The Lakers-Kings Classic 2002 Conference Championship Series

In 2002 the Lakers were coming off back-to-back titles but were starting to show cracks. Salary cap issues drained the team of depth, Shaq got fat, and Kobe’s Alpha Dog routine got harder to manage. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings had won the Pacific Division with 61 wins with a fun, creative team led by Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and Peja Stojakovic. The result was an unforgettable seven-game Conference Finals series between the two teams, finished off by classic “Big-Shot Rob” Horry jumpshot. Grantland does a typically awesome job of recapturing the moment.

All the Kings’ Men

Grantland.com, 5.7.14

The Wildly Successful “Comedy Bang! Bang!” Podcast

The “Comedy Bang! Bang!” podcast found its niche when it stopped talking about comedy and started performing comedy. It’s basically live improv with a rotating cast of guest stars and their recurring characters. In honor of the podcast’s 500th episode The Daily Beast put together a wide-ranging oral history containing input from many of the show’s regular contributors, including Nick Kroll and Jason Mantzoukas.

An Oral History of the Funniest Podcast Ever

TheDailyBeast.com, 7.24.17

The Detroit Riots of 1967

159 race riots erupted across America in 1967 with the worst happening in Newark and Detroit. The Detroit riots, sparked by a police raid of an after-hours welcome-home party for a Vietnam vet, led to 40 deaths and two-thousand-plus injuries, hundreds of properties going up in smoke, as well as the National Guard being called in to restore order. There were many root causes of the Detroit riots, including systemic racism and the steady decline of economic opportunities that drew many blacks to the city in the first place. The Metro Times, Detroit’s counterculture weekly, provides an evocative evaluation of the riot and what led to it. There are numerous high-quality images. The account is not balanced, however, focused entirely on the remembrances of black and white radicals of the time.

A radical’s oral history of Detroit in 1967

MetroTimes.com, 7.19.17

 

Bob Marley Gets Shot at Tuff Gong

Although reggae is now associated with blissed-out stoners it began as liberation music for the Jamaican oppressed. Bob Marley railed against the social and political elite that he associated with racism and greed. He planned a non-political “national unity” concert on the eve of 1976 national elections, but the ruling party, which he supported, framed it in their favor. Marley had also recently started dating a white girl and his opponents decided to send him a message. While recording a version of his famous song “Who Shot the Sheriff?” two carloads of gunman pulled into the Tuff Gong compound and raided the mansion, filling it with bullet holes and wounding Marley and his manager, Don Taylor. Rolling Stone provides an interesting excerpt recounting the shooting from an upcoming book about Marley.

The Night Bob Marley Got Shot

RollingStone.com, 7.7.17

The Week That Was: Scaramucci, The Skinny Repeal, and Trump Being Trump

The madcap mayhem that is the Trump White House outdid itself in the last week of July, 2017. Brash Wall Street bad boy Anthony Scaramucci had just been named White House Communications Director and immediately made his consistently beleaguered predecessor Sean Spicer look immaculately competent in retrospect. Scaramucci’s profane arrogance and unrepentant unprofessionalism would get him fired before his official start date. Meanwhile, Congress desperately tried to pass SOMETHING about Obamacare, even voting to proceed on a bill of which few senators knew the details. On the eve of the true vote Republican leadership admitted they didn’t like the bill but wanted it passed anyway. They would fix it later. LOL. “Crusty” John McCain dramatically put an end to that madness. Trump went Trump, attacking his own attorney general and banning transexuals from military service via Twitter. He also gave a wildly inappropriate speech at the Boy Scouts Jamboree. Lastly, North Korea proved they could nuke the entire continental United States. All this in one week. The Washington Post recaps the week with an appropriate amount of bewilderment at the times in which we live.

‘The moment when it really started to feel insane’: An oral history of the Scaramucci era

WashingtonPost.com, 8.1.17

 

Williamsburg’s Kokie’s Coke Bar

Vice provides a typical Vice story about a Puerto Rican dive bar called Kokie’s that sold coke out of a closet. Want to read crazy coke stories from the turn of the millennium? This is the post for you. Of course it all went to hell eventually but they had a surprisingly long run selling shitty cocaine to strung-out proto-hipsters.

Please Snort Me

Vice.com, 6.1.08

The 1966 University of Texas Massacre

Mass shootings are sadly commonplace in America today but in 1966 the opposite was true. When Charles Whitman opened fire from the University of Texas Tower in 1966 it took awhile for people to understand what was happening. One group thought he was shooting pigeons. Some thought the victims were part of a theater troupe or a psychology department experiment. The University of Texas has ignored this seminal event in our history, with no official commemoration or memorial to the 17 dead, but the Texas Monthly does a commendable job of piecing together a comprehensive oral history from people in Austin at the time.

