Kitschy Cool Pittsburgh (interesting places and personalities)on August 6, 2010 at 4:08 am
Forgive me, World Wide Web, for indulging in a little civic pride. Over the last few days our 3rd tier, extended, digital cable, upper hundreds, PBS affiliate, WQEDN, had played a bunch of great documentaries about Pittsburgh, by the equally great Rick Sebak. I wonder if every major city has these kinds of movies on their PBS channel? Awesome films about our unique Pittsburgh quirks, colloquialisms, culture, food,people and past times. Stuff that can really make you proud to be from The ‘Burgh. Now, some of these pieces are a bit dated, but, in the big picture, capture the Pittsburgh vibe du jour. Sebak tackles his subjects with affection, and, covers items with broad enough appeal that would certainly generate donations to the station for copies of videos highlighting the buyers favorite restaurant, activity, friend, or maybe their neighborhood. They are also great family fare which help generate conversation within households that may not normally promote much dialogue.
All that being said, I quickly realized that so many really cool places, things and personalities were not really represented. I began fantasizing about what I would include if I had the opportunity to make a film about Pittsburgh in the sort of template that Sebak has created over his dozens of films. It’s an exciting time in Pittsburgh. There are some pieces of culture here that deserve to be highlighted and supported so that we can leave that ugly term, “Rust Belt”, behind. This list is also personal and in no was a definitive representation of what our glorious city fully has to offer.
It would make sense to me to cover Sebak not only because I’d steal his template, but having the fortitude to create such a body of work, selflessly, deserves to be explored. This fellow is always behind the camera and needs to be in front for a change, interviewed thoroughly to see what makes him tick. What interests him to make these movies? Hear some interesting anecdotes that took place during different projects. Rick needs to be a subject instead of a content creator for once.
Chris is a film maker who recently appeared on my radar with his film East of Liberty, about the urban development, destruction, and re development of the Pittsburgh town of East Liberty. The man has a full plate of film projects that he is involved with at any given time. He is creatively embedded in the culture of the city and deserves to be highlighted. It would be a great way to learn more about him since information is limited on the ‘net, and I’m too shy to ask questions while at brunch at The Gypsy Cafe.
This is a no-brainer, and, since we were initially talking about filmmakers, why not close with the guy who created a monolithic pop culture imprint rooted in Pittsburgh. If you’re from here, you know at least one person who had makeup caked on their face and got to appear in one of Georgie’s flicks. I especially love the Pittsburgh accents of some of the players from Night of the Living Dead. “We gowtta stay ‘way fr’m da windahs!”
You can’t have one without the other. I forgive Savini for being a dick to me when I was 13 at the PGH Comic Con when I asked to wear that cock revolver gun from From Dusk Till Dawn. I totally deserved it, upon retrospect. This guy is a legend, known throughout the world and deserves a nod. We would have to ask some hard hitting questions including a few about his appearance on the Hairclub for Men infomercials and that incredibly shitty Jack the Ripper movie/play he was a part of. Then we’d move the conversation to:
I understand it isn’t within city limits but regardless. The Savini Special Effects Program at the Douglas School in Monessen is an incredible bragging right that Pittsburgh may claim collaterally. Kids from all over the globe making their pilgrimage to our area to learn such an awesome, creative trade is worth some screen time.
The It’s Alive Show/Zombie Walk
The idea of the home-grown horror host has been a fascination of mine most of my life thanks to catching the Chiller Theater reunion shows with Chilly Billy as a kid in the 80′s, and my library of comics, and music that include Vampira and Zacherly the Cool Ghoul, among others. The self-starters of The It’s Alive Show highly impress me with what they have accomplished. How the hell do you create a TV show out of whole cloth? Fantastic! I certainly detect at least one Type “A” Personality at work here.
They’re also responsible for corralling the largest gathering of zombies in one place to get the worlds record multiple times. An overlooked part of this endeavor is the collecting of thousands of pounds of food for charity locally. You can do good things for the community and have fun at the same time Did I mention the local zombie walk sometimes occurs in the Monroeville Mall, where the original Dawn of the Dead took place? Jealous!? haha. Moving on…
The Bridge City Bombshells
I am extremely proud to have such a troupe represent our fair city. Theirs is a fascinating endeavor that I would love to see explored. How much of their costumes are DIY? Where do you even get some of that stuff? When creating a performance are there specific points of reference that they draw from to create their unique numbers? I have a million questions and I’m sure many others do as well. It doesn’t seem they have a traditional website to visit but you can get updates for their gigs at their myspace and facebook.
