Rock music and bowling alleys are usually worlds apart. But there it was: a struggling Latino rock band practicing its sounds in the funky country-Western setting of a South Gate bowling alley.
Watching the four-man group, "The Affect," was Ned Augustenborg, who saw in the young musicians' efforts the inspiration for a video about his hometown. And he made one.
That 27-minute video was a winner in the 1987 Hometown USA Video Festival, sponsored by the National Federation of Local Cable Programmers, a nonprofit organization that promotes the development of local cable TV programming.
Augustenborg's entry, one of 1,400 from throughout the United States and Canada, won in the documentary profile category. Entitled "The Affect: A Band At The Beginning," it has no narration. Band members and bowlers do all the talking.
Augustenborg, 30, said common threads between the group and his own growing up prompted him to spend more than eight months completing the video.
"In a warped sort of way, this is an autobiographical documentary" about kids who fight to succeed in a working-class city, said Augustenborg, who moved to South Gate as an infant with his mother and two older brothers after his father, an Air Force pilot, was killed in a mid-air collision in 1958.
"I grew up here. Graduated from South Gate High School like they did," Augustenborg said. He attended USC as an art major and graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson with a bachelor's degree in radio and television. Today he is public access coordinator and video instructor at South Gate Cablevision.
Augustenborg also saw contrasts that showed how South Gate has changed.
When the band auditioned at the cable firm for a rock show pilot in 1985, he was impressed by the four young men, then aged 18 to 20: Douglas Freyre, Nadim Mendoza and brothers Martin and Abel Garcia.
"I got to know them and saw they were just the opposite of me when I was their age," Augustenborg said. "They are hard-working. They, unlike some rock bands, don't believe in drugs or alcohol."
In early 1986, Augustenborg began taping the band while it practiced in "a dark, cramped storage room" at Arena Bowl.
"There was quite a contrast. You have these hip Latino youths in a blue-collar, country-Western setting, playing rock music," Augustenborg said.
In the video, the band members can be seen practicing. Abel and Martin Garcia play rhythm and lead guitars. Mendoza is the drummer. Freyre is on bass. All sing.
Not all the bowlers like the music. And they say so on tape.
"You would have to buy me a beer and put a gun to my head to get me to go to (a club) to hear them," one man says.
In the video, the loud music is muffled by the small, dark room. Band members argue at length over what to play. At that time, all of them were present or former employees of the bowling alley; practicing there allowed them to schedule sessions around their work. One is seen repairing pin-setting machines. Another rents bowling shoes to a customer.
Today, Martin Garcia works at a bowling alley in Huntington Park. His brother Abel works at a lumberyard in Los Angeles. Doug Freyre attends Cal State Long Beach, majoring in engineering; Nadim Mendoza attends UC Irvine, majoring in biology.
And the band plays on.
Practice sessions have been moved to the Garcias' garage in Bell. Abel and Martin write all the music. Seven of their songs, including "Are You Happy Now" and "Working Class," appear on the video.
The band members, who started playing together at South Gate High, "want to make money and make a statement about the working class. We play proletarian pop," Martin Garcia said in an interview last week. He said the group's "hard-edged rock" has been influenced by the Beatles and other English rock musicians.
While the band is still hoping for professional and financial success, Augustenborg has already achieved some of it.
In 1986, Augustenborg and others at the cable station were nominated for an Emmy by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for a documentary about the effect on South Gate in being considered as a site for a state prison.
Earlier this year, Augustenborg and others were nominated by the National Academy of Cable Programming for a video documentary on the city's redevelopment projects.
"I was shocked when I found out I was a winner this time. But I'll take it," Augustenborg said last week as he left for Chicago to accept a plaque and the recognition that goes with it.