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
“I love it here. I really do,” says the attractive actor–DJ–vintage-clothes dealer (who is blind in one eye, thanks to a brutal darting accident in a church basement when he was 2 — don’t tell the guys he plays basketball with or they’ll work him off that side). “I tried hard to come here with an open mind and not be one of those boring cliché New Yorkers constantly comparing New York to L.A.”
The fashionably bedraggled and flat-footed Cole is dressed in a pair of Big E–tag indigo 517’s from the early ’60s, a blue “thin-cotton” Western-style Wrangler shirt and custom-made red leather Shriner boots from the ’40s. Two years ago, Cole, who currently lives in a guesthouse just south of the Hollywood sign, moved out west after the lease on his beloved Canal Street loft was up. “It was the home to many, many parties and brainstorming sessions,” he says, slurping his last bit of caffeine through a straw. “I just knew I wasn’t gonna find another place in New York that felt like home. I felt like it was the end of an era.”
What kind of era?
The kind of era that found the flirtatious transplant spending a fair part of the ’90s having his name appear in the pages of The Village Voice and Paper magazine thanks to his then white-hot Spy Bar (a favorite of John John Kennedy) and later the East Village restaurant Black and White (still there). Cole learned how to hop trains and cross tracks with the vogueing kids from the Houses of Xtravaganza and Labeija (Paris Is Burning), palled around with designer Stephan Sprouse and Sylvia Miles, was a club kid and cohort of Michael Alig (Disco Bloodbath/Party Monster) and once met Jerzy Kosinski at the Limelight two days before the Being There author killed himself. He seems to be part of a rather large exodus of N.Y. hipsters who have relocated here over the past five years — the type who can do more than one thing.
“There’s a ton of them,” says one Hollywood party planner.
Next month, Cole, who cites Los Angeles’ “daytime culture” as a part of its appeal and who spins at a number of celebrity-packed clubs throughout the week, will, along with his creative partner Gary Wagner, open Lo-Fi Liquids — a smoothie, juice and coffee and tea bar in the space right next door to his clothes store. Later this summer, he will appear in the Actors’ Gang version of Sam Shepard’s True West, his second production with the company (last year, he spent eight months in the award-winning Exonerated).
“It feels good to find a theater home in a city dominated by film,” says Cole, who has a wealth of knowledge about theater, literature and pop culture, is a great Taboo player, and honed his love-letter writing skills when his parents forbade him from using the phone during his junior high and high school years. And, if that weren’t enough, he plans on hosting Thursday nights at Hollywood’s Café des Artistes. “I’m interested in throwing a party where creative adults can commune,” he says, running his hands through his dry mane and removing a pair of thick black shades. “I’m working on a theme — Hollywood, 1978. Ziggy Stardust meets Malibu.”
But don’t assume Cole’s conservative Indianapolis mom is satisfied yet. “I came from this simple, blue-collar, born-again Christian family. And they expected that I would do something very prestigious or lofty, like, law or medicine. Even when I had a successful life in the counterculture in New York, my mom would still suggest that I come back and go to community college and study law. I was like, ‘Ma, you don’t get it, we’re a little bit beyond that now.’”
At the top of Mount Palomar, up a winding road of Indian casinos and groves of citrus and pine, about an hour inland from Oceanside, sits the Hale Telescope, for decades the crown jewel in the world of astronomy. Since the early 1990s the telescope has been eclipsed by a series of even bigger, fancier models, but as far as Caltech astronomer Chuck Steidel is concerned, Hale is far from obsolete. Like camera and car aficionados, Steidel reserves his deepest reverence for the classics. “Simplicity and workmanship,” he says. “That’s what Hale is all about. There is nothing else like it.”
This evening, Steidel, dressed in a button-down shirt, jeans and wire-rimmed glasses, has come once again to Hale in pursuit of a long-term goal: finding galaxies at the farthest reaches of the universe.
Success with that kind of project takes smarts. Steidel has plenty. Last September the MacArthur Foundation awarded him one of its coveted, unsolicited “genius” grants, handing him half a million bucks, no strings attached. You could call him Big-Buck Chuck.
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