Remembering Bobby Faust

I’ve met many magic characters in my time, but Bobby Faust and Chef Ra really stand out as the two of the most powerful bodhisattvas I’ve known.
Apparently, Bobby descended into gloom a few years ago after being confined to a wheel chair, but a new pain management specialist lifted his spirits a month ago, and suddenly, he was his old self and contacting people and posting his favorite personal photos on facebook. He posted my Whee utility belt from Whee! 2, and I sent him a link to my latest ebook. The next day he messaged to say he was “blown away” by this manifesto on Bitcoin, and I could tell Bobby was knee-deep in the Bitcoin Revolution and ready to invest. Bobby and I had parted ways on his Y2K apocalypse theory many years ago, when I advised him: “The apocaplyse is always greatly exaggerated.”

Bobby was one of the greatest story tellers I’ve known, and his favorite story involved a trip to Levon Helm’s estate in Woodstock (the same place I went to buy my home). Until he passed away two years ago, Levon was the central spirit of that famous town—Jerry Garcia of the Catskills. One day, Bobby went to visit Levon and discovered him playing basketball with Joe Walsh and Keith Richards. Upon seeing Bobby arriving, Lee tossed him the ball and said, “Show ’em what you got, Bobby.” Now Bobby was never very good at basketball. In fact, it was his worst sport. But that day Bobby summoned up all this chi, and swished five baskets in a row. In fact, he made seven out of ten before Lee let him take a break. And you know what? That’s the last time Bobby ever touched a basketball.

There were several hilarious stories like that one being shared yesterday, many involved his dog Boogie, or his frequent disarming of police and/or firemen, or taking heroic amounts of psychedelics, but one story I neglected to share that I treasure involved Ken Kesey and Mountain Girl.

Bobby was my right hand at the Whee! 2, my eyes and ears at Mission Control as 6/22 and I patrolled the campground independently. After the festival, the Temple Dragons were invited by Kesey and Mountain Girl to visit Mountain Girl’s house—provided we didn’t shoot any video. (I was a bit video crazy during the Whee phase because I wanted to document the ceremonies we were manifesting. In fact, Bobby was a key member of the video crew.)

We were all sitting on Mountain Girl’s patio, probably sharing a joint, when Kesey began busting on Ina May’s speech concerning nipple phobia. Both Bobby and I immediately rose to defend Ina May, but I stepped back and just let Bobby take charge of the situation. “We luuuuuv, Ina May,” crooned Bobby. I could tell Kesey would probably never speak ill of her again, even in jest, so great was Bobby’s power. But that’s the sort of energy any bodhisattva carries around, I guess.

Iran executes Peace Poet Hashem Shaabani

Hashem-Shabani-NejadA poet was hanged in Iran. I confess to paying little attention to the Middle East these days because I believe it’s an Orwellian endless war being milked for profit with the Saudi’s on one side and Israel on the other, and MI6 and the CIA pulling strings all over the place. Forget about any peace movement ever emerging anywhere over there. Any potential messiahs are killed as quickly as they appear. Nothing political happens by accident in this environment and the nastiest of spook ops unfold on a daily basis. But still, I had to know more about this peace poet and why he had to die.
220px-Hassan_Rouhani_official_portraitHassan Rouhani (left, wearing turban) is the villain in this tragedy. He’s the 7th President of Iran and has quietly executed over 400 dissidents, while projecting himself as a moderate in favor of women’s rights. Time magazine fawns on him, calling him the 9th most powerful person in the world? One wonders why his reign of terror gets virtually no play in the Western media. But then, Western media is really a carefully controlled cartel run by a handful of global corporations.
Hashem Shaabani is the poet and hero of this tragedy. He held a Masters in Political Science and taught Arabic literature in high school. He also wrote poetry in both Arabic and Farsi. He leaves behind a widow and child and invalid parents he had been caring for until his arrest in February of 2011 in Khalafabad.
After months of torture, Hashem confessed to some outrageous statements on Iranian television, many of which were patently absurd, like his being an agent of Hosni Mubarak and Muammer al-Qadafi and bent on violent terrorism. In truth, this poet began his political career by organizing peace festivals. I could go on about him, but why not just read excerpts from his final statement released prior to his execution? I have provided my own edited translation:
500x375xhashem_shaabani.jpg.pagespeed.ic.VIzFnvn0jcAfter our peace festivals were banned by the government, we aspired to study our mother tongue as stated in Articles 15 and 19 of the Islamic Republic Constitution. We soon realized the constitution was a mirage and it was futile to try and work through local media, so I began publishing my poems on social media to reveal sufferings of the Ahwazi Arabs and used my nickname “Abu Aala Al-ofoghi.” I posted a report on the “Black Wednesday” massacre that happened in Mohammarah in 1979.

