EX-VANDALS: the Wicked Gary story
by Roosevelt Franklin

With the exception of the book GETTING UP by Craig Castleman, you won't find much written about them in any of the books on graff or the websites. Their place in the history of graffitti, though, is as important as the introduction to NYC of the Broadway Elegant style by some cats from Philly. The Ex-Vandals were the first and perhaps only group to exist solely for the purpose of writing.
It started in Brooklyn, the year was 1970. NYC back then was much different than it is under the current Ghouliani regime. The city, at the time, was facing bankruptcy. The manufacturing base which had provided thousands of jobs had moved elsewhere like NAFTA. Public services like sanitation, police, and education became less and less effective as residents began to leave the city in record numbers. The ghettos resembled a post-apocalyptic wasteland where gangs like the Black Spades, Savage Skulls, Savage Nomads, and the Jollystompers ruled the streets. The movement known as graffitti was still in it's infancy. A coupla kids from Erasmus High School would help take things to the next level unleashing a calligraphic blitzkrieg on the wicked city abandoned by it's own goverment.

WG: At first, there were 7 of us: Dino Nod (prez/founder), me, Big Time Glass Top, Flin, Wicked Wesley, Conrad is Bad and King of Kool. How the concept came about is we were all pretty well known as writers in terms of our areas and our school. One day somebody was like, " Well, can you imagine if we were all writing the same name how much it would be around and how popular it would be if we were all writing the same name?"

Short for Experienced Vandals, the inspiration for their name came from another local crew, the Vanguards. More like a bunch of cats from around the way than a gang, the Vanguards were known for writing as well as whuppin' ass to hold it down for their area. The Ex-Vandals, however, at their inception, made one rule explicitly clear: they existed for no other reason than writing.

WG: That was one of the rules that was designated on day one, that we're not about fighting, cuz we're like, "Well, you know, if we become this group, we're gonna have these other groups coming after us. We're only about writing. As long as we stick to that and tell everybody from moment one we're not about fighting, and if a situation comes up, you walk away. You run if you have to. We're not about fighting. It's about the writing.

Although they sometimes got chased, being known as writers got them respect from other gangs for the simple fact that they could go to different neighborhoods where other gangs weren't welcome. It was known what they were about and so they weren't fucked with... as much. They had some major confrontations (as detailed in the book GETTING UP) but luckily never had to deal with a situation where violence got out of hand.
Another aspect of the Ex-Vandals that not only made them stand apart from gangs while still getting them props were the ladies of the organization. When they eventually opened up the doors of membership to outsiders, they elected a whole slew of honeys who weren't neccasarily girlfriends to the guys. They were writers.

WG: We had really really good lookin' female writers that were w/ us: Cowboy (China), Daring Denny (Denise), Bad Bobby (Robin), Long Lightning Larry (Lynn), Stoney (Deb), Dimples (Karen).... They were girls, they weren' ruffnecks. They were good lookin', had fashion sense, they were into being cute. Sometimes, they even wore hotpants. It helped throw the cops off.
COWBOY: Women are creative, we have something to say. I felt as if I needed to get it out and express it in my writing because I was somebody. I feel that women nowadays... it's different, women can do anything they want. But I used to still feel women should feel even if a man does it, she can do it too, esp. if it's creative. Her expression is something she wants to get out. Women are doing it too, y'know?

Bombing runs were well organized, w/ meetings held every Fri. at Dino Nod's house. Sitting down w/ a subway map they'd decide which areas of the city to hit, what lines ,etc., then put their plan into action. Different teams of 8-9 kids each would take various assignments. While some would venture into neighborhoods not hit before, others hit the lay-ups, the tunnels and subway cars (insides and out).

WG: We'd all go skating at the Empire Roller Rink Fri. night , at least that was the excuse we used to get out the house. We'd meet up over there then go out and do our thing. After school,we'd go to the Burger Master on the corner of Empire and Flatbush, right at the Prospect Park D train stop. It was a good hang out spot to catch tags. The train was right there, you could catch the Franklin Ave.Shuttle, 41 bus, 48, 47...it was a transfer point. Lots of trains and buses stopped there. W/in crossing 1 or 2 streets, you'd be able to hit stuff that would move thru different neighborhoods. Ebbetts Field projects were 3 or 4 blocks away. Lotsa girls would come from over there...

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