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
He has just resettled his family from Venice to the Palisades, in “a nice, quiet neighborhood, where Jessie and my kids can go for a walk without being accosted by some homeless person.” The new house is a traditional Cape Cod, which is a radical departure from their landmark contemporary home in downtown Venice and reflects a phase in Chris' life when family needs have started to outweigh his penchant for ultraminimal modern architecture.
We step up into his black Mercedes G500, a Hummer-like box Chris says was originally designed for the Austrian army. I can’t resist asking if it’s more fuel efficient than its American cousin. “I hope so,” he says sheepishly as we sit in traffic on Venice’s Main Street, passing within blocks of some of Blind’s main competitors: Logan, Stardust and Motion Theory. He points out other visual-effects boutiques wedged in between stone and tile wholesalers. The area, I note, seems to be gentrifying overnight.
“Yeah, and Bruckheimer’s multimillion-dollar studio is right next to an automotive shop,” Chris says, laughing. But what he still likes about the area is its smaller-town feel. “I’m always running into guys from other shops. Or they’ll text me saying they just saw me walking down the street.” As if to illustrate his point, when we emerge from the parking garage, a guy wearing a yellow T-shirt that says “I hate everyone” yells out Chris’ name. It’s Joel Lava, a director at Transistor Studios, who explains that the T was part of the swag he just scored at a Little Miss Sunshinescreening.
We enter the buzzing Chaya Venice. It’s only Tuesday night, but the high-ceilinged room is packed with a stylish yet somehow suburban crowd feasting on French-Japanese fusion and talking at top volume. I wonder if any of them are the “local artists, musicians and movie-industry moguls” Chaya’s Web site brags are frequent customers. No matter. The rainbow roll is fresh, and Chris gets loose after a few sips of lemonade. Not only does he not drink alcohol; he claims to have never even tasted it. “Not once,” he says, deadpan. Floored, I offer him a sip from my glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and he admits to being curious. “Wine is something I’d like to try, but at home, since I’m not sure what it’d do to me.”
We talk about the transformation of Venice and downtown — where Chris, Jessie and Mike once lived together at the Brewery art complex. He understands where Mike is coming from but doesn’t have the same issues with the city’s way of life. “I love Los Angeles, warts and all. It’s my adopted home and part of my self-identity.?.?.?. In terms of our industry, the heart of it is in L.A. My goals are a little more selfish [than Mike’s]. I want to work with the best people and be the best in the most competitive marketplace. And, from galleries, magazine stands, clubs, museums, restaurants, comic-book stores to films, we have it good. Within a half-hour drive I can find pretty much everything I want.”
Implicit in his statement, of course, is the confidence that thatwouldn’t be the case in a backwater like Vietnam. But the guy who spends his free time watching Ultimate Fighting Championships on pay-per-view or playing games on an Xbox 360 with his 3-year-old gives his brother credit for doing things the hard way, even if Chris doesn’t completely understand it. “Mike’s happiness has always come from nonmaterial things. The intangibles and quality-of-life are what motivate him,” he says.
Chris is pleased that his nomadic little brother has finally found stability and been able to develop something on his own terms. “He’s doing things in Vietnam that are going to be groundbreaking, and I think that’s very inspirational,” he says. “He’s showing a generation of Vietnamese designers a world they were not previously privy to, and he’s helping to build an emerging post-production market there.”
Nevertheless, the older Do sibling won’t be going back to his birthplace anytime soon. Having not seen his country since he was 3, Chris hopes to do so before his youngest son reaches that age. For now, he’s content with the occasional journey to Monterey Park for a $5 bowl of pho. In the meantime he’s got a new arm of his company to oversee. In October, Blind opened an office in New York, and Chris and Jessie have even talked about moving out there one day.
Finally, as rarely seems the case in L.A. or New York, the conversation turns from the coasts to New Orleans, where thousands of Vietnamese were among the masses affected by Hurricane Katrina. Chris retells an NPR story featuring a Vietnamese lady there who refused to leave her home despite rising floodwaters. “When the water came up, fish started coming in the house,” Chris says. “So of course she saw it as an opportunity rather than a dilemma.”
We share a knowing laugh, visualizing the woman crouching in knee-deep living-room water while trying to catch a fish with her bare hands and browbeating her husband to hurry up and figure out how to cook the rice without power. Both Chris and I have witnessed Vietnamese people on either side of the Pacific turn hardship to their advantage.