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William S. Burroughs

Biography

Beat Generation writer who’s best remembered for his 1958 book Naked Lunch time. His other functions are the Nova Trilogy and Junkie. He resided a bohemian lifestyle in the literary community of Greenwich Town, NY. He traveled broadly and lived for a while in SOUTH USA and Mexico. He shot and wiped out his wife, Joan Vollmer, throughout a drunken party video game at a Mexico Town bar. He previously a son called William Jr. David Cronenberg modified Burroughs’ most well-known work, Naked Lunch time, for the display.

Quick Facts


Full Name William S. Burroughs
Date Of Birth February 5, 1914
Died August 2, 1997, Lawrence, Kansas, United States
Place Of Birth St. Louis, MO
Profession Poet
Education Mexico City College, Harvard University, John Burroughs School, Los Alamos Ranch School
Nationality American
Spouse Joan Vollmer, Ilse von Klapper
Children William S. Burroughs Jr.
Parents Mortimer Perry Burroughs, Laura Hammon Lee
Nominations Nebula Award for Best Novel, Locus Award for Best Short Story
Movies William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, Naked Lunch, Drugstore Cowboy, The Junky's Christmas, Häxan, Chappaqua, Home of the Brave, Jack Kerouac: What Happened to Kerouac?, Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg, The Discipline of DE, William S. Burroughs: Commissioner of Sewers, Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees, Bloodhounds of Broadway, September Songs - The Music of Kurt Weill, Towers Open Fire, Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles, Poetry in Motion, Glitterbug, Twister, Decoder, The Book of Life, Chelsea on the Rocks, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Condo Painting, The Cut Ups, Destroy All Rational Thought, Energy and How to Get It, William S. Burroughs: Thee Films: 1950s-1960s, Ah Pook Is Here, Nova Express
Star Sign Aquarius

  • Facts
  • Filmography
  • Awards
  • Salaries
  • Quotes
  • Trademarks
  • Pictures

#Fact
1Did not start writing until he was 39 years old.
2The prosecution of Burroughs' book "Naked Lunch" by the Comonwealth of Massachusetts is considered the last major obscenity trial in the United States. The book was initially found obscene, but the Massachusetts Supreme Court overturned the decision on appeal in 1966. For the initial trial, Grove Press had gathered together an impressive list of "experts" such as Norman Mailer to defend the book, but Burroughs' modern classic initially lost and was declared obscene in Massachusetts. However, the state Supreme Court (Memoirs v. Massachusetts) found that the book "was not without social value, and therefore, not obscene." With the ruling, an era that began in 1870s when anti-smut crusader Anthony Comstock led the charge for stricter enforcement of obscenity laws by the federal and state governments came to an end.
3Highlander (1986) director Russell Mulcahy bought the rights to Burroughs' novel "The Wild Boys" in the 1980s with the intention of making it into a feature film. When the project fell through, he used the book as the basis for the 1985 Duran Duran video of the same name.
4Produced several albums throughout the 1980s featuring spoken word and his own style of electronic music.
5After shooting his second wife Joan, he fled to Tangiers, Morocco, and remained there for many years, a fugitive in both his birth country of the U.S. and in his adopted homeland of Mexico.
6In 1937, while studying medicine in Germany, he agreed to marry a German Jewish woman named Ilse Herzfeld Klapper so she could escape Nazi persecution and become a U.S. citizen. They never lived together, separating immediately upon entering the U.S., but remained friends, meeting weekly for lunch. Burroughs formally divorced her nine years later so he could marry his second wife, Joan.
7Biography in: "American National Biography". Supplement 1, pp. 84-87. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
8Created the "cut-up" style of writing along with Brion Gysin, in which sections of a story are cut up and reassembled to create a new story. This technique is similar to the "tape collage" style of experimental music, which Burrough was known to dabble in.
9Was a good friend of Genesis P-Orridge, leader of the avant-garde/industrial band Throbbing Gristle. The two were frequent correspondents and great fans of each others' work, and P-Orridge collaborated with Burroughs on his tape work occasionally.
10Was addicted to heroin. This was a recurring theme throughout many of his novels.
11Lived in Tangiers (Morocco) for several years, partly to avoid the legal and social fallout from shooting his wife when they were living in Mexico and partly because Tangiers was even cheaper to live in than Mexico, which meant that the allowance he got from his family trust fund allowed him to live in luxury.
12Was an heir to the Burroughs Cash Register Co. fortune. A family trust fund allowed him to write without holding other jobs.
13Was a good friend of Kurt Cobain. He was even asked to appear in Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box" video as Jesus Christ, but later refused. He made an EP with Cobain titled "The Priest They Called Him".
14In 1951 Burroughs and his common-law wife Joan got drunk at a party in Mexico City, where they were living (he was a heroin addict and she was addicted to Benzedrine, and drugs were easier to come by in Mexico). They decided to do a "William Tell" act with Joan balancing a glass on her head and Burroughs shooting it off with a gun. He missed and Joan was killed. This incident was later worked into the movie adaptation of Burroughs' novel "Naked Lunch" (Naked Lunch (1991)).
15His novel "Naked Lunch" provided the name for the famous rock group Steely Dan. "Steely Dan III From Yokohama" was the name of a rubber phallus used in the book.
16Once lived in a windowless apartment in the basement of what used to be a YMCA. His friends often called the apartment "Bill's Bunker".
17The acknowledgment given to him at the end of the film Blade Runner (1982) was for legal reasons. He had written a screenplay with an identical title (and completely different storyline), but it was never put into production.
18He is featured on the song "Just One Fix" by Ministry with a vocal speaking part. Like frontman Al Jourgensen, Burroughs was also a heroin addict.


