OC’s Urban Fashion Legacy

Always wanted to follow up my breakthrough jewlery piece in the L.A. Times with a profile on Jonas. Met him once at a party on La Brea. Super down-to-earth player. He was a dude, my age, with one of those fairytale rags-to-riches stories.

Well, wasn’t a fairytale. He just took a vision, worked very hard and ran all the way into fashion history with it. For those who didn’t rock LRG, it probably wasn’t for you, but he grew his company to take over the world. I mean, cats in Newark were rocking LRG way long time ago. It’s tough to create authentic urban gear when the “cool” shelf life is so short. Jonas was always innovating.

He died this week, quietly in his home.

As his main mellow for so many years, @BenBaller said in this touching post (Ben had to have been crying as he typed):

“you never know when it’s your time to go.”


You never know.

Live every day like it’s your last. Appreciate the people near you and don’t ever take a minute for granted.

Hope I can live up to that, too.


Image [Via]

East-West Paperboy Division

I was at a VJ Uncle Ralph McDaniels session in Manhattan over the weekend. While Uncle Ralph was doing damage with the video mixing, the homie Samaha leaned over and asked, “You think he’ll play Paperboy?”
Had to laugh at that one. Sure, Paper Boy is the one-hit gem every West Coaster knows as the jam that rocked outdoor BBQs and skating rinks statewide. In the midst of gangster rap, this Paper Boy guy jacked a funk loop and rode off into the sunset, or did he?

Maybe one day Uncle Ralph will figure out how to squeeze this jam into his rotation, keep an eye out and let me know if you see it. He’ll be streaming his Saturday “Video Music Box” show, here.

A Vision Inspiring from Paradise

When news hit that visual storyteller Tim Hetherington died last month in Libya, it sent a huge emotional shockwave through the community of not just the news industry, but photographers and people dedicated to working with images. He was a hero, a skilled practitioner and one of the bravest to hold a camera in a war zone. I finally watched one of his last works, an almost 20min film that blends war footage with footage of his times in Europe. Powerful and deep. Check it out.

One of the things I’m finding most difficult in getting my photojournalism and visual storytelling on is telling a tight story. What I mean is, just showing images is the easy part. I can do that. But, putting things together in image and sound and making sense and always having a storyline, shit, man, that’s the challenge. You can shoot all you want and pop it into Final Cut and spit out a long showcase of the things you “see”. Making it all tell a story and having that good narrative is the stuff of experience, practice—-unless you’re just gifted like that, which I’m not.

I know Tim would probably be proud to know that his work will inspire–forever.  Solid storytelling and the bravery it takes to get the facts and images stimulates an understanding of time and history.

If you’re in the New York area this summer check out Tim’s work in an exhibition setting at the Aperture Foundation, through Thursday, June 23 (10:00 am–6:00 pm most days). More info is here.

(video via Frank151)


If you grew up a professional wrestling fan in the 1990s,  you knew the catch phrase in the title and  you knew all about Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth, in the photo above. They were household names around the time Bush Sr sent jets to bomb Iraq. Wrestling honcho Vince McMahon made Macho Man a legend.

“Randy Savage” died on Friday after a car accident caused by a heart attack. He was 58. His ex-wife and former ring valet, Miss Elizabeth died in May 2003, at the age of 42, from an apparent drug overdose. She had moved in with another wrestler.

Randy Savage came from Florida’s Poffo wrestling family. The patriarch of that clan, Angelo Poffo, died in March last year. The other wrestler in the family Lanny Poffo, whom I remember as Leaping Lanny Poffo, has a dedication to his brother on his personal site: http://www.lannypoffo.com. There’s an email link for people to email condolences. Here’s a photo of his brother from Lanny’s homepage:

Photo from http://www.Lannypoffo.com

Now, I’m not some kind of superfan of wrestling, but I’m addicted to childhood memories and this man made appearances in a lot of them. Like Ric Flair he was a wrestler with true swag. I mean, he went extra-hard in the swag category with the colorful clothing, eye wear, James Brown gibberish and catch-phrases.

