The Time Before I Know About
Technically, the beginnings of Medici go back to the beginnings of the Mario Confente split from Masi, Carlsbad. Since I was not part of the original Medici operation, the period from when Masi Carlsbad closed sometime in late 1977 I think, to Feb. 1979 is a blank for me. I spent that time myself in Encinitas and Costa Mesa (CA) and Fairbanks (AK) sort of "following a path" so to speak. Meanwhile the Confente operation and the Medici operation were co-existing in LA under the same ownership but with Mario not aware of the presence of Mike and Gian about 5 miles away if I understand the situation as JFC ecplained it a while back. There is no question in my mind that Simonetti knew the whole "plan", but I find it hard to believe that Mario didn't know about Bill Recht's involvement with Medici as well as himself; but Bill Recht was a crafty and determined person. Let me explain the "plan" and how things were situated at Masi just before the Medici Co. formed. To do this I must back up a bit and will have to defer to JFC for some details of which I am unaware.
This is speculation, but I feel reasonably certain that something like this was the foundation of the "Master Plan" Bill Recht invisioned. I think the whole idea started when Bill Recht (whealthy business person/cyclist) decided he wanted to buy the Masi Carlsbad company. Or maybe he only intended to steal Mario from Masi and have him build frames and that was it, but I suspect Bill met Mario at the New York trade show and became interested in Masi or something like that. I don't know how the Confente/Recht association started up (maybe JFC knows since he was working at Masi at that time) since Mike Howard and I were in Huntington Beach, CA building Wizard frames. In about June 1976 Mike and I were tired of the hard life of "custom framebuilders" and decided to pack it in. Just at the same time Simonetti contacted us and made an offer to bring us back to Masi again, since Mario was in LA and there was no one to build Masis in Carlsbad. This is the period when some of the Masis were built by Albert Eisentraut and Keith Lippy as subcontractors. Simo was the shop foreman, Mike was the brazer, and I was the head painter. We assembled a new "crew" and started in making Masis again. Important selling point to get us back to Carlsbad was Simonetti introducing us to Bill Recht who was negotiating to buy the Masi operation. Gian said everything would be paradise with the new owner and everything would be great. Well, the sale never happened, due to an ironclad clause in the original terms between Faliero Masi and Roland Sahm and an ego battle of two rich men. The result was finally Bill Recht started his own "italian bike company" and wanted Simo, Howard, and myself to move to LA where he owned several buildings, one of which was already housing the Confente Bicycle Co. Mike and Gian went north and I stayed in Encinitas. That should connect to the first part of this installment.
During the period of time from when Mario left Masi Carlsbad and the time when Mario was locked out of the Union Pacific Ave. shop, there was a boatload of monkeybusiness going on involving mainly Simonetti and Recht. Bill wanted a "framebuilding empire" it seems to me, and he was working all angles; sometimes without telling everyone under his employ what was going on. The issue of the investment cast lugs that Mario designed and made the moulds for is a classic example of how Bill operated. Until recently I didn't know the underlying story here; but it cost Bill his relationship with Mario. There was something I didn't like about the whole deal with Recht and Medici which caused me to pass on the original offer. Because of this, I was always able to act independently of them, but still benifit as I choose when I needed work upon returning from Alaska, etc. This is one of those crazy situations that spits out casualties along the way to finally ending up in the crapper.
To recap "the part I don't know about". Mario was in LA, Medici was in LA, and I was gone. The actual early days of Medici must have involved setting up the shop and building the first Medici frames. I showed up at what to me is "the early days of Medici" around Feb. 1979, at which time Mike and Gian had just finished the first 25 Medici frames.
The Early Days of Medici
As I explained before, timing was as about odd as it could get when I reappeared and made contact with Mike Howard. They needed someone to paint a run of frames and I needed to make some money. I rode a bus from Huntington Beach to downtown LA (a two hour trip each way) to work with them on this paint thing. Of course, as luck would have it, the internal problems between Recht, Confente, and Medici were boiling all around me and I didn't really know (nor care for that matter) what was going on. The details of this time went unknown to me for over 20 years. It all seems interesting to me now, but I didn't care at all at the time. Just wanted to make some money and start in making frames myself again.
I set up a small workshop in Costa Mesa, CA while Medici moved into the location that Mario previously occupied. I worked off and on as a subcontractor for them either painting or doing some framebuilding tasks for the next year or so. At that time the Medici frames were pretty much equal to the Masis that were built just prior to that. Medici was using the investment cast lugs that Mario never got to use himself and the frames were built by people with experience and a passion for framebuilding. This is just before the bicycle industry started heading into the mass production methods of carosel brazing stations, prefinished stay ends, seat stay plugs, one piece bridges, etc. that began to eliminate all of the handmade traits of the classic frames. Probably not long after I headed permemently for San Diego County again in mid 1980 or so, the period of inconsistency began at Medici. After the few experienced craftsmen had "been through" Medici (Saxton, Sencak, myself) they started looking for local help. I don't know who all did what and at what time after 1980, but at least paint quality was a crapshoot after that time for sure. Mike always oversaw the framebuilding and brazing, so that much was always consistent to my knowledge; although as the years passed and the strain of working for Bill Recht began to show, attitudes towards framebuilding changed in Mike. Eventually the passion was gone and he just "had a job". That doesn't mean he did bad work, just that his heart wasn't always in it.
Interesting sidebar. After Mario left Bill Recht he went to Monterey, CA where he built some frames under the wing of a person named George Farrier. That situation had also run its course, and Mario had apparently moved back to Cardiff-by-the-Sea in SD County and had recently been married. He was making plans to become part of the "CO-OP" of framebuilders being assembled in San Marcos, CA by Ted Kirkbride and Jim Allen (the current keepers of the Masi flame at the time). Imagine what the world would have been like if this senerio had taken place. The Masi operation (involving Dave Moulton), Mario Confente, Cyclart, myself and eventually Dave Tesch (initally brought to CA by Cyclart) and Joe Starck all operating independently and sharing facilities in the same building! OH, MY, GOD! What a fiasco that would have been. As it was, the whole thing did happen that way minus Mario; as his passing cancelled his involvement. That whole scene was bizzarre to say the least, thanks primarily to the antics of Dave Tesch. Without him most relations would have progressed in a somewhat normal manner, but add Dave to the mixture and the whole recipe changes.
Enough for now. Actually from this point there is not a lot to tell about the Medici roller coaster. I'll see if I can think of any juicy tidbits to add regarding the period from 1980 to present. The main theme is a slow but steady slide into the medeocre frame catagory.
Brian"I've got blisters on me fingers"Baylis La Mesa (really cold), CA