Ace Backwords is a former cartoonist, writer and semi-normal human being. He's been sleeping in the bushes in the Berkeley hills for the last five years with his four feral cats, Blondie, Moo Cat, and the twins Mick & Keef. Future plans include growing old and dying. Preferably in that order.
I guess the thing that made People’s Park such a historical icon was the timing of it.
There had been this sort of underground counterculture movement that had been bubbling under the surface of American society since the Beats in the ’50s, to Kesey and the proto-hippies in the early ’60s. But it wasn’t until around 1967 with “the Summer of Love” and Sgt Pepper that the whole thing exploded into the mainstream. And it kept building with this force — this new generation that wanted to go in a very different direction than the previous generation. And it wasn’t just the peace-and-love-and-drugs of the hippies, and the old school bohemians of the Beats, but there was also the political factions — the liberals and the radicals and the Civil Rights movement and especially the anti-Vietnam war movement. Along with the gay rights movement and the feminist movement. And the whole thing loosely became known back then as The Movement.
And to large degree it polarized American society. You were either a straight or a freak. And it became known as the Generation Gap. One side wanting to take society in one direction, and the other side wanting to take it in another direction. And it was practically a civil war. The first real battle of this war was at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 where riots broke out between the anti-war activists and the police.
And then in 1969 a similar war broke out in Berkeley when Governor Ronald Reagan sent in the National Guard to expell the hippies from People’s Park which they had recently converted from a vacant lot into a park. And many people got shot and one got killed during the People’s Park riots. And People’s Park ended up as an enduring symbol of the emerging ’60s counterculture. Which during that period was at the very heart of the American zeitgeist. A couple months later there would be the Woodstock Festival and the whole emerging Woodstock Generation (so-called).
So People’s Park was like at the epicenter of this whole crazy cultural explosion..
Its funny, the stereotypes — and misconceptions — that so many people have about “the homeless.
My friend B.N. Duncan was a fairly eccentric-looking guy. He had a long, bushy beard down to his chest, and wild, unruly hair. And his clothes were often ragged and stained, and pitted with cigarette hole burns.
While I was fairly bland and clean-cut looking (at least compared to Duncan, ha ha).
And we’d be walking down the street together, and on many occasions, strangers would assume Duncan (who had never spent a day of his life homeless) was homeless, and offer him food or money or clean socks or etc.
While I (who had spent 13 years, and counting, homeless) rarely, if ever, received such largesse from the general public.
One of the lowest moments of my cartooning career:
I don’t know if you remember the QUAYLE QUARTERLY. It was this magazine back when George Bush Sr. was Prez that mocked and satirized the Vice Prez, Dan Quayle. The main joke that the QUAYLE QUARTERLY repeated (over and over and over) was that Dan Quayle was really, really dumb and isn’t that really, really funny. They happened to see this comic strip I did about Bush, which they really liked. So they offered me a thousand bucks up front to come up with 12 cartoons just like it (hopefully) about Dan Quayle for an anti-Dan Quayle calendar that they were gonna publish (one whacky Ace Backwords anti-Dan Quayle comic strips per month).
So I labored mightily and sweated profusely for several weeks to come up with the requisite 12 anti-Dan Quayle comic strips.
But the problem was. I found Dan Quayle so boring and pointless. All 12 of the comic strips I hacked out were crap.
The publishers of the Dan Quayle calendar also concluded my comic strips were crap. And decided not to publish them in their Dan Quayle calendar.
But at least they had the decency to pay me the thousand bucks anyways. Because they had commissioned me for the assignment.
And their Dan Quayle calendar was even crappier than my Dan Quayle comic strips.
On this date in history 50 years ago — November 11, 1968 — John Lennon releases his solo album “Two Virgins.” . . . Later in the day Lennon met privately with President Nixon in the White House to personally give him a copy of his new album. And to inquire about the possibility of being deputized. as an undercover agent in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, specializing in the confiscation and testing of illegal narcotics.
The top photo is from right after the first fire. Almost certainly arson. It started mysteriously in a wing of the building where no people were living. So investigators were baffled as to what could have started the fire. Which is why they strongly suspected arson.
Fortunately the firefighters were able to save the building before there was substantial damage. As you can see from the top photo. So all the tenants were temporarily housed in motels. And plans were made to tentatively repair the damage.
But then — wouldn’t you just know it — a SECOND fire broke out. Even more mysterious than the first fire. Since there were no tenants in the building at the time, and all the electricity had been cut off. As you can see from the middle photo the building was completely gutted by the second fire.
And the bottom photo shows the remains of the Berkeley Inn, right before it was completely demolished by the wrecking crew.
But there’s a happy ending to the story. At least for the owner of the Berkeley Inn. Who got a big insurance settlement after the Berkeley Inn was demolished. And lived happily ever after. The End.
One of my Facebook friends just posted the logo to my old column in MaximumRocknRoll. That crucial punk rock fanzine. I think it was from 1989. I had a column for a couple years until the publisher Tim Yohannon fired me for submitting a column that was critical of his politics. Ha ha. Though he “assured” me it had nothing to do with my “politics.” But that I had suddenly become a “bad writer” who “nobody wanted to read.” My prose was no longer up to the literary standards of a magazine mostly written for 17-year-old boys. Ha h
He was a strange fellow. Tim Yohannon. As the “Punk Rock” movement started to unfold in the late 70s early 80s he seemed to have this neurotic impulse to grab the mantel of Punk Rock and claim it as his own. He was one of those guys — Tim Yohannon — who “saw the parade going by and jumped up front and pretended to lead it.”
This one was kind of a weird classic in it’s own way. Twisted Image #6 from 1983. In one issue, interviews with arguably the greatest mainstream cartoonist, Charles Schulz, and the greatest underground cartoonist, R. Crumb, of the 20th century. . . Where else are you gonna get something like that for 75-cents??