Monthly Archives: January 2019

T-Shirts from the Collection: Hells Angels Support Tees

Big Red Machine HA Tee 1

 

This mid-90s t-shirt puzzled me for a bit: it looked like a biker gang shirt.  But what was the Big Red Machine? Never heard of it.

Well, I had. Just not under that name.

Tee shirts bearing the words “Big Red Machine” or “81” are published by chapters of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club to raise money for chapter operations. “Big Red Machine” is an alternate name for the Hells Angels, whose colors are red-on-white. “81” stands for H and A, the eighth and first letter of the alphabet respectively.

Hells Angels 81 Shasta County A Shirt 1

The Angels will not sell you a t-shirt with the actual words “Hells Angels” on it, or the club’s death’s head logo. Nor do they approve of anyone else selling such clothing. Because by club bylaws, only initiated members of the Angels can wear clothing bearing the club name and the club’s death’s head.

While this is by no means civil law, the Hells Angels have a well-documented reputation that gives pause to many. It is difficult to find any shirt like that on the open market. And if you do, you should think twice about buying it. Perhaps three times.

Ray “Spawn Till You Die” Troll, the noted Alaskan fish artist and t-shirt publisher, at one time designed and printed a t-shirt with the legend “Hell’s Anglers” and a drawing of an angry leather-clad gentleman riding a Harley while casting with a fishing rod. Not long after, some of Troll’s distributors in the lower 48 passed him the word that Hells Angels had complained about the shirts. Troll took the shirt out of distribution; the ones already sold became collector’s item.

Hells Angels 81 Shasta County A Shirt 2“Big Red Machine” and “81” tees are known as “support wear;” wearing them means that you support the principles of the Hells Angels, even though you’re not a member.

The words “Known Associate” often appear somewhere on the tee as well: police jargon for someone who’s known to hang out with criminals.

The chapter support shirts shown here are pretty typical; some get way more extreme.

In conclusion, I’ll say what I always say about message-bearing t-shirts: when you put on the tee, you become the message. You are supporting the principes of the Hells Angels, screaming skulls and all. The Angels wouldn’t mind that at all. But who else might?

Be advised. The t-shirt aisle in the thrift shop is sometimes a minefield.

One final note: the club’s name is properly written “Hells Angels,” without the possessive apostrophe.” The Hells Angels FAQ entry about the missing apostrophe simply says, “You may miss it. We don’t.”

Tee Shirts from the Collection: The Jimbo Phillips Gallery

Santa Cruz Star Bene Restaurant Tee by Jimbo Phillips

Santa Cruz is a town that supports the arts: the art of skateboard decks, of surfboard painting, of music posters. And t-shirts.  Tons and tons of t-shirts from local skateboard companies like NHS (Santa Cruz brand skateboards) and sportswear companies like O”Neill’s, of wetsuit fame. These tees are nationally distributed, as are the skateboards and other graphic products.  But many of the artists are local.  And it’s expensive here. And the artists need to keep busy. So some do tees for local businesses as well.

Enter Jimbo Phillips.  Jimbo is a second-generation Santa Cruz commercial artist who got into the business drawing eyeballs and grimacing faces on the bottom of skateboard decks for his father Jim, who was art director for NHS in the ’80s.

And he still does draw giant eyeballs and grotesque surfers with their eyes popping out and heavy-bosomed robotic waitresses toting blasters and serving drinks to aliens, and skeletons playing guitar.  And you’re welcome to go over to the Jimbo Phillips website and buy those tees (and posters, and prints, and hoodies, and so on.) I’m not; I get mine at Goodwill, and Jimbo wants $30.

tentacles2

But he’s freelance and needs whatever business he can get. So Jimbo’s also ready and willing to draw graphics for local businesses and nonprofits, and give ‘em what they want (usually includes fewer giant eyeballs).  The end products usually include t-shirts. And those I can find at Goodwill.

I pick up every Phillips tee I can find, because I like his style. It is distinctive, while also informed by underground comics, “low art” like the art of Ed Roth, and so on.  Like his mentors he draws efficiently and cleanly, with a good line.  And he’s always fun. If you put together a collection of Jimbo’s tees for local businesses, you get a pretty good idea of what goes on here in Santa Cruz.  And I have arranged that for you.

