Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – March 18 – 24, 2019

Theatrical shows registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For more shows visit our Calendar.
For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

Bright Star

“From Grammy, Emmy and Academy Award-winning Steve Martin & Grammy Award – winning Edie Brickell, Bright Star tells a sweeping tale of love and redemption set against the rich backdrop of the American South in the 1920s and ‘40s. When literary editor Alice Murphy meets a young soldier just home from World War II, he awakens her longing for the child she once lost. Haunted by their unique connection, Alice sets out on a journey to understand her past – and what she finds has the power to transform both of their lives. Propelled by an ensemble of onstage musicians and dancers, the story unfolds as a rich tapestry of deep emotion, beautiful melodies and powerfully moving performances. An uplifting theatrical journey that holds you tight in its grasp, Bright Star is as refreshingly genuine as it is daringly hopeful.”

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West Side Story

“From the first notes to the final breath, West Side Story is one of the most memorable musicals and greatest love stories of all time. Arthur Laurents’ book remains as powerful, poignant and timely as ever. The score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim are widely regarded as among the best ever written. Shakespeare’s timeless classic story, Romeo and Juliet, is transported to modern-day New York City as two young, idealistic lovers find themselves caught between warring street gangs, the American “Jets” and the Puerto Rican “Sharks”. Their struggle to survive in a world of hate, violence and prejudice is one of the most innovative, heart-wrenching and relevant musical dramas of our time.”

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Mistakes Were Made shoulda-woulda-coulda

“Enjoy schadenfreude at its finest as you safely experience other people’s mistakes (all of them all too true.) in the world premiere of Jerry Mayer’s latest play. Continuing Santa Monica Playhouse’s
NOBODY’S PERFECT! But mistakes can be fixed, between husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, fathers and sons. This world premiere romantic comedy will have you laughing, crying, and racing to fix that one mistake that’s been gnawing at you for years!”

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The Crucible

“Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” will begin performances at Camarillo Skyway Playhouse on April 5, 2019. Using the historical and controversial subject of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, “The Crucible” presents an allegory of events from the McCarthy Hearings of the 1950’s. Reason and fact become clouded by irrational fears and the desire to place blame for society’s problems on others. Especially women. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Drama from 1953, it is still a show with timely themes. Death threats, alcoholism, a women’s place in society, truth vs. lies, adultery, rich vs. poor, those in power and those not, faith in God…all leading to an ending like no other. It is still considered to be one of the most powerful and important works in American drama.”

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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

“24th Street Theatre, renowned for presenting sophisticated, emotionally rich and provocative theater that can be enjoyed by both adults and kids, separately or together, presents Dwayne Hartford’s stage adaptation of the novel by Kate DiCamillo. In this powerful and highly stylized story, Edward Tulane is a porcelain rabbit who must learn the meaning of love: what it is to love, what it is to lose that love and how to find the courage to love again. For adults and kids 4 and up.”

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Marx in Soho

“In this funny, timely, historic and political play, Karl Marx gets a chance to stand in front of an audience for one hour and clear his name. Starring Gera Hermann and directed by Ye’ela Rosenfeld, this one-man show will make you wonder about our society and leave you with questions and ideas for many weeks to come.
The play is followed by a conversation about Marxism, lead by expert speakers and accompanied with free wine and snacks. Don’t miss this opportunity to debate with strangers the future of our country and the world. This entire experience is “pay-what-you-can” and the seating is very limited.”

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Bar Mitzvah Boy

“Joey Brant is a Jewish divorce lawyer in his 60s. He has never had a bar mitzvah ceremony. He feels the need to get one now, before his grandson has his bar mitzvah. For reasons which will become clear in the story, Joey’s bar mitzvah ceremony must take place at the synagogue he attended five decades ago. Joey, a thoroughly secularized man, must now re-connect with the faith of his ancestors. He promptly alienates the synagogue’s regular instructor, which means that Joey must now go to the temple’s rabbi for his bar mitzvah lessons.
Rabbi Michael Levitz-Sharon, a woman, finds her faith challenged at the same time that Joey is rediscovering his spiritual roots. her 11-year-old devoutly Jewish daughter has contracted terminal cancer. The daughter, Rachel, wants nothing more than to live long enough to be bat-mitzvahed. The impending tragedy is taking its toll on Rabbi Michael’s marriage.
Will Joey at long last have his bar mitzvah and find his faith? Can Rabbi Michael retain her beliefs?”

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Doris and Me

“Doris and Me is subtitled One Man’s Obsession with Doris Day. That man is Scott Dreier, the co-writer and star of this show. It’s not hard to understand Scott’s devotion: At the height of her career, Doris Day was THE biggest star in show business. She starred in 39 films, was the number one female box office star for four years, won three Golden Globes®, was nominated for an Oscar® and starred for five years in a successful TV series. She received numerous accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Cecil B. deMille Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. She recorded 20 albums, the last released in 2011. Many of her recordings are classics of the Great American Songbook. Blessed with wholesome beauty and a curvy figure, graced with an exquisite voice and loved by the camera, Day had a career unique in the annals of show business. Since 1975, she has famously devoted herself to the cause of animal welfare.
Doris and Me is Scott Dreier’s loving tribute to Day, who will have her 97th birthday during the week that this engagement opens. Dreier, himself a gifted vocalist, sings her hits with piano and bass accompaniment: Secret Love, Que Sera Sera, It’s Magic, Everybody Loves a Lover, Sentimental Journey, and many more. He seamlessly weaves behind-the-scenes stories and over 75 curated images and clips from the iconic superstar’s film and recording career with her beloved song hits.”

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The Country House

“One year after the death of a loved one, a family of actors gathers in their Berkshire home during the Williamstown summer theater season, wrestling with fame, art, and as always, each other. But when the events of the weekend go off-script, secrets are spilled and bonds are broken – threatening an already fragile foundation of a home brimming with old memories, new love, and discarded dreams.”

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Working the Musical

“Working is a fast-paced look at how people view their jobs, their opportunities, and themselves. With delightful pop music, laugh-out-loud jokes, and touching discoveries, it’s a show you will not want to miss. Based on Studs Terkel’s best-selling book of interviews with American workers, Working paints a vivid portrait of the men and women that the world so often takes for granted: the schoolteacher, the phone operator, the waitress, the millworker, the mason and the housewife, just to name a few. Nominated for six Tony Awards, this classic has been updated for a modern age, featuring new songs by Tony Award-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as favorites by Stephen Schwartz, Craig Carnelia and James Taylor.”

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A Bit Much

“While on a first date, Stacy’s date innocently asks her if she wants red or white wine. This “trick” question immediately sets off a tsunami of Stacy’s insecurities, fueled by a history of being shot down after speaking her mind. In the instant it takes to answer that “red or white?” question, Stacy takes us on a hilarious journey of her failed relationships with men, starting in the fifth grade, when she beat her first boyfriend at wall ball during recess. After that he broke up with her. So begins an unintentionally competitive pattern with men that whenever Stacy wins at life, she loses at love. With both sides of Stacy’s psyche weighing in like a comical Greek chorus, Stacy tries to figure out what men really want in a women before she answers that all important first date question, “Would you like red or white wine?”

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Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán

“The regular season of Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán opens on Tuesday, April 2 and will run through Thursday, October 31, 2019. The venue will also host pop-up screenings during holidays and for special events between November and the first quarter of 2020…Doors open at 6:00pm and films start screening 10 minutes after sunset. Food service starts when doors open. Prices run $18 for general seating or $50 to reserve one of the limited loveseats. Loveseat guests also receive a Prosecco toast and unlimited popcorn throughout the night. The rooftop screening experience is meant to foster a date-night atmosphere so most nights are meant for guests who are 18-years of age or older.
Please be advised that access to the 4th floor roof is via an outside staircase ONLY. There is no ADA-compliant access (yet) since this 90+ year old theater does not have an elevator at this time.

Doors open at 6:00 pm, which allows attendees to DRINK an exclusive hand-crafted Ramos Sangria (or beer, wine, mix drinks); DINE thanks to Umami Burger who continues as the venue’s rooftop culinary partner (serving Impossible Burgers much to the delight of many vegetarians); SNACK on freshly baked cookies by Duidough Cookie Lab; PLAY a game of giant Jenga or ham-it-up in the selfie-friendly Simple Booth area; or CHILL in a relaxing Adirondack chair or loveseat while listening to a hand-selected musical soundtrack through the KV2 Audio system and Sound Off™ 3-channel/stereo wireless noise-cancelling headphones until the movie begins just after sunset.”

Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán – Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning film Get Out

“In Universal Pictures’ Get Out, a speculative thriller from Blumhouse…and the mind of Jordan Peele, when a young African-American man visits his white girlfriend’s family estate, he becomes ensnared in a more sinister real reason for the invitation…as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined.”

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Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán – ‘Top Gun’

“As students at the United States Navy’s elite fighter weapons school compete to be best in the class, one daring young pilot learns a few things from a civilian instructor that are not taught in the classroom.”

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Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán – ‘The Truman Show’

“An insurance salesman discovers his whole life is actually a reality TV show.”

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Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán – ‘The Big Lebowski’

“Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, mistaken for a millionaire of the same name, seeks restitution for his ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help get it.”

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Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán – ‘The Transporter’

“Frank is hired to “transport” packages for unknown clients and has made a very good living doing so. But when asked to move a package that begins moving, complications arise. ”

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Rooftop Movies at The Montalbán – ‘Transporter 2’

“Mercenary Frank Martin, who specializes moving goods of all kinds, surfaces again this time in Miami, Florida when he’s implicated in the kidnapping of the young son of a powerful USA official.”

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🍋


JOAN OF ART: Jordan Peele’s new Horror film US, LA Fashion Week, Vegan Faire, and L.A.’s Green Tours

Jordan Peele the genius behind the film, GET OUT is back and this time, he’s gone a step further. US, which I saw at a press screening the other night, opens this Friday, March 22nd and if you’re a fan of this genre, then you better buy your ticket fast.

Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen.

Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for their lives. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker has the appearance of one of them. Yep they each have a Doppelgänger and so much more.

US has everything you could want in this kind of film, scares, humor, surprises and characters you can route for. Plus the ending will ‘blow you’ away.

After you’ve had your fill of scares then I suggest you hop on a bus for GREEN TOURS, the 420 Experience.

You start the tour with a visit to CCCN, a favorite of locals for its wide variety of products. Whether you’re looking for edibles, flower dabs/wax concentrates, CBD or any other type of cannabis, you can be rest assured that CCCN has what you are looking for. Plus all GREEN TOUR guests will enjoy a special 10% off their entire purchase in addition to a 50% tax break from the dispensary’s owner.

After that you will be taken to the grower famous for creating the strain Skywalker OG. Here you can get up close and personal with the cultivation process where you will learn firsthand how marijuana is grown for sale and consumption.

There are a few more fun stops until you get to The System, the factory warehouse for AMG (American Made Glass) where you get to see how water pipes and other glass paraphernalia are made.

Lastly guests of the tour can enjoy any products bought at the dispensary or anything you’ve brought along. Of course by this time you propbably have the munches so your next stop will be L.A’s most renowned eateries, Fab Hot Dogs, a favorite of Los Angeles Times’ Food critic Jonathon Gold.

