A trip to both the animal and the human zoo! Once again featuring never-before-seen photographs...and you wouldn't believe the stuff I found while looking for them. But more on that later.
This is merely part four of the tale. Click on the links to read parts one, two, and three.
The LA Zoo
Friday, like every day I've been here, starts out looking gloomy and ominous then quickly heats up to a gorgeous temperature. The actual numbers don't matter to me; I'm basking in it and loving it.
I start the morning off by eating at fake "western" restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, where the staff members yell at the customers. It'as a form of non-Canadian fellowship that I recognize and I enjoy, but if the manager of a restaurant in Toronto asked me why I'd "left so much fuckin' food left on the plate" I'd expect some sort of fight to start. Here it means they like you.
While finishing my (enormous) meal, my waitress hears that a country music show in Nashville is sending a camera crew to film her because they think she'll make a great VJ. She freaks and I hear the giddy details of her Texas childhood. It's a wonderful moment and I hope she gets the show; she'll be perfect.
Eugene arrives and we take a scenic route to Griffith Park. Apparently he hasn't been to the zoo since he was eight. I hear that the zoo was horribly neglected at some point (and the polar bear STILL looks disgrunted), but now things are pretty much back in shape. We take our time strolling and exploring. We are skeptical that any koalas live in the darkened koala pavillion. We share a belief that monkeys are pretty horrible. At one of the many souvenir booths -- where you operate a machine to inject plastic into moulds of about 20 different animals -- a very strange man tells his son that "this is how God makes animals." "God injects the plastic," he says in all seriousness. Eugene and I don't believe this.
We're late to pick up Chris for a trip to Melrose, so we shortcut through the park, return to civilization, and the three of us have a typically heavy and slumber-inducing Indian meal. It turns out that Chris is a real zoo veteran and she chastises us for missing the most excciting predators. I off-handedly mention that two people I'd love to meet in LA are Johnette Napolitano and Andy Prieboy, and I am less shocked than I should be to learn that Johnette did a benefit show for Chris, and that Chris used to do Andy's hair at his apartment. This blurring of the line between celebrity and private life is surprising and odd. People see celebrities very differently here.
Sadly we are a bit rushed on Melrose, but I do manage to see some fabulous things. These are the first funky stores I've been to since I've arrived. Some of them are certainly generic and/or trashy, but Chris and Eugene are great guides and don't discourage impulse spending. Passing on the genuine leopard shoes (because I'm squeamish), I settle on a beautiful ostrich-feather fan.
Since arriving I have been hearing the name "Vaginal Davis" from everybody's lips. In keeping with the synchronous theme of the weekend, three different groups of people independently suggest I visit "The Parlor Club" to see Vaginal's show, which apparently has a roaring '20s theme. I get ready at the Best Western (where I'm now staying) and while waiting for my clubbing companions I become intrigued by "Battle of the Sexes," a reality TV program that I can only assume is typical of the genre. I am convinced that the pressure of the camera spurs soap-opera behaviour. People keep going on "trash the cabana" sprees when they're upset, and beloved ex-members of the teams are repeatedly lionized by those remaining. People watch this under the impression that it's "reality" and start acting this way even without the cameras on them. It's depressing and engrossing at the same time.
Oh my goodness, the Bricktops show is fabulous. The crowd is mixed, some in full '20s gear and some more casually dressed. On the corner of the dancefloor a woman does a quirky and lovely tap routine in front of projections of inept retro porn. Faux-Irish lads get up on stage and sing heartfelt songs in faux-Irish accents. These folks can REALLY sing and they can REALLY play the piano, especially "Mr. Uncertainty" who mixes oblique political observations with goofy camp.
Meanwhile, in the back room, we've scored a couch and are drinking heavily. This is easy to do because the mixed drinks seem to be about 9/10'ths alcohol, about which few complain. I find myself discoursing about the things I find intriguing about LA, and people are patient with me and make fun of the way I say "about."
Vaginal Davis -- Miss Bricktop -- appears. This lady's manner is simply beyond my experience, and I won't try very hard to describe it. She is very funny. Her "hootchie-kootchie dance" is a cross between a Disney cartoon and a Ken Russell film. She plays St. Patricks Day matchmaker in the crowd. Her method of announcing last call sounds a bit like a gibbering ghost in a washing machine.
She is not nearly so baffling in close quarters, however, and I get the chance to thank her for playing "Tom, Dick, or Harry." Music to an Ann Miller-lover's ears!
The night ends before it should, sadly. Eugene, Chris, and I retire to Canter's (fortunately not Oki-Dog) for the perfect post-drink experience: grease. Hash browns, actually. We talk bafflingly of politics, geography, and the other things you talk about when you've been drinking what tastes like rubbing alcohol all night.
Part five is on the way!