To me, the most memorable thing about this guy was that he came to the ring playing a graduation song. Sir Edward Elgar would’ve been proud. I think.

If you don’t remember what a Macho Man entrance was like, check it out below.

Writer’s Voice pick

Phillip Lopate told me this was a good story. Needs better ending though.

Neon lights make the strip club seem less dank. The bartender is a large white woman, her heaving chest marked by an undiscernable tattoo on her left breast. She throws a bowl of chipped, chips on the table.  A woman, swinging elegantly on a pole just a breath away doesn’ t bode well for the chips. Who would eat such things in a place like this?

There’s nothing remotely sticky or putrid about the place. It’s emptiness on an off night isn’t in any way something other than what you would d expect. There’s nudity, but nothing particularly mind boggling.

The clientele is a cross section of the neighborhood. Several asian men, maybe Chinese, walk past the bouncer.  It’s obvious that this location isn’t for the meek. Maybe early isn’t the time to come to the bar.

There’s an unsettling linearity about the place. Somehow the space seems engineered to accommodate bodies, moving along the side paths, sitting in chairs symmetrically positioned at an odd angle to accommodate more people along one side of the stage.

The bar shines and reflects both colors of neon light. It shines with its own lacquer finish, one polished and rejuvenated more than it was supposed to be.

It’s not hard to imagine this place as a bastion for the working class and as a place that’s still standing in the deserted industrial area of Sunset Park,Brooklyn.

The dancer near the door had a body that was ample and chubby, in the fashion of a work by the Colombian artist Botero.

Body movements. The work of it. It seems like a job to some of these women. A job that has no resemblance to the proper ways of an office. It’s easy to fantasize that the dancer is simple doing a service. A girl working her way through college. What a way to romanticize. There must be a reason why these types of movies don’t do well in the theater. Strip clubs of this stature only appeal to one type of individual.

The strip club operates on a plane of desire that’s much more primitive than we think. In a place like this girls want to make the most money in the shortest amount of time. From 10pm until about 3a.m. they have to shake, gyrate, slowly wind and fulfill desires that can’t be attained at home.

The brightest light that shines on the clubs patrons is a pink neon. Somehow this technology, which uses a complex chemical combustion to create light leaves a glow cast on the faces of men who come by to chat with a woman walking around in her underwear and bra. Sometimes, for a crisp $5 you can see a breast. Then there are the guys who like to pretend they are with a date, or with their girlfriend.

Around midnight, the local is pretty vacant.  A short and brown bouncer, stocky like a bull dog politely directs all the patrons to empty their pockets. It’s essential to protects the nudity from violence. The drinks are plentiful and the prices are steep. Another little caveat, your pen has to be left at the table near the door guard because there’ll be no scribblings on the walls of the bathroom. Actually, an excellent policy, if only it makes note-taking  and phone-number getting a totally technological affair.

As low tech as this centuries old practice is, women, skin, disappearing clothes, hands, money, pick-up the money, there seems to be no push to modernize.  The only modern thing, aside from the equipment the inaudible DJ uses in his booth, playing healthy servings of Nikki Manaj and other rappers famous in strip clubs nationally, is perhaps the silicone that the most ambitious of the dancers use to enhance the fantasy of perfection.

The blue neon lighting rims the ceiling of the place, while pink colored tubes ring the two small stages on the floor. One edge of the stage has seats, all facing the same direction at a tilted angle. Early in the week, these seats sit mostly bare, as the morning progresses, they fill up. Dollars fly out of hands all manner of forward sexual activity prevails. A touch and feel here, a grab there. As long as there money floated across the stage, it’s okay.

