Check Out Cutting-Edge Virtual Art in Pasadena This October

October 11, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Can Büyükberber’s Faces[On]Display uses projection mapping to detect the viewer’s face Photo: Courtesy of Spatial Reality

As virtual reality continues to blossom, artists are finding a new platform for expression. At Spatial Reality: Artists Explore the Future of XR, a new exhibit coming to sp[a]ce gallery at Ayzenberg in Pasadena, these artistic pioneers are on display for our futuristic viewing pleasures.

If we’re embarking on this exploration of XR together, it’s important to know what XR is. Exhibit curator and VR Scout Editor-at-Large Jesse Damiani explains via a release: XR is “a spectrum of ‘extended’ reality that includes virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) [that] takes the virtual world to new dimensions.”

Okay, but what are those?

An example of AR is Pokemon Go. Assuming you’re not in battery-saver mode, you hold up your phone and see the real world through your camera. Then, the game plops a cute creature on the screen, and you use your phone to hopefully capture it in a Pokeball. AR, essentially, overlays virtual objects—like a Charmander—atop the real world. To access the AR exhibits in Spatial Reality, you can download an AR app on your phone, then hover your phone over the QR codes placed around the exhibit. Watch as 2-D images come to life before your eyes. (You can also do this at Trader Joe’s on any 19 Crimes wine bottle using the app Living Wine and impress all your friends.)

Sutu’s Machines of Progress is an Augmented Reality piece that changes when viewed through your phone. Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Molmol Kuo’s Aliens of Extraordinary Ability is a bit different: guests can watch videos in which participants suddenly morph into alien beings, an effect captured on camera in real time.

Can Büyükberber’s Faces[On]Display uses projection mapping to detect the viewer’s face, which will appear on screen, surrounded by an abstract art image. That face morphs, becoming more and less realistic, as the viewer continues to observe. The artist also has 3D printed sculptures and a digital print in the exhibit.

Molmol Kuo’s Aliens of Extraordinary Ability Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

In VR, you’re completely immersed in a virtual world. Though the real world continues to exist around you, everything you see—and hear, assuming you’ve got headphones on—is virtual.

For instance, on one wall of the gallery hangs three canvas prints by Trudy Elmore, each depicting a snake writhing through the mouth and eye sockets of a human skull. Both are wrapped in a delicate print, pale pink roses on a mint green background. Sit down at the nearest VR headset, and you can watch these images morph and shift in VR.

Other VR offerings serve as meditative worlds, into which one can escape. Kevin Mack—who won a Best Visual Effects Oscar in 1999 for his work on What Dreams May Come—has created Blortasia, an “abstract art world” that guests can fly through using a simple controller. As the viewer floats through colorful twists and turns, they may encounter equally colorful amorphous blobs known as ‘Blorts.’

Pussykrew’s Amalgam is another psychedelic world, yet this one serves as a “hybrid universe where newly evolved post-gender organisms became the augmented hybrids of a body and technology.” Cruise through the world and interact with the virtual sculptures placed throughout.

Even more virtual pieces are on display in The Museum of Other Realities (MOR), which Damiani describes as akin to “a MOCA or a Broad, but for virtual art.” Guests use a controller to transport themselves around a VR museum, full of VR sculptures from a variety of artists. You might even find some of the exhibit’s other artists within MOR.

Elsewhere, Theo Triantafyllidis’ Staphyloculus is a strange piece that “attempts to recreate the first known outbreak of Polywobbly Ferventitis,” a fictitious computer virus that spreads through VR headsets. Footage taken in Joshua Tree depicts an artist setting up a VR rig while little pink entities multiply and overtake him. At times, the viewer stands in the role of that artist. A computer monitor inside the virtual landscape shows the viewer as a disembodied headset and controllers, increasingly swarmed by the pink blobs as time progresses. Things only get more surreal from there.

Mixed Reality falls somewhere in the middle between AR and VR. In MR, real and virtual objects coincide at once, often anchored to one another. This can mean a variety of different things. For instance, in The VOID, currently available at the Glendale Galleria, users will don a VR headset and headphones to access a virtual world. As they move through the experience, they will interact with objects that exist in both worlds. So when you’re a Stormtrooper blasting through an Imperial base, you hold a plastic gun that appears as an operational blaster in VR. When Virtual You you gets close to the planet Mustafar on your transport, you’ll feel the heat and smell the sulfur, both piped into the real world, but complimenting the virtual one. The VOID could be considered mixed reality, though they call their experiences “hyper reality.” (Read more about how you can experience The VOID in Glendale here.)

At Spatial Reality, you can try a very different MR experience from reality called Moonbloom. The real-world space features wallpaper that looks like the night sky, a model of an igloo, a stuffed fox, and the outline of a crescent moon divided into three pieces. You’ll then don a headset known as Magic Leap, and what you see in the goggles will be laid overtop.

A guest plays Moonbloom, a mixed-reality game, using the Magic Leap headset. Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

As the Moonbloom story goes, you’re a celestial being tasked with finding all the pieces of a fallen moon. Your partner in this endeavor is a fox. The virtual fox navigates the virtual world, which you can manipulate with your real hands—no controllers required. When the fox needs a tree trunk moved out of her way or a bridge built between two floating islands, you can make that happen for her. Once the two of you have located the moon piece, return it by matching it to the moon cut-out in the real world. Considering Magic Leap headsets are currently selling for over $2,000 a piece, this gallery is perhaps your best chance to check it out.

All told, Spatial Reality will feature work from over 25 artists in all three mediums. Damiani recommends treating the pieces in this exhibit not as games or movies, but the way you would any other work in an art museum.

“This isn’t something where you’re going to be wrong,” Damiani said. “Just feel it, be inside of it, turn off the part of your brain that’s saying ‘what’s the point?’, and just experience it.”

Spatial Reality kicks off on Friday, October 12 from 7 to 10 p.m. then continues on Saturdays and Sundays from October 13 to 28. Weekend time slots are available from noon to 6 p.m at sp[a]ce gallery at Ayzenberg, 39 E. Walnut Street, Pasadena. General admission tickets are free, while VIP tickets are $45. The latter provide guaranteed access for a 90-minute time slot reserved in advance. They also guarantee front-of-line access to individual experiences. The exhibit has been sponsored by RYOT with support from Meow Wolf, VR Scout, Raptor House Effects, and Magic Gallery. Find more info and tickets here.

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Food, Happenings

This Gorgeous New Cocktail Bar Just Opened in a Historic DTLA Hotel

October 2, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Wolves Photo: Courtesy of The Wolves

Tucked within an annex of the Alexandria Hotel, The Wolves may be Los Angeles’ most interesting cocktail bar. Not only is it a meticulously designed and gorgeous space, but it also offers one of the most distinctive bar menus in town. There’s no paying $14 for a standard mule here. The Wolves draws from nature itself for an ever-changing menu with a whole host of ingredients made in-house.

When it opened in 1906 the Alexandria Hotel was the city’s most luxurious lodging option. As with many of DTLA’s early 1900s hotels, The Alexandria ultimately fell into disrepair following the Depression, but not before drawing guests like Theodore Roosevelt, Mary Pickford, and King Edward VIII in the decades that preceded. In 1911, the hotel received an add-on that included the Palm Court banquet hall. It’s within this addition that The Wolves—a stunning anachronism, designed with the Alexandria’s turn-of-the-century grandeur in mind—can be found.

Most striking is a domed stained glass ceiling sourced from an Illinois train station that’s been split down the middle and fit perfectly over the bar and dining room. The booths are antique mahogany, while the bar counter is antique white marble. A second floor mezzanine and balcony, accessible via a spiral staircase, is lined with salvaged gating.

Various vintage oddities are everywhere you look, including a human skull in a curio cabinet near the restrooms and old Los Angeles street lamps positioned here and there. Fireplace andirons, carved like owls with glowing eyes, flank the beer taps, the handles of which are old, wooden billy clubs. Green tiles from the bathroom ceilings have been relocated to line the dining room walls below original 1911 brown wallpaper.

Look up and you’ll find three faces that line the ceiling in a repeating pattern. These are an original design feature. Rumor has it these faces are from Dante’s Inferno, but thus far, no one has been able to identify them with certainty. Look down, and you’ll see authentic brown and tan tiles from Pasadena tile-maker Ernest A. Batchelder. Impressively, they were already there when the The Wolves team—including owners Al Almeida (The Falls) and Daniel Salin, and managing partner Isaac Mejia—moved in. This is the same artist responsible for the tiles that line the nearby, though long-closed, Dutch Chocolate Shop.

Bar Director Kevin Lee, who previously opened La Mirada’s now-shuttered Puzzle Bar, fell in love with The Wolves the first time he saw it. He makes the bar’s many liqueurs, amari, bitters, and vermouths in-house, their flavors highly dependent on seasonality.

“When I look at restaurants, I see them work so closely with farmers and nature,” he said, “and my whole program is based around that. [Vermouths] were very seasonal at one point, but now in the [bar] industry, we idolize a lot of brands that aren’t seasonal, like Campari and Angostura. They are very consistent, and that’s why a lot of bartenders like them. But my goal is that I want to work in harmony with nature and what that entails is having my fig vermouth and my fermented apples taste different every week instead of trying to make them taste the same. It’s almost like improvising with those ingredients to make them taste good.”

The Wolves Photo: Courtesy of The Wolves

Lee got into making his own ingredients when trying to make the best possible Old Fashioned. He experimented with a variety of sugars, ultimately settling on Muscovado, an earthy, unrefined sugar. Next, he experimented with his own aromatic bitters. He chose Booker as his base, combining it with some 40 ingredients and aging it for two months.

