Sunday, July 21, 2019

Rebekah & Matthew

Rebekah's press, Penny-Ante Editions is a vital publishing house, located in Los Angeles. She not only published my book of poems, but also works by Stewart Home, Masha Tupitsyn, Momus, Jarett Kobek, John Tottenham, Beau Rice, and Lynne Tillman. Beyond that, she married a brilliant fellow Matthew who is a lot of fun to hang out with. Matthew did an amazing piece on me for Dangerous Minds. They are expecting a baby in August, but as cruel life can be, Matthew was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer. They both need financial support. I can't begin to tell you how important these two people are in my life. If you ever purchased a book published by Penny-Ante Editions or enjoyed the writings of above, it will be helpful if you can send what you can to this fantastic couple. Please do so in the link below. - Tosh Berman

Friday, July 19, 2019

A Review of TOSH from Hunter Drohojowska-Philp on KCRW

We listen to recorded books and audio newspapers. We read on our laptops and phones. Reading words on paper would seem to belong to the antiquated 20th century.

That is not the position of dozens of small presses who publish novels, poetry and non-fiction, many of them right here on the West Coast. And this weekend they are gathered at the first Little Literary Festival being held at Hauser & Wirth, an art gallery downtown but also a publisher which is co-hosting with the L.A Review of Books.

It is an opportunity to meet authors such as Tosh Berman, who will be signing his delightful memoir, Tosh, growing up in Wallace Berman’s world on Saturday. It is one of the few memoirs to make me laugh out loud at some parts and gasp with shock at others.

Son of artist Wallace Berman, Tosh knew of an LA that we can only envy. Not just the poets, artists and musicians of the post- war era but with all the other characters who ran outside the confines of convention. (Tosh’s paternal grandfather ran a Staten Island candy store that seems to have served as a front for a speak-easy. Tosh remembers his maternal grandmother working as a butcher at Hollywood Ranch market after her earlier years with a traveling circus.)

As an attention getting adolescent, Wallace Berman dressed in zoot suits and hung around the jazz clubs of Central Avenue. He drove around L.A. in a convertible with his cat wrapped around his neck. He was an award winning swing dancer but also a hustler, making money by dealing pot or playing craps. After being expelled from Fairfax High, discharged from the Navy, and even tossed out of Chouinard Art Institute, he was 100 percent committed to the Beat ethos of jazz, art and personal freedom. Despite all that, he married artist’s model Shirley and had Tosh, who was raised in a home dizzyingly, at time distressingly free of restrictions.

Berman is known for the combination of words, symbols and photographs in hand-printed magazines called Semina and verifax collages made with an early version of a copier.

Championed by curator Walter Hopps, he had but one gallery show, at Ferus in 1957. It was shut down by the police for including an erotic drawing and Berman went to jail. The trauma led him to move to San Francisco and then Larkspur for a few years before returning to L.A.

Wallace Berman had an almost shaman-like impact on people. Private to the point of paranoia, he avoided interviews or having his own photograph taken, though he repeatedly photographed his wife and son. In 1976, he was killed in a car crash with a drunk driver in Topanga on his 50th birthday.

Despite a substantial resurgence of interest in his art — there is a small show now of his collages at Kohn Gallery, there has never been much sense of what he was like as a person. His son, of course, had the ultimate insider’s perspective and the result is this joyous book.

Refreshingly for a Me-Moir, Berman does not veer from the unpleasant moments but he neither does he wallow in them. He credits his mother Shirley, only 19 when she married to Wallace, who was 28, with holding a number of full-time, low-level jobs to support her husband, the “artistic genius.” This meant living in modest conditions, a tiny house off Beverly Glen, which Wallace’s mother had received as an additional gift for subscribing to a magazine! She finally deeded it to Shirley because Wallace refused to sign anything with his name on it.

When living on a houseboat in Larkspur, while Shirley commuted daily for work in San Francisco, Tosh was raised by Wallace. When Tosh had to repeat his first year in school, kindergarten, it was shrugged off by his father, who thought all aspects of school were a waste of time.

In Northern or Southern California, Tosh was an only child who grew up with his parents friends so he was treated as an adult.

