BlackBook Interview: ‘Russian Doll’ Star Charlie Barnett on Facing Down Demons, the Brilliance of Natasha Lyonne, and Having to Die Over and Over Again

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Of all the binge-worthy shows coming out on Netflix these days, Russian Doll has risen quickly to the top of everyone’s list. Created by Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, the series takes us on a wild ride with Nadia (played by Lyonne), who finds herself stuck in some kind of tripped out universe glitch. She keeps dying and coming back to life in a (rather posh) bathroom at her 36th birthday party.

Though this premise has been explored a few times before, it’s evident very early on in Russian Dolls that this is an existential journey that’s entirely new. Nadia is a video game coder (for starters) with bombshell red hair, struggling with addiction, depression, and commitment. But it’s Alan – the inimitable Charlie Barnett (he will also be starring in Tales of the City with Ellen Page) – who throws a wrench into the entire story. He too is stuck in a death loop. Nadia first meets him during episode three in an elevator – in which of course they plummet to their death – but not before he tells her that he’s not worried: he dies all the time.

Amidst all the buzz, we managed to grab some time with Barnett – who is alive and well in Los Angeles – to chat about life after death, so to speak, as well as the bachelorette party that changed his life, judging his own work, procrastination, and how he brought a new dimension to an incredibly complex character.

 

 

You met Natasha Lyonne at a bachelorette party, right?

Yeah, it was actually for Samira Wiley, who plays Poussey Washington on Orange Is the New Black and Moira on The Handmaid’s Tale. She’s one of my best friends; we went to Juilliard together. She was getting married to Lauren Morelli, who was also a creator and writer for OITNB, and now is off doing her own thing. She wanted me to have her bachelorette party; and I’m not sure why she decided that, but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

Are you good at throwing parties?

Maybe I am! Because at this point I’ve now thrown a couple of baby showers, as well as bachelorette parties. Like, I guess I got word around town in my friend group that I can do it up.
There were some fails on that vacation. We had a really incredible time, and I can’t go into the details of the strip club, because I know the ladies would be a little upset with me about that. But, um…I took them to an island at one point. I feel like I kind of Fyre Island-ed all the women of OITNB. I rented this island in Miami that was supposed to be a private, beautiful island, super secluded. It turned out this island was covered with trash. It started pouring when we got there.

This sounds a lot like Fyre Fest!

It is! These beautiful talented women were in linens, and beautiful boat hats. We had a couple other friends – one from Wyoming, who is a legitimate cowboy, and Brock Harris who’s from Oklahoma. They were mountain men kind of guys. They built a fort for the ladies, built a fire for them, and we had a campout until the rain passed; it was just beautiful and we had a great time.

And you bonded with Natasha…?

We had a really nice dinner the last day that we were there; and we got to talking about life and our journeys, and through it we really kind of connected. She’s such a fucking powerful and brilliant human being. A woman who’s endured addiction and battled all kinds of fucking shit from this industry and really has risen to find her own voice and put it out there. But to also find a different and new platform to do it in. That goes for Leslye [Headland] and Amy [Poehler] too.
I was so drawn into who Natasha is and the creative beast that she gifts us all with. I was committed from the day she called me. She didn’t talk about the project that much at the party. She called me a little bit later, and I was 100% on board from the get.

It’s an amazing show. When I first started watching it I thought this is a lot like Groundhog Day, but then it takes this magical turn that you’re not expecting. Like you were saying, Lyonne has this really distinct voice – as do the other writers on the show – and it’s not just a woman telling her story. She transcends genres and styles and builds this world, a sort of sci-fi mystical experience.

And even the technical side, to give credit to all the writers – all of them are women, and it’s great that they created this great thing that so many people are resonating with. But [maybe] it doesn’t make a difference that they’re women.
I think what I’m trying to say is technically, being a 28-minute [episode] and then it being a story that flips back and forth and starts in the middle, where a character doesn’t even get introduced until like four episodes in, and it’s still so impactful to the situation and the environment. All of that included is technically new, different, challenging, risky, and they achieved it a-hundred-fold.