“After that, I pretty much started creating all my own bitters and then from that all my own liqueurs,” he said. “It’s really easy to jump from bitters to the rest.”

Many of Lee’s concoctions are suitable for drinking alone. For instance, he makes an easy sipping biscotti liqueur inspired by a trip to a small restaurant in the southern Italian countryside where he met a woman who made her own biscotti, which could be dipped into her house-made amaro. Lee said he decided to make the biscotti amaro in honor of that memory. You don’t expect that it’ll taste like drinking a boozy cookie, but it does.

Lee also notes that, despite his travels in Italy, it’s been hard for him to find modern bars where the amaro and vermouth is house-made. He compares it to the things his Korean grandmother would make when he was a child.

“When I was a kid, my grandmother would make fermented bean paste,” he said. “It was very different from what we find in the store now; it’s almost like two different products. When I talk to my peers in Italy, they tell me their grandmas make amazing amaro. And just like I don’t really know how to make the fermented bean paste my grandma made when I was a child, they don’t know how to make homemade amaro. They don’t know how to make homemade vermouth. Their grandma does, though. It’s a dying art.”

Guests to The Wolves will be offered a vermouth that serves as an aperitif at the onset of their visit. The vermouth in question depends on what’s in season and what’s in stock, and may change as frequently as every three days.

The Wolves Photo: Courtesy of The Wolves

Of course, most of these concoctions will find their way into The Wolves’ cocktails. The menu is divided into several sections, beginning with “Delicate & Subtle,” before progressing into “Sophisticated & Complex” and “Strong & Robust.” There’s also a selection of Old Fashioneds and vermouth-based cocktails. They’re all named for their ingredients, whether that’s “Spicy Pineapple and Smoke” or “Mostly Carrot.”

The “Mostly Carrot” derives its name from the house-made carrot liqueur that’s mixed with gin, lavender rose vermouth, juniper cordial, lemon, soda water, yuzu bitters, and pine fragrance. It’s an earthy, lightly sweet cocktail. The “Fall Apples with Amaro” is a fresh, brandy-based autumnal cocktail with a hint of salt and finished with a spritz of nutmeg spray. The “Banana Cream with Some Herbs” is in a flavor realm of its own, made with bourbon, fermented bananas, lavender rose vermouth, dill and caraway liqueur, grapefruit, and an orange crème fraîche that makes the whole thing taste like a creamy dessert in a glass. Fans of boozier drinks may enjoy the “Bourbon Cranberry with Smoke,” where the cocktail is infused with port barrel smoke in a large decanter prior to being poured over ice.

The “Fig, Goji, and Sake” is, well, exactly that. A traditional sake cup is set in a sake box—called a masu—and overflowed, until the rest of the liquid fills the box. As Sake Service Institute Executive Director Haruyuki Hioki told Japanese Times, “Filling a glass until it overflows is just a form of service. It’s a gesture that makes the customer feel good because they think they’ve been given something extra.”

Lee chose to serve the cocktail this way based on service he received in Japan, where he noted that the sake in the glass was cooler and crisper than the warmer, woodier sake in the box. Guests may try to note the subtle differences in this particular cocktail similarly, sipping alternately from the cup and the wooden vessel.

This tile was taken from the bathroom ceilings and placed over the antique booths. Photo: Courtesy of The Wolves

But really, it’s best not to get too attached to any particular cocktail. Come winter, Lee expects to have replaced half the current menu, then the other half in the following months. The menu is meant to be a “living, breathing” experience that changes with the seasons. This is one reason for giving the cocktails such simplistic names, but Lee was also inspired by a trip to LACMA, during which Lee noted that Picasso also employed such titles. LACMA’s collection includes “Woman with Hat in an Armchair” and “Head of Bearded Man with Cigarette.”

“The name was just what was in the painting, but it was so much more,” he said. “That’s what I want people to feel here. It may be a ‘Korean Pear with Apricot’ cocktail, but it’s more than that.”

Opening December 1 will be The Wolves’ second floor bar, Le Nèant. The intimate lounge area features an ornate backbar Almeida explains came from a bar his father once owned,  while the opposite wall features a large of a crowd at a Teddy Roosevelt speech in Brooklyn, inspired by the former president’s time at the Alexandria.

Le Nèant’s stage will host vaudeville performances, while the cocktail experience will be omakase-inspired. Guests will be offered a list of five to 10 ingredients sourced from the farmers’ market to choose from, and that list will change every week or two.

“So, if someone asks for a bourbon cocktail and [they choose] carrots, then that could be a bourbon cocktail with carrot liqueur or carrot amaro,” Lee said. “And if we have mushrooms on the list, that could be an Old Fashioned with mushroom bitters. We want it to always be ever-changing so that the cocktail you get right then, you will probably never have again because…the ingredients are different every single time. Even the spirits will change.”

For those who need some food with their cocktails, Chef Matt Poley (Heirloom LA) offers a menu of shareable dishes, including charcuterie, a tomato and burrata flatbread, a veggie burger, and cashew cheesecake. A small selection of beer and wine is also available.

The Wolves is located at 519 S. Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles, (213) 264-7952. Open Tues.-Sun., 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

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Happenings, Things To Do

31 Spooky / Creepy / Fun Things to Do for Halloween in L.A. (2018)

September 25, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

If you love haunted houses and horror, Los Angeles has you covered this Halloween season, offering dozens of walk-through mazes, interactive horror experiences, VR, and family-friendly thrills. Below are 31 of our favorite picks, if you’re feeling particularly brave.


Creep LA Photo: JFI Productions

Creep LA

Creep LA returns for a fourth season, this time putting 25 guests to bed. Only instead of a peaceful respite, they’ll have to navigate through a 60,000 square foot space that’s been transformed into an unfurling nightmare. Attendees may encounter darkness, crawling, and performers (or monsters?) that can touch them. Ticket holders may also enjoy an exclusive menu at nearby Rappahannock Oyster Bar, which will be staying open until 11 p.m. on show nights.

Where: ROW DTLA, 777 Alameda Street, downtown L.A.
Cost: $89

Delusion: The Blue Blade

Delusion is back with their sixth show, The Blue Blade. In this sci-fi tale, you and seven others must help The Safeguard Society recover a stolen artifact that allows the user to time travel before havoc is fully wreaked.

Delusion shows are typically highly interactive, so be prepared to stay sharp as you move through multiple time periods—which we’re told may involve sliding—in search of the thief.

Guests are advised to show up early to enjoy the bar and lounge area before the show. Tickets typically sell out quickly, but subscribe to Delusion’s mailing list for announcements about new batches of tickets or extensions.

Where: Secret location in Mid-Wilshire
When: Select dates Sept. 21-Dec. 16
Cost: $95

Theatre Macabre

The devious minds behind 2015’s The Tension Experience are back with a new interactive show that takes inspiration from the grisly theater of Paris’ Grand Guignol. Guests will be able to choose their own path throughout the multi-floor venue, whether that’s taking in a strange theater performance or embarking on a mission with various characters. The show runs over two hours and admission include adult beverages.

Where: Secret location in Los Angeles
When: Select dates Oct. 4-Nov. 4
Cost: $150

Disco Dining Club’s The Flowering of the Strange Orchids

‘Botanical horror’ and man-eating plants are at the center of this elevated Halloween dinner party. The lofty price tag of $300 will earn you a 5-course meal from Chef  Laurent Quenioux, cocktail pairings and wine, coffee and tea service, desserts, and optional edible bug pairings via Bugible. Lavish set design from partners including The Grim Wreather (they make creepy wreaths) will be complimented by theatrical activations, puppets, live music, and dance performances throughout and after dinner.

Where: Private residence in Pico-Union
When: Oct. 26, 27, 28
Cost: $30

The Unknown

We only know two things about this haunt: they have a creepy Instagram account, and it comes via Annie Lesser, Teresa Loera, and Heidi Callaway. Previous work from Lesser would indicate an immersive production worth seeing, but this is literally all the information we’ve got. Seek them out if you dare.

Where: Somewhere in Silver Lake
When: October
Cost: TBA

The 17th Door: Crybaby
Photo: The 17th Door

The 17th Door: Crybaby

The 17th Door is returning for a fourth installment, continuing the story of Paula, a young woman who has really been through the ringer. Guests to the haunt’s inaugural season were introduced to a bullied college student who, through a series of terrible events, is now in prison for the murder of her son. This haunt typically prides itself on gore and shock with a fair bit of interactivity between guests and monsters, and we’re sure this year will be no different. Explore 20 unique rooms, or, if you get too scared, call ‘Mercy!’ to be escorted to safety. New this year is an optional 15-minute VR experience that guests may choose to endure prior to entering the haunt.

Where: 1851 W. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton
When: Select dates Sept. 21-Oct. 31
Cost: $23-28 + $13 for VR add-on

Drunken Devil: Bacchanalia

Drunken Devil throws multiple horror-themed parties throughout the year, but for Halloween, they’re taking us to ancient Rome. Bacchanalia is inspired by the scandalous legacy of Caligula, with members of the depraved emperor’s court in attendance and interacting with guests. Tickets to Bacchanalia are all-inclusive, providing access to an open bar and entertainment including DJs, burlesque, and magicians. Lavish attire encouraged, but event organizers would prefer you not wear a toga. Read more about Drunken Devil and its founder, Matt Dorado, here.

Where: Secret location in Los Angeles
When: October 13
Cost: $85


Eric Keitel, Ian Heath and John T. Cogan in The Damned Thing, Wicked Lit 2017. Photo: Daniel Kitayama.

