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Moving 1960s short interviews the ‘Bowery Bums’ of old New York
08.28.2014
01:34 pm

Topics:
Class War
History

Tags:
1960s
NYC
homelessness


 
Despite former Mayor Giuliani’s highly successful war on the homeless, the destitute faces of “Old New York” remain some of our most recognizable mascots. One of the misconceptions about present-day NYC is that the streets are now “scrubbed” of the homeless, but nothing could be further from the truth. The post-Giuliani policing of the poor was however, an unmitigated success when it came to dispersing indigent bodies—in other words, busting up homeless communities. Simply put, it’s not illegal to die in the street, it’s just illegal to fraternize with your fellow undesirables.

The video below, shot in 1960 and 1961, doesn’t dig deep—it doesn’t have to. Men are quick and open about their lives. The tragically predictable culprits of addiction, prison, disability and the lack of work brought them to the Bowery, and they’re rightfully resentful of their grim sanctuary. Still, it’s an odd thing to be wistful for a time when the homeless were at least able to commiserate fraternally in New York City. Like the gentlemen say, “misery loves company.”
 

 
Via Bowery Boogie

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘Lose your mind and play’ Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd ‘live’ on TOTP, 1967


 
I type this as someone who has (perhaps obsessively) gone out of his way—for decades now—acquiring Pink Floyd bootlegs. I couldn’t get enough of them, always trading up in quality if possible. There was always an endless supply of them, with “new” ones popping up constantly. It was a disease like stamp collecting. I even paid a hundred bucks for one that I just had to have…

Since YouTube launched in 2005, of course, there’s been so much additional Pink Floyd goodness making its way to the public—an avalanche really—which is the only way to explain how THIS ONE got past me in the Floydian deluge… I’d read a few years ago that the British Film Institute had located tapes of two of Pink Floyd’s three Top of the Pops appearances in the summer of 1967 and that the quality was a little ropey. I promptly forget about it, but that footage turned up on YouTube about a year ago, even if I just saw it myself this morning.

True the quality isn’t great—only one of the tapes was watchable apparently—but who’s going to complain about catching a rare glimpse of a still functional Syd Barrett fronting Pink Floyd on TOTP in 1967??? Before this video was located, practically the only documentation of the group’s trio of appearances on the program was the color shot used on the Syd Barrett bootleg “Unforgotten Hero” as seen above.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Germaine Greer vs. Diane Arbus: ‘If she had been a man, I’d have kicked her in the balls’

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Though Diane Arbus was famed for her photographs of “deviant and marginal” people “whose normality seems ugly or surreal,” she did not want to be thought solely as a photographer of freaks. This in part may explain why Arbus accepted a commission to take a portrait photograph of Germaine Greer for the publication New Woman. Unless, of course, the magazine’s editors thought there was something freakish about the Antipodean academic, journalist and feminist?

On a hot summer’s day in 1971, Arbus arrived to photograph Greer at the Chelsea Hotel. Greer was on tour with her book The Female Eunuch and had most recently taken part in an infamous head-to-head with Norman Mailer at New York City’s Town Hall. Seeing the diminutive photographer was overly laden with equipment, Greer helped Arbus up to her hotel suite.

Greer may have been showing consideration to the photographer, but the session soon turned into a battle of wills as Arbus ordered the Greer around the room, telling her to lie on the bed, and then straddling her as she snapped away. Greer later related meeting with Arbus to the photographer’s biographer Patricia Bosworth:

It developed into a sort of duel between us, because I resisted being photographed like that—close up with all my pores and lines showing!! She kept asking me all sorts of personal questions, and I became aware that she would only shoot when my face was showing tension or concern or boredom or annoyance (and there was plenty of that, let me tell you), but because she was a woman I didn’t tell her to fuck off. If she had been a man, I’d have kicked her in the balls.

Unable to deliver a telling kick, Greer opted not to co-operate.

‘I decided “Damn it, you’re not going to do this to me, lady. I’m not going to be photographed like one of your grotesque freaks!”  So I stiffened my face like a mask.

Greer would later claim the duel with Arbus as a draw, but as Howard Sounes noted in his superlative cultural biography of the Seventies:

The editors at New Woman evidently thought Greer vs. Arbus had resulted in defeat for the photographer, for her pictures were never used in the magazine. In a letter to [her husband] Allan, Diane discussed her attitude to the shoot, perhaps revealing her approach to her subjects generally. She wrote that she had liked Germaine Greer personally, considering her to be ‘fun and terrific looking…’ Nevertheless she went out of her way to depict her in an unflattering light. As she said, ‘I managed to managed to make otherwise.’

