GO LA: Rum, Sodomy and John Waters’ Filthy World

Chapel of the Jesus Ethic: The L.A. Conservancy goes on a religious-sites tour. See Saturday.
Larry Underhill




If you’re looking to catch the latest cycle (not menstrual) of that famous tribute to the female genitalia, keep looking. “It’s just not the crying-vagina show,” explains Alice Johnson, describing her play St. Alice of Chattahoochee. “It’s not about cancer, it’s not sentimental. It’s just a ridiculous one-woman play.” Johnson’s 30-character tall tale, set in her hometown of Columbus, Georgia, is about a girl who wants to become a famous lip-synch artist, but faces the ruthless rejection of youth-group ministers, theater directors, “budding gay-dude divas” and child beauty queens.

“It’s about bruised egos, aspiring to greatness and getting the shit kicked out of you,” Johnson explains. It’s also essentially about the depressing reality of “not getting picked,” something Johnson herself has faced as an actor in New York and L.A. People say, “It must be great to perform by yourself,” says Johnson in her sweet California-infused Southern accent.

“Truth is, I would love to work with other people, but nobody ever picked me. I got sick of wanting people to pick me so I thought, I’ve gotta pick myself!” When the play passed through Johnson’s hometown last year, many appreciated its brilliance, but others were seriously upset. “I thought I was going to get tarred and feathered,” admits Johnson, a hint of satisfaction gleaming in her bright eyes. “There are people in my family who are not speaking to me because they are completely offended. For some people, it speaks to their heart, but a lot of people want me dead!” 

Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo Restaurant, 1920 Hyperion  Ave., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., March 13-14, 9 p.m.; $15, $12 in advance. (323) 969-2350.  —Erica Wrightson



Who said, “I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty”? Yep, it’s John Waters’ filthy world, we just dirty it up. The esteemed purveyor of pscum gives a “one-man spoken-word lecture” — um, redundant much? — called “This Filthy World.” After the director-writer-mustache-owner talks film shop and shares what inspires him, the floor will be opened up to questions. This is where you show off your ability to recite whole scenes from Polyester and Desperate Living. And don’t forget to mention how you dress up as Divine every Halloween and throw Egg Lady parties. He just loves to hear that stuff.

Cal State Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge; Fri., March 13, 8 p.m.; $20-$34. (818) 677-7686.  —Libby Molyneaux



Legendary Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich is known not only for her great musicianship; she is also one of the most introspective and private concert artists around, and her frequent retreats from the public eye have given her a certain aura of mystery. In 1981, Argerich took a hiatus from public performance that lasted nearly 20 years. But when she returned, for a benefit performance at Carnegie Hall in 2000, and began a series at Lincoln Center the following year, she was welcomed with the fervor one would expect for a resurrected goddess. There could probably have been no greater praise than New Yorker critic Alex Ross’ observation that “Argerich … is an unaffected interpreter whose native language is music. This may be the quality that sets her apart. A lot of pianists play huge double octaves. But few have the unerring naturalness of phrasing that allows them to embody the music rather than interpret it.” I can’t say it any better.

Argerich never disappoints; she’s an unbeatable combination of passion and precision, with a flawless technique and bold spirit, and this week we’re lucky to have her at Disney Hall, where she’ll perform Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, a work the composer complained “took me two years, you know. … We’ve gone past the days when the composer was thought of as being struck by inspiration, feverishly scribbling down his thoughts on a scrap of paper. Writing music is 75 percent an intellectual activity.” And Argerich is sure to give it the proper intellectual treatment. Also on the program: Ravel’s La Valse and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6. The brilliant young French-Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Fri., March 12-13, 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., March 14-15, 2 p.m.; Upbeat Live preconcert lecture with Asadour Santourian, artistic adviser and administrator of the Aspen Music Festival and School, one hour prior to concerts (except Sat.); $42-$147, $10 student/senior rush; call for ticket availability. (323) 850-2000 or www.laphil.com—Mary Beth Crain




She’s not quite Google, but producer Jamie Nichols certainly is a one-woman search engine for anyone who wants to know about the L.A. dance scene. A longtime presence as a choreographer and head of her own company, Nichols segued in recent years into her current niche as producer and promoter, picking up numerous Lester Horton nominations and awards for her efforts, particularly her annual production, Celebrate Dance.


For Celebrate Dance 2009, she has ferreted out an intriguing lineup of local ensembles for a one-night performance that rewards both L.A. dance fans and the participating dance troupes. Audiences enjoy an affordable curated sampler of established and emerging local dance while the companies benefit from being presented in a major venue with top-notch production elements and promotion that individual companies can seldom afford.

