Moe Moskowitz, the founder of Moe’s Books, was a colorful character known for his ever-present cigar and the role he played in selling reasonably priced books.
His Telegraph Avenue bookstore, just four blocks from the UC Berkeley campus, became so famous that the San Francisco Chronicle once wrote: “India has the Taj Mahal. Berkeley has Moe’s.”
Moskowitz died in 1997, but his bookstore lives on. And now, his daughter, Doris Moskowitz, wants to commemorate her father’s life and the culture and politics that made Berkeley an essential part of the Free Speech and anti-Vietnam War movements. She has launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish Radical Bookselling: A Life of Moe Moskowitz.
The book, designed by Grégoire Vion, will detail Moskowitz’s life, and how he came to open a bookstore in 1959 (the precursor to the current store). It will be image-rich, with photos of what happened on Telegraph Avenue during the fight to stop the war and to create People’s Park; as well as posters of happenings at the store and around town. The book also recounts Moskowitz’s battle with Berkeley to retain the right to smoke his cigar in the store.
“Moe’s Books has published and produced many things, but never a book about its founder,” reads the project’s Kickstarter page. “In our 55 years, we have supported many authors, dreamers, entrepreneurs, poets and musicians. We have a long history of designing posters and poetry broadsides which we have usually given as gifts to our devoted followers.”
Moe’s has been on somewhat of a historical kick in recent years. It started when Kevin Laird, a scavenger for Urban Ore, found some canisters of film shot at Moe’s in 1965 at the Berkeley dump. He brought the canisters to Doris, who enlisted the aid of Gibbs Chapman at the Pacific Film Archive to have them restored. It turned out that David Peoples, who eventually became a well-known screenwriter, had shot the film on the night Moskowitz officially opened Moe’s Books in 1965.
Filmmaker Siciliana Trevino eventually made a 13-minute documentary, titled New Mo’ Cut: David Peoples’ Lost Film of Moe’s Books, about the canisters, what they contained, and what happened to them. On the Kickstarter page, Doris thanks Trevino for inspiring her exploration of her father’s past.
Doris hopes to raise $5,000 to publish the book, which is already designed and written.
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