Wednesday, March 05, 2014

In-Laws, Rules, Levant, Legacy and Napping.

Attending The Oscars with S. (my first time ever)
Part 2 - For Part 1, scroll down. 

Our dressed-to-the-nines behinds were in the seats with a few minutes to spare before the countdown so we took the opportunity to check our phones for precious Facebook and twitter moments. In a stunning 21st century social media turn here’s what we found: my mother-in-law had spotted us on “E” Entertainment TV in the way-back of the split red carpet situation, several layers deep, far beyond June Squibb and Jared Leto as he was proposing to Junie. Eagle-eyed and sharp as she is, Barbara managed to get off a thoroughly modern screenshot of this moment, send it to my husband who sent it off  to S’s husband. Both husbands then tweeted the pic and who can say, really, how twitter managed to not crash right then. Said photo is now known as “The shot seen ‘round the house.” I share it with you, here (with thanks to my mother-in-law):

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome your host, Ellen DeGeneres!” and the 86th live telecasting began. Then the show went as well as you saw it with little difference other than size based on distance and a scant few regrettable passages of time taken up by genuine breathless concern over who may or may not have had a stroke or be having one live on-camera and also, this guy:

You're probably wondering, so I’ll tell you; I did as told. I was a guest, after all. I did not applaud for my dead friends and acquaintances or those I knew only by reputation and contribution to the industry, those whose work I so admire who passed away this year. But I wanted to. I really had to sit on my fancied up hands. Let the Academy hide the fact of our applause from you by pulling the audio plug if they must, but the fact that we care, feel moved, sentimental, reverent or however we do about our colleagues often comes out in the form of spontaneous applause for the wonder of their work. It’s a last and maybe only chance for us to celebrate in a room together the lives of those lost to us. For the health of the community, AMPAS, let your people clap. There are already too many ruley rules. And Eileen Brennan, I will love, love, love you forever and I’m clapping now. And for you too, Joan Fontaine—and not just because you are the fave of Self Styled Siren’s Farran Smith Nehme, who for me is the only and last word on Kim Novak’s appearance: 

Among some of my friends there is snark and cynicism when it comes to OSCAR™. I’ll admit that for me, a true fan and sometime-member of the community—if not the Academy—the nominations, the show, can irk, over or underwhelm. I’ve always loved the movies and OSCAR™ is part of that love. Warm. Statuette.

My first Oscar will always be Oscar Levant who said “Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you will find the real tinsel underneath.” I’ve always liked tinsel. He’s one of the first movie stars I loved (in An American in Paris!).
I love the movies and the people who make them and OSCAR™ (and also Oscar) and I love The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for preserving the history of film. Getting to dress up and go to The OSCARs with my friend Sharon Mizota, one of the responsible crew of archivists and librarians at A.M.P.A.S Margaret Herrick Library who go to work every day with a sincere appreciation of all that is encompassed in the world of film—even caring for my small contributions—was a special honor, indeed. Shout out to the preservationists: “Alright, alright, alright!” That’s my report.
Photo by Andy Zax

Monday, March 03, 2014

Guys, Dolls, Guns, Pancake and Penicillin

Attending The Oscars with S. (my first time ever)
Part One

It's just as you would think. It is way more fun to dress up and be there than  to watch it on television. Having said that though, S. and I both remarked that you can see the suits and dresses better on the broadcast and television seems to obliterate a lot of wrinkles—but only in fabric—not skin. Up close and in-person you can see every wrinkle and tear and all the supposed fixes in the fabric of the human and also on the outfits that you might manage to ogle. This is only one reason why Sidney Poitier’s daughter looked more put together than anyone else. Her dress was made of (silver) leather and must have weighed quite a lot, so it stayed in majestic shape throughout the night. That dress and Cate Blanchett’s were my flawless favorites of the ones that I truly saw. And yes, dresses get torn because women without nominations actually wear dresses with trains as if they’re nominees or maybe brides, even. I don’t know. Academy and Dolby Theater employees urge the crowd ever forward toward the theater throughout the carpet-walk and with haste: Attendees Beware! The risk of uncoupling a doyenne or two from her prized caboose is not to be underestimated. Enemies were made.

