See/Saw: An Immersion into a Magician’s Mind extended through Oct 29

Magician Siegfried Tieber has been getting quite a bit of press lately for his current project, a magic ‘pop-up’ of sorts called See/Saw: An Immersion Into a Magician’s Mind, produced by Atlas Obscura.

During the roughly two-hour event, a personable and friendly Tieber draws the crowd (limited to 20 per show) around his table and regales them with history (of magic, and of his career trajectory) and stories, all the  while performing sleight of hand card tricks that continually make the crowd gasp, as it did when I attended See/Saw at the end of September. Tieber wants to dazzle and amaze certainly, but he also wants to open a dialogue with audiences about magic and our evergreen attraction to it, from Houdini to David Blaine.

Watching a magic show in such an intimate setting is very special and I highly recommend it, even for the casual fan.  Held twice nightly in a small room at Civic Center Studios in DTLA, even finding the place adds to the mystery – through a parking lot, down a short alley and up a flight of dim stairs lit with candles, you can grab a drink and choose a view you hope will reveal his secrets. Add a pair of identical twins (ala The Shining) making announcements simultaneously, and you are in full AHS mode.

Tieber is engaging, earnest and dazzlingly talented – it’s no wonder he beat Penn and Teller at their own game on the show Fool Us. See/Saw is currently extended through October 29th.

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The James Beard ‘Taste America’ Culinary Tour Visits DTLA

Chefs Michael Cimarusti and Evan Funke. Photo by Elise Thompson for the LA Beat.

The fifth annual James Beard Foundation’s Taste America event made a stop in LA last Friday before continuing on its national epicurean tour. Taste America focuses on regional flavors from coast to coast, heading to great American food cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New Orleans.

The courtyard at Vibiana is one of LA’s most beautiful and elegant event spaces. At the cocktail reception last Friday, light bites were provided by pasta “maestro” Evan Funke of Felix, Worldly Justin Hilbert of Maude, former Broadway star Sara Kramer of Kismet, the pioneer of “kappo” cuisine in LA, David Schlosser of Shibumi and the incomparable Johnny Ray Zone of Howling Ray’s Chicken, which always has a line snaking down the courtyard.

Several of the dishes seemed to be geared towards the highly developed palate of a serious gastronome. Chef Justin Hilbert of Maude took a look back at last October’s chicory tasting menu with creamed endive, super high-end Osetra caviar, and dried scallop chips. The endive was so concentrated, it was extremely intense considering it is a pretty bland ingredient most of the time. And if you have ever had banana chips, you can imagine what a scallop chip must taste like. Very strong flavors for a very strong showing.

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Movies Till Dawn: What You Could Be Watching This Weekend (Big Knives, Two Brains and Seven Beauties Edition)

The Man With Two Brains” (1983, Warner Archives Collection) Steve Martin plays a brilliant brain surgeon saddled with two unfortunate realities: an unpronounceable last name (Hfuhruhurr) and a gold-digging, possibly homicidal wife (Kathleen Turner). A solution to the second issue is found in the laboratory of eccentric scientist David Warner, who has found a way to keep brains alive after death – including one (voiced by Sissy Spacek) with whom Dr. H falls in love. The problem – how to put Anne’s brain in another woman’s body – sends Martin down a dark (if ridiculous) path that ultimately crosses both the police and the Elevator Killer, whose identity is one of the best gags in this very silly comedy from director Carl Reiner. Those familiar with Martin’s more recent, family-friendly feature efforts will appreciate seeing him in full-bore wild/crazy mode, bolstered by a script he co-wrote with Reiner and George Gipe that carpet-bombs viewers with gleefully absurd gags, most of which land on target. Warner Archives’ Blu-ray offers remastered image and sound that showcases the late Joel Goldsmith‘s pulpy electronic score.

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Mabel’s Six Feet Under: Guests Check in — Guests Get Lost

Photos by Carolyn C and Coasterfest

Just as we are heading past the Disney parks, the “chick in da box” (GPS) tells us to turn left and then make a right. And I’m wondering where in the hell is this haunt hiding? Finally we arrive at the Business Expo Center, which looks like a Hilton version of an industrial park, and it becomes clear what Mabel’s Six Feet Under needs. More advertising!

This is not to say they are being cheap. Every nickel spent is in those walls. It would be impossible to see all the details in one pass. It’s also very dark and contains a few secrets that most brave souls don’t catch on to until they’re back in the safety of the parking lot. Oh, wait. Strike that. Not so safe. There are maniac clowns in the parking lot. Some of the best sliding clowns I’ve seen. I only mention more advertising because they deserve all the attention they can get. This is only their second year open and they walked away with about 15 awards for last year’s effort, and that’s very admirable for a stand-alone charity haunt.

