Category Archives: Magazines

La Cade: The little hair care company that made some big waves.

La Cade Products was another of many Chicago-based black hair care firms (that I detail here) during the late 60s through the 1970s. Though not as well-known as Supreme Products (who created Duke and Raveen) or Johnson Products (who created Soft Sheen, Afro Sheen, and Ultra Sheen), La Cade left behind scant but fascinating evidence of its existence.

First off, it left some pretty great advertisements starting around 1972 (my favorite is above, from a 1974 issue of Ebony Magazine). How’s that for swagger? There’s a sort of street romantic and cinematic appeal to the image used. They also came up with some clever product names: one of which got them in legal trouble… but we’ll dig into that later in this post.

Most notably, to me (and probably, many Darkjive readers, as well) is that sometime around 1974 La Cade decided to put together a small recording division, based at their Corporate Headquarters (2411 South Michigan in Chicago). They recorded no less than two artists on two singles: both of which are as gritty and charismatic as the ad above.

The first is “Beginning of the Void” backed by “Love Me Too” by Danny Hunt (who sounds to me very much like a young Stevie Wonder on his records). I actually love this record. Very soulful, with a stone cold groove, the lyrics are remarkably socially aware and include:

Just another ghetto child

never see his Daddy smile

He’s in the beginning of his void

The following year, Hunt released a beast of a cut arranged by the iconic Tom Tom Washington and released on Dynamite Records (another tiny Chicago-based imprint). Last time I checked, Danny Hunt was alive and well in the Chicago-area singing Gospel music.

The other record I have found is by Walter “Butterball” Davis, titled “Baby (Wacha Doin to me)” backed by “Girl Stop Begging”. He had also put out a record called “Nobody Cares for a Junkie” on Butterball Records… it’s deep. Really deep. But, Back to “Girl Stop Begging”: the cut is a bluesy-funky little gem penned by Davis himself.

Both records suffered from lack of promotion and distribution and stalled out. It was about this time that La Cade trademarked a product name that I think is very seventies and cool: “The Last Tangle”, presumably inspired by the controversial 1972 film “Last Tango in Paris”. In the film (which was Rated X at the time), Marlon Brando’s middle-aged character has a torrid affair with a soon to be married young Parisian woman with scandalous results. Oh yes, these folks had some swagger.

Not long after La Cade’s foray into the Record Business, they were embroiled in a legal battle with one Roux Laboratories over a product name. The Laboratories were initially contesting La Cade’s claim to copyright the term “Mink” as in La Cade’s product “Ultra Mink”. Roux Laboratories apparently had a hair product called “White Minx” and stated that the product names were too close for comfort. The case took a turn when Roux Laboratories’ counsel stated:

MR. SULLIVAN: I would like to renew my running objection that the only question involved here is the applicant’s right to use the descriptive term “ultra.”
We do not object to its use of the term “Mink,” which has been disclaimed by applicant. Neither have we objected to the use of others using the term “Mink,” but we are objecting to the use of the descriptive term “ultra” which we had adopted and used as part of the “ultra White Minx” trademark but using “ultra” merely in its descriptive connotation, and that is the whole substance of this opposition.
ROUX LABORATORIES, INC. v. LA CADE PRODUCTS CO. 558 F.2d 33 (1977)

Ultimately, Roux Laboratories’ counsel dropped the complaint, but not without costing La Cade a lot of money in legal fees. By 1977, the firm had stopped advertising in Ebony Magazine, had stopped releasing records, and the trail goes otherwise cold. But, in a few short years, La Cade surely left behind some waves: both soundwaves and hair waves. Jive on!

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Dorothy Donegan: Chicago’s own Jazz Cover Girl

Darkjive focuses mainly on soul music born and bred here in Chicago during the golden era of Chicago Soul: the 1960s through the late 1970s. Anyone who knows me, however, knows I am passionate about a variety of music that has come out of our city: especially soul, blues, and jazz.

That said, recently an old cover of local titan-of-print Ebony Magazine (from July of 1946!) caught my eye for both the byline and the cover girl:

The cover featured local jazz pianist Dorothy Donegan, and the byline read: “Is Jazz Going Highbrow?”

