WICKED GARY INTERVIEW
©2000, 2003 @149st Do not republish without permission.
@149st thanks WICKED GARY for the considerable amount of personal time spent with us to conduct this invaluable interview.
Where and what year did you start?
I started in Brooklyn in '70. I started in Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn.
What borough are you originally from?
Did you have a mentor or a particular inspiration?
I had a purpose more than a particular inspiration. You know when you're a teenager trying to define yourself and identify who you are and you always hear "you have to be someone" and "be all all of who you are" and what not. I was trying to assert my identity. I guess by repetition I gave it life.
How did you get your name?
That's interesting. Initially I was SUPER SOUL. I used to have some neighbors next door to me. A family with a bunch of girls.My back porch was close enough so that I could jump onto their back porch and a lot of times I could catch the girls in all sorts states of dress and undress. So this one particular day I happened to be on a mission to do just that. I caught one of them coming out the shower. So she said "you're wicked, you're wicked!" and I was like yeah I am ain't I (ha ha). Then I started WICKED GARY. We had WICKED WESLEY who was also in the group (Ex Vandals) so I didn1t want to write the full WICKED out so I shortened it to WG. Eventually when I started writing on the walls I started separating the WG by putting a box around it, so that whenever I looked at a wall from a distance I could always see where my name was. Since I had one of the smaller names. I think I had one of the first two-letter names so to see it on a wall that had a bunch of other tags the only way to really identify it was to see the box around it. Soon as I saw the box I knew that was me.
What lines have you hit?
Well pretty much because of the Blitzkrieg I hit all of the lines. I hit all of the lines on the insides. The lines I hit on the outsides were the Ds the Qs the Js the Ms the 2s,3s, the 4s and the 5s and the double Rs.
Where and what Year did Ex Vandals start?
How did the name Ex Vandals come about?
DINO NOD was on the foot ball team . He was kinda1 like a super senior. He was older than us and a grade above all of us. That was another thing that put him in the leadership mode, the leadership role. We had the first meeting at his house and Friday afternoon we left school. We were all about as popular as we could be within the school. We were standing around talking. and sayin' can you imagine if we had all been writing the same name how popular we would really be how much around that would be And we were like, that's a great idea ; it's the bomb.
We went to DINO NOD's house; we had our first meeting. We sat there and tried to determine what we were gona' call ourselves. The Vangaurds were out and a couple other groups like Magic Incorporated, The Last Survivors, The Brotherhood of Hoodlems. They were like neighborhood groups some of them were associated with gangs that had some writers in them, but none of them were strictly a graffiti group.The Ex Vandals was the first strictly graffiti group. We really liked the name The Vangards. That really had an appeal to us. All of us liked The Vangards. We liked The Vangards so much we said lets do something with "van" in it. You know that had that van feel to it! So we started tossing it around and Vandals came up. We were like," that's cool cause it tells a little bit of who you are 'cause we are vandals going around destroying property, ha ha! That works, but its gotta be something more than that 'cause what were doing was gonna be more than that". So westarted tossing it aroung and the fact that we were all experieced came up into play. We were like "yeah Experienced Vandals"; but it was like 3man that Expericed is too long". So we shortened it to Ex. Then we would only write Ex Vandals we wouldn't even write our names. From the first meeting, what we did was everybody vowed that for the the first month nobody would write their names.. So the only thing we wrote was Ex Vandals. That was a part of the mystery to it was to not divulge who we were, that were the Ex Vandals. On that friday when we left NOD1s house and went to our perspective neighborhoods; soon as we walked out the door we stopped being individuals and began being the group. And Nobody wrote their names, for a month. The only thing we wrote was Ex Vandals. The seven of us went to seven different locations and we just blitzed; I mean we started killing. So what ended up happening was Friday when you went in to go to school there was nothin' happenin1. Monday when you came to back school all you saw everywhere was Ex Vandals! And on monday morning everybody was saying "What the fuck is an Ex Vandal?" I mean Everybode, staff, students, people on the street.
It was like all of the sudden it didn't exist then boom! There it was in mass. And it just went crazy for about a month. And the secret of not revealing ourselves, really made it a lot more intreiguing. After we had our initial impact and opened everybody's eyes to it., we decided now it's a good time to step out and idenytify ourselves. What we did was one by one we made up some Ex Vandals jackets with our own names and Ex Vandals and we wore our jackets to school. Since DINO NOD was the leader on a Monday he wore his. He was the only one to wear his then. So we all had a different day to come in. So by the end of the first week all seven of us had revealed who we were. Then everybody started comming up to us and asking questions and givin' us all sorts of play. After about two, three months We started to open up our membership doors to writers that we thought had potential to be in the group. Who1s names that we saw got up enough that we would consider them to participate. Part of the requirements were, when ever you wrote you had to write Ex Vandals first... Then your name. We really made an emphasis on the group and it was seriously about the group and if you weren't going to be about the group, we didn1t want you. You wrote your name after you wrote Ex Vandals. If you didn1t get time to write your name that was fine we didn1t care, but Ex Vandals had to get up.
