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Here’s a Look at the Derry Canal Days Festival and Fun House

August 15, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Though IT Chapter Two won’t hit theaters until September 6, Pennywise the dancing clown returns to Hollywood today with the Derry Canal Days Festival and Fun House. Reserved tickets for the attraction sold out in a matter of minutes, but there will be a daily walk-up line for those who still want to attend. We stopped by the press preview to report on the horrors everyone’s favorite spider-clown from another dimension has in store.

While Warner Bros. took us through the dilapidated Neibolt House (where Pennywise once lived) in 2017 to promote IT Chapter One, this year takes us to a carnival in the small town of Derry, Maine. It looks like a smaller version of the carnival that appears in the IT Chapter Two trailers, complete with a fun house guests enter via a clown’s gaping maw. There’s also a spinning ferris wheel, but it’s a bit too small for humans.

Humans can, however, play a variety of midway games. They include ringtoss and a game where you have to squirt water into a Pennywise face until you pop the red balloon that’s attached to it. Not only is this precisely the kind of thing you’d do at a carnival, but popping balloons is one of Pennywise’s favorite activities, although they’re usually full of blood.

Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Elsewhere, wagons offer various tasty carnival treats, and you’ll find a few photo ops for the Instagram-inclined scattered throughout the area. But the centerpiece is, of course, the fun house.

Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

A dubiously charismatic carnival barker in the archetypal red-and-white striped suit invites guests to step right up. Guests will be separated into groups via colored wristbands, so you can feel free to enjoy the carnival while you’re waiting for yours to be called. Inside, the fun house functions a lot like a walk-through haunted house.

Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

But instead of walking through in a single-file line, there are about 10 different rooms full of monsters and surprises, plus some very fun transitions. There’s a gauntlet of swinging, black-lit clowns; a hall of mirrors; an ominous sewer tunnel; a chilling restaurant scene, and a shocking finale. We’d hate to spoil the scares for you, so you’ll just have to go and experience them for yourself. We can say that if you watched the IT Chapter Two trailers, you’ll likely recognize a few scenes.

Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

The experience is designed to take about 40 minutes, which includes the midway, a trip through the fun house, and a stop at the merchandise booth at the end where T-shirts, hats, toys, and other collectibles can be purchased.

The Derry Canal Days Festival and Fun House runs through September 6, daily from 2 to11 p.m. Reserved times are spoken for, but a walk-up
standby line will be available each day.

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Happenings

Think Tank Gallery’s Pizza-Themed Art Show Parodies Selfie Museums in the Cheesiest Way Possible

July 28, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Art by Baker’s Son, Photo by James Ollard

Think Tank Gallery’s latest show, Nothing Cheezy, is both a food-themed selfie pop-up (akin to The Museum of Ice Cream, Candytopia, or Egg House) and a parody of that same trend. A partnership with art collectives Pizzaboyzzz and Bloody Gums, the theme of the show is pizza, but the undercurrent is a sly commentary on the nature of art in our modern, social media-oriented world. It’s essentially what happens when a group of established, original artists make one of these things themselves with complete and total control over their pieces. Guests to the show will encounter a pizza Jesus, a pizza video installation that offers an artistic prize when you spin a wheel and land on the right ‘slice,’ and a mini-golf hole where Godzilla destroys a city made from pizza boxes. If that sounds, well, kind of cheesy, that’s okay.

“More than anything, probably, [Nothing Cheezy is] a mockery of ourselves for having been so deeply involved in this scene in downtown L.A. for the past 10 years or so,” Jacob Patterson, director of Think Tank Gallery said. “The show is called Nothing Cheezy because we’re making the absolute cheesiest art show possible. All of these ‘art’ shows are really cheesy most of the time, so we’re having fun realizing that it actually is fun.”

One of Los Angeles’s earliest Instagrammable, food-centric shows, at least in recent history, may have been the Break Bread exhibit Think Tank hosted in 2016 (The gallery was then located in the Fashion District, but has since relocated near Little Tokyo). The show featured work from Baker’s Son and Scott Hove. While the work contained poignant commentary on topics like race and police violence, it was most popularly touted as a “cake maze.” People selfied among the pastel installations, each one looking like a fantastical layer cake lined with icing and garnished with candies. But if they paid attention, maybe they got more out of it, too. That would certainly tie in with Think Tank’s mantra of “meaningful, not mindless entertainment.” And entertainment, Patterson admits, is the hardest part of that statement.

“You can make meaningful stuff all day, but actually connecting it to other people is really difficult,” he said.

Art by @xtofux, Photo by James Ollard

At Nothing Cheezy, Baker’s Son returns, this time with “Fuck Your Pizza Party.” The piece looks like someone just flipped a table at a pizza party, but in delicate watercolors. There’s a statement tucked in there pertaining to the artist’s past frustrations with elements of the art scene (a statement that is, at this time, off the record).

Elsewhere, Nina Palomba’s cartoony, cardboard cut-outs depict an anthropomorphic pizzeria dog surrounded by pizza boxes. On the concrete floor, there is an X for the subject of a photo to stand, while a dotted line leads to the ideal spot for a photographer.

Berk Visual offers a room of TVs playing various old TV and film clips (including scenes of Pizza the Hut from Spaceballs) across from a prize wheel that looks like a pizza. Spin the wheel and win the ultimate prize: an “impossible selfie,” taken by a secret security camera broadcast via livestream. Only winners will receive the livestream link.

“The entire tour is focused very heavily on crediting the artist and letting them do whatever they want,” Patterson said. “As you walk through the experience, there will be a lot of jokes on the culture [of selfie museums], but we also didn’t force our artists to do that. We just told them to make the most hilarious, cheesy thing that they could. So some of the installations are just what you would actually see at another food-themed pop-up, and then some of the installations are very subtlety mocking that scene—and some not so subtlety.”

After ascending through Balloonski’s pizza heaven (made from balloons, obviously), guests unload into an interactive parlor from artist Deladeso. Grab a piece of pizza (provided by a rotating selection of local pizzerias), play arcade games, and check out the various pizza-themed pieces in both the lounge and the picnic area beyond. Guests also receive a limited edition pin. Patterson notes that as this is Think Tank’s first ticketed gallery show, they want to make sure people get something for their money.

“We wanted to make our tickets half as much as any of the other selfie tours, but include twice as much,” he said.

Art by @cheapslasherfilms, Photo by James Ollard

It may sound like Patterson doesn’t think highly of other selfie-oriented installations, but that’s not true. If such a pop-up serves as little more than paid ad space or is a copycat of another, then, sure, one could say they only exist to make money without serving their artists or their audience in any meaningful way. But that doesn’t mean that galleries need to be high-brow or can’t be photo-driven to be art. For people who don’t often find themselves in traditional galleries, installations can be a cool entry point to seeing art, Patterson said. These type of installations also present an opportunity to say something in an interactive way.

Patterson pointed to percussionist and activist Madame Gandhi’s installations in Refinery 29’s 29 Rooms. In Gandhi’s piece, guests were invited to hit several punching bags emblazoned with feminist messages. When hit, each one made a percussive sound.

“It was interactive, immersive, had meaning, was fun to do, and it was a good photo opp,” Patterson said. “If all the installations [in 29 Rooms] were like that, it would have been great.”

That’s the same conclusion I came to when I visited 29 Rooms. Some pieces felt like big ads and I got nothing from them. But I was enraptured by a room where musician Darby Walker improvised a song about any guest-submitted topic. Despite being written on the fly, her melodies and lyrics were gorgeous; her room was a respite from the frantic advertisement-heavy photo sets found elsewhere.

