Thursday, December 25, 2008

MY SOCAL HOLIDAYS



Growing up, my Jewish family always celebrated both Hanukah and Christmas. As much as I liked getting a present eight nights in a row for Hanukah, like most kids sold on Santa Claus, the holidays really were about my Christmas stocking and finding presents under the tree.



My Mom grew up in Chicago, so her holiday tradition had always been stuffing the stocking with oranges and walnuts (with a few toys thrown in for good measure). Considering oranges were about as common in L.A. as cars and we had several walnut trees on our property, I didn't learn the significance of this fruits 'n nuts combo 'til I was an adult. As a first generation Los Angeleno used to warm winters I didn't realize that during my Mom's Midwest upbringing, having oranges and walnuts in December was a special treat.

Since my Mom passed away six years ago, my ex has picked up the torch with her own twist on this holiday family tradition - a Christmas stocking filled to the brim with walnuts and Satsuma tangerines, a rare seasonal treat.



One of my favorite childhood holiday memories was getting to see my first Hollywood Christmas Parade when I was thirteen, but my view was quite different from all the spectators lining Hollywood Boulevard - I experienced the parade perched high atop the Childhelp USA float standing alongside Olympic ice skaters Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner and child horror princess Heather O'Rourke. I went to junior high with the girl whose mom co-founded Childhelp USA and became part of their youth group Wings. Being parts of Wings was kind of like being a Girl Scout but without wearing the cool green uniforms. We did art projects, assisted with fundraisers, and had social gatherings. One day I showed up for a meeting and got the nice surprise of learning I had won a spot on their Hollywood Christmas parade float because I was the only Wings member with perfect attendance.

For my TV debut I was given the special uniform of a white sweatsuit embroidered with Childhelp's blue Dove logo across the heart. I'm sure I probably looked like a chubby snowball but I was proud to wear the outfit. Considering this was 1983, getting to be on a float with America's Sweethearts Tai and Randy and the star of "Poltergeist" who captured America's attention with that famous line, "They're here," was beyond cool. The float had moved barely a block, just past the T.V. cameras, when it came to a grinding halt. I don't remember what the problem was (a busted tire?) but we were all whisked away to a private V.I.P. tent for the remainder of the parade. While I thought getting to be in the parade would be a highlight of my life, honestly it was extremely cold on Hollywood Blvd (yes even in my glamorous sweatsuit) and the V.I.P. tent turned out to be warm, stocked with a gourmet buffet, and filled with every major television star of the era. The float breaking down was the best thing that could have ever happened to me! I spent my night going from table to table meeting all my T.V. idols, getting autographs from stars like Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse on "Dukes of Hazzard"), Ted Lange ("The Love Boat"), cuties Greg Evigan ("BJ and the Bear"), Ted McGinley ("Happy Days") and Jeff Conaway ("Taxi" and “Grease”), and then Vic Tayback ("Alice") even wrote, "Lydia, Stow It!! Love, Vic Tayback 'Mel'." I've never been back to the Hollywood Christmas Parade since that star-filled night, really, how could any subsequent parade ever live up.

Sure L.A. doesn't have distinct seasons like the Midwest and East Coast (I mean it’s December and the leaves are just turning), but there's plenty of ways to get into the holiday spirit even while living in lalaland. My favorites are making the drives through the Valley’s own “Candy Cane Lane” and visiting the DWP Holiday Light Festival (kind of like LITE BRITE on steroids). Add a little hot chocolate and it's always a perfect night.

Where To Go For A SoCal Holiday Experience:

DWP Holiday Light Festival: This free light display was designed to "symbolize" the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's "proud history and shared legacy of service to the people of the city."



The display, now in its 13th year, is probably the only time of year L.A. denizens will feel all warm and fuzzy when thinking about the DWP. Not only does the festival highlight DWP achievements (like the "Cascades" and William Mulholland, the man who brought water to the desert of L.A.)

but really it's the one place in the vast city of Los Angeles that salutes our major landmarks like City Hall, the Hollywood Sign and the film business of "Hollywood", LAX and the space age Encounter building,

Griffith Observatory,



and Hollywood Bowl.



