The Party’s Over!
May 25, 2012 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Missing Foundation was an underground industrial band formed in Hamburg, Germany in 1984 and year later, in 1985, the band relocated to New York City. Formed by Pete Missing along with two members of KMFDM and Florian Langmaack they were known for their destructive shows. They were active in 1988 riot in Tompkins Square Park (attempting to start another one in 1993) and lighting the stage of CBGBs on fire and destroying their sound system. Other members include Vern Toulon, the father of kid-punk band Old Skull. One of the indelible and lasting marks of the group was their logo: inverted martini over a three pronged tally along with slogans such as "1988 - 1933" and "Your House Is Mine". The slogans were illusions to what founder Peter Missing described as society verge of collapse and that a police state was imminent. The years representative of the year the Nazi's overtook the Weimar Republic. The logo symbolized the bands personal slogan of "the party's over". Founder Peter Missing now lives in Berlin and his artwork has exhibited at The Whitney, The Getty, MOMA after riding out some tough times in the mid-aughts.
posted by wcfields (19 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
It never ceases to amaze me how little I know about things that mean a lot to someone else. It's one of the reasons I love MF. The Sam Pheeters post is especially great reading. Fascinating post WCFields. Thanks.
posted by salishsea at 5:24 PM on May 25, 2012

That is not how I understand the Tomkins Square riot - Seth Tobocman documented it in various issues of WWIII Illustrated and in War in the Neighborhood, which is unfortunately out of print - basically, in NYC in the eighties there was massive gentrification and displacement, the police were hassling homeless people, there were some punk/homeless radical squatted buildings that got broken up right around then, the park was one of the very few places where homeless folks could go - and of course the property companies, who have since prospered, damn them, wanted them gone. The riot was the culmination of all that. It gets framed as, like, good citizens objecting to rock fans in the park (which is how it's described in that link) but it was an upsurge of anger by people who were being driven out of the only place they had. I wish I had my copy of the Tobocman, it lays all this out.

I mean, I have no doubt that Missing Foundation were involved in the riot, but as political participants, not as people instigating bored fans for kicks.
posted by Frowner at 5:42 PM on May 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

Frowner: "That is not how I understand the Tomkins Square riot"

Sorry if to phrase it poorly, but not being there I had to go with Wikipedia described. I didn't mean to phrase it as they were instigating bored fans, far from it. The 1993 link was phrased poorly and discounts the brevity of the 1988 riot.

The Villager says "He [Peter Missing] was one of the organizers of the protest against the Tompkins Square Park curfew that led to the 1988 riot." and "Performances would see Missing stalk the Tompkins Square bandshell stage, shouting through a megaphone, while 20 Puerto Rican kids with black Missing Foundation T-shirts stood like bodyguards and 20 others pounded on metal objects."

and Sam McPheaders Archives says "When the band played Tompkins Square Park on August 6, 1988, they preceded a riot. It would be incorrect to say "caused a riot", although the NYPD ruthlessly pursued them as scapegoats. After the local CBS affiliate accused the band of Satanic cultism in a bizarre three-part(!) series, Pete Missing found himself tailed by the FBI."

The New York Times says "Tompkins Square Park has become synonymous with protest, but the clash had its roots less in politics than it did in music." (Though this sounds BS, hardcore punk music = politics)
posted by wcfields at 6:14 PM on May 25, 2012

I loved "Ignore the White Culture" so much when it came out. It was primitive, scraping, harsh, but in a way still accessible, so long as you were really fucking furious. Didn't know much of the story beyond the Tompkins Square riot (WWIII Illustrated was amazing, too), so this is fantastic stuff, thanks.
posted by mediareport at 6:36 PM on May 25, 2012

I remember that night - my boyfriend told me Pete Missing was organizing a protest in Tompkins Square Park and I said no f*ing way are we going... then later heard the low-flying helicopters.

Let's say it was a combination of politics and Pete Missing & co liking a good rumble. But it was the police who were out of control that night.

Missing also wrote a lot of graffiti around the East Village; besides the upside down martini glasses, there was "We will not act civilized in this f*ing city" and "The poor die". The last one completely infuriated me (sometimes my sense of humor escapes me).

Then I actually met him, and he was one of the sweetest guys I've ever met.

So, those are my Pete Missing stories.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:42 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

So that's what all that martini glass graffiti was all about. In the early 90's the only coherent explanation I ever heard aside from "???" was that they were tags representing some sort of skinhead gang that was anti-homeless people. There was a time, at least in Manhattan anyways, that that graffiti was everywhere. Or at least once someone pointed it out to me, suddenly it seemed like it was all over the place.

