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Let it snow: Shameless cocaine ads of the 1970s
04.27.2016
11:45 am

Topics:
Advertising
Drugs
History

Tags:
cocaine


 
Ah the 1970s, when disco dust was plentiful and there were cocaine paraphernalia ads galore in head magazines. Dig the Hoover-themed coke spoons! Or the “what the hell were they thinking” handmade ivory straws. And if your nose is a little clogged from too much coke, why not try “Noze: the nose wash”?

So as the majority of the taglines in these magazine clippings say, “Let it snow!”


 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Early color Autochromes of New York City, 1900-1930

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The lowly potato changed color photography forever.

In 1903, two French inventors and photographers, Auguste and Louis Lumière, used the potato as the basis for their patented process in creating color photographs, or Autochromes as they were called. It was a simple but ingenious technique—crush potatoes into tiny particles; separate these minuscule starch particles into three; add red, violet and green dye; mix onto a glass plate; brush off the excess; flatten the dyed particles onto the plate between two rollers—thus creating microscopic color filters; fill in any gaps with carbon; brush with light sensitive silver bromide. Now you have a photographic plate ready to take color pictures.

By 1907, the Lumières’ technique had infected the photographic world with “color fever.” Many early color photographers claimed painting was dead. The future was the Autochrome. (Apparently someone forgot to tell Picasso.)

Unlike many of the European or Russian Autochromes from the turn of the twentieth century—which are usually filled with citizens at work or idly posing in narrow streets—these early Autochromes of New York are often empty of people as if the monumental nature of the city’s buildings made humans seem irrelevant, Lillputian, or simply unnecessary. When the city’s residents do appear they’re often blurred, frenetically charged, crammed into market scenes, or watching the camera from the seashore.
 
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Mulberry Street market, circa 1900s.
 
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Balcony overlooking Mulberry Street, ca. 1900s.
 
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Lower East Side, ca. 1900s.
 
More early color Autochromes of New York, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Hyper-detailed miniature versions of New York’s seedy streets, subways and strip clubs

A miniature version of former Time Square peep show and porn shop, Peep World
A miniature version of the infamous ‘Peep World’  porn shop, shown with a one-dollar-bill—how appropriate—to show scale.
 
Brooklyn native, artist Alan Wolfson was riding the subway into his beloved city by the time he was only ten-years-old and has strong recollections of what the city that never sleeps looked like back in the 1950s and 1960s. Although Wolfson says he never started out wanting to be an artist, in 1979 he moved to Los Angeles with the hope of cutting his teeth designing miniature effects for films. There, thanks to a bit of luck and good timing, a friend of Wolfson’s introduced him to an art dealer. A year later, Wolfson would showcase ten of his remarkably detailed 1/2-scale replicas that would launch his nearly 40-year career.
 
A tiny replica of a
Take a peek inside ‘Peep World’ and their “Private Fantasy Booths.”
 
So painstakingly detailed are Wolfson’s tiny structures that it almost appears that they had once been inhabited by small sleazeballs or strippers. Many of Wolfson’s works are creative fictional mashups that he dreamed up—however some are modeled after real, seedy New York landmarks. Such as “Peep World,” the long-running porn theater and shop (near Madison Square Garden) that finally closed its doors in 2012. Thanks to Wolfson, we can still take a peek inside “Peep World” where the racks are still lined with filthy magazines, or leer inside one of the joint’s “Private Fantasy Booths.” You can practically smell the Pine Sol.
 
A look at Peep World's dirty magazine and DVD racks
A look at Peep World’s dirty magazine and DVD racks.
 
Many more of Wolfson’s tiny, sometimes fictional homages to a lost New York, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Meet Hitler the Hells Angel and Steve the stay-at-home Skinhead: Gang culture documentary from 1969

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Hitler the Hells Angel.
 