A graduate of DuSable High School, Donegan studied music with Walter Dyett, as did so much of our homegrown talent (like Nat King Cole). She was noted for her abundance of sass and personality (which was apparent in her stage show, but never really translated to record sales). That personality helped win her a following in Chicago’s South Side club scene which featured spots like the Crown Propeller Lounge where a contortionist named Atlantis (though some say she was called Aquanetta) performed in a fish tank (pictured at left in 1954 with King Kolax… underwater).

That abundance of personality proved to be both a blessing and a curse. The New York Times’ Ben Ratliff once wrote:

“Her flamboyance helped her find work in a field that was largely hostile to women. To a certain extent, it was also her downfall; her concerts were often criticized for having an excess of personality.”

Dorothy Donegan won an American Jazz Master fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1992. She was 70 years old.

Very sassy, indeed.

Below, Dorothy Donegan performing in 1945. Jive and jitterbug on!


Ebony is Back…. and fly!

Oh. Goodness. To be clear, Ebony never left us, but it did sort of lose influence in the Black Community. But, wow, have they stepped up. And, I’m prouder than ever to pass by their headquarters here in Chicago (on South Michigan Avenue).

To give a little background, Ebony (launched in the 1940s by the Johnson Family) was by far the most popular, influential Black Magazine in America for decades. At its peak, Ebony was home to Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Moneta Sleet, Jr., among other giants in the publishing field. By the 21st Century, their popularity (along with magazines in general) had waned, and by 2010, they well undersold expectations and were in need of an aesthetic revamp. There was talk of selling the magazine. But, first they gave it another shot.

The first move they made was to bring in Desiree Rogers as CEO. Then they hired Amy DuBois Barnett (of Honey Magazine [sadly shuttered circa 2006]) as Editor, and brought in young, fresh talent from Vanity Fair and a slew of other sources. Next, the team commenced in the first full overhaul of the magazine since 1945.  The first revamped Ebony was published in April 2011.

In recent offerings, they’ve captured cutting edge yet approachable black culture, art, music, and thought (recent features have covered topics as varied as the recent retrospective of Black visual artist Glenn Ligon, underground soul /vocalist Jesse Boykins III, what Black Fashion Bloggers were wearing during New York’s Fashion Week [hint: it was fly], and cultural critic Touré unpacked the rhetoric of “Post-Blackness“). They also represent the full tonal spectrum of black beauty in their fashion/beauty sections, something that had been slipping a bit in recent years. For more on Ebony’s legacy in the fashion world, click here.

In short, they worked it out. It shows. Check out September 2011’s cover, above.

As of 2011, Ebony’s circulation averaged 1,235,865 (a 10.9 percent increase), and Jet’s swelled to 820,557 (a 7.6 percent increase).

Jive on.


Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects

What do you get when you mix a maverick artist with strong community ties and an Urban Planner? For one thing, Theaster Gates. For another, the Dorchester Projects, pictured above. Theaster has been purchasing properties in the Woodlawn/Grand Crossing neighborhood for a few years now, and has quietly acquired the stock of the former Dr. Wax record store as well as the now defunct Prairie Avenue Bookstore (both businesses were revered in their respective collector communities). He created a home for glass lantern slides that depict the canon of Western Fine Art. Using reclaimed materials, he is turning his properties into cultural community hubs, featuring curators and programming that reflects the collections and the community.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll be curating the record collection in May and June of 2011, culminating in a series of talks on Chicago Music History (details to follow) and a couple of good, old-fashioned dance parties starring local-born music.

Read the New York Times article about what’s poppin on the South Side with the Dorchester Projects.


Ebony in the digital age

 

Chicago’s own Ebony Magazine has digitized its archives.  Celebrate.

Ebony was the premier photojournalism and news magazine of the Black Diaspora for decades.   During its peak, Ebony featured groundbreaking work by photographers such as Gordon Parks (work seen below), as well as thought provoking articles that exposed sometimes obscure corners of the “black experience” (Mixed race children of WWII G.I.s in Japan, black scuba divers, black opera singers, et al.).  A beautiful thing.

 A contender has yet to step up to the plate and pick up that mantle.

click here to access the archive that goes back more than fifty years. Jive on!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Eunice Johnson: Wrought a Roadshow of Dreams

 

Eunice Johnson (1916-2010), widow of Ebony/Jet Publisher John H. Johnson, was more than Black Media’s First Lady.  As Creator and Director of the Ebony Fashion Fair (an all black roadshow of haute couture), she paved the way for generations of black models from Beverly Johnson and Naomi Sims to Naomi Campbell.  In fact, Richard Roundtree (“Shaft”) was a Fashion Fair model before he was kicking tail on the big screen. 

