When local activist and business owner Jewel Thais-Williams first considered selling her historic Pico Boulevard club Catch One, her foremost priority was to meet a buyer who’d honor the history of the nearly 100-year-old venue. In the fall of 2015, Thais-Williams found just the person: L.A. nightclub impresario Steve Edelson, who currently owns and operates Los Globos in Silver Lake but has also brought storied venues like El Cid, the Joint and the Dragonfly into popularity. 

Though Steve Edelson bought the Pico building, the club inside — now known as Union — is owned and managed by his 23-year-old son, Mitch Edelson. Despite his youth, Mitch has formidable experience, having worked in his father’s L.A. clubs even before he finished high school. Given this, it’s perhaps little wonder that his first year at the Pico site has been a good one. TNN talked with Mitch about his takeover of the Mid-City gem.

TNN: You’ve been running Union for a little about a year now. How has the community responded?

Mitch: Everyone has been so nice, from the neighborhood council to the homeowners association behind me. I think a lot of people were worried this place would get torn down and turned into a mixed-use building, so people are happy to hear we’re keeping Jewel’s legacy going. We are all respectful of the history here. The building was built in the 1920s, so it’s been around longer than some of the nearby homes. We’re respectful toward the neighbors, we have good security, we stay involved in the community and we try to alleviate their concerns.

TNN: You’re even a member of the Olympic Park Neighborhood Council. 

Mitch: That’s right. When I got the club, I wanted to be a good neighbor. I’m really inspired by what Jewel did, so I’m trying to follow in her footsteps as much as I can by being an active member of the community and giving back. I’ve got this space that can hold all these people but I only use it at night. Finding things to do with it during the day is good. The neighborhood council and I even hosted Thanksgiving dinner here for community members.

TNN: Tell us about your interest in the music world, and in this particular venue.

Mitch: I love all kinds of music, though jazz is my favorite, and I love listening to live music. I also knew about Das Bunker, the Friday-night club Jewel had here. It’s the longest-running industrial goth club in the country. Her team brought in tons of originators. That’s just one reason this is a historic space. Jewel owned it from 1972 to 2015. Before that, it was a dime-a-dance spot for GIs. Billie Holiday and Sammie Davis, Jr., played here. But what I like most about the club is that it’s really three different clubs in one most nights. We can run a house DJ in one room, a band in another, and a comedy show in another. Bringing all these subcultures together — that’s what we want to do. 

TNN: What kinds of shows are you booking?

Mitch: We do everything, from punk and metal and techno to international house DJs, world music, reggae, hard core and ska. Plus we host comedy shows, private parties, movie shoots and more. We don’t say ‘no’ to anyone — we have three rooms to book seven nights a week. 

TNN: That’s a lot of calendar space. How do you fill all those slots?

Mitch: I have a great team of people making bookings, and I answer every phone call and email I get. We reach out to people who Jewel worked with, and they reach out to us. Also, there are venues downtown, in Silverlake, and all over L.A. that are prohibitively expensive to rent. Our model has been to be an easy team to work with, to offer a wide variety of events, and to be inclusive.

TNN: Jewel made it her mission for Catch One to be inclusive of everyone, especially the LGBT community. Are you doing the same?

Mitch: Yes. I meet people every day who tell me how much the Catch meant to them, and that shows me that we’ve got to keep that legacy alive. We try to do several black LGBT events that Jewel was doing. We have inclusive restrooms. We have people from all creeds and sexual orientations working here. We are about unity — hence the name Union.

TNN: Has the space changed much physically?

Mitch: We have respected the architecture and the vibe of the place as much as possible. We kept a lot of the neon signs from Jewel’s time and made others. We restored the bars. We painted the walls black. We tried to highlight the interesting stuff — the keep it simple and to not overcomplicate it. My family’s philosophy in this business is that if you make a club super fancy or glitzy, you might do well, but it will only last a year or two. Then some other A-list club will come along and top you. So we’re more about being inclusive and making this place where everyone feels welcome. That's a more sustainable business model.

Art and Music Come to West Adams Blvd.

When my buddy Jeff Copeland and I decided to check out Delicious Pizza one weekend evening, we were met with a remarkable street scene that brought on wild flashbacks of the downtown mid 80's LA art scene.  The street was packed with young artists and scenesters enjoying pizza, going in and out of the gallery openings, hanging and checking each other out. A group was gathered in front of a big picture window which was surrounded by a mural painted up like a boombox. They held up camera phones to videotape the live DJ'ing going on behind the window. There were two gallery openings, one with a remarkable floor to ceiling harp that was being played to the beat coming from speakers while two young women were busting some astonishing moves to the sounds. When we went to our car we noticed someone disappear into a non descript door.  Inside we found a very laid back bar with thrift store furniture, dark lighting, the smell of beer and a cheerful bartender.  As we drove away we looked at each other and said "WOW!". 

Here is our interview with owner of Delicious Vinyl and co-owner of Delicious Pizza,  Mike Ross, who helms the art and
music projects at Delicious Pizza:

TNN:  Mike how did the gallery and your radio station come about? 

Mike Ross:  When we got this building, we had some extra room, so we wanted to bring a lot of Delicious Vinyl music down to West Adams. We started a live radio station, Delicious Vinyl Radio and created an area for it. We broadcast on our own Internet radio station. 

TNN:   What's the website address for it?

