GO LA: The Man Who Sold the Brangelina Air
FRIDAY, MAY 15
THIS NEW TOM WAITS BIO IS SO AUTHENTIC THE PAGES SMELL LIKE CHEAP GIN
Barney Hoskyns may be a music journalist (or “rock critic,” to use the vulgate), but like any good writer, he’s a poet first. In his classic 1996 study Waiting for the Sun: A Rock ’n’ Roll History of Los Angeles (just reprinted with new material by Backbeat Books), he wrote of Frank Zappa that prior to the latter’s death he “was still hard at work in his basement composing nonglandular music for nonidiots,” a line I’ve remembered for 13 years. His new book is a thoroughly researched, finely writ biography of Tom Waits called Lowside of the Road (Broadway Books). Personally, I don’t like Tom Waits very much, even though he wrote a handful of killer songs (“The Heart of Saturday Night” and “Ol’ ’55,” for example) about a hundred years ago. That studied lounge lizard cum Bowery Bum routine was — and is — pretentious. Plus once at a friend’s party, I interrupted Waits’ poseuring when someone playfully knocked a drink out of my hand and a drop came within 12 feet of King Tom. He gave me his best, studied Clint Eastwood squint and I just thought, “Suck my Bukowski, barfly,” while smiling my way out of a scene. In all fairness, Waits has led an interesting life and Hoskyns captures all of it. The best part is how he got the story without any cooperation from Waits and his Queen, but plenty from those who’ve been excommunicated from the Royal Couple’s “circle of trust.” Come hear Hoskyns talk about his adventures and read from his books. Mr. Musichead Gallery, 7511 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri., May 15, 7 p.m. (323) 876-0042. Also at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Sat., May 16, 5 p.m. (310) 659-3110.
Call it a metaphor for composer John Adams and his old buddy/collaborator Peter Sellars’ relationship, which seems to be a tree that never stops flowering. So, A Flowering Tree is a fitting title for the dazzling duo’s fourth co-opera, which, in typical Adams/Sellars style, draws from a number of intriguing creative sources. Inspired by Mozart’s The Magic Flute and based on a 2,000-year-old South Indian folk tale about a young girl who tries to help her destitute family by turning herself into a tree that bears enchanted flowers, A Flowering Tree makes for irresistible theater. It’s a story of passionate love, transformation, suffering and redemption, with a little magic thrown in. The music is pure Adams — delicate, ethereal, pulsing, jarring — with some obvious nods to Carl Orff and Richard Strauss, and three spellbinding stars, soprano Jessica Rivera, tenor Russell Thomas and bass-baritone Eric Owens, belt it out. Adams, recently announced the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Creative Chair, conducts the orchestra, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Indonesian dance virtuosi Rusini Sidi, Eko Supriyanto and Astri Kusama Wardani, who double the characters. Walt Disney Concert Hall; Fri., May 15, 8 p.m., & Sun., May 17, 2 p.m.; $17-$125, $10 student/senior rush. (323) 850-2000 or www.laphil.com.
—Mary Beth Crain
MR. WILSON AND HIS PROFANE COPS
Remember that guy who put a jar of “celebrity air” up for sale on eBay that contained actual air trapped near the breathing orifices of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt? That guy is comic Joe Wilson. He’s since gone on to make Swear Police, which won best comedy shortie-short at the L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival. Now he wants us to help him make Swear Police 2: The Interrogation, and has put together this production benefit with comics Jackie Kashian, Robert Yasumura, Elizabeth Beckwith, Steve Benaquist, John Colella, Kyle Kinane and others.
You remind me of someone, but I can’t figure it out. Any ideas?
When my grandmother died, we had a funeral, with deli platters, the whole thing. It was in Peekskill, New York, where I was born. This woman I’ve never met walks up to me and says I remind her of Stanley Tucci, who was also born in Peekskill. She’s friends with the Tuccis and told me how they were all invited to the “Big Night” premiere, which was held in Peekskill. I wonder if there was a mailman there who knew our moms.
Where is the jar of celebrity air right now?
The online casino that bought it, which I’m not naming (take that, casino marketing plan!) was supposed to build some kind of museum of crap they nabbed off eBay, located in Washington, D.C., which seems like the perfect setting.
Where did you get the idea for Swear Police?
Bernard, my former mailman. (Hi, Bernard!)
I lived in the same neighborhood in Hollywood for 10 years and worked at home the entire time. When I’d get tired of talking to my cat, Dave, I’d chat with Bernard. Usually about the mail. The United States Postal Service has people follow mail carriers on their route once in a while, I’m guessing to audit their performance. Bernard and I never discussed it. When I saw someone following Bernard, taking notes, as he delivered mail, that was the start of it.
