Monday, April 15, 2019

A Farewell to the Good Luck Bar, Where It All Began

Maria and I were sad to read about the impending closure of the Good Luck Bar, a Los Feliz institution that has been at the intersection of Hollywood, Sunset, Virgil and Hillhurst, around the corner from the Vista Theatre, for at least 25 years. Apparently the landlord is looking to tear down the building to build either condos or a hotel — and the Good Luck Bar has been given notice.

With just a few weeks (or if we're lucky, another month or two) left before it disappears, we headed there on Saturday — for the first time in years — in order to pay our respects and also reminisce.

The Good Luck Bar is where we met, nearly 20 years ago, and although the world and L.A. have changed a lot since then (not to mention our lives — two kids later!), it was always comforting to drive by the Good Luck Bar sign and know that it was still there.

On Saturday, the bar was packed. Clearly, a lot of people had the same idea. A line snaked down Hillhurst and we had to wait a bit to get in. But I'm glad we did. It's hard to believe that a chance meeting at a bar all those years ago set us on this path.

In 2009, on the 10th anniversary of when we first met, I wrote this:
Ten years ago, on the evening of July 3, 1999, I was lounging in my West Hollywood apartment -- flipping through channels -- when the phone rang.

It was my friend Pang-ni. She and a few friends were heading to the Good Luck Bar on Hillhurst in Los Feliz. They were also hanging out with some off-beat guys, and well, they needed to be rescued. Would I join them?

Hmm. I was already in for the night. And Los Feliz was a hike from West Hollywood. But I had promised myself to make more of an effort to get out and meet new people. Plus, it was the July 4th weekend, I thought to myself, and I oughta be out having a good time.

So I got dressed, hopped on the surface streets and headed to this "Good Luck Bar."

Inside, Pang-ni and Brenda -- two friends from my college dorm -- were there.. and yup, I saw what they meant by these guys. It was a busy holiday weekend night at the Good Luck Bar, but the group had managed to snag one of the last seating areas -- which had just been occupied by two girls. Pang-ni had struck up a conversation with one of them, and I wound up sitting next to Pang-ni.

Before long, I was talking to Pang-ni and the new girl to her left. And later, I wound up talking to that girl a little bit more. She seemed pretty cool, and we talked about all sorts of nonsense. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Where we grew up. And what we did for a living. She told me she designed CD packages at Rhino Records. Oh -- and her name was Maria.

She was there, having a mini "girls night out" with her friend Andrea. (Turns out she was in a similar "what the hell, I'm gonna go out into the world, and if I meet someone, I meet someone" phase as well.) At the end of the night, she wouldn't give me her number. But I gave her my card. I was intrigued.

Later, while leaving the bar, Pang-ni asked me what I had thought about another one of her female friends who had been there that night. But all I could think about was this girl I had just met.

I didn't want to be too eager, and I didn't want to be Creepy McStalker. But I knew her first name, and I knew where she worked. I was going to wait a week, and then call Rhino. (Probably too long in hindsight -- but again, I wanted to play it cool and not scare her off.)

But before I finally got the nerve to call... I was in the office on Thursday night (back at my old gig at the now-late Electronic Media) when the phone rang.

"What were you doing giving your number to a drunk girl?" laughed the voice on the other end.

It was her. I couldn't believe it. Honest, to this day, she teases me that I was never going to call -- but I was. She just beat me to the punch. And thank God she did, because it gave me a bit more confidence to push hard for a first date. Soon.

We arranged to meet the following week at Lola's on Fairfax for drinks. And that led to our first full-fledged date: Drinks at 360 (now long gone) and dinner at the old Luna Park (also long gone), where Pancho Sanchez also performed. That led to another date at Campanile's Grilled Cheese night. And so on.

It all led to now -- marriage, home and Evan -- plus another addition, just a few weeks away.

And to think it all started that night, ten years ago. It's crazy to think how so much has resulted from that phone call from Pang-ni -- and that split-second decision to get off my lazy ass and drive all the way to Los Feliz. And ditto Maria's decision to meet up that night with a friend at a bar that, like me, she'd never been to. (And yes, we've felt cheesy for years that we met in such a cliched fashion -- at a bar, and a bar named "Good Luck," no less.)

We're hoping to visit the Good Luck Bar at least one more time before it closes — and buy a T-shirt too! 

