I was an English lit major who chose Latin as a language requirement because I had studied four years of it in an all-girls Catholic high school and figured it would come in handy if, serendipitously, I was ever granted an audience with the Pope.

We entertained ourselves by looking for the dirty parts in Petronius' Satyricon and Catullus' erotic love poems.

There is absolutely no question that Joyce and I were certified geeks even before that word was coined. Since she was prematurely salt-and-pepper in college, Joyce projected infinitely more gravitas than I did with my long hippie hair and Navy-surplus bellbottoms. If you didn't know her, she could be intimidating. She became a member of Mensa, an exclusive society of intellectuals, after acing an IQ test. Though she encouraged me to join, I was not up for the abject humiliation of possibly flunking Mensa's entrance exam. Through the years, it was Joyce who dragged me to folk dancing when all things ethnic were in vogue, even though she recognized I was not exactly fairy-footed. It was Joyce who took me to a women's meeting (which, in retrospect, was a consciousness-raising group) in Laguna. It was Joyce who introduced me to antique treasures from far-flung cultures by taking me to Ancient Arts, an antique shop owned by artist and antiquarian Leonard Kaplan, who would become her live-in boyfriend for a number of years. And it was Joyce who would drive Leonard and me in her VW bug to L.A. to cruise the cutting-edge contemporary art galleries and antique shops that flourished on La Cienega Boulevard in the 1970s.

Joyce Farmer
Kathleen Vanesian
Joyce Farmer
At one point, after a threat of legal
prosecution, one of the Tits & Clits issues
was titled Pandora's Box to avoid trouble.
Kathleen Vanesian
At one point, after a threat of legal prosecution, one of the Tits & Clits issues was titled Pandora's Box to avoid trouble.

Location Info

Map

Changing Hands Bookstore

6428 S. McClintock Drive
Tempe, AZ 85283

Category: Retail

Region: Tempe

Details

Joyce Farmer will appear at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 22, at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe to sign her book and participate in a Q&A led by local artist Jon Haddock, co-founder of the Comic Book Creators Support Group. Visit changinghands.com.

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For both Joyce and me, Leonard Kaplan was a pivotal influence in our learning about art, art history, and antiques. A Laguna Beach institution originally from the Lower East Side of New York, Leonard was well-known by art and antique collectors across the country, including actors Vincent Price, Tab Hunter, and Peter O'Toole, not only because of his incredible eye, impeccable taste, and endless knowledge of art and cultural history, but for his own surrealistic, collaged watercolors in which he used cut-up imagery from original 18th- and 19th-century prints. No matter what Leonard sold — pre-Columbian tomb figures, Ming Dynasty ceramics, 16th-century choir book pages, antique Chinese Buddhas and Quan Yins, Middle Eastern tribal jewelry — you could be certain that it would be something very special.

After we graduated, Joyce wanted to go to law school, but the pressures of single motherhood and everyday life forced her into the workplace as a paper-pusher for an insurance agency located next to Fahrenheit 451, the legendary countercultural literary haven on the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna. A bit later, she became a pager-toting bail bondsman working for Ronald Kaufman, one of the founders of Laguna Beach's Free Clinic, in 1970. I was the one who ended up going to law school at night, in 1972. While she was bailing suspects out of jail, I was learning how to defend them in a criminal law class taught by then-district attorney of Orange County Cecil Hicks, who happened to have a great sense of humor. But what his office did at one point to Joyce and Lyn Chevli was not so funny to me.


Fahrenheit 451 was Southern California's answer to San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore. It was open in 1968 by Lyn Chevli and her British husband, Dennis Madison (and, yes, Ray Bradbury had given them permission to use the name). Lyn would end up selling the shop in 1972 after she divorced Madison. She would also end up working as my housecleaner for several years in Orange County to supplement her income, given that writers and cartoonists are generally grossly overworked and underpaid.

In August 1972, Joyce Farmer (Joyce Sutton at the time) and Lyn Chevli published their first issue of Tits & Clits, a raunchy but hilarious, for-adults-only comic that dealt head-on with unspeakable girl stuff, like sex, menstruation, birth control, and abortion — not to mention social and economic discrimination. T&C was the duo's reaction to the portrayals of women in underground comics, which, though satiric, were overtly sexual — sometimes bordering on the depraved — and often very violent. Fahrenheit 451 stocked the now-collectible comic, as well as classic underground comics by a group in San Francisco (spearheaded by R. Crumb) responsible for Zap Comix.

One of Cecil Hicks' minions during this time was deputy D.A. Oretta Sears, who was still smarting from losing a case in the U.S. Supreme Court that would change obscenity standards from "utterly without redeeming social value" to a rigorous three-pronged test involving community standards. In November 1973, Sears would try to prosecute Joyce and her partner on obscenity charges stemming from the first issue of Tits & Clits.

It all started when one of Joyce's friends, married to an Orange County fireman, made the mistake of showing the comic to her husband, who passed it around to his firefighter and police buddies. Laguna cops raided Fahrenheit 451 and arrested its fairly new owners, Gordon Wilson, an English professor teaching at a college in Riverside, and his wife, Evie, who was not only an ex-Carmelite nun, but pregnant to boot at the time she was arrested for selling allegedly obscene underground comics.

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9 comments
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helentroy4
helentroy4

It is such a pleasure to come to the New Times website and see Ms. Farmer on the home page. She has such lovely skin with an almost luminescent glow. Thank you for writing this article. I was not familiar with her work.

As for the naysayers who say that kids these days are uninterested in this genre, and are naive ignorant sad sacks when it comes to these kinds of publications, I think that you are woefully ignorant of the popularity of what are now called graphic novels which are this generation's underground comics.

Movermoves
Movermoves

can't understand why there would be an art critic in phoenix. there isn't any art here.

Crazed Country Acid Head
Crazed Country Acid Head

todays yuppies could care less about underground comix. those days are gone with the 60s and 70s hippie generation. the punks today dont even know what underground anything is. they are all ignorant naive mental sad sacks.

The Snoid
The Snoid

I have a collection of about 400 old underground comix from the 60s and 70s from all different writers and artists.

Self Help Guru
Self Help Guru

there is no culture here either or blues music culture. phoenix is just a very unsophisticated boring dusty sandy desert in the middle of nowhere looking for a city. but i love the sunshine, blue sky's and hot dry desert heat so i put up with this boring burg even though there is nothing to do here but ride motorcycles, swim and get skin cancer.

 
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