Goddess with the Dark Hair

Chris Swing.

Despite her many accomplishments, Mary Shirley did have competition for greatest garage-rock goddess of Urbana, 1967, and that competition was a dark-haired beauty named Chris Swing.

I was walking down the hall one day when Chris and George Faber bumped into each other unexpectedly and began having an animated conversation with their immense sexual auras in full power.

Man, everybody in that hall just stopped what they were doing and froze in place so we could concentrate on what those two were saying. That was the main difference between junior high and high school, the sexual hormones were bouncing off the walls once you got to high school.

And having the Finchley Boys, the greatest garage band in the state, in my high school was a lot of like having the Rolling Stones hanging around all the time. Their charisma was that strong.

But the charisma coming off Mary Shirley and Chris Swing was just as powerful! I didn’t dare to speak to either one, as they were both way out of my league, although Chris was going steady with my bass teacher at the time, Jim Brewer.

I got completely plastered drinking beers in the parking lot at the Tiger’s Den one night. I’d just heard that Carole had driven off in some sports car with some rock’n’roll upper-class-man, and tried to drink myself into oblivion.

Jim found me passed out in the alley. Chris got down on the ground and put my head in her lap to comfort me. That’s how I woke up…with Chris stroking my hair, telling me how cute I looked.

At first, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. But then I woke up and got really embarrassed. Chris wanted Jim to drive me home, but I waved them off and started hoofing it back to Delaware Street. When the sun came up hours later, I woke up again, passed out in somebody’s lawn half-way home.

Funny how Chris Swing lived out in the country, just a few blocks from me and the Shirley’s. Her mom Pat, remains a stunning beauty to this day, defying any effects of age whatsoever. Pat makes 80 look like the new 30. She had two daughters, but the little one wasn’t on my radar in 1967, although that would eventually change.

Not Like Everybody Else

Jim Cole stopped by Eric Swenson’s house and discovered this clean-cut kid (Mark Warwick) with a red guitar playing Beatles, Stones and Animals songs with Eric accompanying on drums. Since Cole already had experience singing along to some of these records in his bedroom, using a hairbrush for a mic, he convinced the two to start a band with him as the lead singer. Mark soon enlisted another guitar player (Steve Dyson) and a bass player (Tim Anderson) both of whom went to high school in Champaign.

According to legend as I know it, Tim was singing “Hey, Joe,” during a very early rehearsal when he started channeling some deep force inside. It’s a song about a murder, and Tim lost himself completely while rampaging through the house, standing on furniture and jumping around. It may have been the first inclination that these young kids actually had the power to become a real rock’n’roll force. Once Tim stepped up to the plate, others would quickly follow. Eric was at the end of a tortured love affair, having just been dumped, and he wrote a weepy ballad begging this girl to come back. Cole played drums on that one.

Right away, people who were dropping by began to take notice. Among the first were George Faber and Larry Tabling, who offered to build speakers for a PA system. They volunteered to be roadies on the spot. George had already tried to start a band with his friend Bob Carpenter, but Eric’s outfit was clearly on another level. Eventually, a student at the University named Bob Nutt came by to hear the band, and volunteered to be their manager after hearing one song. He booked their first gig in front of the Co-Ed movie theater on Green Street. I don’t know if they got paid, they were set-up on the sidewalk, and everyone was really nervous, but it was a huge success. Cole had tremendous sexual charisma, even at the age of 16 and clearly had the makings of a rock star. Eric, however, did not like the gig, and was not up for the rigors and realities of being in a band. He just didn’t have the personality, and his moods could be a big stumbling block, so Nutt quickly located the best high school drummer in town to replace him, Michael Powers.

Unfortunately, Tim was the next to go. I guess his grades weren’t that good so his dad made him quit as soon as it became obvious the Finchley Boys were going to take off. I’m sure that must have crushed Tim. But that opened the door for Larry Tabling to step in on bass.

The name of the band was lifted off the back of a Kinks album. (The original Finchley Boys were a street-gang in England who got into fights with the early Kinks.) That’s Jim Cole (above) in 1967, at one of the early gigs. His version of the Kinks’ “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” became the signature song of the group, and Cole sang it with a lot of passion. The lyrics spoke directly to all of us on the front lines of a Generation War that was already in full effect.

True Origins of the Finchley Boys

I might never have met Eric Swenson if my big brother Paul hadn’t decided to learn to play the cello. My mom wanted Paul to have the best teacher possible, so pretty soon he was going over to the Swenson’s house for lessons, where he discovered his teacher (a member of the famous Walden Quartet) had a son his age also attending Urbana Junior High.