Go before it's too late: 1514 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

College Admissions Scammer Rick Singer Sure Didn't Try Hard With This Cheesy Recruitment Video

You've all heard by now about the college admissions scandal led by Rick Singer, who is behind the college admissions cheating plot that led to the indictment of nearly 50 people. Singer orchestrated the plot that has now implicated Lori Laughlin, Felicity Huffman, CEOs and coaches in a bribery scheme to get the children of wealthy individuals into colleges of their choice. Among other things, Singer is accused of having helped some kids cheat on their SAT and ACT exams, while falsifying records of others in order to get them admitted to schools as part of sports recruitment.

But I like to also point out that sometimes, it's easier to point out scams than you think. Watch the video above, from Singer's "The Key Worldwide." It's pure amateur cheese from start to finish, and a true red flag that this guy was a fraud. Anyone involved has to be embarrassed. My favorite part has to be "Key Coach" Brian Hewitt and the moment he starts addressing the camera. This could be a "Saturday Night Live" sketch -- but sadly, it's reality. Watch above.

Monday, March 11, 2019

KCRW Is Outta The Basement: A Farewell To Its Old Digs (PHOTOS)

It was a long time coming, but KCRW is finally in its new studios off of the main Santa Monica College campus. Well, almost. "Press Play" is still originating from the old basement studios this week, and I recorded this week's "Screengrab" segment (my weekly TV chat with Joe Adalian that airs Tuesdays at 8:45 a.m.) in the old studios on Monday — but it was a ghost town. After years of planning, KCRW finally has a new home.

A new home that will finally give the station and its employees room to breathe. Even as it grew, the KCRW staff managed to operate in tight quarters, in the basement below Santa Monica College's cafeteria. Above and below, some views of its music library. Look at all that sweet, sweet vinyl! (CD's in the file cabinets and on the walls as well.)

(And when I say it was a long time coming, it's no joke. I remember bringing the family to KCRW's new building open house in December 2017 -- read about it here. It took longer for the move than anyone expected, but I think everyone finally now sees the light at the end of the tunnel!)

A view of one of the KCRW offices. Not a lot of natural light, and phone reception was always spotty down there. 

One of the studios where I got to record "The Spin-Off" and "Screengrab" over the years.

Not sure what's going to happen to this stuff, but new equipment awaits the station at its new facility.

The hallway as of last week, before the moving boxes came.

A view into KCRW's live studio in the basement.

Some amazing photos of artists who visited KCRW over the years could be found all over the basement -- and have now been transported to the new station.

One of the first things you saw when entering the station: An ever-growing collection of Polaroids taken by notable guests.

Oh, and the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne. His face would be beaming back at you, welcoming you to the basement.

KCRW is leaving just before this fading sign completely peeled off.

My view.

Coincidentally, this is the second time I've been affiliated with a radio station that moved out of a basement. As general manager of Northwestern's WNUR in 1995, I was part of the team that moved our student-run station out of the basement of Annie May Swift Hall and into brand new facilities on its first floor.

Here's an updated look from Monday, with the walls now bare and the staff mostly gone.

Someone had to painstakingly remove all of those Polaroids! Curious to see how they're displayed in the new building.

And that's it! Congrats to everyone at KCRW on making the big move, especially my producer, Kaitlin Parker, and general manager Jennifer Ferro! Can't wait to begin recording "Screengrab" there!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Britain in Los Angeles: A Visit to the Official British Residency in Hancock Park

As Oscar weekend got underway, I had a chance to visit the British Residency in Los Angeles for the first time ever, to enjoy tea and toast this year's British nominees. It's a beautiful home, the site of regular events, the home to the British Consul-General in Los Angeles, and was famously where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka William and Kate, stayed when they visited in 2011.

The Wallace Neff-designed house was built in 1928 and has belonged to Britain since 1957. The British consulate itself is in Century City.

Per the official British government website, "Michael Howells is a British diplomat and Consul General in Los Angeles. He is the senior representative of the UK government in Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Hawaii. In this role, he promotes trade and investment, scientific cooperation, creative and media collaborations and educational partnerships between the UK and the southwestern United States. He also oversees delivery of essential consular services to a 600,000-strong British resident community and British visitors numbering over a million per year."

It was a beautiful afternoon, so many of the attendees headed to the backyard. Among those spotted in attendance: Richard E. Grant ("Can You Ever Forgive Me?"), nominated for outstanding supporting actor. It was a great weekend for Grant, who won the Independent Spirit Award on Saturday, and tweeted a video on Sunday of himself on the trampoline at Melissa McCarthy's house.

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