You Are What You Wear
, an art exhibit that showcased the private collection of rare classic heavy metal T-shirts, came to the Derek Hess Gallery.
The gallery will host a follow-up exhibit, You Are What You Wear 2
, from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20.
Married couple Tom Dark, a Cleveland musician and record label owner whose career dates back to the ’80s, and Mary Ellen “Scary Mary” Tomazic, a DJ whose radio career began in Kent in the ’70s, have assembled 57 shirts that date from the ’70s and ’80s. The exhibit will be part of 78th St. Studios monthly Third Friday open gallery event.
Dark and Tomazic purchased the shirts at concerts, in record stores or by mail order. They even obtained some by trading with other bands. Some of the bands represented include the Misfits, the Clash, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Metallica, the Cramps, Trouble and Black Flag.
Of the 19 Misfits and Samhain T-shirts on exhibit, 10 were personally hand-printed by then-singer Glenn Danzig in his parents’ basement.
“[Danzig] had his Post Office Fiend Club thing back then,” says Dark when asked about he obtained the prized possessions. “I bought the Misfits singles, and I still have the original singles before their first album even came out. They would slip in a Fiend Club thing in the 45s. I didn’t officially join the Fiend Club, but I just wanted to get the T-shirts. I sent him checks for the shirts. He used to silk screen them in his basement. He lived at his parents’ house.”
Dark received the shirts direct from Danzig between 1981 and 1982 before Dark’s band the Dark played with the Misfits in 1982 in Akron.
“When we played with them in 1982, they were the loudest thing, and it sounded like an airplane in your living room,” says Dark.
The poster from that show is now on display in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Another notable shirt comes from a Clash concert that Tomazic attended at the old Cleveland Agora on E. 24th St. in 1979. The Clash gave away T-shirt transfers. Tomazic drove up from Kent State to see the band but wasn’t interested in openers Alex Bevan or even Bo Diddley, so she cut their names off the transfer, leaving just the Clash’s name before she applied it to her shirt.
“We drove to the Agora and see the Clash, and it was Feb. 10, 1979 — I only know that because of the shirt,” she says. “WMMS was sponsoring it, but they didn’t play their tunes much. The Agora gave out T-shirt transfers. I also have a Boomtown Rats shirt. We loved them at the college radio station in Kent. The Clash respected the old blues masters, and they had Bo Diddley with them. We ran a punk rock radio show, and we weren’t trying to hear him. [Local singer-songwriter] Alex Bevan got booed when he opened. We took their names off the transfer and just left the Clash. I kept them all this time.”
The Sub Pop Nirvana T-shirt in the exhibit comes from their 1989 Bleach tour. Knifedance, Dark’s band at the time, opened for them at their Minneapolis show.
“I believe it was at the Uptown Bar in 1989,” says Dark. “We went up there and opened for them. They had a different drummer. They didn’t have Dave [Grohl]. The funny thing is that my wife dug that T-shirt out, and I don’t know how I got it. We probably swapped shirts. For all I know, one of those guys still has a Knifedance T-shirt. I remember they were really nice guys. They were in the front row supporting us, and they were really cool guys. When they came on, they were great. We thought they were really f-ing good. They just had really good songs. It was really hypnotizing to watch them.”
There are also WCSB and some advertising Tomazic’s radio show.
“We have lots of shirts for things that don’t exist anymore,” says Tomazic. “We have Chris’ Warped Records shirts and My Generation in Westlake and ones from metal shows I went to in the ’80s. A lot of them are cut off because I’m a chick and you couldn’t buy girlie shits back then. I have a Metallica Ride the Lightning shirt. Some of the shirts are like works of art.”
“People once said vinyl was dead,” he says. “But now, vinyl is back. I like physically buying things. The bands put a lot of work into these things, and they look like homemade things and only a few people bought them. It’s the rarity and the original do-it-yourself thing [that makes them attractive]. Not to knock technology, but I think it’s killed a lot of things.”
You Are What You Wear 2, 5-9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, Derek Hess Gallery, 1300 West 78th St., 216-288-4868, derekhess.com
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