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
Photo by Ted Soqui
FRIDAY NIGHT A HANDFUL OF EXPECTANT strangers gather in cars at a cracked and narrow parking lot in Hollywood. We're here to see Los Angeles' "first guerrilla drive-in," according to the Web site (www.12.org) that led us here, and at 10 minutes past 8 we're still waiting. In the chilly night air, we exchange the nervous glances of the taken.
"Maybe it's a hoax," George Gomez says to his friend David Aguilar. That wouldn't be such a bad thing for Gomez and Aguilar, who are filmmakers. "We're thinking about doing our own guerrilla drive-in at the end of August," Gomez says. "We thought we'd be the first ones to do it. Of course, we still could be first because there's nothing going on here."
As if on cue, a car pulls into the lot and the driver starts unloading electronics. "Sorry I'm late," Caleb Schultz tells us. "Traffic was really bad."
Everything it takes to stage a guerrilla drive-in fits neatly into the back of Schultz's Honda Civic: a VCR, a video projector, an FM receiver and a generator. The only other things you need are a film and a wall.
Tonight, we're watching 12, an experimental feature by writer-director Lawrence Bridges, projected on the painted brick wall of a food bank just south of a Staples store on Sunset Boulevard. Bridges isn't here tonight -- and it turns out that this is not the first screening of 12, which follows the plight of two prodigal demigods forced by their father, a wrathful Zeus, to live in Los Angeles as characters from The Importance of Being Earnest. The director began projecting a two-hour cut of his three-hour movie onto the sides of buildings from Santa Monica to the Valley last summer. Sometimes he gets the owner's permission; sometimes he doesn't, a dicey prospect given tonight's locale: behind the parking lot of the LAPD's Hollywood station.
Schultz is an intern at Bridges' commercial-production company, and acts as Bridges' projectionist and publicist. After he fires up the generator and sets the projector on top of the Civic, he distributes press kits to nine people divided among five cars. "This is a good turnout," he says. "Sometimes no one shows up."
By 8:30, with everyone snug in their cars -- radios tuned to the Spanish-language dance station KACD 103.1 FM, to pick up the localized pirate signal that will carry 12's soundtrack -- everything is set.
For a fleeting moment, as the film's first frames flicker over an adjacent alley, this tiny quadrant of the city feels freed from the rationality of the grid. Gradually, with footage of the L.A. riots and the Northridge earthquake incorporated into its narrative, the film and its environment begin to sync up in fascinating ways.
"It's almost like a Cristo gesture," Bridges says a few days later over the phone, "to make connections between illusion and reality and then put that back on the walls of the city that inspired it, dressing the city with its own fiction."
We're a long way from Hershel Gordon Lewis and Joe Bob Briggs here. Bridges' quixotic project doesn't tell a story so much as it gets at the nature of telling stories on film through an epic amalgam of Greek mythology, Oscar Wilde, recent Los Angeles history, and the influences of Herzog, Wenders, Scorsese, Godard and other movie gods. As Bridges describes his film's disjunctive form: "I still haven't gotten over Weekend yet."
Certainly, Bridges' guerrilla venue -- at once brazenly out in the open and totally clandestine -- doesn't help. Like a real drive-in movie screening, distractions come easily. There are no make-out sessions to spy on, but sometimes it's more fun to watch the passing Friday-night fun-seekers and homeless men on Cole Street as they try to figure out what's happening onscreen.
Bridges doesn't mind. He thinks there's value in melding drive-in culture with underground movies. "I hope my film finds an audience, but I also wanted to create a unique experience," he says. "I hope more people get into this. Then people can just drive around, stop and sample art."
As for filmmakers Gomez and Aguilar, they drive off an hour into 12. No doubt on the way to getting their own drive-in started.
Social Studies: The Seven-Year-Old Itch
THERE WAS AN OUTBREAK OF HEAD lice recently at my daughter's private school. I'm not talking a few kindergartners with a suspect itch, but swarms of kids, including every girl in the fifth grade. Parents were phoned in the morning and told they needed to pick up their children pronto. Fleets of SUVs screeched into the parking lot, and alarmed mothers hauled pie-eyed kids straight to Rite Aid for packages of Rid or Nix. The following day, kids were re-checked, and most were sent home again -- this, despite the hue and cry of parents stubbornly insisting that the kids did not have nits, but dandruff.
I got a look at this dandruff; it had legs, and it laid eggs. I could be sanguine about all this because my daughter was not affected (this time: I've deloused and de-wormed my kid twice in her short life, thank you very much), and because I could, like the neighborly housewives of TV commercials commiserating about unsightly wax buildup, tell these parents where salvation lay.
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