L.A. the Blog: Los Candiles Night Club – Decadence Welcome (A changing city, Part 1)

The night air left little doubt that summer sat and reigned over the city. On the streets of Hollywood women wore mini-skirts and guys short-sleeved shirts as they bar hopped, waited in line for night clubs and found the nearest tattoo parlor. The signature city heat that makes Los Angeles either a massive, sweltering discombobulation of people or a destination-dream-paradise cradled the city like a blanket, and added a frenzied pace to everything happening on the boulevard as if heat aiding the movement of mass multiplied and proliferated the various possibilities alive in the night. The mass – people, traffic, love, friendship, drinking, drugging, music, sex – everything.

This city is often like a slow blooming flower, every year unfolding a new petal, unveiling a new aspect of itself for anyone looking and discerning the cities beauty. Hollywood sits close to the heart, but numerous other areas and neighborhoods combine to create the rose that is Los Angeles, or maybe it resembles more a lily or a farewell-to-spring. Forget Hollywood for the moment. This story only starts in Hollywood with a ride into the dark-rising heat of the city streets, ending just on the other side of the L.A. river directly north of downtown in a small nondescript Latin nightclub named Los Candiles. Just for the purpose of translation, Los Candiles means “the candle.”

If asked where the club resides you might say Eagle Rock just because most wouldn’t recognize the name Glassell Park. Like so many working-class neighborhoods its history and uniqueness rest forgotten and ignored among a maze of similar streets with names like Desire, then further lost in a puzzle of similar cities and neighborhoods that all fit into a mold named America. Or perhaps with a history of violence and crime people looked more towards Eagle Rock or Atwater Village for homes, writing the neighborhood off as the bad side of town. Glassell Park – the bad side of Eagle Rock, the bad area of Atwater –  goes unmentioned. For instance the LA Weekly published a story about a crime family, an AK-47 and typical L.A. violence that belongs more to the late 80s and early 90s but happened in Glassell Park in 2008. Or just the other week while talking to a resident he simply stated in sterile terms how some kid recently got beat with a baseball bat, and June 12 of this year a young woman and young man died in a shooting. Violence makes neighborhoods disappear in this city like so much bad food in the refrigerator, people must discard it or the stench and mildew ruin the pleasure of modern society. For instance have you ever heard of the neighborhood of Del Rey?

Of course for the past 20 or 30 years (if not more) a majority of working-class families have called the neighborhood home, and only recently with the whole area of downtown including everything below and above experiencing a renaissance in every sense of the word, although some call it gentrification, the neighborhood has begun to see a shift towards the middle. With middle we mean demographically. Young professionals looking to buy good real estate and others just seeking a more authentic Los Angeles find the neighborhood perfect. With beautiful large homes atop hills that lead into Eagle Rock providing breathtaking views and hidden away in trees; or authentic and great Latin food available through street vendors; or even a sense of community that exists where people live and die together daily; the neighborhood offers a friendly hello at the local gas station, that is of course if you don’t mind a rougher handshake and a little dirt covering up a gem. A gem discovered and just starting to see the light.

Take Los Candiles, an unassuming Latin dance club that sits along a main drag in Glassell Park. You find these clubs all over the city. Some like the ones in Echo Park and Venice have been converted into new sleek dance venues for indie rock and electronic acts, but most in the city still keep their original flavor and offerings. At first look nothing out of the ordinary, but like the neighborhood this club is a gem. Scouring the online website gives the first hint that this club offers something unique with the traditional Latin dance music. “Venga y disfrute con nuestro show Fantasia con Las Estrellas” that loosely translates as “Come and enjoy our show / Fantasy with the Stars”; or later when you click the ‘show’ link in the menu sidebar “Ven y disfruta con nuestro travesty show Fantasia Con Las Estrellas” and the show Fantasy with the Stars comes up again, this time with the word “travesty” attached. Most people relate travesty to what happens during a war when innocent people die, but few relate the word to its original usage that is closer to “burlesque” than to “appalling.” In fact the Latin word “travestire” means to disguise or more literally to cover up with clothing; and travesty means a literary or artistic imitation usually incongruous in style, treatment, or subject matter. Maybe it gets confused because it is so close to tragedy, or because people use the statement “travesty of justice” too often changing the meaning. So a travesty show? Call it what you will, but at Los Candides it means a drag show with singing, and don’t forget the male stripper and the DJ.