Plus, I really wanted to shoot a chase scene and play with guns. It was the most fun I’ve had working on anything.
What is your dream cast?
I have my dream cast — Phil LaMarr is joining John Colella, Antonio Moon, Jim Roof and John Vargas from The Swear Police — along with Reamy Hall, Judith Shelton and Monroe Makowsky in Swear Police 2: The Interrogation, which is about the internal-affairs investigation into where all the swear-jar money is coming from.
If you had to never leave one block in L.A., where would it be?
Never leave? Why do I have to stay on my block? Did the cops shut it down again?
What do you hate most about living in L.A.?
KTLA weatherman Mark Kriski.
Do you have an actual job?
Are you inferring that standup comedy and making shorts is not lucrative? If so, you would be awfully accurate.
I am a private investigator. Honest.
What’s your favorite medication?
Do cops read this?
How has the economic downturn affected you?
I cut back on my disguise budget.
Why should we help you make Swear Police 2: The Interrogation?
You get credit as a supporting producer in the short. As in, all audience members get thanked for their support, by name, in the credits, for $10. You’ll help us raise the dough to make the short, build the set, get costumes and rent some gear.
You get to see killer standup shows, one with jazz by saxophonist/singer/songwriter Mindi Abair (she’s opened for Josh Groban and toured with Duran Duran), for $10.
If you’ve never seen a weather balloon explode using a defibrillator, that’ll happen both nights, for $10.
If you like swearing — and, other than my mom, who doesn’t? — this is the short-film-production benefit for you! (Plus, I’ll be your friend on Facebook and I never take polls or quizzes, and I’ll totally follow you on Twitter.)
Swear Police 2: The Interrogation Production Benefit at the Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Ave., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., May 15-16, 8 p.m., $10. (310) 397-3244.
ROCK & ROLLS OF FILM
Before directing commercials and shooting the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Will Smith and other celebrities for Playboy, Newsweek, Esquire and Vanity Fair, Israeli-born, L.A.-based Moshe Brakha got his start photographing rock stars (some pre-fame, many in Hollywood), from Madonna, Ringo Starr and Neil Young, to punk legends including the Ramones, Screamers, Weirdos and Black Flag. Occupation Dreamer: The Photography of Moshe Brakha gives you the chance to see vintage color and black-and-white shots from the ’70s and ’80s of a young Anthony Kiedis lying on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; Diana Ross covered in pearls; Devo wearing plastic breasts; and the Cars resting in, what else, a car. Grammy Museum, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite A245; Sun.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; $14.95, students & seniors $11.95, children $10.95, under 5 free. (213) 765-6803.
SATURDAY, MAY 16
A Cappella Comedy
FOUR MEN AND A PITCH PIPE
They call themselves The Blanks, but you may know them as “Ted’s Band” or “The Worthless Peons” from Scrubs (yeah, that show’s still on). Four-part-harmony versions of such TV theme songs as The Facts of Life, Speed Racer and Flipper might send some people running for the exits, but Sam Lloyd (he plays hapless lawyer Ted Buckland on the show), Paul F. Perry, George Miserlis and Philip McNive have just the right balance of self-aware, nerdy cuteness, you can’t help but snap your fingers along. And they’re good — as in Sweet Adelines good. Believe it or not, they’ve been performing since before Scrubs existed. Their live show adds skits and dorky dance moves, talking toys and costume changes. Mr. Lloyd (he’s Christopher Lloyd’s nephew!) took a moment from “rehearsal” to tell us that the band has more to tackle. “We’ve actually been talking about the ‘O Fortuna’ movement of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana cantata. It’s very grand orchestral music with a giant choir that’s been used in a million movie soundtracks. We think the four of us singing it could be pretty funny/ridiculous entrance music.”
Does he think a cappella music is making a comeback? “Um — doesn’t something have to have been popular in order to make a comeback?” he quips, but does share the biggest thrill of being in an a cappella group: “The women throwing themselves at us — chicks dig a cappella!” Largo at the Coronet, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; Sat., May 16, 8 p.m.; $25. (310) 855-0350.
