Acid Heroes

May 22, 2018

TELEGRAPH AVENUE STREET CALENDAR 1995: “Women of the Avenue”

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:11 pm
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After the “Naked Guy” calendar in 1994 I felt we couldn’t top the zaniness of that one. So I decided to go the opposite direction in 1995 with “The Women of the Avenue” calendar. It was much more sedate and sober and even dignified than its predecessor. Instead of focusing on the “crazy, whacky, colorful” Telegraph street characters we just focused on the diverse types of women that were part of the scene back then. Predictably it sold only half as many copies as the Naked Guy calendar. But it always had a special place in my heart among the pantheon of the 15 issues.

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Katie was the January calendar girl. A flower child for the ’90s. 16-years-old when she hit the scene, it wouldn’t be accurate to call her a “runaway.” She was more like a “run-to.” She was bored with high school and living with her parents, and eager to kick-start her adult life, so she jumped into the ’90s hippie street scene with an innocent enthusiasm. Going from the Grateful Dead tours to the Rainbow Gatherings and to Telegraph Avenue — which was a must-see stop on the circuit back then.

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Tragic little Robin hanging out with her boyfriend Paul.

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For several years I thought Nora was a homeless bag lady, because she was often pushing a shopping cart full of junk. And i would sometimes give her a couple bucks. Later I found out she actually owned several homes and was a pack-rat who obsessively collected junk. Every inch of her front and backyard, and every room in her house was packed from floor-to-ceiling with piles of stuff.

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Another tragic one, Pam, hanging out with Duncan at our vending table. A victim of the psychiatric industry who ruined her mind by over-prescribing psychiatric drugs.

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The Hat Lady, a Telegraph street vendor who sold beautiful hand-knitted hats. She was a nice, friendly person. But I never met anybody who could talk like her. She would literally talk at you for HOURS. And non-stop. One long run-on sentence, with no pauses in between the sentences. Just one long endless sentence. Which made it very difficult to get away from her once she corralled you. Finally you’d just have to be “rude” and walk away mid-sentence. You had no choice. It was impossible to get in an word edge-wise.

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The ladies of People’s Park, the activists Lisa Stevens and Terri Compost.

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The Two Amys. Two UC Berkeley college students who were part of the street scene back then, hanging out at our vending table in front of Codys Books.

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The Hair-Wrap Girls (and Freedom Fighter Jim). Some adorable high school girls who made some money on the Ave doing hair-wraps.

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Beautiful and mysterious Asian Kim, hanging out with her friend Skye on the Berkeley campus.

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Debby “Slash” Lang, pushing shoulders with Hate Man. Slash was a fearsome, self-described “gangster chick from Hell! I’m from Oak-town, fool!! REPRESENT!! REPRESENT!!” She hung out with a rough crowd and could put the fear of God into the Hate Campers whenever she showed up. One night she actually challenged Hate Man to a fist fight, and they’re sparring back and forth on Sproul Plaza, throwing and dodging punches like Ali vs Frazier. One more surreal night at Hate Camp.

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Punkers on the Ave.

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Vicki — Craig’s beautiful blonde girlfriend at the time — hanging out with English Davey at his jewelry vending stand.

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The enigmatic cosmic cowboy Wrong Tree, hanging out late at night with his beautiful girlfriend.

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And of course we had to end “The Women of the Avenue” issue of the TELEGRAPH AVENUE STREET CALENDAR 1995 with Julia “the Bubble Lady” Vinograd, the grande dame of Telegraph Avenue. When the CBS News interviewed Julia for a feature on the calendar, they asked her “Did you ever think you’d end up a calendar pin-up girl?” To which she quipped, “Why NOT, buddy??” Ha ha.

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May 21, 2018

LOU REED: A LIFE: a book review

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:13 pm
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LOU REED: A LIFE by Anthony DeCurtis

 

Probably nobody has acted like more of an asshole, and yet ended up more beloved by more people, than Lou Reed.

As one of the first rock stars to openly sing about gay themes in the 1960s, many of Lou Reed’s songs became anthems for the burgeoning gay rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s, the Stonewall riots and all that. And Reed was considered a hero and an inspiration to many people in that community. When Lou Reed became aware of this — ever the contrarian — he said: “For my next album I might write a song ‘Get Back in the Closet You Fucking Queers.'”

Ha ha. Fucking Lou Reed.

People constantly speculated about Lou Reed’s sexuality. He was an enthusiastic participant in the NYC gay underworld; the gay bars and bathhouses and S&M clubs. And he lived for 3 years with a drag queen boyfriend. But he also married 3 women and had long-term relationships with women.

My hunch is that he was primarily sexually attracted to men. But was attracted to women as mother figures and nurturers. Not to get too Freudian, he hated his father who was a cold person, while his mother always worshiped and doted on him.