Eric and Paul joined the Dramatics Club that year and got speaking roles in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The star of that production, however, was Brian Ravlin, who at age 13 was already an elfin creature from another dimension perfectly cast as Puck.

But talent-wise Eric towered over everyone; he matured faster and developed his immense artistic energies in multiple directions at once. Unfortunately, Eric’s mom was bipolar (long before any of us knew what that word meant—we just called ’em “crazy” back then.) She also had a serious drinking problem. She’d stay up all night several nights in a row, then go bonkers eventually and start banging pots and pans at 3 AM just to annoy Eric’s dad.

Eric told me he and his dad got so pissed they urinated on her while she was passed out on the couch after one of these all-night sessions. Eric laughed when he told the story.

She disappeared one day, and you thought things would get better, but Eric quickly inherited the illness from his mom, going into rages, smashing everything in sight.

He wasn’t like this often, just an hour or two every three months or so. His father padlocked his bedroom and let the rest of the house turn to total shit. The sink was filled with the same dirty dishes for months on end. Most of the other interior doors were broken off their hinges. You understood the depth of Eric’s demons when you realized he could tear a door out of its frame. Eric stopped going to school and started eating all his meals at the local diner, Mel Roots, where his father covered the tab.

Eric had a life we all envied, following his every fantasy wherever it led, staying up as late as he wanted, doing whatever he pleased all the time. The nearby University of Illinois provided a lot of stimulus for him to explore. He was a rising star in the local community theater at 15, playing roles twice his age with ease.

He developed a comic alter-ego named Swafford, named after a detested math teacher at Urbana Junior High. (Many years later, I’d stumble onto Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry, the pioneering work of absurdist theater and realize Ubu Roi was an exact replica of Swafford–right down to being based on a middle-school teacher of Jarry’s).

Eric invented incredibly complex Swafford routines and acted them out in Swafford’s inimitable voice, elements of which were influenced by The Three Stooges. Some of these were so popular we made Eric perform them over and over, and they got more complex and more hilarious the more he worked on them. One of the grand episodes concerned a foreign-exchange student coming over to Swafford’s house for Thanksgiving, but when the turkey came out of the oven, Swafford’s immense greed was instantly activated and he quickly turns on the student in a rage rather than share his food. I remember snot flying out Swafford’s nose after he removed the imaginary turkey from the imaginary oven, smelled the aroma, and then flipped into a paranoid frenzy.

Swafford was the sort of character who’d stare you in the eye and say “the sun is shining” when it was pouring outside. You couldn’t trust a word he spoke and Swafford was always hustling some con-job.

When the Beatles arrived, Eric had become an instant fan. He liked Ringo the best, so he got a set of drums long before any of the rest of us had real rock instruments. One night in 1966 at the Tiger’s Den, Eric was watching a local band with Mark Warwick, when they both discovered they were practicing to Beatles’ records at home on their own. They decided to get together the next day at Eric’s. They were both 15. It was the beginning of the Finchley Boys, who would eventually become the most famous garage band of central Illinois, although Eric’s participation would end after just one gig.

The Rise of Futura 2000

I arrived at the Mudd Club right on time and went upstairs to view the opening of the new Mudd Club Art Gallery. The owner, Steve Maas, had recently taken over the downtown scene by creating the coolest club in town, one that helped focus the merger of CBGB’s crowd with the Soho art scene. My article on Futura 2000 had appeared that morning, my first cover story for the Manhattan edition of the hip new afternoon New York Daily News.

Futura had designed the headline himself and been paid around $100. While Futura was in the art room sketching the piece, a  senior dude looked me in the eye and said: “We shouldn’t be promoting this.” It was my first inkling my reporting might be rubbing some of the old guard the wrong way.

I assumed we’d all be celebrating up a storm at the Mudd Club. Fred Braithwaite greeted me. When I asked if he’d seen the Daily News article, he pulled out a copy of High Times and showed me Glenn O’Brien’s much more in-depth article that ran for pages with lots of amazing color photos. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Fred were the major characters in his piece.

Somewhat deflated, I speed-read the article while thinking, “Shit, this guy beat me to the punch. I need to start reading High Times.”

Meanwhile, I notice a bunch of girls are looking at me funny. “That’s him,” one says. I can tell they are super pissed-off about something, so I ask them what’s up.

“You called our father an alcoholic! Do you know what if was like for him to read that!” snarled one, which cranked up the angry vibes on the rest of them.

