This week on Off-Ramp, we walk through LAMP Community, the Skid Row homeless center, with rocker Jon Bon Jovi (right), whose Soul Foundation has built hundreds of units of affordable housing in the last 6 years. The reason I got invited in the first place is Steve Lopez (left), the muckraking LA Times columnist. We’re pals from his time at the Philadelphia Inquirer and my time at WHYY.
But Steve and JBJ also have Philly roots in homeless advocate Sister Mary Scullion, as Steve explains in his Talk Back blog.
Bon Jovi, it turns out, is no dilettante. He has studied public policy issues regarding mental health and homelessness in various cities while on tour, calling it a fact-finding mission for his nonprofit organization. The charity supports affordable housing projects, and I've seen the effects of Bon Jovi's generosity in Philadelphia, where once-devastated neighborhoods have been rebuilt by and for Sister Mary's mental health clients, or family members, as she would call them.
(Our hero gets a tour of the woods from what he thinks is a little girl. (GKIDS/Cartoon Saloon))
There’s a big piece today in the New York Times on director Tomm Moore’s animated “The Secret of Kells,” which is up for an Oscar.
But it’s not just geography that makes Mr. Moore a surprise addition to the Oscar race. It’s also the style and story of his independent film, a hand-drawn labor of love made for 6 million euros (about $8 million), the equivalent of what, in headier days, some studios would spend on a film’s Oscar campaign alone. If, artistically, “The Secret of Kells” is a throwback to the era of animation before computer-generated imagery, its promotion is pure digital age, forgoing the pricey ads and flashy parties that Academy Award campaigns are traditionally built on in favor of cheaper social media and savvy targeted marketing. It was a lark, and it worked.
WARNING: By reading this blog, you are participating in an art project.
As you may know if you’ve read this blog at all regularly, I’ve been looking for some traction for my ongoing photo essay on the abandoned television sets of Lincoln Heights and Cypress Park.
On Monday I wrote, “So far, no calls from Taschen or the Annenberg photo center. Maybe because of the glaring lack on conflict or even the vaugest narrative thread. No arc, as they say.”
So when Kevin Roderick charitably linked to the blog on LA Observed, I took it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a sign to get a move on.
I e-mailed Mark, a professional grant-writing friend, about how I might take this further. Mark wrote back:
“A Guggenheim Fellowship, I think: an artist transplanted from the Midwest to LA wants a grant to drive around California to document the state's love/hate relationship with television, as expressed through a certain physicality, an undeniable confrontation with the physical reality of television: when you hate more than just what television represents, but the structure itself and what it represents in your living space. What is it, exactly, we're kicking to the curb here?”
(L-R: LAMP Interim Executive Director Shannon Murray, Jon Bon Jovi, LA Times columnist Steve Lopez, KPCC’s John Rabe. I know it’s blurry. I didn’t take the picture.)
If you’re a big Bon Jovi fan, you know that Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Foundation does a lot for homeless people. If you’re a former 1980s DJ who played Bon Jovi back then but wasn’t really into their music all that much, it might come as a surprise.
I’m in the latter camp, and now my eyes are open. The LA Times’ Steve Lopez (read his Skid Row stories here) got me invited to Jon’s tour of LAMP Monday afternoon. (Bon Jovi is in SoCal for the band’s big concert tour, and plays Staples Center Thursday.) Turns out Bon Jovi has been seriously working on the issue for years, since a day he saw a homeless man asleep in front of Philly’s city hall and said to himself, “I can do something about this.”
How sad. I just heard that Bobby Espinosa, of the band El Chicano, is dead. He was only 60. Listen to the Off-Ramp interview with Espinosa – featuring the wonderful Jesus Velo of the band Los Illegals interviewing his hero – and you get a sense of why Espinosa and El Chicano made a difference.
And watch them play Viva Tirado on YouTube, and get a sense why their music filled the air and the airwaves in Southern California:
Please leave your memories of El Chicano below in the comments section; I'd love to share them with listeners this weekend on Off-Ramp.
(Check out John's weekly show Off-Ramp.)