Burning through the hot night the road led through the up-and-coming neighborhood, to the unassuming Latin dance club and to a birthday party for an unknown girl with unknown people at an unknown place. The invite seemed strange at first, a phone call promised a party with a ton of women while at the same time offering a drag show. For some reason the two promises didn’t go together, I always equated drag with gay bars in West Hollywood, not straight woman celebrating a birthday in a working-class neighborhood. After learning more about Glassell Park the place even seems more unlikely since gang violence and the machismo of the hood normally make anything GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) unacceptable. Or even more so with a possible large Catholic population, you would think such a place harbors the ill will of the church. Regardless of its location and its stigma, for the ladies who arrived to the birthday it meant dancing to sweaty South American rhythms and letting loose in a place tingling with an open atmosphere that celebrates what it means to be beautiful and a women.

The local crowd loved the band playing, while the ladies loved every minute of every second. Every song brought out dancers, and the enthusiasm of the small local crowd showed they came for the music. The birthday girl found a dance partner for every song.  She often grabbed a friend, or a friend grabbed her, some of her guy friends followed the girls to the floor to dance with the birthday girl as tempos sped up and the band picked up energy.  A few times an older gentlemen, a veteran of Latin rhythm clubs would escort her to the floor and steal a few moments of youth back. Him and the other few older gentlemen masterfully controlled the dance floor leading their partners around in what from afar seemed slow rhythm combined with the quick turns and spins of ballroom dance. Looking more closely the majesty of what it takes to have that control and grace was tantamount to intricate and precise dance steps that happened quick and fast so the eye could barely follow the practiced patterns that flowed with ease. For these few gentlemen the smiles on their faces and sparkles in the eyes meant that whatever happened earlier in the day at work or home, and whatever happened tomorrow meant nothing in the moment of the dance. For some a cold beer and a shot of hard liquor washed away the day, the week and the years. For those weaving a spell with the Rumba or sweeping across the floor with a Cha Cha the dance gave them the same dignity along with the semblance of eternal youth.

The club wasn’t very packed but if everyone got on the floor room became sparse. This led to a perfect intimate spot for a birthday. As the women drank alcohol and their male friends did the same the atmosphere around the table slowly unwound becoming looser and looser. More alcohol, more drinking and finally the show started, the “travesty show Fantasia Con Las Estrellas.” Beautiful women dressed up as famous Latina stars, the most notable Shakira in gold and flowing blond hair. In true Burlesque and travesty, sexuality permeated the singing and dancing along with a hint of the more sultry tradition of strip clubs. Every so often a famous Latin singer would mount the lap of a gentleman in the crowd shaking her hips back and forth while continuing to lip sing to the radio hits.

After a few acts of famous latinas, they unleashed the male stripper onto the floor dressed in classic cowboy attire, chaps and all. He made his way around the room to the various women at the various tables, collecting dollars along the way, unzipping his fly for extra smiles and girlish embarrassment. At this point it might be worth skipping the entire rest of the episode for a stripper is a stripper. Hunter S. Thompson in “The Rum Diaries” writes this beautiful scene during the Carnival celebration where a beautiful woman dancing with a fabulous man gets drawn further and further into seduction as the tempo and rhythm of the Samba create an explosive sexual energy. If anything about the stripper at Los Candides, his pure sexual energy should be remembered. When tempted over to the birthday girl by dollar bills and innocent eyes, her friends put her up to experiencing first hand the show and his dancing while the alcohol made anything possible, words alone and even pictures fail to describe what happened next. Never has a female stripper ever performed that well for a man, and the question remains who was more surprised – the dancer for his own abandonment in the passion of the moment, or the birthday girl for her willingness to wear a cowboy hat and straddle his lap, chaps and all. The club gave them everything they needed for a memorable night of partying. Of course if they forget they can always refer back to L.A. the Blog and the pictures we posted online of our brief time at Los Candides. We hope the girls tipped their cowboy dancer extra for that one.