MR:   DeliciousVinylRadio.com. It's constantly playing content from the Delicious Vinyl archives, from the history of Delicious Vinyl, from new stuff that's on Delicious Vinyl and from hip hop’s golden era.  It broadcasts live whenever we have DJs playing in the DJ booth which is on most weekends. 

TNN:  How can people find out when you guys are playing live down here?

MR:  Go to our website, DeliciousVinylRadio.com or DeliciousPizza.com. We have an event page. It always says what we're doing. Or on Instagram. Delicious Pizza HQ or Delicious Vinyl on Instagram. We have a running calendar of our events which are going on all the time. We have DJs during the week sometimes too, but usually always on the weekends. Just depends. We do reggae Sundays with DJs from Jamaica, along with our local reggae DJs.   

Dec15Pizza5TNN:  What is the room we are in?

MR:  This room is a gallery, dining room. We change up the art by using friends of ours who are artists, and local artists in the area. We like to represent. Behind you is a huge David Choe piece. He’s a graffiti artist and well known for painting the Facebook offices before the company went public. Instead of taking payment for the job that was to be 60k, he took stock options instead.   He cashed in that stock for 200 million right before the company went public. He painted this piece in 2010 for an art/clothing space called Freak City. That space was run by my brother Rick Ross and some friends. He's probably the richest artist around. 

We move into an adjoining room filled with Delicious Vinyl Memorabilia and dj turntables facing a large shuttered picture window. On weekends  the shutters come off and the dj’s start spinning while an audience gathers on the sidewalk outside grooving, hanging, videtaping, eating pizza.

MR:  This is the DJ room. This pretty much is memorabilia, old Delicious Vinyl artists, album covers, different golden era artists. When we play records, we just do our thing in here. We also open it up to the streets, so people walking down the street can see the DJs performing, DJ-ing. It's a cool little music space.  That's the concept, you know. We want to revitalize this area. By bringing music and art and good food, we feel like we're on the ground here. 

Delicious Pizza and Building Community on West Adams Blvd.

It started with the popular night club Fais Do Do anchoring the La Brea end of Adams and continued with Vee's Cafe and Vintique Vintage Clothes anchoring the Hauser/Fairfax end.  Then along came the restaurants Los Anayas and Honey Bees. TNN interviews Mike Ross and Fredrick Sutherland the two visionary entrepeneurs who stepped in to continue the filling in the vision of a community ready for renewed life along West Adams Boulevard.  We start the interview with Fred...

DEC15pizza7TNN: You guys show up on Adams and…. Boom! Revitalization! How did you find out about our community? 

Fred Sutherland:   I lived in Venice for many years, but I worked in this neighborhood for the last twenty years.

TNN: Doing what?

FS:   My buddy Kenny Scharf, has an art studio over on Adams and Sycamore. He's been painting in there forever and ever, and he's got one of those places that looks like it's abandoned on the outside and dangerous-

TNN:  Kenny Scharf, [internationally famous artist] has a studio in our neighborhood?

FS:   Yeah, he's been here forever.

TNN:  How do I not know that?

FS:   Because you can't tell by anything when you walk down the Boulevard. You come around the back, and he's got a nice, artsy painting studio.  When you drive down Adams, it looks like everything's dangerous and abandoned, but when you walk down Adams, and you see what's going on, you see that it's not this scary, abandoned, derelict road full of empty storefronts. It's a really viable street full of business, but people tend to just come and go from the back. I can show you only three or four empty storefronts along the Boulevard, between here and Crenshaw. There's very few that are not being used, only a couple of abandoned ones. There's very, very little space that's not being used for something productive.

TNN:   What did you do for him?

FS:   Just helping him with whatever. We redid the space a little bit, made a little entrance in the back and made it all groovy. He's been painting in there and I've been helping him make his art in there, whatever, sculptures and stuff, forever.

TNN:   So, you have been a part of this community for twenty years and now you live here?

FS:   Yeah, I moved from Venice. When it was time to leave I was looking around at where I could go and I liked this neighborhood. Coming up here and working, I would see them working on that train and the more I saw the train, the more Jefferson was looking really beautiful. I'm thinking, "Man, this train is the key to this neighborhood!" We are at the center of everything, and now you can actually get out of here. You can get in, you can get out. The train is monumental. As for staying at the beach, I thought, "Forget it." I had started looking around here and it was affordable, and so I bought a house, and I tried to get all my friends, like, "Hey, man, this is the middle of town with the train! Come on by, come and look!"

TNN:  What inspired you to put business roots down here?

FS:   I realized that the neighborhood was not being fully served. Up until a year and a half ago, we had a few bodegas along here, overpriced bodegas and whatnot, which is fine, but we don't have any incidental stuff. Slowly, in the last six years or so, we now have a bunch of restaurants along here. We got Los Anaya’s, we've got the papusa restaurant, and the Frog, and Honey Bees. We’ve got Vintiques for vintage clothes. All these places have popped up. Even Vees Café, that’s been here seven years. As far as beyond the norm of what the neighborhood was, they were the pioneers. Subsequently, the local market has redone the inside and changed their product line to suit the neighbors. But we didn't have any pizza! All the Latin food you could want, no pizza. No Chinese food, no Japanese food, no nothing, so let's start with pizza, we need pizza. I drew a logo and I sent it to Mike, and I said, "Let's do delicious pizza."

TNN:  Tell my about your partner Mike.

