Remembering Taylor Negron*

By Victoria Looseleaf

Hello, my name is Victoria and I’m suffering from PTSD – post-Taylor stress disorder.”

That’s because Taylor was like the latest Tesla – on insane mode. He could go from 0 to 70 in less than 3 seconds. Taylor was like a Mouton Rothschild, Premier Cru – unspeakably divine and in a class by himself. Taylor was like Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony – once you heard him you could never forget him.

He was also like the finest bespoke Brioni suit – the apotheosis of taste – although on occasion, one could see his ass crack when he bent down, especially at the gym, where he’d make me laugh so hard during our workouts that I couldn’t get through my reps. Who needed B-boys, Krumpers or Flexers in their low-riding pants when we had Taylor Negron in his?

I met Taylor shortly after I moved to L.A. in the late 80’s, through another friend, serendipitously called, Neal Taylor. Taylor Negron and I, both being somewhat, well, quirky, immediately connected.

In 1994, I asked Taylor to read from my then-unpublished – and still unpublished – book, Whorehouse of the Mind: A Novel of Sex, Drugs and the Space Program. It was a series of readings that Beth Lapides hosted at Luna Park, then a new club, where different actors read different chapters each week. Since the protagonist of Whorehouse, written in the first person present tense, was a young woman floating through the fog of the 1970’s, Taylor felt he needed a way into the character. (Click here to listen to Taylor read a passage…)

Yes, Taylor as Southern Belle.

Taylor also knew absolutely everybody – from Beck and Benazir Bhutto to Babs – as in Streisand, claiming he met her when he had a speaking part in The Main Event. But, as we all know, Taylor was prone to hyperbole. It’s not that he conflated the truth à la Brian Williams – Taylor wasn’t our trusted news anchor, but a source of his own, well, anchored Taylorness.

However, when he told a few of us that he’d actually had dinner with the late Prime Minister of Pakistan – the afore-mentioned Benazir Bhutto – and I can still hear his mellifluous voice, the one taking extreme delight in such almighty alliteration – we were, to say the least, highly suspicious. So, when I saw the picture of him with Benazir Bhutto – and this was before Photoshop and Selfies – I was somewhat flabbergasted. But I should have known better, because, as it happens, most of Taylor’s hyperbolic tales were actually true.

Well, there was that oft-told tale, the one in which he described himself as being part Jewish

When I interviewed Taylor for the LA Times in 2001 – at that point he was playing an Hispanic nanny in the Olsen Twins’ series, So Little Time – he told me he was of Puerto Rican and Jewish descent, which I duly wrote in this town’s paper of record.

And again last year, when I interviewed him for his one-man exhibition, Snow Paintings, at the Laemmle Royal – I wrote that Taylor was of Puerto Rican and Jewish descent…because that’s what he told me and I believed him. How could I not, as that phrase had been printed in our paper of record.

It was only on the day that Taylor passed, and some of us were in his apartment, trying to cobble together an obituary from a variety of sources, when I suggested we write that he was of Puerto Rican and Jewish descent. Since his mother, Lucy, was there – we decided to go right to the source.

Lucy said, and I quote, “Both Rod and I were born in this country – making us Americans – but our parents were born in Puerto Rico. So we were of Puerto Rican descent…but,” she paused in true Taylor-style, “there was no way Brad had Jewish blood.”

Oy, I thought, I believed him all these years. But then – a mere few minutes later – Lucy stood up and blurted out, “I don’t want to make my son out to be a liar. Write that he was of Puerto Rican and Jewish descent.”

For a while, Taylor lived on Lloyd Place – in the so-called Norma Triangle – which was up the street from me, so I was a frequent visitor. It was only natural then, that on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I would go to Taylor’s house – a house, by the way that he had told me and thus had I written, again, in the paper of record, was once owned by Nina Foch, which, incidentally, I recently learned was NOT true (this courtesy of Frances Diaz, who was Taylor’s next door neighbor and owner of the Foch finca).

In any case, several people had already congregated there – one being a Mob kind of guy named Carlo from the Bronx, who was covered in tattoos and cooking spaghetti at 10 AM – not the sauce, mind you, but the noodles. Taylor put on a Frank Sinatra record – he had an actual turntable – and we danced around in a haze to Strangers in the Night – thinking it was the end of the world.

Taylor then put on my album, Harpnosis – this music was, for all intensive purpose, healing, although it didn’t work on O.J. Simpson, who’d been my neighbor when I lived in Laguna Beach – and we were all crying, laughing, eating, drinking, watching the television, holding each other, telling stories, as if it were really the end times. In fact, it was that day that Taylor began writing a song, My Taliban Lover. I’m not sure exactly what became of that ditty, but as the day wore on – and limp noodles just wouldn’t do – we decided to take a walk – to, of all places, the Abbey.

There we wound up drinking, crying and holding each other even tighter, because, after all, if the world were going to end, it had to end, Taylor figured, at the Abbey!

In closing I want to say that Taylor Negron – great actor, fabulous writer, incredible artist, performer, songwriter, raconteur and, most of all, my friend – was so much more than a pizza delivery boy. For one thing – he could actually bake his own pizzas, which he did for me, Melissa Carrey and Mr. Pete not that long ago.

And speaking of cuisine, Taylor, I treasure your last email to me. You were out of town and had written, “I love you. When I return I’ll cook again.”

Oh, I’m sure you’re cooking something, somewhere, right now, Taylor, telling a group of adoring fans how you once cooked dinner for…Benazir Bhutto.

Well, I don’t cook, Taylor, but I love you, too.

*This text is what I read at the Comedy Store Memorial Tribute to Taylor Negron on Sunday, February 15, 2015.

(Cover photo: Aaron Boldt, bottom photo: Christopher Turner)

 

 

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Bring It On…

By Victoria Looseleaf

Dear readers: We know it’s been a while since we’ve written anything…here. Of course, we did crank out 10,000 words for various outlets in three weeks before we were struck down with a heinous throat infection on Thanksgiving.

Indeed, we actually lost our voice for 15 days/nights, literally. A critic without her voice – not a good thing. But we did manage to get to Valencia, Spain two weeks ago for the opening of that city’s opera season. Thanks, then, to intendant, Ms. Helga Schmidt, who is the director of the gorgeous Calatrava-designed Palau de les Artes Reina Sofia.

It was a thrill to hear Plácido Domingo sing in the zarzeula, Luisa Fernanda, one night, and conduct Manon Lescaut the next. In between that pair of musical nuggets, we did a wonderful interview with the megatenor/cum/baritone, who turns – gasp – 74 next month. (Above, Lawrence K. Ho photo, from L.A. Opera’s Thaïs.)

It was certainly a great way to end the year, and what a year for the arts it was. We’re not limiting ourselves to any Top 10, but are going to rattle off some of the most fascinating performances we attended in 2014.

We made it to Wolfsburg, Germany, for the Movimentos Festival, where Diavolo: Architecture in Motion performed its world premiere trilogy, L’Espace du Temps (cover photo from Fearful Symmetries by Lawrence K. Ho). Click here for our Fjord review of that, which was, btw, spectacular, in every sense of the word. We also did a travel story on Berlin, where we caught one of Vladimir Malakhov’s last performances as director of Staatsballett Berlin before he decamped for Tokyo Ballet. He danced the role of Caravaggio in the work of the same name – at age 46 – then continued to take curtain calls until every last person had left the theater. Wow!

Back in the States we showed more love for Diavolo at the Greek Theatre in September, when they performed a pair of classics, Trajectoire and Transit Space. Earlier in 2014, we went wild for In C at the Hammer Museum, a performance installation with Yuval Sharon’s opera company The Industry, Ate9 Dance Company and Terry Riley’s iconic work. We also wrote about Ate9 for the L.A. Times as prelude to Danielle Agami’s world premiere, mouth to mouth. (Agami is one of Dance Magazine’s 25 To Watch in the January issue, courtesy of, well, us.)

