Nervously strumming love songs about Frito-Lay on one of the cheapest acoustic guitars you’ll ever hear, Austin’s DANIEL JOHNSTON (pictured) may not look like your usual rock & roll superstar, but he is a genius, somewhere between an innately childlike, unselfconscious version of JONATHAN RICHMAN and a more endearingly melodic WESLEY WILLIS. “I didn’t know Hollywood was in L.A.,” he said during a rare recent set, perhaps not realizing he was actually at Ma Art Gallery in Boyle Heights, at a reception for Small Hairy Dog’s “Aesthetic Circus” exhibit, which included RON ENGLISH’s ironic/iconic subversions of Elvis, Mickey Mouse and Marilyn Monroe; YOLANDA GONZALEZ’s angular portraits; LINDA VALLEJO’s femme-in-mystic nature paintings; as well as sets by rockabilly combo THREE BAD JACKS and ABBY TRAVIS. A genuine Hollywood moment occurred when longtime fan MATT GROENING came up afterward while Johnston was autographing his bio and said, “You’re the greatest.” Johnston replied with awestruck sincerity, “No, you’re the greatest!” TARSSA YAZDANI’s Hi, How Are You? The Definitive Daniel Johnston Handbook, which includes lyrics and drawings, makes a convincing case for him as a misunderstood van Gogh type, describing how his deceptively primitive, low-fi tunes such as “Walking the Cow” and “Ain’t No Woman Gonna Make a George Jones Outta Me” have been covered by KATHY McCARTY, SONIC YOUTH, FIREHOSE, YO LA TENGO and many others. Johnston shyly admitted that he hadn’t finished reading his biography yet, but proudly pointed out, “My mom has read it four times!” The book sympathetically details Johnston’s ongoing battles with mental illness, one of the reasons Johnston has managed to tour L.A. only twice in the past couple decades.
THE DOOR SWINGS BOTH WAYS
The ever-capricious nature of door policies took a truly strange turn at the reopening bash for Club 7969 (forever formerly know as Peanuts), which got a desperately needed face-lift by nightclub-make-over king RIKKI KLINE following a fire last December 31. Impresario BRYAN RABIN — who produces VIBRATOR, which starts up again weekly at 7969 this Thursday, June 15 — had also pitched in to make an event out of the evening. But when he showed up at the door, he was initially denied entry to the party — although the people on his list got in, no problem. Go figure. Grande dame ALICE SCHILLER, who has owned the club for 40 years, giddily reminisced about her former clientele, including nightlifers FRANK SINATRA, BOB HOPE, GEORGE JESSEL and the KENNEDY BOYS. Food and booze flowed furiously as THE TOLEDO SHOW, accompanied by girlesque dancers, performed under intense black lighting, making for a fuzz-ball frenzy on anyone draped in black. Politically Incorrect’s BILL MAHER and artist TONY McCATTY partook, while ROHAN BISSET, MARCO ROY and ROBERT BARBIERI from the club Spin spun through the joint. Well-known as a home away from home to drag queens, the place was curiously devoid of she-males, prompting the question: Where have all the trannies gone?
TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL
When we heard that Hell’s Angels founder SONNY BARGER was signing his memoir, Hell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club (no, silly, it doesn’t kick off with the taste of a madeleine!), at Beyond Baroque as part of the spoken-word WORLD BEYOND FESTIVAL, we couldn’t resist the promised juxtaposition of creepy hipsters and the retired king of the creepy hot-wheels set — and we weren’t disappointed. Republican DENNIS HOPPER, in a pinch-yourself moment, gushed that introducing Sonny was “one of the greatest honors” due to the “courage of his convictions.” We’re not sure just how many actual convictions Sonny has — aside from the drug dealing, was he found guilty of rape or only accused? The spunky poet IRIS BERRY opened the evening by gamely spouting a little punky poetry to no doubt the tuffest audience of her career, a roomful of beery MONGOLS, VIETNAM VETS and CHOSEN FEW motorcycle-club members. It may have been the specter of that crowd that caused Barger’s co-writers, KEITH & KENT ZIMMERMAN, before reading from the book, to insist that the Angels are “maybe the most decent people on Earth.” Sure, now that Mother Teresa’s dead. Also on hand for the surreal festivities were Berry’s hubby, TONY MALONE, a member of Midget Handjob; Sic magazine publisher RAFAEL ALVARADO; and poet ELLYN MAYBE, looking distinctly out of place. Plus a bunch of really, really nice fellows. Really.
the hopper effect, part II
The hidden-from-street-view MAK CENTER FOR ART AND ARCHITECTURE L.A. at the SCHINDLER HOUSE opened like a cabinet of small wonders on a recent eve as camera-toting crowds waited around for something to happen at the reception for DENNIS HOPPER’s photographic exhibit, “American Pictures 1961–1967.” Nostalgia for the salad days of rebellious foment and reckless abandon was rife, but, alas, despite brief appearances by JEFF GOLDBLUM and Hopper himself, the evening was a genteel art-world affair. No Hell’s Angels. No acid-laced punch. Artists MITCHELL KANE, BILLY AL BENGSTON and JOHN LYKES mingled with UCLA art professor HENRY HOPKINS and gallerista CRAIG KRULL in the warren of mazelike rooms. A shutterbug sporting a white silk-brocade Nehru jacket pranced about a posse of poseurs in vintage drag snapping pics à la Hopper’s habit of photographing his (mostly now-famous) friends. Schindler, who often enjoyed an evening in the gardens with neighbors ALDOUS HUXLEY and THEODORE DREISER, would’ve been pleased with the vibe, according to a wild-eyed, long-haired gent and apparent Schindler channeler who has lived across the street for 25 years. As our spirit guide exuberantly proclaimed, Schindler was smiling down on us all: “This is a magical, magical place!” Perhaps the punch was dosed after all.
Edited by Kateri Butler & Libby Molyneaux