Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Full Custom Living: The reception

This car and other beauties like it, were parked in the Minna St. alley

Jay in front of his tintypes

James looking at Larry Mills' photo of Cole Foster

Late night and the party was still going strong

The guys of Garage
from l to r: Jay Watson, Dan Stoner, Brian Bounds

Ah yes, the reception for Full Custom Living: The Art of Garage Magazine. And what a night it was. Several hundred folks made their way to 111 Minna to revel in the photography, art and iron that so well represented this culture.

It was very special to see Jay so happy that night as he mingled effortlessly with the good and interesting people.

One of the best moments I had that evening was talking to a man named James (photo above) about this culture and what this show meant to him. With a serious tone James explained to me that it was a do it yourself culture, and that was why he and so many others love it so. He criticized just a little, the guys who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on cars, and don't touch the cars themselves.

He echoed the sentiment of others in the room that night, how meaningful it was to have this subculture represented so well in one big space. It was a long time coming he felt, as he explained how hard some of these people work. I could see for myself how happy everyone looked, as they talked story and admired the bikes that Jason Jesse and Max Schaaf built and the dragster that Tim Conder created. The builders who posed next to the beautiful photographs that had been taken of them, still had a little grease under their nails from a hard day at the garage.

If you didn't get a chance to catch the reception, the show is up until Aug. 1st. And if you don't live in the area, the full gallery is up on 111 Minna's website.


Surfsister said...

You know, I've always had a great appreciation for the aesthetic of this part of the car culture. (I also love what they're able to do mechanically.) There's something about it that I find especially appealing. I don't know if it's the harkening back to an earlier time, if it's my appreciation of their appreciation of cars. I just don't know. But reading your post and looking at the pictures made me wonder about black culture and its lack of appreciation for the past. (Yeah, I said it! I'm black so I guess that means I can say it without either one of us being flamed.) We have no corresponding aesthetic that I know of. But then I wonder about the black guys who were riding bikes and wrenching/customizing their own cars back in the day. What did they look like? Did they have pompadors? (Lord knows the last thing I want to see is the return of conked hair on black men a la James Brown and Jackie Wilson.) I don't know. I just find it all so very curious. I know that you can find this aesthetic in both Japan and among Latinos here in the States. But damned if I can figure out what happened to the black folks. It makes me wonder about the bigger picture: segregation, Jim Crow, etc. Perhaps black folks were too busy struggling to get into their cars. Still, you can't fight the good fight all the time. You've got to take time out to breathe, right? See, I've now taken up your entire comments section. I'll stop now.

I wrote all of that to say, "Cool!"

GARAGE said...

Good questions, surfsister!

There were PLENTY of black guys riding custom bikes and building custom cars as far back as machines were being customized. Here at GARAGE magazine, I think it's safe to say that we've done more to bring some color to car culture than almost any other magazine.

Having spent 10 years in Washington, DC (with a year or two in Baltimore), a few of my black friends were not only building cars, but racing them right alongside everyone else.

There was a car club in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC back in the Fifties called the "Speedshifters" that we got back together for a feature story in the magazine – 20 former members of this old club got together for the first time in over 40 years for a backyard bbq in the old 'hood and traded stories and old pictures for a sunny afternoon – it's one of my best experiences of the magazine.

A street racer in late-Sixties San Francisco not only ran an auto parts store, but the store also fronted for a Black Panthers rallying spot and he was, at the same time, friendly with the Hells Angels – only an enterprising black man could pull this off with such style! We found his long-lost street race car and brought him back to the Hunter's Point neighborhood for another reunion – what a great experience that was and Jay Watson was there to document it all.

There's a guy named "Spade George" here in SF who moved here from The Bronx in August of '69. The hippies were heading east and he was heading west with a van full of chopper parts. He's one of the most revered chopper builders in the area and he's got such great stories and style. More to come on him.

My point is, black folks have been involved with car culture as long as any ethnic group and their stories are usually even better than anyone else's! Did you know that a black man built the "Captain America" chopper that Peter Fonda rode in "Easyriders?" Good stuff, right there.

White folks have been trying to learn style from black folks for ages and it wasn't lost on car culture, either. It's not nearly as well known, but that's what we're here for!

This is just a snapshot of what we're involved with, so if you want more info, just slide on over to www.garagemagazine.com and we'll get together on some of this (sorry to hijack the post, Jamie!!).


Jamie Watson said...

Surfsister and Dan, I cannot thank you both enough for such thoughtful comments. I hope a lot of folks get to read this because it's wonderful, educational information. Thank you both again. Jamie

Surfsister said...

Thanks, Dan. I would have been wondering about this for awhile had you not provided that information. Of course, it brings up even more questions for me.

See, what got me wondering about this is I was looking at the pictures and thinking I wouldn't mind if my son became a part of the car culture (tattoos and all). I'm down with that. But then I started thinking that he has no role models for that. Then I started thinking about black folks and how we limit ourselves culturally, thereby denying our kids exposure to a lot of things. In the end, I gave myself a headache.

Perhaps, years from now, someone will look at surf culture and ask the same questions I did about the car culture. I'm hoping there will be someone like you who will be able to point to the numerous black surfers who were a part of surf culture (myself included, of course). Anyway, thanks again to both you and Jaime. I wish we lived closer and could see the show.

jay said...

Nice reply Dan. I know this is a favorite topic. Cool to see a discussion about black culture in the car scene followed after a post about cupcakes.

Surfsister, I'm sure you know about Buttons Kaluhiokalani already. He was half black and half Hawaiian, and he ripped harder in the 70's than some of the current pros. Buttons was profiled well in the film Style Masters, which is available on DVD. He could ride switch stance (on a short board)and change back and forth numerous times on the same wave.

My jaw hit the floor when I saw him in that film.

Surfsister said...

Jay, I didn't surf when I was a kid but I did follow surfing. I remember Buttons and Bertleman because of their afros. I always assumed those brothers were black, just because of those afros!

randy said...

Garage did a fantastic job putting this show together. It was great seeing and talking to people I don't get to see very often. Not to mention all the great people I met for the first time. Hopefully Garage makes this an annual event.

randy said...

I was watching Dog the Bounty Hunter last night. Don't ask. Anyways, you wouldn't believe who they were after. They had to arrest "Buttons" Kaluhiokalani!! I was so bummed that he had to have any contact with the freakshow that is Dog and his crew. Evidently he had a super gnarly heroin problem and was living homeless in a van in Hawaii. I guess the episode was from 2003 or something so hopefully he has cleaned up since then.