SUNDAY, MAY 17
WOLFGANG DUG JOSEF
2009 is the 200th anniversary of Franz Josef Haydn’s death, and Musica Angelica pays him tribute with Musica Sacra, a program of sacred music by Haydn; his most fervent admirer, Mozart; and Spanish composer and missionary Juan Bautista Sancho, who came to California in 1804, when Haydn was winding down and Mozart was already 6 feet under. “There is a strong connection between these three composers,” says Musica Angelica music director Martin Haselbock, “all of whom practiced the art of musica sacra, the desire to write for the festival liturgical service.” Adds general manager Laura Spino, “At the same time Haydn was enjoying great success in Vienna and London, the first California missions were built, inspiring Spanish composers like Sancho to write music for these beautiful spaces.” The program includes Haydn’s Concerto for Violin, Organ and Strings in F major and Salve Regina for Four Voices, Organ Solo and Orchestra; excerpts from Sancho’s Missa de Los Angeles; and Mozart’s Church Sonatas and Grabmusic for Soprano, Baritone and Orchestra — the latter a dialogue between a Christian soul and an angel, a rather amazing fantasy for its then 11-year-old composer. The soloists include soprano Mary Wilson, mezzo-soprano Carolina Bruck-Santos, baritone Christopheren Nomura, and classical guitarist and Mexican baroque expert Craig Russell, who also provides preconcert insights into the music. Haselbock does double duty as conductor and organ soloist. Colburn School of Performing Arts, Zipper Auditorium, 200 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn; Sat., May 16, 8 p.m. Also at First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th St., Santa Monica; Sun., May 17, 4 p.m.; $39-$55, $15 students. (310) 458-4504 or www.musicaangelica.org.
—Mary Beth Crain
*IT’S AN AREA OF YOUR BRAIN
If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between Latino, Hispanic and Chicano, by golly, now’s your chance to find out. Authors David Reyes and Tom Waldman read from the new, revised edition of Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock ’n’ Roll From Southern California (University of New Mexico Press), their exhaustive, essential chronicle of Chicano rock in SoCal. It’s stuffed to bursting with stories of the music from bands that include, among others, Question Mark and the Mysterians, the Stains, the Plugz, Thee Midniters (who did the song after which the book was named), the Impalas, and the Mars Volta. In a time when so much about the recent past is neglected or forgotten — a trip down Whittier Boulevard past the Golden Gate Theater pretty much sums it up — the book exhumes an aural history that would otherwise stay oral, and is a great companion piece to the DVD of the Edward James Olmos–narrated PBS special that came out in February. If all this weren’t enough, Lysa Flores performs songs from her new album, Immigrant Daughter, melting away your amygdala with lush, moody music. Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, Sun., May 17, 5 p.m.; free. www.skylightbooks.com.
MONDAY, MAY 18
IF ANYONE KNEW ABOUT STAR POWER, IT WAS WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Christina Applegate, Martin Short, Shirley Jones and Peter Graves lend their considerable talents to Simply Shakespeare 2009, a benefit for the Shakespeare Festival/L.A. 2009, an organization that offers youth and education programming and free, professional outdoor productions. This year, the troupe performs The Comedy of Errors. Sound good to you? Think you’ll be okay with the ticket prices? Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Mon., May 18, 7:30 p.m.; $350/balcony, $500/orchestra. (310) 201-5033 or email@example.com.
TUESDAY, MAY 19
FIND OUT WHAT “MERENGUE” REALLY MEANS!
Not too long ago, local philanthropist and businesswoman Suzanne Saperstein had an idea. With the wild popularity of the TV show Dancing With the Stars and, as a result, a resurgent interest in more formal dancing, Saperstein thought it would be the perfect time to open a dance studio. But she wanted to put a twist on the new venture, so she decided to offer lessons in “versatile” dancing, which teaches same-sex partners to do the Charleston, for example. Saperstein named this different kind of studio Balliamos, a part-Spanish, part Italian word that translates into “we dance.” She also hired world-champion same-sex dancers Jacob Jason and Willem deVries to be instructors, who then organized a couple of weekly events to attract business from a mostly gay, somewhat straight clientele. One of them, which regularly takes place on Monday night at 8 p.m., is “interactive,” where people watch Dancing With the Stars at the studio and, of course, dance with them. The other, every Tuesday night at 8 p.m., is a “dance party.” While Tuesday night attracts a predominantly gay crowd, anyone can join the fun, hit the spring-loaded dance floor and learn a few moves from Jacob and Willem. As people soon find out, the evenings are a nice change of pace from another night of bar hopping. Balliamos, 8936 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; every Tues; first lesson free, then $15. (310) 855-9855 or www.balliamos.com.
—Patrick Range McDonald
WEDNESDAY, MAY 20
THE AUCTION IS IN!
