William Burroughs, Glenn Danzig, and cats


“The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself. Of course he wants care and shelter. You don’t buy love for nothing.”

― William S. Burroughs, The Cat Inside. 1986.

“I always thought a punk was someone who took it up the ass.”

William S. Burroughs, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. 1997.

In honor of the iconic American author’s 101st birthday, This American Life ran an episode called Burroughs 101 the weekend before last. The episode, narrated by Iggy Pop, was originally produced for the BBC by Colin McNulty, and it offered a biographical examination of William S. Burroughs life.
Despite his many, many flaws—Burroughs would likely have been vilified many times over in the social media era—I grew up a huge Burroughs fan. About a year back I captured an anecdote about a found photo of him as conveyed by Arlin Smith of Hugo’s and Eventide. After the episode aired, my friend Mark High said that he had an anecdote about Burroughs and another favorite weirdo of mine, punk and metal hero Glenn Danzig. (I am a HUGE fan of Danzig, Samhain and the Misfits. Huge.)
The story comes from High’s days playing in bands in Lawrence, Kansas in the late 80s and it comes to him from another source he can’t remember, which he encouraged I underscore. As it is not particularly damning to the reputation of either man—it’s actually just a fun bit to imagine happening—I am sharing it here.
(It’s also sort of funny to think about in light of the more recent and semi-notorious photographs of Danzig buying kitty litter.)
High’s story:
I played in a bunch of bands in college [in Lawrence, KS] and Burroughs was always “around”. Whenever anyone sighted him in clubs or bars, we’d all get excited. [My wife] Liz and I once saw him at a Laurie Anderson event, just sitting by himself in the crowd like he was at a high school play. He had an end seat.
But because of Burroughs and how kind Lawrence was, a ton of famous people would come to town to see Burroughs and often play small shows. REM was probably the best know for this. But Ginsberg, Keith Haring, Tim Leary, Laurie Anderson, and others would come around.
Once Danzig came to town to meet Burroughs at his house way out of town in the woods. His limo driver dropped him off in the morning and was to pick him up in the evening because Burroughs agreed to spend the day with him.

Danzig arrived and Burroughs answered the door and let him in. Then Burroughs disappeared into the house never to return. Danzig was so freaked out by all of Burroughs’ cats that he just sat there all day in the front room. He called for Burroughs a few times, but never searched the house. Then in the evening the driver showed up and Danzig left.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.