 

 

You came in at episode three, and you filmed a lot of those repetitive scenes all at once; even though as viewers, we saw them throughout the entire show. How did you tackle that, or compartmentalize ‘what am I feeling at this point?’

It was really challenging of course, but for me, as much as I have to admit I’m a procrastinator, because anyone from my class will read this and be like, come on Charlie. But I really really, really love breaking down the work and just picking a piece apart and not just from a character’s standpoint, but from a world: the timing, the technical side, the emotional side and background side. I think the biggest thing was just about playing Alan. My world just started to relate and reflect in a certain way; it had some results that I can’t even understand yet. From watching it, there were things I was surprised by. We [as actors] didn’t even know what the surrounding scenes were going to be.
Also, having people like our script coordinator [Melissa Yap-Stewart], who also works on OITNB, she is like an unsung god of this project, because she’s the one who held those memories. This happens, and this beat goes there, and this has to be lost and the flowers are aged this much at this point. All that stuff was her brain, and she did an incredible job. It’s a lot of work and a lot of attention and a lot of people being passionate about the details.

Were they explaining it from a bigger picture, like here’s what’s going on with Alan right now; or were they like, Here’s the script for today and we’re just going to tackle it one bit at a time?

You know, it’s hard to say because my position as an actor and not as a creative is always going to be different. I only got the script when I went to film the first episode – meaning episode three. That elevator scene is like the first thing I filmed. So for me it was a lot more fly by the seat of your pants.
I think everyone’s fascinated by how they built this and I think the genius really comes from their ability to be malleable. That’s the takeaway. Here are these women who knew each other very well, and they’ve all worked together, which has definitely gotta be a point. They were willing to bring challenges and problems to the table, question them and adapt. And they adapted a lot.

What were some of Alan’s traits that you were drawn to when you read the script?

It’s almost like a double-edged sword. I related to so much about him, but I was also terrified of him. I was terrified of living in some of those things – and those are the things I probably related to most.
A lot of the emotional turmoil that he goes through, the interior emotional turmoil, is something I related to wholeheartedly; and that’s something that Natasha and I related off of in that first conversation at that bachelorette party. I’ve had struggles with depression and addiction and suicide and it’s not uncommon for artists – but I’ve also learned later in life that it’s not uncommon for anybody.
So when I started reading the piece, a lot of those things were what made me beam in excitement, in fear – it was a mix – in joy, in a sense of duty and respect. I really feel like, especially being African American too, and gay, I want people to be able to face their demons. I think we as a people can open that conversation more and maybe even save a couple people’s lives. That really drew me in from my own personal experience and the desire to change the conversation.

Doesn’t seem like Alan procrastinates that much.

No! That man is on his shit. I did take that away from him. I have a calendar now. This is how old school I am – I have a dry erase calendar that I put up once a month and write everything in and make it all color coordinated. 

So it’s really interesting what you were saying about facing your demons. Alan has to overcome so much to beat this loop he’s stuck in, he had to look at some of the parts of himself that he didn’t really want to see. I think any human being would relate: in order to progress you have to get introspective and really dig in. Do you feel like Alan overcame?

I think Alan had this belief in the end, it’s not necessarily about changing yourself, it’s about challenging yourself and through these challenges you can change. I hate to have to break it down like that, but I think words and the way you think about how you react or how you act can change the way you can do it.
I think he did, at the end of it, it’s so hard because the end leaves us all in this kind of ‘where are they?’ Do they go on? Are they still stuck? Does it really matter? I almost think the change comes more from a release, him realizing that he can’t control; and that even beyond not controlling, there’s enough people around him in this world that if he’s honest and open with, he can get the help to give him the ladders in life.

 

He doesn’t need to contain himself or hide himself.

