By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
“I like your attitude,” says the young man handing out contributor-information cards at the door of El Rey theater, where mayoral candidate Francis DellaVecchia is throwing his first fund-raising party. “Everyone asks me, ’Why do I have to fill these out? Why do you want to know where I work?‘ You just said, ’Okay.‘ That’s cool.” I look up at his face, and see that he‘s somewhere close to 20, and girl-pretty -- jet-black hair cropped close to his head and gelled to perfection, a beautiful, beaming smile. “I think it’s good that they‘re asking,” I tell him, smiling back. “It means they’re questioning the system. It means they‘re suspicious about someone abusing their privacy.” “Oh yeah,” he nods, and twirls an unlit cigarette between two fingers of his left hand. “That’s true. Good point. Hey, do you have a light?”
Somewhere else in the city on this balmy Wednesday of the summer solstice, the Sherman Oaks Homeowner‘s Association is sponsoring a debate among four of the five “major” declared candidates for mayor of Los Angeles. I picture them gathered under the fluorescent lights and ceiling tiles of some green-walled room, or huddled among the red carpet and fake oak paneling of a hotel banquet hall. I, however, am much more in my element at DellaVecchia’s “.comUNity launch party,” where my first interaction is with an ethereal blonde who realizes midsentence that a friend has slipped her liquid acid. (She is delighted; I‘m a little jealous.) The Sherman Oaks Homeowner’s Association, says the Los Angeles Times, is “a group known for its skepticism about big government,” although standing here on the threshold of El Rey I could laugh out loud at that characterization. DellaVecchia, who calls himself an “unanointed” candidate for mayor, has summoned forces from the fringes of L.A.‘s arts community for a political fund-raiser that resembles nothing so much the event formerly known as a rave.
On a screen above the stage, DellaVecchia appears on video, interviewing citizens about how they spend their days, what they want from a mayor, how they want their worlds to change. The room glows with lights blue, black and laser; the air smells of sage and nag champa; electronica vies for airtime with Brazilian samba. In an azure shirt open at the collar and black jacket, DellaVecchia is dressed only slightly more conservatively than everyone else in the room. When I approach him to say hello, he gives me a big hug. “That’s the first time I‘ve ever been hugged by a political candidate,” I tell him. “Well,” he says, mockingly stentorian, “we’re going for a lot of firsts here tonight.”
If the people in Sherman Oaks are skeptical of big government, most of the people DellaVecchia has drawn to El Rey regard government in general as an alien planet, populated by creatures they must mollify or evade. “One of the things I‘m trying to do by throwing an event like this,” DellaVecchia told me over the phone the day after the fund-raiser, “is to bring the notion that the government should also belong to people who don’t care about government at all, who‘ve let politics happen to them, let it be taken from them. When laws are passed about party ordinances and things that go on in the city, rather than doing something about it, they just go farther away to have their parties. But how far are you going to have to go? And aren’t those laws going to follow you?”
At the same time, DellaVecchia cautions me not to jump to conclusions about his supporters based on what I saw the night before. “We certainly had a lot of people who were in the Moontribe and Burning Man crowds,” he says, invoking both under and overground desert gatherings. “But we also had plenty of people from the more mainstream music scene, and from the small-theater community. And,” he says, “I‘ve received checks and support from people over 50.”
DellaVecchia, who will be 35 by election time (but will still look a boyishly handsome 25), has spent most of the last 16 years in and around L.A.’s theater scene, performing with the Open Fist Theater, and creating performances for local schools. He and his wife, Pauline, rent an apartment in the Fairfax District; for a living, he manages Dawson‘s Book Shop, an antiquarian bookstore on Larchmont Boulevard. He became interested in running for political office about two years ago, when he realized that the new economics of the Internet might allow a grassroots candidate to disseminate a lot of information at relatively little cost.
“I was doing a lot of things on the Internet before there were banners,” he says. “I’ve never lost sight of the fact that you can do a lot more with this fantastic resource than sell product.” He began to see in the new technology a future in public office not only for himself, but for others like him -- interested individuals lacking either the connections or the personal fortune to mount an effective campaign. “I just kept it on the back burner, until it felt like the right time and I‘d figured out what office to run for.”