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Explicitly perverse and provocative illustrations of Russian criminal underworld tattoos
05.22.2017
10:07 am
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“Satan and the Devil’s agent in Russia.” This illustration by Danzig Baldaev was copied from the chest of a criminal named “White” in 1991 who had recently completed a 32-year bid in prison.
 
During his time as a prison guard in Russia, and then later as the warden of the notorious Kresty Prison in Leningrad, Danzig Baldaev would become the curator and historian of tattoos worn by the convicts he watched over for nearly 40 years.

Baldaev’s illustrations, 3,000 or so in all, have been compiled into a popular series of books—the first of which was published in 2004 under the title Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volume I. Had it not been at the urging of his father—who was no friend of the infamous NKVD (the politically repressive Stalin-era “secret” police group, The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs)—the stories behind the tattoos might never have been publicly chronicled. According to Baldaev, after he showed his father photographs of prisoners held in solitary confinement he advised him to start “collecting” images of the prisoner’s tattoos, for if he did not, the stories behind them would “all go to the grave with them.” The tattoos themselves served multiple purposes such as distinguishing a captive’s alignment within the prison population, what kind of crime they had committed or perhaps their affiliation with a specific Russian gang.

In 2009 the duo behind publishing house FUEL, Damon Murray, and Stephen Sorell purchased 750 illustrations done by Baldaev from his widow, which were then compiled in editions of the Russian Criminal Tattoo volumes. Here’s an example of the grim stories that would have gone undocumented by way of one heavily tattooed prisoner (who you can see here), who was photographed by Baldaev collaborator and fellow prison warden Sergei Vasiliev during a visit to the Strict Regime Forest Camp Vachel Settlement in the Penza Oblast Region of Russia.

This prisoner’s tattoos display his anger and bitterness towards Communist power; the tattoos on the face signify that he never expects to go free. He works as a stoker. Text under the eyes reads “Full / of Love;” on the chin “Danger of Death;” around the neck “To each his own;” above each head of the double-headed snake “Wife’ and ‘Mother-in-law;” on the chest “It is not for you whores, to dig in my soul;” on his arm “Communists, suck my dick for my ruined youth.”

Below is a selection of Baldaev’s illustrations, most of which, as you might have already figured out, are absolutely NSFW.
 

Top text reads “The Scary Dicks of the Land of Fools.” The text printed on the penises reads “Everything for the People!”
 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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05.22.2017
10:07 am
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This head of a serial-killing bandit has been preserved in a jar since 1841
05.19.2017
09:36 am
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This is the head of Diogo Alves. Don’t be fooled by his seemingly placid, almost benign, yet surprised look. Diogo was a robber and a brutal serial killer who murdered some seventy people between 1836 and 1839, at the Aqueduto das Águas Livres (Aqueduct of Free Waters) over the Alcântara valley in Portugal. Diogo robbed his victims then tossed their bodies over the side of the 213-foot high aqueduct. At first, the local police thought this rather staggering number of inexplicable deaths were copycat suicides. When access to the aqueduct was closed to prevent any more “suicides,” Diogo formed a gang and turned his attention to the homes of the valley’s population. After a raid on the house of a local doctor, where Diogo murdered four of the people inside, he was arrested and sentenced to death by hanging in February 1841.

His execution coincided with the rise of the bogus science of phrenology. It was suggested by physicians that Diogo’s head be preserved in formaldehyde for examination in order to determine whether there were any signs or abnormalities in the shape of his skull that could explain why he committed such terrible crimes. This may seem utterly fantastic today, but it’s worth noting that the scientific desire to find some physical cause for behavior is not new. As recently as just after the Second World War, American scientists obtained sections of the brain removed from the skull of executed Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. This gray matter was examined in a bid to ascertain whether there was any physical cause to Il Duce’s anti-Semitic and racist beliefs.

Diogo’s well-preserved head still remains in a glass jar at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine.

See more pictures of Diogo’s head and the aqueduct where he committed his crimes here.
 
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A portrait of Diogo Alves from 1840.
 
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Photo: Rafaela Ferraz.
 
