Movies Till Dawn: The Saturday Morning Strange – “Fight for Your Lady” (1937)

American opera singer John Boles (Colin Clive’s pal/one-time rival in the 1931 “Frankenstein”) decides that the best way to get over being jilted by his fiancée (Margot Grahame) – who left him for wrestler Gordon Jones (!) – is to pursue Ida Lupino, a Hungarian ventriloquist (!!) whose own fiancé (Astaire-Rogers co-star Erik Rhodes) has a reputation for murdering her would-be suitors (add your own exclamation points). Frantic and absurdly over-plotted comedy is best enjoyed as a vehicle for comedian Jack Oakie, whose snappy patter and weapons-grade double take is the high point of the picture. The script – co-written by, among others, gag scribe Ernest Pagano and future Oscar winner Harry Segall, who wrote the source material for “Here Comes Mr. Jordan” and “Heaven Can Wait,” with story co-credited to Jean Negulesco (“Johnny Belinda”) – appears to spoof the leaps in logic inherent to light musical comedy, but in doing so, creates its own bizarre vortex of impossible coincidences and contrivances: I could try to explain to you how Oakie goes from betting against his own wrestler to joining Boles’ inner circle by nursing him back to health through calisthenics (this after stealing his coat and forcing Grahame to call off their wedding) and ending up in drag, but I have a feeling that you won’t believe it. The supporting cast is thick with professional scene-stealers, including Billy Gilbert (the voice of Sneezy in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”), Paul Guilfoyle (not the “CSI” actor, but the former Broadway performer playing against his usual criminal casting as a boozy journalist), frequent Harold Lloyd co-star Brooks Benedict and Abbott and Costello cohort Bobby Barnes (who co-starred with Jones on their TV series); Frank Loesser provided the lyrics for Lupino’s surreal duet with her dummy. Warner Archive’s MOD is full-screen.

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Offbeat L.A.: Surreality and The Salton Sea

Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountion: Outsider Art at the Salton Sea town of Niland (photo Nikki Kreuzer)

The winds, warm and sometimes powerful, seem to whisper secrets as they exhale mighty gusts across the Salton Sea. This really is No Man’s Land. Such a haunted allegory this area does weave: creation, destruction, Mother Nature’s fickle impermanence, hope, loss and dreams… always dreams. This arid land, scorched by the unflinching desert sun, an hour southeast of Palm Springs, was once a shining celebrity, dressed in the finest clothing and dripping with adulation. It is now a barren wasteland, isolated, but not entirely forgotten.

Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea: A Haunted Beauty (photo Nikki Kreuzer)

The story starts cataclysmically, as many important legends are wont to begin. The State of California was young, and largely unsettled, when in 1905 heavy rains ravaged a dam on the Colorado River which had been channelled to provide much needed irrigation to the rich farmlands of the Imperial Valley. The result was strange, amazing and unexpected. The unstoppable flood waters, which gushed for nearly two years, created an enormous man-made lake upon the sun-baked desert pavement, more than 200 feet below sea-level, long caked with evaporated salt, crystalized from an ancient wash. This new, blue expanse stretched 35 miles long and 15 miles wide and was now the largest inland body of water in California. Though deceivingly shallow, at a maximum depth of only 51 feet, this new idyllic gift of nature was christened the Salton Sea, a twist on its previous incarnation as the Salton Sink. A massive freshwater lake, it was stocked with fish and as early as the 1920s evolved into a popular vacation destination for all kinds of water sports. It became a major stopover for migrating birds, attracted to the newly settled-in fish, permanently altering deeply established ecological patterns.  Continue reading

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Friday Night Concert: Kate Bush at Hammersmith Odeon 1979

Travel back in time with us to the pre-cable and VCR days when rock bands could only ever be briefly glimpsed on TV late on Friday nights, and if you were lucky, you might get to see a full show. Every week, I will be posting the kind of show that would have made me excited to stay up past 11, at some time between 1976 and 1984. So have a cup of coffee, eat some sugar, connect the audio output of your TV to your hi-fi system and play this Youtube video LOUD!

Kate Bush retired from live performance early, having embarked on precisely one concert tour during a forty-year career. Prior to an unexpected series of London shows in 2014, which had fans forthing at the mouth trying to acquire tickets, her UK tour of 1979 had been the only opportunity to see her perform a full set, in the flesh. Fortunately, one of these shows was captured on camera and exists on Youtube in brilliant quality. Curl up with a spot of tea and some crumpet, and experience this beautifully staged production from a gifted performer in her early prime.