96 Minutes

TexasMonthly.com, 8.2.16 (originally published in the August 2006 print edition)

Lilith Fair

As strange as it may seem today in the early 90s promoters didn’t want multiple female acts on a single bill, convinced that it wouldn’t sell. The strong-willed (and successful) Sarah McLachlan decided she’d had enough of male-dominated festivals and tours, so she founded her own festival, Lilith Fair, and its record-breaking success changed the music industry forever. Some artists said immediately said yes, including Paula Cole, Lisa Loeb and Emmylou Harris, but others passed on the first year before reconsidering in later years. McLachlan took some heat for an over-representation of white artists, but successfully rectified that issue after the festival established its financial foothold. Lilith Fair was very 1990s phenomenon as female artists pushed boundaries in every direction and Glamour takes a nostalgic (and gorgeous) look back.

The Oral History of Lilith Fair, As Told By the Women Who Lived It

Glamour.com, 7.5.17

Just a Bit Outside: “Major League” (1989)

Major League made baseball fun again. An expertly silly look at the then-perenially awful Cleveland Indians World Series run, led by some of sports movie’s iconic characters: Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, Willie Mays Hayes, Dennis Haysbert’s Pedro Cerrano. Yes, the oddities and quirks of Major League Baseball were pushed to 11, but the caricatures rang true (and were funny as hell). Sports Illustrated looks back at a beloved classic.

A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN

SI.com, 7.4.11

CBGB: The 70’s Home for NYC’s Dirty Rockers

CBGB is a club with a worldwide reputation, but it started out as a tiny, dirty hole in the wall furnished entirely in wood. It opened in 1973 and quickly became a favorite destination for the artsy weirdos and outcasts of New York City. Although known as a punk club, and birthplace of The Ramones, it housed a diverse mix of mix, including Patti Smith’s art rock and later the Talking Heads new wave stylings. The most commercially succcessful band was Blondie, fronted by the iconic Debbie Harry. Cuepoint put together a wonderful history of the club with numerous high-res images and a link to a CBGB-inspired music playlist.

Our Hole in the Wall: An Oral History of the CBGB Scene

Medium.com, 2.12.15

 

 

Miami Hurricanes: The Millennium’s First Football Dynasty

Miami came into the 2000s on a mission, having recovered from the sanctions that plagued them in the second half of the 1990s, they were ready to rumble. In 2000 they would go 11-1, with their only loss a 34-29 crusher in a blisteringly loud Husky Stadium. They came back the next year on a mission and put together one of the most dominant seasons in the history of college football, averaging over 40 points score and under 10 allowed, doing this with five top-15 teams on their schedule. The national championship winning team would eventually have a silly 38 players drafted in the NFL, including 17 first-rounders. Ed Reed, Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis, Jonathan Vilma and Jeremy Shockey led the way, with underclassmen Frank Gore, Sean Taylor, Antrel Rolle and Kellen Winslow Jr. seeing plenty of PT as well. The Hurricanes almost repeated the next year if it hadn’t been for a questionable pass interference call favoring Ohio State. Fox Sports puts together a fitting tribute the century’s first dynasty.

Miami Hurricanes’ pursuit of perfection in 2001: an oral history

FoxSports.com, 9.17.14

 

 

The Wild Rejected Plotlines for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979)

The original Star Trek was cancelled in 1969, but the cultural phenomenon continued to grow with wildly successful reruns and a burgeoning convention scene. Paramount knew it had a successful property on their hands and tried multiple ways to capitalize, including a short-lived animated series. They then decided on a movie and cast their net wide for potential screenplays. Series creator Gene Roddenberry pitched an ambitious good-versus-evil story that featured Kirk fighting a shape-shifting Jesus character on the Enterprise‘s bridge. Another had the gang stopping the Kennedy association. Still another had Scotty transported back to 1937. The final product was considerably more tame, but The Hollywood Reporter does their typically fantastic job of telling the story of how that film came to be.

‘Star Trek’ Oral History: When Captain Kirk Fought Jesus

TheHollywoodReporter.com, 6.27.16

 

Ms. Magazine Changes American Media Forever

In 1971 American media was still dominated by white males, even properties marketed to women. Female journalists were pigeonholed into writing about food, fashion, and marriage. That changed when Gloria Steinhem and a collection of New York feminist journalists founded Ms. magazine. They were concerned whether there was a market for a glossy monthly magazine–the first issue sold out in eight days. Proposed articles showed that they were finally writing the stories they wanted to write: “A Secretary is an Office Wife,” “Someone Should Have Liberated Pat Nixon,” and “The Politics of Sex.” The magazine would help launch an entire media market, but its own fortunes waned as the century drew to a close, worn down by infighting, cultural change, and competition. Today, it is still published as a quarterly, and has a solid online presence. Its articles can be found in women’s studies syllabi across the country. New York Magazine, which helped with the initial launch of Ms. takes a multi-faceted look back at an American cultural institution.

How Do You Spell Ms.

NYMag.com, 10.30.11

“Badlands”: Terrence Malick’s Debut Masterpiece

Terrence Malick has a well-deserved reputation as the J.D. Salinger of film, a genius recluse who produces art on his timetable alone. His first picture, Badlands (1973), had a notoriously awful production that included most of the crew quitting and the special effects guy getting badly burned. Malick shot enough film for five movies. But the actors, including stars Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, swear that the quiet, meditative director is the best they ever worked under. Their faith was rewarded as Badlands debuted to rave reviews as the opening film of the New York Film Festival. Described as a timeless, European-style film that showed the humanity and raw ambition of its murderous lovers, the movie established Malick as an original voice in American cinema.

