Sunday, December 30, 2007

USC Pep Rally @ Universal Citywalk

Live blogging. USC fans and alumni join the USC band in rallying for
the upcoming Rose Bowl game!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Skating Around

Christmas might be over, but it feels like winter's finally kicking in. I can finally appreciate my steaming cup of tea for the way it warms my stiff, carpal tunnel syndrome pending fingers!! Call me a Southern Californian anomaly, but I love it... the biting cold, bright pink cheeks, and having all the more reason to burrow under my jacket like a cozy mole.

Last week, I took the Gold Line to the Memorial Park stop and ventured over to Pasadena's Paseo Colorado, an outdoor shopping and entertainment "center" that spans three city blocks and boasts a 14-screen movie theater, a gourmet supermarket, retail stores, restaurants, and even luxury apartments. Southern California's especially great at providing "centers" like this (the Grove, Third Street Promenade, Hollywood & Highland, etc.)... and while the idea of driving to a designated space just to walk around and be entertained can feel a little too contrived at times, it's nice to have places where people can congregate and feel a little more connected. It's a good thing, because frankly, we can all be a little too isolated in our individual cars...

After grabbing some dinner with my friends at the packed Yard House, we headed over to the Pasadena Ice Skating Center, ready to make a fool of ourselves in an attempt to hobble among the little kids whizzing past us all. Christmas music blaring over the speakers while skating around in worn out rented skates, ankles burning from using muscles in areas we never knew we had, and some crepes and hot coffee at IHOP to warm ourselves up in the aftermath... I hope that I'll never get too old for moments like those.

*On a related note, for some outdoor skating, check out Pershing Square's Downtown on Ice, open seven days a week until January 21st. And the 119th Rose Parade (which runs along Colorado Boulevard) also passes in front of Paseo Colorado. Last year's Rose Parade featured George Lucas and Star Wars characters!

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Cultural Marketing Assistant

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Disney on Ice: Princess Wishes

I'm writing this post about Disney on Ice's "Princess Wishes" while appropriately watching holiday ice skating on television. My last (and first!) venture into ice shows was at High School Musical: The Ice Tour.

While HSM appears to be a recent new favorite for kids (and probably some adults who get "Getcha Head in the Game" in their heads), reminding everyone at the modern Disney magic that keeps people smiling and singing, this latest venture of "Princess Wishes" is a romp - or skate? - down memory lane for everyone...

Last week I was at the Staples Center to watch Disney on Ice's "Princess Wishes". Mickey and Minnie Mouse as narrators and Tinker Bell as magical tour guide, the audience of "Princess Wishes" is taken through the world of wishes and princesses. Don't let the title fool the Disney fans into thinking this is a strictly girl-only princess trip, the boys (and girls and parents) will enjoy the show on ice as Aladdin darts from harm's way, Sleeping Beauty's Prince Phillip fights off the dragon, and Ursula gets her karma's due. Not to mention - there's fireworks...yes - fireworks.

Disney on Ice: Princess Wishes is fun for the whole family, highlighting snippets of Disney favorites. You'll leave wanting to watch a Disney favorite when you get home...and hopefully believing that wishes can come true.

Disney on Ice's "Princess Wishes" is being presented at the Anaheim Honda Center, Long Beach Arena, and the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Check for locations and times. The show runs in the Southern California area until January 13th.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Monday, December 24, 2007

Real-time blogging at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Taking advantage of iPhone technology. Sharing an image while
experiencing LA in Long Beach!

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Interview: Julie Swayze - The Metropolis Bookstore

Daood interviews Julie Swayze, the owner of the Metropolis Bookstore in the Historic Core of Downtown LA.

Daood: Welcome to, Ms. Swayze.

Julie Swayze: Thank you

Daood: How did you come to the creative title of Metropolis for the bookstore?

Julie Swayze: I love the 1922 Fritz Lang movie, and I have always thought of New York as Gotham, and L.A. as Metropolis, and since the store is located in the Historic Core of Los Angeles it seemed fitting.

Daood: Could you share with us the thoughts and ideas that brought forth Metropolis bookstore?

Julie Swayze: I wanted to open my own business, and I wanted it to be a bookstore. Downtown is a very underserved market for so many things, and I liked the idea of opening a bookstore in an historic area that has been featured in print, film and articles for years.

Daood: Provide for us a pictorial of the bookstore?

Julie Swayze: I would say that Metropolis is probably the most unusual bookstore. We have 15 foot walls, because we are located in the old Canadian Consulate which was built in 1909. The walls are a warm terracotta - there are lots of plants nad fountains - and all the walls are lined with bookcases. We have a "living room" area which comes in handy for author events. The best feature would be the very large train station looking wall clock hanging on the back wall.

Daood: Since the grand opening ceremony of December 15 of 2006, who are some of the authors who have graced Metropolis?

Julie Swayze: Let's see - Edgar Award winner Naomi Hirahara, Gene Cartwright, Jeffery Lewis, Andre Coleman, Laura Levine, Paula Samuels-Young, Linda O'Johnston, David K. Lynch, Joan Del Monte, Bridget Morrow, Diana Wagman, Gary Phillips, Jim Pascoe, eight authors/historians from the Arcadia Publishing company. Our next event June 30th will feature Antoine Wilson, signing his new book, The Interloper. The L.A. Times just gave it a great review.

Daood: Are there as well book club events, poetry readings, and writing classes?

Julie Swayze: We do have a book club with about 12 members right now [and events such as poetry readings that started this past summer].

Daood: Currently is there any book/s that you are reading that you would highly recommend?

Julie Swayze: My favorite as of late is The Traveler By John Twelve Hawks, the second book in the series comes out in July. Also Deep Storm By Lincoln Child, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.

Daood: What are the keys to your success?

Julie Swayze: Provide excellent customer service, have the books in the store people want to read, always be up on the next great writer and have interesting events.

Daood: Is there a website for Metropolis Bookstore and where exactly downtown Los Angeles is the bookstore located?

Julie Swayze: Our website is and we are located at 440 S. Main St. between 4th. & 5th street.

Daood: Thanks for taking the time out of your day, for this beautiful experience!

Julie Swayze: Thank you.

-Daood, ExperienceLA Blog Contributor

This interview was conducted in May 2007.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Last Chance: Downtown Guidebook Photo Contest + LA Phil Tickets!

It's the last week of our Downtown LA guidebook photo contest! Do you have what it takes to capture the feel of Downtown LA? Enter for a chance to have your image featured as the cover photo for our upcoming ExperienceLA Downtown LA guidebook, specially produced by Lonely Planet. And if your photo gets chosen as the cover photo, you'll also win a pair of tickets to LA Phil's Concrete Frequency I: Copland, Zappa, Crumb, Varese.

CONCRETE FREQUENCY examine and celebrate the elements is a series of events designed to that define a city... and how they are affected by, and reflected in, music. Anchored by three orchestral programs, this unique exploration will be enhanced by a film series, an art exhibition, and a thought provoking symposium. Check out how you can get up to 58% off of seats for the January 4th kick-off concert!

Contest ends this Friday, so hurry and submit your photos!

-ExperienceLA Staff

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkeys Galore

"Heritage Turkeys", Submitted by ExperienceLA

Deep fried turkey, turducken, upside down turkey... so many ways to prepare them. Delish.

Just wanted to wish everyone an early Happy Thanksgiving! Don't forget to check out your local farmers markets for your last minute Thanksgiving meal purchases, as well as our latest newsletter for great giveaways (Wooden Classic, Enter Shikari Debut)!

Cheers and Happy Eating!
-ExperienceLA Staff

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Being a Star Nerd

The first and only time I checked out the Griffith Observatory's remodeled planetarium, I sadly fell asleep. It's definitely not because the show is boring by any means. My body is just wired to pass out the moment the lights go down while I'm reclined in my seat listening to the soothing voice of the narrator with his glowing ball of light. I honestly wanted to stay awake and learn about the stars, but found myself waking up to the cosmic explosion halfway through - mouth gaping open and all...

