Nothing to see here tonight — I’ve been too busy to hunt anything worth upping and working on a book and an exhibition has eaten up my evenings this week. Please accept my apologies. In the meantime, here’s a link to an extract of my chat with James Jebbia — Supreme just put out a Timb workboot with a shot on their Instagram of Javier Nunez skating in them. Talk of skating in Timberlands is always cause to up grabs of Kyle James and Brian Wenning in their wheats. Years after I blogged on that topic, I still can’t find that Pepe Martinez Timberland footage from the True Mathematics (coincidentally, I’m sure that shoe god, Chris Hall who owned that brand did some work for Timberland in the last few years) VHS. Who needs iPath when you can skate in something wildly inappropriate? Anyway, seeing as we’re talking interviews with industry kingpins, I interviewed Erik Brunetti for the new issue of ACCLAIM.
I’ve been transcribing too much this week so text here will be at a minimum tonight (though you can click here for a one-hour conversation about shoes with my friend Gary Aspden). When it doubt, revisit Thrasher for those ads that had me primed to spend on gear I couldn’t find and send cheques for sticker packs that never arrived. With the Fuct book imminent, it’s worth following up this post of post World Industries ads for the brand with even more examples from 1995-1997. Now, for all the skulls and cod-Satanic imagery, streetwear wants to be your buddy and the presentation is lookbook-based. The print ad is well and truly extinct. It’s a testament to Brunetti’s marketing savvy that he nailed ads back in the day and makes your look book look like the afterthought it is in 2013 too. Those brands that looked like they wanted to smash your face in drew me in like the lamp junkie crane flies I’ve been slaughtering en masse during these sticky summer nights. I wish I wasn’t so addicted to retrospect sometimes, because it reminds me of companies making an effort and makes me prematurely cynical. Now there’s an epidemic of retweets, #weouthere selfies and that 100 emoji from blokes at brands.
Forgot today was blogging day. Can I just talk about the last three things I watched on YouTube? While I’m at it, I’ll plug this Tinker Hatfield feature too because there’s a few jewels in there for the nerds. I’ve been distracted by Mickey Drexler’s remarks in this Stanford appearance from late last year — I don’t subscribe to the quasi-motivational drivel that do-littles hurl all over Twitter and Facebook, but Drexler’s answer 23 minutes in regarding explosive modes of management is amazing and he offers a good excuse to use next time you swear loudly in a meeting. “Surround yourself with people that get it,” is easier said than done but it’s the key to greatness. It also means you need to recruit fellow dysfunctional oddballs.
This BBC footage of Goldie in 1989, as well as some other writers is pretty good too. It’s a shame that Dick Fontaine’s candid clips of Goldie talking about NYC trainyard and tunnel excursions have been taken down from YouTube.
For a minute I thought that a 2000 Channel 4 documentary (from Madonna Night) on her early Downtown days was a figment of my imagination, but it’s partially available online. One of the few documents of Futura 2000’s relationship with Madge, it includes a few soundbites from the man himself plus Fab Five Freddy’s entertaining attitude to her antics in the early 1980s, “I really thought Madonna was cool, but for me personally, she was not the kind of chick I would really would have wanted to get with, because a lot of my other crew had been up around her. You know what I’m saying? And that just wasn’t my steelo at the time.”
The FUCT book for Rizzoli arrives in September, but Erik Brunetti has got his hands on an advance copy and it looks very good indeed. He’s taking pre-orders for signed copies on his site and with “streetwear”s continuing slide into just being a load of self-congratulatory thirtysomethings selling crap to kids (actually, it’s always been like that, hasn’t it?) the sense of threat that Brunetti managed to bring to the party seems more vital than ever. The fact Erik really fucking hates street art is reason enough to support his cause.
Zack De La Rocha wearing the classic Ford bite tee on a No Nirvana — a 1993 BBC Late Show special, was a great moment in streetwear on British TV. While Rage Against the Machine sure ain’t grunge (though that show was mostly bands that fell into that genre), will the current preoccupation with that scene’s industry mean an onslaught of short-sleeve tees over long-sleeves as well as plaid around the waist?
