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March 12th, 2007, 12:33 AM
Art of the new
How a previously industrial area in Culver City morphed into the latest gallery hotspot.
By Dean Kuipers, Special to The Times
The crowd for the opening at Lightbox gallery was pretty impressive, for what is still an emerging space in a new part of town. The reception for painter and collagist Stefan Hirsig's pop-influenced exhibition, "There Is Water at the Bottom of the Ocean," was full of established L.A. art figures who gallerists love to see. In the milling crowd were artists Chris Wilder, Rachel Lachowicz, Charles Gaines and George Stoll, rock 'n' roll designer Henry Duarte, actress Marisa Tomei, war photographer David Butow, art dealer Dan Hug and Artillery magazine editor Tulsa Kinney.
It was a stormy Saturday night, and owner Kim Light seemed pleased at the turnout, achieving a kind of rock-star vibe herself in jeans and a leather shirt. Hirsig's work and her reputation are part of the draw, but finally, so is the location. She is among several high-profile art dealers to have settled an industrialized stretch of South La Cienega, technically in the city of Los Angeles, but across the street from a piece of Culver City now officially designated as the Culver City Art District.
Since 2003, when art world heavyweights Blum & Poe relocated to La Cienega, only a few doors down from what would become Lightbox, more than 30 galleries have moved to the district. Why here? For starters: lots of big, empty spaces and cheap rent, in a locale just off the Santa Monica Freeway and adjacent to wealthy Westside neighborhoods where art collectors live. But it was also the chance to remake an entire area, organically, just for visual art, bringing a vitality and commonality of experience the art world can claim as its own.
Or maybe it was just the chance to party.
"On opening nights, it's like Westwood in the '80s," said BLK/ MRKT Gallery co-owner Jana DesForges. "People have their wine and wander down the street. It gets packed."
Seemingly overnight, the district has achieved the kind of critical mass that makes it chic to be in, say, Berlin, and mention how you were just in Culver City. Two years ago they would have asked you where that was. Now they've heard it enough times to pretend they know.
"You can't not go here anymore," said Tim Blum, one half of Blum & Poe. "It's definitely entrenched. It's a real community being promoted extensively all over the world."
And there's a nice dividend: Locals are getting turned onto art. There's the collectors swinging by at all hours, the museum curators sniffing around, but plenty of the Saturday patrons are newbies people from the neighborhood, often out with their kids and they're not only gawking. They're buying.
Like a magnet
The spot on La Cienega that is now Mandrake has always been a bar a gay bar before this, a series of delightful dives but never exactly trendy.
At 10 on the night of Light's opening, Mandrake is packed with hipsters and pretty young things who've spilled out of now-closed galleries looking for somewhere to go. Artist Frances Stark and Dot Dot Dot design magazine's Stuart Bailey are DJing; artist DJs, in fact, are a staple of the place. Patrons huddle in intense te^te-a`-te^tes. Crowds push past the bright blue bar and a Raymond Pettibon drawing that laments, "I thought California would be different," and into a large exhibition/happening room hung with a collection of tote bags from art events a show assembled by Drew Heitzler, one of Mandrake's three co-owners.
"Justin [Beal], Drew and I are all artists. That's our world," said co-owner Flora Wiegmann, who is married to Heitzler. "So we have myriad events that go on here. It ranges from a very formalized film series that's happening every other week for an entire year, to a knitting group or whatever."
Mandrake opened in September and has been integral to the area's expansion, and that's no accident. The bar "was to serve as a sort of anchor for the neighborhood," said Wiegmann, who, along with Heitzler, used to run a space around the corner on Comey Avenue called Champion Fine Art. "We just felt like the street needed a place where people could convene and take a break."
Blum and Jeff Poe agreed, and became the principal investors in the space. "It's a great neighborhood bar," Poe said.
It's doubtful Culver City's Art District would have happened at all without Blum and Poe. In January 2003, the two were looking to move their gallery from a smaller, 1,200-square-foot space on Broadway in Santa Monica and couldn't find the right place. Other areas, from Santa Monica to Chinatown, were too expensive, too establishment or had too much of an art student vibe. They even tried to buy a building in Chinatown, but the deal fell through. For "some weird reason," Blum said, they looked at a stretch of commercial buildings on La Cienega just south of the 10 freeway, totally removed from other established gallery areas.
The corner at Washington and La Cienega was entirely industrial, a series of windowless brick buildings straddling the concrete ditch of Ballona Creek and surrounded by tire stores, an industrial lighting house and a lumberyard. But here they found a clean brick building and 5,000 square feet of space.
"The space was available, and we just said, 'Screw it. Let's go for it,' " Blum said.
This was no small event, however. Blum & Poe represents a roster of internationally renowned artists including Sam Durant, Takashi Murakami, Jennifer Bornstein, Sharon Lockhart and Mark Grotjahn. Blum said he and Poe were pretty sure the collectors would come. But would anyone else?
"You can't script that. We're not developers," Blum said.
But come they did. Kim Light got a call from Poe, who once worked with her, and ended up taking another of the spaces. And then, quickly, came Lauri Firstenberg at LAXART, a nonprofit institution that had also been looking in Chinatown and Koreatown but not seeing anything it liked.
"Culver City was an incredible opportunity, since there are so many artists' and architects' studios here," said Firstenberg, who teaches at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (Sci-Arc).
Susanne Vielmetter brought in her gallery; Lizabeth Oliveria came one after another, all taking adjacent buildings. Two galleries Western Project and Fresh Paint had already been established a few blocks away in downtown Culver City.
"These warehouses or factories mine used to be a glass and mirror factory you could just do a lot of things," gallery owner Anna Helwing said. "And then, convenience it's right in the middle of everything.
"You have to grow up in L.A. to get it," Poe said. "The freeway access is huge. People will come here. It's easy to get to."
New, emerging galleries followed the established dealers, including many from what Blum and others call a "parallel" art world, such as Billy Shire Fine Arts (Shire also owns the ultra-hip La Luz de Jesus Gallery and Soap Plant store).
Lesser-known contemporary galleries brought a lot of art fans and buyers eager to come to openings and get in the game. Crowds drew more crowds, and the area exploded.
"Another good restaurant in this area would be great, so put that in your story!" Helwing said with a laugh.
With open arms
On a quiet Thursday afternoon, Sci-Arc students Jarod Poenisch, Sam Keville and Anthony Lagnay stopped in at BLK/ MRKT Gallery to check out a group show. The work is graphic novel-inspired, mostly figurative paintings with a razor-sharp urban edge. The trio had come to see an art-in-architecture show called "Entropy" at the nearby Koplin Del Rio Gallery, and it was their first time in the district.
"I've definitely heard a lot about it," Keville said.
"Even my parents they're thinking about moving to L.A., and they're interested in Culver City. They live in Austin," Poenisch added.
Chances are they'll find some decent restaurants too, despite the pleas of Helwing. Patrons can retire to Beacon, a popular Asian cafe, or the bright La Dijonnaise, or get their fine dining at Wilson, the newest restaurant from Piccolo chef Michael Wilson. Surfas, the tremendously popular gourmet shop, is a favorite stop for lunch. A more recent arrival, further into downtown, is the red-hot steakhouse Ford's Filling Station. Restaurants a few blocks from the district's hub at Washington and La Cienega haven't seen a hike in business so far. But Vincent Trevino, owner of Bluebird Cafe' on National Boulevard, sees the potential. He soon plans to extend his Monday-through-Friday schedule into the weekends.
"With the Art District and the Ballona Creek trailhead, which is right here, and then the Exposition Line stopping right here, the weekends are going to get big," Trevino said.
The arrival of the Exposition light-rail line, which will link downtown with the district by 2010, is not lost on Culver City officials, who are working up a plan to keep an "artist influence" in the development planned around the line's terminus at National and Washington. This is indicative of the city's reaction to the gallery influx it welcomed it with open arms.
City officials piggybacked on what Blum & Poe and others had created on the L.A. side of La Cienega by waiving some permit fees or shepherding new galleries through permitting processes on the Culver City side of the line. "It's not like we sat down and consciously said three years ago that this was going to be an art district in Culver City. It evolved," said Christine Byers, public art and historic preservation coordinator for the city, and one half of its Cultural Division.
It was a quick evolution mostly within 24 months and in June 2006, Byers and her colleague Susan Obrow, Culver City's performing arts and special events coordinator, began a community event called Artwalk Culver City. They contacted businesses, put musicians in the street and sent brochures home with Culver City schoolkids. In the end, they had what looked to be a new tradition. This year's Artwalk will be June 2.
"We ended up, we think, having 1,500 people wandering the streets. And it was one of the hottest weekends to date, hitting 90 degrees," said Obrow, who added that one of the galleries reported selling 21 pieces that day. "There was economic impact for the galleries and for Culver City. They seemed pleased with the response."
"Culver City gets it," Poe said. "Much better than the city of Los Angeles. They don't do much, culturally. But Culver City has been good."
How good? Poe said he was now seeing the surest sign of success: The low real estate prices that lured the galleries are starting to catch up with them. "I'm hearing about gallery spaces here going up to $2.40 a foot. Pretty soon it'll be too expensive to be around here too." He smiled briefly. "Then there'll have to be a new area. That's the way it goes."
Getting to the art of the matter
The Culver City gallery scene has exploded in just the last few years but, in fact, a good chunk of it is in Los Angeles too. To get to the heart of it, just take the La Cienega Boulevard exit off the 10 Freeway. Here's a look at some gallery and dining options:
1. Blum & Poe, 2754 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 836-2062, blumandpoe.com
Tim Blum and Jeff Poe helped pioneer the area, moving in in 2003.
2. Anna Helwing Gallery, 2766 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A. (310) 202-2213, annahelwinggallery.com
Another early settler.
3. Angstrom Gallery, 2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 204-3334, angstromgallery.com
New branch of a Dallas gallery.
4. Bandini Art, 2635 S. Fairfax Ave., Culver City, (310) 837-6230, bandiniart.com
Approaching its first anniversary.
5. Billy Shire Fine Arts, 5790 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (323) 297-0600, billyshirefinearts.com
A Westside outpost from a champion of the lowbrow.
6. BLK/MRKT Gallery, 6009 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 837-1989, blkmrktgallery.com
An early arrival on the scene.
7. Cardwell Jimmerson, 8568 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 815-1100, cardwelljimmerson.com
Newcomer in postwar art.
8. Cherry and Martin (not on map), 12611 Venice Blvd., L.A., (310) 398-7404, cherryandmartin.com
Southwest of the scene, but part of the Culver City Artwalk.
9. Corey Helford Gallery, 8522 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 287-2340, coreyhelfordgallery.com
Opened in April.
10. d.e.n. contemporary, 6023 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 559-3023, dencontemporaryart.com
Focuses on abstract art.
11. Denizen Design Gallery, 8600 Venice Blvd., L.A., (310) 838-1959, denizendesigngallery.com
Art meets furniture and household.
12. Fresh Paint Art Advisors, 9355 Culver Blvd., Suite B, Culver City, (310) 558-9355, freshpaintart.com
Gallery and consultancy.
13. George Billis Gallery L.A., 2716 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 838-3685, georgebillis.com
From the Chelsea district to L.A.
14. Gregg Fleishman, 3850 Main St., Culver City, (310) 202-6108, greggfleishman.com
Furniture, architecture and art.
15. Harvey Levine Gallery, 5902 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 614-7642, levinegallery.com
Emerging artists; space may move.
16. Hedi Khorsand Gallery, 3850 Main St., Culver City, (323) 650-8980, hkfineartgallery.com
A West Hollywood transplant.
17. Kinkead Contemporary, 6029 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 838-7400, kinkeadcontemporary.com
Made the scene in September.
18. Koplin Del Rio, 6031 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 836-9055, koplindelrio.com
Another WeHo transplant.
19. The Lab 101 Gallery, 8530-B Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 558-0911, thelab101.com
Moved from Santa Monica in 2004.
20. L.A. Contemporary, 2634 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 559-6200, lacontemporary.com
A recent arrival.
21. LAXart, 2640 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 559-0166, laxart.orgA leading L.A. nonprofit.
22. Lightbox, 2656 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 559-1111, lightbox.tv
Another high-profile gallery.
23. Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 837-1073, lizabetholiveria.com
In the heart of "gallery row."
24. MC, 6086 Comey Ave., L.A., (323) 939-3777, mckunst.com
Part of the early wave.
25. Museum of Design Art and Architecture, 8609 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 558-0902, modaagallery.com
Emphasizes art and architecture's "symbiotic relationship."
26. The Museum of Jurassic Technology, 9341 Venice Blvd., Culver City, (310) 836-6131, mjt.org
27. Overtones Gallery (not on map), 11306 Venice Blvd., L.A., (310) 915-0346, overtones.org
Southwest of the scene, but on Culver City Artwalk.
28. Project, 8545 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 558-0200, project.bz
Launched in 2005.
29. Sandroni.Rey, 2762 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 280-0111, sandronirey.com
Relocated from Venice in 2004.
30. sixspace, 5803 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (323) 932-6200, sixspace.com
Moved from downtown L.A. in '05.
31. Susanne Vielmetter, 5795 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, (323) 933-2117, vielmetter.com
A veteran gallerist.
32. Taylor De Cordoba, 2660 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 559-9156, taylordecordoba.com
Founded in April 2006.
33. walter maciel gallery, 2642 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 839-1840, waltermacielgallery.com
Newcomer with SF roots.
34. Western Project, 3830 Main St., Culver City, (310) 838-0609, western-project.com
On the scene in 2003.
Bars and Restaurants
2692 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 837-3297, mandrakebar.com
A hub where artists kick back.
36. Bluebird Cafe', 8572 National Blvd., Culver City, (310) 841-0939, bluebirdcafela.com
Sandwiches, salads, cupcakes.
37. La Dijonaise, 8703 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 287-2770, ladijonaise.com
Croissants and more.
38. Beacon, 3280 Helms Ave., L.A., (310) 838-7500, beacon-la.com
Celebrated Asian cuisine.
39. Wilson, 8631 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 287-2093, wilsonfoodandwine.com
Michael Wilson's adventurous fare.
40. Tea Forest, 8686 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 815-1723, teaforest.com
A cute tea shop.
41. Cafe' Surfas, 8777 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 558-1458, cafesurfas.com
The restaurant supply store's cafe.
42. Ford's Filling Station, 9531 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (310) 202-1470, fordsfillingstation.net
Ben Ford's "gastropub."
March 16th, 2007, 06:28 AM
L.A.'s killer theater
There’s an edgy breed of dinner theater on the menu — if you don’t mind a little murder with your meal.
By Margaret Wappler, Times Staff Writer
It's a Saturday night at the French restaurant Taix in Echo Park, and a couple of drag queens named Roxxi Botoxxi and Sandy Mangina are engaging an audience of increasingly tipsy Eastsiders. Mangina, a.k.a. Ben Been, a brunet in a hoop skirt, surveys the male patrons with an overheated up-and-down stare and banters uneasily with the women.
"So what's your story?" she says, audaciously catty.
Before you have time to reply, she breaks off, relaying a piece of seemingly inane gossip about one of her three achingly plucked, padded and powdered castmates in the year-old Drama Queen Theater. By the time the show begins — it's a light murder mystery that includes a dance contest and an Amazonian detective with a name that can't be printed here — all sense of decorum has been lost, or at least redefined.
This is dinner theater, reinvented. The Drama Queens' version of the venerable theatrical institution represents something of the lunatic fringe, to be sure, but throughout the Southland small troupes are applying their own twist to a form that probably saw its heyday in the 1980s but lately has had all the sizzle of a mullet.
The vision of cold, dark places with over-emotive actors in crooked wigs and circles of rouge has been replaced with quick, clever productions that increasingly rely on the formula of the murder mystery. Most invite crowd participation — where else can you be accused of a heinous crime over dessert? And, yes, the performers are generally real people with day jobs involving things like hard drives and research reports, but there's something cathartic about the proximity of audience to actor. It's not as if Laurence Fishburne is going to sit down next to you at the Pasadena Playhouse for an extemporaneous bit.
Traditional dinner theater is still out there, but for now we flitted about the Southland with one question: Whodunit?
The Dinner Detective
If the State, the '90s comedy troupe with Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black, ever reunited to start a dinner theater production, it might have the same vibe as the Dinner Detective, which features a young cast plucked from Improv Olympic, Groundlings and Second City. The show at Cucino Paradiso restaurant in the Palms neighborhood bounces between tongue-in-cheek noir, easy gags and raunchy improv.
Kelly, 31, and Scott O'Brien, 29, met while working for TV guru David E. Kelley, using Scott's experience as a crime researcher for "The Practice" to start the Dinner Detective in 2004. They've sold out nearly every show, which they credit to keeping the script loose. "The actors know when they need to hit this beat or that, but we want it to be able to go in 10 different directions," Scott says. "We want the audience to shape the show."
And the audience — young, extroverted and energetic — is up to the task. Guests make up names, and Joe, the host, hands out sheets with suggested interrogation questions such as "Do I look good in this outfit?" Later, hard-nosed cops played by John Abbott and Ronn Ozuk sidle up to tables and give the guests a hard time. To a tattooed, goateed man from Palmdale, Ozuk barks: "So, Alice in Chains, what secrets do you have to hide?"
As the night unfolds, the detectives continue their teasing, and two women in their 50s who call themselves the Jersey Girls respond in kind, cracking wise at every possible juncture. After the show, one of the actors, Chris Alvarado, claims that one of the Jersey Girls gave him a hug and then licked his ear. "I was not expecting that," he says with a laugh. "But then she also slipped me her card and she's an executive producer at some TV network, so I guess it's OK."
The setting is pure Orange County: The Mezzanine Restaurant is tucked away in a glass-and-steel mini-scraper that is tucked away in an office park. But this Irvine production is charmingly modest — a mix of sloppy theatrics, wink-wink silliness and gentle nostalgia.
It's the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Craig Wilson and Tracy Hulette, who started the Gourmet Detective in 1990 with no theater background. "We're both sort of shy," Wilson says. "We didn't want to create an interactive theater environment that's frightening for the audience."
Unless you have a fear of feather boas, you're safe here. Actress Katherine Prenovost, a UCLA researcher by day, stomps around and plays to a crowd that includes college students in hoodies and a table of chatty couples in their late 30s. The traditional production, "Darling, You Slay Me," is a 1920s throwback that uses the play-within-a-play convention. While the audience dines, characters with names such as Dick March and April June swish around with cigarette holders, pouring stiff drinks, accusing one another in growls and purrs and invoking healthy doses of bawdy-but-PG humor. Have you heard the one about the casting couch?
Keith & Margo's Murder Mystery
Founded in 1985, the longest-running murder-mystery dinner theater outfit in Los Angeles seeks to emulate the satisfying procedural plotting of "Law & Order," but with a big dose of interactive comedy. With actors embedded in the audience, the show is very realistic, which has led to unexpected ramifications in the past. At the weekend murder mystery events the group hosts at hotels, "people break into each other's rooms," co-founder Margo Morrison says. The actors have gone overboard too: On a train-bound event, an actor posing as a real detective reported a "murder" to an Amtrak employee, bringing the locomotive to a halt for two hours.
The dinner show, every Saturday at the sparkling West L.A. restaurant Aphrodisiac, starts with a social hour. The actors, disguised as regular Joes, are there too, but it's difficult to tell who's who.
The main show takes place in the plush dining room. The first murder is surrounded by lots of hullabaloo involving popguns. A tiny woman bursts in, wearing an LAPD jacket. Feisty Anita Goodwin, a Keith & Margo veteran of 10 years, grills members of the audience and reveals a dizzying array of clues, including the unfailingly exciting ransom note. At the end, guests are allowed more time (than at other shows) to pore over the clues and unravel the intricate plot. It's indicative of the kind of fan Keith & Margo's attracts: a serious sleuth who tears into problem-solving like it's a bloody steak.
