02:05 PM PT, Nov 27 2008
You have to be really, really famous — no, legendary — to make a restaurant want to put up a memorial plaque marking the exact spot on its bar where you peed in the 1960s. You’d have to be the kind of guy who Val Kilmer played in a movie, the kind of guy who needs guards stationed to this very day — at your grave — to protect it from being completely covered in joints, urine and whiskey. The kind of guy whose filthy leather pants (that you never took off and probably wore without underwear) are enshrined at the Hard Rock Cafe.
In short, you’d have to be Jim Morrison, and the place that wants to make a shrine to something arguably really uncool that you did (like peeing on its bar) would have to be West Hollywood’s equally legendary (well, sort of) Barney’s Beanery.
Consider Barney’s the ultimate L.A. roadhouse (with a menu of greasy offerings so lengthy that it shames “War and Peace”) and consider this forthcoming plaque a birthday present to Morrison, who would have turned 65 on Dec. 8.
To mark the event Barney’s is throwing a birthday bash for the Lizard King.
William Claxton dies at 80; photographer helped make Chet Baker famous
By Jon Thurber
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 13, 2008
William Claxton, the master photographer whose images of Chet Baker helped fuel the jazz trumpeter’s stardom in the 1950s and whose fashion photographs of his wife modeling a topless swim suit were groundbreaking years later, has died. He was 80.
Credits: Claxton, William
Published: 10/13/2008 18:43:17 in the NY Daily News
Claxton died from complications of congestive heart failure Saturday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his wife, actress and model Peggy Moffitt Claxton, told The Times.
In a career spanning more than a half century, Claxton also became well known for his work with celebrities including Frank Sinatra and Steve McQueen, who became a close personal friend; but he gained his foremost public recognition for his photographs of jazz performers including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Torme, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Stan Getz. But it was his photographs of Baker that helped teach him the true meaning of the word photogenic.
by Lina Lecaro
October 10, 2008 12:11 PM
The details are still sketchy, but close friends of musician and artist Gidget Gein (aka Brad Stewart) tell us he was found dead yesterday of an apparent OD in his home in Burbank. Considering his macabre sensibilities, we’d hoped this was some kind of goth stunt, but calls to the LA Coroner today confirmed the passing.
Best known for his tumultuous time in Marilyn Manson (he was kicked out due to drug problems just as the band was breaking through, and replaced by Twiggy Ramirez, who many say copped his style and look), Gein went on to form art gothster faves The Dali Gaggers in New York in the late ’90’s. Taking a break from performing, he returned to his Florida hometown to work as a ” bag boy” for the Florida Coroner’s office in 2000. He moved to LA about 5 years ago to pursue his art, and his dark and beguiling works were often the most talked about at the city’s wildest openings and parties including BlueGirl Events and World of Wonder exhibits.
Recently out of rehab for what was apparently not the first time, Gein -whose name is a mesh of serial killer Ed Gein and Sally Field’s 60’s TV character “Gidget”-had a lot to look forward to. He had just emailed us a couple of weeks ago about a new band he was playing with called People (supporting Semi Precious Weapons and Gram Rabbit at House of Blues last week). Good pal Lenora Claire tells us, “He had just got a book deal, was recording a record with the guy who produced the first Janes Addiction record and just landed a solo show at La Luz de Jesus that he had wanted for years.” She says she plans to make sure the show, set for February of next year, still happens no matter what.
Birds keep man’s life from tumbling out of control
Bobby Wilson made some bad decisions growing up in Watts. His hobby pigeons and their freewheeling somersaults helped straighten his life out, and now he’s passing on his expertise.
By Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Bobby Wilson, a.k.a. Kill Kill, is a roller pigeon fancier — has been since he was a little boy in the projects in Watts.
He was walking his dog down Holmes Avenue when he first spotted the birds flying above Eddie Scott’s house. He watched in wonder as they whirled and somersaulted through the sky. Bobby was 9 years old and a serial collector of animals — spiders, red ants, hamsters, lizards. But he’d never seen this.
“You better not come in my yard!” Mr. Scott barked. Someone had just stolen a few of his top rollers and he was not happy.
The year was 1981. Mr. Scott drove a city trash truck, owned one of the nicest houses in Watts and had no tolerance for wayward children. He’d raised pigeons since his own childhood in the early 1960s, and some of his rollers came right down the line from the world’s great prophet of roller pigeoning, William H. Pensom, the late English master who lived over the hill in Canoga Park.
