Hall of Famer and style icon Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Scholastic paperback 1973.
Archive for the Uncategorized Category
In addition to collecting 70s and 80s toys, Blaxploitation ephemera and outsider art, I’m also very interested in the history of this country and its representation of Black folk in the media. One of the first things I began collecting over 20 years ago is Black memorabilia. Seen by some as abhorrent and offensive, its a derisive and unforgettable part of American history and a touchstone to where we were and how far we still have to go. The cards pictured above are the first three cards of a set of 16 that were a promotion for the hugely popular Amos and Andy radio program which aired, in various formats, from 1928 to 1960.This rare set was given away by one of the sponsors of the program. The premise of the program was set around the hijinks of two friends, Amos and Andy, and their “fish out of water” life in the North. They were played by two white men in Blackface, an old minstrel tradition where Black people were mocked and cruelly ridiculed; initially on stage and later on radio and cinema. The radio program made the transition to television in the early 1950s featuring Black actors.
Panther Crime was an imprint of Panther Books Ltd., an British publishing house that released mostly fiction novels during the 1950s and 1960s. Famous for science fiction titles from the likes of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, Panther chose the gritty realism of Chester Himes’ detective novels to kick off its Panther Crime imprint. The paperbacks seen above were both released in Great Britain in 1969 and are typical of the Panther Crime’s use of surrealism with a subtle dose of gangsta. Taken out of the hard boiled 1950s and injected with late 60s “Black Mod” cool, the covers invite the reader to get lost in the world that Mr. Himes has constructed. A very welcome addition to my collection!
The background subtly compliments young Mike’s sartorial color palette.
My current obsession is finding and procuring Black pulp and crime paperback novels. The covers are often amazingly rendered and can be considered (at least by yours truly) a thumbnail version of what the poster would/could be. I’m particularly intrigued by the covers of the British versions of Chester Himes’ detective tomes. A lot racier and suggestive than their domestic counterparts, the photographs on these British paperbacks provocatively dare the reader to judge a book by its cover.
This new documentary from director/personal friend Tamra Davis looks like the real deal. Comprised of never before seen interviews and film footage, its a must see for Basquiat stans and lovers of the bygone days of the Lower East Side’s burnt out buildings, detritus and spontaneous creativity. Shot two years prior to his death in 1988, its a glimpse into past while pointing to the future. Search it out.
This original printing of Amiri Baraka’s (when he was still called LeRoi Jones) hit off Broadway play was another thirft store score of mine. Dutchman is the story of a young, well dressed Black man who has an (un)fortunate encounter with a provocative and seductive young White woman. Set in a hot subway car, this racial drama speaks on the danger that lurks beneath our civilized society. Seduced intellectually and psychically, the play speaks to the dual nature that lives beneath the surface of a brother posited between two worlds. There was a revival a few years ago in the same space (The Cherry Lane Theater) in which it premiered over 40 years ago. Somewhat heavy handed yet still powerful, Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman still titillates and challenges.
How did I discover Ganja and Hess? Early on, the title captivated me. Ganja and Hess? What was it all about? What a strange title for a blaxploitation film; it didn’t even have the word “Black” in it! I had forgotten about the film for a while and then, oddly enough, an episode of The Cosby Show (like you’ve never watched it) reintroduced me to the film’s director, Bill Gunn. It turns out he had a recurring role on the show as one of Cliff Huxtable’s poker buddies. So, Bill Gunn was a Black actor who directed a “blaxploitation” film in the early 1970s. I began reading more and more about the film and discovered it had at least five titles. I began searching under the various titles (Black Evil, Black Out, Black Vampire, etc) and came up empty-handed. While browsing for DVDs and not looking for anything in particular, a strange image appeared in my peripheral vision. As I moved closer to examine the artwork, I discovered the picture was dominated by one large face with smaller images concentrated around it. An African woman, a conjurer, lurked on the bottom of the image focused on her magic. This was Ganja and Hess! If the cover was any indication (as you dusty-fingered fellows have yourselves experienced), I was in for a treat.
To read the entire essay check:http://waxpoetics.com/issues/issue_7/