View from a hot dog cart
At the corners of Sierra or Virginia streets, on the south side of the Truckee River during the lunching hours, one can watch all people-types—from the office girls in sundresses to the dingy disenfranchised homeless. Like this one guy—he’s got natural dreadlocks and an obsessive-compulsive disorder. He turns around three times and does a little thing with his feet before he proceeds to crosswalk toward Woody Barlettani’s hot dog stand.
Most days of the week at this time and place, you’ll find Woody selling hot dogs among the people of Reno and just being Woody. To the dreadlocked-obsessive, Woody says, “Hey, Oscar.” Then he hands a couple of stamps to a lady friend, who just walked up and is heading into the post office behind him. There’s a woman napping on the lawn behind Woody: “Oh, that’s Francis.”
The weathered cartoon on his stainless steel cart says something like, “I sell hot dogs, but I’m a cartoonist by trade.”
Virginia City’s Comstock Chronicle has featured Woody’s Storey County Line for 10 years. He may look and sound like a natural-born hot dog man, but cartoons are Woody’s art.
He’ll wail on his harmonica for ya’ if it’s not quittin’ time. This 60-year-old, roundly girthed, gray-bearded fellow who’s fond of suspenders, has had a malformed hand since birth and has been missing some teeth for a lesser amount of time.
“I’m a mountain man—a blues man,” says Woody.
His voice is raspy like an ole coal miner that’s been around and doesn’t hesitate to tell ya ’bout it.
Woody’s politics are the liberal-'60s-freedom-of-speech type. He cares about people, not about money.
“This war, we have become the storm troopers,” he says. “We’re kicking in doors to get their shit from ’em. I’d rather let the kids see Janet Jackson’s tit instead of the violence in the streets.” And, “Aaron Neville said there’s freedom of speech as long as you don’t say too much.”
On the topic of his past life with the West Coast’s late ‘60s underground scene at companies like OK Comics and the Berkley Barb, Woody surmises, “Like I said to Brian, [Burghart, RN&R’s Editor] you can’t say what you want when you have a mortgage, car payments and kids in school. We said what we wanted, our advertisers were not mainstream. They were massage parlors, sex-toy shops, political activists, rock ‘n’ roll shops and FM radio stations, which were still new at the time.”
If his drawing style is reminiscent of the type found in the pages of Furry Freak Brothers or Coochie-Cootie, that’s because Woody knew and worked with people like Furry Freak Brothers‘ creator Gilbert Shelton and Fritz the Cat‘s cartoonist Robert Crumb—"arrogant prick!” There was also a young Robert Williams around, who went on to form Juxtapoz magazine, as well as succeed in the gallery market with his subversive paintings. As for OK Comix in Los Angeles, where Williams and Woody cartooned?— “busted in ‘73 for obscenity.”
On NevadaObserver.com, where Woodrow is featured, his Drifter Hotel comics lay down simple wisdoms and high desert observations. One features a truck driving through a snow-rimmed valley with “Pool Room & Bordello Supplies Co” on the side. Other scenes feature liquor stores, prisons, drunks and the working/lower class in the shadow of casinos. Sounds like the view from a hotdog cart.
It might seem like Woody’s just always been here sellin’ hot dogs, but be certain, he’s been around, and he’s watching you.