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The Wives and Girlfriends of Charles Bukowski

Since completing university, Paul has worked as a librarian, teacher, and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he currently lives in Florida.

The love life of Charles Bukowski was erratic: sometimes intense, sometimes casual, and often non-existent. This article looks at the wives and girlfriends who shared his life.

The love life of Charles Bukowski was erratic: sometimes intense, sometimes casual, and often non-existent. This article looks at the wives and girlfriends who shared his life.

The Los Angeles poet and author, Charles Bukowski wrote extensively about his relationships with women, love and sex during his lifetime, both in his poems and in his fiction. Despite accusations of misogyny and a late start to his romantic life, Bukowski had many partners and lovers, especially in late middle age.

Later, many of his girlfriends discovered that they had been featured and often portrayed less than favorably in Bukowski's novel entitled Women. Some of Bukowski's wives and girlfriends played major life roles and creative muses, while others just had walk-on parts.

Below is a list of the most significant women in Bukowski’s life (excluding his mother and daughter) presented in the chronological order that he met them.

Sex is interesting, but it's not totally important. I mean it's not even as important (physically) as excretion. A man can go seventy years without a piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement.

— Charles Bukowski

“The 300 pound whore”

Charles Bukowski’s unflattering description of the woman that he claims he lost his virginity to when he was 24 years old. He apparently met her at a bar and took her back to his place after a drunken night. In the morning, he couldn’t find his wallet and blamed her, ordering her to leave.

Afterwards he discovered that his wallet had fallen down the side of his bed and he was guilt-stricken. “She was the first woman who ever liked me,” he said in later life.

Jane Cooney Baker

Charles Bukowski’s first major romantic attachment and his biggest muse. She is lamented numerous times in his poetry and versions of her feature in the novels, first as Betty in Post Office and then as Laura in Factotum.

A heavy drinker and ten years his senior, she was living off donations from older men and skivvying in cheap hotels when Bukowski first met her in a bar. Out of all of all the wives and girlfriends, Jane Cooney Baker is considered to be the most important by most Bukowski biographers, both as a muse and as a lover. She died in 1962 from a burst stomach ulcer.

Barbara Frye

The first of Bukowski’s wives, they met through her job as a poetry editor. She had two vertebrae missing from her neck and slight curvature of the spine, which made her look like she was permanently hunching.

They hardly knew each other when they married in Las Vegas, as she was from Texas and their courtship consisted entirely of writing letters. The marriage lasted just a little more than two years—they divorced in 1958. Despite publishing him, she was generally unimpressed with his writing skills. She eventually died amid mysterious circumstances in India.

It's possible to love a human being if you don't know them too well.

— Charles Bukowski

francEyE aka Francis Smith

Smit was Bukowski's live-in girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, Marina. Marina was Smith's fifth daughter but Bukowski's only child.

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When he found out Francis was pregnant, Bukowski asked her to marry him, but she turned him down.

A Los Angeles poet, she is sometimes referred to by Bukowski as: "The White-haired Hippy"; "The Shack-job"; and "Old Snaggle-tooth" in his writing.

Smith died after complications from a hip fracture in Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, California, early on June 2, 2009.

Linda King

Poet and sculptor who had a tempestuous relationship with Bukowski for nearly five years during the early 1970s. Probably the most volatile of the Bukowski girlfriends, they got together after King asked Bukowski if she could make a sculpture of his head.

Their relationship was on-off and whenever they fell out, Bukowski would return the head to Linda. The turbulence of their affair could sometimes spill over into violence with Bukowski breaking her nose on one occasion. After an argument over his infidelity, King threw his typewriter and books out into the street.

Joanna Bull

Bull was the ex-girlfriend of rock drummer Levon Helm. She slept with Bukowski during his “research” for the novel Women. The experience made her so nauseous that she puked up afterwards.

Pamella “Cupcakes” Miller

Cocktail waitress, party animal and diet pill addict.

Bukowski developed an infatuation for her, but she would disappear for days at a time, which drove him crazy.

He wrote about her in his poetry collection, Love is a Dog from Hell. She left him for a dental student.

The male, for all his bravado and exploration, is the loyal one, the one who generally feels love. The female is skilled at betrayal and torture and damnation.

— Charles Bukowski

Amber O'Neil

Pseudonym of a woman who had regular trysts with Bukowski during the 1970s. In his novel, Women, he named her “Tanya” and was less than kind about her. She got her own back by writing her own book about him entitled Blowing My Hero.

Linda Lee Beighle

Bukowski’s second wife. She was working in a health food shop when he met her. They argued a lot, but Bukowski appreciated that she cared about him. He gave up his crazy women, bought a house in San Pedro with his writing royalties and married her.

Linda Lee features in the disturbing Barbet Schroeder film clip, often cited as evidence of Bukowski’s misogyny. She was at Bukowski’s hospital bedside when he died of leukaemia in 1994.

Life with the volatile Bukowski wasn't always easy, as Barbet Schroeder's clip above shows.

There are women who can make you feel more with their bodies and their souls, but these are the exact women who will turn the knife into you right in front of the crowd. Of course, I expect this, but the knife still cuts.

— Charles Bukowski

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Paul Goodman


Donna on July 10, 2019:

Does anyone know who Kathrine was?...letter from January 25, 1976 in Living On Luck Vol. 2

miroslav228 from USA on January 29, 2019:

excellent artist

Baldy on September 07, 2018:

You got some facts wrong and we don’t want to see a photograph of your fat self reading a book. Librarian? I can believe it!

Meme on May 01, 2018:

love the quotes I love his work and the way his mind sees things that most cannot see...

SG on April 06, 2017:

Linda Lee still alive?

Alice Frances Wickham from London on February 16, 2013:

excellent piece , really enjoyed ..

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