Los Candides and Glassell Park might never be the same with young people looking for new exciting and fantastic neighborhoods to live. We left the girls and their friends still drinking and partying. The DJ came on before as we walked out replacing the band and his opening track rocked like a Tijuana night club. Before getting in the car we grabbed tacos from a food stand down the street. One of the best burritos we have ever ate. Maybe year after year from this point forward the murder rate in Glassell Park will slowly become nonexistent, and like so much of the city that we grow up in the neighborhoods continue to change and become wealthier as the working class moves on. Local thrift shops become small boutiques, and development slowly brings large corporate chains. Maybe Los Candides will eventually host techno clubs and indie line-ups, but for now it remains a jewel of a good time … especially for the ladies.

UPDATED: Below find some video from Los Candides …

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L.A. the Blog Essential Read: ‘Project Dad’ Documentary

Making a film requires so many things, and unfortunately no matter how much talent you have if you don’t have money nothing ever really happens.  Even a student film five-minutes long runs at least a hundred dollars.  Sharon Shattuck, a filmmaker and animator, definitely has the talent.  This writer has been privileged enough to work with Sharon in the past on a few of those student projects, but that was years ago in New York City and much has happened since then.  Sharon’s first documentary short ‘Parasite’s: A Users Guide‘ screened as a finalist for the Student Academy Awards; her animation that premiered at Radiolab won awards; she currently works with Wicked Delicate a production company teamed up with Ian Cheney, one of the filmmakers of the documentary ‘King Corn‘; and her most recent documentary entitled ‘Project Dad‘ glows with such potential that we here at L.A. the Blog get excited just thinking about watching it on the big screen. Her current project needs that one thing to get it off the ground and it is so close!!!  It needs money.

The project described in Sharon’s own words:

Project Dad  (working title) follows Sharon’s quest to understand her LGBT family through a two-way dialogue with her dad.  Funny, poignant, and above all real, the film uses a mix of verité and interview footage shot by the filmmaker, and point-of-view flip-cam footage shot by her subjects, to answer the question, “What is a healthy family?”  Springing from her experiences growing up in a supportive family surrounded by outside misunderstanding, the filmmaker seeks out other children of LGBT families, expectant LGBT parents, family law experts, and politicians from both sides of the fence, to craft a film that is national in scope, and centered on hope and redemption.

With a Kickstarter campaign in the works with a just a few days left to raise the rest of the needed cash we encourage all of our readers and supporters to give the same support to Sharon and donate whatever money they have left after donating to KCRW/KPFK/etc, or perhaps split this years donation with Sharon.  Or just outright cough up the cash.  The project gathered some great support from The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and The Advocate.  It also gained the attention of a Sundance documentary programming associate who kind enough blogged about the project.  The project is a co-production of Wicked Delicate, and please if possible donate to the project.  And with that we have whined enough, pleaded until our fingers bled, and hopefully cajoled you with the big name dropping above.  Below find a short film Sharon worked on with this writer, and if interested in donating or supporting for ‘Project Dad’, or for just more information click here.

UPDATE:  Congratulations to Sharon, her projects got funded through Kickstarter, and congratulations to everyone who donated.

L.A. the Blog: ‘bright lights & fist fights’ Gallery Show; Next Stop ‘The Art of Coop’

Annie Preece

Annie Preece frames her own painting during the exhibition opening of ‘bright lights & fist fights’ group show at the Rebecca Molayem Gallery in West Hollywood – June 14, 2012

Is Los Angeles essential to the art world at large?  L.A. the Blog can’t answer that question but the scale of art happening in this city on a daily basis makes art essential to understanding Los Angeles.  A city dreamed up from behind a camera with an identity inextricably enmeshed with visual arts making it a tide pool of artists birthing pictures, stories, scenes, music, canvases, books, tunes, compositions, scripts, reality and fantasy; where often as not the creativity becomes harnessed in an art department for film, a stage setting for theater, or a gallery full of stunning visual art.

