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
Because I'd spent the better part of that evening trying to shake a man promoting the idea that the L.A. Weeklywas staffed with several CIA operatives, I took refuge in the company of the Deans. I was surprised to learn that they were friends. The two met in 1979 in New York, when photographer Dean was persuaded by a friend to catch the other Dean's band, Code Blue. "It was kind of mind-boggling," said photographer Dean. "I'd taken guitar lessons as a kid and always tried to play the guitar, but I never had the gift. And when I saw him, it was like he was playing the way I would have played if I couldplay — it was as if he was the embodiment of something I'd wanted to be in some way — some spiritualway."
After Dean Chamberlain the photographer moved to Los Angeles in '94, the two occasionally ran into each other, but "We didn't really connect in any meaningful way" until recently, when Dean Chamberlain invited Dean Chamberlain to participate in a video project about musicians. The shoot didn't produce what Chamberlain was after, but "It did bond us somehow," said the photographer. "There is this weird delicacy between us — we're not only two men who have the same name, but we're both super ectomorphs and the same kind of reserved characters." And, somehow, psychic archetypes: The photographer typically dresses in white, the musician in black, giving observers the impression that they represent opposite sides of a single entity. "It's so strange," says the photographer. "I'm always trying to explain to myself how this happened."
Since that night at Coco's, I have not been able to refer to either man without a qualifier. One was for a time "musician Dean Chamberlain," the other "photographer Dean Chamberlain," a situation that became complicated when I learned that musician Dean was also a photographer, although not at all in the same style. ("It's like we're on different planets as photographers," said the original Chamberlain photographer, who creates "light paintings" through a meticulous process of slow exposures. "He makes these very stark photographs, totally unlike mine.") Now it's "Code Blue Dean Chamberlain," or "Light Space Dean Chamberlain," a reference to the Venice gallery where he's just opened a tribute to Timothy Leary, of whom he made a portrait before the seminal psychonaut's death in 1996.
This past Saturday night, Light Space Dean hosted an opening for the show at his gallery, where I found Code Blue Dean in the company of a woman named Chrissie. An animated blond with the beauty of a James Bond heroine, Chrissie wanted to tell the people standing around her all the nice things Rancho de la Luna co-founder Fred Drake had said about Chamberlain's generosity with other musicians when he was working at that famous Joshua Tree studio. The compliment was a favorable comparison to Jesus. Chamberlain wouldn't have it.
"Oh, Chrissie," he interrupted. "You're high!"
"No, I'm not," she yelled back.
"All right," said Dean Chamberlain. "Let's go say 'hi' to Dean Chamberlain."
When I saw Code Blue Dean again, he was hanging by animator Kenny Scharf's psychedelic light box, recounting for the benefit of two women how he'd gone to buy a book at Book Soup, written a check, and watched as the sales clerk stared up at him perplexed. "Dean Chamberlain?" she'd said. "Wow. You've changed."
The next day, I happened to talk to a friend who, as these things happen, told me he'd just spent two days at Rancho de la Luna. "That's totally weird," I said. "I just spent hours hearing all about Fred at Dean Chamberlain's gallery last night."
"Dean Chamberlain has an art gallery?" he said. "Cool. I haven't heard him play in a long time. I guess his photography is really taking off."
Lean and rangy, with brownish-blond hair coifed short and a wry demeanor nearing Craig Kilborn territory, painter Becca Midwood shrugs and smiles when asked about those in L.A.'s art community who complain she receives far too much attention for what she creates.
"I can feel the jealousy. Things get back to me. There are certain people I can't be around. Sometimes it feels like everyone hates me or they're going to hate me, but you learn to ignore it and go on."
Certainly not everyone hates Midwood, 34, better known by her girlish scrawl, "becca." The requisite crowds are on hand this Saturday night for her latest opening at La Brea's Merry Karnowsky Gallery, sucking back the free vodka-cranberries, as they always do, and nearly rubbing up against the paintings in the process. Hipsters scope the scene. A dude with a big bouffant hairdo nearly puts someone's eye out with his wig. Celebs Mira Sorvino and Zack de la Rocha are spotted. Some folks even take in the art.
Becca and I are in a backroom where a gallery assistant keeps watch over an overworked credit-card machine. The show is called "Homecoming." On one wall, a goth toddler plays with fire; beside her, a diapered infant named Jew Babyis doing chin-ups, a blue Star of David on her chest. Next to Becca, giclee prints of a boy and girl boxer duke it out.