Mysteries En Brochette
Mysteries En Brochette is the light-rock station of dinner theater — easy, unassuming and safe for work. Situated in Marina del Rey's Harbor House, a moderately classy seafood restaurant, Brochette caters to a crowd that wants to get cheeky on a Friday night but not to the point that it will embarrass Mom.
There are no embedded actors here, only performers in tuxes and gowns, using their best enunciation to play to the intimate room. Brochette founder Muriel Minot, a singing instructor, prefers to keep the action out in the open.
"The more remarkable aspects to us are the scripting, the music and choreography," she says. "When you have red herrings and simultaneous action and embedded actors, that doesn't always play to the whole room." Minot uses what she calls "hand-out characters," i.e., assigning a role to a game audience member, to get the crowd involved.
There are two murders in "Hollywood's Fatal Premiere," one of Brochette's rotating themed productions. But Brochette is more about the music, in a very round-the-campfire kind of way. There are goofy-sweet singalongs to Broadway chestnuts and well-worn radio hits. One of the highlights is Christopher Gehrman's rendition of "Trouble" from "The Music Man" — a marvelously off-kilter version that's a little bit scat, a little bit rap.
Julie Cortez and Aldo Maldonado, a couple in their late 20s from Culver City, are here to celebrate their anniversary. "This is different from just going to a dinner or a club, but I really like it," Cortez says. "I think this means we're getting older."
Drama Queen Theater
From the very beginning, the Drama Queens are not for the faint of heart.
The effervescent hostess, a full-blooded woman in a slinky dress, christens guests with drag queen versions of their real names, and the show races off from there, flirting with full-on chaos at every turn.
The humor is sharp but friendly. "Most people want to be pushed a little bit, but I'm never mean-spirited about it," Ben Been says.
The opening social hour belongs to the queens, who publicly diss each other. The guests are encouraged to mingle as they snack on smoked salmon and fruit, and after the production gets rolling, it's a rambunctious, hyperactive hoot.
There's a dance contest involving the queens and audience members, but the highlight is easily the fierce spectacle of caricatured womanhood, the detective lieutenant. With her popgun and a cinched trench, she commands the room — Sam Spade as channeled by Foxy Brown.
What's on the menu? After a bit of the detective lieutenant's overzealous frisking, who remembers?
A selection of the Southland scene:
Mezzanine Restaurant, 19800 MacArthur Blvd., Irvine. (949) 724-1066; gourmetdetective.com. $65 includes a three-course dinner, show and tax. Mellow and nostalgic, it emphasizes '20s-themed entertainment with its "Bullets Over Broadway"-style show, "Darling, You Slay Me." Bring a feather boa.
The Dinner Detective
Cucina Paradiso, 3387 Motor Ave., L.A. (866) 496-0535; dinnerdetective.com.$62.95 includes a four-course dinner, show, gratuity and live music after the show. Young and spunky with an emphasis on improv, the Dinner Detective offers an interactive, high-energy show. Scripts and actors rotate frequently. And there's a chalk body outline on the floor.
Drama Queen Theater
Taix Restaurant, 1911 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. (310) 949-9255; dqtheater.com. $68 includes a four-course dinner, tax, gratuity and show. Imagine a bunch of drag queens running around, accusing each other of horrible crimes while self-aggrandizing their own fabulousness at every turn.
Keith & Margo's Murder Mystery Dinner Theater
The Witness Room (Aphrodisiac), 10351 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. (877) 528-9015; murdermystery.com. $78 includes a three-course dinner, tax, gratuity, show and after-show jazz. Like an episode of "Law & Order" but with fewer twists and more high jinks. For fans who take their murder mysteries black and unsweetened.
Curtain Call Dinner Theater
690 El Camino Real, Tustin. (714) 838-1540; curtaincalltheater.com. $36.95 to $47.95 includes a two-course dinner and show. The oldest dinner theater in Southern California opened its doors in April 1980. Now showing "Oklahoma!" Upcoming shows include "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Annie." P.S. The theater doesn't serve alcohol.
Mysteries En Brochette
Harbor House Restaurant, 4211 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey. (310) 399-1507; mysteriesenbrochette.com. $72 includes a four-course dinner, tax, gratuity and show. A mix of bloody murder and show tunes, dusty oldies and whatever else the Brochette gang feels like digging out of the musical trunk.
Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater
455 Foothill Blvd., Claremont. (909) 626-1254; candlelightpavilion.com. $41 to $72 includes a two-course dinner and show. Housed in the old Claremont High School's gymnasium, this is a traditional Vegas-like experience. The 2007 season includes "Suessical the Musical," "My Fair Lady" and "Space Oddity."
Sharpo! Murder Mystery Dinner
Queen Mary, 1126 Queen's Highway, Long Beach. (562) 435-3511. queenmary.com. $70 includes a four-course dinner and show. Does it get any better than a murder mystery aboard a historical ocean liner populated with waterlogged ghosts? Nevermind a life jacket; come with an alibi.
March 23rd, 2007, 05:32 AM
March 22, 2007
Reeling in comedy fans at Big Fish
Unpredictable laughs and general weirdness at D + D's Joke Machine comedy nights.
By Jonah Flicker, Special to The Times
The words "comedy club" conjure up images of intros to "Seinfeld" episodes, Robin Williams in a frenzied lather at Comic Relief or Sunset Strip joints like the Laugh Factory. There are comedy alternatives in Los Angeles, however, and if you're willing to venture off the beaten path for your laughter fix, you may be richly (and sometimes bizarrely) rewarded.
Take Big Fish, which lies in the industrial wasteland of western Glendale, close to the railroad tracks skirting San Fernando Road. The bar is a fishing expedition-themed dive with cheap beer, stuffed fish adorning the walls and nights devoted to karaoke and "live jams." Tuesday nights, though, are the home of D + D's Joke Machine, an offbeat and sometimes cringe-inducing alt-comedy night.
The weekly event began last August, the creation of comedians Denver Smith and Douggpound (n–e Doug Lussenhop), who is also often host of the show. It regularly draws a mix of aspiring amateurs, more seasoned performers and sad-sack miscreants in search of catharsis. "I always think there must be a mental health clinic around the corner," muses Smith. "There are some sketchy, dark people who come in."
Erratic talent is part of the Joke Machine's charm, although that's not necessarily to Smith's liking. "I always wish it was like Carnegie Hall, a dark theater with people all dressed up," he says. "But it's not. We're fighting against this whole weird Glendale element." Smith and Douggpound book the event, although it's sometimes mistakenly listed as an open-mike. Comedians are provided with a chance to test out new material, and many come armed with notebooks and even jokes written on the palms of their hands.
Two recent nights provided opposite examples of how D + D's Joke Machine can play out. One Tuesday found four people listening to the droll wit of comedian Bennie Arthur, the silence occasionally punctuated by the shrill whistle of a passing train. The following week saw a relatively large and enthusiastic crowd enjoying Matt Braunger's truly hilarious set, which included a bit about lifting weights to the music of the Smiths.
The "weird Glendale element" Smith describes is enhanced by Big Fish's bartender, Cheazer, who provides color commentary during the performances and acts as a de facto id to the proceedings. "It's a very enjoyable night. It's a bonus if [the comedians] are funny," he quips. Of course, Cheazer sees other reasons to attend as well: "It's inexpensive to get drunk and stupid."
D + D's works, not in spite of, but because of, its unpredictability. Although groans and silence may at times outnumber laughs, the stream-of-consciousness rants and uniquely funny jokes make it distinctive. Even without the passing trains.
What: D + D's Joke Machine comedy nights
Where: 5230 San Fernando Road, Glendale
When: Comedy on Tuesdays; bar open daily 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Price: No cover. Drinks: draft beer, $2.75; bottled beer, $4; well drinks, $4
Info: (818) 244-6442
March 25th, 2007, 12:02 AM
The Art’s Here. Where’s the Crowd?
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By EDWARD WYATT
Published: March 25, 2007
The New York Times
John Baldessari, a conceptual artist, says he no longer advises art students to go to New York after graduating.
JOHN BALDESSARI, the conceptual artist who has long made his home here, for years gave his college art students one piece of advice when they graduated: Go to New York, the capital of the art world.
Now, however, Mr. Baldessari has a different view. “I don’t think it matters,” he said recently. “More and more young artists leave school and stay here. The opportunities are better, and the cost of living is cheaper. People involved in art regularly come to L.A. It really doesn’t matter if they live in New York or L.A.”
Two decades after Los Angeles emerged as the nation’s second art capital, the city is reaping the benefits of a migration of artists, galleries, dealers and curators. In recent years more than two artists have moved to this city for every one that moved away, a net rate of gain that is higher than in any metropolitan area in the country, according to an analysis of Census Bureau statistics by Ann Markusen, a professor at the University of Minnesota.
In the process new centers of gravity have emerged for contemporary art and artists in a city that has suffered for years because of its lack of a central arts district. Now there is not one such geographic center but several: downtown, where a thriving gallery district operates in what used to be a nighttime ghost town, as well as in former industrial areas in Culver City and Santa Monica. And a new generation of curators have been lured to the major museums here. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Hammer Museum have each attracted energizing new talent in recent years.
Of course the city has long since emerged as an important center for the performing arts as well. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, regarded as one of the country’s most dynamic orchestras, gained added allure with its move to Frank Gehry’s 2003 Disney Hall on Grand Avenue, and the Los Angeles Opera is preparing for its first-ever “Ring” cycle next door at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
In architecture Los Angeles has been an incubator not just for Mr. Gehry but for the rising star Thom Mayne, and high-profile commissions by Renzo Piano at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Steven Holl at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County are proceeding apace. And the boom in television and film production in Hollywood has created new opportunities for visual artists and dancers, many of whom also work for companies that perform in or have close ties to Pacific Rim countries.
Yet the city is still struggling to attract cultural tourists. While New York, London and Paris each attract 10 million to 15 million such visitors per year, Los Angeles draws only about 2.5 million, according to a 2004 study by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.
“Why is that?” asked the philanthropist Eli Broad, the city’s most visible and generous champion of the arts. “Perception. We have not promoted cultural travel. That’s going to start happening, and that’s going to get the city more and more attention.”
Whereas 40 percent of visitors to New York and London take part in some sort of cultural activity — a museum visit, a theatrical performance or the like — and 85 percent of visitors to Paris do so, only about 1 in 10 tourists to Los Angeles visit a cultural site.
To remedy that Mr. Broad and other civic leaders are bargaining on their investment in the commercial and cultural districts that are taking shape downtown, like the Grand Avenue Project and L.A. Live, efforts that include hotels, restaurants, shops and entertainment centers.
“It will mean a big boost to the economy, and a big boost to how our city is viewed internationally,” Mr. Broad said. “It’s not simply sunshine, beaches and Hollywood here.”
But that effort hasn’t been easy. Two years ago Mr. Broad tried to raise $10 million in public financing to promote the arts here. While the city promised $2 million, officials at the county, state and federal levels balked, arguing in part that more private money should be raised for that purpose. For now the effort has stalled, although Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa said in an interview that he would like to create a public-private partnership to accomplish what Mr. Broad proposed.
The mayor’s initiative, however, awaits his appointment of a new general manager for the city’s cultural affairs department, a job that has gone unfilled since the previous department manager resigned nine months ago.
The department manager will be charged with fashioning a new cultural master plan for the city, a blueprint for encouraging both local investment in the arts and reaching out to areas of the city that are underserved by museums, theaters and the like. The master plan was last revised in 1991.
“I think there are a lot of people who want to get involved in the arts, and would if there was a conduit for it,” Mr. Villaraigosa said in an interview.
But that financial conduit is conspicuously absent, especially at a time when corporations are cutting their arts budgets or using them more for marketing than for philanthropy. That problem is aggravated by the relative shortage of major corporations here: Los Angeles has fewer Fortune 500 companies than Richmond, Va., or Charlotte, N.C.
Historically, said Kevin F. McCarthy, a senior social scientist at the Rand Corporation who is working on a study of support systems for the arts in cities around the country, Los Angeles has had three sets of business leaders: the first drawn from the downtown corporations, the second from the high-technology and aerospace industries on the west side, and the third from Hollywood.
“You could never get the entertainment industry to work with the other two guys, even though there were some people who had connections in both communities,” Mr. McCarthy said. The problem with Hollywood leaders, he said, is that “they’re so used to publicity and understanding the importance of marketing that they want to be the center of attention on all of this stuff.”
The philanthropist Eli Broad, left, with Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“I think they also have a very short-sighted focus, like much of the corporate sector, on profits,” he added. “And they tend to see this as a zero- sum game.”
Some Hollywood moguls are already big donors of course. David Geffen gave $5 million in 1996 to the Museum of Contemporary Art; it now maintains the Geffen Contemporary galleries as a separate part of its three-campus institution. Mr. Geffen also gave money for the renovation of a theater near the University of California at Los Angeles campus in Westwood that is now called the Geffen Playhouse. And Disney Hall was built with $120 million from corporations and private donors, along with an initial $50 million from Walt Disney’s widow, Lillian, and more than $100 million from Los Angeles County.
Mr. Broad says he is confident that Hollywood’s commitment will increase, in part through the goading of newly arrived museum directors, including Michael Govan. Mr. Govan arrived one year ago from the Dia Art Foundation in New York to take over as director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and has forged new connections with Hollywood. Among his additions to the museum’s board are Barbra Streisand; Michael Crichton; Terry Semel, the chief executive of Yahoo and former co-chief executive of Warner Brothers; and Willow Bay, the television reporter who is married to Robert Iger, chief executive of Disney.
Now, however, Mayor Villaraigosa may be in the best position to mobilize money into the arts, galvanize business leaders in Hollywood and beyond, and raise the visibility of the city’s cultural scene. “He’s got the kind of sex appeal that Hollywood wants,” Mr. McCarthy said. “He could bring these guys together,” in a way that the previous mayor, James K. Hahn, could not.
In 2004 Mr. Hahn floated the idea of doing away with the city’s cultural affairs department altogether. That effort was fought by Mr. Villaraigosa, then a councilman, earning him the support of many grass-roots arts organizations, which helped his 2005 election campaign.
“I think we can get Hollywood to be more active in the arts,” Mr. Villaraigosa said. “One of the reasons why we’re focused on finding a visionary leader in the area of the arts is because it’s going to take someone who’s got the wherewithal, the respect, the ethos if you will, in the arts community and can rally that community in support of new initiatives,” like cultural programs in the schools and greater citywide spending on the arts.
If anyone knows how hard it can be to attract that support, it is Mr. Broad, who seems to have a hand in almost everything that goes on in the arts.
He was the founding chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art, and its present location on Grand Avenue downtown, near Disney Hall, is a direct result of his efforts. Mr. Broad is also a trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is currently building the Broad Contemporary Art Museum on its campus on Wilshire Boulevard, thanks to a $60 million gift from Mr. Broad and his wife, Edythe.
The Broads have also made a big impact on the art schools in the Los Angeles area. Last fall U.C.L.A. opened the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center, a collection of studios, classrooms, offices and gallery space designed by the architects Richard Meier and Michael Palladino. Outside sits a Richard Serra sculpture commissioned by Mr. Broad for that purpose. And the Broads have donated money for buildings at the two other major art schools in the region, the California Institute of the Arts, known as CalArts, in Valencia, and Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif.
His efforts extend beyond the visual arts. He recently provided a gift to pay for the Los Angeles Opera’s staging of Wagner’s “Ring,” the first time the complete cycle will be produced here.
“Eli Broad really does seem to be the most strategic thinker right now about L.A. and the arts,” said Elizabeth Ondaatje, a Rand Corporation researcher who is directing the institution’s studies of the arts with Mr. McCarthy. “Every other month you read another investment they’ve decided to make.”
Mr. Broad (whose name rhymes with road) has generated a fair amount of resentment in some corners here for his outsized presence on the art scene. His devotion to the downtown projects have been criticized as ignoring pockets of the city that have less access to the arts, like the largely Hispanic sections of East Los Angeles and the areas south of downtown that have large African-American populations. And some of the resistance he faced in his most recent fund-raising effort came from people who wondered why a billionaire was asking for money from taxpayers to promote museums on whose boards he sits.
Ever an optimist, Mr. Broad dismisses those criticisms, saying he prefers to discuss why, despite the relative lack of major corporations here, he still believes that new money can flow to the art world. As evidence, he cited a $25 million donation announced this month by BP, the energy company, to the Los Angeles County Museum to finance a new entrance pavilion.
If it has been hard to attract investment and government support for cultural activities, the city’s vibrant visual arts scene might be seen as its own best advertisement.
“The rest of the world is promoting the city as well or better than L.A. does,” said Gary Garrels, the chief curator at the Hammer Museum, who moved here two years ago from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “All of the curators and galleries that are dynamic are coming to Los Angeles and looking at what’s going on here.”
The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Downtown, which not too long ago was little more than a ghost town after 5 p.m. on weekdays, now bustles with activity around Fifth and Spring streets on Friday and Saturday nights, when art galleries typically schedule their openings of new shows. Similar scenes unfold around more established galleries on Wilshire Boulevard and among emerging contemporary galleries in Santa Monica and Culver City, the incorporated area south of Interstate 10.
Last year Los Angeles and its artists were the focus of a major show at the Pompidou Center in Paris, “Los Angeles 1955-1985: The Birth of an Art Capital.” This month the Hammer Museum here will feature 15 contemporary Los Angeles artists in a show exploring what it means to create here, playfully titled “Eden’s Edge.”
As a career art seems more realistic to graduate art students than ever before, said Patrick Painter, who owns a gallery in Santa Monica. “Students graduate here with a feeling they can live in L.A. and make a living in LA.,” he said. “L.A. will never be more important than New York, but it will be equal.”
And naturally some artists adopt Los Angeles precisely because it is not New York. Max Jansons, a Los Angeles painter who is a New York native, graduated from U.C.L.A., then returned to Columbia University for a master’s degree. He now lives in Santa Monica.
“I like having time to be in my studio without being surrounded by tons of different voices and seeing all these different shows and being part of that activity,” Mr. Jansons said. “There’s something very focused about your time here in the studio that I never really had in New York when I was there.”
Whereas New York presents more opportunities for the chance meetings with other artists that stimulate discussion, he added, it is easier to isolate oneself and get work done in Los Angeles. “Here you really have to make an effort to be part of something,” he said.
In large part that is because of the sprawl that so defines Los Angeles, said Michael Brand, who came here in 2005 as director of the Getty Museum. “The thing the city lacks is public transport and ease of access,” he said. “That, I think, is a major problem, unlike London, unlike New York, where you can just quickly go to other sorts of cultural organizations. It means people like myself and my colleagues in the end find it harder to maintain a face-to-face dialogue. You’ve got to plan ahead, and at a minimum it’s an afternoon.”
What Angelenos get in the trade of course is physical space. Sherin Guirguis, an artist who was born in Egypt and received her master’s degree from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, said she chose Los Angeles by necessity.
“I couldn’t afford to live in New York no matter what, not even in Brooklyn,” she said. “I’m able to have space here. I make very large work, and it’s very expensive to make.”
Meanwhile the path forged by Mr. Baldessari and others has brought a legitimacy to artists here, one that many people believe will be followed by increasing levels of financial aid.
“L.A. has been the model for another American city having a spot in the art world,” said Fredric Snitzer, the owner of a gallery in Miami who brought works by several of his artists to the “Art LA” show here in late January.
“In the old days California artists were like they were on another planet,” he said. “In the last 20 years that has changed. There are fabulous artists here who have to be reckoned with.”
March 26th, 2007, 03:51 AM
Amateurs give dance a whirl at Music Center
Hundreds are eager to get into the swing of a variety of dance styles. After all, lessons are only $1 a session.
