The Suicide Club was the organization that Cacophony morphed out of some years after the Clubs demise in 1982. Begun in February 1977 and growing out of former S.F. State University “free school” Communiversity (that went rouge breaking free of institutional restrictions and forming a non-profit school) Communiversity birthed the Suicide Club as a “class” in it’s Winter 1977 calendar of free classes. The Suicide Club became known for bridge climbing and other urban infra-structure exploration, Infiltrating cults like the Moonies, street theater (naked cable car stunt, etc.) and live action games on city streets among other types of events.
SantaCon started in San Francisco in 1994 when Santa Chad Mulligan
listed the event in ROUGH DRAFT. Santa M2 & Santa Melmoth assisted.
The US mail delivered Cacophony Newsletter ended up with the oddly appropriate title “Rough Draft” when no one could think of a name for it. Rough Draft excited Cacophony Society members mail boxes (metal or wood containers in front of your house/apartment that wo(men) in uniforms used to deliver paper documents to) from August 1987 til 2001 when the internet made such arcane communication (sadly) unnecessary.
This show is not a retrospective, rather a small selection by Steven of two memorable BLF “Improvements” with beautiful photos by A. Leo Nash and Nicole Rosenthal. We’ll be sharing the gallery with Anthony Discenza, Jacqueline Gordon, Victor Moscoso and psychedelic poster artist Robert Fried. The opening is this Saturday the 12th of July, 2014. I won’t be there – I’m off on a UE trip to the Midwest. Other BLF Ops may be in attendance. Steven is planning a closing party for August 16th which I will be attending – I’ll be missing Lynyrd Skynyrd to be at this closing party, a sacrifice I had to make, so I hope you will drop what you’re doing and stop on by too.
The BLF finally retired a few years ago after a 35 year run. It had been a lot of fun, but the thrill was gone. Addressing later generations in a book foreword, Shepard Fairey said (to paraphrase a bit): “Check out the BLF, they’ve been hacking billboards since before you were born!” And that was years ago.
Then, a few years later, I was inadvertently outed by my pal, rocker Anton Newcomb and, unlike Banksy, no one seemed to notice or much care. Ow! Then I outed long time copywriting partner and retired BLF propagandist Stuart Mangrum “_____ DeCoverly”. Bruised egos crave company…. Well, I had to remind myself, it was a heckadventure and, after any number of close calls, we remained unscathed, un-injured (35 years and not one single work place accident!) and with the exception of the initialSuicide Club improvement in 1977, un-captured. We had stayed incognito, using silly nom de guerres, sporting masks, dyed hair, funny glasses and the like, for decades. We kidnapped journalists, shocking and amusing them enough that they wrote about our exploits with humor and energy without being too critical.
By the end of the new millenniums first decade, the new generation of BLF Ops had moved on to the serious pursuits of middle age. Many passed thru the organization over the years, most were fellow pranksters in Cacophony and the earlier Suicide Club. Co-founder Irving Glikk (David T. Warren, co-founder of the Suicide Club and early ignitor of the silly wooden figure now worshipped on the Black Rock Desert each year) passed away in 2010 at seventy-one. Dave was one of the great inspirations in my life. He was the “Spirit of Chaos” in the Suicide Club. Once in the late 70′s as I was just embarking on a lengthy solo cross-country hitch-hiking adventure, Dave with somber mien, gave me a giant rubber thumb declaring: “Here kid, you’ll need this on the road!”
The BLF was a primary creative outlet for me for many years, but all things come to pass. I’ve settled into other pursuits in recent times, becoming more interested in and energized by slipping back into small group UE adventures, restoring the ridiculous and sublime giant DogHeads that I somehow have become responsible for, and knocking off the occasional book event for our history of the Cacophony Society with co-author (and past BLF Art Director) Carrie Galbraith “Ethyl Ketone”.
Former BLF operative Conrad Hoc “Scott Beale” our first webmaster, got us online initially, and way back in the 90′s convinced me of the importance of the digital realm as a means of archiving and preserving work done in meat space. Milton will probably link this blog post to the official BLF website<billboardliberation.com> and we’ll call it a day with the exception of any future gallery, academic, historical or law enforcement interest (the statute of limitations is closing fast, fellas..)
John Law and Carrie Galbraith will be the guests on a special hour-long episode of KBOO Radio’s Between the Covers tomorrow morning (Thursday August 29th) from 11am to noonto regale listeners with Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society. In addition to our studio conversation, we’ll be including audio from John and Carrie’s recent standing-room-only appearance at Powell’s Books and from Portland’s underground Night Market event.
The Los Angeles Beat writes about the book with the endorsement:
“filled with stories of the collective’s various antics and chock full of color pictures, fanzines, and even police reports. Learn the secrets of The Dogminican order, trip around with SantaCon and explore underground tunnels through the pages of this book.”
Great review in the KQED Literary sections! Read the full review at KQED
Take away quotes:
” The group’s events took on surrealistic subversion as a rallying ethos. In this light the book becomes not only a history text, but a menu of possible activities to recreate in your free time.”
“The book, edited by John Law, Kevin Evans, and Carrie Galbraith and released by underground book publisher, Last Gasp, is a pastiche of flyers, memos, newsletters and previously unpublished photographs from the group’s more active days. It chronicles the birthing ground for today’s Burning Man ethos, and paints the Society as precursors to today’s tactical media jammers like the Yes Men and even Anonymous. The book, a memoir of a subculture, is an interesting insight into the ’80s and ’90s for those of us who, at the time, were focused more on legos and sleepovers than art movements. Read it for its alternate history, its retro aesthetic, and to remind yourself to try something new, something silly, something pointless, just because you can.”
Daniel Terdiman at CNET wrote :
“The new book “Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society” illustrates the way much of digital-era culture jamming emerged from a few 1980s- and ’90s-era out-of-the-box thinkers”
“Now, a new book, titled “Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society,” goes a long way toward introducing the group, and its exploits, to new audiences more familiar with taking in planned, packaged entertainment than with being responsible for their own excitement and fun.”