note: links illustrate bio with pics/text; graphics link too here
Richard Hell was born Richard Meyers in Lexington, Kentucky three months before 1950.
Lexington turns out to be a hotbed of narcotics and samesex love. Lesbian magnet. Do recall "Sweet Evenin' Breeze," a very eye-catching black male nurse happily alluded to by Cormac McCarthy in Suttree. Hell never really knew of the
notorious "Lexington" narcotics treatment center (a countryside brick block locally tagged "Narco"). Maybe Burroughs was stopping there when Richard was sporting his black and silver Hopalong Cassidy snowsuit, practicing quick-draw, and chewing on a plastic pipe in fresh Shawneetown scant miles across the fields.
Also born in 1949 were Eileen Myles, Jeff Bridges, Denis Johnson, Richard Prince, Andy Kaufman, Tom Verlaine, and Nick Tosches. Elizabeth Hardwick is from Lexington. So is Susan Noel.
Borges, Nabokov, Hemingway, Duke Ellington, Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Laughton, and Weegee were all born in 1899. Isaac and Oliver Katz were born in 1999.
What Hell likes to do now is look at the sky, he practically lives there. Lots of people are mad at Richard.
The most extensive online interview with Hell was done Dec '97 and is at Perfect Sound Forever, an excellent music site (though the interview is mostly about writing).
A 2004 interview, largely about his 1970's music days in New York is at trakMARX.
More Hell Chronology
- October, 1966 Escapes from school and starts hitchhiking south with best friend of the moment Tom Miller (Verlaine). Within weeks they're apprehended by Alabama lawmen and returned to their families in separate states.
- November, 1966 Meyers convinces his ma (no
dad: long dead) nothing will keep him home. She agrees to let him leave without calling police on conditions he'll stay in school and put together $100 before departing. He finds job in pornographic bookstore after school, saves money, and takes a bus to New York before Xmas (no one sees him off).
- 1967-71 Feels
distressed, confused, and pissed off. This is ennui, this is fury. Gunjle. Keeps dead turtle in jar.
Tabletop offset publishing at Mott and Elizabeth Streets. More desperation. Mot Rellim comes to New York. Ins and outs with Patty Oldenburg.
Theresa Stern conceived and grows to phenomenal maturity. Hell haunts bookstores. Works at Strand and Cinemabilia. Cultivates
- 1973-73-73-72 R. & Tom too itchy for life. Tom picks out bass for R. (Dan Electro).
Songs writ; hair cut; names changed: the Neon Boys, with drummer Billy Ficca imported up from Delaware, glean insect lifespan, recording first-last words
(six songs: three by Hell/Verlaine sung by Hell, three all Verlaine) before languishing for lack of second guitar player. "Drunken Boat" reeled off, and Richard rites The Voidoid (which title born over burgers or mushroom barley soup at the 2nd Ave. Deli when the boys slip into calling each other this- and thatoid).
- 1974 Terry Ork, Godardiste, intellectual guerilla, pudgy freak tub 'o laffs, and manager of Cinemabilia, where Richard and Tom are both now working, offers his loft for rehearsal space and Lloyd for guitarist, and the Neon Boys are reborn as Television, the only short-haired and best band in the world for quite a few months. The Townhouse Theater, a 200 capacity screening room in midtown, is site of March initial gig where group is backed by a row of television sets tuned to different channels, except for one that displays feed from roving camera in the theater. By April they've persuaded kind-hearted Hilly Kristal to let them appear every Sunday at his Bowery wino/Hell's Angels dive CBGB, and the crowds start building. Patti Smith writes one of the first reviews of the group. By June the band is also appearing regularly at Max's Kansas City and Club 82 (ordinarily a gay/transvestite bar, which the New York Dolls had recently introduced to live rock 'n' roll). That fall there's a long stand with Patti, who now has a band, at Max's. Hell's starting to feel short ended and fed up. Verlaine starts refusing to play Hell songs and tells him to stop jumping around on stage during his (Verlaine's) songs. It's getting ugly. Patti supports new boyfriend Tom, while Malcolm McLaren (who's discovered CBGB's as he's managing the New York Dolls) sees the future in Hell...
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