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September 14, 1995 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-09-14

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108 - The Michigan Daily - Wet c. - Thursday, September 14, 1995

Black Folks Productions takes off
'U' senior, comic Horace Sanders founds an organization for blacks

By Eugene Bowen
Daily Arts Writer
In the eyes of many black students on
the University campus, the social scene
is unfriendly to their recreational wants.
Everything from the Nectarine to the
bars and pubs which line South Univer-
sity seem to cater exclusively to the
musical and social tastes of whites while
blacks are forced to congregate into the
Union where University security offic-
ers and policemen make the atmosphere
more akin to San Quentin than that of a
relaxed gathering of Black students.
Comic/University senior Horace
Sanders is out to change that. And he's
out to make a few people laugh along
the way. Founder of the year-old Black
Folks Productions, Sanders has for the
last three years performed stand-up him-
self both at the University and in vari-
ous places in Detroit. He also brings
other comedians to the University to do
the same.
"No one else is going to bring stuff
primarily for (blacks)," he said. "There
are things that may include us in a
minor way, but nothing is primarily
built towards us." It was for this reason
Black Folks Production was born.
"Words have power. Black Folks Pro-
ductionsmeans that primarily it's Black
comedians coming up, and we need the
support ofthe black community to make
them a success."
Born on Christmas Day, 1971 in
Detroit's East side, Sanders reflects, "I
came from modest beginnings. I al-
ways wanted to say that." The youngest
of six children ("I'm not the baby, I'm

the youngest. Only ladies can call me
'baby."'), this pre-law triple majornotes
"I'm not from a wealthy background,
but we were very rich in love and under-
standing. I had both of my parents at
home, which I think is one of the best
things about my whole life. I consider
(my parents) my most physical mani-
festation of God."
Graduating from Detroit's Cass Tech-
nical High School, Sanders originally
planned on entering the University's
School of Art. However, its time-con-
suming requirements led him to the
communications major. Eventually, he
tacked on history and African-Ameri-
can studies as majors, too. After gradu-
ating in April '96, Sanders hopes to
attend the University's School of Law
and earn a Ph.D. So why comedy?
"It's a very good venue to speaking
with people. Comedy is based on hu-
mor with seriousness as an undertone.
But, it's what young, Black folks and
young everybody listens tonow ... And
I always want to talk to them. I pride
myself on my speaking ability. I want to
be a speaker; I plan on being a motiva-
tional speaker in the future. I'll be presi-
dent one day."
Many returning students are already
familiar with the Black Comedy Nights
sponsored by Sanders and Black Folks
Productions in semesters past. If you
haven't been to one, you may have at
least seen the flyers for one. They all
have that special logo. It's "a profile of
a black man with an afro to let Black
students on campus know it's some-
thing black because it's kind of hard in

the clutter of so much propaganda on
campus to know what things Black stu-
dents really want to go to. They're fa-
miliar with the Black Greek activities,
but they're not familiar with a lot of
other black organizations."
The first Black Folks show will occur
tomorrow from 8:15 p.m. to 10 p.m. at
Angell Hall's Auditorium A. For $4 in
advance or $5 at the door, everyone is
welcome. "This is the first show of the
new semester which is very important.
You have new students coming up who
are looking for stuff to do, (and) we
have the returning students who .we
seem to have a good name with from
last year. But, you've got to start off
right each year." This show's line-up
includes two stand-up comedians -
Sanders himself and headliner comic
Spanky Hayes - an impressionist and
someone Sanders calls a "rap-median."
Sanders says there will be at least two
more productionsto follow this coming
Sanders wants everyone to kick back
and relax at this and every other show
he puts on, but he also wants our criti-
cism. "Criticism is a thorough evalua-
tion of a situation , positive and nega-
tive, as opposed to just putting you
down. Anybody can do that. We accept
all criticism. If you have some things
that will help us to help you enjoy
yourselfbetter, please let us know. Don't
be raggedy about it though. Try and say
something positive, too."
Although he will be graduating soon
and leaving the University eventually,
Sanders has no fear that Black Folks