For the longest time I thought it was some sort of guerrilla art project, à la "André the Giant has a posse", only more oblique. My teen self is thrilled by this news, thanks!
posted by the painkiller at 6:47 PM on May 25, 2012

kid-punk band Old Skull .

Saddest band EVER.
posted by Huck500 at 7:06 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that logo was everywhere. And though I never actually heard anyone talk about Missing Foundation, they were referenced without fail, time and again, in all the local anarcho rags.
posted by darth_tedious at 7:27 PM on May 25, 2012

NY Times aside, this is actually a pretty good rundown of the causes of the riot. Ah, a NYTimes with reportage and without "some say", "an anonymous source within the police department", or "balanced" reporting; it was truly another time, kids.

IIRC, on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht there was a notable amount of glass-smashing downtown with the MF martini glass stickered nearby and, correct or not (or, not correct to the best of my knowledge), I know that there are a few folks for whom that is their indelible association with the MF symbol. Race and the late-80s NYHC scene would probably be an interesting FPP.

I have been seeing the martini glass appearing in my overly-gentrified Berlin neighborhood recently!
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 12:36 AM on May 26, 2012

How have I never (as far as I know) heard of this before?
This is pretty awesome.
posted by Mezentian at 3:59 AM on May 26, 2012

Of course Old Skull had a dad that was in bands and shit. Of course they did.
posted by box at 4:53 AM on May 26, 2012

I second the fact that Pete is actually a really nice guy. I'd spent a bit of time with him at the 6 & B garden, and Sidewalk Cafe. You can still see the martini glass all over the East Village.
posted by aletheia at 5:25 AM on May 26, 2012

Thanks for this amazing story. Good post.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:14 AM on May 26, 2012

I second the fact that Pete is actually a really nice guy. I'd spent a bit of time with him at the 6 & B garden

But not the Five and Dime?
posted by Mezentian at 6:45 AM on May 26, 2012

People interested in this thread might enjoy Eleanor Henderson's recent novel Ten Thousand Saints.
posted by activitystory at 6:55 AM on May 26, 2012

Pete is a nice guy -- I have one of his martini-glass-on-sheet-metal pieces hanging in our bedroom, and he was very grateful when I bought it. I was a big MF fan back in the day, and their shows were extremely brutal and cathartic, and while I wasn't around for the riot, I was around Tompkins for some of the subsequent park-clearing nights, and there was a palpable sense of menace from all sides. When I'm in that neighborhood now, I'm struck by how different it is, and while the 44-year-old-with-a-6-year-old-daughter me knows it's a better, safer place, there's still a big part of me that misses the DMZ-esque, anything can happen feeling. (I still sometimes draw the logo on things, and recently had the cover of the Man in the Arena/Assault on Your Life single as my wallpaper at work...)
posted by AJaffe at 7:52 AM on May 26, 2012

I don't get it. It's somehow cool to set a stage on fire inside a club? These assholes belong in jail.
posted by tommyD at 9:15 AM on May 26, 2012

Punk's a funny scene. I think most folks here are saying 'interesting!' not necessarily 'cool!', FWIW.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:27 PM on May 26, 2012

I used to see Pete everywhere, he was everywhere - like the upside-down martini glass.

Then a decade passed and in an idle conversation someone who knew him better than I did suggested that Pete had died somehow, somewhere someway... It made sense, he lived pretty hard and if I was saddened by it I wasn't saddened too too much.

And then a bunch more years passed and I am at some gallery thing here, in Berlin, and talking with A Fellow Canadian who was/is probably fifteen years younger than me. He was a musician and had a Bad Brains t-shirt on. I really like Bad Brains and used to go see them in Richmond, VA. when I lived there. So I asked him if he liked them and he confessed that he didn't really known them which, kind of, I don't know - he was a nice guy. And then this other guy who had been standing with his back to us, this guy who looked like he'd had a hard couple years turned and said, "Fucking H.R. tried to fuck my girlfriend once." and I was like, cool, someone else who knows this exceptional band that this young guy, who's even wearing their shirt... and I was like, "That's funny I've heard he was notorious for that..." and blah blah blah... and because I'm old I was all like, "Yeah, back in the day - New York was a mad house like these crazy bastards who'd gone through and scratched this symbol, this thing in every single phone booth on the island of Manhattan..." and I took out my notepad and drew the upside down martini glass for the young guy and the other guy looked at that and said, "That's me. That's mine. I'm Pete Missing." and I said " "

because I had thought he was not with us anymore, I thought that not only was that whole epoch buried under all the new buildings and restaurants and bike paths and clean 42nd St. and bars that carded kids before they could drink but the people of it were gone, too.

But there he was, live as you and me. He had work, a stable life, a studio. Fucking Pete Missing turned up. It was something to write home about.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:11 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

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