[The 90’s raw: Robert Demella]

Videographer Skip Blumberg interviews taxi cab driver Robert Demella and others on the streets of New York City near City Hall.

00:00Copy video clip URL Raw footage of videographer Skip Blumberg interviewing New York City cab driver Robert Demella. Demella says he’s been driving a cab for four years. He says he is one of the last native New Yorker, English speaking cab drivers. He says to be a good cab driver you must know the city, traffic patterns, “like going up Third Avenue at rush hour you stay all the way to the left to avoid all the bridge traffic going to the 59th Street bridge.” He says people should avoid going to Cafe Iguana at 19th and Park. “I don’t know what they put in their drinks, but everybody who goes there turns into an asshole.” “You don’t pick up drunks, you don’t pick up teenagers. They don’t pay. You don’t pick up people who look high or seedy. And don’t go by the color of the skin. It’s the way they’re dressed. They way they comport themselves on the street.” “If a good-looking black couple hails me and wants to go to Harlem, I’ll take them. If a seedy-looking white couple hails me and wants me to take them to 5th Street and Avenue B I say “‘buh-bye,’ cause they’re on a drug run.”

02:20Copy video clip URL Demella advises to avoid traffic at all costs. You lose money when you’re stuck in traffic. Demella says the rewards of cab driving are that he sees and hears many things — stories people can’t tell their best friend, relatives, anybody. “I give pithy, free advice.” Let’s get right to the core and remove it. Blumberg says his problem is that it’s the nineties and he’s trying to figure out where to position himself. Demella advises, “Unfortunately, if you’re watching this you’re watching TV.” He says the only thing TV is good for is the news. Other than that, “take a sledge hammer to your TV and smash it.” “The TV set is the downfall of Western civilization. People don’t read or talk or think anymore. The generation that grew up on TV is probably the stupidest generation to come down the pike. It doesn’t broaden your perspective, it narrows it. It’s fast food junk food for the mind.” He continues ranting about modern society. He notes he can tell how the national economy is going based on how his tips increase or decrease.

06:33Copy video clip URL Demella says he reads a lot and is very aware of the world around him. He says he has a Buddhist approach to cab driving. He doesn’t go looking for fares; they find him. If you let the traffic or passengers get to you, you’ll be homicidal in two months.

07:43Copy video clip URL B-roll, traveling down a street in New York City. Demella says he was never much of a TV watcher. He watches NOVA and nature programs. TV is good for exposing things. Demella adds, “But I’m telling you to turn your TV’s off! Not during the show,” Blumberg retorts. Demella encourages people to read, especially history and philosophy, “something you can learn from.” Of young people Demella quips “if they can remember five years into the past it’s incredible!” For them history started when they were five-years old. Demella notes that he feels America is on the very of a new Dark Ages. This is the Roman Empire circa 573 AD and we are about to sink into the Dark Ages. Instead of monasteries and scrolls we have micro chips and floppy disks.

11:40Copy video clip URL B-roll driving along streets of New York City. Demella rants, but his rants are broken up by the videographer starting and stopping recording.

13:04Copy video clip URL The videographer notes his cab ride is six dollars. Demella records a tag for The 90’s.

14:20Copy video clip URL Change of location. Interview with a man on the street who shows off a hair style he created himself. He calls it a natty dread.

15:13Copy video clip URL The videographer cuts. Blumberg is back in another cab interviewing the driver. The driver says so far the ’90s have been good. He says he hopes for a better life than driving a cab. he says he is in college and studying accounting. He says you can learn a lot driving a cab. Some customers are rude. He notes he is from Haiti. He says many of the rude customers aren’t rude because he is from Haiti, they’re just rude people in general. He says driving a cab you learn philosophy. People tell me to stick to my studies because driving a cab is dangerous. He adds he’s only been mugged once. He hopes one day to go back to Haiti adding that America used to be a good place to go, but not anymore. It’s too expensive. He identifies himself as both Haitian and a New Yorker.

19:09Copy video clip URL The videographer cuts.

19:17Copy video clip URL B-roll of New York City street, crowded sidewalk. No sound.

20:14Copy video clip URL Sound turns on. Continued b-roll of sidewalk filled with pedestrian traffic.

21:11Copy video clip URL The videographer talks with a guy selling jewelry on the street. He is selling Christian D’Or, Ann Klein at “one low, ridiculous price.” He launches into a non-stop sales pitch.

24:41Copy video clip URL The videographer cuts.

24:47Copy video clip URL B-roll of a traffic policeman; b-roll of the street vendor selling jewelry.

26:39Copy video clip URL The videographer follows a man through a park. B-roll of flowers, tulips, a building under construction, pigeons.

27:54Copy video clip URL B-roll of a crowd surrounding a street vendor standing in front of 253 Broadway across form City Hall in New York City. People preach about where you’re going in life, do something positive for the black race. They preach “it’s up to us as African Americans and Latinos.” “Don’t try to assimilate into the white culture.”

32:42Copy video clip URL Police show up on the scene. They say the crowd has to break up because it is blocking traffic.

33:32Copy video clip URL One of the guys preaching says he has a right to talk. The owner of the building says if the street vendor is selling something he must be 75-feet from a city building.

34:36Copy video clip URL Video drop outs. The videographer talks with the building owner who does not want to appear on camera. The videographer tries to plead on behalf of the street vendor selling books. The owner is fine with the book seller, but not with the guy who is rallying the crowd. The speaker continues inciting the crowd to support the black cause.

38:46Copy video clip URL  The speaker encourages the crowd to buy from black people. The videographer debates the scene with individuals in the crowd.

40:00Copy video clip URL The book seller says he is able to stay and keep his book stand. He says he’s been selling on the street for two-years. He notes that he sells African history books. He says the guy who was speaking and inciting the crowd comes here a lot to talk. He explains the scene to a passerby.

47:00Copy video clip URL B-roll of the books on the bookseller’s table.

47:41Copy video clip URL The bookseller talks with the manager of the building about the speaker who caused all the problems. He came and started speaking and then a crowd grew. It got out of control. I should have told him to move on. The building manager notes that if there’s a large crowd in front of their building and someone gets hurt, they can get sued. Various b-roll of the bookseller and his patrons.

53:00Copy video clip URL The videographer records an opening for his segment.

53:26Copy video clip URL B-roll of a woman with dreadlocks.

53:57Copy video clip URL Long shot of 253 Broadway in front of City Hall.

55:10Copy video clip URL B-roll of a camera crew carrying equipment into City Hall. The videographer walks with a woman in a rush to the subway. She notes that today is Good Friday, April 13, 1990.

56:49Copy video clip URL END.

 

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