This week is all about fun, funky, free festivals happening all over Los Angeles – a '70s TV show celebration in Beverly Hills, a Skid Row art festival, a Halloween-themed variety show at the Virgil, and Lit Crawl – the best-read bar crawl NoHo has ever seen. Too punk to party with the mainstream? Head to Pasadena for a free talk on punk's origins in L.A., from the folks who were really there.
5. Watch Those '70s Shows
The lovable bigot, the women’s libber, the independent career woman — Norman Lear, Mary Tyler Moore and her ex-husband Grant Tinker were behind some of TV’s most enduring characters. The Paley Center’s ’70s Spin-Off-Palooza traces their studios’ influence on the “golden age” of sitcoms and screens spinoff episodes from their biggest series: All in the Family’s “Cousin Maude’s Visit,” in which feminist Maude (Bea Arthur) helps nurse Edith’s ailing family and instantly clashes with Archie Bunker; Maude’s “Maude Meets Florida,” in which Maude hires headstrong maid Florida (Esther Rolle), who goes on to become the matriarch in Good Times; and The Jeffersons’ “A Friend in Need,” in which the Jeffersons, too, decide they need a maid and hire mouthy Florence (Marla Gibbs), who has the run of the house. The event closes out with the Mary Tyler Moore spinoff premieres of Rhoda, starring Valerie Harper as a single girl in New York, and Lou Grant, with Ed Asner reprising his MTM role, this time in a drama. The latter’s cast includes Nancy Marchand, who was just as scary playing a newspaper publisher as she was playing Tony Soprano’s filicidal mommy on The Sopranos. Paley Center for Media, 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; Sat.-Sun., Oct. 18-19, 2-5 p.m.; free, suggested donation $10, $8 students & seniors, $5 children. (310) 786-1091, paley?center.org. —Siran Babayan
4. Hang Out on Skid Row
In L.A., Skid Row is more than a metaphor. It’s a place, about two blocks from the developing downtown area designated Gallery Row. It’s also the nation’s largest recovery community, home to residents who hail from all backgrounds and all over the United States. This being L.A., those backgrounds often include the arts. Already known and admired internationally for its citizen theater productions treating thorny contemporary issues from incarceration to women’s rights, the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) and its performance-artist capo John Malpede are tireless advocates for effecting social policy through the arts. Now for the fifth year, the LAPD partners with Skid Row advocates United Coalition East Prevention Project and community-based Lamp Arts Program to produce the 2014 Festival for All Skid Row Artists. Happening on both afternoons this weekend in Gladys Park (a green space on San Julian between Sixth and Seventh streets), the festival is open to visual artists as well as musicians, performers, poets and spoken-word artists, dancers — even hair artists! — and really anyone in the neighborhood who has something exciting to offer. Though mostly a neighborhood celebration and a chance for nonresidents to have some myths dispelled about their city’s history, these events also allow LAPD to create an artists’ registry and archive. Go ahead, surprise yourself. Gladys Park, 808 E. Sixth St., dwntwn.; Sat., Oct. 18-Sun., Oct. 19, 1-5 p.m.; free. (213) 413-1077, lapoverty?dept.org. —Shana Nys Dambrot
See also: 30 Free Things to Do in L.A. Any Time
3. Get Punk
When singer-author Alice Bag and musician-writer Jimmy Alvarado convene for We Were There: A Discussion on the Early Waves of Punk in L.A. event, it’s going to run a lot deeper than a mere nostalgic gabfest. As two of the longest-serving participants in L.A.’s feverish Eastside punk movement, Bag’s (lead singer and author of the riveting, majestic memoir Violence Girl) and oral historian Alvarado’s firsthand experience in punk will provide a lurid trove of underworld insight. Setting music and politics aside to examine the movement’s sociocultural aspects makes it clear that punk played an intensely penetrating social role, one that instilled a liberation from stifling polyester ’70s uniformity just as profound as the prior decade’s Summer of Love. Where the hippie pathology largely focused on spiritual and personal gratification, punk was all about dissatisfaction, disorder and critical examination. Add to that mix the piquant wrinkle of the Chicano experience, and that pathology and experience broadens to reach even more fascinating psychic-artistic territory. This should be a highly entertaining and provocative afternoon, one served up with equal measures of reckless back-alley abandon and invaluable gutter-bred philosophizing. Vroman’s Hastings Ranch, 3729 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena; Sun., Oct. 19, 2 p.m.; free; Bag’s book is $17.95. (626) 351-0828, vromans?bookstore.com. —Jonny Whiteside
Keep reading for two more great events, including a Halloween-themed variety show in East Hollywood.
2. Embrace Variety
Victory Lap is a variety show, emphasis on the variety: There’s a traditional house band and stand-up comedians (Megan Koester, Brendon Small, Dan St. Germain) between sets, but then there are the weirder things: puppet surgery, tap dancing, busking. Even stranger is what takes place offstage: slow dancing, usually. That’s because at Victory Lap, there’s no separation between performers and audience members, and the latter can purchase raffle tickets for a chance to take the stage and spin a giant wheel that will lead to either humiliation or victory — often, one is the result of the other, and there are plenty of cool prizes as consolation. Tonight’s Halloween-themed shindig is hosted by Dracula (who looks a lot like Victory Lap co-host Seth W. Owen) and the wheel features more frightening challenges than usual. “If it lands on a séance, we’ll have a séance onstage,” producer Sharon Eisman says. “We’re a little nuts. This is the most nuts we get.” The Virgil, 4519 Santa Monica Blvd., E. Hlywd.; Tue., Oct. 21, 9 p.m.; free, raffle tickets three for $5 or free with costume. (323) 660-4540, victory?lap?variety.tumblr.com. —Jennifer Swann
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1. Get Wordy
Based on San Francisco’s wildly successful Litquake, Lit Crawl L.A. is a literary take on the bar crawl. Now in its second year, the NoHo Arts District event consists of three “rounds” of literary events at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. (plus an after-party at 10 p.m. on the upper floor of the Federal Bar), all free and walking distance from the North Hollywood Metro station. Start the night with an unmistakably Hollywood crowd of writers — Annabelle Gurwitch, Richard Kramer (My So-Called Life), Peter Mehlman (Seinfeld) and Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day) — at Po§ch. Stay for the whole round (until 7:45) or continue your crawl for Poesia Para la Gente at the Metro station, a mini–Literary Death Match with Lara Marie Schoenhals (White Girl Problems) at XMA, a “poetry three-way” at Romantix Adult Boutique, or reimaginings of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and A Ghost Story at the Antaeus Company Library (it’s almost Halloween!). Grab a drink between rounds and then catch Red Hen Press’ comedic poets at Tamashii Ramen, or magic literature plus Magic Castle magicians at Bow and Truss. For round three, check out stories paired with specially created dishes at the Art Institute Culinary School. Dine and dash so that you can make it to Spinder, a literary version of dating app Tinder, at Big Wangs. If these events aren’t setting your mind on fire, don’t worry — the whole point of the Lit Crawl is to hop from venue to venue (of which there are 30!), sampling a uniquely L.A. lineup of bookish events. Various North Hollywood venues, see lit?crawl.org/la/schedule for schedule; Wed., Oct. 22, 7 p.m. litcrawl.org/la. —Sascha Bos
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