Here’s a kind of timeline beginning with our arrival  Dolby Theater adjacent: Because there are many street closures, there’s a map to the Dolby furnished by the Academy. Once you’ve figured out how to get onto Hollywood Boulevard via the assigned route, there’s a police checkpoint. They use what, in effect are giant shoe mirrors on the undercarriage of your car and then check the trunk and sometimes the glove compartment. Our experience: Not at all sex-ay—but police were professional and polite. Next, you drive around a medium sized SWAT-type unit set up in the middle of the street, guns out. Guns were HUGE. I’m not talking about biceps. I’m saying, maybe Heckler & Koch MP5’s. They were definitely intimidating. Hurricane fences line both sides of the street at the sidewalk’s edge and people stand behind these hoping to see celebs, however unlikely it is in that location. When you get to Highland and Hollywood going west, you give the car over to the valets. There are scores of valets and also even more cops. From there, you get out your ticket and I.D. and if you’re like us, you arrive exactly as Jared Leto is arriving so as not to be noticed by anyone at all and to be afforded an in-person look- see to determine if Jared is “all that.” I’m still thinking about the man-tan pancake-makeup he had on.  It worried me in my two hours of sleep. I dreamed about Picrin and how to remove pancake from your standard white cotton jacket. Was I a dry cleaner in another life?

When you get out of the car, you’re already on a piece of the red carpet which for a few yards crosses the road and is The Red Carpet which then branches out into two sections. The employee carpet or non-celeb side of the same red carpet but divided by stanchions and velvet rope from the carpet that carries the famous. There, in spite of a wide berth, everyone unknown and less known understandably crushes toward the ropes to get a look at the nominee’s backs and an occasional front as they’re interviewed by the international press corps. That’s damned neat. I didn’t mind it one bit, but one of the good people working to keep our side of the crowd moving confessed to me that he was soooo over it. I was bumped into constantly and as you can see, this results in less than stellar iPhone photos. 

Once inside the building we had our picture taken-for the record-by the friendly Employee photographer. Ah, posterity! Then up the long stairway to mingle with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and the crowd. By the time we got to the bar they were out of Champagne so we chose to go with the signature cocktail which was The Penicillin. Good choice. Here’s the recipe—or something very close to it.:
I ignored the snacks other than to note that among the selections were pork rinds and fried kale (you-go-get-your-salty-crispy-fat on, Wolfgang Puck.) I could not have fit a slivered almond into my gut without having to remove my dress (by Isabel Marant.)

S. and I lingered over our drink, people-watching and chatting with a co-worker or three of hers. As we made for the elevator to Mezzanine 3-which is somehow also Level 5—I saw Benedict Cumberbatch. And I wanted him to be slightly different than he was. He looked awkward and uncomfortable with himself and who he was with. Maybe it was a weird moment where he’d just forgotten someone’s name or face and had to pretend that he knew them. Or is that just my nightmare? I saw him in an un-suave moment and had to work my way up (or was it down?) to feeling that this vulnerability made him cuter. He was also, like almost every actor—let’s all say it aloud and in unison—smaller than he looks onscreen.

We made it to our seats in time to avoid the 20 minute penalty (you can’t go in until the next commercial break if you miss the curfew.) We landed center stage Row L Seat 46, but so high, in seats so raked, that the perspective flattened Pharrell's hat. When he got happy, I couldn't tell that he was wearing one. There are teevee screens up top but just two very small ones. My suggestion for the people of Dolby: install another few giant screens, care more about the entire audience being able to see the lit-up faces of winners and performers on stage. That bliss is to be shared, not just for the people on the first two of levels.
Before the show began, in a Hunger Games moment, there was a short speech from the announcer-voice-over dude about the kind of off-the-cuff impassioned speeches without notes the Academy was hoping the winners would bring. Hint-hint, comply. There were other moments like that, most notably when we were repeatedly told not to clap for the dead people we so miss and revere during the in memoriam montage.  Turned out they were super serious about this and they cut the sound feed completely due to a few hands that couldn’t stop themselves from coming together.

