Monday, August 30, 2010

Sent Away (Part 2)

For me, entrance into 7th grade at Great Neck South Jr. High, in 1968, was a demoralizing, dehumanizing, soul-killing nightmare. There were almost a thousand kids per grade, each one a peon in this industrialized fascist institution. I collapsed in my room after the first day of school, facing a six-year prison sentence which I didn’t believe I could survive.

But, as I had discovered Bobo in first grade (see Black Cracker), after a few weeks, I made the acquaintance of Billy Bloom. Bloom was self-liberated from academic chores, breaking out in fits of existential laughter. I was the only other student who found this contagious. He molded a realistic clay figurine in art class. As with King Kong, showcasing genitalia was unacceptable. But Bloom molded on an enormous pecker, making it seem like an afterthought. Since the rest of the figure was done skillfully, in the style of Michelangelo’s David, the art teacher was perplexed as to whether to accept or destroy the sculpture. The teacher critiqued that it was excellent—but would Bloom, who kept a straight face throughout, perhaps consider making the offending protrusion a bit smaller. Which of course was Bloom’s whole point—to sculpt as big a dick as he could get away with.

Bloom and I were often reprimanded to the assistant principal for laughing. Biting our tongues before Mr. Lipari’s desk, the harder we tried to remain silent, the more the laughs would swell until we literally collapsed to the floor in hysterics, while Lipari called our mothers to have us suspended. At that point, our school careers, and thus our lives, were fucked, so we had nothing more to lose. Amazingly, the gym coach was the only faculty member to beat us up. But Billy Bloom kept me sane that year.

Before the start of 8th grade, Bloom was sent away. Every few weeks, I eagerly anticipated another envelope from Vermont. Vermont seemed to be the preferred destination for disturbed white teenagers from Long Island. His letters were like Zap comics, before Zap was even available. I planned to write comic strips for him to illustrate whenever he returned. When he finally emerged about two years later, he turned serene. As if he had been defanged, emasculated or lobotomized. He stopped drawing and doing schtick. Frustrated by mental images I couldn’t draw myself, I eventually opted to collaborate with my second choice—my younger brother, Drew. Yet I still wonder at what might have been, had Billy Bloom remained a lunatic.

From some tranquil Vermont facility for boys, in 1969:

click letters to enlarge

© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CRACKER Inspiration

from the editor's desk:

Spotted by New Texture's eagle-eyed Victoria Doyle—on the sidewalk in front of the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA), no less!

Street portraitist Sharon Artist displays her wares. There's Liza of course, Stevie Wonder, some animal portraiture, "actor/coach" Paul Rubio (??) and...who's that? Could it be...?

Indeed it is! Sharon's interpretation of the Black Cracker cover!

Los Angeles, ladies and gentlemen.

photos © 2010 Victoria Doyle

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sent Away (Part 1)

Every close friend I ever had throughout childhood (with the one exception of David Rosenberg) was at some point “sent away.” Meaning reform school, juvenile lockup, a mental institution or facility for wayward boys. I’m talking about a dozen or more of my best friends, from the entire 12-year prison sentence called school. Does this reflect something about me? I was never actually sent away myself, but there were some close calls. In some cases, I was crushed, losing a best friend who I would never see again. Like Joey V in fifth grade, a psychotic pyromaniac and arsonist. A male twin of The Bad Seed, I’m now most grateful he was sent somewhere for the criminally insane. But at the time I enjoyed his friendship immensely.

On the sweeter side were the Stember Brothers, Allan and Steven, both adopted by a World War II vet and his WAC wife. Both parents remained steadfast 1940s Americans, unable to yield to late ’60s youth culture. Their sons were hippies to the hilt. I haven’t had contact with either since 1972. Neither turn up anywhere in web searches, so I don’t know if they are dead or alive.

In the coming weeks, I will scan childhood letters from mental institutions, notes from girls in 1960s schoolrooms, and this, from Steven Stember in 1970:

click to enlarge

© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman

Thursday, August 19, 2010

WANTED! More Readers Like...

From the editor's desk:

Hef's got his...

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel is in theaters.

Black Cracker is available NOW; signed copies are available here.

photo © 2010 Wyatt Doyle

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Step by Step" (w/Rev. Raymond Branch)

To view on YouTube, click the above image. To watch on Vimeo, see below.

Josh Alan and the Reverend Raymond Branch improvise a new arrangement of "Step by Step" in the pews of the Heavenly Rainbow Baptist Church. (July 2010, Inglewood, CA)

Visit Reverend Branch online here.

© 2010 Rev. Raymond Branch, Josh Alan, Wyatt Doyle

Thursday, August 12, 2010

WANTED! More Readers Like...

From the editor's desk:

The unstoppable Ernest Borgnine does the cover.

Mr. Borgnine's book, Ernie: The Autobiography, is a great read; pick up a copy here.

Black Cracker is available NOW; signed copies are available here.

photo © 2010 Wyatt Doyle

Monday, August 9, 2010


Here is a 26-minute bloc of footage from Paul Stone's unfinished Tales of Times Square movie. It's his very own vision, certainly different from the book. I like the Al Kronish character most.

Click on the poster image to watch the film on Vimeo

Visit the film's website here:

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Assoc. Ed. Cites Anti-Sem in Stooges Censure at PIX"

From Screw, Dec. 15, 1980, #615:

cover art by John Mariano

(click to enlarge)

© 1980, 2010 Josh Alan Friedman