So, how does a company sponsor or construct something experiential without being terrible or shallow? Patterson recommends companies either hire artists and allow those artists freedom to create and experiment, or to seek out the creators who are already doing this work well and hire them.

“Let those artists keep building and making stuff, and your company can be responsible for that artist continuing to have a career,” he said. “It’s good PR for you, and you’ll get a better product out of it.”

Interested in getting Cheezy? Think Tank’s Nothing Cheezy runs through September 6. Tickets are $18 and up.

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Happenings

Get Free Sandwiches at The Boys’ Butcher Shop This Weekend Only

July 26, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Fancy a knuckle sandwich? You can score one of five sandwiches—free of charge—at The Boys’ Butcher Shop, open this weekend only on Fairfax. It’s an immersive activation from Amazon Prime Video and Chef Ludovic Lefebvre in celebration of Amazon’s new gritty superhero series, The Boys

The titular heroes of The Boys, however, aren’t the suited superheroes. They’re a group of misfits (not all of them boys, actually) whose sole purpose is to expose the superpowered frauds for the heartless, depraved miscreants they are and bring them to justice. 

The Boys is based on Garth Ennis’ comic series of the same name, which takes place in a world where superheroes are not only real and revered for their heroic deeds, but also make blockbuster movies and action figures. The best-known heroes are The Seven: seven heroes who serve as this world’s version of The Avengers or the Justice League. They’re a profitable and nearly invincible bunch who, with help from the corrupt Vought International that manages them, basically do whatever they want behind closed doors. 

The Boys are led by Billy Butcher, hence the theme of Amazon’s pop-up. We meet Billy when he approaches The Boys’ latest recruit, Hughie Campbell. Hughie is a mild-mannered electronics store employee who learns the bitter truth about superheroes when A-Train (this world’s The Flash) runs straight through his girlfriend and leaves him holding nothing but her severed arms. If that sounds pretty gruesome, well… that’s The Boys: a bloody, fast-paced, darkly comedic parody of comics as we know them. 

Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Back at the Butcher Shop on Fairfax, guests will enter a small front room where irreverent butchers are surrounded by swinging slabs of meat and sausages. A sign at the counter reads, “Take a number and wait your fuckin’ turn.” When it is your turn you can choose from five sandwiches:

Hamlander: Named for The Seven’s Homelander (essentially their Captain America), this one’s got ham, radish, cornichon, and honey butter. 

Bottom Feeder: A reference to The Deep (that’d be the Seven’s Aquaman), expect tuna, veggies, fennel, and a creamy vinaigrette. 

Starcrossed: Lamb, harissa, arugula, dill, and yogurt. And a reference to Starlight, the latest recruit to The Seven. 

Trainwreck: Pork rillette, dijon, arugula, pickled red onion. This one’s named for A-Train, a speedster and the murderer of Hughie’s girlfriend, Robin.

Blackout: Pastrami, Swiss cheese, black mustard, and pickles on pumpernickel. This one’s name for Black Noir, a Seven member who wears a completely black bodysuit. 

Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Meander into the back of the shop and you’ll find The Boys secret lair, which includes a table piled with weapons and a conspicuous cage with an even more conspicuous car battery and jumpers nearby. Guests can expect interactions with characters throughout the experience, whether that’s a surly butcher or a superhero trapped in the aforementioned cage. 

Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah

We’re told the butcher shop will close its two-day run with some kind of dramatic occurrence, which will apparently livestream on Twitch. But before that: free sandwiches!

Fun fact: Garth Ennis also penned the comic Preacher, was adapted into an AMC series in 2016. Seth Rogen and Evan Golderberg serve as executive producers on both Preacher and The Boys. So if you’re sad about Preacher‘s fourth and final season kicking off on August 4, here’s your new fix. 

Another fun fact: The comic book’s Hughie is meant to look like actor Simon Pegg. And while the show’s Hughie is played by Jack Quaid, who does not resemble Pegg, Pegg does play Hughie’s father. 

The Boys’ Butcher Shop is located at 457 N. Fairfax Avenue. Open Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free to enter, free to eat sandwiches.

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Happenings

There’s a Free, Creepy Carnival Coming to Hollywood for ‘IT Chapter Two’

July 23, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Next month Pennywise the dancing clown returns to Hollywood with a second terrifying, immersive event. And, unlike the Losers Club, we don’t even have to wait 27 years for the spider-clown from another dimension to revisit our nightmares. The Derry Canal Days Festival will open to the public on August 15 at the corner of Hollywood and Vine, drawing from the forthcoming IT Chapter Two, which hits theaters on September 6. 

As you may recall, the Neibolt House showed up on that very same corner—typically an ordinary parking lot—in the summer of 2017. Fans of IT (the book, the miniseries, or the reboot) know that the Neibolt House is the crumbling manor on Neibolt Street that Pennywise calls home. Those who ventured inside the Hollywood pop-up haunt were treated to a 7-minute study in coulrophobia.

For IT Chapter Two, Warner Brothers is doing something a little different. The “Derry Canal Days Festival” promises a peek into the upcoming film. Little info is available at this time, but we do know guests will filter through 10 different interactive spaces over the course of a whole 40 minutes—a much longer terror tour than the previous IT-eration.

IT Chapter Two picks up 27 years after the events of IT Chapter One. Our seven heroes are all adults who think they defeated Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) in a cataclysmic showdown in the sewers of Derry, Maine. Each still bears the scars of the traumatic haunting, but most of them have moved on and, most importantly, away. Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), however, remained in Derry and became the small town’s librarian. It’s Mike who realizes that Pennywise is back, and who must try to reunite the gang to defeat the evil clown once and for all.

You can watch the latest trailer, released at San Diego Comic-Con, to tide you over until August. At about 59 seconds in, you’ll see a glimpse of a carnival, which contains very scary house of mirrors. Could that be what Warner Bros. has in store for us?

IT Experience Chapter Two, The Derry Canal Days Festival runs August 15 through September 8 with daily hours from 2 to 11 p.m. Reservations are free and can be made online starting July 31. If reservations are gone before you can snag one, you may join the standby line outside the attraction. The event is open to those 18+ or 17-year-olds who are accompanied by an adult. 

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Happenings

A Blade Runner-inspired Pop-Up Bar is Coming to DTLA This November

July 10, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Nexus 2019 Bar interior – artist concept – W. Kalkanis-Ellis

Los Angeles.
November 2019.

A single black title card with white lettering sets the scene in Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic, Blade Runner. The future the film depicts is both gorgeous and dystopian: a moody, rain-soaked, multicultural, techno-noir wonderland. The story follows Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), an ex-cop turned “blade runner” whose job is to track down and retire several realistic androids, called replicants, who are attempting to live past their engineered life expectancy. The replicants’ manufacturer, Tyrell Corporation, claims that their creations are “more human than human,” which leads to complicated soliloquies about what it means to be alive. Can even Deckard really tell a robot from a human?

When Blade Runner first launched, 2019 was years away. Now we’re here, and while we don’t have flying cars or androids that surpass the uncanny valley, we do have Nexus 2019, an immersive pop-up bar that promises to place us in a cyberpunk world not unlike Deckard’s.

Conceived by Wasteland Weekend creator Jared Butler, Nexus will open at a to-be-announced downtown L.A. location in November with an interior meticulously skinned to look like something straight out of the film (just don’t call it a “skin job”; that’s a slur that replicants do not appreciate.) Adding to the ambiance will be themed cocktails, food (including noodles), actors, and live entertainment. 

Blade Runner has always been among my favorite films,” Butler tells We Like L.A. “It’s such a great combination of classic Hollywood-style noir and innovative future sci-fi. I’m also a huge Harrison Ford fan. He was the bigger-than-life hero of my childhood—Han Solo, Indiana Jones, etcetera. When I moved to Los Angeles, and started spending more and more time in downtown L.A.—especially at night—I couldn’t help thinking about Blade Runner when I would walk down the city streets, especially on Broadway, where parts of the movie were filmed.” 