The Observatory, itself, is beautiful. And while parking up at the Observatory is now available again, I didn't mind taking the Galactic Express (free shuttle ride) and pretending to be a kid on a field trip. "Are we there yet??"

To compensate for my narcoleptic tendencies, I checked out Glendale Community College's Planetarium show last Friday. GCC's Planetarium is an all digital full dome theater with power reclinable seats. While the show isn't as fancy as Griffith's, I definitely learned a lot (and stayed fully awake this time around)!

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Cultural Marketing Assistant

Monday, November 19, 2007

Freebie of the Week: Spiritual Warriors, The Film

We love freebies and we're sure you do too.

Starting today, catch free screenings all week long of "Spiritual Warriors"... and get your hands on a free copy of the book that inspired the film, Dr. John-Roger's LA Times #1 bestseller "Spiritual Warrior".

Brief synopsis: "Spiritual Warriors" stars Jsu Garcia as Christopher Finn, a sometimes mob gofer/sometimes actor who eludes police pursuit after a drug deal goes bad. After hiding behind the walls of an opulent estate, Finn is awakened the next morning by an old man who seems to know more about Finn than he possibly could or should...

Screening at Fine Arts Theatre 7pm & 10pm every night. November 19th - 25th.

-ExperienceLA Staff

Thursday, November 15, 2007

KT Tunstall at Avalon

I love small venues. They're intimate, you get a good view, and it brings you back to the heart of music.

Teitur opened for KT Tunstall at Avalon on Tuesday. An awkward guy... but he totally grows on you, and soon enough, his awkwardness makes him all the more endearing. His music, on the other hand, is anything but awkward. With lyrics like "She stole, my grandmother's watch, a treasure to touch, to keep time to herself" accompanying his quiet but steady melodies, I was pretty sold. He closed with his song "One and Only"... and that's been playing on repeat on my computer ever since.

Then came along KT Tunstall, full on personality with her sparkling sequin minidress rockin' on her guitar... she makes me want to be a rockstar with a glitter guitar!

She was great live... hilarious with her random comments and facts, fully comfortable interacting with the audience, and easily shifting around any technical difficulties. It wasn't simply some concert with a clear division between artist and audience. It reminded me of the gigs at a small event... where it's just as much about the audience and venue as it is about the artist.

Highlight of the night: KT Tunstall layering sounds/voices with her looping pedal, only to pick up on our screams for the rest of the song.

Random fact of the night: Many trees get randomly planted because squirrels bury seeds and forget where they placed them. "Squirrels are like the eco-friendly warriors of the world!" - KT Tunstall

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Cultural Marketing Assistant

ExperienceLA/Lonely Planet Cover Photo Contest!

Do you have what it takes to capture the feel of Downtown LA? Enter for a chance to have your image featured as the cover photo for our upcoming ExperienceLA Downtown LA guidebook, specially produced by Lonely Planet.

From now until December 14th, go out and capture what you think defines Downtown LA... Then follow these steps to submit your photo(s) to the contest. Your photo(s) will be considered for use on the cover of our guidebook that will be distributed free of charge internationally, nationally, and locally to LA visitors! There are also plenty of other chances to be featured (and credited) in our guidebook, so submit as many photos as you want!

Check out ExperienceLA for more information about our contest!

-ExperienceLA Staff

Monday, October 15, 2007

Los Angeles Magazine Food Event: Home Grown

With an opportunity to see several LA based chefs and taste food from a dozen restaurants, my wife and I paid to attend the Los Angeles Magazine Food Event: Home Grown - A Celebration of Ingredients Grown, Baked, and Raised Close to Home. Plus, the LA Mission would benefit from the event which was held at The Kitchen Academy in Hollywood and along the walkway to the ArcLight Theater complex...

With the popularity of Bravo's hit TV reality series, Top Chef, one saw a cook-off between contestants "CJ" Chris Jacobson of Season 3 and Betty Fraser of Season 2. Judging the competition with tomato as the secret ingredient were four from the audience plus the Master of Ceremony, Jake Hanover, who cast the deciding vote to Betty. During this 3 hour event, one also saw cooking demonstrations inside the Kitchen Academy from Kerry Simon (Simon L.A.), Michael Cimarusti (Providence), and Suzanne Tracht (Jar and Tracht's). One received souvenir cards of their respective recipes for their cooking demonstrations. Pictures of the event can be found on my Flickr account.

The offical wine was La Crema featuring their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, while LA Mill Coffee, the soon to open coffee house in Silver Lake, was the official coffee and Gail Silverton, Nancy's sister, brought her Gelato Bar in from Studio City. There were also craft beers from Sang Yoon of Father's Office. I thoroughly enjoyed each of these, while tasting each of the craft beers, and making my way through samples of almost all of the gelatos by the end of the event.

My wife, Karen, who is an accomplished cook and watched each episode of Top Chef many times from season one to three provides the following commentary on the CJ - Betty cook-off.

The challenge was to combine ingredients and cooking styles from 2 different countries to make one dish. They could use any of the ingredients that were provided in the pantry. Betty's countries/cultures were American and Latin, CJ's were Asian and Italian.

Betty pureed scallops with cilantro and jalapeno. She put the puree on an egg roll wrapper, topped with a "tomato ring", which was filled with a raw egg and topped with provolone. She folded the turnovers into triangles and deep-fried them. She served them over a salad of mixed greens and topped them with a chunky guacamole.

CJ sauteed batons of eggplant and apples, and then topped them with sauteed chicken breasts that were rubbed in Asian spices. There was a brunoise of tomatoes and celery root with cilantro, basil and lemon zest. Then he made a sauce of pureed tomatoes, sriracha, and herbs and drizzled that on the plate. And my apologies if I got anything wrong in CJ's dish. It looked and sounded delicious.

The challenge was 30 minutes long. Betty's plating was very rustic and homey looking, CJ's was much more refined (different styles, different looks).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

High School Musical's Corbin Bleu in SoCal!

Corbin Bleu - Sara Lee ContestMy High School Musical on Ice post must have turned a few heads, at least someone at Sara Lee. I'm all for educating kids on nutrition and meeting a favorite celebrity in the process, so at their request - here's a great contest for kids to have a chance to win a visit from High School Musical star Corbin Bleu to their school!

Sara Lee is out to once again spread the word about the benefits of whole grain, this time via the wildly popular High School Musical star Corbin Bleu. The company has just announced a contest asking Southern California kids to write about ways they can better their lunches and win a chance to bring Corbin to their school. You can find the Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Bread Ultimate Lunch Switcheroo Contest at

Good luck to all who enter!

-Charity Tran, Web Coordinator

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

LA Sports Arena: High School Musical: The Ice Tour

My Tuesday night at the LA Sports Arena featured bright lights, the loud roar of a crowd, and the intoxicating smell of popcorn lingering in the air. What team was playing? "The Wildcats!" "What time [was] it?" "Summerti -" I mean, High School Musical: The Ice Tour...

I suppose my friends Jay and Jessie (who will probably cringe at their names being displayed in this entry) and I looked a bit out of place at the LA Sports Arena last night. At ages twenty-four, we had a few years on the shorter members of the audience and at least the parents could say their kid dragged them along. But we had gotten some tickets and we figured it would be a fun outing.

I actually came with a mission: I wanted to see basketballs on the ice. The thought of basketballs that close to skate blades intrigued me.

You might be asking: How did she know there would be basketballs? How did she know these HSM lines she opened the entry with? How is she using 'HSM' with ease?

At this point, I should make a confession. I actually know most of the songs...and in addition to the basketballs, I wanted to see the pairs routine for "Breaking Free". What better medium to use the lines "I'm soaring...flying..." than the ice!

This blog has featured a fair share of the musicals I've seen (Avenue Q; Curtains), but High School Musical: The Ice Tour is in a lovely canon all of its own.

Acting as a highlights reel of both Disney television movies, the show uses the ice as a stage for the story. The world of High School Musical is brought to life with narration from 'musical playmaker' Kelsi. The story unfolds with the help of skaters who bear remarkable likeness to the movie actors, lights, flexible set design, and a large flat screen that acts as a transition or background for the show. The performers displayed skills as both actors and professional skaters and great choreography was put into the show to re-interpret the show's songs for ice.