FS:   Mike's a great guy and a friend of mine who owned the wildly popular Delicious Vinyl, a record label started in the '80s. He doesn't live in the neighborhood, but he likes the neighborhood and he sees the growth. He's investing his time and his energy into the neighborhood to try and make something better for the people who live around here.  Offer something a little more soothing when you drive down the road. Make it a little safer to walk down the street. Pay a little more attention to what's going on. His record label was very popular, and their logo lent itself to pizza, just a perfect swap. I sent him the Delicious Pizza logo, and he said, "Yeah, I've always wanted to do a pizza place!" 

I was looking around, we found a building, he bought the building, and then I renovated the building and, subsequently, it just seemed to work out. We did the pizza place and a little art gallery seemed to go with it very well. We have a space on the end here, which we're running a little gallery in now, but it's set up to be another restaurant. We're hoping to get a brand new restaurant vendor in there. It's all ready, all the plumbing and electricals in, we just need a tenant, so that's one more thing.

Across the street, we bought a building, and we put some artists in there. We’ve got an artist in there who is going to do fine art life drawing courses. It's to be an artists' studio on one side and a life drawing class in the front and the gallery, all in one. We bought that, we redid the front on it, so it looks clean. It doesn't look abandoned anymore. It looked really scary before.

DEC15pizza3bTNN:You have this building that houses Delicious Pizza and the building next door?

FS:   No, this is all one building, an art gallery, the radio station, this room we're sitting in, another art gallery, which is our dining room, and then the pizza place. The next one is an empty lot that we plan to develop later. That's this block. Across the street, we have that gallery, and then, down the road, where J & J Barbecue is, we bought that piece of property and we put in ten shipping containers in the back.

TNN:  Renee Gunther’s Daily Organic’s is one of the pop ups.

FS:   We put in those containers and I put the boxes in and set a little path, like, let's put businesses in and I rented all the spaces out, so now they've got a little container village going on over there. There's a hair salon in there, and a jeweler, and a realtor, along with J & J.

dec15Pizza8TNN:All of that in one compound? 

FS:   We bought the whole chunk of land from the guy who had the woodpile there. He was done, so he sold us the property, and when he took his woodpile away, we put the containers in and paved the ground. There was an auto repair shop in there, and J & J, and the woodpile. When the auto repair shop left, I put in Carol and she does jewelry. There’s a realtor in there, and then we put in a hair salon. When the wood boy left, we put in containers.

On the other side of La Brea, on Adams, we have a building in there that's got artists living in it. We redid the front and painted it all, and then, across the road, opened another art gallery over there, 4900 Gallery.

TNN:  There have been people living on this strip, involved in the community, who've been talking about the need to revitalize
Adams for a long time, so it's just amazing-

FS:  It's a paint job away, that's what I keep saying. It's a paint job away, because the people that live in the buildings are already there, and they're already cool. They're established businesses. There are craftsmen to make wood furniture, craftsmen to do upholstery. There's these churches, there's all kinds of little businesses, but they're all hiding, and that's the thing. There's a cat over here, he does all the grinding of all the lenses for the west side and Israel and he's got a booming business in there. He's one of the largest providers of lenses for Israel, and they grind twenty-four hours a day in that place, and it's one of the junkiest-looking buildings on the block. We've gone to him and like, "Hey, man. Why don't you just paint it?" "Oh, no, no, we can't. We won't paint it."

TNN:Why not?

FS:   "We don't have any money!"  It's really funny, because one of the guys, a manager that worked there, I told him, "Come on, let's go talk to your boss. I want to paint the building. You're so successful, you can certainly afford a quart of paint."

"No, we can't paint the building!!" (laughs)

TNN:   Maybe they don't want people to know they're there?

FS:   I don't know. It's just that it's really funny that it's super decrepit, and then the building right next to them is one of the three abandoned buildings in the area, so that's been sitting empty for forty years or something, unused.

TNN:   Adams is a bit of a mystery to everybody. People have been saying, "Let's do something," or, "How do we get it to..."

FS:   First, we had the riots, and that burned up a bunch of stuff, then the earthquake came, and knocked down a bunch of stuff. Between the two, we ended up with a bunch of weird situations along the Boulevard.  That's how the lot next door came about. There was a building there and it got damaged in the riots, and then got damaged more in the earthquake, they had to tear it down. Same with another one down the block. There's one on the corner of Orange, the same thing happened there, and across the street from that, there was another building, same exact thing happened. The blighted parts are very small and everything else is occupied. 

TNN:   You're right. When you drive down it  looks like nothing much is going on.

FS:   Yeah, because everything's beige, and it's painted by the graffiti-buster guys who just put the beige on it, and we don't even have graffiti around here, really. We don't get taggers, really, We get a little bit of gang-tag every once in a while, where they come through and just do their thing and split. We don't have the day-to-day procession of kids running through, putting their name on everything.

TNN:   When you started to become committed to investing in this community, did you have a vision, or did you just see opportunity and go for it?

FS:    Well, a vision comes from a lot of people. I had a vision, I knew that this neighborhood was really awesome, and so I started telling everybody. "Look, you're missing it! Take a drive, but you're missing it, so come and look and see." I hate to sound gross, but the price is not even a speculator price, they're giving away buildings. People just put it up for sale and, no ... it doesn't make any sense. The prices don't relate to anywhere in the city along this Boulevard. It's changed, now, but five years ago and four years ago, it was ridiculous, and I'm trying to show everybody and they’re like - "What the hell, what do you want to be over there for?"  For one, I can afford to be over here, and do something. I can afford to buy a commercial piece of property, and actually put a business in, because I'm not weighed down with huge rents and giant mortgage payments, so it's an opportunity. It's not so much like a real estate play, as it is just an opportunity to actually do something. You could come here, buy a house, and afford to live in it!

