Love’s Labor (Day) Lost

By Victoria Looseleaf

Being a freelance, er, human, and never having had what one would rightly call ‘gainful employment’ (a steady job with benefits, retirement fund, any kind of security), The Leaf’s concept of Labor Day has always been a bit oblique. Indeed, the two big thrills associated with that particular holiday (three if you count wearing white for the last time until Memorial Day, which, in actuality, does not hold true for living in Los Angeles), are lolling about watching a pair of shows on the tube:

Ah, checking out the quarter-final throes of the U.S. Open (from Connors, Borg and Agassi to Rafa, Rafa and Rafa – she’s never been a Federer fan, especially after seeing his mug plastered all over St. Marks Square in Venice – click here to read The Leaf’s take on that phantasmagorical city), in between gawking at Jerry Lewis veer from fresh-faced (at least for him, which over the years has meant his head blowing up to bowling ball sized-proportions and then, over time, deflating to average Joe-status), to his bedraggled self after spending some 24 hours in front of the camera on his legendary MDA telethon.

But as we all now know – and if you don’t where’ve you been these past few months – Mr. Lewis has been unceremoniously dumped from his own program, one he’s been helming since 1966.

And The Leaf’s point is? Besides missing Lewis, she’s really upset about the following – the Los Angeles Times – at least what’s left of it – has, on this Labor Day, 2011, devoted much of its entire Calendar section (which isn’t all that much when you think about it), to what it considers this summer’s hits: Included in this so-called “A season of sizzlers” – is one little book, Adam Mansbach’s Go The F-ck to Sleep and – get this – a frigging App. So, it’s T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, big whoop. Then there’s the Pop Music list, with Adele (fine, The Leaf likes Adele, but what’s with her hands?), coupled with…Odd Future (like The Leaf ever heard of the latter; should she?)

Continuing with The List: TV, of course – accentuating The Voice (ugh – it’s just too much, or, in reality, too little. What about BBC America’s The Hour (click here to read about that, with a particular thrust on The Leaf’s current objet de lust, Ben Whishaw); and Movies. Some taste is shown by choosing Woody Allen’s return to form, Midnight in Paris, which gets the bigger play, followed by the, er, last Harry Potter flick (never seen one, never will…never even cracked a J.K. Rowling book), and Bridesmaids also in a position of prominence. (So shoot her – when given the opportunity to see Bridesmaids, Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life or Hangover II in France, The Leaf jumped at Bad Trip Two, as the French dubbed it, and did not regret her choice, fersure.)

The Times gets the Fashion thing right with the blockbuster Alexander McQueen show, Savage Beauty, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But hello? You had to actually be in New York to catch that one, and with prices what they are, Europe is undoubtedly more affordable than a trip to the Big Apple. (To read The Leaf’s trio of European Dispatches, click here for Amsterdam, here for Zurich, and here for Montpellier.)

As for Theater, the paper of record touts – are you ready for this inanity – Les Misérables, the 25th Anniversary Tour show that kerplopped down at the Ahmanson for six weeks beginning in June (following, as it did, on the heels of the true hit – and gem – God of Carnage. Click here for The Leaf’s views on that, and here for a peek at Roman Polanski’s film, Carnage). Of all the fantastic theater in L.A. – and we do have it, including the summer season at the Theatricum Botanicum and the California International Theatre Festival  – the Times decides to go for the road show warhorse. (It couldn’t have anything to do with advertising, could it?) Oy: God help us all.

And under Nightlife, the paper opts for CoLAboration Craft Beer Gardens – a roving craft beer garden. What the hell is that? “Save me, quick, before I die,” says The Leaf.

The best is reserved for last, though, mais oui: Under Arts, and rightly so, are MOCA’s Art in the Streets show and Tim Burton at LACMA –  The Leaf gets that. But, puhleeze: Where are the classical music and dance concerts?!?

The Hollywood Bowl, currently celebrating 90 years, is the summer home of the LA Philharmonic. And quel glorious season is underway, with the orchestra’s music director, Gustavo Dudamel, having conducted four, count ‘em, four different programs, including two nights with superstar pianist Lang Lang, an evening devoted to Turandot and an all-Mozart program with famed fiddler Gil Shaham. (Click here to read The Leaf’s words on the Langster; click here to read about the Gil/Gustavo pairing.) And while The Leaf was out of town when Yuja Wang conquered the Rach 3 in the micro-mini dress that launched a thousand quips, your intrepid scribe is still setting an attendance record of sorts, having been to the Bowl some 22 times already – and loving every moment.

Yuja Wang in the dress that launched a thousand quips!

Okay, full disclosure: She is writing the program notes/scripts for the KUSC broadcasts of the LA Phil at The Bowl, which are also streamed for one week after each Saturday 2 p.m. airing. To that end, she recently chatted with violinist Josh Bell and the incroyable piano-playing duo, the Labèque sisters, whose picture graces the top of this blog post (wearing custom-made Jean Paul Gaultier) and whose concert was nothing short of mind-blowing. Bell’s and the Labèques’ programs will be broadcast September 10 and 24 respectively. Katia and Marielle will also be at Disney Hall November 11 with a world premiere concerto by Richard Dubugnon, conducted by Marielle’s husband, Semyon Bychkov.

Madonna’s favorite classical musicians? The Labèque sisters, mais oui!

As for dance, the poor stepchild of the arts, L.A. doesn’t have any kind of festival akin to Jacob’s Pillow, but there have been all sorts of wonderful performances from local artists this season. Diavolo, directed by Jacques Heim, did its hyper-physical thing for two sparkling July nights at Grand Performances. (This is a wonderful summer program offering free concerts in a beautiful environment; click here to read about Diavolo’s evening, courtesy of The Leaf, and click here to read her terpsichorean musings from overseas, Dance, Drink, Whatever.) And what about all the dance performances at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre? Last year The Leaf wrote a piece for the Times on doing dance outdoors – click here to read that – and was also asked to cover half a dozen concerts – click here to read one of those reviews . There was plenty of dance at the Ford this summer season, but from the paper’s lack of reportage, you really wouldn’t know it. American Ballet Theatre also came to town on its annual jaunt to the Music Center, with Alexei Ratmansky’s The Bright Stream, albeit only for a weekend. Click here for The Leaf’s thoughts on that.

The daring dancers of Diavolo

To exclude the performing arts from the Los Angeles Times makes both the paper and the city look very backwater, devoid of the cultural fabric any and every noble city must have in order to claim greatness, gravitas and desirability. For shame!

Oh, well, guess The Leaf will just have to TiVo the tennis – definitely not tune in to the Lewis-less MDA thing – and find a barbeque to crash, a Patron to pour. There’s gotta be some saving grace to this Day of (non) Labor.

Pop the Patron, peel me a plantain and please…fire up the grill!

About Victoria Looseleaf

Victoria Looseleaf is an award winning arts journalist and regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, KUSC-FM radio, Dance Magazine, Performances Magazine and other outlets. She roams the world covering dance, music, theater, film, food and architecture. Have pen - and iPad - will travel! Her latest book, "Isn't It Rich? A Novella In Verse" is now available on Amazon. Thank you for reading! Cheers...
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