Dial M for Madonna
The Immaculate Collection
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Traver Rains and Richie Rich of Heatherette honoring Madge at World of Wonder
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Topanga Days spawns a Topanga dance in the canyon.
Hard to believe it’s been more than 25 years since Madonna’s self-titled release had us wearing rags in our hair and a wristful of those ridiculous rubber bracelets. Yeah, we were one of those. We’ve always been a rock chick, but something about Ms. Ciccone’s trashy style and tempestuous ’tude made copping her look and grooving to her fluffy disco okay, cool even — at least, at Nightranger’s junior high. At World of Wonder’s Madge-themed art opening last Friday, Dial M for Madonna, old videos of the singer doing “Lucky Star” and “Borderline” from that era really took us back, and they proved (still) transfixing for an entire roomful of people of all ages and styles. Coupled with the diverse works (some of the best WOW has ever showcased), numerous drag queens done up in the icon’s various incarnations and the DJ spinning all Madonna, all night, this was a material world both manic and marvelous, especially with colorful characters like co-curator James St. James, Lenora Claire, Rupaul, Daniel Franzese, Perez Hilton and the guys from Heatherette (Richie Rich and Traver Rains) making the scene. The designer duo told us they’re in town from NYC to work on that other Hilton’s new MTV reality show, My New BFF, in which people vie to be pals with the heir-head (our words, not theirs). We’ll watch, and we’ll hate ourselves for it.
But back to the (t)art work. Madonna worship is more universal than that of any other superstar, dead or alive, and the diversity of the WOW stuff echoed this in several ways. Austin Young debuted the latest installment of The Worm (in which Britney, Cher and Maddy mutate into a crazy phallic creature and attack L.A.); Michael Schmidt showcased an actual studded cuff he made for the singer’s last tour; St. James displayed his signed copy of Michael Musto’s famous Village Voice spoof of Sex; and nearly every painting and print popped with religious subtext and sexual symbolism, the latter of which was particularly mouthwatering, thanks to inspiration from the singer’s latest album title, Hard Candy. The vibrant window displays featured Madonna’s memorable video looks created with nothing but sweet stuff — licorice, malt balls, bubblegum, suckers, Mentos — and walking into the party was a sugary, scent-sory overload. Yum. If you can’t get tix to Mz. Mama’s “Sticky & Sweet Tour,” this collection, which stays up through June 23, is the next best thing. Open daily, the gallery will have St. James hosting special events throughout. See www.wowtv.tv for clips and info.
By nature, Madonna art must be anything but subtle, but on the other end of the spectrum, we found ourselves striving to sort out the meaning behind another arty event we attended last Thursday: Ryan Heffington’s “House Party” dance installation at a pad in Echo Park. Heffington, best known for his monthly Fingered Fridays events at Charlie O’s, is the king of L.A.’s avant-garde dance world, a member of edgy troupes like Hysterica and Collage, and teacher of synchronized moves at parties (his “Thriller” class last year for Paper Mag’s Collette event lived up to its name in more ways than one) and real dance hubs (“Sweaty Sundays” at Foresight Studios in Silver Lake features bustin’ to boldies like MSTRKRFT weekly). Thursday’s shindig was Hef’s first time showcasing at a domicile, and it made for an eerie, voyeuristic vibe. Observers (including local lasses from the Velvet Hammer troupe and Mustache Mondays’ Nacho Biz) were led into a living room, where a group of guys and gals dressed in matching underwear danced trancelike in a circle. They had beads glued down their backs, a detail also seen on the naked bodies sprawled face-down in every other room of the house, as music blared (Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” in the home office). So what did it all mean? When we asked the choreographer, who put the piece together with photographer Todd Weaver (his shots of each scene were on the walls and available for purchase), he, not surprisingly, wanted his work to remain open to interpretation. Still, he did say that themes of life, death, cults and family come into play, which we kinda got. Wanna see the spectacle for yourself? They’ll be doing it again this Thursday, and if ya go to Ryan’s MySpace page, under “Sir Heffington,” you just might be chosen to check it out. As for Fingered, now that Charlie O’s is shut down, look for the night to pop up again at a new downtown nightclub sometime at the end of June.
The Other Hills
And finally, what would Memorial Day weekend be without a little festival frolicking? Topanga Days is a fave, thanks to its free-spirited family feel and bounty of boho beat makers. Booked by Sin City’s Shilah Morrow, the three-day gathering is always a home-owning hippie-approved ho-down, and this year was no exception. With their long tresses and wistful vox and strummin’, the “Jons” — Johnathan Rice and Jonathan Wilson — had every flowy-dressed femme swooning during their individual sets on Sunday, the latter doing triple duty playing with three different acts. Wilson’s also backing up a biggie at a supersecret surprise show in town this week, and though we can’t reveal who or where, we hope to tell ya all about it next week. (Hint: He’ll definitely “pump it up” with this guy.) We’ve actually never been much of a honky-tonk woman or a hippie, for that matter, but the bluesy rock and swaying twang of bands in this li’l alt-country community always make for a good time. The Inclined, Spindrift, Gary Louris and Marc Ford & the Neptune Blue Club jammed it out on Sunday, and by sunset we were dancing (backstage, i.e., in the hills) with strangers young and old in tie-dye, fairy wings and cowboy boots. As the histories of former residents Charles Manson, Jim Morrison and Neil Young might suggest, the canyon is cool, but it makes ya kinda crazy too.
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