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Tak Matsumoto and Daniel Ho: “Electric Island, Acoustic Sea” Performances in LA!

Tak Matsumoto and Daniel Ho, both GRAMMY Award winners, will be appearing at the GRAMMY Museum for an intimate Q&A and exclusive live performance this week. An Evening with Tak Matsumoto and Daniel Ho will take place at the Clive Davis Theater on Tuesday, Oct. 10th. Four days later there will be a special live concert at JACCC’s Aratani Theater with Tak Matsumoto and Daniel Ho on Saturday, October 14th.

The GRAMMY Museum Q&A starts at 8pm on October 10th, and the performance of their album Electric Island, Acoustic Sea is set to start at 7pm at Aratani Theater October 14th. Ho explains, The Electric Island, Acoustic Sea features an original collection of contemporary compositions rooted in the artists’ native cultures, “Our album is a musical convergence of our island cultures of Japan and Hawaii. We used traditional instruments like ‘ukulele, slack key guitar, ipu heke, taiko, sanshin, koto (June Kuramoto from the group Hiroshima recorded the koto parts) in our original music.”

Tickets to the GRAMMY event can be found here and tickets for the Aratani concert can be found here. For more information on the artists’ debut collaborative album, visit their website.

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Reviewed: The Who’s Tommy – Live at The Royal Albert Hall

As a concert film, this is a completely immersive Who experience, but because of the material (except after the full performance of Tommy) it can be somewhat confusing, depending on when you first discovered Tommy. If you’re of a certain age, i.e. old enough to have studied Tommy when it was only an album, then this DVD will fit with your memories.  The band plays the entire album, song for song, in the exact order it was recorded in, and spares nothing.  If you’re a bit younger (like me) and Ken Russel’s Tommy was the vehicle that really brought Tommy alive for you, you might find something missing, namely the visual cues that make the story more vivid.  Of course, this is kind of contradictory because when I see a live show, I could care less about what’s on the screens.  If you’re a real “lyrics” kind of person, you won’t find anything missing.  Hey, that’s just how my brain works.  You may be (hopefully) more developed than I am.  The bonus material does include some full-screen visualizations of “Acid Queen” and “Pinball Wizard”.

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Offbeat L.A.: The Madonna Inn – Happiness in San Luis Obispo is a Palace of Kitsch

The Madonna Inn (photo Nikki Kreuzer)

There have been weavers of magic spells since the dawn of man’s existence; those who spin gold from mere thread, create wonderlands and sprout bouquets of sweet smelling flowers from their imaginations. Some of these magicians may not even consider themselves artists, but their idiosyncratic creations speak otherwise. Visiting the magical pink palace of the Madonna Inn, located about 4 hours north of Los Angeles in San Luis Obispo, will allow you to behold Alex and Phyllis Madonna, the owners and designers of this 110-room, larger-than-life, quite surreal hotel, as the peculiar visionaries they truly are. It is a shrine to individual expression, creativity and a stubborn stand against cookie-cutter homogeny. Appearing as if Liberace and Zsa Zsa Gabor had furnished a love nest and tried to outdo each other with opulent decorating schemes, it is full sensory overload in the best kind of way.  Continue reading

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Movies Till Dawn: The Saturday Morning Strange – “Clambake” (1967)

Facing a life burdened by privilege, oil scion Elvis Presley leaves his Texas home to seek out life as lived by ordinary folks. Opportunity knocks in a chance encounter with Will Hutchins, who’s headed to Florida to work as a waterskiing instructor; Elvis decides to adopt his identity and once in Miami, find himself locked in a race to win a speedboat trophy – and the hand of Shelley Fabares (in her third film appearance with Elvis) – with his opposite, sneering rich kid Bill Bixby. Like nearly all of Elvis’ movies in the 1960s, “Clambake – which features no scenes of clams being baked – is high-gloss, candy-colored, impossibly upbeat nonsense, an Outer Limits transmission from a square universe (like Bizarro’s in the Superman comics) where Elvis’ Sun Records-era animal cool never existed and Bill Bixby could be considered a legitimate romantic rival (though in his defense, Bill has pretty spectacular hair here). It’s entertaining nonsense – Elvis drives a cool ’59 Stingray and gets to sing a few good songs in a movie for a change, including Jerry Reed’s “Guitar Man” (with Reed on guitar) and the classic country weeper “You Don’t Know Me.” And if you look closely, you might see Teri Garr and Corbin Bernsen among the dancers, and “Shindig” producer Jack Good, KHJ Boss Radio DJ Sam Riddle and Memphis Mafia mainstay Red West are all in there, too. But it’s nonsense all the same, with the usual soundtrack dreck like the title track, and lots of scenes in which Elvis tries to keep a straight face while pretending to water-ski or pilot Gary Merrill‘s super speedboat in front of a rear-projected Florida coast (played here by Los Angeles). So, in short, it’s palatable Elvis Movie nonsense, and nothing like the desperately bleak vehicles he appeared in that same year (“Easy Come, Easy Go”) and soon after (“Stay Away, Joe”). Visually, Kino’s Blu-ray is an improvement over the DVD release, and includes the theatrical trailer and commentary by the owners of the Atlanta-based video store Videodrome.