Backtrack to March and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Lac at Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts (photo, right, by Laurent Philippe). We wrote the preview on Jean-Christophe Maillot for the LAT, having traveled to Monaco last December to cover that troupe’s new Nutcracker. (Click here for our Fjord review.) Ballet topped our June list when Los Angeles Ballet, now going very strong in its 10th season, performed an endearing, enduring La Sylphide along with Balanchine’s magnificent Serenade, choreographed in 1934 and still fresh. (Click here for our LAT review.)

June also brought Ballet Preljocaj to the Music Center, where we did all three pre-concert talks and wrote the preview piece on Angelin Preljocaj for LAT. (We’d been to Aix-en-Provence last year for the world premiere of Les Nuits, photo below; click here for our Dance Magazine coverage – which was given its West Coast premiere here.)

Barak Ballet also performed at the Broad Stage in June, the evening including two world premieres, Melissa Barak’s Aether and Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Voice of Six.

August featured American Contemporary Ballet’s first evening-length work by artistic director Lincoln Jones (click here for our LAT review), with live music always integral to the growing troupe’s repertory.

Also: As part of REDCAT‘s NOW Festival (New Original Works), Ate9 shared a bill with one of our favorite performance artists, the one and only John Fleck, who was superb in his one-person show, Blacktop Highway. Calling all theaters – this show should be booked around the globe. Fleck also performed at the 25-year anniversary of Highways Performance Space, along with a host of others, curated by the amazing Dark Bob, last May.

September proved equally fruitful, with Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre presenting Dancing at Dunbar, (photo, below by Adam Davila), in South Central L.A. The Goddess of Site Specific Dance (we elevated her from queen), is celebrating the 30th anniversary of her company throughout 2015, and we’ll be filling you in on all of the troupe’s upcoming activities.

In addition, the unstoppable Ms. Duckler hosted an 85th birthday party for postmodern guru Rudy Perez, where many members of the dance community lovingly recalled working with this movement pioneer. In our case, we’ve been writing about and really getting to know him over the last 20 or so years. Brava Rudy!

October had the incomparable Garth Fagan Dance performing four shows at the Nate Holden Theater under Ebony Repertory Theatre’s auspices. We were so honored to have written about the troupe for LAT on its last visit 10 years ago (click here for that), and again this year (click here). Fagan, who choreographed Broadway’s The Lion King, is a master and a mensch, and it’s no wonder his dancers stay with him for eons. The company is 40 years old and several members are still performing with Fagan in their 50’s and 60’s. We were truly blown away by the troupe’s vivacity, stamina and emotional heft. (Photo from Lighthouse/Lightning Rod, with sets by Alison Saar)

In October we were also interviewed by the wonderful Amanda Slingerland of Studio Vox/LA Talk Radio. Her show Get Famous Friday! is a blast. Amanda had us tell some of our best stories, she also played a track from our album Harpnosis, we read a poem from A Looseleaf Notebook: Volume I, and then ended the show with a bang, dispensing words of wisdom to aspiring journalists: “Don’t use SpellCheck!”  Click here for that brilliant blabfest.

Lighthouse/Lightning Rod

November was again filled with beautiful dance, including our being tapped as one of  seven judges at the McCallum Theatre’s 17th Annual Choreography Festival. (It was no surprise that ate9, photo below, took the grand prize…). There was also a weekend of performances at the Alternate Currents festival at the Electric Lodge.

Thanks to Joel Shapiro, artistic director and founder of this space, and to Butoh artist Oguri, who, with several of his dancers, performed Verb-Ing. We’ve been writing about Oguri for eons and are always in awe of his singular vocabulary, style and execution of ideas, which are nothing less than astonishing. Also part of the festival: Sarah Elgart’s seductive film, Follow, was projected on the outside of the Lodge. Elgart, whose company Arrogant Elbow did a site specific work commissioned by MOCA Santa Barbara in September, choreographed and directed the film, while Caitlin O’Rorke offered up beautiful camera work and editing.

Josie Walsh’s Ballet Red (left), stormed the Broad Stage in November with its program Urban Angels. We’ve been writing about Walsh since 2002 (click here for that LAT story), and have watched this talented director/choreographer evolve into a terpsichorean force of nature. We’re so proud of her!

We’re also thrilled that our colleague Kate Johnson, who, after an arduous 10-year process, premiered her documentary, Mia, A Dancer’s Journey, on PBS, which airs again on January 29. Co-directed with Mia Slavenska’s daughter, Maria Ramos (Slavenska danced with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, among other troupes, before taking up residence and teaching in L.A. for years), will be screened at Lincoln Center at the end of January at its annual Dance on Camera Festival. We hope Johnson snags an Emmy for this heartfelt and beautifully rendered film.

There were also some major performances at CAP UCLA’s Royce Hall this year, including those by Philip Glass in May and Batsheva Dance Company performing Sadeh21 in November (one of our LAT top Fall Dance Picks, photo right by Gadi Dagon). Two weeks later Kristy Edmunds brought us Robert Wilson’s brilliant staging of The Old Woman, with none other than Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe a kind of post-postmodern vaudeville duo. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. We also bumped into our old pal Ryan Heffington at the after-party and are happy for his pair of Grammy nominations. Check out his choreography for Sia‘s Chandelier and Arcade Fire‘s We Exist. You rock, Sir Ryan!

We loved L.A. Opera’s presentation of Dido/Bluebeard’s Castle, directed by maverick, Barrie Kosky. (We also wrote a profile of LAO’s President and CEO, Christopher Koelsch, a visionary for the 21st century. Click here for that KCET Artbound story.)

In addition, last month we covered the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Mama – the organ – at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where a series of concerts showed off the Frank Gehry/Manuel Rosales-designed instrument. (Click here for another one of our KCET stories, and be prepared for some detailed verbiage on the most gorgeous organ in the world!)

Whew! No wonder we collapsed last month, since we also produced six gatherings of Salon 2.0 in 2014. We presented a who’s who of musicians, artists and performance artists and poets. Our roster included the legendary Barbara T. Smith, artist Andre Miripolsky, cellist Robert Een, who played while realist Chaz Guest painted, tubaist William Roper, vocalist Anna Homler performing with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, composer/vibraphonist Jodie Landau and friends, and  poets Linda J. Albertano and Laurel Ann Bogen.

Cue trumpets: We’re now thrilled to announce Pop-Up Salon 3.0, the first of which will be held at a beautiful home in Venice, with sculptor Robert Heller talking about his work and where Mary Woronov, actor/author/painter/Warhol superstar, will dish on her long and storied career.

And yet more big plans for 2015: Cue trumpets redux, as we’ll be unveiling the Looseleaf Performance Space at Linda Valentino’s Downtown Dance and Movement (photo below). The studios, in the booming South Park section of downtown Los Angeles, are currently under construction, and we’ll be producing and curating the monthly series, Sundays on Hope.

Several of the artists slated to perform include ate9, members of Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, Arrogant Elbow and Josie Walsh’s Ballet Red. There will also be a tribute to Rudy Perez and musical afternoons featuring some of our favorite composers, vocalists and instrumentalists. And, since we came out this year as a writer of satiric fiction, reading from the Gordy Grundy-edited anthology, Gen F (below), at venues including Shulamit Gallery and Stories Bookstore in Echo Park (and also at Susan Hayden‘s fabulous series, Library Girl, in which we read along with a coterie of wonderful actors, authors and poets), LPS will feature Scott & Zelda: A Literary Afternoon with various peeps reading from their works. Who knows, we might reprise Corpus Criticus or even read from our latest tome, Men and Other Natural Disasters. And speaking of Gen F, we’ll be reading our story, The Oudist again, and also hosting, four writers – Andrew Berardini, James Hayward, Buffy Visick and the fabulous Ms. Woronov. Where you ask? We’ll be at the famed Book Soup on January 18 at 4 pm, so be sure and mark your calendars.

For now, though, we’d like to kiss December goodbye (and this dastardly throat infection, as we’re still not 100%), and wish everyone a happy, healthy, prosperous, peace-filled 2015. Break out the Veuve, s’il vous plait!

