Charles Bukowski was one ugly dude… He drank so much that he often couldn’t function. He worked in a post office. He drank too much. He got into fights. All that made him different from thousands of other wastrels was that he wrote about it.
But he wrote about it well, and he was different at a time when much of society didn’t know how to be. Which is why he got laid a lot. Secondary to booze in Bukowski’s prose was his love, if one would call it that, of the ladies. While Bukowski hung out with, and had sex with, tons of ladies, there were a few that stood out above the rest. These are the women that had a lasting effect on Charles Bukowski.
“The 300 pound Whore”
Bukowski was a virgin until he was 24 and lost it to this woman who was memorialized forever with “the night the 300 pound whore came in I was ready … she was god awful fat all around and not very clean either.” He kicked her out the next day, as he thought she had stolen his wallet, but he later found it next to his bed.
Barbara Frye was an editor of a poetry journal that Bukowski submitted work to. They wrote letters to each other back and forth for quite a while. Frye would complain about her deformed spine, and how she would never find a husband because of it. Her spine was so messed up her head pretty much rested on her shoulders. Bukowski said he’d marry her, so he met her at a train station, they drove to Vegas, and they got married. How long can something like this last? A depressed alcoholic and a lonely woman with a messed up spine that had never met? Not very. They soon divorced.
Jane Cooney Baker
Bukowski dug Jane. She is considered his major muse. Much of his poetry is about her, and characters in Post Office and Factotum are both based on her. Jane was ten years older than Bukowski and by all accounts was a total boozebag and lived hard. She died in 1962 after going on a pretty hardcore binge, which sent Bukowski into a depression and a bit of a hardcore binge himself.
Frances was Bukowski’s live in girlfriend for a while, and the mother of his only daughter, Marina. When he found she was pregnant he offered to marry her, she wisely said no. While the relationship didn’t last, Frances always said Bukowski was a good dad. Bukowski wrote a poem about her “One for Old Snaggle-Tooth” in which he wrote of her kindness.
Around the time he was hanging out with Linda, he had begun sleeping with a lot of women. Women would show up at readings, and even at his house, all for the purpose of banging Charles Bukowski. Linda at one point was of this ilk, they met because she sculpted a bust of his head. They both drank, and fought constantly. At one point Bukowski broke her nose. Whenever they would break up, which was often, Bukowski would return his sculpted head to her.
Joanna was the ex of Levon Helm, rock legend and drummer of the Band, and was one of the inspirations for Bukowski’s novel Women. While many of his lovers were irritated by their portrayals in books, Joanna owned up to her part in things. “What was he going to say, that we had a sane relationship, that we sat like two civilized people having refined conversation?”
Pamela and Bukowski hung out in the late 70’s. She was a cocktail waitress, was into pills, partied like crazy, and was called “Cupcakes” by Bukowski. Needless to say it didn’t last, relationships with pillheads named Cupcake rarely do.
Amber hung out with Bukowski off and on in the 70’s and was written about in Women, not in a very respectful way. Amber then wrote a book with the even less respectful title Blowing My Hero, which is not out of print, but you can buy for 4.500 bucks here.
Linda Lee Beighle
Finally we have Linda, who met Bukowski in 1976, and refused to have sex with him for quite a while. They were married in 1985 and moved to the relative quiet of San Pedro from East Hollywood. Some of his poetry in his later years featured, Linda, and were quite touching and gentle, at least considering what a total dick he purported himself to be to women most of his life. When he died she was at his bedside in the hospital. His gravestone reads “Don’t Try.”
Brian Whitney is the author of Raping the Gods