As a highlights reel, it might be difficult to keep track of everything that happened in the films if you are unfamiliar with the storylines. While all the major songs were in the show, there were many parts glossed over to fill in the two hour time slot. (I, for one, was a bit disappointed not to hear Lucas Grabeel's "You Got It" as Ryan and Sharpay drove into the country club.) But the show will likely not disappoint any HSM fan. Even if you don't know the songs, you can find yourself 'gettin' your head in the game' and trying to sing along anyway.

The show definitely reaches out to the kid in you and is filled with the kind of story reminiscent of Disney magic. What I like the most about Disney stories is that everything always seems to work out in the end. And while you grow up and know that's not always the case, it's nice to remember that it could be true.

Maybe an opinion on this show is better from someone 2+4 rather than twenty-four, but even surrounded by two people my age, I can't say that I saw anyone in that audience not having a good time (or doing a little karaoke!).

Like the song goes, "we're all in this together..."

-Charity Tran, Web Coordinator

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ne-Yo at the Wiltern

Sunday night was spent being serenaded by Ne-Yo at the Wiltern. On a whim, my friend and I decided to buy tickets the day of the concert. The venue itself was pretty nice, its neon sign and lit up marquee making it stand out on the corner of Wilshire and Western. Small enough to feel cozy, but big enough to house a lot of people, including fans who joyfully danced away in the aisles. The concert culminated with Ne-Yo singing "Happy Birthday" acapella style to one of the fans while the rest of us sighed in awe from afar.

The Wiltern is easily accessible via the Wilshire/Western stop on the Metro Purple Line.

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Culture Marketing Assistant

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Transit in All Forms

Brought to you by I Can Has Cheezburger?

Sometimes we have some down time on this blog. For those days, there are pictures like this to keep us going. Happy mid week everyone!

-ExperienceLA Staff

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Antonio Banderas Wants You to Go Metro!

Antonio Banderas wants you to Go Metro to the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. Check out the video (courtesy of Metro) to see why you should Go Metro to one of Los Angeles best annual film festivals.

Antonio Banderas quiere que tomes el metro al Festival de Cine latino Internacional de Los Angeles. Mira el video (cortesia de Metro) donde explica la buena razon para tomar el metro a uno de los mejores festivales de Cine de Los Angeles.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Public Displays of Affection... on the Metro!

Actually, I never see that much PDA on the Metro. Hooray!! On the other hand, I do see plenty of people picking away at their noses, making me want to inch away from any metal bar in sight and hone my ability to freely balance in a moving subway car, two inch heels and all (can I call that my special talent?).

There IS, however, an event called Public Displays of Affection, a concert and exhibit brought to you by Global Inheritance, in an effort to "show public transportation in Los Angeles a little love". For a city where a majority of its residents don't even realize a subway exists, I'm all for a little Metro lovin'.

The event features Ladytron, Great Northern, and special guest DJ Taina, as well as TRASHed: Art of Recyling Exhibit. Your ticket, of course, is an incoming subway or bus ticket. Takes place this Thursday, September 27th at Hollywood & Highland, 7:00pm.

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Culture Marketing Assistant

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Justin Timberlake at the Staples Center

Justin TimberlakeLast night the Staples Center hosted the last date of Justin Timberlake's North American FutureSex/LoveShow Tour. Mr. Timberlake's been rocking the Staples Center since Sunday (so the girl sitting in front of me confirmed). To say that the man is talented would be understating it. His performance at the Staples Center is a reflection on how this artist has catapulted his way out of boy band non-obscurity - through sheer talent and great music collaborations. I had a good vantage point for saying this show was amazing. My friend Jay and I were sitting in the back....waaaaaay in the back.

The show opened at 8:00 with Good Charlotte and the Justin Timberlake concert itself didn't start until after 9. Nonetheless, the show was well worth the wait - opening up with fog and an incredible use of lights and great stage design. The last time I was at the Staples Center was for a Lakers game...oh, how a basketball arena can be transformed.

There's a good advantage to sitting in the back row of the Staples Center for a concert of this caliber. You get to see the entire stage design and Justin Timberlake running around most parts of the stage. I'd say that I'm being optimistic and positive about my concert experience, and while, yes I am, it's true.

I had twenty-dollar seats in literally the back row of the Staples Center, but it didn't take away from a great show. You don't need to be up close and personal to see that Justin Timberlake's a great dancer and singer, and that he can play the guitar, the keytar, the piano, and beatbox. Nor do you need to be that close to sing along to favorite songs with all the other people in the filled seats with you.

Ultimately the FutureSex/LoveShow has the nuances of a big party: great music, dancing, a D.J. at intermission - even Timbaland making his appropriate appearances. And really, who wouldn't want to party with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland?

Would I have wanted tickets in the front row by the stage? Sure! But I'll close on what Jay and I high-fived during the concert, before catching the Metro Red Line home: "Best twenty-seven dollars ever."

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Avenue Q in LA!

Avenue Q signOne of my favorite musicals is in town - Avenue Q! I had the lovely opportunity to see this hilarious musical again at its opening on September 7th. There's so many great things about this show, I'm not sure where to start...

I had first seen this show in Las Vegas two years ago, when it had a long run at the Wynn. My friends were familiar with the soundtrack, but I hadn't heard much of the musical except for one key track: "What Do You Do With A B.A. in English?" As a degree-holder of a B.A. in English, it's a song that's near and dear to my heart.

Fast forward two years later, having already seen the show, and having memorized all the songs - of course I jumped at the opportunity to see it again in Los Angeles. Appropriately, I asked my friend Trevor to accompany me - a fellow holder of a B.A. in English.

Avenue Q can be succinctly described as "Sesame Street for Adults". Although there are cute puppets and monsters, it's not another day in Sesame Street. The musical touches on topics relevant to life after college, sexuality, and politically incorrect commentary.

But while a lot of Avenue Q is fun for fun sake, at the heart of the musical is a story that any adult can relate to - trying to find one self and making decisions and racking up mistakes along the way. Perhaps what adds to the humor of the show is that most - if not all - the audience has walked along (or is still walking on) their own Avenue Q, looking for their own sense of purpose and trying not to listen to the "Bad Idea Bears" that so often lead us astray with their "good idea at the time" logic.

Avenue Q doesn't prescribe to giving anyone definite answers to what purpose means, but it really does provide the opportunity to laugh at the journey to find it. Goodness knows, I'm still trying to figure out what to do with a B.A. in English!

Avenue Q is presented by Center Theatre Group and runs at the Ahmanson Theatre until October 14th.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tea Tasting in LA's Chinatown

Tea cups and tiny tea pots at a tasting in Chinatown Los AngelesTucked in-between the golden dragon archways on Broadway and Chinatown Metro Gold Line station with its green, yellow, and red curved roof is Far East Plaza. At the entrance to this plaza is Wing Hop Fung Ginseng and China Products Center. But don't let the name fool you. There's more to this place than aromatic herbs and beautiful hues of porcelain dishes and figurines (though it does have a good many to please). Pass by the first floor of ginseng and herbs behind glass countertops and the large selection of dark and light wine bottles lining the shelves. Then head up the escalator and next to the assortment of imported food goods in bright plastic packages (ranging from yellow rice crackers to sweet and salty plum candy), a tea fan might find a surprising treat... the top floor of Wing Hop Fung are large glass cylinders and glass countertops filled with tea leaves. Recently, I had a lovely tea tasting experience with fellow ExperienceLA blogger and ExperienceLA founder Curt Gibbs, when meeting with George Yu of the Los Angeles Chinatown Business Council and Bibiana Yung of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles.

