THE DOORS | WHEN THE MUSIC’S OVER MORRISON HOTEL & HARD ROCK CAFE

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After shooting the ‘Morrison Hotel’ images for said album, Jim Morrison’s need for drink drove the band down to L.A.’s skid row, where The Doors happened upon a little dive bar called ‘Hard Rock Cafe’. The boys were all piled in John Densmore’s VW van with photographer Henry Diltz, when they collectively spotted the joint with the now famous name on East 5th St. and all said, “Oh, we gotta go in there!”

Side one of  ‘Morrison Hotel’ would end up being named ‘Hard Rock Cafe’, and famously pictured on the back of the album.  The shots taken that day back in December of ’69 are some of my favorite Doors’ pics. Years later photographer Henry Diltz recalled–

“I guess though sometime the next year after the album came out with that picture on the back, they [The Doors] got a call from England and this guy says, ‘Hello. Would you mind if we use that name on the back of your album? We’re starting a cafe over here in London and we would like to use that name.’ And they said, ‘No, go ahead,’ and that was the beginning of it. Now every time I go into a Hard Rock Cafe, whatever city I’m in, I always feel like I should get a free hamburger.”

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December 1969, Los Angeles, CA – The Doors barside at the original Hard Rock Cafe on East 5th Street in Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Sadly, it’s no longer there. — Image by © Henry Diltz/Corbis

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December 1969, Los Angeles, CA — The Doors outside the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Los Angeles — Image by © Henry Diltz/Corbis

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THE BROODING BAVARIAN BOMBSHELL | ’60s & ’70s SEX ICON– USCHI OBERMAIER

Keith Richards with German model/actress Uschi Obermaier during the Rolling Stones’ 1975 Tour of the Americas. –Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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The sexy German model was with the Rolling Stones on their ’75 tour, and bedded both Mick & Keef. Uschi later rated the boys, saying, “Mick is the most charming man in the world, but Keith is the better lover. He just knows the anatomy of women…”

When Anita got word of Keef’s tryst with Uschi, she furiously charged at him, and grabbed him by the hair and screamed, “You f*cking messer, You’ve been messing with this bird!”

Uschi makes it clear that she and Keith loved each other– and that while Anita often lamented over Keef’s lacking libido, Uschi, by her account, had no problem keeping her man in bed for days at a time. “With me, there was never a problem.”

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December 18th, 1968– The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards with Anita Pallenberg in a departure lounge at London’s Heathrow Airport. –Photo by Central Press/Getty Images

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HOLLYWOOD’S INNOVATIVE KUSTOM KULTURE LEGEND | DEAN JEFFRIES

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Legendary painter, customizer, racer, and stuntman Dean Jeffries is one of those guys whose soft-spoken nature has allowed other, more self-promoting figures (read: George Barris, the Don King of Kustom Kulture) to steal a lot of his thunder.  Barris has tried to hire on Jeffries as an employee many times over the years, and Jeffries always rebuffed– preferring either to rent his own space, or work freelance.  Their histories are forever entwined, and the tales of rivalry, and particularly Barris’ trickery, are the stuff of legend.  Many of Dean Jeffries’ most recognized works (like the Monkeemobile, for one)– George Barris came behind and unrightfully claimed credit for them. It’s dumbfounding and downright sleazy– we’ll get to that later.

Dean Jeffries grew up immersed in Los Angeles auto culture– his dad was a mechanic, and next door to his dad’s garage was a bodyshop.  The young Jeffries was drawn to the creative expression allowed in bodywork over turning a wrench (“too greasy!”) like his ol’ man– the bodyshop became his hangout of choice.  After returning from the Korean War, he became buddies with another future legend of Kustom Kulture– Kenny Howard (AKA Von Dutch), and started pinstriping.

“We’d do freelance pinstriping on our own, then get together and hang out. I also worked during the day at a machine shop doing grinding. But pinstriping really took off then–I was painting little pictures and medallions on cars. My first job was pinstriping a boat. I didn’t have no shop back then. You were lucky if you got $5 for a whole car. If you got $25 in your pocket in a day you were King Kong. I thought it was great.” –Dean Jeffries

More than anything else, I’ll always remember Dean Jeffries for painting the infamous “Little Bastard” badge on the Porsche owned by his racing buddy– James Dean.