The perfect soundtrack for that FUCT book would be Sly and the Family Stone’s classic There’s a Riot Goin’ On, with its aura of apocalypse vaguely audible beneath the good time riffing and Get On Down’s gold CD remaster comes with an embroidered take on the blood and stars American flag cover. No matter how jaded you are with fancy packaging to make you buy things you’re familiar with all of again, you’ve got to admit it looks pretty.
Seeing as it’s already midnight I’m just going to post that Daft Punk promo. I’m just fucking with you. There should be some kind of cut-off or late adoption aggregator that stops people posting the same goddamn thing just to get those page views from getting free shoes or press trips. I like all the people who call Daft Punk EDM now though, because the EDM term really reminds me of 1996’s perpetually delayed VHS embarrassment Vibrations (“Their love erupted from the electronic underground”) where the cool guy from Twin Peaks loses his hands, performs as a masked performing robot character (like Thomas and Guy-Manuel) called Cyberstorm, culminating in the best depiction of live dance music ever. I hate people that sneer about films being so bad they’re good, but Vibrations is like 1983’s Joysticks in that it feels like it was made as a parody of a craze cash-in and bears no resemblance to a human experience. Viewing it is like a sweaty flu dream — it could break into hardcore porn at any minute or descend into Nic Roeg-esque insanity. But back to Daft Punk, today I got retweeted by Paul Williams — as a Phantom of the Paradise, Smokey and the Bandit and Bugsy Malone fan, that was awesome. To hear that Williams is working on the new album made a lot of sense, because we all know that Swan, and not Cyberstorm, was the true mask inspiration.
You know what was better than any lookbook or careful photoshoot? Old skate magazine ads. I frequently cite fact as a vast inspiration on me and Erik’s Rizzoli tome will be proof of how good much depth the brand has and how good he is as an artist, but here’s some ads to pass the time. Back when the brand was World Industries affiliated I remember the more sexualized stuff in Big Brother (plus a superb Absolut parody) but after Erik split from Rocco, the ads from mid-1993 took the step of calling World Industries out for using fuct designs. Then, in late 1993, the next wave of ads kicked off in Thrasher, starting with that list of fuct’s favorite things. I remain a huge fan of Steve Rocco’s copywriting, but that fact Profanity is Profit ad, with the slick look and mass of labels, plus the dealers only and kids only contact details? Classic. Here’s a selection of fuct ads from late 1993 to early 1996 that includes sister brand Dorothys Fortress too.
Yeah, Kirkland Sagnature have been discussed on here a lot but if you can’t be bothered with the brain drain of choice every AM, you can’t go wrong with a 6-pack of the white tees from Costco. In my eyes, for accessibility and replacement in bulk, this is the best white shirt on the market. You can hurl your suggestions at me (and my soft spot for the thick Pro Club and Hanes Beefy is still functioning, but they’re very different shirts — Hanes loses points for the wacky pricing after some store applies VAT and Pro Club seems to need a west coast hookup) with Kirkland, you’ve got the perfect summer weight — light without being blouse-thin to the point where your nipple hair is visible, a neck that my giant head doesn’t leave wave-like stretch marks in and the correct length on the arms and waist, with minimal shrinkage and no sense of smedium after three washes. And if you’re still prepping an argument against me, they’re £2.66 each, because a six-pack is £16. I always liked Puffy’s late 1990s cheap, throwaway white tee, all-white adidas Superstar and Rolex President combo and I can’t get down with any brand’s proclamation that they’ve created “the ultimate white t-shirt” as if they’ve found the cure to cancer – any white tee that’s over a tenner should be treated with suspicion. I want something that I don’t fear spillage on — in fact, in the event of a Ribena indecent or hot rock drop, you can live out your Dame Dash pre-bankruptcy fantasies for £48 and not even bother washing tees. Just throw them shits away. But if you choose to wash them, I can testify that Kirkland comes through too. Shouts to Sean at Urban Industry for having the cash and carry hookup.
