Fais Do Do. 28 Years Strong

Standing like a sentinal at the entrance of what I like to refer to as the West Adams Gateway (the strip along Adams between La Brea and Fairfax, gateway to Historic West Adams on the east and Culver City on the west) is one of the longest surviving clubs in Los Angeles, Fais Do Do. We felt it was about time we explored the history of this neighborhood gem, polished by years of survival in a rough and tumble community which is now experiencing a renewal with boutiques, coffee houses, restaurants and art galleries.  Fais Do Do was there first.

June18SteveTNN:Steve, how long has Fais Do Do been in our community?

Steve Yablok:Twenty-eight years. We opened the club in 1990 when this was a predominantly African American neighborhood.

It’s not been without challenges, but they only make you stronger, so here we are now in 2018, stronger than ever.

TNN:Do you have partners?

SY:No, I never really had a business partner. I had a couple of people who invested. I did have a friend who helped, a handyman I met in Venice when I had my first house. Mr. Burt was from New Orleans and a bit grizzled but I guessed being a handyman wasn’t his first love so I asked,"Mr. Burt, what do you really do?" He goes, "Well, I'm actually a jazz flutist and a tarot card reader, an astrologer, and a chef."  He also taught interpretive dance, and had been a community team leader in New Orleans when I met him. Well, we talked all summer and then the next year, I saw this building and I called Mr. Burt. I said, "Mr. Burt, I found us a building. I found us a club." 

He came down here and we cleaned out the junk and furniture and piles of stuff held in storage, and we started cooking for the locals here, and booking shows. 

TNN:Wasn’t the neighborhood sketchy?

SY:Well, I thought "Hey! this could be really magical" because it was on the dividing line with the white community just north and the black community south. My parents were scared to death for me to be here, and warned me that nobody was going to come. But I knew that if the artists came and the musicians came, then the people would follow.

TNN:What was the neighborhood like back then?

SY:Before us the place was called Napier’s Corner Palace. The patrons here were all retired or nearly retired. Some were postal workers, some had their own furniture shops, DWP workers, older African-American gentlemen who had their own gentleman's club here, but it was a failing club. The family that owned it was the Franco family, and they had a mortgage but they were in foreclosure, and the city had a vacate order on it. It had become a broken down pool hall with a dollar beer.  So the guys would come and shoot pool, play dominoes, and drink whiskey in the backyard. But it was in a really busted up neighborhood that was pretty gang and crack ridden, even on this block. Pretty dangerous.

TNN:It was during the crack epidemic.

SY:Definitely. Then the Latino families began moving in, so you had some pretty hardcore Latin gangs. 18 Street was really prominent, pushing back against the Gear gang and the Smiley gang. It was pretty, pretty messed up and frightening. But we used the music, and welcomed the artists, and we used the good character of people down here to survive. Then 1991 became 1992, and the Rodney King riots.

TNN:   So you were right in the middle of the riots as well!

SY:Right in it. I thought this building was gonna get burned down on that first night. April 29th, 1992, was my 30th birthday, so the riots began on my birthday. There was a gentleman here, Larry Maxi was his name. He went by the name of Larry King, and he was basically my first customer. He was homeless, and he stayed up all night wandering the streets, and then come in here when we opened and stayed 'til the end, and he'd help me clean up, pick up glasses. I said, "Larry, I don't have any money. I can't pay you." He says, "Don't, worry, don't worry." So I said, "Do you have a place to stay?" He said, "No." So he slept on the stage and was here the day the riots hit and he went out in front and hung up a sign, "Black owned." While they were looting the ABC Market and the Rexall Drug Store, and the tire stores, he said “Don't touch this one”. 

TNN:Did it work?

SY:I couldn't believe that when we returned, it was still here.

TNN:Amazing. All because you gave shelter to a homeless person. 

SY:Yeah. But we still had to deal with the city. Remember, this building was ordered vacated by the city and about to be bulldozed if we didn't do something. We had to get the building earthquake proofed.

TNN:So you were out of business for awhile.  How did you survive?

