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Pat "The Rat"Halley passes away
The Great Troubadour of the Cass Corridor
David Watson's Eulogy | Free Press Obituary | Friends | Guru Maharaji

 

Pat Halley's memorial was held
Sunday November 25th
2-5 PM at the Berkely American Legion Hall,
2079 12 Mile Rd

See pictures


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 pure lightning.

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 a hurricane.

* * *

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, 0.

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 isotope.'"

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 in him.

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 really was.

* * *

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 woman.

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.


Peter
 



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 Village.

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... American.

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 Freezer Theatre. 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 Michigan 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:

I was 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 interview.

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 thugs.
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 same.
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 the time.

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.

Mike Neiswonger

More info from - and about Mike Neiswonger
 


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