The picture from the session, printed posthumously as ‘Feminist in her hotel room, NYC, 1971’, is in fact fascinating, not least because in close-up, Greer’s neatly plucked and re-applied eyebrows more than a passing resemblance to the transvestite in curlers Arbus photographed back in 1966.

Arbus was not best suited to working as a freelance photographer—the hours spent pitching ideas that often came to nothing, or struggling to earn agreed fees from indifferent publishing houses to maintain her independence, caused her deep depression. Taking fashionable portraits of celebrity figures was hardly the work for an artist photographer who believed:

A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.

 
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Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Soviet posters warn soldiers and civilians not to leak state secrets
08.27.2014
01:06 pm

Topics:
Art
History

Tags:
Soviet propaganda


“In a letter home, look, you do not accidentally become loose military secrets.” (1954) Because in Soviet Russia, a gossip-goblin lay in wait at ever window, hoping to disseminate classified information from soldier’s correspondence.
 
Calls for civic discretion during wartime have always been a rich source of propaganda. “Loose lips sink ships” is the classic American slogan, and the British “Keep mum,” feels appropriately prissy for our allies across the pond. I recently learned that the Swedes promoted the punny “en svensk tiger” during World War 2 (“tiger” meaning both “tiger” and “silent”), but no one quite does discipline like the Germans, who went with, “Schäm Dich, Schwätzer!” meaning “Shame on you, blabbermouth!”

My theory is that these axioms are intended more to foster xenophobia and suspicion than the protect actual state secrets. Most rank-and-file military don’t even have access to sensitive information. Even in the field, their communications are heavily monitored and most soldiers are kept on a need-to-know basis, so the likelihood of soldiers leaking even so much as a location is very low. As for civilians, well, I’ve never had access to anything “sensitive”—but perhaps my garrulous reputation precedes me? 
 

“Do not talk! Strictly keep the military and state secrets” (1958)
 

“Be watchful and vigilant!” (1951)
 
More Soviet posters after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Bogie and Bacall’s forgotten radio drama
08.20.2014
08:19 am

Topics:
History
Pop Culture

Tags:
Lauren Bacall
Humphrey Bogart


Promotional standee for Bold Venture sponsored by Genesee Beer, 1951.

When the great Lauren Bacall died recently at 89, her obituaries routinely mentioned her relationship with Humphrey Bogart, and their onscreen chemistry in the four classic films they made together.

Less widely known, and rarely mentioned however, is Bold Venture, the radio show they starred in together in 1951-1952. Bogart and Bacall played the owners of a hotel in Cuba and a boat called the Bold Venture, romantically sparring while getting mixed up with smugglers, spies, con men and corrupt cops “in the sultry settings of tropical Havana and the mysterious islands of the Caribbean.” If the writing isn’t quite To Have and Have Not, it delivers enough sharp wit to keep the couple’s classic chemistry alive and enough tension to keep the drama moving.

57 half-hour episodes have surfaced and they’re available to listen to and download for free at archive.org. If you’ve ever wished Bogie & Bacall made more movies together, Bold Venture is the next best thing.
 

 

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall aboard their private yacht, Santana.

This is a guest post from Jason Toon of Seattle, Washington.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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The time John, Paul, George and Ringo took a ‘trip’ to buy a (fascist) fantasy island
08.15.2014
06:38 am

Topics:
History
Music

Tags:
The Beatles
Magic Alex

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The Summer of Love 1967: John Lennon was tired of Britian, tired of living a life in public, tired of the relentless clamor of fans, and the dreary British weather.

The Beatles had stopped touring in 1966 and were now focusing their energies on being a studio band. Lennon wanted some peace and quiet—somewhere he could have a life of privacy.

At a meeting The Beatles held to discuss plans for their next film The Magical Mystery Tour in July 1967, Lennon raised the suggestion of the band buying a Greek island for them all to live on. As Lennon said at the time:

We’re all going to live there, perhaps forever, just coming home for visits. Or it might just be six months a year. It’ll be fantastic, all on our own on this island. There some little houses which we’ll do up and knock together and live communally.

They would build four villas on the island to provide accommodation for The Beatles and their families. An entertainment complex and a recording studio would be built in the middle, and there would also be homes for staff and friends.
 
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Amusingly, the idea may have been inspired by Gerry Anderson’s kids puppet series Thunderbirds, where the fictional Tracy family lived on a specially altered island from which they operated. The Beatles had lived together before when learning their trade in Hamburg, and of course, memorably on screen in Help!, where they shared a home in four connected houses.