His father took his very young son to see the film And God Created Woman starring Bridget Bardot, who he still adores, leading to one of Tosh’s great lines: “It seems childhood never leaves. It just continues with facial hair and erections.” He hung out with his father at City Lights before he could read and was given first editions of the Wizard of Oz by poet Robert Duncan and Jess. Surrounded by books, Tosh educated himself by reading and has long had his own publishing imprint, Tam Tam books.

So, not a conventional upbringing but he was featured as “Boy” in Andy Warhol’s first film Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort Of in 1964 at their house off Beverly Glen. Regulars who came from the world of film to hang with Wallace were Dennis Hopper, Toni Basil, Dean Stockwell and Russ Tamblyn, whose poet/actor daughter Amber wrote the introduction to this book.

And then, there is the mudslide of 1965, which destroys their house and much of what is in it. But Stockwell buys them another in Topanga! Neil Young soon rules the Topanga scene and the Bermans are a big part of it.

All of this time, Tosh yearns for a world outside the small, hermetic and pot-infused realm of Topanga, a wish that comes true when the family go to London, staying in the flat of art dealer Robert Fraser, who happens to be in jail due to infamous Rolling Stones drug bust. It was Fraser who had included the faces of L.A. artists like Wallace and Larry Bell on the cover of the Beatles, Sergeant Peppers album. It is the verbal, stylish London that sparks Tosh’s enthusiasm and subsequent lifelong interest in style, rock music and words.

Yet, it is his off-beat, funny accounts of growing up Berman that makes the book such a pleasure. It is like a mosaic of fragments coming together to offer a view of a lost world.

Fittingly published by City Lights, Berman will be signing copies of his memoir this Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Little Literary Festival, which is held July 20 and 21 from 11 a.m to 6 p.m. 

Tosh Review on Art Talk KCRW

Tosh Berman for a Book Signing of "TOSH: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World" July 20th

It's no secret that one of my favorite locations on this planet is the Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles. So, I'm thrilled that Artbook invited me to be at their booth on Saturday, July 20th from 4PM to 5PM to sign my memoir TOSH Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World (City Lights). Also, I'm going to be there to enjoy the rest of the LITLIT: Little Literary Fair, as well as the galleries, the food, and you. - Tosh Berman

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Write Good Reads review for TOSH



Thursday, July 11, 2019

Tosh & Kimley discuss their favorite lyric collections. Including collections by Sparks, Cole Porter, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Kate Bush, Ira Gershwin, Scott Walker, Jarvis Cocker and more…
Theme music: “Behind Our Efforts, Let There Be Found Our Efforts” by LG17

Book Musik 003 - Lyric Collections by Book Musik

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Wallace Berman Exhibition at the Kohn Gallery this Summer 2019

This Summer, The Kohn Gallery has a small exhibition of Wallace Berman's artwork up for the viewer's pleasure. And ironically enough, one can also purchase my book TOSH at the gallery as well. Do go!

Monday, July 8, 2019


My dear friend Kimley Maretzo and I started a new podcast series where we just focus on books on & about music. Including musician memoirs, biographies, history and so forth. Our first podcast is on Lou Reed. Do listen, and hopefully, it will be an enjoyable experience for you the listener. - Tosh Berman

Friday, July 5, 2019

Tosh Berman Signs "TOSH: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World" Saturday, July 20th, 2019 at 4PM

Saturday, July 20th at 4 PM, Artbook at Hauser & Wirth Bookstore and City Lights Books invite you to join Tosh Berman for a special book signing of 'TOSH: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World". The signing will take place during LITLIT: Little Literary Fair in the courtyard of Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles.

'TOSH' is a memoir of growing up as the son of an enigmatic, much-admired, hermetic, and ruthlessly bohemian artist during the waning years of the Beat Generation and the heyday of hippie counterculture. A critical figure in the history of postwar American culture, Tosh Berman's father, Wallace Berman, was known as the "father of assemblage art," and was the creator of the legendary mail-art publication Semina. Wallace Berman and his wife, famed beauty and artist's muse Shirley Berman, raised Tosh between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and their home life was a heady atmosphere of art, music, and literature, with local and international luminaries regularly passing through.

