WINE & BOWTIES PRESENTS: COCAINE COWBOYS

WINE & BOWTIES PRESENTS: COCAINE COWBOYS

This Thursday, we're back at Oakland Surf Club to screen a cult classic

Cocaine Cowboys

Though we’re just getting rolling with the film screenings, I feel like we have a pretty good idea of where we want to take it. In my humble, the best documentaries are the ones that stretch out your imagination, that in a sense, make your world a little more expansive. The first time I saw Billy Corben’s Cocaine Cowboys–undoubtedly smoked out on Max’s couch in Culver City–my sense of possibility in the universe got just slightly wider. I understood, for example, how damn near an entire U.S. metro area could be built on drug traffic. I even had a vague idea of what it might be like to smuggle a few hundred kilos into the port of Miami in a speedboat. This wasn’t Johnny Depp in Blow. This was a set of events that actually happened. And for that reason alone, it was pretty powerful.

In the seven years since its release, Cocaine Cowboys has earned the title of cult classic for it’s gritty, unrelenting portrait of the rise of cocaine in America during the late ’70s and early ’80s. Centered on Miami, Cowboys pairs archival footage with in-person interviews–with traffickers, users and enforcers alike–exploring a massive shift in culture through the eyes of those who were there to witness it firsthand. From the glitzy days of disco to the devastating wave of violence that rocked Miami in the early ’80s, Cocaine Cowboys builds its narrative arc in unflinching detail, putting an era in perspective for those of us born a little further down the road.

This Thursday, we’ll be bringing Cocaine Cowboys to Oakland Surf Club for an intimate screening. In the months to come, along with new, rarely seen films, we’ll be screening older favorites like Cowboys, in an effort to celebrate film and bring folks together. For Thursday, grab some beers, tell a friend, and come through. Should be a good time. Oh, and peep the trailer after the MORE.

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A TRIBUTE TO T-MAC

A TRIBUTE TO T-MAC

While debates rage about Tracy McGrady's legacy, we look back on the good times

Tracy McGrady

Anybody who was playing NBA Live much around ’03 or ’04 should know that T-Mac during that era could very well have been the most devastating player in video game history. I used to go stupid with him on the Rockets. He was, after all, going stupid on the league in real life, and he boasted one of the most insane inside-outside games, and general skill sets anybody’s ever seen. Raining 3’s, off-the-glass bashouts, sneaky dimes–he was electrifying to watch, even with the half-lazy eye, and even without the Kobe-esque competitive fire.

Look, I don’t wanna do this as a cautionary tale. There’s no moral of the story here, and it’s not a “what could’ve been” lament. Besides, Bill Simmons already did that excellently, and thoroughly, the way only Bill Simmons does. For good measure, that piece even includes a positively tragic player-by-player recap of Tracy’s perenially fucked up supporting casts, a critique of his unleaderly demeanor, and a wistful meditation on what might’ve been, had he been able to get cozy in his cousin Vince’s shadow. Fortunately though, in that extensive retrospective, Simmons also identifies the seven-year peak of T-Mac’s career as one of the most phenomenal runs of its kind. And it was. 32-a-game-at-23-years-old phenomenal. 22 straight W’s in ’08 phenomenal. I remember running back the 13 in 35 seconds footage a dozen times in a row, because, well, there wasn’t any other option. YouTube must’ve been brand new, and I’m certain I spent my whole lunch in the computer lab that afternoon.

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WINE & BOWTIES PRESENTS THE SOURCE FAMILY

WINE & BOWTIES PRESENTS THE SOURCE FAMILY

This Saturday, we'll be holding our first film screening at Oakland Surf Club

The story of Father Yod and The Source Family is one that’s captured Max and my imagination for a long time now. In fact, it’s hard to find a piece of it that doesn’t read as mythical: the occult cosmology, the Godlike father figure, drugs and polygamy, the psychedelic family band…the list goes on. It was the kind of romantic ’70s L.A. saga where an eventual movie option seemed almost inevitable. Thankfully, directors Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille were able to mine the Family archives to produce just that film, The Source Family. Joining forces with family historian and archivist Isis Aquarian (also one of Father Yod’s thirteeen wives), Maria and Jodi weave together archival footage, photography and music, with personal interviews with family members, to create a robust, thoughtful portrait of the ’70s grooviest spiritual commune.