By Martha Groves, Times Staff Writer
March 25, 2007
Amateur hoofers turned out by the hundreds Saturday at Music Center plaza for a daylong program aimed at getting people off their duffs and onto the dance floor.
Under a cloudy sky, youngsters from Culver City, college students from Claremont and grandmothers from Los Angeles clogged, tapped, hustled and jitterbugged their way through A Taste of Dance, a Music Center event celebrating diverse ways of moving by offering dance lessons at $1 for a 20-minute session.
Awkward types with two left feet were well in evidence, but so were budding Freds and Gingers.
Yvonne Dowd, 61, a grandmother of three from Hyde Park, and her aunt, June Kimble, also 61, got their grooves on in a modern jazz session taught by Robert Gilliam, a well-regarded Los Angeles dancer and choreographer. They wore jeans and comfortable shoes, the better to glide across the floor and shake their, um, stuff.
"I had come before and had such a great time, so I brought my aunt," Dowd said. "We want to enjoy life. Any time there's an opportunity to do something different, we take it."
"It's good to keep the ol' body moving," Kimble said.
As country music vied for air space with Beyonc–'s "Crazy in Love" and Native American drum music, professional dancers taught the basics of a dozen dance forms, including the Texas two-step and steppin', popularized — in much more raucous form — by the movie "Stomp the Yard."
Leza Williams, 10, and her sister, Nia, 8, of Culver City glowed as they hip-hopped from floor to floor. "It was fun," Nia said.
"You have to have some strength and be flowy," she added, raising her arm gracefully to demonstrate a jazz move.
Hilary Lowe, 21, a senior at Scripps College in Claremont, invited three friends to join her for a dance day in the city. One, Katie Tutwiler, 22, also a Scripps senior, said the two-step lesson reminded her of the Cajun dancing she grew up doing in Louisiana.
Occasionally, tripping the light fantastic took on a literal meaning as children and adults tried out moves better suited to, say, Savion Glover.
A Taste of Dance is part of a year-round Music Center program called Active Arts, which includes Saturday morning drumming sessions and Friday night sing-alongs.
The events, held through December, are designed to get everyday people "singing, dancing, playing their instruments again and telling their stories," said Josephine Ramirez, vice president of programming. "Participatory art-making activities are a way to engage people in civic life."
David Goldstein, 51, whose dance-loving mother accompanied him from Chatsworth, couldn't have agreed more. Wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, he displayed a great deal of enthusiasm, if not always swanlike grace.
"I like the variety of dancers and the smiling faces," he said. "It is wonderful. And for $1 a lesson, you just can't beat it."
March 28th, 2007, 05:12 AM
OMG "saiholmes" where do you find all these articles. Do you do this at work or school?
March 29th, 2007, 05:50 AM
March 29th, 2007, 05:51 AM
OMG "saiholmes" where do you find all these articles. Do you do this at work or school?
just read the newspaper when watching TV. That's it.
April 12th, 2007, 04:54 AM
April 12, 2007
Sunset: the boulevard of dreams
Patrick Ecclesine takes Sunset all the way to snap the diverse faces of Angelenos.
By Shana Ting Lipton, Special to The Times
Sunset Boulevard is undoubtedly one of Los Angeles' most famous streets, but does it serve as a connecting thread for the residents of the diverse neighborhoods it passes through on its way from downtown L.A. to the Pacific Ocean? It's a question photographer Patrick Ecclesine appears poised to answer in his solo exhibit, "Faces of Sunset Boulevard," which opens tonight at Los Angeles City Hall's Bridge Gallery.
In this ongoing personal project consisting of about 100 photographs (24 of which are included in the show), Ecclesine looks to capture L.A.'s dreams, dreamers and, at times, nightmares using the thoroughfare as a focal point for impromptu and set-up portraits of its denizens. He also brought a sound recording device to the photo sessions and did some preliminary interviewing of his subjects to create a fuller story. Quotes from those interviews appear beneath the large prints in the exhibit.
Some of the images capture people on the street — a Bosnian refugee who is now a stand-in on the ABC television show "Grey's Anatomy," a street poet, construction workers, a street vendor. Others depict prominent community workers and leaders such as L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William J. Bratton and attending officers. And still more show Hollywood insiders such as Henry Winkler and writer-producer Steven J. Cannell, as well as a plastic surgeon and a divorce attorney.
Ecclesine describes his hometown as "worlds within worlds within worlds," marveling at what he deems a relatively peaceful coexistence among residents with vast cultural differences.
"To me, Sunset Boulevard is the ultimate representation of that because it's the boulevard of dreams, from the barrio to the beach," he says.
Like Sunset, Ecclesine's life has similarly wound through some diverse quarters. The project has taken him back to his roots. Literally born just off Sunset Boulevard, in the former Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, he spent the first few years of his life residing in a "terrible beat-up ramshackle neighborhood" off Western Avenue.
"It was like a carnival out there," he recalls. "There were Haitian voodoo ceremonies on Saturday nights. There were drug addicts and prostitutes."
More than two decades later, Ecclesine found himself working amid the world of film and TV as a still photographer on the Fox series "The O.C." He recalls having brought his "Faces of Sunset" portfolio to the set, where he met a camera operator who is the brother of 4th District Councilman Tom LaBonge. Ecclesine had begun the "Sunset" project in 2004, but found it difficult to solicit city officials — until LaBonge gave him a certificate of appreciation for his work. That helped open all the right doors, Ecclesine says.
This enabled him to orchestrate some ambitious set-up photo shoots. The one that he is most proud of involved Bratton. The image is one of the few in the show that was not actually taken on Sunset, but rather at a nearby helicopter facility, the C. Erwin Piper Technical Center. It took months of planning and negotiations, and picture-perfect coordination with a strategically hovering helicopter. The catch: Because of hectic city official schedules, the photographer had only about five minutes to capture his shot.
Ecclesine is also proud of the shoot he conducted with the L.A. County coroners.
"People are obsessed with 'CSI,' yet the coroners have never been photographed that way," he says, describing the detailed set-up of his photo, complete with body bag and trucks. "They loved doing that."
So did Ecclesine, who found the set-up productions to be the most challenging of his 170 Sunset project shoots. In addition, he says that shooting subjects who are in the public eye is a challenge because "they have defense mechanisms already in place, because they've dealt with it so many times."
Conversely, he found it easier to photograph street subjects impromptu because "they're in their humanity, in their element."
Regardless, Ecclesine says he appreciates chronicling all walks of life: They're all "part of Los Angeles — the superficial and the deep."
'Faces of Sunset Boulevard'
Where: Los Angeles City Hall, Bridge Gallery, 200 N. Spring St., L.A.
When: Opening reception, 8 p.m. April 12. Regular hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays
Ends: May 4
Price: Free, but photo ID required
Info: (323) 314-8000, www.facesofsunset.com
April 12th, 2007, 08:21 AM
April 20th, 2007, 04:44 AM
April 18, 2007
Art purchases advance Getty's ambitions
A gilded image of Christ and a classic French portrait bulk up the museum's collection.
By Suzanne Muchnic, Times Staff Writer
A medieval gilt-copper and enamel relief of Christ, thought to have come from a Spanish cathedral, and a 19th century portrait of a lady in her pink velvet dressing gown by French artist James Jacques Joseph Tissot have joined the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum. The new acquisitions — purchased privately for undisclosed sums in an ongoing effort to build the relatively young institution's art holdings — will go on view in May at the Getty Center in Brentwood.
"This is a fabulous piece," Antonia Bostro"m, curator of sculpture and decorative arts, said of the metal work "Christ in Majesty." About 18 inches tall — an unusually large example of its type — the artwork depicts a seated figure in a glass-jeweled robe, with his right hand raised in a blessing, left hand holding a Bible and feet attached to a rectangular enameled panel. The figure has "a sculptural presence," she says, but it was formed in high relief of a single sheet of copper enhanced by gilding and engraved details.
Made around 1188 in Limoges, France, the artwork was probably designed for the Cathedral of St. Martin in Ourense, in northwest Spain, where Christian pilgrims stopped on their way to Santiago de Compostela, Bostro"m says. The Christ figure is thought to have been part of an altarpiece that was dismantled in the early 19th century, possibly during the Napoleonic Wars. The Getty bought the work from a private collector in Spain.
"Christ in Majesty" initially will be displayed in a gallery of sculpture and decorative arts but it is intended as the centerpiece of a "Cathedral Treasury" expected to open early next year. The installation will be "a sacred space," Bostro"m says, putting the new acquisition in the context of Medieval and Renaissance stained glass, sculpture, decorative arts, paintings and manuscripts.
The Tissot painting, "Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, ne'e The're`se Feuillant," is an 1866 oil-on-canvas from what scholars call the golden age of fashionable portraiture in France. The 30-year-old subject stands by a fireplace in a room of the Cha^teau de Paulhac in the Auvergne, her husband's family seat. She is dressed in a flowing winter peignoir with ruffled borders and is surrounded by decorative objects favored by the rich — a Japanese screen and ceramics, a terra cotta bust of a family member, a Louis XVI stool holding a pile of needlepoint.
The first painting by Tissot to hang in a public collection in Los Angeles, the work will add an example from the Second Empire (1851-1870) to the museum's portraits. The De Young Museum in San Francisco has a Tissot self-portrait of the same period.
The Getty picture was exhibited only once, at the Paris World's Fair in 1867, curators Scott Schaefer and Mary Morton say. The painting was kept in the sitter's family until the museum bought it, through a French dealer.
"It's as fresh and perfect as they come," says conservator Mark Leonard, who cleaned the picture and removed its only flaw, some patches of yellowed varnish. A swatch of pink velvet from the gown, identical to the painted fabric and passed along to the Getty with the artwork, proves the point.
April 27th, 2007, 05:13 AM
Pop music critic Robert Hilburn lists his all-time favorite performances from the festival.
By Robert Hilburn, Special to the Times
April 27, 2007
The most dramatic moment of this weekend's Coachella festival will surely be when the four members of Rage Against the Machine step on stage together for the first time in seven years, but even that reunion will be hard pressed to match the drama of the politically charged band's initial appearance there.
Rage's tenacious set on the closing night of the inaugural festival in 1999 tops my list of Coachella's memorable moments because the very future of the event hung in the balance.
That first Coachella chapter came just weeks after the trauma of Woodstock 99, a festival in upstate New York so marred by violence that civic authorities and rock fans around the country wondered if massive outdoor concerts were still possible in these hardened times. Even a trace of the lawlessness of Woodstock 99 would have ruled out future Coachellas.
To discourage rowdiness, the festival promoters at Goldenvoice were careful to book quality artists they felt would appeal chiefly to fans who were truly interested in music, not hell-raising. Rage was a superb band that fit the alternative aims of the festival, but it played with such alarming emotion and force that its presence made many who planned to attend Coachella nervous. By the time Rage finished its spectacular performance, however, Coachella's future was secure. It was, in every way, the anti-Woodstock 99.
Here's my best-of-Coachella list:
Rage Against the Machine, 1999. Tension reached a peak near the end of Rage's set as fans in front of the stage moved to the music with alarming force. The band's Zack de la Rocha screamed the closing lines of "Guerrilla Radio," a song about striking back at oppression: "It has to start somewhere / It has to start sometime / What better place than here? / What better time than now?"
With emotions running so high in the audience, the fear was a repeat of the rampaging at Woodstock 99, where, among other things, hundreds of youths set bonfires, tore down at least two 50-foot light towers and attacked vendor trucks. Observers later blamed the rioting in large part on resentment of festival conditions, including overflowing toilets, lack of potable water and high-priced food. At Coachella, the promoters stressed fan comfort, which meant extra toilets, plenty of reasonably priced food and keeping the audience far below the capacity of the grounds to avoid overcrowding.
The key was that the Coachella fans didn't see the event as a target of a song like "Guerrilla Radio." Instead, they saw Coachella as something worth preserving: a haven of music, celebration and even social bonding. Thanks to both great performances such as Rage's and a warm, uplifting spirit, Coachella earned that all-essential element: fan trust. Indeed, the weekend represented a rebirth of the festival concept across the country.
Beck, 1999. This gifted singer-songwriter was another headliner at the opening Coachella festival, and, like Rage, he previewed songs from an upcoming album. In Beck's case, the music from "Midnite Vultures" was a bold step into a funk-driven R&B territory closer to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" period than Beck's earlier folk-shaded leanings. The slender auteur even wore a fringed flamboyant shirt and went through lots of Prince-inspired dance steps. It was a moment of sheer exhilaration for the 20,000 fans.
Beck also contributed to another special moment in 2004, one that again exemplified the informal spirit of Coachella. Just days before the show, Beck called Goldenvoice's Paul Tollett and asked if he could join the lineup, not on the main stage but in one of the smaller tents. He had been in the studio for months, and he wanted to "shake off some of the studio dust by playing before people." Beck was so relaxed he invited five fans on stage to play tambourine on a good-natured, folk-blues treatment of an old Kinks song. It was fun and disarming.
White Stripes, 2003. American rock 'n' roll was seriously in need of passionate new blood early in the new millennium, and the duo of singer-guitarist Jack White and drummer Meg White seemed the one most capable of supplying it. They offered a captivating blend of spectacular sonic textures, superb songwriting and daring instincts. As a fan, I loved that the Stripes had generated enough momentum to land one of the key evening spots on the main stage, but I worried about whether they were up to such a challenge. They had never played an L.A. venue larger than the 900-capacity El Rey, and they'd be facing some 30,000 fans at Coachella. No problem. The set was exhilarating, demonstrating that the Stripes could reach a wide audience without compromising their artful and deeply personal music.
Arcade Fire, 2005. Here's another case of a great band making a triumphant leap. This young, Montreal-based group was playing clubs in town just months before stepping onto one of Coachella's main stages. The songs about loss and resilience on their brilliant "Funeral" album took on added vitality on stage because the band performed with such zest.
Nine Inch Nails, 2005. Coachella has hosted many comebacks but none as thrilling as this one. In the early and mid-'90s, NIN leader Trent Reznor's songs of alienation and self-loathing hit the rock mainstream with an anger and aggression that had rarely been seen. For a while after his "The Downward Spiral" album in 1994, Reznor seemed the likely successor to Kurt Cobain as the voice of a rock generation. But he went through an emotional, drug-driven spiral of his own that left his next album, 1999's "The Fragile," so dark and impenetrable that it all but ended his career. Indeed, he didn't have another album until 2005's "With Teeth."
On stage at Coachella, Reznor was more compelling than ever. In one of the new songs, "The Line Begins to Blur," he shared the confusion of his addiction: "There are things I would never do / There are fears I cannot believe have come true." It was a courageous, life-affirming hour.
April 29th, 2007, 04:38 AM
Coachella: thousands of fans and getting hotter every year
Rock lovers flock to the desert for what has become the concert.
By Geoff Boucher and Joel Rubin, Times Staff Writers
April 28, 2007
INDIO — No one can question Kevin Willock's pure determination to rock. Earlier this week under the slate-gray skies of a village called Burscough in western England, Willock and his friends set out on a pilgrimage. In Manchester they caught a flight to Boston, then another to Los Angeles. There was a few hours' sleep at a seedy motel before Friday morning, when the bleary group piled into a rental car and headed east into the furnace heat of the low desert.
As did Anthony Maldonado. The 17-year-old from Long Beach saved his allowance and joined his handyman father on the job to pay a scalper $100 for a one-day pass.
Pavel Malina, 33, and Daniel McLachlan, 24, drove in from Colorado, where they spent the winter as ski instructors. Their last-minute tickets were found on Ebay for $300 and $350.
All this just for a concert or, more accurately, the concert — the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. "When we first heard about it, we just knew we had to come," the 23-year-old Willock said.
Willock, Maldonado and the rest joined thousands of music fans hailing from all 50 states and two dozen countries, some paying scalpers $1,000 for a 3-day pass with a face value of $250, some hitchhiking their way across interstate highways — all to reach this small desert city that, just for this weekend, is the most important place in the world for rock music fans.
The festival began Friday, and will draw 60,000 people per day to the site for more than 30 hours of music from 122 bands as diverse as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arcade Fire, Bjo"rk and Arctic Monkeys.
With two outdoor stages and three tents, it ends in the wee hours Monday with the much-anticipated reunion of Rage Against the Machine. It's a huge crowd, but the number could easily have been twice that, according to promoters, who capped sales weeks ago. "We could have sold 120,000, easily," said festival founder Paul Tollett.
The 41-year-old Tollett started in the concert business in the 1980s, handing out fliers for an independent L.A. promoter called Goldenvoice; by 1991 he was co-owner and a major figure in the local punk and alt-rock scene.
Coachella, the dream project he launched in 1999, lost money the first two years but then became a major success, with grosses this year expected to top $15 million.
As Perry Farrell, former Jane's Addiction singer and Lollapalooza co-founder, said Friday after a mainstage performance with his new band, Satellite Party: "Coachella is the place music fans look to now for community and a sense of what is important. And when you talk about the West Coast, you're talking Coachella."
Huge concerts are hardly rare, of course, but the scene playing out this weekend 125 miles east of Los Angeles is a singular one. What began as a huge gamble is now a touchstone of the West Coast music scene, and the Coachella name enjoys loyalty in an era when the recording industry can't seem to count on much consumer love.
The success has been noticed: AEG Live, the concert industry powerhouse that bought Goldenvoice in 2001, bought half of the Coachella Festival in 2004. The festival itself has won a mountain of awards, and this year journalists have flown in from Europe and South America, while national publications such as Rolling Stone and Spin devoted pages of coverage to a festival that they largely ignored in the early days.
A 2006 documentary now serves as a primer for new fans, and posters from previous years sell steadily on the Internet. As with Woodstock in a different era, the number of people who say they saw Radiohead or the White Stripes at Coachella far outstrips the number who actually passed through the turnstiles.
This year, if you want to know who made it into the show at the Empire Polo Field, you can check sunburns as well as ticket stubs. The hot topic (literally) on Friday was just how hot it would actually get this weekend. Tempers ran high too, with a nasty bottleneck at the will-call tables, where fans who bought their ducats through Ticketmaster had waits of up to three hours.
"I'm already starting to look a little rosy," said Rory MacDonald, one of Willock's friends, somewhat concerned about what the intense desert sun would do to his fair skin.
Although concert organizers were preparing for intense action at the first-aid tent, plenty of festival-goers will be cooling off in the pools of local hotels — which often triple their rates for the duration of the event.
But the true Coachella experience is at the dusty and relentlessly hot campground adjacent to the concert grounds.
About 16,000 people are expected to pitch tents and sleep beneath the stars, creating a mad scramble Thursday and Friday for camping spots. By Friday, the campgrounds were filled with scenes of rock-show roughing-it: European flags were flying, drum circles gathered, joints were handed around and teens wearing fairy wings and body paint whirled beneath the sun.
"It's a hipster refugee camp," said Colin Burwahl, 24, seated in a lounge chair outside of the tent he is sharing with a friend, sporting a perfectly ripped T-shirt and aviator sunglasses. The pair made the nine-hour drive from Santa Rosa.
Aaron Smith, 25, who spent $400 for his ticket and $500 on airfare from Montreal, was thrilled he "got a $60 tent." Smith, who teaches French, had half a dozen empty water bottles cradled in his arms; at the festival, campers could turn in 10 empties to get a free bottle of water, a litter-curbing campaign. "I don't have much money left, so I'm cleaning up," he said.
Despite the Woodstock comparisons, the true template for Tollett's desert show was Britain's Glastonbury, the gloriously mad and inevitably muddy festival that draws fans from around the world. That's where the promoter got the concept of staging a massive show in a rural setting with the attitude of music connoisseurship.
Tollett is the hands-on shaper of Coachella, plucking out the names of new DJ stars, avant hip-hop acts and the next-big-thing indie band from the U.K. When he goes with safe and established stars, such as the Peppers, he actually takes heat from fans expecting "their" Coachella to have a safari spirit.
