Friday, October 2, 2015


Telegraph 1960's sayings

Since long before I can remember, Telegraph Avenue has supported irreverence, radical politics, tolerance, civil rights, free thinking, free speech, utopian visions, spiritual awareness, ecology projects, anti-war, Black Power, and women’s movements, musical, artistic, and poetic expression, multicultural understanding, economic, political, and racial diversity and literacy.

These passions, causes, ideas, and values reflect the city of Berkeley and all that people have brought here from all over the world. But the most pronounced of these values would be artistic, personal, and political freedom.

Can you think of any sayings that might better represent Telegraph Avenue than "how smelly"? I am working on a project to promote what was good about the 60's. This is what I've got so far…

yoga/spirituality  “Be Here Now” “We're all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass 

beat poetry “I am waiting for a new rebirth of wonder” Lawrence Ferlinghetti 
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by 
madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,...” Allen Ginsberg

“We’re really groovin' tonight!”
Peter Max?
Keep On Truckin
berzerkeley
“go with the flow”
“fight the system”

Free Speech  
   "Free Speech means the right to shout "theater" in a crowded fire." - Abbie Hoffman
   "Free speech is the whole things, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself" - Salmon Rushdie
   "To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker - Frederick Douglass’
   “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you sick at heart, that you can’t take part ...and you’ve got to make it stop.” Mario Savio, Berkeley, 1964
Tom Hayden?
‘Radical simply means "grasping things at the root.’ We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.’ Angela Davis 
    “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” Jerry Rubin 
    “Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it.” “If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.” Noam Chomsky

Social Justice Dick Gregory Eldrige Cleaver, Peace and Freedom Party?

Black Power/Black Panthers
    "We are revolutionaries." "There is a higher law than that of the government. That's the law of conscience." "no man can give anybody is freedom" "We are aware of the fact that death walks hand and hand with struggle." - Stokely Carmichael
     "If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything"  "Stumbling is not falling" "truth is on the side of the oppresed"  "Show me a capitalist, and I'll show you a blood sucker."  Malcolm X

Women's Movement 
   "A women without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." "Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry" "The future depends entirely on what each of us does everyday; A movement is only people moving"  Gloria Steinem
   "Man is not the enemy here, but the fellow victim" "The feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive." - Betty Friedan
bra-burners? 
   “respect” Aretha franklin 1967
    
Anti -War                     
"make love not war" “give peace a chance” John Lennon "Girls say yes to boys that say no"
utopian/commons/hippy/people's park     "everyone gets a blister"
environmental movement   "we won't have a society if we destroy the environment" -margaret mead “The earth needs all the friends it can get.” David Brower, president of the sierra club. Ralph Nader?

reagan  "A tree is a tree. How many more do you need to look at?" "Facts are stubborn things" "People do not make war; governments do." calling of the national guard in 1969 intensified conflict initiated a policy of brutalizing demonstrators. A hippy as defined by Ronald Reagan is someone who “dresses like Tarzan, has hair like jane, and smells like cheetah.”

hendrix/music 
   "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" "Knowledge speaks, wisdom listens." "music is my religion" "You have to give people something to dream on" "If it was up to me there would be no such thing as establishment." "you have to go and be crazy. Craziness is like heaven."  Jimmy Hendrix
Beach Boys? Grateful Dead “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”

health food "First wealth is health"  - Ralph Waldo Emerson (I'd like to find something clever from the health-food craze [Gypsy Boots Energy bar?/Sprouts?]) “Bare feet and good things to eat.”

Where did all the sprouts go?

Doris


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Radical Theater, Radical Politics, Radical Bookselling: Moe Moskowitz

A History of Moe Moskowitz: A Life of Contradiction and Stardust

Thank you so much. Thank you especially
to Steve Finacom of the Berkeley Historical Society for inviting me to talk a bit about my illustrious father.

Truthfully, it is a pleasure to talk about Moe. I think about him all the time. We celebrate him, his strengths and his foibles, every day at his bookstore. And thank you all for coming to reminisce with me for awhile about a guy with a big enough ego to put his own face on a dollar bill.

He could be offensive, embarrassing, anarchistic, and to some people, filthy, but he seemed to be full of stardust like a movie star.

He was born in New York City in 1921.

“Larger than life,” they say about him. Now that he is gone it is impossible to name all the differences between normal people and Moe, but if I had to guess I’d say part of the difference was the stardust.

Maybe most people have some and there was just a special texture or tone or timbre to his. Maybe everyone does, but Stardust, the spotlight sparkle, the dreams and memories and hopes of Chaplin and Astaire and Rita Hayworth, the dreaming, the laughing, the show, the meaning, the laughter. . . and now we dance. This is what his stardust held.

He danced in Italian shoes. He tilted his cheek back, closed his warm brown eyes slightly and embraced the feeling of a song, of starlight, of memory.

My father was an artist. A performance artist. An entertainer. A joker and a King Lear. An opera singer. In the monologues that he performed at the counter or at you across the table at the Med he was direct, strong, absurd, hysterical, poignant, pointed, funny, and tender. He caught my attention by doing inappropriate and interesting things.

So absurd. He was simultaneously offensive and admirable.

In a singles ad in the ‘70s he offered to some lovely lady a line from “Just One of Those Things,” “a trip to the moon on gossamer wings.” He desired romance. He desired stardust. Someone who could be swept up in his panache. Somewhere with them he’d laughingly wave his ringmaster hands and declare, “my dear, it was just one of those things.” Pretending to be light, then suddenly heavy. Pretending not to care, then lifting his warm face into the spotlight, showing his inner life. He could hold your attention to his thoughts and his thinking with a breath or the bits of cigar that were stuck to his lip.

In a tattered sport coat, needing a haircut, he drove his sports car like a matador.

That is only a part of who he was.

When Moe came to California he brought with him a wealth of experiences as a New York intellectual, political activist and observer, musician, actor, and artist.

He was an active member of both the unofficial avant-guard and the official Young Communist League .(Although he was asked to resign from the group because, in the story told by his younger brother,  “Moe had too many opinions.”)

He was not enlisted during World War II due to a bad heart but he did work on a merchant marine ship. When a another sailor took his violin from him, saying “that’s terrible” and throwing it overboard, Moe gave up the violin forever.

As a young man he questioned everyone, including his heroes. In September of 1944, Moe’s letter to and response from Dwight MacDonald, the founder and editor of Politics, a magazine of outspoken and leftist editorial perspective, was published. Contributors to this magazine were his friends including Paul Goodman in whose play he had performed along with Jackson Mac Low.

Moe’s long letter is quite direct “Do you believe, as you seem to imply, that the New Deal must lead to fascism?”

Moe engaged in political activism. According to an article in the New York Herald on October 16, 1945, he was one of the pickets calling for the release from prison of conscientious objectors who, when arrested were unable to produce draft registration cards. His sandwich board read "Federal Prisons - American Concentration Camps.”