Wicked Lit

Unbound Productions’ site-specific Wicked Lit returns to the Mountain View Mausoleum, offering the perfect setting for all new tales of horror. This year, guests will enjoy two theatrical adaptations: Charles Dickens’ The Chimes: A Goblin Story, and Ernest Rhys’ Teig O’Kane and the Corpse. The Chimes follows an elderly man’s encounter with goblins, while Teig is the story of an immature Irishman who must learn to accept responsibility when a corpse attaches itself to his back. Guests will walk the through the mausoleum as they follow both chilling tales. The total run time for both shows is approximately 75 minutes.

Where: 2300 Marengo Ave., Altadena
When: Select dates Oct. 4-Nov. 10
Cost: $30-40

Dr. Zomba’s Ghost Show of Terror

Taking inspiration from the “ghost shows” of the 1950s, Dr. Zomba is a campy theater piece in which guests are attendants at a seance. Doctor Zomba and his assistants, Sirina and Ear-Gore, will perform a variety of magic tricks before attempting to summon the dead. This was a popular Fringe piece for fans of B-movie horror humor, making it a perfect remount for Halloween.

Where: The Complex Hollywood, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
When: Oct. 20, 26, 27 & Nov. 3
Cost: $20

Zombie Joe’s Urban Death Photo: Jana Wimer

Urban Death: Tour of Terror

Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre in North Hollywood presents their annual Halloween iteration of Urban Death. Guests will wind through a short maze set up in the theater’s lobby area before entering a darkened theater where series of disturbing vignettes will be presented one after another. Guests will have to wind through the maze again to get back out. Note: Urban Death can be funny, creepy, and very gross, so you should be prepared for vulgar humor and total nudity (theirs, not yours). Read more about the history of Zombie Joe’s and Urban Death here.

Where: 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
When: Select dates Oct.5-31, plus Nov. 3
Cost: $15-20

Force of Nature Productions

Burbank theater company Force of Nature presents a tribute to one of the greatest horror authors of all time. Edgar Allen Poe stars Duffy Hudson as the eponymous writer, who will “recollect some of the chilling truths and secrets behind the work he left behind.”

Where: 1001 W Olive Ave., Burbank
When: Oct. 19, 20, & 21 at 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $20

The Witching Hour

Black Rabbit Rose, Hollywood’s magic-themed cocktail bar, will run a new show titled “The Witching Hour” in their theater this fall.

This particular venue—which also houses fellow Houston Brothers’ bars Dirty Laundry and Madame Siam—was once an apartment building founded in 1917 to cater specifically to actors. The building was home to Clara Bow and Mae Busch, and Rudolph Valentino allegedly ran a speakeasy out of the basement.

“The Witching Hour” draws on these legends and other rumors of occult practices and secret societies in the form of a séance. Performers include Liberty Larsen, Asia Ray, and Fitzgerald.

Where: 1719 N. Hudson Ave., Los Angeles
When: Oct. 11-Nov. 4
Cost: $40


Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights

This year’s attraction is going into the Upside Down with an all-new Stranger Things haunt for anyone who’s wondered what it’s like to be relentlessly pursued by a Demogorgon. Other new mazes include Trick ‘r Treat (inspired by the Michael Dougherty film); The First Purge; Poltergeist; Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers; the Horrors of Blumhouse, which will recreate moments from Truth or Dare and Unfriended, andUniversal Monsters”—a tribute to the classic villains of horror cinema with a score courtesy of Slash. Guests may also stop by the park’s permanent Walking Dead attraction and take the Terror Tram on a tour of the studio’s clown-filled backlot. For a break from all the screaming, check out hip-hop dance troupe Jabbawockeez’s stage show. Of course, getting to and from the theater may require you to walk through the park’s multiple scare zones.

Where: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
When: Select dates Sept. 14-Nov. 3
Cost: $67 and up

Six Flags Fright Fest

Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia has transformed into Fright Fest, offering six mazes, multiple scare zones, and the chance to ride some of your favorite coasters—including Twisted Colossus and Full Throttle—in the dark. Get trapped in the world’s worst open house in “Condemned,” grossed out in “Sewer of Souls,” and attend Hell Fest in a maze inspired by the upcoming horror flick. Or, walk through the DC area of the park to encounter roaming clowns—no doubt escaped from Arkham—in scare zone “City Under Siege.” Performances include the High Sierra Hypnotist and Voodoo Nights, featuring DJs, dancers, and more.

Where: 26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia
When: Select dates Sept. 15-Oct. 28
Cost: $53.99 and up

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Photo: Queen Mary

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor

Queen Mary flirts with its ghost stories and alleged hauntings all year long, but they really go all out for Halloween. Dark Harbor features six mazes, nightly entertainment consisting of circus performers and DJs, two secret themed bars, and even a ‘haunted hookah lounge.’ All mazes are returning classics with new paths and secrets, and include “Feast,” “B340,” “Deadrise,” and “Circus.”

Where: 1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach
When: Select dates Sept. 27-Nov. 2
Cost: $20 and up

Knott’s Scary Farm

Knott’s Berry Farm has become the sinister Scary Farm every Halloween since 1973. Guests to this year’s event will get the chance to explore nine mazes including two brand new offerings: “Dark Entities,” which takes place aboard a forsaken space station, and “The Depths,” which takes guests deep into the caves of a seaside town. That sounds nice, but we’re pretty sure there are going to be tentacled sea monsters. Returning mazes include “Pumpkin Eater,” “The Red Barn,” “Trick or Treat,” “Paranormal Inc.,” “Dark Ride,” and zombie laser tag maze “Special Ops Infected.” Other Scary Farm attractions include a spookier version of the Timber Mountain Log Ride, a zombie VR experience, and live magic and comedy performances.

Where: 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park
When: Select dates Sept. 20-Oct. 31
Cost: $42 and up



The VOID’s unique brand of “hyper-reality” gets two spooky experiences for Halloween. You can choose to sign on as a rookie Ghostbuster and, armed with a proton pack, explore a haunted apartment building in Ghostbusters: Dimension. Or, you can explore the site of a mysterious disappearance during the Chicago World’s Fair in Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment. Solve puzzles faster than Nicodemus can stalk you and you may escape with your life.

These VR experiences are tangible, meaning you will actually be able to feel and smell the virtual world you see in your headset. Read more about The VOID’s Star Wars experience here, or about Ghostbusters and Nicodemus here. The full experience lasts about a half hour, including a short video, gearing up, and the VR portion.

Where: Glendale Galleria, 100 W Broadway, Glendale
When: See website for details
Cost: $29.95

Wax House: The Legend of Jack the Ripper

In this VR escape room experience, teams of up to four attempt to finally solve the identity of Jack the Ripper, the infamous serial killer who evaded Scotland Yard over a century ago. Players will first walk through a spooky hallway that explains the case before suiting up and entering a VR labyrinth. Each player will carry a controller that allows them to pick up virtual objects and a prop that will guide their path. Find secrets and solve puzzles, lest you become the Ripper’s victims yourselves.

The experience takes place in a  3,000 square foot room in which players can roam untethered. Though not as tactile as The VOID, there is some haptic feedback built into the floor, which makes for some pretty cool effects. The entire experience lasts over a half hour and is located in the Mountasia Family Fun Center, where guests may also enjoy a variety of arcade games and other activities.

Where: Mountasia Family Fun Center, 21516 Golden Triangle Rd., Santa Clarita
When: Select dates through Oct. 31
Cost: $29.95


The Fleshyard Photo: HorrorWorld


HorrorWorld is a collection of three separate haunts in one location presented by horror FX company Bone Yard Effects. Mazes include Into the Black, The Psycho Sanitarium, and The Fleshyard.

In Into the Black, participants will enter one at a time to investigate the mysterious Black House. Legend has it that this home was built over a century ago by an occult-loving family. Those who can find the forsaken mansion will find it’s delightfully full of demons. Psycho Sanitarium is set within a “dark and destitute” sanitarium, while The Fleshyard tells the tale of a murdered family seeking vengeance at the site of their once prosperous farm.

Guests may also peruse a variety of morbid vendors in between haunts.

Where: 1600 S. Azusa Ave., Rowland Heights
When: Select dates Sept. 28-Oct. 31
Cost: $15-20 per haunt or $45 for all three

Los Angeles Haunted Hayride

Haunted Hayride hits 10 years this Halloween! This year, they’ll be offering a clown-filled hayride, the skeletal Scary-Go-Round, dark maze House of Shadows, and an interactive Trick-or-Treat experience. Roam the fairgrounds in between for food, vendors, theater, and roaming monsters.

Where: 4730 Crystal Springs Ave., Los Angeles
When: Select dates Sept. 29-Oct. 31
Cost: $30.99 and up

Warner Bros’ Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights

Warner Bros. Studio Tour gets creepy with Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights. Guests to the backlot tour will have the opportunity to brave a maze inspired by The Conjuring franchise; tours through Freddy vs. Jason‘s Camp Crystal Lake and Batman‘s Arkham Asylum; the Lost Boys arcade, horror makeup demos; ephemera from Tim Burton films, and a special 4D screening of select scenes from The Exorcist (1973). There’s also one amusement park ride, Devil’s Drop Tower, and carnival games. Those who feel parched may visit Fangtasia which is, yes, the vampire bar from True Blood. And for those who missed the IT haunted house that popped up in Hollywood last August, the tour will have that, too.

Where: 6510 Forrest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles
When: Select dates Oct. 5-27
Cost: $59 and up

Reign of Terror Photo: Reign of Terror

Reign of Terror

Technically, Reign of Terror is just one continuous haunt, but it’s also one of the largest haunted houses in Southern California, containing a total of eight unique themes spread among 105 separate rooms. New this year is a “White-Out Experience” and a Lights Out event on Nov. 3 where participants must navigate the haunt with just one glow stick per person. There are also two Lights On tours on October 20 and 27, which allow attendees to walk through a well-lit, monster-free haunt for $5.