 Its interesting how highly esteemed Lou Reed was in the rock world, considering he mostly had middling record sales. Only a couple of his albums sold really well. Most of the rest of them were disappointing commercially. And he only had one hit single “Walk on the Wild Side.” Which was probably more because of David Bowie’s golden touch as producer than Lou Reed’s commercial appeal. And yet Lou Reed was considered a legend and one of the all time greats by his peers.

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Lou Reed’s songs were deceptively simple. Probably nobody got more mileage out of 3 chords (and a limited vocal range) than Lou Reed. But as simple and repetitive as they could often be, at their best they were incredibly catchy and nuanced. Especially those songs he wrote for the Velvet Underground in the 60s, and his classics (Sweet Jane, etc ) in the 70s.
So distinctive and singular was Lou Reed’s style, he was virtually a genre unto himself.

As a person Lou Reed was incredibly prickly, abrasive, arrogant, self-centered, narcissistic. In a typically grotesque scene in this bio, Reed is being interviewed by a writer who is going to write the liner notes for a very prestigious boxed set of Lou Reed’s work. During the course of the interview Reed has to go to his bank to get some money from his ATM. Reed is waiting on line at the ATM when he notices a homeless guy sleeping in the vestibule. “THAT’S DISGUSTING!” says Lou Reed. He actually goes into the bank and tells the bank manager that he wants the homeless guy kicked out immediately.

The writer of this bio — who was otherwise a huge Lou Reed fan — was repulsed by this exchange. “No question the image of Lou Reed, of all people, kicking a needy person out of a bank into the freezing cold is like something out of Dickens — just so that he could have a more pleasant experience as he waited to withdraw his money. It’s as potent a symbol of 1% selfishness as can be conjured.”

Lou Reed was always a paradox and a contradiction. Self-destructive AND self-affirming (“their lives were saved by rock’n’roll!”). Degenerate and nihilistic (“Heroin!!”) AND romantic and idealistic (“I’ll be your mirror.”).

Probably very few artists ended up being more identified with the city where they lived than Lou Reed and New York City. Reed was the quintessential New Yorker. On 9-11 Reed was living about a mile from the World Trade Center. He climbed up to the roof of his apartment building and watched as the buildings burned and people jumped to their deaths.

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Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson.

Lou Reed was definitely ahead of his times when it came to the ’60s drug culture. Reed was smoking pot and taking speed, eating peyote, and even slamming heroin when he was still in his teens in the early ’60s way before drugs hit the mainstream. Precocious bastard. He caught hepatitis from a dirty needle when he was still in his teens. And it eventually killed him. But he somehow made it to 71.

“Lou was always more advanced than the rest of us,” said a childhood friend. “While we were looking at girls in Playboy, Lou was reading The Story of O. He was reading Marquis de Sade, stuff that I wouldn’t even have thought about or known how to find.”

When he was 17 Lou Reed had a complete nervous breakdown. So his parents forced him to undergo electro-shock therapy. In the hopes that it would “cure” Lou of his depression and homosexuality (which was considered a form of mental illness back in the 60s). Lou Reed said the electro-shock mostly just wiped out large parts of his memory. And he hated his parents for the rest of his life for inflicting that on him.

The bio was written by a longtime fan and admirer of Lou Reed, and one of the few critics that Reed genuinely liked. The author shows Reed’s “asshole” side but its not a hit piece. Its a well-rounded portrait of an artist and a man. And if you’re a Lou Reed fan you’ll probably love the book.

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May 20, 2018

The art of the deal

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:01 pm

 

Donald Trump has often trumpeted his negotiating skills at “the art of the deal” as one of his primary qualifications for being president. For some reason that reminded me of his negotiations with the NFL when he was the owner of the New York Generals in the competing USFL (the United States Football League).

The concept behind the USFL was that they would play their games in the spring. The logic being that there were so many fanatical football fans who wanted to watch football all year long.

 

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I’m not sure if the concept would have worked or not. People are so used to watching football in the fall. But they never really got a chance to find out. Donald Trump — of all people — virtually single-handedly sabotaged the USFL.

After a couple of relatively successful years of spring football, Trump argued that the only way to survive was by going back to playing football in the fall. And Trump had enough power to bend a room full of powerful men (the other owners) to go along with him.

Of course it was suicidal to go head-to-head against the mighty NFL. And with an inferior product, and without the tradition of the NFL teams. Plus, it was “changing horses in mid-stream” and completely destroyed the basic concept and reason-for-being of the USFL in the first place (spring football).

So Trump, in a last-ditch attempt, launched a big all-or-nothing anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL, claiming they violated the anti-monopoly laws.

Well, the USFL actually won the lawsuit. And were awarded a whopping $1 in damages. Or in other words, nothing.

And that was the end of the USFL.

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May 19, 2018

You ever notice how “homelessness” is a non-issue to the politicians in Washington DC?

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:40 pm

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Donald Trump made his first big fortune taking rent-controlled, low-income apartments, throwing out all the tenants, and turning them into luxury condos.

Nancy Pelosi has spent her career representing the city of San Francisco, and watching haplessly as the homeless crisis grew to epidemic proportions during her watch.

