Photo by Debra DiPaolo

Back in the summer of 1996, Dr. Joel Shapiro bought a rundown Masonic Lodge in Venice with plans to cash in on the area’s influx of architects and designers by turning the building into artist’s lofts. But his love of performing (he’s studied theater and dance since college) and his philanthropic streak (a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, he lectures regularly on the effects of nuclear war) got the better of him, and by the time he closed escrow he’d decided to turn the space on Electric Avenue into an experimental theater and performance space.

Since then, the lanky, soft-spoken doctor has subsidized the Electric Lodge, from its extensive renovations and rooftop solar panels — which make it one of the first solar-powered theaters in the country — to staff paychecks and basic bills, all through his income as a family-medicine physician. Not to mention the amount of time he volunteers running the space as its artistic director. “I was so involved in the place, I actually designed all the parking spaces,” he jokes.

It’s that kind of idealistic initiative that has made the Lodge catnip for area artists. In addition to hosting yoga and dance classes, it houses two resident performance companies (Venice Theater and Body, Weather Lavatory), a monthly open-mike night (Max 10 Performance Lab) and serves as a music venue (three of local multiculti drummer Adam Rudolph’s CDs were recorded live there). “People really dig the space and use it, and that’s what’s amazing to me,” Shapiro says. “‘Cause I thought I was nuts when I was doing this. I spent so much money and so much time and I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ But people come up to me all the time now and tell me how much they love this place and how glad they are that we’re here. So it’s all pretty wonderful. Maybe I’m not so nuts after all.”

—Madelynn Amalfitano

(Photo by Slobodan Dimitrov)

David Davenport: Think Ink

Although there are many fine tattoo artists working around L.A. these days, it’s rare to be able to instantly recognize a particular artist’s work. David Davenport has developed a signature tattoo style that stands out. Not surprising, since he taught himself — after working for nine years as an illustrator and animator for video games and cartoons. His initial influences came from the world of cartoons and sci-fi rather than the tattoo masters, although these days he is getting more interested in traditional designs. His pieces are often based on classics, but pumped up a 3-D notch or two.

Then there’s the fact that Davenport is an openly gay tattoo artist in the macho world of ink-slinging, which, with gay clients, lends his work a certain Tom of Finland/Rex homo-pornographic element. “I studied life drawing and I know human anatomy. This also applies to how a piece fits the body.” His anatomy lessons really shine on a Church of Satan wannabe’s buttocks: a blasphemous sodomy. Davenport’s versatility is impressive: He has an equal passion for vivid color, black tribal, and black-and-gray work. In 1999, he opened up Dogspunk Tattoos in San Francisco. After two years there, he spent a couple of years in San Diego. In mid-July he came to L.A., moving Dogspunk into the Zeitgeist Tattoo shop by Rockaway Records.

The first tattoo he designed in L.A. was a winding snake inspired by Sailor Jerry, an iconic tattoo image. “Six months ago I was really into Japanese style, but now I’m getting more into traditional stuff, which is something I never thought I’d like. It’s part of the rebirth of the American tattoo heritage.”

Ron Athey

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