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Friday Night Concert: California Jam 2 1978

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!

This week’s pick was basically chosen for us by Dave Grohl and Joshua Homme, with their decision to brand their own massive rock festival in the Glen Helen region of Southern California, which takes place tomorrow, in honor of good old Cal Jam. As legendary as those 1974 and 1978 concerts may have been in the minds of us kids who read Circus Magazine and saw some sketchy video of it on TV at the time, no one for the last thirty-none has ever bothered to stage a big festival and call it THAT. The name and the brand were allowed to die off. Maybe it was too evocative of its specific moment in time.

But that same quality also makes it the perfect brand to revive today. Because I believe this is truly where Grohl and Homme see themselves – playing on a giant stage to an ocean of shirtless longhairs, standing arm in arm with Aerosmith, Heart and Ted Nugent.

That Nuremburg Rally aspect of rock music, the desire to see an ocean of people respond dramatically in unison, has never really gone away, but it was definitely at its high point in 1978. No shots linger on the musicians too long without panning out to show the enormity of the event, so many people in one place it makes your head spin. As a TV viewer, you get to feel part of a massive, historic gathering of spirit without having to actually share a bathroom and wait in line for a hot dog with half a million other people. There’s an implied excitement to the event by dint of sheer size. Even soft-rockin’ Bob Welch gets a heck of a head of steam brewing on “Your Eyes” – lots of people responding in unison make soft rock positively thrilling.

One attendee of the original Cal Jam was bassist and LA Beat columnist Mike Watt, who told me about being physically pressed into a metal fence so forcefully, he had the waffle pattern of the fencing imprinted on his face and body. Twenty-one years later, Watt had one of his biggest radio hits with this little number, released in 1995 at the height of Seattle Mania. The drummer on it is Dave Grohl.

Have a great time at the gig tomorrow and enjoy tonight’s video.


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“Slow Beauty” for Fall 2017: SPARITUAL Earl Grey Collection

Slow Beauty for a Fast World

Shel Pink, creator of Spa Ritual brand, grooves on “slow beauty”

SpaRitualis the brainchild of Los Angeles entrepreneur, Shel Pink. She’s the creator of vegan nail lacquers, but her new Earl Grey collection goes far beyond a pretty slicker. It’s an experience. Her mantra: “Slow Beauty for a Fast World.”

A lifetime ago, my friend Gigi would frequently prescribe a steaming pot of Earl Grey tea spiked generously with Drambuie as a preventive for the common cold, not to mention many a hangover. I’m not sure it was effective on either count.  I do remember that the tea’s defining Bergamot fragrance, however, was divine.

Bergamot has a deeply green-fresh, exhilarating citrus aroma.  I associate it with brisk sea-breezes off the coast of Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Corsica. Also with very clean laundry. The Bergamot fruit itself a tough, highly aromatic cousin of oranges, limes, lemons.  Speaking as someone with many of my own tough, highly aromatic cousins, I love it. It’s energizing, yet centering.

Sparitual’s new Earl Grey collection, like all of Shel Pink’s line, is 100% vegan, 100% nature-derived, 81% certified organic, plant-derived, fair trade, and sourced with awareness.  Formulated without parabens, petrochemicals, synthetic dyes, synthetic fragrances, GMOs or gluten, even the packaging is eco-good: the carton is printed with soy ink.

My favorite in the group so far– Oil Salve.

Earl Grey Oil Salve

Sparitual Earl Grey Oil Salve


It’s unusual to experience an oil in a tube.  The Oil Salve formula feels plush, and is great on cracked heels and parched hands.  Because I love to garden, and often find myself walking on absolutely crispified lawn and scorching pavement when I water and take out the trash,  this penetrating emulsion formula is ideal for this very dehydrating time of year. Just in the nick of time.

My skin drinks up the Shea Butter base, without a hint of greasiness. The fragrance is bright and vegetal, versus heavy or perfume-y. Key ingredients are Black Tea Extract, Marigold Extract, Bergamot Essential Oil, and Orange Essential Oil.  Companion products like the Teatox Sugar Scrub (gentle exfoliant) and Body Souffle make this Earl Grey an enveloping experience, just like those pots of fragrant tea so long ago with Gigi. Get yours now — it’s not a moment too soon to drench your hands and feet in particular and your bod in totality with nurturing moisture as winter approaches.

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