FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
SUBJECT: Charles Bukowski FILE: 140-35907
In 1968 various branches of the U.S. government performed an investigation into the background of civil servant Charles Bukowski. Apparently the FBI and the Postal Service took offense to some of his writing (mainly the notes of a dirty old man column he wrote for the Los Angeles hippie tabloid Open City), and had their 'informants' report Bukowski to higher-ups in the post office. The bulk of these files are interviews with neighbors and employers, few of whom who seem to remember Bukowski. However, the files do contain some surprises. Not the least of which: Bukowski claimed he was married to Jane Cooney.
Every Bukowski biography written thus far names Barbara Frye as his first wife. However, in 1952 (three years before his marriage to Barbara Frye) Bukowski stated that he was married to Jane Cooney Baker - the "Jane" of many of his most heartfelt works. Jane's name and birth date are blacked out in the copies of the FBI files released to the public, but we have used sophisticated spectral analysis (holding pages up to a bright light) to read this and other blocked out passages. A close up scan of the page in question (page 7 of FBI report LA 140-6698 dated 3/28/68) clearly shows Jane's name (misspelled as JANE S. COONYE).
You can view the files in order, or skip to interesting pages via the links below. As an added bonus, we have included detailed instructions for requesting your own copy of the files from the FBI! (Note that they electronically redact material from the file now, so you will not have the blacked out sections to try to read through.)
Click here to begin to view the pages in order
Or go directly to these pages:
Addresses and jobs through 1957
A "notes of a dirty old man" column
Arrested for dodging the draft
Married to Jane in 1952
Married to Jane (close-up)
Writing is "highly romanticized"
Never seen women in his apartment
College from 1939 to 1941
Drunk, night in jail
Second "notes of a dirty old man" column
Third "notes of a dirty old man" column
Unfit for military service
Get your own copy of the Bukowski FBI files
1) Every page of the files is included here, even mostly blank pages and copies of envelopes. While some of the images may seem like a waste of space, I wanted to include everything. I can't provide enlargements or higher resolution scans - if you need more detail, I suggest requesting your own copy of the files from the government. While you're at it, request your own files...
2) Howard Sounes, author of two books about Bukowski; Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life and Bukowski in Pictures, takes issue with the suggestion that Bukowski and Cooney Baker were married. Sounes has interviewed a lot of people and done a lot of research, but he did not interview Charles Bukowski or Jane Cooney Baker. They are also the only two people who could definitively say whether they were married, so the truth about their marriage (or lack thereof) can never really be known. Telling the landlord of a rooming house that you are married so you can share a room is one thing, lying to the Federal Government is quite another. So what is the truth? Read the files and decide for yourself. Then read:
This 1959 poem from Gallows magazine that makes mention of his second wife (referring to Barbara Frye).
This 1960 poem manuscript excerpt in which he refers to himself as "twice divorced."
This 1966 poem manuscript excerpt which says he has had "2 wives."
These references combined with the FBI files would seem to confirm that Jane was his first wife, despite what the biographies may say. Why he dropped the marriage from his history in later years is unknown.