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You clicked the link.
Up for a little thrill, eh?
Okay… buckle up your seatbelt.
Rest assured that if you watch all the film scenes and read all the comics herein, you are not likely to come out of this article the same way you did when you entered. It’s a promise.
Just as promised the topic of this e-mail will go into the story of two internationally known artists who were both residents of Williamsburg from 2000-2006: Nick Zedd and Mike Diana.
Nick Zedd is a great filmmaker and an amazing writer. Mike Diana is a great “comic book” illustrator and painter although, not at all like the Peanuts or Walt Disney.
Both of these artists have a unique understanding of what it means to walk the thin line of everything that is decent, holy, and good in a society. In this case, the American society.
Not only have they crossed the line but, crossed the road, over the hill and through the woods. Then they’ve leaped off the planet into the galaxy of the subconscious. It is here that we enter their world of what it means 2B offensive and defensive. : ))
Mike Diana still remains the first illustrator in the US to ever get arrested for his comics. Nick Zedd’s innovative film work had influenced 100s of filmmakers and used to illustrate the boundaries of what is creatively possible. on his signature, shoestring budget.
I’ve been out with Nick when young giggling women fans have nervously approach him at bars, asking for his autograph. His usual response was to ask them to buy a vodka & cranberry for the exchange. They did. I did too.
He’s an amazing man to talk to and hang out with. His views on the culture are quite accurate and highly intellectual, often humorous, and if you’ve ever read any of his writing, you’d probably agree.
This was a piece published in 11211 Magazine in 2003:
Who Would Jesus Bomb?
Photo of Nick Zedd by Richard Kern from 1984,
courtesy of Nick Zedd and Fales Library, NYU
For all intents and purposes, I may have been among Nick and Mike in terms of the great visionary and revolutionary artists with “The Offfal Project,” however, even I never dared to go where these men have gone. Their art took offensive material and subject matter light years ahead of the pack and drop kicked it right into the NYC cultural ecology.
Years before I met Nick Zedd, he had already filmed Mike Diana ejaculating, defecating, masticating and urinating on a King James version of The Holy Bible. What made Zedd’s film: “Ecstasy in Entropy“, particularly brutal was Mike Diana’s angelic and beautiful appearance. His muscular, model-like physique, delicate facial features, long blond hair and bright blue eyes were juxtaposed against these offensive gestures. This was the core content of the film. Mike is also one of the gentlest and nicest souls you may ever meet. A friend described him as “a teddy bear”.
The film with Mike was brilliantly captured by Nick Zedd’s amazing and innovative film-work, execution and editing. He’s considered a mastermind in the underground film world aka King of Underground Film.
This is a short film by the incomparable, Nick Zedd and was placed on Wburg TV (Williamsburg | Brooklyn) years ago. It’s about 9-11.
No Plague Like Home
If you’ve ever seen Quentin Terrentino’s: Pulp Fiction, the rape scene and character named Zed is a homage to Nick Zedd.
Below this next video are one of Nick Zedd’s epic works.
Nick Zedd (trailer)
One day while walking the, near barren streets and, boarded up storefronts on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, I saw a small audience of 2 – 3 people standing outside a hole in the wall. It was once a storefront and I didn’t know if there were people squatting in there at night, or not. I never walked in fearing what or who you might find.
Popping up from behind the plywood was a sock puppet. Then, the puppeteer kept jumping up quickly peeking over the make-shift wall to see if anyone had stopped and stood waiting to watch.
Back then, Williamsburg’s Bedford Avenue was known as Avenue E. This was a catch phrase we joked about as a continuation of alphabet city in the East Village.
The first jump was too quick to see who it was. The second jump I still wasn’t sure but, stood a little in shock. By the third jump we made eye contact and I saw him.
“Mike?” I said. “Mike, is that you?”
He waited 10-15 seconds and then stood up. It was him.
He came out from behind the makeshift wood wall.
“Heyyyyyy, Breuk.” he said.
“What the hell are you doing, Mike?”
“I’m going to do a puppet show.”
“What?!? Really? Well, I’m not going to ask what it’s about.” I lied.
“Yep, you had better not,” he said. We laughed. He was right. I knew better. The curiosity was still eating away at me.
“What’s it going to be about?” I asked anyway.
“I don’t know yet. We’ll see what comes out.”
This is the probably LAST guy on the planet you would want to an ad lib a puppet show. That much I knew. I wasn’t going to stick around for it:
“Okay, just don’t get arrested.”
He said: “Okay, let’s hope so. I’ll try my best not to.”
He went back behind and I whispered to the growing audience gleefully waiting: “Oh, you don’t wanna miss this. This guy is a genius.” 😀
I knew the little crowd of pedestrians were in for one of the last things they would ever expect to see. Mike would make no introduction as to who he was. He was never the type to showboat anything about himself, ever. Despite his heavy handed approach to his drawing and writing and very graphic nature of his work, he is mild mannered and as gentle as can be. He would give you the shirt off his back. He holds the door for people and is a gentleman.