TNN:  When you told me you'd been working here over twenty years, it's almost like you were in the right place at the right time with the right attitude.

FS:    I'm familiar with the neighborhood, I've driven in it a million times, and I've never had or seen any problems. How bad can a neighborhood be, where the ladies are pushing baby carriages up and down the Boulevard all the time?

TNN:   What obstacles have you encountered coming into this neighborhood, if any?

FS:   Nothing. When white guys move into a neighborhood that's not predominantly white, people get skeptical about what your intentions are, but, it seems like the people who live in the neighborhood weren't investing in the neighborhood to make any difference, so, the fact that I'm white and I'm here shouldn't really make a difference. I'm not out to exploit anything and I don't want to tear anything down, either. I just want to be part of this community like everybody else. This is a neighborhood pizza shop. It's not beyond anybody, it's not exclusive. That's what we're trying to create, but with everything we are doing. The container village down the block, something that brings the people in. Not exclusive, but inclusive. 

TNN:What surprised you the most about coming here?

FS:    I was amazed at just how everyone was welcoming and happy to have us. For the most part, our neighbors really liked the fact that we were here, we just add more presence to the neighborhood, more lights on at night. We didn't tear the building down, we renovated. It's not about gentrification and taking over. People want more people to come in and offer their businesses.. I really enjoy it here, I like the people and I like the way it is. I don't want to change it. A lot of these people come in, the speculators do come in and I have to deal with them. They're like, "We'll get that and we'll just tear it down," and I'm like, "No! You're going to ruin it for us. This is the character, this is the neighborhood, let's keep this."

Pico Pioneer Pinky Rose in the Pink!

When Pinky opened her business in 2003 the economy was thriving and monies for investing in small businesses flowed freely, so the time seemed right for Pinky to realize her life-long desire to open her own fashion boutique.

She established herself as the first upscale boutique of any kind on Pico Boulevard and blazed the trail for what is fast becoming a trendy destination in Mid City.

Pinky admits that the number one challenge to maintaining a store on Pico, (unlike Culver City or Melrose, or Larchmont)  is a lack of foot traffic. Although she was aware of this before deciding on the location, it made more sense than opening her boutique on the already crowded Melrose Avenue.  Pinky’s vivacious personality, talented design sense, natural creative instincts and true grit contribute to her success and longevity.  She met the challenge of the lack of foot traffic with her signature brightly painted pink building which attracts drive bys like a flower attracts bees.


Fred's Utopia Barbershop Xmas event

Fred's Utopia Barber shop at 5276 w. Pico Blvd. has been in our community for 44 years. Recently I was invited to come by and attend their annual Christmas celebration. When I stepped in the front door  I was transported back to the days when I accompanied my dad to his barber shop with it's relaxed and welcome atmosphere, the conversations, the lived in environment. Fred's wall was covered with pictures that remind guests of the long history of this popular community center.  I was directed to the back where Fred was fussing over the delicious food that was being offered up. I grabbed a plate and went and joined the crowd in the hairdressers rooom and listened to the easy  flow of conversation between the patrons and the hairdressers. On my way out I stopped in the front room where the two barbers, Fred and Jerry were getting customers presentable for holiday festivities. One customer was playfully chiding Fred for 'getting in his business".  I laughed and added, "Isn't that what goes on in the barbershop?"

Shoobie, Patricia, Mary, Jerry,         Saezon, Alease, Fred

Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens

By Carol Jones

Have you been wondering what goes on at that beautiful, big white mansion at 3500 W. Adams (just west of Arlington) and what in the world is a labyrinth? Welcome to the headquarters of the Church of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness and Peace Theological Seminary & College of Philosophy MSIA/PTS. Lots of  long names, lots of spiritual focus, lots of fun and joy.

The mansion is a City of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Monument, built for Secundo and Louisa Guasti, who emigrated to the United States from Italy, amassing a fortune in the California wine business. The Guasti label emanated from the Guasti vineyards which became the largest winery in the world at the turn of the 20th Century right here in Southern California. The mansion was designed by prominent architects, Hudson and Munsell, and took four years to construct, with materials from all over the world and artisans imported from Italy.


Rosie Brown

On any given day and especially Sundays, Rosie Brown, Jefferson Park resident and United Neighborhoods Neighborhood Council (UNNC) Outreach Chair can be found driving around the UNNC footprint and beyond using the free MyLA311 app to report illegal dumping and graffiti. 


Long before 311 came along she was reporting illegal dumping in the alley behind her house the good old fashion way, by telephone, to the Bureau of Sanitation.

The Department Of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) was so impressed with her work informing the community about the LA Sanitation Department and the MyLA311 app, they created a Public Service Announcement clip showcasing what she does best; passing out flyers, talking to residents and creating various service requests. On August 19t h Rosie was recognized as a Clean Streets Hero by the Board of Public Works. Channel 34 also taped an interview with her.

Rosie and UNNC participates and sponsors community clean ups. They partner with Council District 10, Herb Wesson’s office, KYCC and schools. 

Besides reporting illegal dumping the MyLA311 app allows you to report pot holes, water waste, illegal signs, street light issues and a myriad of other things including paying your DWP bill. If you are not tech savvy you can simply call 311 and talk to a customer service representative. Some suggestions on how to improve your neighborhood would be to organize a street and alley clean up,  form or join a block club to tackle your issues and concerns.

