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BEST HOMONYMOUS SHOES
Rafi Balouzian says he believes that “every shoe has a sole, and that’s why I put my soul into each one.” It may be hokey, but once you wear his shoes, you’ll think it’s okay. The designer and owner of Cydwoq (pronounced sidewalk) is the grandson of a shoemaker, and his father manufactured shoe components. Put those together and you get the Cydwoq motto: Old-World craftsmanship for modern feet. “I have a very good understanding of soles and shoe components, and we make all of our components here,” he says. “Most companies don’t.” Each shoe (or sandal or boot) is handmade to order and designed to aid walking, not hinder it. Comfort is paramount, but Balouzian’s designs are often elegantly simple, particularly those of his women’s sandals. (He says he likes women’s feet and it shows.) We’re not sure how he feels about men’s feet, but Balouzian says his design influences come from nature — he’s a mountain biker — and from cars, buildings, bridges. “I never listen to what trendy fashion people are talking about,” he says. “I just do my own thing. People who buy my shoes want to be different.” Cydwoq began in Burbank in the late ’90s, and can now be found the world over. There’s a dedicated store in New York and one opened this summer in Barcelona — look for Gaudi’s influences in next year’s designs, says Balouzian. Locally, we found them at Carole Young: Undesigned, 1252 ½ Hillhurst Ave., in Los Feliz. (323) 663-0088. Check the Web site for other retailers or visit the Cydwoq factory showroom in Burbank (but call ahead). 2102 Kenmere Ave., Burbank. (818) 848-8307, cydwoq.com.
BEST LITTLE PROP SHOP OF HORRORS
Got brains? If you need some — plastic brains, rubber brains, foam brains — Dapper Cadaver horror prop shop in Sun Valley is the place to go. And not just for brains — you can find legs and toes and severed hands, too. Proprietor B.J. Winslow has gory guts and ghoulish gear galore in his newly relocated store. Heads of swine, lion skulls, butchers saws, iron shackles, leech jars, replica fetuses with one head or two. And don’t forget the blood. Man, has Winslow got blood. Enough to feed a coven of vampires: gallons of edible blood (always handy), EZ Clean blood (practical!), dry blood, powdered blood, blood gel, blood paste. If it’s sick and twisted, or it’s needed for the process of making things sick and twisted, Winslow has it — to purchase or rent. Hollywood set designers regularly come to him when they need to gross stuff up for film and TV. Dapper Cadaver is also one of the few shops in town that will customize superrealistic–looking Styrofoam tombstones with your choice of epitaph. “Rest in pieces” perhaps? And for those who need massive amounts of gore, Winslow offers discounts for bulk purchases. Perfect for decorating your living room or, you know, a mass grave. 7572 San Fernando Road, Sun Valley. (818) 771-0818, dappercadaver.com.
BEST DJ GEAR RENTAL
One of the worst aspects of DJing is gear — buying it, storing it and lugging it. A minimal setup for a backyard party, including two self-powered speakers, turntables and a mixer, will run you more than $2,000 new. And that’s not counting a laptop and a pickup to haul the stuff. We discovered Cosmos a few years ago while helping to organize entertainment for a company party. The prices can’t be beat. Technics turntables rent for $25 a day. Self-powered, 15-inch JBL Eon speakers (which retail for about $1,500) go for $55 per day. Top-of-the-line Rane DJ mixers can be had for $75 a day. And if you’re local, they’ll set it all up for you and come pick up the gear for $200 to $300, depending on how much gear is involved. Cosmos serves everyone, from house-party faithfuls to major-production venues. It provides sound and lighting for big-name concerts, but somehow the technicians have time to explain how to set up the XLR cables on those JBLs. They also sell and repair gear and recently opened a Cosmos DJ Academy for hopefuls who want to learn how to spin records — and lug stuff around. 6060 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (323) 957-1200, cosmos-sound.com.
BEST DJs FOR HIRE
A party boat cruises out of Long Beach Harbor as skinny model types robotically gyrate to a stale beat of Madonna tunes. Their mood is subdued, and some partygoers socialize while others watch the skyscrapers and urban skyline fade in the distance. The crowd turns ecstatic when Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys takes the small stage. Armed with only a turntable and a Serato but with thousands of tunes, he begins to spin songs ranging from Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” to Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” as the crowd — including drunken frat boys and a few seasick 20-somethings, start cheering. You need a wad of cash to afford Mix Master Mike, but this premier spinmeister is one of 35 specialty DJs hooked up with Copeland Entertainment, a cutting-edge operation run by Mix Master Mike’s wife, Dianne Copeland. If you want a reasonably priced DJ to spin Top 40, Latin, house, trance or hip-hop at your pool party, or if you can pay the steeper price for recognizable talent like DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill, it’s a sure way to get your party started. (310) 281-3030, copelandentertainment.com.