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Former Nsync Member & Animal Activist Lance Bass Teams up with Natural Balance to Promote Dog Yoga and Launch of Limited Ingredient Diet ® High Protein Formulas!

Photo by Jennifer K. Hugus for The Los Angeles Beat

Quick! Think of the funnest, most enterprising thing you have ever done with your dog and triple it by the half-life of 1/3 your third eye! Then forego your dog’s Frankenstein or Banana Costume this Halloween and take him/her to the newly inspired dog yoga class aka Doga! Doga:  Everybody’s doing it!

Throw in some health food awareness in the process, doggie style, and a Hollywood Celebrity by way of Lance Bass and you’ve got the new Natural Balance Sponsored Dog Yoga aka Dog Yoga with Lance Bass!

The only drawback: Fido will not be able to multi-task by stopping and marking his/her territory whenever s/he chooses. But that’s okay, when you’ve got umpteen n’ 20 dogs in the same umpteen square-foot hardwood floored studio, marking said territory is rendered a rather moot point as they all “become one” in the process, both spatially, and spiritually. (And quite honestly, once all humans have emBARKED in their quests for the perfect downward dog, the dogs, in flawless balance and opposition, have no choice but to cop that of the “upward facing human”. The pooches in turn then render themselves just as Nsync with one another as both calm and excitement descend upon the entire pack in deference to the feel of the room and tenor of canine mood. Quite the fascinating epistemological study really!)

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The Impossibly Delicious Impossible Burger!

The Impossible Burger photo by Billy Bennight

I caught wind of the Impossible Burger from a friend a day before I received an email offering the chance to experience the Impossible Burger at a special launch at The Counter in Santa Monica. My friend’s recommendations was glowing, and knowing that they love meat, yet were satisfied with a meatless burger, was sufficient praise to drive me to The Counter. The new meatless wonder combines nature and science to create a burger that’s good for both people and the planet. The Impossible Burger lessens the negative environmental impact on the planet by reducing water usage, greenhouse gasses and land exploitation/erosion. My culinary curiosity was piqued by an ecologically friendly food using innovative technology so diners could enjoy something seemingly impossible!

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“Anne Bonny: The Infamous Female Pirate”

Anne Bonny is perhaps the most famous woman who disguised herself as a man and became an actual Pirate of The Caribbean. Thanks to a sensationalist version of her life story written by one Captain Charles Johnson in 1724, she has gone down in history as a bloodthirsty, vicious character, who most likely met a violent end along with many other pirates. The true story of her life is in fact much more interesting, and Phillip Thomas Tucker presents a detailed new version in his book, “Anne Bonny, The Infamous Female Pirate.” Drawing on historical sources and making educated guesses based on time period and location, Tucker portrays Anne instead as an independent young woman who saw the opportunities inherent in the life of a pirate and chose that over the heavily restricted life of a woman in the 18th century. In addition, he gives wonderful insight into the culture and philosophy of pirates at the time. For example, he explains that pirates were a rare group of people who believed in equality among men. Among a pirate’s crew, not only did class and status become null, but also ethnicity. I was delighted to discover that it was a common practice for pirates to free slaves when they captured slave ships. In many cases, some of the freed slaves joined the pirates afterwards and lived the rest of their lives robbing from the very merchants who had enslaved them. If someone hasn’t already made a film about that, please do!

This practice of pirates was one of their main offenses against the government and merchants at the time, as it cut into the massive profits from the institution of slavery. Tucker makes a point of explaining that piracy was something that threatened the powers-that-be, who were, of course, legally and constantly plundering from their own people. Apparently, most pirates did not even fight the crew members on the ships that they captured, because combat was risky and could shrink the pirates’ already few numbers. They relied instead on fierce appearances, wild behavior and frightening reputations to convince their victims to quickly surrender. It was a very successful bluff.

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Get Your Tickets for 29Rooms NOW! Go! Git!

Photo from the 29Rooms website

Remember The Ice Cream Museum? How about Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors? Exactly. Tickets to cool stuff in this town sell out fast. So get over to Eventbrite and get your tickets now. 29Rooms will run for four full days and nights December 7th through 10th at the ROW DTLA. The tickets were released yesterday, September 20th, and they aren’t going to last long.