Yeah. I was talking to my partner the other day, and we were getting really deep about this, and the idea of what you want to be, what you want to be reflected as, and what you are. I’m still learning in this life, and I don’t know if I’m right in this idea; but it made me realize we all have what we think we identify as, what we want to be. But we ultimately have no control over that! You’re always a reflection of the people around you and your actions, and how you portray yourself. What you wear even, as fickle as that. You’re not in control… you kind of create it and it is received and then reflected back on to you.
You have to at some point let go of those requirements and then you have the freedom to just be you. That’s kind of where Alan got to, where he’s like I don’t have to be this thing for my mother or for Beatrice or even for Nadia. I’m allowed to live and not question myself, my actions, my past, and still push myself…but allow it to evolve without those kind of opinions.

Stop judging yourself in a sense.

Yeah.

Have you watched the whole season?

I haven’t!
Is it hard to watch your own work?
No not at all. Well, I say that so flippantly. I guess I have to admit, it’s not that I have a problem watching myself or judging myself. It’s really that it’s like you experience it as one thing. It’s one story in your mind and then you watch it and it becomes something completely different. And you lose a part of that aspect, you lose a part of that story.
I like to watch things in my house, on my couch, alone. That is my one rule, I don’t like watching it with other people. Other people telling me shit. The first time I’m going to be judging it hardcore. The second time I might actually enjoy it. The third time I’m might get lost in the story. It takes a build.

Would you say you’re a harsh critic of yourself?

Oh, of myself? 150 billion per cent. I’ve only watched up to episode six and I’ve been hard on myself. I’m like come on, why you doing that? What the fuck is that shit? You should’ve followed through on that emotion! But there are so many parts where I get to sit back and I’m like really surprised by myself and really proud and happy. It was an emotional beast, and anyone in my family and any one of my friends will tell you: they’ve seen me that broken, they’ve seen me that crushed. They’ve seen me that sad, and it’s such a weird thing to be like I’m an actor, but I’m really utilizing my own life and my own experience and my own emotions to tap into those. So how much of that do I get to give myself credit for?

You have had the ultimate experience to be this person even if you’re not exactly like him. Do you feel like you were able to evolve the character and contribute ideas as far as where things should go?

I think, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I think I brought a lot to it, even in their eyes, that they didn’t see. It was just because of the work I put into it. After procrastinating for so long, when I do finally get to work, I work my fucking ass off.

What was some of the preparation that you did for it?

I’ve been to a lot of psych wards and I’ve done a lot of charity work too – but I’ve been in one myself, and taking a lot of the experience from that and taking a lot of the things I’ve written down over the years and going back into it was really really helpful. And a lot of stigmatizing that goes into it – not trying to fall into those cheap plays and also recognizing what is true and what does resonate.
But on top of that I went into hardcore research about OCD and how it can manifest, and I really wanted to respect that too, because I feel like it’s utilized as a character trait sometimes rather than just, ‘It’s fucking who I am.’

Now that this is all wrapped, what’s next for you?

There’s a lot that I’m really really excited about. I finished shooting Tales of the City with Lauren Morelli. It’s got a great cast: Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Ellen Page. It’s an Armistead Maupin novel; we filmed it in New York with a good week or two in San Francisco.
I also did a movie with Jamie Babbit – director on Russian Doll – and Drew Barrymore who’s producing and also starring, called The Stand-In. It’s going to be really funny.

 

 

Downtown Los Angeles Renaissance: Our Favorite Stops at the ROW DTLA

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A+R

 

It’s without question that Downtown Los Angeles has been undergoing a rapid transformation in recent years, after about a dozen notable starts and stops. The LA Times wrote just last year that the construction boom was the biggest the area had seen since the 1920’s.

Like New York’s Meatpacking District or San Francisco’s SOMA, DTLA has gone from a cluster of industrial warehouses and artist studios to, essentially, a scenester’s paradise. All this change, and the shops, bars and restaurants fueling its new hype, have ultimately brought us to the latest fashionable megaplex: ROW DTLA.

 

 

Once known as the LA Terminal Market – where hundreds of fruit and vegetable vendors came to sell their goods back in the 1930’s – the sprawling property (30 acres of contained city blocks) is now a glistening reflection of the nearby revitalization. Outside of being a hub for the nation’s produce, ROW DTLA now has all the stuff we normally trek across town for: locally roasted coffee, interactive art exhibits, of-the-moment boutiques, and abstract furniture that’s yet somehow still comfortable.

