Posts Tagged ‘Skinhead’

South Austin filmmaker seeks a larger audience for his zany movies

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

What he can’t understand is why he’s having such a hard time finding an audience.

Doesn’t the world want to see a pudgy guy with a large 3 foot or so long cow-head hat with extremely tall, spiky ears walking into town looking for a party?

That one is called “Cowman Goes to Town.” “Peckerman Eats Breakfast” is the video that features the guy wearing the big bird head drinking mosquito-infested water.

Or how about “Foot Blister: (a reenactment).” Need I say more about that one?

“Where the (heck) is the audience?” said Craven, who lives in South Austin (no surprise there, huh?). “I show this to people, and they laugh their (behinds) off, and I send ‘em to festivals and it gets rejected.”

Still, Craven thinks he’s made it to a special designation. “I consider myself the most obscure filmmaker in the country. So if you’ve seen one of my films, you’ve seen something special,” he said. “I wallow in this stuff. It’s all I do. It’s my hobby. It’s my freakin’ very life.”

Craven thinks the problem is that the people who run the film festivals are just too snooty and don’t understand the importance of his work.

“I think they’re funny, but a lot of people don’t think it’s funny,” Craven lamented. “I think the metrosexual dudes who are judging this stuff turn it off immediately, which is why I like sending it to them.”

It’s not that Curtis Craven’s career as a videographer is all goofball, all the time. He’s done plenty of serious work for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, for the Texas Historical Commission, for reality TV shows, for Austin City Limits. He graduated from film school at the University of Texas. This week he’s off to the Texas Panhandle to shoot some footage of a famous, big-time Texas oilman.

A couple of years ago he received a $2,000 grant from the Austin Film Society for work on his half-hour nature video, “Vanilla: The Sacred Orchid.” It ran on PBS. It’s about the vanilla plant. It features indigenous people. It was shot in Veracruz in Mexico.

But Craven’s real love is making videos of loons on parade. “I like characters; that’s my main thing,” Craven said. “It’s kind of outsider art stuff. It’s people who are producing art, but they’re really on the fringe.”

I would say a guy who frames a dead rat as art is “on the fringe,” all right. In Craven’s video “Found Artists,” Gainesville, Fla., artist Gary Crom is shown working with a deceased rodent that he intends to display as art.

Or, as Crom explained in the video, “Art’s art.”

To find the real zanies, Craven travels to rural Central Florida. When it comes to weird, Craven pointed out, Austin is playing in the minors compared with Florida.

“I come back from there and I hear this `Keep Austin Weird‘ thing, and I think, what are you talkin’ about?” he said.

Craven’s videos have some rough edges. For example, he pointed out that they used real cow poop in a scatologically bracing scene in the video “Cowman Goes to Town,” which, by the way, features Crom, the rat guy, as Cowman. Crom makes his own costumes and also plays Peckerman, the bird dude.

“I’ve got to go to town to see what’s going on,” Crom said in “Cowman Goes to Town,” out from under his huge cow headpiece. “Yeah, a little babe is what I need. A babe. Check out the food, and drink a couple gallons of wine.”

In the storyline, Cowman meets a Cow Lady, who has a head similar to Cowman’s. Upon meeting Cowman, she chirps, “Oh my, he’s hotter than a cow pie on the Fourth of July.”

Later in the film, Cowman is seen lying on a dock next to a lake. He makes guttural noises and struggles to climb to his feet. Maybe it’s that big, heavy, cow headpiece. “The funny part is the (fellow) can’t get up,” Craven said. “He’s struggling like a son of a (gun). It would have been funny if he’d fallen in the lake, but he didn’t.”

Craven’s humorous efforts have drawn some attention. He recalls the time he organized an event called Unk’s World Underground Film Fest. Craven’s videos were shown next to some guy’s trailer, out in the woods in Florida.