During this period he studied music, acting and painting passionately. He sold ice cream from a cart. He worked in a pocketbook factory in the Bronx.

He was asked to resign from Cooper Union where he studied art and design until 1955, for having a “low attitude” about following instructions and attending class. He dictated how his life was going to go.

In 1952, We know that in 1952 Judith Malina, the co-founder of the Living Theater, the performing troupe that shocked, outraged, and inspired audiences of experimental theater, cast Moe in the first American production of the intriguing play Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry. When first performed in France, a riot started in the theater in response to the rude and unacceptable behavior of Ubu. Malina called Moe "The anarchists' Isis." "Moe Moskowitz was amazing at the first reading of Ubu,” she wrote in her diaries. “The production promises to be whole heartedly pataphysical."

Moe went on to incorporate some of these shenanigans into his own persona and into the book business. He enjoyed shocking people and nudging them out of the social customs. He encourage everyone to wonder why we are polite and to reassesses whether we mean what we say. Perennially obsessed with the truth, he often cornered people who would have rather gone on with their day.

His parents, Louis and Celia Moskowitz, were first-generation Eastern European immigrants who expected a great deal from the favored son. They were deeply disappointed by his “artistic” leanings. They, especially his father, saw him as failing to provide for himself or to live in a respectable way. Louis, one of twelve siblings, had worked hard all of his life to become a successful businessman. Beginning with an apple cart in New York City and living in the east village with hoards of other misplaced people,  Louis strived to pull himself and his family up. He expected his son to work alongside him.

Instead he found a deadbeat intellectual who would rather talk than follow orders. That his son pursued music and politics as if they mattered must have deeply troubled him, especially after Moe gave up the classical violin for the theater. Although Moe’s mother Celia believed that he could do no wrong, his father saw him as a failure. Moe’s stories of returning once again to borrow money from his father, walking miles in the snow, only to be turned down again, describe a deep conflict between them. Moe imaged that his life was meaningful and important and his father saw it as a waste of energy, talent, and money.

His Bohemian lifestyle threatened his parents respectable middle-class aspirations.

When his mother paid off his landlord for the loft that he destroyed, for reasons known only to him and his friends, she must have felt as I do, that his cause was her cause. That his visions of how things should be were right somehow. Entertaining, fair, fun, vivid, real, meaningful, truthful, earnest. Her beautiful baby could do no wrong.

I have no proof of the things I say. My beloved crocheting grandmother died when I was little. Many of the things about Moe that I believe to be true are based on memories of anecdotes told to me by cousins or by Moe himself. Did he really walk out on his bar mitzvah in 1934, telling his parents, “I won’t do this. Tell you that you are wonderful people and that I am grateful? You are hypocrites. I am not.”

Around 1955 Moe moved out to California. Chances are that along with the lure of exciting friends and the growing gestalt towards the west coast, Moe may have worn out his welcome at home.

BERKELEY

In the Bay Area only a short while, at a party in San Francisco, he found my mom. Newly divorced, Barb was on a blind date with someone else when she met Moe. She found his humor and passion undeniable. She took to him right away like a cause or a lucky star. I believe that he was lucky to have found her, but to him it was just one of those things. He worked at Versailles Framing before starting his own shop which offered framing services and book sales with Barb. Among friends from New York City who had moved to California,  Moe found a lively environment.

Reminiscing when he died, Barb said,  “I met Moe at a party. It was held in a house on Potrero Hill. Moe was into spontaneity, fun and unpredictability. I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Moe ended up with his first store, the Paperback Bookshop in 1961. Publisher representatives warned Moe that it was too early to start a bookstore specializing in used paperbacks. Moe didn’t listen. Quality paperbacks flooded the used-book market, and Moe lucked out,” she explained. “It was fun seeing the store grow. It was also fun to prove them wrong.”

Being bankrolled by Barb, a Walden School founder and Stanford grad whose father, W. Wesley Hicks, invented the first electric heater, gave Moe the opportunity to take over the lease of a Japanese import store.

Over time Moe had bookstores in five locations: Paperback Bookshop was at 1984 Shattuck between 1959 and 1962; Ram Bam was at 2499 Telegraph between 1962 and 1964; Moe’s Books opened at 2476 Telegraph in 1964 and moved to 2484 Telegraph in 1969. In 1979 the store moved back to 2476 Telegraph where it remains today.

Right away Moe drew attention to himself and his ideas about what was right and how things ought to be. The trouble started with his idea of putting a news rack, which he called a kiosk, in front of his store. The Berkeley Review referred to it as “The Battle of the Kiosk.” Now Berkeley has a big idea about itself as a free speech and free expression icon, but Moe’s episode with the city council in 1961 speaks to a more provincial reality. He said, “Individual expression adds to a community. It does not diminish it.” “I am not asking for a Turkish Pavilion.” It is ironic that the only photos of his first store in Berkeley, the beginning of a colorful and important legacy, would be because he was in conflict with authority. Here he begins to embody the individual whose voice would be heard through the ‘60s of which we are so proud.

I also wonder how people responded to  the sign hung in the window of the Paperback Bookshop, “Not Genteel but a very good deal.” The word Genteel is almost Gentile, the english word for goy or non-Jew. His openness about his Jewish heritage perhaps put a few people off but some, I believe, appreciated the playfulness with which he acknowledged his otherness. Many people have considered Moe and Moe’s Books to be “too scruffy” and full of used books. Moe’s assertion that used does not mean “used-up” and that different, unique, and what we nowadays call “multicultural,” actually is better, helped distinguish him from other booksellers at the time. Now, truthfully, Moe was not an especially devout Jew and he found fault with all organized religions, but he was proud of his cultural identity and shared it openly with everyone - often to their dismay.

In 1962, Moe introduced Bagels to Berkeley. The Berkeley Gazette gives him credit for bringing New York-style bagels with his group SAWBABA, the Society for the Advancement of Water Bagels in the Bay Area. They called him “Bagel Booster Moskowitz” for his Bagel Binge at Walden School.

Also in1962, Moe opened Ram Bam, named after the preeminent medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides who is referred to by the initial letters of his name (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon). Moe’s partnership with Bill Cartright quickly soured and sometime in 1964 Moe moved across the street to the building that Cody’s had just vacated.


The recently discovers film of the party in 1965 was made at this location. In it Moe seems to be playing an opposite character to Ubu as a man of the hour, so well dressed, but inappropriately so, once again drawing people into his absurdist world. When he came here in the mid-1950s he brought with him a wealth of passions, causes, and ideas, but the most pronounced of these values were irreverence and artistic, personal, and political freedom. This time capsule of a pre-freaky Berkeley of intellectual and jolly pursuits describes for me a pinnacle of absurdity and happenstance that brought so many interesting people into Moe’s orbit.

It turns out there was more craziness to come.  Among my mother’s papers I found a list of items that had been confiscated from the store by police officers who arrested Moe for selling allegedly pornographic comic books and other obscene publications in1968. These included Zap Comics #2 and Scum Manifesto. Moe said, “I sold 350 copies of Snatch in three days. The comic books caricature sex,” he said, “but they’re clean stuff.” Bail was set $500.

