24 hours late on the blog updates and still not much to say. The leather jacketed or vested ne’er-do-wells of old always fired my imagination in movies and magazines, but I can’t help but think that gangs were making more of an effort to dress back in the day. Juvenile delinquency looked particularly fucking cool in the 1950s and 1960s, back when the dawn of the teenager had “squares” bricking themselves at grease-slicked haircuts and tribal uniforms. These pictures from a 1957 LIFE feature on Upper Westside and Bronx gangs called Teen-Age Burst of Brutality make alleged thugs look like rock stars. An Egyptian Kings member looks cool calm and collected on the way to be quizzed for a murder, complete with fans peering in the window, and the crew shot of the Laughing Jesters in Manhattan makes them look like the best gang ever. People generally seemed to look more excellent 50+ years ago.
While the gang jackets in this anti-hoodlum film from the 1950s are the worst thing ever, the gangs in the 1961 San Francisco based documentary Ask Me, Don’t Tell Me which has some kind of religious redemption overtones (and did the blog rounds back in 2009 when it seemed to go into public domain) has crews of dudes who are deeply stylish, until they start doing decorating and digging holes and being productive members of society because society asks them to be — it completely does the opposite of discouraging anyone from not wanting to stand on a street corner playing elbow tit (as depicted in The Wanderers). Even in the 1970s, the gang jackets on the cover of New York Magazine‘s March 27, 1972 cover story on east Bronx gangs (which can be read here) would almost certainly have a kid reaching for the marker pens to decorate a garment so he and his friends could rumble with neighbourhood rivals.
Ralph Bakshi has drawn some great hoodlums in flicks like American Pop and Coonskin and given his escalating inability to work within the system, an initiative like Kickstarter is the perfect way for him to raise capital. He’s currently working on a series called Last Days of Coney Island with pledged voice work from folks like Matthew Modine and there’s some amazing incentives to pledge some dough here ($35+ for a Bakshi character doodle?). And I’ve talked about Ralph’s work here a lot of times, because Wizards, Fritz the Cat and Lord of the Rings, plus shows like his Mighty Mouse redux had such a big impact on me — if you don’t know who he is, educate yourself immediately by picking up a copy of Unfiltered and reading this interview with him from a year ago. The sketches and imagery from Last Days of Coney Island look pretty good so far.
Does anyone else recall Champion’s Japanese licensee putting Champion on some extremely underwhelming hiking boots in 1995 to capitalise on a boom in hiking heritage? I thought I dreamt it until I pulled out this old ad again. They really did a number on the iconic ‘C’ right there.