Productions will continue to thrive long
after he's gone. He won't speculate too
much as to who'll run the show after
him: he sees many possibilities. But he
did throw out one name. "Maybe Nook.
Nookie has a lot of talent."
But, who's Nook? "I know his real
name," Sanders said of this fellow Uni-
versity student while looking for a piece
of paper. "I just wrote it down, but I
forgot. Everybody calls him Nook."
Not only is Horace Sanders busy with
classes and Black Folks Productions,
he's also chairman of the University
Activities Center's Laugh Track, which
generally works to bring stand-up co-
medians to campus. It also tries to fea-
ture talent attending the University.
Sanders also claims to have~a life on the
side. His hobbies include writing, ten-
nis, and collecting comic books.
Sanders doesn't want to get into his
private life too much. "My parents
wouldn't want to read about that," he
said. Yet, Sanders does admit that he
wants to get married some day and have
five kids. He also said, "I think that
pornography is tasteless." He also
laughed. "It's the same music every
time. I know 'cause I've heard it before
in other people's rooms as I walk by the
door." Looking faintly like Warren G,
Sanders describes himself as "slim, yet
muscular. I'm just hiding it seductively."
As for his opinions ofthe University,
there are two major concerns Sanders
has. His first problem (as with most
students) is with the Financial Aid Of

See SANDERS, Page 12B

Jerry Garcia's death leaves fans without a hero.

The end is stranger than the long,

Looking back at the signs, you can
almost see it coming. Fans struck by
lightening in June. Riots at the Deer
Creek show in July. A downward spiral
had definitely begun for the Grateful
Dead. The end of the golden road fi-
nally came in August when lead singer
Jerry Garcia died unexpectedly at the
age of 53.
Garcia's death not only marked the
end ofthe quintessential acid-rock band,
it also left thousands of fans confused,
shocked and unsure where to turn. Over
the 30 years the band played, they drew'
in a particularly close-knit following.
The "Dead Heads" may have originally
begun as a similar entity to the "group-
ies" that follow many popular bands
from show to show. Over time, how-
ever, their following grew into some-
thing much deeper. It became a counter
culture. A way of life. A family.
"The Official Book of the Dead
Heads" by Paul and Jonas Grushkin and
Cynthia Bassett, with a preface by Jerry
Garcia, is the family album of the Dead

Head counter culture. The 200 plus
page book includes tour schedules, in-
terviews, and information about the
band itself, but the primary purpose is
to tell the tale of the fans. Even Garcia
himself uses the preface to acknowl-
edge the contribution Dead Heads made
to his life and to the Grateful Dead in
"Around the time of the Human Be-
In, when we were the neighborhood
band- the acid band- someone came
up to me and said, 'I remember you.
You were at music school with me in
heaven,"'Garcia wrote. "It's typical of
the one liner exchanges I have had over
the years with the Dead Heads - a
good humored bunch that never allows
us to take ourselves too seriously. It has
been my entertainment to walk around
and catch the humor of these characters
and become their audience."
Conversely, the book also prints let-
ters that Heads have written in to the
Dead's official "Dead Heads Newslet-
ter," sharing their thoughts and experi-

ences with the Grateful Dea(
letters come from all over the
from Poland to Portland and bac
Some are simple hand or type-
notes. Others are elaborate pi
artwork, printed in their originz
One 1972 letter came from a
teacher in Tempe, Arizona. The
related a story about playing
Star" for the children in his cL
recording their reactions. A te
old boy said he saw "a guitar
Orient playing itself, and skippin
with a dog playing a fiddle." He
needs acid?
Another letter came from a
Athens Georgia, challenging th
to a softball game against his to
"Sugar Magnolias." "We are no
fessional team, just a bunch of
who formed a team to flip ou
rednecks... anyway, we would
challenge you to a game... wh
play in Atlanta next month," w
fan. Another strange letter cot
"The Music Never Stopped" ant

