Some photos by Paul “Blue” Nicoloff from the Telegraph Street Calendar 1999

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Wizard was a Berkeley Tarot Card reader for several decades. He always set up his vending table on the corner of Telegraph & Channing. Then last year I heard he won over a million in the Lottery. Last I heard he bought some land up north, and nobody’s seen him since. He won’t be setting up a vending table on Telegraph and asking for donations any time soon, that’s for sure.

In all these years, Wizard is the only person I’ve ever known who actually won real money on the Lottery. But I guess it shows, it can happen.

The other thing about Wizard, he was an incredible drummer. Most of us at the Hate Man’s drum circle would just sort of bash away. But Wizard set up the buckets and metal objects to simulate a real drum set, with a snare drum, bass drum, cymbal, etc. And he would wail away on his make-shift kit like Ginger Baker or Buddy Rich.

I hope Wizard is enjoying his newfound wealth. Money won’t buy you happiness, of course. But then, neither will poverty, either.

(P.S. I just heard from an acquaintance of Wizard that he actually won an SSI settlement, which sounds more plausible.)

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Koko and Pork Chop were a cute young homeless couple who were on the Telegraph street scene for a couple of years back in the late 1990s. I always loved their names: Koko and Pork Chop.

Koko and Pork Chop stood out on the street scene because they always seemed happy and contented and relaxed — this just-happy-to-be-here demeanor. And they never caused and trouble or disturbances. That alone will make you stand out on the street scene.

The guy on the left is Shroom. He hung out at Hate Camp for many years, and then disappeared without a trace. Several of his friends have tried to track him down, to no avail. About 10 years ago he was squatting on a boat on a lake in Oakland with a bunch of other homeless people. But that’s the last we’ve heard from Shroom.

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I didn’t know these two. They were just a couple of youngsters who hung out on Telegraph for a couple of months in 1998, and then moved on. Like so many others who have come and gone. Faces in the crowd.

The guy was sort of the archetypal character that all the high school girls thought was cute and had crushes on. And he cut a dashing figure riding up and down the Ave on his skateboard with a distinctive bad boy swagger. . . All I knew about the girl was that she was really, really cute.

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Hate Man and his stuff: Part 1

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Hate Man at the center of his universe.

 

Hate Man had an ongoing battle with the police and the University for over 25 years over his “stuff.” Quite simply they felt he, as a homeless person living in public spaces, had “too much stuff.”

The battle first started in the early 1990s when Hate Man used to like to hang out and set up his Hate Camp at the first two benches at the entrance to the Berkeley campus. And he liked to keep all of his stuff in his beloved shopping cart, named “Gilda,” which he parked nearby him. The University felt his raggedy-ass homeless shopping cart despoiled the scenic beauty of the campus, as well as attracted other motley bums to set up shop. So they demanded he get rid of it. Hate refused. The cops gave Hate a bunch of tickets. And i think they even arrested him at one point.

But Hate — a battler by nature — decided to battle back (“Life is a battle, its a war!! was Hate’s eternal mantra). So he consulted with lawyers and devised all sorts of legal strategies to battle it out in court (Hate would have made a great lawyer). He also had good skills at manipulating the media, and the press couldn’t resist a story about a wacky Telegraph Avenue character who had a shopping cart named “Gilda.” So the University was subjected to reams of embarrassing publicity.

Finally the University realized they were no match for the wiley ways of Hate Man and conceded defeat. And Hate Man and “Gilda” lived hatefully ever after. (Later, when I put on an art gallery showing of “street art” I mounted Hate’s shopping cart on a dais, like a sculpture, and placed it in the middle of the gallery, a living piece of art.)

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A Tale of Two Hate Camps

 

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Hate Camp went through two distinct phases during the years I was hanging out with Hate Man. The Sprout Plaza years. And the People’s Park years. And i spent about 12 years hanging out at one, and 12 years at the other.

During the Sprout Plaza years, Hate Man mostly hung out on the Berkeley campus. So the scene was more intellectual. There were always some college students and academic types hanging out. As well as some normal mainstream types. Along with the band of street crazies. It was more of a light-hearted, playful, artistic scene.