P.S. This post is dedicated to the memories of but a few of the wonderful people who left this planet too soon, including Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elaine Stritch, Mike Nichols, Lauren Bacall, Maximilan Schell, Lorin Maazel, Marian Seldes, Claudio Abbado, Geoffrey Holder, Gerard Mortier, Richard Duardo, Maya Angelou, Sid Caesar, Harold Ramis, Pete Seeger, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and Tasha Martel. RIP…

 

 

 

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Remembering Ms. Rivers & Happy 5775!

 

By Victoria Looseleaf

We lost another comedy legend when Joan Rivers, whom the New York Times called a ‘comic stiletto quick to skewer,’ suffered cardiac arrest while undergoing a routine throat endoscopy, though how any procedure could be routine on an 81-year old is a mystery to us. After being in an induced medical coma for a week, Rivers was taken off life support by orders from her daughter Melissa. The acid-tongued gal died on September 4, and we have been mourning her loss ever since.

Paired with Robin Williams’ passing, this has been a difficult time for many of us needing/craving the outrageous sense of humor those two geniuses had. Rivers shattered ceilings, be they glass, stucco or whatever, and blazed through them all like a five-alarm fire. We absolutely adored her, as did the Comedy Central Rivers’ Roasters, who used the word ‘vagina’ more times than David Mamet spewed obscenities in his 1984 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play, Glengarry Glen Ross. We’re still kvelling over Gilbert Gottfried’s monolithic harangue.

We actually had several encounters with the Goddess of Comedy over the decades, including a life-altering event at Vegas’ MGM Grand after she performed a 1 am set, a story that is featured in our still-being-written memoirs. And though we weren’t too keen on her 2008 play at the Geffen, we were glad we got to see her so very up-close and, well, over-plasticized.

Indeed, Rivers had a face that had been stretched, plumped and rearranged to the point of making a Picasso cubist portrait look like a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover, meaning this seems a good enough transition to talk a bit about the City of Angels art scene.

Hah! There are more L.A. gallery openings in September than Pink’s has hot dogs. We made it to the grand opening of Daniel Rolnik Gallery on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, where it was wall-to-wall peeps. This young artrepreneur has been called “the world’s most adorable art critic,” by none other than Bill Clinton. How’s that for a moniker!

We also made it to the Dresden Room, where our fellow Clevelander, Ms. Jane Cantillon, regularly holds court with her Dick and Jane Family Orchestra (below).

This is art of another stripe, a combination of music, performance art, autobiographical musings (the Dick in the Orchestra is Richard Ross, Ms. C’s husband), and life in, if not exactly the fast lane, then some other kind of lane, because Janie sings it like she sees it. And wow, does she ever see it!

Cantillon and friends also showed up at another one of our Gen F readings. This was at Stories Bookstore in Echo Park, and had been organized by the in abstentia jack-of-all arts, Gordy Grundy, editor of the short story anthology that is now ranked 792,079th on amazon. Whoo hoo! What we need is the Colbert bump, sir!

Former Factory girl, Mary Woronov (right, portrait by Don Bachardy),who has written five books, been in numerous films, and whose paintings can be seen at Laemmle NoHo through December (curated by Josh Elias), also read that night. Sponsored by Artillery Magazine, and MC’d by that mag’s editor, Tulsa Kinney, the reading was well-attended, including by our colleague from CNN, Matt Carey. Anther notable: author and Artillery Mag’s publisher, Charlie Rappleye. He and Woronov were laughing so hard during our reading of The Oudist that we finally broke character and, well, cracked up, too.

A bunch of us then traipsed over to Taix, including Cantillon and Ross (not to be confused with Martini and Rossi,unless you’ve had too many), as well as the Artillery folks.

We were thrilled that Andre Miripolsky, who will be showing some of his art at our next Salon 2.0, made it to the reading, as well as producer Larry Gilbert, Mudperson Mike M. Mollett (left), and Hollywood Foreign Press correspondent (and Gen F contributor/reader), Luca Celada, among others. We stuck to Scotch that night, while Daiquiris were decidedly in high demand at this long-time haunt.

On a thespian note, we cranked out a story about AeschylusPersians for KCET Artbound, interviewing SITI Company director Anne Bogart, as well as actor Ellen Lauren. We also attended the world premiere of Marjorie Prime at the Taper, but were not overly impressed with the play’s general blandness. Lois Smith, 83, is a major presence, but this was a minor role, and playwright Jordan Harrison made a gaff when he alluded to Christo’s The Gates from February, 2005 (we were there, natch!), when describing an event that had happened decades ago to Marjorie. Still, this quasi-futuristic offering about memory really didn’t work for us, and now we’re having a hard time remembering why. Seriously, Prime felt undeveloped and underwritten.

We’re heading to San Francisco soon for more art, friends, parties and culture, after which we return to do a story on the fantastic Garth Fagan Dance (Fagan, btw, choreographed The Lion King, the world’s most successful entertainment in any medium). We wrote the last LAT feature on this troupe 10 years ago and are thrilled that they’re finally returning, Oct. 3-5, when they’ll be at the Nate Holden Center for the Performing Arts. We’re back from the city and here’s our LAT story on Fagan, a real inspiration. We’ll also be covering the concert for FJORD Review. In the interim,  check out our LAT Fall Dance Preview for more terpsichorean listings, although our picks seem to have been slashed in the edit room by Freddy Krueger. To that end, please note the following upcoming dance concerts: Danielle Agami’s ate9 Company at the Moss Theatre Oct. 11-12.

And before that, Los Angeles Ballet begins a run of its Swan Lake (in early October), which we  reviewed for the LAT in 2012 (left, Matthew Bourne‘s Swan Lake), and the Australian Ballet will do its version of the avian tale with a live orchestra at the Music Center Oct. 9-12.

We’re also working on a profile of visual artist and co-Salon host/producer, Linda Kunik, so please stay tuned. In the interim, L’shana tovah.’ Happy new year. It’s 5775. After all these years, we think this calls for a drink!

 

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Fall Forward…

By Victoria Looseleaf

After the hottest summer on record, the City of Angels is still heating up – culturally, that is. Traditionally, the fall season begins after Labor Day (we must admit, we miss Jerry Lewis’ Muscular Dystrophy Telethon), and have continued to wear white against our better Cleveland upbringing.

But we digress. We kicked off September with a bang, once again joining forces with visual artist Linda Kunik to celebrate the one-year anniversary of our Salon 2.0, fashioned after Gertrude Stein’s famous 20th Century salons. Cuban drummer Luca Brandoli and friends, including dancer Kati Hernandez, performed outside on Kunik’s deck, the cool night air complementing an overflow crowd drinking, dancing and noshing – or were we moshing – with an emphasis on drinking.

By the time we went upstairs to Kunik’s studio for performance poets Laurel Ann Bogen and Linda J. Albertano (below, photo by Alexis Fancher), we’d run out of booze. Kunik saved the day, though, with bottles of Jack Daniels, Jose Cuervo and a few carafes of red vino. Bogen, whose collected works will be published by Red Hen Press in 2016, wowed the guests, including composer/actor O-Lan Jones, her British cousin, Carol Barnes, producer/longtime Salonista, Larry Gilbert, Library Girl’s Susan Hayden and friend, therapist Sandra Fenster.

Writer Melissa Carrey and choreographer Heidi Duckler, who is currently in Brisbane doing three site-specific shows a day – that girl is an inspiration – were also in attendance. The poetry – and African bolon music – continued with Albertano (she recently dubbed us L.A.’s leading impresaria and arts reviewer – we’ll take it), who blew the roof off the atelier.

Poet/sculptor/Mudman Mike M. Mollett and wife Dee Balson Mollett were also in attendance, along with first-timers, Joanna Cottrell and husband, sculptor Robert Heller, as well as scribe Deborah Behrens and singer-songwriter Loree Gold.

Another Salon newbie: Andre Miripolsky (right, the artist’s rendering of an Absolut Vodka bottle), who will be presenting some of his fabulous work at our next 2.0 event on October 24. That line-up will be equally special, with pop artist Scott Grieger and Jodi Landau and friends rounding out the bill. Landau, et al, are part of contemporary music ensemble, Wild Up, and will perform some of their evocative tunes. As always, special thanks to shooters Tricia Noble, Larry Gassan and Ms. Fancher, who have been doing a splendid job chronicling our bi-monthly gatherings.

