I realize these notes come days after they were promised -- with scarce hard intel to offer the reader -- but I hate to leave anyone stranded whether on the streets of Los Angeles, or the virtual streets of the art world. Happy Thanksgiving, angels.
18 November 2007
I was almost ready to leave by the time the other art stars and the Hollywood demi-monde began to file in. Suzanne Somers was in the front gallery, dressed almost entirely in black, except for a spectacular pair of gloves in a creamy peach kidskin with bows at the wrists. I had to know where she got them. “They’re Prada,” she told me; and “they really cut down on the Purell.” Good luck with the shrimp and gazpacho shooters, I thought. Lauren Hutton came in on a tear with Ed Moses dangling off of her – or was it the other way around? It was as if they couldn’t wait to get into the back rooms. Following Fearless Leader’s orders, I tried to get a shot or two of them, but they hardly stopped moving. Or dangling. Or staggering. With Ed sometimes it’s a little hard to tell. After a fond farewell to the Ruschas and Hamiltons, I stepped outside to wait for my car. As the valet pulled up with my Volvo, Dennis Hopper, solitary and looking a bit forlorn, walked past me into the gallery.
Fourth Place and Molino is one of those L.A. twilight zones – in theory, more or less of a piece with the neighborhood of warehouses and artists’ lofts in which it’s situated; in actuality, a small indeterminate island of something born out of its past and carried into an equally ambivalent future – a bit more pressed and polished than it needs to be. I always feel I’m on the verge of getting lost each time I come down here and once or twice have actually parked before I was even aware that I was just around the corner from my destination – which was probably Dangerous Curve (readers of this blog may recall the performance I attended here in March – Parris Patton’s Because I Can’t Be Beethoven). It’s close to the Fourth Street Bridge – one of those erratic demarcations between downtown and East L.A. (not the East Side of Los Angeles or the east side of the L.A. River but EAST Los Angeles – part of L.A., yet physically, ethnically, culturally a thing apart and unto itself). It was the perfect place for a performance piece like Parris’s – I literally imagine Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock television-style scenarios unfolding in these not-so-mean-but-slightly-unnerving streets – but it’s also a cool place for a party (or for that matter a shoot); which is why, in addition to its program of exhibitions and performances, Dangerous Curve also hosts parties and events – this one for artillery – already a bit past its first-year anniversary (and IN THE BLACK) – but then it’s never too late to celebrate. The entertainment was music by the Mad Gregs and Forward Energy, who somehow found their way to this twilight zone from San Francisco and readings by several artillery writers, including (inevitably) that dean of dissipation, that arbiter elegantiae of L.A. inertia (and artillery’s poet laureate), John Tottenham (The Inertia Variations); that boho refugee from the Balboa Yacht Club, Gordy Grundy (who has a way of making even a downtown L.A. twilight zone into his own private Newport); and Mary Woronov, whose Retrospect column is almost always the first thing I turn to when I pick up a new issue of the magazine. I always think Woronov’s ‘retrospect’ is light-years ahead of most people’s notion of the next decade’s prospect. Woronov, who first seared her way onto this civilization’s Rosetta Stone with her performance as Hanoi Hannah in Warhol’s Chelsea Girls and graced the punk decade of L.A. performing in movies by Roger Corman and Paul Bartel, among others, wrote an instant-classic memoir-cum-fantasia on her years in the Warhol Factory, Swimming Underground. This came not long after the retrospective of her painting she published as Wake for the Angels, accompanied by a selection of incandescent vignettes, a few of which she would later turn into full-length stories. Woronov sometimes strikes me as a character straight out of a Camus or maybe a Gide novel – or maybe just Gide or Camus, himself. That is, if Gide or Camus had understood L.A., Hollywood movies, punk rock, American consumer culture and the California desert. Amazingly, she hasn’t been nominated for a Nobel Prize – a fact that would have astonished Alfred Nobel who, after all, invented dynamite.