I sought refuge behind the desk with Fred and whispered, “Holy shit. I assumed his dad was dead or he wouldn’t have told me.”

“Well,” said Fred, “he told you so he must have wanted it to come out, even subconsciously.”

It was the first time I realized the power of the media to cause intense emotional problems and how the unvarnished truth is not always the best option. The whole incident put a real damper on the celebration for me, and I went home early, although not before Fred gave me Bambaataa’s phone number, so I could interview him the next day. It was the beginning of a long trail I’d scout for the next four years, a trail I’d been put on by viewing a subway car called “Break” that I’d seen at New York/New Wave at P.S. 1, a train painted by Futura 2000. You can read the original Daily News article in my book Hip Hop: The Complete Archives.

The Pied Piper of Hip Hop

I was a reporter for the New York Daily News and a contributing writer to Horizon magazine, when I attended Diego Cortez’s New York/New Wave at P.S. 1 in Long Island City. Many in the press detested that ultra-hip show, but I was blown away. It celebrated the CBGB punk scene, East Village art, the re-emergence of image, and the recent flowering of graffiti that was taking place in New York. There were several huge rooms covered floor-to-ceiling with art and photography. It was the cutting edge of the underground, and the first time Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibited. Basquiat was the sensation of the moment, his paintings already sold to the de Menil collection. But one room was devoted to photos of spray-painted subway trains, and one of those photos absolutely floored me. I’d only been in New York for a few years, and when I arrived, I assumed the city paid artists to paint those murals on trains because so many of them looked like they were part of a set out of Disneyland. One train in the exhibit especially stopped me in my tracks: it was called “Break” by Futura 2000.

Kurtis Blow had just achieved the first certified-gold rap record with a song called “The Breaks.” At first, I thought Futura’s train was an homage to Kurtis Blow. But then it occured to me there were subcultural undercurrents running through both rap music and graffiti, and that this probably represented an authentic cultural movement that had not been acknowledged in the mass media. (At this time, I knew nothing about break dancing, but that element would surface within days.)

I bought “Break” from Futura and he signed and autographed it to me (it still hangs prominently in my bedroom). Futura introduced me to Fab Five Freddy, who gave me Afrika Bambaataa’s number after I told him I wanted to research where this culture had actually started.

Over the next few weeks, I interviewed Bambaataa several times. He was extremely helpful, and even opened up his archives for me to peruse. Bam had written a book-length report on the history of the Black Spades while in high school, and he let me make a copy. Most important, Bam gave me the telephone number of Kool Herc, and indicated it all started with him. Back in the ’80s, every minor hip hopper in New York was spinning tales about “how it all began” and 90% of these stories were complete fabrications. But Bam only spoke the truth and he never exaggerated about anything. In fact, Bam seemed to be operating on a higher plane of existence, and was obviously a spiritually-charged being. Even better, he became famous and successful beyond imagination while I was working on the story, releasing a monster hit called “Planet Rock,” which created the electro-boogie sound and transformed hip hop and dance music in general.

I got fired by the Daily News, but that was okay, because now I was onto the biggest story of my life, and I knew it. I spent several weeks researching the story, which I eventually submitted to the Village Voice, and titled: “The Pied Piper of Hip Hop.” Keep in mind, at this point in time, the words “hip hop” had never appeared in print anywhere and were not even well-known to most people inside the culture. The story was mostly about Bambaataa, but it covered many of the major developments in the history of the hip hop, including who did what first.

The Village Voice sat on the manuscript for weeks, and I kept calling Robert Christgau, the music editor, leaving messages every other day. I just wanted him to accept it or reject it, so I could submit it to Rolling Stone, and I couldn’t get an answer. I was terrified another writer was going to break the story of hip hop before I did. Finally, Tulani Davis called and said she wanted to publish the article and would edit it.

I went out on a limb in the article and said hip hop was going to become the most significant cultural movement of the decade, and I can’t tell you how many people found that comment ridiculous in 1981. Even in the East Village, there was intense resistance to recognizing the value of rap music in some quarters. Rap was viewed as a ghetto fad that had no significance for the rest of the world.

Sadly, there was always something mysterious about Bam as he was typically surrounded by teenage boys, and there never seemed to be any women around. Decades later, several boys would come forward with accusations of sexual abuse and one of them ended up murdered as a result.

Rock’s First Diva

After I finished my book on hip hop (and been basically pushed out of the my own Beat Street film project), I turned my attention to finding out what happened to the biggest stars of early rock history in New York City. Rap music was starting to catch on around the country, and I was afraid the original creators of hip hop were going to be ripped-off by the many corporations that were moving in to cash-in on the new movement, just like their historical counterparts many years earlier.