Rosie joined the Neighborhood Council to make a change in her community. She wants to make stakeholders aware of things that impact their quality of life, in hopes of making her community a place where pride of ownership is a priority along with economic vitality and a thriving neighborhood.


This Mid-City power couple and their children, work hand in glove to help their community.

TNN: How long have you been married?

Lisa:Thirty-one years.

TNN: What drew you to each other when you first met? 

Steve:Lisa was beautiful and she still is, just a beautiful woman, and just a great spirit. Bright, smart, and could talk to anybody. 

Lisa:When I met Steve, he was absolutely the handsomest man to me on the plain planet. He was soft-spoken and charming, and hard-working, and from the day I laid eyes on him, I knew he vasquezwas the one. And he was brutally ... no, sweetly honest. Always and still does, want to do the right thing and I love that about him. And he cooks really well. 

Steve:Thank you sweetie. 

TNN:You have three kids and what are their ages now?

Lisa:They are all grown up.  There is Steve Jr., Anthony and Gabriella. 

TNN:You are looking good!! You said you started your activism fifteen years ago. What got you started? 

Lisa:We had kids and it was just a natural thing to have your children do community service of any type. 

Steve:We were also involved in the neighborhood because neighborhood councils were just starting up. I was the first president of the Mid City Neighborhood Council. It lasted 6 years.  Our kids came to meetings, and participated in all the events, clean-ups and things like that. From there, we met a lot of different people from the city, government officials and just continued on with that.

Lisa:But before that we had started Cooking with Gabby.

TNN:Explain to our readers what this is.

Lisa:Cooking with Gabby is a non-profit organization wwith a mission is to educate children, from the earliest possible age, and their families about how to stay healthy. We do obesity prevention, nutrition education. 


Lisa:All over. Parks, community centers. Now we work with LAUSD and have programs in three schools, a nutrition program and after school program where Steve and [daughter] Gabby go out and teach children kindegarden through five how to eat healthy. We also have a physical activity program in the schools that starts in the morning so our kids start the day with their endorphins up. They have a lot of fun learning how to be active and healthy.

TNN:How did you get this program started?

Steve:When I had a catering business  I would pick my daughter Gabby up from school and take her to my kitchen. She would watch me make food and always ask questions. "Why are you doing it this way, dad? Show me." She was five years old. "Show me how to crack an egg," We just started cooking together, and then I came to Lisa and I said, "Lisa, Gabby has all these questions. Let's start a website and teach kids about cooking." Then we saw that there was an issue with obesity in children, and we said, "You know what? Let's do a healthy cooking class.".   As Lisa said, we started in parks and now we do our cooking class in classrooms, and auditoriums. It’s normally twenty kids and all the recipes are interactive. We do a lot of different things. We’ll bake.  Gabby went to Japan, and she took this sushi class, and she came back and we did rolls. Sushi rolls with all vegetables, all vegetarian. Then we'll do hummus. Pea pesto. Kids loved it.  They went bonkers for it. We served that with celery sticks.

TNN:These are recipes or foods that kids don't normally get to try out? 

Lisa:Correct. That's the objective. We teach kids that food comes from Africa, South America or Mexico to the United States. 

TNN: How did the physical activity get started?

Steve: We figured that there was something missing because there were a lot of children that weren't exercising. They were doing stuff on their computers and staying home, watching TV. I said, "You know what? These kids need to get out. They need to move.” So we put together a dance team with six dancers, and created a road show and went to different parks.  The kids would join us and we saw that they loved to dance and get engaged. 

Lisa:    All of our dance instructors have taught kids at other dance schools. The principals love it. 

Steve: So from there, we said, "Let's create a program" and we created the Cooking with Gabby program.

Lisa:  We approached the schools many times over the years, but we wound up with an opportunity through a grant we had received from Community Health Councils. 

TNN: How many kids are you reaching?

Steve:  We do four classes per group of twenty students four days a week.  At the different schools. This last year we reached I think a total of eight hundred students between all three schools. I'm Chef Steve to them. The kids get a recipe at the end of the class, take it home, and we get parents who come and say, "I made this recipe over the weekend. It was really good." Some of our parents come and join this class, which is great. We like that. 

Lisa:  We participate in the open houses so that we get to meet the parents. 

TNN:   As if this wasn’t enough, you are also producing a movie about homeless youth

Steve:We made a movie a couple of years ago called "Sugar," about a homeless girl. It was written and directed by our friend Rotimi Rainwater.  Our lead was an actresss named Shanae Grimes (from 90210) and she played a character that had PTSD and wound up on the streets. She ended up in Los Angeles, in Venice and Hollywood which is where the kids normally hang out. It’s about how she ends up creating a family with homeless youth, which happens a lot.

TNN:Is that the movie you are doing now?

Steve:No. We screened it in a bunch of different cities, and we asked different organizations that work with homeless youth to come out and bring some of the homeless youth to see the movie. They did, and each time we did a Q&A afterwards the kids were like, "This is exactly how we feel." "How can you help us? What can you do for us?" So we sat down and asked ourselves what we could do to help these kids and decided to do a documentary on homeless youth. We called it "Lost in America,.” Our team went to sixteen different cities to document the youth and the issues they were going through, talk to government officials, city officials, any organization that was working with homeless youth. It was a two-year journey and we just finished the last edits. 

Lisa:Our son Steven Jr. was the primary photographer and producer.