While Costco are the kings of white t-shirts, Edwin PHADE Sacasa and the Shirt Kings crew are pioneers of the hip-hop print, If you wanted your blanks decorated with a firearm-wielding Roger Rabbit, you know who to call. More pictures from Dokument‘s Shirt Kings (complete with an intro by MC Serch) by PHADE and KET are out there to coincide with the book’s release and I can’t get enough of documentation of their custom creations. Mother and daughter Dapper Dan gear is particularly good. If you want to understand the foundations of street style, there has never been a better time.
Shouts to Adam Welch for putting my quotes into this Independent piece on high-end sports footwear. It was good to talk up Gucci Tennis 84s and Dapper Dan in a national publication — Adam did a good job too. The New Balance number nerds waiting to tell me that Kanye wore 997.5s need to fall back, because the message in this article was well handled and nicely written. Despite my strange cat analogy, it’s probably the first newspaper article I’ve been interviewed for that didn’t make me want to punch myself in the temple immediately after it went to print.
On the Gucci Tennis topic, I spotted this photo for sale on eBay a few months back, shot for a Miami newspaper in 1984. Wish I could find the article it was written for.
What the fuck is up with rappers and singers wearing Superdry? Gunplay’s pick of Supreme-biting brand was bad enough, but look at the images above, then look at what some rappers have elected to wear now. Ice T wearing it is kind of sad, Jay Sean is a Superdry kind of guy, so I’m not surprised. Pos from De La Soul broke out the wack polo, but it’s all good because he’s Pos and can do what he damn well wants with immunity, but the younger generation? The Martorialist pointed out the tragedy of A-Mafia wearing it late last year, but Mr. Pete Williams pointed out a sighting on Lil Durk’s latest 52 Bars chapter. Superdry does not belong on a Young Chop beat. There’s no excuse for wearing this stuff in a video — if it’s meant to match your shoes, then you may as well be wearing PUMA Discs on your feet. The only amnesty in the Superdry rap video situation is this model in Fat Joe’s Pride n Joy. She still would have looked better without the lettering. Rappers looking like they did a Karmaloop trolley dash is a good argument against streetwear on rappers, but high streetwear on them? Very strange.
Erik Brunetti’s Instagram is always interesting, taking in animals, artifacts, artwork and other awesomeness. He just upped the cover of forthcoming Fuct book (release date is September 3rd). Looking forward to picking this up.
With the Evil Dead remake ready for a UK release, it’s a shame that there won’t be any low-budget spots like this Evil Dead II one from 1987 that featured Sam Raimi and Jonathan Ross. I recall seeing this on Channel 4 early one evening and becoming immediately obsessed with Dead By Dawn. Ross, like Alex Cox, educated me in several matters of cult cinema. This Incredibly Strange Film Show Sam Raimi episode was a game changer for me and these ads seemed unlike anything I’d seen for a movie on these shores, delivering a nice dodge from showing any of the controversial content pre-watershed.
“So, okay, okay, okay, y’all can’t fuck with me, no way/Jose or Héctor Camacho/Tech blows and watch yo’ chest close and tacos”
Juelz Santana, Diplomats ‘Gangsta Music’
“And I’ma go so opposite of soft/Off the richter, Héctor Camacho Man Randy Savage/Above status, quo, flow, so, pro”
Lil’ Wayne ‘Mr Carter’
Farewell, Héctor Camacho. You were my kind of fighter. Seemingly boxing forever, Puerto Rico’s own macho man and king of the reverse rat tail ‘do gave not one single fuck. Six losses in 30 years of professional bouts, mastering some bizarre modes of pre-fight mindfuckery, defeating Julian Solís, Ray Mancini, Vinny Pazienza and Julio César Chávez, plus aging incarnations of Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Durán, plus all manner of wild behaviour outside the ring, including getting his dick tattooed and whipping it out for Playgirl when he was pushing 50, burgling an electronics store while high on ecstasy and starring in a Latin reality show, where women compete to date Macho (‘It’s Macho Time’) all added to the legend. You can’t deny Héctor didn’t push it to the limit. Slain by a mystery assailant, he’ll be missed. With his shift to Islam after his own controversies it’s unlikely that Héctor Camacho Jr’s boxing career will be as storied as his father’s, but those hip-hop name checks (including a Cam’ron line on the ‘S.D.E’ album) keep the legacy alive.