Bobby wasn’t going into Mr. Scott’s yard, but he sure as heck was coming back. Day after day he sat under the big shade tree across the street and watched those birds do their acrobatics, spiraling up and then wheeling down like falling angels.
“Come here,” Mr. Scott finally said one day.
Bringing L.A.’s alleys out of the shadows
At the southern tip of Los Angeles, stashed behind railroad cars and fuel depots, is a pillbox of a community center called Mahar House.
Inside, there is a tiny library for kids, with titles by C.S. Lewis and a biography of Paul Revere. In a classroom down the hall, equations used to teach parents the value of building credit are on a chalkboard. In the front room, volunteers give away food they’ve rescued from markets that were going to throw it away.
It’s the kind of place you root for.
Behind it, almost inevitably, is the kind of place you try to avoid.
The alley smells like urine and is lined with cinder-block walls, some topped with razor wire that catches stray plastic bags on windy days. Brown weeds hide a strange array of items: a sock, a broken string of cheap, plastic beads. Someone has dumped a sagging, torn armchair and a filthy mattress.
Men stash stolen cars there, with wires poking out where the stereos used to be, but that’s not the worst of it, said Paula Juarez, who raised two daughters here in Wilmington. Others have been caught peering into apartments, she said. The other day, one tried to talk a 5-year-old girl into taking her clothes off.
The alley, like so many others in L.A., is the scourge of the neighborhood. But a growing coalition of researchers, urban planners, public land advocates and government leaders say it doesn’t have to be that way. Alleys, they argue, could offer enormous environmental and public health benefits — if they could be turned green.
From Josefa Corpuz:
Like the Los Angeles of our dreams, the art deco movement from the ’20s and ’30s is elegant, eclectic, glamorous, and forward-looking. The L.A. Conservancy (a nonprofit organization that works to preserve historic architecture in Los Angeles County – or, more succinctly, “We preserve history in the age of McMansions”) gives walking tours of downtown’s Art Deco gems.
Our docent, David Peake, has been a Conservancy member for 12 years and a tour guide for six. He was converted to the cause one hot, smoggy day back in 1992, when the chords of a pipe organ and the “shabby glamour” of the unrestored Orpheum Theatre combined to produce a historical headrush. “I’m not a particularly religious man,” Peake said, “but I thought – this is my cathedral.”
Many art deco buildings downtown can inspire similar awe. The Title Guarantee & Trust Building has a stylized Gothic tower, complete with gargoyle-like waterspouts; the Eastern Columbia Building on Broadway is a blue-and-green “peacock” of a building that glints, gemlike, in the sun.
Two blocks down on Olive Street is the Oviatt Building, once a high-class haberdashery and the home of storeowner James Oviatt. Inspired by the 1925 Paris Exposition, where art deco began, Oviatt decorated his building with French textiles, French marble, French glass (over 30 tons of it), and even French sand for the “beach” on his penthouse sunbathing deck.
Los Angeles thwarts family in fight over graffiti
In today’s installment of Read It and Weep: Your Tax Dollars at Work, we visit a besieged Highland Park mom-and-pop grocery store owned by the Antonio family.
“Maybe 70 times,” said Jacob Antonio Jr., 27. His father, Jacob, begged to differ “More than 100 times,” he said with exasperation.
They learned that if you hired the right muralist, the taggers would respect the work and not mess with the mural. So they shelled out $3,000 to hire a team that included a guy known as Playboy Eddie and Israel “Ezra” Cervantes.
In no time at all, Los Paisanos market had a praying Virgin Mother on a front corner along with “Jesus Saves.” On the side of the bright yellow building was a colorful but edgier painting that looked like a two-headed serpent slithering through a junk yard. Just above that was a more traditional rural scene, with a couple of paisanos in sombreros.
All in all, it wasn’t quite the mural the Antonios had in mind, and they weren’t sure what the snakes represented. But after years of torment, they were in a compromising mood. To the relief of the entire Antonio family, the taggers didn’t come near the mural. But three months into the respite, an even more menacing monster reared its ugly head.
City Hall bureaucracy.
Graffiti vandals turn violent in LA
LOS ANGELES—One man got stabbed. Another got shot in the chest. A 6-year-old boy was temporarily blinded when he was spray-painted in the face. And they were the lucky ones among those who have had run-ins with graffiti “crews,” or gangs.