My investigations led me to Frankie Lymon and Arlene Smith. Frankie was long-dead, so I ended up meeting Jimmy Merchant, who’d co-written one of the biggest hits of the era, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” and had been a founding member of The Teenagers with Frankie. I eventually discovered Arlene was living in the South Bronx, not far from some of the hip hoppers I’d spent the last three years hanging out with.

My sister had just moved to a cabin in Woody Creek, not far from Hunter S. Thompson, so when Christmas came, I flew out there to spend the holidays with her and visit the famed town of Aspen and its spectacular ski slopes. I’d never skied before, but I fell in love with the Highlands. I got an unexpected call from Harry Belafonte one night. I guess he was having problems with the director Orion had selected, Andy Davis, and Harry was wondering why I wasn’t hanging around the production office. When I found out I wasn’t going to be the scriptwriter, I basically walked away from the project, although David Picker made sure I got story credit (thanks again, David!). Harry wanted to see me as soon as I got back to New York.

The next night, I got a frantic call from Arlene Smith. Stupidly, I’d sent her a copy of my manuscript at the same time I’d delivered it to my editor at the Voice. Tulani Davis had already told me she loved the article, and I was confident I was about to get my third major feature (and possibly another cover story), following my articles on Bambaataa and the Fun House. But Arlene’s new manager didn’t like the article at all and wanted me to kill it. After I told Arlene I couldn’t do that, the manager called me. He was pretty rude and aggressive and indicated he knew Robert Christgau, head music critic at the Voice, and he was going to get the article killed, whether I liked it or not.

Imagine my surprise when Tulani told me several weeks later that the article was not going to run because Christgau had vetoed it, even though she loved it. I was so flabbergasted and upset ( I’d put a lot of gumshoe reporting into the piece) that I sent a copy to someone I trusted who knew a lot more about the music business than I did, David Bither (who now runs Nonesuch Records), and asked for his opinion before I went to war. David basically said there was some good stuff in the story, but my analysis of the business side of early rock history was a bit over-simplistic, so I dropped the whole thing. But I never wrote another story for the Village Voice, or even talked to Tulani again. I completely forgot about the whole episode until I started putting my greatest hits on my smashwords site and realized, this is one of them!

You can read the article the Voice rejected by clicking the link that says “click here for free eBooks” in the column on the top-right of this page.

Kenny Scharf’s Fun Factory

I sensed there was something important Kenny wanted to tell me. After all, that’s what Min, his assistant, told me when she let me in. But it’s taking Kenny an unusually long time to get around to the subject at hand.

Finally, he pulls out a proof of my Art After Midnight cover that I’d delivered the previous day and waves his hands around, searching for words to express his feelings.

“Don’t you think a different painting would work better?” he gently says finally.

Art After Midnight is primarily about Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf, but it’s clearly centered on Scharf, and I’d picked his painting, “When World’s Collide,” as the Guernica of the East Village art movement, which is why I wanted it on the cover. Flick Ford had sized the painting to its maximum for the page, but that still left a huge blank space, which Flick had filled with his own art piece, creating an illustration in place of a typeface and customizing it with his own esthetic. I thought the two pieces worked together, but I suddenly wondered if the lettering wasn’t overwhelming the painting a bit, which is obviously what was bothering Kenny. But when I called the printer, I discovered it was too late to change, which spared me any further aggravation or having to confront Flick. Fortunately, this faux pax didn’t cost my relationship with Kenny, but I sometimes wonder if he cringes whenever he sees it.

You see, The Merry Pranksters had been my primary role models from the age of 15 (1966), and it was from them I first learned about magic. After an explosive blow-up with my family (detailed in my just-released ebook, The Steam Tunnels), I moved into the empty basement of our home. Very quickly, I painted the white walls with a bucket of battleship grey I’d found, painting huge, swirling faces with the ease of a zen master, even though I’d never done anything like that before (or since). All these ghostly blobs were positive, with happy faces, except one, which unexpectedly turned out very scary-looking.That face was so scary I had to avoid it when I was tripping. I had one step in the darkside at the time, still seeking my eventual path in life. But the Pranksters had redirected me solidly on the path of the Fun Vibe. I hung blankets and bedspreads to divide the room into three sections, and built my art and music studio in the largest one. I began studying the bass guitar in earnest so I could join a garage band, my principle ambition since my friend John Hayes said I could join The Knight Riders if I learned bass, even though Donnie Perino, their current bass player, was probably the best musician in central Illinois.