Curt Gibbs purchasing teaIn addition to letting us smell the intense and fresh aroma of tea leaves, the woman in this area of the store provided us with a sample of Fujian Fresh Flavor Oolong Tea, which retails for $68.99, and plum tea, cold and slightly sweet. One surprising aspect of the selection of teas is the price range, from expected prices one might find in a general store to a high-end selection worthy of Rodeo Drive. Curt purchased a sample of an extremely fragrant $150 tea aptly named "Lion Hill Supreme of Green Tea."

Rows of TeaSL732618.jpg
In addition to invigorating the sense of taste and smell, tea tasting at Wing Hop Fung is a truly visual experience. Tea can come in all shapes and sizes, more than just small leaves, they can be beautiful bulbs and round kernals. Most people are likely to visualize tea in its Lipton sachets of crushed leaves - sometimes the dark, dry mixture has hints of colors from other leaves and dried flowers, visible only through the gauze of a tea bag. But aside from pre-packaged paper boxes of this and loose leaf tin canisters of the standard fair of Jasmine, Oolong, and Green, few can likely attest to seeing tea unparceled, unready for just quick placement in a porcelain tea pot or mug of hot water.

If you want an experience to invigorate your senses, have a taste of tea at Wing Hop Fung in Chinatown.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fun Times at the Tofu Festival

On Sunday, I was able to make it to the second day of the annual Tofu Festival in Little Tokyo. My favorite part of festivals is the food and the artisans. In addition to great tofu foods, I was able to get some lovely items at the booths including some jewelry, a hand-made shirt from India, and a black ukulele with gold colored turtles (I'm a sucker for ukuleles). The above is a video I was able to take of some great musicians playing traditional music.

Other great annual activities at the Tofu Fest included a WiFi Scavenger Hunt presented by Little Tokyo Unplugged, a performance stage (I saw a great martial arts display), information booths (I had a tongue analysis at a medicine booth), and there was even the "It's Hip to Be Square" Tofu with sunglasses roaming around for a picture opportunity. I felt bad for the person in the suit though...Sunday was a scorcher (all the more reason to have your fill of flavored shaved ice, barley tea, and boba drinks). Despite the heat, it was well-worth the venture out for fun times at this annual festival in Little Tokyo!

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Friday, August 17, 2007

Last Day: ExperienceLA Survey

The User Survey closes at midnight tonight!

Let us know what you think of our website and our services...and be eligible for some great prizes including tickets to Avenue Q, Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theatre, Natural History Museum, the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, and Kidspace Children's Museum.

-ExperienceLA Staff

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

ExperienceLA Checks Out Green Transit in Paris

On Sunday, July 15, 2007, Paris unveiled its new communal bike program to get people out of their cars by using public bikes for short distances around Metro stops and popular destinations. In addition, Paris has been removing traffic lanes to install bike lanes and cutting across the south of Paris, a new electric tram (trolley) , the T3 line, using the latest design and technology methods opened for service in November 2006. The Mayor of Paris is aggressively making the neccessary public improvements to get people out of their cars.

Thus, all over Paris, the communal bike stations are appearing. The whole program is designed for short term use, and one checks outs a bike with a credit card deposit, and very affordable rates for small amounts of time. You can return the bike at any station. The picture shows a full bike rack in Montmartre on opening day, but the rest of the week, most of the bikes were checked out. I am sure the system will have growing pains, but when the system is fully deployed across Paris, it will be a major statement that Paris is serious about being a Green City. With the installation of exclusive bike lanes, this will become one of the most bike friendly cities in the world.

The use of trams to move people along major streets in Paris is also part of long range planning for Paris. These trams are quiet, make many stops, and are easy to get on and off. There are no barriers to keep cars from crossing the tracks in front of the trams. Drivers understand not to try to beat the tram across an intersection. Purpose of trams and trolleys are to help create a sense of place, and the T3 tram or trolley demonstrates how a trolley could serve Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, whether it be a modern look or historic replica.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

LA Film Fest: 2 Days in Paris

I finally had a chance to head over to the Westside to check out the LA Film Fest (this is its closing weekend). I have to say... I wish I hadn't taken so long to finally go. For those of you still contemplating, there are Family Day activities today, free activities and screenings on Broxton Avenue, and more films tomorrow!

My friend and I had tickets to see "2 Days in Paris", a film directed, written, produced, and acted in by Julie Delpy. Delpy's Marion is a parisian ex-pat who passes through her hometown with her American boyfriend (played by Adam Goldberg). Throughout the two days, Marion must grapple with her boyfriend's reaction to her intruding, too-liberal parents, her wayward sister and a string of ex-lovers.

I loved it.

I could relate to the claustrophobic, in-your-face French ambiance that the movie successfully depicted when it came to my own experience studying abroad in France. But more than that, as one of the audience members during the Q&A said, the relationships explored in the film were very real and very universal for all.

And yes, that's right...there was a Q&A with Julie Delpy, herself, and the sarcastically hilarious Adam Goldberg.

Check it out while you still can!

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Culture Marketing Assistant

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cirque du Soleil, "Corteo" Giveaway!

Our weekly newsletter's out!

Celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, the best of American music, and carnivals! Don't forget about the OC Fair just around the corner, and the chance to experience a late-night Grand Avenue. For the ultimate festive parade, enter for a chance to win tickets to Corteo!

And if you want your events to be featured on our newsletter or promoted on our website, sign up to be a partner on for more information. We're a public service site existing for YOU, so it's completely free! Staff

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blog is Back & ExperienceLA Newsletter: Summer Series

Our blog's back!

After some technical difficulties, we'll be playing catch-up on some of our past adventures (interviews, Star Wars Convention, cultural events), but for something new -- our weekly newsletter is out!

Check out the films and theatres in Last Remaining Seats, enjoy the Wine and Jazz Music Series, and giveaways in Issue #171: Summer Series!

And if you want your events to be featured on our newsletter or promoted on our website, sign up to be a partner on for more information. We're a public service site existing for YOU, so it's completely free! Staff

Interview: Denise Dowse

Contributing writer Daood recently sat down with actress and director Denise Dowse.

Daood: Greetings Denise Dowse

Denise: Greetings to you Daood!

Daood: Before discussing your remarkable career, let's begin with your upbringing in Honolulu Hawaii and your introduction to the world of acting?

Denise: Aaahhh yes, the beautiful island of Honolulu. Well, I was born there as my father, a US Naval Officer was stationed there at the time. We lived there 6 years in total - moving away and then back as is the "norm" in a military family. We moved on the average of every 2 years and if we were lucky it would be 3 years as was the case in Hawaii. I have beautiful child's eye images of the island and look forward to the day I do return. It wasn't until the 3rd grade and we were living in Chula Vista, California that I had my first theatrical experience when I was cast as the narrator in the 6th grade production of "Hansel and Gretel" (my sister played the witch!).

That was the beginning... Then as my mother saw me flourish, we auditioned for a Saturday program in San Diego for the "gifted and talented" and I was accepted. My first production with them was televised (UHF at the time) "A Dog called Bum" in which I played the dog catcher - lol!!

Daood: Were there any academies attended that helped to cultivate your skills and talents?

Denise: Oops, guess I kinda answered this question in the last answer. I don't remember the academy's name in San Diego. But there we did dance, music, and acting every Saturday. It came to pass that although I was playing the trumpet - acting became something I was good at and could get involved in wherever we moved; it was usually a drama club at school or at the very least an acting class.

Daood: Growing up as a young girl what films and actors had a major impact?

Denise: I grew up watching old Black & White movies on Sundays and as African Americans weren't as represented then...I filled my days with Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Betty Davis and finally Sidney Poitier.

Daood: Share with us that magical moment when you knew that acting was what you wanted?

Denise: Wow...that's kinda hard to pinpoint Daood! Hmmm let’s see...I think the FIRST moment was my trip to NYC that my mother organized for my birthday and my introduction to Broadway - I was a junior in High School and we went to see "The Wiz" and all I kept asking my mom when the show was over was "how can I do that mom??" Then in my senior year, I applied to the Naval Academy the first year it was opened to females and was accepted - boy was my Dad proud :) But I had also interviewed with the traveling company "Up with People" soooo... I had to make a choice - so for a year I was on the road with "Up with People" and haven't looked back!