Where: 275 N. Moorpark Rd., Thousand Oaks (inside Janss Marketplace)
When: Selet dates Sept. 29-Oct.31, plus Nov. 3
Cost: $15-35

Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place

Sinister Pointe is offering a host of Halloween attractions in one location. There are three haunts: “Phobias,” an interactive haunt exploring common fears; “Evil on 2,” which takes place on the possessed second floor of a quaint hotel; and the train-themed “Boogeyman Express.” In between haunts, check out live music, magicians, sideshow acts, vendors, and food and beverage options. Of course, getting to and from all these elements will require passing through Sinister Pointe’s scare zones.

Where: 24100 Laguna Hills Mall, Laguna Hills
When: Sept. 28-Oct. 31
Cost: $62 and up


Donnie Darko Experience

Opechee Haunt is the love and labor of Sam Kellman, a teenage haunt enthusiast. This year’s attraction is themed after the 2001 cult hit, Donnie Darko. Guests enter alone (no exceptions), encountering scenes and characters from the film. This is a free home haunt, so guests are advised to  show up early to secure a spot in line.

Where: 1307 Opechee Way, Glendale
When: Oct. 20, 21, 26, 27 & 28, 6:30-10 p.m.
Cost: Free (donations accepted for future haunts)

Anneliese: the Experience

Twisted Minds Productions’ hosts “Anneliese: the Experience,” an interactive haunt following the story of a young girl who is possessed by evil.

The haunt takes its inspiration from a true and tragic story. Anneliese Michel was a young German woman who ultimately died after her family and two Catholic priests, believing her to be possessed by a demon, subjected her to dozens of exorcisms.

Guests will be led by two ghost hunters through a ‘paranormal research tour’ in search of demonic activity.

Where: 6150 Piedmont Ave., Highland Park
When: October 26, 27 & 31
Cost: $3

Rotten Apple

Diane and Preston Meyer started this beloved home haunt over 25 years ago as a birthday party for a child, but it’s since gone on to take over the front lawn of their Burbank home every October. This year’s theme is Killpetto’s Toy Shop, so expect a sinister take on Pinocchio—which, when you think about it, was already a pretty horrifying tale. Why exactly was some guy rounding up little kids to turn them into donkeys anyhow? This haunt is free and first come, first served, but also very popular. So, to avoid long lines and ensure you get in, it’s wise to show up on the earlier side. Due to city permits, the haunt must close at 10 p.m. nightly no matter who’s left in line.

Where: 907 N. California St., Burbank
When: October 20, 21, 27, 28, & 31, 7 to 10 p.m.
Cost: Free, but donations are accepted to support Volunteers of Burbank Animal Shelter

The Backwoods Maze

Since 2003, the Backwoods Maze has been a standout home haunt that is often just as scary as the big-budget haunts. Early teasers indicate part of this year’s theme may include an area titled “Sewage Falls.” Sounds toxically delightful.

Where: 1912 N Pepper St., Burbank
When: Select dates Oct.12-31
Cost: Free


Pageant of the Monsters

Pageant of the Masters involves actors who make paintings come to life, as anyone who’s been or seen that particular episode of Arrested Development knows. But once every five years, Pageant of the Monsters awakens from its slumber, re-enacting ghoulish tableaus. This year’s theme is “Raiders of the Lost Art,” and includes a haunted house, Halloween arts and craft, and activities for children. The haunted house is not gory, and is recommended for children 5 and older. Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase.

Where: 650 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach
When: October 26, 27, 28, 31
Cost: $15 in advance/$20 at the door/$10 for children 12 and under.

Ghost Train

The Los Angeles Live Streamers Railroad Museum’s Ghost Train is a family-friendly, gore-free ride through light-hearted, spooky scenes. It runs about 23 minutes in length, and proceeds go to benefit the museum’s 13-acre park facility.

Guests may make a night of it with Boney Island, a long-running Valley home haunt hosted for the first time at LALSRM. The attraction is full of animated skeletons, singing bushes, and other all-ages magic. You’ll find it in between Ghost Train and Travel Town, but the two attractions are separate. If you want to see both in one night, be sure to schedule your visit appropriately and buy tickets for both.

Where: 5202 Zoo Drive
When: Ghost Train runs select dates Oct. 13-31; Boney Island Oct. 11-31
Cost: $25-30 for Ghost Train; $15 for Boney Island

Rosehill Haunt: The Final Celebration

Rosehill Haunt is a family-friendly home haunt featuring talking skeletons and pumpkins and other fun surprises. As a guest, you’ll be recruited to help Rosehill Cemetery break the curse that plagues its grounds. Creators say this year’s haunt is “by far our most immersive, darkest, and elaborate theme yet.”

Where: 11560 Acama St., Studio City
When: Oct. 26, 27, 28, & 31
Cost: Free, donations accepted

A tableau of sea creatures made from gourds Photo: Courtesy of Night of the Jack

Night of the Jack

This is the perfect event for someone who wants a little Halloween atmosphere without any of the scares. At Night of the Jack, guests of all ages can meander through Calabasas’ King Gillette Ranch, where thousands of pumpkins will be arranged in elaborate displays. Pumpkins may be assembled in the form of dinosaurs, sea creatures, fairy tale scenes, and celebrities. Guests may also check out live carving demonstrations, a gift shop, and the Fear Garden Bar for food and drinks. Tickets are sold for timed entries, but guests are free to explore at their own pace. It takes about one hour to complete the entire trail.

Where: 26800 Mulholland Hwy, Calabasas
When: Oct. 11-Nov. 4
Cost: $25 adults/$20 children ages 4-12

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Food, Happenings, Where to Eat

Burbank’s Castaway Has Gone from Tiki to Ruin to Modern Mainstay

September 21, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Castaway is known for its sweeping views Photo: Courtesy of Castaway

Situated among the Verdugo Hills, Castaway has boasted one of the best views in Burbank for over 50 years.  A recent renovation has taken the restaurant into a modern era, offering a sleek redesign, interactive stations, a subtle movie studio theme, and a “steak-forward” menu with an eye for affordability.

In the Beginning

Specialty Restaurants Corporation (SRC) was founded by WWII veteran David Tallichet, who opened SRC’s first restaurant in Long Beach in 1958. Castaway would open just a few years later in 1962, offering American fare with Polynesian influences. Tropical vibes filled the property, which consisted of a 500-seat dining room and event space that was popular for weddings and parties. A second Castaway opened in San Bernardino in 1970, and remains there to this day.

Looking back at Castaway’s early days reveals a host of special events, including fundraisers, costumed balls, weddings, and business meetings. It’s also been the site of the Saturn Awards—which recognizes sci-fi, horror, and fantasy media—several times, including in 2018.

Bob Hope was once among its many regulars, with the L.A. Times reporting that he could frequently be seen pulled up to the bar. You can check out scans of old menus, dating as far back as when a Scorpion cocktail cost $1.50, here.

June 25, 1963. Castaway hosts the annual Beachcomber dinner. Actor Douglas Mossman (Hawaii 5-0, Hawaiian Eye) aged as Master of Ceremonies. Photo: (Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

A Mysterious Fire Destroys the Popular Mainstay

In June of 1993, the restaurant was devastated by a fire that occurred in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning. Firefighters were alerted to the disaster after a heat-sensing burglar alarm was triggered. It took rescuers 90 minutes to extinguish the flames and though there were no injuries, the restaurant was a total loss. In all, the blaze caused $1 million in damages, left over 200 unemployed, and disappointed several others who had booked weddings, prom parties, and other special events.

Investigators noted the fire was suspicious from the start and ultimately ruled it an arson. Despite a $10,000 reward from SRC, the culprit was never apprehended. They began rebuilding the restaurant in 1995.

Oddly enough, SRC’s LAX offering, Proud Bird, was also the victim of arson in 1984. This blaze claimed the life of one firefighter. A teenage dishwasher was arrested but later released, and both cases remain unsolved. And, despite shuttering in 2013, Proud Bird also enjoyed its own Phoenix story, re-opening in a renovated space in 2017.

Castaway Photo: Courtesy of Castaway

The New Castaway

When the time came for Castaway to get a new look, SRC decided to move away from its tropical roots. They closed in July of 2017 and reopened 9 months and $9.5 million later. The new look is much more modern, from the sprawling dining room to the romantic patio and its sweeping views.

“We wanted to re-invest because we’ll be here another 60 yeas, at least,” Ryan Smith, SRC Regional Director, said. “The tiki [theme] was fun and approachable, but we wanted to create something [different].”

Taking into account the restaurant’s Burbank location, various design elements are nods to the film industry. The menus all look like film scripts. A glance at the lunch menu sets the scene: “INT. CASTAWAY PATIO — LIVELY — SOAKING UP THE SUN.” In the dining room, you can spot a Wilson volleyball marked with a bloody handprint on a shelf. Yes, that’s right: Castaway the restaurant is making a reference to the 2000 film Castaway, in which Tom Hanks is marooned on a deserted island and, in his isolation and despair, befriends an inanimate ball.

Wilson! Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Diners at Castaway, unlike Hanks’ character, will not be forced to spear their own fish, but can peruse a hearty menu of mains, sides, and charcuterie. A prime focus is on steak.

“We decided to stay in the American genre of cuisine, but we went with steak-forward,” Smith said. “We saw a gap in the market where you’ve got Wolfgang’s and Ruth Chris and those steakhouses, and then you’ve got the more approachable brands like Sizzler and Outback, but there was nobody doing a lot in the middle where you could come to a restaurant like Castaway and have a fantastic cut of meat for, say, $35.”