Moe’s very good friends Don and Alice Schenker had been involved with comic book printing through their shop, the Print Mint. For many years Moe’s Books and The Print Mint shared an awning with posters on one side and books on the other.

Moe and Barb bought a building on Haight St. in an effort to expand over there. The Print Mint had a colorful poster shop there, but trouble with squatters and difficulty getting a business license for the bookstore led them to sell the building. Rumor has it that someone in San Francisco City Council didn’t like Moe.

It was in the spirit of freedom and collaboration that he supported the Free Speech Movement and People’s Park. My mom was especially proud that none of our windows were ever smashed during the riots and that Moe allowed protestors to come through his store and hide out there if the police were especially brutal.

Sadly, in People’s Park, founded by earnest radicals hoping to create a utopian world, Moe saw that it had quickly become a failed anarchist experiment that supported a few people. The drug culture that usurped the vision did not and does not support the people that made it, the citizens of Berkeley, or the Moe’s Books community. Moe is famous for having called the 1960s icon “Some People’s Park.”

He may never have believed that the park could work. I suppose that the individuals that he met seemed very naive. Compared to his experiences in New York City and all that he understood about the two World Wars and human nature, these idealists may have seemed liked lost children. When the dream was usurped by drug dealers and users he was sad but not surprised.     

He dreamed of a utopian community with live music, low-cost housing, farmers’ markets. He put a lot of effort into creating his own barter system with books in which one did not need to have much money to be a part of an economy in which knowledge was a valuable commodity. He helped democratize literacy by making books more valuable and more accessible.

Punk anthropologist Aaron Cometbus was the first to delve into the history of Moe, the man responsible for the store he calls "Berkeley's intellectual center.” Why, he asks, did so many of the projects Moe supported turn out so well? How did Moe, the "wonderfully eccentric guy that sold books and played Lenny Bruce on his store stereo, … launch a whole galaxy of quirky stores" and affect the entire used-book industry?

He gave himself credit for the invention a superior game of stick ball, inexpensive framing, being right about politics and history and just about everything interesting but Moe is credited with the invention of fair trade for books, establishing percentages and paying against them, nourishing Shambhala Publishing, Reprint Mint posters and underground comics, Logos Books, Black Oak Books, Shakespeare & Company Books, Amoeba Music, Rasputin's, and an endless stream of writers and scholars. As Cometbus sees it, "each project" that Moe was involved with "evolved into a huge success, even if awkward at first.”

Even though he gave himself a lot of credit, most of it was earned.

Shambhala Publishing’s humble beginnings were actually a shelf within Moe's Books.
How did Moe cultivate others passions and allow them to thrive? He let them do what they wanted. He respected their autonomy.

He also supported the Berkeley Barb, in which he he advertised in it many times. He promoted  Robbie Basho and Country Joe and the Fish whose albums he helped finance. He supported the fledgeling health-nut for Gypsy Boots by promoting his granola bars. Moe’s ads for The Contraception Puts You On, from Schlock records, produced by the Society for the Defense of Balding Intellectuals take up most of a page in the June 20, 1969 edition. On Moe’s birthday in the summer of 1969 the paper honored Moe with a custom astrological chart.

That year Moe’s Books & Records moved down the street to where the Reprint Mint is today. This is the the store that I grew up in. The music was in the basement. The children’s books were down there too under the stairs. There was a cozy subterranean feel and bins full of albums.

In 1977 conflicts with the city smoking ordinances erupted over his trademark cigars. He had always smoked and I was among a few who found it charming. Not everyone did. Visiting Moe at Moe’s involved the cigar. He held a few in his pocket and one in his mouth. Usually unlit while shelving, he held down on the butt in the corner of his mouth. Often a piece of Cuban tobacco would stick and form a crust along the edge of his lip. Working the register he held the cigar in his hand while he rang people up. Often as was his custom he would stop the line of customers to talk about what was on his mind, politics or personal, and hold court, maybe lighting his cigar as you watched. He smoked maybe two or three good cigars a day. A Macanudo or Cuesta-Rey. When the ordinance passed, he continued to smoke. Some customers, or people passing by, would come in and pass judgment on him and his cigar and the ills of smoking. David Lance Goines, another local smoker who saw the contradictions, gave Moe his poster “Everything not Prohibited Is Compulsory” to display in the store. Moe was not actually arrested for smoking, just cited over and over again.

“If you're a social person, you live in the real world,” Moe said. "You learn to make compromises -- even in the face of unreasonable attitudes. In Berkeley, there's a problem of double standards. A person will tell you not to smoke cigarettes, but it's alright if they smoke dope. I think the contradiction is ridiculous.” This is even more true today…

In 1978 Moe and Barb broke ground for the New Building that had been designed to be Moe’s Books. The gold-plated shovel used to mark this occasion lived for years in the bookstore office at our home on Lewiston. Barb and Audrey Goodfriend, who retired from Moe’s when she turned 80, straightened out the books. My mom handled deposits, taxes, insurance and oversaw the bookkeeping until she died in 2001. Having very frugal tastes, she took very little money for her work and gave Moe a wide birth with almost total autonomy to run the store as he liked. They were equal partners in Moe’s Books. She had been his mostly silent partner for over 35 years.

When Moe returned to New York a successful business man, married to a lovely smart practical gentile with sweet little daughters, he was accepted by his family. Oddly, it was Barb who made him appear important in his devout father’s eyes. With her financial and emotional support he had finally become a man. Of course, he would never admit this. He always saw himself as having done everything on his own. He believed that people just followed him because he was right. He didn’t believe that he needed support. Sadly, as they began to build the building their marriage disintegrated. They separated when I was 12 but remained business partners until they died. The fact that she thought that he was “crazy like fox” is just damn good luck. Barb’s support made this whole chaotic experiment possible.  In this new building Moe’s Books has been able to manifest the staffs’ collective vision of what a truly scholarly used bookstore ought to be. Moe created a unique business and jobs that people like to do. He gave people the freedom to do what they thought was right and it was the staff that created Moe’s Books as it is today.

The massive scale allows for huge deep sections in an exhaustive list of subjects. As a child I believed that Moe has read all of the books in his store, I though we walked around in his brain. As I have worked in the store I have come to understand that he read a few things deeply, but the staff at Moe’s has read many of them and written a few. The expertise of the people Moe hired is unbelievable. The hardworking schleppers are the secret. Moe’s genius was to let them tell him how it should be within the store.