Valentine's Day Massacre Surf Contest Tee

There’s nothing more local than a surfing tournament, especially if it’s locals-only and sponsored by a venerable surf club like the Pleasure Point Night Fighters (yes, there’s a story there.) Pleasure Point is home to a few famous surf breaks, and I have no doubt that Phillips himself surfs there.

Santa Cruz Foam Ball Benefit Surf Contest Tee

The Santa Cruz surf community is kind of wild and wooly, but when one of their own needs a kidney, they’ll pull together and put together a benefit to try to make it happen.  This Phillips tee was for a “fun” surf tournament that was largely a fundraiser. Apologies foe the picture quality; I’ll try to take a new one.

“Foam” refers to the cheap foam surfboards used in this tournament — the kind you can buy at the beach, that can also be used as skimboards.  They’re not for serious surfing, just for fun — which was the point of this tourney.

Eat the Greedy -- Jimbo Phillips

I’m not sure what the point of this one was.  Jimbo Phillips is involved with a local artists’ collective called the Made Fresh Crew, and sometimes they just do independent tees to sell.  This might be one of them.  He’s done his own line of tees in recent days that leans heavily to Rothian/underground monsters: giant eyeballs with fangs, drool, all that good stuff.

Santa Cruz Ferrell Electric Jimbo Phillips

If you wonder why the surfing motif continues with this electrician’s tee, it’s because a ton of the tradesmen around Santa Cruz are dedicated surfers.  Electricians’ tees are also noted for bad puns.  I’ve got another one around here with the motto, “We’ll check your shorts.”

Lemon Tree Marijuana Tee by Jimbo Phllips 1

Lemon Tree is a brand of marijuana that tastes, well, lemony.  They hired Jimbo Phillips to do tees for a “Lemon Life” line of tees to promote their brand and”Lemon Life” and the “Lemon Lifestyle.”  It’s marketing.

Santa Cruz AAU Basketball by Jimbo Phillips

Phillips also does a lot of sports tees, like this one for Santa Cruz amateur basketball.  This tee has a lot of underground comix/Ed Roth attitude.

Capitola Skate Park Tee Jimbo Phllips 1

A new skatepark is a rare and precious thing in the Santa Cruz area, and it seems as if Phillips was commissioned to do a commemorative design.  Though a relatively low-budget one-color tee, this is actually one of my favorites.  It’s a nice, strong graphic, very evocative of a sunset in Capitola if you know the place.  The orange tee was well-used in place of a second ink color.

Oneill Skimboard Contentst Tee 2

One thing you’ll see on many of Jimbo Phillips shirt is what I call the Jimbo Leer: the semi-malicious grin of a teenage male enjoying himself to excess and living the adolescent dream of power and rebellion.  Here’s another;
Santa Cruz Skate Shop Tee

The tee below, for a local barbecue joinr, I’ve used in other posts.  But I’m repeating it here because it’s a truly awesome Ed Roth homage and also has that wondrous leer of rebellion and abandon.

Santa Cruz Coles BBQ Roth Style Tee by Jimbo Phillips

The tee below is actually rather old, commissioned of Phillips by local disk drive maker Seagate to have some cool to bring with them to Austin’s SXSW music/media happening about 20 years ago.

Seagate SXSW Tee by Jimbo Phillips

I worked for Seagate in those days, and their vision of the future was a media server in every home: siitting quietly in a closet and holding all your movies and music and pictures and books and games, standing ready to serve it all across your home network at any time.

And that was a future that didn’t happen.  It’s all about streaming these days, and the Cloud, and hooking it all directly into your skull through your smartphone or tablet. Oh, well.

Santa Cruz Water Polo Classic 2016 (Jimbo Phillips)

That’s about it for now.  This is only about two-thirds of the Jimbo Phillips shirts I have, and I keep finding new ones.  A working artist has to keep busy, and he does: showing Santa Cruz the way it wants to be seen.

Tee Shirts From the Collection: The Papal Rock Concert

Monterey Pope Festival 1987 Tee

Back in 1967, the Monterey Pop Festival took place at Laguna Seca Raceway outside Monterey, California.  It was the first ever real rock festival, pre-dating even Woodstock. Tens of thousands of rock fans turned up.