This year, nine companies take the stage, with styles ranging from hip-hop (Jacob “Kujo” Lyons’ Lux Aeterna Dance Company) and jazz (Nathan Hodges’ RhetOracle Dance Company) to ballet (Josie Walsh’s MyoKyo and Erin Holt’s California Contemporary Ballet) and Brazilian (Viver Brasil Dance Company) and lots of contemporary dance (Holly Johnston’s Ledges and Bones Dance Project; Method Contemporary; Keith Johnson/Dancers;  and Deborah Rosen and Dancers). Lots of talent assembled under one roof and for one night only.

Alex Theater, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., March 14, 8 p.m.; $17-$35. (818) 243-2539 or www.alextheatre.org.  —Ann Haskins



From the If-You-Build-It-They-Will-Come Dept., the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Modern Committee  brings us “City of the Seekers: L.A.’s Unique Spiritual Legacy.” It’s a one-time-only tour of religious sites, including Angelus Temple, where Aimee Semple McPherson started her Foursquare Gospel Church. Okay, that one’s a given, but then you’ll see the Bonnie Brae House in Filipinotown, where the  modern Pentecostal movement started, and Chapel of the Jesus Ethic at the Foundation of Niscience in Glendale.  You’ll also do a praise-by of the Mission Revival–inspired Self-Realization Fellowship Mother Center in the former Mount Washington Hotel on the crest of Mount Washington. And in case you were wondering, there will be no inclusion of any Scientology structures, since we all know what a bogus nonreligion that shit is.

Call for meeting spot; Sat., March 14, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; $30.  (213) 623-2489.  —L.M.




It feels good to guffaw, right? Not only does tossing your head back, dropping your jaw and letting loose with some real diaphragm-shaking laughs relieve stress and burn calories (40 for every 10 minutes, says science), but doing so this weekend will also improve things on a karmic level. Doris Roberts — Momma Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond — hosts A Night of Comedy VII, the annual top-talent event that benefits the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation. And if that combo isn’t reason enough to crack open the ol’ checkbook, she’ll be joined by TV offspring Ray Romano, Kevin James (The King of Queens), Bob Saget (The Aristocrats), Jeffrey Ross (March 15’s Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy) and Bryan Callen (original cast member of MADtv). With the official literature boasting an evening of “fun and frivolity,” chances are good that the gags will be kept relatively clean; all in all, an evening your grandma, therapist and accountant — don’t forget, those charity write-offs come April 15 — can support wholeheartedly.

Entry is limited to 21 and over; get pledge forms at www.caaf4kids.org or by calling (312) 580-1150. Wilshire Theater, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; Sat., March 14, 8 p.m.; $30-$125. (213) 480-3232.  —Julie Seabaugh





Dan Zanes is a very cute man with a smile that says, “Come dance with us.” His band members are also especially adorable, and look like they buy all their clothes at a thrift store in Wonkaville. If that doesn’t make you want to hokey your pokey like a goofy caterpillar, nothing will. Zanes doesn’t come to town enough, though I know a 7-year-old who has grown up on his multi-culti-patchwork Amerirocko. This kid can sing all the words to “Rock Island Line” and has banged his head — literally, there was blood — to “All Around the Kitchen.” Zanes’ shows are so much fun, you’ll want to figure out how to stunt your kids’ growth so you can go every year! Wait — did I just type that?

Royce Hall, UCLA; Sat., March 14, 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.; Sun., March 15, 11 a.m.; $25, $15 kids 12 & under. (310) 825-2101.  —L.M




This week in cut-’n’-paste blurbstruction: “Intense and realistic, equally involved with personal stories and social issues, Beneath the Veil takes us inside a slice of life in the Middle East we rarely see, and makes our time there hard to shake off. But though societal pressures are a key aspect of the play, it is first and foremost a gritty yet comedic glimpse into private lives, and how women cope with stresses that are at once personal, cultural and political, anxieties that have complicated causes and no easy answers. The portrait of life is grim but Mary Apick delights with mimetic detail, empathy and the deep drama of sheer human survival. Add to the mix hypnotic dance sequences to a drumbeat, choreographed by Apick and performed and featuring a live vocal performance by international singing sensation Shãni Rigsbee.”


Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Mon., March 16, 8 p.m.; $50-$100; $125 VIP reception at 7 p.m. (818) 249 1428 or www.itsmyseat.com.  —L.M.





Erik Davis, author and authority on Americana and arcana, discusses L.A.’s secret history of the occult, where “occult” means more than just yellow stars and green clovers — it means things that are occluded until unearthed by opened minds and weather eyes, in Occult Los Angeles: Esoteric Cinema in the Southland. He’ll be showing a triptych of footage rooted in esoterica and the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area: everything from the secret messages in psychedelia like Frankenheimer’s Seconds and Corman’s The Trip to Maya Deren, the avant-Angeleno filmmaker who became a very real Señora la Reina de los Ángeles with her experimental short Meshes of the Afternoon. Joining Davis for this cinematic magical mystery tour is Jodi Wille, long the doyenne of all things WTF in L.A. culture, and leader of the recent séance that resurrected the Source Family and YaHoWa for a wider audience.

