Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Word of the Day

Michael Caine and Jane Asher in "Alfie"

I had never heard of this term until I was reading music writer Simon Reynolds' blog post about Birmingham pop duo Broadcast, wherein Reynolds described them thusly:
"There’s an invented word in Alfie that fits the music of Broadcast like a glove: “ghostified”. Remember the scene where Michael Caine's character complains about how Jane Asher's northern runaway turned live-in lover gets this faraway, 'ghostified' look, indicating she's thinking mournfully of the lover who dumped her even when flesh-and-blood Alfie's between her legs? Not only does Trish Keenan’s voice sounds as cool and pale as a ghost, but she and Broadcast partner James Cargill are haunted by a never-never vision of Sixties pop and have chased that will o’ the wisp for nigh on a decade now..."

Hmmmmm...maybe Jane was thinking about her philandering beau Paul McCartney while cavorting with Alfie.

Ghostified Signs
Oh, and Reynolds also used the descriptor "ghost signs" to denote faded advertisments painted on the sides of buildings, as shown below:

Ghost signs of the times

I never knew there was a term for this phenomenon, but apparently the term designates any "faded, painted signs, at least 50 years old, on an exterior building heralding a product, trademark, or clue to the building's history." The "ghost" part also points to the fact that most of the businesses advertised are long gone from this earth. At least, that's what how the blog defines it (check out their beautiful gallery of pics from across the USA).

I love Ghost Signs. Long before that Starbucks complex sprang up on North Charles and Biddle streets, I remember seeing a "Ghostified Sign" for National Bohemian's "Mr. Boh" towering over the parking lot that used to be next to the Thai Landing restaurant. And I remember the "Mommy Call Hampden" ad for Hampden Moving and Storage off Falls Road near Atomic Books in (appropriately enough!) Hampden.

Many of Baltimore's historic ghost signs have been archived by local amateur photographer LaShelle Bynum. According to a Baltimore STYLE magazine profile ("Ghost Town"), Bynam started documenting the area's ghost signs in 2003 and had amassed a portfolio of over 125 images by 2007, when an exhibit of her work debuted at the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Which is rather fitting, given that so many of these ephemeral ads seem to linger on around the streets close by the Pratt Central Library.

Hecht Bros. ghost sign at 1200 Howard Street

Hutzlers ghost sign at Howard Street

Chinese ghost carry out at Park and Mulberry

Ghost sign at Howard Street and Eutaw Street

W. Ostend Street ghost sign for London gin

According to Bynum, five main companies in town — Morton, Park, Globe, Prichett and Chevery — were responsible for the majority of the work, which dates back to the 1930s.
The sign painters, or “wall dogs” as they were called, were skilled artists who worked from scaled drawings, making sure the lettering was level even if the wall wasn’t. Bynum says that some would make a huge paper pattern of the design first, and then perforate the lines, leaving a series of holes. They would then fasten the pattern to the wall and pat the outline with a cotton bag filled with chalk or powdered charcoal, called a “pounce bag.” The result was a dotted line that painters could use to connect the dots. It only took a few short hours for the paint— mixed with linseed oil, varnish and sometimes gasoline— to dry, but the advertisements have lived on, outlasting the artists as well as most of the advertisers. (Joe Sugarman, STYLE Magazine)

See also:
"Ghost Town" (Baltimore STYLE Magazine)
Retail Hanging Ad Signs and Neon Fronts

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Blogger johnny dollar said...

my favorite ghost sign is the "repeal prohibition" sign in fell's point.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Recruiting Animal said...

Great article. I love ghost signs too and this is the first time I've ever seen anyone write about them

9:52 AM  

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