She looked pretty dynamite Friday night, in a shocking pink trenchcoat, with her indestructible cheekbones, and very French-looking, Ines de la Fressange-looking hair. It was all I could do not to throw myself at her feet and declare, à la the Divine Iggy, ‘I want to be your dog’. (Really not such a bad idea at all: she has two fabulous dogs; and she takes fabulous care of them.) Now, having given us the hallucinatory fantasia of Swimming Underground, she’s at work, sans speed or psychedelics, on a more extensive memoir of her life. She’s also working on a novel; and she read excerpts from it – the sections styled as a pillow book of one of the characters – a stripper/exotic dancer, moonlighting in sexual favors for her customers: each more scabrous, scarifying, absurd and hilarious than the next.
Tottenham and Woronov are the poets of the magazine and they can never bore me. Tottenham also read new material (he’s a born sonneteer) and a few chestnuts from The Inertia Variations, which reads like the story of my interior life (rendering the toxic actuality of my hyper-active exterior life – or at least the part lived during the daytime half the work-week – utterly absurd).
I have no idea what Jason Flores-Williams was reading – poems, manifestoes, preambles or prayers to his legal briefs (he’s a lawyer as well as a writer), rallying cries (he has a certain track record as an activist – though I’m not sure how effective: the Iraq war still rages on, Bush is still the U.S. president, the Democratic Party slouches towards its ever more Republican Bethlehem), or simply rants – but it was very loud, and somehow deficient in, well, poetry. Or charm perhaps. His piece in this month’s artillery had a similar hectoring quality – and was so far outside the context of actual working artists that it actually worked as a kind of a funhouse mirror of this world – something outside the most outside of Outsiders (the theme of the issue). For someone who styles himself as an Outsider, though, he has a way of putting himself Inside a rather extensive range of places, scenes, movements, publications (e.g., High Times AND Hustler; do I sound jealous??? hey – I work in the Flynt Building – of COURSE I am; I’ll admit my porn reads like a bio-chem text; but I’m sure there are chem. profs who would find it REALLY stimulating.) and people. Putting that Very Big Outside into just about any Inside seems to be his thing (outside his law practice; though I understand he practices in more than one state). Hollywood being a place where such outSIZE egos seem to thrive, I have no doubt he’ll get a deal before he goes back to New York or New Orleans.
Speaking of criminal practice – I mean criminal defense – I was joined briefly, belatedly, by “L.A.’s Dopest” – and artillery advertiser – Allison Margolin and her very charming driver for the evening. Flores-Williams told me he had actually been in contact with Allison (which somehow didn’t surprise me), but had yet to meet her and wanted an introduction. I would have welcomed the opportunity to nudge him Allison’s way; but there was no way to tear him from the microphone and Allison had yet another stop for the evening.
Between Woronov’s brilliance and the attentions of Flores-Williams (and Allison’s driver), and perhaps an abundance of clear and red libations (this was the second bar for the evening), awol was about was wol as awol can be without losing her mind or getting arrested. Photographers Tyler Hubby and Lynda Burdick (who’s also a brilliant designer) got all the incriminating evidence on film. (Hubby managed to take a truly great portrait of Marnie Weber. Jim Shaw was a no-show for the evening; somehow he wasn’t missed. Mr. Shaw will be heard from here soon enough – with Mike Kelley (& Salvador Dalí?) – hopefully a bit later today.) Paige Wery was there, too – sans Parris – and somehow let slip the fact that before she became an artist, she had a budding career as a GOLF PRO. It was an evening for such OUT-of-the-box revelations. I made a date to play golf with her and her fabulous sister, Jill. We want to play at Hillcrest; but we’ll settle for Rancho Park.
I haven’t mentioned the art on the walls – which was by Max Markowitz. There were also charming sculptures in chicken wire floating through the space – but on this evening the abstractions were easier to see. He has a great color sense – which doesn’t really surprise me: his father is Barry Markowitz. It’s all in the DNA, isn’t it?
And I haven’t mentioned Huffington Post regular Michael Simmons who was the MC for the evening. Here’s another surprise: he was just fine.