He exclusively shelved art, literature, and pocketbooks basically everyday. He never went into the collectible store. A basement cart, a pocketbook cart, and a second floor cart.  After holding court at the register, he’d have a snack, a small dry cookie, a black coffee from the Med, maybe a taco from Mario’s or a seltzer. He would throw books at a cart, in his operatic way. Sometimes he’d stack small books below big ones which is, if you can visualize it, the wrong way. Standing on the other side of his stacks or his cart, you had to protect yourself from the falling books and the rolling carts. He would retire to the manual labor of putting them away. There is physically demanding aspect to working with books. Obviously they can be quite heavy if you have a lot of them, but there is an art to holding them one at a time. The meditative quality of sorting and alphabetizing along with putting the books on the shelf where they go is immensely satisfying. Moe did this at a breakneck speed with a cigar in his mouth.

This meditative task needs to be done every day and Moe always did his part. These experiences left him an argumentative irreverent loyal thoughtful person who was willing to do an honest day’s work. His sage advice to me later was “find a job where you don’t mind or maybe even enjoy the boring bits. Then you are probably in the right place.” Taking this advice is how I started working for him at Moe’s.

So, as it turned out, he became the determined worker that his father had hoped he would be. He was a man that got up at 8:30 every day, got some exercise, which he learned to do after he had a heart attack in 1973, ate a healthy breakfast and went to work. Six days a week he went to the store, saw how things were, put away some books, made some decisions and went home again. That’s how you grow a business.

In the end of his life after a second dissatisfying marriage, he lived alone. In a small rather barren duplex. It was obvious that the bookstore was his real home. Even though he could be impossible to deal with, argumentative and even cruel, he was loyal, in his way. Sometimes he would take a customer’s side over a book buyer and people resented that. He also made room for complaints about him, but he said, “I reserve the right to be a jerk.”

He loved the staff. Even the people that he thought were “perverse” or just plain wrong, he saw them as part of his family. Rarely could he bring himself to fire anyone. Some people were given chance after chance after chance to come around. Once you were in his world, you were a member forever.

He had very few possessions, an oak table, a minimalist dresser, and big throne that my mom had commissioned for him. He had lots of records but mostly listened to music at the store. Monk, Miles, Mozart, Holiday, Bennett, Klezmer, big band, african ensembles, he was open.

He obsessively read the paper and watched the news. He worried over international politics. He went to the movies and Oakland Chinatown. He liked to discover treasure in an old greasy spoon.

When he died, he died in five minutes of heart failure in the early hours of April 1, 1997. He had developed diabetes the year before and had been hospitalized from pneumonia very recently but he was, as usual, at work at the store on the day he died. I had seen him the day before. We had all gone to lunch together with his grandson, a small baby at the time, just four months old. After lunch Moe took us to the movies which is something we all love to do. We saw Jim Carrey’s Liar Liar. Moe loved slapstick. He offered the baby popcorn in his whimsical way. Then we went to Saul’s Deli and shared a big pot of chicken soup. In front of his house on Regent St where we dropped him off, I told him that I loved him and he said, “I love you” which he always wanted me to know. That is the last time I saw him and I miss him every day.

He was a vastly interesting person and I have only touched a few topics around which he had exciting things to say. I wish he were here to say them, but I am grateful for this opportunity to share my enthusiasm with you.

He enjoyed shocking people and felt compelled to push them into thinking about their behavior. When I put a new sign on the “restroom” door, Moe made me take it down and replace it with a large Toilet sign that no one could miss. “You need to be direct. Call it what it is. Don’t talk around it. It is a room with a toilet. No one is powdering their noses.They are using the toilet. Be straight.” He offended many people by insulting their sensibility, but many others saw the sparkle in his eye even when he insulted their books. Or tossed them back at them over the counter. Honesty and fairness mattered most to Moe. Actually, his business model is based on it. Are these things profitable is a question we are still trying to answer to this day.

Moe brought something playful and smart to this community. He worked hard and honestly expressed himself. He was loyal to his friends and openhearted with strangers. Or he was narcissistic and inconsistent and impossible to manage.

He was helpful or he was abrupt. He was offensive and he was brilliant. He was tender or he was cruel but he was true. To quote Moe, “I’m eccentric” and “I reserve the right to be a jerk.”

He was full of contradictions and full of stardust…

Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to share with you some thoughts about my larger than life father, Moe Moskowitz.

Doris
A talk for the Berkeley Historical Society July 26th, 2015




Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lost Film of Moe's Books Coming to the Elmwood 8/27

New Mo' Cut: David Peoples lost film of Moe's Books 

Rialto Cinema Elmwood 
2977 College Ave at Ashby 
Thursday, August 27 

7pm VIP Kickstarter Premiere followed by Director Q and A - Invitation Only! 

8pm General Public

Buy Tickets at the box office or online NOW.
http://37533.formovietickets.com:2235/T.ASP?WCI=BT&Page=schedule&SelectedDate=20150827o

New Mo' Cut is a short documentary chronicling the surprising discovery at the Berkeley dump of a 16mm film of Moe Moskowitz at the opening night party for his legendary Telegraph Avenue bookstore in 1965.
Kevin Laird, a recycler working for Urban Ore, found the film canister and managed to deliver it into the hands of Moe's daughter Doris who didn't know of its existence or origin. Soon after the film is digitized and put online, Doris discovers the filmmaker is Oscar-nominated screenwriter David Peoples. The two-minute, forty-six second workprint is a time capsule of Berkeley and a peek into Peoples' early documentary film explorations before gaining notoriety as a screenwriter rewriting Blade Runner, earning an Oscar nomination for Unforgiven and co-writing 12 Monkeys with his wife, screenwriter Janet Peoples.
New Mo' Cut: David Peoples lost film of Moe's Books recalls one of Telegraph's larger than life characters, Moe Moskowitz, while musing on the used book trade, filmmaking and reclaiming history from the waste stream.

A digital copy of David Peoples' 1965 16mm film of Moe's Books will screen after the film.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Strange Bedfellows: Winston Smith & the Berkeley Barb




A few days ago one of the organizers of the Berkeley Barb's 50th Anniversary events that are happening this week forwarded this letter from the Artist Winston Smith who I have always admired. Did you know that he designed some of the most iconic Punk graphics? It turns out The Dead Kennedy's logo was first shown to the band members at the Cafe Med. It seems amazing that hippy culture and the punk scene existed side by side. The Barb actually helped Winston when he was first getting started. Check it out.....



 

Hi Diane,

It was great to meet Doris the other day at Moe’s Bookstore.  And yes, I did have my artwork featured in the Barb at least once years ago (and on the front page, no less!)  I’m struggling to recall exactly when, but I believe it was either late 1979 or in the Spring of 1980.  (Only 35 or 36 years ago.)  

I have a couple copies of the issue in my archives but God only knows what’s become of them.  I believe the headline for my interview was “The Numb Tag Artist”  This featured a sticker I had designed that mocked the new fad of yuppies wearing name tags to introduce themselves at business events and parties.  (As in:  “Hi!  My Name is:  —fill in the blank).  But in place of a space to write your name I’d added a UPC (the newly introduced Universal Price Code that was suddenly appearing on certain supermarket items… and is now on Everything…but it was especially creepy at the time.)   