She is probably my favorite artist in Pittsburgh. A doll maker of the highest order with a truly unique approach and a one of a kind style. Check out her work!
How cool would it be to see the process, from start to finish of one of these masterpieces? It would also be cool to speak with any buyer of her work too. Annie is in our fair city, creating heirlooms that will be passed down for generations. How cool is that?
Another no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. This paper has it’s finger on the pulse of the community and it would be great to see behind the scenes stuff on the infrastructure that they have in place. I’m a big fan of tight deadlines and would absolutely appreciate watching everyone run around like maniacs to get the next weeks paper off to the printer. That sort of adrenaline rush is addictive.
Also, the personalities involved are each very unique, intelligent, and cool-as-fuck. Heather Mull photographer extraordinaire, Lisa Cunningham the art director, Bill O’ Driscoll the staff writer. All interesting personalities. I’ve met a few of their other staff briefly too, like Julie Skidmore and Laura Vrcek, I’m telling you, these folks have stories to tell!
This young sprite who went to Taylor Allderdice high is making moves in the national Hip Hop scene and representing Pittsburgh all the while. Of course he should be praised! The whole “Pistolvania” thing is a little silly, but he’s a kid, can’t hold it against him. I don’t regularly listen to all of his stuff, but I’ve seen no evidence of auto-tune in his delivery and some of those lyrics are sharp as a needle. The idea that anyone from here can penetrate the mainstream is a true testament to their drive and ability to scrape and claw. Talent has something to do with it as well.
Time Bomb Spot
The Time Bomb Spot is the epicenter of Hip Hop culture in town. A one stop shop for everything that is relevant and a meeting place for everyone in the know. In store appearances and performances. Fashion shows. This place produces and should not be taken for granted. Time Bomb was originally the name of the store owner, Brian Brick’s, band, after he played in an earlier band called Battered Citizens with another interesting Pittsburgh personality, Oyo Ellis. Battered Citizens Myspace.
It would make a lot of sense to spend some time in the mind of Brian Brick since his story goes back to the early days of Pittsburgh hip hop and the hardcore scene and he’s cultivated a successful business in town that has so much respect.
Graffiti in town has a rich past and there are still some great pieces around that have lasted 20+ years. Crews like BA, SDA, LIES, NSF. names like Necske, Serg, Buda, Code, Prism, Yelp, Nise, Dever. Some work in town was even highlighted in the infamous book, Spraycan Art from the 80′s. Since this is just a pipe dream, if you are interested in seeing some of the amazing work that existed from years past, here is my favorite site covering the subject (back from when Mook was still writing “Pest“). Local writer, Matthew Newton, also had written a great piece on graff luminaries of Pittsburgh for the Citypaper. I reread this article frequently since it is all we really have.
Though he moved from Sewickley decades ago. It would be awesome to have the most famous graffiti photographer talk about the early PGH scene. Plus it would be a good opportunity to see a bunch of non published photo’s from his travels back here.
Phat Man Dee
A brilliant singer/performer, a major personality, an unforgettable appearance. Thousands were there for her wedding in Southside. Hundreds of thousands watched her on Judge Joe Brown when she was suing some creep for burning her elephant float to ash. She belongs on screen.
Jester’s Court Tattoo/ Sean McCarthy
Phat Man Dee has a lot of really cool tattoos, and I’m pretty sure I remember her saying that McCarthy was her guy on most of them. Sean runs 3 successful shops, in extremely prominent locations all around town. I recently read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, where he talked about a segment of people who are natural connectors within a society and Sean fits that bill. With his unique position as being the king of the court, he is connected to a large, and fashionable, segment of the city. You can probably see McCarthy pop his head up in every major movie shot in town and he is the head ref of the Steel City Derby Demons, roller derby team.
Steel City Derby Demons
Our roller girls are some bad ass bitches and deserve to be promoted way more in town. Yeah it’s great to watch them wreck each other and whatnot, but they also do it for a good cause and donate plenty to the community. Go get you a season ticket and I promise you won’t be sorry.
You could probably do an whole film just interviewing the girls alone, because they are all dynamic people. A brute named Mel Practice is the one that pops to mind first who I’d include in my fictional documentary.
It makes perfect sense. She does derby, runs a boutique, is a model, a mother, and a professional clown. It’s been a while since I checked in with her. She may have a few dozen more qualities listed on her resume. I can’t imagine she sleeps much either.
