Moe Moscowitz at the infamous 1965 at the store. This photo has been at the store for decades. A film of the event was recently discovered.
Moe Moskowitz at the infamous 1965 at the store. This photo has been at the store for decades. A film of the event was recently discovered

The film was stuffed in an old cardboard box at the Berkeley dump, resting next to other rolls of footage documenting long-forgotten events.

But when the scavenger pulled out the reel, he saw “New Mo Cut” written on a piece of tape on the film. Could that be a reference to Moe’s Books, the scavenger (who asked not to be named) wondered? He took the film home to find out more.

When he unraveled the black-and-white, 16mm film he saw images of a man in a black top hat and tails getting out of a vintage Rolls Royce affixed with a sign that reads “Moe’s Books: To the Trade Since 1965.” The scavenger recognized the man as Moe Moskowitz who founded Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue. The man had never met Moe, who died in 1997 at the age of 76. But he was a regular at the bookstore and had seen a photo above the front counter depicting Moe dressed in a top hat, tails, and white gloves — an image that looked similar to what was on the film.

The scavenger brought the film to Moe’s around Thanksgiving and gave it to Doris Moskowitz, Moe’s daughter.

“Doris saw what I had and got really excited,” he said. “She doesn’t have a lot of material records of her father.”

The film turned out to be a recording of a party Moe threw in 1965. Moe was famous for throwing great celebrations at his store, and Doris had heard about the time her father showed up in black tie from Don Schenker, who started the Print Mint, a publisher of underground comics. Doris had learned from Schenker that a film had been made of the evening, but no-one knew where it was. All Doris had was some photos of her father from that night.

“Moe was famous for the events he had,” said Doris. “The parties were about Moe.” He had been an actor before he was a bookseller and had even appeared in some student films, she said. “The parties were about having opinions, and how people ought to be, about politics, about art.”

Doris couldn’t really tell what the film was about, although she could see tiny images of her father. She gave the film to Gibbs Chapman, a film technician for the Pacific Film Archive, to repair. The print was in good shape; it wasn’t torn up from playing, nor had it been damaged by water or time, said Chapman. But the paper tape that had spliced different scenes together was decaying. Chapman re-spliced the film and transferred it to video. Doris first saw the cleaned-up film in January.

“Seeing the film I was just stunned,” said Doris.”There he is!”

The 2 minute, 41 second film shows Moe Moscowitz arriving at the bookstore in a vintage Rolls Royce dressed in tails. He enters the store with a flourish, chomping on his trademark cigar, and serves wine to those gathered. The guests (most of them anyway) are neatly dressed — this in Berkeley in 1965, not 1967 — and Moe gives a toast. The camera pans to two posters of Humphrey Bogart, so Doris believes the toast may have been to the actor, or to the store’s future.

“People have talked about this party and beamed about having been there,” said Doris, who was born in 1966, a year after the party.  “I believed that the film was lost forever.”

“Watching this lost treasure reminds me of all the wonderful exciting, funny times and makes me feel so glad that I have been here for so many of them. I miss Moe, but seeing him laugh and smile makes me feel such gratitude for having known him.”

Moe’s Books gets $7,000 from author James Patterson (6.11.14)
Berkeley’s Moe’s Books honored with historical plaque (02.11.14)

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...