So the joke was that it was the "Numbing of society by means of computerized numbers instead of names”.  (It was my answer to the Pet Rock.)  I made them in late 1977 but I finally got round to producing them en masse in early 1979.  (I work slow.)  If I can work this contraption the way I want to I’ll be able to attach a photo of this image, since a picture’s worth a thousand words.  After all these years I am still 99% computer-illiterate.  So here goes nothing:

These are two versions of this dumb joke.  But it seemed to be enough to attract the interest of Barb editors Warren Sharpe and Mark Powellson.

I had a booth at a Cannabis Fair at Brooks Hall in 1979 (or 1980) and and my table was festooned with my graphic anarchy:  buttons, badges, surrealist collage posters, stickers and my underground punk ‘zine FALLOUT.  Warren liked them and did a quick interview with me, but I think I asked him to wait on publishing it till I could gather up some better work to show him.  A few months later my friend and I wandered over to the old Barb offices near the Ashby exit and I delivered a box full of my somewhat unorthodox “art”.  Mark put his head in his hands.  I thought he was sobbing and I looked at my friend and we began to apologize, saying that maybe this wasn’t a good day to drop by and that we could come back another time perhaps.  Then Mark lifted up his head and said:  “No!  I’m not crying.  I’m laughing!”  He said he’d had such a bad day that my arrival with all my absurd artwork was a welcome alternative.  So that was a big relief.  

About a week later I saw a copy of the Barb and was pleased that they’d chosen to feature my artwork on the front page.  The other articles were about the attorney general of California cooking up some secret police operation (LIEU, if I recall…) and the headline was “Secret American Base Discovered in Cuba” (Guantanamo), since there was a huge controversy during Carter’s administration that the Soviets had secret bases on Cuba.  All the Barb did was remind readers that we’d had a base there since long before the Cuban Revolution (dispite all the posturing over the Embargo.)  And how shocking it was to discover this obscure fact, etc.

It was a good issue to be in so I was honored to participate in my own small way.

As I told Doris, the appearance of my artwork in the Barb actually changed my life.  An artist in Marin County saw it and contacted me to participate in an international Dadaist convention to be held in a small town 100 miles North of the City.  It was the Inter-Dada 80.  A rowdy assembly of crazed artists and eccentrics came from all over the world to assemble in Ukiah for a 3 Day event.  

I’d never heard of Ukiah at that point but I eventually wound up living there in a yurt up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere with no electricity, running water or telephone (just a wood stove and kerosine lamps) for the next 20 years (And though I still have the place up in the woods my wife and I live in San Francisco most of the time now).  

So the influence on the Berkeley Barb has been considerable for me.  All these obscure connections have finally come together.  In addition to this weird coincidence, I was also a roadie at a local sound studio for Country Joe in 1976 and know a few other people listed on the agenda of speakers making appearances for the Barb’s 50th Celebration.  (I got stopped on Columbus Avenue one day in 1977 by Scoop Nisker for his televised “Man on the Street” interviews).  And I  know the fabulous cartoonist Trina Robbins, of course.  She even has a cat named after me (well, —he’s named after my namesake, anyway.)

I’m sorry I didn’t know about the celebrations for the Barb or I would have offered to contribute to the art show.  I hope I can make it by The Art House on the 9th (though 12 noon is a tad early for me.  I am a classic insomniac and rarely seen in public before 4 0r 5 pm.)  But if not, perhaps I can join you guys for the festivities later on during the weekend.

Congratulations to all involved in the celebration!  The Berkeley Barb was a life-changing influence for me and I’m sure others have similar accounts (even if just reading the information and insights the Barb published changed their lives for the better.)  

I happen to be wearing my new Berkeley Barb T-shirt today, by coincidence!  

And my apologies for the long-winded letter.  (You’d think I was getting paid by the word.)  

Below is my website in case you want to check out my artwork.  From circa 1980, over the course of the next 20 years, I went from the cover of the Berkeley Barb to the cover of The New Yorker and The Progressive, the Utne Reader, illustrations for Spin, Maximum Rock&Roll, Playboy and others.  I’ve probably made over 70 record covers for mostly underground bands including Dead Kennedys, D.O.A., Green Day, Ben Harper and even George Carlin.  

Many thanks to the Berkeley Barb for helping to launch my so-called “career”.  It’s all THEIR Fault!!

Over & Out.
Winston
P.S.  Here are a few of my collages to check out, though I’m sure yer busy with preparations for the big events.  Thanks again!  (I don’t haver any e-mail for Doris but feel free to pass this message along to her if you wish.  It was great meeting her!

 




Monday, July 6, 2015

Moe Moskowitz: A life of Contradictions and Stardust

On Sunday, July 26th, 2015, Doris, Moe’s youngest daughter, born on his birthday in 1966, will give a talk about her illustrious father at Berkeley Historical Society.

All talks are free, but advanced sign up is required now because seating is very limited. Leave a phone message at the Center if you would like to attend, (510) 848-0181.

“Truthfully,” she says, “it will be a pleasure to talk about Moe. I think about him all the time. We celebrate him, his strengths and his foibles, every day at his bookstore.” Please join her and reminisce for awhile about a guy with a big enough ego to put his own face on a dollar bill. 

He was full of contradictions; he could be offensive, embarrassing, anarchistic, and, to some people filthy, but also full of stardust like movie star.

Perhaps you knew this beatnik father to a generation. Perhaps you were young in the 1960s when he held court at his counter, sharing jokes and politics, opinions, both warm and offensive. Maybe you have wondered how it happened that he arrived in Berkeley to open his monumental bookstore. Or maybe you’d like to find out why the San Francisco Chronicle said “India has the Taj Mahal. Berkeley has Moe’s.”

Come hear his daughter, and current owner of Moe’s Books, as she lays out the narrative of his fascinating life, and performs a few early jazz standards that Moe loved, with local favorite John Schott of the Actual Trio.



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Confused about Ubu Roi?

  In case you were wondering about Ubu Roi, here is a blog from danerousminds.net. We know that Judith Malina, the co-founder an co-director of The Living Theater, the performing troupe that shocked, outraged, and inspired audiences of experimental theater beginning in 1947, cast Moe in the first American production of the intriguing play. She called Moe "The anarchists' Isis." On june 19th, 1952, she said, "Moe Moskowitz was amazing at the first reading of Ubu. The production promises to be whole heartedly pataphysical." It has been said that he brought some of this energy to the book business....

THE ORIGINAL THEATRE OF THE ABSURD: 'UBU ROI,' A LOT LIKE 'THE FORBIDDEN ZONE,' ONLY WEIRDED!

French absurdist playwright Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi (“Ubu the King” or “King Turd”), a pre-Surrealist work, is considered an influential classic of French theatre. It originally premiered in 1896. There were three Ubu plays written by Jarry, but only one, Ubu Roi, was ever performed during his short lifetime (Jarry died at the age of 34 of tuberculosis. After he beckoned a friend to come closer, his whispered last word on his deathbed was allegedly “toothpick” or whatever it is that the French call them).