Many years later, I was passing through town and discovered my parent’s were in the process of covering up my basement murals with sheet-rock. Most of the room was already done, but I did manage to go down with my friend Maarten and get a photo of the spooky face before it was covered up. For some reason, I felt it important to document. Imagine my surprise, when I found myself in New York, 15 years later, confronted by this young Kenny Scharf, who had just usurped the entire Prankster movie by taking it to another level. It was like having my whole life’s journey vindicated in some strange way.

By customizing your existence you create a magically-charged environment. The altar plays an obvious focal point in many ceremonies, and helps focus and center whatever vibration you’re channeling, but the Pranksters and Kenny learned that when you crawl inside your altar, you can spiritually charge everything around you, and open portals to other dimensions if you’re lucky. And when this happens, a tremendous burst of creative energy is released. That is magic. Of course, you can scout any trail you want, energy comes in many flavors, but Kenny was hip to the Fun Vibe, and helped me understand and process a lot of what I’d been through in the ’60s and point me in the right direction again at a time when it was hard to stay centered. It was so weird because the entire art establishment was trying to write Kenny off as “lightweight”, while I found him to be one of the most spiritually enlightened people I’d ever encountered.

Anyway, what I really want to tell you is that Art After Midnight, long out-of-print, can be found on Amazon, Smashwords and iTunes.

True Ghost Stories

In 1980, while I was working as a reporter for the New York Daily News, I had the opportunity to meet the well-known psychic researcher, Dr. Karlis Osis. I knew he did a lot of top-secret work for the CIA and other unnamed agencies and was expecting him to be aloof and intimidating.

Instead, I found him to be open and generous. I was researching a story on haunted houses in New York City, and was looking for any leads he could provide. Osis immediately revealed that in all the time he’d spent investigating psychic phenomena, only one case really stood out and it involved an apparition seen by three people simultaneously. The trio had been so shaken by the experience, that they’d sought trauma counseling from a psychologist.

My personal experiences with psychedelics in the ’60s, had already convinced me early in life that telepathic energies were real. One of Osis’ best-known books involves the study of near-death experiences. Around half the people who work with the dying on a regular basis believe spirits come to welcome the dead to their new home when people die. This is a common near-death experience. Osis’ other main area of research was remote viewing.

Much of that research was done for the CIA and probably remains classified, but Osis was working with a psychic in an attempt to penetrate Soviet installations with out-of-body experiences. He hadn’t done much work with haunted houses because he thought most of the cases were hoaxes created for profit. I just posted an eBook titled, True Ghost Stories, that details a very spooky story Osis opened up his files for me to write about. I even got to listen to tape recordings of the original interviews. It was an amazing afternoon.

Madonna and me

Monica from Tommy Boy Records wanted me to check out the Fun House. “Arthur Baker and John Robie are hanging out there all the time,” she said. After writing the first story on hip hop in the Village Voice, Monica felt I should turn my attention to the way break dancing was spreading out of the South Bronx and into the other boroughs.

The first night I arrived at the club, Randy, the lighting guy, offered to introduce me to Madonna right off the bat. At the time, she was the girl friend of the house deejay, Jellybean, and already had a reputation as a voluptuous siren. I probably said, “naw, that’s okay.”

See, I was just finishing my book on the origins of hip hop, and I’d already heard the electro-bubblegum sound Madonna was working on. In the early stages of any new cultural wave, its often very hard to distinguish the truly talented, from the talentless opportunists (who always rush in). Aside from the bubblegum melody, Madonna’s voice didn’t sound all that impressive to me. But, then, I’d never met Madonna in person—or seen her perform.

That night Madonna came up behind me and started talking to me like we were old friends. I was wearing a Levi vest that East Village artist Ellen Berkenblit had customized with one of her iconic punk ponys in white marker on leather. Ellen was a very obscure artist, but one Rene Ricard was currently gushing over. Rene was already famous for “launching” Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

“Ellen, right?” she said.

“Uh, yeah.” I mumbled, keeping my full attention elsewhere.

Madonna wasn’t one to stick around where she wasn’t wanted. (That night she would tell someone I was probably gay.)

Actually, I’d already decided to base my Fun House article around a girl named Alyse, and the Juice Crew. I had this feeling Jellybean wanted a story mostly about him, and Madonna. Maybe I was channeling the responsibilities of power regarding my status as a Village Voice cover-story writer. I’m sure I came off as arrogant at best.

