Posted by Steve Duin, The Oregonian
November 09, 2008
S. Clay Wilson, one of the seminal figures in the underground comix
movement, suffered a "severe brain injury" last weekend, according to
his partner, Lorraine Chamberlain, although no one is yet certain
what caused those injuries.
"I just talked to the neurologist a few minutes ago," Chamberlain
said early Sunday afternoon. "He's in a decline because of the
pneumonia. They can't seem to stabilize him."
Chamberlain -- Wilson's partner of the last eight years ("though,"
she added, "we've been flirting with each other for 40") -- said
authorities in San Francisco originally believed that Wilson was
mugged on his way home from a fairly heavy drinking binge. But
Chamberlain now believes "it may be that he fell so many times" on
the short walk home:
"That's what we think now, that he fell several times and hit his
head," Chamberlain said. "He has a fractured orbital bone in his eye
and he fractured his neck. He looks like he's been kicked in the face
and beaten up. But if he'd been beaten up, he would have been robbed.
There's no way to know. But he had way too much to drink."
Wilson, 67, arrived in San Francisco from Kansas in 1968, even as
covers for Zap Comix were running off the press at Charles Plymell's
print shop on Post Street. Later that night, Wilson told Patrick
Rosenkranz in Rebel Visions, he was showing his portfolio to R. Crumb.
"I was just completely blitzkrieged by the guy," Crumb said. "I'd
never seen anything like those drawings of his before."
Wilson's unapologetic approach to art, particularly in his depictions
of sex and violence, has long been credited for persuading Crumb to
stop censoring himself and, invariably, to produce his best work.
"Just because you depict evil, doesn't mean you are evil," Wilson
told Rosenkranz. "People always get that confused. They expect me to
be all the monsters I draw. I say, 'No, I'm a repressed Victorian. I
shuffle around here and I drink my morning tea.' People show up in
leathers and s**t, looking like my characters, I won't let them in my house ...
"I get a lot of flak from feminists, but we all do," Wilson added.
"But within that group of feminists, there's all kinds of
mentalities. Some don't understand what we're dong -- making fun of
everything. Spain (Rodriguez) gets a lot of s**t about it, we all do.
I like the idea of keeping the boat rocking."
Chamberlain said Wilson rarely drinks any more and apparently left
the bar last Saturday night while friends were trying to track down a
taxi. He'd been hospitalized almost 72 hours, she said, before he
opened his eyes, and when asked his name, responded, "I don't know."
"It was very bad news today," Chamberlain said. "The most important
thing is that he gets over the pneumonia, but he's had a very severe
Wilson is in intensive care at San Francisco General. Chamberlain
said the hospital will not allow him to receive visitors or flowers.