SY:We had been working with a partner from Chicago and got enough money and engineering together, and got an architectural plan to take to the city to retrofit this building. A week after the riot, with the city still smoldering, we got a stamp of approval to do our earthquake work. That day me and Larry King, and friends who probably didn't have any contracting experience, were up on the roof taking it off to begin the earthquake process. A real phoenix rising out of the smoldering ashes around us.  We were putting the bricks back on this important architectural structure, and I think historical and creative venue.

TNN:It became a real hope for change for the neighborhood?

SY:I think so. It became an anchor also for me, it gave me a real purpose. The fact that my heroes growing up were Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King, Ceasar Chavez and people who had stepped out of their comfort zone, and spoke for liberty, and fairness.  It gave me confidence enough to fight back against the idea that this was a bad neighborhood. I saw it as an opportunity to do something good, to get people together, to heal the divide.  It really gave me purpose and a vision and helped with my destiny. 

You saw that young guy come in. He's not a kid anymore, right? He's got kids, and he's about to have grandkids. These are kids that were on the edge of gang life. They either say I'm growing up in a ghetto, or I'm growing up in a neighborhood where there's a world-class club. Where Denzel Washington had visited, and BB King played. 

TNN:You focused on music as the means.

SY:At first, I wanted to play blues and jazz but it was really hard to get any reputation going for that. Jazz and blues toward the end of the '90s was basically like my grandparents' music. Also it was easy to get the four white boy rock bands down here, but to pay good jazz men to come here to play to an audience that may or may not be there was really challenging. We kind of fell into being hip hop and rap, which was emerging as we were starting.

TNN:Was it able to support you?

SY:Not enough. Thankfully the space is beautiful, Prior to getting Fais Do Do I’d worked in the film business so I sent photos to location managers and film makers.  It can be made to look like anywhere world, modern or back in the '30s, so we’ve done a great deal of filming here. We also had a lot of music videos, a lot of photo shoots, private events, wrap parties. In the meantime, we were booking some great stuff and got a reputation for helping new artists get their feet.

The Black Eyed Peas had been playing college shows, but they played their first real gig here. I could say confidently that bands like Jurassic 5, or Ozone Motley, or Aceyalone were bands that found their footing in places like this.

TNN:I wonder if you got pushback from the neighbors because of noise or parking?

SY:Yeah, well, we have really good credit with the community. We've been a go-to spot for their organizations and their family parties.  Every family on this block has had their quinceañera here, or a birthday party here. That's not a pay-to-play type thing. That's just something that we do 'cause we're family. But we always have security guards here who are less of a policing force than someone who's asking that patrons respect the neighbors.  I mean, I get from time to time, "Hey, someone's got their car, the butt of their car, in my driveway." Or "It's 1:30, it's a little too loud, the music." But it comes to me, and not to the police.  There is so little drama based on a club that's been here 28 years. Knock on wood, there's barely been a fight or any “hubbub”  here.

TNN:Businesses evolve.  What are your plans moving forward?

SY:The nightclub business in a room for 100, 150 people is almost impossible. My new vision is to become a first class eating establishment with all the entitlements that you'd have in downtown or Hollywood. Fais Do Do needs a facelift and a paint job. I’m thinking of adding day-time  activity with coffee and internet, vegetarian options, and barbecue.  Musically, I want to get back to our roots of blues and jazz and work with a really upscale booking policy.

Beginning in the fall I'm renting out my theater space to a theater company called Delusions who will do immersive and interactive theater.  They'll take eight to ten people on a journey through the building.

We also host Blair Barron and Julia Wyson’s  LA Drama Club who provide a space to give young people a voice. The LA Drama Club is comprised of diverse kids from Mid-City. Some have a learning or a stuttering challenge, and they'll find their voice in the theater.  We've also had incredible dance performances. One is Art for the Soul, taking music and interpreting it into emotive, progressive, emotional pieces, and there is Luminario, an artistic ballet and aerial production company.