We have Mark Rios and his team at Rios Clementi Hale Studios (and New York-based developer Jeffrey Goldberger) to thank for the architectural reboot. While we typically fret at the idea of big money swooping in to transform anything, they were careful to breathe new life into the ROW’s iconic framework, without stripping it of historical charm. It’s not just another outdoor shopping space (a la The Grove or Century City Mall), but rather a collection of independently owned businesses and culinary names we love.

Here we highlight BlackBook‘s particular fave reasons to get down to ROW DTLA as often as possible. Oh, and for the pragmatist in you – now you can also find a parking space/

 

The Manufactory

Debuting just last month, this is the newest concept from the James Beard Award-winning team of San Francisco’s beloved Tartine and Phoenix’s Pizzeria Bianco. Find whatever you’re craving under one roof: a market, a cafe, all-day restaurant Tartine Bianco, the Tartine Bakery…and, for those special occasion moments, private dining room Alameda Supper Club.

 

 

The Things We Do

Vanessa Lee’s “beauty concept bar” features a mix of Western (botox, fillers) and Eastern (cosmetic acupuncture, facial cupping) beauty practices. A photo of her mom and aunts on the beach in the Philippines in the ‘70s inspired the space’s design: lots of burnt gold, peach, and cream colors paired with wavy textural elements and hints of shimmer. Plus, the facials will leave you glowing for days.

 

 

Hawkins New York

Decorate the home of your dreams with Hawkins NY’s soft linens and artisanal-style ceramics and dishware – all available in of-the-moment color palettes. Lovely.

 

 

Myrtle

Curated by owner Whitney Bickers, who moved her shop from Silver Lake to ROW DTLA to be amongst like-minded retailers (and to escape skyrocketing SL rents), Myrtle has no shortage of the looks Angelenos love. Browse drape-y dresses, accessories, footwear, jewelry, bags, apothecary and fragrance – all made by independent female designers.

 

 

Paramount Coffee Project

Find Aussie import Paramount Coffee Project’s second L.A. location here. Expanding on the offerings of their original Fairfax Avenue cafe, the space is the place for strong coffee in the morning and afternoons, and a delicious selection of wines (obviously some from Australia) come evening. (As well as English pea tartines and and sausage hand pies).

 

 

Still Life Ceramics

Not really the knitting types, we’ve long been meaning to take up the fine art of pottery. Here’s the place to do it – or at least to purchase some from people who are already good at it. Shop an assortment of beautifully handmade things or sign up for a night on the wheel.

 

 

A+R

Why pick furniture for function when you can have a piece that’s functional and incites conversation. A+R houses some of the most innovative furniture designers, those with lots of umlauts in their names. From awe-inspiring lighting fixtures to futuristic sofas you can still sink into for a night of, well, sitting on the sofa – this is the place to make your home just that much more aesthetically imaginative. 

 

L.A. Staycation: The Uncommonly Stylish New Gold-Diggers Hotel

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Photos by Pablo Enriquez

 

If the slogan “Drink. Sleep. Record.” didn’t already give it away, the new Gold-Diggers in East Hollywood just rounded out its multifaceted entertainment concept with the opening of its uniquely stylish hotel (now accepting reservations) located atop the bar/venue and recording studio of the same name. 

Dave Neupert, a music industry veteran, who was head of new media for Maverick Records and ran his own M80 online marketing company, purchased the space a few years ago for a cool $3.3 million. He launched his “bed and beverage” concept with the Royal Street Inn and R Bar in New Orleans, and counts several other Los Angeles venues – popular Echo Park dive The Short Stop, as well as La Cita, Footsies, Melody Lounge, El Dorado and Monty Bar – among his portfolio.

Following the purchase of the Gold-Diggers location, he brought in Wick Architecture & Design to create a singular atmosphere – and while the new space feels hip and modern, it still pays homage to its history. 

