Monday, March 24, 2008
BPM magazine issue 90 is code named "The Hipster Issue." To make it true to its code name, BPM contributing author, Humberto Guida wrote a full page article about The Crazy Robertson. Unlike the Wall Street Journal, this article did not try to put a negative twist. The Crazy Robertson story is great as is, no need to change the facts.
Thumbs up to Nichole Gawalis for the great photo of John.
BPM issue 90 is at newsstands now or you can read it for free on the BPM magazine website.
Here is the text of the BPM article:
ROLLER-SKATING R BEVERLY HILLS HOMELESS MAN- DECKED OUT IN EYE-POPPING, JAZZERCISE-WORTHY SPANDEX ENSEMBLES- INSPIRES CLOTHING LINE. HUH?
ONE of today's most buzzed about skurban clothing lines happens to be inspired by a 50something-year-old homeless guy who dances up a disco storm on roller skates along Robertson Blvd. in Beverly Hills. No joke. We should also mention he's proverbially decked out in eye-popping, Jazzercise-worthy, sheer spandex ensembles. His name is Mr. John Jermien, but according to three 23-year-old dudes who adorn his image on their label, he's "The Crazy Robertson."
"We grew up around here, watching him dance. We just wanted to getto know him. Everyone had their own story about him. He was a lawyer. He was a baseball player. He went crazy. We didn't know any better; he was the dancing guy," Kevin Hayes explains from the two-story apartment he shares with his partners only a few blocks from the Robertson fashion corridor. "At first we had no intention of making a clothing line. We really wanted to be his friend."
The clothing line-at this point consisting of T-shirts, hoodies, wallets and limited-edition signed print designs-was established last year. And it really is the result of Hayes, Vic Ackerman and Teddy Hirsch befriending Jermien. "It took a long time where we had to cozy up to him. You just can't talk to him like we're doing now," Hirsch explains.
A recent foray onto Robertson and BPM got this quote from Jermien, in reference to the clothing line. "It's art. It's society. We have a message to put out there. My dancing is about freedom," Jermine huffed before shooing away this reporter so he could prepare another dance routine.
To most people, this kitschy fashion experiment involving a homeless man believed to have a minor level of schizophrenia is more innocent than rude. But then again, the label has not been without its fair share of controversy. Early on, the Wall Street Journal ran a story that questioned whether this was a case of creative entrepreneurship or straight up exploitation. The fellas were portrayed as neophyte capitalists who were taking advantage of a man believed to be a minor schizophrenic. There was even some heartbreaking pull quotes from a family member who lives nearby. The WSJ article was melodramatic and overtly judgmental, but the guys took it with a grain of salt.
"People don't understand, Jermien chooses to live like he does. He embraces street life. He's family. We're his inner circle. We take care of him any way we can. He owns part of the company, but a lot of times he doesn't want cash, so we get him roller skates, clothes, food," Hirsch explains, adding The Crazy Robertson will sponsor a fundraiser for the homeless in the spring. "Besides, ask him if he has a problem with it. He loves it."
"We just thought the idea to make this fascinating character an icon, especially in a place like Beverly Hills, was cool. So we started making stickers, started a website," adds Ackerman, the chief art designer of the group. "That's what led to Jermien on T-shirts, and our friends started buying them all. They wore them out like foot soldiers. It took off from there."
The image of The Crazy Robertson in dynamic, disco, sometimes super-heroic poses is more modern pop art than fashionista couture, but LA fashion forward boutiques are creaming over the label. It did well by getting hooked up at Kitson, a prestigious Lohan/Hilton/celeb-cloning staple that takes in only the hottest new designers. These days you can get TCR items at several other places across the country.
One particularly popular design nails the intrinsic irony of the label-that a group of youths in Beverly Hills are making an icon out of an Ober-eccentric homeless man. It's a Warholian arrangement of neon-colored The Crazy Robertson figures on either side of an evermore appropriate motto: "No Money, No Problems." The T-shirt is available for about $40 (and up), but you get the picture, thecrazyrobertson.com
at 8:46 AM