You will ride in High Class and the price is only $89.00 for this four hours experience. To book a tour go to… greentours.com or call 1-855-TOUR-420.

Speaking of edibles, what better way to quench your appetite then to go to the VEGAN STREET FAIR on Saturday and Sunday, March 22nd and 24th 11am-7pm. The fair is located at 11223 Chandler Blvd between Tujunga and Vineland in North Hollywood.

Vegan Street Fair is a free annual all ages vegan food celebration where local vegan and vegan friendly restaurants and vendors come together to serve you bite-size portions of vegan eats and where you can see vegan wares all in one place.

People can nosh on as many small portion ($4.00 or less) or purchase larger items. This is a vegan foodie dream. I’ve been a vegan for the last ten years so I cannot wait for this great event.

For more information go to VeganStreetFair.com

Lastly, as much as I love food, I equally love fashion so I’m so excited to announce that this weekend is LOS ANGELES FASHION WEEK.

LA Fashion week is an organization dedicated to raising the profile of fashion in the United States with focus on the emergence of Los Angeles as one of the most important cultural cities in the world. I went last year and the clothes both for men and women are absolutely awesome.

This fashion event is a collaboration and a movement of prominent innovators that are passionate about promoting and growing the LA FASHION INDUSTRY.

For more information go to LAFW.net. The event runs from Friday March 22nd through Sunday at March 24th.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, I hope you all make it a fun one.


JOAN OF ART: Flowers, Flowers Everywhere, Stars in the Sky, St. Patrick’s Day Fun and A Thrilling Cinematic Ride

Spring, my favorite time of year has arrived and because of the heavy rains, Mother Nature has graced us with some of her best work. I’m talking about the WILDFLOWERS and they are out in full force.

This weekend I’m headed for Lake Elsinore where the Poppy super blooms are ready for their close-up.

The bright orange, yellow, pink and purple California poppies are concentrated in the hills around Walker Canyon, an ecological reserve and are already in bloom attracting tons of visitors and yes, major traffic but the trip is definitely worth it.

The super bloom is a rare phenomenon in which an area’s number of wildflowers exceed typical spring blooms – in this case, millions of tiny blooms popping up in typically barren deserts and canyons.

In order for a super bloom to occur there must be a perfect combination of rain and favorable temperatures, hence the rarity of the phenomenon and one you do not want to miss.

One of the reasons I travel to Lake Elsinore to see the flowers is the distance. It’s only an hour away from Los Angeles. The super blooms won’t be around long so you better hurry up and hop on the freeway to see this incredible sight.

Now after I’ve experienced the phenomena on the ground I’ll be ready to see the phenomena in the sky. I’m talking about Griffith Park’s monthly Public Star Party which is taking place this Saturday.

It’s here you can see the moon and constellations up close and you don’t even have to bring your own telescope. Head out to the Observatory’s expansive lawn and check out the views through a wide variety of telescopes with savvy amateur astronomers on hand to discuss what you see through their equipment.

The views of celestial objects above and the lights of Los Angeles below makes this an incredible experience and a great family event.

To find out more about their monthly Star Parties including parking go to GriffithObservatory.org or call 213-473-0800. The event starts at 2:00 pm and runs until 9:45pm.

The Griffith Park Observatory is located at 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles CA 90027.

So after visiting the skies you might be ready for some down to earth fun and what better way to do that then to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day and that’s exactly what pubs and clubs all over the town are ready to help you do, especially downtown L.A.

This event takes place Sunday March 17th from 1:00pm until 7:00pm. It starts at the Los Angeles Biergarten located at 750 South Broadway L.A. and continues onto 10 different downtown venues.

You’ll get to experience 100 beers on tap and enjoy a free welcome shot. DJ’s, live music and St. Patrick Day photo booth.

When you check in at LA Biergarten you will be given a wristband, St. Patrick’s Day kit with a map of locations and a list of drink specials for each of the participating venues.

To find out more about this event go to Eventbrite.com:Downtown LA’s St Partick’s Day Party and Pub Crawl.

To find out how to access this Pub Crawl and others all over LA via Metro, visit DiscoverLosAngeles.com/things-to-do/st-patricks-day-pub-crawl-with-metro.

After all this celebrating you might be in the mood for some edge of your seat thrills and for that I highly recommend the film HOTEL MUMBAI which opens in theatres this weekend.

I went to a press screening of this film the other day and I spent the whole time sitting on the edge of my seat. This real life atrocity involved three days of multiple attacks across the city that left over 170 dead but in director Anthony Maras’s chilling feature the street level shooting sprees soon segue into the carnage at the exclusive Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, a Victorian gothic building overlooking the city’s bay.

The film written by John Collee is not only about the terrorists aimless killing but about the heroic efforts made by the hotel staff to save the hotel guests.

The film’s characters based on real people are extremely well drawn and you come to care about them greatly. This is a very thoughtful thriller that I highly recommend. It’s playing at select theatres around town.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun one.


JOAN OF ART: A Weekend of Superheroes, Art, Comedy and Amazing Sea Creatures

If rain has been keeping you in the house, once again the sun will be shinning this weekend and I have some fun suggestions on what to do.

First on my list is a film that I saw the other night and it’s one that many of you have been waiting for…

Captain Marvel starring the wonderful Brie Larson as Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character, Carol Danvers. The film is written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck with Geneva Robertson-Dworet also contributing to the screenplay.

Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Jude Law and Annette Bening round out the cast. Oh and an awesome kitty named Goose who is right up there with my favorite characters.

Set in 1995, the story follows Danvers as she becomes Captain Marvel after the Earth is caught in the center of a galactic conflict between two alien worlds. The story borrows elements from Roy Thomas’s 1971 ‘Kree-Skrull War’ comic book storyline. Instead of giving anymore of the plot away, I’ll just say ‘Captain Marvel is everything you’d expect a super-hero to be. It has action, thrills, surprises and lots of humor. I promise, you will not be disappointed. The film opens Friday, March 8th at many theatres around town.

Another kind of art is happening this Friday evening and this event is in Pasadena.

ArtNight Pasadena returns on March 8 for a free evening of art, music and entertainment. 20 of Pasadena’s most prominent arts and cultural institutions will open their doors to showcase their artwork. Munchies from some of Los Angeles’ favorite food trucks will also be available for purchase, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to help support future ArtNights.

Last fall, 16,000 people gathered in excitement of ArtNight and this year expects the same. ArtNight takes place from 6 to 10 p.m.

The list of participating sites / institutions for 2019 includes Armory Center for the Arts, The Gamble House, Norton Simon Museum, the Pasadena History Museum, and more than a dozen others plus shuttle bus routes can be found by going to ArtNight Pasadena.org. I was there last year and I absolutely loved it. Great people watching as well.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous columns, one of my most favorite things to do involves laughter and no one does it better than THE GROUNDLINGS.

Their new show GROUNDLINGS 7 GROUNDLINGS, ATTORNEYS AT LAW is now in session representing laughter, fun and good times. The Groundlings are going to have you laughing all night with their always original and hilarious sketch and improv acts.

Director Deanna Oliver leads the Groundlings troupe which includes Matt Cook, H. Michael Croner, Josh Duvendeck, Ryan Gaul, Patty Guggenheim, Kris Kennedy, Emily Pendergast and Greg Worswick.

The show runs every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm and 10pm until April 20th 2019.. Tickets are $20.00. The Groundlings Theatre is located at 7307 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. For more information or to purchase tickets please visit Groundlings.com or call (323) 934-4747.

On Sunday I will be in Dana Point commuting with some of natures most exquisite sea creatures. The Whale. Now if I could only convince the creators of this event to let me jump into the ocean and swim with these extraordinary beings.

The Festival of Whales, which began last weekend, runs March 9th and 10th so you don’t have much time to drive on down to Dana Point to visit this must-see event.

The festival has been going on for 48 years and besides whale watching it includes food, games and fun for the entire family.

Expert captains and certified naturalists narrate each excursion detailing the whales’ movements through their national immigration path. As the originator of Whate Watching in Orange County, Dana Wharf is exclusively endorsed by world renowned marine life artist Wyland. Every trip is a new and different adventure, all showcasing the beauty of the Pacific and of course the Whales.

Excursions depart every hour on the hour from 8am to 4pm during the Festival weekends and every trip is approximately two hours.

Prices: Adults $45, Senior and Military $35. Children 3-12 years $29. Children under 7 always free.

To purchase tickets call 888-224-0603 or go to DanaWharf.com.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun one.


STAGES OF DOUBT: AN ANALYSIS OF THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION IN AMERICAN THEATRE – PART 6 – Final

To read Part 1 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 2 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 3 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 4 of this series, please click here.

To read Part 5 of this series, please click here.

It’s been fifty-five years since Oswald’s three shots rang out in Dallas and their echoes still reverberate throughout our nation. In that time, the conspiracymongers have accused 42 groups and 214 individuals of involvement with the murder of JFK and have put forward the names of 82 “assassins.”

I’ve no doubt in the years to come additional transgressors and villains will be placed on those lists, and new titles added to catalogue of “Assassination Dramas.”

The suspicions, paranoia and dissemblance of some have seemingly diminished the gravitas due the assassination of John F. Kennedy, while the shallowness and gullibility of others have rendered their historical awareness the death of America’s 35th president to the level of a National Enquirer headline. For many the idea of a conspiracy is not a matter of study, evidence or plausibility, it is a matter of faith.

Not long ago I was at a pool party, when a casual remark on my part disparaging Oliver Stone‘s JFK brought on an onslaught by another guest.

Let’s call him Don.

Don defended Stone, his film and ranked Garrison as the greatest American since Honest Abe.

Needless to say he was strident in his insistence that Oswald was innocent and that a vast and malevolent conspiracy was behind it all. As with all “True Believers” facts are meaningless, and I began to feel like Michael Palin facing John Cleese in the “Argument Clinic.”

Finally I put to him, “What proof, what evidence, would it take to convince you that Oswald was guilty?”

He snapped back, “There isn’t any, because he’s not!”

And there you go. The same mindset that denies the holocaust ever happened, insists FDR knew of the pending attack on Pearl Harbor, that NASA faked the moon landing, maintains 9-11 was an inside job, that Barack Obama was not a US citizen, that Hillary operated a child brothel in the basement of a pizza parlor, that the “deep state” is undermining Donald Trump’s presidency and believes that the plays of Shakespeare were actually written by some guy named Rollo Gobermouche.

University of Miami political scientist and conspiracy theory researcher Joseph Uscinski warned that “Conspiracy theories are becoming part of our national dialogue.”

The danger here is all too present in our society. The maxim to “question authority” is sound, but to outright dismiss authority is fraught with peril. Hence the cancerous concept of “Fake News” and the hazardous inclination to put one’s trust in the opinions of personalities and reject those of the experts.

That everyone is entitled to their own opinion is one of the bedrocks of this nation, but that foundation will be irrevocably damaged if we come to accept that everyone is also entitled to their own “facts.”

