1 – HEAD TRIP PUBLIC SCREENING (June 21st North Beach SF)
2 – ONLINE MOVIE RELEASE (late June 2023)
3 – DOGS IN GG PARK (October 2022 – September 2023) (new audio art QRS codes on Dogs in GG Park in June!)
here is the Telegraph Hill Dwellers press release:
HEAD TRIP PUBLIC SCREENING:
SAVOY TIVLOI 1434 GRANT AVE SF
WEDNESDAY JUNE 21ST 7PM
Head Trip is a full length documentary film featuring the Doggie Diner Dogheads on a cross country trip to New York City during “Shock and Awe” 2003. The idea was to spread good cheer cross-country during a tough time. As you will see in the film there was some success. The tour and film were made in collusion with San Francisco’s own punk rock bicycle club Cyclecide with support from Laughing Squid & Christina Harbridge.
Please watch this short trailer for the movie to be found in this wonderful article on the cross country road trip that inspired to movie: https://laughingsquid.com/head-trip-a-doggie-diner-dog-head-cross-country-documentary/We will be re-premiering the full film at Savoy Tivoli on Grant Street in North Beach on Wednesday, June 21st as part of the premier event Films With Friends. Look for the lone 10 foot tall Doggie Diner Head parked out front. The film is a part of a new series sponsored by THOSE GUYS PRESENTS. Brainchild of noted prankster/cineaste/film collector Rob Schmitt, this exciting new series will be taking place in various locations in the BEST NEIGHBORHOOD IN SAN FRANCISCO, NORTH BEACH monthly through the Summer/Fall. more information to come.
ONLINE MOVIE RELEASE:
The film was recently spruced up by Suicide Club/Cacophony and Burning Man stalwart filmmaker/composer Steve Mobia using the original mini-dv tape and it looks better than ever! Head Trip has never lived on line ever with the exception of a short trailer on Youtube and various news articles about the road trip and film premier in 2008. Head Trip will be released on SF Cacophony Society Youtube page sometime to be announced after the June 21st public screening.
DOGS IN GG PARK:
SOME MORE DOG INFO (STUFF ABOUT HEAD TRIP, the movie) :
Starting back in 2003 my friend Flecher Fleurdujon & I made a feature movie about a journey spanning the breadth of America accompanied by three 10 foot tall 300lb chef’s hat & bowtie adorned dachshund heads and a crew of punk rock bicycle clowns called Cyclecide Bike Rodeo. Completed in 2009, the movie was in a couple of film festivals, played at The Roxie in SF for a week & at two showing of almost 500 folks at Rythmix Cultural Works in Alameda CA. The movie played a few more times, but that was it. It has never been online in all the intervening years.
Well before we embarked on our road trip/movie shoot, the giant grinning heads had been the official mascots of The Cacophony Society and The First Church of the Last Laugh. They were recognized all about the SF Bay Area from their tenure as totemic representatives of a local fast food franchise and our contribution to the Doggie Diner legacy was to deconstructed the former commercial icons and facilitate their “re-christening” as disembodied former commercial icons. By the time we started our film project, we had been hauling the three fiberglas objects all around to various non-commercial, often non-profit, nonsensical events as well as City events and parades of various stripes for years.
I met Flecher Fleurdujon when he was 7 or 8 years old back in 1977. Over the succeeding years Flech evolved into an accomplished musician, band leader and videographer. Loving fruitful collaborative work as I do, I had imagined a project where I could work with my friend. “Flech” was the son of my Suicide Club friend Mary Grauberger. I lived a few blocks from Mary with my roommate (another Mary) Mary Friedman and her kids Ben and Nellie. Flech was the same age, and the three of them were in the Suicide Club as the kid contingent. These three and a few other youngsters routinely accompanied their elders into sewers, abandoned factories and the occasional embarrassing foray into “street theater”. Flech was a great kid filled with energy and creativity.