In other words: Don’t expect much from DC.

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May 16, 2018

The aging punk rockers are still pissed off about the poseurs.

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:40 pm

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Peter Bagge

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:15 pm

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I was never a huge Peter Bagge fan. But he usually delivered a good, solid read. Bagge is an excellent storyteller. And has a real knack for creating well-rounded and nuanced characters that go beyond stereotypes and cliches. And the way he develops his characters panel-by-panel really pulls you into the story. (I picked this one up and before I knew it I was all the way to page 15.)

Bagge also has a zany and even outrageous sense of humor. And can sometimes deliver real belly laughs (the ultimate achievement for a cartoonist for my tastes). And he had one great shtick he used over and over that worked pretty much every time he went to the well, where his characters would suddenly explode with exaggerated emotion. Anger, rage, exhilleration, excitement, jealousy, and — most of all — frustration and exasperation. The characters would be having seemingly normal and civilized discourses only to suddenly burst into raging Incredible Hulks. And it really captured the primal feelings that are usually buzzing just beneath the polite surface of civilized human life. As well as the vicarious thrill of seeing these pent-up feelings suddenly being released.

And Bagge totally nailed the reality of the suburban angst scene, and was even a bit ahead of his times with his portrayal (Matt Groening “borrowed” more than a little of Bagge’s Bradley family with his Simpsons family).

One of the really impressive aspects to Bagge’s cartoon characters is the way readers often reacted like, “I know people JUST like those characters!” Or even “I’M just like those characters!”

If there’s a weakness to Bagge’s work it may be the perpetually adolescent tone. Bagge’s worldview is often that of a clever high school outsider, perpetually snearing at the jocks and the cheerleaders. Or of a cartoon Holden Caulfield exposing the “phoniness” of the adults. (As Norman Mailer famously put it: “Salinger was the greatest mind to never leave prep school.)

And Bagge’s work is overly steeped in pop culture references, which can get a bit suffocating. It’s as if his characters are primarily defined by the movies, TV shows, rock stars, and video games that they like. Rarely does Bagge delve very deeply into the more existential issues of the meaning of life and religion or philosophy. Though to be fair, most of the Bagge comics I’ve read were from when he was in his 20s and 30s (I stopped reading comics around 1996). So its possible his world view matured as he aged and started grappling with the “sense of one’s mortality” issues that generally deepens as we get closer to death.

This graphic novel — OTHER LIVES — is from 2010. So it’ll be interesting to see how he’s developed since I last read him. And published by DC Comics, to my surprise. So Peter Bagge has obviously moved beyond his underground/alternative origins.

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Art about art about art about art

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:09 pm

 

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Today I was going through my storage stuff that i hadn’t looked at in 20 years. This weird artificially-preserved time-capsule of my past. So that threw me into these odd emotional spaces.

This big painting by Frederike Rheinheimer from 1986 was painted from a photo by Duncan, of Rick, me and Vince. Rick had just driven us in his truck to the printing press in Fremont to pick up the bundles of the latest (and last) issue of the TWISTED IMAGE tabloid (#10). Hot off the presses. Literally. Now we’re celebrating at a coffee shop.

Being a man, seeing one of my publications rolling off the presses is probably the closest I’ll ever come to that feeling a woman gets when she has a baby.

I’m also struck by how convoluted my art career got back then. This is a painting. Of a photo. Of a publication. And later a newspaper would turn the whole thing into a newspaper article. It got to be like playing 3-dimensional chess.

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May 14, 2018

An unfortunate encounter with a young homeless guy

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:40 pm

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Walked by the homeless encampment down in the Berkeley flats today. And its nearly twice as big as it was just a couple months ago when I took this photo. Now the encampment is veering down sidestreets and blocking parts of the sidewalk, like some form of mutant growth.

I took out my cellphone and took a couple of quick pictures and was just starting to walk on. When this homeless young guy on a bicycle chased after me, shouting: “HEY WHAT THE FUCK YOU DOING TAKING PICTURES OF MY HOME?? I DON’T LIKE PEOPLE TAKING NO FUCKING PICTURES OF MY HOME!!”

(here we go)

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “Hey, I’ll delete the pictures.”

He hovered over me, menacingly. Watching to make sure I deleted all three pictures (too bad, they were great pictures). At one point I thought he was going to make a grab for my cellphone. But he was just holding his hand over my cellphone to shield it from the sun so we could see what we were doing.

“I’m homeless myself,” I said. “I just wanted to let people know what the situation was like.”

“I’ve been homeless all my life!!” he said, angrily.

“I meant no disrespect,” I said.

Course I know how he feels. I wouldn’t be pleased if somebody started snooping around taking photos of MY campsite. At the same time, contrary to what some people think, its perfectly legal to take photos of anybody or anything that happens to be in a public place.

Course that legal right won’t necessary prevent you from getting punched in the head.

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May 13, 2018

Happy Mothers Day!!

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:23 pm

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Have a very feral Mothers Day!!

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 10:03 pm

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