Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Where Are You, Dean Latimer? Thanks For Everything

Back in 1977 when I started smoking marijuana, one of the first "stoner" things I did was start reading High Times magazine -- which was a lot different back in the day than it is now (more of a "lifestyle" magazine then than a grow book).

And one of the first great writers I discovered within those wonderful pages was the estimable Dean Latimer, with his street-smart attitude and hard-bitten reporter's instincts, his eternal skepticism when confronted with official pronouncements and his healthy disdain for authority.

Latimer, who started out in the late 1960s with the Screw-like Kiss magazine (this was before the rock band), made a name for himself in the early '70s at National Lampoon before moving to High Times. He had it goin' on.

"I wanna be able to write like this guy," my 17-year-old self thought.

Latimer's words refused to just sit there on the glossy pages of High Times.

They sang, in a way that words can do sometimes when they are shot through with the resonance of a life well-lived, with a rich repository of earthly experience, with a seasoned but eternally fresh viewpoint that makes no wimpy compromises, brooks no interference in its intrepid search for truth, cowers before no sacred cows, respects no undeserving authority.

When I read Dean Latimer, I believed in the possibility of knowledge winning over ignorance, of reason prevailing over silliness, of truth triumphing over deception.

Yes, Latimer -- although he never knew it -- was a major motivator for me to pursue journalism and polish up my writing chops.

And although I feel I've never scaled the heights of an on-his-game Latimer, I do credit the guy for a big chunk of the "tone" that is present in my writing to this day.

Dean has vanished, perhaps somewhat mysteriously, as far as I know. After the 1980s, his appearances in High Times became less frequent, and they never found a comparable dude to replace him.

Dean co-wrote one book, Flowers In The Blood: The Story Of Opium (1981) along with Jeff Goldberg. It is, sadly, now out of print. Amazon says he also wrote the 1999 tome How To Pass A Drug Test: High Times Guide.


The only two real examples of Latimer's writing that I was able to find online are, first of all, "Inside Dope: Raising Appalachia," a High Times piece which appears to come from June 2002, which is actually a long time after I thought he'd stopped appearing in the magazine.

Secondly, I found a great article Dean wrote for Penthouse magazine in 1974, when he was at the height of his powers. It's a real gem, and it's called "Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji And Why Is He Saying All These Terrible Things About God?"
It was doomed to be so. The teenaged Guru is everywhere chaperoned by his businesslike brother, Bal Bhagwan Ji, and his formidable mother Mata Ji, and their image resembles an Oriental Osmond Family. Donny and the Guru have about the same number and intellectual quality of fans, in fact, except that the Guru's are 10 to 15 years older, and they have babies whom they name after the Holy Family. The Guru's family, in brief, is at once exotic enough in appearance and address, and yet bourgeois enough in structure, to appeal irresistibly to the spiritually insecure millions of the West. Unhappily, his commerce with his Eastern homeland is nowhere near so fortuitous.


What a rush of memory and emotion it is to read Dean's words again.

It's very sad to me that a writer the caliber of Latimer has been largely forgotten by the world in this digital age -- so much so, that I was unable to Google up a photo of him.

According to whitepages.com, there are seven people with the name Dean Latimer living in the United States, but none of them is anywhere near New York City, so they probably aren't the Dean I remember.

I don't even know if Latimer is still among the living, but, Dean, if you're out there, THANK YOU.

And if anyone else, anywhere, knows what became of Mr. Latimer, please let me know.

12 comments:

Dominic said...

For an article written about a writer you idolize, you’ve certainly managed to let your own egotism slip into much of your writing. Profile pieces work because the writer focuses almost exclusively on the subject, and writes an enthralling story about them. They general don’t use the opportunity to shamelessly self-promote themselves in the image of someone who may have influenced them at one point or another. I found this article frustrating because, rather than unearthing any decent research, you haphazardly threw together a few meagre references to Dean Latimer’s later work and devoted the rest of the article to glorifying your own boring writing style. And P.S, the article is fraught with grammar and spelling errors. Thanks for wasting my time.