Nexus 2019 Bar interior – artist concept – W. Kalkanis-Ellis

The bar’s tagline is “more immersive than immersive,” and Butler has been producing the immersive Mad Max-themed Wasteland Weekend since 2010—long before brands latched onto the buzzword and started popping up Instagram-friendly selfie museums billed as “immersive.” Butler says he’s excited to combine his immersive work with the modern “cocktail renaissance,” taking “the idea of a themed bar to the next level.”

Cocktails come via BC Hoffman, co-owner of Well Work Beverage Consulting and a creative consultant with the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC). They include a smokey, chrysanthemum and chamomile-infused Old Fashioned made with Johnnie Walker (Deckard’s poison of choice); a rum-based concoction that looks like a container of noodles (what Deckard eats); and a Cadillac margarita with yuzu and a floating eyeball in ice, reminiscent of those made by Tyrell engineer Hannibal Chew. Notably, it is a replicant’s right eye, inscribed with their serial number, that a blade runner takes for proof of retirement. Gnarly, right? 

Nexus 2019 signature Old Fashioned. Photo via Nexus 2019 Bar

As far as what types of immersive elements are on the table, Butler says much of that will remain a secret for the time being. But, he said in addition to an “incredibly detailed” interior that feels real and lived in, the way a good film set does, there will also be characters who interact with patrons in various ways. 

“This is not going to be a ‘scavenger hunt/murder mystery’ type of adventure. That type of thing can be great, but we are focusing more on a place where people can relax and be themselves and enjoy a drink or a light meal,” Butler says. “However, there may be certain nights when other things can happen if the patrons decide to sign on for it. We don’t want to force certain types of interaction onto people who just want to come out and have a drink and feel like they’re entering a retro-future world.” 

Tickets to Nexus will cost $82 each, which includes a two-hour reservation, one cocktail and a souvenir package. The two-hour limit is a hard out, though guests will be able to offboard into an adjacent, non-themed restaurant and bar if they so desire. Guests who wish to stay for another two-hour block may purchase multiple tickets, though they will need to exit and re-enter (and they will receive an additional souvenir package).

Though the ticket may seem pricey to some, Butler promises that anyone who walks into the space will be able to immediately see where the money went.

“We don’t do anything halfway. This is a passion project for so many people, and we’re treating it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create the place we always dreamed about walking into and getting a drink,” he says. “We want to transport people. When they step through the door, they are guided into both the future and the past. The past of the noir days of Los Angeles, the world of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. But also the future, specifically, the future that the 1980s dreamed of, with flying cars, neon, and style. Anyone should be able to walk through our doors and feel like the star of their own movie. And maybe that feeling will linger when they walk out the door, particularly on a foggy night in Los Angeles, November 2019.”

The name Nexus, by the way, is derived from a series of replicants Tyrell manufactures. K, played by Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049, is a Nexus-9. A young Deckard falls in love with Rachael, a Nexus-7. Rob Zombie claims to be the Nexus-1 in “More Human than Human.” But Roy Batty, the leader of the replicant gang Deckard hunts in Blade Runner, is a Nexus-6, programmed with a lifespan of only four years. That’s still several years longer than Nexus the bar currently has, with dates only slotted through the month of November. It’s too bad it won’t last, but then again, what does

Nexus opens on November 1. Tickets are $82. 21+ only.

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Food, Happenings

‘For a Limited Time Only’ is a Tasty New Pop-Up at The NoMad Los Angeles

April 16, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Mama Guidara’s Cocktails / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

The NoMad Los Angeles is already home to both the coolest bathroom and the coolest stone, pool monster in downtown Los Angeles. Now, a new food series titled ‘For A Limited Time Only‘ transforms the hotel’s coffee shop into a variety of themed pop-ups every Friday and Saturday evening. The first, Mamma Guidara’s, takes inspiration from NoMad New York’s dinner series of the same name, which itself is inspired by old-school Italian-American red sauce restaurants.

It’s fitting that the first ‘For A Limited Time Only’ would emphasize Italian cuisine and cocktails. Long before the building was the NoMad Los Angeles, it was the L.A. headquarters of the Bank of Italy. Today, the hotel’s handsome, lobby-adjacent Giannini bar takes its name from Bank of Italy founder Amadeo Giannini.

Mama Guidara’s / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

By day, The Coffee Bar is a pretty, sun-drenched shop that serves coffee, espresso, tea, and a lovely assortment of pastries. It’s modeled after Cafe Florian in Venice, Italy. Established in 1720, Cafe Florian is the oldest café in the world. Fittingly, you can stop by The Coffee Bar for espresso during the day and then transition to a glass of wine for aperitivo. According to Ann Sim, assistant general manager of NoMad Los Angeles, ‘For a Limited Time Only’ is yet another way to activate the space at night.

Mama Guidara’s Snack & Cocktails / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

“We wanted people to stop by for their pre- or post-dinner drinks, or plan to spend the entire evening with us and a super fun line-up of drinks and snacks. The ‘For a Limited Time Only’ pop-up series was the perfect opportunity for us to flex our creative muscle. We love to throw a good party and, now, we get to throw a new party every month,” Sim said.

Photo Credit: Christina Champlin / We Like L.A.

In NYC, Mamma Guidara’s was served at the NoMad Bar and functioned more as a pre-fixe, sit-down dinner.

“When it came time to reimagine the experience in L.A. for the pop-ups, we highlighted as much of that Italian red sauce-joint ambiance as we could: think checkered tablecloths, Chianti bottles, a parmigiano reggiano wheel, and music that we very seriously curated!” Sim said.

Indeed, you’ll find red-and-white checkers on every table and Chianti bottles in straw fiaschi dripped with melted wax, while the music selections range from Italian arias and Rat Pack classics to 60s rock ‘n’ roll. You can also try your hand at Scopa, an Italian card game played with a 40-card deck.

Snack Items at Mama Guidara’s / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

The pop-up also offers a small menu of Italian snacks, including marinated olives; mini-stromboli filled with gooey cheese and served with a side of marinara; chicken parm sliders; and cannoli and rainbow cookies for dessert.

These can be washed down with the list of craft cocktails, Italian wines, and beer. For those easing from day to night, try the espresso martini made with vodka, cold brew, kahlua and creme de cacao. It comes served with a sidecar of sambuca. For something refreshing, the Sno-Cone Negroni will do the trick with rye, campari, foro amaro, St. Germain, and strawberry blanc vermouth. And for those who enjoy limoncello, a house-made recipe is served on tap. Of course, the font from which it flows is cherub that appears to be, uh, urinating the limoncello. When in Rome, or so they say.

Limoncello Cherub / Photo Credit: Christina Champlin

As for prices, snacks run from $6 (rainbow cookies) to $14 (chicken parm sliders). For drinks, limoncello is $6, with cocktails available from $13 to $15. If you’re feeling splurgy, you could try the gondola for two, a shaved ice riverboat that costs $32.

Mamma Guidara’s will continue through the month of April. In May, the space will become all things Kentucky Derby. Don your fanciest hat for mint juleps, hot chicken sandwiches, and deviled eggs. In June, Take Me out to the Ball Game will offer ballpark concession bites including the NoMad’s own versions of a Dodger dog and helmet sundae. The decor will feature a collection of Dodgers artifacts strewn throughout the space.

NoMad Los Angeles is located at 649 S. Olive St., downtown L.A. ‘For a Limited Time Only’ runs on Friday and Saturday evenings through June. Walk-ins only.