Writer

Writer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Black Meat2012Short novel Naked Lunch
Nova Express2009novel
The Japanese Sandman2008Short written by
Ghost at No. 92005Documentary short
The Last Words of Dutch Schultz2001Short book "The Last Words of Dutch Schultz: A Fiction in the Form of a Film Script"
Ah Pook Is Here1994Short
The Junky's Christmas1993Short story
Drug-Taking and the Arts1993Documentary novel "The Naked Lunch"
Thanksgiving Prayer1991Short text by
Naked Lunch1991novel
The Black Rider1990TV Movie libretto
Drugstore Cowboy1989additional dialogue - uncredited
Taking Tiger Mountain1983story "Bladerunner"
The Discipline of D.E.1982Short short story
The Cut Ups1966Short story
Towers Open Fire1963Short writer
William Buys a Parrot1963Documentary short writer

Actor

Actor

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Book of Life1998Preacher on Radio (voice, uncredited)
The Dark Eye1995Video GameEdwin / Narrator (voice)
Ripley's Believe It or Not!: The Riddle of Master Lu1995Video GamePesky Peasant (as William Lee)
Ah Pook Is Here1994ShortNarrator
The Junky's Christmas1993ShortNarrator (voice)
Thanksgiving Prayer1991ShortA Speaker
Drugstore Cowboy1989Tom the Priest
Bloodhounds of Broadway1989Butler (as William Burroughs)
Twister1989Man in Barn (as William Burroughs)
It Don't Pay to Be an Honest Citizen1984
Decoder1984Old Man
Energy and How to Get It1981Short
Thot-Fal'N1978Short
The Cut Ups1966Short
Chappaqua1966Opium Jones
Towers Open Fire1963Short
Häxan1922DocumentaryNarrator (1968 re-release) (voice, as William Burroughs)

Soundtrack

Soundtrack

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Independent LensTV Series documentary performer - 1 episode, 2010 writer - 1 episode, 2010
The SopranosTV Series performer - 1 episode, 2006 writer - 1 episode, 2006
Elephant2003performer: "Meeting of International Conference of Technological Psychiatry" / writer: "Meeting of International Conference of Technological Psychiatry"
Modulations1998Documentary "Recalling All Active Agents"
William S. Burroughs: Commissioner of Sewers1991Documentary "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt"
Home of the Brave: A Film by Laurie Anderson1986Documentary writer: "Language Is A Virus"

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Venus Blue1998Short poetry excerpts - as William Burroughs
Shamans of the Blind Country1981Documentary narrator

Thanks

Thanks

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Good Will Hunting1997in memory of
Blade Runner1982thanks: for the use of the title "Blade Runner"

