Source: Yes! Weekly,
Date: April 22, 2008
Interview by Amy Kingsley
AK: How do you know
Dmitry Sitkovetsky, the music director at the
PC: Dima, as I call
him, and I met over twenty years ago in London,
through a wonderful mutual friend named Francis
Bacon who has since passed away. We took to one
another immediately and have been fast friends
since. Dima told me that he was going to be doing a
piece in Greensboro that required a reader, and
would I be interested. We both thought it would be
fun, and a way to subsidize a visit, which is an
all-too rare occurrence for us.
AK: Before your acting career took off, you
studied writing in San Francisco. Did you continue
to write while your show business career developed?
PC: I often tell people that I am a writer
who makes his living as an actor. I have never
stopped writing, and now that I am getting older, am
shifting more and more attention to writing - a book
at the moment, but also screenplays and essays.
AK: When did you decide to undertake your
memoirs - Sleeping Where I
Fall - and why?
PC: Sometime around 1989 I wrote a piece
about the sixties. A publisher friend named Jack
Shoemaker (Counterpoint Press) saw it and suggested
that I expand it. I worked on it off and on for
nearly 10 years, delving back into memories and old
journals; interviewing friends; basically trying to
use the book itself as a vehicle to make sense of
that entire period in my life.
AK: What was your involvement with the
anarchist-performance group the Diggers during the
PC: I was not the person who started the
Diggers, though I was there very early on. Two
people entered the orbit of the San Francisco Mime
Troupe - Emmett Grogan, a brilliant and charismatic
actor, and his childhood friend from Brooklyn, Billy
Murcott. Somehow, under their influence, Peter Berg,
Kent Minault, Judy Goldhaft, Nina Blossenheim,,
David Simpson, Jane Lapiner and some others began
pushing the idea of "radical" theater, off the stage
on onto the streets. We wanted to use our
improvisational and intellectual skills to push
people more rigorously than a play would allow, to
consider concepts like private property, consumer,
owner, store, etc. The Diggers became the vehicle
for doing just that. The Diggers lasted about three
years, before morphing into the larger Free Family.
At a certain point the Haight-Ashbury District of
San Francisco, where we were living, was simply
overrun with runaways and looky-loos, and we had
other things we wanted to do rather than minister to
their needs all the time. Besides, many of the
functions that we started - free-food, free medical
help, etc - were taken over by other people, so most
of us moved out of the city onto the land to begin
exploring alternate economies.
AK: Have your politics changed much since
your Haight-Ashbury days?
PC: My politics have not changed much since
the sixties, but I am more patient, more aware of
how good people can disagree, and more aware of how
slowly social phenomena change.
AK: Do you have a candidate in this year's
PC: I campaigned in seven cities for John
Edwards, who for my money was the candidate with the
clearest view of the problems and the most practical
and precise solutions. The media made short work of
him (he was an anti-corporate candidate after all,
and the media is corporate-controlled). Between
Obama and Hilary, I favor Obama, but I'm too old to
be lonesome for a hero, and don't expect that simply
electing a new president will change all that much.
AK: While you're in Greensboro, you are going
to be screening your film Bitter Moon, which
was directed by Roman Polanski. What was it like to
work with him?
PC: I have unqualified respect for Roman,
arguably the most gifted man I've ever worked with.
I was frightened every single day, because his mind
was always so far out in front of my own; he was
more clever, more perverse, more convoluted and I
felt as if I were always running to catch up.
AK: Do you have any big projects on the
PC: Well, I'm at work on a book: Twelve
Things We're Afraid to Know: ...and why not knowing
them is killing us. A very hard-but-fair appraisal
of the current political and social situation,
dedicated to the proposition that if you misperceive
a problem, there is no chance of fixing it. Many of
our social institutions are so far removed from how
we've been taught that they're supposed to operate,
that people have lost track of the situation we
actually find ourselves in. To oversimplify, it's
easy to say, "We love our children." However, if you
look at the facts, you can see we don't. We don't
educate them; we don't insure them; we don't see
that they have ample medical coverage; we don't
protect them from overly-sexual advertising imagery
that shapes them to believe that the "hottest"
people get the greatest mates, stuff, and lifestyles
and everyone else are "the grunts." We're toxifying
the air and water that they breathe, and causing
epidemics of autism, asthma and non-verbal learning
disorders as a consequence. We don't pay for the
best teachers to teach them or the best people to
run day-care. So perhaps it's time that we either
admit that we don't give a hoot about our children,
that we'd rather make money and buy consumer goods,
or, change the situation so that we act as if we do
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