Signed copies of 'TOSH" are available to pre-order with free domestic shipping! Email us:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

"My Own Private Brian (Jones) by Tosh Berman for Please Kill Me Website

Brian Jones, 1965.  Photo by Olvai Kaskisuo

Here's a piece I wrote for the Please Kill Me website on my relationship with Brian Jones, and his friendship with my father Wallace Berman and mom Shirley.

Tosh Berman on Brian Jones

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

"The Sundays of Jean Dézert" by Jean de la Ville de Mirmont (Wakefield Press)

The beauty of working in a bookstore is going over stock and finding something special to read and own. "The Sundays of Jean Dézert" by Jean de Ville de Mirmont is such a book. Reading this book in the 21st century, the reader can gather a mixture of a Guy Debord study of boredom and alienation with elements of Andre Breton's great novel of Paris "Nadja." This 1914 novel is a beautiful exploration of Paris but through the eyes of a total alienated civil employee as he seeks normalcy in all its bland wonder.

The character of Jean Dézert is one that we see every day at work, or perhaps we recognize this figure within ourselves. Due to comfort and habit, Dézert lives in a very scheduled world. The novella brings out textures and nuances of such a life, and even when he finds 'love' of some fashion, it is still part of the schedule or plan. Its author Jean de La Ville de Mirmont is a mystery to me. He died as a soldier in World War 1, a few months after writing this book. I have often praised Wakefield Press for its vision of focusing on modernist writers that fell through the cracks of time and attention. This is a great book.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

June 4, 2019

June 4, 2019

This year, besides my regular writing sessions, and YouTube channel "Tosh Talks," I also do "Tosh Talks Podcast" which is me chatting away about subject matters that interest me, and hopefully you the listener will find interesting as well.   There was a snag concerning Facebook policies.  I posted an image of the Japanese writer Shūji Terayama with his theater troop of actors, which has a nude or two, and that got me banned on Facebook for 24-hours.   I wrote back to Facebook to let them know that the photograph is of an artist and his actors, but alas, they still thought it wasn't a proper image for the Facebook website.

On one end, I have to acknowledge that Facebook is not my property, and therefore, me using the Facebook format or site is truly me being a guest there.  Still, I'm bringing art, information, cultural views that will not hurt anyone.  Facebook is famous for not taking down specific videos or websites that are proven to be false, yet within minutes, they took down an image of Terayama.

Still, as a guest of sorts, I feel unwelcome on their site.  We will see what will happen in the future.  Meanwhile here's my "Tosh Talks Podcast page down below.

Tosh Talks Podcast Page

Wallace Berman at Art Basel 2019

The picture above is a 'model' or mock-up of the Frank Elbaz Gallery booth which will be at the Art Basel 2019 fair.   A room devoted to Wallace Berman's art, which, of course, happens to be my father.  The artworks are for sale, so for those who are going to the fair, do drop in and visit my father's work.  Moreover, say hello to the Elbaz Gallery as well.  I can't wait to see the installation photos.  - Tosh Berman

More information:  Wallace Berman at Art Basel

General information about the Festival, including dates:  Art Basel 2019

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Sisters 1

My Wife Lun*na Menoh's new YouTube adventure. With Saori Mitome.  A project with her band Les Sewing Sisters. In Japanese.  Watch it!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

May 19, 2019 (Tokyo)

Tokyo is such a powerful combination of visual overload as well as fatigue from being surrounded by people that I need to take a walk in a forest that is dark and cool.   Yoyogi Park encompasses Meiji Jingu, and for me, it grasps my mood as if wearing a tight glove over a fist.  There is a significant walkway that goes to the shrine, but I found this path off the road that goes directly into the forest.  As I walk, I hear nothing else except for the crows, which seems to be chattering endlessly.  I believe these birds have a complex skill in communicating.  It's interesting to note that I often feel inarticulate and a sense of vocabulary leaving me, yet the crow can chit-chat until exhaustion.

