Amoeblog

John Leech, rest in peace

Posted by Whitmore, March 20, 2009 10:00pm | Post a Comment
I’ve been sitting here all day trying to write something perfect.
 
I didn’t get much sleep. After I crawled out of bed on Thursday morning, out of nowhere, a heavy fog rolled in; but it made complete sense to me, it was more than a sign -- it was my destination. I was already there. The previous night I got the phone call I didn’t expect to receive for a while. I wasn’t at all prepared for the news: John Leech, the owner and founder of LA’s great arts hangout and bohemian cafe, The Onyx, had died.
 
John had no blood relatives, though he did leave behind a close knit extended family of former customers and employees who loved him as kin. I worked for John for some 14 years, and back then I saw him on a daily basis. Now that he’s gone I realize I needed to spend more time with him. Once the Onyx was closed in 1998, John retired and he started trekking across the US and Canada, often by train. Briefly John chased the idea of opening up another café, maybe here in LA or up in Portland, Oregon, but I think his renewed interest in travel got the best of those plans. While I bounced around the west coast, living for a while up in the Puget Sound, John was spending a lot of time in his cabin on the Russian River. I had excuses, but too many excuses. We’d get together for lunch or dinner every once in a while, but never as often as I wished we had now.
 
Though we were friends for some 26 years, there was so much I never knew about John. He was a man of many secrets. For example, I never knew his birthday. No one did. I once actually figured out how old he was; he laughed because he knew I’d forget it. I did. I swear with a wave of his hand the number vanished. John created a public space and even though he was the face of the Onyx, he was an incredibly private person.
 
John however, was truly an odd bird who stood out in the crowd of weirdly plumed eccentrics. Years ago he took to wearing Hawaiian shirts, but as the time went on he found it necessary to wear two, if not three shirts at the same time. My opinion may be a bit skewed, if not perfectly preposterous -- and why wouldn’t it be -- but only John could look so damned dapper wearing three Hawaiian shirts. No, he wasn’t batty, he just had a lot of Hawaiian shirts the world needed to experience. John was not exactly subtle but he did have an air of mystery about him. One part Bohemian, one part drill-sergeant, one part raconteur and muckraker, one part doting step-dad, he was a genuine man of the world. He hated bullshit, though a good bullshitter would be welcomed at his table. John had no patience for fools, but he knew when foolishness was a breath of fresh air. A few mediocre cups of coffee may have been poured at the Onyx now and then, but there was more pulsating life on that vibrant stretch of Vermont Ave than most any other part of Los Angeles during the 1980’s and 90’s. The cafe and the gallery next door was a genuine sanctuary from the volatile, irritating, confounding world outside. During the LA riots in 1992 John kept the Onyx open 24 hours a day so that the community had somewhere to gather and talk and be still. He believed in an unfettered creative experience, personal choice, personal responsibility, freedom of expression, the independence to live your life as you saw fit. And goddamn did he hate bureaucracy!
 
I would have to say John was not particularly blessed with many organizational skills -- trust me on that! -- somehow, either by luck, pluck or design, he created a home for hundreds of artists, musicians, writers and poets. The Onyx was a place where the odd, oddly beautiful or simply unconventional endeavors -- often excluded from the mainstream venues and galleries -- could find an audience and find a life. John’s support of the arts was an essential element of the café; he never took a percentage of the art sales and never charged at the door for music or theatrical performances. The bar-b-ques John concocted in the parking lot behind the Onyx and the champagne soaked art openings are legendary. We owe him so, so much; I am incredibly indebted to John. My life is so much better because of his efforts. At the Onyx I found life-long friends, direction, and most significantly, I met my wife there almost 18 years ago.
 
There is a votive memorial at the former Onyx location at 1802 N. Vermont Ave in front of what is now Cafe Figaro in Los Feliz. Another memorial is in front of the original Onyx location next to the Vista Theater at the Virgil Ave and Sunset Blvd intersection. Tributes can also be found on several sites on Facebook. There are tentative plans for a memorial service in late April or May.
 
John Leech in his own very peculiar way was a great man. He was a hell of a man, unique and one of a kind. People like John Leech don’t come down the pike every day; it’s a huge loss, I can’t even begin to explain it, I just can’t.
 
With our love, my love, rest in peace John.

Happy نوروز (Nowruz)

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 20, 2009 08:26am | Post a Comment
HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Today, for most observers (but tomorrow for others), is Persian New Year, variously and roughly anglicized as Navrus (Tajikistan), Nawroz (Afghanistan), Nevruz Day (Albania), Nooruz (Iran), Nov Ruz Bairam (Kyrgyzstan), Nauryz Meyrami (Kazakhstan) and Novruz Bayram (Azerbaijan). As with the Lunar New Year, which is often referred to in the media as the "Chinese New Year" (unintentionally marginalizing Koreans, Taiwanese and Vietnamese, who also celebrate the Lunar New Year), Nowroz is often referred to as the Iranian or Persian New Year. In President Obama's Nowruz address, he didn't make that mistake, although he did turn it into a fairly contrived address to the Islamic Republic.