Sadly, it is as Eric Hoffer observed that one of humanity’s great failings is that most people can only be completely certain about that which they know absolutely nothing about.

In her seminal book Virtues of the Mind (1996) Linda Zagzebski lists the barriers to sound inquiry and judicious appraisal as gullibility, close-mindedness, lack of thoroughness, rigidity, negligence, carelessness, prejudice, obtuseness and insensitivity to detail. These “intellectual vices” are the hallmark of the conspiracy minded.

There are those who readily point to the fact that the most recent polls suggest that over 2/3 of the country believe that some conspiracy was behind the events in Dallas as if this in some way establishes the historical facts. But to quote Robert Ingersoll “- majorities count for nothing. Truth has always dwelt with the few.”

Today the Assassination has become the great national Rorschach test for Americans. They look at the events that occurred on November 22nd, 1963 in the city of Dallas, and what they perceive tells you more about them than the ink blots. The ink blots never change.

And the ink blots say, “Oswald. Only Oswald. Nobody else but Oswald.”


  • Howard Brennan, a forty-five year old steam fitter had been standing across the street from the Book Depository on Friday November 22nd to watch the presidential motorcade.  Looking up he saw a man in the window of the sixth floor holding a rifle, just as the motorcade turned onto the street, the shots that killed the president immediately followed.  In the confusion afterwards it was Brennan who first directed the police to the Book Depository and provided them with a description of the man in the window, the information he provided would be broadcast over both channels of the Dallas Police radio.  Twenty-three minutes later, Patrol Officer J.D. Tippit pulled his squad car to a stop near the intersection of Patton and Tenth Street to question a man who matched the Brennan’s description of the shooter. It was Lee Harvey Oswald. Witnesses observed Oswald fatally shooting Tippit before fleeing the scene. At Oswald’s third lineup Brennan would claim he couldn’t be sure Oswald was the man he had seen in the sixth floor window prior to Kennedy’s assassination.  He would later confess before the Warren Commission that he had recognized Oswald as the man he saw in the window, but feared if he came forward as a witness that he would be placing his family in danger.
  • For my comparison review of JFK and Parkland see: TheTVolution.com/2015/04/parkland-and-jfk-two-views-of-the-assassination
  • For a fascinating debunking of the film JFK go to McAdams.posc.mu.edu/jfkmovie.htm
  • The “magic bullet” is only “magical” to those having no experience with firearms.  If you want an education in what bullets do once fired, I recommend you watch The Magic Bullet, Episode 2 from the first season of Forensic Files.
  • It should also be noted that Robert Caro, after 36 years of intense research into Lyndon Johnson, stated he found no indication whatsoever of an assassination plot.

Free Los Tres! Free Los Tres! – Part 2

COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program,) the program run by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI tracked, harassed and disrupted or destroyed political organizations considered subversive, and the Chicano movement was one of their biggest targets. Momentum was lost, people gave up, got burned out, and with the passage of time, the story of Free Los Tres was largely forgotten.

The play doesn’t try to turn Los Tres into larger than life legends, or some kind of barrio superheroes blasting away at The Man, riddling him with bullets. That would be silly, not to mention propaganda instead of storytelling. They are flawed characters, and the play lets you decide whether their intentions or actions were appropriate.

Carmelo tells me about a saying women used in the barrio – me puta ni santa, I am not a saint, but I’m not a whore either. “We’re not saying we are saints or holier than thou, but that we’re normal,” Carmelo says. “We have temptations, we are human beings, and that nobody is 100 percent good or evil.” On one hand, the authorities called Los Tres vigilantes and criminals. But on the other hand, and there are thousand shades of grey in between these two extremes, Los Tres believed they were protecting a neighborhood that was under assault. Carmelo says the shooting was not premeditated, and Los Tres carried weapons because they were dealing with a drug dealer – and that shortly after Los Tres got busted, the gates to the drugs opened.

“The neighborhood I grew up in – Pico Gardens and Aliso Village – after they squashed the movement and locked us up and things kind of died down—-that area became known as 31 Flavors. You could get anything there, from drugs to guns,”Beto says. The gangs became more powerful and the violence in Boyle Heights got out of control, with cliques from 1st to 4th Street killing each other.

The drug problem today is overwhelming. The so-called “War on Drugs” failed because arresting dealers didn’t work as long as the demand was so high and another replacement was willing to step up. Small towns across America, but particularly in Rust Belt states like Ohio and West Virginia, are being decimated by an epidemic of opioid abuse. Drugs overdoses killed more than 72,000 people in 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, the worst year ever. That’s nearly 200 people a day (there was a decline of overdose deaths in 2018, perhaps a sign the epidemic has peaked.)

When I asked Carmelo if the drug epidemic could have been stopped by a few men protecting their neighborhood, he said the idea was never that they could stop the entire drug problem. If Los Tres and others took care of their own barrio, and if other communities began to do the same, they could start a movement and slow if not stop the influx of drugs.

“When you give power to the people, when you let them handle it, the community can take control of the neighborhood and make it better,” Carmelo says.

Photo courtesy Alberto Ortiz

Before the bust, this was already happening: Boyle Heights activists were educating people in the projects, circulating petitions and bridging divisions, and Rudy thinks this sense of purpose may have attracted the attention of the authorities. “Also at that time, a lot of barrios were coming together – there was unity, there was even unity with theAmerican Indian movement, we were beginning to work with other organizations, the hippies, whatever–” and he believes this very unity was seen as a threat.

Rudy says an article called Strange Rumbling in Aztlan by Hunter S. Thompson(HST) also may have brought the Feds attention around to the neighborhood. It was published in Rolling Stone on April 29, 1971, just eight months after L.A. Times reporter Ruben Salazar was killed during the Moratorium march and rally against the Vietnam War.

Salazar was only tangentially involved with the Chicano Movement, but he became a martyr for it after a Sheriff’s deputy blew his head off with a tear gas canister fired through the door of the Silver Dollar Cafe in East L.A., the now defunct spot located a little less than four miles from where Casa 0101 is today. Tensions in the community were very high as evidence emerged that contradicted the official version of Salazar’s death, suggesting a cover-up.

Rudy is mentioned and quoted in Strange Rumblings, which like all of Thomson’s best work, mixes strong reporting and novelistic attention to detail with tales of his crazy but always entertaining antics. Rudy is not the center of that particular story, however.

He came from a pro-Union family and says he was politically conscious from an early age. His parents joined protests against unsafe working conditions and unequal wages at the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico; they are featured in the 1954 film Salt of the Earth, which recreated the strike using real participants as actors in the movie. Rudy grew up in Estrada Courts, a low-income housing project in Boyle Heights.

He had been in juvenile hall and in the prison system; he knew La Eme (the Mexican Mafia) and they knew him, and he had a drug problem. He started reading in prison and had an awakening. He sobered up, got out of jail and got involved in the Chicano Movement after he met Oscar Zeta Acosta, an attorney who defended scores of activists from East L.A.

Acosta was also the inspiration for Dr. Gonzo, HST’s partner in crime through the drug-fueled odyssey depicted in Fear and Loathing in Law Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. HST met Acosta when he was writing “Strange Rumblings in Aztlan” and they took that Vegas road-trip partly to escape the pressure surrounding the Salazar case.

Rudy became Acosta’s bodyguard. He met Free Los Tres through Acosta and some of his associates, gradually seeing the Chicano organization as more serious and his political involvement deepened. The set-up came soon after. “They weren’t interested in me when I was running around the hood, but they sure came after me this time,” Rudy says.

The trial of Los Tres may not have attracted as much notice outside of Boyle Heights and in the Anglo world because it didn’t have the mystique, and the depraved glamour of the Manson trial. East Los Angeles even today is not paid its due. Most stories about Los Angeles are set on the Westside (after covering Boyle Heights, HST writes of his discomfort at ordering a drink at the Beverly Hills Hotel because he was “oriented to a completely different world – 15 miles away.)

Outside of some coverage by the Herald Examiner, the case didn’t get noticed by a mainstream media obsessed with a celebrity serial killer. Manson is a legend, but Free Los Tres were three guys from the barrio, and they were not civil rights icons like Bert Corona or Cesar Chavez. They never wanted the story to be about them. We were just soldiers for the movement they might say.

It was a time of different values in places like Boyle Heights – people didn’t necessarily aspire to be famous or gaudily rich, and there was of course no social media. These were working class people who wanted to make their communities safer and gain access for their people, achieve equality. Even now Beto says he is hesitant to be in the limelight – but Carmelo told him that you need to embrace your origins.

The trial itself was a farce. “Let me tell you, it was a goddamn Kangaroo court, that’s the way I saw it at the time,” Rudy says. His mentality then was that he was a political prisoner and the cops, prosecutors and the judge were the enemy.

“What I remember from the trial is that the judge, out of 27 motions we had, he denied all of them. He allowed like 5 of our witnesses out of twenty (we wanted to bring to the stand.)” says Beto. They were silenced at every step. “We never had a chance to tell our story. And we knew we were doomed,” Beto says. “It got to the point where when the bailiff came and out said all rise, we wouldn’t rise cause he (the judge) wasn’t respecting us, so we turned around and didn’t give him respect either.”

They were released on bail after two years, pending the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals review. One year later they were rearrested. Their sentences were eventually reduced by 25 years after a charge of violating the Federal Law known as the Jesse James Act was dropped. Each served about eight years in prison before finally being freed.

When I see Free Los Tres on preview night it is a small crowd, and there are the usual glitches in performance and technical quality of a show going through last-minute tunings before its opening. The play begins with the actors playing Los Tres entering in chains, and there are many potent images throughout the show, but I do have some reservations. I don’t believe this play has quite gotten the story down to its essence – but my qualms about the productions are terribly unimportant compared to what people from the neighborhood have said about Free Los Tres.

When I talk to a few people leaving the preview, they are all beaming, and yes of course some of that is because they are friends or family of the cast, but this is something more I think. One family I spoke with were excited to see a story about people from their own neighborhood, and they’d never heard of Free Los Tres before attending the play. They’d been to Casa 0101 only once before, but many of their friends already had tickets to see the show. Sold-out houses followed throughout the run, and a standing ovation ended each performance. Activists from the era reunited in the lobby, and their families came too: Beto, Rudy and Johnny’s sons, all juniors, were there, and they were taken aback by how close the actors portrayals matched their memories of their fathers. This is a testament to the power of storytelling.

Casa 0101 has been telling the stories of this neighborhood for nearly 19 years. Located on East 1st Street just across the street from a police station, the interior has an inviting warmth, the gallery in the lobby displaying images from local artists. You begin to get a sense of all the history found in this neighborhood, and realize that this is not just a theater, it’s a community resource.

Casa 0101’s existence unfortunately has been tenuous of late – as what is unique about Boyle Heights is threatened by another wave of white gentrification, and the theater has suffered financial setbacks and the loss of its 99-seat theater waiver. So far they are surviving–they have created theater on a low budget for years, mostly relying on volunteers from the community, but costs have gone up They have come up with a novel solution that has kept them going so far–they are seeking 350 donors to give them $25 a month, and so far they have found just over half.

