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
FRIDAY, MARCH 6
THERE’S NO FUSION LIKE GAY FUSION
A day after the California Supreme Court hears oral arguments for the repeal of Proposition 8, cinephiles of all stripes and sexual orientations will gather in Hollywood for two days of movie-watching at Fusion 2009: The Los Angeles LGBT People of Color Film Festival, presented by Outfest. The film that will generate a whole bunch of interest is Pedro, which was written by Lance Black, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Milk. Black once again tackles the subject matter of a gay icon in Pedro Zamora, about the AIDS activist and MTV Real World cast member in San Francisco, who died from AIDS complications in 1994. Zamora worked endlessly to put a human face on the AIDS crisis and eventually became so respected and well-known that President Bill Clinton gave him a call. It’s a good film with an inspiring story, but there are other entries at Fusion that also deserve attention, particularly a meditative three-minute short film by director Dino Dinco, who created a lovely portrait of San Antonio educator and poet Joe Jimenez, called El Abuelo. Dish, a short film by director Brian Harris Krinsky, which follows the wanderings of teenage emo kids in East L.A., is also a thoughtful treat. Fusion 2009, Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., March 6-7. (213) 480-7088 or www.outfest.org/fusion/.
IF A MIME PERFORMS AT UCB AND EVERYONE LAUGHS, DID HE MAKE A SOUND?
Sure, Man on Wire deserved the hell out of last month’s Best Documentary Oscar, but we as a nation still have many a reality-film inroad to pave. Let us not forget the criminally overlooked, Academy-snubbed 2005 docu-gem The Aristocrats, in which Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette cajoled dozens of dirty-minded comedians into interpreting the titillating titular narrative as his or her own. And just like the nutty Frenchman at Wire’s perfectly balanced center, Billy the Mime stole the show. The Jimmy Kimmel Show and comedy-festival vet (and past L.A. Weekly Theater Award winner) opted to forgo lewd language, instead wordlessly and mesmerizingly mimicking an equally disturbing version that began with a cordial opening handshake and culminated in the anal violation of the fictitious family dog. In stark contrast to the esteemed likes of George Carlin, Pat Cooper, Don Rickles and Chris Rock, Billy the Mime spoke volumes without saying a single thing. Sans makeup, the man otherwise known as Steven Banks serves as a SpongeBob SquarePants writer, but this weekend he’ll re-apply the whiteface for one show only. With a repertoire including “Dreams of a Young Crippled Boy,” “Rape and Revenge,” “Columbine: School’s Out” and “A Hurricane Called Katrina,” he ain’t subtle, but he’s in a category of his own. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hollywood; Fri., March 6, 7:30 p.m.; $8. (323) 908-8702.
SATURDAY, MARCH 7
Think you know L.A.? Need more stress in your weekend? Got sensible shoes? Then you’ll want to set your alarm for Hollywood: Past, Present and Future, the latest “fast-paced, clue-solving adventure” from the fun-loving sadists of Race/L.A. You and your teammates — teams are two to four players — will have to be quick on your feet as you bolt/sprint/tear through Hollywood, solving puzzles, cracking codes and learning little-known factoids about Hollywood. Call for reservations. Sat., March 7, 10 a.m.; $35 (tours last about three hours). (310) 360-6950 or www.racela.com.
Your Virtuosi or Mine?
This charming Music and Conversations series delivers a unique experience on a variety of levels. Not only does the classical/jazz combo program feature world-class virtuosi, but you can also enjoy one-on-one conversations with the artists in an intimate private-home setting with a to-die-for view of the city. This week, Nancy Wu, associate concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; John Walz, L.A. Opera principal cellist; and the one and only Delores Stevens, pianist extraordinaire, perform the West Coast premiere of Morton Subotnick’s Then and Now Forever (Wu and Stevens were among the musicians who premiered the work at last August’s Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Festival); Bach’s Suite for Unaccompanied Cello No. 3 in C major; and Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor. The program changes gears when Grammy-winning pianist Alan Broadbent joins Gary Foster on sax and Putter Smith on bass for some cool-hot jazz. Oh, yeah, throw in some hors d’oeuvres and a wine tasting courtesy of Casa Torelli, and you’ve got something approaching the music lover’s perfect evening. Goldman Custom Performance Space, private residence in Mt. Washington; Sat., March 7, wine & hors d’oeuvres 7:30 p.m., concert 8 p.m.; $35, $20 students. (310) 453-6278 or www.musicandconversations.org.