According to Beatles publicist Derek Talyor in his autobiography 20 Years Adrift:

The four Beatles would have their network at the centre of the compound: a dome of glass and iron tracery not unlike the old Crystal Palace over the mutual creative/play area, from which arbours and avenues would lead off like spokes from a wheel to four vast and incredibly beautiful separate living units. In the outer grounds, the houses of the inner clique: Neil (Aspinall), Mal (Evans), Terry (Doran) and Derek, complete with partners, families and friends…

Lennon may also have been talked into it by Yanni Alexis Mardas, better known as Magic Alex, the Greek electronics whizzkid who impressed Lennon with his Kinetic Light Sculptures at the Indica Gallery. As Paul McCartney later said in a biography by Barry Miles’ Many Years From Now:

Alex invited John on a boat holiday in Greece, and we were all then invited. There was some story of buying a Greek island or something. It was all so sort of abstract but the first thing we had to do is go to Greece and see if we even liked it out there. The idea was get an island where you can just do what you want, a sort of hippie commune where nobody’d interfere with your lifestyle.

I suppose the main motivation for that would probably be that no one could stop you smoking. Drugs was probably the main reason for getting some island, and then all the other community things that were around then… it was drug-induced ambition, we’d just be sitting around: “Wouldn’t it be great? The lapping water, sunshine, we’d be playing. We’d get a studio there. Well, its possible these days with mobiles and…” We had lots of ideas like that. The whole Apple enterprise was the result of those ideas.

The plan was serious enough for Alex to strike a deal with Greek government giving The Beatles diplomatic immunity—this allowed the band to carry drugs into the country. As part of the deal to obtain diplomatic immunity, the Fab Four had to pose for pictures for the Ministry of Tourism, this was arranged without the band’s knowledge.
 
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H/T Beatles Bible & All Things Beatles
 
More fantasy island and Beatles holiday snaps, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Miles Davis and John Lennon were shit at basketball
08.14.2014
09:32 am

Topics:
History
Pop Culture

Tags:
John Lennon
Miles Davis


Miles smiles. The Lennons look on.

John Lennon and Miles Davis shooting a game of H-O-R-S-E and both failing miserably. Lennon is particularly bad, missing the backboard, even, but any commenters blaming his lack of game on Yoko will be banned from DM for life!

A crappy looking version of this has made the Internet rounds for a while, but it was so blurry that it was too hard to watch and ultimately uninteresting considering what’s actually there under the layers of VHS video murk. Here’s a superior version where you can actually see what’s happening.

This was apparently shot by Jonas Mekas at a party at Allen Klein’s house in the Bronx in June 1971. Ringo Starr, Allen Ginsberg, Phil Spector, Phil Ochs and Andy Warhol were also said to have been in attendance. The gorgeous woman with Davis is actress Sherry “Peaches” Brewer, who was in Shaft! and later married Seagram’s heir Edgar Bronfman, Jr.
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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White House memo suggests Nixon ‘neutralize’ Johnny Cash, 1970
08.11.2014
10:21 am

Topics:
History

Tags:
Johnny Cash
Richard Nixon
Tex Ritter


 
Richard Nixon’s presidency was marked by a legendarily thick air of paranoia. Dick feared the Democrats—sure, but he also feared Jews, intellectuals, black people, Mexicans and a lot of run-of-the-mill, unremarkable whites, too. In fact, Nixon’s adviser Murray Chotiner (ironically, a Jew and former Democrat), felt that Johnny Cash might upset the Republican masterplan, and hoped Nixon would set him straight at a White House event.
 

 
The fear was that Cash would carry water for Tex Ritter, a colleague and country music legend who was then running for Tennessee’s Senate Republican primary. Predictably, Cash never actually endorsed Ritter, who eventually lost by a landslide. Two years later, Johnny would visit Nixon again to discuss prison reform. The story goes that Nixon requested “Okie from Muskogee,” a Merle Haggard song satirizing reactionary “good ole boys” that Nixon most likely went over Nixon’s head. It’s said that Cash snidely responded by playing a decidedly bleeding heart, anti-war set of “What Is Truth?” “The Man in Black,” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.”

I’d argue that Johnny Cash is a complex and powerful figure, and that it’s tempting to ascribe political dissidence to a man who was ultimately kind of a simple guy with a few very meaningful pet projects. Regardless, it’s fun to contemplate Nixon being concerned about Johnny Cash being a potential thorn in his side, even if the threat was only imagined. You can see footage and hear clips of the 1972 visit below, from the Nixon tapes. June even says that they’re praying for him.
 

 

 
Via Retronaut

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Ed Sanders of the Fugs on Marianne Faithfull, Jean de Breteuil, and Jim Morrison’s death


 
News that Marianne Faithfull had copped to her ex-boyfriend Jean de Breteuil’s (alleged) involvement in Jim Morrison’s death sent me back to a poem I’d read in 2011. That poem, “The Final Times of Jim Morrison” by Ed Sanders of the Fugs, gives a concise account of how de Breteuil was (allegedly) connected to Morrison, Morrison’s longtime companion Pamela Courson, and Marianne Faithfull.