On 11th of February 2011, when I was staying at home and after I came back from the Shaihk Ansari high school, where I used to teach in Khalafyeh, I was arrested by the Iranian intelligence service (Etelaat) and accused of being a member of the resistance. I suffered physical and mental tortures and was forced to make false confessions. I stayed five months in the detention center of the intelligence services and transferred to Karoun prison. I first appeared in court on 21st of May, 2012. I tried to say the truth in front the judge and honestly stated the so-called “popular resistance” did not exist, that I only represented “Hashem Shabani” and that I was forced under physical and mental tortures by Etelaat to confess things I never committed. I made my statement in front of the judge three different times. I was surprised and angry when I heard the final verdict. They gave me and four of my friends death sentences, and another friend, Rahman Asakereh, received 20 years imprisonment in exile. I’d like to confirm that I never participated in any armed activity as I totally disagree with violence.
Hashem Shabani (Abu Aala Al-ofoghi)

Birthplace of Rastafarianism comes under attack

L HOWELLLeonard P. Howell was the founding father of Rastafarianism, a path that blended elements of African spirituality with Judaism and Christianity. Raised in an Anglican family, Howell traveled to New York City in 1932, and when he returned to Jamaica a year later, he announced the anointing of Haile Sellassie as Emperor of Ethiopa represented the return of the true messiah as foretold in the Old Testament.
There were a few other early preachers of this faith, but Howell is considered as the founder and he spent much of his adult life in conflict with the Jamaican authorities.
460xThe community he founded in Sligoville, Jamaica, known as “Pinnacle,” was razed in 1954 when it had nearly 4,500 residents, who endured intense persecution, mostly for their devotion to marijuana. Eventually, in the 1960s, the exportation of marijuana into Florida became the island’s major source of revenue, and once sufficient bribes were paid to the right people, this illicit trade exploded until the DEA forced a shutdown.
Howell died in 1981, and last year his home at Pinnacle (see photo above) was declared an historic site by the Jamaican government. However, a developer now wants to build on land surrounding this home, land considered sacred by Rastas.
Donisha Prendergast, Bob Marley’s oldest granddaughter has joined thousands of Jamaicans who are protesting this proposed development, a story that began unfolding over what would have been Bob Marley’s 69th birthday. The Rastas living on the building site have already been officially evicted, although most are holding their ground in what could become a long and protracted stand-off.

Would legal opium have saved Philip Seymour Hoffman?

Philip-Seymour-Hoffman-Best-MoviesQuite a tragedy to lose such a great talent in his prime, and sadder still to know he left three traumatized kids behind. A slew of overdose deaths are being blamed on a synthetic opiate similar to Oxycontin, used as an additive to pep up the cut, although turns out this was apparently not the culprit in Hoffman’s case.
Reality is, if poppies and their essential oils were legal like they should be, few, if any, of these overdose deaths would be occurring.
But the most disturbing thing in this case is that Hoffman’s death is being used by law enforcement and the media to conduct a witch-hunt on heroin users in the New York underground scene? Since over 50 percent of the country now believes cannabis should be legal for adults, I wonder how long we’ll have to wait for the same logic to start applying to the poppy plant?

