“Ask Me, Don’t Tell Me,” produced in 1961, promotes the Northern California branch of the Youth for Services program which worked to transform juvenile delinquents in San Francisco into productive members of the community.
Written by veteran San Francisco journalist George Dusheck, “Ask Me, Don’t Tell Me” was co-written and directed by esteemed cinematographer David Myers.
Myers would go on to photograph films like Johnny Cash in San Quentin, George Lucas’s THX 1138, the concert documentary Wattstax, Alan Rudolph’s Welcome to L.A., Bob Dylan’s Renaldo and Clara, Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit, and Terry Zwigoff’s Louie Bluie, amongst many others.
Backed by a hep bongo rhythm, a panorama of the skyline glides across the screen as a local youth describes life in the city.
From the Mission to the Castro to Potrero Hill, greasers smoking cigarettes and sporting club jackets hold court in front of liquor stores and record shops in the various San Francisco neighborhoods.
The wasted youth of the rock and roll age are on full display.
California Attorney General Stanley Mosk make a brief introduction, explaining the goals and purpose of the Youth for Services program.
Mosk, who had struggled during the Great Depression, believed that just because a person was down on their luck did not mean they didn’t have potential.
Mosk would go on to be California’s longest serving state Supreme Court justice, a member of the bench for 37 years.
Back in City, whether black, white, Asian, or latin, each gang flaunts their affiliation with custom-tailored jackets and patches for their crew.
Authentic emblems and logos of gangs of the era rattle by – the Lonely Ones, the Ravens, the Esquires, Los Lobos, the Aces BTWC, Los Aguilas, the Sheiks, the Hawaiian Warriors, the Marquies, the Timer’s, the Royal Lancers, the Turbans, the Warlords.
Enter Carl May.
May is the founder of Youth for Services whose mission is to befriend members of the neighborhood “jacket clubs” and convince them to get involved in efforts to support the community.
As May sweeps the city on his singular mission, director David Myers provides unique documentation of real life on the curbs and corners of San Francisco in the early 1960’s.
Carl May takes his role as a community organizer seriously and confronts the gangs through direct action, recruiting them in person to perform a job for free in Potrero Hill.
But, how is he able to convince them to give up their time and effort?
“The answer is that these boys are no different than the rest of us. They need to be needed … We ask them for help. And who can resist that?”