The sunlight that falls on Echo Park is golden. A number of factors
have created this moment. An economic boom. Rising real estate
gang warfare. Poverty. Regentrification. Rent control. And history.
Aimee Semple McPherson
Art by Gordy Grundy
ago, the rolling hills and valleys of Echo Park were once considered
out of town, in the country. The seclusion fostered a home
for wild-minded freethinkers.
Communes flourished. Start-up religions, nudist colonies, health food fads
and cults called it Ground Zero. So did evangelist Aimee
was also known as Red Hill for its population of Bolsheviks.
Always a working
class neighborhood, Echo Park got left behind when Los Angeles moved west
toward the sea.
Today, E.P. is still the neighborhood with a few chickens in
every backyard. New construction is remodeling the Chevy
chassis in every front yard into a
living room with French Doors, crown molding and marble floors. Rent control
creative shelter but new rents are outrageous, affordable only to the professional.
A few new cafes, art spots and homegrown retail stores are creating a walking
neighborhood. This morning at coffeehouse Chango, a pal elbowed me in the
ribs and exclaimed, “I’ve never seen so many good looking art babes.”
There is a hum to the neighborhood, an energetic breeze that blows through
the sharp turns, dead ends and steep climbs of these hills. Echo Park is
Dentino is a documentary filmmaker struggling to finish ‘Saving Patty.’ The
bills are piling up and the credit cards are maxed out in a last push to complete
the film. Grants, hard to apply for and harder to get, are not really an option.
Nor is commercial funding, for Dentino’s subject matter lacks celebrity
appeal. ‘Saving Patty’ follows a cracker barrel of Oklahoma white
trash and their addictions. That’s not commercial unless Patty was a pop
star. Dentino has floated over the falls with ‘Saving Patty’. The
car may get booted but the film will get finished. Somehow. Someway.
LADY IN ECHO PARK LAKE
Photo Illustration By Gordy Grundy
Niles has no illusions about the poet’s life. He runs the famous
open mike at the Little Joy, a local bar that Charles
Bukowski would have been
proud to hurl in. Niles wants to do a CD for this year’s anniversary
anthology. Naturally, the effort will include the work of Buffy
Visick playing her battery-powered
Mormon Organ and the romance of actor Ben
Crowley, but the real coup would have
to include Leslie
Stevens. Leslie is a songwriter who frequently performs new
work at the open mike. Not only is she is wise, witty and soulful, Leslie is
breaking out. She keeps pushing her band, Leslie
And the Badgers, to the next
glorious mile. She’s gonna be famous.
Rappleye was once known as a cop-chasing reporter covering
the Rampart Scandal. A short evolution later, he is now a
much honored non-fiction
writer. He is deep into his new book, a biography of Robert Morris
the financier of the Revolutionary War. Rappleye is discovering
appreciation for the architects of these United States.
just relaxing with buddies, beer and BB guns when he caught his
nosy neighbor spying on them with a video camera. Dave,
screenwriter, featured columnist in Arthur Magazine and bartender
at the Little Joy,
did what any
Southern boy would do; he gave the trespassin’ ‘Mrs.
beatin’. Dave and other members of the Kissinjah Militia
had been out trail running, an activity favored second only to
and BB gun target practice.
was too nervous to speak about something big and nerve-wracking in
his life for fear of jinxing it. He hopes the screenwriter gig with
director falls into place. He’s also worried if it does; Dave
has trouble with money. The last time he made big bucks, the sushi,
Sallys and sybarites almost killed
Monica Nouwens now lives out in the open. Five years ago she was
dodging immigration, but now she has been accepted
as an ‘Alien With
Extraordinary Abilities In The Arts And Sciences’. It’s
never easy for a wetback. She juggles jobs and assignments for
architects and art magazines,
but it is her students that inspire how she spends her time. She
teaches at Sci-Arc and UCI where her students are growing and flourishing.
Prowling less of the
night with her camera, Nouwens almost prefers to create challenging
assignments that are yielding brilliant flowers.
Video artist Dave
Burns should have probably been working on
promoting his inclusion in the Getty show. His piece ‘Asswax’ is a crowd favorite. Instead
he was walking from Machine
Projects, the esteemed art space on Alvarado, with
a flock of twenty in tow. Burns is one of the founders of ‘Fallen Fruit’,
an activist arts project to map public fruit in the hood. The project
is getting national attention from the New York Times and NPR.
These are but a few of the many artists, musicians and writers
who are lucky to be living in Echo Park right now. The mad
nights and late
brilliant and lasting as the sunlight that sparkles off Echo
Park Lake. These are the
times to be remembered. As forces change the environment, the
bohemianism of E.P. is
soon to be only a treasured memory of history. And so it goes.