The site of Coachella has become as memorable as the acts booked. Ringed by craggy mountains in the low desert, the Empire Polo Field has immaculate white tents that are framed by the lush green lawns and purple skies at sunset. Tollett reduced the number of sponsorships in recent years as a bow to alt-rock kids weary of seeing banners and signs pitching products. Though the ticket prices haven't increased in three years, revenue should be up, with the festival expanding from two days to three for the first time this year.
The ethos of Coachella led to its biggest booking in years: Rage, a band notorious for strident activism and high political principles, agreed to play even before a specific money figure was negotiated.
"It is a great festival, and this is the right time and right place for us," guitarist Tom Morello said of the band's decision to play its first show since 2000, although he declined to say more. The group has been turning down interview requests and is expected to save its talking for the stage, which has only added to the stir of international interest. The bill also features three other notable reunions: the Jesus and Mary Chain, Crowded House and Happy Mondays.
"It's incredible. We plan our year around it — I use my vacation days," said Burwahl, who works in a paint retail store. "Do you know how many bands you get to see in these three days? You couldn't see this many in a year."
Many of the international travelers said that Coachella now carried potent name recognition abroad.
"It's amazing how many people here are from Canada," said shag-haired Matt MacDonald, a 24-year-old from Ontario who prowled the VIP area with his homeland's maple leaf flag draped on his shoulder like a cape. "We even ran into a Newfoundlander, which is about as far as you come from on this continent."
The scene also brings the stars out; Drew Barrymore, Jack Black, Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow have been here in past years. Among those on the guest list this year: Barrymore, Diaz, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Scarlett Johansson and Danny DeVito. On Friday, in his backstage trailer, Tollett had Kelly Osbourne on the phone when Rosanna Arquette came up to hug him.
Over the last three years, more than a dozen festivals have sprung up all around the country using the Coachella model in part or whole, most notably Bonnaroo (in Tennessee) and Vegoose (in Las Vegas). That has made it harder for Tollett and company to book a show that looks decidedly different. Rage took care of this year nicely, but the pressure is already on for next year, with Tollett opening negotiations with agents and managers as the festival rages around him.
Coachella also is expected to have its largest audience watching from the shade of cyberspace. After some poor reviews of its webcast last year, AT&T Blue Room came to this year's festival with a crew of 95, 18 high-definition cameras and programming plans to capture 30 hours of music that can be seen at http://www.attblueroom.com .
"We never dreamed it could become what it is now," said Tollett. "For a lot of people here, this is a moment in their lives they'll never forget. The festival belongs to them now."
April 29th, 2007, 06:31 PM
It's more than just the music
By Ann Powers, Times Staff Writer
April 29, 2007
There are myriad ways to take in the massive sensory overload that is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio. Many people cram in as much music as they can — more than 100 artists will have performed by the time the three-day event concludes tonight. But you could also just sit and read the T-shirts in the crowd as they go by.
Three randomly noted shirts added up to a cogent comment on the festival, which opened Friday at the Empire Polo Field. The first shirt featured the legendary art-punk band Richard Hell & the Voidoids. The second celebrated the video game Pokemon. The third extolled the jam band Blues Traveler.
Coachella reflects all of these influences. By featuring stars on the edge of (or wholly beyond) pop's mainstream — performers Friday included Bjo"rk, the reunited Jesus and Mary Chain, DJ Shadow and Sonic Youth — it connects the dots between art-punk elitism and today's "indie" culture.
Its loyalty to dance music, including club-friendly bands such as Friday standouts the Brazilian Girls, is part of the neo-psychedelic aesthetic that connects video games to raves and the interactive art installations that make Coachella's grounds a blast to walk.
And though this cutting-edge event is hardly a hippie gathering, the festival shares values with the jam-band scene: musical eclecticism, creature comforts and the belief that a crowd is always also a community.
This is Coachella's happy paradox: It features outstanding artists, but music is only one factor in its appeal.
There will always be truly special moments: Bjo"rk's opening-night set, featuring her new all-female brass band, was one, as was the Jesus and Mary Chain reunion. And the Rage Against the Machine reunion is still to come tonight.
But most of Coachella's artists will perform similar sets at many festivals this summer. As the desert event's influence expands and helps define America's summer concert season, the music still matters, but other things — the grounds, the food, the fun to be had beyond its five stages — matter even more. It's a tribute to Coachella's organizers that they've figured out how to enact the story those passing T-shirts tell.
April 30th, 2007, 12:50 AM
I smell an orgy....
April 30th, 2007, 12:51 AM
Hey...Hey..Hey your a married man, have some respect for your vows.
May 1st, 2007, 06:31 AM
Celebrities rock Coachella Valley Music Festival
Despite the heat, a few scrapes and VIP infestation, a polite tradition was upheld.
By Geoff Boucher, Times Staff Writer
May 1, 2007
The perfect confluence of Coachella's new star cultures came Saturday during the Red Hot Chili Peppers set: That's when a giggling Paris Hilton climbed a stack of amps on the side of the stage, both to see and to be seen, while, a few yards away, Tom Morello, the firebrand guitarist of Rage Against the Machine — a man more interested in coups than club life — bobbed to the beat and tried to blend in beneath his ball cap.
The next night, Morello and his bandmates gave a searing finale to the biggest edition yet of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (three days, 123 bands, 60,000 people a day), an affair that went off smoothly for its size and sometimes dizzying heat. Coming in to the show, promoters had worried about the mosh pits for the Rage reunion (security was quadrupled for the band's set), but as the dust settles, perhaps they should be more concerned about the "celebrity problem," as a key member of on the show staff called it.
The VIP area was dense with star power, with Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Courtney Love, Nicky Hilton, Danny DeVito, Corbin Bernsen, Lars Ulrich, Jason Statham, Kelly Osbourne, Rosanna Arquette and others sweating like they were enrolled in the world's loudest celebrity summer camp. The concert grounds were also being prowled by paparazzi. This would be good if Coachella were an awards show, but promoter Paul Tollett acknowledged that the attention of the Us Weekly world is not what his festival needs to maintain credibility with rock kids.
The eighth Coachella festival was so vast and varied that fans left this low desert town with different memories of the affair. For some, it was the year of Rage returning to the main stage with its slabs of political rock; for others, it was the new faces in the tents, like the bracing first-festival set anywhere by the Klaxons. The deep bill had enough room for the Texas twang of Willie Nelson and the elfin opera of Bjo"rk, and the only completely shared memory was of the temperature, which hit triple digits.
The intense heat kept the medical tents busy, but none of the emergencies was life-threatening. By early Sunday evening, 41 people had been taken to a local hospital. Three fans, all in their 20s, were airlifted: a woman with a serious ankle fracture, a man with cuts from a fight and another man who tried to hop the fence of the venue and suffered a bad gash. Traffic was a challenge on the streets and at the venue, where lines (especially a major delay on Friday at the will-call windows) tested patience. But the festival seemed to hold on to its reputation as a surprisingly polite affair.
Arrests averaged about 30 each day, most for alcohol- and drug-related offenses, and Indio police spokesman Ben Guitron said the biggest incident was early Sunday in the campground, where more than 15,000 fans pitched tents. In the predawn hours, a drum circle grew to a full-volume party, and, according to police, about 200 fans refused to comply with a restriction against overnight noise. One arrest was made. Some complained that police were too rough, but, by Sunday night, there seemed to be little lasting effect from the dust-up.
Inside the venue, Coachella organizers had created a multi-section barricade for the main stage and came up with a crisp plan to handle the crowd-surfing and moshing that came with Rage. For months, Tollett and company privately fretted that the lightning-in-a-bottle booking of Rage's first show since 2000 would make history, but they knew that it also came with risk considering the bruising nature of the band's gigs. During the set, fans began climbing the rigging set up for the sound board that sent security into a scramble. Other fans ignited flags, plastic bottles or debris, but none of it amounted to much. "We had a great plan in place, and we're just happy with the way it went," Tollett said Monday morning. He was on his way to a television interview to promote inaugural Stagecoach, next weekend's country music festival that is essentially a cousin to Coachella and is also being held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio.
Coachella this year sold tickets in all 50 states and in two dozen countries and has become the signature festival of the West Coast. Ticket grosses this year were about $16 million.
May 1st, 2007, 09:16 AM
May 1st, 2007, 09:18 AM
Coachella: Three-day music festival becomes a phenomenon
Bruce Fessier and Maggie Downs
The Desert Sun
April 30, 2007
Many great cultures have begun with long wanderings in the desert.
This new phenomenon is a worldwide mix of cultures cemented by a love of diversity and an appreciation for new music you don't hear on commercial radio.
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival attracted more than 180,000 people from all over the world this past weekend. The main draw was the Rage Against the Machine reunion, but no single band symbolizes Coachella.
Promoter Paul Tollett acts as if he and his staff at Goldenvoice just throw the Coachella line-up together like a toss of the I-Ching, but pop music critics consistently applaud the cutting-edge quality of his program.
A writer who's covered both Lollapalooza and Coachella said "Lollapalooza is like Coachella leftovers. Daft Punk (played) at Coachella '06, Lollapalooza this year. Iggy at Coachella '03, this year Lollapalooza."
"We don't have a specific guideline of which artists we book," Tollett said, "but we know what we like."
The promoter admitted that his original plan was to assemble many diverse bands with small but devoted followings.
"There was a whole set of people, pre-iPod, who were just listening to miscellaneous music and a lot of albums that were just selling 3,000 and 4,000 copies," Tollett said. "(We felt) maybe if you put a bunch of them together, that might be a magnet for a lot of people."
For some of those people Coachella is their first time away from their parents. It also represents an opportunity to dip their toes into the pool of self-expression.
This year, Ali Zandi of Calabasas dressed in a chicken suit to celebrate his 26th birthday.
"I figure everyone walking around here might be bored," Zandi said while posing for pictures with festival goers. "I'm trying to contribute and give everyone a good time at my expense."
Looking the part
The first Coachellas attracted people who tended to dress in the style of their favorite artists. There were goth kids, emo fans, neo-hippies, roots rockers and hip-hop stylists. But as the years went on, the attire shifted toward a celebration of youthful individuality as comfort in the triple-digit heat.
This year's Coachella attracted people dressed as Batman, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman. Some wore messages on their sun-screened skins as well as their T-shirts.
Even the bands praised the crowd.
"Thank you for being so polite," said Win Butler of Arcade Fire, addressing the main stage audience during the band's Saturday night set. "Manners are the cornerstone of a prosperous society."
On good behavior
The images depicted in '60s films such as "Woodstock" and "Gimme Shelter" connected impressions of drunkenness and violence with music festivals. Talisha Tolliver, a 30-ish school teacher from Moreno Valley, was reticent to come to Coachella because of that preconception, but joined a friend from Washington D.C. and was pleasantly surprised by what she found.
"I like the atmosphere," she said. "I was expecting a bunch of drunk people. It's OK right now."
The good behavior, combined with the cutting edge music and spirit of individuality has attracted business sponsors who are content to form ties with Coachella, even though they're not allowed to put up banners inside the festival grounds for fear of spoiling the precious alternative vibe.
Instead, planes towed banners above the Empire Polo Club, promoting everything from the new Crowded House album to a tattoo expo in Pomona.
Many businesses throw parties as far as 30 miles away, such as GQ, which hosted a three-night post-Coachella bash at the Viceroy Palm Springs. Hugo Boss, which plans to launch a clothing line aimed at young hipsters, held private parties at the MOD Resort in Palm Desert.
The Coachella crowd is also a desirable demographic for organizations looking to inspire a new generation, like Veterans Against the Iraq War, World Can't Wait (a group seeking to impeach President Bush) and Global Inheritance, a non-profit environmental group.
"I'm jazzed there are as many young people here as there are," said Jamez Smith of Los Angeles, who was DJing in a converted port-o-potty for Global Inheritance. "And I'm even more jazzed to see that there are even young children and babies.
"We've got a planet to save, and it's the young people who are going to do it."
But it's not all young people at Coachella.
Alan Kaufman, 50, of Los Angeles attended this year with his 16-year-old daughter and her friends.
"It's a wonderful sampling of the current sounds," Kaufman said. "When I was a kid and went to a lot of festivals, it was much more chaotic and raunchy. This is actually pretty well-organized."
Well-organized, and with a sense of community.
"It's like you become a part of something greater than yourself," said Andrew Collins, 23, of Chicago, attending his third Coachella.
"You're not just listening to music. You've survived."
May 3rd, 2007, 02:31 AM
I so wish I couldve gone to Coachella, so many great bands... mustve been amazing
May 7th, 2007, 04:05 AM
Stagecoach debut shows country is a big family
By Ann Powers, Times Staff Writer
May 7, 2007
INDIO -- The most adorable girl at Stagecoach, the two-day "country Coachella" fest that premiered Saturday here at the Empire Polo Club, sat on her date's shoulders while Alan Jackson played. She tossed her blond hair and smiled every time the video cameras turned toward her. "It's all right to be little-bitty," sang Jackson in his cozy baritone, performing a Tom T. Hall song about the modern-day poor in spirit. The girl, like the others the camera singled out, sang along. At the song's end, she raised her hands high and stuck out her tongue.
This quintessential sweetheart of Stagecoach was probably 4 years old.
Everywhere on the grounds where just last weekend Coachella's tattooed dance mavens and neo-punkers got their freak on, moms pushed strollers, grade-schoolers held cartwheel contests and dads bought root beer floats. There was beer drinking and modest hell-raising too, but even the younger adults unencumbered by offspring fit into the family mood.
If Coachella offers a bohemian escape fantasy — where rules, musical or otherwise, don't apply — Stagecoach is the county fair, a loving intergenerational gathering where rules might be bent in the name of fun, but tradition is respected.
The top-notch talent scattered across four stages (five, if you count the Half-Pint Hootenanny, where tot music standouts such as "Farmer" Jason Ringenberg entertained), took on country music's customs with varying degrees of loyalty. Smaller stages presented elders including bluegrass great Earl Scruggs; preservationists such as the cowboy artists whose twang filled the Mustang Tent; classicists such as the great singer Raul Malo, and a few stubborn innovators such as Lucinda Williams and Neko Case. The big Mane Stage showed a more proscribed range of approaches within mainstream country.
At one end of that spectrum were headliners Jackson and George Strait, who've reinvigorated country's lineage without rocking it too hard. These stars artfully commercialize revered subgenres such as honky-tonk and Western swing in songs that subtly update the music's mythology of cowboys (or truck drivers), cheating, sin and church.
At the other end are newcomers such as Miranda Lambert and Eric Church, who grew up with "pot-smoking parents" (Church did, anyway, he said) and classic country-rock. Burning up the Mane Stage in midafternoon, these promising artists embodied country's latest future by refusing to make any distinction between it and rock, as a music or a lifestyle.
The 23-year-old Lambert, whose second album, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," came out last week, modifies the rocker-chick archetype, emphasizing earthiness instead of glamour. Like her better-known peer Gretchen Wilson, Lambert writes about being tough and a bit dangerous, burning rubber and waving guns around. Her persona is sweeter than her lyrics; that mix of wholesomeness and hazard makes her music fresh.
Wearing door-knocker earrings that Lily Allen would have envied and sometimes playing a pink electric guitar, Lambert presented herself as a smart, likable woman with just enough of a bad streak to help her stay free. She gave a shout-out to Strait and Jackson, and also covered songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Band with convincing grit. Her originals split the difference between these influences.
Church covered a Band song too, though a little less gracefully than Lambert. He looked just as much the hipster, projecting a scruffy bravado Brandon Flowers of the Killers would kill for. But his voice is hard country, reminiscent of Merle Haggard, without much of a rock edge.
Church's songwriting updates country's typical tales of ordinary disaster by telling them in the voice of a modern-day screw-up — dubiously employed, a mix of a slacker and a caveman, but somehow charming beneath the trucker cap. Guys like this believe as firmly in arena rock as in country. Church's band constantly invoked air-guitar classics; his set's climax was a medley of several, including "Black Betty" by Ram Jam and "Cat Scratch Fever" by Ted Nugent, interpolated into Church's own biggest hit, "How 'Bout You?"
For Church and Lambert (and, in varying ways, fellow main-stagers Sara Evans and Jason Michael Carroll), it's not a novelty to incorporate rock or to emulate its culture of small rebellions. It's just as much a traditional move as George Strait makes invoking Western swing king Bob Wills.
Stagecoach will continue to confront these changes in country as its planners seek the common ground between purism and commerciality, preservationism and the future. How can it serve the genre's family values while still finding its innovative edge? The festival's successful first day indicated that the best plan may be not to sweat the questions too much. In that, its role model is Willie Nelson, whose early evening side-stage set drew a huge crowd delighted to celebrate the old master.
Nelson has always considered "tradition" a flexible term, borrowing as he pleases from jazz, blues and rock as well as country, and marking every song choice with his indelible stamp. He's uncategorizable — not such a common thing in country. But its newest stars indicate that uncategorizable might be coming back into fashion. That would be good for country, and for Stagecoach.
June 1st, 2007, 08:16 AM
June 1, 2007
The Landmark Theatre has your living room in its sites
The new venue in Los Angeles brings the comforts of home to the movie theater.
By Christopher Hawthorne, Times Staff Writer
The Landmark Theatre chain seems to have decided that fighting a two-front war, while it didn't work out too well for the Germans, is its best strategy for thriving in an increasingly tumultuous movie business.
With its 12-screen flagship opening today at the Westside Pavilion, Landmark is clearly hoping to lure customers from the ArcLight, the Bridge and other upscale competitors. The complex offers reserved seats and the chance to bring your glass of wine with you in to the new Sofia Coppola or George Clooney movie.
But it is also designed to compete directly with your living room — with your sofa, your flat screen and your ability to pause, rewind, turn on the lights or just give up on the movie idea altogether and switch over to "The Daily Show."
As if to acknowledge how tough it's becoming to drag people out of their houses for a night at the movies, with home-theater technology getting better and traffic getting worse, the Landmark includes a number of domestic architectural touches. The most striking are three "Living Room" theaters on the top floor that hold between 30 and 50 people each. They include sofas and side tables as well as overstuffed love seats and ottomans by the high-end French furniture company Ligne Roset.
As a piece of urban architecture, the Landmark is, well, no landmark. Designed by the Marina del Rey firm PleskowRael along with Pasadena's F+A Architects, it holds 2,000 seats, filling in what had been the open-air portion of the Westside Pavilion's 1991 annex. Both the original Pavilion and the expansion are the work of Jon Jerde; the older section, despite looking dated and a little grubby these days, represents a significant and inventive strain of retail postmodernism that largely got its start in Los Angeles.
The new facade along Pico, on the other hand, tries and largely fails for a kind of sophistication, aiming to bring its jumble of functions and materials into balance. The architects have re-clad the pedestrian bridge over Westwood Boulevard and the cylindrical tower that holds Barnes & Noble. They have also introduced a three-story picture window along Pico, framed rather awkwardly with a wide band of tan-colored stucco and offering views, from inside the theater, of Westwood and Century City.
Looking at the building from the street, you can quite clearly see the outline of one of the top-floor theaters — a symbolic advertisement for what's going on inside. The same architectural idea is repeated, maybe once or twice too often, inside the building, with the sloping roofs of several third-story auditoriums visible on the floor below. This creates a collection of leftover spaces — not unlike those inside Daniel Libeskind's Denver Art Museum, oddly enough.
The sleek interior finishes in the common areas were selected, as Landmark puts it, with "the adult theatergoer in mind." The concession stand is framed by a rosewood canopy. The wine bar — by Dana Foley Design, a firm based, like the theater chain's new owners, Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, in Dallas — features zebrawood and the sort of "candle fireplace" that these days shows up in cocktail lounges and urban lofts alike.