Daood: Your illustrious career covers the entire gamut of acting and genres such as drama, comedy, etc. Possessing the ability of such diversity requires what type of philosophy and training?

Denise: I have had an amazing and blessed career Daood and have enjoyed every delicious diverse minute of it! Lets see, I teach that "acting is recreating life" and as I do so enjoy people watching, and have traveled extensively in my life that has been the foundation of my approach - to find within myself what part of each of these characters is a part of me. So my work comes from within. I also studied with Jeff Corey upon my arrival to Los Angeles after having lived and worked for 7 1/2 years in Germany. Jeff was instrumental in my transition from working onstage to working in front of a camera...teaching me how to shave off the theatrical veneer of stage to the more conversational elements of television and film work. All of this I accompanied with doing 6 months of extra work to understand and learn those elements required to work with a film or television that was truly an education!!

Daood: In the last several years you've appeared on TV, such as "Law and Order" and films such as "Her Best Move." Describe your most challenging and rewarding role/s as an actress? Most challenging..

Denise: I would have to say playing a futuristic drug dealer in Oliver Stone's mini series "Wild Palms". It was challenging as I had to tap into that wonderful world of imagination and come up with what I thought would be a dealer of the future...I altered my voice, donned a dred-locked wig and had a ball!! Most rewarding would have to be "Ray". To be a part of such a delicious piece of history and filmmaking as well as my first time to New Orleans - was all a dream come true. I also used pieces of who my mother was to create the character of Marlene which brought that character closer to my heart.

Daood: Your directorial films include "Long Time Since Yesterday", “When Willows Weep in Foxholes" and "A Story of Redemption," but you've also have a history with Amazing Grace Conservatory and directing youth in "Broadway" fashion shows such as the "The Wiz" and "Dream Girls". Can you share with us both experiences?

Denise: Actually my directorial stage debut in LA was PJ Gibson's "Long Time Since Yesterday", done with a group of friends who trusted me enough to help bring that wonderful script to life. That was followed by "The Chest" by Angela deJoseph - also a wonderful cast of women, and both plays received numerous NAACP Theatre Nominations and I garnered 2 Best Director Awards. I love acting, I'm passionate about it and then I love actors!!! I get us and am able to communicate, direct and paint a picture that breathes life not only into the stories but enables the actors to have a safe place to play, fall, discover and grow, and deliver believable, honest performances.

Working at Amazing Grace Conservatory - well, that in itself has been a true blessing!! There is nothing as honest, innocent and pure as a young artist. And it is in these young artists I find my constant reminder of why I do what I do. They bring such a freshness and fearlessness to their work and with each outing I can only learn more about my craft, more about how to communicate and teach it and more reasons as to why I love it so. Plus having no children of my own...I have the trust of parents to teach, nurture and grow with their children. And yes, we do introduce them to Broadway shows that they may never have the opportunity in life to perform and it's been life changing for all of us!

It was at AGC that I had my initial opportunity to direct on film with our production of "What About Us" a short film written by Tracy Coley and then "The Chocolate Factory" - where we shot the first Act on Film and then opened up onstage in Act 2 where they arrived at the Chocolate Factory - it was a magical experience to say the least!!!

Daood: June 1 is the debut of the play "Love & Other Social Issues," starring Malcolm Jamal Warner (Cleo of the Cosby show) in which you're the director. Could you elaborate on your relationship to Malcolm Jamal Warner and your interest in directing him in "Love & Other
Social Issues?

Denise: I have known Malcolm and his mother Pam since the early 90's when I directed her production of "When Willows Weep in Foxholes. The friendship began and flourished from there. I then began coaching Malcolm from time to time for his auditions. Then one day Pam invited me to his Miles Long Show up at Universal City Walk - which blew me away - had no idea Malcolm was into the Spoken Word Scene. Then Pam came up with the idea to incorporate his pieces into a One Man Show (ok wow) and asked me to direct it. Soooo our first outing of it was at the National Black Theatre Festival done every odd year in Winston-Salem, NC in 2003. We were honored with Sold out houses during that week and amazing feedback; consequently were invited back in 2005. So now, here we are 4 years later with our West Coast Premiere! It's been an exciting journey and as both Malcolm and I have grown as artists and as's been awesome to see how the show has grown.

Daood: In addition to all of your activities such as acting and directing you also teach acting classes. Where are the classes held and what programs do you offer for your students?

Denise: Aaahhh yes, I do teach class. Not as regularly as my students (nor I) would like!! LOL For the past couple of years I've been teaching at Amazing Grace Conservatory (On Adams and 11th). I teach all levels of actors and we do improvisation, creative imagery - to help tap back into the imagination, and a lot of time spent on the creating of characters. It's usually a 6 week class meeting once a week for 3 hours.

Daood: Are there any television projects or films that we can look forward to seeing you in the months to come?

Denise: I wish I could say there was!!! One of my students has written an amazing film called "Sundays in Fort Greene" that is to be shot sometime this summer in NYC. It will star Meagan Goode, Tamara Bass (writer) and ME as their Mother. Other than that, I shall look to God to see what he may have in store for me!!

Daood: Where can one find more information about the play "Love & Other Social Issues," your acting classes and future endeavors?

Denise: For information about Love & Other Social Issues, you can check out and as for me, you can check from time to time or my myspace page: myspace/livelifejuicy.

Daood: It has been an honor and humbling experience speaking with you!

Denise: It has been an honor to have been asked Daood. Loved your questions and yes, your patience!!! Continued blessings to you my dear!!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Reflecting on the 2007 Stagecoach Festival in the Coachella Valley

As a Country and Western music fan in Los Angeles, we have watched KZLA exit the radio market and KMZT and KKGO shuffle around classical and country western music to provide Go Country at 105 on the FM dial. When Goldenvoice, the promoters of the Coachella Music Festival, announced last Fall that they would do Stagecoach, a family-friendly country western festival with an emphasis on big stars, alt-country, and bluegrass, my wife and I were among the first to buy a weekend pass when they went on sale earlier this year. For those who missed the Stagecoach event during the first weekend of May, mark your calendar for next year. The organizers went all out to provide activities for children, and those willing to take the chance on the first year were well-rewarded with a variety of children actitivities and entertainment geared to the younger set. This being the first year, the crowds were not as large as the prior weekend with Coachella, but the weather was much more pleasant. The previous weekend, the Coachella Music Festival had 108-degree weather, while Stagecoach was around 85 degrees on Saturday and around 93 degrees on Sunday. The festival was well-organized, the food was great, and you could even pay for a pedi-cab ride to save yourself a long walk back to the vast parking lots.

On Saturday - day one of the festival - we stayed away from the commercial Mane Stage, and got up close and personal at the alt-country Palomino Stage, the bluegrass Appaloosa Stage, and the cowboy Mustang stage. What we didn't realize is that people were parking their lawn chairs at the Mane Stage wandering around to the other stages, and then coming back at different times of the day to catch the big stars. With so much going on among four stages, there were big choices to be made. For example, on Saturday choosing between Miranda Lambert and Nickel Creek.

If money was no object, a special pass for prime seats is available for the front of the Mane Stage. When George Strait played on Saturday night, there were probably 20,000 people in attendance, and then on Sunday night when Brooks and Dunn played, there were probably 30,000 having a great time. Most watched from the two huge screens that were set up. You could bring a camera as long it was a point and shoot model, no SLR's unless you were under contract by Goldenvoice and a member of the press. Picture taking was great from the smaller stages, as one could get extremely close. The lighting was a bit difficult inside the two tented stages with bright sunshine directly behind the stage. Using my cameraphone, I was also uploading pictures directly to Flickr all weekend. One treasured photo from the weekend, is my wife and I having our picture taken with Sara Watkins from Nickel Creek whom I have previously written about in the ExperienceLA blog when she and Sean Watkins had Tift Merritt as their guest at the Largo in Los Angeles. Nickel Creek is taking a hiatus, while its members - Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins, and Chris Thiele - pursue their solo careers.

