San Francisco disco diva Sylvester James’s appearance at a dance party in a subterranean SF Muni station in the Castro district in 1979 couldn’t have been more fraught. The neighborhood had just been shaken to the core the previous fall with the shooting death of Harvey Milk, SF’s first openly gay supervisor. Ahead lay the AIDS epidemic, which would eventually take Sylvester himself 22 years ago this week at age 41.
But on that night, Sylvester was at the peak of his success. He was just about to release his 5th album, Stars, the follow-up to 1978’s Step II, which had hit #7 on the American R&B charts and included one of gay America’s legendary anthems, “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” After his first taste of mainstream success, and after nine years of the official Gay Pride parade in San Francisco, after coming this far, perhaps it seemed fitting for the community to get back to its roots and and take the party underground again.
Thanks to Erica Green for bringing this to my attention…
Over at Listverse, the home of the ultimate top ten lists, tattoo artist and historian Derek Dufresne has put together a list of the top ten prison gangs in the USA. There’s no info as to what criteria a gang had to meet to make the list, but I’m assuming it has to do with size and influence.
I’ve included detailed descriptions of the top two gangs on the list. To read about the rest, visit Listverse by clicking here.
Prison gangs were originally formed by inmates as a means to protect themselves from other inmates. Throughout the years, prison gangs have evolved from a group that provides protection to its members, to criminal entities involved in prostitution, assaults, drugs and murder. Prison gangs continue to thrive because prosecuting them has, historically, been difficult due to the fact that many members are already serving life sentences with no possibility of parole.”
1. Aryan Brotherhood
Also known as the AB, Aryan Brotherhood is a white supremacist group that was formed in 1967, at San Quentin prison in California. They currently have approximately 15,000 members, in and out of prison. Initially formed for the protection of whites against blacks in prison, the gang gradually moved to becoming a criminal enterprise. The AB are concerned with white-supremacy, and are a ruthless gang who regularly murder those who oppose the system, growing so out of control at times, that even their own ranking members could not consider themselves safe. In prison, they strive to control the sale of drugs, gambling, and “punks,” or male prostitutes. The Aryan Brotherhood has carried out contract killings for the Mexican Mafia, but racist beliefs prevent members from consorting with African Americans, including even taking a cigarette or a candy bar from them. The only way to be a member is to abide by their philosophy of “Blood In – Blood Out.” -Kill somebody to become a member and die to part from it. AB members make up approximately 1% of the prison population nationwide, but are responsible for up to 18% of murders in the federal prison system.”
The UK and Australian pressings of Band of Gypsys featured this cover, with puppet versions of Hendrix, John Peel, Bob Dylan and Brian Jones. (What would be the meaning of this grouping?)
Band of Gypsys was a short-lived “jam band” blues-rock project that came to fruition—and was dissolved—shortly before the death of Jimi Hendrix in 1970. The Band of Gypsys live album was his last release during his lifetime.
Band of Gypsys consisted of Hendrix, his old army pal, bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. They recorded very little studio material and performed live very few times, including four legendary shows that took place over two nights at the Fillmore East. commencing on New Years Eve of 1969. Before the month was out, the Band of Gypsys was no more, disbanding after a disaster at Madison Square Garden.
The Fillmore performances heard on the album were videotaped using a B&W half-inch open reel recorder, the then new Sony Portapak, from two different angles and forms the basis of this 1999 film, Hendrix: Band of Gypsys.
Back in the sixties, TV Guide referred to Bobbie Gentry as “the Mississippi hippie.” At the time, I don’t think hippies thought of Bobbie as one of their own, maybe it was the country thing. In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious that Bobbie had a very bohemian vibe going on, as manifest in these ultra-cool videos.
In the first clip, Bobbie and Donovan perform a version of Donovan’s “There Is A Mountain” that, in my opinion, improves upon the original, adding a Crescent City feel to the mambo beat. In the second, she sings “Louisiana Man” with Graham Nash, Allan Clarke and Tony Hicks of The Hollies. Both clips are from Bobbie’s BBC TV show which aired in 1968.
In video 3, Bobbie does a sultry go-go while singing P.J. Proby’s hit “Niki Hoeky” on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
Like Lenny Kaye, I grew up a devotee of Elektra Records. Jac Holzman’s amazing label was always a reliable source for exciting new rock and folk. From The Doors and Love to The Stooges and Tim Buckley, Elektra was a mother lode of fresh sounds for any kid growing up in the sixties who was looking to expand their musical horizons.
Elektra’s influence on me, as well as thousands of other nascent punk rockers, continued with the release in 1972 of Lenny Kaye’s seminal compilation ‘Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968’. For many of us, Kaye’s anthology of garage rock was an introduction or re-introduction to the first wave of American punk and arrived at a time when rock and roll needed to be reminded of the days when the music was loud, fast, and shot thru with a spirit of fun and rebellion.
This discussion between Jac and Lenny was held on October 14 at the 92nd street Y in NYC and it’s really quite wonderful. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Moody, 2006 short by filmmaker Sam Green meditates on the death of Meredith Hunter, the young man stabbed by a Hells Angel at the Rolling Stones’ Altamont Free Concert, and buried in an unmarked plot, “lot, 63, grave C,” which gives the film its title. While co-directing his documentary, The Weather Underground, Harris heard and read over and over again how Meredith’s death signaled the end of the 60s, the end of hippie, the end of the Woodstock nation, etc, but realized that he never knew anything about, nor had he even seen a photograph of Hunter, whose death was supposedly this pivotal generational loss of innocence event.
