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LAist Interview: Dame Darcy

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We're constantly surprised to discover that people with the darkest sensibilities live in this blindingly bright city. Somehow these individuals learn to survive and thrive in an area famous for its sunshine. For example, artist/musician Dame Darcy chooses to live in our city instead of more appropriately goth-inspiring spots like San Francisco or New York or Prague. Darcy is a startlingly prolific author whose style can best be described as "Francesca Lia Block meets Edward Gorey." Most fans discovered Darcy's talents via her amusingly gothic and morbid graphic novel series, Meat Cake.

When not on the road traveling with her band, Death by Doll, Darcy hangs out in Echo Park and online at her website Damedarcy.com. She also contributes her many talents to our local arts scenes. She decorated the inside of the now defunct Parlour Club on Santa Monica Blvd (We hope the proprietors of Bar Lubitsch, which replaced the Parlour Club, had the sense to keep Darcy's decorations amongst the bar's Communist chic refurbishment) and has designed interiors for Courteny Love and Margaret Cho.

You can catch Death By Doll at the Silverlake Lounge on Thursday, Thursday May 11th, at the Silverlake Lounge ( Sunset/ Silverlake) 9:00 PM. $5.

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Age and Occupation:
Age 97. Occupation: ARTIST/MUSICIAN

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?
5 yrs. Echo Park. Though I am a little wary of revealing my whereabouts due to stalkers.

Why do you live in Los Angeles?
I moved here to write and produce my feature film/graphic novel Gasoline, because I heard in NYC there were more ways to accomplish this here. A better climate for animation and film, and better climate, in general.

What is your latest project about?
Gasoline is about a family of witches that live in a utopian society after the apocalypse. They are in a darkwave band. They travel in search for gasoline for their car. The message of this movie is about technology working with nature and the earth and magic taking over the industrial age. It's also about how fairies and Native Americans really believe the same thing. It will have live action and animation.

Also, I am making Dame Darcy.com into a Meat Cake wonderland of multi media extravaganza while preparing for Putnam Penguin to release my new book, The Illustrated Jane Eyre, this fall. I am booking shows on the East Coast during the last two weeks of October 2006 and the West Coast the first 2 weeks of November. Putnam is going to link book signings to my show dates for my band Death By Doll.

Death By Doll has an album coming out on Emperor Penguin Records (penguins seems to be my lucky bird) and I have a DVD of live shows, movies, and animation coming out on Press Pop, based in Tokyo. They are also putting out a weird book I did called Dollerium about psychotic dolls that destroy everything and get worse and worse until 2 of them die from heroin.

Last but not least... I’m working on Meat Cake #15. And the next book, A Hand Book for Hot Witches which is also an animated TV show called “The Excorsisters.”

Photo by Safia Fatimi courtesy of DameDarcy.com.

What is uniquely "LA" about the arts scene now?
I like LA public art. I want to do a bike tour of all my favorite places, like under the 2 freeway is one of my favorite pieces, just patches of gray and green, where they tried to cover up graffiti, with blotches of paint ball color where some one shot it. This one changes all the time, the war between the paint ball shooters and the people who have to cover up the graffiti under the bridge.

I also like the weird bear painted on the side of the bodega on Beverly and Normandie. It's supposed to be one of the polar bears from the Coca Cola campaign, I think, but it looks like a floating abstract face or something.

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The one problem about public art is that in LA they frequently destroy it. I loved the panorama weird round building, with a big red ball on the top like a circus tent. It had a realistic painted mural of the desert inside, and sculpture garden outside, I have traveled all over the world but I have never seen any thing like this really unique place that had been the same since the 'teens. Magical and whimsical, I loved it... but it was all destroyed.

Also, there was a weird bleeding burning heart for one of the doctors around these parts, but they painted over it.

On Lemoyne and Sunset in Echo Park there is the most demented mural. A blue corpulent child giving head to its father. The couple that dances next to them are both growing out of the woman's torso. Weird.

One of my most favorite and most simple pieces was painted over recently, sadly. It was a really cute Mexican woman, making a tortilla. I was riding in a car with Camille Rose Garcia a little while ago and she pointed the same one out to me. It's too bad its gone, but the weird family wearing all yarn burkas and standing with Jesus is still up on Hollywood west of Vermont.

On Riverside, just under the freeway is the back of a school where the kids have painted a very long concrete wall that has been sectioned off into panels. My favorite is one that depicts a little boy with a wicked grin pushing over a fish bowl while a word balloon floats in the upper left corner reading "No! David!"

Near this is a fantastic piece at the gas station on the corner of Fletcher and Riverside. Someone has painted a bunch of broken TV's and set them going up the hillside. They read things like "don't believe the hype" etc.

