Weapon ads in old issues of ‘Black Belt’ take it back to 1984 — a time of local video shops with a wall of cheap martial art movies to match the heft of the horror and porn sections and school trips to France being the optimum time to pick up knuckle dusters, fun size explosives and the fabled throwing stars. Not so much ‘Niggas in Paris’ — more like ninjas in Calais. I love these pictures, from the peak of Michael Dudikoff’s career and a time when Lee Van Cleef and Sho Kosugi in ‘The Master’ took ninjas prime-time before a swift cancellation, who wouldn’t want foot claws and a belt buckle with a removable throwing star. The scope for stupidity, and a trip to the emergency ward, with these offerings is still deeply tempting. Who would have thought anything that included a knuckle knife could look downright quaint 28 years down the line?
My quest for the perfect sweat continues and like the white tee one (mission aborted, I’ll stick with Kirklands from Costco from now on) it’s too subjective to announce a winner. But looking in spots like J Simons reveals some contenders that aren’t Japanese repros or the usual suspects. Germany’s Pike Brothers have a grey melange number that gets the neck, cuffs and snug but not skin tight (the downfall of many a fine effort from the far east) fit right. The brand seems more aimed at the 1950s’ revivalist crowd, but even if you’re not a pomade and braces kind of chap, they get this basic right and drop it at a fair price point. Taking the name of the design back to its physical training origins by calling it the P.T. Sweater makes a lot of sense too — resisting any urge for contrast ribbing or flat lock seams that you’d be able to see from a mile off lets this accessorise pretty much everything. A very strong effort.
As proof that people have been solemnly over thinking graffiti on canvases for a lot longer than European tourists have being wandering east London with cameras held aloft on Banksy-themed tours, ART/new york’s ‘Graffiti/Post Graffiti’ has reappeared on YouTube again. It tends to appear then be pulled down and while it’s not essential, it’s a good accompaniment for some core flicks for fans of this miserable sub-culture. I’ve long pondered as to whether anyone downtown in the early 1980s realised that they were at the nucleus of a zeitgeist, or whether it was a squalid hand to mouth time for anyone beyond the chosen few. What is clear is that by 1984, when this documentary was put together, the joy had been sucked out by solemn studies like this. Still, at least some deserving folks were getting paid at this point and now this kind of film is pure gold. There’s some good Rammellzee works and sonics, some Futura and Crash’s leather jacket, but it’s the serious faces in attendance watching the canvas being reworked at the New York Society for Ethical Culture happening that are some of the best footage in this short film. That Marc H. Miller Basquiat interview (an edit of a far longer chat) is the one that inspired the confrontational Christopher Walken conversation in the ‘Basquiat’ biopic — a great film, rife with SANE and COPE tags and throw ups to ruin the historical authenticity, though none were as jarring as the OBEY poster in a Lester Bangs themed deleted scene in ‘Almost Famous.’
Harry Jumonji is a name checked downtown skate legend who represents the hardcore attitude of the city, but had a career blighted by crack addiction and jail time. Life would barely be worth living without the prospect of another focused skate documentary in post-production, and after some solid portraits of other characters, from Gator to Hosoi to Duane to Jessee, it’s Harry’s time. It’s nice to see New York in the spotlight, and while I assumed Epicly Later’d might cover him one day (on the Later’d front, the Fabian Alomar story could fit another 2 hours), NY Skateboarding just reported on a trailer for a documentary from Erica Hill Studio. With a life that moved from Parana to Ubatuba to New York, Harry’s a legend — this 1989 image of him skating in Air Solo Flights and Stussy, taken by Bill Thomas and used in the teasers for ‘Deathbowl to Downtown’ is a classic.