Back in May, we had the opportunity to talk with Isis about her experiences in the Family, and now we’re getting yet another chance to share the Source Family story with you. This Saturday, at 7:00, we’ll be co-presenting The Source Family documentary along with Oakland Surf Club, at their gorgeous retail space and gallery at 337 14th Street in Downtown Oakland. Doors will open at 7, with the screening following at 7:30. For the record though, capacity is very limited, so if you’re interested in checking it out, shoot us an email at rsvp@wineandbowties.com, and we’ll let you know about availability. You can learn more about the Family here and the movie here, and we’ll hope to see you in there. Peep the trailer below.

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REMEMBERING DARONDO

REMEMBERING DARONDO

The legend of Oakland's mythical soul man lives on

Darondo

There was something in the lead-in to this new Dr. J doc on NBA TV about the concept of a legend–this notion about legends as a dying breed, about oral-traditional lore dissapearing in the wake of the interweb-tabloid-hype cycle. And the story was a great one: of the doctor drawing crowds of kids to the rooftops surrounding Rucker Park, of kids in the ’70s overhearing dunk stories of mythical proportions, but rarely catching a glimpse of the seldom-televised phenom in his pre-NBA days. Darondo though, was a legend in a different mould altogether.

Excavating a singular specimen like “Didn’t I” has got to be a vinyl fiend’s dream. And when the folks at Ubiquity Records reached back into the early ’70s to unearth the myth of Darondo, they must have had a hundred different questions. Why hadn’t these records–slathered with luxurious, dusty charm, and draped in that Al Green, Syl Johnson sweet falsetto–already been etched, permanently, into soul music’s collective history? How and why was a fledgling soul singer who had never sold more than 35,000 records rolling around Oakland in a Rolls-Royce and a fucking mink coat? Who was this dude?


Download: Darondo – “Didn’t I”

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LOVERS & FRIENDS

LOVERS & FRIENDS

The Fairoaks Project paints an unforgettable portrait of San Francisco's storied gay bath house scene

The Fairoaks Project

Part of me feels like they can tell us, but we’ll never quite understand. Maybe you just had to be there. As much as I’ve been told, and as much as the ’60s and ’70s have served as a boundless reservoir of inspiration for me, there’s still something elusive about it all. The sense of freedom, and exploration, and radical imagination that defined those decades is something our generation, and others, have tried to recapture, but could never really duplicate. There’s something about a photograph though–whether taken for artistic or documentary purposes, or just as a memento of a moment someone wanted to hold onto–that can communicate a feeling instantly, across decades.

I’d imagine Gary Freeman felt that pretty powerfully when his longtime friend Frank Melleno pulled down a dusty cardboard shoebox, and started to thumb through the treasure trove of Polaroids that would become The Fairoaks Project. In 1978, Frank, fresh off an adventure in Alaska, had found a gig as the night manager at The Fairoaks Baths in San Francisco. Owned and operated by a gay commune, The Fairoaks was known in the late ’70s as a hub for sexual liberation and experimentation, but also close-knit community. Unlike most gay bath houses at the time, also, The Fairoaks was situated on the edge of a largely black neighborhood, and welcomed a steady influx of young gay men who reflected back the city’s rich diversity. It was a place to stay, to find support, to find friends and to indulge. Openness, unabashed sexuality, interracial love, friendship, fucking and LSD: it would be hard to imagine another place so broadly embelematic of the progressive ideals that defined San Francisco during the ’70s. Fortunately, Frank found himself at the center of it all, with a Polaroid camera in hand.

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“I WANT MY MTV!”

“I WANT MY MTV!”

How a single ad campaign launched music television to cultural ubiquity

I Want My MTV

I can still remember, pretty vividly, what it was like to sneak in some MTV time when my folks weren’t paying attention. On the days when my nine year-old self was feeling particularly precocious and edgy, they might have even been in the same room with me. But the risk was all worth it–for a half-naked Fiona Apple crawling around on the ground, or Puff and Busta screaming from the rooftops of burning buildings. Or for Beavis and Butthead dick jokes and Daria deadpan that I dug even though they went well over my head. Or even for the exaggerated glimpse into the lifestyle of a twenty-something trainwreck that was The Real World. To my mind, this was the golden era of MTV, or at least the tail end of it. And as a kid, it was fucking thrilling to take in.