A gang of British Hells Angels ride into town. They gather at their favored bar in Birmingham, England, the aptly named Oddfellows’ Arms. The bar is the last remnant of a once-thriving working class area. Inside, the Angels drink, chat, and carouse. At one of the crowded tables a young biker has “Mum + Dad” tattooed on his soft white arm.

A film crew documents these activities. When asked, the Hells Angels talk of their rejection of society’s values, their independence, their freedom. They relish their dirty appearance, long hair, and their uniformity of dress. One biker has a jacket covered with the Nazi insignia. He says his parents’ generation fought the Nazis—“The only good German was a dead German,” they said—but he’s never met a bad German. He wears the badges and pins to shock, to disgust, to rebel—to show his “outlaw” status.

Though these Hells Angels consider themselves free of society’s rules, they do have their own codes and rituals by which they live their lives. Outside the bar, a young couple named Sylvia and Hitler get married. They want their relationship to be recognized by the other Angels. The marriage is a genuine ritual. To the rest of society Hitler and Sylvia are “living in sin.” Like any other newlyweds, the couple will have to get a job, some “bread” and somewhere to live.

When Hitler is asked about his name, he explains he was called “Hitler” by the other Angels because he has “proved himself.”

Interviewer: How do you prove yourself?

Hitler: There’s quite a few ways you can prove like. I mean, beat a skinhead up—that’s great. That’s class. I mean, if it was legal we’d go around hanging skinheads.

 
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Four skins…
 
The kids were out of control. Or so it seemed. The rise in births after the Second World War saw a massive number of youngsters reach their teens and twenties during the 1960s. There was a fear the country was being swamped by gangs of youths. There was no longer any National Service to dissipate their energy on military maneuvers or war. There was more money. More leisure time. More entertainment. Pop music and television were the new gods. For an older generation, the hysteria of Beatlemania—with its “out of control” mobs of teen girls—was as much a portent to the breakdown in British society as the gangs terrorizing the inner cities. Teddy Boys. Razor gangs. Rockers. Mods. Tribes defined as much by their violence as by their tastes in music, their clothes, their modes of transport, or their goddamn hairstyles.

In the 1950s, poet Thom Gunn wrote a highly preceptive poem called “On the Move” about the rise of rebelious youth and their chaotic, unfocussed energy. The poem describes a biker gang roaming across America “reaching no absolute, in which to rest” always moving “toward, toward.” Gunn was inspired by The Wild One, the Marlon Brando movie, where his character Johnny was asked “What you rebeling against, Johnny?” To which Brando’s character replies, “Whatcha got?” Though Gunn’s admiration for the bikers’ rebellious attitude is obvious, he sees their actions as wasted and inadequate to provoke any real change.

By the late 1960s, skinheads were considered a bigger threat to the British public than bikers. Hell’s Angels kept their business amongst themselves. Skinheads attacked anyone—though primarily anyones of a different ethnicity to their own “pure blood” white skin. Skinheads were thuggishly unrepentant “bovver boys” who’d give you a kicking as much a look at you.
 
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Skinhead Steve with his parents.
 
The documentary shifts to a group of young skinheads from London. They brag about “Paki bashing.” They crow about their racism and violence. The film focuses on one young skinhead called Steve. The camera follows him home where he watches TV with his mom and dad. His father had been a Teddy Boy. He understands the appeal of being in a gang. Steve tells him about the thrill of marching through South End a thousand strong. The feeling of being part of something says Steve, would bring “tears to your eyes.”

Steve: It makes you feel proud. It will last for a little while. Then something new will come along. But till then you’ve got us. It’s just the way it goes.

More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Holiday photos of John Lennon as a child in 1951 on a school trip to the seaside

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A ten-year-old John Lennon is instantly recognizable in these photographs taken during a school trip to the Isle of Man—a popular holiday destination off the west coast of England. Our eyes are drawn to his figure, standing left of frame, leaning slightly forward, arms out, knee-deep in waves. Lennon is surrounded by his classmates from Dovedale Junior School. To one side is the future BBC news journalist Peter Sissons. To the other fists clenched ready to rumble is comedian Jimmy Tarbuck.