Get out your handkerchiefs, people, and weep with joy. Just when you thought you’d had enough art auctioneering (post-Incognito and FRESH) to last till the next recession, LACE comes out with a really cool concept: 25 guest curators (including artists Sterling Ruby, Carlee Fernandez, Soo Kim, George Stoll and Anna Sew Hoy; curators Shamim Momin and Aaron Rose; gallerists Thomas Solomon and John Knuth) have created their own mini exhibitions. Fernandez, for instance, chose four of her favorite painters — Tomory Dodge, Dennis Hollingsworth, Liat Yossifor and Mario Correa — while Momin asked pairs of artists to create collaborative works. And all the works are for sale.
What’s more, they’re for sale on two successive nights. LACE is separating its live and silent auctions into two events: The live auction comes first, on May 20, when you can view and bid on works in the silent auction, which doesn’t close until the end of the second night, May 21. Cocktails will be served both nights. (Added benefit: more parking during the week.) It’s a bold move, and should be a great evening. Er, two evenings.
Speaking of cool concepts, what better form of fundraiser than the one you don’t actually have to attend? That is Side Street Projects’ Phantom Ball, which works this way: Each year, Side Street asks a notable artist to create a “party favor” — one work in an edition of 100. Tim Hawkinson, Sam Durant, Matthew Monahan and Edgar Arceneaux have done it in the past; this year’s artist is man about town Walead Beshty. Until June 1, his print is available unseen for $150; after June 1, the price doubles to $300; after January 1, 2010, it will cost you $600. So buy your ticket now (online is easy) and just stay home. “As always,” says Side Street, “we’ll understand if you can’t make it, because nobody ever has. Nobody ever does.” LACE Benefit Art Auction 2009, 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; live auction Wed., May 20; silent auction, Thurs., May 21. All artwork will be on view at LACE May 7-17. Gallery hours: Wed.-Sun., 12-6 p.m. (323) 957-1777, ext. 12. Side Street Projects’ 16th Annual Phantom Ball: (626) 798-7774 or www.sidestreet.org.
THE RUSSIANS ARE DANCING! THE RUSSIANS ARE DANCING!
For decades after World War II, Russian ballet was something to be glimpsed through the Iron Curtain when the Bolshoi or Kirov companies brought their full-length ballets on a rare tour, or in smaller ensembles traveling under the banner of Stars of the Bolshoi, Stars of the Kirov or the catchall Stars of the Russian Ballet. The Iron Curtain may have fallen, but contemporary economic curtains have replaced the political ones as constraints, yet Orange County Performing Arts Center has found an inside track with producer Ardani Artists to regularly bring Russian ballet companies and their stars to SoCal audiences — and it’s raised the bar several notches this time. In a week almost too full of goodies, Russia’s Eifman Ballet opens Wednesday with the first of five performances of choreographer Boris Eifman’s full-length Onegin, followed on Thursday by a one-night gala for which star-studded is an understatement. While dominated by stars from Russian companies, the roster includes luminaries from U.S. and European companies dancing pas de deux from the classics as well as several contemporary works, mostly from Eifman. On Friday, the programming returns to full-length ballet with four more performances of Onegin, Eifman’s exploration of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin’s classic Eugene Onegin. Eifman Ballet: Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Wed., May 20, & Fri.-Sat., May 22-23, 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., May 23-24, 2 p.m.; $25-$85. Tour de Force: A Gala Dance Spectacular: Thurs., May 21, 7:30 p.m.; $35-$150. (714) 556-2787 or www.OCPAC.org.
REVENGE OF THE COMEDY FILM NERDS
Three of my favorite words, “comedy,” “film” and “nerds,” come together for Comedy Film Nerds. Hosts Chris Mancini and Graham Elwood give a warm welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to comics Chris Hardwick, Jackie Kashian and Matt Weinhold. Short films, including “Hole in the Wall” by Matthew Ehlers and a “secret” film by Hardwick, will screen. Tip: Largo still doesn’t have its liquor license, but you can front-load at numerous bars in the area. The Little Room at Largo, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; Wed., May 20, 9 p.m. (310) 855-0347.
THURSDAY, MAY 21
SEE YA LATER, ALLIGATOR!
Jen Lancaster, 38, still listens to Wham! and she’s not afraid to admit it. She likes plaid a little too much. The author of Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist’s Quest to Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie Is Not the Answer, has gone back to the wordy-book-title biz and written the equally space-hogging Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or The Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase. She talks about her LaCoste obsession — she would rock two polos at a time — and tells numerous other ’80s fashion-related tales. Why can’t some people just let go of the ’80s? And why do people make fun of the mullet? It’s a great look for some of us and practical, too! Barnes & Noble, 210 Americana Way, Glendale; Thurs., May 21, 7 p.m. (818) 545-9146.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.