Jason Toon

quality posts: 19 Private Messages Jason Toon

I've accumulated a lot of ridiculous books over the years - from thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, and dumpsters - and I can no longer bear to hoard their weirdness for myself. Presenting the second in an occasional series exploring the far corners of the Toon library...because the world must know!

Vigilantism was as much a part of the '80s cultural psych-geist as parachute pants, arcade games, and phony Satanists. It was the age of Bronson, the era of The Punisher, the time when every red-blooded American was itching to take those "street punks" down a peg or two. Although they eschewed weapons, Curtis Sliwa's Guardian Angels offered a colorful real-world example of city dwellers uniting to take back the streets - sort of a Neighborhood Watch with cool hats. Starting with the teenagers on the staff of the McDonald's he managed in the Bronx, Sliwa created a street-kid-meets-urban-paramilitary image for the Angels that won them attention out of all proportion to their actual crime-fighting accomplishments. The Clash even wrote a song about the 1982 shooting of Angel Frankie Melvin ("Red Angel Dragnet"). Alas, Street Smart deals with almost none of this excitement. It's a pretty typical collection of crime-avoidance tips, of the type that you could find in little cheapo booklets on any supermarket checkout line circa 1982. What sets it apart is the Angels packaging - and a vision of city life that's paranoid even by the standards of this bizarre literary genre.

But first: the outfits. It's worth lingering on the cover, with its choice portrait of Sliwa in a button-down version of the Angel uniform. Note the tie visible under the t-shirt, the dress shirt's rolled sleeves, and of course the ubiquitous beret. This is a vigilante who's ready for the poolroom or the boardroom.

Off to the right we see a couple of wildstyle Angels either helping a young mother feed her baby, or breaking up the world's craftiest kidnapping.

The rest of the patrol is hanging out on the back cover, staring pensively in all directions for evildoers. And looking fabulous. Their berets festooned with medals, crisp white t-shirts tucked neatly in, the Guardian Angels understand what superheroes have always known: when you look good, you fight crime good.

Inside, we see the authors, Sliwa and Guardian Angels lawyer Murray Schwartz. Curtis's beret looks like it's been through a brawl or two.

For those readers wondering why they should listen to this Sliwa guy anyway, rest assured: he's vouched for by no less than Richard Nixon himself.

Having enticed us in with their flashy berets and hip urban style, Sliwa and the rest of the Guardian Angels promptly disappear from the book. In their absence, the city looms dark and ominous, with no Angels to guard it. I have no idea if New York in the late '70s and early '80s was really this terrifying. But the cityscape of Street Smart finds psychotic, often shirtless cutthroats lurking in every shadow and on every street corner, eager to humiliate and brutalize the innocent in pursuit of sick thrills. Maybe they're waiting at the subway station. Maybe they're in the laundry room of your apartment building. But they're out there. And they're wearing really short pants.

Then again, maybe the pants just seem short because they're pulled up so high. These high-waisted multicultural hoodlums obviously work as a team. The little guy on the right chases you down, the skinhead beats you up, and the big-boned one sits you into oblivion.

OK, this one even scared me. If the Angels bothered to warn people about the dangers of being shoved in front of a moving subway train, it must have been happening, like, fifty times a day. That's the side of the '80s that nobody talks about.

This ATM user was trying to follow the proper safety procedures described below. Then he realized that he was the suspicious-looking one.

Strolling home from a screening of Cocoon, these oldsters were in no mood to take any guff off of these hoods. Taste cane, punk! And put a shirt on!

Maybe you think it's overkill to inspect the area around your car with a flashlight before you get in.

Well, that kind of recklessness is just what the ankle-grabber counts on! What now, smart guy?

But hey, don't let the thugs keep you from taking advantage of your city's amenities. Feel free to follow your bliss, to stop and smell the flowers, to enjoy whatever strikes your fancy...as long as you're ready for life-or-death combat at a moment's notice.

By the end of the book, the reader's new confidence will carry her safely past even the most high-belted street punks.

Silly and paranoid as it can sometimes be, I have to admit that Street Smart's urban populist stance is a lot less obnoxious than many of the racially-tinged expressions of fear from that era. Sliwa and Schwartz even have strong words against guns as an answer to street crime ("If you don't want to engage in a shootout on your block, learn that guns are not the answer...That is the truth, and Mr. Gun Toter, we want you to know it"). Despite its fearful vision of the city, the world, and life in general, and despite Sliwa's later career as a loudmouthed right-wing radio blowhard, the overall tone of Street Smart is upbeat, inclusive, and proactive. I just wish it had more pictures of Guardian Angels in action. Anybody know where I can get a beret, cheap?


quality posts: 3 Private Messages cindyscrazy

Has the assailant under the car thing ever ACTUALLY happened? You've got to be some kind of dumb to wait under a car for someone. What happens if you fall asleep while waiting?

*THUMP, THUMP" No more bad guy

"I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it"--from a T-shirt



quality posts: 0 Private Messages srodolff

Guardian Angels, An Army of One.....


quality posts: 1 Private Messages mrtuba9
Anybody know where I can get a beret, cheap?

Like the kind you find in a second-hand store?