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Happenings

Horror Experience ‘I want to live in your mouth’ is a Fantastical Nightmare

April 10, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Is this what the creatures look like? Photo: Carl Welti

There is a subreddit full of two-sentence horror stories of which my favorite is as follows: “They say you eat seven spiders a year in your sleep. They never say anything about the thing that feeds them to you.”

I was reminded of this tale by the title of a new, immersive horror experience at Zombie Joe’s Underground theater in North Hollywood: I want to live in your mouth. But while both horror concepts revolve around the idea of an unwanted intruder, this show does not feed you spiders. Instead, one guest at a time, acting as both voyeur and participant, accompanies a reluctant host through a pivotal memory from their youth. On that specific night, supernatural interlopers entered the host’s otherwise ordinary home. It is a dark, fantastical, and yet oddly whimsical journey into someone else’s childhood nightmare.

I want to live in your mouth comes from writer/director David Ruzicka, who also serves as the co-artistic director of JFI Productions (Creep LA, The Willows), and creative producer Eric M. Vosmeier, whose previous credits include Creep LA and Center Theater Group. I came in on a quiet Sunday night to experience the show for myself.

Upon arrival, I was told to enter the theater alone, find an illuminated chair, sit down, and wait. From the onset, there was a surreal sense that I had been transported to a different place, possibly a different time. I was soon introduced to my only friend in this strange, new world—an anxious, but friendly young man. (The role has been triple-cast; performers include Terra Strong, Curtis Tyrone Scott, and Romeo Armand Seay. On this particular night, Scott had the starring role.)

He told me about a group of bizarre creatures who had been plaguing him since he was a kid. His story was reminiscent of many classic horror tropes: monsters under the bed, creepers in the closet, invaders from another planet who will turn your entire neighborhood into pod people. Gosh, you should warn someone, one might say. But who’d believe a child, what with their overactive imaginations and all? Don’t children often talk of monsters that only come at night?

Child psychologist Dr. Laura Kauffman, in an interview with Dreams.com (they sell beds and mattresses), explained that kids, unlike adults, aren’t used to dealing with the sounds they hear in the still of the night and haven’t quite mastered how to fall asleep. This makes them “particularly susceptible to signs or indicators of [a] threat at night. As children enter their primary school years, they develop the cognitive skills and ability to imagine such things as monsters, and their fears of the dark get projected onto the caricature of the bogeyman.”

Actors Curtis Scott, Terra Strong, and Romeo Seay. Photo: Carl Welti

Ruzicka said one key inspiration for I want to live in your mouth was such common childhood fears, along with pop culture influences like the work of filmmaker David Cronenberg and movies like The Dark Crystal, Jacob’s Ladder, and Labyrinth. He said the show initially percolated as “a little bit of a prose poem with these smaller vignettes of things happening.”

As I made my way deeper into my new friend’s increasingly warped home, there were indeed several vignettes. While I won’t spoil them, I will say that while some are unsettling, others are oddly comforting.

If you’ve been to ZJU in the past, you know it isn’t a particularly large theater. However, the creators of this show have managed to build a winding set that makes the space seem much larger. There are corridors to navigate, doors to unlock, and creatures to meet or, sometimes, avoid.

The creatures are not portrayed by human actors as in a traditional haunted house, but by puppets who straddle the line between horrific and kind of cute. In some ways, this makes them creepier—thanks, uncanny valley—but moreover, they further perpetuate the idea of a child’s nightmare.

“The puppetry side was something that was part of the DNA of the project from pretty early on,” Ruzicka said. “Each of those creatures does things that we couldn’t do successfully with a human performer or even with larger scale, full-body costumes.”

“It’s also rooted in that childhood nightmare,” Vosmeier added. “[Puppets] are thought of as children’s programming, children’s toys, but here there’s this sort of warped version. If you imagine children having nightmares about Sesame Street characters, that’s what they look like.”                      

In total, the show runs about 20 minutes and offers plenty of surprises, some with an unexpected element of whimsy. For those who may find themselves curious about L.A.’s extreme haunt offerings, Ruzicka and Vosmeier note that I want to live in your mouth is not one, but could be a “gateway” to them.

“If you’ve ever wanted to be swept away or transported by one of those single-person, darker experiences but have been a little too afraid to be separated from your friend, we’re hoping this is a safe and dreamlike way to access that,” Ruzicka said.

There’s also very little in the way of gore or violence. You’re never being chased by vampires or werewolves or serial killers and there’s more fear of what’s to come than what actually is.

“There’s so much real horror going on right now. For this particular experience, we kind of wanted to give people the chance to escape into a harkening back to classic horror stories where it’s just a tale of the supernatural, a tale of dread that people can go into and forget about the outside world,” Ruzicka said.

Still, you will be touched by actors and the show is intentionally unsettling, so do pay attention to warnings listed on the website before purchasing a ticket. Note that there is a safe word, and any guest is free to stop the experience and leave at any time.

Not deterred? In that case: sweet dreams!

I want to live in your mouth runs through May 19 at Zombie Joe’s Underground theater, located at 4850 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Tickets are $47.50. 18+ only.

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Things To Do, Travel

An Angeleno’s Guide to Fun Things to do in Oakland

March 28, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Oakland is an easy weekend getaway for an angeleno, with flights lasting but an hour and a half. The Bay Area city known for its robust arts scene was recently selected as one of National Geographic‘s top places to go in 2019. It’s also the former home of The Call of the Wild author Jack London, the namesake of Oakland’s Jack London Square, where tourists will find plenty of walkable nightlife options. And, it has one of the coolest museums for learning about all things California.

Tempted to book a trip to Oakland? Below you’ll find a massive list of ideas to fill up your itinerary.

PLACES TO STAY

The Waterfront Hotel Photo: Facebook

Waterfront Hotel

This nautical hotel is located in Jack London Square, meaning it’s both highly walkable and overlooks the San Fransisco Bay, which is great for enjoying coffee on your balcony with a strong breeze. Amenities include a fitness center, heated pool, a cozy lobby with a fireplace, and a complimentary wine and cheese happy hour on weekdays. There is one on-site Italian restaurant, Lungomare, as well as several bars, restaurants, and cafes within a short walk.

Ideal for: A unique hotel in a popular, walkable part of town. 

Best Western Bayside Hotel Photo: Best Western

The Best Western Bayside Hotel

The Best Western Bayside Hotel is affordable and highly-rated by travelers. It has all the standard conveniences one would expect of a modern hotel, including a 24-hour fitness center, complimentary breakfast, an on-site bar, and wifi. Though not as walkable as staying in Jack London Square, you can get around via the free, local shuttle and many rooms come with an ocean view. Ideal for: A trusted, convenient brand close to the water.

Claremont Hotel & Spa Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin/Flickr

The Claremont Hotel & Spa

The Claremont Hotel & Spa is a historic property built over a century ago as a private home before becoming hotel in 1915, currently owned by the Fairmount Hotel chain. While the so-called”White Castle on the Hill” is considered an Oakland City Historical Landmark, you may technically be in Berkeley depending on where you’re standing on the sprawling property. Amenities include a very large spa with a host of treatments, complimentary champagne daily at 5:30 p.m., multiple on-site dining and cocktail options, multiple pools and tennis courts, a gym and fitness classes, and 22 acres of manicured grounds to wander. Ideal for: A pampered luxury experience in a historic hotel.

THINGS TO DO IN OAKLAND

Michael McMillen’s ‘Aristotle’s Cage,’ an installation at OCMA Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Oakland Museum of California

The sprawling Oakland Museum of California has been divided into three sections: art, history, and natural sciences. Each contains relevant artifacts, displays, and interactive exhibits spanning decades of California history, plus the views from the gardens are great for decompressing between wings.