TNN:For 28 years you have been able to preserve a historic and architecturally important landmark and keep Fais Do Do and its cultural contribution going. You helped restore  a positive identity for the community and most importantly, you never gave up. It is really an important part of the history of our community and I thank you for sharing it with us.


Fais Do Do    5252 W. Adams Blvd. Los Angeles 90016

for rental inquiries  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.





Union

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. 
Dec16Union1

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:

DEC15Pizza1
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.

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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.

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The Editor Discovers Her Remarkable Ancestors

AUG18famMomI was born out of wedlock in 1951 to a beautiful Latvian immigrant woman, Inta Penka. In 1940 when the Russians invaded Latvia, my mother, a young teen, was immediately sent home from her ballet school in the city but the boat she took did not drop her off at her port and instead escaped across the Baltic along with the passengers. She would never see her parents again. Inta also escaped witnessing the seizure of her parents' land and being sent to Siberia, along with her mother and sister, for five years . My mother eventually made her way to Canada where I was conceived and born out of wedlock. Five years after I was born, Mom married my stepfather, Irving Lawrence, and had two more children, Sam and Phyllis. They had another child prior to their marriage but they weren't ready to marry so he was given up for adoption.  Yet five years later they decided to marry. To my great joy, brother Scott Vale recently found his way to us but that's another story.  

When you're a child, words like stepfather, marriage, out of wedlock, and adoption are all complicated terms better left explained when one was "older." Like most kids, I was simply a passenger on the grown-ups' road trip.  Then when I was a around 8 years old my mother decided it was time for me to know about my "real" father. She explained that he was different than the dad I had come to know.  She told me his name was Duke Page and he was a professional piano player. She made a point of letting me know how much they loved each other but when he returned to America (we lived in Canada), she couldn't join him there. Although I never harbored a burning desire to find him, these details stayed with me, and in my 30s I approached a discussion with her about it. Afraid that I might want to find him, she vehemently denied all the information and claimed none of it was true.  I let it go and resigned myself to never knowing. She passed on in 2008 having kept her secret. But she had left me his name When the internet and Google became a resource, I tried to research but nothing came up. So, Duke Page remained a ghost, a blurry, mysterious, shapeless presence standing on the distant horizon of my psyche. 

That is, until this year, when I did Ancestry.com.  First I discovered that I was 24% African American with roots in Nigeria, Benin and Toga.  I am very light skinned and grew up in Canada in a white family and community. Despite my curly hair and slightly olive skin, the issue of being mixed race was never mentioned.  By anybody, ever ...  that is until I moved to an African American community in LA and my neighbors kept telling me I looked like a relative.  So I just began to assume I was mixed race - but now I knew for certain and it felt comfortable and right. It made sense. 

Ancestry also links you to anyone who shares your DNA, and many 4th, 5th and 8th cousins immediately showed up, yet all too distant to link any of them with Daddy Duke until …. a second cousin with the last name of “Paige” appeared. Tracy Paige Jr..At first I didn’t take notice because I’d been spelling Duke’s last name as Page.  When I realized what I had, I gasped and hastily wrote an email explaining what I knew, begging forgiveness for reaching out and wondering if there was any information he might be willing to send me.  I understood the discovery of another sibling, another child, another unexpected family member out in the world could be very disruptive. The parent may not want this information exposed.  But I had to ask, so I held my breath, crossed my fingers and waited.  After a week I got a response.  

Aug18famDad2Tracy Paige Jr. had gone to his dad, Tracy Sr., who, I discovered, was one of thirty cousins!  Jr. shared this mysterious email with his dad and my other cousins. Was it a hoax?  They encouraged him to contact me.  So I woke up one morning to an email with a photo of my dad, Deutrelle Paige, aka Duke, tall, handsome, beautifully tailored and standing next to a woman at some kind of zoo.  He had a sketch pad under his arm (I’m an artist!) and he's looking toward the camera with a "Here I am, you finally found me" look on his face. Sadly, he had passed in 1996 and all my uncles and aunt had already passed on. Yet every light in my body exploded.  The ghost had an outline and was close, was looking at me. Looking like me.   A door opened up, I stepped in and discovered a treasure trove of family love and lore, remarkable information about my heritage and roots.  I began to flesh in the outline. 