On Saturday, we saw the entire performances of the Old 97's, Cowboy Nation, Grascal, Yonder Mountain String Band, Nickel Creek, Willie Nelson, Robert Earle Keen, and Neko Case. I also caught pieces (and from a distance) of Sara Evans, Alan Jackson, and George Strait. My main disappointment was not seeing Lucinda Williams, as we were in line (and then eating) at a great barbeque from the Texas Barbeque folks. And I also caught one song from Chris Hillman, former member of the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds, who many years ago played with one of my favorite songwriters and performers, the late Gram Parsons.

Then on Sunday, we parked our chairs at the Mane Stage for Carolyn Dawn Johnson, watching the first commerical artist on tap, and then onto the smaller stages for Cowboy Celtic, Abigail Washburn, and John Doe. For the rest of the day, we did not move from the Mane Stage, and saw great performances from Gary Allan, Sugarland, Brooks and Dunn, and Kenny Chesney, with the exception of seeing half of Emmylou Harris' set on the Palomino Stage. Seeing Emmylou Harris (who also recorded with Gram Parsons) took me back to seeing her many years ago at a Cal State University Country Blue Grass Festival in 1974 or 1975, when all she had out was her Boulder to Birmingham Record. In the 80's, I saw Emmylou Harris perform at the Palomino Club in the Valley.

There was even western-influenced art from several of the galleries of Downtown LA, including the Higgins Gallery, that was on exhibit during Stagecoach. The other connection to Los Angeles of the festival is that AEG, who is building LA Live, is a partner with Goldenvoice on the Stagecoach and the Coachella Music Festivals. The lead picture of this blog entry is me with Sean Parr and Robin Banks from Go Country 105. Their sister station promotes

Monday, May 14, 2007

Interview: Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans

Contributing writer Daood recently sat down with Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans, the artistic director for Kittsville Youth Foundation Dance and Cultural Arts Program.

Daood: Hello Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans. I want to first congratulate you and the members of the Kittsville Youth Foundation for maintaining the vision!

Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans: Daood, thank you for your interest and appreciation of our organization, Kittsville Youth Foundation. Your kind of inquiry helps us to clarify and sustain our focus.

Daood: You started dancing with Eartha Kitt at the age of 12 at a dance studio in Beverly Hills. Could you share with us that experience and your relationship with Eartha Kitt?

Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans: My mother, Ella Evans, read about Ms. Kitt teaching dance as fitness for adults and she decided to take 12-year-old me. Since she did not drive, it was a long bus ride from 92nd and Stanford Ave. in South LA to Robertson Blvd. in Beverly Hills. I was the only child and African American in the class, but that did not deter my mother... She recognized the specialness in me being under the tutelage of Ms. Kitt and she knew I could handle it, even though I wanted to stay home and play with my friends. My Mom's gut instinct was always right on. She listened to what she saw in us more than to what we said. Eartha took to my mother and me right away. Immediately we became guests at her home and often she took us back home. I studied with Eartha for awhile and then she was off traveling across the country performing and I was doing what I loved to do; hanging out with my friends, whom I was not allowed to tell what I was doing. My mother was always pretty private and protective of things we did too until she felt it was 'safe' to share. This initial relationship with Ms. Kitt started in Beverly Hills, but after a break of a few years, at 16, through a newspaper article, I discovered she was teaching at the Mafundi Institute in Watts. This time I decided to get on the bus and go take her class. From this reconnection after studying and teaching at the final Watts location, Jordan Downs Housing Projects Recreation Center, she put me on scholarship with two renowned dance teachers, Claude Thompson, Jazz and Gene Marinaccio, Ballet. This was at The Rainbow Studios on Yucca and Vine in Hollywood. With lots of other steps in between, I eventually ended up understudying Ms. Kitt in the touring Broadway show of "Timbuktu!"

Daood: When did the passion for dance initially take place for you as a young girl?

Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans: The passion for dance took place for me when we started doing Kittsville in the Gymnasium/rec room at Jordan Downs. I loved the community that came from the projects and all over. I loved the Conga drumming of the late Modesto Duran and Lazaro Valdez. I am compelled to move when I here drums. Especially Cuban drumming, I loved that we had audience from the local to Eartha's friends and acquaintances as well as the media. I learned that I loved sharing my movement expression with an audience. I loved trying to match Ms Kitt's energy at the end of every class.

Daood: What is your historical perspective of the evolution of dance to the present?

Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans: What a big question. In some ways dance reflects the physical, psychological, emotional and cultural healing of a community. It often serves as a barometer. When we didn't have a common language for expressing and or understanding what was going on around us and within us, our music, also reflected through our movement, kept us connected to the real, the necessary, and often times the best in us. If we observe our youth, we discover all kinds of pictures; however if we put it all together, we see there is a lot of disjointedness, loudness, disregard for other, borrowing, mis-understanding and re-discovering of ancient movements, the brilliant, the phenomenal think dance continues to serve as a barometer of where we are and need to go; what we need to keep and to let go of. Today, more of us understand that movement belongs to everyone and it serves best, those who appreciate it.

Daood: Aside from the physical developments and learning how to dance, what other attributes and characteristics are nurtured and cultivated subsequently?

Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans: As I stated above, dance directs us on how to look at ourselves and others. It is an engaging mirror. It allows community, joy, and it shows historical development, often more truthfully than words.

Daood: Are there any current events in which we can look forward to attending this year?

Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans: We will have a culminating summer program that shares the activities the regularly attending students have been doing. The date is t be announced. Also, we are planning a Fund-raiser for Kittsville that will feature a tribute to Eartha Kitt.

Daood: Is there a website and phone number for more information such as children participation, organization donations and for people who would like to volunteer their services?

Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans: Our current workshops are Ballet, Hip Hop, Dunham/Modern Dance Technique and Capoeira (African/ Brazilian Martial Arts through dance). These classes are geared to students age 10 to 18, but adults are welcome to join in. The classes continue to be free (for the last 42 years) and registration is on-going. We are always looking for volunteers; so for this and more information go to and or email us at or

Daood: Before we start with my free lesson I would like to inform you that I know how to "Drop it like its Hot," and "Harlem Shuffle"….at the same time!

Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans: Well, we welcome your kind of skills and 'courage' in class. Bring it on!

Daood: It's been a pleasure and thank you!

Ms. Wanda-Lee Evans: It has taken me a long time to finally get to and through these questions. Once I got going, it was a pleasure, Thank you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Theatre: Christopher Walken in an Hour...

Christopher Walken won a best supporting Oscar back in 1979 for The Deer Hunter. He wasn't nominated again until four years ago as Leonardo DiCaprio's father in Catch Me if You Can. In those 24 years between, Walken had a lustrous career that is finally getting the love it deserves in a comedy show that wears his name proudly. The distinguished theater production company Team Good Life Productions had the gumption to celebrate all that is Walken in their tribute show All About Walken: The Impersonators of Christopher Walken.

The show has everything: singing, dancing humor, tragedy, mayhem, and revenge. This mixture is the recipe for an intoxicating elixir of the human spirit, if the spirit was morally bankrupt. The seven-member troupe has a sincere admiration for a man who's been in over 80 films, hosted Saturday Night Live six times and is the only SNL host to have The Best of... DVD strictly for the members. The man is a dynamo and finally he is getting his thanks due to hard-core fans like director Patrick O'Sullivan who wrote and directs.

In the one-hour show - which I personally say is too short - the highly-skilled and driven actors perform a montage of a few of Walken's films, including The Deer Hunter, the brutal interrogatory scene in True Romance, the headless horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the infamous speech he gives to a boy in Pulp Fiction about the value of his daddy's watch.

Actors Michael Bayouth and O'Sullivan are the primary Walkens wearing the classic Christopher Walken attire: all black and the infamous stand up hair that probably boxing promoter Don King stole. They, and the rest of the excellent cast, capture Walken's body movements including the jerking of the arms, the bulging eyes and the splattered speech pattern. Lily Holleman and Amy Kelly provide that extra feminine touch and sex appeal to the testerone group. I nearly lost it when Kelly's Walken did a commercial for Summer's Eve. The girl has imagination.