Over the past 2 1/2 years in Southern California, three people have been killed after trying to stop graffiti vandals in the act. A fourth died after being shot while watching a confrontation between crews in a park.
“We have seen a marked increase in these graffiti-tagging gangs taking to weapons and fighting to protect their walls, their territory, their name,” said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Rifkin.
“If we see someone calling the police, then we target them,” said Mario Garcia, 20, who describes himself as a former tagger trying to become a professional artist. “You are trying to stop me from what I live, what I believe in and what I breathe? We are not going to let no one get in the way.”
In an attack last month, two youths spray-painted the face and body of the 6-year-old boy who spotted them scribbling gang signs on a wall near Compton. The boy recovered from chemical burns to his eyes.
On the same day, a 51-year-old auto mechanic was shot in the chest in Los Angeles when he confronted two suspected gang members painting the wall of his shop.
Another man, Michael Lartundo, 26, was stabbed in the hand and arm after yelling at a group of graffiti vandals scrawling on a wall in March behind his brother’s house in suburban Whittier. “I just told them it ain’t right,” Lartundo recalled. “I said, ‘If you are going to write on the wall, write on your own wall.'”
Last August, Maria Hicks, 58, was shot in the head and died after flashing her headlights and honking at a teenager spray-painting a wall near her home in Pico Rivera, a blue-collar suburb east of Los Angeles. Four people have been charged with murder.
Ten days after Hicks died, Seutatia Tausili, 65, was fatally shot and her grandson wounded when he told taggers to stop vandalizing a trash can outside their home in Hesperia in San Bernardino County. Three men were charged with crime.
Mass bum rap
Police were called to break up a mass “mooning” after 8,000 turned up to bare their bottoms at passing trains.
The Mooning Amtrak event in the California town of Laguna Niguel was shut down for the first time in its 29-year history after complaints that people were showing more than their bums, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Jim Amormino, a police spokesman, said officials deemed the event out of control after some mooners began taking all their clothes off and women started lifting up their T-shirts to flash passing trains.
The tradition is said to stem from a pub dare in 1979 when a drinker at the nearby Mugs Away Saloon promised his friends drinks if they went out to the railway line and mooned the next passing train.
Many rose to the challenge and the mass moon became a regular event, complete with a website, moonamtrak.org.
The crowd was broken up around 3pm but some mooners returned later and continued dropping their trousers into the night at the Amtrak and Metrolink trains which pass every 20 minutes.
In the website’s frequently asked questions section, organisers say it is “okay” to “decorate your butt” and encourage obese attendees to come along: “Yes yes, please ‘moon’ with us. We need people like you for the extra high intensity mooning you can provide.”
Sony BMG moves to old CAA digs
Music unit takes over Beverly Hills space
By PHIL GALLO
An iconic Beverly Hills office building that became a white elephant in the weak commercial real estate market finally has a tenant.
Sony BMG Music Entertainment will relocate its West Coast headquarters to the former CAA building in January. The diskery, whose U.S. headquarters are on Madison Avenue in New York, is now housed in Santa Monica.
Personnel from Sony’s and BMG’s labels, publishing and licensing will move into the 65,000-square-foot space, which has been empty since CAA left for its new HQ in Century City in 2007. Sony BMG has signed a 10-year lease on the property.
The edifice had few interested parties since the asking price — reportedly $5 per square foot — was mighty steep for a building whose entire first floor consists of lobby space featuring a Roy Lichtenstein painting so huge that it cannot be removed. In addition, it was clearly designed for one company to occupy the entire building, so it was not feasible to convert it into a traditional office building with multiple tenants.
Designed by I.M. Pei — his first project on the West Coast — and built for $25 million in 1989, the CAA building became so closely associated with Michael Ovitz and his regime that the current CAA chiefs made no secret that their move to new digs in Century City was about making a fresh start. Ovitz remains a landlord of the marble structure at the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards.
Parked RVs are straining patience in laid-back Venice
The pleasant climate and quirky vibe of Venice have long attracted the wealthy and destitute alike. Poets, painters and movie stars mingle with itinerant surfers and scruffy street dwellers in one big colorful tableau.