A thick black woman with a cherubic face, perfectly groomed extensions and tattoos running down her backside proves that she’s the most agile of the 2 midnight dancers.  She periodically hoists herself up the pole and slides down sideways, wrapping one leg around the pole, while letting go of the other. She makes it look easy. You know not to look too hard at her, because although she looks like she could use some more time on a treadmill before showing off her goods in that way you know her spectacle requires cash payment. To keep your money in your pocket in a place like this the key is moderation, not only in your gaze, but also in your imbibing. The last remaining strip club in Sunset Park, Brooklyn may be legendary, but it’s definilty not affordable.

Craigslistin’ it

Google screen grab.

I’m in the middle of an apartment search and can’t help but pay attention to all the evil Craigslist news out there.

We already know it’s helping kill off newspapers, but what about people in general. Does Craigslist help kill people? Or lead them to lives of sexual servitude? If you’ve been keeping up with the body count on L.I., you might think so. I personally have nothing against Craig Newmark. Get that money. But his site has created a new way for predators to catch their prey. Answering random Craigslist ads, or inquiries is the digital equivalent to hitchhiking on a dark California freeway. You never what kind of wacko you’re going to get involved with.

Other than the really suspect apartment I lived in off York Ave. in Eagle Rock, I’ve only found good things off Craigslist.

It’s where I found my very first Canon point and shoot, bought off a young lady who met up with me in the Coffee Bean parking lot off Sunset oh-so-many years ago. It’s also where I listed, and soon after found a good renter, for my last bedroom. Harlem landlady had too many rules for living in that brownstone. Craiglist has been a useful tool for finding stuff. So, why does it also have this dark side?

Screen grab (click to enlarge)

I assume it’s because Craigslist is free that it attracts so much weirdness. Or maybe it’s that it balances this line between proletariat resource and social playground. It’s meant to be this digital public market place. But with all things digital we tend to get desires of the flesh involved. Which is cool. Personally, I haven’t scored a date online since Friendster  (which did NOT look like this back in the day).

As I continue my apartment search, I’m leery of anyone with an apartment that’s too cheap, or anyone asking me for my social. I just hope none of these potential landlords want to use me or my girl as sex slaves, or worse.

It’s a terrible thing that people use such a great (free) resource like Craigslist to take advantage of desperate people in some of the worse ways. And it’s not cool that I lost my job probably because the former paper I worked at couldn’t beat CL’s ad prices. Either way, the site should go on, and we just need to always stay aware that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. And if you’re selling yourself online, then you’re entering a dangerous world from the gate. So, be careful, and watch your back. On all planes of reality.

Mastering the science with lucha libre, ese


To check out Lucha Libre NYC, go to http://www.luchalibrenyc.com

It all started in L.A. I was driving back to the Hollywood area, up along La Brea, North of the hood when I saw a sign written on a piece of box cardboard and pinned to a light pole: “Lucha Libre los Domingos”. Or something like that.

I was an archive librarian at the L.A. Times and all I wanted to do at that point was get my words up in them pages. Besides my moms (HI, MOM!), I’d been inspired and prodded by Samantha Bonar,  Daniel Hernandez and Chris Lee, folks I’ve worked with who have been hyper successful with the written word.

At the time, “Nacho Libre,” the Jack Black movie based on an actual wrestling priest had just come out and I knew I could sell a pitch based on the idea of lucha libre in the city.  The lucha libre event in an old warehouse in South Central Los Angeles was a regular venue in 2006. I walked in, flashed my press creds and took a seat near a small family who had bought a bunch of pig skins, beer and hotdogs.

I don’t remember every particular match. I remember there was a gay wrestler, a fat wrestler and someone with a costume on, either a panda or a pig or something strange. What I do remember is Mil Mascaras. The legend, the O.G. of a thousand masks. He was there. We spoke. I was a little skeptical, wondering if the guy under the mask was the legend. I looked at this arms, they were the wrinkled, aged arms of a man in his 60s. I glanced up at this chest. It had that barrel shape you only get from decades of pumping iron, his arms had the same sinewy look to them. The dude was old, but he was probably rock solid. I didn’t bother touching him. A Japanese looking man, who didn’t speak English thrust a mask in Mascaras’ face as he left the ring, “Please sign.” The legend obliged. I was shocked that this Japanese dude came all the way down to the hood just to fulfill his fandom.