Some years earlier Mary had inspired two stoner friends with a yearly solstice beach art event she organized starting in the late 70’s where she invited her hippie friends to meet her at Baker Beach, bringing musical instruments, food & art. Oh, she encouraged her peeps to burn some of the art. These two fellows went on to start the first Burning Man also at Baker Beach in 1986
During the early Suicide Club adventures, I carried an eight year old Flech on my back into some pretty sketch environments… 12 years or so later, Flech was my assistant at the second Desert Site Works event at Trego Springs on the Black Rock Desert. Already established as operations guy for the ever growing desert bacchanal, my duties at the annual Burning Man event included transportation, set up & clean up. For the liminal Desert Site Works I assumed the same responsibilities . For the preliminary set up, I desperately needed a helper and asked Mary G if I could conscript Flech.
He and I loaded a 24′ Ryder box truck with a ton of stuff. drove to the proverbial middle of nowhere and dumped all the stuff into a pile next to Trego spring. I had many errands to run and left 17 year old Flech to hold down the site, handing him a Remington Wingmaster Pump action 12ga. shotgun “just in case”.
Ten years later I was sitting in $teven Ra$pa’s lovely apartment on Rincon Hill along with Scott Beale, Helena “Noona” Sullivan, and a half dozen other local event folks and we were planning a Laughing Squid hosted and underwritten NYC event to take place at CBGB’s 313 Art Gallery (affiliated with & next door to the infamous punk club) that would showcase a roster of our SF and NYC underground performers and characters. The session was lively and productive. Then, out of the blue, Noona shouted: “HEY! John! we HAVE TO BRING THE DOGS!!” – like that was a good idea… I literally cringed and shrunk back in my comfy chair, shouting loudly and to the derisive laughter of my associates: “no, No, NO, NO!!!” because I KNEW just how much really dirty heavy work, planning and $ that such a feat would require……. To make a long story short, we made it happen and you can see the results in our movie Head Trip…
I hope that you enjoy the feature movie that Flecher and I made with the help of a cast and crew of hundreds, showcasing The Doggie Diner Dog Heads as they traversed the great American continent to New York City falling into many improbable and serentypical adventures along the way
Thanks to Scott Beale and Laughing Squid for helping produce the original cross country trip the movie is based upon and later help producing and exhibiting the movie on screens in California, NYC & Florida in 2009 & 2010. Thanks to my ex-wife Christina Harbridge for her support during the making of the movie and special thanks also to Cyclecide Bike Rodeo for wrangling the whole shebang and all the heavy lifting…
Kodak Corporation launched a magazine called Kodachrome last year, published in London. In the third issue there are two features that I am presenting here on my blog. The first feature is an article on William Binzen and his protean project Desert Site Works, an event built with the help of Judy West, artists from Project Artaud with major support from The Cacophony Society.
I was a collaborator on this project and in addition to making several large scale site specific neon art installations as part of the overall large scale installation tableaus, I was the operations and transport manager for these ambitious desert art events.
The entire article from Issue #3 of Kodachrome Magazine Sept 2017 on William and DSW can be seen in the pdf images at the bottom of this article. I have written more extensively about Desert Site Works HERE.
There is another article in the same issue that covers three neon pioneers from different parts of the world. The three are: David Hill and his Warsaw Poland Neon Museum (the largest in Europe), Aric Chen who is the go-to guy in Hong Kong for neon in HK movies and for pretty much anything else, and the third neon dude is lil Ol me here in San Francisco. This April, I was asked to moderate the first ever countrywide neon symposium, hosted by the Tenderloin Museum in San Francisco. Hosted by the dynamic duo of illumination, Randal Ann Holman & Al Barna, this was a wonderful meeting of neon professionals, writers, historians, artists and neon fans and fanatics from across the USA. My history with neon and electrical signage began when I worked as a permit and survey technician for Ad-Art Sign Company in the early 80’s and more importantly when I became a sign hanger/service man for Federal Signal Corporation subsidiary Federal Sign Company Ad-Art & American Neon Sign Co. a couple of years later. Before my first hire in the electrical sign industry, I worked in signs as a teenager and worked for commercial sign companies (non-electrical signs) from 1979 on.
I realized a while back that over my 34 year association with the “noble gas” I actually had done a lot of pretty weird things with neon. My friend Natalia Mount, Director of Pro-Arts Gallery in Oakland pointed this out to me while convincing me I should do a show with her curating at Pro-Arts. Coming from the Suicide Club, Cacophony and a solid trade work (electrical signs) background, I never really considered myself an artist. I can’t paint. I have never been able to draw anything even remotely recognizable as a human figure or a landscape. I guess it is all really how one defines things.