That mixture of Crate & Barrel modernism and Texas overkill is an improvement over the swirling carpet patterns and paper-thin drywall at your typical multiplex. And certain interior touches, like the wide stairs flanked by escalators and the tunnel-like hallways that lead to each auditorium, offer a bit of design sophistication to the moviegoing experience, which in recent decades has increasingly featured aesthetics as stale as the popcorn.
But in general the rich material palette is so strategically deployed that it becomes, frankly, a little unnerving. Movies, even some of the art house pictures that Landmark specializes in, are already focus-grouped and test-marketed to within an inch of their lives. Now the design of the places where we watch movies appears headed in the same direction. As a marketing idea carefully shaped and then sent hurtling aerodynamically toward a demographic target, the building might as well be shaped like an arrow.
All of which is a long way of saying that the Landmark, like all pieces of design in this country arranged to congratulate a certain free-spending slice of America on its own sense of taste, seems poised for huge crowds. Good thing it includes 3,350 parking spaces underneath — a ridiculous number, when you think about it, in a city that should be trying to get people out of their private vehicles instead of encouraging six friends meeting up for a Friday night movie to arrive in six cars.
All of the Landmark's larger auditoriums are pleasingly steep and feature extra-wide seats with cup holders that will accommodate your Chardonnay as well as a Big Gulp-sized soda. They are served by top-of-the-line Sony digital projectors, which construction crews were moving carefully into place last week.
But those rooms offer a variation on an architectural experience we all know well: the big movie auditorium with cushy seats and teeth-rattling sound. What's new at the Landmark, at least for a first-run theater, are those Living Rooms — not just for their furniture but for what they reveal about the industry's attitude toward architectural space in a digital era.
In the years after World War II, as Hollywood grew more and more anxious about the rise of television, it responded by building theaters (including the 1963 Cinerama Dome, now part of the ArcLight) and developing widescreen film technology that emphasized everything an evening at home with Ed Sullivan couldn't offer: scale, grandeur and a sense of public-ness. The Cinerama Dome was based on the geodesic designs of Buckminster Fuller. The industry wanted to convey the sense that even if television had captured the present, film very much owned the future.
This time around Hollywood is openly admitting the extent to which the public now associates the movie-watching experience with the comforts of home. It would be overstating the case to say that the building's design flows directly from Landmark's anxiety about where the movie business is headed. But despite the sweep of its larger auditoriums, the Dallas influence in its interior design and the sizable clamor that is sure to rise from its wine bar most weekends, the place has a certain smallness about it.
June 1st, 2007, 08:20 AM
May 24, 2007
L.A. club scene will sizzle this summer
Pick your party this summer — even Prince might be throwing one too.
By Heidi Siegmund Cuda, Special to The Times
When the weather starts to sizzle, so does L.A.'s club scene. Old bars are getting a new polish, new restaurants and lounges are being readied for their close-ups and contractors are working overtime to get venues open in time to take advantage of the hot, hot heat.
And even superstars — like Prince, who sources say is planning a seven-week residency at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood — make special plans.
So many options, so many skimpy outfits to choose from. Here are a few of our hottest picks for your summertime nighttime to-do list:
Hollywood mogul Adolfo Suaya and partner Michael Sutton celebrate the grand opening of Charcoal (8372 Sunset Blvd.) this week. After toying with a variety of concepts, Suaya teamed up with designer Dodd Mitchell to create a swanky American grill. Suaya, who owns huge chunks of Hollywood real estate as well as the Gaucho Grill franchise, and Xenii promoter Sutton, already nailed Hollywood with the Lodge, their upscale steakhouse. Now the duo are hoping Charcoal will light Hollywood on fire. Located in the ArcLight Cinemas complex, Charcoal is aiming for the dinner-and-a-date crowd, with its ample use of leather and stone, along with DJs on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
And in late August, expect Suaya and Sutton to also debut Goa (1615 Cahuenga Blvd.), an Indian fusion restaurant designed by Kristofer Keith, who traveled to India for inspiration. Decorated in golds and greens, the restaurant will include three bars, a roomy outdoor patio and multiple archways. For a visual, picture an Indian temple in miniature.
Look for the latest from clubland veteran Chris Breed (Cabana Club/Pig 'N Whistle) to make its debut in mid-June. The name is Ritual (1742 Cahuenga Blvd.), and it's located at his former White Lotus in the Cahuenga Corridor. Breed says he's going "green" this time out, with natural materials, cork tables and an ample offering of organic food. Aiming for a "mind, body and soul experience," he hopes to create a space where guests can decompress amid the pulsating music spun by VJs. Rather than traditional DJs, Ritual plans to offer videos with every song. Another notable change from White Lotus is the removal of the club's private nooks. They've taken down walls to create more of a circular, flowy vibe.
And the lines are already forming for the rebirth of Mondays at Joseph's Cafe' (1775 N. Ivar Ave.), the club that started it all. The Greek restaurant was just another Greek restaurant until promoters Pantera Sarah and Bolthouse Productions swooped in and began attracting young divas before all those babies, DUIs and sex tapes. Sarah is bringing it back on June 4 as "Flashback Mondays" and expect a whole new cast of clowns to make headlines there weekly.
In new bar news, some of the hottest spots are downtown, uptown and the Valley. Nightlife connoisseur Cedd Moses (Golden Gopher/Broadway Bar) just celebrated the opening of his latest adventure, Seven Grand (515 W. 7th St.), a downtown whiskey bar that's one jigger authentic Irish pub and two parts punked-out hunting lodge. Little of it makes sense, but it's all good fun. Veteran designer Ricki Kline brings a cheeky chic to it, with dioramas of life-size duck hunters and wall-mounted jackalopes.
In more woodsy news, check out the latest from Craig Trager (Vintage Bar Group) and Michelle Marini (Lava Lounge), who teamed up for the Woods (1533 La Brea Ave.). Located at the former Lava Lounge, the Hollywood bar that brought strip-mall, tiki chic to the masses, the Woods looks and smells like a trip to the forest without having to pack a bottle of DEET. With cocktail tables made from tree trunks, antler chandeliers and yummy cedar walls, the Woods is already packing in a crowd that enjoys being belly up to a birch-filled bar under twinkling faux stars.
As the owners of the Room Hollywood, Ashley Joyce and Jeremy Thomas, prepare to debut the veteran bar's remodel in late June, Thomas is basking in the glow of his latest opus, Skinny's (4923 Lankershim Blvd.). The hip North Hollywood bar just made its debut last week and folks are already flocking to the nightspot, which features a spicy jukebox and a retro-cool styling.
Then there is the Roosevelt (7000 Hollywood Blvd.). Official announcement is still forthcoming, but Prince's plans call for seven consecutive Friday nights of music beginning in mid-June, with the high-end ticket also buying fans access to an after-hours dinner party.
Of course, on other nights there's also the Roosevelt's poolside lounge, Tropicana (7000 Hollywood Blvd.), which just reopened for summer with the Alliance packing the heat.
In more hot hotel news, look for Roosevelt hotelier Jason Pomeranc to open the Thompson Beverly Hills Hotel (9360 Wilshire Blvd.) in July. Among the details, a Dodd Mitchell-designed rooftop lounge called ABH (Above Beverly Hills) and the stylish Japanese eatery Bond St.
And cyber scenesters will be making the roving rounds this summer through the Wallop.com lounge. Packing a proper punch, this member's-only club changes venue from week to week and expect to hole up at such tony hotspots as Teddy's, Area and Les Deux, where it hits tonight.
June 2nd, 2007, 12:02 AM
hey maybe they can stop "lohan" and all the other underagers from getting plastered in there bars this time
June 5th, 2007, 06:26 AM
June 1, 2007
33-piece art collection gifted to MOCA
The three-decade collection of works by prominent international artists is donated by the museum's chairman of the board and his wife.
By Suzanne Muchnic, Times Staff Writer
In a pledge that reinforces a philanthropic tradition, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles has received the promise of a gift of 33 pieces from Clifford Einstein, chair of MOCA's board of trustees, and his wife, Madeline. The donation comprises works made over the last three decades by an international slate of prominent artists, including Kiki Smith, Nam June Paik, Mark Grotjahn, Sigmar Polke, Mike Kelley and Lari Pittman.
"MOCA's collection has been defined to a great degree by gifts of significant collections," said Jeremy Strick, the museum's director. "This is one further example, a group of works that complements what we have, reflects the exhibition history of the museum and adds new strength."
A highlight of the donation, Strick said, is Smith's "Train," an installation featuring a wax statue of a nude woman trailed by a stream of beads. The group of works also encompasses "Administrative Landscape," a steel sculpture by Tony Cragg; "Silver Shoes," a mixed-media installation by Yayoi Kusama; "Standing Figure," a resin, sand and steel sculpture by Magdalena Abakanowicz; and a butterfly-like abstraction in colored pencil by Grotjahn.
"We are looking forward to displaying individual works from the gift within the context of our permanent collection," Strick said.
The Einsteins, longtime collectors and MOCA supporters, have donated many individual works to the museum over the years, including pieces by photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, conceptualist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, painter Elizabeth Peyton and assemblagists Edward and Nancy Kienholz.
Their promised gift will join major collections previously donated by other patrons, including Blake Byrne, Rita and Taft Schreiber, Barry Lowen, Marcia Simon Weisman and Beatrice and Philip Gersh.
"The collections that have been gifted to MOCA over the years have set a terrific standard for any museum," Cliff Einstein said in a statement released by the museum. "Mandy and I are very proud to follow in these footsteps."
June 10th, 2007, 08:08 AM
Untapped tourism gems?
L.A.'s ethnic enclaves tend to be overlooked by visitors. A project aims to advertise their attractions and offer an economic boost.
By Teresa Watanabe, Times Staff Writer
June 9, 2007
In Highland Park, an explosion of art galleries in the last few years has made the neighborhood a leading light of contemporary Latino art in Los Angeles.
East Hollywood, meanwhile, features a profusion of Thai restaurants and spas, along with Armenian bakeries, shops and a boat-shaped library, which reflects the legend that Noah's Ark came to rest on an Armenian mountain.
And in Leimert Park, hip-hop artists, drummers and jazz and blues musicians have turned the tree-lined pedestrian space into a vibrant center of African American performance art.
But the three Los Angeles County neighborhoods, which are often overlooked by tourists, also have struggled because of a challenging business environment and physical deterioration. According to the 2000 Census, the three neighborhoods have lower median household incomes and higher poverty rates than the county average.
Now UCLA is partnering with nonprofit L.A. Commons and several other companies and organizations in an effort to turn the economic tide. The project, called Uncommon L.A., is touting cultural tourism to the three neighborhoods as a way to help bring in free-spending tourists to boost economic development. Among other things, the project is sponsoring a summer-long series of tours to the areas, including an exploration of Highland Park's art galleries tonight.
"Most tourists from other cities tend to see only a small part of L.A. — Disney Hall, Griffith Park … " said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, chair of the UCLA urban planning department, who helped launch Uncommon L.A. "But there is a whole vibrant part of Los Angeles they're missing: all of our ethnic neighborhoods. If we can help make them more visible, we see this as a model for economic development," she said.
Michael McDowell of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau agrees that the city's ethnic enclaves are a potential draw for tourists. Although the top five Los Angeles tourist attractions offer quintessential Southern California features of sun, fun and glitz — Universal Studios, the Getty Center, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive and Venice Beach — ethnic neighborhoods may be of particular interest to repeat visitors who already have seen the region's major landmarks, he said.
Half of the 25 million tourists who visit Los Angeles annually are from the San Diego-San Francisco-Phoenix triangle, he said, and probably are familiar with the region.
"They've done the landmarks," McDowell said. "They're looking for something new."
The experience of other cities suggests that cultural tourism can effectively boost economic development, according to Anne McAulay, director of cultural development for L.A. Commons, the community organization that is partnering with UCLA.
Boston's "Beyond Baked Beans" program, for instance, offers detailed guides to 19 neighborhoods. In the approximately 10 years the program has run, the districts have gained more than 3,600 jobs, 540 new businesses, 517 design improvement projects and more than $11 million in grants and private investment to the area, according to McAulay's research.
That research helped lay the groundwork for Uncommon L.A., which is being funded by a two-year, $75,000 grant from the UCLA Center for Community Partnerships. McAulay and others also have taken surveys of area merchants and compiled "cultural inventories" of each neighborhood so that they can map the restaurants, art galleries and other assets and use the information to develop a marketing plan for the three ethnic areas.
Many of the neighborhood merchants, artists and community leaders have embraced the project.
"It would be absolutely great to have more cultural tourists down here," said James Fugate, co-owner of Eso Won Books in Leimert Park, which is an enclave of African American businesses, cultural organizations and Art Deco architecture just off Crenshaw Boulevard in the Crenshaw district. "They would help the area a tremendous amount."
Fugate said his business has plunged by 50% since he moved his store, a large African American book store, from La Brea and Rodeo Avenues last October because of rising rents. Leimert Park is more affordable, he said, but a tad "lonely" when it comes to foot traffic, he said.
Uncommon L.A. aims to increase visitors by touting Leimert Park's performance art — jazz at World Stage, blues at Babe's and Ricky's Inn, and hip-hop at KAOS Network. But whether that will help boost business for area merchants is uncertain, mainly because performances usually don't start until 9 p.m., long after vendors selling African American jewelry, clothing, art and other artifacts close shop.
Over in the heart of Thai Town, restaurant owner Som Chai Jansaeng also described the challenges facing businesses that line Hollywood Boulevard between North Normandie and North Western avenues. Ever since the city officially designated the area as Thai Town in 1999, more tourists have visited but his profit margins and customer base have not grown, said Jansaeng, whose Ruen Pair restaurant features a decor of temple rubbings, Thai puppets and a red and gold Buddhist altar.
A proliferation of Thai restaurants has increased competition, he said. And rents have more than doubled in the last several years to $3.25 per square foot today, Jansaeng said.
Chancee Martorell, executive director of the Thai Community Development Center, said Jansaeng's plight underscores the double-edged sword of economic development: As neighborhoods prosper, lower-income residents and merchants could be pushed out by rising property values and greater competition.
Her center has conducted an assessment of area merchants and residents and found, among other things, a strong need to diversify Thai businesses, which are overwhelmingly restaurants. In recent years, she said, more spa and massage centers have opened, along with a Thai silk shop and dessert stores.
The Uncommon L.A. project promotes food in its marketing for Thai Town. Loukaitou-Sideris said her research suggested that a concentration of similar businesses in one area might benefit all merchants by drawing people to the area — as "auto rows" do.
In nearby Little Armenia, one of the biggest attractions is the ark-shaped library building at the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School, on North Alexandria Street between Hollywood and West Sunset boulevards. The area is also home to St. John Garabed Armenian Church and businesses, including bakeries that sell Armenian foods such as lahmajune, a flat meat pizza.
In Highland Park, the Uncommon L.A. project primarily will promote the local art scene, which has been revitalized by the proliferation of new galleries in the area. Although the area has been long known as an artists' colony that has been sustained by such organizations as the Arroyo Arts Collective, many of the galleries closed shop as the neighborhood declined, according to Kathy Gallegos, a local artist.
That began to change in 2000, when Gallegos opened Avenue 50 Studio to feature Latino, Chicano and other multicultural art. "We opened up and boom: Immediately it was popular," Gallegos said.
Since then, half a dozen other studios have opened in Highland Park and have formed the Northeast LA Art Gallery Assn. to offer gallery tours every second Saturday of the month, Gallegos said. Other businesses also have helped revitalize the area, including La Casa Blue coffeehouse on York Boulevard. Scott Robbins, the owner, turned an abandoned building used by drug dealers into an airy gathering space that features art, karaoke, film and food.
The Highland Park tour will begin today at 5 p.m. at Avenue 50 Studio, 131 N. Avenue 50. The tour will feature galleries, art openings and puppet shows, including the unveiling of a "Tree of Life" wood-carving project by students at Franklin High School and artist Poli Marichal. More information is available at http://www.lacommons.org .
"Inner-city communities are often described as problems," Loukaitou-Sideris said. "We're trying to identify what's good in a community and market it."
June 22nd, 2007, 07:01 AM
In a university not far away, sci-fi heaven
UC Riverside's library of science fiction, fantasy and horror books is the world's largest and a necessary trek for scholars.
By Sara Lin, Times Staff Writer
June 21, 2007
FOR the German monk searching for signs of God in "Star Trek," the obscure storeroom on the fourth floor of UC Riverside's main library was worth the trans-Atlantic pilgrimage.
Bernhard Janzen pored over television scripts and a video clip from "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," and noticed how an African American space station captain had found a religious stone tablet and, much like Moses, smashed it on the ground as he shepherded an oppressed people toward freedom.
The scene was central to Janzen's dissertation about religious symbolism in the space-age television series.
The monk is among a new breed of scholars flocking to UC Riverside for otherworldly research.
UC Berkeley has the world's premiere collection on Mark Twain — and Yale an unmatched trove of rare medieval manuscripts. But for research on Capt. Kirk, Frankenstein or Harry Potter, nothing tops the 110,000-volume Eaton collection at UC Riverside, the world's largest library of science fiction, fantasy and horror books.
"It's like going to Graceland if you're an Elvis fan," said Drew Morse, a creative writing professor who made the pilgrimage to Riverside from Ohio last summer to study rare poetry by "Fahrenheit 451" author Ray Bradbury.
As appreciation for the literary qualities of science fiction has grown in recent years, the UC Riverside collection has emerged from an academic ghetto. No institution had ever stockpiled science fiction like this, or subjected itself to such an internal clash over the worth of the genre.
Even public libraries had considered the books disposable literature, mainly because early science fiction was published almost exclusively in paperback. But a handful of professors and a librarian at UC Riverside saw something else, and started building.
IN 1969, English professor Robert Gleckner helped the school acquire 7,500 rare science fiction, fantasy and horror novels from an eccentric Bay Area physician, J. Lloyd Eaton. Among them was a first edition of Bram Stoker's "Dracula." Eaton had scribbled plot summaries and succinct criticisms of nearly every book on faded sheets of letterhead.
But Gleckner's colleagues mocked the collection, and he banished the volumes to a storeroom and never touched them again.
And for 10 years, no one paid the books any attention — until UC Riverside's head librarian, Eleanor Montague, found them and cracked open a few. She and comparative literature scholar George Slusser began cooking up an improbable scheme: Science fiction, for all its talk of wormholes and galaxies far, far away was a form of 20th-century American literature that someone ought to keep as a cultural archive.
So in 1979, Montague dubbed Slusser the Eaton collection's first curator.
When he broke the news to friends, they shook their heads and warned him it would be career suicide.
"They told me 'You'd better not touch that, you'll never get tenured,' " Slusser said. "I said 'Hell, I'm going to do it anyway.' "
Slusser went by instinct and started scooping up every new science fiction novel that came out. With less than $10,000 to work with, he handed hundred-dollar bills to foreign graduate students so they could cart back sci-fi from Russia, Brazil, China and other worldly locales.
Slusser haunted used-book stores and estate sales on his own time. His best finds came from reclusive packrats who had refused to toss their paperbacks. One collector had drained his pool and turned it into underground storage for thousands of science fiction magazines and fan newsletters, including issues of "Amazing Stories," a 1920s-era pamphlet regarded as the world's first science fiction magazine.
All the while, fellow faculty tried to torpedo Slusser's efforts.
English professors went after his funding, arguing to library administrators and English department heads that hoarding collectible James Joyce titles was more important than any featuring Frodo Baggins, Slusser said.
Other professors snickered at him in campus hallways. They even grilled his students during departmental exams: Why not study something more meaningful like feminism or multiculturalism?
"It was guerrilla warfare," Slusser said.
Slusser did win a faculty ally, Jean-Pierre Barricelli, who helped him put on an academic conference in 1979 about science fiction. But their dealings had to be done in secret — "under the counter," Slusser said. About 70 scholars showed up.
