Ki Longfellow

Ki Longfellow

Infobox Writer

imagesize = 150px
caption =
pseudonym =
birthdate = December 9, 1944
birthplace = Staten Island, New York
deathdate =
deathplace =
occupation = Writer, screenwriter, playwright
nationality = American
period = 1980s to present
genre = Fiction
subject = Varied
movement =
influences = Vladimir Nabokov, Flann O'Brien, Don Marquis, Raymond Chandler, Vivian Stanshall
influenced =

website =

Ki Longfellow (born as Pamela Longfellow) is an American novelist and playwright. In Britain, as the widow of Vivian Stanshall, she is well known as the guardian of his artistic heritage, but elsewhere she is best known for her own work, especially the 2005 novel "The Secret Magdalene" (pre-empted and republished in March 2007 by Crown, a division of Random House [] ), which deals with gnosis (the direct experience of the divine), told through the Biblical story of Mary Magdalene. Longfellow is also the author of "China Blues" and "Chasing Women".

Early life and education

Born on December 9, 1944, most likely in the Mount Loretta Orphanage on Staten Island, New York, Ki Longfellow's mother, Andrea Lorraine Kelly (b. November 17, 1928), was barely sixteen years old. Kelly left her baby in foster care while she worked at any job she could find during the last of the war years. The infant Longfellow contracted pneumonia and was removed from the foster home, only to be taken in by great her aunt. She was removed from this "home" when it was discovered the husband was abusive. [Article in "The Bristolian", a short-lived magazine, May, 1988.]

Within two years Kelly, briefly assuming care of her child, left New York to resettle in Marin County, California. It was not until 1972, shortly before Kelly's sudden death at the age of 44 from an embolism, that she told Longfellow that her biological father was a full-blooded Iroquois whom Kelly had met at an unnamed New York City art school. From this long-delayed account, Longfellow believed her Irish/French mother was more ashamed of the Iroquois ancestry than of her daughter's illegitimate birth. Because Kelly never revealed his name, Longfellow never met him nor could she find him. [Discovery: an English Radio Two interview aired in 1990.] In Marin, Longfellow was cared for by her mother's married older sister, Rosemarie Anderson, until her "Aunt Re" left for Texas with her own child and new husband.

After Kelly met and married a US Navy man, she claimed Pamela again, who at the age of four or so joined her mother and stepfather moving from naval base to naval base, including New York's Brooklyn Navy Yard, Hawaii's Pearl Harbor, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Long Beach Naval Shipyard, both in California, and Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia. Seldom anywhere for long, Longfellow attended a different school for each grade except the years spent on the Island of Oahu. Between duty stations, the family lived at her adopted grandfather's house in Madrone Canyon in Larkspur, California. Throughout these years, Pamela Ki Longfellow turned to her grandfather, Lindsay Ray Longfellow, for "family." [Discovery: an English Radio Two interview aired in 1990.]

Longfellow graduated from Redwood High School in Larkspur. In her junior and senior years, she attended only those classes that interested her and cut those that did not. Determined to become a writer, she spent time with painters, poets, and musicians in Sausalito, and discovered what remained of the Beat Generation in North Beach, San Francisco.

At nineteen, Longfellow suddenly and unexpectedly had a dramatic experience that she now considers an occurrence of self-realization known as gnosis, or in the Hindu mystical tradition: Jnana. [Discovery: an English Radio Two interview aired in 1990.] Not understanding her experience then and enduring increasingly severe panic attacks, she voluntarily entered the State Mental Institution at Napa, California. There she was diagnosed, without benefit of a doctor, as a "severe psycho-neurotic". [Woman's Hour, a long-lived and popular English radio show, 1993.] In her later novel about Mary Magdalene: "The Secret Magdalene", Longfellow made use of her "gnosis" as well as her experiences at the mental hospital.

Children, marriages, and career

On June 21, 1963, at age eighteen, Longfellow gave birth to her first child, Sydney Longfellow. (Sydney Longfellow became a painter as an adult.) In 1964 she acted in her only movie, "Once a Thief" (starring Alain Delon and directed by Ralph Nelson), but found acting not as involving as she'd hoped. [Woman's Hour, a long-lived and popular English radio show, 1993.] In 1967 she moved with her daughter to New York City where she worked briefly as a fashion model and then as a writer for CARE. For one year she moved to Montana where she lived and worked on a ranch on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation as a member of the Peace Corps (Vista Volunteers, domestic division). For another year, she sailed to Europe, living for a time in Nice and Paris.

Back in New York City, Longfellow worked for the promoter Bill Graham in his Millard Booking Agency. There she met the manager of the English folk band Fairport Convention and moved with him to Hampstead, England, north London. They were married in 1972. This marriage lasted five years, during which Longfellow wrote occasionally for English music magazines.

Longfellow returned to California in 1975. In 1977, she flew back to England to retain her English residency. There she met and married Vivian Stanshall. In 1977, she and the ex-frontman for the Bonzo Dog Band moved into a houseboat moored on the River Thames between Chertsey and Shepperton. On August 16, 1979, they had a daughter, Longfellow's second, Silky Longfellow-Stanshall.

Longfellow devoted her skills to Stanshall in the belief that his work was more important than her own. They wrote radio plays and songs together. In 1980, Longfellow edited Stanshall's only book, "Sir Henry at Rawlinson End & Other Spots", published by Pete Townshend, of Eel Pie Publishing. She also helped Stanshall on the script for the film version of "Sir Henry at Rawlinson End", which starred Trevor Howard.