Simunek said...

Dean's a genius, and like many geniuses, the upper echelon, I think he finds the drudgery of day to day life a bit difficult the deal with. I worked with him for a number of years at HT. He lives a hermetic existence in one of the boroughs. He wrote some great stuff and had an encyclopedic knowledge of history. Before Wikipedia, if I had a question, I'd ask Dean, whose office was next door to mine. Last time I talked to him, 6-7 years ago, I think he told me he was working on a historical novel about pirates, or some adventure on the high seas.

☮~alapoet~☠ said...

It's great to know that Dean is alive!

I'm sure it was a privilege to work with such a talent and such a mind. He's a true inspiration.

☮~alapoet~☠ said...

Dominic: I realize I'm not as good as Dean Latimer, and likely never will be -- that was kind of the main point of my tribute.

Another point I was making is how hard it is to access Dean's work these days. The fact that I was only able to find two good examples of his writing points to that. If you know of other good sources, please share them instead of just bitching from the sidelines.

P.S. Your ass hurts. And you made a typo, your own self, smarty pants.

Benjamin Arthur said...

I personally knew Dean Latimer back in the 1980s, in New York City. I was a young PR guy for a “Major” corporation whose job at the time was writing for its “house organ” magazine. So, when I first met Dean at Amy’s Pub, our neighborhood dig on 9th avenue between 56th and 55th, we had lots to talk about regarding magazine life as well as the history of the world!…but, from totally different extremes. Of course, he was the “Almighty Chief Editor” of High Times and I was a straight-lace guy who never touched more than beer for a high. (Dean, incidentally, was a scotch man more than ANYTHING else!) Any day of the week, any time of the day or night, for years on end, we would meet up at Amy’s for hours of incredible discussions. Dean was vastly intelligent and knew ALL…information and people, especially in the New York scene. Why, the guy used to hang out with John Lennon! I remember that he had that David Crosby gruffness about his appearance. Never sat at a table, always at the bar, reading, reading, reading, and that is what first caught my attention. He was never “high” whenever I saw him…never drunk…always a gentleman, always inquisitive, a keen observer of the human condition. I used to look forward to seeing him because, honestly, those were the best conversations of my life! I hope he is alive and well. Here's to you, Dean!

AJ Weberman said...

Does anyoneknow where Dean is today? There is an EVO reunion happening

AJ Weberman said...

Where is Dean today there is an EVO thing at NYU I want him to attend

ajweberman@verizon.net

fivebodied said...

I knew Dean, too, way back when he seemed the most interesting writer at the East Village Other in 1967-69. I met with him occasionally through the decades since with one last time around 2002 at HT. I've since looked for him with the help of Bill Weinstein, late of WBAI. I can give you some updates if you call me.

Bob Dobbs
Maui, HI
808-633-4036 (It's a doctor's voicemail but you can leave a message for me if we don't answer when you call)

fivebodied said...

Were you aware of this by Dean:

http://tinyurl.com/85tahv6

Bob Dobbs

fivebodied said...

And these:

http://eastvillage.thelocal.nytimes.com/tag/dean-latimer

Scroll down:

http://www.eastvillageother.org/who-was-who


Bob Dobbs

fivebodied said...

More:

http://sixties-l.blogspot.com/2008/01/obit-walter-bowart-68-co-founder-of.html

http://tinyurl.com/crdbkg7


Bob Dobbs

z said...

Don't know if anyone's still reading this but I have a question about something I saw posted in an online forum. It reads:

"In 1980, a wave of interest in Benet's work prompted numerous etymologists to agree with Benet's reinterpretation of the word qaneh-bosm in Exodus. That year, scholars at Jerusalem's Hebrew University confirmed her work, noting that the q'aneh-bosm was mistranslated in the King James version of Exodus 30:23 as "calamus" (Latimer, 1988)." (Benet claims the original word meant "Cannabis" and not "calamus".)

I thought it was probably Dean Latimer who wrote that but haven't been able to locate the exact reference.

Anyone know?

Thanks.