The Ubu trilogy was conceived to employ actors and marionettes in a vicious satire of greed, royalty, religion, stupidity and abuse of power by the wealthy. The two other plays were Ubu Cocu (“Ubu Cuckolded”) and Ubu Enchaîné (“Ubu in Chains”).
The protagonist “Père Ubu” (yes, this is obviously where the band’s name came from) was originally based on the teenage lampooning of a stuffy teacher written by two friends of Jarry’s from school, but Jarry expanded the plays and used the character as a vehicle for his howling critique of bourgeois society’s evils. People absolutely hatedthe scandalous Ubu Roi—it was considered lewd, crude, vulgar and low—and its controversial author. At the premiere in Paris, it was booed for a good fifteen minutesafter the first word, “Merdre!” (his coining for “shit,” deliberately close to the Frenchmerde and translated in English as “Pshit” or “Shittr!”), was spoken. Fist fights broke out in the orchestra pit. Jarry’s supporters yelled “You wouldn’t understand Shakespeare, either!” His detractors rejoined with their variations on the theme of “ubu” and “merdre.”
William Butler Yeats was apparently in the audience that night in 1896 and is alleged to have said “What more is possible? After us the Savage God.”
The play was accused of being politically subversive, the work of an anarchist mindfucker or even that it was a “hoax” designed to hoodwink a gullible middle-class audience with metaphorical crap that some of them, at least, would say tasted good.
Not that an absurdist agitator like Alfred Jarry cared about any of this. Characters had names like “MacNure,” “Pissweet” and “Pissale.” Confrontationally pissing off the audience was practically the entire point for him. Ubu’s scepter, after all, was a shit-smeared toilet brush.



















Via Wikipedia:
According to Jane Taylor, “The central character is notorious for his infantile engagement with his world. Ubu inhabits a domain of greedy self-gratification.” Jarry’s metaphor for the modern man, he is an antihero—fat, ugly, vulgar, gluttonous, grandiose, dishonest, stupid, jejune, voracious, cruel, cowardly and evil—who grew out of schoolboy legends about the imaginary life of a hated teacher who had been at one point a slave on a Turkish Galley, at another frozen in ice in Norway and at one more the King of Poland. Ubu Roi follows and explores his political, martial and felonious exploits, offering parodic adaptations of situations and plot-lines from Shakespearean drama, including Macbeth, Hamlet and Richard III: like Macbeth, Ubu—on the urging of his wife—murders the king who helped him and usurps his throne, and is in turn defeated and killed by his son; Jarry also adapts the ghost of the dead king and Fortinbras’s revolt from Hamlet, Buckingham’s refusal of reward for assisting a usurpation from Richard III and The Winter’s Tale‘s bear.
“There is,” wrote Taylor, “a particular kind of pleasure for an audience watching these infantile attacks. Part of the satisfaction arises from the fact that in the burlesque mode which Jarry invents, there is no place for consequence. While Ubu may be relentless in his political aspirations, and brutal in his personal relations, he apparently has no measurable effect upon those who inhabit the farcical world which he creates around himself. He thus acts out our most childish rages and desires, in which we seek to gratify ourselves at all cost.” The derived adjective “ubuesque” is recurrent in French and francophone political debate.
 http://dangerousminds.net/comments/the_original_theatre_of_the_absurd_ubu_roi_a_lot_like_the_forbidden_zone

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Key in the Life of Moe's: Lissa Tyler Renaud on Moe Moskowitz and Ubu Roi




       A Life in the Key of Moe's

I recently heard that Moe Moskowitz played the title role in the 1950’s New York production of “Ubu Roi” by the Living Theatre.  This strikes me as important for two reasons.  First, it reminds us that the best work in the avant-garde theatre has always been done by deeply cultured people.  Secondly, it reminds us that California and New York are inextricably linked in their artistic goings-ons—that the New York cultural scene is heavily populated by Californians, and the California cultural scene is saturated with native New Yorkers: condescension expressed by one scene for the other is essentially posing. 
It is also delightful to think of Moe inhabiting the role of Ubu—gesturing broadly, roaring out the startling text written by the gifted Alfred Jarry in the 1890’s.  To give you an idea: Ubu is related to the traditional Punch and Judy puppet shows, which in turn evolved from the comic turns of the Italian commedia del’arte.  Punch behaves abominably, criminally, and consistently escapes all consequences for his actions.  Good “bad-boy” fun.  One thinks Moe would have known just how to do it. 

Moe’s Books' own Elliot Smith has given us a vivid picture of how Moe may have brought a little of his New York Ubu to his California Moe’s: 
We were pleased to see that Judith Malina's Living Theatre is celebrating its 60th anniversary by opening a new performance space and reviving Kenneth Brown's harrowing "The Brig" (http://www.livingtheatre.org/). Moe's Books has a connection to the radical theater's first incarnation in New York in the 1950s. When Malina and her life companion/collaborator Julian Beck staged Alfred Jarry's scatalogical farce "Ubu Roi" it was none other than Moe's Book's founder Moe Moskowitz who played the role of the grotesque Pere Ubu. 

It was a role tailor-made for Moe: Pere Ubu is larger than life, a Rabelaisian creature of vast appetites, and is dismissive of social niceties and conventions.  He was the creation of the self-described "poet and ‘pataphysician’" Alfred Jarry, a major figure in the avant-garde of late 19th-century France; you can read more about him in Roger Shattuck's fascinating The Banquet Years.  Jarry used to dress as Ubu, speak nonsense in a deadpan style and walk a lobster on a leash.  His life was his art. 

The same could be said of Moe.  The counter of his bookstore became his theater, where he gave public performances on a daily basis.  He was never shy about sharing his opinions, his good humor or his dim sum.  Customers could find him singing along with the background music, smoking (or later simply chewing) his cigar, and holding court on the issues of the day. 
Beyond the “Ubu” itself, though, the Living Theatre production links Moe intellectually to many people and art movements.  Jarry himself served as the influence—both as a writer and a personality—on a dizzying range of cultural phenomena that define the early 20th century: Symbolism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Cubism; Picasso, Artaud, Ionesco and Beckett.  It feels right to think of Moe as being a part of this challenging heritage, and of ourselves as having reaped the benefits in turn through his bookstore. 

Thinking of Moe in relation to Jarry brings some aspects of Moe to the fore.  Jarry was multi-talented: he won academic prizes in five languages as well as physics, and wrote novels, plays and stories; Moe was gifted in the visual arts as a painter and framer, as well as a violinist, performer, social thinker and all-around champion of books.  Jarry was socially outspoken in his contempt for the bourgeoisie; Moe was politically defiant in his stance against government incursions on freedom.  Mostly, though, both Jarry and Moe lived their lives in the arts with enormous intensity. 