Crows are known to attack people, steal food off a plate if you are on a picnic, and attack smaller animals.   It seems that they have nothing but contempt for the human race.  It's rare in Los Angeles, but as a child, I remember a crow diving toward me and taking a chunk of my hair out of the head.  I was told that they use human hair to build their nest for their babies.  So, going to a city that has an over-population of crows does leave an emotional scar.  No one was around, yet the birds seemed to surround me as I walked deeper into the pathway.  I didn't even know where this road would lead me to.  After a while, I realized I was just following the sounds of the crow.

The fascinating aspect of the forest or Yoyogi Park is that it is made by humans, not nature.  I have a distaste for 'real' nature, and I prefer the touch of human hands in creating a natural landscape.  Beyond the crows, it is ironic that they took over that is basically an invention of humans.  The perfectly designed park, but overtaken by crows.  It is similar to seeing President Trump in the White House.  The architecture was made to serve another purpose, but the guest who wouldn't leave took over the premise, and here we are, wondering how things collapse in such a fashion.

Friday, May 17, 2019

May 18, 2019 (Tokyo)

Vinyl shopping is an obsession of mine, but also I realize that it is also a tool for me to tour Tokyo on foot and train.  Tokyo is unique and not like any other city, but in a fashion, it reminds me of Los Angeles, in that metropolis' have a series of smaller villages that all together composes the city.  Shibuya is very different from Shinjuku, which in turn is different from Meguro, my home in Tokyo.  Each neighborhood has a specific identity.  Today I pretty much spent time in Nakano, which has a shopping arcade and building called "Nakano Broadway."  I think most would consider the actual building ugly, but for me, it has a certain charm that is hard to define.  It has no aesthetic, and it is open to others who have a taste for the bizarre, or the imaginary world of the Otaku. 

While walking in the complex it does have a smell of sweat, or perhaps their plumbing is not in order, but still, the scent brings out a sense of passion for what they may be looking for.  For example, I got totally fixated on a magnet bookmarker.  It had a flower textile design and I thought to myself, I need that bookmarker.  Yet, as every sense of my body told me to buy it, I resist and almost ran out of the stationary store.  All the Otaku shops open at 11 or even noon and close at 8.  Very solid hours, and I feel that the people who work here are comfortable with the schedule.  

One of my favorite shops in Tokyo is in the Nakano Broadway complex, and it's the store Tacoche, which is a combination of a gift shop, zine store, and art/cinema books, with a selection of Japanese underground music on the CD format,  all dealing with the Underground or counter-culture subject matter.  Tightly curated, with lots of handmade manga or zine subject matter.  I can't think of another shop in Tokyo that covers the underground world in such a splendid manner. Their hours are 12 to 8, and they are open every day, but beware that some of the shops are closed on Wednesday, which seems to be the independent shop's Sunday.

Since I'm a fan of the print media, going through vintage mangas at Mandarake is a wonderful experience.  Not only that, Mandarake is probably the largest manga books and culture store in existence.  They have a huge basement shop in Shibuya, but I prefer the mall approach at Nakano Broadway.  There are several Mandarake shops here, each one focusing on a specific subject matter or it can be used or new.  The thing is, the inventory is insanely huge, but still feels curated as well. It's a store of taste, and my favorite part of the complex is their used publications - such as vintage photo books, but also old Ben Hecht novel translated into Japanese, that looks like it was published in the 1930s.

The toy shops, many, and mostly vintage toys from the 1960s, all dealing with Japanese pop culture of the time.   I have a deep nostalgia of a past that's not mine.  For some reason, I'm drawn to this world.  Perhaps to reclaim my youth, but my imaginary sense of youth.  

Thursday, May 16, 2019

May 17, 2019 (Tokyo)

Deeply jet-lagged, I walk the streets of Tokyo without knowing what direction or desire.  I feel like I have to move or I sleep or experience some version of death.  On the other hand, for the next four days, I'm alone, and therefore I can roam from morning to evening and back to morning again.  I ended up at a chain coffee shop in Shibuya a block away from Tower Records having a cold glass of their tap water and black coffee.  I usually sit by their indoor fountain, which generally I find it meditative.  Unfortunately, they had the water turned off, so the glass fountain, or is it plastic, had old water stains on it which reminded me of the retainer for my teeth.  It's tough to clean the fastener, and I find it disgusting.  Therefore I'm in a bad mood.

