By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
MAHEBA MERHI IS A HOPELESS PEZaholic. She loves PEZ so much that she and her mother, Camelia, took on the awesome task of creating the first PEZific Coast convention. According to Merhi, there is an absolute need for this convention. "All the other conventions are so far away, in the Midwest and on the East Coast," she says. "And there are so many collectors in California who were bummed that last year's PEZ-a-Thon was canceled. We decided to step up to the plate."
PEZ conventions are not like Star Trek conventions. PEZ are real! You can't hold Captain Kirk in your hand -- unless, of course, you've got a Captain Kirk PEZ dispenser. And where else but at a PEZ convention can you play PEZ bingo (for wildly rare PEZ) or experience the thrill of the PEZ trading floor?
The history of PEZ and PEZ puppets, the little characters whose heads tilt back and regurgitate a candy tablet, goes back to 1927 when Austrian candy executive Eduard Haas marketed a mint for use as a smoking deterrent. The first dispensers appeared around 1950 and looked like small tin cigarette lighters (part of the anti-smoking ploy). These original tin dispensers -- known as "regulars" to collectors but also referred to as "lighters" -- can fetch prices in the thousands. The manufacturing of cartoon heads began in 1952, and today dispensers are made in the USA, Canada, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, China and Slovenia.
It isn't surprising then, that this weekend's PEZific Coast convention at the Manhattan Beach Marriott drew collectors from all over the world. From Canada and Austria, Oregon, Germany and Lebanon. A contingent of 100 from Japan alone.
Ontario, Canada, dealer Red Conroy says he "drove the distance to be here." Conroy constantly attends conventions and sporting events that offer PEZ promotions -- such as the Chicago Cub's Charlie Brown -- and solicits people to sell him their PEZ on the spot. "In Chicago I was kicked out and then went back in again," Conroy says. "Then I went to one in Minneapolis and was kicked out twice -- and went back in again." Conroy is also a clergyman and is scheduled to officiate at a wedding between two PEZ lovers later this year.
"Lots of people tell me that they can be having the crappiest day ever, and then they'll look at their PEZ collection and [the crappiness] just melts away," says Merhi. PEZ transcends crap.
Legend has it that Pierre Omidyar started eBay so his girlfriend could have a place online to trade her PEZ dispensers. EBay is the number-one place to collect and sell PEZ, and if you haven't seen it, you should. But be careful -- you might run into that Casper the Friendly Ghost PEZ you had as a kid, and the next thing you know you'll be whipping out that credit card. Then we'll be seeing you at the PEZific Coast convention next year. You'll see. I speak from experience. And when I look at my own collection of more than 300 PEZ, my crappiness melts away too.
Nightlife: Looking for Hardcore in an Emo World
RECENTLY MY FRIEND GADI WAS passing through town. He had a question for me: "Where do I go for some real hardcore?" Emphasis on the core. Forget Hustler Hollywood, he was asking about punk rock. Not "Boom-chick-boom-chick-boom-chick" or whatever beat is shaking dance floors around the world. I'm talking "Oi oi oi!" Mosh it up.
As a freshly minted 27-year-old, it's not like I stay abreast of developments in "the scene." Hardcore punk is for kids. After I corrected his inflection, my first impulse was to answer, "I don't know."
"Not good enough," said Gadi. "I want to go see a show before I can be mistaken for an A&R guy." I suggested he take off his leather jacket.
My second impulse was to wonder if hardcore punk still exists. Arguably it started here in Los Angeles, through the work of the Germs, the Circle Jerks, the Minutemen and Black Flag. Vintage SoCal hardcore still sounds extreme. And though it's only a matter of time before "Lexicon Devil," "Damaged" and "Group Sex" are licensed to television advertisements, it's doubtful we'll ever hear them on a WB teen dramedy. Small favors. These days, all the kids seem to be talking about emo this, pop-punk that. The bands have names like Blink-182, Saves the Day, Sum 41 and Jimmy Eat World. And this stuff goes platinum.
Thus began our quest.
My third impulse was to check the schedule at the Smell, a downtown club that still books bands with old-fashioned names like Scholastic Death, Youth Riot, Reagan SS and Holier Than Thou, all of which I hope are worn with a degree of humor not immediately apparent. Perhaps the members of Holier Than Thou dress up as Muslim, Jewish and Catholic religious leaders, then squabble during sound check.
"I need less guitar in my monitor," says the vocalist, dressed as Pope John Paul II.
"Hey, fuck you, Paul," retorts Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, fiddling with his Strat.
Unimpressed with the credibility of any of the Smell's offerings, we ended up at Spaceland, where we were exposed to a band called Dressy Bessy. Its members wore cardigan sweaters and vintage dresses and looked like extras from The Partridge Family. On the one hand, they were harmless; on the other hand, they were harmless. One of the opening acts, Alien Crime Syndicate, was a lot better. Their best song, however, included a chorus with a tightly arranged, three-part harmony that went, "We want it all. We want it all. We want it all." Pop-punk, maybe, but definitely not hardcore.