In the final part of the Style Wars interview, Henry Chalfant talks about meeting Martha Cooper, and both men discuss what they did after Style Wars was done and dusted.
How did Martha Cooper come to be working with you?
Henry: Martha Cooper, independently, was working with DONDI in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. She had come across DONDI during a project she was doing on doves – pigeon flying in New York. She was talking to a kid who showed her his black book, his piece book and when she showed interest in it, he said, “I know one of the best writers”, and he introduced her to DONDI. So, she, independently of me, around the same time was taking pictures. Inevitably we met eachother. DONDI introduced us in fact. After being rivals for a while we started to pool our resources and ended up doing the book together, Subway Art.
What’s happened with CASE?
Henry: The last time I saw him, which was a couple of years ago he was showing artwork at the Hugo Martinez Gallery in New York. Subsequent to that we tried to get him last summer when we were doing the updates for Style Wars Revisited for the DVD and his mother told me he was in rehab in Phoenix House but that he was doing well. We tried to get to him there but due to institutional reasons of confidentiality and all that they wouldn’t let us film him.
Tony: Actually, we’ve put together a companion film for film festivals which is like a digest of the DVD, fragments of the interviews, the outtakes and so on, and there – for the lack of not having an update interview, which I really regret a lot – I’ve put together a whole sequence about Case with commentary by DJ Red Alert and stuff like that, from other outtakes – some are from the DVD and some are not.
Henry: The ghetto’s own 6 Million Dollar Man.
From the interviews you conducted for the DVD were there any surprises about how people had turned out?
Henry: Oh yeah. I knew a lot of them so I wasn’t surprised in particular as I kept up with people. I think it would be surprising to see how large Dez has grown as he has become Kay Slay, in the sense that he is a very large man but he is also a very big DJ in New York.
Tony: He’s the king… or, as he describes himself, the drama king of mixtapes.
After Style Wars came out what did you both do professionally? Did you continue sculpting, Henry? Did you make more movies, Tony? Tony: I moved onto another project which I worked on developing for a very long time as a matter of fact, about comics, about comic books and comic strips and their impact on cultural history and I’m still working on it. In the meantime, I’ve made a couple of other films though.
What were they?
Tony: I made a film which, along with Style Wars, was in the Revelation Film Festival last year or the year before. It’s called Arisman – Facing the Audience. It’s about a New York artist, a visionary artist and very famous illustrator named Marshall Arisman. He’s quite a cat.
Henry: Well, I sculpted for a little while but after this experience of documenting graffiti and hip hop and doing the film with Tony, it seemed very tame and isolated to be working on sculpture in my studio – and disconnected. So, I decided I’d try to make film, too, using video mainly because, then, money-wise, it was much more ready-at-hand to do video. I ended up doing a documentary about gangs in the ‘70s with an update… I worked with a partner who had old footage of gangs that preceded graffiti and hip hop and we followed up with them twenty years later and did a longitudinal study of these street gangs.
What was that called?
Henry: Flyin’ Cut Sleeve. It’s like flying colours except you’re wearing a dungaree jacket with the sleeves cut off. That’s what they call it. It’s an alternative to flying colours. Then I worked for a while on a piece… my father had footage he shot in 1931 on a trip he made around the world when he had just got out of college and it’s great stuff. I was going to make a film about him and about that time and about my own attitudes towards it. It floundered. I’m going to do it again but I got to a point where I didn’t like it because I was too involved with my own anger at my father I think. In the doing of the project I worked that out and now I don’t care about that any more but I want to make the film. So it’s on the shelf until I can get back to it. I did a small report on the situation in the West Bank of Israel with refugee camps and then I’m working on a thing called… well the working title is From Mambo to Hip Hop, which is kind of a musical view of the South Bronx. It’s a portrait of the South Bronx from the era of the 50’s with mambo, up to the burning of the Bronx and to the emergence of hip hop in the same neighbourhood which is interesting.
Read the rest of this 4-part interview
Part 1 of the Style Wars interview: Wild Style, Rock Steady Crew, Skeme
Part 2 of the Style Wars interview: Iz the Wiz, Min, CAP
Part 3 of the Style Wars interview: DONDI, the police, passion
Part 4 of the Style Wars interview: Martha Cooper, Case, Kay Slay
- Photos courtesy Henry Chalfant
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