See more pictures of Diogo Alves’ head, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.19.2017
09:36 am
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Hear a full confession from Tricky Dick on the novelty single ‘The Altered Nixon Speech,’ 1973
05.12.2017
09:36 am
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(via Syntonic Research Irv Teibel Archive)

The immediate ancestor of the “Rappin’ Ronnie” record was The Altered Nixon Speech, a one-minute tape collage made from Nixon’s August 15, 1973 speech about the Watergate break-in. I’m no lawyer, but gosh, it sounds kind of incriminating:

I had prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in. I authorized subordinates to engage in illegal campaign tactics. I accept full responsibility for the break-in and bugging of the Democratic National Headquarters and other campaign abuses. Let me explain to you what I did about Watergate after the break-in occurred. I took part in the subsequent cover-up activities. My effort throughout has been burglary and bugging of party headquarters, obstructing justice, harassing individuals, and compromising those agencies of government that should be above politics. We of course must be extremely careful in the way we go about this. I shall continue to subvert the institutions of government by unlawful means. How to carry out this duty is often a delicate question. That is the simple truth.

The novelty single was the work of Irv Teibel, the field recordist behind the Environments albums. (Environments’ marketing slogan, “THE MUSIC OF THE FUTURE ISN’T MUSIC,” still points the way to a better world. Stop the madness! Let us pump nature sounds, not dance beats, into our pharmacies and “off-price” department stores.) What Teibel achieves with 140 tape splices is more than a gimmick: in the alchemical retort of the Syntonic Research laboratory, he transforms the Trick’s tissue of horseshit into a series of truthful statements. The B-side, which reproduces Teibel’s source material, is the homely “before” picture to the A-side’s handsome “after.”

Teibel knew that when you are standing on the president’s testicles, it is wise to tread lightly…

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.12.2017
09:36 am
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Vintage violence and the ‘dance of death’: Wild images of the ‘Apache’ dancers of Paris
05.11.2017
11:03 am
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Two ‘Apache’ dancers hanging out in a cafe in Paris in 1938.
 
I’m going to roll the clock back to my earliest recollection of seeing what was essentially a version of the “Apache” dance that was featured on, of all things one of the original installments of the Popeye the Sailor cartoon series that I saw on TV as a child during the 1970s. The short in question was the seventeenth ever produced, in 1934, called “The Dance Contest.” In it Popeye and his gangly girlfriend Olive Oyl enter a dance contest which of course Popeye’s nemesis Bluto attempts to disrupt. When Bluto finally gets his chance dance with Olive he recklessly and abusively hurls her around—much in the style of an Apache dance. Naturally, Popeye is having none of that and after downing a can of his famous spinach, he takes over the lead dancer role with Bluto who he then essentially beats to a pulp while his famous theme plays out in the background. The cartoon itself, as you may recall, was already notoriously violent so it made perfect sense to incorporate one of the most popular and viciously aggressive dance crazes of the time into its storyline. But all of that would have gone over the head of pretty much any kid watching the show several decades later and it wasn’t until I was conducting my very important “research” for this post that I actually realized that the old-timey cartoon was riffing on what some referred to as the “Dance of Death” or the “Dance of the Underworld,” aka, “the Apache dance.”

If you are not familiar with this style of dance then it’s important to note that female dancers played a pivotal part in creating the savage scenarios in the dance by helping to develop its complicated choreography. The word “Apache” was derived from a name given to members of Parisian street gangs who were formerly known as “no goods.” After a particularly heinous crime involving the murder of a man who was found with his face, nose, and neck pierced with several women’s hat pins, the news reported the story with the headline “Crime Committed by the Apaches of Belleville.” From that point forward, the dance, its dancers, as well as teenage hooligans (who were often one and the same) became synonymous with the name. The earliest known appearance of the Apache was in the 1900s, perhaps as early as 1902. Like many dances, it is thematic in nature with storylines involving arguments between two lovers or perhaps a prostitute and a john. There were full-fledged stage productions involving complexly choreographed dance numbers. Dancers, especially amateurs, would often break bones and sustain other injuries during the heated and violent routines. Some routines were so egregious looking it was difficult to tell if something wasn’t actually going very fucking wrong while everyone sat back swilling booze, smoking cigarettes and watched. The craze dominated Paris for nearly 30 years and would also be featured in several films including one from the wildly popular Charlie Chan series, 1935’s Charlie Chan In Paris.