To find quality steaks that can be offered at mid-level prices, Smith said they source a lot of “off cuts,” which may be wagyu quality beef, but from different parts of the cow. One example is the Zabuton, also known as the Denver Steak, which comes from the upper chuck. These smaller cuts, between 6 to 9 ounces, can be supplemented with selections from the menu’s “supporting cast” section, including lobster and truffled mashed potatoes and/or Brussels sprouts in a sweet Thai chili glaze. Castaway offers a 32-ounce tomahawk and or dry-aged ribeye for those who want it, and observant diners will take note of the dry aging room with Himalayan salt brick that is visible from the dining room. Elsewhere on the menu you can find seafood, salads, and shareable plates including a charcuterie and cheese selection.

The Zabuton cut is named for a flat, Japanese cushion typically used for sitting on the floor or on a chair. Photo: Courtesy of Castaway

When possible, Smith said Castaway is moving towards making dining more of an experience. Guests may catch the butcher working during dinner service or notice the bustle of an active wine cellar where sommeliers and wait staff are constantly entering and exciting or conducting wine tastings.

Castaway’s Happy Hour, which occurs Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., includes a chef preparing the charcuterie and cheese boards at the bar. Samples may be doled out as the board is prepped. Happy hour specials include $3 off tap drinks, which consist of 8 wines, 8 draft cocktails, and a variety of beers. And then there’s the Chef’s Table, where adventurous guests may enjoy a seven-course meal that begins with cocktails and a tour of the property.

“It’s a really fun experience for someone who has a seasoned palate and wants to try some things that are adventurous or they haven’t had before,” he said. “It’s a community table that’s interactive, where everyone can talk and share different things.”

The 2.5-hour experience is $125/person and includes the meal and cocktail, with optional wine add-ons.

On the weekends, Castaway still offers brunch, but has moved to an a la carte brunch versus their previous buffet, with options including lobster and waffles, Benedicts, and “spiked milk” cocktails reminiscent of slurping the milk left in a cereal bowl, if your cereal had booze in it.

All menus will change frequently, offering new drinks and dishes on a regular basis.

“There are so many choices out there now and the competition is so great that you have to offer different things and be constantly changing,” Smith said. “So for us, we’re always updating our menus. What you get here that you wouldn’t get going down the hill is the ever-changing evolution of a fantastic restaurant. We’ll have the mainstays and your favorites, but there’s always some sort of new adventure that you can go on from a culinary and beverage standpoint.”

Castaway is locate at 1250 E Harvard Rd. in Burbank.

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There’s a New ‘Ghostbusters’ Hyper-Realistic VR Experience at The VOID in Glendale

August 21, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Ghosbusters: Dimension Photo Courtesy of The VOID

Los Angeles’ most tactile VR experience is getting two new skins leading up to Halloween: a light-hearted, mildly spooky Ghostbusters adventure and the significantly scarier Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment.

The VOID landed in the Glendale Galleria this past spring, offering Star Wars fans a chance to fight their way through an Imperial base in virtual reality. What’s special about The VOID in comparison to other VR games is the Utah-based company offers immersive “hyper-reality” experiences. This means that while inside VR, you can touch and interact with the things you see in your headset. You can sit on furniture, brush your hand against walls, push buttons, and hold blasters/proton guns in your hands. The VOID also employs other sensory tricks: when Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire players descend on the volcanic planet Mustafar, they can feel the heat and smell the sulfur coming off its surface. Starting this month, Star Wars takes a backseat to Ghostbusters every Tuesday and Nicodemus on Wednesdays.

Ghostbusters: Dimension casts you and your friends as rookie Ghostbusters on a coffee run. However, on your way there and back, you’re given an ostensible reason for your trip: go check out a decrepit, old apartment tower and see if it’s haunted by the spirit of a previous occupant. (Spoiler: Obviously, it is.) Players will explore the space while wearing a Rapture headset and a haptic vest that vibrates when you’re ‘hit’ by enemy fire or shrapnel. Additionally, each player is issued a plastic proton blaster at the beginning of the mission, which can be used to fend off an assortment of ghouls. But definitely don’t cross the streams (unless it’s absolutely, necessary, of course).

It’s worth noting that Ghostbusters: Dimension came first, and Star Wars, felt, in my opinion, like a much smoother ride and overall, a more action-packed experience. That’s not to say that Ghostbusters isn’t fun; The VOID remains one of the most interesting, tangible, and truly immersive VR experiences out there, and fans of the films will likely get a kick out of the game’s many Easter eggs.

Nicodemus, on the other hand, is the VOID’s newest game. Developed with the U.K.’s Ninja Theory, this supernatural horror game takes place in 1894 during Chicago’s World Fair. Just days before the end of the fair, guests were lured into the ‘Evanishment Room,’ located within the Electro-Spiritualism Exhibit. Those guests disappeared, never to be seen nor heard from again, and the attraction shut down. Several weeks later, witnesses reported seeing ominous lights shining from the abandoned exhibit.

You and up to three teammates must travel back in time to the night of the disappearance to figure out what happened. However, you’ll also have to escape Nicodemus, the demon that stalks its halls.

In the Bible, Nicodemus is a Pharisee who helps Joseph prepare Jesus’ body for burial. The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, in part, describes Christ’s descent into Hell, from which he frees several captives before ascending to Heaven. Why is Nicodemus the name of a demon now? Sounds like a mystery waiting to be solved.

Guests will choose among six avatars, all appropriately dressed in 19th century garb, to poke about the dilapidated fairgrounds. And yes, there will be plenty of puzzles to figure out.

The VOID is located at the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, near the JC Penny’s. Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire is offered Mondays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ghostbusters: Dimension is available Tuesdays, 10 a.m. t0 9 p.m., and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment is offered Wednesdays, 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $29.95/player. Ages 10+

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Cool Spots, Food

‘The Mermaid’ is a New Nautical Neighborhood Bar in Little Tokyo

August 17, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Mermaid exterior. Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Little Tokyo has a friendly, new neighborhood bar with a fun, underwater theme and tropical drinks. It’s called The Mermaid, marked by a blue neon sign that invites locals to saunter on into the dark, but never dingy, dive.

Last autumn, Arelene Roldan—a fourth-generation Angeleno who previously owned NoHo tap room Bar One—serendipitously met Milwaukee native Katie Kildow, who’s helped run Lemon Poppy Kitchen in Glassell Park for the past six years.

Roldan had decided to close Bar One after a decade, but soon got the itch to open another bar. She posted as much to social media, which prompted a mutual friend to introduce her to Kildow. Kildow had bartended for twice as long as Lemon Poppy Kitchen had been open, and was actively hoping to get involved with a new venture that also served cocktails. Within a month Kildow and Roldan were in business together and in less than a year’s time, Mermaid was ready for its maiden voyage. Roldan tells We Like L.A. the duo chose the name after reading about the ama: Japanese women who free-dive for sea cucumbers, seaweed, shellfish, and abalone. The tradition dates back thousands of years, though the practice has dwindled in recent times.

Arelene Roldan (left) and Katie Kildow (right) Photo Courtesy of The Mermaid

The pair always knew they wanted a comfortable, approachable neighborhood bar, and in that regard, the Mermiad succeeds. For a new bar, it has that timeless, always-been-there feel. Kitschy focal points include a vintage diving helmet near the entrance, a large plastic lizard resting on a shelf, custom seaweed wallpaper courtesy of Los Angeles-based Fourth Wall Design, and a porthole through which guests might spot a flirtatious mermaid or two. The illusion is a simple one crafted by a video screen positioned behind a porthole wall fixture. The mermaids come from an underwater burlesque troupe that regularly performs at Wreck Bar in Ft. Lauderdale.

“Ambiance is a very important element to the neighborhood bar,” Roldan says. “I call these things eye candy. When you’re sitting, drinking, you like to be surprised and look at these things.”

New design elements are on the way, including two art installations and other relics donated by friends, families, and regulars, as any locals joint is wont to collect over time.

“If your grandparents had a wet bar in their basement, this is what it would look like,” Kildow said.

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Mermaid offers six rotating craft beer taps ($7), a small selection of wines ($9), and a list of classic and signature cocktails ($10-11). They include the Siren Song—essentially a dill gimlet—and The Pelican, made with tequila, house-made hibiscus syrup, lime, and angostura bitters. You can even get a boozy snow cone, the flavors of which change frequently. Mermaid worked with bartender Jessie Smyth to come up with a tropical, approachable menu.

“I know a lot of times, craft cocktails can veer into territory that makes them not the most easy to drink,” Kildow said. “[Our cocktails] are refreshing, accessible, what I’d want to drink sitting on a patio somewhere.”

Food consists of shareable bar bites, but not burgers and fries. Instead, find braised brisket sliders and shrimp rolls on Hawaiian rolls; tater tots; nori guacamole, and hearts of palm or shrimp ceviche. You can also score “tropical” Chex Mix, made in-house and baked with coconut, brown sugar, butter, and pineapple. Late-night bites switch to meat and veggie dogs, popcorn, and chips ‘n queso, served via a concession stand.

The Mermaid interior. Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Stop by between 5 and 8 p.m. for daily happy hour, which includes $1 off beer and wine, $6 wells, and deals on food. They’re currently offer $1 wings for their grand opening, and intend to implement a daily punch bowl and daily classic cocktail soon.

“I think a lot of places out here are a little high-priced, which is what the market bears, but we want to be that place where if you finally see an Old-Fashioned at a price you can afford, then you can start opening up your palate to new drinks,” Roldan said.

As the Mermaid settles into its briny depths, the pair intend to start running karaoke, trivia, and music video nights, as well as Women Crush Wednesdays, which will pay homage to women within the bar industry. This could include guest bartenders, educational forums, meet-ups, or specials featuring spirits, wine, or beer made by women.