Aug18famDad1-2He had been a professional musican/piano player and although he'd married five times he had no natural children with any of his wives.  I apparently was his only known child. 

My cousins assured me that he loved children and had he known about me I would have spent summers in Norfolk, Virginia, surrounded by dozens of cousins. 

With their encouragement I made plans to fly out to Norfolk and visit, which I did this July.  It was a life changing experience.  


Before I left for Norfolk, Laura Meyers, our West Adams historian, was fascinated with my Aug18famrecord2story. She did some research and found a record my father recorded when he was in his early 20s.  I ordered it and another album compilation of early blues tunes which included my dad along with Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Lightnin' Slim.  The single arrived with “Ida May” on one side and “Two-Faced Woman" on the other.  I rushed over to neighbor Wally Matsura, who still has a record player, and I heard my father's voice singing the kind of music I’d been singing with my band for most of my life!  Music I had not grown up with but began singing the minute I discovered it.  My favorite line was “I’m kind to little doggies and the birds up in the trees. But I wouldn’t take that woman back, if she begged on bended knee!”  I too have always been kind to little dogs and the birds up in the trees, and apparently so was my dad. 

Aug18famRoseI flew to Washington where I rented a car to drive through the stunning Virginian countryside to Norfolk. One of the many lucky aspects of this story was my cousin Karen Paige who happened to be a historian. She suggested I stop off at the Rosewell Plantation outside of Gloucester.  Rosewell was one of the largest plantations in the south and according to Karen had been built by Mann Page. Evidence points to the possibility he was one of our ancestors.  Current efforts to compare DNA with his ancestors are underway. George Washington had been a frequent visitor and rumor had it, they used to discuss the Declaration as it was being developed.  Rosewell eventually burned down, but the ruins and property had become a landmark.  I spent a good hour by myself in the quiet humid summer heat surrounded by the ruins and the forest on its edges and the huge fields where the slaves toiled.  I tried to imagine the people and activities of the past, and it summoned up nothing but sadness.   A handful of white oppressors surrounded by over a hundred people serving them with no reward other than grief and fear. People who could be separated from their children and sold at a moment's notice.  Sold!

Aug18famsylviaI finally made it to Norfolk and the incredible embrace of my cousins. My dad and his three brothers and one sister had all passed on but many of the cousins lived close and I got to meet many of them.  I stayed with cousin Sylvia, and we couldn’t stop laughing and talking. It was like old home week.






Aug18famhouseAug18fam4cuz2They threw a big party for me at the house Deutrelle grew up in and two of my cousins lived in.  I saw where my dad practiced piano. He was so good "he could play with one hand and it sounded like two!" 




Aug18FamPamMy cousin Pam brought me to the house of another cousin who told me my dad stayed with them when he was in town. His fondest memory was driving Deutrelle's shiny brown Cadillac to school to impress his classmates. 





Aug18famKarenMy cousin Karen Paige, the historian, gave me a tour of the city and all the Paige landmarks including the monument to our great grandfather R.G.L. Paige in the black cemetery he had purchased and where other Paiges rest. It was now owned by the city. What I discovered about my lineage was extraordinary, and suddenly so many things about me began to make sense.  









Aug18famRg3
My great grandfather was a man named Richard Gault Lesley Paige. Despite having been born into slavery, against all odds he became one of the first black lawyers in Norfolk, popular with both black and white clients. He was also one of the first black delegates elected to the Virginia legislature after the Civil War. From the Virginia Encyclopedia:   R. G. L. Paige was a Republican member of the House of Delegates (1871–1875, 1879–1882) and possibly the first African American lawyer in Norfolk and one of the first in Virginia. Born into slavery in the city of Norfolk, Paige escaped to Philadelphia about 1857 and eventually settled in Boston. After the American Civil War (1861–1865) and the abolition of slavery, he returned to Norfolk. There he purchased the local African American burial ground (later Mount Olive Cemetery) and in 1871 won election to the House of Delegates. In the General Assembly Paige lobbied for civil rights, served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, and won a patronage appointment as an assistant clerk at the Norfolk customs house. In 1880 he delivered a speech against lynching that was widely reprinted, but no legislation resulted. That same year he threatened to, but in the end did not, sue a Richmond theater company that refused to seat him. From 1882 to 1885 he served as secretary of the curators of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. In 1882 he helped pass legislation chartering the Virginia Building and Savings Association and became a founding member of its board of directors. Paige died in 1904.