Who was the president and vice president?
The president was DINO NOD and at first that was the only office that we had until he kinda' gave it up and I took it over. I ended up being vice president. When DINO NOD actually steeped down I became the head.
Name all the original members.
DINO NOD, myself WICKED GARY, FLIN, KING OF KOOLS, WICKED WESLEY BIGTIME GLASSTOP, CONRAD IS BAD. SCOOTER was at the first meeting declined joining and DADDY COOL was also at the first meeting but declined to join.
Name all the subsequent members.
How 'bout the City of New York! Ha ha! 'Cause everybody at some point wanted to be a part of it So after we opened up the membership doors it went rapid and it would be easier to name the people who weren1t members than to name the people who were members.
During your era most writers wrote as individuals. What were the benefits of writing as a group?
Well one of the main benefits was the exposure. Like I said since we wrote the name of the group first it got up a lot more. One of the things that really helped that on was that we had a really friendly competition with The Vangards. They were a lot of our friends and when we started getting popular they were like "Ah you guys think you got a little something goin' huh?" So we had a little friendly challenge. The judging day for the competition was Easter Sunday 'cause everybody went down to Coney Island on Easter Sunday. What we did after we decided we were gona' have this competition with The Vangards at our next meeting part of what we prescribed was that everyplace that you saw the name of The Vangards If you were an Ex Vandal you were supposed to put an Ex Vandals right beside it. We matched them plus! You can not show me anyplace that you see Vangards that you don1t see Ex Vandals! But I can show you hundreds of Ex Vandals where you don't see Vangards. We did that consciously.
Then Coney Island for Easter Sunday we were all supposed to meet to determine who was the winner and give props.The week before Easter Sunday I sent a team out and we hit Coney Island. DINO NOD led that one personally. He actually went out the night before we went out as a team. He got two or three stories up in certain places that you would never be able to get to, and you1d wonder how the hell did he get up there. Come Easter Sunday Ex Vandals was all over Coney Island, places that wouldn't come down for years and the Vanguards had no choice but to say okay Ex Vandals we give you guys your props. That was also the scariest day in the Ex Vandals lives. 'Cause that was the day we met all 40 divisions of The Black Spades on the boardwalk. We thought we were doing something 'cause we had a hundred of us in colors walking along the boardwalk taking up like two rows and we got to the end of the boardwalk and we turned around and we saw all the divisions of The Black Spades behind us and they were about six rows deep.That story is in Getting up.(by Craig Castelman)
You wrote during a period of time in New York City when street gangs brutally enforced territorial boundaries. How did the Ex Vandals manage to get their names in so many different areas?
Initially we didn't wear our colors so we just went out looking like regular teenagers. So wherever we went we hit. Then we opened up our doors and everybody was writing it so where everybody was it ended up boom! Being there. It was all over the city.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s fat caps and specialized brands of spray paint, ink and markers were not used consistently. What types of writing tools did writers use most often ? (toy markers, standard spray caps?)
Initially we were using started out with the first generation DriMarks The glass ones. Then we graduated to the Pilots Once we saw there was another thickness, it come bigger. We discovered the new sized markers and when we had paint we used paint. Once we started going to trains we definitely started dealing with the paint. I kept a hamper on my front porch with all my supplies in it. So I never had to go in the house. I kept markers and spray caps inside nothing but paint what ever colors, I'd just reach in thrust it in my coat and head back out. One of the things that fascinated LAZAR when I first met him. met him on the bus. Soon as I got on the bus I wrote right behind the driver. I think the balls of me doing that caught his attention so we started talking. He got off the bus with me and we talked for about two hours. He started writing after that. Ended up terrorizing.
Who were your best partners ?
My first and best writing partner was my dog Duke. I had a German Shepard who was the king of the neighborhood an nobody would fuck with me if I had my dog. One of the things that of the things that made me popular at the school was the first day that they put a gate on Erasmus. There was this big black circular piece of metal that they put on to keep folks from trying to get to the lock. The day that they put that gate on there I went and tagged that night. I owned the gate for about two months.You couldn1t walk into the school without walking past my WG on the gate. I owned the gate for literally two months straight. So it pretty much became like my gate.
I would walk my dog, take my paint, my markers, what ever and go tag. They wouldn1t approach me because I had Duke and he was a mean German Shepard Then when we started doing the Ex Vandal thing who ever I assigned as a team with me were my best partners. But on the individual basis I used to like going painting with the girls. 'Cause friday nights was the night that the skating rink was open. So we used to use friday nights as an excuse to go skating and at the same time go hitting. A friend of mine used to live about three blocks away from me named DIMPLES her name was karen. So I used to go spray painting with her. we would act like a couple go in the cars. We'd sit in the corner put the paint behind us. Kill the car and a cop would come through and I'd say something like I saw some kids on a stop or two ago and they were paintin' and spayin' and they got off the train. He would walk right past us because we were in the corner like lovie dovie minding our business. I used to like going writing with the girls 'cause I could get some play (Ha ha!) and I could have some fun, tag and take care of business.
