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Edmonds, Marc Andre' a.k.a ALI

A cynical social observer with a quick wit, ALI coined the term “Zoo York” to describe the absurdity displayed in the attitudes and actions of New Yorkers during what he called the “Sick Seventies” — particularly as exemplified by what he saw at the Central Park subway tunnel site late at night. The tunnel’s naming occurred when a crew of graffiti artists calling themselves The Underground (UND) gathered at the site late one autumn night in 1971. Several of them, ALI, FINE, KITE (aka CRUNCH) and ACEY (aka SIE-1), had just attended a showing of a new musical-comedy review called National Lampoon’s Lemmings at the Village Gate downtown. The show (which starred future comic notables John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest) lampooned the Woodstock Festival, which had taken place upstate two years earlier — calling it “Woodchuck” and equating the entire hippie generation with lemmings bent on self-destruction. The crew of teenagers made similar comparisons between themselves and the unfortunate beasts incarcerated in the nearby city zoo. The Central Park Zoo at that time was a classical 19th-century menagerie, populated by wild animals displayed in open-air cages, who paced the bars back and forth neurotically — always hoping for an escape, yet paradoxically blind to the world beyond their cramped quarters. ALI noted that by contrast, here were these feral teenagers, himself included, living in a free society, who sought nothing more wholeheartedly than to crowd together in a deep, dark hole in the ground. Marvelling at their perverse urban psychologies, ALI decided that all city people were insane for seeking imprisonment in tiny apartments, offices, subway cars and the like, and declared that New York City itself was “not New, but a Zoo!” He named the tunnel itself “Zoo York” — a perfect symbol, in his mind, of the dark psyche of the inner city itself.

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