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There’s a chill in the air around Los Angeles as summer leaves us and falls settles in. There has been plenty going on around town despite the fact that I’ve become addicted to my new online movie subscription and just want to stay home and gobble up documentaries and independent films!
I did manage to make it out for a few good shows starting with embracing my inner Francophile by dropping in the new bistro French 75 in the heart of Burbank’s studio district. This restaurant/lounge is like stepping into a Parisian dream, dripping in decadently rich red décor, decidedly Parisian art accents and the sensuous aroma of indulgent French food and the clink of fancy cocktails. The only thing missing is an enforced dress code of men in fedora hats and women draped in plumage and smoking cigarettes from slinky stems in gloved hands. One woman who always dresses the part is Morganne, Hollywood’s own Canadian bred, world-traveled, cabaret jazz doll. With her jazzy backup band, she was the perfect fit for this swanky joint. Decked out in long gown, gloves and headdress, she cooed everything from French classics to jazzy originals. Most impressive was her catchy bebop French rap. And what is a night amongst the Hollywood studios without a star sighting? Special guest (and appropriately named) Paris from American Idol stopped in for a drink and seized the opportunity for a duet. I felt right at home in this lux place so I had to come back a few nights later for dinner and found the food absolutely divine as I treated my taste-buds to chicken and mushroom crepes and of course, fine wine. This place is worth treating yourself to a little ooh la la!
While Hollywood and Vine may be a famous tourist attraction, it’s always been low on the rock ‘n’ roll radar in terms of live music venues. Now amidst the construction of endless development, the Hollywood and Vine Restaurant opened an adjacent bar and stage called The Vine Street Lounge. I decided to check out some old pals: Clem from Blondie and Coz from the Romantics who rounded up a new side project called The Hard Agains for a Wednesday night residency. The intimate setting is great for meeting pals for a drink with its white leather couches, a touch of leopard print and plasma screens so you don’t have move from your choice spot once the band takes the stage. Busting out a night of classic bluesy covers from the Kinks to the Yardbirds, The Hard Agains, also features Eddie Munoz of the Plimsouls, Bruce Witkin and Rhett Frazier in a true working man’s band – or rather a band of working musicians! What better to do on a worknight. The band is on hiatus in October while touring with their “day bands.” Look for them to return in November.
Back in the ‘80s Los Angeles was truly happening, the hair metal movement was in full force. Every night on the Sunset Strip, the sidewalks were lined with multi-colored flyers and poufy-haired rockers out shopping their bands and picking up chicks. But in the midst of Guns ‘N Roses, Faster Pussycat, LA Guns’ hi-sleaze, cocked and loaded mania, there was one band that remained true to their punk roots and provided a lot of amusement poking fun at the “big guns,” while scoring gigs opening for them. That was Motorcycle Boy. Led by ever-charismatic singer/bass player Francois, and a rotating line-up of guitar players, you never knew what to expect from this band, or if Francois would even make it through an entire set without passing out drunk onstage. They managed to record a stellar album “Popsicle” in ’89 featuring catchy glam punk tracks produced by New York Dolls’ Sylvain Sylvain and drew a crowd with every show. If only I had a nickel for every girl who said she had a crush on Francois! He was the only guy in town who defied the flashy musicians of the time who played their fancy guitars by night and posed on their Harleys by day. Francois could be seen driving around a beat-up dirt bike and slinging around an even more beat up bass. Move over Iggy Pop, Francois was the real deal and Motorcycle Boy were set to become a cult classic.