Ed Davis’s The Heavy Mental site is one of my favourite places to lurk. The interviews and original work on the site are relevant to my interests and he seems to have myriad affiliated projects on the go and on the low, whether it’s participation in Ralph Bakshi screenings, these patches and tees (that reaper design is serious) and affiliations with Sydney’s excellent Supply store (10 years old this year). Because Ed can design very well indeed, his new S.O.H. collection is looking good too, steeped in thrash and doom imagery and letterforms, with the Southern Lord references (word to Sunn O))))) and Voivod logo homage for a shirt with Supply. S.O.H. launches with four designs and a lookbook titles ‘Expendable Youth’ with blunts, fireworks, firearms and Jeff Fotocar behind the camera. Fuct has a lot to answer for, in the best possible way — between these designs and Julian Consuegra’s Stray Rats, with its hardcore frame of reference, Erik’s uncompromising attitude is present, but the vision is the creators’ own. It’s rare that I get hyped about tee designs beyond the usual suspects, but these are great. Between Ed’s work and Perks & Mini’s designs, Australia does it better than the majority. There’s more pages to that lookbook too and I have no idea where these are dropping, nor can I find a website, but I’m sure a launch is imminent. I admire the vagueness. Most people have teased their tees to death by this point and dropped two Vimeos already.
A few Nike curiosities from the 1987 era below — Bucks player Sidney Moncrief promoting the mysterious Nike Rugby Union designs that seem like a response to the bolder Polo, Coca-Cola and adidas apparel creations around that time. That colour blocking and abundance of embroidered detail makes these interesting and the Bengals’ “Boomer” Esiason mean-mugging in Lycra to plug the recently released Air Windrunner is part of the same restrained campaign that ditches the shouty Futura Extra Bold of the time for a more gentile approach. If you want it bolder, then the cheesy Nike Apparel ad from the same era that’s pushing bicycle-wear via a campy-attired courier. The approach to clothing at this point in time lacked the confidence of the footwear, though an appearance from Agassi in one of the campaign shots hints at a brighter future, both literally and figuratively.
Every now and again I get an email asking me about how to break into the “industry.” I don’t even know if I’ve broken into this mysterious industry, but I know one thing — a specific course isn’t necessary. You can learn a fair bit if you’re willing to work around some very strange, insecure and duplicitous individuals. The majority of people you go to are going to tell you that blogs are dead in favour of social media outlets that reward glimpse attention spans — if that’s the case, how do you shine? Most blogs on the fashion and streetwear side are pretty piss-poor — yep, there’s a couple of blogs re-blogging the same cookbook for every human being on this planet, but if you deliver quality writing or at least something smart-arsed (and the whole self-congratulations for rewriting a press release rather than copy-pasting it is a little Chris Rock “…you low-expectation-having motherfucker!” routine) you’ll get noticed. You don’t need to have some wild online magazine that causes you to crumble under your own imposed duties and you don’t need to drop some manifesto that promises the second coming — it’s liable to go shit-shaped. Don’t send the link to a blog you update once every two months because it renders you instantly unemployable – just submit some work blindly and see if you get some feedback (you’d be surprised how few people actually do that —they usually email for tips because they’re losers in the making “thinking” of starting something). Don’t be excessively thirsty on social media or there’ll be Google evidence of your corny past.