Twenty years later, in 1987, Pope John Paul II gave mass to tens of thousands of farmworkers at Laguna Seca Raceway; locally, the event became known in advance as….

Tee Shirts from the Collection: Popping Wheelies at the Temple of Roth

Dirt Rag Magazine Rat Fink Homage

ID big bad chevy1I am a congregant at the altar of Ed Roth, custom car visionary and cartoonist from the early ‘60s. While Roth built fantasy hot-rods out of fiberglass, Roth’s design studio deftly marketed stickers and t-shirts and plastic model kits of big-toothed monsters riding hot rods to the surly 12- and 13-year-olds olds of those dull and prosperous times.  If you’re not familiar, see right for some typical Roth:

ratfinkHe also came up with the Rat Fink, a giant, drooling, fanged rat covered with flies and a tunic bearing the letters RF.  Rat Fink was a symbol of that rebellious hot-rod culture that the 13-year-olds dreamed of.

Your mother would not approve of the Rat Fink.  That was the point.

So I get a kick out of the above bicycle-riding “Rat Fink” homage from the Dirt Rag mountain bike magazine.  It’s not local or important, but it’s All Roth.  It had to come home with me.

Roth’s studio had an impact on artists to come, and there’s much to say that I won’t at this time. Suffice it to say that as the years have gone by, Roth’s “car monsters” have been inspiration to many t-shirt artists for many different purposes.  Here are a few from the collection:

 Santa Cruz Rib King Barbecue Food Truck Tee 1

“Rib King” was a barbecue chef, butcher, and food truck operator named Loren Ozaki .  I remember a stocky Asian-American guy around 30 with a gold earring and cargo shorts. He tooled his diamond-plated chariot of ‘cue to workplaces all over Santa Cruz and mid-county from about 2005 to 2010 or 11.

He used to stop by my office on the West Side around noon, and while I never popped for the ribs he made quite a tasty pulled-pork sandwich. He sold the above tee out of his food truck along with the ‘cue and the coleslaw and the drinks. It’s an Ed Roth-inspired ‘60s Car Monster. Roth’s artist minions never drew a monster quite as grotesque as Rib King’s barbequed-pig food truck driver.

I paid full retail for this tee, one of the few times ever.  Yes, I’m cheap. But I had to have it, and thought I’d never see another one. And I haven’t, not in years of thrift-shopping. IThe Rib King left the local food truck scene somewhere in the early teens and took his butchering skills up to the Bay Area for awhile. I don’t know what he’s up to now.  Sadly, I can’t identify the artist of this shirt

USAF 554th Red Horse Tee

Monster t-shirts are common in the military; the idea is that the average grunt is a monster of battle, a bad mofo. It’s for morale.  Especially since a lot of military jobs are actually pretty boring, if vital.   And since enlistees are still mostly male and barely post-adolescent, monsters appeal. Or the brass thinks they do.

RED HORSE is a real acronym for a type of mobile Air Force construction battalion: “Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers.”  RED HORSE: I’d like to know how long it took some blue-uniformed bureacrat to put that name together. And how drunk they had to get.

Anyway, the Red Horse battalions repair and upgrade forward airbases and airstrips under combat conditions. They’re pretty bad-ass: they got guns, they’ve got heavy equipment, they rappel down from helicopters just to build things; they do whatever the base’s PRIME BEEF unit (Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force) needs them to do.

RED HORSE, PRIME BEEF — you can’t make this stuff up. But the Air Force can.  And does.  I wonder if they wear Rat Fink shirts to staff meetings.

Santa Cruz Coles BBQ Roth Style Tee by Jimbo PhillipsThis gleefully crazy tee was illustrated for Cole’s Barbecue in Santa Cruz by local “extreme” artist Jimbo Phillips.  Jimbo is the son of  skateboard/rock poster artist Jim “Screaming Blue Hand” Phillips.