Badlands: An Oral History

GQ.com, 5.26.11

Columbia House: The CD Distribution Titan

For us 90’s kids, Columbia House (and their rival, BMG) were ubiquitous and important purveyors of CDs. Their infamous “8 CDs for a Penny” promotion was touted everywhere and many (including me) were hooked. It had a very tangible effect on the music business: some estimates say 15% of CDs sold in the 1990s were from mail order companies. How did this business model work? When you signed up, you turned on the firehouse–they would keep sending you full-price items on a monthly basis until you cancelled. This actually worked. The A.V. Club talked about working at Columbia House with four now-famous individuals who worked there as 20-somethings in the 90s, including journalist Sasha Frere-Jones and online content god Piotr Orlov.

Four Columbia House insiders explain the shady math behind “8 CDs for a penny”

AVClub.com, 6.10.15

Michael Jordan Takes A Swing At Baseball

When the astonishing news broke that Michael Jordan was quitting basketball at 31 to play baseball, few people gave him a chance to make the big leagues. They were proven right when he quit during the work stoppage after hitting .202 with little power in 1994, but plenty of baseball people think he would have made it if he had stuck with the game. He had natural ability, being named player of the year in North Carolina at age 12, but baseball is not forgiving to 13-year absences, and he needed more time. No one would ever outwork Michael Jordan. Thus, it’s a bit of a what-if that we’ll never know the answer to because Jordan got the basketball itch again and went back to dominate the NBA for years. Complex takes a look back at Air Jordan’s year riding the bus in the bush leagues.

The Oral History of Michael Jordan’s Minor League Baseball Career

Complex.com, 3.2.17

How “South Park” Made It Onto TV

Trey Parker and Matt Stone were film school buddies at University of Colorado-Boulder and they thought they would do something “Christmassy” for the end-of-the-year student review. They had been cracking each other up with foul-mouthed little kid voices while sitting around film sets, and so they put those characters on screen using construction paper and crude animation. The audience loved it, and after a winding road, they convinced some adults at Comedy Central to approve the pilot. The rest is television history. Entertainment Weekly looks back at “The Spirit of Christmas.”

How ‘South Park’ was born: An oral history of ‘The Spirit of Christmas’

Microsites.EW.com, 3.18.15

Radiohead’s Masterpiece: “OK Computer”

There have been a number of pieces recently celebrating the 20th anniversary of OK Computer, the first great post-grunge rock album. Startlingly innovative, the album represented Radiohead’s long-expected ascension to true rock icons. The album, which came at the end of four years of constant touring, is heavily influenced by that reality (or unreality) and the resulting alienation and loss of individual identity. It was recorded in Jane Seymour’s 1,000-year old English manor house, which may be haunted by Henry VIII’s illegitimate daughter (or Jane Seymour’s mother), thus providing its own unique influence on the proceedings. Rolling Stone went all out for the anniversary, including a lengthy oral history with embedded music videos for each of the album’s songs.

Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’: An Oral History

RollingStone.com, 6.16.17

 

The Unknown Michael Moore Takes on General Motors in “Roger & Me”

Michael Moore watched as General Motors systemically pulled out of Flint, Michigan, his hometown, and left the city to rot. A journalist who founded the Flint Voice, later the Michigan Voice, an aggressive counter-culture newspaper, Moore was not going to take it lying down. So he went to a press conference and asked GM’s president how many jobs would be ultimately be lost and what the company’s plans were for Flint. The resulting corporate doubletalk would be juxtaposed against a narrative of corporate responsibility in Roger & Me. While Flint led the nation in unemployment in 1987 and was second in violent crime, by 1989, when the documentary debuted, the city was in the midst of a remarkable turnaround, with unemployment halved, crime down, and GM actually contributing to redevelopment. The film’s narrative was a blessing and curse at that point, helping shine international light on a city still struggling to find a future, and, more importantly, a dialogue about what Rust Belt companies owe their factory towns when the boom days end. However, the national perception of Flint went in the tank. Roger & Me turned Moore into a superstar and he has gone on to have one of the most successful documentarian careers of all time, always with his trademark anti-authority stance.

Flint: An oral history of ‘Roger & Me’ after 25 years

MLive.com, 12.3.14

Bonnaroo’s Comedy Tent Just Goes With The Flow, Man

Bonnaroo wanted to expand its festival experience so in 2004 it added a comedy tent, a showcase that has gone on to host many of the top names in comedy, including Louis C.K., Steven Wright, Aziz Ansari, and David Cross. The digs are somewhat less than swanky (no running water), but many of the stars treat it like going to camp, or a paid vacation, where they see their comedy brethren and some good music. The A.V. Club gathers a bunch of interesting and funny anecdotes, plus some good video clips, in this oral history.

Deadnecks and sound checks: An oral history of Bonnaroo’s comedy tent

AVClub.com, 6.8.17