Tarbuck has since recalled in an interview how Lennon “had a strong personality” even though he was “like any other kid in those days, having a few scraps in the playground.” That strength of personality is apparent from these photos where Lennon is either at the center of things or in the front row.

Six years later, in the summer of 1957, Lennon was playing with his band The Quarrymen at a garden fete of St Peter’s Church, Woolton, Liverpool. That was the day he met another young musician called Paul McCartney.
 
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The young John Lennon left of center next to Jimmy Tarbuck with fists up to right. Peter Sissons is on left edge of frame behind Lennon.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Combat Zone: A look back at Boston’s mythical dens of sleaze

The Naked i cabaret in Boston's old
The Naked i Cabaret in Boston’s old “Combat Zone.”
 
I grew up in a small town just outside of Boston called Somerville. And like pretty much like any other teenager, I worked quite hard at the craft of getting into trouble as often as possible. I ran with a crowd that was comprised of teenage losers that enjoyed passing the time stealing beer from delivery trucks. As far as you (and my parents) know, I (mostly) never did anything more than drink said stolen beer under train track bridges while underage.
 
Combat Zone, 1974
Combat Zone, 1974.
 
But when it came to a right of passage in Boston, if you were a late teen or mostly of legal drinking age in the late 80s, you hit up Boston’s Chinatown after last call to eat food full of MSG and drink “cold tea.” In Boston, (and perhaps where you grew up, too), “cold tea” was code for “beer” (usually flat) that you could order slightly before or after closing time that was served up in white teapots in certain restaurants in Chinatown. Of course, after a night of youthful boozing, we would occasionally have enough “beer balls” to walk through the red light district of Boston that bordered Chinatown known as the Combat Zone. I remember one particular night when, after a couple of pots of cold tea, someone dared me to sprint through the Zone alone as fast as I could, which I did. Because what could go wrong when a blond teenage girl decides to run through the seediest part of town full of peep shows, dirty book stores, prostitutes and pimps?

Although widely considered a place of ill-repute, the Combat Zone’s history is important to Boston for many reasons. Specifically, thanks to its “relaxed” approach to adult oriented pursuits, the Combat Zone was also home to a wide variety of drag clubs and gay bars frequented by Boston’s LGBT community. Which is in part why in 1976 The Wall Street Journal dubbed the area a “sexual Disneyland.” In other words, there was something for everyone in the Combat Zone. And that wasn’t always a bad thing. In 2010, an art exhibit at the Howard Yezerski Gallery showcased photos taken in the Combat Zone from 1969 - 1978. Many of the images from the show as well as others taken during the Zone’s heyday, follow.
 
A sign outside the Combat Zone riffing on a famous line from JFK's inaugural address
 
Combat Zone, 1978
1978
 
More Beantown sleaze, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Black holes: Censorship’s handiwork creates eerie photographs

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Under a black sun farmworkers labor in fields. They harvest crops oblivious to the strange eclipse in the skies above them. On closer inspection the sun is perhaps a spot on the lens. Or a camera fault, or perhaps a mistake in printing. There are more photographs, but here the faces of the farmworkers have been devoured by this black spot—eaten like a cancer. It’s now apparent these black dots, these black holes, have been deliberately made.

During the 1930’s Great Depression the US Government set up the Farm Security Administration to help combat the country’s rural poverty. As part of the FSA’s remit was a photography project set up by Roy Stryker to document the lives of the people who lived and worked on the land.

Stryker hired some of the best photographers of the day such as Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, and Edwin and Louise Rosskam, among many, many others. The photographers were briefed as to what the FSA wanted documented. When the rolls of film were sent back from locations across the USA, Stryker rigorously examined each and every negative. His system for discarding images was brutal—he used a hole punch to pierce any negative he didn’t like—making it unusable.

