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LAist Interview: Janet Klein

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The past is always present for Janet Klein. A devotee of early 20th century popular culture, Janet sings old hits on her ukulele and performs with her band "Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys." Last year, they hosted a weekly show called "Janet Klein & Her Borscht Belt Babies," directed by Amit Itelmann, at the Steve Allen Theater. The show recreated a vaudeville show, featuring a variety of performances involving animal acts, speakers, singers and dancers.

The group's latest CD is entitled "OH!" and covers tunes popular from 1910-1930. Janet Klein has what my grandmother would call an "old soul." It's on display even when she's not performing; you can see it immediately in the way she dresses, wears her hair or holds a parasol. You can check Janet's charisma out for yourself in September when Janet and her band will perform at the "Vaudeville Extravaganza" on September 16, 2006 at the Alex Theater in Glendale.

Age and Occupation
Born in 1907, you do the math. I don't really go by numbers.
By day: I work for Delta Graphics, a commercial printing company on the Westside, making books and other printed matter.

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By night: I am a ukulele chanteuse and bandleader. We're called "Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys", performing obscure, naughty and lovely tunes from the 1910s, 20s and 30s.

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?
My parents were students at UCLA at the time that I was born, so LA is my birthplace. They went east for teaching jobs, that is, east as in San Bernardino and Perris (definitely not France). I always knew I'd come back to Los Angeles, since 1981 spending most of my years in the Miracle Mile, Fairfax district. My husband and I fell on Alhambra and we now reside there in a 1908 craftsman house on a palm tree lined street on what was once an avocado orchard.

Why do you live in Los Angeles?

LA is home to me. There are people, places and institutions that I love here.
When my family would come to LA to visit (from San Bdno) I loved the colorful houses nestled on those hills near Cal State LA. I'd see Soto Street and knew I'd come to town.We'd go to Canters on Fairfax and always pass the forever mysterious Silent Movie Theatre. The "Silent Movie" reminds me that I've always had a calling for old things. I adore the visible layers of the city that remain from the past. Downtown, Hollywood, midcity around MacArthur Park and the Adams district..on and on. My motto with LA is that "Poverty Saves", meaning that if certain areas of the city had been more prosperous and popular in the 1950s-80s, they'd most probably have been torn down to make way for cheap and modern eyesores of architecture. So perhaps if places like the Broadway Theater District and all the wonderful old neighborhoods in LA hang in long enough, they will be rediscovered for their charm and beauty and restored… and gasp, revered even. Images of old California (turn of the last century) give me a real thrill. When I can see the old city within the new, it's a beautiful thing..look at the old neighborhoods in Pasadena, South Pasadena..the trees they planted, the libraries and other public buildings…lovely, in a lasting way.