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The LAist Interview Special Edition: Ms. Vaginal Davis
LAist is proud to publish the LAist Interview featuring a local and international legend who needs no introduction: Vaginal Davis.
Performer, writer, DJ, hostess, artist, icon, splendid raconteur—Ms. Davis has done it all.
As part of the Silver Lake Film Festival, Ms. Davis will be righteously honored as she prepares to leave our fine shores for Berlin, Germany. Be sure to check out her specially selected experimental films at the Vaginal Davis Career Retrospectacle this Saturday night at the ArcLight Cinemas and Annex.
Following the interactive screening, help give Ms. Davis a suitable sendoff at the “Farewell to a Diva” celebration. (Rest assured, the event takes place after sundown, thus accommodating those observing Yom Kippur.) It’s shaping up to be a tremendous affair. The demented hostessa has already committed to encourage “public nudity, inappropriate displays of affection and miscegenation” during the guaranteed-to-be-memorable evening.
We're thrilled to have caught up with Ms. Davis before the So Cal region mourns her absence. That is, unless someone finds her an architectural gem to inhabit (read below). Even after she calls another city home, however, Vaginal Davis will always remain a part of our collective LA consciousness and soul.
01. Age and Occupation:
I have lived in human form for over 437 years. Ever so often I must dematerialize and return to my natural state as a bellatine lifeforce entity. My wrath is as fearsome as my countenance is splendid.
I work as a live artist, cultural critic and independent curator.
02. You’ve been described as "an essential component of the city's texture." You earned this reputation through your life’s work and having lived in numerous parts of town. Which neighborhoods have you called home over the years, and where do you currently live?
I’ve lived in South Central Los Angeles, Watts in the Jordan Downs project, East Los Angeles, in the famous Ramona Gardens project, the house designed in the 30s by Lloyd Wright, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright, Korea Town, Los Feliz Village, the Sunset Strip, and now in Hollywood proper right on the infamous Walk of Fame.
My art studio is located at MacArthur Park on the 8th floor of a gorgeous building built in 1917.
03. This question must drive you crazy but...are you still planning to move, and why?!
I AM a Los Angeles treasure and part of the fabric of this town, that gives it culture and radiance, but sadly Los Angeles doesnt take care of its own, and has taken me for granted. This city which I both love and hate has become so gentrified, that its almost impossible to afford to live here and create work, so I must leave for other opportunities in Europe, where they appreciate artists more. And respect individuality. LA use to be the cheapest of all the international cities, but in just three short years that has changed drastically.
My pet peeve is that artists are expected to support arts administrators who make giant salaries, with retirement, pension and health plans and all they do is pigeonhole artists. Any person who has a high paying job in the arts who is not completely devoted to serving artists should kill themselves.
04. Youre always gracious and enthusiastic in your blog about chronicling your friends and visitors who drop by your weekly club, Bricktops at the Parlour Club. But if you had to choose your favorite most exciting guests, who would they be?
Since I dont have any healthcare or vision care plan, my eyesight is horrendous, and I need a new prescription for my glasses. Unless people tell me who they are, I hardly recognize anyone. I usually get a report from several sources on who came to Bricktops by Monday, and then I write it in my blog. My favorite Bricky visitors are those who come wearing gorgeous outfits that theyve designed or put together themselves. Its all about being visual and creative, that is how one rates in my excite meter. And thats the only way to get Ms. Davis attention.
I'm always happy to see Bibbe Hansen at Bricktops. She is the most important woman in Los Angeles. And not because she was once the youngest of the Warhol stars but because she has always been on the forefront of what is cutting edge in this town. She gives every event she attends an extra slice of class and elegance.
05. Has the club changed since you got major ink in the Sunday New York Times? Do you have to turn more folks away at the door?
Since my club is located in the grimy Russian Quarter, its a little off the beaten path and doesnt possess that upscale vibe that clubs further west and north generate. No one certainly gets turned away. Not that many people in Los Angeles read the New York Times. I do get a lot of New York visitors and Europeans, but since I dont play trendy music like Hip Hop or Electro clash. A lot of people have problems listening to old style tunes. It takes a certain kind of sophistication, and Im glad, because it really weeds the bad eggs out.
Considering all the international press, weve managed to keep a very low profile. Which is good because I'm always breaking the rules when it comes to what is allowed in a public space.