The screaming blue hand is one of several iconic characters that Phillips Sr. came up with for Santa Cruz Skateboards in the ‘80s for the edification of the surly 13-year-old boys who are the the target demographic of the skateboard industry — as they were for Ed Roth.  Phillips Sr. admits to Roth as an influence on his skateboard work; his son Jimbo, who grew up drawing skateboard art with Dad, names Roth as one of his personal “old masters” to aspire to.

Gonzales Machine and Forge Ed Roth Homage Tee

Gonzales Machine and Forge is a machine shop and forge in the Salinas Valley agriculture town of Gonzales: they fabricate specialized tilling equipment for agriculture, barbecues, whatever you want.  I can’t find out much about them, but they deal with steel and fire and big hammers.  For such folks, I can see Ed Roth’s machine/monsters as part of their belief system.

Clutch Couriers Phillips

This is another Jimbo Phillips tee from Santa Cruz for Clutch Couriers the people who run bicycle messengers around town and staple posters to wooden power poles.  I swear you can’t see the wood for the rusty staples sometimes.

Jimbo Phillips is a working artist, and does many tee designs, logos, and so forth for local businesses.  This tee meets all the Roth criteria: Giant bloodshot eyeballs? Check? Mouth full of big teeth? Check. Generally grotesque? Riding a vehicle irresponsibly?  Double Check.

Santa Cruz Boardroom Racing Tee Color Design

This tee is a little different than the other Roth-type designs, because the horned monster “driver” is riding his car like a skateboard.  That’s because this tee is for a skateboard shop, the Santa Cruz Boardroom.  More precisely, it’s for the shop’s skateboard team.

Pacific Pinball Museum "Flip Out"

Pinball was a huge part of growing up in the early ‘60s; especially since the machines were often technically illegal for under-18s because it was “gambling.”  We played them anyway.  The Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda, California, collects and restores pinball machines from that era and others; most of them are housed one roof where an “all you can play” day pass is yours for $25.  As a 10-year-old, I’d have thought I’d died and gone to Heavn.

This tee morphs a pinball machine with an early ‘60s hotrod monsters to capture the teenage male zeitgeist of the times.  Yes, I used the word “zeitgeist.” Sue me.Weird-ohs Digger Kit

By my best guess, the “monster” component is copied from the Hawk “Weird-ohs” plastic model kit, “Digger.” We had one around the house; my older sister bought and assembled it, which was entirely unlike her. I remember that she did a masterful job painting red veins on the eyeballs.

Primer Nationals Kustom Kar Show Tee

If Ed Roth were still alive, he’d probably stop by the Primer Nationals car show (later succeeded by the Ventura Nationals) in Ventura, California.  To enter, your car has to be American; it has to be older than 1968; it has to be either an old-school hot rod or a restored or customized car.

The Primer Nationals was a bastion of what’s called Kustom Kulture: the teen-oriented custom car and hot rod culture of the ’50s and ‘60s, and the design aesthetic that went with them.  Roth was hip deep in Kustom Kulture, both through artwork and through the design of his own custom vehicles; and this t-shirt is all outlaw and all Roth.

Kustom Kulture still lives; and as long as it does, Ed Roth will be remembered.

In the meantime, I’m going to stop stalling and pay full price for an Ed Roth Rat Fink tee — in the original black and white, in honor of 12-year-old me who looked at those Roth ads in the back of Model Car Science magazine in the junior high school library at lunchtime and wondered if I’d ever dare order one, and what the parents would say.

I never did.  Now is the time. Now more than ever.

Tee Shirts from the Collection: Shifty Vintners and the Rubber Monster Mask Supply Chain

(To long-time readers.  I’m continuing to churn out short posts about the tees in my recently-catalogued collection.  Please check past this post to see if there are any older ones you’ve missed!)

Santa Cruz BD Vinyards Sirah Tee 1

Here in Santa Cruz, my wife and I used to stop to a particular coffee house before heading off to work. The rear table pretty much belonged to a middle-aged guy in a tee-shirt. He had long, flyaway hair, Harry Potter glasses, and at all times a slightly confused expression.

In short, he fell into the category of Typical Santa Cruz Character/Middle-Aged Hippie Subtype: except for the big Euro-style brief bag stuffed with documents and his ever-present laptop. He’d shuffle paper and  intently tap the keyboard for awhile and then drive off in a 40-year-old Citroen station wagon, the kind that looks like it wants to launch into outer space. He had two of them, one red and one white.