The 10 Greatest Western Films of All-Time

The Wild West was certainly a key focus of my youthful imagination, as a cowboy outfit was my first Halloween costume and I had a pair of cap guns before I reached the first grade. Nothing was more exciting than going out to see a Western movie.

Our national psyche was shaped through a Western mythology, first in the tabloid presses and periodicals, and then through film and television. At least it was this way for the boys of my generation.
Even though the first real narrative film made was a Western, the genre was mostly relegated to the B-grade teams. John Ford was the master who elevated it to A-grade, and started that evolution with his first Western with sound, Stagecoach (1939).

There was something truly primal about the story of 9 people cast adrift in a dangerous wilderness and having to shack up in a lonely outpost surrounded by hostile forces. This film was so influential the Beatles drummer took his name from the lead character.

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), tells the story of two partners, one descending into madness, the other redeemed through good deeds. Part western, part thriller, this is naturalism at its finest, meaning the forces of mother nature dwarf the energies of man.

The Searchers (1956), is John Ford’s greatest masterpiece and a much more mature effort than his trail-blazing Stagecoach. Obsessions collide across an immense wilderness as the complex plot unfolds, investigating some uncomfortable issues involving racism, cultural survival and revenge. This may have put the primary meme into the minds of a generation because in ten years many of us would soon be hitchhiking west in search of cultural meaning.

Gunfight at OK Corral (1957) represents the height of romanticism and an epic gun battle, and is probably best viewed on a giant monitor. I haven’t watched this in a long time, so I don’t know how well it holds up, but I always felt one of its greatest values was its restraint. Although the actual battle in real life lasted only a matter of seconds, John Sturges was able to build up to it with the help of an outstanding musical score, and his version of the fight itself was fairly realistic and little like the gory battles of today.
true-grit-movie-poster-1969-1020167547Everything seems to move in waves, and just like 1939 produced an incredible explosion of amazing films, something special happened with Westerns in 1969. Maybe it was the last gasp of a dying genre, but three of the greatest appeared over the course of a few months. The plastic phony Western of television and early 1960’s films were rejected suddenly and realism returned, or at least more realistic outfits and characters. True Grit (June 11, 1969) was the first of these to appear.

The Wild Bunch (June 18, 1969) was violence unleashed, the good-guy bad-guys go bad then good, then shoot up the place big-time. I’m sure Quentin Tarantino must have loved this film and I know a lot of violence junkies who got off watching it over and over. But it’s truly a classic Western in many ways, shades of a return to the O.K. Corral. And as the Western has evolved, it gets harder and harder to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (October 24, 1969) A final ode to romanticism, and perhaps the first modern woman’s western? Loosely based on the real story, this comic buddy tale involves a seldom-seen female lead in a genre completely dominated by men, although in truth, Butch likely returned to the USA and lived a quite life of quiet anonymity nothing like the end described here, but that’s another Western that didn’t make the list. But if romantic comedies are not your cup of tea and you want something with more of an edge, try McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971).

Little Big Man (1970) was the first post-modern western and a tragicomic masterpiece. Not many Westerns were told from the point of view of a Native perspective and this is one of the few. The film turned the genre upside down because we had to deal with the savagery inflicted upon Native culture from their own perspective. Some may prefer the maudlin Dances With Wolves in this regard, but that film doesn’t even come close to my top ten.

Lonesome Dove (1989), was a return to realism in epic splendor, and shows the value of having a great researcher-writer. This story was actually supposed to be made decades earlier with John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda, which would have been amazing. Thankfully, Larry McMurtry didn’t give up on the project and eventually saw it through to fruition to immense success. Not really a movie, but a miniseries, nonetheless it transformed the genre.

Maybe you thought I was going to pick Django Unchained as my final choice? To be honest, I haven’t even seen it yet, but I much prefer the Coen Brothers to Quentin anyway. I didn’t know what to think when they said they were going to re-make one of my top ten Westerns, but I was impressed with the results, as well as the effort to remain as historically accurate as possible. Released in 2010.