But in recent years the coastal enclave’s laissez-faire attitude has faded, in large part because many Venetians who once prided themselves on their unflappability have gotten fed up with the dozens of dilapidated cars, recreational vehicles and campers that line their narrow residential streets, providing shelter for people who have lost their jobs, want to break into show business or simply enjoy living near the beach.
In addition to tying up much of the neighborhood parking, residents say, some RVs are hotbeds of drug use and prostitution. Residents report that occupants defecate in alleys, party into the wee hours and dump waste into gutters and storm drains. For a time, a man named Butch was leasing four parked RVs, none of which he owned, to a succession of occupants.
In a further sign of a shift in attitudes, the Venice Neighborhood Council recently declared that sleeping on the streets in vehicles of any kind was inappropriate. The council established a committee whose stated task is “to end vehicular living on city streets.” Such thinking represents a marked departure for the council, which four years ago was dominated by a “progressive slate” whose agenda included stopping gentrification, building more low-income housing and helping the homeless.
The change is long overdue, said one Venice activist. “This particular community has not stood up the way others have and said, ‘Sorry, you can’t poach here. It’s unacceptable to live on our streets and defecate in our gardens,’ ” said Mark Ryavec, co-chairman of the new committee. “What’s going on is that a new majority in Venice is saying we really do not accept this.”
Frank August, 57, who works occasionally as a salesman, was standing outside his motor home on 4th Avenue one recent evening. Years ago, he paid $1,500 a month for a Venice apartment, but he has lived in the vehicle since he adopted an ailing pit bull and could not find a landlord who would rent to him.“It’s got everything, from wood floors to solar panels,” he said of the motor home, which August said he parks on commercial blocks to avoid offending neighbors.
COMEDIAN GEORGE CARLIN DIES AT 71 IN LOS ANGELES
7 minutes ago
Comedian George Carlin, a counter-culture hero famed for his routines about drugs and dirty words, died of heart failure at a Los Angeles-area hospital on Sunday, a spokesman said. He was 71.
Carlin, who had a history of heart problems, died at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica about 6 p.m. PDT (9 p.m. EDT) after being admitted earlier in the afternoon for chest pains, spokesman Jeff Abraham told Reuters.
Known for his edgy, provocative material, Carlin achieved status as an anti-Establishment icon in the 1970s with stand-up bits full of drug references and a routine about seven dirty words you could not say on television. A regulatory battle over a radio broadcast of his “Filthy Words” routine ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Patricia Zengerle)
Violent Surfers Shred Paps Over McConaughey
One pap was hit in the face and we’re told suffered a broken nose, while another was thrown into some rocks and had his camera smashed. McConaughey was not involved in the ruckus.
Police tell us a battery report was filed by one photographer and no arrests have been made.
A rep for Matthew has yet to get back to us.
Guitar Hero’s front man: Adam Jennings
(06-17) 04:00 PDT Sherman Oaks (Los Angeles County) —
About once a week, actor Adam Jennings drives a few miles down the San Fernando Valley from his apartment to a converted warehouse in nearby Woodland Hills. He lies on a couch for the better part of an hour while technicians attach about 70 little spherical sensors to his face with adhesive.
When they are done, Jennings sits on a stool in a large, dark room for eight-hour sessions and lip-syncs rock songs while his face is filmed by as many as a dozen motion-capture cameras, collecting data that will be turned into computer-generated graphics for video games.
Adam Jennings is the face of the wildly popular Guitar Hero.
“There may not even be a handful of people doing facial motion capture,” says the 24-year-old Bay Area native and Burlingame High School graduate.
He cradles the toy guitar that comes with the game and sits on the edge of his living room table as Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” blasts out of his plasma TV. Jennings, eyes locked on the screen, flutters his fingers over the colored buttons on the fret board and picks away at the plastic tab where a real guitar’s strings would be. He’s done this before. Every few bars a sign pops up on the screen: “50 Note Streak.” At the end of the song, the screen informs him he hit 94 percent of the notes.
Jennings fell into the work. After graduating from high school in 2001, Jennings moved south to attend Cal State Northridge but dropped out four years ago to pursue acting full time. His agent sent him to audition for the Tony Hawk skateboard game. A lifelong skateboarder, Jennings felt right at home delivering the punchy dialogue (“Hey skater, meet me over by the half-pipe”) while holding a board under his arm. “I booked the part,” he says.