Happily, there are limits, too, to any parallels between Jarry and Moe.  After all, the picture of Jarry riding through town on his bicycle using a pistol to clear his path speaks of a different era.  Jarry starved himself into a stroke in his early 30’s, and died a tubercular alcoholic at 34; Moe smoked and drank to whatever extent during years when these served as the social “signs” for hyper-intellectuality—and then achieved enough moderation in health matters to enjoy a full family life and a successful professional life.  Moe’s meaningful excesses were in matters of culture—and on this point he sounds not so much like Jarry himself as like Jarry’s mother.  Todd London, sometime Literary Director of A.R.T. wrote, “[Jarry’s mother] valued music and books in a way that seemed improper to her pious Catholic neighbors, and regularly made a public spectacle of herself…going out in what Alfred [Jarry] later remembered as Spanish toreador clothes.”  Rather than see Moe in Jarry’s excesses, we had better see in Moe the professional success of the actor who played Ubu in Jarry’s own production of his play in 1896.  That is, after playing Ubu for Jarry, Monsieur Firmin Gemier went on to careers as both actor and director, and then headed the legendary Théâtre de l’Odeon in Paris; after playing Ubu for the Living Theatre, Moe made a bookstore that became and remains a significant force in the intellectual life of the country through its patrons. 


Writer Harriet Renaud—a native New Yorker, a close contemporary of Moe’s, and my mother—writes:  
As far back as my Berkeley memory goes, most queries got answered by a swift, mantra-like chant of two words:  "Try Moe's." Having landed here from far away, throughout my early Telegraph Avenue indoctrination, whether I was on the prowl for an early American dictionary or a Phillip's screwdriver, it seemed to me I was relegated to Moe's.                                                                               
Eventually, I learned that you went to the funky, musty, crowded huge store for books—old, new, out-of-print, beautifully bound, paper, in-your-face on the counter, unreachable, hidden on another floor, found with luck.  And what everybody knew when they sent you to "Try Moe's" was that there was the bookstore where you would find the book you wanted, and pretty often the book you loved. 
When I was in elementary school in the early- and mid-1960’s, Telegraph Avenue was a destination for an evening walk.  My family would pile into the station wagon after an early dinner, and we’d make our way down from the hills over the university to Telegraph Avenue, tostroll. My parents strolled in front, holding hands, and my two brothers and I strolled behind, punching each other.  Just above the Avenue, we’d stop in at George Good’s, where my father would know all about sleeve buttons and vents on beautiful men’s jackets; along the Avenue, we’d enjoy the trees and window-shop; down the Avenue, we’d wander around entranced in Fraser’s, the design shop to end all design shops—elegant, playful, spacious, an education for the eye.  And the climax of The Stroll was inevitably Moe’s Books. 

While Moe and my parents chatted, I looked around the store and formed ideas about Life.  The goal of Life, I could see plainly, was to have a home lined with bookshelves full of books mostly from Moe’s Books, to have expressive paintings on the walls—including maybe some of one’s self—to have classical or jazz music playing, to have knowledgeable people around and at the ready to help, and to enjoy good conversation with a stream of visitors.  I can’t say those ideas have always made my Life easy—but I can say that they have never really changed.   

I was 12 in 1968, and after school my friends and I would walk through the broken glass from the riots around the University, in bare feet with psychedelic drawings on our hands.  Our destination, Moe’s.  It was always open, even when everything else on the street was closed from the tear gas.  This was the place to go to spend allowance money.  We studied the used records in the big boxes, learning about Ma Rainey and Antonio Jobim and spoken word—and buying up what we could for one dollar apiece or less. 

In high school, we went to Moe’s to find out how much a book cost.  Our interest in the cost wasn’t in the price itself.  The cost of the book told us its value—told us where it stood in the field.  A tiny hardback with a high price told us that, even if we didn’t know what it was, it was special and we should pay attention. On the other hand, if a big book by an author we loved had a low price, it meant it was a minor work and we should keep moving. 

As an undergraduate student at U.C. Berkeley, my classmates and I went to Moe’s to buy the books for our classes.  Out-of-towners not in-the-know bought new books in the student bookstores; we sidled down to Moe’s and bought on the cheap—using the money we saved for obscure books of poetry, and coffee around the corner at the Renaissance Café. 

As a doctoral student at Berkeley, Moe’s was simply a second home.  I lived in a graceful apartment a block away, and did my research at Moe’s on the early European avant-garde, moving between the new books in the Art section and the collectibles on the 4th floor.  It is from that time that I own an original volume of poems by Isadora Duncan’s brother, Raymond, inscribed in his own hand as a gift to Maurice Maeterlinck, and an original program for a Diaghilev ballet.  At Moe’s, I had resources among the best in the world, and that fact gave me important confidence in my studies. 

In the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s, I was running an independent arts-related program. and Moe was warm and respectful of my work.  I would come into his shop, and catch him behind the counter, perhaps at a curmudgeonly moment—then see his face soften when he saw me.  He was always interested.  Next to the shop helpers helping, and visitors visiting, we’d have a Good Conversation among the walls lined with books, chatting over the music, with the painting of him looking down at me from over his shoulder.  And he’d tell me which floor and where I could find the book I was looking for. 

It’s a toss-up whether Moe’s always had the books I wanted, or whether I learned what books to want from Moe’s. 
- Taipei, May 2007 


 © 2007 Lissa Tyler Renaud 
Lissa Tyler Renaud: PhD; Director, Actors’ Training Project in Oakland, California; popular classical/avant-garde recitalist; recognized theatre director and body alignment practitioner; regularly published on contemporary theatre training; currently Visiting Professor of Theatre, Taipei’s National University of the Arts


Just One of Those Things




Just One of Those Things

My father was an artist. A performance artist. An entertainer. A joker and a lear. An opera singer. A ballerina.

absurd
hysterical
poignant
pointed

When I found his single’s ad from the days after he had traded  his old big van for a silver Toyota Celica, I knew it was artifact of him. An artifact of who he was. Even though I knew then that no young teenage girl should see or needed to see her father’s single’s ad, I saw it and treasured it. I cringed with embarrassment and then, almost instantly, I glowed with pride at Moe, my dad. So absurd.

He offered to some lovely single lady “a trip to the moon on gossamer wings.”

He desired romance. He desired Stardust. Someone who could melt in his panache. Somewhere with them he’d laughingly wave his ringmaster hands and declare, “my dear, it was just one of those things.” Pretending to be light, then suddenly heavy. Pretending not to care, then lifting his brown warm face into the spotlight, showing his inner life,

his eyes could shout
his hair could stand on end

Faberge, a precious everything. Vivid. Wholesome. Wild.

He could hold your attention to his thoughts and his thinking with a breath or the bits of cigar that was struck to his lip.

In a tattered sport coat, needing a haircut, he drove that sports car like a matador or an expert Lindy Hopper….. 

Must have been some date.