Bodies By Balanchine & Backhaus
Devotees of George Balanchine used to have to leave town for New York or other cities with ballet companies up to the challenges of the legendary choreographer’s ballets, but in its first two seasons, homegrown Los Angeles Ballet has already offered an impressive array of Balanchine masterpieces, including Serenade, Concerto Barocco, Apollo, Agon, Four Temperaments, Allegro Brillante, Rubies and Who Cares? — all to high critical praise. A segment of LAB’s Who Cares? was even showcased on So You Think You Can Dance. This week, artistic directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary open LAB’s three-week spring season with Balanchine’s Prodigal Son and Stravinsky Violin Concerto, joined by a new work from award-winning SoCal dance maker Jennifer Backhaus. Prodigal Son was staged by former New York City Ballet star Pat Neary and features guest artist Eddy Tovar from Orlando Ballet in the title role and Melissa Barak as the femme fatale who takes him for all he is worth and knows how to work a cape. This marks Backhaus’ second new work set on LAB dancers and continues LAB’s promising commitment to new choreography alongside top-notch productions of existing masterworks. After this weekend’s opening in Redondo Beach, the company moves to Santa Monica next week for LAB’s debut at the new Broad Stage, then on to Glendale for the final weekend. Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach; Sat., March 7, 7:30 p.m. Also at the Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica; Sat., March 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., March 15, 2 p.m. Also at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., March 21, 7:30 p.m.; $30-$95. (310) 998-7782 or www.LosAngelesBallet.org.
SUNDAY, MARCH 8
They’re calling it the “Gold Standard.” Get it? See, it’s a play on the name of L.A. Weekly’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Jonathan Gold and the definition of a paragon of excellence. (Guess they didn’t like “Eat Your Heart of Gold” or “Pots of Gold.”) C’mon, people! This is a Golden opportunity! Anyhoo, when you win a Pulitzer Prize for food writing, you’ll get to curate your own food festival, too. “Contrary to popular belief, nobody at the festival will be serving narwhal, walrus or baby seal,” says Gold. “Although I’d keep an eye on Fred Eric from Tiara if I were you.” Thirty handpicked restaurants, plus beer and wine tasting. A portion of proceeds will go to Heal the Bay. Smashbox Studios, 1011 Fuller Ave., West Hollywood; Sun., March 8, 3-7 p.m.; $60, $10 children. www.laweekly.com/microsites/gold-standard.
L.A. ARTISTS ON PARADE
Hand-knit sweaters and a replica of the grotto at the Playboy mansion are just some of the paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture and video by local artists — Lisa Anne Auerbach, Julie Becker, Llyn Foulkes, Charles Irvin, Hirsch Perlman, Victoria Reynolds, Kaari Upson, Jeffrey Vallance and Charlie White — who contributed to the Hammer’s biannual invitational exhibit, Nine Lives: Visionary Artists from L.A., curated by Ali Subotnick. Upcoming related events include talks with Reynolds and Vallance, a panel discussion and screenings of Splendor in the Grass and two documentaries by Werner Herzog. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tues.-Wed. & Fri., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thurs., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; opens March 8; through May 31; $7, $5 seniors, free for students and under 17. (310) 443-7000.
MONDAY, MARCH 9
Best War Painter
It’s a shame that Barack Obama didn’t select Yusef Komunyakaa to deliver the invocation poem at the Inauguration ceremonies in January. The Princeton professor is not only this nation’s supreme stylist — conjuring poems that fairly crackle with palpably lavish imagery — but he also has more profoundly intuitive things to say than Elizabeth Alexander, the overmatched and earnestly prosaic writer who was given the honor. Komunyakaa’s masterwork, 1993’s Neon Vernacular, draws upon his childhood in Louisiana and his experience as a soldier in the Vietnam War to paint vivid pictures “through a hallucination of blues/& deep purples that set the day on fire.” His poetry is simultaneously down to earth and lushly evocative, whether he’s describing butterflies (“Incandescent anthologies/semi-zoological alphabets of fire”) or nervous soldiers waiting in ambush (“A tiger circles us, in his broken cage/between sky & what’s human ... & then a sound that makes you jump/in your sleep years later/the cough of a mortar tube”). His poems about music are literally musical, snapping with a bluesy beat and soaring with a jazzy expansiveness. Komunyakaa’s more recent work, as collected in the African-American travelogue/revisionist history lesson Taboo (2004), is just as feverishly enchanting and richly detailed. His latest book, Warhorses, came out in October. Boston Court Performing Arts Center, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Mon., March 9, 7 p.m. (626) 683-6883.
I’D LIKE TO THANK MY STUFFED ANIMALS...
Budding — along with budded — filmmakers latched onto the Fisher Price PXL toy camera like toddlers to sippy cups. Here’s what filmmaker Bryan Konefsky once said: “Pixelvision is the haiku of cinema: the minimum of means delivering the maximum of meaning. The PXL 2000 toy camera’s limited image quality forces moviemakers to focus on essentials, and thereby to produce a richly connotative cinematic experience. In fact, PXL may be the best instantiation of Stan Brakhage’s luminous quote: ‘The true meaning of cinema can be found between the frames.’ ” For PXL This 18, festival director Gerry Fialka has assembled some of the best entries from New Zealand, Canada, Czech Republic and the U.S. Unurban Coffeehouse, 3301 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Mon., March 9, 7 p.m.; free. (310) 306-7330 or www.indiespace.com/pxlthis.