An ideal time to visit is for Friday Nights at OMCA. From 5 to 9 p.m. visitors enjoy after-hours access, food trucks, a cash bar, artists, family activities, live entertainment, local vendors, and more.

The Oakland Museum of California is located at 1000 Oak Street. General admission starts at $15.95, with discounted rates for members, students, seniors, and children. 

The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment

This museum is an incredible paradise for gamers, especially if tastes run old-school. They have a playable library of over 5,300 new and classic games on platforms including PC, Atari, Playstation 3, and others. A membership may be advisable for locals gamers, but visitors can drop by for just $10 per day and play to their heart’s content.

The M.A.D.E. is located at 3400 Broadway. Open for gaming Friday, noon to midnight; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

Lake Merritt Photo: Doug Letterman/Flickr

Lake Merritt

Lake Merritt is a tidal lagoon that offers outdoor recreation right in the middle of the city. Guests can jog, bike, or walk the lakeside path, or participate birdwatching, boating, lawn games, or yoga activities. You might even stumble upon one of the area’s many gardens, including the peaceful Bonsai garden.

Jack London’s cabin Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Jack London’s Cabin

Jack London lived in a small cabin in the Klondike in the late 1800s, right before the Gold Rush. Decades later, the abandoned cabin was taken apart and two separate replicas were made with its wood. While one is located in Dawson City in Canada, the other can be found in Oakland’s Jack London Square.

Jack London’s Cabin is located at 1-199 Webster Street Tube, Jack London Square.

Marcus Books Oakland

Marcus Books features literature by black authors and is, in fact, the oldest black bookstore in the country; the original location in San Fransisco dates back to 1960. Books span a variety of subjects, ranging from children’s books to autobiographies, history, cooking, art, and fiction. If you want to support writers of color and locally owned bookstores instead of internet giants, give Marcus Books a visit.

Marcus Books is located at 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way

Children’s Fairyland

It was Oakland entrepreneur Arthur Navlet who suggested the building of a fairytale-themed children’s park after seeing a smaller, but similar park in Detroit. The result was Children’s Fairyland, which opened in 1950 and featured costumed characters, rides, and whimsical sets taken from classic children’s stories. The popular attraction drew numerous visitors, including an inspiration-seeking Walt Disney who would open Disneyland in Anaheim in 1955.

Today, the 10-acre park operates as a nonprofit year-round (hours vary depending on the season). Adult visitors are typically not permitted without children, but the park does offer an annual adults-only event.

Children’s Fairyland is located at 699 Bellevue Avenue. Tickets are $12.

Chapel of the Chimes Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Chapel of the Chimes

One might not put a columbarium at the top of their vacation list, but the Chapel of the Chimes is truly breathtaking. It owes its beauty to famed architect Julia Morgan, notable for designing the Hearst Castle, who redesigned the Chapel in 1928. One can meander through among numerous sunny courtyards and cloisters, some opening to gardens and fountains. You might even find a pair of rescued birds, chirping in their fern-flanked cages. Urns shaped like books are displayed in cases, the names of those whose ashes they hold written on the spines. Chapel of the Chimes hosts the occasional musical performance, and historical, guided tours are available. It is located next to the Mountain View Cemetery, notable for its many monuments and bucolic paths. Morgan herself is buried here, as well as numerous California and Oakland politicians. The cemetery is also the final resting place of Elizabeth Short, better known as the Black Dahlia.

The Chapel of the Chimes is located at 4499 Piedmont Avenue.

Morcom Rose Garden Photo: Friends of the Morcom Rose Garden

Morcom Rose Garden

If you’ve been advised to stop and smell the roses, the Morcom Rose Garden has thousands of them. This seven-acre garden dates back to the 1930s and as part a WPA project and is maintained today by volunteers. Wander along winding walkways to view the plants and water features. You might even cross paths with the resident family of turkeys.

The Morcom Rose Garden is located at 700 Jean Street. Admission is free, but feel free to donate to the garden’s upkeep.

The Oakland Asian Cultural Center

The Oakland Cultural Center (OACC) is located in Chinatown and offers a variety of cultural events, including performances, art shows, film screenings, workshops, lectures, and classes including calligraphy, Chinese folk dance, and Kung Fu. While in the neighborhood, you can grab a bite at Baby Cafe or Shandong Restaurant.

The Oakland Asian Cultural Center is located at 388 9th Street, #290.

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve Photo: Mike Linksvayer/Flickr

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

The volcano in question at this 928-acre park is a long-extinct one known as Round Top. Several trails are available, and those in the know may seek out the park’s stone labyrinths. According to Friends of the Labyrinth, one of them was created by Montclair artists Helena Mazzariello who considered her work “a gift to the world.”

Pardee Home Museum Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Pardee Home Museum

The Pardee Home was built by Enoch Pardee in the 1860s. Pardee originally moved to California for the Gold Rush, but later became an eye doctor and politician, serving as Oakland’s mayor from 1876 to 1878. His son, George, would serve as mayor from 1893 to 1895, and became California’s 21st governor in 1902. The historic home is full of artifacts, many of them collected by George’s wife, Helen. Docent-led tours of the villa, from its gardens all the way to the cupola, are available year-round. Guests can also reserve high tea or a dessert tea in the Pardee home’s elegant dining room.

The Pardee Home Museum is located at 672 11th Street. Tours are a suggested donation of $10. High Tea is $35 and Desert Tea is $25 (tour included). Advance reservation required.

Oaktown Spice Shop

For many weekend travelers, shopping can be somewhat blasé. After all, every city has its indie and boutique shops. (Oakland, btw, has several in Temescal Alley if you do love shopping.) The Oaktown Spice Shop is something special, though, in that it has pretty much every spice on your list and then some you’ve never even heard of. They’ve got blends, rubs, salts, herbs, aromatics, tonic water kits, and more. Guests are free to pick up a basket, then fill it with bottles and baggies of spices. It goes without saying, the shop smells delicious.

Oaktown Spice Shop is located at 546 Grand Avenue.

The Chabot Space and Science Center

For those who are fascinated by space exploration, a visit to the Chabot Space & Science Center is a must. Here, you can catch a show in the planetarium and view a rotating collection of interactive exhibits on science and outer space. The Center also has three telescopes—named Leah, Rachel, and Nellie—on the observatory deck, which are free to use on Friday and Saturday evenings or with general admission. A cafe and gift shop are located on site.

The Chabot Space & Science Center is located at 10000 Skyline Boulevard. General admission is $18.

EAT & DRINK

Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon

Just steps away from Jack London’s cabin is a tiny, dark, lop-sided dive where the author was said to be a regular. Opened in 1883, Heinold’s First and Last Chance was built out of a whaling vessel. Its name comes from original owner John Heinold and its proximity to the port; it was both the first and last place a departing or incoming sailor could get a drink. When Heinold’s was first built, it had a level floor. Since the earthquake of 1906, it hasn’t. Yes, that’s right: everything in this bar is on a slant. Those curious to learn more about the bar’s history can pick up a printed handout with their drink.

Heinold’s First and Last Chance is located at 48 Webster Street.

Ratto’s Market & Deli

According to Berkeleyside, Ratto’s is one of Oakland’s oldest restaurants (possibly the oldest, if you’ll consider a delicatessen a restaurant). The specialty market and deli was founded by Italian immigrant Giovanni Battista Ratto in 1897, and the shop’s been operated by the Ratto family ever since. Stop by for sandwiches, soups, salads, and all manner of pantry staples.

Ratto’s is located at 821 Washington Street.