Neither Rudy nor Beto live in Boyle Heights anymore, and the area has changed so much. Beto says when he grew up everybody knew each other in the projects. During Halloween, they used to have bonfires at the 4th Street gym, and everyone would come out. There were games too, like putting $50 at the top of a greased up pole and seeing if anyone could climb far enough without slipping to grab the cash. Now Beto is still leery of going there alone, although violence in the projects is down since the 80’s and 90’s. “I’m kind of scared to go in there now because one day I was driving thru there, coming home from work and reminiscing, and about ten guys tried to stop my car, but since I knew the area, I got out of there right away.”

“One of my grandkids told her grandpa that he didn’t know grandpa was a legend in the chicano movement,” Beto says, laughing at the memory. “We didn’t seek to be legends in the Chicano movement, it was an incident that happened and the organizations we were working with stepped up and supported us and defended us and created this whole movement behind Los Tres,” he says. For his part, Rudy finds it wonderful to see the story come alive for him and his children, as well as people from the neighborhood who haven’t heard about Los Tres before – lamenting only that his mother has already passed away and didn’t live to see the story reborn in this play.

The story isn’t over quite yet. Carmelo has already talked about turning the Free Los Tres into a film and Beto has begun working on a book with Professor Victor Viesca of Cal State Los Angeles. It’s almost, to steal a line from Beto, like they can’t quite get rid of Los Tres del Barrio. Maybe no one outside of Boyle Heights will notice Free Los Tres, or maybe it will become an inspiration for a new generation of activists, perhaps both. “If we can throw another yell, let’s throw another yell out there,” Rudy says, and for a story that has been asleep for 47 years, it’s the telling that matters.


Lemon Butter: The Third Annual Oscar® Film Week Returns to ‘Culina’ at ‘The Four Seasons’ to Benefit the ‘Lollipop Theater Network’

Culina at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills will once again feature a Dinner and a Movie or a Pronto Market Lunch and Matinee of the eight 2019 “Best Picture” Oscar®-nominated films in their Third Annual Oscar® Film Week,  from Tuesday, February 19, 2019, through Saturday, February 23, 2019.

Photo by Monique A. LeBleu
The 3rd Annual Oscar Film Week at Culina at the Four Seasons, Beverly Hills, California, Saturday, February 9, 2019.

The package includes a very special Culina Three-Course Prix-Fixe Dinner by Chef de Cuisine Luca Moriconi, or the Culina Pronto Market Lunch and matinee, leading up to this year’s 91st Academy Awards. Dinner is served in their dining room, where an adjacent private off-patio screening room awaits for the day’s scheduled Oscar®-nominated film screening.

The 3rd Annual Oscar Film Week at Culina at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills will partially benefit the Lollipop Theater Network, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to bringing the magic of movies to children confined to hospitals nationwide due to chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

“Working with leading motion picture studios, the Lollipop Theater Network delivers the season’s biggest blockbusters while they are still in theaters directly to those children and their families at the hospital, bringing the joy, magic, and momentary escape of the movies to those who need it most.”

Photo by Monique A. LeBleu
The Polpo Grigliato of tender charred octopus, smoked potatoes, green beans, watercress, and cauliflower purée frisée Culina at the Four Seasons, Beverly Hills, California, Saturday, February 9, 2019.

With thirty-seven-seats, the unique dining and intimate movie experience combine the luxury of fully reclining leather chairs with a side table for cocktails and snacks, a plush blanket, and old-time fresh machine-popped complimentary popcorn which guests can customize with specialty seasonings. Themed cocktails and wine by the glass or bottle can be ordered from the bar service and movie theater boxed candy is also available for purchase.

The adjacent cozy cocktail patio just outside the theater and dining room, surrounded by lush greens, water wall fountain and warm lamps, or the cocktail bar and lounge of warm woods, red lounge chairs, and gold appointments and wine cellar, make for perfect après film conversation.

Chef Moriconi has created a three-course prix-fixe menu that includes a chose of an Antipasti, such as the Burrata Invernale prepared with beets, mustard greens, red wine vinegar, and duck prosciutto, the Zuppa Ribollita made of Tuscan vegetables, Borlotti beans, garlic, and roasted ciabatta, or the Polpo Grigliato of tender charred octopus, smoked potatoes, green beans, watercress, and cauliflower purée frisée. There is the Secondi course as well, which includes three choices starting with the Nastri al Cinghiale, a rich dish featuring handmade pappardelle, braised wild boar sugo, and pecorino, the Pollo al Marsala accompanied by white asparagus, celery root, potato purée, and marsala jus, or the Branzino Alla Matin-Ara with roasted branzino, fingerling potatoes, artichoke Taggiasca olives, cherry tomatoes, and asparagus. For Dolci, a choice of the Crème Caramel served with citrus lemon sorbet and coconut meringue or the Tiramisu prepared with espresso meringue and chocolate crisp.  The three-course prix-fixe menu is $59 per person, which includes the screening.

Photo by Monique A. LeBleu
The Nastri al Cinghiale, of handmade pappardelle, braised wild boar sugo, and pecorino at Culina at the Four Seasons, Beverly Hills, California, Saturday, February 9, 2019.

Guests attending either of the Saturday Matinee Screenings will enjoy the Culina Pronto Market Lunch which is a specially curated Farmers Market inspired buffet including a selection of salads, cheese, and charcuterie with a choice of protein, along with specialty desserts, fresh fruit and other delectable treats.  The Culina Pronto Market Lunch is $35 per person, which includes the screening.

Notable highlights from the dinner menu, off-prix-fixe, menu items is the Pappardelle Ripiene. Chef Moriconi’s own creation of Pappardelle pasta–wide, flat pasta filled with Tuscan Kale and ricotta encased ravioli-style–then tossed in fresh sage butter and topped with a saffron sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano, and crispy Tuscan Kale. The Risotto is served table-side, hot from a cheese wheel with scrapes of cheese from within the wheel. Two of the dishes–the Tortelli Lucchesi of roasted beef with prosciutto stuffed pasta, thyme, braised beef sugo, and the Nastri al Cinghiale, featuring handmade pappardelle, braised wild boar sugo, and Pecorino cheese (the latter included as part of prix-fixe)–are both dishes close to Chef Moriconi’s heart and home based on local and family dishes from his native Tuscany. Both of the meat dishes paired beautifully with the 2015 Tenuta di Valgiano Palistorti Colline Lucchesi, Tuscany, suggested.

A crowd-pleaser with its toasted meringue and popular for special occasions for Dolci is the Mango Vanilla Baked Alaska with Grand Marnier Flambé which bursts with the fruit and richness of the liquor. But the “Cococado,” with its creamy, light avocado ice cream, vegan brownie, and chocolate avocado mousse, is a star! For the chocolate avocado mousse, bananas are added to create a smooth, truffle-like texture combined with avocado. This vibrantly decorated “Cococado” boasts a mere 295 calories for the entire shareable dessert! Both desserts are also off-prix-fixe menu and on the standard dessert menu.

The 3rd Annual Four Seasons Culina Oscar Film Week Schedule:

Tuesday, February 19, 2019: “A STAR IS BORN

Dinner at 6:00 pm followed by Movie at 8:00 pm

“In “A Star Is Born,” Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga fuse their considerable talents to depict the raw and passionate tale of Jack and Ally, two artistic souls coming together, on stage and in life. Theirs is a complex journey through the beauty and the heartbreak of a relationship struggling to survive.” – A Star is Born

Wednesday, February 20, 2019: “THE FAVOURITE

Dinner at 6:00 pm followed by Movie at 8:00 pm

“Early 18th century England is at war with the French.  Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving.  A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper.  When a new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.  Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at return to her aristocratic roots.  As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen’s companion.  Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfill her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way. ” – The Favourite

Thursday, February 21, 2019: “VICE

Dinner at 6:00 pm followed by Movie at 8:00 pm

“The story of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), the most powerful Vice President in history, and how his policies changed the world as we know it. VICE explores the epic story about how a bureaucratic Washington insider quietly became the most powerful man in the world as Vice-President to George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell), reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.”  – Vice

Friday, February 22, 2019: “BLACKKKLANSMAN

Movie at 5:30 pm followed by Dinner at 8:00 pm

“It’s the early 1970s, a time of great social upheaval as the struggle for civil rights rages on. Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes the first African-American detective on the Colorado Springs Police Department, but his arrival is greeted with skepticism and open hostility by the department’s rank and file. Undaunted, Stallworth resolves to make a name for himself and a difference in his community. He bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. Posing as a racist extremist, Stallworth contacts the group and soon finds himself invited into its inner circle…cultivates a relationship with the Klan’s Grand Wizard, David Duke (Topher Grace) embarking on an “undercover investigation growing ever more complex.” – BlacKkKlansman

Friday, February 22, 2019: “BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Dinner at 6:30 pm followed by Movie at 8:30 pm

“Bohemian Rhapsody is an enthralling celebration of Queen, their music, and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), who defied stereotypes and convention to become one of history’s most beloved entertainers. Following Queen’s meteoric rise, their revolutionary sound and Freddie’s solo career, the film also chronicles the band’s reunion, and one of the greatest performances in rock history.” – Bohemian Rhapsody

Saturday Matinee, February 23, 2019: “BLACK PANTHER

Lunch at 10:30 am followed by Movie at 12:00 noon

“Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda (T’Chaka; John Kani) returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.” – Black Panther

Saturday Matinee, February 23, 2019: “ROMA

Lunch at 1:30 pm followed by Movie at 3:00 pm

“The most personal project to date from Academy Award®-winning director and writer Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Children of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambien), ROMA follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil of the 1970s.” – Roma

Saturday, February 23, 2019: “GREEN BOOK

Dinner at 6:00 pm followed by Movie at 8:00 pm

“When Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on “The Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger as well as unexpected humanity and humor—they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime. ” – Green Book

The 3rd Annual Oscar Film Week at Culina at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills is February 19, 2019, through Sunday, February 23, 2019. The 3rd Annual Oscar Film Week Dinner and a Movie is $59 per person and The 3rd Annual Oscar Film Week Pronto Market Lunch and Matinee Movie is $35 per person. For more information and to make reservations, please call Culina at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills directly at 310-860-4000.

Featured photo by Monique A. LeBleu
The “Cococado” with chocolate avocado mousse, vegan brownie, and avocado ice cream at Culina at the Four Seasons, Beverly Hills, California, Saturday, February 9, 2019.


Free Los Tres! Free Los Tres! – Part 1

“The people in their quest for a better life have the right to destroy the forces that threaten their survival.” Origin unknown.

There are some stories that become legends, and we tell them over and over again. But there are other stories that are just as moving and powerful that we forget to tell. Sometimes those stories are found again, and in the telling we may wonder why we forgot them at all.

Free Los Tres! is a shout of defiance. It is also the name of a new play, and it is a powerful and sometimes flawed reminder of an essential moment in the history of Boyle Heights and the Chicano Civil Rights Movement. The story is very complex, spanning years and taking some of its dialogue directly from thousands of pages of court transcripts.

