with Robert Williams
excerpt from 1990
Brewton: The early days in New Mexico when you were
growing up, you hung out with kind of a tough crowd didnt
Robt. Williams: Yeah, I ran around with the gangs
JB: Ive noticed the pachuco theme reflected
in a lot of your paintings; is that where you started your
RW: Yeah thats right. I was born in New Mexico and
my parents were married and divorced a couple of times. So I
had moved back and forth in Albuquerque. Albuquerque was pretty
much a frontier town up until about the first world war and it
still maintained a real criminal air about it, still till this
day. In the fifties it was listed with the F.B.I. as like the
highest per capita crime in the United States, and I understand
that still exists in today. Its awfully easy to get into
a fight in that town, tremedously easy, I dont know what
it is about that town. Ive been out of Albuquerque since 63
but I still run across people that say theyve gotten in
fights in Albuquerque in way or another. Its a really
JB: Were you involved in gang or other related criminal
RW: Oh yeah I Was in several gangs.
JB: What were they called, do you remember the names?
RW: Ah, I was in a gang called the Tick-Tocks in
the mid-fifties. The Tick-Tocks were like Anglo-Pachucos.
And ah they were aligned with a group which were called
Stomps. And stomps where gang member that were cowboys.
You could find Stomps or Stomp gangs all through Arizona,
Texas, New Mexico and I probably would imagine that you
couldve find em
in Southern California at that period of time.
Suzanne Williams: Yeah, you could.
RW: They wore real big belt buckles that were used
as weapons. They would get a section of a car bumper and
cut out a nice domed area and solder loops on the back
and make a buckle out of it.
RW: So I was in some big gang fights and stuff.
But ah the reason I was involved with these people and
these people werent intelligent people was that I had a personality
that, was not uh, I want to say pedestrian, but not pedestrian...
conservative and was always looking for new and romantic things.
You know I was a born artist and when youre in a small
American town with a hundred thousand people there isnt
like a pool of these style of people to run around with.
So your next logical thing to do is to run around with
these aberrant people.
RW: So that unfortunately, turns out to be sometimes
criminals and gang members. There was a romance in the fifties
that a lot of people perceived and I was involved in this
romance of the fifties. I remember wearing a motorsickle
jacket. I got a motorsickle jacket in 1954. A real beautiful
black leather jacket, it was horse hide. Im telling
you this for contrast because a year or so ago I was in "The
Soap Plant" and some sensitive liberal young people
come in the there, that were looking for a place on Melrose
to buy leather jackets that were off animals that died naturally.
What a contrast it was that these sensitive delicate people
were looking for these fuckin motorsickle jackets from
some animal that didnt suffer...
JB: I know what you mean.
RW: When I remember the first day that I had worn
my motorsickle jacket to this one junior high school that
was predominantly Latino. I had to fight so fuckinmany
people to wear that jacket that I just didnt wear the
JB: The black motorcycle jacket was definitely a powerful
symbol of snotty delinquent independence at one time.
RW: I shed a lot of blood in that jacket to wear that
fuckin thing. I thought twice about walking down the
street with a black leather jacket because youre opening
yourself, fucked, for trouble. It read like this: you looked
cocky in it see. Today you just look like a punk rock stylish
person. But in 1954-55 you wore a black leather jacket you
JB: Who were your heroes growing up?
RW: Well, I knew about Von Dutch as early as 53.
Do you know who Von Dutch is?
JB: For the sake of those who dont know you
may as well fill them in.
RW: Well, Von Dutch is the guy that Roth styled himself after. Ed Roth styled
himself after Von Dutch. Von Dutch was far more flamboyant and talented and
interesting than Roth. Roth was considerable in his own right. Roth lives up
to his legend as far as Im concerned Roth rivals Buffalo Bill!
JB: I agree.
RW: But Von Dutch is even more than that. Von Dutch is still very much
alive and uh, sought after. Hes a big hero now. (Von Dutch invented pin
striping and the modern customized hot rod)
JB: What about music, who were you listening to back then?
RW: Music. I remember Bebop in 49 and 50. And I watched
Bebop turn into Bop. Then Bop turn into Hard Bop then Rock n Roll. I
was a hip person when I was young. I was on top of fuckin things, ya
JB: You havent changed a bit then.
was cognizant of social trends that were happening. I wasnt
what was called a square by any means.
JB: Back to Ed Roth. We know how you got started with
Ed Roth through an ad, but what was it like working with
RW: The first time I met Ed Roth was in 59 or
60 at car show in Albuquerque. And he was showing at
the Civic Auditorium. It was load in day before the show,
they were loading the cars in. And me and some of my friends
went over there. And I ran around with some aggressive wild
assholes. Ya know some people that would pull some real shit
and so the Beatnic Bandit was sitting right there in the
doorway . . . . .