The APFC legend could almost be fiction. The fashion house passing as a home, the harem passing as a family, the lead designer who’s still attending middle school. The dream. The con. The end. APFC inhabits the same Asbury landscape as Elmore Leonard’s characters; taking equal measures of inspiration from Rudy Ray Moore’s Dolemite and Huggy Bear from Starsky & Hutch. Drawn to the underground and fancying themselves rogue entrepreneurs, the APFC label operates somewhere in the space between money laundering outfit, cult and driving school.
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Fueled by the financial drippings of Neptune number runners and boosted by the next door neighbors of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, The Cookman Ave Kickball Club offered athletic asylum for a rising crop of rogue soul men, Pine Barrens vocal ensembles and federal witness protection program members. Helmed by a friendly consortium of hustlers, parole officers and former pee wee gridiron giants – this club, led by Dr. Jerry Allen, the godfather of the South Side of Toms River kickball scene, grabbed the Asbury kickball city title for three years running circa ’68-’70.
Paved by Beverly ‘Bev’ Bender and Denise ‘Double D’ DeVito; they led a younger, more introspective generation of archers out of the Ramapo Mountains and into Asbury city. While the ethos was forged in those Northeastern Jersey weather beaten hills, they were tempered and reborn on the streets of Asbury Park as something like a precursor to Katniss Everdeen. Where the bowling and kung fu obsessed Bender and DeVito were aiming is anyone’s guess, perhaps part put on and part hustle. The alliance was sustained by their compensation as freelance sonic alchemists, sneaking into the Howard Johnson Panorama room to utilize as their after-hours laboratory. Past members included 1971 Via Copa Merengue Championship hopefuls Vernetta Bryant and Cass Cooney.
By 1971, Asbury Park, NJ, once a finalist for a Tree City USA distinction by the DEA, had succumbed to despair, laissez-faire and general malaise…putting a weighty lid on a city that once cooked up world changing talent. Enter Lee ‘Fort’ Lee. Already a living legend for his work at the Garden State Parkway’s Exit 102 toll booth; Lee channeled his talents for horse rustling, mountaineering and sailboat rigging into forming and coaching Asbury’s first tug of war club. Aiming to keep the kids off the streets, out of gangs and in the school house via the centuries old sport of tug of war. Lee, along with 1966 TWIF bronze medalist Nutley Jackson, forged a sporting society from which young Asbury men and women corkscrewing downward could ride the tug of war groove onwards and upwards.
Warsaw, Poland 1968: The former au pair for Robert ‘Kool’ Bell of Jersey City’s Kool & The Gang and two of her teenage friends are at the doorstep of Egon Franke, Olympic fencing gold medalist, Tokyo, 1964. They sign up for a year’s worth of lessons even though Franke is incarcerated and presently serving out a three-year jaywalking sentence inside the Podgorze Detention Center on the outskirts of Krakow. Having relocated to Asbury Park upon Franke’s release and living on busking wages and shoplifted sandwiches, their efforts result in a three-way tie for seventh place at 1972’s Munich Olympiad.