We came up with the idea for the TELEGRAPH AVENUE STREET CALENDAR on a whim. Duncan was taking all these great photos of Berkeley street people. So I said: “Why don’t we publish them in a photo calendar. We could print up 200 copies. And if it didn’t sell we could just give them out as Christmas presents to our friends.”
And it seemed unlikely to sell. I mean, a “homeless pin-up calendar” (as the journalists wryly called it) hardly seemed to have much commercial potential.
But the first 200 copies sold out quickly. And the second printing sold out as well. And there was a weird buzz to the thing. We hit just the right tone of both serious and whacky. The first month (January) started out with a photo of street legend Gypsy Catano at his wedding ceremony in People’s Park. And the last month (December) ended with street poet Julia Vinograd reading a poem at Gypsy’s memorial ceremony. With a lot of interesting photos in between.
So we were giving people a glimpse into the daily lives of this strange tribe of people; street people.
So the next year we decided to publish a second issue of the TELEGRAPH AVENUE STREET CALENDAR. And it was one of those deals where you “push a buzzer expecting a buzz, and get an explosion.” We ended up getting our pictures on the front page of the local newspapers, and we got featured on the Dan Rather CBS National News. And we sold out 2,000 copies in Berkeley in just a month (and we would have sold more if we had had time to print up more copies).
So the next year we decided to put out a third edition of the TELEGRAPH AVENUE STREET CALENDAR. We weren’t sure at this point if we were just a One Hit Wonder or not, and had shot our wad. The Calendar was kind of a “novelty” item in a way (we ourselves considered it “high art”). But we felt it was worth taking another shot.
So I decided to prominently feature Hate Man in the third issue. Because he was one of the “stars” of the scene. And every scene has their stars. Even the homeless street scene. And i always had sort of a PEOPLE magazine approach to the project. Stars sell magazines.
So we ended up selling about 2,000 copies of that one, too. So now we were off and running. And we’d end up doing the damn thing for 15 years. And the project practically ended up taking over our entire lives. Until we finally burned out on it 15 years later. The End.