More to come…

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Book of Face May Burn

I've always been intrigued by the library at Alexandria, so while I was on a small team building what was to be a literary archive, I listed Alexandria as my Home on my profile on the book of Face. I left it there for another reason. I began to get Egyptian advertising which obviously is in another alphabet, making it easy to distinguish between my friend's (and acquaintances and other people I've allowed onto my page) posts and the ads themselves. A couple of people recently asked about it in "message" function. They pointedly asked if I live in Egypt. One of them is someone I don't actually know but who had asked to be my "friend" a while back. I explained the above to two, maybe three people total over the last  few weeks (answering in the "message" function.) You guessed it, right?  I'm no longer receiving the Egyptian ads. You can decide for yourself whether or not this means anything. Thought most of you would like to know. Please read THIS too (by Michael Daly):

Friday, May 10, 2013

A February Entry From My 1976 Journal

Stephen Sprouse was living in a now famous loft building having been invited to stay by the temporary  landlord, Benton Quin who had also previously invited Chris Stein and Debbie Harry. We were all still playing well together. (See some pix on my website here: Blondie "266 Loft" ) Stephen was experimenting with Color Xerox. It was new to all of us and too expensive for most. We loved the high contrast you could get from Xeroxing a photo and the new bright colors. They had an influence on his clothes to come. He gave me this picture (I wish I could remember the name of the model who looks like one of "Antonio's Girls") and I think I folded it. We didn’t know that it took these forever to fully dry. The two sides got stuck together but I peeled them apart so I could paste it in my journal. I didn’t know about archival glue and preservation methods in those days. Then I took my Journal to Washington, D.C. where I was in previews with Divine, et al in Tom Eyen’s "Women Behind Bars" and I wrote on it. 

I try not to judge my callow self.

Here's what it says.


Some People Should Never Leave New York City

Maybe I'm going out on a limb saying that Taylor Mead died the other day because he'd been chased out of his lower east side home by developers; that his finally giving up and giving in to such an alternative landscape as Colorado led to his system giving out. Having a fight to play to is good for some people. Particularly so if you were still the Taylor I met back before 1975, the year this photo by Anton Perich was taken. I'd see Taylor around. We were acquaintances. I'm assuming in some ways he remained that Taylor Mead, the man on the right with a drink in his hand and probably Quaaludes or something more in his system. The head he achieved freed him up to poet himself, to rant around. He was in a constant state of improv.  

There were a lot of guys who spoke only poetry in those days. There were few to no girls, so Patricia Smith became the famous one not only because of her words but because of guys like Taylor (though no two were exactly alike.) We took for granted that the next crop and the next crop would appear in this style of unique but they haven't. They're becoming extinct. I would marvel at how stoned Taylor could be or seemed to be and he scared me, in that way that clowns can. He was sweet--or not. I never witnessed a middle. That was his radiant being in 1975 - or at least it was the one I saw. 

Jackie Curtis invited me to a party at Taylor's apartment. Or at least, I think it was his apartment. It was a loft with an elevator that opened up into it on the second or third floor of a building indirectly across the street from The Factory.  I went and brought Blondie bassist Gary Valentine. That's what we all did then. We heard about a party, everyone invited everyone and everyone went. All and everything below 23rd Street was reaching critical mass at Taylor's place. I liked being there. It was "fresh," as the kids say. Now that I think of it, I don't even know if Jackie was invited by Taylor himself.  The party was huge. It was hard to move from one room to another. It was a most exciting thing to see Viva up-close. At the height of this mongo-bongo-throng-o, Taylor started screaming at the top of his lungs, "GET OUT! GET OUT, EVERYONE! IT'S MY BIRTHDAY AND I INVITED YOU HERE AND NOW I'M THROWING YOU ALL OUT. GET OUT! GET THE FUCK OUT!! Gary and I thought this was cool and scary and kind of sad all at the same time. Who knew it was his birthday?!

