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Gardena Is Ready for Its Closeup

Strike up a conversation

about Gardena with a stranger and -- if he hasn't run away -- you'll likely hear conflicting

perceptions of the town (Pop. 58,000) that is nestled in the crook of the

Harbor and Artesia freeways: Compton suburb; gateway to Hawthorne;

onetime Poker Capital of the World; home to Larry Flynt's Hustler

Casino. Yet it's also one of the most racially balanced

towns in L.A. County, with, as of 2000, an almost even one-quarter

apiece mix of whites, blacks, Asians and Latinos. And did you know that its

illustrious sons and daughters have included  saxophonist Art Pepper and women's basketball star Lisa Leslie? Or that you cannot keep

non-pedigree pigeons within Gardena's city limits? (Municipal Code

6.20.010.)?

And now it's the subject of a documentary being made by a young London-born filmmaker  named Max Votolato. Freeway City: Portrait of an L.A. Suburb offers some sentimental cheerleading of the town that rose out of

Japanese-farmed strawberry fields, yet Votolato's doc also focuses on Gardena's ethnic tensions, the town's uneasy existence with street gangs and its financial implosion in the 1990s.

This Saturday there will be a combination preview and

benefit for the yet-completed film at Gardena's Normandie Casino. The event

features a reunion performance by 1980s "minimum wage rock & roll"

group the BusBoys -- whose keyboard player/vocalist, Brian O'Neal, is also Freeway City's executive producer. The gig represents a homecoming for the BusBoys, who have not performed in town since they first began playing in the 1970s, when they attended Gardena HIgh School. Sounds like a great way to get a little nostalgic for both a city and a band.

The BusBoys at Normandie Casino,

1045 W. Rosecrans Ave.

Gardena.

Doors open 7:30 p.m.; $15.00 @ www.BusBoys.com or at door. (310) 352-3486.


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