Pat Halley's memorial was held
Sunday November 25th
2-5 PM at the Berkely American Legion Hall,
2079 12 Mile Rd
Eulogy by David Watson
For Pat "the Rat" Halley (October 21, 1950 - November 16, 2007)
This is a revised version of remarks made at Pat Halley's memorial
on November 25, 2007.
"The layman Ho asked Basho: 'What is it that transcends everything
in the universe?' (another version: 'If all things return to the
one, to what does the one return?')
"Basho answered: 'I will tell you after you have drunk up all the
waters of the West River in one gulp.'
"Ho said: 'I have already drunk up all the waters of the West River
in one gulp.'
"Basho replied: 'Then I have already answered your question.'"
Our old friend Pat "the Rat" Halley was a man who could drink up all
the waters of the West River in one gulp.
* * *
He was elemental, had a fierce and happy, but dark spirit. He was
passionate and impulsive and intuitive. He had a violent temper, but
he was mostly gentle. He came from a place and context that is not
supposed to produce artists or visionaries-a rough and tumble,
working class Detroit background. But Detroit is also known to
produce such people, both in spite of what it is and because of what
it is. Pat's raw, idiosyncratic, chaotic creativity produced a kind
vital, madcap "wild wisdom" in storefront theaters, parks, and on
the street-the kind of things for which Detroit has become famous.
* * *
"The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the
stormy sea, and the destructive sword are portions of eternity too
great for the eye of man," wrote Blake. It was clear to those who
knew him that there was no small portion of these things in Pat.
Blake was of course also announcing the arrival of Romanticism. We
were living in some late stage of the Age of Romanticism in the
1970s, full of the spirit of Blake, and of the rebels and dandies,
the dadas and surrealists, the situationists and the modern rebels
who considered themselves realistic in demanding the impossible. Pat
was a part of that heyday, gave it spark and color. His intuitive
celebrations of madness and defense of so-called mad people, his
faith in the virtues of childhood and the creative energy of
children, his primitivism and respect for primitive and tribal
peoples, his celebration of nature and wild animals, his resistance
against regimentation and domestication, his comedic craziness
containing a spiritual sense of the unity of life in all its energy
and asymmetry-these were all romantic sensibilities. He had not
gotten them from books-though, like Whitman, he'd read more books
than he let on in those days. But these impulses were natural to
him. He was one of the most natural anarchists I ever knew. He was
In fact, I first met Pat in the midst of a thunderstorm, amid great
claps of thunder and flashes of light. The first time I saw him he
was up in a cottonwood tree, in a field in Macomb County behind some
new housing at the frontier where the city was grinding up farm and
forest. He was laughing and howling at the storm, a young
Zarathustra Lakota heyoka shaman, the way a nineteenth century poet
might tie himself to a tree by the sea shore to witness the power of
* * *
All of Pat's adventures seemed to push at frontiers, and against a
civilization that was working inexorably to turn men, women, and
children into machines. He resisted enclosure and challenged laws,
written and unwritten. Wherever freedom made its claims, Pat was
near, or at the center of the action. He wrote for the Fifth Estate,
published books of poetry, and worked in several theater troupes,
organizing a rough, spontaneous, proletarian theater of cruelty in
the Primitive Lust Theater and the Freezer Theater, in the
vernacular and spirit of down-and-dirty Detroit. At his plays,
usually leavened with wrestling matches, one could typically see a
Saturday-night slam-down between the Devil or the Marquis de Sade
and an unusually large and hairy nun.
As Diane Polish, another friend, remembered, Pat wrote most of the
plays, "but other talented people contributed plays and skits.
Probably the most famous production was a satire on the Jonestown
mass suicide (when Jim Jones, and followers of his religion
committed suicide-or were forced to kill themselves-by drinking
poisoned Kool-Aid) At the end of the performance, we offered
Kool-Aid to the audience, but few availed themselves of the free
refreshment. Another great piece was the one in which Pat led the
audience through the alleys of the Corridor, with actors popping out
from behind trees and trash bins."