In late 1982, Longfellow discovered the Thekla, a ship she rescued from a shipyard in Sunderland. She sailed it to Bristol, where she established it as a theater and restaurant and, she hoped, as a refuge for her hard-drinking, valium-addicted, husband. The restaurant failed, but the theater thrived and also built a reputation as a music venue. In early 1983, Stanshall joined her on the "Old Profanity Showboat". [The BBC produced a documentary program on this, aired in September 1983 as "The Bristol Showboat Saga".]

In 1985, Stanshall and Longfellow wrote, produced, and staged their comic opera "Stinkfoot" aboard the Thekla. It received excellent reviews. [Three reviews are reproduced [ here] .] "Stinkfoot" was a surrealistic melding of Longfellow's allegorical tale of New York City alley cats and the internal turmoil of Stanshall's intense struggle as an artist. Intending to be a painter, he had turned instead to the "easier" world of popular entertainment. Later the opera was transferred to London's West End, where it was partly financed by Stephen Fry. Without the active participation of either Longfellow or Stanshall, it was not a financial success. In 2004, Ben Schot's Sea Urchin Editions published the script of "Stinkfoot", with an introduction by Longfellow.

In 1986, Longfellow and Stanshall closed the door on the Old Profanity and moved into the Bristol home of their friend and actor David Rappaport. There Longfellow began writing in earnest.

Her first two books were "China Blues", a historical thriller set in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1923, the year President Warren G. Harding died mysteriously in the Palace Hotel; and "Chasing Women", a screwball comedy murder mystery set in New York City just after the Great Crash of 1929. Both novels were successful, in particular "China Blues". It was the object of an auction which Harper Collins won, and first published in 1989. China Blues was subsequently translated into Spanish, Swedish, Hebrew, Czech, German, and optioned by the producing team of Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown. Longfellow's second book "Chasing Women", also published by Harper Collins, was optioned by an Australian team of female writer/producers. Pursuing the concept of a film through Hollywood was an experience that taught Longfellow a great deal about the mainstream movie business.

A New Voice

From mid-1990 until the death of her husband in March 1995, Longfellow divided her time between a small farm in Vermont and Stanshall's flat in Muswell Hill, London. Both she and their daughter Silky hoped that Stanshall would end his destructive habits, or be forced by ill health to stop. Though Silky had been preparing for many years, the actual ending devastated her. []

Longfellow's second book "Chasing Women" was published in 1993 while she was living in London. After Stanshall's death a year and a half later, Longfellow stopped writing. When she slowly got back to work, she had found a new "voice" very different from her earlier writing. Her recent work has grappled with the loss of Stanshall, her difficult childhood, as well as a deep stream of spiritual yearning and a realization of the gnosis she experienced at the age of nineteen. She has also incorporated her own brush with death when suffering pneumonia in 1990.

Since Stanshall's death, Longfellow has published under Ki (pronounced as in "sky"), the name Stanshall gave her after a vivid dream. In 2006, Longfellow was invited to contribute to Dan Burstein's non-fiction book "Secrets of Mary Magdalene". (CDS Books, 2006)

Her novel, "The Secret Magdalene" (Eio Books edition), to date translated into Spanish, Czech, Chinese, Icelandic, and French has been adapted as a feature film by the noted director Nancy Savoca. The script is currently in pre-production. In 1989 Savoca won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for her first movie, "True Love".

For the moment, Longfellow lives on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, where she is completing a novel about the 4th/5th century mathematician and philosopher, Hypatia of Alexandria, Egypt. This is the second volume in what she intends as a trilogy on the Divine Feminine. She is also working on her first nonfiction since writing for the British edition of Rolling Stone, New York's Ms, and various British magazines when she lived in England. "Steal A Heart" is a full length book on the history of American Thoroughbred horse racing told through the stories of nine unique racehorses.


*1989 – "China Blues" (as Pamela Longfellow) – Harper Collins (Britain), Doubleday (US) []
*1993 – "Chasing Women" (as Pamela Longfellow) – Harper Collins (Britain)
*2003 – "Stinkfoot, a celebration of the Comic Opera" (as Ki Longfellow-Stanshall with Vivian Stanshall) – Sea Urchin Press (English language, Holland) [] (currently in pre-production for a 2009 revival)
*2003 - "Walks Away Woman", (currently being considered as a feature film.)
*2004 - "Houdini Heart", (currently unfinished)
*2005 – "The Secret Magdalene" – (as Ki Longfellow) Eio Books (worldwide)
*2006 – "Secrets of Mary Magdalene" – (contributing writer) CDS Books []
*2007 – "The Secret Magdalene" – Crown (Random House, English language world rights)
*2008 - "Flow Down Like Silver" (working title of a book about Hypatia of Alexandria, work in progress)
*2008 - "Steal A Heart" (work in progress)


*1965 - Once a Thief (1965 film), actor
*1978 - "Sir Henry At Rawlinson End", Charisma Films, screenwriter
*2007 - "The Secret Magdalene", (pre-production in 2008)


*2008-2009 - "Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera", staged in Bristol, England and London, England, (currently being considered for revival)



* "Ginger Geezer: The Life of Vivian Stanshall" by Lucian Randall and Chris Welch. London: Fourth Estate, 2001. ISBN 1-84115-678-7 (hardback); 2002. ISBN 1-84115-679-5 (paperback)
* [ Ki Longfellow’s official site]
* [ The Secret Magdalene]
* [ interview of Ki Longfellow]
* [ Longfellow on]
* [ Ki Longfellow, "Pagan Christmas", Popular Pagan Holidays]
* [ Review of Longfellow's work by Earl Doherty, a comparative study of Robert M. Price's "The Da Vinci Fraud", Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Longfellow's "The Secret Magdalene".]

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