Wille promises news and ephemera from the Universal World Church (not to be confused with the Universal Life Church, they of the instant-ordination plan), Pentecostals ensconced in Central Los Angeles with a flair for high theatrics and extra shininess throughout. One never knows what Wille has up her learned sleeve — more on rocket scientist and staunch Crowleyite Jack Parsons? Something, perhaps, on Louise Huebner, the Official Witch of Los Angeles County and, in fact, the only officially appointed witch in the world?

Other wizards with whom you will confer and hobnob: filmmaker Kenneth Anger’s associate Brian Butler, who vows to expose more about the witches of Los Angeles, Paul Nugent and the so-called “UFO religion” of the Aetherius Society, and Maja D’Aoust of the Philosophical Research Society, the “center for the study and teaching of the world’s wisdom traditions.” It’s an evening that harks back to an earlier era in the Southland — pioneer spirit applied to new horizons: otherworldly, full of promise and adventure.

Cinefamily at Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Tues., March 17, 8 p.m.; $13. (323) 655-2510.  —David Cotner

Fake Band


Today is St. Patrick’s Day, or St. Paddy’s Day, if you are a close friend of the patron saint of Ireland. Do not shorten it to St. “Patty’s” Day, or you will get a ticket from the Weekly’s resident stretch-leprechaun, Patrick Range McDonald. In honor of the Emerald Isle and chasing snakes and all that, here’s an Irish joke: “How do you recognize a Kerryman on an oil rig? He’s the one throwing crusts of bread to the helicopters.” I don’t get it either. Anyway, today would be a great day to see Irish musical madmen the Pogues, but they’re in Washington, D.C. It’s too easy to speak of singer Shane MacGowan in the past tense — sure, his heart’s still pumping, but the guy should have been dead a long time ago. Stepping in with better livers and teeth are L.A.’s own Ollin, doing the Pogues doing Rum, Sodomy & the Lash in its entirety.

Says Ollin frontman Scott Rodart, “Ollin, since its inception nearly 15 years ago, has always been likened to the Pogues. We all were recovering East L.A. punk rockers who somehow found an affinity for Mexican folk music — the kind we used to make fun of! So we put down our beat-up electric guitars, turned off the Marshalls and headed out on that vagabond trail. I gotta say we love the poetry, the politics, the musical mastery. The Pogues themselves got a kick out of our Chicano interpretation of their landmark record, Rum, Sodomy & the Lash. Last year, St. Patrick’s Day, they invited us to open their sold-out show at the Roseland theater in NYC.” Ah, but this year they’re at Spaceland in L.A.

Spaceland, 1717 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake; Tues., March 17, 9 p.m.; $10. www.clubspaceland.com —L.M.




LIzz Winstead: Wake Up World

Michael Stipe, Rachel Maddow, Anne Meara and Roseanne have been guests on Wake Up World, the morning-show spoof that’s “America’s only six-hour morning show” from Lizz Winstead and her comedy ensemble, Shoot the Messenger. Though based in New York, Winstead and Co. bring their show to the land of vapid starlets and Dr. Phil for two special installments.  —Libby Molyneaux


L.A. WEEKLY: What inspired Wake Up World?  

WINSTEAD: There are 23 hours of these shows on every day. I kept seeing four-minute segments like “Jewelry that makes your butt look smaller” and  “Christian diet books.” Add to that actual teases like, “Coming up in this hour, breast-cancer survivors and Cajun cookin’!” I thought to myself, Oh, my God, these people are so-o-o-o stretching to fill three hours of airtime and will find a way to sexify and commoditize even the most important stories. Just last week, I was watching CNN’s morning show and they did an economic story that focused on how people cheating on their spouses are economizing by having sex in their cars and not in motel rooms. And now that The Today Show has given us Kathie Lee for a fourth hour? Morning shows seem ripe for satire.

What do you have planned for L.A. shows?

It wouldn’t be a good morning show if we didn’t focus on those who have lost the most in the economic crisis: those who have the most. Many are suffering as they find themselves going from “super rich” to “marginally wealthy.”

We have a heterosexual-rights activist coming on to tell her heart-wrenching story. Our consumption advocate will show us some fun new health-care gadgets for the uninsured, and we’ll also have up-to-the-minute news, and of course a few celebrity cameos! The Wake Up World [slogan] is, “Half the content, twice the time.” You will get a little information on a lot of topics, delivered with marginal accuracy.

What are your goals for Wake Up World?

