Boss penciller, Barney Bubbles, bumper bundle bonus of fun, poor but honest


Photograph courtesy of Rebecca and Mike’s Barney Bubbles Collection.

This ad, hand drawn by Barney with two Pentel pens, the bold one of which was old and squishy-tipped, was placed in Friends magazine, in June 1970, when the evil Ed Moulton effectively kicked Barney out of his home at 307 Portobello Road in the ‘Grove, and  the ”poor but honest boss penciller… lousy with smiles” was looking for a new pad – although his amour, Gianna, the mother of his son, Aten, remembers it slightly differently. In Will Birch’s book, ‘No Sleep Till Canvey Island’ Gianna said Barney left because he couldn’t afford it. Which amounts to the same thing I guess, since Barney was not only working for the rotter Moulton, but through some bookkeeping shenanigans he was not getting much of the money he eventually had to pay tax on, plus he was also supposed to be paying Moulton rent.

Gianna told Will Birch (whom I hope doesn’t mind I use a quote from his great book), “Barney was very sad to leave Portobello… He was heartbroken because it was his project, his studio, and he couldn’t afford to stay there any more. Everybody moved out when Barney left. A friend of ours, an American girl called Kathy Moon, had managed to get hold of a council flat in Octavia House, Ladbroke Grove and asked us to move in with her.”

Kathy Moon is searching her diaries for just the facts and says that,  yes, she thinks she did find the place.

I had thought that Nik Turner of Hawkwind had found the place through his Auntie, but I got the story wrong, he writes, “I’m afraid I don’t think I know about the origins of that council flat, I may have had a hand in it, but my recollections of that time are rather vague. I do know that  I, and I think W, moved in on the floor in a cupboard sometimes.

“It wasn’t my auntie, she lived in Swiss Cottage, was in the Royal Shakespeare Co, got me to procure lsd and amphetamines, and is now 95 and still rocking.

“I did however, arrange a country cottage with roses round the door, on Clovelly estate, through my then girl-friend, Carinthia ‘Stiltz’ Ska-West, daddy was a 5-star general in the war dept, Sir Michael, and the cottage was owned by Stiltz’s  mad aunt and her upper-class disfunctional family, Barney lived there with Gianna and Aten for a time, but I think they then very sadly split up.”

Wills adds: I met some English tourists earlier this year in SF sitting silently opposite me in the front of a number 7 bus and  guessed they were Brit teachers from Bradford because of their clothes and demeanor – and was right. They said they were neighbors of Barney in Clovelly for a while and that the village gossip was full of tales about their goings on.

Guessing where people are from is an odd skill I have, I recently asked three girls on another bus if they were from Cracow, Poland – they were astonished. I also met a homeless guy on Haight Street, and when he said he was from Scotland, I asked if  he was from Dundee, which he was. He also said the name of the Dundee fellow, sometime Barney assosiate and sea-fort guard, Colin Elder, was familiar to him.