Years later, Barricelli became one of Slusser's greatest supporters during his bid for tenure. Barricelli, a scholar on Dante and Leopardi who taught comparative literature, died in 1997.
The conference became an annual event. Attending academics published their papers and helped graduate students win fellowships to pay for their studies at the Eaton collection.
They sponsored a Finnish cosmologist who charted visions of the universe from Dante to the 21st century. An MIT scholar pondered whether comic-book architecture inspired the look of modern cities.
And Janzen, the Capuchin monk from Germany, compared "Star Trek" story lines with modern history and the Bible. The United Federation of Planets, Janzen said, represented an idealized U.S.
"I'm not going to Star Trek conventions and I don't have a Star Trek uniform in my closet, but I'm very interested in concepts of scientific progress and how that affects our day-to-day life and how that changes our notions of being human," said Janzen, 45, who earned his doctorate at UC Riverside in June 2006. "I think science fiction is that genre that deals with those questions."
As word spread about the conferences and the research being done by Slusser's students, more people showed up. Some years, the conferences drew 200 scholars. Slusser's legion of faithful followers were mostly closeted sci-fi fans.
One was Paul Alkon, 71, who bottled up a secret passion for science fiction as a graduate student in Chicago in 1960. He became an expert on 18th-century British writers Samuel Johnson and Daniel Defoe. But once Alkon earned tenure at USC, he started work on a long-anticipated project: a treatise on the origins of futuristic fiction. His book required several research trips to the Eaton collection.
"It's a high-quality collection," Alkon said. "It covers so completely what was written — the bad stuff and the good stuff. You get a picture of what America was like in the 20th century in books."
Slusser dreamed of opening a science fiction studies center and graduate program at the university. In 1982, he sold the idea to then-Chancellor Tomas Rivera, who pledged money and his support. But when Rivera died of a heart attack, plans for the center fizzled. One after the other, Rivera's successors all said the same thing: There wasn't enough money.
Ten years passed, and a battle-weary Slusser grew bitter and depressed. Even Slusser's original ally, the library, eventually turned its back on him, he said. New leadership grew tired of being the sole sponsor behind Slusser's science fiction conferences and cut his funding in 1999. Only the community of sci-fi fans kept them going, cobbling together the $5,000 Slusser needed for the conference.
To scholars like Alkon and others who had led academic double lives for so long, Slusser was their hero.
"All those years, George was the one-man show that kept the whole thing going — the conferences and the collection," Alkon said.
Even UC Riverside astrophysicists and biologists reached out to Slusser to lend moral support. Many owed their interest in science to futuristic stories they read as children.
Meanwhile, outside the university, something bigger was happening. The entertainment industry began cashing in on science fiction, which had struck a chord with the moviegoing public.
Many of the highest-grossing films of the last 30 years featured science fiction themes: "The Terminator," "Star Wars," "The Matrix."
Recent high-profile Hollywood films, such as "De'ja` Vu" and "I, Robot," lifted their story lines from Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov, respectively. The "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" movies spawned cult followings.
The same academicians who thumbed their noses at science fiction began designing classes with titles such as "The Philosophy of The Matrix" or the "The Science of Superheroes."
Within the literary establishment, professional organizations dedicated to the academic study of scientific and fantastic literature sprung to life, while a handful of critical literary journals discussed major works and trends. Scholars now convene regularly at academic conferences — gatherings far more serious than the often satirized fan conventions that attract costume-garbed aficionados.
"It's come of age," said Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Assn. of America, a professional group for language and literature scholars.
In 2004, the association's flagship journal and one of the most prestigious publications in literary studies, PLMA, published an issue that discussed science fiction exclusively.
Science fiction "is sort of at the edge of being canonized," said Georg Gugelberger, 66, UC Riverside professor emeritus of comparative literature. "I'm not the biggest fan. But it's significant. There are people who want to study it, and they should be allowed to."
There's been a change at UC Riverside, too. Six years ago the school hired a new director of special collections, Melissa Conway, who started spending more than half her $40,000 budget on science fiction acquisitions.
The English department succumbed to "Harry Potter" mania, holding a symposium in 2005. Fans garbed in pointy hats and capes munched on chocolate frogs while listening to professors debate disability and discrimination between non-magical muggles and wizards.
STILL, nearly 30 years of fighting with administrators as well as his own department took its toll on Slusser. He'd done double duty as Eaton collection curator and professor, teaching a full schedule of comparative literature classes and advising doctoral theses.
He retired in 2005 to work on several long-anticipated books about science fiction.
"I just ran out of steam," he said.
The library is still searching for a new curator.
But there's talk about starting the nation's first doctoral program in science fiction studies — and bringing Slusser, now 67, out of retirement to help build it.
He still can't quite believe the change in attitude at the university. When the library invited Slusser back in February to give a lecture about utopian societies in science fiction, they welcomed him with a big cake.
Finally, he said, his colleagues know they have a treasure in the Eaton collection, "and they're going to do something with it."
June 27th, 2007, 05:51 AM
June 15, 2007
He holds a mirror up to a weary world
Manet commented on work and society in a masterpiece painting loaned to the Getty.
By David Pagel, Special to The Times
If you've ever had a job that sucked the life right out of you, you know what it's like to be the young woman in E'douard Manet's 1882 painting "A Bar at the Folies-Berge`re." Boredom would be a relief from the despondency her expression makes palpable.
Manet's barmaid, whose pasty face is currently on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, is sufficiently numb to be blase' about the indulgences around her: succulent oranges, fresh-cut flowers, expensive drinks and crystal chandeliers. But she is not numb enough to be unaware of her wretched unhappiness.
It's a peculiar bind. This dispirited server is unable to put her mind on autopilot and go through the motions of being a good employee — biding her time until her shift ends and she can get on with the rest of her life, which at least holds out the possibility of being interrupted by a satisfaction or two. Her face makes it clear that there is no escape, that this is it. Her dead-end job sums up what it is like to live without hope, when there is nothing to look forward to except more of the same — or worse.
Manet (1832-83) managed, in the last masterpiece he painted, to make an anguished moment during an ordinary day into a stunning monument to modern alienation.
His painting has been lent to the Getty, where it is making its West Coast debut, by the Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery in London. It was last exhibited in the United States in 1988. But now it is an exhibition unto itself, with more curators, Scott Allan and Scott Schaefer, than paintings. Measuring slightly larger than 3 feet by 4 feet, "A Bar at the Folies-Berge`re" resonates today in large part because of the emotional connection it establishes between its disenchanted barmaid and viewers who have experienced similar misery.
Everything else in the oil on canvas is about disconnection. Manet painted it in his studio, where he was confined by a malady of the nervous system commonly caused by syphilis. Before that, he had loved to stroll the boulevards of Paris, visiting cafes, bars and — the 19th century equivalent of contemporary clubs — variety show venues such as the Folies-Berge`re.
His painting depicts one of the many small counters set up on the balcony and orchestra levels. Think Dodger Stadium concession meets auxiliary bar in a huge reception hall, with the added attraction that the counter girls at the Folies-Berge`re were rumored to be prostitutes. Ogling became an art form.
Manet hired a Folies-Berge`re employee as a model and got a friend to stand in as the top-hatted customer whose reflection occupies the picture's upper right corner. He had a mock bar built in his studio.
The painting's foreground is straightforward: an elongated still life, with bottles, a bowl and a vase set on a marble counter.
Its middle ground follows the format of portraiture, with a vividly rendered figure front and center. But Manet breaks conventions. He portrays not an individual but a type, an unexceptional working woman. And he does so without turning her into a caricature — or a cliche'. This gives his picture its social power, shifting its subject away from personal feelings and toward experiences shared by everyone who has had to work for a living.
The painting's background — the majority of its surface — is the reflection in a mirror on the wall behind the barmaid. Its frame runs just above and parallel to the bar, sandwiching the barmaid in a narrow space.
Initially, reconciling what appears in the mirror with where you stand in front of the painting is difficult. It seems as if the mirror should angle away from the bar or the barmaid's reflection is too far to the right.
Both options presume that Manet painted his picture as if he was painting a portrait — standing in front of the barmaid. But he wasn't. A brochure available at the Getty summarizes a study by art historian Malcolm Park, who argued that everything in the painting makes visual sense when you realize that Manet painted it from an angle far to the barmaid's left — as if staring at her out of the corner of his eye.
In the painting, it looks as if customer and barmaid are engaged in a face-to-face conversation. Park's diagram reveals that to be an illusion: In Manet's setup, and in the world it mimicked, no one was eye to eye with anyone else. Each was isolated, lost in his or her thoughts.
At the Getty, a large mirror has been hung on the wall opposite the painting, presumably to help viewers understand its optical mechanics. The gesture is gratuitous. Manet's point-blank picture of urban alienation does not need such trappings. The profound disconnect he painted 125 years ago is still part of modern life, despite its increasingly spectacular distractions.
What: "Bar at the Folies-Berge`re"
Where: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los AngelesO"
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Mondays.
Ends: Sept. 9
Contact: (310) 440-7300 or www.getty.edu
July 3rd, 2007, 05:38 AM
July 2, 2007
Getty gets into right frame of mind
A lot of time, angst and effort went into the European drawings exhibition, the first at the museum's new drawings galleries. Think 'sycamore bark.'
By Suzanne Muchnic, Times Staff Writer
The basic task seemed simple enough, especially at a place like the J. Paul Getty Museum. Match 40 drawings with appropriate mats and frames and hang them. Nothing particularly daunting in that. So curator Lee Hendrix, who arrived at the Getty in 1985 and has led the drawings department since 1998, took a sabbatical last summer, just as work began on "Defining Modernity: European Drawings, 1800-1900," the current exhibition that inaugurates the museum's new drawings galleries.
When she returned in September, though, she says she "was accosted by people saying, 'This is really complicated, and it's going to be disastrous if we don't mobilize in a big way. I realized that unless we made a concerted effort to think through every part of the project and really control the aesthetic experience that we wanted to produce, it was going to be a catastrophe. During the last few months there were probably, at any given moment, 10 people dealing with it."
In fact, "armies of people were involved," Hendrix says. "It was a team effort, and it took forever." Curators, mat makers, framers, color consultants, exhibition designers and technicians plied their trades. A storied consultant imparted the pivotal word: sycamore. The project took 18 months, all to create a setting that, at its most successful, would fade into the background.
Part of the fuss was because the show would launch a program that would treat drawings as independent works of art. That isn't a new idea, but it's an abrupt change at the Getty. The museum founded its drawings collection 26 years ago and acquired its first 19th century example, "Still Life With Blue Pot" by Paul Ce'zanne, in 1983. When the Getty Center opened in 1997, the cache of drawings was relatively small, and it was treated as a study collection. The drawings were mounted with standard cream-colored mats, without frames, and displayed in a cave-like gallery outfitted with glass cases.
But "Defining Modernity" would bring a selection from the collection, which has grown to about 700 pieces, onto the walls, if not into the light, exactly — to protect the artwork, the light level would have to stay low.
Anxiety would not.
With its fat budget and technical resources, the Getty is famous for doing labor-intensive projects. A task like converting former photo exhibition spaces into drawings galleries and putting up a show from the collection, though, wouldn't appear to be one of them.
Complications began to arise, along with a certain Getty obsessiveness, when Hendrix and assistant curator Christine Giviskos, who organized the show, decided to inaugurate the galleries with 19th century material to celebrate the fastest-growing part of the drawings collection and complement the concurrent exhibition of Edouard Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Berge`re," a masterpiece of 19th century painting lent by the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. It wasn't an easy place to start.
"Before the 19th century, frames conformed to periods and nationalities," Hendrix says. "Dutch 17th century frames are Dutch 17th century frames. The Impressionists abandoned the rules, so anything goes." Some artists preferred historic frames, but others went modern or shopped in junk stores, she says. "It's the first era when people married the image and the frame in an individual aesthetic. Drawings were framed, hung on walls and treated as works of art in and of themselves. We had to take a trial-and-error approach to understand the spirit of each drawing."
Matting and framing museum pieces is not as simple as it may look. Dressing up each of the Getty works in a style thought to be in keeping with the artist's preference and the character of the art required research, not to mention lots of looking and consultation.
Edgar Degas often designed simple machine-made frames with grooved surfaces, like the off-white period frame chosen for the Getty's 1879 drawing of an acrobat, "Miss Lala at the Fernando Circus." The energetic portrayal of a wildly popular performer hanging by her teeth needed a streamlined frame to emphasize the modernity of the subject, Hendrix says.
Ce'zanne's watercolor-over-graphite still life presented a different sort of challenge.
"We went to another extreme, and one you would never expect," Hendrix says. "We have paired the most modern of our 19th century drawings with a Louis XIV frame, the most historic, ornamented, carved, gilded, reactionary frame in the exhibition. The drawing is all about the dynamic interaction of the elements, a busy, floral Provenc,al tablecloth, draped and mounded over a table with a pitcher and pots and apples that seem about to tumble off the edge. We started out framing it in a very plain, modern gold frame, and it didn't help the art at all. So we had this inspiration. There is a wonderful synergy between this vividly carved and gilded, monumental frame and the muscular dynamism of the Ce'zanne."
Paul Gauguin's "Head of a Tahitian Girl" got a plain, weathered frame that reflects the primitive style of the 1892 charcoal drawing and a light gray mat that opens the space around the subject, who stares with an angry expression. Georges Seurat's ghostly, inward-looking image of his mother, shaded in black crayon on textured paper, is enclosed in a dark gray mat and a machine-made frame that has lost most of its gilding.
"Each one of these frames and mats has been arrived at by this aesthetic process," Hendrix says. "What opens the drawing? What closes it in? What complements its unique range of colors?" It's the experience familiar to anyone who's taken a print to be framed — inspiration, disappointment and surprise, but here with trained eyes and the layers of possibilities afforded by the Getty's resources. (By contrast, seven pieces lent by the Courtauld arrived in identical cream mats and narrow wood moldings and stayed that way.)
A natural palette
Most of the frames were culled from the Getty's large holding and adapted to fit. Mats were also made on site, but with about 30 colors to choose from, the Getty staff sought counsel from Calvin Brown, a preparator at the Princeton University Art Museum who for many years made mats for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
He visited the Getty and told Hendrix, "Limit your colors to sycamore bark," she recalls. Cryptic as the advice may have sounded, it was a means of finding choices that harmonized naturally. "We have a grove of sycamore trees here, so we went out and looked at them," Hendrix says. "We ended up with about eight colors, a range of beiges, browns and grays."
The wall colors also went through "several permutations," Hendrix says, "each time tried out with huge painted rectangles, with some of the drawings placed in front of them." Each gallery was to have a colored accent wall coupled with three walls of a lighter, complementary hue. The theory, she says, was to create a distinctive ambience related to the content of the artworks — portraits and nudes in the first room, more adventurous themes of "modern life" and landscape in the second.
On the first try, the navy blue in the first gallery seemed "too dense," she says, and the teal blue in the adjacent room "didn't say enough about innovation in the 19th century." In the second round, cerulean blue worked in the first gallery, but a vibrant purple taken from Pierre Bonnard's "Moulin Rouge" pastel overpowered the artworks. After the mat colors were selected, the wall color in the second gallery shifted to a relatively soft yellow.
"We had to back off of the idea of communicating 'innovation' through the wall color and let the drawings themselves communicate this," she says. (The walls themselves do communicate a new brightness, because the light is more evenly dispersed against their colorful surfaces.)
Oblivious to the behind-the-scenes struggle, visitors simply look at the artworks. But that's the point. The idea, Hendrix says, was "to provide a meditative experience for visitors to relate to each drawing as an individual work of art." And hardly notice the frame.
July 10th, 2007, 06:28 AM
July 9, 2007
Hammer nails a major collection
The museum is set to inherit drawings and other works by artists including De Kooning, Pollock and Warhol.
By Mike Boehm, Times Staff Writer
Continuing to build its contemporary art holdings despite prohibitive market prices, the UCLA Hammer Museum has been chosen by Colorado developer Larry Marx and his wife, Susan, to inherit their collection of drawings and other works on paper by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha and other major figures of the post-World War II era.
Neither the museum nor the Marxes placed a dollar value on the gift, which Gary Garrels, the Hammer's chief curator and deputy director of exhibitions, said has been written into the Marxes' will. The Hammer will have a free hand in borrowing or displaying pieces from the collection until the Aspen, Colo., couple, who also have a home in Marina del Rey, die or decide to convey them. The collection also includes works by Claes Oldenburg, Richard Diebenkorn, Philip Guston and Brice Marden
Garrels said that, given an exploding contemporary art market, the present value of the collection is "seven figures or more."
The Hammer, which already owns more than 45,000 pieces of graphic art dating from the Renaissance, is spending its acquisition funds on not-yet-established artists, betting it can pick tomorrow's stars today at affordable prices. The Marx gift, focused on the period from the 1950s to the 1970s, helps the museum fill a void in its collection.
"For us, this is an absolute dream collection, a cornerstone for decades to come," Garrels said. The bequest also includes paintings by Joan Mitchell and Eva Hesse.
The Marxes, 61-year-old Stanford graduates, continue to collect drawings and other works on paper and plan to add to the portfolio bound for the Hammer.
"It's very much an ongoing relationship," Larry Marx, a Wall Street investment fund manager turned developer, said Friday.
The Marxes previously had given large paintings by de Kooning and Eric Fischl to the Denver Art Museum but decided the Hammer would be the best home for their works on paper and related paintings because of its focus on the genre.
"A dear friend of mine, an important collector who has given a lot of art to San Francisco MoMA and the Denver Museum, advised me to make sure [my] art went somewhere it would be important," Marx said. "I'm pretty convinced the Hammer is a good home for our kids, so to speak."
The Marxes began visiting the Hammer Museum about seven years ago. Two winters ago, they invited Garrels and museum director Ann Philbin to Aspen to browse their collection, for which they wanted to secure a permanent, public home.
The museum leaders gradually won the donors' confidence that the Hammer was the right repository because of its aesthetic direction, its university presence and its solid fiscal grounding.
July 14th, 2007, 03:49 PM
Mammoth may find home in Santa Barbara
If Moorpark approves, the fossilized remains would go to the Museum of Natural History.
By Gregory W. Griggs, Times Staff Writer
July 14, 2007
Moorpark officials may have found a final resting place for the skeleton of a fossilized mammoth that roamed the area up to 1 million years ago.
If the City Council approves the plan next week, the skeletal pieces will be donated to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Hugh Riley, assistant city manager, said the museum beat out the larger Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County because of its enthusiasm for creating a public exhibit.
"They were so excited and enthusiastic about it," Riley said. "We didn't get that same enthusiasm from L.A. County … I guess you could say we wanted to be a big mammoth in a smaller museum, rather than a small mammoth in a much bigger museum."
A bulldozer operator grading a construction site north of downtown first spotted the fossilized bones in March 2005.
Trevor J. Lindsey, the paleontologist who discovered the mammoth at the housing site, said this is probably the first time such fossils have been discovered in Moorpark.
"It's a very early species of mammoth for North America," said Lindsey of Santa Paula-based Ecological Sciences Inc. "It was a full-grown adult female; she's 13 feet [high] at the shoulder."
Experts believe this fossilized animal entered the southern part of the United States more than 1 million years ago, and it is considered quite rare. Only five other fossil sites with this type of mammoth have been reported in Southern California, and this is the first one so close to the coastline.
Karl L. Hutterer, executive director of the Santa Barbara museum, said his facility must first build storage space to accommodate the Moorpark mammoth. More than 70% of its skeleton was uncovered. Hutterer hopes to have the fossils in place by year's end, and said it would take two to three years — and generous donations from patrons — to ensure that the display can reach its full potential.