It is not known on exactly what grounds Stryker rejected an image. Was it aesthetic reasons? Bad teeth, ugly people? Political? Images of farm life that did not coincide with the government’s desires narrative? Whichever—of the 164,000 developed negatives, only around 77,000 were made available for use. That’s a helluva lot of rejected photographs.

Stryker’s vandalism killed many historic and irreplaceable photographs. Of those that remain, Stryker’s hole punch handiwork has created strange yet still compelling images. Some conspiracy theorists suggest the photos were censored because of UFOs, or strange deformities, or odd background figures—and similar flights of fancy. In truth they were probably censored because the reality of human deprivation never sits easy with a government’s self-image.

I think one can safely assume that artist John Baldessari is well aware of these images.
 
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More of striking examples of Stryker’s censorship, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Gentle Giant: Rosey Grier’s ‘Needlepoint for Men,’ 1973
04.08.2016
09:49 am

Topics:
Books
Heroes
History
Sports

Tags:
Rosey Grier


 
I never realized what an awesome role model Rosey Grier was to kids—and to full grown men who enjoy needlepoint—in the 1970s. Really Rosey? (See what I did there? No?) I mean, how many former NFL players can you name who wrote books on needlepoint and sang songs like “It’s Alright To Cry”? None probably.

More than anything, Grier was showing that it was okay for young males to be in touch with their softer side and that there was nothin’ shameful about expressing emotions like crying. What a stellar message to get across, especially in the early 1970s when I’d imagine it was a lot tougher for even a former NFL tackle to get that message out without laughter and ridicule.

Rosey Grier is 83 years old now, and an ordained minister who keeps up a brisk pace of public service. He is the last surviving member of the Fearsome Foursome. As a bodyguard for Ethyl Kennedy during the 1968 presidential primaries, when RFK was assassinated, it was Rosey Grier who took control of the gun and subdued, Sirhan Sirhan.

Let’s also not forget his guest star turns on Dora Hall specials or his co-starring role in 1972’s The Thing With Two Heads (Ray Milland plays a rich white racist who has his head transplanted onto the body of a death-row inmate played by Grier.)
 

 

 
More Rosey after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Awesome vintage ouija boards
04.04.2016
04:20 pm

Topics:
Design
Games
History
Occult

Tags:
ouija board


Mecca Answer Board, Lee Industries, Chicago, c. 1940
 
There are two facts that a visit to the incredibly terrific Museum of Talking Boards website will cement in any viewer—the high point for ouija consumption was the 1940s and Chicago was the place where most ouija boards were manufactured.

The Museum of Talking Boards has done an excellent job wrangling what must be a chaotic field with a lot of damaged or substandard exemplars. Every board is lovingly photographed, and informational details about the time and place each board was created are always easy to find. Truly, a tremendous job.

These images are enough to drive me to eBay, where you can get many of these design marvels for prices ranging between $20 and $500.

ADIOS, FAREWELL, AU REVOIR, LATER DUDE, RECEPTION BAD, uhhhh, STATIC?
 

Black Magic Talking board, Gift Craft, Chicago, c. 1944
 

Crystal Gazer, A Barrel of Fun, c. 1940
 

Father Time Mystery Talking Board, T. Eaton Company, Toronto, 1945
 

Guiding Star Board, Palmer and Associates, Chicago
 
Many more after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Starring David Bowie as Abraham Lincoln (???)
04.04.2016
12:54 pm

Topics:
History
Music

Tags:
David Bowie
Abraham Lincoln
Robert Wilson


 
Today’s remarkable bit of David Bowie information comes from a somewhat unlikely source: the May 1984 issue of Star Hits, a fan magazine for teenagers that achieved the difficult feat of covering the Clash and Menudo on the same page.

Tucked between an announcement for a contest to win a “video six pack” featuring footage from Kajagoogoo and DEVO and a report on the Lords of the New Church the reader will find a monthly feature called “Get Smart,” an avowedly pre-internet page dedicated to answering music questions sent in from readers.
 

