Jack Wilson, Frederick Street (HOME PAGE)

    •  Jill Stabenau
    •  Carmen Silva
    •  Jan Houbolt
    •  Mark Freeman
    •  Elizabeth Martin
    •  Suzanne Ecker
    •  Evan Kaltschmidt
    •  Andre Rorsch
    •  Jo-Anne Rosen
    •  Dennis Strong
    •  Lastri Trimiharjo
    •  Rachel Wohl
    •  Amanda Zinn
    •  December 17, 2011
    •  Miscellaneous

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In Jack's Words...

Empowering Women to
Fight Poverty (PPMK)


Remembering Jack Wilson

Jo-Anne Rosen

About Jack (Joaquin) Wilson

Dear Jack, you wonderful, romantic and generous soul, you’ve been absent for so long from our midst that I can’t accept your dying as a permanent absence.  Besides, when you were 26 or 27, you told us you wouldn’t live past 30, so how to believe this now.  I think you had at least nine lives.

I met Jack and Carmen in the fall of 1969. They were visiting Dennis (later known as Zachary) in the flat on Potrero Hill where D and I were roommates.  I came home from work one day and there they were.

Jack and Carmen, early 70s or late 60sI thought Jack and Carmen were beautiful. (Click this photo to enlarge) They were both tall and slender with dark eyes and black hair. Carmen wore a Mexican peasant blouse. I had just moved to California and hadn’t met any Mexicans yet, so I assumed Dennis’s friends were Mexican.  Now I can’t remember if he called himself Jack or Joaquin then.  Possibly he was already “Wok,” as not long after that, Dennis tried out a new name for himself every week, finally settling on Zachary or Zack.

Jack/Joaquin, Carmen and Dennis/Zack had met in DC the year before when Dennis was about to go AWOL and Jack was a speaker at war resistance rallies. They brought Dennis home to their commune and eventually put him on a “freedom train” to Canada.  The three reconnected in San Francisco the next year after Dennis returned from Sweden, turned himself into the Army and served time in the Presidio Stockade.  Carmen visited him there, posing as his girlfriend.

From Potrero Hill, Zack and I moved into one room in a flat on Church Street, where Jack also rented a room for a while.

A year later, after Joaquin and Carmen came back from Morocco and Zack and I from Europe — long story short, Zack and Wok and I wound up producing low budget, X-rated “loops” and feature films.  This is where Jack honed his cinematography and film production skills. His van, the “Iron Fireman” (so called for the logo painted on the side — I think it had been a plumber’s van originally), served to haul equipment, crew members and the “talent” to locations all over the City and Bay Area. We entertained the notion at first that it was possible to make high quality erotic cinema.  I remember Wok rapping about sex and money and death while we were working. I think he must have been torn between an ideal of freedom and the tacky commercial product that was often the result.  We called our first full-length feature “Watergate Buggers” (it was released as “Public Affairs.”) That was anti-establishment, political-satirical porn that could only have happened in the early 70s.

Another memory from that era: We were filming a “loop” (a short film, about 10 minutes) on a beach on Point Reyes Seashore. It was a far-fetched idea, to begin with, hauling all that equipment several hundred yards down to a remote beach, along with the understandably reluctant participants.  But it seemed oh so romantic, on paper. Once there, Joaquin decided to put a red filter on the lens, to pump up the romantic aspect, I think. He never took it off and the entire loop was tinted pink.

That chapter in his life went on for a decade, or perhaps longer. The last time we worked on a film together was in 1982. By then he was also making documentaries with Fine Line Films.

How many parties with Wok, how many Thanksgiving dinners at Carmen’s flat on Grove Street?  And when I needed the comfort of a friend, he was there. He was family. He was a dear, good man. 

But gradually he slipped away. When I learned about the crack addiction, I was saddened but not surprised. Not because I thought he had an addictive personality.  Not at all. But because he would have to do that passionately, too. It is also true to form that he’d figure out a way to kick the habit.

In 1998 when I moved to Petaluma and had a housewarming party, I was pleased that Jack showed up; it was reunion of old friends and maybe he was saying so long to all of us. Kevin Crocker (who also lived on Church Street) recalls going out in the back lot with Jack and talking for a long time about bioremediation and Indonesia.

The last time I saw Jack was in 2006 when Carmen I and met him at a Travelodge near SFO, and we three had lunch in Burlingame. He had come back to get a diagnosis and perhaps treatment from the VA. Also he had some legal matters to settle, I believe.  He was in good spirits and didn’t seem ill, just looked older.  Well, we all were older.  He also seemed a little restless and  focused elsewhere, probably thinking about everything left undone back in Yogyakarta.

Jan urged me to visit Indonesia before it was too late, but that was never possible, which I do regret. I would have liked to see Jack light up and glow in his new home, as only he could.  It is truly wonderful to read how much real love he inspired in the last and best chapter of his life.


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