Much, much love goes out to Kenzo Lee who did the ultimate Walken impression, the dancing scene from the 2001 video "Weapons of Choice" by Fatboy Slim. I was ecstatic when I saw him do the infamous Walken dance. Actor Will Shivers made a hilarious impression of Jack Nicholson auditioning to play Walken in the show, and the little I saw of Paul Mabon was enough to tell me that he has great presence and is an asset to an already tremendous cast. I am hoping he will show more of his talent in the next few shows.

As a bonus feature, the audience gets to pick their own Walken adventure by placing him in other movie roles. On this night, he was Danny Zuko from Grease and Jack Twist from Brokeback Mountain. He was also Edwin Hoover, the heroine-addicted grandfather in Little Miss Sunshine, which was combined with Jaws (you had to be there for that one...). I got a weak rap play when I shouted out Hustle & Flow but it was still amusing.

The show changes weekly but the laughs remain raucously the same. If you are a Walken fan, and you should be after reading this, the show is simply amazing. If you are not, join the rest of us cool kids and become one. It won't take long and it is the best $15 you will ever spend. Believe that.

All About Walken: The Impersonators of Christopher Walken plays at the Paul G. Gleason Theater. The show has been extended until July 9th.

-Mary E. Montoro, Contributing Writer

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Bad Day" on Metro

So I've always loved the "Bad Day" video by Daniel Powter. Not because of the song, no... but mostly because of the video and its coincidental occurences. Call me a dreamer, but I really do think happenstance is a very real thing. It's what keeps me going when things get a little too mundane and I find myself getting attached to a waddling pigeon crossing the street right along with me (though it really was so cute hopping along like a law-abiding citizen).

Have you ever had the thought that the subway really is full of possibilities? That the person next to you could very well be your future best friend, the daughter of that kid who used to bully you back in jr. high, or oh, I don't know... a long lost cousin?? If six degrees of separation really is true, I wonder how many people on the subway we're connected to somehow.

Anyway, thanks to MetroRiderLA, I can love this video even more. According to their post, this video was actually filmed at Pershing Square. Our very own Pershing Square! Who would've thought... I just assumed it was NY or Chicago. Kinda makes me proud for some odd reason.

If you want to go see Pershing Square for yourself, check out ExperienceLA for more info on what to do in the area.

-Sarah Koo, Arts/Cultural Marketing Assistant

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tristan and Isolde... as an Opera?

For those of you who have tickets to the LA Phil's Tristan Project, consider yourself lucky. This sold out opera features the collaboration of LA Phil's Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, video artist Bill Viola, and director Peter Sellars, and will soon be heading to New York for it's East Coast premiere.

But there's plenty of other great LA Phil shows to catch... check out our LA Phil listing on the ExperienceLA calendar for more info!

On a tangent, if you haven't heard of the name Gustavo Dudamel, you'll be sure to hear his name more often in the near future. In 2009, Dudamel will succeed Esa-Pekka Salonen as Music Director of the LA Phil. There's been a lot of rave reviews about this guy from Venezuela... and he's only 26! In fact, it wasn't until three years ago that he stood before a professional orchestra for the first time. Sometimes, I wonder what it's like to be a prodigy of some sort... My days of plinking away at the piano unfortunately did not progress any further than small recitals where my mom was my biggest fan and the audience was comprised of my teacher's other students. Yay.

26!! Come to think of it... he's only a few years older than me. Um... does anyone else suddenly feel a little unaccomplished? But I digress... =)

In any case, if there's one thing I appreciate about the LA Phil, it's their willingness to take risks and be versatile... and versatility definitely captures the spirit of LA.

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Culture Marketing Intern

Monday, April 16, 2007

Interview: Barbara Stanton and the Wattstar Theatre

At a recent benefit screening, contributing writer Daood had a chance to talk to Ms. Barbara Stanton about the Wattstar Theatre and Education Center, a development in the Watts/Willowbrook communities...

Daood: Ms. Barbara Stanton, you attended a private benefit screening The Reaping March 23rd at the Mann’s Chinese Theatre for the Wattstar Theatre and Education Center. Can you tell us about the benefit screening?

Ms. Barbara Stanton: When everyone arrived, they received complimentary parking passes, their popcorn and soda, complements of Mann Theatres and socialized with our guests celebrities including Wesley Jonathan, known for his role in Roll, Bounce, stars of the upcoming film Redline Denyce Lawton and Nadia Bjorlin, Allan Louis of Stomp the Yard, Hawthorne James known as "Big Red", and former American Idol Contestant Sabrina Sloan.

Bob McNeely, who has just been promoted to Executive Vice President for Union Bank of California, received the "Corporate Wattstar of the Year" award and Bill Hertz of Mann Theatres kicked off the movie. Upon their exit, our guests received our Warner Bros. goodie bags, which included our Def Jam and City National Bank prizes and we proceeded to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for the after party.

Our after party started off with Janine Haydel of KJLH introducing "Wattstars Finest", an eclectic array of well known artists including Del Atkins on bass, Munjungo Jackson on percussions, Raymond Pounds on drums, and Larry Nash on piano, featuring T.C. Carson on vocals. UNTitled Dance Company performed an upbeat Hip Hop Dance and a socially-conscious songwriter, Brian Jacobs, then joined us.

Daood: Ms. Barbara Stanton how did the concept for the "Wattstar Theatre and Education Center" come into fruition?

Barbara Stanton: In 1992, I worked with Mann Theatres and Warner Bros. and the UCLA Black Student Union to bring the first African American Festival to the Westwood community on the corner of Wilshire and Gayley. Sixty vendors and musicians enjoyed the patronage of senior citizens, students and youth were rocked with jazz, blues and salsa, Caribbean and African food. It was a great cultural event. The next question I had for Mann Theatres and Warner Bros. was, "How can we bring a movie theatre to our community?" When combining the needs of job training and small business creation, The Wattstar Theatre and Education Center was born.

Daood: What are some of the plans other than showing films in which the facility will be utilized for?

Barbara Stanton: The U.S. Department of Commerce is providing nearly two million dollars for equipment that will provide training in production and postproduction, global communications, and business incubation.

Daood: How essential is this project to the development of Watts/Willowbrook communities?

Barbara Stanton: We have not had a movie theatre in our community since the 1965 rebellion and clearly the economic development opportunities and educational embellishment are critically needed. The Wattstar is a catalytic project that will revitalize the entire community.

Daood: Ms. Barbara Stanton, for individuals or entities who would like to get involved with further [development in] this project, how can they get in contact with you?

Barbara Stanton: You can always pull up our web site at or call me at (323) 757-7506.

Daood: By the way, how was the film The Reaping?

Barbara Stanton: The special effects were incredible and Hillary Swank and Idris Elba are wonderful actors to see on the big screen.

Daood: This opportunity is greatly appreciated and has been extremely informative.

Barbara Stanton: Thank you for the opportunity.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Interview: Jeffrey Winston and World Stage Stories

Jazz musicians Dizzy Gillispie, John Coltrane, Billy Higgins and others are displayed from wall to wall at this historic landmark, "The World Stage".

Musically speaking, jazz exemplifies short stories. Character roles interchange rhythmically through the saxophone, piano, drums, bass, and other instruments - evoking listeners to the exclusive autonomy of improvisational text. I sat through this musical journey recently, closing my eyes as notes and then chords were taken to further degrees of complexity, orchestrating an exchange beyond what most would consider conceivable. While caught up in this experience, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Opening my eyes, a tall and distinguished gentleman stood above me smiling. It was Jeffrey Winston producer of the "World Stage Stories".

Daood: Hello, Mr. Winston. Can you share with our readers the origin of World Stage Stories?

Jeffrey Winston: About three years ago, Clint Rosemond, the Executive Director of the World Stage approached me with an idea that he had in mind. We met and designed a format that would document the evolution of jazz from its inception through the various eras such as ragtime, swing, bebop and avant garde, etc. Our intent is to chronicle the careers of some of the innovators who were so influential in this genre's development.

