"Your Mom is So Berkeley" started out as a joke at work. We thought it was funny so I wrote a note for some friends on facebook. They thought it was funny so I made a facebook group. The "Your Mom is so Berkeley" facebook group now has over 2,500 members so I've decided to bring it out to a wider audience. I hope you like it.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Delia Brown is So Berkeley

Image copyright Delia Brown

When I started the blog component of Your Mom is So Berkeley I always thought about doing some kind of periodic member profile featuring interesting YMISB members.  So far the closest we’ve come is the link to Jane Stillwater’s YMISB inspired blog post and last month’s release of our theme song.  Well today I am thrilled to bring you our YMISB interview with group member Delia Brown.  Some of you may recognize Delia’s name as she’s been a very active poster and commenter on the facebook group the past couple months.  It turns out this Berkeley born, LA raised, New York polished woman has a lot going on.  Aside from the posts to the YMISB group Delia made a video called “Revenge of the Black Prius,” which is a response to fellow YMISB member David Wittman’s ”Whole Foods Parking Lot” video.  We were very happy to have a chance to grab an interview with her.

Your Mom is So Berkeley: For starters, how did a woman from Venice, CA who lived in NY and then went back to LA end up on YMISB? It looks like you spent your early years in Berkeley?

The Buena Avenue Posse

Delia Brown: My parents met at UCB, and all the things I've written on the FB group page are from my life...I was in my mom's womb when she was rallying at Peoples' Park, my dad really ran for Berkeley City Council, I was babysat by Tom Hayden, my parents almost joined a multi-family Berkeley commune, etc etc.

I was born at Alta Bates hospital and lived, until I was 9, on Buena Ave, then we moved to LA cuz my dad's first teaching job after he got his PhD from UCB was at UCLA.   On Buena Ave I lived across the street from fellow YMISB members Janie Dalton & Jennifer Lin, next door to Monica & Sherron Selter, and their brother Adam Sawyer (son if famous Ken Kesey pal, the late Unitarian minister Paul Sawyer).  I never got to eat a grape, or anything with red dye, and my parents boycotted Safeway and only shopped at Berkeley Co-op (I started the lil conversation about moms who still remember their Co-op membership#).

The first joint I ever smoked was sent to me in an envelope from a friend in Berkeley, when I was 13 (and I got expelled from my junior high for smoking it - in the classroom). My younger sis lives in Oakland now and my parents talk all the time about moving back to the Bay Area, though now they live in Santa Monica (known by right-wingers as Soviet Monica). I could tell stories all day about being the child of activists, etc. They weren't hippies, they were activists.

Not a hippie

YMISB: When I got in touch with you it was because I wanted to know why you thought a video so clearly set in LA would be relevant to Berkeley, what do you say?

DB: I just thought that it was so interesting that both Dave Wittman and I are the children of Berkeley moms. I've noticed a lot of kids who went to Berkeley High are really into hip-hop, and so it seems like both Dave and I (I don't know him personally, but we have a mutual friend), doing a kind of middle-class liberal white-person rap thing, is very Berkeley-influenced. Like, somehow the characters we play in our videos are the obvious adult outcomes of kids of raised in Berkeley (who now live in LA!). Also, the fact that doing a rap battle is similar to doing "the dozens", which is what YMISB is all about, right?!

YMISB: Agreed on all counts. After I sent you the email I started going back through the history on the page and it started to come together a little more for me when I saw the stuff you posted before.  I also did the obligatory internet stalki…uh…research.  Can you tell me a little bit about your previous rap career?

DB: I was in a 2-girl rap group in the early 1990s called The Fuzz with my friend Evelyn Charlot. We performed around town in LA and worked with a production company called Shake City Productions...we got offered a deal for a single with Loud Records (Wutang was on them - in fact we got to open up for Wutang in San Francisco on their first west coast tour in 1993, just randomly, because our buddy Bigga B was their west coast tour manager). So I had some amazing experiences hanging out with people like them - shit not many other white woman have probably seen!  Such as hanging out at the Pharcyde Mansion cuz we were also friends with their DJ Mark Luv. But we didn't take the single record deal with Loud, cuz I had the audacity to think that they were dicking us around by not signing us for an LP!  Evelyn is African American, so people used to think it was funny to call us Salt & Pepper which got on our nerves. Back then we put everything on cassette, and I still have not got around to digitizing The Fuzz but when I'll do I'll put it Soundcloud.

YMISB: What was your stage name?

DB: Ideal (it's an anagram of Delia)

YMISB: When was the last time you were in Berkeley?

DB: I'm in the Bay Area often, like once every 3 months, because my sis and her family live in Oakland. My uncle lives in Berkeley and I have other friends still there, like Janie Dalton, another YMISB member. My niece goes to preschool in Berkeley. I went to Berkeley Hills Nursery School btw, and Jefferson and Franklin elementary schools.

YMISB: Do you have any favorite Berkeley places or memories?