The Mermaid is located at 428 E. 2nd Street in Little Tokyo. Open daily, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Parking is $3 with validation, or free on Mondays or after 11 p.m. Or, you could take the Metro Gold Line and get off at the Little Tokyo/Arts District station. 

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Cool Spots, Happenings

The Valley Has a New Gaming Center with VR, Escape Rooms, and an Arcade

August 16, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

LA Dragon Studios in Van Nuys features a medieval-themed escape room, virtual reality, and an arcade. The family-friendly gaming center is hard to miss; just look for the big inflatable dragon on the roof.

Adam Rubanenko is a nurse by trade, but opened Dragon Studios with his brother, Roy Rubanenko, because they’re both self-described “gaming fanatics” who fell in love with escape rooms. Rubanenko is American-Israeli and played his first game in Israel in fall of 2016.

“[Escape rooms] are huge in Israel; they’re as popular as going to the movies,” he said. “Most people do one or two and they either hate it or they get addicted to it. We loved it.”

Rubanekno played about 20 games while visiting family and friends in Israel, then explored the escape room market in Southern California. The siblings soon decided to open their own gaming center, launching Dragon Studios in late 2017. Dragon Studios shares a building with Rubanenko’s other venture, running home health agencies, and he jokes there’s probably no other building that contains those two drastically different businesses.

Dragon’s escape room experience, “Knights of the Round Table,” is a Tel Aviv import that leans heavily on legend of King Arthur. The traitor Mordred is en route to Camelot. In the hour before the attack, Merlin recruits your team to enter the castle and solve its secrets to defeat Mordred’s army. Costumes are encouraged, though we don’t suggest a full suit of armor, just for mobility purposes. Solving the room will require hunting for hidden objects and paying close attention to each room’s various artifacts.

The game is suitable for adults and children, as hints can be tailored to any group’s difficulty preferences. They’re gained by raising your hands to the sky and imploring the wizard for help. Upon request, you can even get an actor to play Merlin and hang out in the room with you—perfect for a fully immersive kids’ birthday party. Like most escape rooms, players have an hour to complete their mission, though it is possible to finish sooner if you’re a particularly quick puzzle solver.

Dragon also offers Hydra Squad VR, which serves as something of virtual reality arcade. Dragon has partnered with Canadian VR company VR Cave, which provides them with their content. Currently, they have two 35-minute escape games—underwater adventure Depths of Osiris and sci-fi quest Space Station Tiberia—and one 15-minute haunted house experience, Hospital of Horrors. In September, they’ll add another escape game and haunted house to their catalogue.

Groups of up to four at a time are outfitted with HTC Vive Pro headsets and controllers as well as  MSI backpacks, which allow for free-roaming as opposed to being tethered by cords. When in VR, players can see each other’s heads and hands in-game. For instance, if you’re playing Depths of Osiris, you’ll see your partners as disembodied deep sea diving helmets and gloves.

Winning these games will require both puzzle-solving, teamwork, and coordination, as you’ll have to defend yourself from sharks and meteors and figure out how to move objects in VR. As we learned when we visited Hollywood VR arcade Virtual Room, that can sometimes be harder than it looks.

Hospital of Horror plunges guests into a series of increasingly creepy rooms in a dilapidated medical facility. Things quickly spin out of control in each room, while disembodied figures whisper in your ear. Horror connoisseurs won’t find it particularly scary or gory, but the inescapable 360 experience will likely make even the most hardened haunt fan jump at least once.

For those who have exhausted Dragon’s puzzle games, they also offer a retro arcade. No quarters are needed; just pay a $10 fee and you can play from open to close. Games include foosball, air hockey, The Fast & the Furious driving simulators, shooting game Area 51, and more. Additional space is available for parties or team-building events, complete with seating, a kitchen, and TV, if you’d like to make a day of it.

Rubanekno also runs Escape Network Alliance (ENA) for industry professionals and enthusiasts to talk and meet up. There are chapters for L.A., Orange County, and the Valley.

L.A. Dragon Studios is located at 14557 Friar Street, Van Nuys. Open Monday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 5:30 p.m. to midnight; and Saturday and Sunday, noon to midnight. The escape room starts at $29.75/person, while Hydra Squad VR starts at $30/person. Access to the arcade is $10/day. Discounts are available for large groups and private parties; contact Dragon Studios to find out more.

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Cool Spots, Happenings

A Group of Bored Vampires is Finally Inviting Humans to their Secret DTLA Lounge

July 25, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Cora is bored. Do you want to play Scrabble with her? Photo: The Count’s Den

If you’ve ever wanted to chill at Willy’s Place in Sunndydale or Fangtasia in Shreveport, then you’ll feel right at home at The Count’s Den. This new, members-only, vampire-themed lounge offers magic and mischief alongside casual game and craft nights—and yeah, you’ll be playing with the undead. These vampires won’t eat you, but they might request your presence in a dark ritual or two.

The Count’s Den comes via Rachel Foti, owner of escape room company Horror Escapes LA. Yet if you talk to Foti about the Den and its blood-sipping regulars, she’ll tell you she’s but their mortal liaison. She describes the Den as an “immersive theater lounge,” where guests can hang out with one another while simultaneously interacting with characters and following a continuous narrative. It’s sort of like being a tangential character in a supernatural soap opera.

The dark parlor—with its high ceilings, scarlet walls, and Victorian aesthetic—feels far removed from the streets of downtown L.A., despite being located just a 15-minute walk from the 7th Street/Metro Center Station. It’s only been open for a few months, yet feels like it’s been lurking there for years.

The eponymous Count was one of those Old World vampires, stuck in his ways faster than a Midwestern baby boomer arguing with his niece’s Facebook friends about minimum wage. However, after the Count mysteriously disappeared, a younger vampire named Cora took over as the nest’s leader.

“[Cora] is more New Age in her decision making and leading,” Foti said.

Cora (played by Dana Benedict) has been known to suffer from an ailment common among immortals: ennui. To quench her boredom, she’s decided to open the once-clandestine spot to humans. Cora’s methods are fairly modern: she’s active online, and invites the living to parties and casual hangs. Some gatherings are members-only, though a curious mortal can get in by scoring an invite from an existing member to the Den’s weekly Thursday get-togethers or by attending a ticketed event. These might include parties, replete with burlesque shows and other performances, or the Den’s Remember Me series.

The Remember Me shows are interactive plays in which attendees will learn, firsthand, the origin stories of the vampires that frequent the Den. You see, the vampire Hakan (Anes Hasi) is Cora’s advisor and the most skilled of them all when it comes to magic arts.

“He feels it is important for the mortals to not judge the vampires in their dead lives, but to expose them to who the vampires were prior to death. Hakan hopes the mortals can find one vampire to relate to through their origin stories,” Foti said.

Guests to Remember Me will commune with Hakan, who will conduct a ritual that allows them to slip through space and time. Each chapter explores the past of a different vampire, including how and by whom they were sired.

I attended Remember Me: Germaine, which swept my group to 1980s New Orleans. At a punk show in a dingy basement club, we observed the vampire Germaine (Matt Vorce) in his human state and observed how the long-haired rocker became the vampire he is today. Following closely behind Hakan, who protected us with a mystical invisibility shield, we also saw how Cora herself fits into Germaine’s past. Future chapters will delve into the interlocking backstories of other characters, including Cora and Hakan.

While Germaine was about 30 minutes and accommodated five guests at a time, future stories will vary in audience size, length, ticket price, and location. Some will also include food/drink. After Germaine, for instance, we were allowed to mingle and enjoy some complimentary beer or wine, as poured by the surly vampire Ava. Dracula famously said (at least when he was played by Bela Lugosi in 1931 and then again by Gary Oldman in 1992), “I never drink…………….wine,” but we mortals sure can!

Remember Me shows and other ticketed events will be posted on The Den’s social media pages.

“We are currently developing an event calendar that will include events such as art, jewelry making, taxidermy workshops, vampire church, brunches, and more,” Foti said. “Since we are so new and only open for a few months, we are consistently in the process of growing.”

Those who become members of  The Count’s Den may also get to participate in an ongoing Augmented Reality Game (ARG) that Foti expects to continue for two years.

“The vampires have been known to contact members to go on scavenger hunts and run errands for them,” Foti said.

If playing Charades with the undead sounds like a good time, go ahead and check out The Count’s Den on Facebook or online here. If you’re interested in playing any of Horror Esacpes’ four games, check them out here. Of note, “Edmund’s Attic” is the newest room and part of The Count’s Den story. Ava has requested you break into the quarters of Edmund—an immortal, tongue-less servant to the vampires—and find the secrets hidden within.

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Oz Gets an Apocalyptic Twist in Speakeasy Society’s Interactive Play, ‘The Kansas Collection’

July 19, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Kansas Collection is a dystopian take on the Land of Oz Photo: Andrew Wofford

The last time I personally visited the fabled land of Oz, I was introduced to two men: Jack Pumpkinhead and Tik Tok. They asked me to help them prepare invitations to Oz’s own Royal Wedding. As it turns out, the Scarecrow King was getting hitched. We sat at a table, stamping black, inky keys on envelopes. Several weeks later, I received a familiar envelope in my own mailbox, back on Earth. Inside was an invitation to that very wedding.

But that wasn’t the first time I visited Oz. That was way back in the winter of 2017, when immersive theater company The Speakeasy Society invited me to the first chapter in their multi-part series, The Kansas Collection. It’s an original take on our favorite Frank L. Baum characters, set in a bleak, dystopian future. Our gingham-frocked heroine is missing and the Scarecrow has been left in charge. He might have a big brain, but he hasn’t been a kind despot, banning all magic from the once vibrant land. A civil war has been brewing and you, as an audience member, play a key role. You’ll interact with characters, complete tasks, and solve puzzles along the way. It’s like being a character in a dark Oz video game, where every decision changes future encounters. (If you’re a fan of Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us, this is up your alley.)