06. What's your preferred mode of transportation?
My circa 1950 green and chartreuse Western Flyer cruiser when its not too hot, or I take the autobus or Metro subway. Ive never learned to drive. I find modern cars vulgar, they all look like soap dishes. If I was to drive it would be a vintage automobile.
07. How often do you ride the subway or light rail?
Almost every day. I just wish it didnt cost so much. A lot of times I just walk, since Im not really gainfully employed, and I need to keep my expenses down.
08. What are some of your favorite movies and TV shows set in LA?
I dont have a television set, sometimes Ill go over to my Brit pals house and theyll have on BBC America, I love that show "Keeping up with Appearances" with the character of Hyacinth played by Patricia Ruttledge who was one of Joe Ortons stock performers back in the 60s. Its not about Los Angeles but that program is hilarious.
Ive seen a couple of episodes of "Six Feet Under" and I find that its overratedthere is nothing groundbreaking about that show.
As far as moviesThe Loved One based on the book by Evelyn Waugh, Day of the Locust directed by John Schelessinger starring the amazing Karen Black, Geraldine Page and William Atherton, Chinatown by Roman Polanski, and I guess my fave is Mulholland Drive by David Lynch.
09. Best LA-themed books?
Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion and The Coming of the Night by John Rechy
10. Some of your most loved LA music?
"Los Angeles" by X, and "This Town" by the Go-Gos is the most underrated song about LA. Its so brilliant, and really captures a mood of the city late 70s and early 80s. It still holds up today, and I love covering it, but I do a 20s arrangement.
11. In your opinion, what's the best alternate route to the 405?
What is the 405? Is that some freeway? I dont know freeways by their number just by their names since I dont drive. I can never give anyone directions because they speak in a different language, the motorist tongue.
Is this 405 freeway on the Westside of town? If so I hardly ever have a need to frequent that part of the city. The Westside is quite dull to me, especially West LA, Venice, and Santa Monica which I call Aunt Monica.
12. What's the best place to walk in LA?
Hollywood Boulevard is still the best street for walking. You see some of the most beautiful and the most ugly people, and that makes for excellent eye candy.
13. It's 9:30 PM on Thursday. Where are you coming from and where are you going?
Im usually in bed by 9:30. I wake up at 5 am so I like to get my sleep on. When Im working at my club I wind up staying up late, but I hate it. That is why I use to do a Sunday afternoon club at the Garage for five years called Sucker.
Im a morning person, thats when Im most alert. Moving to Europe is going to take a toll on that, because people dont go out until 1 am. Ill be forced to take a lot of disco naps.
14. If you could live in LA during any era, when would it be?
The teens and the 20s.
15. What is the "center" of LA to you?
Wilshire Center bordered by 3rd Street to the north, Olympic to the south, Crenshaw to the west, and Vermont to the east.
16. If you could live in any neighborhood or specific house in LA, where / which would you choose?
I love Hancock Park and Larchmont Village, if I was wealthy Id love to own one of those stately homes.
My favorite house is the Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Park that Frank Lloyd Wright built for Aline Barnsdall. Id love to live in that house and take care of it. Id stay in LA if someone let me live there for free or some other architectural gem.
17. What is the city's greatest secret?
That there are some very warm, sincere, intelligent and giving people here. Many LA natives for generations upon generations. All the crass entertainment industry types make it seem that everyone here is yucky, but they arent.
18. Whats your most memorable LA dining experience?
Being taken to the Pacific Dining Car on 6th Street in downtown LA by a TV writer and her handsome writing partner. They were picking my brain for ideas for a new sitcom they were developing, but we wound up just drinking vodka gimlets and having a grand ole time, and I ordered two filet mignon dinners on their expense account. One to eat there and one to take home. Now how 50 cents is that?
[Also] the Patina Disney Hall Restaurant with a young good looking corporate fella, and the gay waiter fawning all over him, and bringing us so many extras and this waiter being so entertaining and since he was all horn doggy for my companion his presumptuous and getting all familiar with us was a hoot.
19. Drinking, driving. They mix poorly, and yet they're inexorably linked. How do you handle this conflict?
Since I dont drive I can drink as much as I want. And I drink a lot.
20. Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?
In Europa. When it hits it will be devastating, because LA is so unprepared for any major disaster.