From saloon girls to swedish
He worked on three Tony Hawk games, playing all the parts, reading all the lines, after studying scripts the size of small telephone books. When Neversoft went into production on a Wild West fantasy game called Gun, Jennings again did all the roles, including the saloon girls. When the company landed Guitar Hero, it put Jennings to work learning how to expertly lip sync.
Jennings cut hundreds of rock songs. He lip-synced in foreign languages as remote from his native tongue as Swedish. He learned the Axl scream for “Welcome to the Jungle” and taught himself to lip-sync in a British accent.
Neversoft likes to work with real rock musicians. The Sex Pistols and Living Colour are among the bands that have re-recorded their old repertoire for the game. Joe Perry of Aerosmith saw his kids playing the game and approached the company. The entire band wore the rubber suits for Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, and vocalist Steven Tyler did the facial motion capture, putting on a face full of tiny, round sensors, which are inevitably referred to as “balls.”
“There’s pretty much an endless stream of ball jokes,” says Jennings, without any particular enthusiasm.
Video: To see Adam Jennings as DMC in Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, go to links.sfgate.com/ZDUB
‘This Side of Paradise’ at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
A 1991 photograph by John Humble shows Selma Avenue at Vine Street as a jumbled, architecturally constructed Hollywood landscape of office buildings, stores, asphalt and advertising billboards. Dominating the center is Angelyne, the cosmetically manufactured “human Barbie doll,” who adorns one enormous sign.
Radio host Rick Dees, then an eternally adolescent 41-year-old, graces a KIIS sign just above her bleached-blond head. Neutered Ken to Angelyne’s pneumatic Barbie, he’s the benign Adam to her wicked Eve in Hollywood’s media-made Garden of Eden.
Humble’s deceptively simple image — documentary in the most profound sense of that slippery term — hangs at the entry wall to a large new exhibition at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Hot on the heels of opening its beautifully refurbished, exquisitely reinstalled mansion, so rich in 18th century European and other art, the Huntington has mounted what is being billed as the most comprehensive show of L.A. photographs ever assembled. It spans the 1860s to the present.
Those dates correspond with two epochal narratives: the history of Los Angeles, incorporated in 1850, and the modern development of the camera, invented almost simultaneously in France and England a scant decade before.
The title is borrowed from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, whose despairing protagonist laments, “I know myself, but that is all.” The alchemy of the still camera in fabricating perceptions of people and places is an inspired subject for examination. Humble’s picture is emblematic.
The show, like Fitzgerald’s book, is novelistic — less an art exhibition than a pictorial essay about L.A. as a mediated environment. Its whopping 284 photographs stand in for words.
This video is part of a marketing strategy for a company called Parrot.com to raise the awareness of the new laws in California, as well as, to raise the brand awareness of their hands-free mobile devices in the US. Parrot funded the production of the video.
The video is not scripted. The company installed hidden cameras in the car and hired “John” to test the limits of these driving instructors using his cell phone.
Alex Kozinski suspends L.A. obscenity trial after conceding his website had sexual images
The 9th Circuit chief judge admits he posted some of the explicit content. He says he didn’t think the public could see the site, which is now blocked.
By Scott Glover
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 12, 2008
A closely watched obscenity trial in Los Angeles federal court was suspended Wednesday after the judge acknowledged maintaining his own publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.
Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, granted a 48-hour stay in the obscenity trial of a Hollywood adult filmmaker after the prosecutor requested time to explore “a potential conflict of interest concerning the court having a . . . sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial here.”
In an interview Tuesday with The Times, Kozinski acknowledged posting sexual content on his website. Among the images on the site were a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal. He defended some of the adult content as “funny” but conceded that other postings were inappropriate.
Kozinski, 57, said that he thought the site was for his private storage and that he was not aware the images could be seen by the public, although he also said he had shared some material on the site with friends. After the interview Tuesday evening, he blocked public access to the site.
The judge said it was strictly by chance that he wound up presiding over the trial of filmmaker Ira Isaacs in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Isaacs is on trial for distributing sexual fetish videos, featuring acts of bestiality and defecation. The material is considerably more vulgar than the content posted on Kozinski’s website.
The judge said he didn’t think any of the material on his site would qualify as obscene. “Is it prurient? I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “I think it’s odd and interesting. It’s part of life.”
Before the site was taken down, visitors to http://alex.kozinski.com were greeted with the message: “Ain’t nothin’ here. Y’all best be movin’ on, compadre.”