This show was going to mentally hurt any unsuspecting viewer. For one, it was going to entail some sort or innocent-esque anal penetration that had absolutely nothing to do with any toilet humor. His work has social and psychological contradictions written and drawn into all its content. His work is also extremely consistent in this respect.
In Williamsburg, Mike Diana lived on Humbolt Street and Nick lived on the corner of Havemeyer and Metropolitan Ave. I have heard and read about both artists in art school but never knew that I’d ever meet them in person.
50 years from now, both of these artists will be credited among the main pivotal figures that have influenced 1000s of artists, filmmakers, and painters. when I had the opportunity to cover their story in 11211 Magazine. I knew there would be hell to pay with the old time locals and the newly transplanted hipster kids.
If you’ve had enough and are already deeply Offended, I am about to kick it up a couple of notches to the Defense portion of this Neurochemical excerpt.
Here’s a link to Disney World… if you want to give up now.
It is my understanding that I’ve written the longest and most thorough interview on Mike Diana. The link to the article, originally published in 11211 magazine, went on an international circuit and written in several languages across the globe. Here’s the article:
I don’t know how many reprints of the article there were in total because at the time, back in little ol’ Williamsburg, I was dealing with an onslaught of three catholic churches, marching. All the local media and a posse of old and new residents were now hell bent on ending the 11211 publication. It was like that scene in Frankenstein when the angry mob is witch hunting the monster in the village with the torches. So many calls were coming in on the telephone, we just closed the offices and took a few days off until the fury was over.
Mike Diana’s comics and Nick Zedd’s articles about the state of the US political affairs were at the core of the Offense. I. Knew there would be an outcry but I also knew that this would bring more artists internationally.
While the residents, churches and Community Board #1 were left deeply and dearly Offended by the content of 11211, I was left with the difficult task of playing the Defense.
In the 11211 corner, on standby, was a slew of lawyers from NYCs prestigious law firms whom I worked for at DisciplinedBeauty.com. I was ready to call in the dogs if we needed a defense and the towels which hung over the ropes of the ring were going to be the First Amendment for the US Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment is one of the things it means to be an American. If you consider yourself American you kind of have to subscribe to the idea, in some respect.
Parades of people marched directly into my advertisers on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg protesting: “This is not right” and “This magazine has to go”, were deeply offended by Mike and Nick’s content.
They have a right to be offended. But, I too have a right to be offended at their offense.
One of my favorite and earliest advertisers in 11211 was Cono Natale who has a prestigious Italian restaurant on Graham for 25 years. first words to me were:
“I don’t know what in the hell
you guys think you got going
on down there in the Twilight Zone…
I could almost hear the words in his head:
You guys better straighten yourselves out!
The churches in the area definitely called him about pulling his advertising.
He was also referring to the radical changes happening on the Northside and Bedford Ave. He was waiting for a response from me. I smiled, knowing exactly what he meant.
Cono is a traditional man of good standing and excellent values. The Mike Diana and Nick Zedd type of comix and films comes from one of the moons of Jupiter. 😀
So if we look at the real estate in Williamsburg today and seeing the numbers and record growth that happened there, culturally, this gets factored in as to how Williamsburg was done. How the international reputation was built—from the slime. 😀
Here’s what’s next:
The problem is this.
If you are offended by something I say or do, who’s problem is it?
You have two options here.
1) you can say it is my problem or
2) you can say it is your problem.
You are unlikely to choose option two because you would have to take all the blame yourself.
If you choose options 1, then you have to blame the other person.
Let’s review each option.
Option #1: If you blame me for something you are offended at, that’s fine. The problem I have with this is two-fold. First, by default, I AM somehow responsible for your happiness or dissatisfaction. Thank you but, no thank you. I don’t want this responsibility.
Option #2: if you place me in charge of your responsibility, than I have power and dominion over you. Thank you but, no thank you. You are actually handing off your personal power to another.
Oddly, within a month or so of this article: http://www.divus.cc/praha/en/article/sex-violence-and-catholicism, a resurfacing and enormous mainstream media exposure was directed toward the Catholic Church.
Too many stories broke about the crime committed in the churches. People were afraid for years to speak up.
Numerous articles were re-released with new claims placed by young and previous altar boys against priests. The timing of these events were quite fortunate for 11211 and instead of losing advertisers such as we did with the Greenpoint YMCA, and Chopin Chemists, 11211 gained even more advertisers. Business was good.
Okay… So this Neurochemical excerpt was a small slice of some of unconventional publicity. Some may have thought: “You’d have to have a pair brass balls to publish and publicize a neighborhood in this way.”
Brass? Oh no, I should like to make them gold someday.
WBurg TV was a project with 2 time, Emmy Award winning, Jan Mclaughlin,
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