In Praise of Bobby Faust

I’m trying to think of where it was that I first met Bobby Faust. It must have been at a party with the 6th Street crew down in the East Village somewhere, probably at Terry and Dave’s apartment. He was part of the Rainbow Family when I joined up and came over to the 8th Cannabis Cup to play the role of the caterpillar in the Alice in Wonderland On Weed fantasy that Garrick Beck had written just for the event.

When I started planning the first World Hemp Expo Extravaganja (Whee!), Bobby quickly made himself an essential part of that operation, in effect becoming one of the original founding members of the Temple Dragon Crew. I didn’t realize at the time Bobby had a very strong connection with the Merry Pranksters, apparently having first met up with that crew at Woodstock.

Funny how many of us were actually at that first Woodstock festival, including me, Bobby and Fantuzzi. The whole reason I planned for Whee! to happen in Eugene, Oregon, was so we could pull the Pranksters into the movie, which was to re-start the non-violent hippie counterculture by uniting all the greatest shamans we could find, a list that included the Gaskins, the Pranksters, John Trudell, John Sinclair, Paul Krassner and a few others. I assembled an army of over 200 volunteers to build hippie disneyland on a shoestring in an empty field. I thought we were well on our way to healing the sickness infecting America with our positive vibrations.

Bobby was my right-hand man at the second Whee. For some reason, I’d decided I didn’t want to sit at Mission Control this time and supervise the stage for a second year. Instead, I wanted to prowl around and check on all the problems and issues everywhere on site and make sure grifters and hoodwinkers weren’t running amok. I spent most of my time checking for wristbands because the venue didn’t have a proper fence and anyone could easily sneak in. My objective was to give away wristbands to anyone who actually couldn’t afford one, but also collect admission from those that could.

Because of his short stature, Bobby often had trouble getting around, but once I gave him a golf cart he could drive with no problems, he became one of the hardest working members of the crew, buzzing around the venue solving all sorts of problems all day and night.
Later on, when the Pranksters invited me onto the Grandfurther Tour, which was their historic second trip across America and into Canada, Bobby joined me and Andre and 622 on that incredible adventure. The Pranksters were happy to see me, but overjoyed to see Bobby. In fact, Kesey considered Bobby one of the most magical people he’d ever met and he told me so.

When it came time to visit a Phish show, we found out where the lines were because the Pranksters and Bobby got in free and became part of the improvisational show Kesey put on, his way of telling Phish they were the new Dead Tour. Meanwhile, Andre, 622 and I had to buy tickets into the show and then sneak backstage, where we climbed up to the top of Further and just hung out there for most of the show.

Unfortunately, Bobby had a stroke and passed over at 11 am on February 3, 2014. This news comes two days after I learn Rene Ricard also unexpectedly died from a brain tumor. What can I say, this is shaping up to be a somewhat painful year.

Remembering Rene Ricard

renegof2I wonder how many people had their lives changed by Rene Ricard? I arrived in New York City in 1979 and was struggling to find a job in journalism while snooping around the art scene for something to write about. Then I read an article called “Not About Julian Schnabel” in ArtForum and pretty soon, I was doing the first magazine profiles of Julian Schnabel and Mary Boone. I still have those interview tapes around here somewhere.

But it was Rene’s next article that really set my brain on fire. It was titled “Radiant Child” and was all about the rise of Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and how hip hop culture was about to transform the world.

Of course, Rene didn’t use the words “hip hop,” since virtually nobody outside the South Bronx knew those words in 1981. Funny how I got a chance to see Rene just a few days ago, at what I imagine was his last public performance, a reading for an East Village Eye party. Before he left the party, Rene came over to me and said, “Your Voice article on Bambaataa, that introduced the words “hip hop you know!” he said. “I know, I know,” I replied. Rene and I were on that scene longer than almost anyone else from downtown, except for Fred Brathwaite, Patti Astor and Charlie Ahearn. But it was Rene’s Radiant Child article that opened my eyes that a real cultural revolution was going on. And Rene was the first to understand the revolution concerned not just music, but gesture, movement, dance, fashion and art as well. There was a whole new style emerging from b-boy culture, and Rene was the first to pick up on that.