* * *
No wonder he chose as his totem animal the rat-a resilient,
resourceful mammal living by its wits in the cracks of civilization,
a clever outsider vilified for being what the bourgeois civilization
that fears it is-a plague. In a more ceremonial, ecstatic culture
like that of the American Indians, whom he admired, he would have
been a sacred clown, simultaneously opening fissures in daily life
to the mysteries, and challenging and laughing at the mysteries,
too-keeping the balance in imbalance. He was so much in the two
worlds, or the many worlds.
As Dirty Dog the Clown, he chose another pariah animal to mock the
hypocrisies and injustices of the modern world. He seemed to be
following the path of the pre-Socratic philosopher Diogenes, who as
a slave was far freer than his masters, and who had mocked the
civilization around him as vanity, once declaring, "They treated me
like a dog, so I pissed on them."
We would go to those performances, watching him sing and bark and
croak and pronounce, cooking up some sly commentary-"In case of
nuclear war," he once advised, "make sure to take the stairs"-while
blowing madly on his harmonica, as his goofy harangues bubbled
forth, sometimes falling flat but not infrequently exploding into an
implausible utterance of genius. And we would ask ourselves, as we
shivered in the cold air of the unheated Freezer Theater in the
winter or broiled there in the summer, how did he pull that off?
* * *
He made fun of his friends, too, of course. Sylvia Inwood told us
that once she was at the headquarters of the White Panther Party
while some addled naifs were sitting, passing the Red Book of
Chairman Mao around and reading from it. Pat got into the circle
and, taking the book and pretending to read, started making up
completely ludicrous quotations, such as "Women are sheep-like and
must be treated as sheep..." as the cadres nodded approvingly, if
less than comprehendingly.
I can even now hear his voice, saying, "Man, ain't that a load a
shit." Good rat that he was, he could bullshit, too-especially if he
was dealing with a cop or a boss. But Pat was no bullshitter. He
practiced a kind of lunacy in the tradition of the old taoist and
zen masters, taking risks for the sake of insight, or to carry out a
gesture of freedom and human affirmation, or for the sake of his
friends. But he was real-too real for his own good, perhaps-and he
had a goodness in him that, combined with his sense of daring and
playfulness, could be a danger to him.
In 1973 a pudgy rich kid calling himself the Guru Maharaji was
touring the country pretending to be a god and "Lord of the
Universe" and promising to deliver world peace-for the price of
one's obedience and one's money. He had sucked in his share of
hippies and even former radicals. When they learned that he was
going to be given the key to the City of Detroit, Pat and other
friends met at the Bronx Bar across the from the FE offices to plot
an attack. After the presentation at the City Council chambers, Pat
approached wearing an imbecilic grin and bearing a pizza box covered
with flowers recovered from a funeral home, and let him have it with
a shaving cream pie. It was planned well and it made the newspapers
and then the national media. Divine laughter, 1; Divine imposture,
Pat later said he "had always wanted to hit God in the face with a
pie." But in that act he was actually defending the numinous and the
possibility of divinity, which-like his precursor Whitman, who also
contained multitudes-he never separated from the reality and beauty
of our animal body, from nature and our human nature, and from the
simplest and most authentic acts of human liberty. He knew
instinctively that we were not meant to be slaves, either to God or
Master, and that some divinity deeper than divinity resides in us
all. In fact, down deep, Pat had a deeply spiritual sense of the
miraculous. His untamed, audacious disregard for pomp, for
sanctimony, for authority, for the desire to accumulate wealth-none
of this was ever cynical in the modern sense of the word. There was
always an affirmation in it, of life and of love.
In a statement he wrote at the time, he stated, "This should not be
seen merely as a protest against this Guru, whom I consider a fraud,
but also as a protest against 2,500 years of illegitimate religious
authority." Years later, in an Internet forum with former members of
the cult, Pat wrote that local followers of the guru had told him
"that the word was I was going to be a single-celled organism in my
next life. My response? 'Beats the hell out of a radioactive
He had a blast mocking those who would exploit this reality and
attempt to subvert and replace it with submission and slavery. It
wasn't his idea alone to pie the flimflam god as he made his way
from City Hall to his Rolls Royce limousine. But it took courage and
a reckless sense of selflessness, and yes, of divine play, to be the
one to do it. And in doing so he became an early practitioner of
what was soon to become a widespread, and admirable (and indeed,
non-violent) anarchist form of propaganda of the deed-the bringing
down of hated political and cultural figures with a well-placed pie.