“We sent fliers all over the place and a bunch of people showed up, including the skinhead, neo-Nazi guys with their shirts off and their swastikas tattooed on their chests,” Craven said. “They were on a four-day drunk, and they saw the fliers at a little beer joint off the highway.” Craven said the audience “scared the living daylights” out of him and everybody else, but nothing happened.

The skinheads turned out to be nothing but “puffy white boys with their heads shaved and nasty tattoos all over them,” he said.

Still, he’s looking for a larger audience.

“I don’t think we’re going to hit the big time, but it would be nice to get some eyeballs,” he said. (See some of Craven’s work online at bit.ly/cravenvid.)

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Lawrence hosting ‘Erasing Hate’ doc

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Can someone who has known nothing but violence and bigotry, change his life when the evidence of his past is permanently etched on his face? Lawrence will host this new MSNBC documentary, “Erasing Hate,” on Sunday June 26 at 9 pm ET.

The piece chronicles Bryon Widner, a former skinhead. While most skinheads are known for sporting tattoos, Bryon’s head-to-toe ink made his appearance especially menacing.

After years of extreme violence against minorities in the name of the white race, Bryon’s life changed forever when he became a husband and father in 2006. He and his wife knew they couldn’t raise their family within the white power movement, but getting out wasn’t easy.

Bryon’s racist tattoos were a constant reminder of his violent past and he found it nearly impossible to support his family. With financial aid from the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2009, Widner made the life-changing decision to embark on an extensive and excruciating 20-month laser removal process at Vanderbilt University.

“Erasing Hate” producers spent nearly two years chronicling Bryon’s incredibly painful tattoo removal treatment — a penance of sorts for the hurt caused to so many others.

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O.C. skinheads plead guilty in home invasion

Sunday, June 26th, 2011
  • Brian Merle Sawin, left, and Mitchell Highley, right, face a minimum of 15 years to life in prison at their July 8 sentencing by Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger. Both accepted offers by prosecutors to plead and had faced at least 30 years to life if convicted at a trial before a jury.

O.C. skinheads plead guilty in home invasion

June 22, 2011|By VIK JOLLY

SANTA ANA – Two Orange County skinhead gang members pleaded guilty Wednesday to felonies charged in connection with a 2009 San Clemente home-invasion robbery in which two other defendants already have been convicted.

Brian Merle Sawin, 25, and Mitchell Highley, 24, face a minimum of 15 years to life in prison at their July 8 sentencing by Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger. Both accepted offers by prosecutors to plead and had faced at least 30 years to life if convicted at a trial before a jury.

They were each charged with first-degree robbery in concert, first-degree residential burglary, aggravated assault and other allegations and enhancements, including committing the crime for the benefit and promotion of a criminal street gang.

In the Feb. 16, 2009 incident, Sawin who is either from Anaheim or Garden Grove, and Highley, of Rancho Santa Margarita, and a third skinhead went to the San Clemente home of the victim who was asleep with her boyfriend and assaulted her, prosecutors said.

SANTA ANA – Two Orange County skinhead gang members pleaded guilty Wednesday to felonies charged in connection with a 2009 San Clemente home-invasion robbery in which two other defendants already have been convicted.

Brian Merle Sawin, 25, and Mitchell Highley, 24, face a minimum of 15 years to life in prison at their July 8 sentencing by Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger. Both accepted offers by prosecutors to plead and had faced at least 30 years to life if convicted at a trial before a jury.

They were each charged with first-degree robbery in concert, first-degree residential burglary, aggravated assault and other allegations and enhancements, including committing the crime for the benefit and promotion of a criminal street gang.

In the Feb. 16, 2009 incident, Sawin who is either from Anaheim or Garden Grove, and Highley, of Rancho Santa Margarita, and a third skinhead went to the San Clemente home of the victim who was asleep with her boyfriend and assaulted her, prosecutors said.

