Painting RUN DMC

RUN DMC on set
RUN DMC on set

By Chris FREEDOM Pape⁠

In 1986, I received a call from the art director at Reading Rainbow, a popular show on PBS at the time, asking me to paint six handball courts in one night for a Run DMC video. I liked PBS, and I liked DMC so I took the job.⁠

The site was a playground in the West Village, close to where I lived. I had a few things lightly sketched out on paper. When I arrived at 8pm there were still people playing handball so I tried to work around them. CHRIS 217 and CLOUD 9 were both there to help with fill-ins, but I don’t remember giving them much direction. ⁠

At 2AM people started drifting through the playground. The first group I remember were the Beastie Boys, who were hanging out with CEY drinking 40’s. I had known CEY since the early 80s and enjoyed his company, but the Beastie Boys were loud, VERY LOUD. They could seemingly invent a party anywhere they went. Tonight was one of those party nights, highlighted by broken bottles, and freestyle rapping.⁠

At some point DOZE arrived. I handed him a can of paint and he walked around the playground doing throw ups, when the can was empty he left. CHRIS 217 left to go to work at 6am leaving me with CLOUD 9 and a few of the production people. Time was running out, I painted by myself as quickly as possible, finishing just as school kids started to arrive across the street. ⁠

When RUN DMC showed up, the school kids freaked out and raced over to the playground, which was now thick with rent-a-cops. There was a mob of two hundred kids stuck behind the fence chanting the group’s name. I said my hello’s to the group and left. The paintings lasted for one day, and were painted over by the Parks Department. The 1980s were like that.⁠