In the show, which was started in 1961, she included some of the most fashion forward designers, including Yves Saint Laurent (pictured with Mrs. Johnson, above).  In a time when Chicago was in many ways the hub of culture and information that bound the Black Community together (i.e., the nationally recognized Chicago Defender, Ebony, Jet, and a world renowned music and arts scene), Mrs. Johnson took her Fashion Crusade to the streets in towns both near and remote.  Accordingly, sewing machines buzzed each season, inspired by the roadshow of dreams.  Her shows, as well as so many of those classic Ebony Magazine fashion layouts, presented our people as we were (and still are) striving to be: free and uplifted. Strutting. Gliding.

As if that weren’t enough, Ebony Fashion Fair, which grew into the world’s largest traveling fashion show,  annually encompasses a nearly 180-city tour of the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.  It has raised more than $55 million for various charities.

And it keeps us dreaming.  To me, that is her legacy.  She brought the dream to our door.

Jive on!


AREA/Chicago Release Party… inside and outside Chicago

pigasus for president chicago 1968

(above, Pigasus [the pig candidate for President from the Yippie party] at a rally, Chicago 1968.  classic Windy City protest)

AREA/Chicago announces a publication release / art happening….

(AREA Chicago Art/Research/Education/Activism is a publication and event series dedicated to researching, supporting and networking local social, political and cultural movements.)

AREA #9 Release Party marks the release of AREA #9 Peripheral Vision: A Local Reader Inside and Outside Chicago…November 1, 2009 from 2:00pm till 5:00 pm.

The release party will be coinciding with the closing party for the exhibit/event series titled Demise of the South Side Community Art Center at the South Side Community Art Center, 3831 S. Michigan Ave. (CTA: Indiana stop on the Green Line)

So there will be lots of great things to see alongside two events which are scheduled:

3:00 Peripheral Feminism: Readings by contributors
and 4:00 Performance by Sebastian Alvarez

This issue’s contributions are by/about:

Notes for a People’s Atlas of Calumet, Claire Pentecost, disability activism, Paul Durica, deindustrialization, Stephanie Farmer, Sean Noonan, Compass Group, Hobofest, Jayne Hileman, Ishpeming, Anthony Rayson, Forgotten Chicago, Dinah Ramirez, James Lane, Crandon mine campaign, Sarah Kanouse, Nick Brown, suburban segregation, The Brownlands, Mairead Case, rural pilgrimage, Beth Gutelius, feminism, Dale Asis, Southeast Environmental Task Force, Sarah Kavage, the Burnham plan, Lorenza Perelli, Chicago Otra, Donna Kiser, Erin Moore, immigration detention, Mara Naselli, used bookstores, Sue Simensky Bietila, Mary Patten, donation diasporas, Joann Podkul, MAS, Brian Schultz, ecology, Joey Pizzolato, regional energy, Alex Yablon, Native American sites, Carrie Breitbach, HIV in minority communities, Quincy Saul, Gary, Bert Stabler, Great Lakes waterways, Charlie Vinz, teaching urban studies in the suburbs, teaching art on the south side, Larry Shure, Southworks, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Dan Wang, Nazis in Skokie, No Se Vende, Mike Wolf, Human Action Campaign Organization, Ashley Weger, demolition, Ryan Hollon, Andrew Greenlee, Gloria Ortiz, Steel Shavings, Paul Sargent, slumming, Laurie Palmer, neoliberal poetry, Michelle Lugalia, world systems, Steve Macek, distribution, Rebecca Zorach, Nicolas Lampert, sprawl, Daniel Tucker, Tamms, Carol Ng-He, STAND, Wade Tillett, Nicole Marroquin, CTA, anarchists in the suburbs, Sam Barnett, Chase Bracamontes, Sergei Chrucky, Generations for Peace, Matthias Regan, Just Farming Small Farmers Confederation, parking meter protests, radical memory.

RSVP here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/event.php?eid=150798202534&ref=ts 

For more info, email areachicagointern@gmail.com

(below, the South Side Community Art Center. The Art Center, which was established as part of the Works Progress Administration’s [WPA] Federal Art Project, has been influential in the development of the city’s African-American artists. It is the only continuous survivor of the more than 100 centers established nationwide by the WPA during the 1930s and ’40s.)