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Skinheads charged with murder forbidden to contact each other

Sunday, June 19th, 2011
Police escort one of two reputed white supremacists arrested in connection with the murder of a Calgary man last year.

Police escort one of two reputed white supremacists arrested in connection with the murder of a Calgary man last year.

Photograph by: Colleen De Neve, Calgary Herald

CALGARY — A judge has prohibited two skinheads jointly facing second-degree murder charges from having any contact with each other, except through counsel or to further their legal proceedings.

Provincial court Judge William Cummings made the order at the request of Crown prosecutor Susan Karpa during the first appearances of Robert David Reitmeier, 24, and Tyler William Sturrup, 26, on Wednesday.

Both men, believed to belong to a white supremacist group in Calgary who appeared together by closed-circuit television, were charged last week in connection with the death of Mark Mariani last October.

The ban was not contested by either defence lawyer — Nick D’Souza for Reitmeier and Tonii Roulston for Sturrup.

Roulston told the judge she expects there will be “a large hard drive full of disclosure” provided by the Crown’s office, likely in time for the next appearance in docket court on June 29.

Until that is done, both lawyers agreed to the automatic detention of their clients. D’Souza said it will take some time to review disclosure once it has been received.

Reitmeier is also accused of sexual assault and unlawful confinement of a woman at a party in the city on April 29, 2009, as well as failing to comply with probation conditions.

Crown prosecutor Karuna Ramakrishnan, assigned to the sexual assault case, said following the man’s appearance in provincial court on Tuesday that Reitmeier and the alleged victim did not know each other, but were “beyond casual acquaintances.”

The victim cannot be named because of a court-ordered ban.

Ramakrishnan said he was not charged until April 29 when he was identified through a DNA match from the assault two years earlier.

Reitmeier and Sturrup are suspected leaders of the WEB, or Western European Bloodline white pride group. It is one of two known white supremacist groups in Calgary since the disbanding of the Aryan Guard.

They are charged with the death of Mariani, 47, who was attacked in an alley in the city’s northwest quadrant.

Police investigators said although the two suspects are white supremacists, there is no indication that affiliation had any connection to the crime, which appears to have been unprovoked.

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Assault at skinhead meeting earns prison

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

A Spokane man has been sentenced to at least four years in an Idaho prison for beating and threatening to kill a man during a skinhead gathering.

Daniel Gean Wilson, 34, (left) and Keegan Van Tuyl (right) beat a man for answering questions about the white supremacist movement wrong after a day of heavy drinking at a home near Spirit Lake in July 2009, according to the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office.

The beating escalated after they accused the victim of being a drug user. Wilson then urinated on him, held an 8-inch knife to his throat and threatened to kill him if he told police. Wilson has “an extensive criminal record” in several states and has previous convictions for numerous property and violent crimes, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Wilson was sentenced to 12 years in prison with eligibility for parole after four years and credit for time served. He had pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in March.

Van Tuyl, co-founder of two Odinist-skinhead groups, Vangard Kindred and Valhalla-Bound Skinheads, is to be released from federal prison this fall on a weapons charge.

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Only on FOX6: Milwaukee area man goes from skinhead leader to peace advocate

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Arno Michaels founded skinhead group called “Northern Hammer Skins

We all have our demons, but few are haunted by the terrors former white supremacist Arno Michaels brought on himself.

Michaels was an instrument of chaos as the lead singer of the heavy metal hate band Centurion. During the mid-1980s , and early 1990s the group played mostly in dark bars, basements, and any place that allows their drunken racist ranting. Michaels says, “It was a seven year keg party with racism, and violence.”

Back then Michaels was one of the heads of Milwaukee‘s white power movement as a founder of the racist skinhead group The Northern Hammer Skins.
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Micheals’ past is littered with lost lives, and live ruined by racism. In 1990, an 18-year-old, who will only identify himself as Chuck, is drawn to the deadly skinhead lifestyle. Soon after that he picked a fight with a latin gang, and was killed. Michaels says, “One of them had a .25 pistol…he took one shot, and it hit chuck in the back, and it went through his heart, and he died on the spot.”