There was no rest for this wicked gal as the next night we forayed down to the Hotel Dunbar, an erstwhile gathering spot for the world’s preeminent jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday and…you name ’em…they were there in the hotel’s heyday, albeit having to enter through the service door and not even being allowed to book a room during their run: a blight on our past.

Happily, we now have Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre (and have had for 30 years), who performed Dancing at the Dunbar (left, photo of Wilfrid Souly and Teresa ‘Toogie’ Barcelo by Francis Chee), which has recently been converted to 82 affordable housing units. We were there with pals Charlotte Spiegelman and vocal artist Anna Homler, and were privy – along with the packed house – to sharing the dance with some of the Dunbar residents. Councilperson Jan Perry, who helped spearhead the conversion was there, as was L.A.’s newest cultural affairs manager, Danielle Brazell, whom we’ve known since she was director at Highways back in the day. We’re excited to see what this exuberant arts advocate brings to her new post.

After five long years, Diavolo: Architecture in Motion, returned to the Greek Theatre to a rapturous audience. That there was much drinking at both pre and post parties (and during intermission!), also contributed to the swoony time (cover photo, Fluid Infinities). Hey – it’s no secret that we love this troupe founded by Jacques Heim in 1992, and have written countless stories, profiles, reviews and odes about the company. (Click here for our recent German coverage for Fjord Review.)

Speaking of drinking, L.A. Opera opened its 28th season the next night with Marta Domingo’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata (tickets are available for two more performances), and we were there with good chum Mark Schwartz. Set in the Gatsby Jazz Age, with choreography by our colleague Kitty McNamee of Hysterica Dance Co., this mounting (as do all), begins with one of our favorites, the drinking song, Libiamo, ne’ lieti calici (we sense a liquid thread running through this post…)…

The opera yielded a few stellar voices, namely that of the phenomenal Plácido Domingo (right, photo by Lawrence K. Ho), who, still singing at the age of 73 and now a baritone, made an indelible impression in the role of Giorgio Germont (Domingo used to tackle the role of the son, Alfredo), while Georgian soprano Nino Machaidze assayed Violetta with much gusto. Alas, not much can be said, for tenor Arturo Chacón-Cru’s Alfredo. Indeed, we were tempted to Tweet, #tenorwaning, but our better judgment, for once, held us back.

We tried to hold back, in any case. And since most peeps have attention spans of a tse tse fly, we’re ending this here, to be continued…after we have a drink! Bottoms up!

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Remembering Robin

When we heard the tragic news of Robin Williams’ death on August 11 at age 63 – by suicide, no less – and from our father – we were stunned. It was like hearing about the death by heart attack last year of one of our most beloved actors, James Gandolfini. A blow was also struck this past February, when the world learned of Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s fatal heroine dose.  But Williams‘ passing seemed to strike harder, as details kept surfacing and the notion that the manic genius was more often masking his colossal anguish than most knew. Somehow, our collective pain grew.

We’d been a fan of Williams since we’d seen him in the early days at San Francisco’s Holy City Zoo, knowing he was destined for greatness. (Anyone who ever saw him back in the day knew that!) As news of his death spread, it was all we could do to comfort ourselves by talking it out with friends, meditating on suicide and all its ramifications, then bingeing on YouTube clips from his many, many appearances for charities, for the troupes, for humankind.

This man worked like nobody else. Yes, he had to be ‘on,’ but even when he was off, he was probably more on than most of us could ever dream of being, ‘on’ meaning brilliant, audacious, hilarious and free-associating to places only an Einsteinian, Juilliard-trained brain could travel to. We loved him in so many movies, especially The Birdcage and that scene where he performs shout-outs to great dancer/choreographers: Fosse, Graham, Twyla, Kidd, Madonna.

No surprise he could move like that, as Williams, at one point, was also a mime. It’s curious, because Marcel Marceau, when he was alive, was often reviewed by dance critics by dint of his astonishing moves.

(We once interviewed Marceau – by phone from France – and, this is the honest truth – he wouldn’t stop talking. We absolutely couldn’t get him off that damn telephone!) Another incredibly thrilling dancer/comedian/songwriter/actor was, of course, Charlie Chaplin.

But we digress! Robin‘s on our mind now, and we could go on and on: about your comedy, your voices, your gifts, your generosity, your spirit…your soul. But not about your suicide. That’s just too fucking depressing. Anybody’s suicide, a subject with which we are, unfortunately, a tad too familiar. We merely want to say that Robin, you were a singular voice in a crowded, crazy world, and whatever was haunting you, we hope you’re at peace now.  P.S. We’re looking forward to watching the Emmys, when there will be a tribute to Robin Williams. Also, we can’t help but hope that our Breaking Bad crush, Bryan Cranston, walks off with his fourth. And that the show, which we never watched when it was on but began our Netflix binge-fest after it ended, cleans up, as well. In the interim, we’ve got a slew of Robin‘s films lined up on our DVR, and will be watching them with gratitude knowing that he gave so much to so many during his relatively brief lifetime. (Cover photo, Wynn Miller)

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Those Lazy Hazy Days

To quote Judy Collins, “Who knows where the time goes?” We surely don’t. Please forgive us, dear readers, for not having posted one solitary word in July, though our Facebook comings-and-goings were well documented, as were our Tweets, Instagrams and live comments at every event we covered or were happy to be at.

Oy! To say we were busy is an understatement. We spent July 4th in Pasadena, at a very literary barbecue. And yes, there is such a thing, as it was presided over by raconteurs/writers Mark Schwartz and Erika Schickel, where guests had been asked to prepare odes to our nation’s Day of Independence. (We demurred.)

Then there was the wedding of our fabulous clothes designer, Bruno Duluc to his beloved Burke Daniel. Fortunately, we weren’t asked to play the harp, although we were asked to bring numerous changes of clothes, including a gown described below, as the festivities continued long after the ceremony. We couldn’t find a picture of us in that frock, but we do have the one below with the harp.

Our opening number at the wedding was a full-length gown and pair of huge black net gloves that Duluc had designed for us when we received the Lester Horton Award for Furthering the Visibility of Dance.

Of course, for the awards ceremony, we had the fabulous Diavolo dancer, Garrett Wolf, carry our train as we descended from the top of the aisle at the El Portal Theater while Pavarotti crooned Nessun Dorma over the loudspeakers.

 

This had been preceded by Diavolo director/genius Jacques Heim giving the sold-out house the most astonishing speech before presenting us with our crystal trophy. The video of my life (below) was made by the incredible filmmaker/artist Kate Johnson, and was shown to the somewhat shocked and baffled crowd. Indeed, some attendees are still reeling. (Did we say Garrett was mostly nude and, well, dance critics can be a stuffy lot…). And speaking of Diavolo, they’ll be rocking the Greek Theatre on September 12!

On a more current note, our colleague Matt Carey took us to a screening of Woody Allen’s latest romp, Magic in the Moonlight. No matter that it’s gotten mixed reviews and is barely seen (at least in L.A.), we loved it.

And it was particularly refreshing to see Colin Firth in leading man mode, albeit as Woody’s cranky alter ego, with Emma Stone (right).

 

 

After a year on the back burner, we finally wrote our KCET Artbound megastory on artist/poet/sculptor/mudperson Mike M. Mollett (cover photo by D.A. Metrov, left by Dee Balson Mollett). A doc for SOCal Connected was in the works before our story first hit, which is still, btw, racking up thousands of ‘Likes’ on FB. Word just in: The KCET show airs Wed., 8/27 at 8 p.m. and repeats Fri., 8/29 at 8 p.m. and Sun., 8/31 at 6:30 p.m., and is anchored by Val Zavala.

Then there was this  huge deal:  We came out as a writer of satiric fiction, with the publication of our short story, The Oudist, which is in the recently released anthology, Gen F, edited by the venerable Gordy Grundy. And since the collection consists of L.A. writers, many of whom only cover the visual arts, we’ve been supplying the comic relief. We first read at Les Noces de Figaro as part of DTLAB,with Traxx’s fabulous Tara Thomas serving as MC. Two days later we were at Library Girl , a terrific reading series produced by Susan Hayden at the Ruskin Group Theatre, the second Sunday of every month. Ms. Hayden only knew our work as an international arts journalist, and booked us sight unseen. Thanks, Ms. H!