Better late than never the pictures have arrived!  Arrived for what (as the statement goes?), arrived for another round of art happening in the city of Angeles.

A three-person gallery show opened a few weeks back that spotlighted a diverse young group composed of a street artist, a tattoo wizard and a graphic artist who stepped into roles respectively as a painter, a caricaturist and a furniture sculptor.  At this point some analogy to the Wizard Of Oz keeps trying to escape but that would make this writer either Dorothy or Toto, and the only yellow brick road somewhere hidden along Santa Monica Boulevard between Doheny Drive and La Cienega Boulevard.

The highlight of the show Annie Preece displayed her most recent paintings done in vivid, bright colors of contorted faces, haunted imagery and taboo subjects.  Her art is best described in the statement ‘having too much fun,’ with a mixture of recognizable and iconic images and symbols re-purposed with confrontation, dripping paint and intensity.  Yet as stated all of them rebalanced with the light atmosphere that reds, yellows and bright blues elicit emotionally.  Almost like the perpetual Los Angeles sunshine even makes suffering look happy.  The one painting in the show that is the exception to the bright colors comes from an early series of Annie’s work to a project of paintings, photographs and public art installations entitled ‘Persecution Takes A Holiday In L.A‘, that takes a critical look at the oppression of women in the Middle East.  This exception to the rule simply puts eyes staring from a black surrounding.  By the way Annie do you have any free artwork for us to decorate our headquarters?

Candice Molayem

A series of portrait caricatures by Candice Molayem from the show ‘bright lights and fist fights’ – June 14, 2012

Tattoo artist and painter Candice Molayem showcased a series of portraits keeping with the bright-color motif in classic caricature style.  With 1950’s hair-dos, thick rimmed glasses and jewelry-to-match the words ‘hip and cool’ rise from the dark recess of the subconscious and immediately yearnings for indie rock take over.  L.A. the Blog is curious if any persons posed for the paintings or if the inspiration came from classic comic books.

Jad Dovey

A naked lamp by artist Jad Dovey from the ‘bright lights and fist fights’ show – July 14, 2012

The final artist presenting at the show Jad Dovey subtly created lamps in a style you might expect to find at The Factory during the 1970’s and 80’s.  A wonderful use of color and the nude form, or maybe just ‘found’ mannequins and some electrical ingenuity Dovey created a post-pop art presentation that seemed so natural in the gallery they belonged more to the entire space and less to the name tag that marked them for display.

A fun event basking in the glow of a hot summer ahead, and art definitely worth visiting.  Please see a slideshow below of pictures from the show.  Included in the photos are other artists’ work showing and hanging in the gallery including artists Rebecca Molayem, Lynden St Victor and sculptures by Leon Leigh.  ‘bright lights and fist fights’ is now showing at Rebecca Molayem Gallery, 306 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90048 for another few weeks, please check online for the current and future shows.

Portion of a painting done by Coop showing at his book release party – June 16, 2012

Moving right along into the week and arriving at our next stop where well-established artist and instigator Coop partied and celebrated in high fashion for the release of his new artbook entitled, ‘Idle Hands: The Art of Coop.’  So much has been said of Coop (click this link here), so to avoid mundane repetition, and pointless conjecture it is enough to say that even if you haven’t heard his name before you definitely have seen his art.  His images of devils, dames, drugs and cars make pop culture an afterthought and fine art an everyday accessible experience.  Mickey mouse gloves on a drug anyone?  If you can’t relate I am sure Walt Disney and Salvador Dali hanging out making pink elephants would.

Coop’s show took place at a great location in downtown Los Angeles hidden away in a produce distribution factory/building.  Industrial-scale loading elevator and all with a great view of a seedy downtown strip club made the entire experience some strange descent into Coop’s world.  Did we mention naked devil girls cruised the party?  Included in the slideshow below please find pictures from the event held at Studio Servitu, a downtown venue that the L.A. Weekly names the #4 essential location of 2011.