Steve: He did a great job. It's going to be a beautiful film. Hopefully we'll get it into a festival so people can see it. Our congress members said that they liked the film because it clarifies the issues.

Steve:Hopefully when people see Lost In America, it will raise awareness and the elected officials will get phone calls because there is so much to be done. Karen Bass was one of our biggest supporters.

TNN:Now…as if this wasn’t enough,  you have another great project. H2BLD, right? 

Lisa:H2BLD, House 2 House Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. TNN:  How did that come about?

Lisa: We're very social and love to eat very healthy. We also enjoy in-home experiences, so we thought if AirBnB can do something of that nature, we can do H2BLD. We wanted to find a way for people to enjoy socializing through food, and provide a way for people to build a small business. A shared economy. 

TNN: How does it work? 

Lisa:People log on to our website, and we have hosts and guests. The host will host a meal, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, in their home, or apartment, or a venue of their choice.  If someone is interested in hosting, we go out and vet them to make sure that it's a nice place. We ask them to create a dietary theme and a social theme. That dietary theme may be healthy, vegan, gluten-free, barbecue. The social theme might be Thanksgiving dinner, Caribbean Carnival, Vision Boarding. Then they set the price point, buy the food based on the sign ups and cook it.  

TNN:  So the guests go on the site, look at the ones they like, and sign up.  

Lisa:  Yes, exactly. It's been amazing and is growing fast. We have H2BLD's pretty much between northern and southern California now. We've even had one international H2BLD in Spain. We launched in December, and we just seem to be growing. Our app is going to be out in August. 

Steve:  We have aspiring chefs that will do dinners. People that love to cook. People that have their grandmother's spaghetti recipe that's amazing, and we're going to do that. We have restaurant chefs that want to try out different foods, new foods, that will do something. The other thing that's very important, Dianne, is that we also created this to really get people to start looking at eating organic and non-GMO. We are creating a chain of local farmers and people that produce, meat, things like that, for our hosts to choose from. We have created a network of organic food producers. 

TNN:  Those are three big projects. How do you find the time? 

Lisa:We struggle with time a lot, but we have been very good at divide and conquer.  

Check out their websites





This April, long-time Lafayette Square resident Jennifer Johnson held a benefit luncheon at her home to raise money for her foundation, Hummingbirds, 
a philanthropic group founded by Johnson and her best friend Cathy Vanderford. It is composed of women and girls interested in promoting the wellbeing of children and women around the globe. According to the Hummingbirds Foundation’s website, the group is “unlike any other nonprofit, where 100% of what is raised goes directly to programs for women and children in need. [Johnson] personally covers all overhead so that every dollar given is used in the field.” This year's luncheon, called Hummingbirds Luncheon for Navajo Reservation, was held to raise money for a water project designed to bring clean, running water to the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico.

Also attending the luncheon was George McGraw, Founder and Executive Director of DIGDEEP, a human rights organization concerned with securing water for all communities in the country. Hummingbirds is partnering with DIGDEEP in its efforts to help the Navajo.

In addition to being provided with lunch, attendees were treated to songs performed by two talented, young Hummingbirds members, MaeLea Williams and Ruby Williams, who sang while playing guitar, keyboard and Ukulele. The afternoon concluded with a raffle of two beautiful Navajo blankets among other prizes.

The week after the luncheon a group of Hummingbirds mothers and daughters went to New Mexico to volunteer and witness the Hummingbirds and DIGDEEP water project in full swing.

According to Johnson in an email, they have raised over $6,000 for their Navajo water project. 

Last year, Hummingbirds Foundation raised $21,700 to help fund a project in Cap Haitien, Haiti. The project in Haiti was designed to help move over 200 children to a new community center. “Hummingbirds also raised over $135,000 in funds and equipment to build an outdoor oasis for the children at City Language Immersion Charter (CLIC).  CLIC is a public elementary school that serves one of the poorest and most densely populated communities in Los Angeles,” according to the Hummingbirds’ website.

For more information about Hummingbirds Foundation and DIGDEEP, visit:

www.hummingbirdsfoundation.org and www.digdeep.org.

Photo by Dawn Kirkpatrick

Wally Matsuura Life Long Kinney Heights Resident

Wally1ab TNN:   Wally how long have you lived in this house and how old were you when you moved in?

Wally: Well we moved in, let's say '38 October, so I was about 7, I believe.

TNN:   What was the racial mix of the community?

Wally: There was covenant so only people of the Caucasian race could live here. But I think the covenant was coming down already because the Naruse family lived here, they had the big mansion on Gramercy and 25th where the empty lot is and they were Japanese. Then we had the Stanley Uno family who lived on the street that the freeway took which would have been, 22nd or 21st, and they were Japanese. So, the barriers were starting to come down. My mother told the agent to be sure and inform the neighbors that we were of Oriental descent, partially, because she said, if they don't approve of us she didn't want to live here. They approved, so we moved in.

TNN:   Which of your parents was Asian?

Wally: Both.  My mother was half Japanese and half German and my father was all Japanese, so I'm three quarters. 

TNN:   What was it like as a child in this neighborhood?

Wally:   Very quiet. All the children who were in the neighborhood had grown.  I was going to St. John the Evangelist, south of Slauson and Crenshaw, and then my mother thought it would be easier if I went to 24th Street, so I came out of parochial school and went to a public school, which was just as good because 24th was an excellent school at the time.

TNN:   Did you experience any push back for your ethnicity?

Wally: No. A lot of people didn't know I was Oriental because I looked more Caucasian at the time, except for my name of course.