That evening, which also featured a roster of playwrights, poets and authors, including Jim Turner, Darrell Lawson, Diane Sherry Case and daughter Natalie Case, as well as filmmaker Tamar Halpern (she directed the recently released doc, trailer above, on the quirkily wonderful artist Llyn Foulkes, who was in attendance with the Dark Bob). There was also music by Mason Summit. And though none of this had anything to do with Gen F, we were told that we stole the show!

Our third reading in July took place at Shulamit Gallery in Venice and was part of Gen F. But why most of the readers sat behind a desk with their heads buried in their books is a mystery to us. We stood, proudly, and apparently, killed.

We also went to The Box with site-specific queen Heidi Duckler to check out Melinda Ring’s all-nude work, Forgetful Snow, where, surprisingly, two men left before it ended.

In addition, there were several lunches, notably one with La Chanteuse Dangereuse, Ms. Joyce Aimee, who, since she’d just bought new patio furniture and a fabulous fountain, offered to throw us a birthday party. We accepted  and then trucked to Boston Court with vocalist/performance artist Anna Homler to see the contemporary music ensemble Wild Up.

Oh, yes, there was an i Palpiti chamber music performance at a private home, as well as a schlep down to Orange County with our Salon 2.0 co-host/producer, the hard-working visual artist Linda Kunik. We were there covering Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, aka Vasipova for Fjord Review.

We plowed hard into August where one of the highs was REDCAT‘s marvelous NOW Festival. We love the place and not just because our favorite performance artist, John Fleck, previewed his high-octane work, Blacktop Highway.

 

Ate 9 Dance Company rounded out that bill. They danced an excerpt of For now, choreographed by the troupe’s founder, Danielle Agami, whom we wrote about for the L.A. Times in April.  That work premieres this Sunday at the Wallis as part of the Voices of L.A. Festival. We’ll be there, of course!

Blablablabla…to be continued…but if you’re in the mood, here’s a link to our last 59  – count ’em – 59 reviews and stories for the L.A. Times, including our coverage of American Contemporary Ballet from last weekend…just in case you thought we’d been slacking off!

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We’ve Got You Covered

By Victoria Looseleaf

We’re writing as fast as we can, but it seems like there’s never enough time to meet deadlines, cross the pond, be at the Music Center multiple times in a week, read actual books, get to performances and art events, co-host and produce Gertrude Stein-inspired salons and, well, check in on our very own blog.

We thought this 21st century technology thing was going to make life simpler. Not exactly…

Since we last wrote, we’ve been in a cultural eddy, i.e., spinning from one amazing event to another. In our so-called ‘down time’ (a misnomer, for sure), we discovered that an interview we did with Ray Bradbury some 22 years ago, has been edited (over-edited, is more like it), and made available for all the world to see…without our consent.

We were also informed by Google Alerts that one of our cuts from Harpnosis, Debussy’s Clair de Lune, had been downloaded and is available on an MP3 file. Hello, peeps, the album is a collector’s item and is not even available on iTunes, so thanks for sharing (not!).

But before we discovered all that, we made a much-needed foray to Europe – Wolfsburg and Berlin, to be more precise. As most of our readers know, we’ve been covering Jacques Heim and Diavolo: Architecture in Motion for nearly 20 years, and, of course were honored to have written about the troupe for the Movimentos Festival. We were even more privileged to travel to Wolfsburg to cover the world premiere of Diavolo’s L.A. Phil-commissioned trilogy, L’Espace du Temps. (Click here and here for our two major L.A. Times stories on the first and final parts of the trilogy.)

Mounted in a converted power plant, the performances (we were there for all four), were spectacular (click here for our Fjord Review). The Germans really dug the work, as well. To have Heim’s dancers manipulating giant structures (there are mucho metaphors re machines and the like – click here for our New York Times story on Fearful Symmetries), was nothing short of mind-blowing. (Cover photo and below, courtesy of Ammerpohl.)

We also met a lot of wonderful folks (whenever someone asks us, “What is the most favorite place you’ve been to?” We reply, “Wherever we’re at!”), including the former mayor of Wolfsburg, Prof. Dr. Gerd Schwandner. He’s the dude who came up with the idea of the Autostadt – the inner core of Wolfsburg and capital of Volkswagen that is a bizarre, wildly amazing city dedicated to cars, specifically those owned, designed and manufactured by VW. We also met the former CEO of the company, Carl H. Hahn, still going strong at 87, as well as a slew of dance devotees, presenters, agents, performers and the like. In any case, we’ll be writing a travel story anon on the burg that the Beetle built.

Then there’s Berlin, where we were, indeed, wilkommened. Aside from the fact that there’s more construction going on there than in Dubai, we loved the place. We took in the incredible history and several must-see tourist spots, including the Daniel Libeskind-designed Jewish Museum (right), and the 7,011 slabs that comprise the Holocaust Memorial behind the Brandenburg Gate. We also powered through numerous galleries, museums, markets, theaters (hello, Volksbühne, where we took in Frank Castorf’s production of Ibsen’s The Master Builder – all in German, meaning we only lasted some two hours), food (white asparagus was in season – they boil it with potatoes), music, more art and dance.

Happily, we caught one of Vladimir Malakhov’s last performances as director of Staatsballett Berlin in Mauro Bigonzetti‘s Caravaggio (below), which originally premiered in 2008. We’ve written about Vlad for years (click here for our LAT story on him and Bud Cort – it’s about Vlad’s Harold and Maude ballet, which, btw, never happened), and were worried he would be out of a job once Nacho Duato takes the helm at the beginning of the 2014-2015 season.

Well, Malakhov is a huge  f**ing star, with the curtain call(s) to prove it. The dancer, now 46, took solo bows until every last musician and person had left Schiller Theater. (The opera house is being refurbished, with the troupe currently in this intimate, 900-seat venue.) When we were finally brought onstage to say ‘hello’ to the demi-diety, we expressed our concern about his future. Hah! Mr. Malakhov takes over Tokyo Ballet in August, which eased our troubled mind, fersure, fersure. In any case, our Berlin stay was all too brief at five nights and we do hope to return there soon. In the interim, you can read more about the German capital in our upcoming travel story for Performances Magazine.

Back in Los Angeles we hit the ground running: attending opening night of Dance Camera West with artist/sculptor/poet/Mudperson Mike Mollett, and where Victor Quijada (we wrote the first LAT story on the Montreal-based leader of Rubberbandance Group), had choreographed a short work for Bodytraffic on a Gustavo Godoy jungle gym-like sculpture.

We were jet-lagged, but could appreciate the mini-doc on Sergei Polunin (right), the genius dancer who left the Royal Ballet to become a tattoo artist before he agreed to perform in the world premiere of Peter Schaufuss’ balletic take on Midnight Express (the author of the true story, Billy Hayes, was on The Looseleaf Report back in the day, we’re just sayin’), until Polunin decided not to…dance, that is, leaving many in the terpsichorean lurch. We feel for Sergei, truly.

We also reviewed Los Angeles Ballet again for the LAT (click here), in its Sylphide/Serenade program (next season brings a Tchaikovsky feast, including several Nutcrackers at the Dolby).

We then made a beeline to the Central Library and its Aloud series, where Wendy Perron, Simone Forti and Victoria Marks combined forces for spoken word, dance and discussion. Of course, we made it to the Ahmanson for The Last Confession (we confess: it wasn’t the greatest),with accessory maven Claudia Rossini, before the June honeymoon was upon us and with it, the return of our bi-monthly Salon 2.0.

Together with visual artist Linda Kunik, we once again opened her atelier for an evening of art and conversation. Visual artist Julienne Johnson, vocalist Anna Homler and musician Michael Vlatkovich helped make the night a study in fabulousness. The SRO crowd of 40 was fascinated with Sonata for Toys and Trombone (our title), the Homler/Vlatkovich performance, while Johnson offered a mini-retrospective of her work. (Some of Homler’s toys/instruments, below.)