It’s interesting to note how time often sands off the finer details of an event like Altamont (even as there is a visual document of the exact moment Meredith was killed in Gimme Shelter, the classic documentary by David and Albert Maysles). Normally, as the story is told, the Hells Angels were hired on the advice of the Grateful Dead for “security,” something denied by Angels leader Sonny Barger (who said they were told that if they kept people from crawling on the low stage area, they could drink free beer all day) as well as the Stones themselves. Still, some 40 years later, it’s generally “remembered” that the Hells Angeles were the ones causing all the problems—not that they were innocent, just ask the Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin, who was knocked unconscious by one—but the not-so insignificant detail that Meredith was brandishing a double-barreled gun tends to be conveniently forgotten by contemporary writers, as if Hunter (who was also on speed at the time) was somehow an “innocent.” caught up in drunken, drugged up biker violence This clearly wasn’t the case.
I’ve even read accounts that said Hunter was targeted by the Angels for having a blonde, white girlfriend, which even if it’s true—and I have no trouble imaging that—still doesn’t excuse the fact that the guy pulled out a big fucking gun and rushed towards the stage! (The jury must have agreed, Alan Passaro, the Angel who was arrested and charged with murder for Meredith’s death, was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense when the jury viewed the Maysles’ footage. Passaro was found dead in 1985 with $10,000 in his pockets).
One final, not exactly “fun” factoid considering the matter at hand, but here goes anyway: George Lucas was one of the cameramen at Altamont. His camera jammed early on, so none of his footage could be used in Gimme Shelter, but how fascinating he was present, eh?
Postscript: As a result of Sam Green’s short, a headstone was purchased for the grave of Meredith Hunter.
Tonight’s gourmet fare at Cinefamily (and temperatures in the mid-70s!) once again sees me in my “Los Angeles civic booster” mode. Where else would you be able to watch a new documentary about the great groupies of the Sixties and Seventies, featuring Miss Pamela (Des Barres) of the GTOs and then hang out for a reception afterwards to meet several of the film’s subjects, the director and the still very divine Miss Pamela, too?
Take an emotional journey back to the early Seventies, the Golden Age of Groupies! Some were in it for love, some for the music, and some for their art—and four decades later, these passionate women share their stories of sexual conquest and bitter heartbreak, and finally reveal whether it was all worth it. Told through the eyes of rock and roll historian and super groupie Pamela Des Barres (author of the famous 1987 tell-all “I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie” and the brand-new book “Let’s Spend the Night Together”) this ninety-minute documentary offers memories of her sexual exploits and longtime escapades with such notorious rockers as Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison and Jimmy Page—and chronicles her cross-country journey to reconnect with the iconic women who loved and inspired the great rock stars of our time. Join moderator Michael Des Barres as he Q&As (schedule permitting) with Pamela Des Barres, Lori Mattix, Michele Overman, Catherine James and the film’s director Jenna Rosher on the Cinefamily stage after the film—and stick around for a reception on our Spanish patio after the show! Plus, DJ Andrew Sandoval will be spinning tunes both before and after the show!
Lest anyone dismiss the late, great Marcel Marceau and the art of mime as some kind of frivolous, god forbid French phenomenon I’d like to take this opportunity to graphically point out that no less a cutting-edge psychedelic warrior artist than Alejandro Jodorowsky was once a touring member of Marceau’s troupe and composed a few well known pieces for the great man including The Cage and The Mask Maker (shown below). So there, enjoy.
Downtown 81 is more dream than reality, softening the edges and rounding off the corners of a much rougher reality than the film depicts. I was there and I know most of the people involved with the making of the film. We were young, broke and fearless. We flourished below 14th st. in an atmosphere filled with a kind of beautiful dread. You never knew where the city was heading. It was a giant, stinking, drunken beast that clattered, stumbled and lurched but never came to a stop. It’s different now, domesticated and safe. The wildness is gone - the beast shot in the heart with a tranquilizer dart.
The pleasure of Downtown 81 is in watching 19 year old Jean Michel Basquiat gliding past beautifully photographed downtown landmarks to a soundtrack of seminal New York music of the era.
Downtown 81’ was shot in 1980-81. Originally titled New York Beat’ it was written and co-produced by the well known writer Glenn O’Brien, produced by Maripol, the art director and stylist, and directed by photographer Edo Bertoglio, all of whom were deeply involved in the art, music and fashion scenes of the time. The Director of photography was John McNulty, one of New York’s top lighting men, shooting his first feature.
The film is not a documentary, but presents a slightly exaggerated, romantic and magical version of the reality of the time. The entire cast is composed of the movers and shakers on the downtown scene. In 1981, business problems interrupted the completion of post-production, and parts of the film were lost in Europe. Finally after much searching, the missing materials were located in 1998. Post production was begun in 1999 and finished in 2000, supervised by Maripol and Glenn O’Brien and edited by director/editor Pamela French. Executive producer of the film is Michael Zilkha, whose Ze Records released recordings by severals of the bands in the film.
The cast includes Deborah Harry, and leading bands of the era including Kid Creole and the Coconuts, James White and the Blacks, DNA, Tuxedomoon, The Plastics, and Walter Steding and the Dragon People. Also heard on the soundtrack are rap legend Melle Mel, John Lurie, Lydia Lunch, Suicide, Vincent Gallo, Kenny Burrell and Basquiat’s own band, Gray.”
‘WikiRebels’ offers some insight to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Inexplicably, I can’t find any information on this documentary other than its Youtube description:
Rough-cut of first in-depth documentary on WikiLeaks and the people behind it! From summer 2010 until now, Swedish Television has been following the secretive media network WikiLeaks and its enigmatic Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange.
Reporters Jesper Huor and Bosse Lindquist have traveled to key countries where WikiLeaks operates, interviewing top members, such as Assange, new Spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson, as well as people like Daniel Domscheit-Berg who now is starting his own version - Openleaks.org.”