Gypsy Cafe/Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School
One of the best restaurants in town and home of the Geek Brunch on Sundays. Jim and Melanie, the owners have created a one-of-a-kind environment that is very exciting. Not only is the food exquisite but a few of our roller derby celebs, including Mel Practice, model for Dr. Sketchy, usually held at the great Gypsy Cafe. Some of the other gorgeous chicks who pose for us in different themed costumes are among the best models the Burgh has to offer like Antietam and Monroe Suicide. The 2 chicks I mention also participated in Time Bomb fashion shows and photo shoots. Ya see, it’s all cyclical. An honest to goodness community!
Zombo spins the tracks that add much mood to the Dr. Sketchy experience. This fella is another one of these self employed, type A guys who I really respect. He does the DJ thing all across town, has a radio show, plays in a band, will silkscreen shirts for you, is a massage therapist, runs a gallery, and probably does a million other things I’m spacing out on at this precise moment. A respected, and truly hip fellow in the community, to say the least.
The Toonseum has a tremendous association with Dr. Sketchy and Zombo, thanks to Joe Wos, the founder of the art space. With only 3 such galleries in the country, Pittsburgh is really lucky that the Toonseum calls this place home. With new exhibits every month or so, and with a very modest $4 entrance fee, everybody should come visit and support this one of a kind establishment. The Toonseum also has many workshops and guest speakers come through so it might even be a good idea to become a member.
Copacetic Comics/ Bill Boichel
I imagine when Sebak finds an interesting hook, he will cover Copacetic Comics and the stores professorial owner, Bill Boichel, on film. I mean Rick already wrote a sweet article about the above in Pittsburgh Magazine. Bill has a rich and storied history, hoarding copies of Giant Sized X Men #1, putting together Pittsburgh’s earliest comic-sci fi conventions, publishing comics, being a boss-man Pittsburgh Filmmakers for a time,running a thriving comic shop called BEM in Wilkinsburg, founding Copacetic in Squirrel Hill, writing essays, and moving his business to Polish Hill. A Washington DC import, it is clear where his loyalty lies and Bill should be celebrated for being so active in the community. Dan Clowes dropped props to Bill’s shop, BEM, in an early issue of Eightball. How cool is that?
Phantom of the Attic Comics/ Jeff Yandora
Most towns aren’t lucky enough to have 1 cool comic shop in town. Well we have maybe a handful, and one of the most important is Phantom of the Attic in Oakland. In a choice location in the middle of college-town, Jeff Yandora operates an respected business, with an extensive selection, personable staff, and a brick and mortar aesthetic like no other. They have recently moved locations and with that move, a whole lot of customization was done to the different book shelves and displays that make this store way more inviting than the average, dreary, basement-like shop. There is even natural lighting, if you can believe it. To keep in touch with the cyclical, ecosystem I’m trying to convey, much of the back issue inventory was purchased from Bill Boichel when Bill decided to consolidate BEM into the more intimate Copacetic Comics. The New Yorker wrote a piece about the literary scene in Pittsburgh last summer including Copacetic and Phantom which made me very happy.
Is there a cooler place to close with? So you head in there, Pay by the hour, And play copious amounts of video games, dome hockey, pinpall, billiards, go duck pin bowling for a nominal fee. The joint rules. They have silly newer games that require light guns and such, but they also have a library of thousands of classic arcade fare. The place is great for conquering games that you never beat as a youngster, since you just have to hit a button to load more credits. Finally got to see the ending of Strider, Shinobi, and Final Fight after 20+ years. Just make sure you accurately pay for enough game time. It would suck to get halfway through Altered Beast and have to leave without getting to the last boss
While spending all this time compiling this list, more and more is coming to mind but I’m gonna have to cut it off at some point. I have to go on with my day, and if I can write about this fictional documentary, there will be others in the future. Certainly covering the 31st. St. Pub (and Joel Greenfield), HackPittsburgh, Big Mama’s House of Soul, 3 am. Cambodican Kitchen Cat-on-a-stick runs, the Blind pan handler in Oakland who sings, the Oaks Theaters choice Midnight Movie summer selections, Manny Theiner, I can go on forever.
Anyhow, now that I laid this out, can someone please make this movie for me? If not, I’m gonna be forced to document the above in some form or fashion.
If you are not from around here, and you made it through this article, then you know Pittsburgh is extremely rad! If you’re ever in town I will steer you in a cool direction if you’re interested. Maybe I’ll even take you to Me Lyng, my favorite Vietnamese place.
If you ARE in Pittsburgh, and you’re bitching about there not being anything to do. I don’t want to know you. You’re a stupid, boring, shit head and I don’t want that crap rubbing off on me. Instead of complaining, make something, just the same way each of the people above, and many others do. It’s good for your soul. and you’re lucky to be amongst the 300,000 people sharing space with the subjects of this entry. Create something of your own that contains more than just your retarded DNA.