When I published my book Hip Hop in 1984, I included a picture of Rene and also gave him props for his groundbreaking essays in ArtForum. This made Rene my friend for eternity. Seems like he had some enemies in the art scene at the time, probably because he was famous for throwing hissy fits at gallery openings. He knew how to make himself the center of attention and some people were a little afraid of him because he was so moody and confrontational.

Rene’s most famous scene happened at Jean Michel’s Fun Gallery opening. Paul Simon showed up unexpectedly and was interested in buying the best painting in the show, something that would have saved the gallery at the time. But Rene had already asked Jean for that particular painting and when he saw Simon wanted it, he started screaming and bolted from the gallery. Seconds after he departed we heard what sounded like a car accident outside. No one was sure if Rene hadn’t just run out into traffic to commit suicide, but we later found out he was okay.

I was really touched by Rene’s last reading just a few days ago, as he read his poem about Stephen Crichlow, who was Futura 2000’s best friend when he unexpectedly died from a heart attack at a very young age. Rene rented a limo to take a bunch of people to the funeral service in Brooklyn. I don’t think anybody ever gave Stephen much props, except for Rene. Stephen was a young photographer who’d been following the hip hop scene and his death was an unexpected blow. What Godlis was to the CBGB’s, Cricholow was to the Fun Gallery, but today hardly anyone remembers him. Leave it to Rene to keep his memory alive.

Apparently Rene died of cancer and was about to undergo chemo, which is sad for me, because had I known he was suffering from cancer, I would have sent him to Colorado to take some cannabis oil, which might have saved his life.

Buddy Esquire: King of Hip Hop Flyers

Here’s a shot of Easy AD of the Cold Crush with Buddy Esquire (wearing sunglasses).

Buddy started writing graffiti in 1972 and used a variety of tags until he settled on ESQ. Most people would consider 1972 to be pretty early in graffiti history, but to his credit, when Buddy was asked if he was one of the graffiti pioneers, he said, “no that was Phase 2,” who only started a year earlier.
One day some officers from the local precinct came by his house to tell his parents about his artistic vandalism, and Buddy got grounded for half the summer and lost his comic book collection as punishment. So Buddy got out of graffiti, even though neither the police nor his parents found his marker and spray-paint stash.

Buddy must have been pretty good at b-ball (as was Phase 2), as his partner in park basketball throughout the 1970s was a 6’9″ dude named Eddie Pinckney, who went on to win a championship with Villanova in 1985 before going pro.

In 1976 rap music began spreading in the Bronx. The new style had kicked off in 1973 with a Kool Herc party, but a year later Afrika Bambaataa merged the creative elements of ghetto culture and soon began calling it Hip Hop.

In 1977, Buddy was customizing jean jackets, and had mastered a professional style that looked nothing like his graffiti or the stencil letters others were applying to shirts and jackets. The Funky Four all got their jean jackets customized by Buddy. Later that year, he made his first hip hop flyer for a local block party. In November of 1978, Tony Tone asked him to do a flyer for a Breakout jam. The results were so good that when Tony, Charlie Chase and Grandmaster Caz put together the Cold Crush, they began using Buddy for almost all their flyers. Meanwhile, Phase 2 had already established himself as the main flyer maker for Grandmaster Flash and the Furious, as well as the creator of the “hood deco” style, which certainly helped goose vibrations and expectations. Before long, The Furious and Cold Crush would become the premier groups of hip hop, and Buddy and Phase would be known as the hip hop flyer kings.

I just saw on Facebook Buddy is no longer with us, and wonder what could have possibly happened. If anyone knows, please drop me a note or a comment and I’ll update this. And if anyone knows about any upcoming tributes, please spread the info.