23 March 2006

[pdx_history] Malcolm X Street, ca. 1991

A couple entries back, in the entry I wrote about Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, special correspondent Alan DeWitt commented thus:
Do you happen to recall the unauthorized overnight renaming of Front Ave. to "Malcolm X Blvd." about that time? As I remember it, the pranksters relabled the street blades, the black historic district signs, and even the freeway signs over northbound I-5. Apparently there were leaflets that went along with the signs, although I never saw them.
Yes, I did. I remember, as I said, getting slightly irritated at the signs, but in a Address-Nerd-sort-of-way, not a social message sort of way. More on that in a moment.

Alan suggested a certain URL that laid the credit at the feet of a Reedie. I went exploring and found out a few things...

The evidence seems to suggest that the prank was the result of a then-Reed student named Igor Vamos. In 1991, either in reaction to or in commentary on the then-in-play MLK Jr Blvd imbroglio, he and a group of fellow-Reedies calling themselves "Group X" had white-on-green signs made up, in approximately the style of Portland street blades, that looked approximately like this:
(Well, actually, I was going to post an illustration of my own, but Blogger still has its head up its patoot and won't let me do it. Wish I had enough money to pay for my service, then I could complain. I was hoping to get permission to post the image to the 'blog, copyrights being what they are, but even if I did, Blogger wouldn't let me put it up...anyway...)

A graphic of then KATU-TV newsman Bandon Dunes (a/k/a That Exploding Whale Guy) with an actual photo of one of the signs in the Vanna box over his shoulder can be seen at this link (click on the photo captioned "A."-its on the left hand side, it should take you about a millisecond to recognize it. It clearly (well, about as clearly as a screen shot can, anyway) that the words "MALCOLM X" were in caps with the abbreviation "st" is in all lower case (not "Blvd" as some remember).

As an Address Nerd, my problems with it are thus:
  1. No directional. It should have been NW or SW, depending.
  2. The street type ("st") is in miniscules. Should be majuscules.
  3. If they weren't going to call it "Blvd", they Should have made it "AV", not "ST", anyway.
Igor has gone on to quite the heights afterward. Since graduating Reed, according to this piece by the Weak Willy, he went on to cultural jamming stuff such as the Barbie Liberation Organization and the most recent and fun version of his art, The Yes Men. We hear that he is not only a professor at Rensselaer Polyinstic Tehnitute in Troy, NY, as well as the recpient of a Guggenheim fellowship. Since he has parlayed screwing around into a highly lucrative position in academia as well as becoming something of a guerilla celebrity, we admire him. We are also insanely jealous, and think we hate him, but we're not sure about the hating part.

2 comments:

stan said...

"Bandon Dunes"

Was that a nickname you had given Paul Linnman (who was "The Exploding Whale Guy") or did you think that that was his name?

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Actually, it comes from listening to ol' Paul Linnman on KEX.

A while back, on the KEX morning show, he occaisionally spoke with a network reporter who ID'd by the name of "Royal Oaks" (not completely sure of the spelling).

I think Paul's something of a golfer himself, so they joked about whether or not Royal Oaks could get him on at Royal Oaks Country Club (which I'm sure is a famous golf course somwhere).

After that, in moments of levity, like when he was offering his book as a prize on one of KEX's phone ins, he would refer to himself as Bandon Dunes, which may not be famous but I'm pretty sure is a golf course down on the south coast.

I call him that because I think it's hilarious. And I left it unexplained because I was wondering if someone would call me on it.

FWIW, I like Paul. He's one of the class acts of this market, and he's really made that KEX morning show his own. I thought Bob Miller would be a tough act to follow but he made it look easy