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Printers’ Ball Tonite!

printersball2009

Chicago is a hotbed for so many fields of creative art: among them printed arts.  From edgy magazines (Alarm, Stop Smiling, et al), to indie book publishers, comics, literary journals, and newspapers, there’s myriad ways to get high on ink!

Celebrate our collective literary history at the Printers’ Ball, organized by Poetry Magazine (an iconic magazine in its own right). 

Thanks to poetryfoundation.org for the info. 

Fifth Annual Printers’ Ball

Ludington Building
1104 South Wabash Avenue
5:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Admission to the Printers’ Ball is free and open to all ages.

 

Sneak previews of Printers’ Ball publications, preparations, and secret invitations are available at the official Printers’ Ball blog, Chicago Poetry Calendar: http://chicagopoetrycalendar.blogspot.com.

Special Attractions:

• Free ink on paper, including magazines, books, broadsides, and more
• Hidden treasures
• Printers’ Ball Library, hosted by the Alternative Press Center and the Chicago Underground Library, which invites you to spend quality time with quality print. Visit the library to browse all publications; learn more about your discoveries, what you might have missed, and where to find it; and connect directly with publishers and organizations through our one-stop mailing list and subscription kiosks.
• Busy Beaver ButtonOmatic
• Papermaking and book-binding demonstrations
• Letterpress, offset, and rubber stamp printing demonstrations
• Silkscreen demonstrations by Anchor Graphics
• Minibook-making lessons from Featherproof Books
• Ratso from Chic-A-Go-Go
• Live interviews by Chicago Subtext’s Amy Guth
• Elevated Diction, presented by Silver Tongue


Arise Up!

going_downtown_02
Picture world renowned photographers flown into Nigeria, photo shoots featuring African supermodels all over the world.  I’m not talking about the now fabled All-Black Italian Vogue.
“Arise” is that magazine: published in London by THISDAY, it’s a survey of Contemporary African Fashion & Pop Culture.  A window into a world we don’t see in full color, glossy glory nearly enough. 

What I have seen of the magazine excites me; but there is a bit of controversy.  The magazine has been criticized because an African Lifestyle Magazine doesn’t aid the continent in its upliftment.  I disagree, if only because magazines give us something to dream about, views of a life we can all aspire to (if we so choose), or maybe even a degree of escapism.  All the better if those people look like us, and the aesthetic is one that we can relate to.  Arise Magazine, to me, serves to bring balance to the butter cookie-cutter world of fashion and lifestyle magazines.  I like gingerbread, myself.  

Also, some folks feel as though the cover price (something like $12 per issue in the US, and 59 British Pounds, or about $90 per year) is overly prohibitive, effectively pricing out many (including me, honestly).  But I can dream…

Here’s some KNOCKOUT sample images:

Supermodels Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek & Liya Kebebe dressed by Nigerian designers, Deola Sagoe, Fati Asibelua of MOMO Couture, Lanre DaSilva Ajayi of LDA.

Alek Wek In Deola Sagoe

Naomi

Naomi Campbell in Deola Sagoe

Liya

Liya in Deola Sagoe

for more about Arise, click here


Blackness…Finally Forgivable?

from the Stop Smiling Blog….

A Pugilist’s Pardon, Once Unforgivable

blog-johnson1It’s Jack Johnson, 1 — Scooter Libby, zero. Senator John McCain delivers some straight talk we can believe in with the announcement this week that he is seeking a presidential pardon for the late Jack Johnson, the nation’s first black heavyweight boxing champion, who he “feels was wronged by a 1913 conviction of violating the Mann Act by having a consensual relationship with a white woman” (read more about the story at AP); STOP SMILING featured Johnson on the cover of our Boxing Issue back in 2005, timing with the release of Ken Burn’s extraordinary documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. The final bell will be rung by President Obama.

Really? What’s McCain’s motivation? I remember an audio piece produced by my friend Kabuika for Vocalo.org in which an eleven year old kid asks Black Journalists if they think McCain is afraid of Black People (after McCain declined an invite to a Conference of Black Journalists in 2008).

McCain, Afraid of Black People? by Kabuika

So, what is McCain’s Motivation for pushing to pardon somebody who’s been dead sixty-0dd years?  Like the classic Tootsie Pop commercial, the world may never know