Typically, we have allowed others to define, dilute and distort our art. We must become and remain the gatekeepers of our own culture. Jazz is truly universal but its early roots are derived from blues and gospel music. It transcends mere entertainment because it poignantly speaks to our ongoing struggle for dignity and freedom.

My close colleague and fellow producer, Chet Hanley has played a vital role in World Stage Stories because he shares the same passion for this project. Chet hosts, Jazz in the Modern Era, a weekly show on Channel 36. We are all trying to reach our youth, so they can fully appreciate this indigenous art form and the masters who create it. This is our way of honoring the legacy of Billy Higgins, who along with poet and activist Kamau Dáaóod, founded the World Stage in the early eighties.

Daood: Provide for us some of the artists you've had the pleasure of interviewing?

Jeffrey Winston: In 2004, we began with the legendary bassist Al McKibbon.

We have completed over three dozen interviews since then, including the likes of Gerald Wilson, Buddy Collette, Fayard Nicholas, Clora Bryant, Howard Rumsey, John Heard, Oscar Brashear, John Levy, Charles Owens, Nate Morgan, Henry Franklin, Herman Leonard, Tootie Heath, Justo Almario and Bennie Maupin, among others. The artists reveal their unique journeys, in their own words, before they field questions from the audience. The evening culminates with a brief clinic, solo or interactive demonstration.

Daood: As a young man growing up what was your introduction to Jazz?

Jeffrey Winston: At the tender age of four, my father used to play Lionel Hampton's classic rendition of Stardust on an old Webcor reel-to-reel tape recorder. It was a live session that was produced by Gene Norman at Pasadena's Civic Auditorium in 1947. It featured Charlie Shavers, Slam Stewart, Willie Smith, Barney Kessel and a few others. My dad was even there that night.

Obviously, I was too young to fully appreciate the music but the seed had already been planted, so I've been hooked ever since. Later, during the late fifties and early sixties, I listened to Jai Rich, Chuck Niles and Rick Holmes on KBCA. Radio was the real deal, back then. At the University of Washington, I became a teaching assistant for Joe Brazil's jazz history class. Joe was an alto saxophonist out of Detroit who was a tireless advocate for jazz in the Seattle area.

Daood: How significant is World Stage Stories to the overall objectives of the World Stage?

Jeffrey Winston: An oral history series of this nature is ideal because we firmly believe that our heritage should be properly preserved. It is imperative that children, older youth and adults alike, raise their level of awareness. This format provides a vehicle for doing so. Such an intimate setting is conducive to establishing a genuine rapport between the artists and a captive audience. The project is very consistent with the original vision of Billy Higgins.

Daood: Currently, What artists are scheduled to appear during World Stage Stories?

Jeffrey Winston: We've been producing this series for three years. The response has been overwhelming. I want to thank both the village in Leimert Park as well as the greater community for their support. Diverse audiences have also come from throughout Southern California. We present twelve interviews every year. Our Spring Series will begin on March 30th with tenor man Azar Lawrence. I've also booked Playboy Jazz Festival Producer Darlene Chan, bassists James Leary and Louie Spears as well as drummer Donald Dean. For a modest $10.00 donation, folks have a rare opportunity to rub elbows with and hear world-class musicians.

Daood: After many years of listening to legends such as Miles Davis, have today's jazz musicians remained truthful to the art form?

Jeffrey Winston: In my opinion, not enough of the new players have paid homage to the masters. There are obviously some exceptions such as Edwin Livingston, Lorca Hart, Ryan Cross, Willie Jones III, Richard Grant, Derrick Finch, Tony Austin and Isaac Smith. They are poised to take the baton. Innovators like Bird, Dizzy, Max Roach, Miles, Trane, Sonny Rollins, Mingus and scores of others were uncompromising as they pushed the boundaries to lofty plateaus. Many sacrificed dearly to remain true to their craft. A few have enjoyed lucrative careers in the studios while others had to sell CDs out of the trunk of their cars because they didn't get adequate promotion or distribution. A lot of cats are forced to take day jobs just to survive and support their families. America does not value its artists unless their work has commercial value. Conversely, Europe and Japan have always displayed integrity and a genuine respect for jazz.

Daood: Thanks for answering the questions and I look forward to attending the next segment of World Stage Stories.

Jeffrey Winston: Please come as my guest. It's been a real pleasure, thank you.

For more information about the World Stage and the World Stage Series, visit

-Daood, Contributing Writer

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Take Me Out To...Dodger Stadium

Dodgers StadiumThere's nothing like watching a baseball game at the stadium. Prior to last night, it had been years since I had attended one. But it's an experience that I know I ought to partake in more often because I love baseball and I love watching the game unfold right before my eyes in midst of a crowd of fans in an open air stadium (while I'm at it, can college football season start up again?!).

The LA-area is home to two baseball teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I'll be honest in my picking of sides: Los Angeles Dodgers all the way.

A fixture in the Los Angeles landscape is Dodger Stadium, situated just north of the Downtown landscape, and its where my friends Jason and Jessie managed to get some great tickets to the Dodgers vs. Padres game. My friend Jay and I managed to come along for the unexpected Friday night out.

How great were the tickets? The picture accompanying this post is without zoom. I was that close to the action out on the field. We were in foul ball catching territory. In fact, during the game someone caught one a few rows in front of us (and man, did we wish one of us had been in reach). It was perhaps the closest I have ever sat at a baseball game (usually I'm in those nosebleed seats), so that definitely contributed to the excitement of my first baseball game in ages.

I'm not sure I can really describe that sense of feeling of being at a baseball game - it seems to be something that either people understand thoroughly or not at all. There's just this rush of feeling being surrounded by so many fans young and old decked out in team colors and memorabilia as vendors make their way on narrow stair aisles selling Crackerjacks, ice cream, and peanuts (and, believe it or not, CPK pizza - not sure about that one...). There's nothing like having a hot dog - the "no contest in how good it is" Dodger dog - piled high with tangy red ketchup, golden mustard, the sweet and sour taste of relish, and chopped white onion, accompanied with a plate of crispy garlic fries. There's nothing like hearing the roar of the crowd through nine innings as the players run across home base, as the batter cracks that ball with his bat and a stadium-full of people follow in anticipation of a cheer or a necessary chorus of 'boos'. There's nothing like mutual disdain about umpire calls, because the they're always wrong when you don't like them, even when they're right.

There has to be something about that game - whether it be baseball or football, whatever it is that fills that stadium. Why else then would people run through the hectic swirl of traffic to and from the venue, bring their kids in tow with blankets on cold nights where even then they'll ask for ice cream, get caught up in making sure they wear the right colors in shirts and hats and pins, so sure that their team is the "right" team...

Yes, there's nothing like experiencing a baseball game in a stadium.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Friday, April 13, 2007

Subtitle Film Festival

On Thursday, April 12th, we headed out to the opening night of the First Annual Subtitle Film Festival. After enjoying the opening festivities - cocktail party reception with yummy appetizer foods in the colorful lounge of the new MPark4 Theatres - with our friends Jenny and Trevor, everyone then gathered into Theatre 1 to watch Memories of Tomorrow, a film featuring Ken Watanabe as a man diagnosed with early Alzheimer's. The film - in all its aptly subtitled glory - was amusing, touching, and heart-breaking as it portrayed the struggles of a Japanese ad agency man and his wife, who must individually cope with this unexpected illness.

The film is among one of many great foreign films featured in this first annual festival. Convenient to the Wilshire/Vermont Red Line station stop, it might be helpful for those taking transit to know that you walk west on Wilshire (turn right, once you leave the station on Shatto Place) and then make a left onto New Hampshire. Once there, you'll note some colorful movie posters in the lit windows of a dark converted Art Deco-esque building. Walk behind that building, pass some Korean storefronts, and then go up the elevators to the third floor where the theatre is.

Find out more great films in this too-short-of-a-run festival that closes on April 15th at!

-Charity Tran and Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Staff