One of the many ideas that avatar and co-founder Gary Warne sprung on his Suicide Club co-conspirators in the late 70’s was a scheme to commandeer two massive freeway billboards and to bend the ominous message to the confederated will of the Club. The Suicide Club evolved out of Communiversity, a free school at SF State in the 1970’s that was part of the free school movement of the 1960’s. Pranks and adventures were reflected in many of the classes offered. The Suicide Club first appeared in print and the world as a “class” in Communiversity in 1977. This first billboard alteration was the inspiration for the founding of the Billboard Liberation Front a few months later. The BLF was to go on altering or “improving” the copy and images on giant drive-by advertising for thirty-four years, predating and presumably influencing later work by Shepard Fairey, Ron English, and other midnight advertisers. The BLF grew concurrently with the Cacophony Society and had members that crossed over the entire San Francisco underground arts scene. Suicide Club stalwart Dan Spero made several audio interviews with Gary back in the early 1980’s before Gary’s tragic and untimely death at the age of thirty-five. The audio file below is Gary’s story of the first billboard hit, an event that spawned or encouraged a thousand advertising hacks to come over the next three decades. Chuck Palahniuks novel Fight Club (and the David Fincher movie) include a billboard hack inspired by Cacophony and the BLF.
Hearing Gary’s voice decades after his passing is quite a treat for me and for anyone else who knew this visionary prankster.
My good pal and roomie, “Big Daddy” Tim Anderson made a very cool, very short film a while back. There are 2 stars. My old 2000 Ford Crown-Vic Police Interceptor is one. This was my favorite car ever. I got it for $4.4K from the best used vehicle dealer in the extended Bay Area, Steve Smith of Smith Trucks Montara Beach 650-728-2800. Call Steve and his partner/wife Anna if you need a really good car for a fair price. Hazel Motes in John Huston’s great film interpretation of the happy/huggy stories of Flannery Connor, Wise Blood, said sagely and prophetically: “No man with a good car needs to be justified!” These are words that I live by.
I sold it recently to my dear friends Mark and Rose and bought a newer model, a 2009 from Steve. The new CVPI is great and I love it, but it’s not quite as sweet as the 2000 – it’s lighter, and some of the appointments are not as cool. Oh well, it’s much newer and has less mileage. The old one has a lotta meat left on it and my friends are really enjoying the ride and all the perks of driving a CVPI: 1) people get out of your way 2) some law enforcement types will “let it ride” when you go by if you’re speeding a bit – could be a fellow professional 3) great cornering due to the beefed up suspension & posi-traction 4) super safe in collisions 5) awesome acceleration 6) Did I mention that people in other cars get out of your way?
At any rate, check out this link to the Youtube video that Big Daddy immortalized my old ride in: