When I last visited Vermont [in Aug. 2004], I spent 3 crazy days in mud, sadness, and relief at Phish’s last stand, Coventry. Mud season had hit early via three tropical storms that blew over right before the festival opened. All the planned fields of parking were fields of shit-smelling mud. My life-long friend and brother Mark helped me make it to the show, wanting one last goodbye to all our years of Phish shows (and hoping to cheer me up as my life began to unravel). The locals were super nice, the sunsets were amazing, and I promised myself that I’d return to Vermont soon. – HappyFeet Travels entry, from VT, in April 19, 2006.
Once again, I have written a comment about a Phish festival experience (I wrote about the Clifford Ball here). Someone on the Phish subreddit asked if anyone had fun at the Phish Coventry festival. I had to think about that for a minute. Was it actually fun? Two memories vividly popped up; one was spending a few hours near the entrance cheering on the folks walking in from the freeway. Another was seeing my friend Mark’s hilarious photographs of shoe wear (or lack of shoes) from other phans. And a police horse.
Getting digital photos back in 2004 wasn’t as easy as it is now (Cloud storage was about a year away from becoming a new and easy way to share). Mark didn’t even use a phone camera to snap the pics. He eventually gave me digital copies, which ended up on a hard drive with other photos. I rediscovered them a few years ago, and frequently look through them for a laugh. Mark had a great time meeting folks and giving their shoes, etc. funny titles. It was a great way to participate during a sad, dreary, shit-smelling weekend.
The following is what I wrote for the subreddit post (with a few revisions for clarity). We had a madcap adventure, which swore me off of flying around for music festivals. It was the end of the 2.0 era of Phish, which was thankfully short. I didn’t mention a few other memories on the subreddit post. One that really stands out is of a strung-out young hippie coming up to our car/camp site and asking us if we knew where any “pharmies” were. Before we could ask her what she meant, a neighbor interrupted and furiously told her to piss off. We asked him what she meant, and he explained that it was legal prescription “hillbilly heroin” that was ruining the scene. And Trey’s life. Oooooooh. That’s what Trey is addicted to. Damn.
Coventry was a surreal, exhausting, muddy experience.
My bro and I flew into and met up in Montreal a day before gates opened. We saw on the hostel’s desktop that phish.com had a notice saying that three tropical storms had delayed the gate opening the next day. Wait to drive in, they asked. I looked at my bro and we both agreed to “leave first thing in the morning and get there ASAP!”
Driving into the USA sucked, but
were were older phans and intentionally drove in looking clean cut with
no contraband. The dogs found nothing, but a few other cars/phans
weren’t so lucky.
We bought groceries
(and mud boots) in town and a tow truck driver shopping there told us
how bad things were on site. He drew us a shortcut to get closer to the
gate and it saved us about 8 hours waiting! Driving in was a painful
experience (I’ve had worse, but this one was brutal) People kept falling
asleep in the car line and we spent 8 hours hopping the sleepers (I’d
yell to try to wake them).
Finally through the gate, we saw a surreal scene of empty fields of mud with huge-wheeled tractors pulling cars into the middle parts. “Screw that” we said and literally drove into the mud on the edge of the “roads” (where most cars parked) and called it a day. We instantly passed out, and I awoke to hearing the “do not come to Coventry” message and all the buzz over what was going to happen next. Later, we saw an RV alone in a muddy field flying a South Carolina flag (our home state) and we trudged down there to say howdy. They were exhausted, not too happy, and freaked out about how to get out of the field (they paid the huge tractor to tow them in there). Bummer. I saw a beautiful sunset that day and told the person beside me “what an amazing sunset!” She said “I know. I live here!” umm, ok.
to the first show was surreal. After a very long walk from our car,
wooden crates literally lined a small path through a pond of deep mud.
Cut the line in the mud at your own risk! Kept hearing the “cowbell” SNL
skit as we trudged with the masses on the tiny path. I consider it a
ring of hell to this day. At the gate to the show, fences were torn
down. No one was looking for tickets, and it was a free concert. Too bad
the music quality was mixed. Trying to get close meant hitting a river
of mud. Huge boulders were in front of the stage, a literal reminder
that Trey’s addiction was blocking the whole experience. After a few
horrible flubs, I couldn’t take it any more and went back to the car to
rest and listen on the radio. I had to turn it off after a while.
Day two was actually quite fun, in a schadenfreude kind of way. We set up chairs at the entrance and cheered on the immigrants from the Interstate. The sun was shining. It was great to see the exhausted shoe-bums finally get into the last-ever Phish show! I recall the most popular item brought into the festival area were coolers. Beer and food! My bro took his camera and photographed muddy feet and shoes. His photo project was hilarious once he developed the film (I have digital copies if anyone is interested). There was food, fresh water access. We had beer and bud. No one really wanted to talk about the quality of last night’s show, but seeing people arriving from the Interstate was all smiles and cheers.
in that night wasn’t as miserable as first night. We tried to get
closer, but ended up on the audience-right wall that was officially an
open urinal and smelled horrible. Back to the Page side of the stage,
where we climbed a hill and watched the scene. Again, the band was
barely together. Hearing Page and Trey cry was such a sad moment. We
heard the encore at the “gate” of the concert area, ready to leave fast
to beat more hell traffic. It was a sad moment to an exhausting weekend,
but we did manage to have some fun.
We had neighbors help us push our car out before the last show, and we parked in the “day lot” to get a fast exit out of the festival. After that last note, we beat a downtrodden path to the lot. Security blocked us off as we all watched three different buses pull out from backstage. Page actually gave a forlorn wave to us from one of the windows as we gave one final cheer to the boys. We all knew that Trey was probably alone and isolated in his own bus. Damn.
We were probably one of the first cars out. Driving past dozens of cop cars with lights blazing, we wandered Vermont back roads until we found a lodge with a clean bed and – most importantly – a shower! Drove back to Montreal the next day and, after trying poutine for the first time, flew back home.
After all of that, I swore that I’d never travel to see Phish, or go to another festival. I’ve broken that first vow, and may eventually break the second…
Postscript: When I went back to Vermont in 2006 to work for Ben Cohen’s Sensible Priorities art car carnival, I managed to head back to Coventry for a visit. The site was easy to find, especially with no traffic! I parked my van, and walked onto the field. After only two years, the fields had recovered. I recall that the boulders were still there, as well as some infrastructure that had sunk in the mud. As always, the vistas were of beautiful Vermont countryside. During that quiet moment, I tried to visualize the mud and masses, the sadness and exhaustion. Phish was gone. Trey hadn’t been arrested yet. And, in 2004, we all had to take care of our shoes that weekend. Some of the unlucky ones are probably still stuck in the cow field muck. And the others are photographs and memories.
Being the ticket maven and willing to fill out the forms and buy the cashiers check (this was before anything could really get purchased over the Internet), I snagged four tickets for The Clifford Ball through the Phish newsletter’s mail order. Mapquest was brand new, so I doubt we used it to find the small New York town of Plattsburgh. Had we kept track, we would’ve seen our 4wd SUV click over 1,000 miles to get to the weekend festival. The event was a wild scene, but totally peaceful and chill. The band drew all types of subcultures to the promise of a good time and some fun music to dance to. When Ryan Randazzo posted about this article, I had a great time trying to recall my feelings and experiences around the weekend. I have a few stories that he didn’t use, and may tell them at a later date.
Flashback: Phish’s Clifford Ball, August 16-18 1996 A beacon of light in the world of flight
By Ryan RandazzoJul 16, 2018 (LINK to NYS Music page)
In the summer of 1996 an estimated 70,000 to 85,000 Phish fans drove to a former Air Force Base in Plattsburgh, NY to attend an event that would forever change the landscape of modern music festivals and add yet another dimension to Phish’s already polarizing live music experience: The Clifford Ball. Fans camped out from August 16-18 to see Phish performed three sets of music and an encore on each of the two show days, as well as a secret jam, the Flatbed Jam, at 3:30 a.m. on the night of the first show. The audience was four times the size of the county the festival took place in, Clinton County, and for that one weekend Plattsburgh became New York’s ninth largest city.
The Clifford Ball was the first festival Phish had ever thrown, and since then they have kept the tradition going with their upcoming festival, Curveball, as their eleventh installment. Going in, fans had no idea what to expect, and most were completely astonished by the experience they had that weekend. In addition to the music, attendants were treated to flights overhead by bombers, gliders, and other aerial vehicles, carnival rides, wandering jugglers, fireworks, a classical violin quartet, a blues quartet, guitar soloists, a choral quintet, a full orchestra, movies in the camping area, a full village built on a hill, a vast array of food and drink vendors, a general store, trampolinists, a aerialist swinging on ropes, and scattered art installments. The carnival vibe filled fans with glee and wonder, and those who attended still say it was one of the most stupendous experiences of their lives. For those interested in watching the festival in its entirety, Phish released a massive seven DVD box set in March 2009. Below is a look back on experiences had at the festival by friends of NYS Music and Phish.net:
Anticipation and Arrival:
John Demeter, Contributor to The Phish Companion, Third Edition: “Oddly enough, we didn’t really expect some Dionysian party, beyond what we were accustomed to (see what I did there?). There were literally a million other places we could go camping that are better than a shitty closed airfield in Plattsburgh. We were expecting to hang out during the days, entertain ourselves, and then see Phish outside the construct of a regular venue. The baseline expectation was Sugarbush from the prior year, which was really nothing but rows of tents in the ski area parking lots.
We had no idea what “festival” in that sense meant at the time. We were calling it “the camp out” right up to the show. We didn’t even consider that there’d be vending, art installations, gliders, and trampoline skiers and such.”
Todd Wimer: “I was beyond stoked when I opened up my mailbox, took out the latest Doniac Schvice, and saw the Clifford Ball announcement. This was how I got Phish news back then, not months in advance via rumor gurus like Attyaloew. Coming off of the New Year’s ’95 run, with 12/1, 12/15, and 12/31/95 being the most recent shows I had seen, I was obsessed with Phish at the time, so the timing was pretty ideal. My high school crew all felt the same way and it was an understood thing that we’d make it up to the festival no matter what.
[Going in] the enthusiasm everywhere was palpable. Phish felt like this big inside joke at the time, and the festival was astounding in that we all looked around and acknowledged that a lot of people were in on the joke. And that was fine, because I love being around Phish people, so the more the merrier (barring tough-ticket shows and scalpers who have since learned to capitalize on this rabid fandom.) My first few shows in ’93 and ’94, the crowd was a lot of white-cap collegiate dudebrahs and nerdy guys with glasses who looked like they played D&D. The wook element was there at those shows, but not as present until after Jerry died the previous summer.”
Russell Howze: “[My initial] reaction was excitement. I knew it would be large, but it was an incredibly large crowd there. I did not expect the art and creativity that happened when the band was not playing, and was also amazed at how many different subcultures were there for the music/party/scene. I expected a huge police presence (the Grateful Dead’s horrible tour/riots/gate crashing were still fresh), but there were only about four mounted, pot-friendly, Texas sheriffs. The gathering of all those people, with no real authority present made for a laid back good time.”
Dan Hewins: ”I was in Vermont at a friend’s house about three hours from Plattsburgh. We (three of us) decided to leave on Thursday about 11 o’clock. We thought we’d beat the traffic by arriving at two and that there should be some people there since the gates opened at noon. Well the surprises began immediately upon entry. There were so many people already there, the lots were filling, and the camping areas were already fully inhabited. The place was booming when we got there so we quickly closed up the car and began moving about the masses. We took a walk to get our bearings and see what we could see. All I could think for a while was, Damn. All this for one band? We explored, danced some by the DJ bus, and explored more.”
“I had been seeing Phish for two years at that point (five shows) but wasn’t the “true” fan as many others tried to be. I was there for the party. Really, it could of been a Dave Matthews Band fest and probably would of gone. I don’t remember much of the drive there except the closer we got the more we knew we were in the right place. Getting up to the gates there was a huge line to get in, of course, but not like the lines you see today.”
The Festival Scene:
Marco Esquandolas*: ”The Clifford Ball was also my first show. Honestly one of the biggest memories that sticks out to this day, non-musically speaking, was just the fact that I managed to find everyone I was looking for, in that pre-cell phone era. Near my campsite there was this big corkboard wall where hundreds and hundreds of people had posted things hoping other folks would see their messages and connect. I picked up a paper plate off the ground and wrote a Sharpie message on it telling my best friend where my tent was – magically he saw that note amongst all the others and found me…. nearly miraculous!”
Mark Larezzo: “I remember it as a giant chaotic mess and total 24 hour party. That and it was CROWDED. I saw the first set on the second day from so far away that the only thing I could make out on the stage was a tiny bright green dot that was Mike.”
Russell Howze: “Folks weren’t really into wearing the costumes back then, but my friend made me a crazy costume to wear (fish-themed fabric, like a Scottish kilt/sash). I also brought a tuxedo and walked around like I was a butler during one of the daytime sets. The stares and drunken drink orders were priceless. The memory I still love is: While chilling under a shade structure on one of the night set breaks (I think it was during a set break), a guy walked in with a flashlight on a tripod. He set it up, turned it on, checked his focus, and then threw a brilliant hand shadow show up on the shade tent’s white-fabric roof. I just had to roll over on my back to watch it, and when he finished, dozens of folks gave him a round of thunderous applause.”
Todd Wimer: “There was a big movie screen in the campground that was showing Simpsons episodes. Drum circles. Many many grasshoppers. Mounties. I’ll tell you some fun that we didn’t have at the campground: the flatbed jam! We were fast asleep and when it passed by, twenty feet away from our tent, we slept right through it. I think there were newspapers being printed daily and circulated on site and we read about the flatbed jam or someone told us about it and we were just confused. ‘Whattaya mean? Where was the stage? Was the truck moving?’ I thought they were trolling us.”
Dan Hewins: “There was a town square replete with Barber Shop, Ball Court, Ball Diner, some kind of chapel, General Store, and a statue of Clifford Ball himself in the center. On the outskirts was an artist area where people were making, building, painting, and creating. There was another building that contained giant asphalt balls. One was about five feet in diameter and some of the others were a bit smaller, but they were all painted like a street. Outside of that building there was a guy standing in front of a huge log about three feet in diameter. He was chopping at it with a hatchet, a tiny hatchet, he was making very slow progress. There was a theme here and if you can guess what it was you win. It was Clifford Ball. Ball was the theme. Artists were sculpting and decorating balls of all types. Inside on of the buildings in the square there were plaques up on the walls with words: orb, sphere, dance, globe, testis, bullet. I got orb, globe, sphere, and dance but I wasn’t sure what testis was.
Jim Pollock was in a tent signing art that he had done. There was a special deal, if you were wearing a shirt he designed you got a dollar off a purchase. I bought a three dollar sticker for two bucks. There was a music tent too, there was a saxophone quartet, that’s all I remember. There also was a place to “confess to Phish.” It was attached to the chapel. It was a small room with a mic and a podium that you would sit behind and “confess” in front of a camera. Hmmm. The barber that I mentioned before gives haircuts too. He only cuts one hair though. I found him giving a haircut to a camera crew guy’s fuzzy microphone. I chose the hair that he should cut and then presented the cut hair to the guy holding the mic. So basically, Clifford Ball square was cool.”
Tela Esquandolas*: “Clearly there were so many musical highlights in retrospect. At the time the Phish I knew best was A Live One and the studio albums up to that point, so a good deal of nuance was lost on me at the time, but what I will never forget is the “Chalkdust Torture” opener. The opening notes sent a wave of goosebumps over my body – the roar of the crowd only increased them… I was there… I had finally arrived… this was it! Still to this day if I play that “Chalkdust” or watch the video of that opener, I get goosebumps – it was the true beginning of my obsession with their music.”
John Demeter: “Seeing Mike’s outfit when he took the stage on day two was among the funniest things in the world. The sound was phenomenal. One hundred bigger and better than anything I could imagine. (Having never experienced the wall of sound. Or heard of it at that point, for that matter. But I had been to plenty of other arena and stadium shows. No comparison.) I can still hear the end “Life On Mars”, the perfect articulation of all those notes across the massive field. I didn’t even know the song at the time, but the sound system permanently etched it in my memory.
Todd Wimer: “Musically, I remember the opener because my best friend and I were up against the rail and had to wait a long-ass time for them to go on, and the bigness of the “Chalkdust Torture” opener made it all worthwhile. The band were obviously thrilled and so were we. It was loud, and everyone was unabashedly pumped. I also remember the sort of acoustic set that they played I think the second set of that night, just because that was when we needed to bail from the rail, so we could go piss and get some water and nourishment, and that the timing for that interlude set seemed perfect as we kicked back and had some chicken fingers.
Other highlights were the 2001, the ferocious “Antelope” with… the UVM ski team on trampolines? Or the chick swinging around on the rope? And also, the “Harpua” encore on the last night. I recall the band being a little bit miffed at something during this, and ever since then my friends and I had assumed it was a miscue. I think the glider with the sparkling trails was supposed to be doing its thing after Trey’s narration but had gotten the timing wrong and released the luminescent sky writing early so the very end of the festival was kind of …curious. And my impression was that people who had an absolute blast for the whole weekend weren’t thrilled with the ending. We were only slightly confused, but definitely not unappreciative!”
Russell Howze: “”Brother” stood out. Ben and Jerry sang horribly on that one and it was hilarious. The “Tweezer” circus spectacle was fun. The flatbed truck jam was amazing, and the highlight of the weekend. I still wish I could’ve kept running along the truck longer than I did (it was a long day and they weren’t stopping).”
John Lockerby: “The “Chalkdust Torture” was the perfect way to open the festival. The energy was indescribable. You can see from Trey’s face how much fun the band was having. I don’t think they knew what they were in for. Whenever I hear the “Chalkdust” riff I think of Jeff and me running down the runway. I think I was pissed at the encore. Not that “Amazing Grace” isn’t a fun tune, it’s just not what I drove all day to see.
We missed the late night set. I guess the truck didn’t drive by us. I didn’t bring a tent, so I slept in my car. (It was a hatchback though so there was plenty of room for me.) Maybe that’s why I missed it.
[The second day was the] best concert of our lives, but once again, we were bummed out by the encore. I mean it was only half the song. Luckily, I didn’t know “Harpua” at the time, so I had no idea what was missing.”
John Demeter: “The end of the festival was abrupt and very confusing. I fully expected that some massive cosmic energy had manifested over that spot and some great energetic event would occur. But they didn’t even finish the song, really. I am still confused.
Leaving was disgusting. An absolute embarrassment of waste trash garbage people ditching perfectly good stuff. Gross. Figured more of us knew approximately what “leave no trace” meant.”
Mark Larezzo: “I remember it being a mess in the camping area and musically amazing. I am thankful I was so young because there is no way I would survive it now. The only other festival I have been to is Magnaball and it was 100 times more civilized but not quite as exhilarating as the Clifford Ball.”
Todd Wimer: “I mean, only for a band like Phish can ‘making it big’ be something beyond selling out Madison Square Garden. Yes, that was amazing. But being a sort of indie band and building a tent city from the ground up by luring 70k people all the way up to Plattsburgh, that was awesome. And we all felt it. One of my lasting takeaways from the Ball was that I forever wondered if and when they would release the video footage of the shows. We saw the camera crew on stage for the whole weekend and kept speculating about why they were filming it. Years later (15?) when they announced the 5.1 mix and the DVD set I was almost as excited as when I first heard about the festival.
I saw three festivals during 1.0 and two so far during 3.0 (Can’t wait for Curveball!) I lump together the ’97 and ’98 festivals, I guess because they were held at the same spot; and I do the same with the two previous Watkins fests. But The Clifford Ball was its own thing, and stands out for being so huge, timed perfectly, 100% FOR the fans, and very positive. And now that I read that back, I think those positives apply to ’11 and ’15 as well, but in ’96 we didn’t know what to expect or that it would be as special as it was. “
Russell Howze: “Looking back, the Clifford Ball was a fun event. Compared to the disastrous Coventry (the only other festival I’ve attended), it was a perfect slice of rock n roll heaven. Being at the first Phish festival means to me that I really don’t have to go to another Phish festival. I left CB exhausted, but it was worth the effort.”
Nala C. Egapal: “The atmosphere was so incredibly warm and welcoming. I recall such a large amount of vehicles but I feel like traffic (getting in and out) was not a problem. One of my biggest memories was watching Trey on the screen almost lost staring at the “Mr. Sausage” booth and those words coming out…”Mr. Sausage” I had never been to a festival before, but this opened my eyes to how awesome they could be. There was so much to explore, people on shakedown, the giant art pieces, people getting lost within themselves playing devil sticks, etc… The weather was hot and clear from what I remember, and nights were perfect. I did not see the set the band played on the flatbed trailer but remember hearing about it the next day. My favorite set was definitely set 1 just because of the energy level, my but favorite song was either “Makisupa Policeman” or “Chalkdust Torture.” One cannot forget Ben and Jerry singing.”
Darren Barcomb: “I had seen the Grateful Dead in 1994 and 1995 in Highgate, Vermont, and can say that the Clifford Ball definitely established Phsh as the premier festival group in the post-Grateful Dead era. The Plattsburgh airbase was a perfect spot for a 70,000+ person weekend performance but I do recall issues with heavy traffic and high demand for food/water. Overall, it was a well received show by those in attendance and is still discussed in Plattsburgh routinely 22 years later. I’m not sure if the local community loved the event, but those in attendance enjoyed a historic weekend.”
I Made Bob Clarke’s 1966 MAD Mobile (So You Won’t Have To) Part 2: Hanging the Mobile, Taking Photos, and Final Thoughts Part 1 is here; and fancy gifs are here.
NOTE: Click thumbnail for a small version of photo. Click again for full size.
HANGING THE MOBILE
Wow! After about two hours of work, the mobile is completely assembled. Thing is, it’s horizontal so technically not yet a mobile. Where to hang this thing? It is about three feet long and two feet wide. Hanging off a wall won’t work. I found a spare shower curtain hook, taped it to the floor light I was using, and put the top string’s tied-off loop onto the hook.
Picking the mobile up, I realized that it is very light. I feels delicate, and all the straws are drooping (i.e., leaning vertical)! Clarke’s brilliant note about “sliding the straw back and forth to balance” the parts did the trick. It took a tiny adjustment here, a little nudge there, and some more sliding over there to get the straws to start balancing and hanging horizontal. Interestingly the bottom parts started taking shape first, so I worked down to up to get the mobile to hang properly. I worried that the top straw wasn’t going to balance properly, so put some tape on what I thought was the lighter end to get it to balance. Not sure if I needed to do this. I kept moving the center threads in very small amounts. Suddenly, it all worked: a balanced, hanging MAD mobile!
Being a kinesthetic object, the mobile has depth and movement. It constantly looks different, which is very cool. At first, I was anxious walking past it too fast, fearing that it would fall apart. But Clarke’s design skills must have included the fact that the mobile should take breezy walk-bys. I was also afraid to take it off the hook, so left it on the lamp over night.
The next day, it was still hanging and moving fine. My Sweetie gave it a few puffs of air to see it move. It is tougher than it appears (and weighs. It probably only weighs an ounce at the most). I had joked that there was no way a child could hold the mobile like Alfred was doing on the MAD Follies cover, but I was proven wrong. I set up a hook on a hanging ceiling light and had no problem moving the mobile to its new spot. I did go slow, but it kept its shape as I held it and walked the three feet to a more permanent hanging spot.
I really do not have a place to display the mobile, so I do not know how long it will hang. One thing to think about while it hangs is how gravity will pull the threads from the paper parts, especially with Alfred’s head. Alfred E. Neuman holds all the mobile’s weight, so I wonder if the old, dry paper can keep the thread from working through and falling apart.
The main reason I assembled the mobile – and the zeppelin – is because there are no photos or recorded/written documents of how and what these MAD inserts were like to assemble. Taking a photo of a moving object proved tricky. It kind of has a front, which is constantly changing. I spent a good deal of time following Alfred’s face and waiting for the two Spys to align. I pulled out a white sheet and had my Sweetie stand behind the mobile so I could get the objects to “pop” and not get lost in the background. She eventually took better photos while I held the sheet.
One VERY FUN thing is creating gif loops with close ups from the iPhone’s live function. I made a few videos too, which were fun, but the mobile gets lost with anything behind it. In general, the depth of Clarke’s mobile makes it a more enjoyable in-person experience. And it is also fun to see how he got creative with the two-sided aspect of the parts. For example, “ECCH” has the E and the H spaced in a way that it reads correctly both ways. And Clarke put different gags on the panel that the Don Martin figure is painting as well as the egg and Arthur parts.
HOW ABOUT THAT ZEPPELIN? HOW ABOUT BOB CLARKE?
After almost two years, the zeppelin is still on display and still staying together. The mast still proves to be the weak spot due to using plain photocopy paper, but the vessel is still ship shape. After a few months, the mobile is still hanging fine on the ceiling light. We frequently adjust the tied middle threads to make it balance better, and the paper shows no stress at the tied threads. It still isn’t an ideal location, but is good enough for now.
I am glad that Gaines and Feldstein let Clarke create these two mid-1960s inserts. Unlike all the other special bonuses, these took craftiness, skill, patience, and creativity to design and assemble. Clarke pulled off designing both of these objects with great thought and care. Even tough the mobile instructions end stating that “everything falls apart, you tear your hair out, and you swear never to buy MAD again,” there is room for getting it right. And we have Bob Clarke to thank for knowing that his designs would work.
More MAD Mobile pages: Part 1 is here; and fancy gifs are here.
I Made Bob Clarke’s 1966 MAD Mobile (So You Won’t Have To) Part 1: Preparations, Cutting, and Threading Part 2 is here; and fancy gifs are here.
NOTE: Click thumbnail for a small version of photo. Click again for full size.
After constructing the MAD zeppelin, designed by Bob Clarke for the 1965 “The Worst From MAD,” almost two years ago, I had already decided that I was going to build Clarke’s 1966 MAD mobile next. I bought a copy of the MAD Follies Number 4 right after buying the Worst From and made the mobile’s color photocopies at the same time I copied the zeppelin insert. The zeppelin proved to be a fun and moderately difficult project, with the major flaw being the thin paper stock I used. The most difficult step was the threading/rigging of the two main parts.
With copies in hand, I sat on the assembly for months, mostly fretting over the situation with the paper. Unlike the zeppelin, the mobile is two sided, and Clarke had only put the “cut here” hashed line on one side of the insert. Cutting two parts of each piece, gluing them together, and then threading them on the straws just didn’t sit well with me. After the delay, I finally bought a low-grade copy of the MAD Follies that still had an intact mobile. I had decided to cut out the original inserts in this yellowing, well-read and folded-in copy and make the mobile with old paper, not my color copies.
One interesting pre-step of the mobile assembly was that I needed to find straws. I didn’t want to buy them since I don’t need more than the six that Clarke’s instructions call for. Freely available everywhere, they were not hard to find (even in the oceans). After my first run to Popeyes down the street, I realized that Clarke’s design called for “king size” 10-inch straws. The Popeye’s straws were compostable, and only 8 inches long. Luckily, I found 10-inch straws at a Starbucks. That was easy!
OK. Time to make this classic MAD special.
I’m a bullet point guy, so Clarke’s instructions – laid out in one long paragraph – didn’t work for me. I wrote numbers for the steps, underlined what supplies I needed, and made a few interesting discoveries. First, I am much better at cutting with a blade, so I opted for an X-Acto knife instead of a big pair of scissors. I did need small scissors later in order to cut the threads. Using a blade also meant that I would need a cutting mat. (See photos in album below.)
If you look at the design that Clarke’s supplies, you will see that the straws and threads are all measured. Somehow Clarke left out the fact that a ruler was needed to assemble this mobile. I have a metal one I use all the time, so finding one wasn’t a problem. Since all the instructions point the young 1960s MAD reader to his mother’s sewing kit, I guess a tape measure would work just as good.
Second, there are two very important tips in the instructions: do not puncture the tied off parts in the middle of the straws, and – this one needed a magnifying glass to read – the punctured ends of the straw are 1/8 an inch from the edge. That’s all you need to know to get started.
ASSEMBLY WAS MOSTLY EASY
I tried to tear out the first inserted page and the 50+ year old paper was dry and tore in a way that could have destroyed the mobile parts. I used a blade to cut the rest. Clarke’s hashed lines made the cutting easy. Cutting the straws was easy, but my compostable straws didn’t cut as well as the plastic. These steps were all quite easy compared to the zeppelin assembly.
Then, I followed the instructions and measured out the straws and parts while they were laid flat on a table. I used Clarke’s illustration to place the parts flat on my table, much like the mobile on the MAD Follies cover.
Next step(s): time to thread it. Other than measurements and Clarke’s “thread either free or punctured” rule, there are ZERO instructions about how to tie off the parts. Like stringing his zeppelin, this proved to be the hardest part.
First, what kind of thread should I use? I had single-strand and a thicker type from my sewing basket. I was lucky to have a needle with a large eye, so I choose the thicker thread. It caused some problems with making the knots, but was easy to wet the ends and thread it through the needle.
As for threading method, I ended up pulling a long piece of thread through the mobile part and tying the very end of the thread to the part while keeping the needle in the other end. Then I stuck the needle through the straw and pulled the string through. This method worked for most of the pieces, but the “middle” parts (Alfred’s head, the MAD logo, below the zeppelin) as well as the thread in the middle of the straws didn’t work this way.
I made a list of steps for what I think is the best way to thread (most of the time): 1) thread needle; 2) put through mobile piece; 3) pull through and tie off bottom end; 4) measure from straw; 5) hold with fingers, use needle to tie off; and 6) trim ends.
Threading the mobile was easy, except for getting the measurements to be exact. It was very hard to tie off a piece at exactly one inch. Or six inches. I had to re-do a few parts after the final measure came up too long or short. This took some patience, which made me wonder if the children in 1966 actually had the patience to get it all right. In the end, I will say that the measures were very close to what Clarke wanted. Fingers crossed that the mobile will still balance.
I Made Bob Clarke’s 1966 MAD Mobile (So You Won’t Have To) This Post: Gifs to Amuse Your Soul.
Part 1 of assembly is here; Part 2 is here.
After assembling Bob Clarke’s MAD zeppelin (LINK), I had already turned my attention to Clarke’s 1966 mobile MAD Follies no. 4 insert. I had bought a very nice copy of the Follies and I had already made color copies of the mobile pages.
Unlike the zeppelin, Clarke’s mobile was two-sided. He designed the pieces to only have the hash line on one side, so I was instantly unsure how to cut two sides out in a way that looked good glued together and didn’t cause any kind of balancing problems. So I sat on the assembly project for months until I decided to buy a lesser-grade copy of the Follies that still had the insert. Not only did the copy I bought have that pulpy/musty smell, yellow – almost crisp – pages, and serious foxing, the guy that sold it to me shipped it rolled in a tube! For the first time in decades, I was ready to destroy a copy of MAD magazine… (to be continued. See links above to keep reading).
As a teaser post, I created two gifs from the assembled mobile. It is a dynamic, no-sided object, so I still don’t think I took a perfect photo of it hanging complete. The gifs show its kinetic properties quite nicely.
Bob Clarke’s 1965 MAD Zeppelin: The Final Steps Adding the Final Touches, and Hanging It Up (Figures 8-9)
FIGURE 8: THE SAILS
At this point, the only steps left are installing the Mainsail and Forward and After Sails. Oh, and the stringing of the two main parts. I chose to make black and white copies of the sails. Clarke’s original inserts are black and white and one-sided (probably to save money in printing and design costs).
Not sure why Clarke drew the FIGURE 8 illustration for the Small Sails. Their installation is straightforward. As for the Mainsail, the lack of structure for the mast caused the Yardarm and Mainsail to keep falling apart. This assembly needed patience and delicate finger work. As I tried to make this assembly, other parts of the MAD Zeppelin kept falling off.
TIP: Be resigned in the fact that you’ll have to adjust parts after stringing the parts up (see below).
Bob Clarke’s 1965 MAD Zeppelin: The Assembly Continues Putting the Ship Together (Figures 4-7)
FIGURE 4: ATTACH DECK UNIT
Looking at the Deck and Hull Units, one can easily see that the outer edges of each part are mostly tabs and slots. Clarke chose not to include an illustrative figure to show these two parts connecting. We will never know why he thought the super-easy Figure 3 needed to be illustrated when I had major struggles putting the Deck Unit into and on the assembled Hull.
I think one difficulty for me was the fact that I made the color copies of the MAD Zeppelin with basic 20lb copy paper. TIP: At this point, I realized that I should have used a heavier stock of paper that was similar in weight to the paper stock of the original insert.
My copy Zeppelin felt very fragile at this stage of assembly, and it got more delicate and precarious for the final bits of assembly. TIP: I had to make the cuts on the tabs (Tabs P and Q) of the Hull and Deck deeper in order to make these pieces insert in a way that didn’t keep the deck from popping up and out. TIP: As you can see from my photos, I put small pieces of tape over the middle connections of these two parts. They kept popping out as I tried to work the end tabs. Not pretty, but it keeps things together.
Bob Clarke’s MAD Zeppelin: The Assembly Begins Putting the Balloon and Hull Units Together (Figures 1-3)
When the 1965 Worst From MAD No. 8 copy arrived in the mail, I went over to the copier machine at work to make copies of Bob Clarke’s MAD Zeppelin insert. I didn’t put much thought into how to make copies. Fortunately, Clarke made all the parts one-sided with perforations that could be folded over to make a second side. I quickly realized that I would have to push the spine of the MAD down a bit to get the parts closest to the gutter to lie flat for the copy.
Yikes! This pushing caused some of the die-cut parts to partially come unattached. There goes a possible grade-reducing defect. Even with moderate pushing, the color copies had a perspective “smear” near the gutter at the magazine’s spine. This can easily be seen in the photo showing most of the Zeppelin’s Balloon Unit (Clarke chose to capitalize the word Zeppelin and its smaller parts throughout his instructions). Look at both parts labelled Tab A and you can see the difference.
I wondered if this would cause the MAD Zeppelin assembly to be a bit off. Since the Balloon was Figure 1 of Clarke’s instructions, I hoped it wouldn’t come out too bad. As we shall see, another part caused the biggest headache, and it wasn’t smeared in the gutter.
Thus brewed a perfect storm for a geek collector. First, I went online to see if anyone had posted scans of the parts. I also searched for modern photographs of Clarke’s Zeppelin totally strung and assembled. I couldn’t find anything online, but did discover a world of paper object and model making. Cool, but, wow, the Internet had zero MAD Zeppelin images or how-tos. Guess that means I’m buying an expensive intact copy of the ’65 Worst From special and making color copies.
As the fate of CELLspace became more clear in early 2014, I knew that I’d have to deal with the murals I’d been facilitating on the building’s facade. The masonite and wood panels were easy enough to take down and store. I had worked directly with the artists so had been in contact with most of them about the fate of their art. One mural went to the Bike Kitchen (they funded its creation). Jet Martinez didn’t want his and didn’t want it to be saved. Many of the artists were OK possibly selling the panels, with some funds going to my Stencil Archive project. Swoon had no desire to save her art and was sad to know the art space was going away.
While in process, the Bryant St. panels came down a bit too early after a tagger painted throw-ups on about three of the panels in July of 2014. I found out later (one of the tagged artists knew the guy) that this person was shit-faced drunk and didn’t even remember destroying three murals. Two of the murals were significant pieces, one being SPIE’s “All our Relations” from 1996.
Alarmed at the vandalism, I got volunteers to quickly take down the panels I had spent months trying to save and rehome. I caught flack from the folks still in the building and had a very terse conversation with the management there about making the space vulnerable and unattractive. Well, it is a warehouse and you can easily redo the windows with your own plywood. As the months advanced, Vau de Vere had many other issues to deal with in the space, and eventually were asked to leave by the developers who planned to build the largest condo building in the Mission.