I’m taking inspiration from some interesting figures this year. You can keep your influencer or “brand builder”—I’ve been conducting my own little investigation into odd and evil characters, and there’s something weirdly mesmerizing about some monstrous individuals. I’d sooner watch the Aum Shinrikyo anime recruitment video than listen to a payola-led prediction about what 2011’s boom-brand will be. I’ve been watching that as well as marveling at the wide-eyed joy on the faces of Heaven’s Gate cult members pre-suicide on the “exit statement” video as Marshall Applewhite excitedly introduces each person, just before the infamous phenobarbitone pudding mass snacking. What do those folks know that we don’t? It doesn’t quite match the nightmarish aura of the Jonestown death tape—Jim Jones’s total lack of his fabled charisma, the bursts of mania and crying, plus the ghostly sound of previous music and hymns from a previous recording on the tape conjures up a scene that’s several shades of wrong. They’re all examples of PR and marketing gone hideously right…how do you generate that level of devotion? It’s one thing to sell bad denim to idiots nomadically hunting for the “next shit,” but getting your followers to take it up a notch in the devotion stakes is very intriguing indeed.
I’d love to have seen Shoko Asahara, the Rev. Jim Jones and Marshall Applewhite perform a TED talk on brand loyalty. They’re scumbags, but they were obviously onto something when it came to marketing. I also want to know why 1982’s cult errr….cult film ‘Split Image’ with James Woods and Peter Fonda (as a religious leader of sorts) remains in limbo.
Marshall’s insistence on a nifty little exit outfit, complete with that ‘Away Team’ patch (the lurid cult logo has long been a favourite of mine), and just as Jim gave out Flavor Aid rather than the rumoured Kool Aid, talk of Cortez as the Heaven’s Gate footwear of choice is wrong too. While that outsole is different to contemporary examples, they look more like budget 1996/1997 Windrunners or—looking at the outsole compared to the usual Windrunner*—a Waffle runner of sorts. I wish Nike would put that shoe out again.
*Thanks to shoe genius Mr. Ghettrocentricity the shoe is officially identified…it’s a Nike Decade. Wikipedia needs to fall back with its talk of Windrunners. Shoe images courtesy of eBay and only-sneakers.ru.
But if you’re talking workrates, Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski is a fascinating case study. Well regarded by NYC and Newark mobs as the hitman of choice, he was a steely eyed hulk of a man and a complete psychopath, but at least he was thorough. With a child killer as a younger brother and another brother killed at his alcoholic father’s hands, he was destined to turn out peculiar, but he channelled his blank approach to mayhem in a more profitable way. Testing crossbows on strangers to gauge effectiveness, killing prey with cyanide inhalers, videoing supposed rapists being eaten by rats, dressing up as a 6″5 homosexual to apparently evade detection and putting screwdrivers through spines to prevent escape, he was clearly a monster—and a wifebeater too—but he kept his day job a secret from his family. As a freelancer, he amassed a strong reputation that led to constant work. Let that be a lesson to you budding stylists, copy writers and designers out there—keep it thorough. Given his size, location and family life, his story must’ve entered ‘The Sopranos’ at pre-production stage in one way or another. On the HBO topic, their 1991 and 2001 interviews with Kuklinski are excellent. That blank face and subject matter is at odds with his colourful sweatshirt in the 1991 conversation—he’s a chilling character, and he’s in more standard prison attire for the 2001 chat, but seems marginally more relaxed.
If you’re caught up in notions of mobster glamour, Philip Carlo’s ‘The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer’ and ‘The Butcher: Anatomy of a Mafia Psychopath’ (based on the antics of Tommy “Karate” Pitera) are a good read. Kuklinski was apparently a little liberal with the truth, but it’s entertaining and terrifying nonetheless. Philip Carlo passed away late last year, but his book is the crux of a forthcoming film about “The Iceman” which would have been good with the long-rumoured Mickey Rourke lead (though if you’ve watched the chats, Gandolfini or Rip Torn a few years back could have nailed it), but now its rival production has the green light. Based on another book on the big man by Anthony Brunowith and the HBO specials, the usually unhinged Michael Shannon will be starring, with Benicio Del Toro as his mafia employer, Roy Demeo and James Franco as Robert “Mr. Softee” Pronge. Normally, I’d be sceptical that the film will ever materialise, but a test scene has appeared online with Shannon killing a non-Franco Mr. Softee (played by Michael Wincott). I’m looking forward to it. In the violent cinema stakes, Lee Tamahori’s ‘The Devil’s Double’ about Uday Hussein and his lookalike sounds like lurid fun, but ‘The Iceman’ has some serious potential.
This post was meant to be a rundown of what I saw on a brief Germanic tradeshow jaunt, but other than the Gourmet sneakers using Horween’s Cordovan leather, LVC’s new range (and that RRL influence via the new man in charge shows in a major way), Levi’s Made & Crafted and Supra’s plans for 2011, it was pretty underwhelming. Those tripping in France at the moment will be seeing the truly good stuff..