At this point, I’d say I’m safely outside of MTV’s target demo. I’m not sixteen or pregnant. I’m twenty-four and bitingly cynical about my media intake, thanks in no small part to what many of us construed as a betrayal on the part of MTV during our teenage years. I also enjoy music. But I think I may have finally graduated out of my bitterness toward MTV; brand identities change, bottom lines matter, and I have the internet, so I can pretty much access whatever the fuck music I feel like, whenever. Not to mention, there’s still a soft spot in my heart for the house that Tom Freston built; during his tenure, MTV introduced its captive audience to everything from Mike Judge to Yo! MTV Raps, from Spike Jonze to Marshall Mathers. And for that, I’m honestly thankful.

Way back when though, before those glory days, MTV was still a fledgling media outlet, struggling to find a niche in the early ’80s media landscape. The music video, proper, was still a relatively new phenomenon, and naturally cable companies were skeptical of carrying a network almost solely dedicated to the format. Over its first year on the air, MTV struggled to win over advertising clients and record labels alike–a shortage of quality content and shitty ratings threatened to crush MTV before it could even get off the ground. With their backs to the wall, MTV execs made a power move, calling on the most legendary name in advertising. Soon after George Lois delivered a pitch for a campaign that would set Music Televison on the path to cultural ubiquity. The slogan couldn’t have been simpler: “I Want My MTV!”

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STING LIKE A BEE

STING LIKE A BEE

Post-Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali affirms his greatness

Muhammad Ali Rumble in the Jungle

Excerpt from I Am King: A Photographic Biography of Muhammad Ali:

Immediately after knocking out George Foreman, the ‘Heavyweight Champion of the Whole Planet Earth’ speaks…

“I kept telling him he has no power, I kept telling him he don’t hit hard, and guess what he did in the end? He started fighting dirty. But I’m smart, I’m a pro see? I was good wasn’t I? I was talking to him throughout the fight too. Ain’t I the greatest of all time?

I proved that Allah is God, Elijah is his messenger. I have faith in him that regardless of the world and the pressure, I made it an easy fight, because Allah has power over all things. If you believe in him, even George Foreman gonna look like a baby. It wasn’t a close fight was it?

Let everybody stop talking now – Attention! I told you, all my critics, I told you all that I was the greatest of all time when I beat Sonny Liston. I’m still the greatest of all time. Never again say that I’m going to be defeated. Never again make me the underdog. Until I’m about 50, then you might get me.”

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FAR FUCKIN’ OUT

FAR FUCKIN’ OUT

Isis Aquarius remembers her days inside the early 70's spiritual commune known as The Source Family

The year was 1970. The chaos, freedom, turmoil and liberation of the ‘60s had yet to subside, seeping into a new decade that had yet to be defined. In the midst of war abroad and the struggle for civil rights at home, American society was in flux, with many left searching for answers.

Out of this landscape, The Source Family was born. Founded on a synthesis of spiritual beliefs and ancient religions, the Family was the brainchild of one man; his name was Jim Baker. A World War II veteran, turned martial arts expert, turned restaurant entrepreneur, Jim Baker the man was both famous and infamous. After being acquitted of murder for killing a man with his bare hands after an altercation with a neighbor turned physical, the onetime bodybuilding champion turned to health food, establishing one of Los Angeles’ premier organic, vegetarian dining destinations in the form of The Source Family Restaurant. From the health-conscious ethos that characterized Baker’s eatery, The Source Family was spawned.

Embarking upon a spiritual quest that consumed him for years, Jim Baker immersed himself in the metaphysical world, studying the teachings of any and every known Western and Eastern tradition, secret society, or metaphysical source he could find. After numerous encounters with the known spiritual leader Yogi Bhajan, Jim Baker found a new pursuit that would not only consume him, but transform him forever, into what many considered to be a spiritually enlightened being in human form. Following this transformation, Jim Baker was no more, and in his place was Father Yod. Birthing The Source Family soon after his transformation, he would go on to create his own self-sustaining commune; wholly spiritual, unwaveringly loving, and unimaginably wealthy.

The Source Family grew quickly, attracting those searching for answers while garnering widespread acclaim for their forward thinking restaurant and idiosyncratic leader. One woman at the center of the family was Charlene Peters, better known as Isis Aquarius, who served as the family’s chief historian and archivist. Collecting numerous artifacts from the family’s archives, she remains one of the prevailing individuals still preserving The Source Family’s legacy. As one of Father Yod’s 13 wives, she was intimate with the leader, digesting much of his guidance and teachings. On the heels of the release of The Source Family’s feature length documentary, we spoke with Isis about her experience in the family, shedding light on one of the ’70s most legendary spiritual communes.

