Blinded By The Light

I found the world of black light posters in late 1978, when I was in middle school. Every day, after school, we rode our bikes to a friend’s parents’ motel in downtown Reno. Frank’s parents owned one of those cookie cutter motels surrounding the main strip with names like The Pioneer, Thunderbird, and Stardust. We used quarters from a lobby slot machine to play video games at Pizza Hut. While everyone was excited about Centipede and Asteroids, I wanted to go back to the motel where Frank’s older brother lived in the room behind the office. He covered the walls with black light posters, kept the blinds drawn, and lit the room with a black fluorescent lamp and with a lamp with statue surrounded by simulated rain.

My world at home had nothing as remarkable. We had old family photographs in frames, paintings of ships, and models of ships. Boring. When one is fifteen, it is far groovier to have unicorn and Viking posters and a waterbed. Now, Frank’s brother was indeed a pot-head, had dropped out of high school, and spent his days listening to Led Zepplin. He was not particularly motivated. But, he had the coolest room I’d ever seen.

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Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

Last Chance, For Love

Before I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18, my only perception of the city was through television and movies. I imagined the valley to be like the Brady Bunch or Adam 12. The beach communities were a hotbed of swinging singles and fern bars like Three's Company. Hollywood was a place where teenage runaways became prostitutes and got syphilis via Dawn, Portrait of a Teenage Runaway. West Hollywood was incredibly hip and the center of disco and cocaine as in Thank God It's Friday.

If you are old enough to remember drive-in theaters, Thank God It's Friday is a movie that you would see at one. I think I saw it with some older cousins at a drive-in theater on the border of Reno and Sparks. It was a double bill with Corvette Summer. The only parts of the plot I recall is Donna Summer wanting to sing, the dance floor had a giant spherical DJ Booth, and everyone was rather seedy. It all seemed very dangerous and slick.

By the time I was in college, the disco in TGIF was still there, but was a rock and roll venue. There was also a restaurant with a big whale's mouth across the street. Today, I drive through this intersection every morning. Unfortunately, a hideous Loehmann's and bizarre upscale apartment building replaced the Fish Shanty and Oskars disco.

People in New York complain that neighborhoods are too gentrified and sanitized. They miss the urban danger and grit. In Los Angeles, the gentrification has taken away something more precious: glamorous disco glitter, rows of gas guzzling rust colored Cadillacs, lines of people in sequins and parachute pants, and restaurants with hungry whale entrances.

TGIF

slick leather outfit

TGIF title

TGIF poster

 

 

 

The Millionaire's Club (pre-Oskars)

Oskars replacement: Loehmanns

the intersection

New apartment where Fish Shanty was

Fish Shanty

Shakedown 1979

When I was a teenager, the world was a simpler place. There were only four television channels and we all watched the same programs. Today, when I ask if anyone saw the episode of Psychic Kids last night, I get blank stares. This could be due to nobody watching it, or concern over my state of mind. When I was 15, and asked if someone had seen Happy Days last night, an entire room started talking about Fonzie or Richie.

In addition, we had reading material that supported this uniformity. Society was concerned about illiteracy and television, so magazines were developed that we would read. They needed to be entertaining, but not too taxing, like Omni. So they focused on television shows and popular culture. I recall thinking, at the time, that they were pretty vapid and squeaky clean. While Dynamite was promoting Mork and Mindy, the big news in the 9th grade was the story about one couple that had started having sex. As you can see, there was an incongruent reality. Looking back at these magazines now, I’m not surprised by the alarmingly blind content, but at the super groovy colors and mastheads. Dyn-o-mite!

Spray and Pray

On my first day at art school, a student two years ahead told me emphatically, “You need to know how to airbrush.” As freshmen, we used colored pencils and gouache. In the junior level studio, they all used the airbrush. The sound of the spraying and chug of the motor was often interrupted with, “sonofabitch!” I was frequently concerned that my career would never happen because I couldn’t use an airbrush.

For those of you who only know the spray paint can symbol in Photoshop®, an airbrush is a machine that is like a fancy can of spray paint. A compressor runs a stream of air through a nozzle that has paint. To make an image, you mask off the areas you don’t want painted, and smoothly spray. Then you take off that mask and make another one. The airbrush sounds easy. I’m sure you may be thinking, “so what, I can use spray paint.” But it clogs, splatters, your masks pull off other paint, and you shout “sonofabitch!” a lot.

My inability to use the tool only makes my admiration for the masters of airbrush greater. Digital perfection and high-definition may be in vogue today, but I think it’s time to celebrate this great work. It was a southern California art form that screams Venice Beach, roller-skating, Xanadu, Sunset Strip, and palm trees. And even better, the guys who were the airbrush kings, such as Charlie White, were the most laid-back, down-to-earth, and just plain nice people I’ve ever known.