* * *
Pat paid for this playful gesture, too, and nearly with his life-in
part because he was at some moments so ingenuous, and so willing to
see the best in people, when he should have been suspicious. Thus,
not long after, he let himself be taken in by two of the guru's
operatives claiming to have broken away from the cult, and they
attacked him with a hammer and left him for dead. He survived, but
many of his friends wondered if that attack didn't change him.
"The last time I saw him was when I called and insisted he come to
my home after he had been beaten," wrote Dee Vickers to us. "I
wanted to make sure he was really okay. He came over and we had an
afternoon-long talk. He refused a lift home and the last I saw him,
he was walking down the street. His zest for life seemed different
after the beating. But his ability to show you different ways to
look at life and his humor had not changed."
This judgment seems right. Life was hard on Pat, but he still had
that spark. He moved away from the FE, occasionally giving us an
article or sending a letter. He was too much of an individual even
to work with a bunch of anarchists.
Pat met Linda Zimmerman in the Fifth Estate office, and they
eventually married and had a son, Jesse. The marriage did not last,
but Linda and Pat had finally become friends for the sake of their
son and their grandchildren, and she praised him at his memorial as
a true and good and generous friend. As Linda reminded us, people
often found that if they admired something of Pat's he was suddenly
forcing them to take it, and loading it into their car.
* * *
Pat was impulsive, and passionate, and there was a roughness to his
dharma bum beatitude like that situationist text with the sandpaper
covers, He was destined to push and grind against the confines of
his covers, and those of others. As another old friend, Lowell
Boileau, put it, "Pat was the classic round peg in a square peg
world." He could be a very good friend, and husband, and father, and
comrade, but he could also be hard on the people around him, the
people he loved and who loved him. Passion and asperity commingled
Ultimately, living in this world took its toll on Pat. He lived on
the margin, making his living driving a cab, because he could
maintain his sense of self there, and it gave him time to think, and
to write. (In 1994, he published a story on his experiences in The
Detroit Metro Times, titled "Wild Rides.") But the margin was also
hard on him-this is a familiar Cass Corridor story, a Detroit story.
A society based so much on meaningless work, on the unquestioning
obedience to illegitimate authority, on the accumulation of money
and power, and on a disrespect for the natural world does not treat
its visionaries well, and this society eventually did Pat in. He was
too proud, I guess, to ask us for the help he needed, and perhaps we
could not have given him what he needed. Some men can only take so
much beating down.
In the end he was suicided by society, to borrow Antonin Artaud's
expression about Van Gogh-suicided by all the pressures with which
this world can burden a man-the tribulations and death of his son,
and legal problems and money problems brought about by accusations
as absurd as they were vile, and including the prevarications of a
rotten cop. That's another Detroit story, and a Macomb County story,
if there ever was one. Only a revolution could right this wrong. And
so some of us will continue to value the possibility, however
remote, that will turn this world back on its feet as it should be,
with its head in the stars, so the whole world can know who this man
* * *
Pat should have lived running barefoot, dropping bison on the
prairie with a flint knife a thousand years before the white men
arrived. But after years of being beaten down, this working class
mystic and visionary cabbie was still unbowed, proud of what he had
managed to do and what he had managed to survive, able to laugh at
himself and at life, however sadly, even standing by the coffin of
his own son, possibly the greatest blow imaginable to any man or
He was a poet, a mystic, a revolutionary, a comrade, a friend. His
friends know who he was, and love him, and will remember him. He was
a man who could and did drink up the whole of life in a single gulp.
-David Watson, November 2007
11/19/07 - Peter Werbe writes:
This may be the first some of you have heard of the passing of Pat
Halley. Despondent over the recent death of his son and other
problems facing him, he took his own life a few days ago. It was all
quite a shock to us. A memorial is planned sometime after this week;
I'll let everyone know.
Pat's most famous act--the pieing of the boy god,
Guru Maharaj Ji -is reported in the
two links below. Following his essentially harmless blast at the
guru, that was reported worldwide, Pat was
physically attacked by
guru goons, and almost died. He sustained a massive head injury and
had to have a plate put in his head as a result.
If you have specific memories of Pat, please
communicate with David who will write the obituary for the Fifth
Estate as indicated below.