The play has already triggered a new reckoning of the events it depicts. It ran for only four weeks at CASA 0101 in Boyle Heights, but Free Los Tres! has been embraced by a community hungry for stories about their culture and history. The show sold-out every night of its run.

Rudolfo “Rudy” Sanchez, Alberto “Beto” Ortiz and Juan “Johnny” Fernandez – Los Tres del Barrio– were Chicano activists, and members of a community organization called La Casa de Carnalismo that wanted to drive drug dealers out of East Los Angeles. They were convicted of assaulting an undercover federal narcotics officer posing as a drug dealer in 1971. Los Tres became a rallying point for a community and a movement.

Photo courtesy Alberto Ortiz

We are living in a time that doesn’t allow us to entertain any sentimentality about how far we have come; instead, with the reemergence of white supremacy, and the scapegoating of immigrants who are called criminals and thugs, Free Los Tres! confronts how far backwards we have actually gone. Those times are our times.

“It’s not that I don’t want people to forget it, it’s that I want them to identify it with what is happening today,” says Carmelo Alvarez, who directed and co-wrote the project with Beto and Miguel Lopez Vigil. He is an eclectic man, and a natural storyteller perhaps best known for founding Radiotron, the iconic hip hop venue and youth center that was located near MacArthur Park. He has also worked as a youth advocate for more than 40 years, creating a dozen spaces where kids can learn about culture and art, and find shelter from the gangs, violence and drugs out on the streets. He lives simply, completely devoted to making his art: Free Los Tres is his passion project.

I met Carmelo when I was researching a script dense with thehistory of downtown Los Angeles and cultural issues like homelessness. A mutual friend introduced us because Carmelo is an aficionado of local history, and during our first meeting, we spoke for more than two hours. Somewhere along the way, between being peppered with my questions and barely pausing while I frantically scribbled notes, he told me about Free Los Tres.

The script was still too long – about 170 pages – and he was cutting and cutting material. He seemed inundated with information, still sorting the piece out, which would in the end take about 18 months.

He had been looking for the story for years.

He became aware of Free Los Tres when he was 14 and catching the bus to school. The bus stop was near the courthouse where the Charles Manson trial was concluding, and he saw young women with shaved heads and X’s carved in their forehead – Manson girls protesting his death sentence (later overturned.) The trial for Los Tres began just as the Manson’s ended, and when Carmelo looked across the street, he saw another group of people holding signs and heard cries of “Free Los Tres!”. The image stayed with him, and he wanted to know more.

Other stories about the Chicano movement have become celebrated, even iconic. Long before they became part of Los Tres, Johnny and Beto joined the high school walkouts of 1968. Thousands of students from Theodore Roosevelt High and other East L.A. schools protested against inequality in the Los Angeles Unified School District: classrooms were overcrowded and understaffed, and activists charged that the curriculum ignored their experience entirely.

A year later they the also joined the Chicano Moratorium, an Anti-Vietnam War movement which organized several protests, the largest of which drew more than 30,000 protestors on August 29, 1970– an essential date in Los Angeles history, and the same day LA Times reporter Ruben Salazar was killed. The war was placing a heavy burden on East L.A. communities like Boyle Heights as Chicanos were being drafted and killed at higher rates than other ethnic groups. The Moratorium was a continuation of what started with the walkouts; young activists taking to the streets to rally against injustice.

Moises Rodriguez (Rudy), Joshua Nicholas (Johnny) and Alex Anthony Correa (Beto) as Los Tres del Barrio. Photo by Rosa Navarrete

“They made a movie about the walkouts and the moratorium is celebrated every year, but this story has been hidden for 47 years,” says Carmelo. He wanted to know why. Little has been written about Los Tres. An internet search finds only an excerpt from a book which mentioned Los Tres very briefly, and also a few pictures and flyers from the era– but nothing cohesive, only fragments that hinted at the story he knew was there.

He kept looking, but the play might never have happened but for a chance encounter in 2017. Carmelo was at a funeral paying his respects to a relative who’d been a Chicano activist. He was talking to his cousin, who’d also been involved in the movement, and mentioned he was writing a play about Los Tres. Do you know where I can find them? “Do I know them, his cousin said, Dude, I know those guys, I was on the Committee to Free Los Tres!” An introduction was arranged. 

Shortly thereafter, Carmelo met Beto and Rudy, and they gave him permission to write the script. Beto collaborated closely on the script with Carmelo – he had saved pictures and letters from members of the Committee to Free Los Tres, still in their envelopes more than 40 years later. Beto spent months getting the trial transcripts, nearly 3000 pages. He painstakingly copied them one page at a time. Those pages were very delicate, sometimes stuck together. Beto’s memories of that time had grown fuzzy he says, but as Carmelo picked at his brain they began to resurface. First they worked from memory, then they began interviewing committee members. They wanted the play to become something beyond a history lesson– Free Los Tres is a call to action.

“We’re kind of hoping that this will inspire the youths of today because I see the play being for this generation now, for those who didn’t know or never heard about it, and we want to let them know how the conditions were back then and hopefully it will inspire them to get involved,” Beto said when interviewed with Rudy at Casa 0101 just before rehearsals began late last year. “The issues have multiplied instead of diminished,” Rudy said, in no small part, he believes, because of the current president.

Los Tres were very young when the confrontation took place, Rudy being the oldest of them at just 26. Beto and Rudy are the two surviving members of Los Tres (Johnny passed away in 2012) and they remain politically committed: attending rallies and marches, and still consider themselves pro-immigrant and pro-undocumented. “We’re native born here,” Beto says, “and it gets me upset that people are saying go back to Mexico because we never crossed the border. Our people didn’t cross it and the Indians never did – the border crossed us.”

Photo courtesy Alberto Ortiz

Every play has its premise, its own life as Carmelo says, and Free Los Tres asks, do the ends justify the means, and when is it okay to take the law into your own hands. And what actions are ethical if the guys carrying badges are committing illicit acts themselves? The authorities were infiltrating the community, trying to disrupt the movement, beating suspects, and intimidating witnesses – but their actions were considered legal, at least at the time.

“That’s not justice, that’s not legal, so they’re breaking the law,” Carmelo says. “And they send in informants and infiltrators – is this legal? Why is it legal to infiltrate into a community and bring in arms, and tell them you need to fight them, you need to shoot the pigs, we need to have an armed revolution? Informants were paid to tell the movement these things. So in this case, the government was doing things under the color of law, but they’re not ethical, they’re right in the law of true justice, or true humanity.”

There is another message to this story: drugs have been been used as a tool of suppression to, as Beto says, “keep our people drugged up and killing each other.” Los Tres had already helped circulate a petition asking local shops to stop selling glue to kids in the neighborhood, and were working to get rid of the heavier stuff too – angel dust, reds and heroin. The movement believed the cops were at worst abetting the problem and at best doing nothing to stop it.

Carmelo takes this from an abstract idea to something more personal, an analogy that puts the question on what you might do to protect your own family. “If someone takes drugs into the community and you do something about it, you say, hey, don’t be selling that shit to my sister, get the fuck out of here, and then somebody moves into your neighborhood, and befriends you, and says I’ll take care of your sister, but he starts giving her drugs, and he’s doing it under the color of the law, is that legal?”

Los Tres began chasing drug dealers out of the neighborhood and for awhile Beto says it was working. They were partly inspired by the film Battle of Algiers, the 1966 film showing the guerrilla resistance against French colonizers. Rudy saw it when he was in prison, and it transformed his life and inspired his actions. The group would approach a drug dealer, tell them we don’t want you selling your junk here, and then intimidate them into leaving.

They did not initiate the meeting with the undercover agent. Rudy was contacted by a man who wanted to sell him drugs. In the play we see this exchange as two backlit figures behind a scrim, two shadows arranging to meet for a drug deal. “We didn’t go there to shoot the guy or kill the guy or anything like that, we went there to run him out of the neighborhood,” said Beto, but the transaction turned into a confrontation.

We see this incident several times during the play, reminiscent of Rashomon, the 1950 Akira Kurosawa film that demonstrated the slippery nature of truth. The shooting is dramatized from several different perspectives, especially during the court scenes when the actors rearrange themselves as the testimony continues behind them. This is a bit awkwardly staged, but it’s very funny when we see the actor playing the undercover agent enter on a moving cart with giant handlebars representing a lowrider motorcycle.

There is controversy about how many shots were fired, was it three or was it two. We do know that the officer did not identify himself as a federal agent or show his badge before reaching for his weapon (“if he’d shown one we wouldn’t be sitting here talking,” Carmelo told me.) Get of the neighborhood, Los Tres told him, and they demanded he give up his drug money. The cop, perhaps panicking, dropped his wallet to the ground, the money scattering, and reached for his weapon. Carmelo believes the agent expected Los Tres to go for the money. Seeing his weapon, they opened fire on him, and from there the incident gets even murkier.

There were four backup agents waiting in a car, and when they heard the gunshots they came running to the scene, the first of them arriving maybe 10 seconds later. Three claimed they didn’t have weapons with them – they said they had left them in the car – one of them using the rationale he didn’t have his weapon because he had taken off his shirt to blend in within the community (his exact words taken from the transcripts.)

“You’re the backup agent, but yet you leave your gun in the car?” Carmelo asks me incredulously, wondering if there might be a motive for this, if it wasn’t really an accident. We do not know the answer to that question, but even more mysterious is who fired the shot that hit the agent. Beto and Johnny each fired once, but there was a third shot that isn’t clear what weapon it came from, and no ballistics tests were done, except on Johnny’s weapon, and the results were inconclusive.

“Why didn’t anyone question that,” Carmelo says, “if you go up to anyone on the street, and you say three backup cops didn’t have their gun, they’d say…what??”

Photo courtesy Alberto Ortiz

The shooting, this one brief incident, lasting maybe 30 seconds or so according to Alvarez, had long reverberations. “That one minute transformed their life,” Carmelo says. “That one split second incident unraveled a lot of things.” Chicano activists considered Los Tres political prisoners, and believed they that had been set up by the Federal government and other authorities intent on dismantling the movement (and indeed anyone considered subversive or radical.) The National Committee to Free Los Tres eventually merged with a community center called CASA (Centro De Accion Social Autonomo) and fought for the release of the three activists. They were triumphant, but so much had already been lost in the long, slow struggle in the courts and on the streets.

Los Tres were arrested when the Chicano Civil Rights movement was at its height, but by the time they were released in in the late 70’s, it was badly weakened, it’s many factions beginning to splinter apart, its fragile unity having been wounded by years of governmental intimidation as much as ideological differences.

…to be continued


Stages of Doubt: An Analysis of The Kennedy Assassination In American Theatre – PART 1

Over the half century since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, the public has been inundated with the ink of upwards of 2,000 publications confronting or concerned with the findings of the Warren Commission. These range from Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment the first publication (1966) to bedung a susceptible public with spurious claims of a conspiracy and cover-up to Vincent Bugliosi’s 1,632 page encyclopedic Reclaiming History (2007) which lays to rest once any questions or doubts about the assassination for all but the most fanatical and dogmatic of conspiracy theorists (henceforth referred to as “CT”).