LIFE magazine wrote a rather extensive piece on the Apache dance craze/culture in 1946, and interviewed female dancers regarding their feelings about the dance. They said they “liked being thrown around,” which at face value appears to describe an act of domestic violence, only set to a jazz soundtrack. Which brings me to another important distinction about the Apache—it’s not just the ladies who get roughed up. No. In the Apache, the female dancers also get to gracefully kick the shit out of their male counterparts. So you see, everyone wins when they do the Apache dance at one point or another.

I’ve posted some gorgeous images of Apache dancers hanging out around Paris as well as some incredible footage from Charlie Chan in Paris featuring an Apache dance scene with actress Dorothy Appleby that you just have to see. I’ve also posted that Popeye the Sailor short I referenced at the beginning of this post because, well, why not?
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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05.11.2017
11:03 am
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Murder, self-crucifixion & suicide by guillotine: Old-school paper ‘The Illustrated Police News’
05.05.2017
10:51 am
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July, 1895.
 
The first issue of what is best described as a pioneering tabloid-style publication, The Illustrated Police News hit the street corners of London back in 1864. It was modeled after The Illustrated London News (established in 1842) which used illustrations in their news reports, as their readers quite literally could not get enough of them. Essentially The Illustrated Police News ran with the notion that “readers” would rather look at pictures of the crimes that were being committed from Manchester to Birmingham than actually “read” about them. Ah, how little has changed since the eighteenth century, wouldn’t you agree?

Incredibly popular with the working class population, the paper often found itself in hot water for its ultra-sensational illustrated pictorials concerning booze-hungry monkeys run amok, a fatal impalement at a traveling carnival or an old man being eaten by his cats. The more stupefying the news, the better. Police News was Yellow Journalism at its best though the actual term “Yellow Journalism” would not actually be coined until the late 1890s. The tabloid didn’t even shy away from reporting news items that concerned folklore or supernatural shenanigans like gun-toting ghosts or a chance encounter in the woods with a giant serpent. Kind of like when the Weekly World News discovered Bat Boy (the internationally-known boy/bat hybrid created by WWN artist Dick Kulpa) hiding in a West Virginia cave in 1992. Did your neighbor drop her baby in the bucket full of boiling water? The artists behind the IPN would draw a titillating grim depiction of it to print for their blood-thirsty fans as fast as possible. In a detailed article about the publication, The British Newspaper Archive notes that in 1886 the readers of the classy sounding Pall Mall Gazette, which touted itself to be the voice of the “higher circles of society” voted The Illustrated Police News as the “worst newspaper in England.”

The owner of the IPN George Purkiss was so dedicated to capturing the essence of a crime scene that he would deploy his large team of 70 to 100 artists to wherever there was a dead body or some sort of mayhemic event had transpired as soon as the story was reported. In fact, the paper enjoyed a rise in circulation after running stories and illustrations of Jack the Ripper and “Negro Jack the Ripper” stories when the killer was stalking streetwalkers in the late 1800s. Purkiss also didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about what the stuck-up Pall Mall Gazette had to say about his salacious paper. Here’s more from Mr. Purkiss on why he believed The Illustrated Police News was so important:

“I know what people say, but as I replied to a friend who asked me why I did not produce some other paper than the Police News I said that we can’t (have) all have Timeses and Telegraphs. And if we can’t have the Telegraph or the Times, we must put up with the Police News.”

The fearless leader of the IPN would pass away in 1892 from tuberculosis but the paper would continue to report the news using its graphic depictions of murder and crimes of passion until 1938. There’s a motherlode of images from the paper for you to eyeball below. Some are NSFW.
 

