STAFF 161 STORY

STAFF 161, aka CORKY 161, MR. ED 161, MISTER EBONY DUKES, is one of the most respected NYC subway writers for his ability to bring together people from vastly different backgrounds in a diplomatic way and for his innovations on the NYC subways in the pioneering era of 1969-1975.

Although STAFF 161 and THE EBONY DUKES, GC painted 1000's of pieces and countless whole cars on the NYC subway system, some of his most notable trains were his Grim Reaper whole car painted at a downtown layup in December of 1972, which was the first use of a character painted on a New York City subway car.  The car featured a graveyard scene with a Grim Reaper character watching as a hand extended out of the ground with a can of spray paint writing the name STAFF 161 accented with a rain of dripping blood from the top of the carriage. This train car was the most innovative and well conceived car to date on the NYC subway system and led to the whole car movement that writers like BLADE TC5 and LEE TF5 took to the next level.  In fact, BLADE has always credited STAFF 161 as the first writer to do conceptual pieces on the subway.  The addition of characters made Subway writing more art focused and the legendary Grim Reaper car is arguably the first step in subway writing moving from vandalism to an art form. It could be argued that subway writing changed from vandalism to art the night STAFF 161 painted the Grim Reaper subway car.

STAFF's cannon piece was another important car of note.  A concept piece that featured his name being shot from a cannon, lit by a stick figure that resembled the one made famous by Stay High 149, who was also the inspiration for the 'S' in STAFF 161's signature.  This piece was crossed out by a new and aggressive uptown writer looking for fame who called himself DEATH.  Ironic that DEATH was trying to take on The Grim Reaper himself, STAFF 161.  This disrespectful move by a young writer almost started a civil war in the Bronx writing community.  Most writers wanted to erase him from the system entirely if not the planet.  STAFF being the diplomat that he is, went against the general concensus of the majority and tried a diplomatic approach.  STAFF and members of T.E.D INC accepted DEATH's invitation to come to his neighborhood to work it out, even though it looked like a set up.  By the time it all ended, DEATH had agreed to fix the cannon piece and to do another piece on the train for STAFF.  STAFF extended membership into THE EBONY DUKES, GC to him, along with VAMM, CRACHEE, TULL 13 and others  (COMET 1 and BLADE were already members).  STAFF 161 would retire from actively  writing by 1975 and his legacy would still live on.  Those close to STAFF 161, like TOPAZ ONE, know him for his heart.

STAFF 161 continues to paint daily in NYC and watches the trains for signs of the art movement he and his crew, THE EBONY DUKES, GC, helped invent.  He gives walking tours of graffiti and street art in Brooklyn and Manhattan.  You can book a tour with STAFF as your tour guide through Graff Tours, www.grafftours.com

STAFF's art work was featured in The New York Times in July of 2018, to read the article follow this link.

"Toward the end of 1972, you saw SUPER KOOL 223, TRACY 168 and STAFF 161 putting more finesse to it (pieces)."  -BLADE TC5 (An original member of THE EBONY DUKES, GC.) from his book.

"Writers began to accompany their pieces with illustrations and cartoon characters.  STAFF 161 and TRACY 168 are widely acknowledged as pioneers of this practice."   -DEAL CIA, from his book, graffiti NEW YORK.


For more on STAFF 161 please check out WWW.SUBWAYOUTLAWS.COM