Hundreds of documentaries of course have delved into the assassination though few approached the subject with the consideration and conscientiousness it merits.

And numerous featured films such as Clint Eastwood’s Line of Fire (1993) and William Richert’s Winter Kills (1979) have employed the assassination in various manners as the catalyst to their story’s plotline.

These films have generally fallen into the categories of “action-adventure” or “thriller,” but there have been exceptions. Robert Dyke’s Timequest (2000) offers the unique storyline of a scientist (Ralph Waite) who as a child watching Kennedy’s funeral becomes obsessed with the grieving Jackie, causing him to dedicate his life to building a means of time travel so that he can return to 1963 and save Jackie from the pain of her husband’s murder by preventing it. He succeeds in this and by revealing to Bobby the conspiracy against his brother’s life changes history. But now, without the impetus of witnessing Jackie’s grief, the scientist’s own destiny is altered and his life takes an entirely different course. One of the film’s high points is the alternative history Dyke conjures up resulting from the assassination being foiled which includes JFK dropping Johnson from the ticket for his second term and replacing him with Martin Luther King Jr.

Regrettably the majority of films concerning the assassination, regardless of their genre, are as disconnected from reality as Dyke’s sci-fi, and far less entertaining.

An exception to this, one of the very few, is director Peter Landesman’s Parkland (2013). A former war correspondent, Landesman delved into the chaos surrounding the assassination and the two days that followed, by setting his story in the trenches with those who were there. His film featured strong performances by Zac Efron as Dr Charles Carrico, the 28 year old resident in charge of Parkland Hospital’s emergency room where the mortally wounded Kennedy was brought, Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder whose life was forever changed by 486 frames of an 8-millimeter film, and James Badge Dale as Robert Oswald, Lee’s older brother who never doubted his younger sibling’s guilt.

The theatre, too, has undertaken to address and investigate the tragic events of Dallas, with the results of these reflecting the diversity of approaches such as only can be devised for and delivered from the stage.

Surprisingly, the first attempt by a dramatist to delve into the murder of America’s 35th president was a British playwright whose work to this day remains one of the strongest on the subject.

Michael Hastings was among that cluster of writers and playwrights – John Osborne, Kingsley Amis, Harold Pinter and others – who rose to prominence in the United Kingdom following World War II and were known collectively as the “angry young men.”

The youngest of them, Hastings was the last to win recognition as a talent worthy of note.

He did so with Lee Harvey Oswald: A Far Mean Streak of Indepence [sic] Brought on by Negleck [sic], produced in 1966 at the Hampstead Theatre Club. It was Hastings’ first commercial and critical success.

The unwieldy title is taken from a passage that appears in an account Oswald wrote about the period he lived in Russia. Written in the third person, his description of himself reveals more than the dyslexia that plagued him throughout his life; “Lee Harvey Oswald was born in Oct 1939 in New Orleans, LA. The son of an Insurance Salesman whose early death left a far mean streak of indepence brought on by neglect.”

For convenience later productions were generally billed simply as Lee Harvey Oswald.

Hastings immersed himself in the historical record, reading the Warren Report and pouring over the supporting evidence contained in its 26 volumes. His play relies heavily on testimonies taken from its 552 witnesses, especially those of Oswald’s overbearing and unbalanced mother Marguerite, and his Russia born wife Marina.

As Shakespeare encased his voice of history in “Chorus” for Henry V, Hastings embodies the investigating tribunal appointed by President Johnson in the single character of “the Commission.”

With “the Commission” constantly injecting questions, Hastings leads us down a patchwork rabbit hole constructed from extracts taken from the Warren Report. Hastings reveals Oswald as terrorized by his own sense of insignificance, and enraged at the world for refusing to acknowledge him. Oswald saw himself as someone meant for greatness. When the Warren Commission counsel asked Marina what she thought induced her husband to kill the president, she answered, “He wanted in any way, whether good or bad, to do something that would make him outstanding, that he would be known in history.” Hastings’ Oswald would finally claim, from the Book Depository’s corner window, the greatness he believed was due him.

In 1967, the assassination arrived on an American stage with the satirical MacBird! by Barbara Garson, which has the distinction of being the first to re-work the tragic events in a Shakespearian mold.

Garson turned to a wide assortment of the Bard’s works Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Othello and even Richard II to supply her with the linguistic stenciling she needed, but for overall structure and plotting she stayed with the Scottish play, hence JFK became John Ken O’Dunc, RFK Robert Ken O’Dunc, and LBJ the murderous titular MacBird!.

Initially staged at anti-war rallies and college protests, the work eventually attracted backers who opened it at New York’s The Village Gate Theatre where it ran for a year. This success was due in part to Garson’s clever writing with its serviceable faux Iambic pentameter, but some credit must go to the show’s talented cast of young newcomers which included Rue McClanahan as Lady MacBird, William Devane as Robert Ken O’Dunc and Stacy Keach as MacBird.

As in Shakespeare’s tale, Garson opens with three witches, but hers were cloaked in the personas of the radical left with Witch #1 an old Wobbly, Witch #2 a militant black activist, and Witch #3 a nubile coed and budding feminist.

Making his professional acting debut as Witch #2 was Cleavon Little who seven years later would enter comedy Valhalla portraying Sheriff Bart in the Mel Brooks’ classic Blazing Saddles.

Kennedy’s demise is facilitated by the ambitious MacBird in his rise to power, who then sets out to appease the people by implementing “the Smooth Society” which he assures them:

“…has room for all;
for each, a house, a car, a family,
A private psychoanalyst, a dog,
And rows of gardens, neatly trimmed and hedged.”

But Macbird’s interest quickly turns towards the international scene, and bending uncooperative nations to his foreign policies by military force if necessary.

When faced with growing opposition to his overseas interventions, the dialogue Garson gives MacBird, echoes the casual eloquence Johnson was capable of.

“Our force shall only force them to be free.”

MacBird

“I believe there is a light at the end of what has been
a long and lonely tunnel.”

President Lyndon Johnson
(September 21, 1966 – speaking of the conflict in Viet Nam.)

Ironically, in this first theatre work to question Oswald’s guilt and cast a shadow over the findings of the Warren Commission, the assassination of John F. Kennedy was not the central conspiracy of the piece. A committed anti-war activist, the conspiracy at the core of Garson’s MacBird! is LBJ’s obsession to send American boys to fight and die in Viet Nam.

Garson, who ran as the Socialist Party candidate for the vice presidency in the 1992 Presidential election, is on record that MacBird! was a work of satire and that she was not seriously suggesting Lyndon Johnson had any part in a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy.

In 2006, Garson admitted in a Washington Post interview, that after decades of arguing the absurdity in believing Johnson was in any way complicit in JFK’s death, she had given up.

Afterwards, whenever people would approach her to asked if she thought Johnson played a significant role in killing Kennedy she’d answer “If he did, it’s the least of his crimes.”

…continue reading

The picture was taken by Dallas freelance photographer James “Jim” MacCammon barely 80 minutes after gunshots reverberated through Dealey Plaza. MacCammon photographed 24-year-old Oswald as he emerged from the Texas Theatre into the bright midday sun, sandwiched between Patrolman C.T. Walker and, still chewing his cigar, Detective Paul Bentley. Although MacCammon contacted news agencies, including LIFE, his remarkable photo went unpublished until TIME ran it three months later in February 1964. Internal records show that Time Inc. shared that picture and others MacCammon made with the FBI. Eventually, in late 1964, three MacCammon photographs appeared in volume 20 of the Warren Commission’s documentation. “It was always like a lecture,” remembers Mary MacCammon, the photographer’s daughter, who was in the 4th grade at the time. “He always wanted us to know the story of what happened when Oswald was arrested.” The MacCammon photo of Kennedy’s assassin essentially disappeared for more than 40 years, until the New York Times included it in Detective Bentley’s obituary on July 27, 2008. The photo credit line read, Jim MacCammon, courtesy of Howard Upchurch. But this time, unlike when TIME ran the photo in 1964, the picture appeared in color. Howard Upchurch, a Dallas-area Kennedy assassination researcher, had befriended a man who in 1963 worked at MacCammon’s favorite Dallas photo lab and kept a color print of the MacCammon picture. Years later he gave it to Upchurch, who showed it to me in the 1980s and later loaned it to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. MacCammon, who died in 2005, captured a moment that says so much about the soon-to-be-accused assassin and why so many still do not believe Oswald was the sole killer of President Kennedy and the killer of Dallas Police officer J.D. Tippit. As reported at the time, when police led him out of the theater, Oswald shouted: I protest this police brutality and I am not resisting arrest! Oh? Moments earlier, as cops approached him, Oswald suddenly punched Officer Nick McDonald in the face, drew a revolver from his waistband and tried to shoot him. McDonald jammed his hand on the gun and prevented it from firing as other officers pummeled Oswald to the floor, sat him in a seat and cuffed him. (MacCammon took a picture of that moment, too, but the image is too dark to reveal much.) [Ed’s note: The TIME-LIFE Picture Collection discovered several duplicate negatives in our search for MacCammon’s photographs. We’ve reproduced one of them below.]


Rare Ennio Morricone Tribute Concert at ‘The Autry’ Sunday, January 27, 2019

What started out as an annual birthday celebration with close musician friends, family, and other appreciators in the backyard of show organizer Henry Stanny, soon grew into a full concert tribute to the Oscar®-winning Italian composer Ennio Morricone at the Autry Museum of the American West (The Autry.)

Originally scheduled for this weekend on Sunday, January 27, 2019, at 5 p.m., a second show was then added at 1:00 p.m. at The Autry, where now both shows are currently sold out.

Morricone soundtrack fans span from classic and spaghetti western films to recent years’ Quentin Tarantino film enthusiasts, creating a wide swath of appreciators here in the U.S., as well as here in Southern California. Considered one of the world’s greatest living film composers, Morricone’s world fame came with Sergio Leone’s westerns, a few being “A Fistful of Dollars,” “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly,” and “Once Upon a Time in The West,” and more with films like “The Battle of Algiers,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “Malena,” “The Untouchables,” “Once Upon a Time in America,” “The Mission,” and Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight.”

According to Stanny, who works at Laemmle Theatres and has an extensive collection and historical knowledge of film soundtracks and liner note history, the concept of the show birthed from discussions with his wife, Nancy Hoven, from his desire to hear collections of Morricone’s music that is not often included in the contemporary tribute concert repertoire, for a birthday party at their home.

“I asked [Nancy] if I could hear some of the stuff that I have never heard from any of these great composers, in my backyard [for my birthday], and she said “Why don’t we do that!?,” said Stanny. “And we did that for a number of years.”

Stanny’s friend, Tom Griep, who was a co-director of the USC Film Scoring Department at one time, took to the task of organizing musicians for these annual backyard fêtes. Per Stanny, flutist Sara Andon, played for 18,000 people in Kraków Morricone’s music from “Hamlet,” “Then she’d come and do the same piece in my backyard.” He had also met cellist Circe Diaz-Gomero at the Golden State Pops Orchestra in San Pedro after seeing her play.