TNN:  What did a kid do for fun back then? Were there parks close by?

Wally: First I had a scooter and wagon when we first moved in. Then I got a bicycle so I'd go on my own basically.  There was another family, the Winnaman family lived at the northeast corner of 24th and Gramercy, so I hung out some time with them. There were two boys, the father owned a paint store up here on Washington.

TNN:  Was this area still considered the outskirts of Downtown?

Wally:  No, but it wasn't really mid-city like it is now, it was just a quiet suburb type thing.

TNN:   Your parents were very stylish. Did they go out alot?

Wally:  Well in the Japanese American community they had quite lavish galas. They used to have big things at the Biltmore and Pasadena Civic where they really dressed.

TNN:  Tell me your first memory of your family's experience with internment.

Wally: Well of course, I was still very young. It happened in December 7th 1941, so I would have been 10. My folks said, "They're going to make us get out of here." I don't remember when Roosevelt signed that Executive Order, but we had to leave here by May, 1st 1942. 

So it was my mother, father, and my grandfather my mother's father, and me. Then my great-grandmother and my great-aunt stayed here because they were German. We would have lost the house but they kept up the mortgage payments.

TNN:   Do you remember your parents reaction to this?

Wally: As far as I can remember there was no great discussion except the fact that we had to prepare to leave.

TNN:   So there was no anger or organizing? Just acceptance?

Wally:  Yes. The only thing we could take with us was a suitcase with our clothing.  For us it worked out all right, but my father's relatives, his sister, brother, mother and father who lived over on Hobart and Olympic and didn't own the house they rented, they lost everything. They had to sell everything quickly.  They got $5 for their refrigerator.  There were no banks in the concentration camp so people had to take their money and sew it into the hem of their clothes so it wouldn't be stolen. We didn't have that problem because we had the house.

TNN:  Okay, so now you're all packed and you're ready to go. What happens? A bus picks you up or ... ?

Wally:   First we had to assemble someplace southeast here. Then they had buses to take us to Santa Anita, the racetrack.

TNN:   Do you remember what your reaction was or what your parents reaction was?

Wally:  No, I frankly don't remember. Except, I did find out from my parents that we were very lucky to be put in a barracks, because some of the earlier arrivals had to live in the stables. They moved the horses out, whitewashed the walls, and moved people in.

TNN:   Were the barracks just a big room with lots of beds in it?

Wally:    Yeah. 4 beds.  Originally when we got there, the barracks were broken into 3 units which was a fairly good size for us.  But then they ended up having 18,000 people there so they broke the barracks up, each unit in half again. In the end the only thing that we had room for was 4 army cots,  a table in center, a little nightstand and one card table at the foot of the cots.

TNN:  Packed like sardines. It sounds like they were unprepared. What about the food?

Wally: There was army style. We had mess halls and we had latrines. The women didn't like it because it was army style. You were right out in the open. We had to take showers in the huge circular horse shower. They split that in half for men and women.

TNN:    How long were you there for?

Wally:  It was just the assembly center so were there for only 6 months, from May 1st, 1942 until November, sometime in November 1942. We had to stay there the longest because my mother was a dental nurse, so she was in the medical section. My father worked in the administration, so we had to stay until the end. It was almost like a ghost town, most people had left.Then they shipped us to Amache, Colorado.  Amache was a permanent center for as long as the war was on from 1942 until the end of the war.

TNN:    What was the new place like? 

Wally:  It was built better, although it was still a barracks. You still went to the latrine, you still went to the mess hall. It snowed, and it got cold, and it was on the edge of the Dust Bowl. We could see the sandstorms coming, the dust storms coming miles away.

TNN:  Was that during the big dust storms, and the big drought?

Wally:   Well I guess it was the end of it. We were kind of on the edge of what they considered the Dust Bowl, but we got plenty of dust.

TNN:    You could see these dust storms coming?

Wally:  Yes. The barracks were made fairly well for a winter, not like the Santa Anita barracks, but the dust could just come in everywhere, so after the dust storm the inside of that place was full of dust the same as the outside. Then we had a plague of crickets, and a plague of locusts.  We were basically in a desert.

TNN:   Were you all packed in again or did you have a little bit more room?

Wally:  A little bit more. Let's see, the end unit was for couples, married couples, so those were small because you only needed one bed. They were still cots so I suppose there were 2 cots. Anyway, of course we had 4 of us, so we were in a fair sized room. It wasn't as cramped as Santa Anita, we were able to have a little sitting area. Then of course, we had to have a pot belly coal stove and that. Yeah so it was little bit bigger.

Then my father went into the service in '43. He had to go to language school and learn how to read and write and speak Japanese because he was going to interrogate prisoners.

TNN:   So now, they're saying, "We're going to use your dad in the army to help us, but your family still has to stay in the camp"?

Wally:  Oh yeah, oh yeah, that happened everywhere. Although Dillon Myer who was the Head of the War Relocation Authority, told my parents that when my father got into the service, that he would get us back to Los Angeles. It took him awhile.  My father went in August or September of '43. Then he had an intensive course in Japanese in Fort Snelling. First he was at Camp Savage in Minnesota, then he was transferred to Fort Snelling in Minnesota, where he graduated. But it was an intense 9 months course.

TNN:    Meanwhile, leaving his family back at the camp.

Wally:  Yeah. Myer got us out in January of 1944 on military permit. I had Western Defense Command ID to allow me to be in California. My mother and I, we had to carry ID with us.