Later that week, however, I got to see Madonna perform on stage at the Fun House with her backup dancers. She was amazing and captured my full respect immediately. She obviously had a gift for choreography and oozed with youthful sex appeal. I knew right then she was going to be a star. I suddenly wished I  could turn that unfortunate first encounter around, and wondered if that opportunity would ever present itself.

Unfortunately, any plans along those lines were dashed forever the day my Fun House article appeared on the cover of the Voice, because the police raided the club early that evening. It just happened to be Jellybean’s birthday, and Madonna had a huge party and special command performance planned, so I’d become very unpopular in some circles. A couple of rumors came down the grapevine: “Madonna hates you” and “The Fun House is going to have you knee-capped.” Apparently, the club didn’t like the references to illegal substances included in my story. Some felt those comments were the reason the police felt compelled to make the raid in the first place.

“Steve Hager’s story on the Fun House is still remembered as a classic,” Baird Jones would write later in his gossip column. “Although when the expose got that illegal club busted, Steve had to lie very, very low for a few months.”

I did run into Madonna a few weeks later in the basement dressing room at Danceteria. She looked through me like I didn’t exist, while effusively welcoming my sidekick, German photographer Andre Grossmann. She even let Andre follow her home and take pictures of her in her own environment, until she had to throw him out because he wouldn’t stop taking pictures. At the time, Andre probably had no clue he was going to make a lot of money off those photographs many years later.

Excerpted from Hip Hop:  The Complete Archives.

Origins of Beat Street

I’d been pitching a story on rap music, break dancing and graffiti to almost every publication in New York for months. Nobody was interested. Not Rolling Stone, not the New York Times, nobody.

Then Tulani Davis, an editor at the Village Voice, took a look at my massive profile of Afrika Bambaataa and said she wanted to publish it, but it would take months before she got around to editing it.

Meanwhile, I wrote a three-page treatment for a film called “Looking for the Perfect Beat.” First, I took that treatment to an office Jane Fonda had just opened in New York. I guess Jane passed on the idea, but one of the women in her office took me out to lunch in the theater district and offered me $500 on the spot. She had a contract she wanted me to sign. I took the contract home, looked over it and decided it was a bad deal.

The next person I thought to visit was Harry Belafonte. See, I was looking for someone with a political consciousness who would do justice to the story without trying to exploit the original creators of the culture, all of whom deserved to reap some reward. Alisha, a woman in Belafonte’s office loved my treatment. So did Harry. He offered to produce the film and that night I started expanding the treatment into a full-blown script. After I finished the first draft, it was sent to Harry, who was vacationing at his palatial estate in Jamaica. I had to go to Harry’s office one afternoon and take a long distance call from him. He wanted to go over the changes he wanted made while Alisha listened in on the other line as his witness. I began making notes on some post-its, and quickly filled up ten of them and soon ran out of space and got frustrated with the barrage of comments that kept coming and coming. “Maybe you should hire someone else to finish this,” I blurted out. I could tell Harry was floored by my statement. He took a long pause. Alisha tried to smooth things over, but it was all pretty much downhill after that.

The film got made. I got story credit. But almost nothing (other than the characters’ names) made it into the final film. I was jettisoned from the production team and a bunch of dudes from Brooklyn moved in to advise Harry. During the pre-screening of the final cut, these dudes all booed when Phase 2’s tiny cameo came on, and Harry ended up deleting Phase from the movie I guess because all those dudes from Brooklyn claimed he was actually a “nobody” and didn’t invent anything and hip hop started in Brooklyn? Brooklyn did have the center of energy at the time due to the rise of Run/DMC, but not only was Phase 2 a key innovator of Wild Style graffiti, he helped create Up Rocking, he invented the “ghetto-deco” style that took over hip hop flyers, and he innovated a lot of other stuff inside the culture. Maybe someday they’ll restore his cameo? Anything is possible.

I put the original script up on Smashwords and was amazed at how well it holds up. Especially compared to the very weak film Beat Street turned out to be. I thought I was going to be moving to Hollywood, and maybe I would have it I’d had a bigger piece of paper to write notes on. I immediately wrote another script about garage bands in the late 60s after Beat Street came out, and Scott Yoselow at the Gersh Agency liked it enough to pitch it. But it never sold. I got sidetracked after I was made editor at High Times, and never had the time to write another film script. Meanwhile, you can read my original script and dream about what could have been. And I still have those original ten post-it’s with Harry’s “suggestions” although I must admit I don’t think any made it into my script.