L.A. cabaret/spoken-word haven the Lhasa Club was a progressive, eclectic club/cafe/art gallery and cinema space showcasing alternative entertainment and an unparalleled roster of thinkers, speakers, writers and performers during the 1980s and '90s in Hollywood. Before cellphones or even the video camera boom, documenting entertainment required some work. Luckily, Lhasa manager Jean-Pierre Boccara put it in, and he recently shared his rare footage with YouTube and the world.
“We must not forget how creative and innovative the '80s and '90s were. These live videos from the clubs are a little sample of what was going on in L.A. at the time, at least in the performance art, spoken-word, comedy and cabaret scene,” says Boccara, who later went on to run LunaPark in West Hollywood. Boccara filmed most of the footage himself and hopes the YouTube page will gather attention for his nonprofit art group, the Lhasa Foundation, whose long-term goal is to raise money for permanent arts programs or grants for artists.
Legendary music acts such as Nick Cave, Jane's Addiction and Rick James (to name a few) took the stage at Lhasa, while regulars included Cher and Val Kilmer. Lhasa was all ages and gay-friendly, and DJs spun pretty much everything. Boccara compiled much of the footage into a film called The Lhasa Tapes a few years ago, but created a new place for them on YouTube only a few weeks ago. Video highlights online include the likes of Timothy Leary, Henry Rollins, Sandra Bernhard, John Fleck, Lypsinka, Lydia Lunch and The Screamers' Tomata Du Plenty, all shot on one camera. Other locales featured include Cafe Largo and LunaPark.
Though Boccara says he's shared pretty much all that he held on to, he would love to acquire more. “If footage is discovered by people who attended these places, I'd love to share them,” he says. “What I've put out is only the tip of the iceberg. Through these videos, we get to see how creative and provocative nightlife was back then in L.A. Unfortunately you barely see the live music and DJ scene through these videos because music was more complicated to tape.”
While it's true these videos leave out a lot of what was going on at the time, they do capture some real avant-garde magic. From Leary's trippy talks to a long-haired Rollins up close and personal taking about men being pigs in a mesh T-shirt — yes, this exists.
Check out all the the Lhasa Foundation's “Lhasa Largo LunaPark” videos on the YouTube page here.