“For years Barris claimed he painted it– now he just says he can’t remember and somebody in his shop painted it. Sure. I used to bum around with James Dean. I wasn’t trying to be his movie friend. We just had car stuff between us. We hung out, got along together real bitchin’. But one day Dean asked me to paint those words on his car, and I just did it.” –Dean Jeffries

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Love this pic.  There’s the obvious knockout pinup, Carol Lewis (Dean Jeffries’ high school sweetheart in front of his ’47 Merc), posing for his pinstriping pleasure, but also check out Dean Jeffries’ paint box.  “The Modern Painter Has Arrived.” It’s an incredible piece of work in itself.

“The above shot comes from a publicity shoot done ironically, at Barris’ shop, with George behind the camera. Jeffries was just out of high school, and Barris tried to hire him, but Jeffries wanted to sub-contract to Barris, so Barris cleaned out a storage area in his shop, and Jeffries based himself out of there. Pretty slick on Barris’ part– he could grab Jeffries any time he wanted a striping job.” –Thanks to Irish Rich for the story on Carol Lewis.

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Carol Lewis’ custom 1956 Chevrolet– Dean Jeffries high school sweetheart.  –image via Kustomrama “It was Jeffries who was having dinner across the street from Barris’ shop when he spotted the smoke coming from the start of the disasterous Dec. ’57 Barris shop fire. He ran across the street and broke in, and managed to get Lewis’ 56 Chevy out of there before the flames got too out of control. Lewis’ Chevy was done in a similar style as Jeffries’ ’47 was.” –Irish Rich

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THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF LEROY GRANNIS | LEGENDARY LIVER & CHRONICLER OF CALIFORNIA SURF CULTURE

From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

LeRoy Grannis, considered by many to be the premier photographer of California’s thriving surf culture in the 60’s and 70’s, started out not as a professional or trained artist– but as a hobbyist.  He didn’t even begin his epic career until the ripe age of 42 yrs old.  That was back in 1959– prime time to document America entering the golden age of surf mania, and capture it with a keen eye and insight that only a true surfer could possess.  They say sometimes you fall into a golden situation and make the most of it– I would say Grannis did that, and then some.

LeRoy “Granny” Grannis was born in Hermosa Beach in 1917, and raised a few blocks from the ocean.  He began surfing at the age of fourteen, and was one of the first generation of mainlanders to pick up the ancient Hawaiian sport.  He started out on body boards, then graduated to riding the massive eleven-foot redwood boards that weighed up to one hundred pounds.  It was with his friends, Lewis “Hoppy” Swarts and John “Doc” Ball, that he became one of surfing’s first true devotees.  Even the Great Depression did not slow the cash-strapped surfing trio down– they built their own boards, sewed their own trunks, and pooled their limited funds for trips to catch the bigger waves at Malibu or San Onofre.  It was Ball, himself a self-trained photographer, who would later introduce Grannis to the art.

With the onset of WWII, many of the young men in California enlisted (including Grannis), and surfing went quiet for awhile.  After the war, Grannis returned to Hermosa Beach, took a job with Pacific Bell, and settled down.  He surfed on-and-off, but otherwise became absorbed in the demands of a full time job, wife, and four children.  In 1959 he was diagnosed with a stress related ulcer and his doctor recommended he take up something relaxing– that’s where fate stepped in.  Surf photography was a natural– he lived a few blocks from the beach, knew the sport, and his son had begun to surf.  At the time there were more than a few young surfers in Hermosa who wanted to see themselves in action– so with an East German 35mm camera he began chronicling the flourishing surf scene in Southern California.  What he recorded is the surf scene exploding in a riot of Technicolor.  California in the 1960s was the place where the “new” was always happening– it held a mythical place in our imaginations as the land of endless sun, surf, and possibilities.  LeRoy Grannis will go down as one of the men who helped create this mythos, and left us with some of the greatest photos I have personally  ever seen.

Eli M. Getson

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–Photograph by © LeRoy Grannis.  All rights reserved.

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–Photograph by © LeRoy Grannis.  All rights reserved.

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A LOST ART OF DAYS GONE BY | VINTAGE CURT TEICH LINEN POSTCARDS

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I’m crazy for vintage Curt Teich linen postcards. The warm, fuzzy, softness of color, printed (sometimes slightly off register) on the linen-weave stock, of scenes when America had a youthful glow. It makes me yearn for a life and times that I was born too late for, by golly.  I find myself gazing at neighborhoods and cities, trying to chronologically piece them together.  I ask myself– what was it like here 100 yrs ago… which houses came first… which were layered in later, and when?  A lot of the scenes in these incredible windows to the past are places where I’ve lived, or passed through that are in one way or another core to who I am.

Imagine living again in a time with no cell phones, internet, and the other so-called modern conveniences that “save us time.” I could go back in a New York second.  Technology and consumption is moving at a scary pace, folks.  I wonder what we’ll be looking back at with nostalgia-glazed eyes 25 yrs from now… Planet Earth?