The Holiday Light Festival runs along a one-mile segment of Crystal Springs Drive (in Griffith Park near the L.A. Zoo) with two lanes for cars, a single lane for free shuttle buses (parking is at the L.A. Zoo), and a sidewalk for people willing to brave the cold to see it on foot. Enhancing your experience as you pass by the display, holiday tunes supplied by KOST FM whisper through the air. This year the DWP added a pedestrian only “vehicle free” week to demonstrate their continuing commitment to a “greener” L.A. I went on one of these nights and seeing so many people on foot checking out the light displays truly felt like more of an East Coast experience – the only thing missing was some faux (or real) snow. This nightly light show stars at twilight (5pm) and ends at 10pm. The festival runs through December 30, 2008.

Candy Cane Lane:
Since the early 1950's, neighbors in an ordinarily sedate section of Woodland Hills (in the "Valley") have been trying to one up each other with over the top holiday lighting displays. The main drag of "Candy Cane Lane" is Lubao, but a few surrounding streets also evoke holiday themes that feature candlelight, jingle bells, and Santa Claus.



Despite being a residential neighborhood, local entrepreneurs have been known to sell mistletoe, hot chocolate, and even funnel cakes (yum). Residents request that visitors drive by no later than 10pm on weeknights, 11pm on weekends.

Directions: 101 N/S exit Winnetka, head North, immediate right Martha, left Lubao “AKA” Candy Cane Lane.

- Lydia Marcus

(1st photo - Hanukah 1972 - pictured L-R: Grandma Belle, Mom, Me @ 2, Dad, Uncle Fritz, Aunt Lisa)
(2nd photo - Christmas 1974 - Santa Claus & Lydia, age 4)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

HO HO HO IN THE VALLEY


Candy Cane Lane with the Clauses photo by Lydia Marcus

Photographed December 29, 2007 in Woodland Hills, CA

Friday, December 19, 2008

CAR GIRLS



At the 2008 L.A. Auto Show, most of the car companies had female spokespeople who were clothed to look like they could kick your ass - kind of like Laura Croft / dominatrix looks. The one exception were the ladies over at Lambourgini - they looked like brittle Barbies you could hire by the hour.

This Jeep Renegade concept car lady came closest to Lara Croft. She's ready for a Jeep jungle adventure.


Jeep EV (Electric Vehicle) concept car with model.

This new Nissan Z car lady looks like she's ready for a night out on the town in NYC.


The Chevy Volt (Electric Car) concept - this spokesmodel might just dig her knee high leather boots into you if you don't pay attention during her demonstration. Or maybe if you just ask her nicely.

The 2010 Ford Mustang ladies are laid back, hip, and youthful.


This Volkswagon rep seems to be having the most fun. She's also dressed a little bit like a stewardess. Complimentary peanuts with your VW purchase.

Double your pleasure with these Lambourgini ladies. You get what you pay for.






2008 Los Angeles Auto Show Car Girls photo by Lydia Marcus

Inspired by Jacqueline Hassink's Car Girls photo series (soon to be an Aperture Foundation book in March, 2009)

Photographed November 26, 2008 in Los Angeles, CA

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

HOLIDAY PARTY DIPTYCHS





Holiday Party Diptychs by Lydia Marcus
Photographed December 5, 2008 in Los Angeles, CA at the Southern California Photographers Coalition Holiday 2008 party

Polaroid 203 MiniPortrait camera / expired Polaroid ID-UV Film

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

LUCY THE BOXADOR MODELS HER HOLIDAY SCARF



I grabbed this fleece scarf off of a Penguin stuffed animal that I'm donating to Toys For Tots. Some underprivileged kid will get a Penguin pal and Lucy got a lovely hand-me-down scarf for the holidays.

Lucy The Boxador models her holiday scarf photo by Lydia Marcus

Photographed December 2, 2008 in Encino, CA

Monday, December 1, 2008

GREAT MEN WE LOST TO AIDS

Today is the 20th Anniversary of World AIDS Day and I'm thinking of talented men who impacted, affected, inspired, and influenced me in my youth before they died from AIDS.

*VITO RUSSO (1946-1990) ACT UP AIDS activist and author of "The Celluloid Closet" - a book I always refer to as my queer film Bible.





