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Archive for Friday, May 9, 2003

Creek may bear Burroughs’ name

Beat icon’s home was counterculture magnet

May 9, 2003

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Boston may have banned William S. Burroughs once, but his craft always has been lauded in Lawrence.

Now, residents of the east Lawrence neighborhood where Burroughs lived his last years want to rename a nearby creek for the controversial Beat Generation writer, who died in 1997.

"It flows right by his house," said Michael Almon, a Brook Creek Neighborhood resident who came up with the idea. "He was the most famous person along (the creek). We just wanted to honor him, I guess."

James Grauerholz, Burroughs' longtime companion and executor of his estate, said the creek naming could be the start of new efforts to promote Burroughs' connection to Lawrence.

"The objective fact is that Burroughs brought the existence of Lawrence, Kansas, to the attention of more people worldwide than there are residents of Lawrence," Grauerholz said. "It's a national and international attraction for Lawrence."

Burroughs was well-known as an iconoclast and an artist before he settled in Lawrence in 1981. He accidentally killed his wife during a Mexico City "William Tell" game in 1951 and was open about his drug use to the end of his days.

His most famous book was "The Naked Lunch," an experimental novel filled with graphic scenes of cannibalism, sexual references and an extensive use of four-letter words.

The book was declared obscene by a Boston judge at a famous 1965 trial that featured testimony by the prolific author Norman Mailer; but that judgment was overturned by the Massachusetts Supreme Court the next year.

James Grauerholz, longtime companion of William S. Burroughs and
executor of the late author's estate, holds a photo of Burroughs
near a creek that runs near his former home at 1927 Learnard Ave.
Residents of the neighborhood in east Lawrence want the creek to be
named after Burroughs.

James Grauerholz, longtime companion of William S. Burroughs and executor of the late author's estate, holds a photo of Burroughs near a creek that runs near his former home at 1927 Learnard Ave. Residents of the neighborhood in east Lawrence want the creek to be named after Burroughs.

After he moved to Lawrence, Burroughs' home at 1927 Learnard Ave. was a destination for counterculture artists, writers and musicians.

The "ATSF ditch" is a stormwater tributary that feeds into Brook Creek, which runs near the rear of Burroughs' property.

"He sat in his bedroom window and looked out at the creek while he was writing," Grauerholz said. "He loved the creek."

Supporters of the creek naming will make their case Tuesday at a meeting of the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. That board will make a final recommendation to the Lawrence City Commission.

"There is no process to rename this type of geographical feature," City Manager Mike Wildgen said in a memorandum, "other than to re-designate the tributary on official city maps."

William S. Burroughs enjoys his back yard at his former Lawrence
home shortly before his death in August 1997.

William S. Burroughs enjoys his back yard at his former Lawrence home shortly before his death in August 1997.

Grauerholz said discussions were under way about seeking a National Register of Historic Places designation for Burroughs' former home, which is still owned by the estate and rented to a Lawrence couple. And there has been talk of creating a visitor's center for people seeking out Burroughs' legacy.

City Commissioner Mike Rundle said he would support the creek renaming.

"The view from the outside is that it (Burroughs' connection to Lawrence) is of significance nationally," Rundle said. "And that ought to be reflected locally."

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meets at noon Tuesday in offices at 947 N.H.


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