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Ford Model T – 1908-1909, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan

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Statue of Liberty on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor, New York City

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Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York City

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THE ROLLING STONES @ ALTAMONT | WE’RE NOT IN WOODSTOCK ANYMORE…

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Not barely four months after Woodstock, Altamont would prove to be worlds apart from its predecessor. For reasons largely unforeseen, or at least unacknowledged at the time, there was a definite divide in ideology between the American hippies in the crowd, and some of the English rockers onstage– for whom this hippie-trippy way of life was hard to swallow. For some it was simply naive, and to others– it was downright offensive. Pete Townsend in particular left Woodstock with a bad taste in his mouth– “All those hippies wandering about thinking the world was going to be different from that day on… As a cynical English arsehole, I walked through it all and felt like spitting on the lot of them…” Country Joe countered with his personal recollection of Pete at Woodstock. “I saw Townshend pull up in his limo, then do his set, and leave. That’s the sum total of his experience of Woodstock. He played at it but he wasn’t really part of it.”

Look, we all go through life with our own backgrounds, beliefs and expectations that impact our openness to ideas, and color our perceptions of attitudes and events. That being said– Is Townsend really there to “experience Woodstock”, or is he there to put on a great Who show? Whose place is it to dictate that everyone passing through the ’60s has to buy into the damn hippie lifestyle? It clearly wasn’t for everyone. Certainly not for the Rolling Stones.

By 1969, the Rolling Stones were a band with a well-established attitude of monstrous proportions.  They were effin’ rock stars baby, and royalty at that.  The world was their stage– and they saw Stones’ fans as their subjects. There to adore them and feed their egos.  They didn’t come into Altamont with the idea that it would be a lovefest.  Strangely, Mick Jagger was going through a phase of curiosity in Satanism and the occult at that time– but he would be far from prepared for the darkness that would unfold at his feet on that December day.

Altamont and the Charlie Manson murders would effectively usher out the age of the hippie. But was the hippie movement even real outside of the provincial confines of Woodstock and Haight Ashbury? Or, were we all just temporarily clouded by the sweet scent of a movement that was never more than a passing fad or fashion for most?

Photo above of Mick Jagger & Charlie Watts with Hells Angel. — Photograph © Ethan Russell. All rights reserved. From the start, the Altamont festival was a disaster in waiting. The stage was too low, the crowd too close, the Hells Angels too wired on beer and bad acid. Such was the rush to stage the festival that there were no food or drink outlets, and few toilets. –Sean O’Hagan

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STEVE McQUEEN ’66 POPULAR SCIENCE | WHAT I LIKE IN A BIKE –AND WHY

A cool piece on Steve McQueen rating six bikes for Popular Science magazine back in November, 1966–

“First of all, I don’t set myself up as an expert on either setting up machinery for racing, or in the actual sport of racing itself.  But after 25 years of desert riding in Southern California, TT scrambles, Hare and Hound, and a bit of racing in the wet Six Days Trials in East Germany n 1964– I sure hope I picked up a little bit about motorcycles and riding along the way.” –Steve McQueen

At the end of the day, McQueen heavily favors his own hybrid desert-rippin’ beast that he put together with the help of the Ekins brothers–

“I used a Rickman-Metisse frame– a revolutionary piece of equipment that does away with the oil tank. The oil circulates through the tubes of the frame, which keeps it cool…I used a 650cc Triumph engine as the powerplant for this bike.  The drivetrain and gearbox are also Triumph.  It has Ceriani forks with 7 1/2 inches of travel for a real smooth ride, and a BSA crown.  The fiberglass fenders and tank hold the weight down to a notch under 300 pounds.  The rig is the best handling bike I’ve ever owned.  And the power– it’s like supersonic.” –Steve McQueen

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“If you can’t cut it, you gotta back out.”  –Steve McQueen

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RELIVE DRAG RACING’S TOP RIVALRY 11/10 ~ THE SNAKE VS. THE MONGOOSE

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One of the greatest rivalries in all of Drag Racing history has to be the classic Wildlife Racing matchup– Don “Snake” Prudhomme vs. Tom “Mongoose” McEwen.  Any red-blooded boy born of that era remembers their famous Funny Cars decked-out in bright Hot Wheels badges screaming down the 1/4 mile in a furious blur that lasted all of 5 sweet seconds.  The two faced-off in match races that raged over a period of about 3 years.  Don Prudhomme, being the stronger competitor, usually came out on top. Their epic West Coast battles, fueled by huge sponsorship deals (Mattel, Coca-Cola, Plymouth, and Goodyear) were a major draw, and their loyal fans never tired of seeing them go head to head.