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L.A. the Blog: ‘Dangerous Temptation’ Comedy

Mike Callaghan, a friend of ours here at L.A. the Blog turned us on to a comedy video from the ‘Funny or Die‘ website that he performed in not too long ago.  Mike does standup comedy and improv around town as well as his share of acting.  In the short sketch entitled ‘Dangerous Temptation’ he goes all out to get the girl, played by Irina Voronina, and nothing she says can hold him back.  So in all fun and in a much needed comedy break we give you a shortened version of the sketch provided by Mike himself (WARNING: ADULT THEME BUT NOT A NUDIE SKETCH):

L.A. the Blog: ‘Skaters Rule’ Artshow Echo Park

A variety of images adorn the wall paying tribute to skateboarding in the Bureau of Arts and Culture gallery in Echo Park mixing memorabilia with original art in a presentation simply thought of as ‘Skaters Rule.’

Southern California (all California even) spews and spawns skateboard and surf culture as if the constant sunshine keeps society from coagulating boys and girls into traditional sports like a hereditary hemophilia disorder. With skateboard culture comes the unique artwork that splashes T-shirts, adorns the bottom of skate decks, and fills the pages of magazines. Inspired and pulling from this plethora of creativity throughout the decades, local artists in Echo Park put together a gallery show of personalized skates, iconic collages and classic memorabilia.

The majority of the show consists of a variety of art styles hand painted or printed on the bottom of skateboard decks, from classic movies star images to the 70s-esque retro design of clean colorful lines against a background colorfield. This ‘bottom-deck’ (not to be mistaken for ‘low-brow’) creativity extended into an ambitious 3-D installation of a deck spinning from a chord attached to the roof, painted with a glossy enamel in glowing black-light colors (ultraviolet light included), showing the famous Natas SMA pentagram repeated from top-to-bottom, and includes 3-D glasses for added audience participation.

In another area of the gallery the back wall is dedicated strictly to skateboard history. From an old helmet to a great collection of vintage magazines and letters the viewer takes a trip down memory lane while paying homage to the legends who innovated the sport.

Last a small but favorite part of the gallery show includes traditional canvas and collage paintings that juxtaposes the art of skating with recognizable images that normally don’t mix. A Pac-Man ghost jumping on a deck, or an African native rolling through the Sahara on a board? Both these particular pieces of art you easily imagine on a modern skateboard, and might see someday in the future.

The Bureau of Art and Culture, located at 1282 W Sunset Blvd, Echo Park, CA 90026, presents ‘Skaters Rule’ through the month of June every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. Below find a slideshow of various pictures of the opening:

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L.A. the Blog: Graffiti Mural Vine and Hollywood

L.A. the Blog pays a quick respect to the combination of artists who created the graffiti mural on Vine Street just above Hollywood Boulevard.  As a fan of street art, the mural stretches down an alleyway-like go-between situated with The Lexington Social House restaurant on one side and the tall building where Dillon’s Irish Pub cohabits on the other.  The mural is well worth the visit if in the area.

The most noticeable and street-facing artwork was done by Anthony Lister who in the past held some very popular shows in Los Angeles galleries and is well-known worldwide.  In his classic style he painted two faces among the other artists’ murals that are best described as hauntingly beautiful.  With hard lines, subdued colors (even his use of pins seem dark) and the almost unfinished feel of sketches, the emotion in his work is palpable.  Lister you are invited to paint our office anytime.

We have a slideshow below where you can see the different street art along the walls, but catching our eye and of note was the end of the walkway done by West Coast Artists.  A great display of classic graffiti work, and if you click the link above taking you to Trixster’s website you can catch a video of them putting the mural together.

Other people who contributed to the wall were L.A.-based artist Evol (who painted two iconic faces along with Lister, and possibly one kitty …), and The Seventh Letter.  MSK also put up some artwork.  L.A. the Blog salutes everyone who put together such a visually appealing and classy display of art.  Well done.

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UPDATE:  We took this picture below around Normandie and Melrose (we think, our photographer seems to have it unlabled and a foggy memory of where he took the picture), and we are adding it to the mix for kicks.  If anyone can send us information on where it’s at, just leave a comment below.