Once you’ve started writing, hate the last thing you wrote and try to get better — ignore any positives from serial retweeters, friends or family and hunt the approval of people that hate everything instead. Be aware that making colourways of sports footwear is basically as easy as doing a NIKEiD, albeit with maybe quarter of an hour of market consideration preceding it. You don’t need to create some crazy notion of having a team or a vast office (the “GWARIZM team at GWARIZM HQ” is me scratching my balls on a sofa with ‘Heat’ playing on Blu-ray in the background) — just be you. Having a crew can be overrated, so go solo — you don’t need bells and whistles. Here’s where there’s a fork in the road — you can make like Robert Greene and follow rule #40 “Despise the free lunch” to keep your integrity (I’ve failed on that count) or use your blog to sap up freebies by PRs and brands who are thirsty for coverage to send to an international HQ staffed by the clueless regardless of quality. Oh, and read as many books as you can — not those magazines we get sent and have to pretend to like because it’s such a tiny little circle of backslappers, but proper books. Then you’ll be able to render jaded old chancers like me unemployable and dominate the “industry” you were keen to be part of. It’s all one big game, but follow the above and you’ll get at least one free pair of shoes and/or a t-shirt within 3 months. I should be charging for some kind of diploma in being a chancer.
Mr. Erik Brunetti has a ‘FUCT’ book coming out in April 2013, and he kindly let me write a little bit of stuff for it. That brand changed my life as a kid, back when Erik was Rocco affiliated and I still don’t think Erik’s art skills and the excellence of the brand’s archive has been sufficiently celebrated. It’s more relevant than ever when the world is claiming that “streetwear’s back” and brand owners are all huggy and want to be buddies with you. A lot of people took ideas from FUCT and I think this book will deliver exhaustive evidence that they broke plenty of ground. On the Rizzoli site it lists me as a “streetwear icon” alongside Aaron Rose. Rose is far, far more talented than me and I’m neither iconic nor streetwear. Like I said, I’m just some dude on the sofa, scratching his balls and watching ‘Heat.’
This Jil Sander Men’s Cardboard Sandwich Bag for £175 (“Made in the same fashion as a paper lunch bag”) at oki-ni is strictly for fashionistas to hyperventilate into now they know the Raf Simons/Sander connection is kaput. This seems like one big amazing in-joke — I triple dare you to explain this to a parent. It makes me feel like my dad did the first time I showed him a pair of Jordans and told him the RRP. You could keep your £600 visvim book in it. Or you could go to a local Yates’s and make it rain for 20 minutes to Jessie J and the ‘Grease Megamix’ — I think the latter might be a wiser investment.
Writing a top 50 of anything is a motherfucker. Nobody maintains a top 50 of something unless they’re truly insane. I keep a top 5 of some stuff, but that’s as far as it goes. And that’s subject to change. So putting together anything longer is hard, and beyond that top 10 ranking, it’s merely tactical. “You put XXXXX at 35! Are you crazy?” they shout in the comments section. And I don’t listen. Douchebags can glower at me at trade shows all they like. Streetwear is a subject that’s very important to me, and I can’t be bothered to break down what constitutes streetwear — you know what it is. Salutes to all who started at 432F.
When Bradley at Complex asked me to list 50 great streetwear bites (that was later changed to homages because “Bites” is a little too controversial), I was keen to get involved. Check it out right here. It’s nice to celebrate a realm before it went all cut, sew and RRL-lite — I’m not qualified to be talking about these things professionally, as I’m just a fan. I’m a toy. But that rack of shirts I browsed in Planet Clothing back in the early 1990s that was laden with Fuct, Freshjive, X-Large and some stray Carhartt is still fresh in my mind. It was a glorious confusion — was it skate wear? Hip-hop gear? I couldn’t work it out. So I used this opportunity with Compex’s 50 Greatest Pop Culture References In Streetwear to celebrate that. But I still had to omit some stuff important to me to fit that 50, and I forgot one key design.