To escape my dark thoughts for the day, I went to RecoFan, which is about two blocks away from the coffee shop.   When I look for records, I usually don't have a thought in my head, which, of course, is total bliss. In that state, I found a copy of the Tornados' second album "Away From it All" produced by Joe Meek.   As one knows who reads my blog, I have a thing for Meek's production.  It's interesting to note that Meek arranged to have a photo of Heinz on the back cover of the album, announcing that he is now a solo artist, but did play bass on seven tracks on this album.  It took me about three hours to find this record.  A gentleman from Asia, who speaks perfect English, asked me for advice at the music store.  Both of us had the same problem.   If you buy 5 used albums or singles, you get ¥200  off each title.  He can only find three, and I was struggling with a choice of two and having a difficult time to find other records I wanted.  Which is basically a 'me' problem, because it is one of the great record stores in the world.  It's a smaller version of Amoeba feet wise, but jammed pack with vinyl, CD, and an impressive selection of used 45 rpm singles.  They also have an excellent selection of Japanese pop/rock as well.  I did find a Guernica album there, but I already have it.  Still, the Asian gentleman wanted to know if we could put our purchase together for the discount.  I declined because even though it made perfect sense, I just didn't want to be there for the discount.  As a buyer or collector, it's essential that I purchased records that I need, and not out of a 'deal.'  

Exhausted, I went to a local market near my home here in Meguro and found an overabundance of raw tuna.   I  had rice at home and decided to buy a package of tuna, and at home, I'll make sushi rice, which is a combination of white rice, vinegar, and sesame seeds.   I actually like the sushi rice better than the fish that is either mixed in or lays on top of the tuna.  If one gives me a bowl of rice, I would be happy and content. 

I feel my life must be a great disappointment to my readers and fans.   I made a note to myself to make my self more interesting.  Perhaps even to write more about food.  The truth is, I greatly admire meditating on all sort of things, and then writing about my feelings on that subject matter.  Of course, who cares about how I feel about things!  Still,  on the way home I did go to Tower Music to buy the music magazine "Record Collector," which is cheaper to purchase here than in Los Angeles.  It's essential that I have reading material on long plane flights.  Even although sometimes I just nod in front of the small video screen, I find reading material a safety net for any chances that boredom reveals itself to my world.   Tower Records is 6-floors of music.   Each floor is devoted to a specific region or type of music.  The last time I was here K-pop (Korean) shared space with J-Pop (Japanese), but alas, K-Pop has the whole floor to itself.   Of the boy-band world, it's interesting that Korean pop acts are making a presence in America at the moment. So, the fact that a whole floor is devoted to K-Pop music is an interesting change. Also on this floor were a significant number of young girls screaming because a band or boy band was doing a signing.  Classical music used to have the entire floor by itself but now shares its space with Jazz and World Music. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

"Another Ventriloquist: Stories" by Adam Gilders

ISBN: 9780982964200
There is something wonderful being in a bookstore and picking up a book due to its cover, and then buying it because you read one of the short stories while standing in the store.  At first, Adam Penn Gilders reminded me of Lydia Davis, but only superficially due that both authors wrote short-short stories.  They also write/wrote strange narratives in a minimal style that becomes maximum in texture and emotional reflection.  Gilders has a dry sense of humor, and the fact that these small narratives are about married couples or the workforce in an office, there is something desperate that is not spoken.  It's tragic that Gilders died in 2007.  I would have liked to see more books by this excellent writer.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

"Oscar Wilde's Basil Hallward" by Tosh Berman for The Brooklyn Rail

My brief essay on Oscar Wilde's fictional artist in "The Picture of Dorian Gray" for Brooklyn Rail.  Thank you Barry Schwabsky for the invitation!

Read it here:  Oscar Wilde's Basil Hallward by Tosh Berman

ARCHITECT OF STARDOM: Irving Mills and Duke Ellington

Part of my "Architect of Stardom" series on 'Please Kill Me' website. Here I focus on Irving Mills, the manager of Duke Ellington, among other greats.