David Watson wrote:
I would like to get any info you can remember (including dates--or
years) of things Pat accomplished. Also memories. Thanks,
Our friend Pat "the Rat" Halley, who
worked on the FE for many years, and ran a zany, radical working
class theater of cruelty, the Freezer Theater (where one could go an
a Saturday night and see, for example, the Marquis de Sade doing
slam-down wrestling with a very large and hairy nun). Back in the
1970s, he also pied an
infamous Indian guru who claimed to be God
just after he was given the key to the City of Detroit--made
national news, and then the guru's followers nearly killed him.
Although he has lived in obscurity (and penury) for some time now,
he is a big part of Detroit alternative/radical/anarchist history.
Here is a thing Millard sent me that Pat had
written for an album years ago. I don't know anything about it but
the text is apt for Tribes.
Plum Street album cover or article, not sure what this was:
PLUM STREET REDUX
ART: The De-Sterilization of Experience
Plum Street was an actual place, though for many in Detroit it was,
and is, a myth, a dream, a meadow in the mind where their
imaginations were fertilized for the first time--or, at least got
some dirt on them. In 1966, the City of Detroit actually designated
a block on Plum Street as "Detroit's Art Community;" it was intended
to be our equivalent of London's Soho or New York's Greenwich
Plum Street became, for awhile, our version of San Francisco's
Haight-Ashbury, with the Haiku Coffeehouse and the Red Roach
coffeehouse where folk-rock groups like the Spikedrivers or rock
bands like the Rationals, the MC5, or the SRC played, and local
poets such as John Sinclair, Andre Codrescu, or Phililip Lamantia
raved. Here, many protest demonstrations were planned or debated,
including the "Love-In" that occurred on Belle Isle in 1967.
Plum Street had the House of Mystique, where exotic and intoxicating
potions of incense and body oils abounded as well as psychedelic
posters, records and art objects, perpetrated as a deliberate insult
to Elmer Fudd and everyone like him. There were art galleries and
clothing boutiques and, get this, a "Head Shop!" More importantly,
Plum Street had the Fifth Estate bookstore with copies of that
inflammatory newspaper and such other underground notables as the
San Francisco Oracle, Chicago Seed, Los Angeles Free Press, and the
East Village Other!
Here was a place that our parents and teachers warned us about. Here
we could discover, first-hand or otherwise, what Timothy Leary was
really about; the strange musings of William Burroughs, or the very
weird cartoons of R. Crumb. Here you could dream out loud and
discover that you could actually be intelligent and still be cool,
in fact, that was the only way you could be cool! Perhaps quaint by
today's standards, Plum Street represented--made permissible--a
place where you could be a man and not have to be in the army, or be
a woman without having to be a bride! Very big stuff in those
days...and maybe even today.
We dedicate this album to that myth--and to alternative culture
everywhere--to remind ourselves and everybody else that there must
be a wildlife refuge of the mind, some place not zoned for a
subdivision or marked on a corporate spreadsheet. What used to be
"Detroit's Arts Community" is now a Detroit Edison (DTE) parking
lot, just north of the MGM casino. It's vaguely similar to
converting an Athens into a Rome with the flip of a coin. It's so...
We dedicate this album, for what it's worth, to all musicians
scorned or debased by the Musical-Industrial Complex; to the
unpublished poets who get thrown off of busses for talking to
themselves; to all the one-eared painters, to Bigfoot and all the
hideous ghosts in abandoned buildings who've nobody to torment; to
all the singers in bathrooms who never notice the goblin peering
from beneath the drain; to all the actors and actresses
everywhere--which is all of us--who, most of the time, don't even
realize that we are always acting.
--Pat Halley, former Cultural Editor of the Fifth Estate
Sylvia Inwood's remembrance of Pat:
This is very sad news [about Pat Halley's
death]. I ran into Linda at Zeitgeist in October and she told me
about Jesse. We talked & hugged for a long time then. My
then-husband, Mike Inwood, & I were friends with Linda & Pat around
the time when she was pregnant with Jesse and after he was born.
Somewhere I have a snapshot of Pat & Linda with baby Jesse sitting
on the couch in their home in the state fair neighborhood.