Come to find out that he was Randall Grahm, rebel and dreamer of the world of winemaking and viticulture, and proprietor of the local Bonny Doon Vineyard for decades. He’s reinvented his business and methods several times over the years: sometimes radically, always subversively.

Santa Cruz BD Vinyards Sirah Tee 2

Grahm takes playful approach to the names of his wines, and to the wine label art. He employs talented and unconventional artists for his labels, and of course the label art appear on t-shirts in the gift shop, thank you.

The label for this syrah is pretty funny: wine-maker as Renaissance Frenchman, slyly tempting you with wines from within his cloak, like some seedy gentleman selling naughty postcards.

The best-known Boony Doon wine label is for Le Cigar Volante, a red blend.  During the flying saucer scares of the 1950s, a French wine-making town banned “cigars volante” (flying cigars) from hovering overhead and spoiling the vintage. As below:

Cigare Volante Label

Grahm makes a tee with this label, but I’ve never found one at the Goodwill; I may have to pay full price one of these days.

Haven’t seen Mr. Grahm lately, At one point he put a “for sale” sign on the white Citroen, though interest proved small. But I did see him as recently as last year driving around in the red one. Its vanity license plate reads “Le Cigare.”

(Click the link if you’d like to see more Bonny Doon Vineyard label art. )

On to the next t-shirt:

Santa Cruz Trick or Treat Studios They Live Tee

Sometimes I look at a tee hanging on the thrift store rack and ask myself, “Should I risk my $2.49 on this? Really?” In this case I did, and I’m glad. Because this tee is both local to Santa Cruz, and answers the question:

What do you do if you’re a supply chain manager for a disk drive company, making disk drive production run smoothly, but your lifelong passion actually lies in rubber monster masks?

Eventually, when it becomes a choice of what to do next with your life, you put those same supply-chain/Six-Sigma skills to work producing rubber masks of famous film monsters (and a few t-shirts). And that’s what the CEO of Trick or Treat Studios did.

Trick or Treat Studios is a typical Santa Cruz County entrepreneurial business; nly the product is not typical.  Trick or Treat directly employs ten or fifteen people at company HQ; it licenses the rights to copyrighted characters and images; it contracts with creative professionals to develop and prototype  products based on those characters; it makes those products at plants far from Santa Cruz; and distributes and sells those products through mail-order, other distributors and big retailers.

See? Just like making disk drives, except that rubber masks are way more fun. This tee portrays an alien from an old John Carpenter movie, the schlock classic “They Live.” Remember? Outer-space capitalists infiltrate and subvert our society on behalf of the galactic financial system.

I think I’ve got to watch that one again.

Tee Shirts from the Collection: Saloon and Bar T-Shirts, “Dive” and Otherwise

Kokopelli Moon Saloon Tee

(To long-time readers: I’ve got my t-shirt collection mostly catalogued, and I’m starting to write up descriptions of the individual shirts. This essay draws on some of my tee research.)

Some people call them cocktail lounges, or clubs, or saloons. To me, they’re all bars. Whether the drinks are mixed or beers the only tipple. Whether there’s one pool table or a dozen. You pony up. You drink — with friends, for company, or alone when you’re the only company you have or want.

There may be food. There may be ‘tude. There may be social life, or a darts tourney, or a pick-up scene. Or just locals who know each other, or want to know somebody, anybody, because they’re lonely or horny and home is just a bed. And if you buy enough drinks, at least the bartender will learn your name. Eventually.

And there may be a tee shirt, especially if it’s a dive bar. (Although about everything calls itself a dive bar these days.) A bar t-shirt’s purpose is to be worn proudly by regulars; but mainly to look somewhat cool, so that the bar looks cool, too. So that you, a stranger, might see the shirt and think about stopping by..

Johnny's Bar Busty Biker Tee

The question is, “looks cool” to whom? If you’re a certain kind of guy, “cool” may be a hot blonde with breasts spilling out of her clothes, a pool cue in hand, and a motorcycle. It’s a kind of visual pheromone; the scenario writes itself in the hopeful mind. And while the promise may never be kept, you never know. And there’ll be beer.