A very compressed summary of Sanders’ story follows. In the summer of 1970, Pamela was living with de Breteuil, a French count and heroin dealer, in Los Angeles. When Janis Joplin overdosed on de Breteuil’s uncut shit, he freaked out and fled with Courson to Paris; Pam left Jim a note, “which upon reading he burned.”

“Some time in the several months thereafter / de Breteuil hooked up with / Marianne Faithfull / meeting her in London / while he stayed at Keith Richards’ house.” Around Christmas, while the Doors were finishing L.A. Woman, Pam returned to L.A., telling Jim to quit the band and move to Paris with her. He agreed, and moved into a Right Bank apartment Pam (“now a stone junkie”) found for him “through connections of de Breteuil.”
 

Comte Jean de Breteuil
 
In June 1971, de Breteuil returned to Paris from London, bringing Faithfull with him and displacing Pam, who had been living in his Paris digs. Pam moved in with Jim. She scored pure Chinese H from the count. Jim and Pam spent the night of July 2 watching home movies and hoovering rails of scag. (“In between reels / they honked down strips of the powerful horse.”)

Jim gurgles. Pam slaps him awake. Jim gets in the tub. Jim pukes blood and pineapple. “After considerable vomiting / She later claimed Jim said to go back to bed / He felt better.”

Pam calls de Breteuil and tells him Jim is dead. De Breteuil rushes to the apartment and tells Pam to flush the drugs. Though he is in a big hurry, he can’t help beating up Marianne Faithfull before rushing her out the door and onto a plane to Tangier.
 

 
You’ll like the poem better. It’s got prosody, diction, rich detail—you know, a poem. Sanders’ most famous book is The Family, but did you know he was hired by Glenn Frey in the 70s to write a biography of the fucking Eagles? The 800-page manuscript, still unpublished, should be their Cocksucker Blues, but sadly there are no bootleg copies.
 

A 1968 episode of William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, featuring a drunken Jack Kerouac, The Fugs’ Ed Sanders and confused academic Lewis Yablonsky discussing the “Hippie” movement.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Disobedient Objects: How to make a tear gas mask & a bucket pamphlet bomb
08.05.2014
09:28 am

Topics:
Activism
Art
History

Tags:
V&A
Disobedient Objects

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If you’re in the UK or planning to head over to London this year, then it might be worth a visit to the city’s esteemed Victoria and Albert Museum where there is an exhibition of Disobedient Objects charting the history of protest through the “objects of art and design from activist social movement over the last 30 years.”

From Suffragette teapots to protest robots, this exhibition will be the first to examine the powerful role of objects in movements for social change. It will demonstrate how political activism drives a wealth of design ingenuity and collective creativity that defy standard definitions of art and design.

Disobedient objects are often everyday items that have been turned to a new purpose. But social change is about making as much as breaking. Sometimes designing a new object creates a new way to disobey.

The exhibition covers anti-globalization demonstrations, the Occupy movement, plus a wide array materials from Unions, activists and protestors down the year. Amongst the items on display are a robot that paints graffiti, union strike banners, placards, fake money and Occupy George stamps.

The V&A have also made available activist posters with instructions on how to make improvised tear gas masks and bucket pamphlet bombs.
 
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How to Guide – Makeshift Tear-Gas Mask
Handmade gas masks were an essential response to police actions during the 2013 mass protests in Istanbul. These events saw the Turkish government release a record amount of tear gas to disperse demonstrators. Protesters devised a way to protect themselves with basic materials like plastic bottles, elastic, and strips of insulation foam.

Since 2013, the idea spread and handmade gas masks have appeared on protestors as far away as Caracas, Venezuela.

 
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How to Guide – Bucket Pamphlet Bomb
This bucket-type leaflet bomb used by the London Recruits, a group of mostly young non-South Africans working voluntarily for the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP). With these devices, the London Recruits distributed censored information in South African cities from 1969 onwards. The leaflet bombs harmed no one, but distributed hundreds of leaflets high into the air.

This how-to is based on sketch by Ken Keable, one of the Recruits, and is based on the research in his book The London Recruits. These devices were developed by ANC exiles in Britain, who tested prototypes in Bristol, the Somerset countryside, on Hampstead Heath and in Richmond Park.

 
Download your “how to” leaflets here.
 

Disobedient Objects runs from 26 July until February 1st, 2015, details here.
 
See more Disobedient Objects, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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