Mastering the science with lucha libre, ese

To check out Lucha Libre NYC, go to

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 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 and posting link on this blog.


Ode to Melrose

Today, Melrose Avenue stands as one of the longest and most famous stretches of independently owned and operated retailers in the world. Consequently, it does not weather the regular economic downturn of the business cycle in the same way commercial enterprises such as The Grove, The Beverly Center or Third Street Promenade do, nor does it adapt as quickly as smaller independent shopping areas like West Third Street, Los Feliz or Abbot Kinney.

From a piece that ran here in response to an L.A. Times business story from September 2010 that said Melrose couldn’t hack it in a rough economy. Not to mention, according to the piece, Melrose is falling off in other ways:

Although store owners blame the recession for their woes, others contend that Melrose’s problems go deeper than the economy. They say the shopping district has fallen from its glory days because of an increasingly run-down feel, restrictive parking measures and an excess of shops all selling the same poorly made apparel from downtown L.A.’s Fashion District.

Continue reading “Ode to Melrose”

Would Pac Approve?


I’m not showing you this found photo so that you can see how funny looking Marc is. I was just wondering what happened to all those posters that used to decorated my room. All gone, except for the Ali poster over there in the left corner. I bought that huge Pac poster shortly after he died, when I was an undergrad in college. I didn’t mind Tupac was giving me the double middle finger. I’d like to know who took that, however. Was it in Vibe?

I think that if Tupac were alive today, he would be recording over techno and house beats, because that’s just what you’re supposed to do nowadays as a rapper. I really hope there’s no posthumous album with that gimmick in the works, unless it’s by David Guetta and maybe Will.I.Am, maybe.

Below, a recent mix by Brooklyn native and Detroit transplant Kevin Saunderson, considered one of the pioneers of Detroit Techno. Check a previous post about a historical documentary on that scene.

Kevin Saunderson – 2010-12-10 – Live at Mixdown Channel 955 Detroit Radio by Electro-Mix-Memory

Pac would either work with him, or one of the new jacks on the scene such as L.A. techno duo Raíz. Or, Pac would go crazy on you at the suggestion he record over these beats. But I’d like to think of him as more worldly than that.

Mixes by Raíz | acid circus

If you’re in Hollywood next week, you can check out the two DJ sets plus many more on Wednesday, Jan. 12. The ghost of Tupac may be hanging out further west on Sunset. RSVP for free entry. The venue is small, so it won’t turn into one of those events Dennis Romero likes to write about.

Return of Curtis (Mclemore)


Curtis Mclemore, whose professional name is “Curtis Young (Dr. Dre’s son)” is back (at least I expect him to be). I’ve told you about him before, in this post.

What better time than now to re-extend the 15 minutes he got some 3 years ago. It looks like he want trying to put something out in April.  Maybe his sources kept telling him Detox was soon to come out. He even put on his grownfolks clothes for an album cover.

__You can’t deny that he looks like Andre Young. You have to give him some props       though, because how many people can ride the coat tails of Detox, without ever having cut a track for Doc Dre?

__According to one blog post written at the time, “There had never been any real _association between father and son until recently in 2007 when Dr. Dre agreed to _produce tracks for his opening act. Aside from this, Curtis had previously met Dre _at the age of 21.”


I came across this piece (Next Generation: Stepping Off the Bandwagon) about the gang of famous rapper kids who came on the block a minute ago:

Hood Surgeon:
To fill in the shoes of one of the most influential producers and artists in Hip Hop may seem like an impossible task at feet, but Hood Surgeon is far from falling short of the challenge. From his introduction into the game at 12 as part of a group called Lyrical Assassins, to starting productions just three years ago, it is quite evident that Hood Surgeon is following in the same footsteps as his father but leaving his own footprints while at it.

Continue reading “Return of Curtis (Mclemore)”

Fresno raps

This is a bit of independent NorCal raps for you. Straight out of Fresno. It´s not the only song dedicated to the phrase ¨¿I Know Huh?¨ For sitcom fans, this blog´s title has little to do with Tonantzin Esparza´s TV character. I did work on a movie with her, though.

It has more to do with a street colloquialism specific to much of California urban culture (though–according to my ears—Latinos say it the best, and most often). I can´t define it better than the UD, it´s definitely a saying of ¨understanding and agreement.¨ Very flexible and adaptable, like street slanguage should be.

**The toys used in this video are from the popular Homies line.

These guys can save your life

And they even speak Spanish.

This is the Hollywood location of this world-famous multimedia store. It does two types of business with you: buying and selling. Record dealers, collectors and the myriad DVD rental stores who’ve been pushed out of business within the last 10 years know this place. It saved their lives. As long as they had no scratches. I’ve seen Weird Al on the sale line. Strange. But that’s Hollywood. His hair was long, gray and he had a box of cassettes. “My wife said I had to get rid of some stuff,” he said. Anything you made in that stack, I asked. He just laughed.

If you live anywhere on the planet — are into music —  and you come to L.A., then you have to visit Sunset Blvd.

Physically located only in Hollywood, San Francisco and Berkeley.

Some great performers drop by for their in-stores (live show RSS feed).

Amoeba Hollywood is live streaming an Ozomatli performance on April 20th at 6 p.m.

For the Mescudi stans

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Alright, so WordPress threw this slideshow function into the mix and I plan to aprovechar. Just something for the stans who like my previous Cudi post.

A  little background on the images above:

Cudi came to Steve Aoki’s Tuesday night party at Cinespace two Springs ago, along with his manager (and former Kanye A&R)  Plain Pat.  He wasn’t all Baped out at this point in his career. He still rocked The Hundreds.