The sexually explicit material on the site was extensive, including images of masturbation, public sex and contortionist sex. There was a slide show striptease featuring a transsexual, and a folder that contained a series of photos of women’s crotches in snug-fitting clothing or underwear.
Kozinski told The Times that he began saving the sexually explicit materials and other items of interest on his website years ago. “People send me stuff like this all the time,” he said. In turn, he said, he occasionally passes on items he finds interesting or funny to others.
Among the sexually explicit material on his site that he defended as humorous were two photos. In one, a young man is bent over in a chair and performing fellatio on himself. In the other, two women are sitting in what appears to be a cafe with their skirts hiked up to reveal their pubic hair and genitalia. Behind them is a sign reading “Bush for President.”
“That is a funny joke,” Kozinski said.
The judge said he planned to delete some of the most objectionable material from his site, including the photo depicting women as cows, which he said was “degrading . . . and just gross.” He also said he planned to get rid of a graphic step-by-step pictorial in which a woman is seen shaving her pubic hair.
Before suggesting that his son might have been responsible for posting some of the content, Kozinski told The Times that he, the judge, must have accidentally uploaded the cow and shaving images to his server while intending to upload something else. “I would not keep those files intentionally,” he said. He offered to give a reporter a demonstration of how the error probably occurred.
L.A. Times Music Blog
Maybe the only performer more appropriate than Aimee Mann to open the Largo’s new era would be Jon Brion, the resident Friday-night ringmaster during the beloved music club’s 12 years on Fairfax Avenue.
Well, fans got a bit of both Monday at the unveiling of the venue’s new home, the venerable Coronet Theatre on La Cienega Boulevard. Largo stalwart Mann headlined the show, and Brion, playing celeste and other keyboards, joined her on two songs during the encore, putting an emotional flourish on a smooth transition.
Physically, the new Largo is a vastly different experience from the tiny room on Fairfax, where the bar and the dinner service sometimes interfered with owner Mark Flanagan’s vision of an ideal setting for musicians and serious listeners.
The Largo at the Coronet is a cozy little bandbox of a theater, its tightly packed rows of 280 permanent seats facing a deep stage that must have seemed like a basketball court to musicians accustomed to the old Largo’s tiny platform. For the audience, there’s nothing to do but sit, watch and listen.
The Largo state of mind was intact, as listeners were admonished to turn off their electronics and not talk during the show. The sound during the 90-minute set by Mann, accompanied by bassist Paul Bryan and keyboardist Jamie Edwards, was clean and warm, and Mann eased into the focused but informal mode that has defined the Largo’s distinctive sensibility.
Mann, who was preceded by a short set from comedian Paul F. Tompkins, will return with a full band June 10. By then, the new Largo will have undergone what figures to be its baptism by fire — two sets by Brion on Friday.
— Richard Cromelin
Photos by Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
Photo Essay: Melrose Alley Street Art
Los Angeles is home to some of the best graffiti/street artists in the world, and the best place to see some of their best work is behind the alleys of Melrose Avenue. Whether you feel like graffiti/street art is legitimate art form, Melrose has been used as a canvas by street artists such as Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and the infamous street art collective, The CBS Crew. So next time your shopping at Melrose, don’t miss out on some amazing art by checking out the alleys behind the Melrose Avenue shops.
Guns guard Damien Hirst’s lamb at BCAM
As you stroll through the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, images of guns confront you, including Andy Warhol’s hip-swiveling, gun-slinging “Elvis,” Chris Burden’s Los Angeles policemen and the gun-brandishing fascist thugs of Leon Golub. And there are other armed men at BCAM.
On a recent day, at least three security officers with holstered guns and batons guarded the new Los Angeles County Museum of Art addition. One carries a 9-millimeter pistol. Another, armed with a .38-caliber pistol, is assigned to stand a few feet in front of an artwork with a dead lamb, embalmed in a tank filled with formaldehyde and water, created by British artist Damien Hirst.
The current guard in front of the Hirst piece has been there about a month, guards say, noting the potential for vandals to smash the tank and create a toxic leak. BCAM was evacuated for about an hour in April when a drop of formaldehyde about the size of a quarter leaked from the Hirst work, which is called “Away From the Flock.” Another museum spokeswoman said that a change in barometric pressure was responsible and that a conservator had resealed the case.