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HUNTING HONEY

HUNTING HONEY

Eric Valli travels to Nepal to capture honey hunters 15,000 feet into the air

Eric Valli Honey Hunters
Photography by Eric Valli

In 1987, French photographer and cultural documentarian Eric Valli traveled to the cliffs of the Himalayas to capture the Himalayan Gurung men’s harrowing journey to gather honey. Nestled high up in the foothills of this mountain locale lies the habitat of the rarified Himalayan honey bee, the world’s largest bee, and the producer of Asia’s most highly sought-after honey. Building their nests anywhere from 8,200 to 15,000 feet into the air, each nest can contain as much as 130 pounds of honey, with different types available at varying altitudes.

Making use of rope ladders and baskets, the men climb into the cliffs to gather honey that sells for five times the amount of other honeys throughout Asia. The hunters then secure ladders at the top of the cliff, before dropping down ropes to a lower base where a fire is lit to smoke the bees out of their nests. Once deserted, the hunters descend upon the nests, cutting away the honeycomb in chunks. Capturing a time-honored tradition in Nepal, Eric’s photographs offer a fascinating glimpse of a practice that’s supported Nepalese communities for generations.

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MOMENTS FROM A DANGEROUSLY CURIOUS EYE

MOMENTS FROM A DANGEROUSLY CURIOUS EYE

A brief collection of images from our first exhibition at Oakland Art Murmur

This past Friday was a special one. A stepping stone for us in our journey and a moment to remember for a number of reasons. If you’ve stepped inside a Wine & Bowties party before, with the exception of two, the intention more times than not has been to throw bangers. Complete, utter, unadulterated bangers. But this one was different. It wasn’t “crackin,” and it wasn’t going ham, per se. It was just settled, and it felt right. Somehow we brought the grown ups out, and also the kids, making myself, Will and some other 20-somethings the middle children within this eclectic night. It was kinda beautiful.

Many a thank you to go around for this event. First and foremost to Barry’s family for allowing us to share Barry’s work with a new audience. And also much love to the Scrivani family for providing us the space to hold our first art exhibition in Oakland, and the wisdom to help us do it right. To our friends and family who attended the opening, thank you for being a part of such a unique night. In the years to come we’ll look back and understand the significance of it all, but for now, let’s enjoy the moments that Barry captured in his time. A Dangerously Curious Eye runs from now until March 30th, and you can join us for the artist talk this Saturday from 4pm to 6pm at Warehouse 416.

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A DANGEROUSLY CURIOUS EYE

A DANGEROUSLY CURIOUS EYE

The story behind Barry Shapiro's iconic portrait of the edge of San Francisco

Barry Shapiro
Photography By Barry Shapiro

When I first cracked open the cover of Barry Shapiro’s A Dangerously Curious Eye, I was floored. I had been told, in brief, what to expect–essentially an extensive collection of black and whites, shot in Hunter’s Point and other San Francisco neighborhoods during the turbulent 1970’s and early ’80s. Had that been all I found, it still would have been entirely worth the read. But what I did in fact find, was something more than just photojournalism–something much more resonant, much more powerful. This was indeed a portrait of a community in all its complexity–sometimes Barry’s lens reflects heartbreaking poverty and sadness, other times, pride and exuberance. There were nudes and neighborhood scenes, kids playing and drunks boozing, and running through each shot, a sense that Barry had captured a moment unlike any other.

Here in this collection, alongside its value as historical document, we get a genuine sense of Barry’s personality, and his deep fascination with the edge. Before and after the decade he spent exploring one of San Francisco’s poorest and most marginalized neighborhoods, his work reflected a passion for telling stories that might not otherwise reach the surface. More than anything though, this collection captures his instinctive talent for identifying and preserving the moment. From the candor of those Hunter’s Point portraits to the momentary, drive-by glimpses afforded by his Through the Window series, there’s an almost preternatural sense of serendipity surrounding these images. Naturally, the story of how these images found their way to us, the audience, is a serendipitous one indeed. Read on to learn more about A Dangerously Curious Eye.

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