 His “Elvis” was Duke Ellington, but he did far more than manage the careers of the Duke, Cab Calloway, and Hoagy Carmichael. Irving Mills got his hand in every aspect of the music business—managing, publishing, recording and leading his own band. He may, in fact, be the unsung father of the modern music business in America. - Tosh Berman

Read it here:  ARCHITECT OF STARDOM: Irving Mills and Duke Ellington

Monday, April 29, 2019

Songs of David Bowie by Chris O'Leary on Tosh Talks

Two books (volumes) by Chris O'Leary that covers every song David Bowie released, as well as obscure b-sides, and recordings not released. Remarkable information which makes these books essential to the Bowie Library.

And here's the podcast version: Songs of David Bowie by Chris O'Leary on Tosh Talks Podcast

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Saturday, April 27, 2019

I took an LYFT to Old Town Pasadena to have lunch with two gentlemen from the Norton Simon Museum.   We agreed to meet at an Indian restaurant called 'All India Cafe' on South Fair Oaks Avenue.  I have never been there, and it is very much a neighborhood joint in Pasadena.  Although they have a brother/sister cafe in Glendale (on Brand), it seems family owned with a tightly knitted group of employees there.   I had spinach mixed in with bite-size potatoes and rice on the side.  I never know what to do in an Indian restaurant.  I feel each dish is meant to be shared, but we all ordered separate dishes.  Still, there is something enjoyable about Indian cuisine that is comforting.  I think the mixture of potato and spinach is a perfect combination and somewhat organic relationship to me.   On the other hand, I was concerned about having rice with potato which is delicious, but is that too much starch for one's diet or need?  

They brought copies of my book TOSH to sign for the stock in their book/gift store.  If I'm not mistaken, I think I have my book in all museum shops in Los Angeles.   It was a delightful way to spend the early afternoon.  The weather was perfect, in that it was sunny, but not the sun of hot direct rays, but more of a lightness that bathes one's soul.   Also, the company was excellent.  I enjoy spending time with people who work in museums or galleries.  I have no interest in the so-called 'art world' when it is displayed as a business, but when it concerns 'culture,' I find that fascinating. 

When I left the cafe, I immediately got on the bus that takes me to Hollywood and Vine.   The trip, if the traffic is not too heavy, takes about 40 minutes.  Which is good, because it gives me time to read this fascinating book by Marjorie Muir Worthington called "The Strange World of Willie Seabrook."    I know nothing of the authors but was curious after reading about this book on the Spurl Editions website.  Seabrook was a travel writer, adventurer, and I suspect a Sadistic soul.  He committed suicide in the 1960s, but this memoir by his ex-wife is a fascinating read so far.  It's a hard book to put down.   I found a copy of the book in the Los Angeles Main Library, but I plan to purchase the Spurl Edition as soon as possible. I want to have it for my library.  

As usual, I went to Amoeba because I had some credit.   For obvious reasons I spent the entire rest of the afternoon as it turned into early evening, looking at album sleeves and letting my mind wander into a beautiful state of exploration.   The connection of the art on the album sleeve and music is an interesting relationship. I imagine hearing the music just by studying the cover, with the fonts of the lettering as well as the illustration/photos.   I purchased The Kinks' "Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoaround - Part One" which for an odd reason is very hard to find on vinyl these days.  And when you do find it, the price is usually around $50, but I found this copy for $24.  Not in perfect condition, but it is one of the great Kinks albums, and I'm happy to have it in my possession.  The other two albums I purchased "Booker T. & The M.G.s' "Green Onions" and a best of a package by The Undertones called "All Wrapped Up," which has a really terrible cover.  Still, The Undertones were magnificent pop music makers. 

I took the express bus back to Sunset and Alverado and then got on the 603 to home.   Which gave me more time to read the Worthington memoir.   In the next few days, I have to decide if I should continue writing my journal, or work on a fictional project.  It really depends on how well TOSH does in the reading market.  It seems by the appearance that the book is selling well, and the reviews have been overly positive.  So who knows?