In a world of sensational art heists, armed guards at museums filled with priceless works might not seem surprising. “The Scream,” Edvard Munch’s emblematic “Skrik” of existential angst, went back on display at the Munch Museum in Oslo this month after being stolen in 2004 and recovered, with some damage, in 2006. In the last 20 years, vandals have urinated on a Marcel Duchamp urinal at the Tate Modern, vomited on Mondrian’s “Composition in Black, Red and White” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and poured black ink into the formaldehyde encasing a Damien Hirst lamb at London’s Serpentine Gallery.
“Several museums feel that the risk of a shootout, where many of the public may be hurt, is a bigger concern,” Hall wrote in an e-mail. “They would rather have the police respond. Some institutions face risks, though, where they feel they need armed officers as a deterrent, and to protect visitors and staff. . . . Risk varies, from location to location.”
One LACMA visitor, Laura Silagi, a Venice artist, said she first noticed the armed guard in front of the Hirst piece a few weeks ago. “I’ve never in my life seen armed guards in a museum,” she said. “It interferes with an art experience. There’s a kind of paranoia attached to it.”
Inside BCAM, one armed guard is stationed in front of Hirst’s white lamb, entombed in a glass case that shows some condensation at the top.
Nearby is a device marked “Formaldehyde monitoring” and “Do not touch,” with instructions to call the number for the “Conservation Center” with any questions. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies formaldehyde as a probable carcinogen, with immediate respiratory risks.
“Some crazy guy could smash it with a hammer, and the formaldehyde would spill all over the floor, and it could take two weeks to clean up,” the guard, who declined to give his name, said of the Hirst work.
Guerrilla gardener movement takes root in L.A. area
BRIMMING with lime-hued succulents and a lush collection of agaves, one shooting spiky leaves 10 feet into the air, it’s a head-turning garden smack in the middle of Long Beach’s asphalt jungle. But the gardener who designed it doesn’t want you to know his last name, since his handiwork isn’t exactly legit. It’s on a traffic island he commandeered.
“The city wasn’t doing anything with it, and I had a bunch of extra plants,” says Scott, as we tour the garden, cars whooshing by on both sides of Loynes Drive.
Scott is a guerrilla gardener, a member of a burgeoning movement of green enthusiasts who plant without approval on land that’s not theirs. In London, Berlin, Miami, San Francisco and Southern California, these free-range tillers are sowing a new kind of flower power. In nighttime planting parties or solo “seed bombing” runs, they aim to turn neglected public space and vacant lots into floral or food outposts.
Part beautification, part eco-activism, part social outlet, the activity has been fueled by Internet gardening blogs and sites such as GuerrillaGardening.org, where before-and-after photos of the latest “troop digs” inspire 45,000 visitors a month to make derelict soil bloom.
“We can make much more out of the land than how it’s being used, whether it’s about creating food or beautifying it,” says the movement’s ringleader and GuerrillaGardening.org founder, Richard Reynolds, by phone from his London home. His tribe includes freelance landscapers like Scott, urban farmers, floral fans and artists.
“I want to encourage more people to think about land in this way and just get out there and do it,” says Reynolds, whose new handbook for insurgent planters, “On Guerrilla Gardening,” is out this week.
The activists see themselves as 21st century Johnny Appleseeds, harvesting a natural bounty of daffodils or organic green beans from forgotten dirt. It’s a step into more self-reliant living in the city,” says Erik Knutzen, coauthor with his wife, Kelly Coyne, of “The Urban Homestead” to be released in June. The Echo Park couple have chronicled “pirate farming” on their blog, Homegrown Evolution. Guerrilla gardening, Knutzen says, is a reaction to the wasteful use of land, such as vacant lots and sidewalk parkways. He’s turned the parkway in front of his home into a vegetable garden.
Tagger whose work allegedly appears on YouTube is arrested
Cyrus Yazdani is a 24-year-old San Jose State University graduate with a degree in art and a job as a convention planner in Las Vegas.
But authorities say Yazdani is also “Buket,” one of Los Angeles’ most prolific taggers who is featured in several heavily viewed YouTube videos defacing signs and buses. His most popular video — with nearly 170,000 page views — shows him clambering behind the Hollywood Freeway sign near Melrose Avenue and tagging the structure as traffic speeds below.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators arrested Yazdani on Tuesday, saying that his moniker has marked hundreds of freeway overpasses, concrete walls and transit buses across the state and southern Nevada. He is believed responsible for upward of $150,000 in property damage along the Los Angeles River and in the areas patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — and at least that much in other parts of California.