In the mid 1980's, when trying to find queer representation on screen and on TV was like looking for a needle in a haystack, Vito's "Celluloid Closet" steered me towards a cinematic history I didn't know existed. I used to study it and then try to find the titles I wanted to see at the video store. Luckily for me growing up in L.A., the Video West chain was gay owned and operated and had a considerable amount of titles in stock when no regular outlet carried them. While I didn't realize it at the time, I was teaching myself to be a queer film historian and expert and eventually it led to my niche in entertainment journalist. I was lucky enough to get to see Vito's traveling show of "The Celluloid Closet" when I was just 16 or 17 when he came to the Wadsworth Theater at UCLA. Vito spoke and showed clips (many that I had never seen) showing gay images on film going back to the earliest days of celluloid.

Vito is also featured in the documentary "Common Threads: Stories From The Quilt" speaking about the loss of his lover Jeff Sevcik to AIDS, his own HIV + status, and ACT UP activism (he was a founding member). Later when I was a college student at CSUN, part of the AIDS quilt came to campus and I was able to request Vito's panel be brought to the school. Looking back now, Vito had only died a year or two before I saw the quilt.

There is a movie version of "The Celluloid Closet" that was made in 1996 but it pales in comparison to Vito's original book. While Vito didn't accept the crumbs that Hollywood gave to gay portrayls, the film version of "The Celluloid Closet" gave off the vibe of gays being grateful for any mainstream inclusion. Now in 2008, I think Vito would be proud of a film like "Milk," finally glorifying the achievements of gay rights activist Harvey Milk hitting the mainstream cineplexes.



*KEITH HARING (1958-1990) - artist extraordinaire.



I'm not an art historian, but I'm pretty sure that artist Keith Haring was one of the first and most prolific to use his art to fight AIDS (and apartheid) in a mainstream way. According the www.haring.com, "Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. In 1989, he established the Keith Haring Foundation, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images. Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS." Keith's art was fun, accessible, and completely original. While Andy Warhol masterminded Pop Art in the 1960's and early 70's, Keith Haring took the torch and became THE Pop Artist of the 80's and my formative teen years. Keith Haring was out and proud and his art reflected his social activism and sexuality. The radiant baby and barking dog live on.







*CHRISTIAN FARROW aka CEE FARROW (dates unknown)



Cee Farrow was an early 80's new wave star with his hit "Should I Love You" while Christian was a major underground club promoter in L.A.'s gay club scene. My best friend Robert Pavlick got me my fake I.D. and then took me to all of the best clubs in the mid to late 80's so of course I eventually met Christian who was really at the top of the scene. He was one of the nicest people I've ever met. You didn't have to be a star to be treated with respect and friendliness at one of Christian's clubs. I remember the last time I saw him walking along Santa Monica Blvd in the middle of WEHO's boystown just crossing the street and making the rounds with everyone else. He was tall, good looking, down to earth and very sweet. One of the comments on the You Tube page for the "Should I Love You" video says it best, "Cee Farrow...gone to the great SoCal disco in the sky."



*TONY BECKETT (dates unknown)

I met Tony when I was around five years old. My Mom was very close friends with a gay couple (Bob and Charles) and we met Tony at one of their fabulous parties. Tony was British and a longtime Butler (or Major Domo) to Paul Lynde. When Paul was out of town, Tony would invite my Mom and I over to Paul's wonderful mini mansion in Beverly Hills. I would check out the closets (lots of caftans), go for a swim in his blue tiled pool, and just investigate the house filled with antiques, tchotchkes and interesting design including a guest bathroom that was completely mirrored from top to bottom and side to side. Tony had the cool disposition of a Brit, but he really had a gooey center that would show off in his devotion to me and my family. His actions spoke louder than words - like when he let me drive him around in his new car when I was just 15 and just had a learners permit. He was so supportive that way. As he got sick, he never wallowed or complained, I think he knew that he'd had a good life and good friends, and just accepted what was happening to him. Since he was infected in the early years of HIV, I think that the ATZ "cure" was probably worse on him than the actual illness. No matter what, you could always count on Tony for funny, tart stories about famous people that he'd met or worked with. When Tony was stuck living out the end of his life at an AIDS hospice, he gifted me with my first computer - his Radio Shack Tandy 2000 that had been put in storage when he got sick. Tony was a lot of fun, a wonderful cook, and a valuable friend to me and my family. While I do have images of Tony somewhere in a box of old photos, unfortunately I don't have one handy to share today.

To read more about World AIDS Day go to amFAR.