Guests included art critic extraordinaire Peter Frank, art chronicler Marlene Picard, curator/artist Joshua Elias (he mounted the Taylor Negron exhibition at the Laemmle Royalclick here for our KCET Artbound story), in addition to Jim Farber (co-curator of the wondrous Route 66 exhibition at the Autry Museum), sublime shooters Larry Gassan and Tricia Noble, and site specific dance queen Heidi Duckler, among others.

Fanfare for the divine Ballet Preljocaj at the Music Center. We went to Aix last year to cover the world premiere of Les Nuits (click here for our Dance Magazine review), and recently did the LAT story (click here), the angle being Angelin Preljocaj’s dark side. The story got picked up by artsjournal.com and the crowds at the Chandler went wild. We also did all three pre-concert talks (the first with Angelin himself), and were glad to see the sumptuous, sexy work again.

From darkness to light, we landed at American Contemporary Ballet’s Music + Dance: L.A., this particular series featuring an homage to Fred Astaire, as well as a new work by Lincoln Jones set to Bohuslav Martinů (with live music, courtesy of Kelly Garrison and Da Camera Society).

Oy, we’re trying to keep this short, but keep being hurled into a maelstrom of culture: One afternoon there was a screening of Begin Again (terrible title, we suggest Deja You), starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, and that night, a performance of Barak Ballet at the Broad. Finally, we tipped into Jack Rutberg Fine Arts to catch up with the gallerist and go gaga at the monumental show by the Witkin twins, painter Jerome and staged photographer, Joel-Peter, brought together for the first time by the indefatigable Rutberg. A flu bug/headache thing took us down for a few days and we were sorry to have missed Josie Walsh’s Ballet Red event at 11:11 Collective Art Gallery (Kunik has two works there), but heard it was a smash. In between these doings there were plenty of catch-up lunches, dinners and drinks with people we love and admire.

 

 

What, we wonder, will July bring? Hint: We’re coming out as a fiction writer, and are reading our short story, The Oudist, from the newly published anthology, Gen F, at a number of venues in July. Included are a downtown pop-up bookstore bar, Shulamit Gallery and at Susan Hayden‘s Library Girl series. Stay tuned…

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Motherless Days of May

By Victoria Looseleaf

Thank God for arts and culture, otherwise we don’t think we would have been able to get through this trying period. (Do the half-green/half-purple jacaranda trees signify our mood – drought-stricken and unable to be in full bloom?) Probably: Our dear Aunt Judy passed away a few days ago – suddenly, it seems – and while we were reeling from the news, we had to sit in court as a potential juror for eight hours one day and then again two days later, only to learn that we would be dismissed, as the trial was a minimum 20-day affair – and we, happily, are leaving the country for part of that time.

And while May continues to be sad (it’s the third Mother’s Day without our mother, and now one without Ma’s sister, our Aunt), April ended with a bang: We checked out the divine Annette Bening doing Ruth Draper at the Geffen Playhouse (through May 18), where her rendition of The Italian Lesson is priceless.

We also caught Frederica Von Stade (aka Flicka) at the Wallis in the West Coat premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s, A Coffin in Egypt. This was a comeback of sorts for the mezzo (we adored her Cherubino), but having to listen to her complain (through song), about being a rich man’s philandering wife/widow for the entire 78-minute performance, made us want to jump into that Texas coffin with her. Seriously.

We also caught Mikhail Baryshnikov at the Broad Stage (his third appearance since the Westside venue opened in 2008), in Man in a Case, and were, we’re sorry to say, somewhat disappointed. Yes, we could watch Misha sit in a chair all night – literally – but this Chekhovian endeavor did not work for us, until, that is, he took an inspired tumble down some stairs before donning a pork-pie hat, making him a distant relative to  Breaking Bad‘s Walter White. Come to think of it, if Misha could have broken bad(der), we would have liked the performance a helluva lot better.

Happily, though, on the way to the Broad, we stopped in at the Laemmle Royal (where our erstwhile pal, Bud Cort, once had the premiere of his film, Ted and Venus – we played the harp in it…), and where our dear friend, Taylor Negron was having an opening: Snow Paintings, as part of the movie theater’s series, Art in the Art House.

Negron‘s 17 oil portraits are fabulous (full disclosure – Negron once painted a watercolor of us!), and are on view until July 25 (his self portrait, right). We wrote about this master of comedy, monologues, directing, acting and writing plays for the LAT in 2001 and, after a recent, albeit lengthy interview with this artistic force of nature at the Four Seasons, where we saw Giancarlo Esposito (Gustavo Fring on Breaking Badokay we’re still addicted to the show we never watched when it aired, but continue to currently binge on, ad infinitum), and wanted desperately to get our picture taken with him but Negron balked – we managed to write up a rather lengthy Q & A for KCET Artbound. (How do 3,000 words sound!) Hmm, they sound kinda great, so here they are!

In the interim, the Laemmle series, curated by Joshua Elias (himself a fine artist), is definitely cool, and each film screened at the theater begins with a video, Why I Paint? directed by Logan Heftel and narrated by Negron.

We admit it: We love the dude. We also love Ate9 Dance Company (click here for our LAT story), and covered the troupe’s world premiere, Mouth to Mouth for Fjord Review. They’re off to New York soon, so let’s hope they’re welcomed in the Big Apple the way they have been here.

Last Friday and Saturday was Highways 25th Anniversary weekend, curated by the fantastic Dark Bob – on the same weekend that composer/performer Philip Glass was at CAP UCLA’s Royce Hall. We missed the Cocteau masterpiece, La Belle et la Bête, accompanied by Glass and his ensemble, choosing to revel, instead, at Highways, with the likes of performance art mavens Rachel Rosenthal and Barbara T. Smith, poet Linda J. Albertano and several of the L.A. Mudpeople, including their fabulous founder/leader, artist/poet Mike M. Mollett, along with so many others.

But we made it to UCLA on Saturday night with our Irish galpal, Denise O’Kelley (we only saw half of Glass’ five-hour marathon, Music in Twelve Parts so was the Glass half full; she stayed), which was staggering in its delivery, intent and sounds, before running back to Highways for a night of performances. Included on the bill were John Fleck (above), Richard Newton, Fat & F**ked Up (sans tubaist Bill Roper), and a quartet of Rudy Perez dancers, only to return to Royce again on Sunday night for a performance of the composer’s The Etudes.

On that night, Glass (left) played an acoustic Steinway, alternating with Maki Namekawa and Sally Whitwell. Gorgeous, heavenly, incomparable. It’s stuff like this – and the thrill of also being at Highways’ Jubilee Anniversary – that makes life in Los Angeles a bit more bearable.

Okay, L.A. is a tad more than bearable, depending on what freeway we’re on, what peeps we’re dealing with and the productions we’re seeing (for the most part, damn good). Indeed, we even found time to submit a short story we penned, The Oudist (fiction, for sure), which will be in a new anthology, Gen F, edited by artist-of-all-trades Gordy Grundy. We’re actually kind of excited about that. Our piece is picaresque satire and begins like this:

Not so long ago, I had a farm in Africa. A hash farm. Well, to be more precise, I wasn’t the sole owner of the property, like Karen Blixen and her coffee farm in Kenya, or wherever the fuck that farm about which Isak Dinesen wrote and whom Meryl Streep played in Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa, in her letter-perfect accent where she got to fuck Robert Redford amid rhinos, rattlers and roasted coffee beans.

Oh, and btw, anybody wanting to know what an ‘oud’ is, it’s an Arabic lute! Indeed, we’re finally thinking about getting our fiction act together…again – in between juggling our journalism gigs that barely pay the rent and running around town like the arbiters of taste we are. Or perhaps we should try our hand at memoir: Don’t Let Us Die On Doheny and Men and Other Natural Disasters are but two of the books we began writing a while ago, meaning we really must start budgeting our time better. The question, though, is, when? We’re currently doing the reporting for another LAT story, this one on Ballet Preljocaj (we saw his Les Nuits last year in Aix, and will also be doing the pre-concert talks at the Music Center 6/20-22; cover photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne).