I assume nobody cried about LRG being out the list again, because they’re not peddlers of parody, but I had to ditch Eightball and Droors because they’re skate brands, and before you claim that Supreme is a skate brand, we all know that it’s something bigger in 2011. In fact, I could easily make a list of nothing but Supreme gear, and I’m sure they loathe being tagged as streetwear too. But again, this isn’t the place for debate. It was originally a list of 80 or so designs. Some images were just impossible to find and some creations were excised because I couldn’t justify featuring more than 6 of the same brand when there’s a numerical perimeter to work within. You all knew Stussy and Supreme’s Chanel and Kruger homages would top it though, didn’t you?
But some stuff’s in there solely because I respect their business game or because that design typified an era, regardless of how regrettable it might look now. OBEY warrants a place for importance even if it’s super-wack to me nowadays, but those stickers fired my imagination back in the day. I saw one question on Twitter — “How could they forget air Johnny?” I can answer that one. Because it’s shit. It was nice to take another look at the work of the late Bleu Valdimer’s overlooked Kingpin line and Pervert’s Don Busweiler, who ditched the brand to join a cult. There’s a phenomenal documentary in there somewhere.
I regret omitting Supreme’s ARMY shirt, Stussy’s PiL-style StU, Zoopreme, King Stampede’s Cult stuff, Supreme Maxell, the J$ Situationormal Alpo shirt, Absurd’s A-Wing, DQM’s Meatallica, Diamond D-Wing, Undrcrwn’s Biggie and Pac shirts, Undrcrwn’s Coogi-style basketball shirts, Silas’s ‘Silas Bloody Silas’ shirt, Gimme5’s Ghostbusters image, Fuct’s ‘Warriors’, the BMW Red Army Faction shirt (I couldn’t find the designer), Perks & Mini’s Balearic Flag and Sun-Ra designs, Goodenough’s ‘Dog or Die, Staple’s Cassius Clay, Crooked Tongues’s ‘Crooked Force’, SSUR’s IZM IBM homage, Tonite’s ‘Party On’ Patagonia shirt, ALIFE’s Otis Bantum Correctional Facility, Freshjive’s ‘Don’t Tread On Me’, WTAPS’s ‘Rise Above’ stuff NFC’s Krylon print, 10.DEEP’s Champion shirt, the SSUR Bruce Lee ‘Enter the Dragon’ chest marks, the St. Alfred’s YSL style monogram, the Bounty Hunter Danzig font, the Bounty Hunter Ducky Boys shirt, Pervert’s Kappa bite, Orchard Street’s ‘Pimp Accordingly’, Mishka’s ‘Death to All’, HVM8 ‘Bone Thugs & Typography’, aNYthing’s BAD NEWS series and a few more….in fact, I’m sure there’s a hundred more significant shirts, hats and sweats.
I couldn’t single out a specific NBHD design that’s an iconic homage. Mr. Craig Ford reminded me of plenty more Hysteric Glamour creations, Duffer’s Ducci Gucci bite and a Hermes homage, plus BAPE’s Versace and Cazal copies. The Natural Born ‘I Against I’ and 2K/Gingham Beatles designs are clever, but I never saw them as homages or imitations. Even only including a single No Mas design seemed churlish.
But now I’m boring myself.
There’s one major idiotic omission in the listing (and apologies to Erik for misspelling his name as Eric a couple of times) — the Fuct ‘Goodfellas’ shirt. The brand’s early ’92 film poster art preempts SSUR’s ‘Mean Streets’ and Supreme’s ‘Taxi Driver’. I mentioned it, then forgot to include it later on like a dumbass. It seems so obvious to stick gangsterism on cotton now, but back then it felt totally fresh. Fuct is a very overlooked brand indeed.