The death only enrages the racist group. Michaels said, “We played it off like, ‘What’s the world coming to when a white man can’t even walk down his street without being murdered by these savages.'”.

So the cycle continued for years, the music played, the booze flowed, and hate ruled Michaels’ life.

It’s hard to imagine the Michaels of 2011 as the violent man involved with the Centurion group. Now, you’ll find the 40-year-old in very different places. FOX6 found him laughing in a Milwaukee inner city library with mostly minority students. He said to the kids, “We literally had blinders up to deny all this information from the world around us that indicated that other people were as human as we are.”.

The now reformed racist shares his dead friend’s story as a lesson worth learning. Michaels told the children he was talking to, “It’s really poignant, tragic evidence that hate, and violence begets hate, and violence.”.

Michaels’ journey from hardened hammer skin to self-proclaimed peace activist actually begins with more racism. He says, “We felt it was our duty to have white children.”.

A year and a half after his daughter was born there’s no mother in the picture, and Michaels is left to take care of his little girl alone. He said, “I was aware that my daughter would be left essentially orphaned if anything happened to me.”.

It’s the birth of his innocent little girl that finally makes Michaels feel guilty about everything. So, in the mid-1990s he began leaving the movement he helped mastermind. “As the violence, and hatred lost that constant reinforcement, it began to make less sense.”, he said.

Michaels realized the ramifications of the life he helped saved. He told FOX6, “I think about my daughter. How much I love her, and I think about how I’d feel if someone ever hurt her. And I think, “How did that kid’s parents feel after you got done with him?”.

By 2004, the former skinhead finds himself sober, sorry, and with a plan to reconcile his past. He says, “The impetus to begin writing this book was really my own sanity.”

Michaels book, “My Life After Hate”, was published in December of 2010, but writing the book wasn’t enough. Michaels continues to spreading his message through his music, blog, and online magazine.

Michaels launched an anti-bullying campaign with former Latin Disciple Sammy Rangel. Rangel says, “He’s a skinhead. I’m a Chicago gang-banger, two different mindsets, but still so similar on this other side. Just things that drew us together.”

Michaels will be speaking at a forum in Ireland about counter acting extremism. He’ll be joined by other former gang members, and even former Islamic extremists.

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Skinhead promises speech at bench trial

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

A self-described skinhead says he has prepared a speech to read at his federal bench trial this afternoon for allegedly assaulting an accused child molester.

James D. Bacon, 23, is charged with misdemeanor assault for punching Darrell W. Monzingo, 44, as the men shared a holding cell at the Thomas S. Foley United State Courthouse on March 10.  The assault was captured on video, accoridng to a trial brief.

In a April 9 jailhouse letter to The Spokesman-Review, Bacon said he is a member of the Valhalla-Bound Skinhead movement, which was founded by Keegan Van Tuyl. Van Tuyl is scheduled to be released from federal prison in September. Authorities consider him extremely dangerous.

Bacon said his three-page speech will shock the judge.

“However, it is written with an eloquent passion from my heart,” Bacon wrote. “It is by no mean’s vulgar, & it addresses my beliefs as a skinhead, as a man, & as a person utterly disgusted with sex offenders.”

Bacon wrote that he hopes victims of sex crimes can be consoled by “knowing that people like myself are fighting in their honor.”

Bacon, who was convicted of armed robbery in 2004, was wanted for a felony drug violation and Department of Corrections warrant when he ran from police near Wellesley Avenue and Regal Street on Dec. 7.

Police arrested him in a struggle, then realized he was armed with a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun.

Monzingo, whose trial is set for September, faces up to 30 years in prison after Spokane police found child pornography during a search of his home in the 3400 block of E. Fairview Ave. on Dec. 16. He’s charged with manufacturing the material.

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