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5 Awesome Nostalgic Things to Do in L.A. This Week

Burlesque meets science fiction in Flying Saucers Over Burlesque!
Burlesque meets science fiction in Flying Saucers Over Burlesque!
Markus Alias

It's good to step back from the present-day and look back on the city's -- or your own -- history once a while and this week lets you do just that with events ranging from bizarre to nostalgic.

Check out a mid-career retrospective from artist Gary Baseman, an Esoutoric program exploring Tom Waits' haunts in L.A. and even a spoof of the 1936 anti-weed movie Reefer Madness.

5. Stories From His Life

It's rare that an artist reaches the heights in such disparate worlds as gritty independent comics and British psychedelic music, but Oxnard-born cartoonist Gilbert "Beto" Hernandez has for more than 30 years taken his experiences from life and punk rock and distilled them into an ever-evolving universe that readers ignore at their peril. The co-creator of the nigh-unto-perennial Love & Rockets comic book tonight presents his memoir ,Marble Season (Drawn and Quarterly) -- and, as a special bonus, will present the slideshow "From Funnybooks to Graphic Novels," which shines a light on the childhood comic books that fueled his growing confidence and vision. The main character Huey, based on the artist, is the middle child in an extended family making its way in the SoCal suburbs of the '60s. Illustrator Howard Chaykin once observed, "What's the Golden Age of comics? Twelve!" -- and Hernandez is no stranger to the truth of this particular quip, his adolescence shot through with an unfolding imagination that moves readers the world over, far from the strawberry fields of beautiful downtown Oxnard. Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; Wed., April 24, 7:30 p.m.; free, book is $21.95. (323) 660-1175, skylightbooks.com. -- David Cotner

4. The Corner of Heartattack and Vine

Crawling Down Cahuenga: Tom Waits' L.A. is Esotouric's exhaustive triptych of all the places the singer-songwriter hung his hat and his head over the decades he existed on the fringes of the greater Los Angeles area. Hosts David Smay (who wrote a fairly well-received book about Swordfishtrombones in 2007 in the 33⅓ series of rock album meditations) and Esotouric's Kim Cooper lead the way through the threadbare milestones in Waits' oeuvre. Fighting with Nicky Beat at the Troubadour and inciting a punk riot! Dazzling David Geffen and being signed to Asylum Records and promptly shunning the singer-songwriters of the Canyons! Posing with Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson while she got her bazonks out as a stripper on the cover of the Small Change LP! You'll even see that fateful site where Waits met Kathleen Brennan, his savior and true love for the past few decades, which is the point of this whole magical misery tour, really: transformation and redemption, since Waits changed from a wino to whatever wonderful, multicolored, unearthly spirit he is now. The Daily Dose, 1820 Industrial St., Ste. #260, dwntwn.; Sat., April 20, noon; $63. (213) 915-8687, esotouric.com. -- D.C.

3. There Will Be Zombies

Ed Wood's 1959 sci-fi flop, Plan 9 From Outer Space, is considered one of the worst films ever made, but that hasn't stopped the cult classic from being referenced by everyone from punk band The Misfits to the writers of Seinfeld to Tim Burton, whose 1994 Ed Wood celebrated the cross-dressing film director. Now you can add to the list of tributes a three-act burlesque revue that loosely follows the movie's plot. After debuting Flying Saucers Over Burlesque! two years ago, local producer Peepshow Menagerie has resurrected its most popular show, combining all the flying saucers, reanimated corpses, aliens and grave robbers of the original movie with strip teases from Vamp Lorraine as Vampira, Donatella MeLies as an atomic octopus and other show stealers including a 50-foot zombie. Even Ed Wood himself makes a cameo in this titillating satire, but co-producer Chris Beyond is tight-lipped: "There will be an angora sweater, that's all I'll say." Fais Do-Do, 5253 W. Adams Blvd., Mid-City.; Fri., April 19; doors open 9 p.m., music starts 9:45; $12. (323) 931-4636, peepshowmenagerie.com. -- Jennifer Swann

Gary's Baseman's painting, like The Explosion of Dream Reality, editorial work and more to be featured in The Door is Always Open,
Gary's Baseman's painting, like The Explosion of Dream Reality, editorial work and more to be featured in The Door is Always Open,
Gary Baseman

2. Mi Vida Es su Casa

When artists celebrate the first big museum survey of their career, it's an opportunity to regard the entire sweep of their creative evolution. Seeing early works along with curious side projects, sketches, photographs and other work-process materials lends a deep level of insight, taking the event beyond the already exciting gathering of the comprehensive oeuvre. But Gary Baseman is not content to stop there. Unique among artists of his global popularity, Baseman spends as much time as he can with his fans -- in person, online, even onstage -- happy get to know them better if that's what they want. That's where this exhibition gets really special. The show's title, "The Door Is Always Open," is taken from Baseman's late father's reminder that he is always welcome in the family home -- and Baseman pays it forward by welcoming you into his, literally. Almost every piece of furniture, decor, memento, toy and household object from Baseman's childhood and current homes has been carted up the hill and turned into an imaginative installation that not only gives the art on display the most profound of contexts but also does the same for the artist's whole life. Special events in film, lecture, performance and art-making pop up throughout the exhibition, but the opening-night "House Party" features Baseman live-painting with the band Nightmare & the Cat, in a not-to-be-missed expression of creative risk-taking in the comfort of his own, er, living room. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.; Thurs., April 25, 7:30-11 p.m.; runs Tues.-Fri., noon-5 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m., through Aug. 18; regular admission $10, free Thursdays. (310)440-4500, skirball.org. -- Shana Nys Dambrot

1. Laughing in the Face of the Drug Menace

The filmmakers themselves must've been high when they made Reefer Madness, the 1936 anti-cannabis movie about four pot dealers who lure clean-cut teens into a den of vipers and ply them with "marihuana," leading to hit-and-run accidents, rape and ax murder, not to mention a lot of uncontrolled laughter and very fast piano playing. Originally titled Tell Your Children, the movie warned of the "sweet pill that makes life bitter" and the "frightful toll of the new drug menace, which is destroying the youth of America." Reefer Madness was rediscovered in the 1970s as a cult classic and later made into the 2001 Off-Broadway musical and 2005 Showtime movie. Today, you can refer to the reefer at Upright Citizens Brigade, which does its own spoof with Reefer Madness: A Stage Reading, featuring a cast of nearly a dozen who'll be wearing black turtlenecks to conjure up the film's black-and-white feel. And, yes, doobies will be done. If you make it to the show's 4:20 p.m. start time, you've either ditched work early, are unemployed or have gotten lost, and you're almost certainly stoned. UCB has planned a daylong schedule of other 420-related events, including 420 The Show, 420 Funny: A Very Pot-Friendly Variety Show and Allan McLeod Presents: Toke Talk. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hlywd.; Sat., April 20, 4:20 p.m.; $5. (323) 908-8702, losangelesucbtheatre.com. -- Siran Babayan

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