Whereas the People’s Park years, it was mostly hardcore street people hanging out at Hate Camp. So it was a bit grimmer, as well as more wild, violent, and volatile.

During the Sproul years Hate Man often seemed like a public performer. And the campus was his stage to enact his unique street theater. He’d usually hit the scene every morning wearing brightly-colored clothes — like a stage costume — with his trademark skirt and bra, and adorned with lots of cheap jewelry and flowers in his hat. He was very flamboyant, and a commanding performer, enacting his strange (and loud) public dramas. And always one of the more popular figures on the campus.

But during the People’s Park years he toned his act way down. Went back to wearing pants instead of skirts, and mostly wore black or gray. He was much more in a purely survival mode then. Though he always had a unique style. It was like he went from the centerstage of the town of Berkeley, to a back alley on the fringes. (Things were a lot easier during the Sproul years. We spent most of our time playing. During the Park years Hate Man was much more preoccupied with all of his survival issues — dealing with the constant pressure from the cops, the wingnuts, the weather, his health, all of his stuff. It was like a constant chess match for Hate Man.  Always angling to stay one step ahead of these forces.)

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Another big difference. During the Sproul years he was usually surrounded by 8 or 10 hardcore devotees. “Oppies,” he called them. People who followed his philosophy of Oppositionality on a daily basis, and looked at Hate Man as sort of a guru or role model.

But during the People’s Park years, there was usually only one or two Oppies, at most, hanging out at any given time.

I was a bit more distant from Hate Camp during the Sproul years. Because Hate Man was primarily devoted towards his faithful Oppies — or proselytizing to get you to join the fold. And I was on my own personal spiritual/philosophical trip.

But I got much closer to Hate Man during the People’s Park years. Because I was homeless myself at that point and living along side him for a decade. And you know what they say; “You don’t really know a person until you live with them.”

But probably the biggest difference between the two periods:

During the Sproul Plaza years, Hate Man was usually surrounded by a solid group of people. Wiith a handful of street wingnuts circling around him from the outskirts.

Whereas during the People’s Park years. Hate Man was usually surrounded by a hardcore group of street wingnuts. With a hand full of solid people circling around him from the outskirts.

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Rocker

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You meet a lot of weird people on the street scene. People like me, for instance. Part of it is, people that are so weird that they can’t fit in with any other scene often end up on the street scene by default. Because ANYBODY can be on the streets. It’s one of the wonderful things about the bottom strata of society — it’s all-inclusive. Anyways, I was thinking the other day about this one particular street person who was on the Berkeley street scene for awhile back in the day. Went by the name Rocker and Prime Time and P.T. . . He was a particularly weird fellow. Most people who had interactions with Rocker are probably trying to forget him. But for some reason I often remember people like him and wonder what happened to them.

I met some really great people hanging out with Hate Man over the years. Hate Camp always attracted brilliant artists, writers, thinkers, talkers, intellectuals, spiritual seekers, and bohemians of every stripe.

But I also met some of the WEIRDEST people I have ever known at Hate Camp.

One of the best things about Hate Camp was that it was all-inclusive. Virtually ANYBODY was welcome to hang out with Hate Man, so long as they followed a few simple rules of Hate Camp protocol.

But one of the worst things about Hate Camp was that it was all-inclusive. The dregs of the street scene — who were rejected by all the other scenes that they tried to be a part of — were drawn to Hate Camp. Because, quite simply, Hate Camp was one of the few scenes that would accept them, and wouldn’t reject them out of hand. So you ended up with the misfits of the misfits of the street scene.

One of the odd characters who was drawn to Hate Camp was this guy named Rocker (and he was definitely off his rocker).

Rocker had red hair. I think he was in his 20s when he first showed up, fresh-faced (at least at the beginning) with blandly-normal All American Boy looks. If you passed him on the streets you wouldn’t think twice about him. Unless you looked closer into his eyes (which were crazed). Or heard him talk (which he did constantly).

