CrowdSourcing Experiment: Please Help me Identify a 1970s Western


Hey, so I got this idea from a Tumblr post by actor James Urbaniak from some months back. Basically, someone sent an email around asking for help identifying an obscure movie they had seen when they were a kid. The poor person had tried Amazon, cult film fan sites, and even the guy who ran the famous L.A. video store, Jerry’s Video, with no luck. Well, Urbaniak posted it and within minutes someone identified the film: Psychomania.

I have a similar dilemma. Some time in the mid-1970s (I would say 1976 or 1977), I saw a Western movie that left an impression on me. One character I distinctly remember is a young gunslinger everyone called "the Punk." He had a bad attitude and even shot a few guys during the film. I remember a scene where the streets of a town were inundated with mud, the only reprieve being a series of shoddy wooden "sidewalks."

What makes this dilemma tougher is that I saw the film in San Diego in a revival house that sometimes showed first-run films but mostly older movies. So the film could’ve been from anytime in the previous five or ten years. (It was in color and had a very distinct, post-Watergate, Vietnam-era vibe to it, though…)

Like the other memory-impaired film buff, I’ve had no luck tracking down what movie this was. For a while I thought it was Robert Altman’s 1971 anti-Western, McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Some of the scenes seemed familiar, and there’s a young outlaw called the Kid in it. But I saw the film again recently, and it doesn’t feel to me like it was the movie I’m thinking of. On the other hand, I’m quite to prepared to be told I imagined the whole thing. After all, I was only about ten years old at the time.

Anyway, I thought if I put it out there, maybe someone on the interwebs will know the film and identify it for me.


Jerome Avenue in the Bronx


On Saturday, Sari, Phoebe, and I were up on the grounds of Bronx Community College, checking out the Kids Comic Con. Afterwards, it being a beautiful day and Phoebe needing a stroller nap, we walked down Jerome Avenue and River Avenue all the way to Yankee Stadium, before we got back on the subway for home. Not a terribly scenic walk, unless you’re really into auto-body shops (at one point we crossed over the Cross-Bronx Expressway), but certain elements of the walk really brought be back to my childhood.

When I was a kid I lived in California, but I would spend a month each summer visiting my dad in New York. He lived in Manhattan then, in the far West Village, and I fondly remember those days walking around the streets of late 1970s New York. That was when a "normal" person could actually afford to live in Manhattan. Apparently, things haven’t changed all that much in that part of the Bronx. It was a riot of color and activity: restaurants and shops of all colors and varieties, and people and families out and about.

Hot sidewalks, the shade of the elevated train, music blaring from an apartment window, fried food, discount stores, outdoor vendors, graffiti, illegal posters (remember "Post No Bills"?): it was wonderful. So much stimulus, the sense of intersecting so many other lives. Sure, like late ’70s New York, the streets were dirty and maybe they weren’t the best place to hang out at night, but so what? There was life, and bustle — and no freakin’ chain stores!

Tiny Art Director


I was just alerted to the funniest site I have seen in a long time: Tiny Art Director. (Am I really late in learning about this work of brilliance?) Basically illustrator Bill Zeman posts "commissions" he has done for his now four-year-old daughter, along with her comments and whether the "commissions" were approved or rejected. Art directors out there, please do not be offended, if I mention that her "critiques" are not so different than the typical comment from a "professional" AD. (Plus, Zeman’s art is really whimsical and funny.)

VWs, CHiPs, and California Paranoia


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI was reading a review of the new CHiPs DVD in The Times the other day and came across this observation, “In nearly every episode of the first season of ‘CHiPs’ a Volkswagen Beetle the color of a blood orange putters somewhere in the background, riding down the highway or parked at an illicit auto chop shop.” Suddenly, I had this flashback to fifth grade in San Diego. All during that year I kept seeing the same “flower power” VW bus (similar model to the right), whether it was driving by when I came out of school, or going the other way on the highway, or parked nearby when I went out to dinner with my mom. I just couldn’t shake it.

Growing up as pretty much the only Jewish kid I knew in SoCal, and never having watched any Woody Allen movies, I still had a finally developed sense of paranoia: I was sure that bus was following me! Maybe it was residual guilt I felt from my minor shoplifting career at Safeway (comic book digests, the ocassional Hotwheels car or toy motorcycle, and candy), but I definitely thought the brightly colored hippie bus was after me. It didn’t help that I never saw the driver, or that my friends or my mom didn’t take my fears seriously. But I was never really scared of the bus. I mean, what could someone driving a car as goofy as that do to a little kid? I think I just liked the idea that someone out there thought I was important enough to keep me under surveilance. And when I moved to San Francisco the next year, I never saw that bus again.

But what was the deal with that red VW Bug from CHiPs?