Maz Jorbani on Axis of Evil Comedy Tour

IRAN VS PERSIA

Iran, though related to Persia, is not the same thing. The word Iran comes from Aryānām, literally, "Land of the Aryans." Other Aryan people (who also celebrate Nowruz) include Baloch, Kurds, Lurs, Ossettians, Pashtuns and Zazas. Thus, Nowruz is widely celebrated (in addition to the places already named) in Balochistan, Bosnia, the Caucasus, the Crimea, Iraq, Kashmir, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Macedonia, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The term "Iranian," in contrast to "Persian," includes all people descended from Iran who are just as fully Iranian (at least on paper, though not necessarily in practice) such as Arabs, Armenians, Georgians, Jews and Kazakhs, who are probably less likely to celebrate Nowruz. Though most of Nowruz's celebrants practice Islam, its origins go back much further and the day is especially important to Zoroastrians, as well as Alawites, Alevis, Bahá'í, Ismailis, and other Central Asian people of various faiths. 

(In which the writer takes a break from writing to write.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 9, 2009 08:02pm | Post a Comment
sick card

My baby’s been under the weather. And by baby I don’t mean a child I gave birth to; I mean it as a euphemism for “that one dude I smooch and go to Target with.” Baby is just much easier to say.

Anyway, when my baby’s feeling poorly, he likes to watch predictable films, like... well... anything you can come up with that stars Jennifer Aniston or Sarah Jessica Parker and ends with them proving that they really were destined for true love, after all. Normally I protest and suggest we watch something with more substance, such as The Killing of a Chinese Bookie or The Cranes Are Flying – y’know, something that provides perspective and/or promotes psychological examination, to which my baby will argue that he just wants to “be distracted and get lost” in a film, not be intellectually stimulated. I argue that it’s hard for me to “get distracted” watching a film that makes me want to stab a Phillips-head screwdriver into my left aortic arch.

It's like this:

ME...


...VS. MY BOYFRIEND...


A Year in the Life of Amoeba Hollywood -- Year of Sanitation, the Potato, the Frog, the Planet Earth, Languages, Intercultural Dialogue & the Rat

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 30, 2008 01:33am | Post a Comment
Baby New Year Foundling 

2008 The Year in Review

silent running poster jason x poster lake house poster
movies set in 2008

Well, first of all, I’d like to point out what 2008 wasn’t. I mean, probably 2000 and 2001 are the most famous years of the oughts in speculative fiction. However, 2008 also piqued the imagination of Science-Fictionalists. Silent Running didn't resemble my 2008 much, although something kept knocking the ficus in my back yard over which did make me angry. I didn't hear about anything that fit in with the prophecies offered in Jason X. But perhaps no speculation about what 2008 would be like was the 2006 film, The Lake House. I mean, come on. They really thought that in just two years we'd have magic mailboxes that would allow us to send love letter to the past. People get real!

ajax and cassandra billy joel
Cassandra moaning about something                                                                  I don't know

(Wherein winter records receive writings.)

Posted by Job O Brother, December 16, 2008 11:32am | Post a Comment
postcard

It’s finally chilly in Hollywood. I mean, I still have my French windows open wide, but it’s about as cold as it ever gets, with breezes blowing from my hometown in the north, Nevada City, where loved ones are covered in white blankets of snow. (That’s a metaphor – probably very few of them have bed-sheets constructed of crystalline water ice.)

My friends in Nevada City, Jaime, Alison and Dan made a snowman. I don’t get that pleasure here. I suppose I could make a clumps-of-dying-grass-cigarette-butts-and-dog-feces man, but who has that kind of time? I have a blog to write!

sexy
Here's a picture of the snowman my friends made.
The best part will be watching him slowly melt over the next couple weeks.

My choices in music are always influenced by weather. When it’s hot city in the summertime, I’ll gravitate towards artists such as Stephen Malkmus, Thin Lizzy, or Sly & The Family Stone. If it’s a rainy day, you can bet some Siouxsie & The Banshees will be trilling from my stereo. I look out the window and see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trampling the Hills with all the fury of Heaven and Hell as they take the stage for a final battle in which every human soul will come to greet its eternal home in either the awesome glory of the Almighty God or the foul depths of Hell as lorded over by the king of wickedness, Satan, and more often than not I’ll play a little Burt Bacharach. Because it’s always a good time for a little Burt.

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