"We have a geology fossil exhibit, which is slated for redesign and expansion, and the Moorpark mammoth will fit in perfectly," said Hutterer, adding that the southern mammoth skeleton will dwarf the museum's pygmy mammoth on display, which is closer to the size of a bull.
The director said plans call for expanding the museum to include a space where museum visitors could watch mammoth bones and other fossils being prepared for display.
"We'll also work with the Moorpark schools, so students can learn about the geologic history of the area when mammoths roamed," Hutterer said.
July 18th, 2007, 04:54 PM
Cambodia Town is now on the map
A stretch of Anaheim Street in Long Beach has the new designation, and its immigrant merchants are happy for the historic recognition.
By Anna Gorman, Times Staff Writer
July 18, 2007
Sithea San fled the killing fields in Cambodia as a teenager and found refuge in Long Beach, where she attended college, got married and bought a house.
Now, more than a quarter-century later, San finally has a place that she and thousands of other native Cambodians say they can call home.
A strip of Anaheim Street was officially named the nation's first "Cambodia Town" earlier this month — the most recent cultural designation in a county that is home to Little India, Little Tokyo and Historic Filipinotown.
City and community leaders say the designation not only will recognize the contributions of Cambodians, but also will help revitalize the neighborhood by attracting more businesses, visitors and tourists to the area. San and others are making plans to put up Cambodia Town signs and set up a business improvement district and are considering building a community center and a memorial to those who died under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.
"Now we have the name," said San, chairwoman of Cambodia Town Inc. "Now we have to make it happen. We have the responsibility to make the place nice."
Long Beach, known as the Cambodian capital of the United States, is believed to have the largest concentration of Cambodians outside of the home country. Some of the first Cambodians in the United States were students who attended Cal State Long Beach in the 1960s as part of an exchange program. Waves of refugees followed in the 1970s as they escaped the Khmer Rouge regime, which took the lives of more than 1 million people. According to 2000 census figures, about 20,000 Cambodians live in Long Beach, but community leaders estimate a larger population.
Cambodia Town runs along the Anaheim corridor, from Junipero Avenue to Atlantic Avenue. There are already scores of Cambodian-run businesses on the street, including jewelry stores, restaurants, travel agencies and fabric shops.
At Monorom restaurant Tuesday, a lunchtime crowd ate Cambodian noodle soup while Khmer-language music videos played on a television. Owner Sopha Nhoung, who came to the area more than 20 years ago, said he was proud to finally be recognized.
"They have Chinatown, Koreatown, Thai Town," Nhoung said. "We've been living here for a long time. We deserved this."
Down the street at Angkorwat Art, Sopheap Samrieth said he signed a petition that supported the designation. But his main reason was to draw customers.
"It will bring more people here," said Samrieth, as he pointed out paintings depicting the ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. "It will generate more business."
The drive to get a Cambodia Town began in 2001, when a few community members began meeting to talk about the possibility.
The leaders brought the issue to the City Council last year. Some critics expressed concerns that the designation could lure more gangs to the area and that it would exclude Latinos and African Americans.
But Cambodian leaders argued that the title would help the entire city by making the street safer and cleaner and by developing the neighborhood into a regional destination.
Naming the area Cambodia Town would also highlight immigrants' cultural heritage and encourage youths to get involved helping their community, San said. In June, the city of Long Beach commissioned a survey that showed wide support for the cultural designation. On July 3, the City Council voted 8-1 in favor of naming the stretch Cambodia Town.
Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, who voted for the designation, said the new name is a welcome mat for Cambodians, as well as for others who want to experience something different in Long Beach.
"We are leveraging a very unique destination," she said. "What makes Anaheim [Street] different is this collection of shops, stores and businesses that happen to be mostly Cambodian American owned."
Not all of the businesses on Anaheim Street are Cambodian. Manny Caldera, manager of La Bodega Market, said the name wasn't important to him.
"As long as the business is good, it doesn't matter," said Caldera. His store caters to Latinos. "They can name it Cambodia Town or any other."
Veasna Kiet, 40, who runs Phnom Penh Express travel agency, said the new name makes him proud. "We live far away from our country," he said. "Now we have a hometown here."
July 21st, 2007, 06:49 PM
Best Arts & Entertainment
Cool concerts... dance destinations... museum diversions... amazing art
by Downtown News Staff http://www.downtownnews.com/
# Best Concert Venue: Walt Disney Concert Hall
2nd Place: Staples Center
# Best Museum: Museum of Contemporary Art
2nd Place: FIDM Museum
# Best Gallery: The Hive Gallery
2nd Place: The Happy Lion
# Best Theater: Ahmanson Theatre
2nd Place: Mark Taper Forum
# Best Entertainer: Max Vontaine at Cicada
# Best New Entertainment Option: Downtown Comedy Club
# Best Outdoor Concerts: Grand Performances
# Best Rock and Roll Venue: Little Radio
# Best Winter Music Scene: Spaceland on Ice at Pershing Square
# Best Street Scene: Ozomatli at Grand Performances
# Best Jukebox: Hop Louie
# Best Dance Night: La Cita, Thursdays
# Best Salsa Dancing: Tatou
# Best Place to Meet a Famous Author: Aloud at Central Library
# Best Video Game: Typing of the Dead, Little Tokyo Shopping Center
# Best First Date: Lucha VaVoom
# Best Freebie: Dance Downtown
# Best Smelling Museum: FIDM's Annette Green Perfume Museum
# Best Museum Event: First Fridays at the Natural History Museum
# Best Play of the Past Year: 'Water & Power,' by Culture Clash at the Taper
# Best Place for a Birthday Party: Bar 107
# Best Tours: Esotouric
# Best Gallery: Bert Green Fine Art
# Best Local Artist: Artemio Rodriquez of La Mano Press
BEST CONCERT VENUE
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Along with being the Best Concert Venue, the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall is a shoo-in for the fictional prizes of Best Colossal Instrument, Best Mammoth Sculpture and Best Shiny Object. The Grand Avenue space's wooden interior acts as a giant tuning device to create pitch-perfect acoustics; its ship-like form rivals the best off-the-wall artworks across the street at MOCA; and it's, well, very, very shiny. Unveiled in 2003, the landmark structure has housed everyone from the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing classical concerts to DJs spinning all-night raves. The only danger (to visiting performers, that is) is that the concert hall just might steal the show. At 111 S. Grand Ave., (323) 850-2000, musiccenter.org/wdch or laphil.com.-Lea Lion
Museum of Contemporary Art
From the clean lines of the Arata Isozaki-designed exterior to the Minimalist sensibility of its galleries, MOCA is the essence of pared-down Modernism. Which is only fitting considering that the museum houses one of the foremost collections of art created since 1940 and is the force behind some of the most talked-about exhibits in the country. This year, the museum debuted Skin+Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture in its Grand Avenue space and reopened its Frank Gehry-designed Little Tokyo outpost, the Geffen Contemporary, with WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution. MOCA also hosts regular events such as Art Talk, a series of lectures by prominent art scholars, and Night Vision, a multimedia event held on Saturday nights in the summer. At 250 S. Grand Ave., (213) 626-6222 or moca.org.-LL
The Hive Gallery
When Nathan Cartwright opened the Hive Gallery and Studios two years ago, he wanted it to be more than just another art gallery. He envisioned the long, narrow storefront in the Historic Core as more art community than commercial endeavor. In fact, he imagined the space would function a bit like its namesake: a beehive. Spend a few minutes at the Hive and it's obvious that Cartwright (who refers to himself as "the queen bee") got exactly what he wanted. The 3,500-square-foot gallery, which is haphazardly divided into zones for exhibition, installation, performance and studio, buzzes with activity. Specializing in "pop surreal" art, the Hive opens a new group show on the first Saturday of every month. At 729 S. Spring St., (213) 955-9051 or thehivegallery.com.-LL
There is something magical about approaching the Ahmanson Theatre, tickets in hand, on show night. Surrounded by decked-out theatergoers, the Ahmanson's glass entryway glows with promise - and for good reason. In the 40 years it has graced the pinnacle of Bunker Hill, the Ahmanson has staged works by America's foremost playwrights, including Neil Simon, Wendy Wasserstein, August Wilson and Terrence McNally. Its stage has also hosted a veritable who's who of Broadway and Hollywood stars, among them Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison, James Earl Jones, Lynn Redgrave and Cherry Jones. Recent highlights included John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men. At 135 N. Grand Ave., (213) 628-2772 or taperahmanson.com.-LL
Max Vontaine at Cicada
His swagger makes the men take notice. His velvet voice makes the women swoon. And when he sings a Sinatra ballad, fuggetaboutit! Max Hartman's alter ego Max Vontaine croons at Downtown's elegant Cicada restaurant every Thursday night from 8-11 p.m., unlit cigarette in hand and martini shaker at the ready. The consummate entertainer, dapperly dressed in a suit with expertly coiffed hair, keeps the songs coming, with hits from Bobby Darin to Dean Martin to Tom Jones. Whether you sip cocktails at the small lounge or dine on seared Muscovy duck breast, Vontaine is sure to be the highlight of the evening. At 617 S. Olive St., (213) 488-9488 or cicadarestaurant.com.-Kathryn Maese
BEST NEW ENTERTAINMENT OPTION
Downtown Comedy Club
A comedian walked into a bar... Actually, in this case it was two comedians, and the bar turned into a comedy club. Last January, funny man Kevin Garnier and Garrett Morris, a member of the original "Saturday Night Live" cast, opened the Downtown Comedy Club at Charlie O's Lounge in the Alexandria Hotel. Conceived as a Downtown outpost of the comedy scene that is largely centered in Hollywood and West Hollywood, the club hosts live stand-up on Friday and Saturday nights. With an ever-changing roster of talent of the household name - Craig Shoemaker, Jim Brogan and Joe Rogan have played the venue - and lesser-known variety, the club guarantees a laugh-packed punch line - literally, or your money back. At Charlie O's, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., (213) 514-5345 or downtowncomedyclub.com.-LL
BEST OUTDOOR CONCERTS
California Plaza is a beautiful spot for an impromptu picnic. But so much the better if that picnic happens to coincide with one of Grand Performances' noon concerts that run for most of the summer. For more than two decades, Grand Performances has brought musicians from around the world to the heart of Downtown Los Angeles for an eclectic line-up of lunchtime shows and evening concerts. The 21st season debuted with GP on Grand, a block party featuring Los Angeles' Ozomatli. The rest of the season promises more local bands as well as acts from China, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Belize and Mali, to name a few. At California Plaza, 300-350 S. Grand Ave., (213) 687-2159 or grandperformances.org.-LL
BEST ROCK AND ROLL VENUE
Since Al's Bar shuttered its doors years ago, major touring rock acts have often been forced to pick between Hollywood, Silver Lake and Long Beach, bypassing Downtown. This year, that changed thanks to Little Radio, a warehouse venue in the Industrial District that has managed to drag rock and roll kicking and screaming back to the Central City. The space hosts the occasional (and often secret) big name rock show: Sonic Youth has graced the stage, as have cult heroes Charlatans UK and the Jesus and Mary Chain, and current hot rockers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. If everything goes as planned, Little Radio could transform into a full-scale club within the year, so start lining up. At 1218 Long Beach Ave. or littleradio.com.-Evan George
BEST WINTER MUSIC SCENE
Spaceland on Ice at Pershing Square
Last year, Pershing Square added some flair to its winter wardrobe. With the debut of the palm-tree lined skating rink and the accompanying tribute-heavy concert series, the folks at L.A. Rec and Parks teamed up with Liz Garo, a concert producer for Silver Lake nightclub Spaceland, for Spaceland on Ice, a free series featuring local indie bands. Every Thursday night, hipsters danced and kids skated to a colorful sampling of acts that included Silver Lake rockers Great Northern, Echo Park duo the Submarines, the bilingual punk band Los Abandoned and Boyle Heights ska group the Upground. Look for Spaceland-programmed concerts to continue this summer. At Pershing Square, 532 S. Olive St., (213) 847-4970 or laparks.org.-LL
BEST STREET SCENE
Ozomatli at Grand Performances
When Grand Performances launches its summer concert series at California Plaza, it's always a party. This year, however, organizers kicked it up a notch, taking the action to the streets with an all-out block party and beer garden. On Sunday, June 10, two-time Grammy-winning group Ozomatli headlined on a massive stage on Grand Avenue beneath the office towers of Bunker Hill. More than 5,000 people danced in the street to the Los Angeles act's blend of Latin, rock and hip hop, with families toting babies and hardcore groupies all digging the scene. It was a night to remember. At grandperformances.org or ozomatli.com-KM
There are plenty of hip and modern jukeboxes in Downtown. Some are completely computerized and even take ATM cards. But frequently those machines are so popular you have to wait hours to hear your selections. Hop Louie, in Chinatown, takes care of that problem. Sure, the jukebox is old and relies heavily on classics from artists such as Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra and Patsy Cline, but visit during the day or night and it is ready to go - and most importantly, it's almost always all yours. Best of all, there's a mini platform right in front of the stage so you and your friends can have a private dance party. Just remember to bring the quarters. Hop Louie is at 950 Mei Ling Way, (213) 628-4244.-Kathleen Nye Flynn
BEST DANCE NIGHT
La Cita, Thursdays
Yeah, there's usually a line outside. And yes, a few ultra-hipsters are in the crowd. Nonetheless, La Cita's "Dance Right" Thursday night gets kicking and it's worth the hubbub. The lineup usually includes spin-meisters such as DJ Diabetic who know how to get the crowd moving, and by midnight, you're getting a full workout. Arrive early and you can usually find drink specials like $1 Dewars. If you can take your eyes off all the pretty people, check out the architecture in the 100-year-old bar. Also, be sure to smile for the camera: Ronny's Photo Booth might take your pic and put it online, so if you don't remember the night at least you'll know what you looked like. At 336 S. Hill St., (213) 687-7111, myspace.com/lacita.-KNF
BEST SALSA DANCING
Located in City West near the LAUSD headquarters, this $1.5 million supper club has been heating up the Downtown nightlife scene since opening early this year. While club goers frequent the multi-level grand ballroom and listen to DJs spin on the 40-foot stage, the venue also features a clubby restaurant that hosts salsa every Friday night. The free lesson from 8:30-9:30 p.m. is taught by the suave John Scudder, formerly the instructor at the Conga Room, and his partner Katia Vaz. In addition, four-time world salsa champion Liz Lira helps newcomers master some moves so they can dance the night away to the tunes of DJ Zonik. There are booths for dining, drinking and resting your feet. At 333 S. Boylston St., (213) 482-2000.-KM
BEST PLACE TO MEET A FAMOUS AUTHOR
Aloud at Central Library
Since its inception in 1993, Aloud has brought the great minds of contemporary literature to Downtown Los Angeles audiences. The Aloud archive reads like a Who's Who of modern thought: Everyone from writer Tom Wolfe to feminist Gloria Steinem to philanthropist Eli Broad has graced the library's Mark Taper Auditorium stage. Not to mention David Mamet (above), Adrienne Rich, Jeffrey Eugenides, Susan Sontag, Terry Gross, Art Spiegelman, Kazuo Ishiguro and Cynthia Ozick. And who could forget the night Patti Smith played an impromptu acoustic set? Or the time August Wilson read from The Piano Lesson? Since Aloud events follow a conversational format, there is usually time to ask your favorite author that burning question. At Mark Taper Auditorium, 630 W. Fifth St., (213) 228-7025 or aloudla.org.-LL
BEST VIDEO GAME
Typing of the Dead, Little Tokyo Shopping Center
"Type or Die!!" commands the screen of the game in Japan Arcade, in the Little Tokyo Shopping Center, and I have little time to do otherwise as a demon carrying a plunger (?!) rushes at me. The screen prompts me to type "bitou," and as I do the monster's arms fall off and then so does half its head. Take that! But then there's a flaming-headed creature wielding golf clubs, though it's no match for my hastily typed "parifeno-ru." "Moti," "dokuhu," "kabe," hah, I can't be stopped. I assume these are phonetics of Japanese terms (you can type in Japanese characters too), and I've got no idea who invented this game or why, but again, there's no time to ponder as now I'm being chased by a big-toothed zombie. Oh no, it's taking too long to type the prompt "inumanuano." Help, I can't type fast enough and the zombie is eating my brai... At 333 S. Alameda St., littletokyoshoppingcenter.com.-Jon Regardie
BEST FIRST DATE
Dinner and a movie? Played out. Coffee and dessert? Tre`s conservative. Instead, try taking that potentially special someone to Lucha VaVoom, a laugh-packed modern vaudeville show that alternates striptease acts with Mexican wrestling matches. Hosted by comedian Blaine Capatch about three times a year in the Mayan Theatre, Lucha VaVoom features an eccentric cast of characters including authentic masked Mexican wrestlers, and even mini luchadores. On the burlesque side of things, the Wau Wau Sisters do a heavy metal trapeze routine; the Poubelle Twins duke it out in the ring; and Karis takes the hula-hoop to new levels - and throws the audience for a gender-bending loop as well. And if your date doesn't relate? At least it will make for a good story. At the Mayan Theatre, 1038 S. Hill St., luchavavoom.com.-LL
With the onslaught of swanky new clubs in Downtown, it might seem that hitting the town means taking a hit in the wallet. Not so, thanks to Dance Downtown. On alternating Fridays throughout the summer, the Music Center Plaza transforms into a dance club of sorts - a free dance club, that is. Strings of multi-colored lanterns illuminate a 2,000-square-foot dance floor, where hundreds of people practice their moves to the sound of a live band. The event kicks off with a beginner lesson at 6:30 p.m. and then becomes a veritable dance party until 10 p.m. The style changes from week to week, but past nights have featured everything from swing to salsa to the Argentine tango. At Music Center Plaza, 135 N. Grand Ave., (213) 972-3660 or musiccenter.org.-LL
BEST SMELLING MUSEUM
FIDM's Annette Green Perfume Museum
The Annette Green Perfume Museum is the world's first and only museum of its kind. With a collection of more than 1,600 bottles, it's an olfactory paradise - except these bottles are of the still-in-the-box collector's item variety. Over the past 40 years, perfume expert Annette Green amassed a treasure trove of the world's most iconic scents. She donated her entire collection to FIDM, where it will be displayed on a rotating basis. Enshrined behind glass in an intimate, silver-walled room, the museum resembles an Art Deco cosmetics counter in a fictional department store. At FIDM Museum and Galleries, 919 S. Grand Ave., (213) 624-1200 or fidm.edu.-LL
BEST MUSEUM EVENT
First Fridays At the Natural History Museum
Where else could you check out an educational installation on gazelle migration while gulping merlot and taking in a set by a spastic New York rock band? Nowhere, which is why First Fridays at the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park has become such a scene. What began as a clever way to lure 20-something singles to a museum that sees mostly school field trips has grown into a trendy party locale for the young and old. At a May event, there was even a line around the block of people eager to get in. At 900 Exposition Blvd., (213) 763-DINO or nhm.org.-EG
BEST PLAY OF THE PAST YEAR
'Water & Power' By Culture Clash, Mark Taper Forum
It's fitting that L.A.'s best case of political theater was literally political theater. In Water & Power, local legends Culture Clash eviscerated L.A.'s machine politics. The tale of two brothers, a slick rising state senator and a corrupt, Rampart-reminiscent cop, took no prisoners, referencing everyone from Richard Alatorre to Kenny Hahn to Tom Hayden. One character even said, "I'm not pissed at Villaraigosa. I'm pissed that I'm not Villaraigosa." Still haunting is the scene set after midnight in the Water Grill, where a "fixer" agrees to help the cop holed up in a rundown motel, but only if his brother will kill a bill and instead allow some condo development on Eastside green space. One only wonders what Culture Clash would have lobbed had Rocky Delgadillo had his troubles a year earlier. At 135 N. Grand Ave., (213) 628-2772 or taperahmanson.com.-JR
BEST PLACE FOR A BIRTHDAY PARTY
So it's your birthday and you have nine different groups of friends who have never met. The best thing to do is get a place that allows people to meet, mingle and eventually dance the night away. At Bar 107, that will happen. If you plan on inviting the whole neighborhood, rent the back room (it's just $50). If you are lucky, the bartenders will remember to open up a private bar just for your party. Your guests can have a home base and then venture out into the rest of the bar, including the taxidermy-filled front room, the kicking dance area with a photo booth and a DJ, and a packed outdoor smoking alley. When everyone reconvenes to sing you happy birthday, it won't matter who knows who. At 107 W. Fourth St., (213) 625-7382.-KNF
In 2005, Kim Cooper, Larry Harnisch and Nathan Marsak created the 1947project, a blog that chronicled a different L.A. crime for each day of that year. The project was such a success that they followed up with a similar blog detailing the sordid affairs of 1907 and 1927. Now, Cooper and others lead excursions for a tour bus company called Esotouric. The four- or five-hour adventures canvass the city, highlighting crime sites from the heinous to the quirky. This summer, Esotouric debuted "John Fante's Dreams of Bunker Hill," which visited the Downtown haunts of Arturo Bandini, the protagonist of Fante's 1939 novel Ask the Dust. In August, don't miss the Charles Bukowski birthday tour, which celebrates what would have been the author's 87th birthday. At esotouric.com.-LL
Bert Green Fine Art
Bert Green is the go-to man for all things Gallery Row. The veteran gallery owner (at least by Downtown standards) knows everyone in the art scene and advocates for the burgeoning district as well. And he facilitates the monthly Art Walk. So it only makes sense that Green also runs the spiffiest gallery in town. Located on the ground floor of the Rosslyn Hotel at Fifth and Main streets, Bert Green Fine Art features roughly 2,800 square feet of high-ceilinged, white-walled exhibition space. Typically, Green hosts several simultaneous shows and this month is no exception. Look for Trace Evidence, an exhibition by the performance group osseus labyrint, on view through Aug. 19; Ryan Ross's "Numeric Identities" will light up the project window through Oct. 31. At 102 W. Fifth St., (213) 624-6212 or bgfa.us.-LL
BEST LOCAL ARTIST
Artemio Rodriquez of La Mano Press
Artemio Rodriguez would probably be the first to tell you that art is not quantifiable into categories like best and worst. Regardless, the spiritually minded master printmaker behind La Mano Press is carving out a niche for himself in Los Angeles and across the border, where his skull- and skeleton-themed prints have graced billboards and buses. Recently, his dancing skeletons turned up at the Central Library in Puro Muerto: Contemporary Imagery of Day of the Dead, a spirited collection celebrating the traditional Mexican holiday of Di'a de los Muertos. Don't miss Rodriguez's annual spring print sale - or "Muerto Rider," the customized 1968 Impala on display in the La Mano Press lot. At 1749 N. Main St., (323) 227-0650 or lamanopress.com.-LL
July 21st, 2007, 06:50 PM
Best Gallery Tour
A Sampling of Artistic Offerings for Any Night (or Day) of the Month
by Lea Lion http://www.downtownnews.com/
Looking for the best art galleries in L.A.? Forget Fodor's, Frommer's and Lonely Planet. None of the usual guidebooks have the details on your destination. Namely, Gallery Row in Downtown Los Angeles.
