When DiWulf got our grubby little hands on actual, real-deal City Gardens t-shirts from the actual 1980s, we could barely contain ourselves! (Perhaps Amy just speaks for herself, not sure how jazzed Steve was, but I digress.) There was a mystery though - who, exactly, made these shirts? No one knew! Until one day we get an email from Manny Kivowitz! Manny put these together with the help of illustrator Brett Beaumont. We asked Manny a of couple questions to get to the bottom of the Case Of The New Wave Dancers Tees.
Q: You are the graphic artist who - in the 80s - put together the City Gardens t-shirts. Before you put them together, did City Gardens have T-shirts at all? Why the lack of merch?
A: Kind of. I was more of a creative teenage entrepreneur with a t-shirt side hustle who spent a ton of time hanging/dancing/going to shows at City Gardens who managed to convince Frank (aka Tut) to let me make some CG shirts for him. When I first approached Tut about doing a t-shirt run he blew me off, he didn't want to make the investment and thought they would be a headache, so I suggested that I would come up with the designs, he could approve them, and that I would do the first run on consignment (at a markup) with no money down. That did the trick and he paid up front for the next run. Sadly, I didn't manage to keep either and couldn't believe it when I found your recreations! I'm honored.
Q: What was your concept for the two designs?
A: The concept I had for the first t-shirt design was to keep it spare with just a simple outline of the building, name of the club above and the simple message "Dancing & Live Bands" that would appear like a billboard on the side. That long industrial building just seemed iconic to me and I wanted to memorialize it in the design. I also loved Hunt Emerson's Album cover designs for the English Beat and thought the Beat Dancer would be a great fit for a CG t-shirt design at the time. The sweatshirts with the window box design came next. It was probably a bit too "on the nose" to represent City Gardens – a city skyline on a window garden box with two beat dancers front and center – but Tut liked it and they definitely sold. One last critical detail... it was super important to me to work/sneak an Eblo symbol into each design. Eblo was the name of a religion (and god) that my friends and I developed in high school which blossomed as we moved into our punk phase (to become a follower of Eblo, you had to accept that everything, including Eblo, was founded on lies). Eblo had been loosely inspired by Bokonon, the fictional religion Vonnegut describes in Cat's Cradle. The symbol for Eblo is an Aztec like line drawing of a symmetrical man. In the t-shirt, you can spot Eblo peeking out of the open doors, in the window box / city scape design, Eblo is outlined in the windows of the building on the far right. Praise be Eblo.
Q: Did they sell well? Was Tut dubious of the whole idea?
A: Tut was definitely dubious! But the shirts did sell - I think we only did 2 or 3 runs of the shirts & sweatshirts before I moved to NYC in '83 but I loved seeing people wearing them.
Q: Can you tell us about the artist who did the illustrations?
A: That would be Brett Beaumont. While I could concept ideas and do rough sketches, photography and video/film were and remain my jam. So I hit up Brett, a kid I was friendly with from Bensalem, to nail the actual artwork. He was probably just out of high school at the time but I'd seen his artwork and knew he would nail it. To set up the tee-shirt, I took a couple of perspective photo's of the building for Brett to work from, he was more of a heavy metal / southern rock kind of guy and had never been to CG. I remember going through his Letraset font catalogs with him, the kind you could use to order dry transfer fonts, we were looking for something that said rough / DIY and found something close to the font we used on the tee (can't remember the name) and thought that the barn plank style could work, but Brett felt he could take it up a notch by hand and did. For the window box / city skyline design we picked Computer for the font, probably because I recognized it as being identical to the font used on the first home computer game by Magnavox that I owned when I was 9, Odyssey. Brett went on to a pretty solid career as a tattoo artist, working for years in Vegas, then in Philly. He always looked and styled himself like he was part of a biker gang (he could grow a full beard by the time he was 16) but he was truly a sweetheart of a guy who dug anime, k-pop and kept pet bunny's. Unfortunately he passed away last Halloween (2022) and I never got to send him the re-discovered City Garden's Tees.
Q: Do you still do graphic design?
A: No - I never really did. Instead, I've worked in the role of Creative Director and Producer with plenty of talented graphic designers and animators for the print, web and video projects I produce and directed over the years. Not dissimilar to how I worked with Brett on the City Garden designs.
Q: Can you share some of your work?
A: Sure! Samples of my video work can be seen at kskstudios.com - my production company that I founded back in 1988. There's also samples of some branding & web work that I've collaborated on at cycle-interactive.com - a company founded by a brilliant designer / web engineer / philosopher, Dyske Suematsu who I partnered with back in 2011. Beyond the shameless plugs - there's a feature length documentary I made with a couple of buddies back in the early aughts that I think your audience will dig, Red Light Go - it's a deep dive into subculture of bike messenger alley cat racing in NYC. It's a fun wild ride.
Also, they may want to check this pilot episode on YouTube of "Can't Get a Date", which is one of 17 episodes of the greatest reality TV show you've never heard of which I co-developed and produced back in the mid aughts for VH1 and Logo.
DiWulf thanks Manny for letting us re-create his designs for all to enjoy!
The Beat Dancer with building shirt can be ordered here.
Atari Dancers is here.
Wear them and dance like no one's watching.