White Horse Inn

White Horse Inn has been open since at least 1933, possibly earlier, though there were no records kept through Prohibition. This makes the White Ho’, as it is occasionally called, one of the oldest gay bars in the country. The bar’s own robust history page, complete with interviews from long-time regulars, is worth a read.

Today, the White Horse continues to be a neighborhood LGBTQ bar. They host karaoke, drag shows, and dance nights, in addition to other special fundraisers and events.

6551 Telegraph Avenue

Fenton’s Creamery and Restaurant

Fenton’s Creamery dates back to 1894 and claims to have invented popular ice cream flavor rocky road. It’s an often-bustling diner with American fare, but many come just for the ice cream, which comes in many year-round and seasonal flavors. You could get a simple scoop or shake, but they also make massive ice cream sundaes and banana splits.

Fenton’s Creamery is located at 4226 Piedmont Avenue.

The Avenue

You know how CVS always has a bunch of plastic and foam skulls on clearance the day after Halloween? The Avenue may have bought them all for the last decade. This dark dive is just covered in skulls, and the ceilings are hung with foam stalactites. And if you think they’ve just left their Halloween decorations up year-round, then just wait until it’s actually Halloween. Skulls aside, The Avenue is a friendly enough spot for affordable drinks and making new friends. They’ve also got a pool table and a photo booth.

The Avenue is located at 4822 Telegraph Avenue.

Cosecha Kitchen Photo: Facebook

Swans Market

Swan’s Market is a food hall full of options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch (though they’re closed on Sundays). It dates back to 1917, operating as a market until its closure in the 1980s. It’s since been restored and re-opened, offering about 10 different places to try. They include Mexican restaurant Cosecha Café, The Cook and Her Farmer for oysters and wine, Rosamunde Sausage Grill, Miss Ollie’s Carribean soul food, and izakaya at AS B-Dama.

Swans Market is located at 510 9th Street.

The Fat Lady

The Fat Lady is certainly arresting, with sheet music pasted to the ceiling, stained glass lamps, an ancient cash register behind the bar, and cozy, red-draped booths. They’re open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, serving steakhouse fare and seafood.

It’s unclear how the restaurant, open since 1970, got its name. One story states that original owner Louis Shaterian named the establishment after a painting, which hangs near the bar. The other story claims the building was once a brothel and the eponymous woman was its madam. Choose your own origin story as you will.

The Fat Lady is located at 201 Washington Street.

Dyafa

Arabic restaurant Dyafa is helmed by Chef Reem Assil, Thrillst’s 2018 chef of the year. The menu is divided into hot and cold mezze (share plates), breads for scooping up dips, and a handful of large plates. One standout among those is the maklouba, a flavorful, layered dish of rice, vegetables and crispy, thin potatoes that translates to “upside-down.” The cocktail menu is also lovely, especially the Dark-Skinned Nightingale made with Coruba rum, Medjool dates, almond, coconut, and egg white.

Dyafa is located at 44 Webster Street

The Trappist

The Trappist is split into a front and back bar, both inspired by the beer bars of Belgium and the Netherlands. They offer some 25 Belgium and specialty beers on tap and four times as many in bottles, resulting in several unique finds including interesting stouts, porters, fruit beers, and seasonal offerings. They also have a very small wine menu if you happen to be with someone who doesn’t do beer, plus snacks, sandwiches, cheese, and charcuterie.

The Trappist is located at 460 8th Street.

Kona Club

Oakland has a few tiki bars, including The Kon-Tiki on 14th Street and Forbidden Island on Alameda. Kona Club is located on Piedmont, in between (and not far from) Fenton’s Creamery and Chapel of the Chimes. The decor is as expected, with lots of palm thatching, light up puffer fish, and even an animatronic hula dancer. The drinks are appropriately tropical and include their signature blended macadamia chi chi. The music, however, strays from island tunes via a jukebox that stocks plenty of rock, hip-hop, and punk. Open daily from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., it’s easy to fit Kona Club into a busy weekend.

Kona Club is located at 4401 Piedmont Avenue

Beauty’s Bagels, the classic to-go Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Beauty’s Bagel Shop

Beauty’s Bagel Shop was suggested to me by a former New Yorker, whose bagel opinions I tend to trust, though these wood-fired bagels are Montreal-style: chewy, slightly sweet, and charred on the outside. There are two shops—one in Temescal and a newer one downtown—where you can get bagel sandwiches, bagels and spreads, and a few other breakfast items. Bagel sandwiches include the classic with smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onion, and capers, and a fried chicken sandwich with beet slaw. Beauty’s can be packed, so either order ahead or be prepared to wait in line.

Beauty’s Bagels is located at 3838 Telegraph Avenue and one at 1700 Franklin Street.

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Cafe Van Kleef

Cafe Van Kleef is covered in a seemingly endless assortment of random art and collectibles, in the way that some of the best neighborhood watering holes are. The bar features live music most nights and their signature drink is a greyhound, a grapefruit freshly squeezed into each one, a massive wedge then plunked on the glass.

Cafe Van Kleef is located at 1621 Telegraph Avenue.

Lois the Pie Queen

Lois the Pie Queen is a cash-only diner founded by Lois Davis over 50 years ago and now run by her son, Chris. They’re open for breakfast and lunch, during which they serve Southern and American diner fare and, of course, pie. Flavors can rotate seasonally but might include lemon icebox, key lime, pecan, sweet potato, or banana cream. Much like Dale Cooper, you’d be happy to order a slice with a cup of hot coffee.

Lois the Pie Queen is located at 851 60th Street.

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Food, Where to Eat

The Milky Way Offers Delicious Kosher Cuisine in a Newly Revamped Setting

March 15, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Milky Way’s revamped interior Photo: Wonho Frank Lee/Courtesy of the Milky Way

Some may remember Leah Adler as the mother of filmmaker Steven Spielberg. But to those who frequented The Milky Way, her kosher restaurant on Pico in Pico-Robertson, Adler was famous for her love of new flavors, including those unfamiliar to kosher diets. Though the restaurant closed for several months following Adler’s death in 2017, it’s back with a fresh revamp that maintains her bright spirit while introducing a new generation to Adler’s enduring hospitality.

Prior to becoming a restauranteur, the Ohio-born Adler, known to loved ones as LeeLee, was an accomplished concert pianist. She married Arnold Spielberg in 1945, with whom she had four children: Steven, Anne, Sue, and Nancy. The couple later divorced and Adler remarried Bernie Adler in 1967. The pair moved to Los Angeles and, in 1977, opened The Milky Way.

“When my mom and my stepfather…decided to venture into the restaurant business, their initial purpose was to provide a dining experience to L.A.’s Kosher community who had never tried internationally inspired food,” Nancy Spielberg said via a statement.

For those unfamiliar with kosher regulations, Spielberg offers an explainer. A crucial rule is that meat and milk must never mix, so kosher restaurants will typically choose to be either a meat restaurant or a dairy restaurant. The Milky Way is a dairy restaurant, meaning that they serve no meat except for fish, which may be eaten with dairy. Ingredients that are neither meat nor milk—dried goods, vegetables, etc.—are known as pareve. All ingredients, regardless of which category they belong to, must have certification from a kosher establishment.

The Milky Way also employs a mashgiach, who oversees everything that goes on in the kitchen to ensure its kashrut status. Additionally, the restaurant does no business whatsoever on the Sabbath.

Adler’s restaurant was unique in that it didn’t just serve common kosher foods like potato pancakes, but would also offer chimichangas, guacamole and chips, and other items unlikely to be found at any of her competitor’s establishments.

