The Indianapolis Times
My last job in Indianapolis was at the Indianapolis Times. I was hired in 1963 to sell classified advertising. I didn’t realize it at the time but it was a dead end job because Scripps-Howard had already announced they planned to discontinue the paper. The Indianapolis Star, a morning paper, had already gobbled up the Indianapolis News, portending the change in the business environment. You needed to know the news before your working day not leisurely looking at in the evening.
The venerable Indianapolis Times, also an afternoon paper, held on even longer than it should have to try and keep Indianapolis from becoming a one newspaper town. Even then it was realized how dangerous it was to have only one news source (FoxNews crack addicts are you listening?).
[Location: 300 block W. Maryland Street at Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis (Marion County, Indiana)]
Life at a Dying Newspaper
I was excited at the prospect of working for a newspaper at first but my department had realized long before I arrived that there was no future in working hard at the Times. We met at 8 o’clock in the morning for a half an hour sales meeting, usually including donuts and coffee (some people surreptitiously adding a little kick to their coffee even that early). Then everyone left, supposedly to work on sales for the classified ads. I was told to ‘cold call’ car lots, gas stations, radio stations, local businesses, etc. to drum up sales but within a couple of weeks some of the old timers told me not to waste my time. I would get ads from the companies that just wanted to be in every publication but I wouldn’t get any new ads because everyone knew the Time wouldn’t be in business much longer and circulation was way down.
Everyone in the department except me was split into two groups. The golfers, who left immediately for the links after the morning sales meeting, and the rest, who left for the bars. Around 4:30 everyone would gather again for the final sales meeting before leaving for the day. That could be a hoot as the barflys could be raucous and unruly and the golfers told outrageous lies about their golf game or sexual adventures.
For me, I found that I could slip into a library and read science fiction novels or meet up with some of the guys I sang with, most of whom were chronically unemployed. Often there were enough of us to get in some a cappella practice time. 1964 was the year we had a close brush with fame after recording “In The Still of The Nite” and our trips to Chicago to support the record. In the first few months of the year we still hoped we might be able to keep recording but the Indy Sound and Jan Hutchens Productions died as quickly as it had risen. It was on one such day in the fall that I recruited Mac Brown from the Casinos to come and sing with us. At our New Year’s Eve party on the last day of 1964, knowing that the day the Times would close was near I agreed to a brash proposal to try our luck as The Checkmates (precursor to Stark Naked and the Car Thieves) singing in night clubs. So in early February of 1965 I gave notice at the Times and tried my luck as a bar singer. Though that experience was a complete disaster life was never the same again.
One of the best things I learned at the Times was from the display artist. I would bring him display ads and he would draw them up right in front of me. He was half cartoonist and have illustrator. His main tools were a metal ruler and a #2 pencil. He would use the ruler to tear through newspaper pages and his pencil to block out new art, write in new copy using the ruler edge, and illustrate where and when needed. I’ve always been influenced by his rough and ready skill and talent even though the medium has changed to a digital world. I still keep a couple of steel rulers around for when I work on art in article, brochure, or book form even in this digital world.
By WILLEM ALKEMA and REED TUCKER
Last Updated: 12:10 PM, September 26, 2011
Posted: 2:05 AM, September 25, 2011
In his heyday, he lived at 783 Bel Air Road, a four-bedroom, 5,432-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion that once belonged to John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas.
The Tudor-style house was tricked out in his signature funky black, white and red color scheme. Shag carpet. Tiffany lamps in every room. A round water bed in the master bedroom. There were parties where Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Miles Davis would drop by, where Etta James would break into “At Last” by the bar.
Just four years ago, he resided in a Napa Valley house so large it could only be described as a “compound,” with a vineyard out back and multiple cars in the driveway.
But those days are gone.
Today, Sly Stone — one of the greatest figures in soul-music history — is homeless, his fortune stolen by a lethal combination of excess, substance abuse and financial mismanagement. He lays his head inside a white camper van ironically stamped with the words “Pleasure Way” on the side. The van is parked on a residential street in Crenshaw, the rough Los Angeles neighborhood where “Boyz n the Hood” was set. A retired couple makes sure he eats once a day, and Stone showers at their house. The couple’s son serves as his assistant and driver.
Inside the van, the former mastermind of Sly & the Family Stone, now 68, continues to record music with the help of a laptop computer.
“I like my small camper,” he says, his voice raspy with age and years of hard living. “I just do not want to return to a fixed home. I cannot stand being in one place. I must keep moving.”
Stone has been difficult to pin down for years. In the last two decades, he’s become one of music’s most enigmatic figures, bordering on reclusive. You’d be forgiven for assuming he’s dead. He rarely appears in public, and just getting him in a room requires hours or years of detective work, middlemen and, of course, making peace with the likelihood that he just won’t show up.
There was a time when Sly was difficult to escape. Stone, whose real name is Sylvester Stewart, was one of the most visible, flamboyant figures of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
I haven’t had a copy of this record since leaving Indianapolis for northern California in 1965. I found a copy on eBay and it is supposed to arrive either today or tomorrow. It’s good to be able to retrieve a few of the things you took for granted and let slip away when you’re young. I’m excited to own it again. Can’t wait to fire up a turntable and hear it. I’m going to take a better digital copy of this then the one that’s on the site.
I’m thinking about trying to do some kind of music video to this song if I can think of some interesting way to do it.
In thrashing about on the Internet and just plain dumb good luck I came across David Cornwell Photography in Hawaii. On occasion in the past I had searched for ‘David Cornwall’ and never thought to try this name but now that I did there were several websites to pick from. From what seemed the most recent website, this seemed to be the same David Cornwell who had filmed our music video for Look Back in Love in Hawaii. I sent a couple of emails waiting each time for several days in between. No reply.
Finally I picked up the phone and called. Dave’s address is in Waipahu. I got him on the phone and after a polite conversation we did determine that Dave’s business at the time was on Kalakaua Ave and that he was the one to do the video. I had kept my expectations low as we know something like 44 years have passed since this video was filmed. Dave is now 74 and told me that he had left the islands for about 8 years in the eighties to live in Connecticut and then did some traveling before returning to Hawaii. A few years ago his offices were robbed and he said he lost the majority of everything he had. In short, he didn’t think he had anything left from those days.
I asked him to please check as well as he was able. I have had an email or two from him since but so far he has been unable to find anything.
That’s pretty sad but for those as intensely interested as I have been there is at least some resolution.