Simple. To find a home somewhere on your television dial! To make it as easy as possible for buyers, we have created two versions of the show they can choose from. Version 1 is the live multicamera straight-up morning-show satire, à la The Daily Show or Colbert, which we will be performing at the Steve Allen Theater. Version 2 is a single-camera pilot we shot, which is the morning show with the addition of behind-the-scenes inner workings of how all these awful segments actually get on the air. Buyers can look at both versions and decide Yes! on one of them.

Who would be your dream guests on Wake Up World?

It would be great to have Prince to play in our “Outback Back Alley concert series,” or to have Mario Batali prepare a quick-and-simple spotted-owl pâté.

You co-created The Daily Show — Do you watch it?

Of course. I watch it, I go see tapings, I love those guys.

What do you like to do when you’re in L.A.?

Eat at In-N-Out, see a show at McCabe’s, visit all the dogs of my friends, and take a few yoga classes with Seane Corn.

Craig Kilborn told Esquire about you, “If I wanted her to blow me, she would.” I always thought he was an asshole. Comment?

Nope. I only talk about guys who want me to blow them.

Proustian interview section, à la Vanity Fair: When and where are you happiest?

In my kitchen cooking for people I love, or just hanging out with my family in Minnesota.

What are your three main rules to live by?

I never let anyone else define me. I am trying to make the world a better place than the one I entered. I surround myself with love: my friends, my family, my co-workers, my animals.

What event from your childhood most affected your life?

There isn’t one single event, but protesting the Catholic Church at age 12 because girls couldn’t be altar boys is pretty high up there.

From one Elizabeth to another; Why two z’s?

Kinda boring. Lived with a bunch of Lizzes in college, a couple had last names that began with W. So in order to get phone messages, one was Liz, one Liz W, and I was Lizz. I just kept it.

Anything else you’d like to say to L.A. Weekly readers?

Come and see the show. It’s only 10 bucks and the catharsis you will get from the humor we provide about the craptastic world we live in and the craptastic media that distorts it all is worth every penny. I promise. Swear on my dog’s balls.

Wake Up World at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues.-Wed., March 17-18, 8 p.m.; $10. (323) 666-4268.





Vanessa Place is just a wee bit more ambitious than most local writers/dreamers/soothsayers. Her first novel, Dies: A Sentence (2005, Les Figues Press), used the curiously arty musings of two soldier-amputees on the night before a big battle as the launching point for a dizzyingly nonstop series of rambling digressions and shaggy-dog stories, each one pebbled with densely poetic imagery — and all of it confided breathlessly in one long, unbroken sentence. In lesser hands, this would have been a mere gimmick, but Place masterfully wove her references to Yugoslavian history, bread pudding, boot fetishes, God, lust, “sarcophagi and sarsaparilla . . . and genuine cowboys with mirrored eyes” into a cumulatively engrossing, if not exactly linear, novel/sentence.


(How was she able to do this? With a lot of commas, and by letting her narrator hog the conversation.) Place is up to even grander schemes in her new novel, La Medusa (University of Alabama Press), in which the titular heroine is played by a seemingly sentient version of Los Angeles while the perceptions of disparate characters (husband-and-wife truckers, a pushcart vendor, a young girl — even a corpse!) are portrayed through dramatic Faulkneresque/Joycean shifts of tone and style. She’s anything but a minimalist, and there are some distracting bits of cutesy, lazy-minded wordplay scattered into her generally free-flowing streams of consciousness, but on the whole La Medusa is an impressively inventive achievement.

The writer-lawyer’s prose is not for the impatient or faint-hearted, but more intellectually adventurous folks would do well to heed her advice in Dies and “give us your ear, that darling shell, that wax cup into which I’ve poured my consolation.”

Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St., dwntwn.; Thurs., March 19, 7 p.m.; $5 donation. (213) 228-7025.  —Falling James


Saturday Night Live pioneer Tom Davis, best known as one half of Franken & Davis from the early, druggier days of the show, has finally gathered what’s left of his brain cells together to write a book, Thirty-Nine Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL From Someone Who Was There. Davis created “Theodoric of York” with Steve Martin, the “Nick the Lounge Singer” sketches with Bill Murray, and “The Continental” with Christopher Walken. Not to mention “The Coneheads” (!!!!). He’ll be joined by SNL original not-ready-for-prime-time player Laraine Newman (who, by the way, looks like a beautiful teenager these days). Mr. Davis has outlined five reasons you should come to this sure-to-be-entertaining Writers Bloc event:

1.) To get a contact high.
2.) To watch Tom and Laraine levitate five copies of The Audacity of Hope.
3.) To learn how to avoid writer’s block and alcoholism.
4.) To learn how Tom used Mental Pilates to make his memory buff.
5.) To see how the ravages of the ’70s and ’80s have reduced Tom Davis to a burned-out hulk, but WHAT a burned-out hulk!

Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills; Thurs., March 19,  7:30 p.m.; $20. www.writersblocpresents.com.  —L.M.


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