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

Kip Fulbeck at USC

One of my past adventures, Downtown LA: Little Tokyo - "kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa", has a related event that just came up!

HapaSC - USC's Hapa Student Community - is hosting 'The Hapa Project: An Afternoon with Kip Fulbeck' this weekend on April 17, 2007 at 2:00pm. A renowned artist on the topic of Hapa identity, this is a great event for those who enjoy the work of Fulbeck and/or want to know more about his persective regarding this important topic in racial identity.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Rooney and Ozma at the Roxy on Sunset

Rooney - Robert SchwartzmanOne of LA's most famous venues, the Roxy on Sunset, is featuring Rooney on Monday nights in April! The show is hosted by hilarious Andy Dick (not for tender ears!) and features different opening acts each night. Last night's show proved to be one of the best evenings I've ever had - in addition to hanging out with some of my awesome friends, I saw two of my favorite bands: Rooney and Ozma.

The evening started out with delicious cheeseburgers at nearby Rainbow Bar and Grill where my friends Frank, Jay, Esteban, Elaine, Matt, and I met up with our friend Sarah and her friend Andrew (we had a big group!)

After dinner we had a short walk to the Roxy where we were surprised to see Mischa Barton (of OC fame) with her friends (which I suppose isn't too surprising given that Rooney played on the OC and the Roxy is a famous venue). She politely asked us to not take any pictures of her and her crowd while they were inside.

Andy DickThen we were thoroughly entertained by Ozma, Ben Lee, and Rooney with Andy Dick providing transitions in song. I can't describe these transitions because this is a public friendly blog. Needless to say they were pretty amusing. Ozma was great and I even heard my favorite song - their cover of Tetris music. Rooney provided a mix of new songs for their upcoming album release, some old favorites, and then surprisingly two cover songs - the Beach Boys' California Girls (muchly appreciated by this California girl) and one by the Beatles.

OzmaPrior to last night, I had previously seen Ozma at the Knitting Factory when they had gotten back together, but I had never had the opportunity to see Rooney perform live (and I've loved the band since they first formed) so it was a particularly awesome experience. My friends would be quick to note my bias, however, since they know that I'm apt to call talented and good-looking lead singer Robert Schwartzman my "future husband" (jokingly, of course...).

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Monday, April 09, 2007

Less Taxing Situations: Free Coffee and Ice Cream

Los Angeles is famous for some perks. Among them, almost year-round sunshine, diverse arts and cultural offerings, and just about any kind of food you want to find!

A temporary, but fantastic perk? It's also home to a free coffee promotion by Denny's for this year's tax day! April 17th is also Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day...

Denny's Pours Los Angeles A Cup of Coffee
Anytime on Tuesday, April 17th (i.e. that dreaded TAX DAY), customers can visit participating restaurants and receive a free cup of Denny's new Special Blend coffee.

There's even free coffee at select post office locations where sampling teams will be handy with "rocket packs" filled with Denny's new special blend of coffee. Those at Westwood Village will even have the opportunity to get free travel mugs and coupons.

WHEN: TAX DAY - April 17, 2007
7:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.: Post office at 9029 Airport Blvd., Los Angeles
7:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.: Post office at 10 W Bay State St., Alhambra 10 W Bay State St., Alhambra
11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.:
11000 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
Westwood Village near Denny's on Triverton Ave.
8:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.: Post office at 9029 Airport Blvd., Los Angeles

Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day

This annual event runs from 12pm-2pm on April 17th! Find a participating store near you!

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Comfort Food and Then Some...

So fine, I'll admit that UCLA lost. And fine, the Gators won again in all their chest-beating, mouth-guard-chewing, beastly-screaming glory (I'm talkin' to you, Joakim Noah).

Meh. So overrated.

But a girl's gotta have a way to cheer up right? And there's nothing quite like the thought of good food to help fade away (just a little) the heartbreaking image of Arron Afflalo having to sit out so early in the game, or the sound of the ball continuously bouncing off the rim. Painful... oh so painful. Sigh.

But moving on... I had my first Tommy's Burger experience recently. If you don't know what Tommy's is famous for... well, they're known for their chili burgers. Mmmhmm, hearty chili on a hearty burger. Gah, that's downright comfort food.

During our lunch break, my newly christened "Hamburger Buddies" and I ventured out to the KTown area to the very first, original Tommy's. Situated on the corner of Rampart and Beverly Blvd., the location serves over 15,000 customers per week and has been there since 1946. Surprisingly, we were able to get through the line and retrieve our food relatively fast. The burgers and fries were pretty big and the combo came in at around 5 bucks. Nice.

Standing at the counter elbow-to-elbow with fellow eaters, I took a moment to look up and survey the scene around me. It was the typical downtown LA scene: rice rockets that had long since faded from glory rumbling on by, the sun blaring down from the clear blue sky as though it were summer, and then us three trying not to dirty our business casual getups with the inevitably dripping, juicy chili... Yeah, these are the moments that I live for.

So Florida... you've got nothin' on me.

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Culture Marketing Intern

Monday, April 02, 2007

Theatre: "Twelve Angry Men" at the Ahmanson

Twelve Angry Men rocked. Go see it.

Twelve Angry Men runs until May 6th at the Ahmanson Theatre.

-Charity Tran and Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Staff