This was the native state. Try stuff. See what happened. Only hurt yourself. There was a horrible crush for the elevator and people were trampled but they liked it. 

This (ca. 1920) painting by Hugo Scheiber, appropriately named Shouting, Self Portrait has always reminded me of that Taylor.  He may have died in Colorado but  I’ll bet he was back in Manhattan by nightfall.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bed Bug Blues as interpreted by Dave Van Ronk

I've had the pleasure of seeing Paul F. Tompkins many times. It's way more than a pleasure, actually. One of those times, he did a brilliant riff on bed bugs based on having seen a CBS Good Morning segment which according to him claims "everybody" will eventually be personally acquainted with them. I've yet to have an intimate experience with the dreaded bed bug but I'm pretty fascinated by the photographs of these bugs and their bites. Please, please read the reviews and see the pix of bug bites from stays at the Hotel Carter on trip advisor. And here's a fun video made by someone on desk duty there. 

Now you can presumably get a higher class bite at a 5 star joint as well. I was obsessed with the Bed Bug Blues, a song I heard delivered by Dave Van Ronk when I was a kid. Have a listen on Spotify. It's on a great folk record called Dave Van Ronk sings. And he does. Descriptive, isn't it?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Just Because

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ray Tintori is the genius who transformed baby pigs into mythical Aurochs for Beasts. Los Angeles Review of Books ran a good piece of critical thinking by Kelly Candaele who uses this wonderful film as a point from which to talk about the larger issues of disenfranchisement. You can read it here. Do you agree or disagree with K.C.? Please feel free to comment here or on LARB. I made the illustration above for the Los Angeles Review of Books to honor Tintori's achievement and that of the filmmakers. Support independent filmaking!
Go see Beasts of The Southern Wild!:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Any Day Now, LARB Shall Be Re-Released.

New site's coming, yo!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

MIKE KELLEY. Dead at 58

Damn it all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Some Favorite Writers: Literary Los Angeles & the Los Angeles Review of Books

Come to The Hammer Museum and say hello to the staff of The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Some Favorite Writers: Literary Los Angeles & the Los Angeles Review of Books


Mona Simpson, Tom Lutz, Matthew Specktor, and Lisa Jane Persky will present a lively discussion about writing, publishing, and the emergence of Los Angeles as a true capital for literature. The conversation will address the vitality and urgency of cultural criticism, the ways in which the city and its literary institutions (like the Los Angeles Review of Books) offer a unique vantage for the 21st century, and ways in which readers and writers alike might thrive in this new landscape.

This series of readings is organized by Mona Simpson, author of My Hollywood, Anywhere But Here, and Off Keck Road. Readings are followed by discussions with Simpson. Enjoy complimentary coffee and tea at all Hammer readings.

ALL HAMMER PUBLIC PROGRAMS ARE FREE. Seating is on a first come, first served basis. Hammer members receive priority seating, subject to availability. Reservations not accepted, RSVPs not required.

Parking is available under the museum for $3 after 6:00pm.
Image: cc by Lisa Jane Persky and Haris Hwang

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Los Angeles Artist Daniel Gonzalez

On the Los Angeles Review of Books today you'll see the extraordinary art of Daniel Gonzalez, along with a terrific review by Stephanie Elizondo Griest of Ed Vulliamy's Amexica: War Along the Borderline. I first worked with Daniel on the Los Angeles Loteria Project for Aardvark Letterpress. He developed his contribution to the letterpress project as an homage to Boyle Heights.

"My earliest childhood memories of Los Angeles are of crossing bridges of concrete and vines, of the feeling of excitement as I traveled through and over these Neo-Gothic structures, of being transported to the throbbing heart of the city. Growing up in Boyle Heights, I was surrounded by bridges on the west edge, the flats; Macy Street Bridge, First Street Bridge, 4th Street Bridge, 6th Street Bridge; all of them spanning the river west to work and reaching east home, always the sun at our backs, all of them filling the gap between dreams and reality."