From the Journal of Negro History   “Paige and Harris were among the principal leaders of the House, and certainly, few were the men in that house whether democrats or republicans who could outrank them in oratory or public debate.”

Aug18famgrndad2One of his sons, RGL Paige II,  my grandfather, was also a distinguished lawyer in Norfolk, and all of my cousins remember "Daddy Paige" and his wife, Lillian Marcella Land, as being exceptionally kind and loving people. 













Aug18FamDor2My great aunt, Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, R.G.L. Paige’s granddaughter, was a medical activist. 

Wikipedia: “Ferebee was affiliated with Howard University's Medical school, starting in 1927 as an instructor of Obstetrics, and later as the medical director of the Howard University Health Service from 1949-1968, all while maintaining her own private practice.  She was also instrumental in establishing the Southeast Neighborhood House, an adjunct of the whites-only Friendship House medical center, to provide medical care and other community services to African-Americans in Washington, D.C. She served as the first medical director for the Mississippi Health Project, "a seven year program stands as one of the most impressive examples of voluntary public health work ever conducted by black physicians in the Jim Crow South, touching thousands of black Mississippians at a time when they had virtually no access to professional medical care"


Aug18famlucianI was interested in RGL's parentage, and here we have some differing stories.  My historian cousin Karen is in the process of piecing together evidence that RGL was the result of a union between a white man, Richard Lucian Page, a United States Navy officer who joined the Confederate States Navy and later became a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, and his housekeeper Catherine.  It is through him we trace back to Rosewell and, through my research, back to 1195 in England and a bishop named Pageham. But other sources claim his father was possibly a Thomas Paige.  Karen continues to research and with DNA tests so easily accessible we are getting closer to the truth. 







AUGfam18singSo now, many of my inclinations are so easily explained.  From my natural love of African American jazz and blues and the bands I’ve put together to sing and perform this music, to my activism.  My political activism has always surprised me because I spent my life as an artist, focused on the ideas and activities of the art world, but I could never tolerate what I perceived as an injustice or abuse of the innocent and would stand up to it and take action when I could. In 1989 I joined in the fight against an invasion of anti-abortion activists Operation Rescue and we drove them out of Los Angeles. I successfully initiated and fought to get a law changed to make it illegal to tie a dog up in the backyard as a lifestyle in Los Angeles, and with very little support I fought against the illegal installation of gates in my community. Although I was able to take it as far as suing the city, it was a battle I lost. So when I read about my great grandfather's unsuccessful fight to have legislation created to address lynching, I felt he would have understood and been proud of my efforts to launch a lonely fight against the prevailing winds to right a wrong no matter how small.  Besides, in the end, The Neighborhood News emerged out of that effort and the recognition of the need to keep the community informed and connected and celebrated which we have been doing now for 10 years. The feeling of my ancestors cheering me on is palpable.


AUG18fammomDadI have had the extraordinary good fortune to have discovered remarkably loving kin and to feel embraced by their welcoming home. It has been an emotional landscape changer.  To discover I have genetic roots in important events in our American history and ancestors who fought against all odds for justice and relief, allows me to rewrite the family codes I'd been operating under and understand, embrace and celebrate my genetic heritage in the Norfolk Paige line.  

Photo collaged together of my mother, father and myself. 

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. 

Oct16Rosie










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.

STEVE AND LISA VASQUEZ

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. 

TNN:Where?

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

CookingWithgabby.org

H2bld.com

Lostinamericafilm.com

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About Us

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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