As it goes the Japanese love professional wrestling. Outside of Mexico, Japan must be the biggest non-U.S. market for American wrestlers, and their Mexican lucha libre counterparts. I’m not a wrestling fiend, but I enjoy the choreographed ballet that ensues when two athletes get into a ring and do choreographed stuntage to the glee of kids and grandmas. It’s still a spectacle that in some parts of the country is less expensive than a night at a cineplex. And more enjoyable in my opinion.

I used my appreciation for wrestling to graduate journalism school. I haven’t graduated yet, but my Master’s Project got some good notice and that’s a major part of getting your Master of Science degree here at the “journalism school of eternal excellence,” a.k.a the House that Pulitzer built.

At a celebration in September, where all of New York City’s Mexican population gathered for the bicentennial of the countries independence I saw a postcard advertisement on the ground. Lucha libre it said in the style of promotion similar to what I saw in Mexico City when I was there. A full card, about 8 bouts. This had to be new stuff here in NYC. I’d never heard of such a thing.

How new it was, I’m still now sure. People other than Lucha Va Voom have tried before to stake a claim in NYC even if it was for a show that was passing through. My aim was to tell the story of a guy who was trying to get this off the ground and the wrestlers he was bringing along for the ride. I think I succeeded in getting this noticed by a few folks around the world, but the project luchalibrenyc.com is still a work in progress. My L.A. homie @thebrianpark is a huge part of this project and I couldn’t have done it without him. His fearless shooting style and dedication to helping to round out this story really produced some solid work, with more to come. So, if you’re a fan of lucha libre, or just like to see shirtless men through each other around, come back often because I’ll be updated luchalibrenyc.com and posting link on this blog.

Whole world is watching



I think revolution is a good thing. This reminded me that the Young Lords opened their storefront community center in the Bronx this month. There are some things I’d like to report on that, but Jenny 8. Lee did that, you can find it,  here.

The good thing about revolutions is that if they’re run by smart folks, there are always papers to be got.

Check out the electronic collection of Young Lords periodicals at DePaul University….


Mexican BeatBox Battle


Hip-hop is either really innovative nowadays, or returning to its pre-80’s roots. The elements that’ve grounded hip-hop culture for the past three decades  fell out of vogue on the home turf some time ago. Rappers over 40 see more paper by going to Europe than during a Rock the Bells tour. (Dave told me something to that effect.)

In Mexico, where hip-hop culture is trapped in a kind of pre-mainstream fabric that used to house it here in the U.S., the second installment of a beatbox contest will have its second competition. Beat boxing isn’t something you see a lot of rappers doing these days. It’s relegated to a Justin Timberlake gimmick. But for all you 80s babies, you know how often you’d hear someone beat boxing on the subway or on TV:

Beatbox Battle Mexico is the brainchild of Berlin b-boy, beat boxer Dj Mesia. He’s an ambassador for American-style hip-hop, and travels the world doing workshops and competitions. Two years ago, I traveled to the middle of nowhere in the state of Mexico to a bar where Mesia was holding the first beatbox battle. It was an impressive presentation with highly practiced Mexico kids and a grown-ass man here and there, spitting rhythms into a mic and trying to belittle their competitors. I remember a Michael Jackson impersonator with a mean routine out beat-boxed the competitors. Mesia told me that trips to Mexico to meet up with a girlfriend inspired him to start a beat box competition there. While German ties with Mexico are a couple centuries old, it’s interesting to see this transnational effort to keep hip-hop culture alive in the world.

This event is seriously in the middle of nowhere in the state of Mexico. Good for the local kids and a hallmark of hip-hop’s travelling powers, but hard as heck to find if you’re unfamiliar with travelling outside of Mexico City. Luckily, someone made a map for this event.

If you live in Mexico and want to enter the contest, e-mail producer Speedy speedysrecords@hotmail.com.