Peter Orlovsky was staying with painter Robert LaVigne in San Francisco in 1954 when Allen Ginsberg dropped by for a visit. The two fell together almost instantly, and remained a couple for three decades. Their relationship had rocky periods and was never monogamous (Peter Orlovsky had heterosexual leanings, for one thing), but it survived, as a close and important friendship at least, until Ginsberg’s death. The relationship provided enormous inspiration for Ginsberg, and the two were inseperable for much of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
Orlovsky has written and performed his own poetry, though he never fully established a literary identity for himself that transcended his status as Ginsberg’s lover. Interestingly, one of his biggest fans seemed to be Jack Kerouac, whose letters contain many admiring comments about Orlovsky’s work (as well as a personal respect for him that is uncharacteristic for the curmudgeonly Kerouac). Orlovsky’s poems do have a definite charm and a certain logic, and his work may someday find a larger fan club.
Peter Orlovsky shows up as Simon Darlovsky in Kerouac’s novel Desolation Angels. In the novel, as in real life, he often travels with one or both of his demented but sweet-tempered brothers, Julius and Lafcadio Orlovsky (in the novel, Lazarus Darlovsky).
Orlovsky can also be seen romping in a meditation circle with Ginsberg, Mick Ronson, Roger McGuinn and many others in Bob Dylan’s movie Renaldo and Clara.
UPDATE: Peter Orlovsky died on May 30, 2010.