THE CHAMBER OF MANY SURPRISES
You can always count on Southwest Chamber Music to provide a not-just-your-average chamber music evening, and this week the group again rises to the occasion with a meet-and-greet for the Czech Republic, New England and the Black Church. The program includes Dvorak’s passionate, lively Quintet for Piano and Strings in A major, Op. 81, whose original themes in authentic Czech folk style include a dumka (Ukrainian ballad), a furiant (a rousing Czech dance) and an irrepressible polka finale; Charles Ives’ String Quartet No. 1 (“From the Salvation Army”), flavored with stirring melodies from the New England Protestant hymnal; and Wadada Leo Smith’s provocative String Quartet No. 3, subtitled “Black Church, First Gathering of the World Spirit,” a one-movement work that’s on the one hand atonally difficult to absorb, and on the other definitely worth the experience. Armory Center for the Arts, 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; Sat., March 7. Also at the Colburn School of Performing Arts, Zipper Auditorium, 200 S. Grand Ave., downtown; Mon., March 9; 7:30 p.m. preconcert talks, 8 p.m. concerts; $38, $28 seniors, $10 students. (800) 726-7147 or www.swmusic.org.
TUESDAY, MARCH 10
Reyna Grande’s novel Across a Hundred Mountains might be fiction, but it’s about a very real topic: immigration. Author Grande knows firsthand about the heartbreak that comes when families are torn apart by borders. Shortly after her birth in Guerrero, Mexico, her parents came to the U.S., and she didn’t join them until she was 9. The book tells the story of two women, one born in Mexico, one in the U.S., who meet in a Tijuana jail. Grande, the first member of her family to receive a college degree, will give a talk about her writing. Santa Monica College, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Tues., March 10, 11:15 a.m.; free. (310) 434-4303.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11
JOURNEY BACK TO 40 YEARS C.D.
Remember album covers? If not, please do not read any farther. Some of those covers were like portals into another world, which we would stare into until a freaky-looking bird’s full-lipped beak started to look like a talking hand beneath Elton John’s piano-riding tuxedo. ... Whoa, better stop right there. Alan Aldridge was the artist who designed album covers and posters for the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and, yes, a certain Brown Dirt Cowboy. He became creative consultant to Apple Corps, and John Lennon even dubbed him “his royal master of images.” Dude’s got a new book, The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes, featuring some of his most famous artwork, plus his notorious Chelsea Girls poster; images from his children’s book The Butterfly Ball; and graphics made for the Hard Rock Café, the House of Blues and The New York Times. Aldridge signs and maybe shares a tale or two. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; Wed., March 11, 7 p.m.; free, book is $35. (310) 659-3110.
What’s That Saying? Behind Every Pink Slip, There’s a Cheap
It seems that dreaded “meeting” with your boss is lurking just around the corner, ready to pounce at any moment. For many Angelenos, that day has sadly passed. With traffic thinning, restaurants becoming more reminiscent of ghost towns than eateries, and Craigslist jobs getting more hits than Match.com, there seems to be little else the unemployed can do these days. Stuck in a rut? Feeling hopeless? Fret no further. Plaster your game face on for Pink Slip Party L.A. Brought back from the dead by Beryl Smith, president of BCS Staffing Inc., the historic party originated in the early 1900s, when the Depression sank into its darkest hour and provided lubricated sustenance and social networking to out-of-work laborers. Toast the spirit of your compadres of 70 years ago with $5 margaritas, lounge on the spacious, festively themed patio with other job-challenged folks, and link up with recruiters in accounting, health care, finance, marketing and more. Pink Taco, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Wed., March 11, 6 p.m.-8 p.m.; free. (310) 691-2178 or www.pinkslippartyla.com.