Also, nearby, is a gate for the LA River, which is made of wrought iron cranes that look art nouveau. Very nicely done. I also love a demented mural on Fountain. I think it's for a Mexican bodega... It sports a Woman in Aztec attire with a really BIG ass boiling a pig in a giant cauldron. Wow.

What is going to happen to the murals that you created for the now defunct Parlour Club?
I have no idea. Knowing LA, they will probably be destroyed.

Is there any LA artist whose work excites you and why?
I'm into Camille Rose Garcia, Liz McGrath, Raymond Pettibone, and I saw some really great collages(?) made by Mark Mothersbaugh at Copro Nasson a few months ago I love. I also like those brothers, jeez I can't remember their names, darn it. They do lots of polka dots and they built a weird little collage house at WACKO. Also, I like Mark Ryden, but who doesn't. And Krystine Kryttre's taxidermy. I did a doll show at the Odditorium and I liked a lot of the dolls there. I like Cristianne Crow's paintings, dolls, and animation. I went to school with her at the San Francisco Art Institute.

What's your favorite movie(s) or TV show(s) that are based in LA?
I like Chinatown with Faye Dunaway, it's a great movie, but its too bad her eye gets blown out. "90210" I remember being a big deal for some reason and I watched it a few times and I guess I liked it... Um. I can't really think of any others right now.

Best LA-themed book(s)?
I like this book I've been reading lately, Hollywood Utopia about the beginning of Hollywood in the 'teens and it just seems so amazing, romantic, rough around the edges and what the spirit of experimental, independent filmmaking is today.

What's the best place to walk in LA?
The best place to walk in LA is Los Feliz, when I lived there I never drove, because I didn't have to. It was great. Also Echo Park is kind of the same way, but they are gentrifying it more and more taking out the grocery store for our community [the late lamented Pioneer Market] here and replacing it with a crappy drug store with no food, and taking over all the cool Mexican shops that sell witchcraft supplies and craft supplies in the same place. I don't even know what they are replacing them with. My favorite ghetto-clothing store is Fashions 4 Eva. All the mannequins have really BIG butts (back to that again). The Korean Market has the best groceries (and the weirdest) at least we still have that.

I like to walk down town at the corner of Flower and 5th. The library there is awesome and I go there at least once a week when I'm in town. It's next door to the Standard Hotel, which is also fun to hang out in. Across from the library is a really cool staircase going up to a fountain of a woman with crabs worshipping at her feet. And on Grand is the Grand Hotel that has an amazing interior and is from the '20s — I used to hang out in the lobby there and draw "Meat Cake" sometimes then sneak down stairs with my friends and swim in the pool and sauna. This is all basically on the same block.

I love to walk in the Huntington Library, but it's in Pasadena, does it count? I also like the beach, I love to swim and walk by the waves in Zuma.

There are secret places in Echo Park I call "Witch Country" nobody seems to know where it is and no one I know ever goes there but its right under every one's noses. I'm not telling where it is but its fun, and there are fairies there.

If you could live in LA during any era, when would it be?
The 'teens hands down. For reasons previously explained. I heard that in the 'teens, they used to race miniature yachts in Echo Park and the lotus plants that grow there have been around since then.

What is the "center" of LA to you?
I guess Hollywood. Maybe Hollywood and Vine? Or maybe where Amoeba is?

If you could live in any neighborhood or specific house in LA, where/which would you choose?
I would like to live in Echo Park in the beautiful Craftsman house that we were evicted from by our evil landlords who sold the house suddenly with out warning after taking all our money. The place I live in now is OK though. It looks like a giant cake castle.

People stereotype Los Angeles as a hard place to find personal connections and make friends. Do you agree with that assessment? Do find it challenging to make new friends here?
Yes, I think it's true, but I do make new friends all the time, so it's a contradictory answer. A lot of my friends live in Echo Park, so I think having friends in my neighborhood gives me a sense of community.

What is the city's greatest secret?
Witch Country

What do you have to say to East Coast supremacists?
They are right.

Do you find the threat of earthquakes preferable to the threat of hurricanes and long winters?
Yes, in fact the only thing that really keeps me here is the good weather.

Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?
In Europe , Tokyo, NYC, or at my Mom's in Oregon. I just hope my boyfriend and all my favorite people are there with me. I travel a lot, so hopefully I won't be here [in the area when the Big One happens], but if I am, I'm totally ready (or I guess I am). I have a water and food supply, batteries, a camping stove and a hand crank generator that has a radio, flashlight, and even a place to charge a cell phone. My boyfriend and I have a plan to meet at my house, and if for some reason my house is on fire or falling down, we have an alternate agreement to meet in Elysian Park by these wooden mushroom statues. I was in the SF earthquake of 1989 and also witnessed the fall of the World Trade Towers in NY so I have experience with the Apocalypse. Bring it on! (Just kidding, please don't.)