(L to R) Nancy Spielberg, Steven Spielberg, Leah Adler, Sue Spielberg, and Anne Spielberg. Adler was honored with a ‘Mother of the Year’ Award at the annual Mother’s Day luncheon by Cedars Sinai’s The Helping Hand. May 5, 1995. Photo: Courtesy of The Milky Way

Spielberg said her mother would work at the restaurant six days a week. She and her siblings would sit with Alder at the Milky Way’s corner table “to share our joys and our woes, hear her sage (yet unusual) advice, and just be in her presence.” As time went on, Spielberg began to also see the Milky Way as a means of giving back to their Jewish community by providing a rare service: “a great gathering place serving globally-inspired food that adhered to strict kosher regulations.”

It was that gathering place that Adler’s family didn’t want to lose, even after Adler herself passed away in 2017 at 97.

“She had her regular guests, her dear friends, and her large family, all of whom cared a great deal for the restaurant. We wanted to continue her desire to feed her people and to honor her legacy by bringing the Milky Way back to the local community,” Spielberg said.

The family connected with Phil Kastel of PK&J Hospitality Group (Public School, The Grill on the Alley) and together collaborated on the revamp.

The restaurant itself has been renovated in shades of blue—a color loved by Adler—by Jen Smith of Untitled Interiors, who previously worked with Kastel on several Public School restaurants. Wood floors replace carpeting. Large, half-moon booths continue to line one wall, but they’ve all been reupholstered and fitted with new cushions. Opposite, banquettes now allow for larger parties to be served. Throughout the space, guests will find family memorabilia, including photos, watercolors painted by Adler, and knick-knacks from Steven Spielberg films.

“You might be eating and look left and see a little picture of E.T.,” Kastel said.

And in one corner, on a patch of the old carpeting, guests can sit on a bench and watch a four-minute looped video of Adler as she was.

“People love it because she still kind of lives in the restaurant,” Kastel said.

When it came to the menu, it was important to keep beloved items for regulars, but to also add or update dishes to appeal to modern palates.

“It took a lot of time and discussion with the family and close friends of the family [as to] what items are special and very dear to their heart, what reminded them of their mother, and what people used to come to the Milky Way for,” Kastel said.

Once the existing menu had been pared down to about 40 favorite items, Kastel asked the kitchen to make every single one of them. Many stayed the same or with only minor changes. The salmon puffs—crispy pockets filled with cured salmon, cream cheese, scallions, and fresh herbs—were made slightly larger and the sauce was changed from tartar to a remoulade. The halibut chowder was once only served on Fridays, the day the restaurant closes early. Kastel made some modifications to the soup and decided to serve it daily. When it came to the signature cheese blintzes, Kastel didn’t change a thing.

Kastel did add an Impossible Burger to the menu which, because it’s a vegetarian patty, can be served with a slice of cheese. Elsewhere on the menu, diners will find a Cajun Pacific snapper entree, fish & chips, an Ahi tuna burger, and several pasta dishes, including fettuccini with wild mushrooms and artichoke hearts. Guests can enjoy their meals with a selection of kosher wines and beer.

Apple Dream Pie Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

For dessert, guests can choose a slice of cheesecake or perhaps the Apple Dream Pie, which comes served à la mode. The name comes from a dream Nancy Spielberg had in which her mother ordered a slice of apple pie with pepper sprinkled on the vanilla ice cream. The story of that dream stuck with Kastel, who began trying to think of a way to add pepper to the staple dessert.

“I found sweet peppercorns, which are naturally very floral but not spicy like black peppercorn,” he said. “I crush them up and put them in the caramel sauce.”

It’s subtle but brings a slight kick to the pie that’s sweeter if you know the story—and the woman—behind it.

The Milky Way is located at 9108 W. Pico Blvd. in Pico-Robertson, (310) 859-0004. Open Mon.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Saturdays.

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Happenings

‘I Like Scary Movies’ is an Immersive Experience that Celebrates Iconic Horror Films

March 6, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

In our modern era of Instagrammable, pop-up environments, creepy chills take a backseat to unicorns, rainbows, and oversized desserts unless it’s autumn or there’s an upcoming horror film to promote. But thanks to a studio known for its elaborate Comic-Con installations, the I Like Scary Movies Experience will give us a thrill this April. It’s a passion project from one self-described “Halloween freak” and horror buff to the rest of us, weaving together interactive scenes from IT (2017), Beetlejuice, The Shining, The Lost Boys, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Artist Maximillian Castillo (who goes professionally by his first name only) founded Ultra Productions nearly 20 years ago. The company has been a staple at Comic-Con since 2003 when it recreated Camp Crystal Lake for the Freddy vs. Jason booth. Guests entered and took photos in an ominous forest and gore-soaked campsite full of movie ephemera. Maximillian still has Mrs. Voorhees’ severed head (the prop, that is). Maximillian considers this installation, and the several other fan interactions he’s done since, foreshadowing for what he’s doing with I Like Scary Movies. Essentially, it’s a celebration of these beloved horror properties. And unlike many pop-ups of its kind, I Like Scary Movies is something Maximillian pitched to Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema as a fan—not something the studios pitched to him for promotional purposes. (Though it is worth noting that IT: Chapter Two comes out in September, The Haunting of Hill House director Mike Flanagan is directing The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep, and the CW is developing a Lost Boys series.)

“In essence, it’s kind of like you’re walking into a 3-D fan art experience,” Maximillian said. “I’m the fan, and I’m creating these installations and the things that resonated with me in these five movies.”

So if this isn’t promoting a film, why April and not October?

“Sports fans have their season, but really they can do that year-round,” Maximillian said. “[Horror fans] really get one day [a year]. I wanted to do something outside of the standard Halloween fare. I feel that when you look at the landscape and the popularity of things like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and you see movies like A Quiet Place coming out in the spring and summer, [you see] there is a voracious appetite for horror all year long now. We don’t have to wait until fall to see scary stuff.”

In terms of “scary stuff,” guests can expect to see, hear, feel, and smell recreations of iconic moments as well as new twists on scenes and characters. There won’t be costumed actors jumping out trying to startle you like in Halloween mazes at Universal Studios Hollywood or Knott’s Scary Farm, but there will be multi-sensory surprises along your winding path. One moment you might be wandering through Beetlejuice’s graveyard, the next, one might come face-to-face with a giant, 12-foot replica of Freddy Krueger’s bladed glove.

“Fans are going to be able to pull five-foot-long knives from Freddy’s glove around their body for their photo or video and feel the melted skin on Freddy’s palm,” Maximillian said. “It’s going to be a tactile environment and he’s going to be thrusting his hand through this massive furnace that’s in this boiler room environment.”

Other scenes include Pennywise the clown’s subterranean lair, the bold carpet from the halls of The Overlook Hotel in The Shining, and The Netherworld Waiting Room.

“We will have a few what I call ‘Easter egg’ scares where they’re a little more cerebral and unexpected,” Maximillian added enigmatically. “Things here and there that fans will have to find—or they may find you.”

All told, expect to spend about 60 to 90 minutes in the exhibit and, of course, feel free to take as many photos as you like.

I Like Scary Movies runs April 4 through June 16 at The Desmond, 5514 Wilshire Blvd. in Mid-Wilshire. Tickets are $39 and available here.

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Happenings

This Immersive Play Makes You Feel Like the Star of a Time Travel Adventure Movie

March 1, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Agent Stanfeld in Delusion: The Blue Blade Photo: Robert Kozek

If you weren’t able to get a ticket to Delusion: The Blue Blade last Halloween, the interactive, action-adventure play has returned with a whole new ending. This ‘director’s cut’ edition will run through March 17 and, unlike last fall, it’s not completely sold out yet.