HOW TO PLAY THE BLUES: FIRST, GET A GOOD BLUES NAME, PREFERABLY WITH “HAMBONE” AND/OR “FAT RIVER DUMPLING”
Tired of just sitting on your couch as Western Civilization yaws ever further into the beckoning abyss of the New Depression? Why not try what so many did during the first one? Break out that old guilt box and defy the panic with a spontaneous mess of blues. There’s never been a more sure-fire way to chase those hellhounds off your trail. One could not be in more capable hands than with esteemed blues acolyte Bernie Pearl, who offers his first-ever Electric Blues Jam Class tonight. The guitarist made his bones decades ago at the Pearl family’s legendary Ash Grove club, where the youthful musician marinated in a luxurious blues chowder, regularly sitting in with such old-school bosses as Mississippi Fred MacDowell, Brownie McGhee, the Rev. Gary Davis and Mance Lipscomb, not to mention the king of wig-flipping Texas beer-joint blues, Lightnin’ Hopkins. That kind of experience is of incalculable value, and let’s face it, kiddies, apart from valiant torchbearers like Pearl, it’s a dying art form, one whose spirituality and subtlety increasingly face extinction. Dig in, live it up and bring whatever ax you like: “All instruments welcome. We’ll even have a drummer,” Pearl says. “Small amps only, volume control strictly enforced — by me!” Boulevard Music, 4316 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City; Wed., March 11, 7:30 p.m.; $15. (310) 398-2583.
THURSDAY, MARCH 12
COMEDY PICK: JACKIE KASHIAN
The Dork-Tongued Comic Speaks
Jackie Kashian is like the comic next door — if the comic next door is prone to acutely hilarious family stories and hosts her own dependably entertaining chatfest/podcast, The Dork Forest. Catch up with her at jackiekashian.com.
L.A. WEEKLY:What was the highlight of 2008 for you?
KASHIAN: That would have to be the election. Like most Americans, I’m an anarchic socialist — I’d like everyone to choose to share — but we got to see in the last eight years that laissez-faire doesn’t really manifest that goal. So I’m looking forward to some forced sharing. What the heck. At this point I’m looking forward to a return of Nixon socialism.
When was the last time you had a day job?
I was never comfortable not having one because I love me a steady paycheck. But in 2003 I finally got the guts to quit the nicest place I’ve ever worked. It’s a closed-captioning company in Burbank. I still help out if I’m in town and not doing anything and they need me. It’s just that amicable.
What do you define as success for a comic?
Keeping the love of what you do. Getting to do what you love for a living. Continuing to write new, fresher material forever. And, I’m sure, a giant bag of money as a doorstop.
Describe, for the uninitiated, The Dork Forest.
I did a joke about hanging out with people in The Dork Forest — playing games and reading books — and people started coming up to me and asking if their dorky thing was in “the forest.” So I do a regular podcast where I interview people about the things that they love a LOT. It’s often video games and comic books and science fiction. But it can be, and is, TV and movie dorks, music and car dorks — one guy has an obsession with U2, and a friend guerrilla-prunes other people’s trees. I’ve had game designers and Hugo- and Nebula-winning authors on the show. I talk to a LOT of comics. Because I know them, and most comics are pretty dorky. And sometimes, nicely weird about the stuff they like as well.
I’m also working on a webisode series called Dork Forest Expedition — like Dork Cribs. Mutual of Omaha’s Dork Expedition, essentially.
What kind of dork are you? (Full confession: I am an Anglophile dork whose all-time favorite movie is Oliver!)
UH ... please be on the show! I’m a chameleon dork. Most likely I will play whatever thing you want to play. Board games, video games — I’ve gotten great book ideas. I now read a LOT of comic books. I’ve been introduced to lots of anime, and I’ve even had a sword-fighting lesson.
Who are some of your dream guests on The Dork Forest?
Well — people you might expect: Joss Whedon, Ed Brubaker, Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin, Dick Cavett (I have no idea what kind of a dork he is — I’m just pretty sure he is). A million actors, writers and science dorks. I don’t know much about music or sports, but I have learned a bit by having sport and music dorks on the show. Much like I learned more by having political and science “enthusiasts” on.
Really, some of the best shows have been with guests who have contacted me to be on the show. Not just standup comics but listeners — people who have spent thousands of dollars buying action figures and go to Japan regularly to buy Manga. A guy who writes fantasy pro-wrestling fan fiction. Uh … that was awesome.
What do you miss about Wisconsin?
I don’t have to — I’m in Wisconsin and Minnesota two or three times a year. I was just there and had a heartbreaking meal of “Brat Tot” (Tater Tot HotDish made with bratwurst instead of hamburger). It was like eating a salt lick.
You goof on your dad; does he like your act?
My dad is the best sport. He recently said to me, “I missed you, so I put in that tape of your show” (I do a one-person show about my family — Salesmen and Thieves). And I said, “Did you miss me or did you miss me talking about you?” and he said, “a little of both.”
You live in the Valley. What do you like about it there?
Ah … the Valley. We can almost see the Pacoima Wash from the kitchen window. I like that I can have a garden and grow tomatoes in L.A. My own little victory garden toward the war effort.
What’s your topic for the King Davids show?
I’m not Jewish, but I am Armenian, which is Semitic ... so I’ll be “passing” for a Jew.
Jackie Kashian performs at King Davids of Comedy at the Hollywood Improv, 8162 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; Thurs., March 12, 8 p.m.; $15. (323) 651-2583.