Who were your rivals?
We had friendly rivalries between the different groups in the area. The contest between The Vangards was our first actual contest or challenge of somebody on a graffiti level. Since we weren't about fighting it wasn1t ever about any battling or gang activity. We got so popular at one point that all the gangs and groups got jealous of all the juice that we got. Some of the smaller time groups thought that they could get a name for themselves if they fucked a couple of us up. So they came after us. They put an open season on The Vandals. One of the groups that did that was the Black Dragons. We had a headquarters at Prospect Park Station at a place called Burger Master which was right up at the top of the steps. It was a burger joint. We used to gather there because it was the D train. It was also the last stop for a couple of the buses I t was a central location in terms of after school. It was a transfer point. When we would leave the guys from the Black Dragons would come in. That was their meeting place also, but the time that they got there from their school was the time normally we1d be leaving so we never actually met, but we heard that they had a beef with us and they were talking all this shit and it got back to us. One particular day we just had a meeting and we said we have to put a stop to this right now. So we waited for them one day after school; about sixty of us. We waited across the street in the parking lot to Weton's. So after they all file into our headquarters which is Burger Master, we file in right after them and cut off the exit, they couldn1t leave. The ladie in the store was like, "Oh no, please don't start nothin' in here." And I said this is our headquarters, this is our hang out,. We just come to let them know we dont appreciate them know talkin all this shit. After we confronted them we didn1 have any problems with them any more. There was like seventeen or twenty of them; there was sixty of us, so they backed off after that.
How and what year did you become involved with UGA?
It was around the same time as MICO. After I met Richie (BAMA) and the cats from uptown and they started tellin' us where some of the other the locations were that we could meet cats. We started gettin' together as groups to go up to meet the cats and touch base with them. So we ended going up to Writer's Corner(188). We went up to the Grand Concourse at 149th Street and eventually we went to U.G.A also. That's pretty much how we got in contact with U.G.A.. Later on we were admitted in. It was a long legacy of interesting times.
Was the transition from painting steel to painting canvas an easy one?
No, not at all. 'Cause like I said, my particular efforts were never appreciated for what thay were. Like MICO said a little wile ago, I was probably ahead of my time in terms of concepts that I was doing in terms of being abstract within my name. Painting scenes and images not just graffiti style stuff.
Did your participation at UGA effect your approach to your illegal writing?
No. We were all officially (as being members of U.G.A) retired. Unofficially were active, always, we never stopped. Just when we were in public, when were in a group or together as U.G.A were like "Yes we are retired", but if you checked our pockets there were markers there was paint. We would leave there and go hittin' and on the way there and on the way home.
Are you currently involved in the arts?
One of the sides of the arts that I1m involved with is music which was also a big part of our scene back then. What a lot of folks don't know is a lot of the graffiti artists were also DJs and into music. Like Richie (BAMA), PISTOL ONE and myself used to jam together, for a lot of years playin' music , STAN 153 also. We had the first graffiti band called GIZMO and we get credit for being one of the first groups to actually play the top floor in Danceteria, which was Congo Bill's. We took a break dancer in; we played ther at least four times. We played at each of the floors. I'm still involved in music. I'm a precussionist. I still DJ, I do music production and I still do some of my art when I get a chance.
Any closing words on your work and the culture?
I wish I would have realized the importance of what we had been doing back then, because as much as I do document, I would taken time to really get the story a lot fuller than I did. I did take time at the time to get my signature cards series started. Which was a good documentation of the times because it actually time dated the time period, because, when you look at the signature cards that I had done; which is in the Martin Wong Collection. Most of that stuff if you look was first generation DriMark, which time dates the period. So just the fact that it's DriMark and not Pilot. It puts the time stamp on it and really validates that time period for the folks that I was able to meet during those times. I really suprised at the true impact that its had on the whole culture around the world and it's amazing when I get e-mails from Japan and Cali and Germany. I've been to spain and Italy and all these different places and see the impact that its had all over the planet. It's amazing to me. I1m proud; you know to have been one of the pioneers. I'm also proud thats its maintained a culture; that its grown into a culture. You know if you want read up on it now, you have to go to the socilogy section, the study of a culture and it's a part of what my efforts have given birth to. It's also nice to see the young cats tryin' to learn the history and know the history, to know that it's important for them to wanna' have their roots and the information of where the history comes from to there present situation in current times to give it the energy to go to the next level and the next generation and the next millenium. I feel real proud in terms of my input and the impact that its had and the fact that its still alive and strong thirty years later.
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