But before that we shall be reporting from Wolfsburg, Germany – there, we’ve said it – on Diavolo (photo at left from GlassFluid Infinities). It’s part of the complete trilogy, L’Espace du Temps that we’ll see at the Movimentos Festival, after which we’ll get caught up on the art scene in Berlin, instead of serving on a jury – for a travel article for Performances Magazine. And on the long-haul flight, we’ll most certainly be reading Sandra Tsing Loh‘s hilarious new book, The Madwoman in the Volvo. Shout-out to you, Ms. Loh!

Oh: We’re also happy that our yoga guru, Romancing Your Soul‘s Barbara Simon, has found a home for her students again: It’s the incredible Kohn Gallery, which just opened on Highland in Hollywood, and where we did our downward-dogs amid Mark Ryden’s enormous show. The dude’s got a thing for Lincoln (as in Abe) and lowbrow surrealism. (Lady Gaga-like meat-draped porcelain, right; the artist, below left with BB’s Aaron Paul)

As Ate9’s Danielle Agami doesn’t use a mirror in her choreographic/Gaga practice, there are also no mirrors in the Kohn space (why would there be, as there’s more than enough narcissism in the entire fucking art world as it is), and whose largest room is currently painted peach and looks like something out of the Baroque era.

Talk about going Baroque: We received a Google Alert with a link to our Lost Leo DiCaprio Interview, (pictured at left with the artist and an unknown, at least to us, hipster), which was the cover story on a show we never watch, Entertainment Tonight. But check it out, so what that it’s only a few minutes of the uncut, two-part gab-fest we videotaped with the budding star when we still had frizzy hair and he was still, er, talking to us. Harrumph!

Less than two weeks into the merry month of May and we’re giving final exams to our USC students this week, before it’s back to L.A. Opera, where Plácido Domingo is singing (how long can the mega-tenor continue in such stellar voice, albeit now it’s more of a baritone), along with the exquisite Nino Machaidze as Thaïs. This production is running in rep with A Streetcar Named Desire (both close the season, along with a recital by Russian heartthrob Dmitri Hvorostovsky). We saw the world premiere of Streetcar up in San Francisco in 1998 (oy, where does the time go), with Renée Fleming and Rodney Gilfrey, before he decided to be called, well, Rod, and who will not be singing the role of Stanley Kowalski, as those honors go to Ryan McKinney.

Based on Tennessee Williams’ elegiac play, with music by André Previn and libretto by our very own Philip Littel, the opera is but another medium through which Williams’ words ring loud and clear. Indeed, we love, love, love the Marlon Brando-starring, Elia Kazan-directed film, and watch it again every chance we get (perfect for those non-stop flights to Europe). And why not, as we live by Blanche DuBois’ poignant last words, especially as heartbreakingly spoken by Vivien Leigh: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

With that, dear readers, we depend on your kindness to read this missive, as we sign off for now, with both sadness and sweetness in our hearts – remembering we had such a beautiful Aunt Judy, and her sister, our mother – if only for too short a time. But, as Beckett once said, We go on,” somehow managing to get temporarily assuaged by great art.

 

As Tosca (Maria Callas, below), so beautifully sings/declares, Vissi d’arte…vissi d’amore…so, too, do we.

 

 

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The Cruelest Month

By Victoria Looseleaf

How is it that March, which came in like a lion and went out like a, well, pitbull, escaped us (at least from our blogging point of view)? It’s not as if nothing transpired. It’s actually that too much transpired.

Our dear friend and colleague, Rudy Perez, was honored at USC, that hallowed institution that houses his archives and on whose panel we were not asked to appear. (We’ve only been writing about Rudolfo for the last, oh, 20 years or so…). Needless to say, we loved the performance – and the exhibition – minimal as it was.

Speaking of minimalism, we had a reunion with Hazel M., our flautist from Mills College – the one who performed in our Master’s recital and chamber music trio, Victoria & Her Birds of Paradise – after who knows how many years. Her daughter surprised us by wearing a vintage, Love, Victoria L tee shirt. And then we surprised LA Times classical music critic, Mark Swed at Long Beach Opera’s The Death of Klinghoffer (John Adams‘ brilliant opus, which we loved, btw), with Hazel, herself.

We were all at Mills together and can’t understand why she wouldn’t show us the tattoo we had given her as a birthday present (it was the American Beauty rose from the Grateful Dead album of the same name, which tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle did not have in his shop, but instead improvised). We remember hurting for Hazel (and dispensing Percodan for the pain), and were curious to see how the ink had aged on her thigh.

We’d even penned a short story, A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose… which somehow reminded us of the poem we’d written that obtusely recalled Mr. Swed, Polonaise in Pasadena, featured in A Looseleaf Notebook, Volume I, the out-of-print tome published by Jack Grape‘s Bombshelter Press.

Ergo, in honor of National Poetry Month – and just because we feel like it – here’s an excerpt: Chopin waltzed through my life once, wearing horn-rimmed glasses and very curly hair. He was 6 foot 4 and thought about eye surgery a lot. But his hands were too big and his shoes kept time to a different beat.

Oy! We walked out of the Wooster Group at REDCAT (don’t ask), we loved Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Lac (we were told by artistic director Jean-Christophe Maillot that our LAT story was the first on the troupe to publish outside of Europe), and also managed to show up the next night at the Alex Theatre for Jamie Nichols’ annual fest, Celebrate Dance. Then there was Slowgirl at the Geffen Playhouse (we liked it), and two nights celebrating the 40-year anniversary of the fabulous Kronos Quartet at CAP UCLA (above, with Laurie Anderson in her brilliant, multi-medai work, Landfall).

But you all know this, as we’d mentioned it in our February posting. Blafuckingbla.

We checked out Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (a terrible title), with some great vampiric visuals, starring Tilda Swinton, whom we once thought would be perfect to play Violet Wilde in our Whorehouse of the Mind: A [Soap] Opera of Sex, Drugs and the Space Program, and Tom Hiddleston.

We covered Los Angeles Ballet (right) for LAT (click here for that), and co-hosted and produced another Salon 2.0 with visual artist Linda Kunik. This one featured the legendary performance artist, Barbara T. Smith, tubaist William Roper and visual artist Mei Xian Qiu. We were so riveted that we never felt the 5.3 earthquake, hearing about it, instead, from arts maven Carolyn Campbell, who was watching our live stream feed.

Speaking of technology, our Internet and landline went out for more than three days, so we were subject to a lot of Time Warner bullshit. That week we also ran down to the Hammer Museum, where the Industry’s Yuval Sharon mounted the installation, Terry Riley: In C (cover photo; Riley was our teacher at Mills, so the memories keep coming), with Danielle Agami and her Ate9 Dance Company moving along with the inflatable air dancers (click here for our latest LAT story on one of L.A.’s hottest choreographers).

The installation was part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Minimalist Jukebox Festival, which turned out to be maximal, as we were at Disney Hall, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this season, three times in four nights, including at concerts featuring the fabulous Labèque Sisters, i.e., Katia and Marielle, and the world premiere of Riley’s organ concerto, At the Royal Majestic, with soloist Cameron Carpenter (pictured above with Riley).

Quel week it was, including our Saturday evening romp at the LAB gala before trotting back downtown for Paul Taylor Dance Company, this time in the company of Ballet Red’s Josie Walsh (right).

Wow, we’re getting tired just recounting our outings, so this might be a good place for another neo-haiku (in other words, more from A Looseleaf Notebook, Vol. I). Here, then, is Not the Ritz (for some reason we didn’t believe in punctuation, which has been amended for this rendering, or in capitalizing words back in the day, so the following is all [sic]): I am not a rock, I am a mountain who has died once in a downtown Los Angeles hospital on the 18th floor surrounded by nuns and mexicans a team of jewish doctors and hundreds of feet of tubing. I float for five days high over the world and when I finally decide to come back my first words are: “where’s my purse?”

And speaking of Sharon and Agami, we moderated a talk between that dynamic duo at Otis College of Art and Design. It was part of Big City Forum, produced by Leonardo Bravo and his partner River Jukes-Hudson.

