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Writing Groups:  EX/ VANDALS, WAR

Main lines: 2, 5, 4, 3, 6, 7, 1, AA's, and D's ( All Subway Lines )



                 ~ ( THE RETURN OF A LEGEND ) ~


In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, times were hard.  New York City was constantly bankrupt and business people were burning-down slums.  The mafia was flooding the country with heroin, crime rate was really exploding, and prejudice was at an all time high.  Gang life, in areas where no policeman would dare to show his/her face, had become a fight for survival.  Graffiti became an outlet for young people living in New York, as a way to veer from the gangs and drugs.  It gave youths like, STAY HIGH, a sense of self worth.


 STAY HIGH, in 1969 was a nineteen-year old youth living in a suppressed area of the Bronx.  He would ride the


 trains as a way of escapism.  That is when he noticed writings such as “God loves”, “make love not war”, or “pray”, etched on walls, phone booths, trains and in subway stations.  STAY HIGH, like many other youths, took the writings not just as a name that left an impression on others, but also as messages that he could learn from.  After continually seeing all of these messages he became inspired and came up with his own name to use.  As STAY HIGH started writing he added a stick figure of a saint with a halo, which came from the famous television show “The Saint”.  He changed the format of the saint by incorporating his own idea.  He turned the saint in the opposite direction and added a smoking joint that was perched on his name.  STAY HIGH would call  this  figure “The Smoker” and the smoker is what was to be known! As a writer in the 1970’s, one not only needed to have the most hits ( tags ), but also needed to catch the eye from others, by using a trademark.  Many writers used trademarks such as stars, arrows, swords and so on.  STAY HIGH’s smoker became one of the biggest trademarks.  Others like, LEE 163’s connecting “E’s”, SWEET DUKE’s playboy bunny, COOL JEFF’s swirling arrows used in his “L’s” and JOINT ONE’s smoking joint used as his “T” were also very distinctive from within a mass of other names.


Even those that did not write Graffiti, noticed and respected the surface he claimed, for its uniqueness.  He eventually made the transition from his signatures, like so many others, to colorful letters on the panels of subway cars.  STAY HIGH was most famous for the top-to-

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 bottom, of a stick figure subway car, seen in the book Faith of Graffiti.  STAY HIGH then disappeared, staying out of sight for 27 years.  In his absence many would claim to be him.  Someone went as far as to tattoo STAY HIGH’s name on his arm and attending art shows claiming to be “STAY HIGH”.  It wasn’t until TRACY 168 blew his cover, that the imposer was found.  STAY HIGH’s disappearance became Graffiti’s unsolved mystery for many years, until he was found in early 2001.   STAY HIGH was not only a writer, but also a symbol of the pop culture in New York City during the 1970’s

                  ~ Interview with StayHigh 149, 12/22/03 ~



  For more on STAY HIGH 149's art, contact us at MESSAGE@SUBWAYOUTLAWS.COM.  Look for more collectables coming soon. Copyright © Subway