Rocker’s favorite pastime was to go up to strangers and insult them, harass them, and harangue them. He’d come staggering up to you with his ever-present 40 of malt liquor in his hand (Steel Reserve, I think), and if you were a bit overweight he might call you a “fat pig” to your face. Or if you were an attractive co-ed he might say “let me see your cunt, girlie.” He was a real charmer, Rocker. Not surprisingly, Rocker got beat up on a regular basis. To the point where I wondered if Rocker actually ENJOYED getting beat up (maybe that explained it).

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And the cops regularly hauled his ass off to Santa Rita, often hog-tied and strapped to a stretcher. (I once asked Officer Jones — the Telegraph beat cop — how he could stand to continually have to deal with a specimen like Rocker. Jonesy looked at me and smiled and said: “Are you kidding? Rocker is one of our best customers.” Ha ha.)

I didn’t know anything about Rocker”s background. But one rumor was that his psyche had been permanently twisted out of shape by witnessing his father dying in some horrific fashion. His father had committed suicide by blowing himself up with explosives. Or something like that. Who knows. But Rocker had certainly been bent out of shape by some one-shock-too-many. He was “out there” in a way that he would never come back from.

So Rocker would regular inflict his obnoxious trip on the people of Hate Camp. Who, of course, famously had more of a tolerance for “expressing negativity” than most scenes. But Rocker pushed the hatefulness to the limits. He would often scream the same obnoxious and insulting lines over and over (especially as he got drunker and drunker). And he would make insulting comments to people who were passing by Hate Camp.

So Hate Camp would pack up and move to another spot on the campus to get away from him. But Rocker would follow them. So Hate Camp would pack up and move again. Sometimes this weird game of hide-and-seek went on all night long. With Rocker searching and Hate Camp trying to hide from him (One trick Hate Camp learned over the years was they could often ditch Rocker by heading up a hill. Rocker had bad legs. I think somebody had broken his legs at least twice, and he walked with a noticeable gimp, and found hills difficult to navigate.)

As much as he drove Hate Man crazy with his endless harangues, Rocker had a real respect for Hate Man. Hate Man might have been one of the few people Rocker had any kind of real relationship with (his nickname for Hate Man was Super Tramp, which was a good one). Rocker certainly had no friends. He always came onto the scene alone. And left the scene alone.

FB_IMG_1520098748970.jpgI had one significant encounter with Rocker. One day he came up to our vending table and started haranguing and insulting Duncan. He wouldn’t let up. Wouldn’t get out of Duncan’s face. Finally Duncan couldn’t stand it anymore. So Duncan bolted out of his chair and attacked Rocker. So they’re sort of rolling around on the sidewalk wrestling. And Rocker managed to kick Duncan in the face. And broke Duncan’s glasses. So I picked Rocker up off the ground and ran him down the street.

The next day Rocker shows up at our vending table AGAIN. Supposedly to apologize (he kept repeating how “sorry” he was for breaking Duncan’s glasses). But when I repeatedly told Rocker to GO AWAY he refused to leave. His “apology” was just an excuse to continue to harangue us.

So I got up and gave Rocker a hard shove to the chest that knocked him backwards and to the ground (like I said, Rocker had bad legs and he went down like a bowling pin).

Rocker picked himself up and came after me. It was, as they say, on. Duncan had this big rock that he kept in his “donation” cup to weight it down. So I picked up the rock and threw it at Rocker as hard as I could. And i hit him right in the chest from point blank range. Rocker gasped in pain. For a second I thought he was going to lose his balance and crumple to the ground. Instead he turned and staggered down the street, wincing in pain.

Later that evening when I passed by the Caffé Med I spotted Rocker sitting in the window seat, rubbing his chest, in obvious pain.

So the next day I’m bracing myself for the possibility of an on-going war with Rocker. Its one of the worst things about living on the streets. You get into these kind of ugly confrontations with these street lunatics. And it can turn into an on-going vendetta that goes on for months. Or years.

But the next time I saw Rocker he just laughed about it. Rocker, after all, was in the process of destroying himself. So he didn’t take it personally when somebody helped him along with the process. Ha ha.