I met Pat at the 1st
Unitarian Church on Cass & Forest in September 1969 at the Free
You. We dated for a few months during Autumn & Winter of 1969-70
until I found out (from the late John Martin, then director of Open
City, with whom I later moved to Toronto) he had a very pregnant
wife at home (Dollye Sioux)! I was only 15 about to turn 16. Pat was
19 and told me several different stories at the time about his
"marital" state, none of which were true. Ah, Pat...
I remember him coming to pick me up for a date wearing a voluminous
chocolate brown cape with a lavender lining and a black top hat (a
la young Jerry Garcia, whom Pat resembled more than a little).
Probably November 1969, not long after his 19th birthday (October
21). At that time, I used to draw quite well & did a lot of comix.
Pat & I discussed at length collaborating on a comic book version of
the Hoe Hoe Rat legend which I would illustrate. A typical Pat
anecdote: We were parked on Belle Isle and a cop came over and poked
his head in the window where we had been smoking a doob. I was
serious jailbait, mind you, only 15! Pat actually charmed the cop
into leaving us alone by babbling some BS at him about "yeah, we're
OK, man. I just wear my hair long 'cause the chicks dig it, you know
what I'm sayin'? (wink wink)" The cop winked back, hopped in his
patrol car & drove off. During the time we dated, I was involved
with him in his project of creating a guerilla theatre troupe. I
remember a few gatherings to that end. One was with a small group of
people at a house somewhere in southern Oakland County. We all took
psychedelics and interacted in a very dysfunctional way that day. I
recall another gathering some time later with some White Panthers at
his flat on Commonwealth (we were no longer dating) at which people
took turns reading out of Chairman Mao's little red book. Pat mocked
the WP by making up stuff which he pretended to be reading from the
book. "Women are like sheep & should be treated as sheep..." (Or
maybe this is in the little red book!) My friend & I were giggling
under our breath knowing he was totally making it up. But the White
Panthers were all nodding in serious agreement with whatever garbage
Pat was spouting because, after all, it was gospel from Chairman
Mao!! I ran into Pat again in 1979 when I was living on Peterboro in
Bill McLain's house with my then-husband, also an old friend of
Pat's. I had written (at least in my mind) a sort-of epic poem about
life in the Cass Corridor from the bird's eye view of my 3rd floor
apt on Peterboro. Pat invited me to read it at the
This was the first incarnation of the FT, I believe, the spot behind
the old George Yono Market on Third Ave. Hence the name Freezer
Theatre. It was a wonderful magickal evening!
I have run into him many times over the past few decades. No matter
how badly things were going for him, he always had that big goofy
smile and a big hug to share. The saddest was probably at the
Gallery in 1986 or '87. Pat just poured his heart out to me
about his daughter Celeste (full name, Celestial Joy), who was born
to Dollye Sue in March 1970. He related that Dollye and her 2nd
husband, local artist Richard Dorris, an old high school friend of
Pat's, had turned Celeste against him "because I'm a bum". His
daughter would no longer see him and he was broken-hearted about it.
Granted, Pat was a lunatic (and not likely the best husband
material) even before those goons beat
his head in with a lead pipe, but he truly loved his kids.
I am just rambling here...This is the third of my former boyfriends
and/or husbands to pass away now (that I know of), all three of whom
I met in the Corridor, too. It's disconcerting to say the least.
Mike Neiswonger writes:
on the FE staff back in the
70's with Pat Halley. Your note on Pat got to me through Werbe
who sent it to Dennis Rosenblum who sent it to me.
At the time Pat joined the FE staff, it was pretty small. Lenny
Shaefer, Keny Fireman, Bill Rowe, and I pretty much carried the
paper as the staff collective for several months after the Werbe's
left and then the staff got built back up as Bob Moore, Teresa
Garland, Bob Hippler, David Riddle, Pat and then Dennis came on
board (there were, of course, many, many others, contributing to one
degree or another.)
Lennie, Pat and I all had birthdays within a few days of each other
and we worked well together, although Pat could get himself into
some pretty esoteric intellectual territory. He was always fond of
clowns. He also had a pretty deep quasi-religious side to him, not
some kind of god freak, but someone who took, it seemed to me,
nature to be a very important thing, not conscious, but of
consciousness, fluid and with its own intregrity. "What goes around
comes around," and "Karma" were the kinds of things I mean here.