TNN:    In case they said, "Hey you're Asian, what are you doing out of the camps?"

Wally:  Right.

TNN:    Did anybody get angry about any of this?

Wally:  Yeah they did, but it wasn't around us, you know. As a matter of fact, my father's brother, they were at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, and he was arrested for protesting and sent to Leavenworth. Of course, he was pardoned after the war, but I mean, that's where he spent some time. There was one guy Korematsu or something like that, he was a big guy protesting the fact that we were American citizens and put in a camp.  My grandfather of course, could not become a citizen, Orientals could not become citizens. He was always an enemy alien. He understood the situation, and he said that he would be willing to go into a camp, but he didn't think we should go in, but he just said that to us, he didn't go out and protest. So, that's why he was with us all the time. Then he couldn't come back to California, so he went to Chicago.

TNN:     Why couldn't he come back to California?

Wally:    Because he was Japanese. Japanese could not be in California, Oregon or Washington while the war was still on.

TNN:    So it wasn't Japanese from everywhere?

Wally:  No, if you lived east, if you lived anywhere east, say you lived in Colorado for instance, you weren't evacuated, only the West Coast.

TNN:    In case one of you happened to be an enemy agent?

Wally:   Right. I think there were a 110,000 people in camps.

TNN:   Now did they ever discover an enemy agent amongst any of you?

Wally:   No, not to my knowledge.  So we got back in January of '44 like I said, on military permit. - I can't find the card. I’ve had it  until recently.  My mother, of course she was well known in the dental industry here, so she got a job right away. The army told my mother, not to send me to school until the fall, which was fine with me.

TNN:   Did they have school for the kids in the barracks at all?

Wally:    Yeah, they had a school, well not so much in Santa Anita because you know, that was only temporary but in Colorado they did.  I didn't show up half the time. It wasn't that good a school.

TNN:    Now when you came back to the community, what was it like amongst your neighbors?

Wally:   Same as when we left.

TNN:     Same as always. Did anybody come over say, "Oh I'm so sorry this happened to you?" 

Wally:  Well I suppose, there were like the Sutherlands, you know, they were pretty good friends with my parents, they were sorry.  Then of course, Mr Perkins who lived next door, he died during the war. By the time we came back new people owned the house. So, you know, the rest of the people we didn't know that well.

TNN:    When you went back to school did you get any attitude from any of the kids?

Wally:   Only once but that wasn't right away. There was a fellow in the next block who started harassing me, and the police went and talked to him. Told him my father had been in the service and all this stuff. Then it was all right. But that was all.

TNN:    So it was like, "Okay we have to go to these camps and now we're back," and boom, that was it? No big drama?

Wally:  No we just moved back in. Of course it was only my mother and me with my grandparents and my aunt.   They were able to keep the house up. We had to sell that Buick. My father had an older Ford, sold that. Then they borrowed on their life insurance and that got us through that period of time as far as ... oh and the finance company even lowered the payments, which was very nice.

AprilPorchweb2TNN:  Now I want to fast forward.  On Saturday at 4:30 every Saturday, I've been coming for 3 years faithfully, the neighbors from the block gather at your porch and bring refreshments, and sit and enjoy neighborly conversation and interaction. They have little events in the summer and you know, if one of kids in the neighborhood is getting dressed up for a prom, they have to come over and get approval from everybody, and oohs and aahs. It's just the most charming, sort of community old-school way of being with your neighbors, and Wally you're at the center of that. How did it start and when?

Wally:   It started after I retired in '86. It didn't start right away though. First I used to go to the Sutherland house because they would invite me for martinis, they loved to have martinis in the late afternoon. One day, we were over there, and actually we were on the front porch, we used to be in back under the closed in porch . One day we happened to be out on the front porch, and at that time, I didn't know Roy and Shirley. They were having a movie shoot, actually it was television, and so Roy came over and then Amos came over, who lived across the street, That's how we met. But it still didn't start yet until after 1986.

Then I used to have block club meetings here. Louise wanted to start a block club so you had the block club here. Then I got to know Roy and Shirley pretty well, and I don't know how long that took. Then Shirley goes to Mass on Saturday, and Roy is not Catholic, so he started coming over here, and we'd have glass of wine. I said, "Well gosh, that sounds like Shirley's going to Mass and you're coming for communion." That's kind of how it kind of started.  We'd talk about different things. Then slowly, other people would come by and it just kind of built from that time. It took years really, because Ron Hutchinson didn't move in here until '91, and it was a long time before Ron started coming over here. It really took a while for it to build up.

TNN:   But the secret was everyone showing up every Saturday at that time.

Wally: Yeah, and then people would see us, and then they'd come and talk, then they'd come back. That's basically how it all started.

TNN:      Now on a busy porch day, there could be how many people in the neighborhood standing on that porch and yabbering?

Wally:    15, 25 but typically it's about 8 to 10.

TNN:   You’re now living alone, you had a room mate here for a long time, so what does this gathering do for you? How does it affect your energy?

Wally:  It keeps me going really, you know, it's nice because I know I have all these neighbors, if I need any help all I have to do is call.

TNN:   It keeps you healthy and feeling supported. The value of having neighbors you are connected to and community is so critical for seniors.

Wally:   Yeah, that's what's fantastic about this, this block. It's just wonderful. I mean, there's no other way to say it.  It's too bad it can't be this way all over. But these people on this block, they're very special, very supportive of each other. Everyone gets along well, and I hope it never changes.

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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