Beyond Bizarre, the life and art of John Willie
Teaser of the project by the authors Charlotte Grondin & Guillaume Pin
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John Alexander Scott Coutts, aka John Willie, was born in Singapore in 1902 and grew up in England where he attended a prestigious military school, before becoming a British Army officer. A man who was clearly not destined to become, after his death, an icon of counterculture. Following a rather inappropriate marriage with a cabaret dancer, he immigrated to Australia until the end of World War II, then Canada, and finally to the United States. That is where he “became” John Willie and created his famous magazine Bizarre and the vast majority of his artistic work and photographic production. He died in 1962 from an incurable illness, leaving his work unfinished, scattered and partly destroyed.
Sometimes nicknamed the “Rembrandt of Pulp”, John Willie was both the creator of the magazine Bizarre and of Gwendoline, the famous high-heeled damsel in distress. Iconoclastic and endearing, Willie was the kind of man you make a movie about. An adventurer with a romantic yet mysterious life. One of those lives that come with so many exciting legends, you find yourself dying for them to be true.
We know he worked as a cab driver, a sailor, and a policeman... We think he was also a radio host, a nightclub bouncer, and perhaps even a spy... And we know for a fact that he was a hedonist, a gentleman, a night owl, a barfly, and a banjo player.
But he was, above all, a brilliant artist, who was and remains the greatest bondage and fetish artist. As well as being a free spirit, he was also a militant, a pioneer in his own way of the sexual liberation movement of the 60s.