“Our goal was to create a character-driven, episodic series where you become a part of the story,” Speakeasy’s Julianne Just said. “Unlike television shows, you have an opportunity to choose a side and craft the path of your individual narrative. Depending on the choices that you make, you may receive a different side of the story than other participants.”

In a way, it’s kind of like Game of Thrones, except you get to decide if you’re siding with Daenerys Targaryen or Cersei Lannister, or maybe you just want to Littlefinger the whole thing up.

But wait! Why am I telling you this now if the story is already well underway? Well,  Speakeasy’s Matthew Bamberg-Johnson describes Kansas’ next show—Chapter 5: The Vow—as the mid-season finale and the perfect time to jump aboard.

The Vow is a great place to jump into the series,” he said. “We have created a special experience geared specifically toward people new to the story.”

Which faction you choose changes your story. Photo: Andrew Wofford

While previous chapters have been short, 20-30 minute installments at locations near Chinatown, East Hollywood, and Atwater Village, The Vow is a 90-minute show, replete with food and drink, held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glendale. Built in the late 1800s, this historic and opulent church is the perfect setting for a wild wedding.

“While the participants are from Oz, they have researched what weddings here on Earth tend to look like and are trying to honor and execute something that resembles a ‘traditional’ wedding here in America,” Bamberg-Johnson said. “They got some of the traditions a bit mixed up, but they are doing their best.”

Guests should expect to see several of the church’s spaces, including its magnificent courtyard, used in a variety of ways. And though this is a wedding, Speakeasy’s Genevieve Gearhart suggests dressing comfortably and in sensible shoes.

“You will be moving throughout the space—sitting, standing, crouching, sometimes very quickly,” she said. “Actors will speak directly to you. They may ask you to perform simple tasks, and you will be encouraged to interact with them.”

While those familiar with the books or film adaptations may find plenty of similarities, one should expect lots of twists and turns. Those who have somehow never read or watched anything Oz shouldn’t fret either. No advance reading is required.

Tik Tok (Nikhil Pai) in Chapter 4: The Invitation Photo: Courtesy of Speakeasy Society

Chapters six, seven, and eight will debut before the end of the year. In early 2019, Speakeasy will remount chapters one through eight for those guests who’ve missed or would like to repeat chapters before closing out the series with the final two installments. In between chapters, expect supplemental content, which has previously included emails, letters, puzzles, and scavenger hunts. Not all audience members will receive the same content, as what you receive depends on choices and allegiances made. Additionally, if you happen to receive a physical item during the show, hold onto it; it may come in handy later.

Speakeasy Society presents The Kansas Collection, Chapter 5: The Vow on select dates August 9-25. Tickets are $80-$100, and include hors d’oeuvres and drinks. You can find tickets here. Newcomers are asked to buy a ‘New to Kansas’ ticket and should plan to wear white to the wedding.

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LACMA’s New Interactive Exhibit Explores The Art and Illusion of 3D

July 17, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Simone Forti, Striding, 1975–78, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by LENS: Photography Council, 2018, © 2017 Simone Forti, photography © 2018 Fredrik Nilsen, All Rights Reserved

LACMA’s latest exhibition, 3D: Double Vision is a survey of 3D art, dating as far back as 1838, when the stereoscope had just been invented by English scientist Sir Charles Wheatstone.

Sometimes, 3D images feel like the future. Not necessarily the one we will have, but the one imagined by those who lived before—the kind of future where you’d live in a silver dome and drive a hovering Trans Am. When I told this to Britt Salvesen, Head and Curator, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department and Prints & Drawing Department, she nodded.

“I think ‘futuristic’ is a great word for [3D], and another word that I often find in the literature is ‘utopian,'” she said. “Dream of the perfect image, the perfect mode of representation of the ultimate realism. That kind of rhetoric occurs again and again. That’s sort of the frontier that image makers are always going for.”

Double Vision takes over the Art of the Americas building (where you may have seen Guillermo del Toro: At Home with the Monsters, also curated by Salvesen) and has been divided into five sections. The first serves as an introduction to 3D, while the rest move chronologically from the Victorian era to the present.

3D works via binocular vision: essentially, two eyes take the information they receive and convert it into one, volumetric image. This is also how a stereoscope works. It offers two nearly identical images, each taken from a slightly different perspective, and presents one to each eye. Your brain does the rest of the work, merging the two into a single image with depth. It doesn’t work for everyone; an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people may have stereo blindness, meaning it’s difficult for them to see 3D images the way they are intended. Yet enough people were excited by 3D imagery that the medium took off.

Peering through a stereoscope. Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Salvesen was focused on the 19th century in her graduate studies, writing her doctoral dissertation on Victorian stereoscopy. She became secifically became interested in how 3D became “massively popular in a very short time.”

“I wanted to think about what was the craving that people had for the experience, and not just wanting to repeat it, but to collect and own it,” she said. “I was fascinated with that, and then kept getting curious about the next chapter. It seems like there is always a desire and an impulse towards that illusionism.”

Wheatstone’s stereoscope, which used drawings and mirrors, was cumbersome. In 1849, scientist David Brewster—inventor of the kaleidoscope–produced a more portable device which could be used to view stereocards. Stereocards featured two side-by-side images that would appear as one 3D image when viewed through the device. They became wildly popular, and Victorians would snatch them up from companies like the London Stereoscopic Company for at-home viewing. They’d immersive themselves in far-off worlds without packing a bag, a primitive harbinger of the 21st century’s consumer VR headsets.

The World’s Fair also played a large role in the growing popularity of 3D imagery. The stereoscope made an appearance at The Great Exhibition in London in 1851, supposedly enchanting Queen Victoria. The View-Master made its debut at New York’s World Fair in 1939. At that same event, auto company Chrysler revealed a short 3D film titled In Tune with Tomorrow in which a 1939 Chrysler Plymouth is assembled, seemingly by magic thanks to stop motion animation. The film was so popular that it was redone in technicolor and presented again during the fair’s second season. This was the first time many people were exposed to 3D cinema, but Hollywood would start cashing in on the gimmick in the ’50s.

Guests to 3D: Double Vision will be able to view In Tune with Tomorrow, multiple iterations of stereoscopes and dozens of stereocards, a host of 3D cinema, and several more modern illusions. Various types of 3D glasses are available throughout the exhibit space, while signage indicates which one is best for each piece. There are enough things to look at and watch that one could easily spend a couple hours inside.

As guests enter, Thomas Ruff’s 3D-ma.r.s.80 (2013) offers two large, grayscale images of Mars’ surface, the craters deepening as soon as one slips on their red and blue glasses. Nearby, artist Tristan Duke’s Platonic Solids (2015) offer hand-drawn holograms on nickel-plated coppers discs. There are five of them, and on each, a geometric figure dances and shimmers.

Tristan Duke’s Platonic Solids Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Among the many stereocards depicting beautiful places and historic events, one will find a collection 19th century French Diableries. These hellish, yet humorous images depict skeletons and demons getting wild in the underworld. When backlit, the black and white images change. Eyes glow red, as light shines through tiny pinpricks. Viewers can activate the light by pressing a button on the display. (You can see some Diableries, appropriately set to Bauhaus, in this video.)

In a dark theater, a 25-minute montage of various 3D clips plays on repeat, ranging from mid-century B movies to modern film and animation. Definitely stay to see the trailer for The Maze, a 1953 horror flick in which a man breaks off his engagement after inheriting a Scottish castle from his uncle—not exactly an original conceit, but a delightful horror trope, nonetheless. His suspicious fiancée follows him to Scotland, only to experience a cavalcade of horrors inside the eponymous maze. Plastic bats and cobwebs dart out from the screen, eliciting more laughs than terror.

Other notable pieces include Simone Forti’s hologram piece Striding Crawling (1975-78), in which a holographic figure does just that, vaguely reminiscent of the desperate message Princess Leia sends to Obi Wan Kenobi in ’77’s Star Wars: A New Hope.

Then there’s the exhibit’s largest work, at least in terms of scale: Michael Snow’s sculpture, Redifice (1986). It’s a hulking, red box, about eight feet high and 20 feet long. It’s peppered with windows, some of which contain holograms, sculptures, or dioramas. Salvesen named it as one of the pieces she was most excited to display.

“It’s like if you were looking into a skyscraper,” she remarked. “It’s just so effective and fun.”

Near the conclusion of the exhibit is a series of holograms by Ed Ruscha, each one appropriately declaring it ‘the end.’ Continue down a hall with your glasses on to see Peggy Weil’s 3D Wallpaper, originally presented in 1976 and redrawn for Double Vision. Though this is sure to become the designated selfie spot, Double Vision isn’t the kind of exhibit one can simply view through other people’s photos. Many of the illusions can only be seen with the human eye, making it a truly interactive and immersive show that Instagram alone could never do justice.

3D: Double Vision is part of The Hyundai Project: Art + Technology at LACMA. See it on display in the Art of the Americas building July 15 through March 31. Visit LACMA online to keep up with exhibit-related programming, including a screening of ‘The Maze’ at Aero Theatre in Santa Monica on August 9.

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Food, Happenings

Patrick Duffy & Family Have a Hollywood Theater Bar, Complete with a Drink Named for an Actual Mule

July 11, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Patrick Duffy, Padraic Duffy, and Emily Kosloski at The Broadwater Plunge. Photo: Jessica Sherman

The Broadwater Plunge is a theater bar in the truest sense. Not only is it housed inside an operational theater; it also serves as a gathering place for playwrights, producers, actors and audiences alike. It comes via actor Patrick Duffy, his son Padraic Duffy, and his daughter-in-law Emily Kosloski. Though they’ve only been pouring drinks since June, the bar’s fascinating origin story involves both a mid-century Montana bar and a long-running theater company.