Daniel has spent his life "between two countries", the US and Mexico. His extraordinary, thoughtful work reflects his intimate connection to the places he has lived and his conscious effort to inspire awareness of issues that tear us apart. His unique and personal work elicits nostalgic echoes of WPA artists like Anton Refregier. Daniel is an advocate of social responsibility, peace, and activism. Get involved. See what he's been up to here.

UCLA Labor Center Poster 2011


The UCLA Labor Center has commissioned artwork for their 2011 fundraiser. The DLC houses a growing library, workstations for student researchers, conference rooms, and staff offices. The center occupies two floors of the building and provides a centrally located meeting space for up to two hundred participants that is frequently used by unions and community partners. Learn how you can support the Labor Center here. It's always an honor to work with such a great institution doing important work organizing labor movements in Los Angeles and abroad!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My KISStory

Okay, so there's this movie with the unwieldy title "KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park". I was in it. In 1979. When I went for my fitting, I met Gene Simmons. It was immediately clear that he was not going to be any fun and that he was also not going to have any. I had no idea why but decided not to take it personally. I had my own gang in the picture; a couple of guys named Chopper and Slime. I had lip. I didn't need tongue.

I was less excited by KISS and more excited about being directed by Gordon Hessler, who had worked with Vincent Price three times and directed "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad." Gary Valentine (Lachman), my boyfriend at the time, had recently exited the band Blondie; he and I had seen "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" more than once and thought it was the baddest of Sinbaddian adventures. It features a homunculous (left), and who doesn't like a story that includes one of those? It also features special effects by the one and only Ray Harryhausen. I was looking forward to working with Gordon, who was a pro and a gentleman. I also appreciated the irony of being a proto-punk working on behalf of a campy hard rock band. The rest, as they say, is KISStory. The production proved to be a trying time for all. On any bad movie gig, you know that eventually the pain will end.  When it was over, I was sure I'd never hear of it, think of it or see it again.

I was wrong.

In 2001 or 2 I heard from a nice guy named Ron Albanese. He wanted to interview me for a book he was writing about KISS with the even unwieldier title: Easy Catman, They Are Serious: The Complete Guide to Kiss Meets the Phantom.  He offered to take me to Magic Mountain to terrorize the park a second time (I have NEVER been back) just to jog my memory.  I was, like, "You wanna WHAT? You're gonna make me have to  remember THAT?!"
I gave the interview, declining the nostalgic trip to the Mountain. I'm not certain whether he wrote the book, but after we talked I forgot about KISS and KMTP some more.

It was October of 2007 before I was reminded again and finally convinced that the movie had some cult traction based on how hilariously, or, depending on who you ask, how painfully bad it is. I have to thank the following people for my change of heart and mind (from shame to a lemony fresh pride) regarding my participation in the KISS legacy:

Ron Albanese for being the first to try to explain. 

Jesse Capps of Rock Confidential with whom I did this in October of 2007: ExclusiveInterview: Lisa Jane Persky from KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park.

Gary Schaller and Ken Mills of podKISSt, who called In August of 2009, prompting a very fun hour-long chat about the movie: PodKISSt #23 KISS Goes To The Movies

Tom Scharpling, Jon Wurster, Paul F. Tompkins and the FOT for drawing me out of the shame-y darkness. Tom's is THE Best Show on WFMU.

Rick Vondehl, a great artist and designer who worked with me on the Dirty Dee T-shirt , Gary Strobl silk-screen genius and the two good-looking guys who model said shirt, Steve Moulton and Skyler Caleb of Acting Up.

Ryland Pruett for introducing me to the idea of appearing at a convention and to
Peter Arquette and Ross Kondell for inviting me to KISS Expo 2011 

and Yay Interwebs!--for getting us all together.

All this backstory is just to let you know: I'm comin' to Jersey, baby! 
Hope to see you there.

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