DB: My favorite place up there now is actually in Oakland - Yayu, a kick-ass Ethiopian restaurant near Lake Merritt. But in Berkeley, I go to The Dailey Method (an exercise studio) when I'm up there, and of course we always shop at the Berkeley Bowl.  Today the Rose Garden across from Codornices is my favorite place to go in Berkeley.  Back in the day it was Lake Anza, and the baby animal petting farm and merry go round at Tilden.  When I was a kid it was all about the Ashby Flea Market, Mr Mopps, Yogurt Park and Top Dog (I think was the name of the hot dog joint). And some Chinese place on Telegraph that had a beer ad clock or something that had a moving picture lightbox of a waterfall on it. I think the restaurant was called Yangtze or something, but we called it Moving Picture. I also used to love to go to Walnut Square. Now it's super bougie!

Going to the Little farm then "Waterfall". Yay!

Oh my Parents just corrected me, Yangtze or whatever it was called (no longer there - maybe someone on YMISB can remember the name) was on Shattuck, & my mom just told me it was a Hamms beer ad.

YMISB: OK, multi-part question: What's your experience with video production?  I know you've done some videos of your artist "alter ego," Chelsey Green.  How much of the Black Prius video did you do yourself in terms of editing, shooting, etc?  How much time goes into a project like that?

DB: I made a music video of a singer named Goapele (actually from Berkeley/Oakland!) some years ago, as an art piece, so that was my first foray into video-making.

Revenge of the Black Prius just was a sudden idea that I had when I saw Whole Foods Parking Lot video, thinking "Damn, I wish I'd made that video!" Because it was so fresh, but also because it really was something I'd do. In fact I had written a song a while back with the lyrics "I'm just another Prius in the Whole Foods parking lot/Thought I was special but I guess that I'm really not". So then I thought I'd pull a Roxanne Shante and just be the driver of the black Prius that stole DJ Dave's parking spot. I wrote the lyrics and my friend Nelson Marquez did the beats, and that took us like a week, and then I just posted a lot of FB pleas for help making the video, and my friend Justine Bateman turned me on to a great DP and an editor that were willing to do it for free - I suppose as a favor to her.

Dillon Moore was the DP and he was awesome. I had a shot list and storyboards of everything I wanted to shoot, and we just ran around the Westside getting kicked out of various Whole Foods until we had all the footage we needed. The scene of me and my friend Danielle (also a YMISB member!) smoking a joint and drinking Charles Shaw was done at the end of the shoot day, and I was totally exhausted and so I immediately got really wasted and so I was super faded when we were shooting. I could barely do the lipsync and it really shows. 

The hippie hottie in the gluten-free aisle was a guy I just accosted while he was having lunch at a picnic table in front of the Venice WF. I had already stalked two other guys (followed them to their cars as they came out of the store) who turned down the role. But this Italian dude Stefano was just loafing, so he agreed to be in it, and in the meantime he told me about his meditations on the beach and about going onto alien spacecrafts. Yep.

We shot the footage in one and a half days, and then this guy Ted Gianopulos did the editing (I sat with him for a bunch of it but he did a lot on his own too) in like 2.5 days. It was really amazing to have these guys I didn't even know devoting time and real professionalism to the project, which was just for kicks.

I am crazy for writing lyrics and also performing, so any excuse I have I will do either of the two, or both. I am thinking now about a theme song for my FB group Bitches Who Eat Burritos (BWEB). It's only for chicks who can finish their burritos - no burrito bowls, and no "I'll take the other half home for later". BWEBs are the kind of girlfriends I prefer.

YMISB: Freaking awesome. I love the Roxanne Shante reference and the getting kicked out of various WF until you got what you came for. Silly questions but is your friend Justine Bateman from "Family Ties?"

DB: Yep!

YMISB: And of course you’re also an accomplished visual artist. Good enough to get some nice write ups and national attention even if some jerk from the New York Times wasn’t so kind.  It’s been great talking to you, any last thoughts?

DB:  Oh yeah the NYT.  It was mainly just Michael Kimmelman but he doesn't write about art anymore. I actually had an 8-page spread in the Times Magazine right before he wrote that review, and since then they've done a couple other small features on my work, so it's not really too terrible.

I'm so excited you're going to write about me on YMISB! The best press I've ever had ha ha!!

YMISB: Aw shucks, now I’m flattered.  This can’t be the best press you’ve ever gotten, you played your self on an episode of "The Young and the Restless!”

OK, so there you have it, the lovely and talented Delia Brown.  We leave you with Delia’s best posts from Your Mom is So Berkeley:

You mom is so Berkeley…

…that 2 years ago, when she was moving to a new house, you finally convinced her to let go of the Co-op jars of spice in the spice cabinet. Keep in mind that she hasn't actually LIVED in Berkeley since 1979.

… she can’t come to the phone because she's re-potting/mulching/doing something with worms

…you knew all of Holly Near's songs by heart at age 8. And also the Joans - Armatrading AND Baez.

Your moms are so Berkeley that - wait, which of your moms should I talk about first?

…that your very first memory of language was "Ho Ho Ho Chi Min. NLF is gonna win"

And of course, here's the video:

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