Rocker actually had a fairly robust sense of humor. And laughed often and from the belly. This lunatic laughter. He had an appreciation for the absurdity of human existence. And was particularly amused and mirthful when he found out that something terrible had happened to somebody. And even when it had happened to him.

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Some photos by Paul “Blue” Nicoloff from 1998

 

0221181919.jpgWizard was a Berkeley Tarot Card reader for several decades. He always set up his vending table on the corner of Telegraph & Channing. Then last year I heard he won over a million in the Lottery. Last I heard he bought some land up north, and nobody’s seen him since. He won’t be setting up a vending table on Telegraph and asking for donations any time soon, that’s for sure.

In all these years, Wizard is the only person I’ve ever known who actually won real money on the Lottery. But I guess it shows, it can happen.

The other thing about Wizard, he was an incredible drummer. Most of us at the Hate Man’s drum circle would just sort of bash away. But Wizard set up the buckets and metal objects to simulate a real drum set, with a snare drum, bass drum, cymbal, etc. And he would wail away on his make-shift kit like Ginger Baker or Buddy Rich.

I hope Wizard is enjoying his newfound wealth. Money won’t buy you happiness, of course. But then, neither will poverty, either.

(P.S. I just heard from an acquaintance of Wizard that he actually won an SSI settlement, which sounds more plausible.)

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0221181943a.jpgKoko and Pork Chop were a cute young homeless couple who were on the Telegraph street scene for a couple of years back in the late 1990s. I always loved their names: Koko and Pork Chop.

Koko and Pork Chop stood out on the street scene because they always seemed happy and contented and relaxed — this just-happy-to-be-here demeanor. And they never caused and trouble or disturbances. That alone will make you stand out on the street scene.

The guy on the right is Shroom. He hung out at Hate Camp for many years, and then disappeared without a trace. Several of his friends have tried to track him down, to no avail. About 10 years ago he was squatting on a boat on a lake in Oakland with a bunch of other homeless people. But that’s the last we’ve heard from Shroom.

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0221181959.jpgI didn’t know these two. They were just a couple of youngsters who hung out on Telegraph for a couple of months in 1998, and then moved on. Like so many others who have come and gone. Faces in the crowd.

The guy was sort of the archetypal character that all the high school girls thought was cute and had crushes on. And he cut a dashing figure riding up and down the Ave on his skateboard with a distinctive bad boy swagger. . . All I knew about the girl was that she was really, really cute.

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The Rare Man

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“HEY ACE COME OVER HERE! I GOT SOMETHING TO SHOW YOU!” shouted the Rare Man.  He was sitting on the sidewalk on the other side of the street leaning against a building.

“Oh wow, it’s the Calendar,” I said. Rare was holding up a copy of the 1991 Telegraph Avenue Street Calendar with his picture on the cover.

“Yep,” he said.

“Man let me see that thing,” I said. I leafed through a couple of pages.  It was a bit surreal. I haven’t looked at a copy of that thing in 25 years.  So it was like a magical object that had manifested from another dimension.

“I was on the Dan Rather CBS News feature about the calendar, wasn’t I?” said Rare.

“You sure were,” I said. “That issue with you on the cover was one of our best-selling issues.  That one and the one with the Naked Guy  were the two best sellers.”

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“How do you like it? RARE!!!”

“The Naked Guy committed suicide, didn’t he?” asked Rare, sadly.

“Yes he did,” said.

“The Naked Guy was in Playboy magazine, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, they did a feature on him. Hey can I take your picture holding up the calendar?”

“Sure.”

And that was a little surreal.  Taking a picture of Rare holding up a copy of a picture we had taken of Rare on the same block 27 years ago. Like being stuck in a tape loop or something. (Maybe 27 from now I’ll take another photo of Rare holding up the photo of him holding up the photo.)

“You take it easy, Rare,” I said.

“You too, brother,” he said.

We pushed knuckles together in a show of manly solidarity.

“How do you like it?” I said as I was leaving.

“RAAARRREEE!!”

It’s an odd thing being an artist.  It’s like your past is artificially preserved.  And it constantly boomerangs back at you.

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