Doris


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Rare Wild West Show Street Car Poster by Satty


This remarkable and rare poster advertised a Three Day Festival and Concert to be held in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  This concert was to be the Woodstock of the West and a defining moment in San Francisco Rock History.  Instead, the collapse of the concert signaled the beginning of the end of the San Francisco 60's movement.  One of the few surviving pieces of artwork relating to the event, the only other copy we know of is owned by Berkeley's famous Bancroft Library.


The Wild West Show was a major three day music and art festival planned for August 22-24th of 1969. It was to be staged along the length of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Envisioned as a huge community carnival, during the day there would be free events and activities and at night major musicians from the cream of the local rock scene were to perform at paid concerts. Calling on the organizational talents of people like Bill Graham and Chet Helms, with benefits headlined by performers like the Jefferson Airplane and Joan Baez, and the financial backing corporations like Wells Fargo, Greyhound, and PG&E, the festival seemed to be off to a great start.

The festival was to be directed by Berkeley native Barry Olivier, who had created the Berkeley Folk Festival in 1958 -- an annual event he headed until 1970.

Big Brother with Janis Joplin, Country Joe and the Fish, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, and Santana, among others, were scheduled to appear. There were to be musicians from around the world, productions of Shakespeare, strolling minstrels, and puppet shows. The attendance was expected to be 200,000 people a day.

Predictably, things started to fall apart with the usual San Francisco hippie brain-fog rolling in at high speed. The light show people wanted equal billing with the musical acts and picked a Grateful Dead concert. Jerry Garcia didn't want labor problems out of fear of his grandmother, who had founded the Laundry Worker's Union. A rumor started that the festival. which had been intended to raise money for community projects, was a front for The Man, the elusive exploitative money-grubbing entity which was the enemy of all Free Thinkers everywhere.

Things decayed into total chaos. Community meetings were held where conspiracy-minded lunatics spouted crazed fantasies. Ego-driven artists tried to make the whole show about them. The big acts started to get cold feet over the commotion. There were actually death threats aimed at the producers and organizers. Out of total exhaustion with the problems, Barry Olivier called the whole thing off. The chance for San Francisco to have their Woodstock was gone.

There were some promotional pieces made, one of which is this fine bus poster designed by San Francisco artist Satty (Wilfried Podriech).

Satty started making his famous collages in 1966, quickly becoming an important figure in the art scene of the 1960's. His books THE COSMIC BICYCLE (1971) and TIME ZONE (1973) are important collections, though his work was published by Rolling Stone, the Berkeley Barb, KPFA, Ramparts, and other journals around the world. He lectured in media and the arts throughout the 1970's and his work is held or was shown in major museums including the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Museum of New York City, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the New York Museum of Modern Art.

After Satty's death, Thomas Albright wrote "As an artist, Satty occupied a curious kind of no man's- land in the San Francisco art world. He wanted to create a 'visual language' that would be an alternative to the impersonal imagery of the mass media, a language in which the imagination was liberated to discover and explore. His sense of social mission led him to favor techniques of mechanical mass reproduction his collages were generally conceived not as unique, original pieces, but as prototypes for photographic reproduction; this did not sit well with an Art Establishment that tended to frown on such concessions to populism. On the other hand, although he was accepted as a peer by the poster artists among whom he worked designing advertisements for rock concerts, Satty's mode of expression was only remotely related to the upbeat, exuberant style of psychedelic art. His work evidenced its Germanic roots with a more somber, dreamlike realm of utopian, surrealist fantasy spiced by disarming accents of the bizarre and grotesque."

This item comes from festival directory Barry Olivier himself.  Well known in the San Francisco Bay Area as a guitar instructor as well as the creator, producer and director of the Berkeley Folk Festival.  He produced all of the Northern California concerts by Joan Baez for eleven years and gave John Fogerty his first music lessons.  He directed the Folk Festival for twenty two years.

The bus poster we are offering is identical to one held by the University of California's Bancroft Library. It is silk screened and measures 60 inches by 21 inches. Though this poster was never used on a bus or street car, there is some staining on the right edge of the poster as well as some wear to the edges. This poster will be shipped rolled in a heavy tube.



Saturday, February 14, 2015

Treasure Thought Lost Forever FOUND! Feb 2015

moesbooks.net/moes/moe.mp4

A lost film of Moe’s Books legendary party in 1965 has been found and recovered thanks to Urban Ore and Pacific Film Archive. 

Thanks to the industrious scavenging of our new friend Kevin Laird of Urban Ore and the careful precision of our old friend Gibbs Chapman of the PFA, Moe Moskowitz’s illustrious evening has been brought back to life.

 A few days after Thanksgiving in 2014, I was working at the front counter with Harvey Stafford, a friend of Moe’s and a longtime Moe’s Books employee, when a young man approached us with some uncertainty. He told us that he worked for Urban Ore as a scavenger at the Berkeley city dump. He wondered if we’d like to see what he’d found. He showed us a small canister of film which he thought we might be interested in. At the dump, he had noticed the flat cylindrical container with the words “new mo’ cut” written on duct tape around the edge. Opening the tin and unrolling the 16mm film revealed images of what he thought was Moe in a top hat. He thought he saw a Rolls Royce and crowds of people.

Having only lived in Berkeley for 5 years, he did not recognize Moe from having known the book impresario personally. Moe died 18 years ago in 1997. He told us that he recognized the image from the poster that hangs over the front counter of Moe making a crowd pleasing toast with a dixie cup in white gloves, tails and a top hat.

Having spotted the canister he brought it right to us. As Moe’s daughter, I was completely delighted by the possibilities that the film represented but there was no way of knowing what we would find when we looked at it. 

On Wednesday 1/29/15, I saw the bright crisp film for the first time. The footage that Gibbs Chapman, a confirmed Moe's regular and film & video technician at the PFA brought us is fantastic. Gibbs carefully spliced the cut pieces together that he found in the tin and inducted this bit of history into the archives permanent collection of films on local history.

Miraculously, the film in 2 minutes and 39 seconds chronicles Moe’s arrival at the store in a Rolls Royce dressed in tails, his speech to the adoring crowd, his sharing of libations and his toast to the store’s long and healthy future.

People have talked about this party and beamed about having been there. I have been told that a film, long ago lost, had been made. But, like most interesting performance art, the actual event was too ephemeral to capture without the film. I believed that the film was lost forever.

I was born a year after this party in 1966. The portrait that hangs at the store today hung in the front hallway of my childhood home. We were all so proud of Moe and the beautiful absurd circus that was Moe’s Books in those days.

I cannot really express what this means to me personally except to say that I always wish that I could have been at this party. Watching this lost treasure reminds me of all the wonderful exciting funny times and makes me feel so glad that I have been here for so many of them. I miss Moe but seeing him laugh and smile makes me feel such gratitude for having known him.

This encapsulation of Moe’s spirit and the events of this auspicious evening has brought us so much delight. We hope you like it too.

If you recognize yourself or someone you’ve known, please contact me, Doris Moskowitz doris@moesbooks.com 510 849 2087

Thank you Harvey, Kevin, and Gibbs.

This means so much!

Doris