“I’d always go there and look at her as she was this cellist in the first row,” Stanny said of Diaz-Gomero. “Your eye always went to her because she would go totally into the music and move about and you would just be dazzled by her playing. Stuff like that happened until I got 11 people on my show, and they’re all amazing. It broke my pocketbook, but it was really amazing.”

Starting about six years ago, Stanny, who paid professional musicians to play, first attracted about 35 guests to his backyard birthday concerts. Over the years attendance grew to over 70 plus, up to the last one. This weekend, The Autry will accommodate 215 seats for each of the scheduled sold out performances, allowing Stanny to enjoy his favorite selections of music with even more fellow appreciators.

Host Bruce Kimmel, along with a total of nine musicians and two guests soloists comprise the orchestra for the program. Featured are Musical Director and pianist Thomas Griep, flutist Sara Andon, violinist  Nathalie Bonin, cellist Diaz-Gamero, on trumpet will be Drew Ninmer, on guitar Omri Lahav, with vocalists Maegan McConnell and Robert Yacko. Special guests Mark Tschanz and Italian pop star Veronika Coassolo will do a piece from “Django Unchained.”

The full concert featuring the music of this legendary film composer is performed by this select ensemble of world-class musicians and singers, with “an emphasis on famous Westerns like ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in the West,”’ according to the websites program highlights, as well as some obscure and rare gems.

According to Stanny, Morricone “has written more than 400 scores, and most of them are in Italian.” For the Autry, half of the program is from his Westerns, and will feature songs “Ecstasy of Gold” from “The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly,” main themes from “For a Few Dollars More” and a “Fistful of Dollars,”  “The Man With the Harmonica,” from “Once Upon a Time in The West,”  “Run Man Run,” from “The Big Gun Down,” and “Gabriel’s Oboe” from “The Mission,” with rare pieces “Angel Face” from “A Pistol for Ringo,” the main theme from “Duck You, Sucker,” “The Ballad of Hank McCain” from “Machine Gun McCain,” and “Ancora Qui” from “Django Unchained,” just to name a few.

Also in the program is “Le Due Stagioni Della Vita.” “It’s from a movie hardly anybody ever saw. It was released in France, and came and went,” said Stanny. “But because Morricone liked it he put it on his album … it’s really obscure, but it’s really beautiful.”

After the concert, there will be a no-host dinner and drinks gathering at Mimi’s Café in Los Feliz around 8:00 p.m. in a reserved a room where music fans and patrons can mingle with the artists.

Mimi’s is located at 2925 Los Feliz Blvd. 90039, a short drive from the Autry Museum of the American West.

  1. Poster Art Illustration courtesy of The Autry Museum of the American West;
  2. Photo of Henry Stanny courtesy of Henry Stanny.

Marsha Hunt, Actor, Activist and Survivor

In today’s volatile political and social climate, actors and celebrities are often as well known for their causes as for their movies and plays. Angelina JolieOprah WinfreyYoko Ono, and Alyssa Milano, to name just a few, are known for numerous foundations and humanitarian causes, for speaking up and out, and for making huge financial donations. It seems as if this is a new development, due to the omnipresent information that fills our screens regarding the famous. However, if you travel a little further back in time you find Jane Fonda fighting the Vietnam war, and prior to that, Audrey Hepburn leaving acting to focus on humanitarian work for UNICEF. The intersection of arts and activism is not new, and it doesn’t always have clear cut benefits for those who engage in it. Especially in certain eras, morals and integrity stood in direct opposition to fortune and popularity. Many who stood up for the former ended up fading in the latter. For those who aspire to use public platforms to create and facilitate change, Marsha Hunt is a person to both honor and emulate.

Marsha Hunt is a retired actress and activist. She is 101 years old and still lives in her beautiful home in the San Fernando Valley. She has led an amazing life, both as an incredibly gifted and intelligent performer and as a forward thinking activist championing both individual rights and institutional evolution. Everyone should know her name, her unique voice and be aware of her legacy. This article serves simply as an introduction to her incredible life and work. It is impossible to condense all that she has created and stood for into one piece. I’ve included numerous links and additional information at the end of this post.

Ms. Hunt was born in Chicago in 1917. She did it all. While training as an actor, she began to work as a model, becoming one of the industry’s highest paid by 1935. Although she wanted to do theater, she moved to Los Angeles in 1934 at the age of 17 and was initially signed by Paramount, where she starred in several films. Even at this tender age, she started to assert her rights. She refused to do pin up photos (known as “cheesecake” and “leg art”) and did not take part in the social party scene. She was starting even then, to find her own voice and to stand up for her values. Although she showed promise, Paramount released her from her contract after a few years. She freelanced for a while before ending up at MGM, where she stayed on contract through 1945. Notable films include Pride and Prejudice and Blossoms in the Dust. She also starred in the only wartime film to acknowledge the Holocaust, None Shall Escape (1944). While she did not become an A list star, she worked constantly as a supporting actor in quality films. During the war she also sang on USO tours and developed a career in radio. She appeared in over 50 films in her career, over the course of several decades.

Ms. Hunt’s film career came to an abrupt halt when she was caught up in the Communist witch hunt of the McCarthy era. Ms. Hunt was and continues to be outspoken, with a liberal belief system that she guards fiercely. Ms. Hunt, along with her second husband, screenwriter Robert Presnell Jr., were so disturbed by the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that they joined the Committee for the First Amendment which was formed in 1947 and made up of many A list actors and Hollywood players. The group went to Washington to protest the hearings and produced Hollywood Fights Back, a star-studded radio program which was co-written by her husband.

Like many other notable actors and screenwriters who dared to stand up to the government and studio system, Ms. Hunt’s career came to a complete stop in Hollywood. She was asked to denounce her activities if she wanted to find more work and she steadfastly refused. In 1950, Hunt was named as a potential Communist or Communist sympathizer (along with 151 other actors, writers and directors) in the anti-Communist publication Red Channels. Though she would continue to work through her 90s, the blacklist effectively stopped her ascent in major motion pictures.

Not one to sit still however, Ms. Hunt simply knocked on other doors, returning to her first love; theater. She made her Broadway debut in Joy To The World, in March of 1948. She continued to go between theater, working both on Broadway and in Los Angeles, television and radio for the rest of her career. She starred in the first live televised Shakespeare play, playing Viola in Twelfth Night. In 1950 she appeared on the cover of Life Magazine as the star of the Broadway play, The Devil’s Disciple. In 1987 she even appeared in an episode of Star Trek! In addition to opening up time for theater, the blacklist also opened up her time for activism. This was not a new avenue for her to travel. She had worked throughout the war years at the Hollywood Canteen dancing and socializing with service men, especially on Saturday nights, when no one else wanted to. But, after the blacklist, the world opened up to her. As she stated in an interview with Film Talk in response to the question:

“How did you get involved in all the charity work you did for so many years?”
When I had so much free time because I wasn’t allowed to act, I discovered the outside world. I went around the world with my husband and I came back as, what I called, a planet patriot. I fell in love with the planet, not just my country, but all of us. I learned about the United Nations which was right here in this country and I spent twenty-five years working as a volunteer on behalf of the UN, I worked on the Year of the Child, international cooperation, and made a documentary film during World Refugee Year with fourteen stars appearing in it to tell the stories of different refugees. There were still twenty-five million people floating around the world, stateless, with no travel papers, no identity papers, no work permits – fifteen years after World War II ended. The United Nations was trying to get the governments to open their borders and let their fair share of refugees in, so I made this film to acquaint Americans with it. It was very rewarding.

In addition to world wide charity work, Ms. Hunt made a huge difference right in the San Fernando Valley, opening the first homeless shelter for women and children. This is especially poignant because her own baby did not survive. During the turmoil of the McCarthy era, she gave birth to a baby girl, born prematurely, who later passed away. This was a true heartbreak for her and she did not have any other children.

Ms. Hunt’s creative spirit is expressed in numerous ways. In 1993 she published The Way We Wore … a beautiful coffee table book detailing fashion of the 1930s and 1940s. All of the photos are of her, in glorious outfit after glorious outfit. Many are studio shots used as publicity for her 50 movies, some are fashion shots for the designers. Each photo is explained and detailed by Ms. Hunt in her own charming manner. I actually met Ms. Hunt when I was directing and costuming a play set in the 1940s. She lent us clothes, making sure that each piece was truly representative of who would wear it. Her knowledge of fashion rivals many who made it their life’s work. Her generosity of spirit was on display even in such limited contact.

One of the most charming surprises, but one that goes to the heart of Ms. Hunt’s belief system is the song that she wrote about love and marriage equality for same-sex couples, titled Here’s To All Who Love. She wrote it at age 95, and it has become an anthem at marriage ceremonies. She wrote it as a gift and it is has been received as one.

There is a documentary by Roger Memos about Marsha Hunt. It had a short run in 2015 but in order to recut it for streaming services, Mr. Memos is raising funds. The documentary was filmed in collaboration with Ms. Hunt and features countless interviews, clips and insight. It is a labor of love and an amazing project. If you would like to read more about the documentary you can check out the Facebook page. If you would like to donate to the GoFund account to help with the sound mix, closed captioning, the film’s website and the film trailer, please click here.

In preparation for this article, I sent Ms. Hunt some questions to answer via email. Rather than edit them, I will share them with you as is.

Marsha being surprised by the crew of her documentary for her 75th anniversary. She is in her late 90s in this photograph.

What similarities do you see in the political climate today and during the 1940s and 1950s? Are there differences that you feel are more or less dangerous? 
At 101 years of age I am not as well informed as I once was. But of course I favor, as always, the most peaceful, most even handed solution to problems.

I don’t know if you would remember, but we have actually met! You were extremely generous in helping me costume a play that I directed, set in the 1940s. I came over and you lent us clothing and gave me a copy of your book, which I treasure. How do you feel that fashion (or the lack of it) affects women’s power and collective voice? I have been watching the new congress and all of the new younger and female members of the House in their bright clothes and fashion forward choices. Does this, in your opinion empower or diminish them?
I think there is an effect but it’s hard to define. I think how well, how effectively, a woman legislator dresses can tell us something about her IQ, the effective, the becoming, the appropriate, which then empowers them. I don’t think “fashion” diminishes unless it’s extreme – then it can be negative, but I think that’s pretty rare. I guess women in government dress without “headlines’. If they were fashion plates it would be distracting from their effectiveness in what they are there to do. It would become the wrong topic.

What do you want to tell women and actors who find that their activism is more important to them than their acting careers? Do you think it is worth it, if being known for your politics is hurting your castability. Do you think that is a truism, or simply a fear?
When you take positions you lose some people just as you gain others. On matters of importance to me, it is worth it.

What role do you think that the unions should play in helping actors become activists? Should the union be neutral or an active partner? (NB: Ms. Hunt was active in SAG prior to the blacklist and served on the board)

The union is there to protect and help the actor so when one’s union takes a position the individual is spared blame or credit for it. At that extent we are protected by our unions.

Do you see any positive aspects to social media as it it used today? Do you see it as a danger (do you not care about it at all??)
The internet/social media is a way of “getting it out there” but then nothing remains private including opinions.

