Members of the Savage Skulls circa late 60’s, early 70’s
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, gangs not unlike the ones featured in Walter Hill’s The Warriors owned the streets of New York City. The 1993 documentary film Flyin’ Cut Sleeves takes a look back at the volatile years that eventually culminated in a truce and subsequent “peace meeting” held at the Hoe Avenue Boys Club in 1971 by the gangs themselves. The real-life events are strikingly similar to the storyline from Hill’s 1979 film.
Young members of the Savage Skulls
According to the statements made in Flyin’ Cut Sleeves, in 1969 the NYPD put the number of organized gangs at 100, with membership as high as 11,000. Many gang members were just kids, barely in high school. Some of the most compelling footage in the film comes from interviews that were shot by Rita Fecher, a schoolteacher working at that time in the South Bronx. From her interviews with her students, Fecher was able to glean that the vast majority of her pupils were also active gang members. It is a gritty and dark exploration of a desperate time in New York City—Fecher notes at one point in the film that she received an absence note from a family that could not send their child to school because he had no shoes.
Flyin’ Cut Sleeves was released on DVD in 2010, and you can score a copy here. I’ve included a slew of vintage images of many of the gangs featured in the film as well as Flyin’ Cut Sleeves in its entirety. There’s also a brief NSFW video that was shot at the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting for you to check out.
Members of the Seven Immortals gang
Members of the Ghetto Brothers gang
Members of the Roman Kings and the Ghetto Brothers gangs
Members of the Young Sinners gang at the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting, 1971
A member of the Black Spades gang taking the floor at the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting, 1971
Flyin’ Cut Sleeves (1993), full movie
Video shot at the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting while a member of the Turbans speaks to the crowd, December 1971
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Screaming Phantoms, The Dirty Ones & The Satan Souls: Check out this 1974 map of Brooklyn gangs