It was the late seventies and I was living in Paris when I saw an interesting advert in the Paris Metro newspaper in English announcing a Reich/Lowen Primal Scream workshop facilitated by Wendy Shute. I decided to attend even though I cannot scream and hate people screaming. I got on so well with fellow patriot Wendy that she invited me to stay a week at her flat in Grenoble. Well why not? I was unattached, happily living and working in Paris as an antiques collectables dealer with a stand at Marche Montreuil, the early morning dealers flea market. I was interested in Personal Development even though I knew nothing of Reichian Therapy which was popular in the seventies.
So off I went by train into the unknown for a week. I soon discovered Wendy, a supposedly together mature woman in her fifties, lived in an apartment with a twenty something boy tenant who turned out to be her Toy Boy and an extremely attractive French man in this forties, who was the image of my Anglo French ex fiancé Philippe. In fact he wore the same sludge green anorak jacket with toggles. Same age and same look. How could I resist?
After dinner, where all four of us had sat at a large rustic pine table eating good food, downing copious amounts of red wine and discussing Life all in French, bien sur, the French man (whose name is wiped from my memory) cornered me and declared that we must be together for the duration of my stay. That we had no time to waste! Well he was very attractive and interesting……..I accepted the challenge and moved into his bedroom much to Wendy’s irritation. He was the French representative of the Viennese Otto Muehls commune. The Movemement of Selbsdarstellung meaning Self Expression and Be Yourself. I didn’t know what that meant but I was soon to find out.
I awoke the following morning hearing Primal Screams floating down the hallway as I went to the bathroom! Wendy gave her Wilhelm Reich and Alexander Lowen teachings and techniques in a room in her flat and we were instructed to be very quiet in the morning when she had her victims.
That weekend the four of us sped off to Geneva to attend a Self Expression residential weekend. I remember it well. There was a very large lounge with a grand piano and someone playing decadent monotonous chords that went on and on and became hypnotic. People gathered in a huge circle. Then one by one, everyone had to go into the middle of the circle to “be themselves” I froze not wanting to be noticed. My Frenchman, being experienced, jumped up and down like a maniac flinging his arms wildly, wailing in French. The music continued throughout and most people mumbled in German. I just watched, numbed, stupefied and inhibited.
The next day we had to be like nymphs prancing half naked around the room waving our arms. Was this Self Expression? I had only been naked once before in my life in the seventies with Philippe on Paradise Beach, Mykonos, Greece – which today is still a nudist beach. I remember it well because I burned my tummy and after had to stay out of the sun for a week.
That night as we were pairing off to go to bed and saying bon nuit to each other, Wendy announced that she wanted to sleep with my Frenchman. I, of course, refused as I was already in a “relationship” of at least for the week. She then grabbed my neck and shook it violently obviously using a Mental Patient technique. It took the two men to disengage her. I was left stunned and in shock. My Frenchman declared he was not a piece of meat! Thank God I won and he wanted me and not her. After that episode she would not speak to me as I had become his guest and not hers. He told me he had no interest in her sexually and she was just his landlady. The last few days passed without dramas with walks and talks in Grenoble.
I got on the train to return to my life in Paris. It was as if a compartment of my mind had closed down. It had been a very weird and informative week never to be repeated in my life again. I often thought of the weekend and the participants I met and the lover who had promised to visit me in Paris because there was a Paris Chapter he was in contact with. Then he wrote to inform me that he had slept with Wendy after all. Did I mind? Yes I did and I never wrote back. I wiped him from my memory and do not recall his name.
Over the past thirty years I have never thought about this weird week in my life until last week when the current man in my life told me that he had lived in this Commune in Vienna back in the seventies for a year. The Commune no longer exists but Otto Muehl, now very old and an artist, is still alive and living somewhere in Spain. I read all about him on the Internet.