Delusion has often been billed as a ‘haunted play,’ having launched in the fall of 2011 as a horror attraction. Yet their sixth show, The Blue Blade, is a departure, relying less on foreboding mansions and gothic tropes and more on science-fiction. According to Delusion creator Jon Braver, The Blue Blade is inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark; there’s even a scene where participants must outsmart Nazis, a common and hated foe of archaeologist Indiana Jones. Also, there’s a ton of time travel, something Braver said caused him a bit of writer’s block after reading a couple of books on the topic.

“I lost my mind for a couple months. I mean, no joke, I fell into a weird space. I was like, ‘this is too trippy for me,’ and I couldn’t write anymore,” he said. “At some point, [I decided] forget the physics of time travel, don’t think too much about all that. Just forget that stuff and stick to the story.”

The story in question revolves around the titular Blue Blade, a cerulean dagger that allows whosoever wields it to cut through the fabric of time. This kind of thing can have pretty disastrous effects on reality, so the Blade was one of many relics protected by the clandestine Safeguard Society. Until, that is, one of their agents, Evelyn Lowell, absconded with the Blue Blade and began charging monied clients high sums to take time-vacations. You and up to seven other recruits from the year 2019 must now shift through time to find Evelyn and reclaim the Blade before it’s too late. Or… too early? I mean, time is weird.

The villainous Uta Photo: Robert Kozek

Guests to Delusion: The Blue Blade will find themselves checking in at a private venue near Mid-City that, from the outside, presents an unassuming theater marquee. After being briefed by a fellow agent, guests will be lured inside the theater where both the outside world and the year 2019 melt away. Time periods flow into one another, despite being decades, sometimes centuries, apart. There are puzzles to solve, secrets to unlock, and a cast of heroes, villains, and monsters to assist and evade. It’s worth emphasizing that the sets are truly wondrous with a lot of surprising tech, and there’s at least one costume that’s sure to blow anyone who isn’t a stone-hearted curmudgeon away.

The characters—all of whom are double- or triple-cast—will feel familiar with sci-fi and adventure fans. The self-serving Agent Stanfeld is loosely based on Raiders villain Arnold Toht. The most empathetic character turns out to be the android Carrick, who provides much of the show’s story as well as some mid-show levity. His robotic, yet vulnerable demeanor may remind one of a more humanoid C-3PO. And Evelyn herself is a complicated one, replicating over and over through time as she loses her sense of who—and when—she is.

Braver said he often sees his characters as actors in his mind who activate and freeze as he writes, as if he himself has control over their sense of time.

“One of my favorite things about writing any kind of story is when I’m writing a scene and [the characters] are doing something in my mind, and I have to leave. I have to stop writing and go pick up my daughter at school or whatever it is. I feel like that character is frozen in time,” he said. “[When] I start typing again, they literally, in my mind, start moving again and it’s such a cool feeling.”

Delusion: The Blue Blade Photo: Robert Kozek

It’s hard to classify a piece of theater like Delusion. You’re not wandering around a space waiting for scenes to unfold, like one might at New York City’s Sleep No More, and it isn’t an escape room where you should tear apart the set looking for clues. Though you will need to interact with objects, you’ll have instructions as to what you’re supposed to be doing and characters who lead you through the winding scenes. Escape room fans will find less to do than usual, while traditional theater fans will find themselves more engaged than ever.

If you went to The Blue Blade during its first run, you might be wondering what’s changed. My first time, I felt like I had missed a fair bit of the story. Part of this was due to narrow passageways my group of eight was forced to navigate. I often took up the rear and found myself getting truncated versions of the story as I waited for everyone else to make it into the next scene. During the director’s cut, I felt like the exposition was a bit more clear and I wasn’t missing anything, even though I navigated those same corridors. But the most significant change is the ending, which has been completely reworked to present a conclusion I found much more satisfying and full-circle. According to Braver, many of these changes are ideas they had initially but were unable to achieve in the first run for budgetary or other reasons.

Another significant change is that for the first time, Delusion is opened to guests younger than 21. Families may now bring children age 13 or older. (Be aware that are some minor jump scares, some mild gore, a few monsters, and scenes with Nazi imagery. There’s also no accounting for other patrons who may shout curse words in surprise or joy.)

Delusion: The Blue Blade runs select night through March 17. Tickets are $95 and up and can be purchased online here. The venue is located in Mid-City, to be revealed to ticket holders. There is an attached venue where food and drinks can be purchased before or after the show.

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Happenings, Things To Do

Whisperlodge is an AMSR Video Performed in Real Life

February 21, 2019 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

WhisperLodge Photo: Emily Barrett

Do ASMR videos give you tingles? Have you ever wanted to experience an ASMR video in real life? Your chance comes this March when Whisperlodge returns to Los Angeles, this time softly crinkling paper and whispering ear-to-ear in Silver Lake.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a pleasant tingling sensation that some people experience when exposed to certain triggers. It’s not entirely unlike frisson, the goosebumps some get when listening to a beautiful piece of music.

ASMR triggers tend to be very gentle audio or visual cues: someone tapping lightly on a glass or whispering in your ear, slow hand movements, or the sound of water being poured from one vessel into another. ASMR frequently revolves around “personal attention,” such as the kind one receives during an eye exam, a one-on-one lecture, or a spa treatment. While the sensation may occur spontaneously during day-to-day interactions, many people attempt to intentionally trigger the tingles by watching ASMR videos on YouTube.

These videos feature soft-spoken “ASMRtists” who whisper their way through role-plays or trigger videos, racking up thousands if not millions of views. They’ve become so popular that W Magazine has been conducting celebrity ASMR interviews—here’s one with Cardi B—while Michelob ULTRA aired an ASMR commercial starring Zoë Kravitz during Super Bowl LIII.

WhisperLodge offers a multi-sensory journey through ASMR Photo: WhisperLodge

In October of 2017, Melinda Lauw and Andrew Hoepfner brought their live ASMR experience, Whisperlodge, to Los Angeles after a successful run in New York. Lauw returned in March of 2018 for a sold-out series of one-on-one ASMR sessions called Whispers on Demand, and is now back for another installment of Whisperlodge. The intimate 90-minute experience takes place in a private Silver Lake residence and will feature eight guides who lead eight guests through a variety of ASMR triggers.

Lauw herself has experienced ASMR since childhood but first learned others had it too via the YouTube videos.

“I used to watch a lot of instructional massage videos in order to feel the tingles and someone in the comments section mentioned ASMR. Once I looked it up, it was a moment of realization for me that this thing I experienced all my life has a name, that I’m not a weirdo,” Lauw said.

As someone who has also experienced ASMR since childhood, I attended Whisperlodge in 2017. In one room, a guide offered me a small, leather bag filled with a variety of materials, including tissue paper and plastic. He then asked me to select which material I wanted him to gingerly crinkle around my head. In another room, a guide asked me which of several makeup brushes most appealed to me, then gently brushed them across my face.

If you’re particularly curious, watch WhispersRed, a well-known ASMR YouTuber, go through a Whisperlodge event in San Francisco in the video below.

For this installment of Whisperlodge, creators have taken care to make sure the experience is accessible to deaf guests, offering touch and personal attention triggers, not just sound. And though the show does not require interpretation, there will be at least one cast member who knows ASL at each performance. If you attended the last Whisperlodge, know that there are two new one-on-one scenes in this one.

If you know you have ASMR, I’d say expect so many tingles you may wind up with ‘tingle immunity,’ a term associated with the temporary loss of ASMR after experiencing a lot of it. If you don’t have ASMR, this might just feel like the world’s strangest spa. And if you’re not sure, why not watch a few videos and see if you feel tingly?

WhisperLodge takes place March 13 to 17 at a private home in Silver Lake (address and directions revealed to ticket holders six days prior to show date). Tickets are $120-$150 and available here.  

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