The Petersen Automotive Museum is celebrating the opening of their new exhibit, NHRA: Sixty Years of Thunder by paying tribute to – Don “The Snake” Prudhomme – during their annual Tribute Night on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010.  Honored guests include– Roland Leong, Tommy Ivo, Carroll Shelby, Ed Pink and many others. Special guest Dave McClelland, the Voice of the NHRA and longtime friend of Don Prudhomme, will be the Master of Ceremonies. Their will be a film featuring The Snake’s epic history, and several other drag racing icons will share their stories of the legend. A live auction of amazing racing memorabilia will follow with proceeds going to the Petersen’s educational programs.

If you’re a Drag Racing fan of any age– this is an epic event not to be missed.

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Racing rivals- the Snake and the Mongoose at Dallas International Motor Speedway (1969-1973). Continue reading

ARLEN NESS’ SECRET WEAPON DURING THE ’70s CHOPPER BOOM | JEFF McCANN

Jeff McCann, who discreetly signs his works with his hidden signature “Motorcycles Forever” got his first bike back in ’65, at the age of 20.  An accomplished artist, McCann began customizing motorcycles a few years later, and soon found himself with a steady side-gig of painting and customizing friend’s bikes.

By the 1970s, with his incredible skills and the Easy Rider chopper boom in full force, McCann was in hot demand.   He opened his own custom bike shop in the San Francisco Bay area – as did Arlen Ness. Arlen, a master builder, was also a good painter– but nothing like McCann. McCann also brought serious design, photography, and printing skills to the table–  contibuting heavily to the first Ness catalog and logo.  It was a partnership that benefitted both sides, and that lasted for years.  McCann’s saved personal images and memories of that time are truly priceless–

Catalog Cover Shoot. Jeff McCann ~ This is a full view of the setup in my garage for the cover shoot for the second edition of our parts catalog. That’s me waiting to see if the photographer needs the bike moved, which is also why I am in my stocking feet so as not to mar the paper drape. I purchased two white paper background drapes and taped them together to get a wide enough “infinite” background for the bikes and models.  After advertising in the local newspaper want ads we hired two women who were inexperienced models but eager to work with the local “chopper guys”.  Scanned from a 37 year old 35mm negative shot by John Reddick in September 1972.  You can see the calendar this session produced here.

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Theme Girl Julie. Jeff McCann ~ In the fall of 1969 my friend Chris and I decided to open a retail store selling “Chopper parts”. We had built and sold 4 custom bikes that year and all our friends were asking how to buy the parts mail order. Ed Roth published “Choppers” magazine which contained ads including one for AEE Choppers of southern California. We had purchased parts from them for my first panhead chopper that same year. Deciding on the name ” CJ custom cycle parts” we made a business plan and went to the bank for a start up loan. To say the bankers laughed at us would be exaggeration but they declined our request. I complained of their shortsightedness to my co-workers at the newspaper and Fran Walling, a fellow artist in the display advertising department, offered to loan me the money from part of her husbands life insurance settlement. We agreed to pay her 1% more than bank rate on a two year repayment plan.

And so with $5,000 in the bank we rented a small store front and made plans for a January 1970 opening.  The plan was for Chris to man the retail store on the weekdays while I worked full time at the newspaper, then on Saturdays I would be behind the counter. We really had no clue how the profit margin of a retail parts business should have worked, both of us had only high school educations and in 1969 I was 23, married with an infant daughter and Chris was 19 and two years out of school. To say we were more lucky than smart is an understatement.  This photograph of Julie, our theme girl, wearing our logo t-shirt was taken on January 10,1974 by John Reddick.  Exactly four years to the day after we had opened our first store and at the height of our business success. Scanned from a 35 year old 35mm negative.

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Wheel Truing Shop. Jeff McCann ~ Work area in our first Stockton store, note the vise holding a threat rolling machine attached to a reversible drill. We cut the blank spoke to length with a small bolt cutter, ground the end round on the small grinder next to the vise, and then inserted the blank into the roller. The sign says we charged $28.88 for a set of spokes custom made and chromed to fit your application. Hundreds of wheels were laced and trued each year by either Chris or Kurt Bacon, a highschool kid who hung around my garage paintshop at home. He worked after school at the store and got school credits for “work experience” on his report card. After graduation he came to work for us full time and was a valuable employee and friend. Scanned from a 1971 b/w print.

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