Saturday, February 21, 2009

Working in Noe Valley from 1985 to 1996, etc.

ABOVE: before we move on, is an old piece of my art, dated 1977-78, which I had always assumed was long lost. At that time I was doing these large and very detailed ballpoint-pen renderings, and this was really one of the best. When I moved back out here to Missouri, it never turned up, and I assumed that these large and very stony pieces were forever gone. It was a real shock when I found this recently and opened it up-wow! Now there's an old buddy I haven't seen in a while! In a period of lots of acid trips and partying, I was cranking out blacklight art and weird pieces like this, as well as a bunch of big acrylic paintings; most of the acrylic pieces still exist- but aren't good enough to bother putting up online.
This is a big piece, and a big file- so click on it and check out the ballpoint-pen work on the thing- really an extraordinary amount of work.
Now, to jump topics-------------------------------------
To the 'Working in Noe Valley' section. I was thinking the other day (as I sometimes do) about all of the interesting and arty folks that I met while working at my first job in San Francisco- managing the copy shop department at a little art and office supply place called 'Colorcrane' (after Tom Crane, the original owner- nice guy, nice family).
It was in the 'heart' of Noe Valley- right across from the supermarket, a few doors down from Streetlight Records, where Marc Weinstein (soon to start Amoeba Records) was working, and right next door to Aquarius Records. When I moved up from Santa Cruz, my wife and I hardly knew anyone up there, and I was lucky to be in Noe Valley, I think, because of the unusual folks that came through my store. Maybe the whole town was like this- but I think that my neighborhood was pretty cool.
I'll just do this is a laundry list of name-dropping, in no particular order. Well, actually, I suppose the first people that I recognized were the cartoonists that came in, and through them, specifically Trina Robbins, I learned about The Loonies cartoonist monthly (?) salons, where artists and writers would socialize and network. After going to one of those with my pathetic portfolio of 1985, I realized quickly how grossly unprepared I was to compete as an artist/illustrator in San Francisco!
Anyhoo- We had quite a clientele: Bill Griffith was a regular of mine- he came in for years. Well, actually I was the nearest copy shop in town, so I had 'em over a barrel, but I also kept my machines in good order, and took care with arty customers. His wife Diane Noomin also did a lot of work in there on my machines. A huge thrill for me was the day that Spain Rodriguez first came in and pulled out some originals to shoot. Fantastic artist and nice guy- I always loved to look at what he was up to. Growing up his comix really 'blew my mind' along with Crumb and a handful of other underground masters. Spain used to come in pretty regularly for many years.
Of course I should mention my own friends that faithfully did most of their printing with me, on various projects that they would sell: Alan Herrick did a LOT of Auricular Records printing with me, and AMK and GX Jupitter-Larsen also printed a lot of custom and limited-edition stuff at my place, probably a lot of it still out circulating around.
David Paul printed many issues of his famous zine 'The Bomb Hip-Hop Magazine' with me and he was a really nice regular customer to have. There were so many very sweet people down there- that fellow that drew the Tom Tomorrow strip used to come in a LOT--I forget his real name, super-nice guy. Gosh- I'm just remembering Remi Rubel--super creative person, and the lady who painted the Batman and Robin lunchbox--- now what was her name-? She does these sexy paintings of famous media characters, darn I just saw her on TV not too long ago- her name escapes me. I'll add it in here later. (It was Isobel Samarras. She and husband Marco {hope I have these spellings right!} were both very nice and talented folks. A very attractive and stylish couple, as well.)
Comic magazine and book author Gerard Jones used to come around a bit, and he and I even got to hang out and chat occasionally while I wasn't working. He wrote a good book about Silver-age comic book heroes, lots of popular comics, and has since written a bunch of stuff about all sorts of things. Tall and easygoing- a handsomer version of Ed Begley, he has that lanky All-American look down.
Roy Loney, famed rock vocalist was in the neighborhood and always in various stores, and I knew he was somebody, but only NOW do I realize how awesome he is and wish I'd gotten to know him. He was instantly spottable in the 'hood by his hair- always a thick 60's moptop-style 'do. He stood out. Terry Zwigoff was another occasional customer in my early years down in the Valley. At the time I did work for him he was appearing in Robert Crumb's fantastic 'Weirdo' magazine, and I only knew him as a 'friend of Robert Crumb', I didn't know of our common musical interests or his filmmaking aspirations. A quiet, private, interesting fella. And no list of Noe Valley celebs would be complete without mentioning one person who everyone seemed to dislike working with in their store- Jello Biafra. Always cranky, always mean, clearly considered himself above the restless herd of Noe Valley humanity. He made us laugh- he was always SO damned crabby. I love the guy's work, in some ways, but he must be a hard one to get to know! My friend Rob Wortman has some funny Jello stories. Ever meet someone who literally has a black cloud of gloom that follows them around-? That was Jello. And this is not to pick on him at all-- I mean, people have their reasons, you know? Whatever. It's just that we all remember how gnarly he was to relate to.
I'm sure I'll keep thinking of more folks to add, and this section may grow over time.