The new millennium brought artistic entrepreneurs to the area, and now almost 30 galleries participate in the Downtown Art Walk on the second Thursday of the month. Hundreds of people routinely show up to the event that often includes free wine and live music.
But the Art Walk is by no means the only time to check out Downtown's burgeoning gallery scene. In fact, serious art collectors may prefer to traverse Gallery Row without the distraction of tipsy visitors.
Of course, with so many galleries to choose from, the question remains: Which galleries are worth the trek? Los Angeles Downtown News has handpicked a few not-to-be-missed gems and outlined a route for taking in the sights.
Bert Green Fine Art: The corner of Fifth and Main streets is the epicenter of the Gallery Row universe. With five galleries clustered within a one-block area - Bert Green Fine Art, El Nopal Press, L.A. Center for Digital Photography, Pharmaka Art and INMO Gallery - it is a fitting first leg on any Gallery Row jaunt. One must-stop destination is Bert Green Fine Art, an expansive space on the ground floor of the Rosslyn Hotel. Check out the gallery for the art, of course, but also to meet man-about-town Bert Green, who is the closest thing Gallery Row has to a founding father. This month, catch performance group osseus labyrint's first gallery exhibit, Trace Evidence, on view through Aug. 18.
At 102 W. Fifth St., (213) 624-6212 or bgfa.us.
Bank Gallery: After leaving Bert Green, head west on Fifth Street for one block and then turn north on Spring until you hit the historic Banco Popular Building, home of the fittingly named Bank gallery. When Lorraine Molina and Jose Caballer opened Bank in 2003, they were among the original settlers of Downtown's now-thriving gallery scene. Bank has made a name for itself internationally by showing conceptual work by young and emerging artists. After relocating and reopening in the current space last summer, Bank boasts 19-foot-high ceilings and stark white walls intermittently punctuated by historic columns. Next up is The Region of Unlikeness, a group show curated by Kim Schoen, which runs July 31-Aug. 25.
At 125 W. Fourth St., #103, (213) 621-4055 or bank-art.com.
Morono Kiang Gallery: Exit Bank and head one block north on Spring Street, turn west on Third Street and look for the Romanesque edifice halfway down the street. An embodiment of the phrase something old, something new, the recently opened Morono Kiang Gallery occupies a ground floor space in the Bradbury Building. Named for its owners, husband-and-wife team Eliot Kiang and Karon Morono, the high-end gallery focuses on Chinese art from the last decade. Unpredictable: Chen Wei and Jin Shan New Photography from China runs through Aug. 25. Don't forget to duck into the light-filled Victorian-era atrium of the Bradbury Building to admire the 50-foot-high ceilings, glass skylights, marble stairs, open elevators and wrought-iron railings.
At 218 W. Third St., (213) 628-8208 or moronokiang.com.
M.J. Higgins: Leaving the Bradbury isn't easy, but once you make your way outside, follow Third Street east until you hit Main Street and then head north one block to M.J. Higgins. There are two good reasons to seek out the gallery sooner rather than later. One: The current show Escape: Urbanscapes and Landscapes featuring artists Jamie Ennen, Dick Heimbold, Star Higgins and William Wray, on view through Aug. 4. And two: The gallery may not be around much longer. In fact, the exhibit addresses the fact that the city of Los Angeles has begun eminent domain proceedings to take over the gallery's longtime home. Perhaps, as a testament to an uncertain future, the aptly titled Escape is a cash and carry-style show, which means that the artworks will be removed when purchased and replaced with an ever-changing series of new landscapes.
At 244 S. Main St., (213) 617-1700 or mjhiggins.com.
Art Murmur: Head south on Main Street until you reach Sixth Street and look for Art Murmur gallery on the northeast corner. Founded by Leandra Hinrichs and Stephen Kramer in 2005, Art Murmur's high-ceilinged, white-walled gallery space is divided evenly into two long rectangular rooms. More often than not, the gallery hosts themed group shows (past exhibits have included Battle of the Sexes, an exhibition/competition that pitted female artists against their male counterparts). Now on view is Austin Young's God Save the Queen, a solo show of photography and film exploring androgyny and transvestitism through July 28.
At 129 E. Sixth St., (213) 623-2332 or artmurmur.com.
July 23rd, 2007, 10:53 PM
I love how much downtown always thinks of itself as the coolest art scene in LA.
The reason they don't mention downtown's galleries in Frommer's, Lonely Planet, etc. is because, well, downtown is pretty irrelevant in the LA art scene.
I love downtown... don't get me wrong. But the art scene there is a joke and is more comparable to Long Beach than Culver City or Chinatown...
July 25th, 2007, 05:32 AM
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Arts Center gets $10 million gift
The Lawrence and Kristina Dodge Education Center is named after Dana Point couple.
By RICHARD CHANG
The Orange County Register
A Dana Point couple has pledged $10 million as a challenge grant to the Orange County Performing Arts Center's capital campaign to help pay off construction of the Renιe and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, the center announced Tuesday.
It’s the largest single gift since the opening of the $240 million hall this past September.
Lawrence and Kristina Dodge's gift will be fully realized once the center raises $20 million in matching donations. The couple's gift brings the total raised for the Building on the Vision campaign to just over $176.5 million.
The center still needs to raise about $63.5 million to pay for its expansion, which consists of a 2,000-seat, state-of-the-art concert hall, a 500-seat theater, rehearsal space and a restaurant.
The 260,000-square-foot complex also features a new arts teaching facility, now named the Lawrence and Kristina Dodge Educational Center, which includes the Boeing Education Lab, a studio performance space and offices for the center's education and community programs staff.
“We’re very delighted to make a contribution,” Kristina Dodge said Tuesday to a group of friends, center staff, board members and young summer performers. “We are dedicated to educating and helping young people in our world.”
Terry Dwyer, president of the center, said the Dodges’ donation – which places the couple in the center’s vaunted Circle of Honor – is a “watershed moment.”
“We are truly blessed to have such wonderful friends and advocates,” he said. “It’s a fantastic gift in a key moment in the campaign. It brings a shining light on our education programs.”
The center currently runs seven arts education programs, including Summer at the Center and Arts Teach. Center officials estimate that the programs serve 500,000 young people each year in Orange County and surrounding areas. With the new education center, the center aims to attract 700,000 to 800,000 children per year.
The Dodge donation “furthers the center’s mission as being committed to the community through outreach and education,” said Nancy Warzer-Brady, the center’s director of education and community programs. “We want to provide access for all.”
Lawrence Dodge, 68, is founder and CEO of the Foothill Ranch-based group of companies American Sterling, which provide financial services. In 2004, Lawrence and Kristina Dodge gave $20 million to Chapman University in Orange, which named its Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts after them, and a $10 million challenge gift to St. Margaret's Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano.
July 25th, 2007, 05:39 AM
Best Free Stuff in Downtown
Hot Date? No Cash? No Problem. Learn How to Get Around Downtown on a Budget
by Kathleen Nye Flynn http://www.downtownnews.com/
You've spent your last dollar on rent, but you're hungry. To make matters worse, you have a hot date tonight.
Ready to jump off the Sixth Street Bridge?
Not just yet. Luckily, you have Downtown Los Angeles at your fingertips, a community with so many free offerings that you'll feel like Paris Hilton on Rodeo Drive. Okay, not quite that rich. But at least you'll make it through the day. And, for the sake of this article, we'll make it a Thursday - by far the best day for free (and almost free) stuff in Downtown.
First, let's get you pepped up. The Groundwork in the Higgins Building has a $5.50 cup of coffee, made with special brew from their crazy-expensive Clover machine, which, I assume, plates each bean in gold before grinding. Don't worry though; this cup will be on the house.
Approach the counter with a look of befuddlement, perhaps slightly scratching your chin. Tell the cute barista that you've heard something about a special kind of coffee... what was it?... Black Gold, maybe? In any case, you're not sure if you'll like it, because you are much more of a green tea kinda person and coffee sometimes gives you indigestion...
"Would you like to try a sample?" the nice barista will ask. "Why sure!" you'll say. "I mean, if that's okay."
Before you know it, she hands you swallows of this brew and that brew, until you stop her and say, "You know what? I just don't think I'm a coffee person. Maybe I'll come back and try again later."
Make a note to self: Never go back during the cute barista's shift again.
Still not buzzing enough? Swing around the corner to Lofty Dog, where free hot coffee is served to customers all day long. Spend a while there pondering the necessity of a rhinestone dog collar, and how you will never be able to afford one, not even for your own neck.
You have a couple hours to kill until it is time to meet your date. Head over to Pershing Square for free music, especially if you're into cover bands. If you need to do some work (it's a Thursday, after all) bring your laptop for some free Internet.
Cal Plaza also offers free noon concerts, but after all this walking you need a snack.
Amble over to Chinatown at 727 N. Hill St., where the Thursday farmers market goes from 2 to 6 p.m. See those luscious strawberries, sugar coated nuts and freshly-baked bread rolls? From your Groundwork training, you know what to do. Deliberate at each stand long enough and you'll end up with a tummy's full of free samples.
Since it's a Thursday, you decide to head to MOCA to take advantage of free afternoon admission. The venue is gratis from 5 to 8 p.m.
After glancing at the galleries, head south to the Central Library to see if a 7 p.m. Aloud event is on your evening's itinerary - what's more impressive to a date than a (free) lecture by a prominent figure such as Ken Burns or Michael Ondaatje? If Aloud isn't happening tonight, never fear: You have a plan B.
Quickly swing by the Flower District. By the end of the day, vendors are tossing out unsold bouquets, but they're still fresh enough to put a smile on someone's face. Go ahead, make your date feel special.
It's now the evening and time for your date. Of course, you want to get some wine in the picture to loosen things up, but how?
Luckily, it happens to be time for the monthly Gallery Row Art Walk (held 12-9 p.m. the second Thursday of each month). Your date thinks you are the most sophisticated person in the world, but you know that the galleries open their doors with tons of free wine and snacks. An hour into it, you're both in a pleasant state, almost so much so that your date doesn't realize you're heading a few blocks east to the Los Angeles Mission for some free dinner.
Okay, that may not fly. The food there is for the homeless, not you, you jerk.
Instead, you salvage that emergency $5 bill in your pocket and stroll up the beautiful Bunker Hill steps on Fifth Street to McCormick & Schmick's. Just grab the happy hour menu (which kicks in again after 9 p.m.) and enthusiastically tell your date to order anything on it. After all, many items - from the chicken wings to the cheeseburger - are only $1.95. Scrounge up some change and you can almost buy dessert.
Now it's getting late, and you both want to keep the date going. Walk over to La Cita on Hill Street, where on Thursdays the best DJs are spinning and the crowd is a riot. Hopefully you'll have remembered to RSVP to avoid a cover charge. Get there before 10 and usually you can get coupons for $1 Dewars. Use your last couple quarters to get your date a drink or two and dance the night away.
You're guaranteed a second date. And you'll still be able to make next month's rent. Hopefully.
July 25th, 2007, 05:44 AM
Best Sports & Recreation
Top teams... executive excellence... wheel world... cool pools
by Downtown News Staff http://www.downtownnews.com/
# Best Sports Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
2nd Place: Los Angeles Lakers
# Best Sports Exec: Ned Colletti, L.A. Dodgers
# Best Sports Fan: Clipper Darrell
# Best Wheels: Los Angeles Derby Dolls
# Best Bike Route: Park Life
# Best Place to Run/Walk: Los Angeles State Historic Park
# Best Pool to Sneak Into: Millennium Biltmore Hotel
# Best Pool Table: Royal Claytons
BEST SPORTS TEAM
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Lakers may have more flash (and Kobe Kontroversy), but for more than four decades, Downtowners have been fanatic about the Dodgers. While it is easy to like the team when they are winning - which they are now under Manager Grady Little and with the strong arm of pitcher Brad Penny - the Blue continue to draw more than 3 million fans a season no matter what their record. Unlike some local teams that charge an arm, a leg and a torso for a ticket, the Dodgers still provide family friendly pricing and easily have the best venue of any L.A. squad. Now, if owner Frank McCourt can only do something about those crazy concession lines. At Dodger Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Ave., (866) 363-4377 or dodgers.com.-Jon Regardie
BEST SPORTS EXEC
Ned Colletti, Los Angeles Dodgers
The second-year Dodgers general manager proved his mettle in 2006, when he managed to pull enough trades (Greg Maddux, nice) to get the team into the post-season. Though they flamed out against the Mets, Colletti went on to build a stronger squad this year, even with the bum-out injuries. His high-wire act consists of mixing veterans on short contracts (think Nomar Garciaparra or Luis Gonzalez) with inexpensive prospects rising up through the system (such as James Loney and Matt Kemp), all while assembling a top-notch pitching staff. Sure, he overspent on Juan Pierre and Jason Schmidt, but he has also nurtured the development of sophomore All-Star catcher Russell Martin. No one is quite saying World Series yet, especially with the formidable Padres in the picture, but things look a lot better than they did when Paul DePodesta was in town. Paul who? At Dodger Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Ave., (866) 363-4377 or dodgers.com.-JR
Los Angeles Derby Dolls
The Los Angeles Derby Dolls just might be the closest thing to superheroes in Downtown. Like any good comic book characters, the Derby Dolls have a uniform: helmets, kneepads, short skirts and roller skates; and a disguise: business casual. By day they are teachers, nurses, mothers and more. But at night, they transform into an all-female banked-track roller derby league. Like their crime fighting counterparts, the Dolls get knocked around from time to time - after all, roller derby is a full-contact sport with lots of scrapes, scars and even broken bones. Additionally, each one has an alter ego and stage, er, rink name, such as Demolicious, Thora Zeen and Suzy Snakeyes. The Dolls have been flying around the rink on the top floor of the Little Tokyo Shopping Center, where their home "bouts" take place, but word is they are looking for a new headquarters. At derbydolls.com.-Lea Lion
BEST BIKE ROUTE
For a smooth, scenic and safe bike tour of Downtown, try what we've labeled Park Life. Start at the Echo Park Lake and head toward Downtown on Glendale Boulevard, like the bike messengers. Glendale becomes Second Street, so go through the Second Street tunnel and turn right on Broadway. Pedal through the theater district watching for pedestrians. At Ninth Street, near South Park, steer left and go one block to where Main and Spring collide. Take a coffee break at Angelique Cafe' before heading north on Main. You'll pass the Old Bank District, City Hall and Olvera Street. Turn left on Alameda for two blocks and you'll end up at the grassy knolls of the new Los Angeles State Historic Park for a nap.-Evan George
BEST PLACE TO RUN/WALK
Los Angeles State Historic Park
Frisbee golf, grass stain accidents and picnic blanket snuggling are just some of the hundreds of activities taking place at the park adjacent to Chinatown, at the site formerly known as the Cornfield. And in the evening, don't be surprised to see people jogging and strolling around the circular dirt track. With native vegetation, sloping green lawns and paved trails, the park orchestrated by the California State Parks department is an oasis of open space in Downtown, not to mention a perfect place to catch the skyline at sunset or plop down on a bench with takeout from Chinatown. With the landscaping to be complete in coming years, the interim park is just a glimpse of the grassy amenity to come. At parks.ca.gov.-EG
BEST POOL TO SNEAK INTO
Millennium Biltmore Hotel
For obvious reasons, the best pool Downtown to sneak into is also the most difficult to reach if you're not a hotel guest. So when it comes time for a dip in the Roman-style oasis, wear your best threads (bathing suit underneath) and enter through the Olive Street entrance like you own the place. Head straight up the grand staircase, veer left, take the first right and follow the "Health Club" signs which take you down a hallway to a flight of stairs. Two levels down is a door to the pool that requires a room key. But if you go at peak pool hours, there's bound to be someone coming or going. Simply pat your pockets frantically like you left your key upstairs and slip in the open door. The spacious, turquoise-tinted pool surrounded by a gold railing also boasts a killer sauna. Just remember, we didn't send you. At 506 S. Grand Ave., (213) 624-1011 or millenniumhotels.com-EG
BEST POOL TABLE
At the Industrial District's Royal Claytons, it's not the quality of the table that makes shooting pool fun - it's the people who show up to play. Sure, the table is nice, with a slightly scratched top and a dark wood, modern design. But on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, a terrific mix of locals and visitors arrives and the table allows artists to commingle with Financial District employees. On Thursday nights, shoot pool to the sounds of a live French Gypsy band. A flat-screen television entertains, and the decor is modern vintage and altogether comfortable. Everybody will understand if the ambiance and creative menu distract you from your game. At 1855 Industrial St., (213) 622-0512 or royalclaytonstavern.com.-Kathleen Nye Flynn