SAVAGE NOMADS, SAVAGE SKULLS

In the summer of 1979, Gary Weis and six film crew members drove from Manhattan to the South Bronx every day for two weeks, a journey that each day left Mr. Weis in awe and despair.

“It was almost like going to a foreign country,” said Mr. Weis, 63. Bombed-out buildings, heaps of rubble and stripped cars; he compared it to postwar Dresden.

Mr. Weis, then a director of short films for “Saturday Night Live,” spent those days on the Grand Concourse, between 167th and 170th Streets, making a documentary film about two of the most ruthless gangs in the Bronx: the Savage Skulls and Savage Nomads.

The result, a 60-minute documentary titled “80 Blocks From Tiffany’s,” was intended to fill one of “SNL’s” weekly time slots on NBC, open every third week that summer. But it was never broadcast. Executives found it too controversial, and after a screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 1980 and a limited VHS release in 1985, the film was shelved.

Read on: New York Times feature

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2022: I publish a weeklyish email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca., where I practiced with Buddhist teacher Ruth Denison and was involved in various pro-ecology and social justice activist activities.

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