We also had several horrible cluster headaches and were forced to miss American Contemporary Ballet’s program about Fred Astaire, though we did meet his daughter, Ava, at the Professional Dancers Society luncheon paying tribute to the fabulous Leslie Caron (left). In addition, we were skedded to see Annette Bening doing Ruth Draper at the Geffen as well as Peter Brook’s The Suit at UCLA, and the list goes on – and on. We did, however, finally make it to Jan Munroe’s 30-year anniversary revival of Alligator Tails, which recently ran at Jeff Murray‘s Theatre Theater for an unprecedented three months: Bravo, sir(s), and thank you for allowing us to be part of Mr. Munroe’s fabulous genealogical romp, and in the process, theatrical history! 

 

 

But enough about us, dear readers, how are you?

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February Flip-Outs, Offs & Ups

By Victoria Looseleaf

During our international arts journalism career, we’ve done thousands of interviews (perhaps it could even be in the tens of thousands), but quantity is not the point. It’s about quality: From chatting with Plácido Domingo and the world’s greatest musical superstars (hello, pianist Lang Lang and glorious fiddlers, Gil Shaham and Joshua Bell), to bona fide movie peeps, including Jane Fonda, Javier Bardem and – gasp – Leonardo DiCaprio (we’ve even written a book, Leonardo: Up Close and Personal, about the superstar that came out in the, er, wake of Titanicget yours here for the unheard of price of one penny…), we’ve kept up our end of the conversation with the best of ’em.

But try and get a few words with the so-called ‘curator’ of the new Theatre at the Ace Hotel (the L.A. franchise opened last month; the Theatre a few weeks ago), and we were insulted with, not just one, but two emails, the first asking us to, “Please share your questions and deadline for feedback so we can look into it further” (what is there to look into?); the second, which left us equally flummoxed and angry, as we couldn’t even discern what gender the alleged curator was/is: “Our programming director is just now joining the brand so is not yet available for interviews, however, we can look to have an Ace brand representative provide feedback to your questions.”

Excuse us, but what the f**k is ‘branding feedback?’ Ace, to us, conjures up a bandage or part of a poker or Black Jack hand.

In any case, were/are they joking? Apparently not, as other reporters managed to get a quote from a real person (New York Times, L.A. Weekly, Los Angeles Magazine), whereas we at KCET Artbound (and, in turn, The Looseleaf Report), had to make do on our own – without pictures, to boot. At that point we didn’t want to pursue the story, as there were too many publicists involved with too little information, but professionals that we are, we, of course, did. Yes, we went  so far with our ‘slow’ journalism that we actually cranked out 2,000 words. Here, then is our Artbound feature (a special shout-0ut to editor Drew Tewksbury), on L.A. Dance Project making its debut as resident (?) company at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel.

Then there was the concert, itself, which was riddled with administrative glitches (picking up tickets involved long lines, parking was not as advertised, costing a hefty twenty bucks), not to mention the the business of the ‘Meet and Greet.’ Okay, so we were disinvited to the pre-concert party – with the monsieur himself, Benjamin Millepied, allegedly doing the gladhanding – which evidently went to those ticket holders paying an extra grand. But we were invited to the after-party, where Mr. M. was a no-show and tiny flutes of mediocre Champagne were served – no water, no pate – kidding – no bits of anything, edible or otherwise. What would Mary, Charlie, Dougie and D.W. have thought of these goings-on? That would be Pickford, Chaplin, Fairbanks, and Griffith, respectively, who opened the theater in 1927.

Whatever, or, at least not much. Yes, the members of L.A. Dance Project are wonderful movers (we adore Charlie Hodges and Nathan Makolandra), but we had to call it like we saw it, meaning check out our Fjord Review. It’s been generating a lot of response, especially since it was announced last week that L.A.D.P. would be collaborating with Colburn School on the Colburn Dance Academy, with Mr. Millepied, who takes the helm of Paris Opera Ballet next Fall, as artistic advisor. Hmm…at this rate, we wouldn’t be surprised if Millepied turns out to be the next head of Cultural Affairs. Hah! (Photo below by Laurent Phillipe: Reflections, Morgan Lugo and Julia Eichten)

On the more positive side: This month we were asked to write a 1,000-word essay for Nederlands Dans Theater’s 2014-2015 season brochure, which we happily obliged. (We’d done the pre-concert talks when they were at the Music Center last October), so when we get our link to that, we shall certainly share it with all of you. Then there was the matter of our Los Angeles Times story on Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, which had been assigned to us last November. (We actually had the good fortune to see the troupe in Monaco over Christmas; cover photo by Angela Sterling, featuring Anjara Ballesteros from Lac.)

Alas! Our editor left the Times at the end of the year, so it took some doing before we finally learned that we did, in fact, have a deadline for the story that prints this Sunday (we had about 10 days to finish our reporting, etc.; click here for the real-life fairy tale). But we love the company and will certainly be at Segerstrom Hall on opening night, March 7, for the U.S. premiere of Lac. Photo above right, also by Sterling, featuring Bernice Coppieters.

In the interim, there was Linda Kunik’s fabulous solo show, You Say Tomato…at 1650 Gallery, where we held court with the artist and a coterie of cool people several times this month. We also went on Mystic Pete‘s radio show, Sacred Mondays, yakking about tomatoes and Holy Minimalism (click here for the one-hour interview).

We managed, as well, to get to American Contemporary Ballet’s Dance + Design series on Balanchine and Chaconne, (click here for our NYT story on ACB and Los Angeles Ballet). ACB photos below: Lauren Ward

Of course, we’ll be in the audience when LAB (currently in their eighth season), performs at Royce Hall March 22, presenting a quartet of great works, including Mr. B’s Stars and Stripes Forever. We also zoomed down to the Mark Taper Forum to catch opening night of Chris Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. We love Chris (he was on our television show in its early days), but had a problem with the big monologue in the second act, as did the indelible performance artist/actor John Fleck, with whom we went.

Also high on our radar is Ate9, Danielle Agami‘s gorgeous troupe. They’ll perform at Celebrate Dance on March 8 (produced by the indefatigable Jamie Nichols), at the Alex in Glendale (we’re there), and will premiere the company’s newest work, Mouth to Mouth, above, at L.A.T.C. April 26 and May 3.

In addition, we went to L.A. Opera‘s Billy Budd, a production we’d seen before and were happy to see again. Catch it while you can at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (various dates through March 16; for tickets, click here). And did we mention that we also co-hosted our third Salon 2.0 at Kunik’s studio – one that lived up to its digital name by being live streamed. The night featured fabulous cellist/composer/singer Robert Een, with portrait artist Chaz Guest painting live (photo below, by our cousin, the amazing Stephen Fisch). Author/poet Nicelle Davis completed the trilogy of performers and an incredible time was had by all.

Seriously. Invites will soon be going out for the March gathering, which features another stellar line-up: the iconic performance artist, Barbara T. Smith, tubaist William Roper and visual artist Mei Xian Qiu.

Help! Where are our B-12 shots when we need them, as we also took time to remember the beautiful Jacqueline Pavlich, former ballerina, USC teacher extraordinaire and incredible human being, at a February memorial for the dancer who passed away last November. Speaking of USC, we’ve also been enlightening curious minds with our class, Historical Approaches to Dance, this semester, and can’t believe it’s already time to turn in our mid-term assessments.

This weekend, too, is Patricia Ward Kelly‘s show, Gene Kelly: The Legacy at the magnificent Pasadena Playhouse.

In addition and just for fun: We’ve been bingeing on House of Cards and the final eight eps of Breaking Bad (we’d never watched the series when it was on and now we’re hooked on Cranston et al; better late than never). And finally, it’s Oscar Day on Sunday, and much as we loathe Ellen DeGeneres, we’ll be glued to any number of TV sets, iPads, iPhones, etc., from which we’ll be voicing our, er, opinions. But let’s just say, ‘May the best man/woman/picture win,‘ though it is rarely thus. We’ll venture our picks anon, as this needs to get posted already! But here’s a hint to some of our thinking…

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