 

 
More murder and mayhem, after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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05.05.2017
10:51 am
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Body of prolific ‘White City’ serial killer H.H. Holmes to be exhumed
05.04.2017
10:49 am
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In 1893 Chicago unveiled its massively impressive World’s Columbian Exposition, which had been organized under an extremely tight schedule by Daniel Burnham, and the impact of the idealized (white) urban setting, complete with newfangled electrical lighting, is difficult to overstate. The attractive power of Chicago and its fair, however, drew many thousands of unattached females to the city in search of clerical work, a startling percentage of which a medical doctor named H.H. Holmes would end up dismembering. Holmes’ totally creepy “Murder Castle” featured a gas chamber, a dissection table, and a crematorium to dispose of the cadavers.

Both sides of this story, the fair and the murderer, had become mostly forgotten until they were exhumed with great effectiveness by Erik Larson in his 2003 book The Devil in the White City, which rapidly became a bestseller and has become a fondly remembered staple of reading lists ever since. (As it happens, I reviewed The Devil in the White City for Publishers Weekly—you can read my review on the book’s Amazon page—and I’ve been joking ever since that I “made” the book.)
 

Diagram of the layout of Holmes’ “Murder Castle”
 
That word “exhumed” is an interesting one, because that’s what’s about to happen to Holmes’ body. One of the key points of Holmes’ life is that, in addition to his dozens of murders going unnoticed for quite a long time, there has arisen speculation that “he actually conned his way out of the death penalty and escaped to South America,” in the words of Stephen Gossett at Chicagoist.

Holmes has a plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. In order to put the scuttlebutt about his escape to bed, officials in Philadelphia and Holmes’ descendants have chosen to open up Holmes’ sepulcher and see what’s inside. If the official sources are to be believed, Holmes died in Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia in 1896 at the age of 34.
 

H.H. Holmes
 
The exhumation comes at the request of Holmes’ great-grandchildren John and Richard Mudgett, who hope that DNA tests will settle the controversy of the identity of the body. A Pennsylvania court has approved the request.

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have been said to have been working on adaptation of Larson’s book for several years, but that possibility is looking increasingly unlikely. Perhaps the exhumation is a last-ditch attempt to revive interest in the project?
 
via Chicagoist
 
Newspaper clippings: Illinois State Historical Library
 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.04.2017
10:49 am
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Bad girls behind bars: Vintage ‘women in prison’ exploitation movie posters
04.18.2017
01:45 pm
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A movie poster for the 1986 film ‘Reform School Girls’ with Wendy O. Williams, Sybil Danning and Andy Warhol pal Pat Ast (pictured prominently above).
 
The “WIP” (“women in prison”) film genre has several sub-genres ranging from nuns in prison to an interpretation favored mostly by European filmmakers who loved to include Nazis in their chick-centric prison flicks. Italy, Germany, and France put out quite a few WIP films back in the 70s and 80s, as did the U.S. of A. and the Philippines. When the first women in prison films made their way to the big screen they were more dramatically inclined. One of the very first films to tell the tale of a girl behind bars is Hold Your Man starring the profitable on-screen power couple of Jean Harlow and Clark Gable. The film is full of some pretty salacious stuff. Thankfully, this was 1933 and Hollywood films were still getting away with more on screen prior to the enforcement of rules laid out in the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 being widely adopted within the industry as it wasn’t really wasn’t policed until late in 1934. Which made a film like Hold Your Man—whose plotline involved a gorgeous blonde getting stuck behind bars while she’s knocked up with her lover’s baby—possible.

You can find WIP films in every decade but because both the 1970s and 1980s are so near and dear to my heart—and because I’d quite frankly love the opportunity to do another one of these posts—we’re going to stay put in those two consecutive decades. The genre can be pretty strange and runs anywhere from girl-heavy drama which would generally fall into the “redemption” film category to straight-up pornography. In the 1950s WIP films were heavily influenced by pulp fiction novels but it wouldn’t take long for the films to evolve (or devolve perhaps) into exploitation flicks with lots of nudity, sex, violence, rape, and notably deviant plotlines.

The popularity of the genre and its many sub-genres soared during the 70s and 80s which would bring us , Chained Heat starring teen queen Linda Blair and Wendy O. Williams’s prison warden in Reform School Girls. So now that I think I’ve given you more than a few compelling reasons to take a deep dive into this strangely complex film genre, I’ve posted a large selection of WIP movie posters that are mostly NSFW as you would expect them to be.
 

