The formula was simple: Merge stolen horses from Monmouth Park and a jockey who might have been a fifth grader at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School – cross your fingers and pray for hay. Throw in a publicist, three disgruntled OTB operators, a salsa dance instructor and two race fixers and you’ve got the makings of a first rate equestrian team. The league producing Cleopatra Whyte, warrior horse woman of Asbury Park legend, who, aboard the chimerical steed, Ethiopian Flicka, rode to a fourth place finish at the 1970 FEI European Show Jumping Championships.
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The skee ball universe of Asbury Park circa 1972 was one of strangeness and disrepute. Enter sisters Gussie Solomon and Jean Kabatchnick. Leaving thriving careers; Solomon as a coat check girl at the renowned West Orange, NJ discotheque, The Mushroom Farm and Kabatchnick as one of Columbia Records most in-demand session drummers; they stitched together a skee ball sisterhood whose power was rarely eclipsed during its day. Born of beauty school rendezvous and squalid apartment circumstance; the society was the most exhaustive attempt thus far to unite and document the Asbury Park skee ball sphere and developed Jayne ‘Triple X’ Essex, who fashioned an exploding slice of skee ball boogie that unfortunately never found an audience outside the Palace Amusements mirror maze. Get reintroduced to the Ocean Ave Skee Ball Society; a boardwalk creation that clawed and threatened its way to Asbury crossover glory.
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.
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.
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.