Angst on the Karaoke Stage



Anthony sings like Elvis Costello. I’ve known him for about 13 years, but I didn’t know this until my old friend jumped on the stage of the New Wave Restaurant & Bar (yes, that’s the name) for New Wave Karaoke (yes, that’s what it’s called) and bust into “Radio Radio.” When he’s done, I tell him that I never knew his secret talent. He’s perplexed. Certainly, I should have seen him do this before tonight. It’s one of his karaoke jams. What he doesn’t realize is that, for the past how many years, I have been using any and all excuses to get out of karaoke nights.

I have two problems with karaoke. One is that my voice is terrible. I’ve alternately described it as Claudine Longet with a cold and a waif slowly succumbing to consumption. The second issue is that I am not tone deaf, not in the slightest. I am completely aware of the fact that I can’t hit those notes.

Self-awareness is a horrible thing, like being trapped in a lucid nightmare. I used to pray that I could be a little delusional, just enough to get rid of the anxiety. That never happened. And now I’m in a bar somewhere off the 91 where a When in Rome set list and signed drumsticks beam from the wall, where the ladies room is lined with Duran Duran posters. I’m eating a Wham Burger and drinking a Depeche Mode. I can’t remember what’s in the drink aside from vodka and whatever it is that turns cocktails blue. My boyfriend, Carlos, remarks that the drink tastes like a “blue Icee.” He’s right. I don’t remember what flavor the blue Icee is. I’m not sure any of us do, but it tastes like that cocktail.
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I’m Allergic to the Valley

I woke up this morning with an allergy attack. For years, this was the case every morning. Now that I live downtown, the attacks have become less frequent. There aren’t many trees here. Usually, I can open my windows before I pop the pills.

Today was different. I stepped outside and the sneezes hit every few minutes. A sinus headache was slowly creeping up on me. So I downed two over-the-counter pills, pumped the last bit of Flonase up my nostrils and did what any masochist with allergies would do. I drove to the Valley.

I’m allergic to the Valley. I’ve been telling people this since I was a kid, but everyone just rolls their eyes like I’m some pretentious jerk who thinks she’s too good for the place whence she came. Truly, I’m just allergic to green things that grow. I think this is what the folks in commercials refer to as “seasonal” allergies, but I live in a place where seasons aren’t really a thing. The last time I was able to breath through my nose without the aid of pharmaceuticals was in New York a couple Januaries ago. We don’t have months like that– months where nothing is growing– in L.A., and in the Valley, it’s year-round full-bloomin’. There’s a lot of green stuff sprouting from the curbs of the 818, far more than what you’ll ever see downtown. It’s enough to drive your nose to the brink of an explosion.

The Valley isn’t some pastoral haven inside the Los Angeles city limits. It’s a grid of congested streets lined by the same urban-suburban clash you’ll see in the rest of the city. The difference here is that people are always planting stuff. There are trees everywhere: palm trees; cypress trees; those trees with the purple flowers whose name I can never recall. There’s green grass lining the sidewalks and huge rose bushes toppling over onto the lawns. Fruit trees are a big deal too. Sometimes you’ll see clusters of oranges, either a relic of the Valley’s past or a tribute to every old timer who ever said, “I remember when it was all orange groves here.”

Greenery in the Valley is much like the mighty swimming pool. We need it to try and forget the fact that we live in a place that it is dreadfully hot and disgusting from Memorial Day through Halloween. But, greenery has its price. For me, that’s a nose that’s constantly stuffy, right-side headaches that travel through to the cheekbone, eyes that appear on the verge of tears, hands that won’t stop itching. On the worst days, I get airplane ear that no amount of gum-chewing can relieve. Alleviating the symptoms is a game of trial and error. Some pills make me sleepy. Others make me anxious. Almost all of them will make me thirsty. Eventually, I found a good combination of pills, nasal sprays, eyedrops and dietary musts. (Jalapeños and wasabi are my friends.) The pill that works best for me is a barely over-the-counter product. I once got into a debate with a Walgreen’s pharmacist about her need to scan my ID for a small box. I said that I have a right to buy allergy pills without being treated like a potential meth-cooker. She said it was for the greater good. The conversation devolved into a mountain of nonsense, mostly because I’m paranoid that the DEA is going to come after me for having sinuses that will never clear.

I started out the day with an attack downtown, but it got worse when I headed back to the motherland. Once I crossed Cahuenga on the 101, driving with the windows down, my eyes started to itch. Then the water flowed. I swear I was totally not crying while blasting Soft Cell.  As I got closer to my mom’s house, I sang along to “Tainted Love” and my voice dropped. I didn’t sound like Doctor Girlfriend yet, but I was getting pretty close. A few hours later, the itchy hands took hold. Then came the lump of snot in my throat. Sometimes, snot-lump is so bad that I think I might vomit. Today, that wasn’t the case. Still, I ran out for more pills.  I spent the rest of the day trapped in a pseudoephedrine haze.