‘The Big Bird Cage’ with Pam Grier and Sid Haig
 

A German movie poster for ‘99 Women.’
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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04.18.2017
01:45 pm
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Crime and punishment in Japan during the Edo Period included tattooing the faces & arms of criminals
04.14.2017
11:35 am
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An example of the various face tattoos given to criminals in Japan during the Edo Period.
 
The art of tattooing has a very long history in Japan and artifacts that date back as far as 5,000 BC such as figurines made of clay with etchings on their faces or that have been painted with designs in the spirit of body art have been discovered.

Tattoos have many different symbolic meanings in Japanese culture and can denote where an individual ranked in society or serve as a permanent means of defense against evil forces or perhaps members of the animal kingdom. With the arrival of the seventh-century, the idea of tattooing one’s body in order to make it more beautiful began to lose its appeal due to the strong influence of Chinese customs in Japan—specifically when it came to identifying and tracking criminal activity. Around 720AD during the Nara Period, it appears that tattooing as a form of punishment began to infiltrate Japanese culture. Once the dawn of the Edo Period began the art form was more widely used as a punishment for criminals as at the time there was really no such thing as a prison to send lawbreakers off to. There was a sharp rise in crime in Japan prior to the development of epicenters such as Tokyo or Osaka.

Though tattoos were still used as a way to distinguish various classes of citizens, they were also used to designate ne’er do wells such as murderers who were recipients of head tattoos so everyone would see what they had done. Designs differed across the country so in Hiroshima, you might see the symbol for “dog” on someone’s face who has broken the law. Hiroshima also utilized a “three-strike” rule in which the Chinese symbol for “large ” (大) was used to log the number of crimes committed by an individual. The completion of the symbol was the equivalent of a death sentence for the person adorned with it. In other regions, you might see a series of lines on a criminal’s arm (one for each new crime) or perhaps an arrangement of dots on a forehead. In what is now known as Nagasaki an image of a cross which for the purpose of identification translated to “bad” would also be affixed forever on the forehead.

While this all sounds pretty terrible it’s important to note that tattooing criminals replaced the far more barbaric practices of limb removal, cutting off an ear or perhaps a nose depending on the severity of the crime that was committed. The decapitated heads of criminals were also used as a deterrent to help dissuade bad guys from doing bad things. All of which make the idea of tattooing criminals seem pretty damn tame comparatively.

Images of the outlaw tattoos follow.
 

 

A depction of a criminal receiving a tattoo for his crime.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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04.14.2017
11:35 am
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Remember the Alamo: The lengthy list of crimes committed by the members of Black Sabbath
04.03.2017
09:37 am
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Black Sabbath clearly thinking about doing all kinds of illegal stuff.
 

“I wonder what jail I’ll wake up in tomorrow?”

—Black Sabbath vocalist Ozzy Osbourne musing about what might happen after one of his routine drug and alcohol induced blackouts back in the day.

If you could only use one word to describe what it’s like to be a part of the world of rock and roll it is this one: dangerous. First of all, the job isn’t really built for longevity, and it’s well known that many notable icons punched out of their mortal time clocks before they reached the age of 28 (aka, the 27 Club). There are the non-stop parties involving two good old heathen vices—sex and drugs, which at some point catches up with you in one way or another. Another job hazard of this (apparently) illustrious gig includes the occasional skirmish—or worse—with law enforcement. Let’s face it. If you’re in a successful touring rock band and you don’t already have a mugshot in your photo album, just wait. It’ll probably happen. And this leads me to the following breakdown highlighting the many crimes committed by the members of the greatest heavy metal band in history, Black Sabbath. And since Sabbath vocalist Ozzy Osbourne’s rap sheet is the longest, let’s start with him, shall we?