But alas the years rolled on, like many bands of the era, Motorcycle Boy disbanded while the members went their separate ways and battled with various addictions. So when I heard they were reuniting for a show at Spaceland. I had to be there. With Francois at the lead, still lean and sporting a nest of jet black hair, he was backed by guitar players Eden and Mo and drummer Kenny Toy. I guess it’s true that rock keeps you young – these guys have hardly changed since 1989, aside from the good fortune of having Francois slightly more sober. They banged out favorites included “Swamp Stop”, “Get Around” and an encore of their classic anti-hair band anthem “I Hate the Sunset Strip.” With any luck there will be more gigs in the future. In the meantime you can catch up with the boys with an interview on “Rock n Roll TV” by clicking HERE
For those stuck at a desk job all day, there is still one way to get your underground rock fix. Pull up your web browser and dial into Little Steven’s Underground Garage and listen to actor/musician and all ‘round super cool dude, Little Steven Van Zandt rant about the week’s current events, pick his “Freak of the Week” (loved the freakster bio of Richard Hell!), celebrate milestones in artistic expression such as the day Alan Ginsberg unleashed the poem “Howl”, revisit classic interviews with underground icons such as Iggy Pop and do unprecedented moves such as give an untraditional New York rock serenade on the week of 9/11. This show will inspire you, rev you up and get you rockin’ for sure. I can’t even list the all the names of band discoveries I need to add to my collection from this show - The Shys, the Charms and the latest from classic faves such as Cheap Trick, Primal Scream and Jerry Lee Lewis. You won’t feel so bad workin’ for “the man” when you got Little Steven in your ear. Don’t miss out, listen HERE
I stopped by the Ace Gallery on Wilshire to check out an art exhibit my Mr. Easyrider himself, Dennis Hopper. While I expected this show to be just a sprinkling of what one of my favorite actors does in his spare time, I was surprised to find it to be an extensive body of work. Bursting with influences of abstract expressionism and pop art and documentary style photography the show was a mix of oil painting, experimental short films and priceless candid photos from the early 1960’s of pals Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein and others proving that Mr. Hopper is indeed one well rounded artist. If you missed the exhibit you can still check out some of his work HERE
With the elections approaching, a recent LA Times survey showed that the #1 concern of Angelenos these days is Global Warming. I’m not surprised. With this summer’s heat wave roasting us (reaching 117 degrees in my little corner of tinsel town!) I never thought I’d see the day where I’d get used to weather man saying “Oh, it’s going to be in the 100s again” like it’s the new norm. It was a summer like no other. That’s only the start of the visible impact we are now seeing close to home. And in the midst of it, I escaped the heat to a cool movie theater to watch “Who Killed the Electric Car?” and boy did I get steamed! This extremely well done documentary tracks the last breaths of one of the greatest inventions that the big boys crushed (literally) to keep the oil companies vice grip on all of us.
I was thrilled to be a part of the feisty audience who vented their emotions at the screen – booing and hissing at the politicians who continue to flaunt their ignorance and arrogance of this obvious and urgent situation. Do whatever can to see this movie and check out some of the facts on their web site HERE
Another thing that gets me angry in our fair city is the constant redevelopment at the expense of gorgeous historic buildings and beautiful architecture. How many freakin’ luxury generic condos do we need? Nothing is sacred anymore. So I was stunned and excited to learn that one group of enthusiastic hep cat preservationists didn’t just stand around when landmark nightclub the Derby was tagged to be bulldozed to make way for redevelopment. They took action. I remember signing their petition last year thinking it was pretty brave to go up against City Hall. But they did it and on May 19th, the Derby was declared a Historic Cultural Landmark so that it can never be torn down. Hooray!
I attended a celebration party at the club, which hosted an array of supporters of the Derby from neighborhood club goers to famous faces of the Derby’s previous incarnations. Presenters included author Mark Willems reading form his limited-edition collectors book “The Brown Derby: A Hollywood Legend” sharing stories and photos of some of the Derby’s famous attendees, caricaturist Jack Lane, the who sketched the memorable famous faces that long hung on the Brown Derby’s wall, a surprise appearance by actor/announcer Gary Owens of “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In” who reminisced with Lane about the good ol’ days at the Derby. Activist Rebecca Goodman of the Save the Derby Coalition who credited modern technology in their win of landmark status by using emails and the web for the ability to take fast action to round up support for their cause. Now the Derby can dance into future in style, because “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!”
And while we’re on the subject buildings that should be declared a historic landmark, a big R.I.P. to CBGBs, which was forced to close its doors for good this month. Hey, Ho, I hate to see it go, I’m glad I got in a couple of good visits there.
Don’t forget, you can make your city cool.
VOTE this election!