The recent box office hit, “Straight Outta Compton” clearly brings back memories for a particular generation. However, this little remembrance has nothing to do with rap music or popular culture. The sixties was a turbulent time and the nation had its hands full regarding its seldom addressed social issues. In certain segments of American society the anger and resentment was reaching a boiling point. One could hardly be surprise when the lid blew off and the city of Los Angeles experienced what then became known as the Watts Riot of 1965.
In today’s world we’ve become accustomed to media being everywhere. Such was not the case in 1965 when an altercation with law enforcement ignited a full scale melt down in the City of the Angeles. Before long, buildings were ablaze and automobiles were on fire as Los Angeles policemen sat huddled in their vehicles unsure of what to do. How do I know these things, you ask? It’s because I was on the streets of the city and observed it all first hand. One media crew that had dared to venture into the burning streets begged for help from their news vehicle. Picture department stores going up in flames and looted merchandise scattered in the streets. Visualize firefighters overwhelmed by soaring flames that roared from block to block as rioters hurled “Molitov cocktails” into additional structures. Los Angeles was in chaos and the local newsmedia simply didn’t have the stomach to venture into a war zone.
My partners and I were in the process of establishing a new motion picture production company in Los Angeles and we had a slate of educational films under development. I credit my partners, Leo Sullivan and Richard Allen for the decision to take our cameras into the riot area. Of course, our cinematographer, Richard Allen knew his way around situations like these. He was an active duty police officer with the LAPD even though his passion was the study of motion pictures at the USC Film School. Armed with high speed black & white motion picture film and two 16mm Bolex Cameras our team headed into the riot area to record on film what some of you may have observed on network television in the nineteen sixties.
The gangsta motion picture portrayal in “Straight Outta Compton” doesn’t really interest me all that much. While I understand the social impact of the motion picture and the critical message it attempts to deliver. I still remember vividly the Compton law enforcement situation in 1965 and the horrific aftermath. I remember it because I was there. Though you may find it hard to believe - I once lived in this very same Los Angeles community. That’s correct. This Walt Disney artist is - straight outta Compton.