60 woots, 102 items, 34x1, 7x2, 18x3 (3x3 ßÕÇ-now retired), 9 unique shirt.woot, 1 sellout.woot <--OUTDATED (except the martini ;')


quality posts: 0 Private Messages winkingskunk

The guy under the car thing was a big fear of mine in high school. I used to work at the mall, and walking to my car at night in the empty parking lot I was convinced that my life was about to become a bad horror movie. Almost every night I would have a peak under my car in case there was a weird guy waiting underneath it ready to slash my ankles with a razor blade and snuffleupagus me.

Don't really know where I got that paranoia from. I don't do it anymore, only for those two years I worked at the mall. Coincidence? I think not.


quality posts: 5 Private Messages dubdubdub

Nevermind the berets, get licensing to reprint those shirts. I can wear it while on web cam to let cyber bullies know that I mean business.


quality posts: 2 Private Messages eyeslikesugar

*giggles* I love bad 80's books! Great year, too. =D

Quality post!

-James Cho -EdgarRMcherly Shirt.Woot.Com - Ye Oldest Sucker - 2009


quality posts: 0 Private Messages mplockwood

I have spoken to several people who lived in NYC during that time and according to them, YES, it WAS that dangerous. One guy was telling me how during that time he was in high school and was given this type of jacket which was popular at the time, but he couldn't wear it outside because anyone who did was guaranteed to get robbed of the jacket at knifepoint. If he wore his school uniform on the subway he would get mugged for whatever money he had on him.

I'm surprised you chose not to mention Sliwa's number one vigilante credentials. He once escaped an assassination attempt by John Gotti by jumping out the broken back window of a taxi cab! (and was shot several times) Wikipedia also tells me he is a 4-time pickle eating champion. (not a joke) Let's see the Punisher top that!


quality posts: 0 Private Messages pedroREE
cindyscrazy wrote:Has the assailant under the car thing ever ACTUALLY happened? You've got to be some kind of dumb to wait under a car for someone. What happens if you fall asleep while waiting?

*THUMP, THUMP" No more bad guy

bahahahahah i can so imagine that


quality posts: 8 Private Messages Toadlet

If you hadn't told me that the guy in the first picture was wearing a tie, I would have thought it was a sweat stain...

I appear to be melting.


quality posts: 0 Private Messages mscherie72

mplockwood is right-it really was that bad. Remember, back in the 80s there were 3000 murders in a year! That's not an exaggeration. And while violence is still with us, back then random violence from strangers was common. Heck, I lived two hours from NYC and I still knew a bunch of people who were attacked, raped, or robbed in NY. And NY wasn't the only city like that. Cities in the 80s were a scary place.


quality posts: 0 Private Messages ccunning

What in gods name is the guy(?) on the left in the last picture holding? Is that an iPod Mega or something? Whatever it is, thank god it has a shoulder strap.


quality posts: 4 Private Messages Mancho
ccunning wrote:What in gods name is the guy(?) on the left in the last picture holding? Is that an iPod Mega or something? Whatever it is, thank god it has a shoulder strap.

What? Are you, like, eight years old? It's a boom box.


quality posts: 1 Private Messages benjimann1

I could be wrong, ccunning, but this contraption looks like a Jumbo iPod dock with a strap. A heart monitor is probably built in to it too, so that he knows when to put the thing down.
I would have recommended something smaller to go jogging with, but the fellow probably doesn't go jogging very much...


quality posts: 0 Private Messages brothaB

i love everything about this post. it's a riot.

curtis has led an interesting life since as an activist, radio host, and assassination attempt victim.




quality posts: 0 Private Messages megakilroy

I never thought I'd see another picture of my sensei again!!! No, not Sliwa, but The Big-Boned One (as he was known to his disciples) from the 6th picture. He was the one that taught me the always effective "Sit Attack" (both the lethal and non-lethal versions)!!!


quality posts: 0 Private Messages wootnight

The lady in the last picture could do much better than that.
She should move her purse to the other arm (way before she gets that close).
Needs to open her eyes, and not walk that close to them. Hope she has something to defend herself with.
On the other hand, she looks strong and confident and has a good "Don't mess with me" expression. She has most likely already checked their body language and expressions and determined they were not a threat.

Jason, the berets are in Army/Navy stores.


quality posts: 5 Private Messages dubdubdub
wootnight wrote:Jason, the berets are in Army/Navy stores.

I used to sell army surplus. Good luck finding a beret (or much of anything else) cheap. Starting in early 2007 the military quit selling 90% of the clothing/gear. What they sold in the prior 3 years they demanded back (a couple items at a time even though you buy 1000s of items at a time) so they could burn it.

They used to sell everything under the sun. Then some idiots buying from them sold jet parts to Iran. Add that to people in Iraq dressing as US soldiers and then attacking bases and what not. Now they burn/destroy most things in a huge waste of tax payer money.

DRMO auctions that used to have hundreds and hundreds of pallets of clothing/gear now might have a dozen or (and it's all the same nonrestricted straps or suspenders). The stock of surplus stuff like hats/pants/shirts/etc that was bought before it was restricted is drying up. Even ebay has signifigantly less on available on it (and what is there is considered stolen)

If you can find military berets cheap, good luck. Otherwise, expect to pay brand new costs.


quality posts: 0 Private Messages wootnight

O.K., not less than $5.00 cheap, but between $10.00- $16.00 reasonable price.


quality posts: 12 Private Messages tslothrop

Button-down refers to the collar points, not the center opening. This may be an oxford, or even a button-up, but surely not a button-down shirt.