By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
When vinyl records began their inevitable comeback 10 years ago, Sandy Chase had already been in the business 15 years. His The Record Collector (7809 Melrose Ave.; 323-467-2875)contains over 500,000 records, with another 250,000 in storage (mostly LPs), ranging from $10 to several hundred dollars for collectibles. Last year the store moved from its Highland location of 25 years to the current, remodeled, 3,400-square-foot locale, which stills smells like the freshly cut wood of the custom shelves. All of the records are genre sectioned, alphabetized and meet Chase’s high quality standards. Mainly coming from private collections, the records are mostly 40 to 50 years old, but you can still find a dozen Bob Dylan LPs from the ’60s. Along with the LPs, Chase offers vintage audio equipment, and has recently started purchasing 78s, which he swears are making a comeback.
After the murder of then-owner Laurence Austin in 1997, the Silent Movie Theater (611 N. Fairfax Ave.; 323-655-2520)nearly became a parking lot. That was until 30-something songwriter Charlie Lustman stumbled across the "for sale" sign. He bought the theater for $650,000, renovated it, and reopened the doors in 1999, hoping the Fairfax neighborhood would spur a comeback in silent flicks. The theater has a history of surviving sporadic closings, starting in 1979 when, after a 47-year-run, ä owner John Hampton closed the doors for financial reasons. Hampton retained ownership of the theater until he died in 1990. Austin bought the theater and reopened it in 1991, only to have it shut down again six years later after he was killed in the theater by a hit man paid for by his lover, James Van Sickle. Both hit man and lover are serving life sentences. The theater operates six nights a week and remains the only theater in the country solely dedicated to the showing of silent films.
The smell of dough rising wafts throughout Tbilisi & Yerevan Bakery (7862 Santa Monica Blvd.; 323-654-7427)and has customers lining up as early as 7 a.m. to take home a loaf of white, wheat, rye or black bread (99 cents each). Handily situated among the dozens of Russian delis, restaurants and shops in Santa Monica Boulevard’s "Little Odessa" section, Michael Davidson’s family operation has been serving mostly Russian and Georgian baked goods for seven years now. The weight from one of the two-dozen indulgent minicakes ($1 to $1.50) piled high with fruit fillings and layers of chocolate or vanilla cream will settle with you days after you’ve eaten it. On a much lighter side, the gozinake is a thin wafer sandwich filled with walnuts covered in honey, and the suchary are small slices of hard, sweetened bread perfect for dipping in tea. Almost as popular as the bread, appetizers like khachapury and peroshkyhave engendered a loyal following. Khachapury resembles a turnover with egg and cheese. But peroshky ($1) — fried and rolled dough stuffed with either cheese, meat, potatoes, cabbage or mushrooms — is the quintessential taste of Mother Russia, and can be a meal in itself.
From the Pussycat’s ashes the Tomkattheater arose, manlier and smuttier, where all day, every day, it’s spank-the-monkey time. The all-male watering hole for the trench-coat crowd is a teary reminder of the adult world’s yesteryear, when you didn’t need an Internet ä hookup to watch filth. With X-rated movie houses near extinction, thanks to home rentals and multiplexes popping up faster than you can say Starbucks, the Tomkat (7738 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-650-9551) is one of the few gay porn theaters left. Part of the chain that once operated more than a hundred Pussycats across the state, the theater started showing skin flicks in the early ’70s — house favorites The Devil in Miss Jones and Deep Throat had lines of enthusiasts wrapped around the block — and turned into an all-male review eight years ago. For the low price of admission and popcorn, you can, ahem, take in How the West Was Hung, HOMOgenized, or Virgin No More. Outside, there’s a porn walk-of-fame with the foot- and handprints (sorry, no genitals) of John Holmes, Marilyn Chambers and porn-star-turned-anti-porn-activist Linda Lovelace.
In this town, cafés are the crack houses for java junkies. The challenge is finding one that’s more than just a bar/spoken-word forum/music lounge for poor folkies and jazzbos. The WeHo Lounge (8861 Santa Monica Blvd.; 310-659-6180), owned by AIDS Healthcare Foundation, has workshops, discussion groups and activities that keep its patrons educated about HIV prevention, treatments and research, as well as informed about other STDs. Confidential and free oral HIV testing is conducted every day for anyone who prefers the comfy, lo-fi feel of a coffee hub to a clinic. In fact, WeHo is the only one of its kind to offer such a service. Hundreds attend the monthly HIV update to hear physicians lecture on topics such as safe sex, and the 24-and-under crowd come to mingle in the plain-rap youth group on Fridays and Saturdays. Need legal assistance? WeHo’s occasional "Coffee Tawwlk With a Lawwyer" is Law: 101. By the way, the place does have a mean menu of salads, sandwiches, pizza, desserts, and of course, that holiest of holy water, coffee.
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