Rome McDonalds

I lived in a Soho tenement apartment on Sullivan Street from the summer of ’78 through late ’79. One day in late October near Prince and Greene streets I came upon an original Jean-Michel Basquiat SAMO graffiti that read, “Which of the following institutions has the most political power? (a) The CIA, (b) the Catholic church, (c) McDonalds or (d) SAMO?”


Taken during an early morning walk through Rome in late May, 2007

Later that year (or was it early ’79?) I ran into Basquiat in a post office as I was sending a couple of postcards to some friends. Basquiat noticed that I had written one of his SAMO slogans (“Do I have to spell it out? SAMO!”) and said to me, “Hey, man….that’s my stuff! That’s my thing. I do all the SAMO graffiti.” I was a little surprised that he pronounced it SAME-O when I’d been saying SAMMO to all my friends, but I was nonetheless stunned and awestruck. I told Basquiat how cool the SAMO thing is/was. I apologized for quoting him on the postcards without using his name but I didn’t know who Jean-Michel Basquiat was until he introduced himself.

16 thoughts on “Rome McDonalds

  1. Huge fan of Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat. Great cast, Jeffrey Wright was stellar, and Bowie’s Warhol impersonation was award-worthy. Re-watchable, yes!

  2. Huge fan of Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat. Great cast, Jeffrey Wright was stellar, and Bowie’s Warhol impersonation was award-worthy. Re-watchable, yes!

  3. Do I understand that no one saw the Manhattan SAMO graffiti in lower Manhattan in the late ’70s? That no one has taken an early-morning walk in Rome and come upon a McDonalds sign? Jeez…such a worldly and exciting bunch.

  4. Well, since you mentioned McDonalds in Rome… when I visited there the first time I was sort of disgusted to see how many McDonalds there were in Rome, in really high profile places. I really felt why a lot of Europeans resent them. You couldn’t get away from them. It was dismaying.

    Until I needed to use a restroom. Because outside of McDonalds with their relatively clean bathrooms, in touristy areas of Rome you’re pretty much relegated to filthy pay toilets in the subway or antiquated ones in restaurants that Clemenza could probably hide a gun behind when you need to go shoot Sollozzo.

    I realize that’s not Jeff’s point but as lame as it is to see McDonald’s everywhere, there are some benefits to Americanization.

  5. Jeez…such a worldly and exciting bunch.

    A random post about Jean-Michel Basquiat and McDonalds, here I thought I might be able to discuss a movie I truly love, and Jeff wants to tell me how pedestrian I am. Thanks.

  6. I’m happy to report that three McDonalds have close in Rome recently, including the one across from the Pantheon.

    Unfortunately, two Subways have opened up. At least there are not in the Historic Center.

    Now if a Chipotle came here, I would be happy. Instead we get crappy fast food places.

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