Self

Self

TitleYearStatusCharacter
William S. Burroughs in the Dreamachine2015Video documentaryHimself
MENTALLUSIONS: Radical Eclectic Films of Benjamin Meade2012Himself
Corso: The Last Beat2009Documentary
Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs on the Road2007DocumentaryHimself
Ghost at No. 92005Documentary shortHimself
U2: The Best of 1990-20002002Video documentaryOld Man (segment "Last Night on Earth")
Sleep in a Nest of Flames2001DocumentaryHimself
Ministry: Tapes of Wrath2000VideoHimself
Condo Painting2000Documentary
The Source: The Story of the Beats and the Beat Generation1999DocumentaryHimself
The Nova Convention Revisited: William S. Burroughs and the Arts1998VideoHimself
Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles1998DocumentaryHimself
Reputations1996TV Series documentaryHimself
Relics: Einstein's Brain1994DocumentaryHimself
American Masters1994TV Series documentaryHimself
Great Performances1994TV SeriesHimself
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues1993Himself (as William Burroughs)
Naked Making Lunch1992DocumentaryHimself
Wax, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees1991DocumentaryJames 'Hive' Maker
William S. Burroughs: Commissioner of Sewers1991DocumentaryHimself
Heavy Petting1989DocumentaryHimself
Gang of Souls: A Generation of Beat Poets1989DocumentaryHimself
The Beat Generation: An American Dream1987DocumentaryHimself (as William Burroughs)
Pirate Tape1987ShortHimself
Home of the Brave: A Film by Laurie Anderson1986DocumentaryHimself
What Happened to Kerouac?1986DocumentaryHimself (as William Burroughs)
Ornette: Made in America1985DocumentaryHimself
Kerouac, the Movie1985DocumentaryHimself (novelist)
Ajankohtainen kakkonen1983TV SeriesHimself
Burroughs: The Movie1983Documentary
Arena1981-1983TV Series documentaryHimself
The Dream Machine1983Documentary shortHimself
Poetry in Motion1982DocumentaryHimself
Saturday Night Live1981TV SeriesHimself
Castelporziano, ostia dei poeti1980TV Movie documentaryHimself
Fried Shoes Cooked Diamonds1979DocumentaryHimself
Underground and Emigrants1976Documentary
Image Is Virus1975Documentary shortHimself
Bill and Tony1972ShortHimself
Prologue1970/IHimself
Cain's Film1969Documentary shortHimself
Poem Posters1966ShortHimself
William Buys a Parrot1963Documentary shortHimself

Archive Footage

Archive Footage

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Uncle Howard2016/IDocumentaryHimself
Cinemassacre's Monster Madness2014TV Series documentaryNarrator
Beat Generation2013TV Movie documentaryHimself
Neurons to Nirvana2013Documentary
Out-Takes from the Life of a Happy Man2012DocumentaryHimself
For No Good Reason2012DocumentaryHimself
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye2011DocumentaryHimself (uncredited)
William S. Burroughs: A Man Within2010DocumentaryHimself
Nova Express2009Narrator
Chelsea on the Rocks2008DocumentaryHimself
Obscene2007DocumentaryHimself
Speak Out2007TV Movie
Absolute Wilson2006DocumentaryHimself
Wanderlust2006TV Movie documentaryTom the Priest
SexTV2006TV Series documentaryHimself
Silenci?2005TV SeriesHimself
Elephant2003Voice (text excerpts) (uncredited)
Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man2003DocumentaryHimself
The Battle for 'I Am Curious-Yellow'2003Video documentary shortHimself
Destroy All Rational Thought1998VideoHimself
Arena1994TV Series documentaryHimself
Laurie Anderson: Collected Videos1990VideoHimself (uncredited)
Sonic Youth: Teenage Riot1988Video shortHimself (uncredited)
La edad de oro1984TV SeriesHimself

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#Quote
1Never go into business with a religious SOB, as he'll always have his God telling him how to screw you on the deal.
2The mark of a basic shit is that he can't mind his own business.
3Anyone from outer space would look at this planet and say, 'I want to see the manager'.
4I don't mind people disliking me. The question is, what are they in a position to do about it?
5If civilized countries want to return to Druid Hanging Rites in the Sacred Grove or to drink blood with the Aztecs and feed their Gods with the blood of human sacrifice, let them see what they actually eat and drink. Let them see what is on the end of that long newspaper spoon." -- "Naked Lunch
6A simopath - the technical name for this disorder escapes me - is a citizen convinced that he is an ape or other simian. It is a disorder peculiar to the army, and discharge cures it.
7America is not a young land: it is old and dirty and evil before the settlers, before the Indians. The evil is there waiting.
8[on his alma mater, Harvard University]: "I hated the University and I hated the town it was in. Everything about the place was dead. The University was a fake English setup taken over by the graduates of fake English public schools."
9The road to the western lands is by far the most heavily guarded and therefore most dangerous road in all the world.
10The face of evil is always the face of total need.
11A functioning police state needs no police.
12Language is a virus from outer space.
13In the U.S., you have to be a deviant or die or boredom.
14Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.

#Trademark
1Gravelly voice, a fedora tipped to the right with heavy glasses and dark, sardonic sense of humor.

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