Though Ozzy’s bad behavior is infamous, he was apparently never arrested while he was with Sabbath, despite the fact that he was prone to relieving himself in places other than a toilet and was stark-raving drunk most days. Prior to joining the band, Ozzy held several strange jobs including working in a factory that produced car horns, a funeral home, and even a slaughterhouse. Since Ozzy and a straight job didn’t really get along, he turned to burglary to make a living. This landed the great and powerful Ozz in Winson Green prison for six weeks for petty theft after his father refused to pay his bail. While behind bars, Ozzy gave himself his famous “OZZY” knuckle tattoo using a sewing needle and graphite polish, as well as getting the two adorable smiley faces that adorn his kneecaps.
 

Ozzy being Ozzy in the 1970s. 
 
While Sabbath’s antics are about as epic as they come, Ozz would completely run amok once he was kicked out of the band in 1979. His arrest record would grow to include public urination and intoxication after he took a piss close enough to the beloved historical landmark the Alamo in 1982 (wearing a dress no less) that he was banned from entering San Antonio for a decade. This was also the same year that Ozzy famously bit the head off of a live bat on stage in Iowa. In 1984 Ozzy was once again arrested for public intoxication and was sent off to the drunk tank after being found completely inebriated traipsing up and down the streets of Memphis’ Beale Street entertainment district. In 1989 he was charged with the attempted murder of his wife Sharon Osbourne whom he tried to strangle with his bare hands while completely blotto on whatever he could snort, pop or swill. Let’s also not forget that before Ozzy’s wife Sharon took over as his manager during his solo career, it was her father Don Arden (known not-so-affectionately as the Al Capone of pop managers), who called the shots. Arden was quite literally one of the most feared members of the music scene in England and once hung rival manager Robert Stigwood (Cream and the Bee Gees) by his feet from his office window over a dispute involving the Small Faces. Damn.

When it comes to Tony Iommi and breaking the law we start back In 1968 when the buzz-killing police raided Iommi’s home in Birmingham and found *gasp* marijuana residue for which the guitarist received the British equivalent of probation for two years. In 1973 he nearly lost his life to an overdose, technically a crime in itself, at a Sabbath show at the Hollywood Bowl. And that was after helping his bandmates snort $75K worth of blow in 1972. In 1983 he blew up a bunch of prized carp belonging to businessman and airline mogul Richard Branson while the band was recording Born Again at Branson’s studio in Oxfordshire. Then he trashed drummer Bill Ward’s car at a go-cart track and let it burn after it caught fire. Iommi has a long history of getting his kicks by blowing stuff up which he thankfully documented in his 2011 book Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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04.03.2017
09:37 am
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They Live by Night: Photos of gangsters, prostitutes & drag queens from Tokyo’s red light district
02.23.2017
11:04 am
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001gangskab.jpg
 
Kabukichō is the red light district in Shinjuku, a commercial and administrative ward in central Tokyo. Apparently Kabukichō took its name from plans to build a kabuki theater in the district sometime in 1940s. This never happened. Instead the area became a busy red light world of nightclubs, hostess clubs and love hotels. It’s estimated there are some 3,000 such enterprises operating in Kabukichō today. At night, the busy neon-lit streets thrive with the curious and the criminal—around a thousand yakuza are said to operate in the area. All this relentless activity gave Kabukichō its nickname as the “Sleepless Town” (眠らない街).

Among the curious drawn to Kabukichō was photographer Watanabe Katsumi (1941-2006). During the 1960s and 1970s, this seemingly quiet and unassuming character prowled the streets camera in hand offering to take pictures of the sharp-suited yakuza, the pimps, the prostitutes and the drag queens who lived and worked in and among this red light district’s narrow streets. Watanabe thought of Kabukichō as his theater and the men and women who posed for him as his actors.

He approached each of his subjects and offered to take their picture.  He took the pictures quickly. But whatever he said to make each individual sufficiently relaxed worked. His photographs captured something unguarded and utterly spontaneous about his subjects. The next night he would return, deliver three prints of each photograph for 200 yen—roughly around a dollar back then. This was how he made his living.

In 1973, the first volume of Watanabe Katsumi’s photographs The Gangs of Kabukichō was published. This book was reissued in 2006, details here.
 
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More after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.23.2017
11:04 am
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