Why is the list largely absent of designs post-2006? Because there’s some lines that deserve a spotlight and I’m afraid SSUR creations warranted a place more than your line. There’s still some great creations being pumped out from newer labels, but post-2006, the homaged brands seemed to want more of that hypesphere loot and seemed happier to officially collaborate. I feel that murdered some of the rebel spirit and that was an instant disqualification, though on seeing the list, Jeff Staple mentioned that the John Jovino Gun Shop shirt was made with his cooperation.
It’s heartening to see a streetwear resurgence of sorts in the UK. Shouts to Gabriel at Origin London for his latest project with This is My Costume, Puck and Second To None. At fear of sounding patronising, the dude is 17 and creating a presence for his brand using a network of folk who dwell on the new. We old farts are on our way out — and not a moment too soon. Too much nostalgia can prove unhealthy.
With all the current MTV celebrations, it’s always worth re-watching the ‘VH1 Goes Inside Yo! MTV Raps’ documentary from a few years back. There’s some great outtake footage in there, and just as that rack of randomly gathered shirts had a vast impact on me, those saturday mornings watching Ed and the team were life-changing. Anyone else remember those switches to Marxman and Talkin’ Loud releases during Fred’s non-studio section courtesy of MTV Europe? I always felt I was missing out on some amazing US stuff as a result of that intrusion.
And if anybody can tell me what a ‘Purple Onion’ is in the comments, I’d love to know. While this track is hypnotic, I initially wrote the video off as a So Me copy, but the ‘Pop Up Video’ style comments and ‘What They Do’ style is decent.
Hop off Serpico’s heavily-disguised dick for a minute in the style stakes. 1981’s ‘Nighthawks’ (known as ‘Night Hawks’ in the UK, possibly to avoid confusion with the 1978 Brit-flick ‘Nighthawks’) is another long-hair NYC cop thriller that still holds up as a document of the big apple’s anarchic feel as a new decade developed, but also showcases some memorable attire. Mindless but smartly executed, they don’t make films like this any more. Curiously homoerotic undertones underpin the ultra-macho content, whether it’s a disco track produced by Keith Emerson, converting the phenomenal synthesised main theme into something that wouldn’t be out-of-place on the soundtrack of the equally foreboding ‘Cruising’, Rutger Hauer urging a scared plastic surgeon to beautify him or no less than two instances of Stallone in drag, dishing out punishment to bad guys.
Stallone is capable of fine performances. With ‘Rambo IV’ and ‘The Expendables’ impending, he’s seemingly accepted a spot as a mindless violence merchant despite years of bespectacled attempts to shake that. The former flick was superb, and his ensemble bullet-fest is something to look forward to, but remember that sense of anticipation post-‘Copland’ with the superior performance he never truly capitalised on? Those who saw ‘D-Tox’ can attest to that failure.
‘Lords of Flatbush’,’F.I.S.T.’ and ‘Rocky’ set a performance precedent. ‘First Blood’ as a ‘Nighthawks’ follow-up was a shrewd move too. Then potential seemed to be squandered until his deaf cop turn. ‘Nighthawks’ is ultimate Stallone. Come on, Sylvester and Billy Dee Williams (fresh from his first turn as Lando), pursuing a terrorist played by Rutger Hauer? That’s a classic in the making. Shot on location in 1980 NYC, that’s the visual clout that all the CGI in the world couldn’t top. New York in 1980 feels like another world, and a place waaaaaay more treacherous than Bespin.
Between repeat viewings of this and remembering FUCT’s.’Symbionese’ Champion sweat, it’s forgivable that one could get nostalgic for a time when leftist terrorism had folk shook. Conversely, it’s depressing that attacks on urban environments seemed far-fetched too. Hauer’s smooth criminal doesn’t rant on murky leaked broadcasts. He’s like Billy Drago’s Frank Nitti, but with finesse, all bombs in briefcases slid from view and exploding department stores, only losing his cool during a subway pursuit on foot and (alas, a graffiti-free) train that rivals ‘The Warriors’ for kinetic breathlessness. And they really are running around a functioning underground station. Hauer would play the pursuer in ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ (“Fuck the bonus“) hunting Kiss’s Gene Simmons as a hands-on terrorist mastermind with equally fiendish schemes but significantly less finesse.