 
As you can see above, Sarah Williams of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wanted to know this: “I heard David Bowie was going to be in a play called The Civil Wars as Abe Lincoln. I was wondering exactly when and where this is going to take place?”

The reigning matron of the “Get Smart” page, known as “Jackie,” provided this answer:
 

David has shelved plans to appear as Honest Abe in Robert Wilson’s marathon theater piece The Civil War, scheduled to be presented at the Los Angeles Olympics. The play does have music by Talking Head David Byrne. It would have been Bowie’s second big trip to the boards, though: he got rave reviews as The Elephant Man on Broadway in 1980.

 
Intriguing! I can’t improve on the reaction penned by the unnamed contributor to Retronaut (where I first saw this): “David Bowie was going to play Abe Lincoln… in a play with music by David Byrne… to be performed at the Los Angeles Olympics?.... What?”

“What?” indeed. Yes, it’s all true. In 1984 the Olympics were held in Los Angeles, and for reasons that aren’t too clear the experimental theater director Robert Wilson decided that an international collection of decathletes and volleyball players was the perfect occasion for a sprawling, challenging, 8-hour work called the CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down, to take place in six different world capitals. Wilson had already become renowned for his production of Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach and some years later would direct The Black Rider, Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs’ adaptation of a German folktale called “Der Freischütz.”

Here’s Wikipedia on the massive undertaking:
 

The Civil Wars was conceived as a single daylong piece of music theatre to accompany the 1984 Summer Olympics. Six different composers from six different countries were to compose sections of Wilson’s text inspired by the American Civil War. After initial premieres in their countries of origin, the six parts were to be fused in one epic performance in Los Angeles during the games, a parallel to the internationalist ideals of the Olympic movement.

The premiere of the full work was cancelled when funding failed to materialize (despite the Olympic Committee’s offer of matching funds) and deadlines were not met. But four of the six sections had full productions under Wilson’s direction in Minneapolis, Rome, Rotterdam and Cologne, with workshop productions of the other two sections in Tokyo and Marseille.

 
History professor Thomas J. Brown, in his book Remixing the Civil War: Meditations on the Sesquicentennial, notes that “plans for rock star David Bowie to deliver the Gettysburg Address in Japanese particularly troubled potential sponsors.” (Given any knowledge of Wilson’s previous work or the fact that the title of the thing was going to be styled the CIVIL warS in the first place, why exactly would Bowie reading the Gettysburg Address in Japanese trouble anyone?)
 

Robert Wilson
 
Interestingly, it does not appear that Lincoln reading the Gettysburg Address actually happened in the final work. The character of Lincoln did appear in one of the final works, that being the Rome section, which had its premiere in March 1984 at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, conducted by Marcello Panni. Lincoln was played not by Bowie but by Franco Sioli. Opera magazine published the following account of the piece’s action at the time—we’re just showing the Lincoln parts here:
 

The first scene presents Garibaldi in a box looking at the stage where a Snow Owl (Seta Del Grande) is seated; to the right a gigantic Abraham Lincoln (Franco Sioli) and at the centre Earth Mother (Ruby Hinds). ... The background to this episode depends on the vain efforts of Lincoln to enrole [sic] Garibaldi in the Federal army in 1862. The third scene is in a desert landscape: in the background is a spaceship and through a porthole we see a man floating in the absence of gravity: the man is Robert Lee, Confederate commander in chief. A mourning Mrs Lincoln (Ruby Hinds) enters followed by eight black-clothed figures (octet): the scene is conceived as a homage to the negro spiritual.

[Later] From a spaceship, Mrs Lincoln as a young girl recites an infantile speech announcing the end of the war. A human-sized Lincoln descends from the sky and reiterates the text sung in the first scene.

 
Human-sized Lincolns are my very favorite kind of Lincolns!

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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