Thursday, September 21, 2006

Eastsiders on the Westside

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Venice Boardwalk at Sunset
Last night Mr. Larry invited me to a screening at the Sponto Gallery in Venice. Here's the description of the show:
WED, Sept 20. "THE RING" ('1952, 79m) Domenic Priore & Gene Aguilera, authors of the forthcoming book "The Golden Age of Chicano Rock 'n' Roll: An East L.A. Visual History" host a very rare screening of this evocative tale set in downtown L.A.'s Bunker Hill district of a young Mexican-American boxer who learns the dirty truth about the fight game. With Art Aragon, a local boxing idol who was the only game in town (pre-Dodgers, Lakers), Rita Moreno and more. Chicano teenagers in the film wear just-post-Pachuco fashions, lookin' very proto-Rock 'n' Roll. Also: rare clips of legendary East LA groups, such as Ritchie Valens ("La Bamba"), Thee Midniters ("Whittier Blvd.") and Cannibal & the Headhunters ("Land of 1000 Dances) at the height of their success, and 20 minute preview of Jon Wilkman's documentary "Chicano Rock!" 7pm pre-show features short films on Korla Pandit and Lord Buckley, a poetry reading by Ruben Guevara (Ruben & the Jets), plus a Q&A and CD signing with Little Willie G. and Jimmy Espinoza of Thee Midniters.
WOW! What a great night it was! We met on Ocean Front Walk at the Fig Tree Cafe at 6-ish and had a lovely panini and salad dinner. I hadn't been down on the Boardwalk in ages. It's quite a show of real L.A. people hangin' at the beach. It was slightly chilly, but very nice watching the red sun sink into the Pacific Ocean.

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At 7 we walked over to the 7 Dudley Cinema. It's a small room, about 50 chairs were set up. On the screen, the magnetic Korla Pandit was staring out at the crowd while playing mystical eastern music on his electronic organ. Korla had a show on local TV when I was an extremely small child. The show consisted of Korla, wearing a bejeweled turban, playing music and staring into the camera. Once in awhile the camera would cut away to show Korla's hands on the keys. It was mezmerizing. I was lucky enough to meet Korla before he passed away at Exoticon '95 at the Park Plaza in L.A. He was fantastic.
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Clip of Korla Pandit
After the Korla short, we saw a film on Lord Buckley. This guy was a very interesting entertainer. I never got to see him live, but I knew about him from films and records. He was a trip.

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Lord Buckley on Groucho Marx's "You Bet Your Life" TV Show
The REAL program started when Gene Aguilera and Domenic Priore took the stage and talked about their upcoming book from Angel City Press, "The Golden Age of Chicano Rock 'n' Roll: An East L.A. Visual History". I know Gene Aguilera from his days managing one of my fave L.A. groups, The Blazers. They were frequent guests on my old radio show. Domenic Priore is a friend of Larry's from the L.A. Conservancy. Synergy, at work again. Larry has been hired to photograph Gene's East L.A. music memorabilia for the book.
Anyway, Gene and Domenic showed clips of some of the great East L.A. rock 'n roll bands from the 1960's like Ritchie Valens, Cannibal and the Headhunters and Thee Midnighters, and read some bits from their upcoming book. An unfinished version of Jon Wilkman's documentary "Chicano Rock!" was also shown. It was truly inspiring to see old clips of the bands from my childhood, along with interviews from the artists of that time. Here's little history of what Chicano rock from that era is all about.

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Manager, Gene Aguilara at Sponto

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Little Willie G and Jimmy Espinoza of Thee Midnighters
Ruben Guevarra got up and read some of his poetry and then there was a Q & A with band members from the original Midnighters, Little Willie G and Jimmy Espinoza.
When I was a kid in the '60's, I would race home after school to watch all the local dance shows, "American Bandstand" with Dick Clark, "Shebang" with Casey Kasem, "9th St. West" with Sam Riddle, "Where The Action Is" with Steve Alaimo and "The Lloyd Thaxton Show." Once in awhile, along with classmates, we'd get a ride to KTLA-TV in Hollywood to actually appear on "Shebang." I can still sing the theme song to the show...."at 3 o'clock the school bell rings, she-bang-bang, throw away your books and sing, she-bang-bang, put on your dancin' shoes......la la la...." Those were fun times. One of my all-time favorite bands from the era was Thee Midnighters.
It was great to actually meet Little Wille G and Jimmy Espinoza last night. They are reuniting with what's left of the band and taking the group on the road.

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Both guys have been active in other bands for a long time. Willie G. has been doing lots of work with Los Lobos. It will be great to hear Thee Midnighters sing all of their wonderful songs again. Of course, we had to purchase the reissue CD and vinyl album too.

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Larry @ the Cadillac Hotel on Dudley Ave., Venice

Suposedly, Jim Morrison of The Doors sang in the lobby

Oh yeah, the movie, "The Ring" was great too. There were so many shots of Los Angeles from 1952!

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5 Comments:

At 4:39 PM PDT, Blogger Yarnartist said...

Wow! Ellen, I am loving reading about your adventures. Your photos are so wonderful! That sunset with the palm tree is too perfect.
And Korla!!!! I remember watching him when I was a child, too! But I had forgotten until you reminded me. Do you think our generation went through the peace and love thing because our subconsciou minds were programed by Korla's music when we were young and wide open?

 
At 5:23 PM PDT, Blogger Susan said...

My aunt--and her idiot son--lived in Venice when I was a kid. I loved "trading kids." Me for my cousin for the week. My Aunt Jennie was the one who taught me to crochet and knit and basically appreciate the glories of the yarn. She sold her place there and went to San Luis Obispo. She died a few years ago of Alzheimers. I'll never forget Venice and Aunt Jennie.
I'll be it's changed in the last 35 years!!! Still beautiful!

 
At 10:12 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, once again you bring up memories of my childhood in LA. Sam Riddle and Shebang, etc.... you always have the greatest adventures and things to blog about.

-- Jo Anne

 
At 2:58 PM PDT, Blogger Ana said...

Gee that neighborhood looks familiar. Great story as usual.

 
At 12:02 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 1966/67 Casey Kasem hosted dances every Friday night in Hawthorne at the DROP-IN. He always brought the bands with him. The midnighters were one of our favorites. They brought with them the first light show we ever saw. They were awesome. I believe he also took them on his show (shebang) regularly. Roger T.

 

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