Johnny’s Bar and Grill, by the way, is a venerable small-town saloon in Hollister, California. There’s Monday Night Football on the big screen, dart tourneys, and karaoke nights, and probably a pool table someplace. And once a year it’s invaded by bikers; the whole town is, actually. Call it a festival. I really doubt that bosom-spilling centerfold models are on the premises nightly, but you can dream. They want you to.

So that’s one kind of cool. But elsewhere, “cool” may be a unicorn giving discreet oral sex to a griffin with a drink in its hand.

Griffin Bar Unicorn Sex LV The Griffin in Las Vegas doesn’t call itself as a dive bar; it presents as a classy, classic ’50s cocktail lounge. But if that’s the case I just… don’t get… the t-shirt. A griffin getting oral sex from a unicorn? Unless that’s a reference to Frank Sinatra or something. Just kidding. I never understood Vegas. Or maybe I understood it too well.

I could have dozens of tees like these, if I kept my eyes open: potential sex is a basic theme for bar tees. But I don’t need or want dozens. Though this tee from a bar in a touristy beach town near me has more fun with the idea.

Capitola Bay Bar Tee

They don’t have dive bars on the Capitola Esplanade (just down the road from Santa Cruz, my home), but Bay Bar and Grill is definitely a locals’ spot. There, any would-be Tiki God from the nearby Pleasure Point surf breaks can meet the home town wahine of his dreams,. Or that’s the story, if you believe what t-shirts tell you.

Again, back to dive bars: I don’t know what it is about college-educated young professionals, but in this town at least they want every bar to be a dive bar — a gritty, lively place full of “real” people and “real” alcoholics. The booze is cheap, the pours are big, and the bartender has seen the elephant. And Happy Hour never ends. Santa Cruz’ favorite dive bar is the Rush Inn,; the Rush Inn meets all the requirements. Plus heavy cigarette smoke.

Santa Cruz Rush Inn Tee

I don’t get the appeal, but who said that was important? Though I have to ask what a “dive bar” is anymore. The Lucky 13 calls itself a dive bar. But with a notably arty tee and a rotating selection of craft beers on tap. And it’s own tattoo parlor located conveniently upstairs for times when the craft beer has broken down your inhibitions.

Lucky 13 Devil Cat Bar Tee

A dive bar with craft beer on tap and in-house tattooing? In a comfortable neighborhood of comfortable Alameda, California? I think we’ve crossed the line into marketing and branding here.

But nobody could deny that the Alley Cat Lounge is “real.”

Alley Cat

The Alley Cat is an Indianapolis dive bar: the real thing, reaching back seventy years. I picked it up because the tee design is supremely good.

The Alley Cat is literally on an alley: walk past the dumpsters and the scruffy street punks to find the front door. Once upon a time cops and reporters and “the element” rubbed shoulders and downed stiff shots in its low-life environs.

Things have changed somewhat: the front room is now an attractive lounge with good lighting and good food. But head for the back room, where it’s still dark and spartan and the walls are old brick, the bartenders pour big, and the hard drinkers party like it’s 1949. That’s a dive bar, friends.

Not a dive bar, but I have to throw in this mystery entry: Wayne’s Cowboy Room.

Wayne's Cowboy Room Tee

I can’t find out a thing about this tee but… a vaccuum tube wearing a cowboy suit? You’re talking Hank Williams, old-school cowboy music, and maybe some rockabilly: the kind of cowboy and country music played in ‘50s honky-tonks on Martin guitars and tube amps. Wayne’s sounds like a great bar with a great music scene, but I’ll never really know. Unless someone tells me.

Hammered Shark Good Fake Bar Tee

That’s about it for right now. Although you’ll note I had nothing to say about the Kokopelli Moon Saloon t-shirt at the top of this article, nor about the Hammered Shark Saloon tee that you see above. That’s because they’re fakes: joke shirts. “Real” bar tees can be so over-the-top that joke shirts can pass for the real thing. I got snookered.

I keep them in the collection anyway, as a lesson: that sometimes it’s hard to make up something very much crazier than reality.