Padraic Duffy is the Managing Director of Sacred Fools Theater Company, while Kosloski is the company’s Director of Development. Founded in 1997, Sacred Fools presets a number of plays, workshops, and classes throughout the year. In 2016, the company moved from their East Hollywood space to a much larger 8,400 sq. foot, four-stage complex on the stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard known as Theatre Row. The entire complex, which the elder Duffy owns, is called The Broadwater after the Montana county where he was born. Though Sacred Fools is Broadwater’s resident company, other companies often rent out stages for their own shows. As such, Padraic Duffy and Kosloski felt like what they really needed, as opposed to a possible fifth stage, was a space to mingle.

“We really needed a place where people could go before a show and meet their friends or where casts could come out and see their friends who saw the show,” Padraic Duffy said. “Or, we’ll have a production and there will be two rental productions, so [the bar] is a place where you can meet who’s sharing the building with you.”

The narrow bar is handsome with exposed brick walls, deep red booths, an upright piano, and shelves packed with plays. Feel like ordering a drink and table-reading Julius Caesar? Go right ahead. Or perhaps a drink will lead to spontaneously seeing a play. In the future, the family hopes to install a board, similar to those found in airports and movie theaters, that tells patrons which plays are showing on any given night.

Behind the bar, guests will find a selection of beer and wine, plus two separate cocktail menus each containing five drinks. The Sacred Fools menu pays homage to the company’s work. A spicy mezcal drink called The Serial Killer refers to Sacred Fools’ long-running show Serial Killers, in which serialized stories compete against one another on a weekly basis.

The Siren’s Call—Bombay Sapphire East, Luxardo, simple syrup, Angostura Bitter, absinthe rinse, sugar rim—is a nod to the company’s proclivity for sci-fi pieces, specifically their remount of Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan, as adapted by filmmaker/playwright Stuart Gordon. The boozy Stoned Face comes via Sacred Fools’ 2012 show about actor Buster Keaton, whose nickname had been “The Great Stone Face.” Keaton’s production studio was once located at the corner of Eleanor Avenue and Lillian Way, just steps away from Broadwater Plunge’s door.

The Broadwater Plunge Photo: Jessica Sherman

The bar’s other custom libations can be found on The Owl Bar menu, and this is where the generations begin to merge.

Long before Patrick Duffy was starring as Step by Step patriarch Frank Lambert or Dallas‘ Bobby Ewing, one could have found him in the small town of Boulder, Montana, doing his homework at the tavern owned by his parents, Marie and Terence Duffy. It was called Owl Bar, and a door in his childhood home’s kitchen led straight into it. The patrons that routinely warmed its stools were well-known to Duffy, even as a kid.

“Everybody would come in after work,” Duffy recalls. “It was literally a rotation where people would come in and have a drink, then go home and make dinner. It became so regular that my sister and I just felt like they were all extended family.”

Several of these regulars are represented via cocktails, albeit much more of the craft variety than the simple ones Duffy’s parents would have poured back then. The George Paradise is a highball named for Boulder’s sheriff. His wife, known only to Duffy as Mrs. Paradise, taught Duffy in grade school. The Kittie & George—a shot of J.R. Bourbon and a can of Hamm’s—pays tribute to a couple that frequented the bar. Kittie was the mother of Duffy’s best friend. A refreshing Aquavit cocktail is called The Swede, after the nickname of Owl Bar’s Swedish handyman. The Ed Haley is a rum drink with molasses and honey, served hot in the winter and cold in the summer. The real Ed Haley drank a similar concoction and worked as a custodian at a radon mine believed to have healing properties.

“It was a big radon mine with benches all along the tunnel and people who had any sort of malady would just go sit in there for a few hours,” Duffy said.

Though the American Medical Association has long denounced radon therapy as quackery, there are still a handful of radon mines in western Montana to this day.

Like many bars, The Broadwater Plunge has their take on a Moscow Mule, this one made with bourbon and lemongrass. Unlike most bars, theirs is named for an actual mule owned by a guy named Jimmy Stubblefield.

“He had a little place out of town where the mule lived, and he would bring him in the bar. My sister and I would sit on him,” Duffy said.

From Left to Right: The Broadwater Spa; Jimmy Stubblefield and his mule; Duffy’s parents at Owl Bar; Owl Bar handyman ‘The Swede.’ Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Many of these regulars of yore, including the mule, can be seen in old photographs placed around the Broadwater Plunge. Other remnants of Owl Bar are found in the massive old cash register behind the bar and a school bell the Plunge’s bartenders ring to signify last call, just as Duffy’s parents did.

The most significant detail is the backbar’s twin stained glass panels, each topped with a decorative mirror piece. This mirror’s pattern is repeated in several of the complex’s design elements, down to the logo.

The mirrors themselves were originally installed in the Broadwater Natatorium, an opulent spa in Helena which, when it opened in 1889, boasted the largest natural hot water plunge anywhere. This is where The Broadwater Plunge gets its name. The owners of Owl Bar that preceded Duffy’s parents had purchased the mirrors at an auction for their own backbar. Though Duffy’s father later renovated Owl Bar, Duffy would ultimately find the mirrors again in storage.

“I trucked them back to our house in Tarzana where they sat for 20 years, and then I put them in a truck and took them up to our ranch in Oregon where they sat for 15 years,” he said. “When Padraic and Emily decided to build this bar, they said, ‘What about those two pieces?’ So we brought them back down, and [here they are.]”

Though no one’s yet to bring a mule by, the bar has already seen its share of two-legged business, especially during Hollywood Fringe.

“It often feels like you build a bar and then try to create a community,” Padraic Duffy said, “and we definitely were a community that needed a bar. There’s also talk of a community in theater, which is short for theater community, and it’s not about your geographical community. So, it’s kind of nice to have a place…where we will interact with the people who work and live nearby. You get in your bubbles in L.A., so I think that’s kind of exciting.”

The Broadwater Plunge is located at 6324 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. It’s open Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight; Friday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday, 5 p.m. to midnight.

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Former Naked House Cleaner Tells All and Explores Fantasy in Immersive Show

June 29, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Ethan Mechare in Coming Clean: Life as a Naked House Cleaner – Photo: Melanie Leigh Wilbur

Ethan Mechare is bringing his unique, immersive comedy, Coming Clean: Life as a Naked Housecleaner, to Los Angeles July 12-14. Set in living rooms in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, the intimate, 90-minute show will explore sexual fantasy and desire through the lens of Mechare’s unusual former career.

Though it’s not uncommon to see those hot pink vans advertising “topless maids” parked around L.A., Mechare didn’t get his start as a nude housekeeper until he moved from Los Angeles to London. In L.A., Mechare worked as a TV presenter for networks including VH1 and MTV, but was looking to make a career change across the pond. Mechare made a vision board using clippings from O magazine—he’s admittedly a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey and got his friend to ship issues to him from the U.S.—and then took a step back to see the big picture.

“There was a lot of nudity and scantily clad people, and lots of beautiful homes and tidy spaces on the board,” he said.

The vision board didn’t lie. Though Mechare doesn’t specifically identify as a nudist, he was already cleaning his own home in the buff, finding it preferable to soiling his clothes with sweat and grime. He also realized he didn’t mind being naked in front of other people if it was “part of a whole fantasy or story.” So, he began putting up ads online for his services as an au natural housekeeper.

“Being a naked house cleaner is like being a cleaner, a therapist, and an entertainer all in one,” he said. “You have to be good with people and able to multi-task, and obviously you must be a greater cleaner.”

Mechare learned a lot about fantasy through his work, the contemplation of which is the crux of Coming Clean. For some clients, hiring a naked house cleaner could be about power, voyeurism, or submission. Some might have been drawn to the taboo nature of it all, or were simply in pursuit of a good, salacious story. In a piece for Gay Times, Mechare wrote about one client who taught him to play backgammon. They’d play after Mechare had finished cleaning, Mechare still nude. Whatever the reason, Mechare notes that hiring a nude house cleaner kills two birds with one stone: there’s the fantasy fulfillment, and afterwards, you’ve got a tidy home.

Gotta keep the pool clean, too. #tbt (📸 by @nicdaleydp)

A post shared by The Naked Cleaner (@thenakedcleaner) on

Mechere encourages audience members to speak about their own fantasies and past experiences throughout the show. Though Mechare hopes people feel empowered to let go of their inhibitions and talk about their desires, sharing is not mandatory. That said, Mechare told We Like L.A. he’s been pleasantly surprised at past attendees’ honesty and willingness to play along. One common kink people have divulged is wanting to role-play with their partners.

“We’ve had people wanting their partners to dress up as Prince, a hobbit, a mermaid, and a Russian oligarch,” he said.

It may help that audience members will see the show in the intimate, cozy living rooms of private homes, and not a traditional theater. Mechare and his stage manager, Cath Royle, will greet guests at the door. There will even be refreshments.

“It’s like going to your best friend’s housewarming, except you probably won’t know anyone else there, but it will feel like you do,” he said. “I chose to do the show primarily in houses because so many of my stories are in stranger’s homes. Homes are so personal and revealing, and I wanted the audience to experience what I did when I was a naked cleaner.”

As for Mechare’s naked housecleaning days, those are behind him as he tours Coming Clean and works on a new show about bisexuality.

“But,” he said, “I’m happy to come out of retirement for a curious new client.”

Coming Clean: Life as a Naked House Cleaner runs Thursday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Santa Monica and on Friday, July 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Miracle Mile. Tickets are $23 and are available online here. 18+.

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