29Rooms is a “Funhouse Of Style, Culture, And Technology” from Refinery29, a website and fashion-focused city guide. This year’s theme is “Turn It Into Art.” Formerly a NYC-only happening, the LA version will feature the most popular rooms from NYC’s recent 29Rooms, plus a few rooms exclusively designed for L.A. 29Rooms is an immersive, interactive playground created by “artists and visionaries.” From the photos it looks like it has all of the fun of a giant ball pit and maybe, oh, going through the carwash without your car. And yes, there are 29 individual rooms. If you are the kind of person who likes to know exactly what you are walking into, check out their Instagram.

$19 gets you three hours of fun starting at 11am or 3pm (with an extra 3-hour block at 7pm on Sunday). Deal! Right? On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights you can upgrade the experience to “Art After Dark” and get drinks, munchies, a curated look at the experience with the creators, and surprise performances, all with a much smaller group for $85. 29Rooms is all ages, except for “After Dark” which is 21+ Wheelchair accessible. You are advised not to bring heavy coats “unless it is part of your look.”


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Movies Till Dawn: Prehistoric Pictures

The Lost World” (1925, Flicker Alley) Charged by his fiancée to go on a real adventure, reporter Lloyd Hughes joins an expedition led by Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery) to discover a plateau in South American where dinosaurs are reported to exist. Said monsters were brought to life through groundbreaking stop-motion by Willis O’Brien – the chief special effects designer for “King Kong” – in this lively silent adaptation of the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The film has its merits beyond the effects – it moves at a brisk clip and boasts a vigorous turn by Beery – and some detrimental elements, most notably a blackface character and limp characterization for female lead Bessie Love (surprising for a film penned by a woman, Marion Fairfax). But Flicker Alley’s Blu-ray represents the most complete version of the film, which has existed for almost a century in severely truncated form; as detailed in the exhaustive liner notes by Lobster Films’ Serge Bromberg and excellent (and witty) commentary by historian/filmmaker Nicolas Ciccone, this edition was constructed from eleven different 35mm and 16mm sources, including the Library of Congress, George Eastman House and Czech film archives, and painstakingly rebuilt and remastered (including scenes tinted with the original color scheme) over a period of 25 years.

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Highlights from LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade 2017

Chef Giada de Laurentiis with kids (not all hers, she pointed out). All photos by Elise Thompson for The LA Beat.

The 8th annual L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade Stand held on September 9th, attracted more than 2,200 people, raising over $1.3 million to fight childhood cancer. The auctions alone raised $640,000. The big money makers were the always popular women’s chef dinner prepared especially for the winning bidder by Suzanne Goin, April Bloomfield, Giada De Laurentiis, Nancy Oakes and Sherry Yard. An impromptu dinner and event at Jimmy Kimmel’s barn cooked by chefs including Jonathan Waxman and Chris Bianco, raised so much money that they decided to offer it twice, at $100,000 each. The crowd whooped and hollered as the bids went higher, and it made you feel like you were a part of something truly good and meaningful.Over at the silent auction, The LA Beat was bidding on an entire year front-of-the-line pass at Howlin’ Ray’s Hot Chicken. If you have ever visited this cozy little joint in Chinatown, you know that the excellent chicken and infamous wait make it a prize worth fighting for. Starting at only $60 (including a $50 gift certificate), the final bid was $525. I’m trying to work something out for a month’s FOL with Chef Johnny Ray Zone on social media. We’ll see if that gets me anywhere.

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‘Dark Harbor’ at the Queen Mary: Prepare To Be Scared-Very Very Scared

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor (Photo by Ed Simon)

I love to be scared.  That is why I go to horror films, not the gory ones, just the super scary ones. I like nothing more than to be so scared that I jump out of my seat. It does get a little embarrassing when I wind up grabbing the arm of a stranger sitting next to me. So far they never seem to mind.

Therefore, it’s only natural that for the last several years I would make it a point to attend ‘Dark Harbor’ at the Queen Mary and I can honestly say, it keeps getting better and better. This is definitely one of my favorite events of the year. The people putting it on do an incredible job with a great eye for detail when it comes to making you scream out loud from fright. Continue reading

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