strange trip
d. The had "captured the very essence of Cow
world, Dancing."
k again. One fan all the way from Romania
-written wrote, "You are for me the best forma-
eces of tion of rock and roll, and your pieces,
al form. nice songs for meditation, make me
poetry happy."
teacher Pleas for backstage passes ("We don't
"Dark take up much room, and it would make
ass and us totally happy"), knocks against the
n-year- Dead's ever growing popularity ("How
r in the can you ask present Dead Heads to
ngalong point the way to the future when folks
ey, who like us pointed it out to them long ago?")
and general expressions of love ("I've
fan in dug every moment that we've spent
he Dead together") are also found in the Dead
eam the Head letters.
at a pro- The photos (by Jonas Grushkin) that
f freaks go along with the letters and other fea-
ut some tures of the book also illuminate the
Ilike to lifestyle of the Dead Heads with great
hen you clarity. A woman stands in a crowded
rote the parking lot with bunches of long-
ncerned stemmed roses tied up in her hair.
d how it A sea of fans fills the Haight in San
Francisco while the Dead groove out on
stage. People dance, smoke, hug and
trade tickets in different cities, over
many years, and it's all laid out in a
collage of images.
"The Official Book of the Dead
Heads" is chock full ofcool snippets. A
clip from their first newsletter, "The
Olompali Sunday Times," in 1967 re-
veals "personalities and band secrets."
According to the clip, "Jer" is "very
open... digs girls... and loves orange
juice." Phil (Lesh, bass) "doesn't bleach
his hair," "Pig" (Ron "Pigpen"
McKernan, now deceased vocalist)
"walks around the house in strange out-
fits and sings Blue Danube in the
Rare interviews are also printed, in-
cluding a 1972 Rolling Stone interview
with Garcia and second wife Mountain
Both of them had been involved with
California uru Ken Kesev's Merrv
N..'fl L~J* ~tLS~t* *.W J .J * CL'



Jerry Garcia's death leaves fans without a hero.

ming with the Merry Pranksters. Ac-
cording to Garcia, the concept and in-
tensity of the original Acid Tests never
quite gelled in anything after that.
"The Acid Test was the prototype for
our whole basic trip," Garcia said in the
Rolling Stone interview. "But nothing
has ever come up to the way the Acid
Test was... the basic hit never devel-
oped out. What happened was light
shows and rock and roll came out of it,
and that's like the thing we've seen go
Other interesting articles in the book
include "an experiment in dream te-
lepathy with the Grateful Dead." Ap-
parently, there was a six-night study
conducted at Grateful Dead concerts at
the Capitol Theater in Port Cheter, NY.
Fans were shown a slide of artwork
about half-way through the show and
asked to try to "send" the picture to a
"psychic sensitive" named Malcolm
Bessent. Bessent was sleeping at a

nearby laboratory while the shows were
going on. The results of the study are
published in the book, and readers can
draw their own conclusions about
whether it was successful or not.
"The Official Book of the Dead
Heads" chronicles 30 years of Grateful
Dead-ness. Looking at the photos and
reading the letters, one can only image
ine the number of people who discov-
ered adventure, danced in the grass while
the sun was setting, or even found the
only family they ever had through the
Dead community.
Jerry Garcia's passing marked the
end of a long strange trip by a unique
and creative band. The Dead were defi-
nitely pioneers of acid rock and cone
certs as visual and musical experiences.
It did not, however, mark the end of a
community. The fans are still out there,
still dancing, still listening, and still
finishing the final chapter in the book of
the Dead.

%.MiVgI YUUMU11.y AI-ly
Pranksters and the celebrational music,
drug and love fests ("Acid Tests") that
occurred before the drug was illegal.
The Grateful Dead actually became a
type of "house band" for Kesey's Acid
Tests. They would set up all types of
recording equipment and lights, some-
times playing alone, sometimes jam-

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