the line man, Alan Stephenson, from Bristol, the great, great, great grandson of ‘Rocket’ Stevenson.) The cops never got the Oz connection, and I didn’t get down to visit Alison until I returned by Teleport from San Francisco the next year.
* Lucinda Cowell, being an American, is as far as I know is no relation of A1GG ‘Record’ John Cowell or his brother, the TV fella, Simon Cowell, of amateur hour on the box, but what with all the other coincidences and whatnot – she might be. To add another level to the odd coincidences, when Lucinda moved back to San Francisco, she moved into, yet again, my old flat on Clay at Levenworth.
Further: The old brain kicks in, and I recall a conversation in which Lucinda said I knew her relative John. Not proficient at name recollection, I had no idea who she was talking about at the time. So, yes I think Lucinda and John and Simon Cowell are all related. Funny that ‘cos I dated John’s friend, the elegant and very educational Victoria, her dad was the retired spy, with a stall in the Camden Market.)