By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Lo and behold, at Mo’s, a comfy restaurant in Burbank, magician Lou Serrano will confound even the most cynical magic nonbelievers. He’ll stop at your table to give you a 15-minutes-or so show of up-close magic tricks that are mind-boggling. One signature trick is taking a dollar bill, crumpling it into a ball, and making it come to life, dancing up and down his arm, around a card box, and finally floating in midair. He passes a card into a bottle and turns five $1 bills into five $100 bills. A regular at the Magic Castle and on the corporate-gig circuit, he’s known as one of the best in the biz, but on Friday nights and at Sunday brunch, you can have your own, personal magic show for just the price of a burger or omelet. 4301 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank. (818) 845-3009.
BEST MONTHLY COMEDY SHOW
Why put the kiddies through the trauma of those regular old Circuses of Terror? The clowns, the dwarf-eating hippos, the bearded ladies with an all-too-familiar resemblance to Aunt Millie? Sure, it’s not exactly family-friendly but for adults who remain comedically young at heart there’s an alternative to the peanut shells and elephant poo, the Improv’s long-running Circus of Joy. The monthly big-top blowout features standup, music and the odd sketch or two, plus a revolving cast of out-there entertainers, including past performers Natasha Leggero, Nick Thune, Dr. Ken, Henry Phillips, Matt Braunger, Eddie Pepitone, Kevin Shea and Maria Bamford (if you can catch a show with wild man Mike O’Connell, you’ve struck gold). Even better, ringleader Chadwick Clough tends to offer free guest list spots via his ScriptPimp.com. So point the clown car for Melrose Avenue; not even UCB offers a more consistent opportunity to let your circus-freak flag fly. The Improv, 8162 Melrose Ave., L.A. (323) 651-2583.
BEST BURLESQUE CLUB
A club packed with both video game nerds and buxom burlesque beauties may seem like wishful thinking, but downtown it’s just another sold-out, Saturday night installment of the monthly residence of Courtney Cruz’s Devil’s Playground at Bordello Bar. Lights dim and the curtains open as the Legend of Zelda’s Link heroically takes the stage scantily clad in a green tunic, armed with a slingshot, sword and shield, ready to defeat evil forces. But before he can embark on his quest, Link gender-morphs into Princess Zelda and begins a striptease that could make any G4 executive blush. Your favorite, old-school Nintendo game just became R-rated. If the city is in the midst of a burlesque revival, then Devil’s Playground is at the forefront, giving it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Beyond traditional fan dancing and martini bathing, Devil’s Playground integrates pop culture and niche fan favorites with the classic art of the striptease, modernizing burlesque with cleverly themed, character-driven performances like Video Game Girls, Comic Book Vixens and the upcoming Tails From the Crypt on October 10. As a producer and performer, Cruz insists that nothing is off-limits and her inspiration for themes comes from pop culture news (the Burlesque Barbie installment was a response to the public outrage over Mattel’s Tattoo Barbie) or from films, video games and comics that influenced her while growing up. For those who enjoy tassel twirling with a unique spin, cozy up with the ladies of Devil’s Playground every second Saturday of the month. 901 E. 1st St., L.A. (213) 687-3766, courtneycruz.com.
BEST UNDERGROUND DATE NIGHT
HM 157 (historic monument No. 157) is a mildly rundown old Victorian in East L.A. How it became a hub for hipsters, artists and people of all ages is due to its quirky inhabitants, Brother Reid Maxwell, the quiet man of the house, and Sister Charon Nogues, an eccentric stylist, visionary and booker for the living/event space. When the pair saw the house they fell in love, but the rent was so high, the only way they could make it work was to make it work for them. They dreamed of creating an event space that could also better the community. Their solution? They turned the bottom floor into a revolving art space, part-time gallery, music venue, backdrop for book readings, discussions and political powwows. For just a $5 donation at the door, guests enter through the Storyville-esque front porch and either meet in the multicolored salons, or out back, where there’s a stage, fire pit and sound system. On any given night you can find something cool going on, from square dancing to belly dancing and the best in local underground music. 3110 N. Broadway, Lincoln Heights; check out their Facebook page for upcoming events.
BEST CHEAP MOVIE THEATER
The Laemmle Grande 4 Plex is a hole-in-the-wall movie theater that offers no perks, the popcorn is mediocre, the floors are sticky from mystery goo, there’s no free, nearby parking, and we’ve seen cleaner bathrooms in bus stations in New Delhi. But what makes this movie house our No. 1 place to watch a new release is simply its lack of lines or crowds. It’s also much cheaper than most fancier theaters around town, at $8.50 ($7 with student ID) per ticket. Regularly, even on the weekends, we arrive 10 minutes before the new release begins, walk right up to the counter for our mediocre popcorn and soda, and then plant ourselves down in any of their many rickety old seats, usually wherever we like. On rare occasions the theater is full. It was bursting for Indiana Jones last spring but quiet for The Hangover during the summer, with only seven people seated. If you hate crowds, don’t mind paying a small fee to park and are willing to hold the bathroom stall door shut because it doesn’t close right, this place is for you. Actually it’s just for us, and the few other daredevils who don’t mind its aforementioned, very minor, drawbacks, all without the throngs who line up at ArcLight or Mann’s Chinese on weekend nights. 345 S. Figueroa St., L.A. (213) 617-0268.
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