Nothing heavy but on the spiritual side, nonetheless. It was about
at this time that Pat published a little book of his poetry,
"Psychic Wilderness." I still have a copy, somewhere.
Pat and I did some reporting together, including a very
"interesting" evening with an arms dealer. We printed the
We shared lovers, at different times, and lived together, finally in
the fall of 1974, working the season as migrant apple pickers in
Romeo. Pat taught me to play a harmonica, introduced me to peyote,
once was enough, and gave me a few objects I had for years. One was
a frying pan and another was a print on rice paper of a happy
Buddha, half drunk. I probably passed the print on to someone else
and I wore the pan out.
We lived at first in a school bus with some other guys at one farm
and then went on to another farm where we shared a shed with a oil
barrel stove, a light bulb and running water. it was pretty nice
for farm quarters. We were right in the middle of the orchard. If
you wanted an apple all you had to do was reach through one of the
holes in the wall.
We lived in the shed about 3 months, in the fall. There was always
music with other pickers and Pat, with a little help from the
peyote, taught me to play a harmonica. We also talked a lot,
sometimes about what guys aledgedly don't talk about, feelings, and
then what life's all about and putting it all together. Pat had a
good grip on that and he shared with me and it
changed my life with regard to being comfortable where where I am in
all this, all life.
Anyway, our friendship continued to grow until things took us in
different directions, physically.
One thing I would like to share with you is how I feel about things
surrounding Pat being assaulted and damn near killed by religious
First, of all, he wasn't the same afterward, no matter how he might
have claimed that he was or some others said he was. He wasn't the
The months that I lived with him and the prior few years we worked
together all happened just before the attack. So I knew him well at
It all started when Lennie Schafer and I went to Denver the year
before for a national underground press convention. All the papers
in the country were there and there were a lot. We learned two
things in Denver that we brought back to the FE. One was coin
operated news boxes and the other was the Guru MaHaraji (sp?). This
was some 13, they said, year old Korean punk who was
GOD. He had a lot of money, appealed to the young American's with
family money and had a massive PR machine. Beautiful posters,
beautiful images, and then strange religious practices like
swallowing their own snot. Cool, eh?
This guy was all over Denver and moving east. The papers out west
had seen them and people didn't know what to do. There was a big
following of this thing.
We came back to Detroit and told people at the paper about all this
and then, Wham!, we read in the Free Press a few months later that
the Detroit City Council is about to give this ass-hole a key to the
city! Seems he convinced them he would do good works, spend money
and stop crime.
Anyway, Pat and Lennie came up with the idea of throwing a pie in
his face for being a GOD. At this time I just just taken a line job
at Chrysler and I wasn't in on it, although the damn job only lasted
a few more weeks.
There was careful planning, including an escape by Pat. Problem was
nobody had a car except my wife Sandy, I road a motorcycle to the
plant at the time.
By reliable I mean that Sandy's truck, which we used for the
coin-box route, was eight years old, an old, blue Chevy panel truck.
So, on the night of the city council presentation, Pat walked in
with the entourage of other "Fans" of the Guru, all of which were
his churchies. He approaches the Guru, opens the box and splats it
right in his face. Then the chase is on.
Pat escapes the building and goes to my wife and four year old
daughter in the back of the panel truck and off they go.
That's how it happened.
A few days later, Pat was attacked.
When I saw him, he not only looked terrible from the hammer to the
skull, but there was a look to his eye that was gone and I never saw
it come back.
He always smiled before, continually. Then he become more serious.
He was always spontaneous. Then he became more cautious. These
things were never to an exaggerated degree, but they were noticeable
to me. It kinda broke my heart.
Pat had a lot of other sides to him. He was an athlete. When he
was young he was as agile as a deer. We had a lot more fruit fights
in those orchards than the farmers knew and nobody could ever hit
Pat. He was a good fisherman, too. And many other things.
I don't know if this sharing with you can help you with the obit, I
hope it does. I hope it makes some sense. I've really been torn up
this evening on finding out about this.
I just wanted to say that if there is any question that some one
loved and admired this man as a genius of freedom, life, and art, as
well as a good friend, I'd be glad to fill them in.
from - and about Mike
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