Sure enough - the other day (now it's 2011) I remembered good ol' Bobby McFerrin, another Noe Valley resident/regular. Sad to report, like Jello-pal, no one in the 'hood got along with him, a troubled guy. Kinda surly. Which we always had to find a bit amusing as he was well known then as the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" guy.

Below- the living legend, Trouper Jim. He's merely here to provide a space in the text.
Here are some old family pics that turned up recently, along with a pile of youthful art.
BELOW: My father Fillmore and I exploring the tidepools in 1972 (I was 11) at the private beach below my Uncle Tony's place in Palos Verdes, California. With the ever-present Katrina the dog. I very much still remember these visits-- there was an extremely steep path down to the beach, and a sort of broken-down old electric car on rails that had been the former mode of transport down to the beach. The whole area, and their fancy house, was very interesting. Palos Verdes had colorful features, like the abandoned and crumbling bits of closed highway that were being eroded into the ocean, built much too close to the coastline. The house later burned and I don't know if it's in Aunt Ann Nita's family anymore or not...I'd like to think that the beachfront property is still available to visit again someday but it probably isn't. Remember the 'Big W' gimmick with the palm trees in the film "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"-? That was very near this area.
I can just hear Fill, below: "Check it out, Drew- a starfish!"


BELOW: A picture of me inside the 'Wilson House' in Warrensburg, 1972, next to my 'toy' drum set, my own little fake-Ludwig-Ringo-kit (and I bet there were a LOT of us little Ringos -in-training). On my left is one of the huge Italian marble fireplaces. This was our first house that had 12-foot ceilings and old fixtures. A large upright piano (painted white) sits off-camera to my right. I beat the hell out of that kit for many years. I recall (rather ickily) playing it at our next house along with Led Zep records, while doing inhalants to enhance the rock'n'roll vibe. How about a nice headache to go with your rehearsal?
BELOW: In front of the 'Wilson House' on Gay street in Warrensburg, Missouri, 1973. Modeling a 'wolfboy' makeup for Halloween, using my beloved professional Max Factor makeup kit. I prize ANY photos around this house very highly since it has been torn down, and the whole corner lot looks so different now. Note my swinging wolf-tail.
I wish someday I could uncover a picture of the WHOLE outside of the house- cupola and all. I fear it may never be. One gets stuck on these things, sometimes. My memories of Peg and Ted Hain upstairs, and all of their fantastic antiques and art and shit, and all of those long-lost interesting friends of theirs, that I used to cook and play softball and Yahtzee with...ahhh, those were great days.
BELOW: Three more pieces which turned up recently, unseen for thirty years. This poster below, from 1979, is one of the actual offset-printed specimens. Obviously I was in a heavy Mucha phase then. Not too shabby for a high school theatre night.
BELOW: "Color Fantasy Piece, 1978" a wombly leg, poor anatomy and color, too phallic; but I still kind of like this old thing. It's always so odd to find these old pictures that one did, and you don't remember them at all. Who painted this? It was somebody else!
BELOW: a water-damaged birthday card painted for someone in 1982. By this time, when I was living up in the mountains, I went into a fallow period for art, after doing tons of stuff between 1976 and 1980, once I moved to the cabin I had a long period of 'blockage' where I couldn't seem to get ideas on paper. The super-choked woods and very 'busy' landscape that I hadn't figured out how to stylize well enough to illustrate yet was a factor- the redwood forests in the Santa Cruz mountains were hard to paint! Plus I realized that I had to re-learn everything, anyway. It took me until about 1988 or so before I began to 'find my style' and was able to get rolling well art-wise again.

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