Yazdani was nabbed when he showed up to meet with his probation officer and booked on multiple charges of felony vandalism.
Authorities are used to dealing with graffiti vandals — even those who display their handiwork on the Internet. But there is general agreement that “Buket” is different.
According to investigators, Yazdani is a professional graphic artist. Though he works in Las Vegas, he is frequently in Los Angeles, living with roommates at a downtown Los Angeles loft. He moved to Los Angeles two years ago, authorities said.
He’s older than many taggers — but his age hasn’t kept him down, said Sheriff’s Deputy Devin Vanderlaan, who has tracked Buket for months.
“He’s one of the most prolific taggers we’ve seen,” Vanderlaan said. “He’s on buses, overpasses, in the L.A. riverbed — he’s everywhere.”
The investigators said they spotted four “Buket” scrawls Tuesday during the short trip from downtown to the Crenshaw District to pick Yazdani up at the probation office.
But you don’t have to drive throughout L.A. to see “Buket’s” work — and that’s what did him in, authorities said.
“Buket,” they said, became something of an Internet sensation with the daredevil tagging 20 feet above the busy Hollywood Freeway — vandalism captured on videotape and posted with a rap soundtrack on You Tube and numerous tagger-related blogs.
South L.A. backyards are becoming barnyards
When her neighbor’s roosters and chickens persisted in running through her yard, G. Stone took matters into her own hands. She marched next door and issued a warning: Do something about the uninvited guests or the birds “were going in my pot.” The incursions stopped. But Stone, a retired Los Angeles County librarian who lives northwest of Watts, shook her head in exasperation as she recalled the incident. “I’ve lived here for 50 years,” she said. “All of a sudden, there’s an influx of chickens. You’re not supposed to have chickens in the city.”
For many, the image of South Los Angeles is that of a paved, parched, densely packed urban grid. But increasingly, it is also a place where untold numbers of barnyard animals — chickens, roosters, goats, geese, ducks, pigs and even the odd pony — are being tended in tiny backyard spaces.
Indeed, about a block from the beauty parlor where Stone was getting her hair done earlier this month, a pair of goats chewed something dark and unidentifiable as they stood placidly near the traffic whizzing by on Avalon Boulevard. A pit bull next door eyed them lazily.
The cacophony of cock-a-doodle-doos south of the 10 Freeway is one of the louder manifestations of a demographic change that has transformed South Los Angeles in the last few decades.
Once primarily an African American community — and still the cultural and political heart of the state’s African American population — the area has absorbed tens of thousands of immigrants from Mexico and Central America and is now predominantly Latino. In Southeast L.A., the black population has dropped from 71% in 1980 to 24% in the 2000 census; the Latino population grew from 27% in 1980 to 74% in 2000.
For some folks, the rooster has become a potent symbol of the way their neighborhood is changing.
“Sometimes, I think it’s Mexico,” said Tony Johnson, who lives in Southeast L.A. He confessed that after being roused early some mornings, he has fantasized about silencing the birds permanently. “Boom. Boom. Boom,” he said, pantomiming how he would do it.
WEST ADAMS: Nothing like politely asking. This mural going up on Adams also had another note, asking bloggers not to post any photos of the artwork itself on the web (until its finished). Fair enough. So this shot only shows the note–the mural is to the right. [Curbed Staff]
LAT Launches Some Bright, Shiny Softballs at James Frey
James Frey has already received a public caning. So (unless we get some comped ring-side seats) we don’t need to see another one. But still, the LAT piece on the front page acts as if “Pieces” was The Blair Witch Project and more of a hoax than a fabrication.
Is it because his new book is celebrating LA in literature and since Charles Bukowski isn’t around anymore we’ve been deprived of that?
“I’m definitely more humble, I’m definitely more contained, I’m definitely living a quieter life,” Frey said, popping one of many pieces of nicotine gum. “I’m just really grateful to have a book coming out. It’s similar to ‘A Million Little Pieces’ — I was just so excited to have a book coming out. It’s awesome. I write about L.A. as the city of dreams, and this is another dream . . .
a video short by Wil Robinson of Greg Handbeck,
25 year resident of Hollywood who’s “doin’ all right”