The symptoms weren’t going away, I was just functioning in slow motion with a dull throb around my right eye. I thought I was getting sick. Slowly, I packed up a car full of clean clothes and trudged through the traffic back home. Once the smell of trees was replaced by the scent of bus fumes, I started to feel better. Maybe the pills finally started working, but I think I’m just allergic to the Valley.


Disco Godfather, How Do I Get On Your Guest List?

Disco Godfather trailer (thanks, Juan!)

There’s a movie called Disco Godfather, or The Avenging Disco Godfather (thanks, Josh). It stars Rudy Ray Moore. Disco Godfather has just about everything I can ask for in a ’70s movie. There are big dance numbers, epic martial arts sequences and freaky hallucinations.

Moore plays Tucker Williams, an ex-cop who becomes a hot shot nightclub impresario. He runs a cool club, DJs with finesse and has more than a few martial arts moves at his disposal. The latter comes in handy when his nephew gets messed up on angel dust. Tucker Williams, introduced as the “Disco Godfather,” is a cool dude. He doesn’t just turn up in the booth for his set, he dances his way through the crowd before taking over the ones and twos. I want to party with Disco Godfather.

The club in the movie is called Blueberry Hill. It doesn’t look a think like the Blueberry Hill I imagined when I first heard the Fats Domino song. The exterior looks like pretty much every aging bar that dots main streets from the Valley to the South Bay. We’ll call it California Ranch Mini-Mall.

There’s a $3 cover for Blueberry Hill. As cheap as that is, I would rather be on the guest list, just so I can hustle up to the door in my disco leotard, bow tie and fedora and say, “I’m on Disco Godfather’s list.”

I want to slide across the beautiful black and white dance floor and spin under the disco ball. When Disco Godfather screams, “Put your weight on it,” I want to thrust all however-many-pounds of me into one sweeping grand jeté.

Mostly, though, I want to spin vinyl in Disco Godfather’s DJ booth. The equipment probably isn’t too great. After all, this movie was made in 1979. But– omg!– the booth lights up into sparkly disco patterns. I’ve danced on glittery floors but have never once played in a booth with all those little tiny lights. Can you imagine the walls surrounding you shimmering like stars as you drop a Sylvester track? Can you think of any club moment more amazing than that? I can’t. I think this has been my dream since I was a little girl playing with a Lite-Brite. I just didn’t realize it until last night.


My Beat Swap Meet Haul, Day 2

I had budgeted $40 to spend at Beat Swap Meet this weekend. Yesterday, I spent $30. So, with a leftover $10, plus a single I found at the bottom of my handbag, I headed back to the record shopping event in Chinatown.

Overall, I preferred yesterday’s selection, which was pretty heavy on synthpop, new wave and indie rock. Still, I managed to come out of the event with four new purchases that cost a grand total of $8. Here’s what I got.


 Tapps “My Forbidden Lover” 12″

This was my big $5 splurge. I saw it at the back of a very small synthpop/italo disco section at one of the vendor booths inside the Grand Star. I grabbed it. Fortunately, I bit my tongue before I started screaming with glee over the sound system inside the bar.

This jam has been on my mind a lot lately. It started with my friend Andre playing it in his sets and continued when Carlos and I heard it Sirius. I might spend the rest of the night dancing to this song.
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My Beat Swap Meet Haul, Day 1

Beat Swap Meet is going on all this weekend at the Grand Star in Chinatown. I went today and the finds were much better than the last time the event turned up in the neighborhood. I’ll probably go again tomorrow, but I have a feeling I won’t find as much cheap vinyl goodness as I did today. Overall, I spent $30 and left with 16 records. I ended up buying 14 pieces off one guy for $20. That was exciting. Here’s the haul.
Fun Boy Three S/T

At $7, this was the most expensive record I bought. This is the album with “The Lunatics…” on it. It was a must-buy.


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Set List: Won’t Back Down, The Freak Table Art Show

My friend, Gavin Hignight, recently released the novel The Freak Table. Last night, Downtown’s Artwalk hosted a group show inspired by the book, called “Won’t Back Down.” I was happy to DJ alongside Del from Tune in Tokyo for the event. I played two sets over the course of the night, both of which are inspired by The Freak Table.

Set One:

Skinny Puppy– Worlock

Depeche Mode– Behind the Wheel

Real Life– Send Me an Angel

Sisters of Mercy– Alice

Chameleons– In Shreds

Siouxsie and the Banshees- Slowdive

Joy Division– Dead Souls

The Cure– Fascination Street

Front 242– Don’t Crash

New Order– Bizarre Love Triangle

The Smiths– Bigmouth Strikes Again

Stone Roses– I Wanna Be Adored

Suede– The Drowners

Set Two:

Clan of Xymox– Louise

Ultravox– Dancing with Tears in My Eyes

Human League– Seconds

Tears for Fears– Change

House of Love– Destroy the Heart

The Las– There She Goes

Duran Duran– The Chauffeur