Whether they're natives or simply visiting, L.A. is the host to hundreds of personalities and talents. From groundbreaking politicians and famous musicians to fascinating surreal artists - we've got it all. Here are five things you could do this week for $20 or less that'll introduce you to very interesting people, giving you a taste of what makes this exciting city what it is.
1. Catch a Documentary on a Musical Genius
White, Jewish and stricken with polio, teenager Jerome Felder was the most unlikely of blues singer in 1940s Brooklyn. Adopting the name "Doc Pomus," he recorded a few sides on his own before dedicating himself to songwriting the following decade. Of the more than 1,000 songs he wrote, gems like "Save the Last Dance," "This Magic Moment" and "A Teenager in Love" became part of the foundation of pop radio. More than 20 years after Pomus' death from lung cancer at age 65, filmmakers Peter Miller and Will Hechter have released AKA Doc Pomus, a documentary celebrating the unconventional life of the great songwriter, featuring appearances by Dr. John, B.B. King and Ken Hirsch. Following the screening, Hirsch and Hecht-er will be joined for a panel discussion by one of Pomus' Brill Building contemporaries and a documentary-worthy subject himself, Jeff Barry. Grammy Museum, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., dwntwn.; Tues., Feb. 11, doors open at 7 p.m., screening 7:30 p.m.; $10. (213) 765-6800, grammymuseum.org. - Sean J. O'Connell
2. Learn About Love with Daniel Jones
If anyone's qualified to write a book about love, which might just be "life's most mystifying subject," it's Daniel Jones, editor of The New York Times' "Modern Love" column. Fittingly, Jones scored his claim-to-fame editing gig through his wife, novelist/essayist Cathi Hanauer. But his new book, Love Illuminated: Exploring Life's Most Mystifying Subject (With the Help of 50,000 Strangers) isn't about his own marriage. Ten years in the making, Love Illuminated draws from 50,000 reader-submitted love stories to explore 10 aspects of love, beginning with pursuit and destiny and progressing into loyalty and wisdom. As part of his national book tour, Jones stops at the Santa Monica Public Library to read love stories along with columnists including Hope Edelman, Leslie Lehr, Diane Farr and Benjamin Svetkey, all of whom will riff on the phrase: "What I'll never understand about love is... ?." Actress Maria Bello, who came out in a "Modern Love" essay in November, will introduce the program. Santa Monica Public Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; Wed., Feb. 12, 7 p.m.; free, limited seating. (310) 458-8600, smpl.org. - Jennifer Swann
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3. Explore the Legacy of Tom Bradley
Tom Bradley was mayor of Los Angeles from 1973 to 1993. During his tenure - the longest of any mayor of L.A., and the only time an African-American has held the office - both high points and low ones redefined the city in the eyes of the world: the 1984 Olympics, the 1992 Rodney King riots. Despite the importance of these obvious landmarks, Bradley's true legacy is the barriers he broke. An LAPD veteran, he opened City Hall positions to women and minorities and emphasized community-building. He was a black politician elected in a majority white city, which was virtually unprecedented. The filmmakers behind the new 60-minute documentary Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race, Lyn Goldfarb and Alison Sotomayor, have examined Bradley's groundbreaking career, which some call a precursor to the achievements of Barack Obama, and are showing their film on PBS and in local communities. At the California African American Museum (CAAM) on Thursday, there will be a screening of the educators' 46-minute cut, plus a presentation of the project curriculum designed to inform students about both Bradley's tenure and L.A.'s multi-ethnic history. Educators and the public are welcome. For more information about the film, visit mayortombradley.com. California African American Museum, 600 State Drive, Exposition Park; Thurs., Feb. 13, 5-7 p.m.; free, RSVP req'd. (213) 744-2024, caamuseum.org. - Rena Kosnett
4. Catch up with P.J. O'Rourke
If it looks like a dad and walks like a dad and talks like a dad, it's probably P.J. O'Rourke. Not to say that the longtime Rolling Stone writer hasn't given the comedy gods radiant gifts, but his progression from working at National Lampoon and penning "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink" to political satirist is a bit like how your dad used to be a card-carrying Commie but now wonders how America was so stupid as to elect a socialist president in the first place. O'Rourke speaks tonight about his new book, The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way, and It Wasn't My Fault, and I'll Never Do It Again with actress Annabelle Gurwitch. They'll probably go back and forth about his latest chortlesome meditation on the boomers' endless obsession with the '60s; her upcoming book of essays, I See You Made an Effort; his panel appearances on Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!; and why everyone speaks so slowly at National ... Public ... Radio. William Turner Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., E-1, Santa Monica; Mon., Feb. 10, 8 p.m.; $20, $40 (for O'Rourke's book and reserved seating), $95 (for 6:30 p.m. pre-reception, O'Rourke's book and reserved seating). (310) 453-0909, livetalksla.org. - David Cotner
5. See Surrealist Art Shows with GERMS and David Lebow
February may be the short month, but the folks at La Luz de Jesus are making it the fattest, with a pair of concurrent solo shows from two of L.A.'s most fascinating and enigmatic surrealist painters. "GERMS: Visual Cacophony" and "David Lebow: Weird Tales" combine to fill the gallery with an explosion of gritty, haunting images. Despite their shared affection for strange visions and dreamlike symbolism, these two artists work in very different visual styles. Jaime Zacarias, aka GERMS, favors a language of colorful overload, depicting imaginary urban critters, protozoa, luchadores and exaggerated characters that populate his version of life in Los Angeles. As for David Lebow, he works in an almost classically art-historical style, using advanced figurative and portraiture techniques to depict mythological figures and emotional atmospheres - but always with an unsettling twist. In fact, if you are a fan of Dexter, you may recall the cycle of "Doomsday Paintings" featuring the blood-spattered "Angel of Death," which he created for the program on behalf of a certain, um, troubled character (no spoilers in case you've got your season-six binge queued up). The juxtaposition of these artists' signature styles and diverse followings should make for a gallery experience as surreal as the art on the walls. La Luz de Jesus, 4633 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz; Fri., Feb. 7, 8-11 p.m.; runs through March 2, Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.- 7 p.m., Thurs., 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun., noon-6 p.m.; free. (323) 666-7667, laluzdejesus.com. - Shana Nys Dambrot