Ian Whitcomb? Don't take him for granted. The British-born author-musician-teen idol-broadcaster-journalist-musicologist — a man of chronically sunny good cheer, multifarious passions, bulldog tenacity and acute critical insight — is such a well-known local fixture, most recently through numerous club dates with his own Bungalow Boys and Janet Klein's Parlor Boys, that it's easy to lose perspective on his extraordinary resume. From his late-1950s U.K. skiffle band start to 1965's wildly over-stimulated Top 10 U.S. hit “You Turn Me On” to the 1972 publication of his seminal pop history After the Ball, Whitcomb has charged, head-on, through the groaning buffet tables of American culture with an insatiable appetite. His incisive knack for ferreting out and linking up the underlying contextual elements that shape modern life are invariably enlightening, and this appearance, reading some choice excerpts from his latest tome, Letters from Lotusland, should deliver plenty of offbeat voltage. While he promises “a roller coaster of self-pity, vaunting and failed ambition, jealousy, bathos and pathos,” it's safe to expect much more. Whitcomb's own firsthand experiences — touring with the Rolling Stones and the Kinks, working with everyone from Mae West and Sam the Sham to, yes, Bugs Bunny — qualify in themselves as the adventure of a lifetime, but, when combined with the genteel rapacity of his astute sociocultural insight and characteristically contradictory mix of staid refinement and earthy relish, one may likely gain an entirely fresh understanding of both Whitcomb and the city of L.A. itself.
Sat., Nov. 21, 2 p.m., 2009
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