Severely cut, (Stallone claims it was packing ‘Taxi Driver’ levels of bloodshed), ‘Nighthawks’ is still a brutal film, and the wardrobe achieves a curious middle ground between odd and utilitarian. Berets are a no, but the militaristic trenchcoats, variety of leathers, that cardigan and Stallone’s hefty sunglasses still look fresh. Alas, given the era, flared, striped slacks occasionally kill an outfit. These are maverick cops, and Deke DaSilva and Matthew Fox’s outfits are appropriately maverick. For all his cold-blooded antics, Hauer’s Wulfgar gets less love on the costume front until he wields his MAC-10 aboard a cable car towards the film’s conclusion with layered rollneck ruthlessness.
‘Nighthawks’ director Bruce Malmuth passed in 2005. He deserves respect for helming this classic, the Seagal vehicle ‘Hard to Kill’ (“This is for my wife—fuck you and die“) and bizarrely, for playing the ring announcer in the original ‘Karate Kid’. This isn’t a call for the Criterion treatment, but if those deleted scenes are anywhere, a DVD special edition would be welcome. That’s word to Billy Dee Williams’s Superman t-shirt.
It’s no big secret that I think ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ is one of the great crime novels and movies. Credible, dialogue driven, yet often unrecognised, beyond Mitchum’s low-key, grouchy performance – one of his best, he’s surrounded by some of the best character actors out there. It’s a shame that so many passed before their time and never got the dues deserved. Richard Foley for one, died too soon. I know every motherfucker with a WordPress account is eulogizing the style of some staggeringly obvious performers, but it’s heartening that Erik Brunetti’s mighty FUCT – specifically its SSDD imprint, referenced ‘The Trial of Billy Jack’ – OGs riff off the offbeat while everyone else fellates McQueen. Bronx-born Stephen Keats is the true star of ‘…Eddie Coyle’ as gunrunner Jackie Brown.
Consider that bombastic statement – that’s in a film with a career best from one of the greatest that ever did it, but I stand by that statement. At turns ultra relaxed and ultra fidgety, Jackie’s always on his Ps and Qs, and while the big collars haven’t aged well during his talk of broken knuckles with Eddie at the film’s opening, the hair, polo neck, multi pocketed leather jacket, car, firearm knowledge (automatic weapons are a more problematic matter) and sunglasses make him a lowlife icon. Absolute cool. It’s only some old-fashioned snitching that brings this workmanlike delivery man down.
Tragically, despite some appearances in classic films like ‘Death Wish’ and ‘Black Sunday’ b-movie status inexplicably remained – he got no shortage of work, but should’ve become more well-known – and he took his own life in 1994. He undertook a Vietnam tour-of-duty before becoming an actor and interviews indicated he saw some harrowing things that took a toll. RIP Stephen Keats. One of the greats.
A depressing story needs some happy news – other than the fact you need the Criterion ‘…Eddie Coyle’ disc in your life, Janus films (Criterion’s brethren) recently put out a cinema print of the madcap 1977 Japanese horror, ‘Hausu’ aka. ‘House’ – well-regarded but confined to trades by lovers of odd films, you need it in your life. There’s more lurid brilliance in 5 minutes of ‘Hausu’ than you’ll get in any film released this year. That means a DVD release is a-coming this summer. There’s even a t-shirt.
The director actually made this comically manly Japan-only Charles Bronson deodorant commercial too.
On a newer film note, while ‘A Serbian Film’ is probably going to ruin our lives with depictions of something truly hideous if it ever gets released without Daily Mail readers engaging in self-immolation outside art cinemas, on a ’70’s cinema topic, the writer, who I assumed might be a lunatic, masturbating with razors and tediously out to shock, seems eerily normal, with some fine reference points mentioned in this interview. It’s the calm ones you have to watch out for.