One of the first neon art projects I began was lighting the Burning Man figure.
The first year in the Black Rock Desert (August –
September 1990) I place a half circle of white neon at the base of the figure uplighting it and I mounted two incandescent spots on the figures thighs pointing up to illuminate the torso and head. The following year in 1991 I gave the figure a neon skeleton for the first time, placing the neon units inside the figures skeleton. The next year, 1992 was the first time the neon was mounted on the front of the entire figure. Original Suicide Club member Louis Brill was the first journalist to write about the Burning Man’s illumination for Signs of the Times magazine in 1992.
Most of my creative life, from age 18 when I joined the proto-urbex, pranks and social experimentation cabal, The Suicide Club, until not that long ago, I never thought of what we were doing as art. The Suicide Club was not an “art” group. Nor was the later Cacophony Society despite the fact that both featured some members that certainly were artists. My mentor, visionary founder of The Suicide Club Gary Warne would have bridled had anyone accused him of perpetrating art, and I, his youthful protege adopted his antipathy for that particular designation. There was a reason for this stance. What we were doing in that early group was intended to be life – the real thing, not some symbol or simulacrum of actual human intercourse or real life.
The people I admire most are artists. They obsess over their work; in many cases they give up convention, comfort and security to pursue it. Artists are by far the hardest workers I know. I can speak on this matter with some authority for I have led a dual life of sorts. In addition to my underground pranksters life, I have been a journeyman tradesmen for decades now. Trade work can be very hard physically. It can grind a fellow or a gal down and many of these workers put in their grueling 8-16 hour days and simply collapse with a drink or three when the work day is done. So many artists have the day job AND THEN they work as long or longer on their own art. Try to do both for a year or so – not so easy. I was (and remain for the time being) an electrical sign hanger, designer and service man. For this kind of career you must be conversant with several areas of craft and trade work: rigging and crane work, electrical circuits, basic construction and field installation, metal work and plastic, with some finish woodworking skills as well. That’s how I have paid my bills.
Much of the work is tedious and punishing physically: climbing ladders, drilling holes in concrete. granite, wood facades, crawling through attics pulling wire, digging holes for sign footings, hanging on ropes and swing stages, wiring electrical fixtures, painting, welding and wrenching on signs while 100 feet up in a crane bucket. Some few jobs are quite fabulous though – the high neon displays that everyone knows because they loom (sometimes) majestically above the dense frenetic cityscape.
I have worked on many if not most of these displays in the Bay Area. The three I still service today are the Port of San Francisco sign atop the Ferry Building, The Hills Bros Coffee sign at the Bay Bridge & Embarcadero, SF and my office building, The Tribune Tower in Oakland. Each of these three are historic relics of a more serious and grounded era. They are huge classic neon displays from a world that took such things seriously and created these altars to commerce and progress that somehow over time have come to transcend their base commercial purpose. Some signs actually resonate powerfully with many citizens as part of the mental and cultural landscape. As an example, Hill Bros has not been a coffee plant for decades, yet the sign is so iconic that the various banks and real estate concerns that have owned the building it adorns have been compelled by public interest (and marketing schemes) to retain the now non-commercial sign. I am very fortunate to be connected to these fabulous monuments.
In more recent years, I have had little choice but to accept the appellation and baggage that goes along with being called an “artist.” Our culture seems to demand that concession – the agreement that you somehow fit into an acceptable box so that you are “understood”.
I still can’t draw, paint or sculpt clay or stone, but in my defense, I have made a bunch of things over the years including singular neon pieces, both wall or standing pieces as well as large scale outdoor “environmental” and “site specific” sculpture.
I have produced photographs that took some trouble and thought to compose. I’ve written 3 books, 2 published. I’ve conceived, created, and led many, many “events” and collaborated on making hundreds more, that others might mistake for being “art”. Journalists, some of my friends, other artists and the random passer by have mistaken me for being an artist for many years now. So I give up and give in. Part of the process of aging is shedding stuff and consolidating what is left. So I’ll settle for being an artist.