What changes would you like to see, both in the nation and in the entertainment/film industry, in regards to women specifically.
The changes in the entertainment/film industry ideally would be that it that it be an open opportunity to write, direct, produce whether a woman or a man.

Sweet Adversity Documentary:
Review

Book website:
The Way We Wore

Links to additional articles:
NPR: Actress Marsha Hunt, 100, Has Matters Of Principle
Movie Maker: Marsha Hunt at 100: The Actress Recalls the Blacklist, Film Noir and Being Cast in Gone With The Wind
IMDB bio
British Film Institute: Marsha Hunt: American girl, Un-American woman, upstanding centenarian
LA Times: Actress Marsha Hunt survived the blacklist without apologizing for her activism
Film Talk: Marsha Hunt: “MGM let me play absolutely everything, the studio gave me such joy”
Huffington Post: Marsha Hunt Pens ‘Here’s To All Who Love’ Gay Rights Anthem

Video:
Marsha discusses her career and the Hollywood Blacklist


JOAN OF ART – A Great Movie, A Touching, One Man Show, A Salute to a Legend, and Some Awesome Art

Hi Everyone. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday. I want to wish you all a fearless 2019.

It’s that time of year again when Hollywood brings out some of its best films and I’ve seen everyone of them. ‘On The Basis of Sex’ is definitely on my top ten list.

The film is a 2018 American biographical legal drama based on the life and early cases of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Directed by Mimi Leder and written by Daniel Stiepleman, it stars Felicity Jones as Ginsburg, with Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Jack Reynor, Cailee Spaeny, Sam Waterston, and Kathy Bates in supporting roles.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a first-year student at Harvard Law School. When her husband Martin, a second-year student, falls ill with cancer, she attends both her classes and his, taking notes and transcribing lectures while caring for Martin and their infant daughter Jane.

Two years later Martin, his cancer in remission, is hired by a firm in New York. Ruth petitions Harvard Law School Dean Griswold to allow her to finish her Harvard law degree with classes at Columbia, but he insists on following Harvard University policies at the time and denies her request, so she transfers to Columbia. In spite of graduating at the top of her class, she is unable to find a position with a law firm because none of the firms she applies to wants to hire a woman.

She takes a job as a professor at Rutgers Law School, teaching “The Law And Sex Discrimination”. This is a powerful film about a great lady who at the age of 85 years old is still fighting for justice. Every woman in the United States is indebted to Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her relentless efforts in the pursuit to achieve gender equality.

On the Basis of Sex is playing at theatres around town. Don’t miss it!

Speaking of great ladies, on Sunday, January 13th at the Shrine Auditorium you’ll be able to see…

The Recording Academy will pay tribute to the legendary career of 18 time Grammy winner and 2008 MusiCares Person of the Year honoree Aretha Franklin by presenting ARETHA! A GRAMMY CELEBRATION for The Queen of Soul.

Performing songs from her legendary repertoire are Grammy winners Yolanda Adams, Shirley Caesar, Alessia Cara, Kelly Clarkson, Common, Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Patti LaBelle and BeBe Winans as wells as current Grammy nominees Brandi Carlile, Chloe X Halle, Janelle Monae just to name a few. Filmmaker Tyler Perry will host this unforgettable night.

The Shrine Auditorium is located at 665 Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA To purchase tickets go to ShrineAuditorium.com. Doors open at 4:30pm and the show starts at 6:00pm.

Now if ‘art’ is your thing I can’t think of a more fun way to spend the weekend then by going to the Marie Baldwin Gallery located at 814 South Spring Street, Los Angeles and seeing their new show entitled ‘Infinite Morphologies’

From Janary 6th to February 3rd 2019 the gallery will be showing contemporary artists that represent modern, conceptual, captivating, clever, innovative, poetic and passionate works of art. According to the gallery their goal is to bring minds and eyes together.

Edvarda Braanaas, Tommii Lim, Maxim, Camilla Taylor, Poul Lange, Gary Brewer, SteviAnn Matijevic, Lois Sattler are just some of the amazing artists showing their work over the next month. It’s definitely worth the trip downtown. For more information go to MarieBaldwinGallery.com

On my ‘must see’ list, is the one man show entitled Forever Brooklyn and not just because I’m from Brooklyn.

This show is called by it’s writter director, Mark Wesley Curran, A Kosher Musical Comedy. Forever Brooklyn is the story of Melvin Kaplofkis, (Danny DiTorrice) a young man growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s who emerges in the 1960s as Mel King, The King of Brooklyn.

Young Mel entertains his family and friends by telling jokes and stories. He is championed by a local radio personality, and Mel begins to move up, with gigs in the Borscht Belt resorts. It turns out he actually has a flair for performing, and ultimately, he is booked for an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Sounds like a dream, no? Well, not quite. His family doesnt want him to leave Brooklyn. Also, hes been pressed into service, against his will, as a bagman for the Mob thats been ruling Brooklyn with an iron fist. The Mob doesnt want Mel to leave Brooklyn behind. If he does, there will be a price to be paid.And, oh yes: Along the way, he falls in love. What does Mel do? Forever Brooklyn is a show for everyone who misses Brooklyn or New York (and there are thousands of people transplanted to L.A. from the East Coast who fit that description), or for anyone living in L.A. who came from somewhere else and somehow just cant forget the place they once called home.

It is playing the Whitefire theater in Sherman Oaks. For tickets visit Better-Lemons.com/production/forever-brooklyn.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, have a great one. It’s a new year and it’s the best time to do something you’ve never done before.


JOAN OF ART: The Masterpiece Roma, Laughs and More Laughs, Flying High, And 'Defying Gravity'

Now no matter how much shopping, party planning and decorating you have to do, there’s always time to take a break and just have fun. Here are some suggestions starting with…

Director Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece ROMA, an autobiographical movie set in Mexico City in the 1970’s and shot in beautiful black and white.

This is by far the best film of 2018 and perhaps the best film in decades. Cuaron has created an intimate and at the same time monumental creation to express the depths of ordinary life.

This is story that chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family’s maid (the exquisite, Yalitza Aparicio) in Mexico City in the early 1970s.

The film’s events take place predominantly in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. Cleo (named after the Cléo character in Agnès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7) is a maid in the household of Sofia, whose household consists of her husband Antonio, their four young children, Sofia’s mother, Teresa, and another maid, Adela.

At the beginning of the film, the husband Antonio, a doctor, leaves for a conference in Quebec. Among scenes of Cleo’s life with the family – her cleaning, cooking, taking the kids to and from school, serving them meals, putting the kids to bed and waking them up – it becomes clear that Sofia and Antonio’s marriage is strained.

After a brief return, Antonio leaves again, saying he is going to Quebec for a few weeks. In their time off, Cleo and Adela go out with their boyfriends, Fermín and Ramón, to the theater. At the entrance, Cleo and Fermín decide to rent a room instead of seeing the movie. Fermín, while naked, shows off his martial arts skill using the shower curtain rod as a pole.

At another date, both couples meet in a movie theater, where Cleo tells Fermín that she thinks she is pregnant. As the movie is about to end, Fermín says he is going to the rest room and will be back, but then does not return and is nowhere to be found when Cleo goes outside. Cleo reveals the same concern to Sofia, who takes her to get checked at the hospital where Antonio works. The doctor there confirms her pregnancy.

Acting as his own cinematographer, Cuaron does something amazing. His construction of images, carefully considering the primary action and the background in every scene. Multiple wide shots with everything in focus play out ever so slowly.

This is a film not only of great poignancy, but one that is filled with great sensuality which you see from the film’s opening…water being thrown onto the ground over and over again until the clear water turns soapy and we pan out to reveal Cleo cleaning the floor of a garage. It’s a simple beautiful scene that shapes the entire film.

‘ROMA is also a film that has to be seen on the big screen. If you watch it on Netflix, you will be getting just a quarter of the experience of this beautiful, moving and unique film and that would be not only a waste but a disservice to the director and actors.

I can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend then to see ROMA. I’ve seen it twice.

Now for something on the lighter side… CHOCOLATE SUNDAES COMEDY SHOW at the Laugh Factory.

Chocolate Sundaes, Hollywood’s hottest comedy show at the world famous Laugh Factory at 8001 Sunset Blvd is a great way to spend your Sundays.
The show is unlike any other comedy how you’ve seen, featuring your favorite comedians, a hot DJ on the 1’s and 2’s. Hosted by comedian Ron G (‘Punk’d, ‘Last Comic Standing’) with Music by DJ Sidekick this show is all about fun….a lot of fun.

They showcase a powrful mix of seasoned veterans as well as up and coming comedians who you’ve seen on all of the major networks. Recent performers include Kevin Hart, Katt Williams, Howie Mandel, Bill Bellamy and Bob Saget just to name a few.

You never know who may be in attendance in the audience. They suggest you come dressed to impress. I suggest you just wear clothes. Nudity is frowned upon.

For more information, questions, etc email Lani at lani@chocolatesundaes.com or visit ChocolateSundaes.com. The shows on December 23rd Sunday are at 7pm-8:45pm.

Now that it’s legal I’m sure it’s totally acceptable to share one of my favorite past times and one of my favorite place to do it especially this weekend. It’s called BUDZ 7 SUDZ CANNABIS AND BEER TOUR.

SOUTH BAY A CANNABIS

This is a fun beer and cannabis combination tour. You get to see the inner workings of two to three dispensaries and two off the radar micro-beer facilities while crusing around in their luxurious 420 friendly vehicle.

The tour includes specially discounted prices on cannabis and a free beer tasting flight at each brewery you visit.

The tours take place every Saturday at 6pm-10pm. The location is Canoga Orange Line Station Parking Lot at 6770 Canoga Avenue, Canoga Park CA.

The organizers ask that you arrive 15 minutes prior to all tours.

This first class tour is put on by LA HEMP TOURS – They offer a luxury custom designed Limo party bus which comes equipped with a refrigerator, USB ports, Bluetooth, privacy shades, Spotify, beautifully upholstered party seating, air filters and illuminated marijuana ashtray’s for your added convenience.

They have many different tours including Malibu Scenic Weed Tour and cater to private and special events.

For more information go to LAHempTours.com or call 424-404-0733.

Lastly one of my favorite musicals is back in town and it’s called WICKED. I’ve seen in in New York and the last time it was at the Pantages and I’m going again this weekend. If you’re wondering when I’ll have time to shop, no worries. I shop for Christmas in October. So much easier.

For those of you unfamiliar with this fabulous musical, it’s playing at The Pantages until January 27, 2019 so you still have plenty of time to see it in case you can’t make it this weekend.

‘Wicked’ tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Galinda (whose name later changes to Glinda the Good Witch) who struggle through opposing personalities and viewpoints, rivalry over the same love interest, reactions to the Wizard’s corrupt government and ultimately, Elphaba’ public fall from grace all the while singing some incredible and definitely memorable songs that you will be singing way after the curtain falls.

For tickets go to HollywoodPantages.com. ‘Wicked’ is definitely for kids and for all adults that still have a ‘kid’ alive and well inside of them.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend have a great one. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and wishing you all a New Year filled with great adventures and wonderful surprises.