— Paul Ford, in an excellent keynote speech given to the graduating MFA students at the School for the Visual Arts, on our slippery understanding of time and how we make use of the seasons (days, hours, heartbeats, nanoseconds) allotted to us and the users of our work as designers.
My mind was somewhat blown when I discovered that the Clash filmed the video for Rock the Casbah here in Austin, TX back in 1981 (go watch it, it’s on YouTube). It became a trivia game amongst my office of long-time Austinites to try to identify all of the various shots in the video, most of which are at businesses and hangouts long gone (you’ll see the original Posse at 24th & Guadalupe, the Alamo Hotel, the Burger King on the Drag, the gas station across from Oat Willie’s on 29th, the old City Coliseum music venue, etc.).
Before I go into the long Austin-nerd story below, I learned a couple of other amazing things about this video via this great read:
- The director of photography was Barry Sonnenfeld, who would later go on to film Raising Arizona, When Harry Met Sally, and direct the Men in Black trilogy and The Addams Family.
- The “Sheik” and the “Orthodox Jew” characters were played by amateur actors. The two of them hung out with Barry Sonnenfeld that night at the Liberty Lunch, and met a couple of young dudes in town scouting for a location for their first feature film: Ethan and Joel Coen!
Now onto the deeper trivia investigation…
One long-standing mystery was the quick shot of the armadillo traipsing in front of a Winchell’s Donuts (a chain that hasn’t been seen here in decades). I came back to this recently and asked for help from Twitter and Facebook friends, and the best clue came from this excellent post from Troy Dillinger about the early days of MTV-era punk rock, Joe Ely, and the Clash. That post cites the location as S. Congress & Oltorf, so I jumped over to Google Street View to confirm, and lo and behold I think I’ve found the shot, documented with the photo below.
But then controversy: multiple people wrote to me to say “no no, it was South Lamar and Barton Skyway!” or “I remember going to that place, it was on Duval near UT, close to the Posse East”. This kind of gnawing uncertainty has a way of festering in my trivia-addled mind, so I needed to confirm for sure. Also, my officemates were now even more perplexed.
I work across the street from the Briscoe Center for American History, which conveniently has phone books for many Texas cities dating back to the early 1900s. Disguised as a researcher, I had them pull the Austin phone books for 1979–1983, and I looked up Winchell’s Donuts. Only three locations were listed, none on South Congress or Lamar or even the implausible Duval. What the heck, yo.
Thankfully, my boss earlier pointed out the red DRUGS sign on the building in the background (early subliminal messaging in a music video?? ;). We couldn’t read the blurry hexagonal sign just behind the Winchell’s, but this drugstore sign was a great clue. The 1980s phone books listed a Revco Drugs at 2301 S. Congress, exactly the address where I took this Street View shot. The logo looks right, if you can imagine what the 1980s stylized version would be, with the outsized script R. Also, Revco was purchased in the late 1990s by CVS, which exists at that location today, and to my eyes it looks like they just swapped logos on the hexagonal sign.
Further evidence: another shot in the Clash video was filmed outside a Victorian-style house, which is now a Wells Fargo bank right across the street from this Congress & Oltorf location.
Hat tip to one Daniel Lugo for pointing out the identical 3 poles and fire hydrant, and to everyone else who wrote to share links or other anecdotes about 1980s Austin!
— Henry Rollins, in the LA Weekly musing on Texas history and our state’s sometimes perplexing place within American culture during a stay in San Antonio.
From Marcus Aurelius’ always timely Meditations.
I choose to modernize that sentiment by swapping out ‘impudent people’ with ‘assholes’ and it seems to work pretty well…
— From a New York Times article on cartoonist Al Jaffee (of Mad Magazine fame, where among other things he continues to paint the back-cover Fold-In, a feature he’s been creating since 1964!). At age 92, he’s giving his archive of work to Columbia University’s rare book and manuscript library, including boxes of comic strips that he was tinkering with in the 1950s and 1960, unseen by the rest of the world.
If you’re a fan of the movie Clue, go read this piece immediately: "Something Terrible Has Happened Here": The Crazy Story Of How "Clue" Went From Forgotten Flop To Cult Triumph
One of my favorite comedies. So many great back stories and insights on how different it could have been (originally to be written by Tom Stoppard! with John Landis directing! and Carrie Fisher and Rowan Atkinson starring!).
(Hat tip to @jondavidguerra)