He was riding the high of having a single that was just beginning to beat up on big city airwaves. He had the silver sneakers on, a bottle of Grey Goose and a friend from back home, now living in the Valley hanging out with him. He was Scott Mescudi.

Onstage, Kid Cudi came out.  He was warming up earlier, in the V.I.P with that bottle of Goose. Plain Pat reminded him of a Kanye warning: don’t get drunk around reporters. It was too late.

Nothing crazy happened, though. Cudi was a personable dude. This was before the record sales and tour, of course.

What I enjoyed about Cudi’s set was that he had a heck of a good time with the audience. He was a little bummed that I was only writing for a blog.  He said he wanted his mom to be able to read it, and that she was too up there in age to be checking for her boo on the Internet. I’m sure, two years later, Scotty gets all kinds of ink.

Outside Cinespace, on Hollywood Blvd., Cudi asked a few people for directions so he could direct his homegirl back to the Valley. Some dude, salty from all the groupie love Cudi was getting, was like “go back to Cleveland–this is Hollywood”.  Cudi, taking a long drag off a Newport, gave him a delayed look, like what you say!? Then Wale’s manager softened the moment by yelling, “White Power.” Weird moment, but whatever animosity there was in the air got diffused immediately.

You can catch Cudi on HBO. Or get your so-called emo-electro rap fix, with about a  half dozen Cudi mixtapes.

Bunker Hill in the L.A. night

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From Bunker Hill Towers, a place I would not want to call home when the ground rolls, I could always see the eastside of Downtown encroaching me. There’s a sky bridge that connects the Bunker Hill apts. with the World Trade Center and I would walk across the traffic on Flower and Fig. The bridge is part of a system of Downtown L.A. pedestrian skywalks. Your feet never have to touch ground if you’re just going for a Subway sandwich at the Bonaventure. Wonder what Fante would have thought?

He might agree that the traffic-jumping bridge doesn’t change the overall problem of how that section of L.A. has carved its space. During the day it was all office workers getting exercise, or taking a shortcut to lunch. At night it’s another crowd, once, I saw two transsexuals taking night photos with the L.A. skyline as the backdrop. Another night, a homeless man taking advantage of lax security below and enjoying a brown paper bagged tall boy near the spiral staircase.

For more on Downtown L.A.’s historic Bunker Hill, check out this local blog. A Boston site has this forum post with pictures that capture Bunker Hill in the daylight.

Chasing the Hood Surgeon: On finding a son of Dr. Dre

In 2006, after reading online that Dr. Dre had a son recording tracks under the name Hood Surgeon, I got the hair brain idea I would find him and write about it for the L.A. Times.

It was an experience that gave me some good practice as a reporter. I tracked him down all the way to a home-built recording studio in Corona, CA. I also got a hold of his sister, Manaj, who was also trying to become a recording artist, charging that her bloodline to Dr. Dre gave her the right. Both were telling me that dad wouldn´t help them get on. Worst of all, after I did all the interviews and running around and writing, nobody wanted to touch my work, either.

A couple reporters at the paper tried to help me out. Zilch, nada.  Nobody cared about Dre´s offspring. All they cared about was, ¨When is Detox coming out?¨

So, here I present to you gentle reader, in all of its unedited, 2006 glory my never-ran story on Dr. Dre´s two kids. Enjoy

¶    Inside the tiny recording booth, above a custom detail shop in the Inland Empire, a young man, at least 6’2, raps into a microphone. His back to the Plexiglas partition, he rhymes fiercely. Starting and stopping…assuring clarity in ever phrase.
“Stop. Go Back,” says the recording engineer, Rik Brown. “Hear the kick?”
It’s a process that takes longer to complete than one would imagine. How hard is it to rhyme into a microphone?
Using the moniker, “Hood Surgeon,” the rapper, born Curtis McClemore (he likes to tell people it´s young, but CA business records show otherwise), needs a deft hand to continue a legacy that has defined rap music in the West.

A fan of 90’s rap music, McClemore says he always was a fan of N.W.A’s music, but he also held admiration for East Coast rap. “I ain’t gonna lie, I grew up on Wu-Tang. I used to like how they put their lyrics together.”

“I thought the East Coast was the ones. Then when I found out,” he says referring to when his mother told him who his famous father was, “I was like, ‘the West,’ this is where it is.”

He said as he delved into the music characterized by the G-Funk sound made so famous by his father.

It was a zeitgeist for him, at 12, finding out he was Dr Dre’s first-born, “It pushed me harder. I said I was going to meet him one day.”

Long Road to meet his father

To the left of a flat panel computer screen showing Pro Tools rests a picture with a thin black frame. In it, Dr Dre stands next to a slightly taller version of himself, Curtis. It was at the “8-Mile” premier.
The picture shows a strange mix of nervous familiarity, and in some way resembles the kind of unfamiliarity a fan might share with his idol. It also exists on his myspace page. Further proof that he is who he claims to be.

Unlike his half-sister Latoya Young, who says that she’s always known who her father was, “Since I was 3.”
McClemore, who likes to say his last name is Young, didn’t meet Dr Dre until he hit legal drinking age.
“It’s like crazy growing up, not knowing who your real dad is, ” he says.

From his early 20’s, Dr Dre has documented his gritty upbringing on the streets of Compton. A founding member of seminal gangster-rap collective, N.W.A, Dre is often credited with creating the ever popular West Coast ‘G-Funk,’ a synth-heavy sound with a deep bass line that recalls the beauty and danger of California life.

McClemore, born in 1981, would have been born when Dre was 16.

Continue reading “Chasing the Hood Surgeon: On finding a son of Dr. Dre”