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Arts & Entertainment

Rabe calls for new creative heroes, moratorium on the usual suspects

Why not nominate photographer William Reagh, who took this shot of Angels Flight in downtown Los Angeles?
Why not nominate photographer William Reagh, who took this shot of Angels Flight in downtown Los Angeles?
Los Angeles Public Library/William Reagh Collection
Why not nominate photographer William Reagh, who took this shot of Angels Flight in downtown Los Angeles?
Looking for a new hero? Why not Margaret Millar?
Lancer Books

I'm on a quest. If I see one more documentary, book, or exhibit about Charles Bukowski, Frida Kahlo, or Hunter S. Thompson, I'm going to lose it.

Well, I don't mind seeing this photo of Thompson again:

(What happened, Hunter?)

Yes, they were great. Yes, they used to be wholly unappreciated or under-appreciated. But not any more! We know all about them, they have been appreciated. They lurk in the shadows no more. But they are now overexposed and no better than the Rolling Stones in the way journo's let them suck up space in the public's limited attention span. (Look, I'm fine if the Stones record new albums and go on tour and write books, but why do journo's feel compelled to cover each new thing like there's something new to talk about? I'm fine if you want to do yet another Hunter S. Thompson documentary, but really, couldn't you find someone else?)

This group of artists have become stand-ins for the outré, the underground, the outsider; a subject any sleepy journo or documentarian can revisit on a random fifth or 10th anniversary that will guarantee an audience and some web hits.

Meanwhile, there must be scores of artists like them in every way except notoriety — people with interesting life stories, books that should have gone bigger, artwork that nobody recognized as highly creative or even groundbreaking. Maybe they even were famous, then fell into obscurity. (Christopher Morley comes to mind.) But since we're distracted spending our time on the latest Bukowski, Kerouac, or Kahlo book/exhibit/film, there's no time to root out their story and tell it.

Some might argue, "Hey, the public loves to hear about them. They get hits." Bad logic. You have no idea what the public's reaction would be to a story you're not telling.

You might say, "Hey, they're obscure for a reason. Time is a great winnower of talent." You could say the same for Mary Blair, Simon Rodia, or many others who have recently been rediscovered and found, after all, to be worth our renewed attention.

This is where you come in.

Please nominate a few writers, artists, or whathaveyous who are truly or pretty obscure and who deserve some of the attention we now lavish on these other people. As an example: someone along the lines of Leigh Brackett or Margaret Millar. Before someone nominates L.A. author John Fante ... sorry, but he's been getting lots of deserved press lately. He's already been rediscovered.

And for the purposes of this particular Quest, I'm also not really looking for young undiscovered talented people. We already keep our eye out for new talent. I'm looking for relatively old people or dead people ... essentially the obscure equivalents of Kahlo and Kerouac.

Maybe someone like L.A. photog William Reagh.

And since Off-Ramp's focus is local, I'd also like them to be Southern California born or based.

In short: Obscure, Creative, Dead or Old, Local.

Please feel free to nominate and argue/discuss in the space below, and to share this post so we get more nominations. With luck, this Quest will uncover some gems and some good pieces for Off-Ramp.