 


Originally built in 1924, the Greene Building – as it was once known – has had several incarnations. The recording studio was in the ’50s filmmaker Ed Wood’s soundstage, Quality Studios, and he filmed scenes for
Plan 9 From Outer Space there. This was also the last place Bela Lugosi performed before he died. Eventually the soundstage became a legendary rehearsal space called Shamrock Studios, known for hosting rock, punk, and metal bands like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Slayer, and Guns N’ Roses.

We learned all of this sipping mezcal cocktails called Naked & Famous with the friendly bartender. There was a DJ that night, and in place of a live performance, a projection of the Westminster Dog Show. These walls can talk, too. What was originally a tavern became a “bikini bar” in the 1960s, complete with stripper pole. As legend would have it, Manson’s (Charles’, not Marilyn’s) girls used to frequent the spot.

Upstairs, we took a tour of the hotel, which is sprinkled with carefully chosen treasures; everything, we were told, is from local artisans and artists. Andrew Savage’s animated paintings – bright, bold, and simple interpretations of city life – grace the walls. We made our way to our room, which felt very much like an urban oasis (overused term, but here it really applies). From floor to ceiling, this is what a modern boutique hotel really should be: lead with good vibes, good lighting, and chicly appointed furniture…and the rest will follow.

 

 

Indeed, soft, velvet couches, a record player with a carefully curated selection of LPs (courtesy of DJ Justin Gage aka Aquarium Drunkard), a white chevron-tiled bathroom with Malin + Goetz amenities, and an Alexa, for those whose privacy paranoia is still under control. It was everything we needed, nothing more, nothing less. 

There’s something to be said for a place with a built-in history, not one manufactured by a scheming branding agency. Gold-Diggers showcases its past; but unlike the gym that cheesily kept the Tower Records sign out front, the tribute feels authentic – like its predecessors would genuinely approve of the facelift. It’s the ideal trifecta of drink, sleep, record –  for anyone who has long grown tired of the scene that always seems to be trying too hard.

 

 

 

Hollywood’s New h Club Launches Extensive Art Program

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‘She Could Have Been a Cowboy’ by Anja Niemi

 

Hollywood being Hollywood, there’s really never enough places for the cognoscenti to, um, rub shoulders (and perhaps a few other body parts) – to the degree that even the English are exporting their private members clubs to Los Angeles. And one we’ve had our sights on for awhile will at last open its doors March 27th in the splashy former Redbury Hotel space on Vine.  

Founded in London’s Covent Garden in 2004 by the late philanthropist / Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Eurhythmics’ Dave Stewart, h Club was conceived specifically as a gathering place for artists and assorted creative types. The new Hollywood outpost (by HKS Architects) features a quite fabulous rooftop, intimate performance space, inviting work areas, and even chicly styled bedrooms. It’s actually far more inspirational wonderland than it is merely another industry schmooze-a-rama.

But aside from all the club perks one could possibly hope for (onsite fitness facilities, parlors, bars, a member restaurant, and a screening room), denizens will also be immersed in art. Indeed, the h Club LA art program boasts well-curated works from some rather high-profile artists, like Lisa Anne Auerbach, Megan Whitmarsh, and Anja Niemi.

 

h Club Los Angeles Rooftop 

 

“It’s our visual love letter to the city,” says Ali Hillman, the club’s L.A. art curator. “We have travelled far and wide, visiting artists in their studios, listening to their ideas and insights about their practice. Those selected represent the pulse and heartbeat within these four walls.”

Local collaboration is already well underway. Next door to the club’s Vine Street location is the illustrious Capitol Records, who generously donated some newfound photos from its archives to h Club’s new gallery. The images depict the youth culture of the sixties, with nods to the famed L.S.D. album by none other than acid-dropping guru Timothy Leary, as well as Allen Ginsberg and other psychedelic luminaries.

The artworks will be scattered throughout, from the hallways to more extensive exhibits on the 5th and 6th floors. Inspiration, incidentally, is included in the membership fee.

 

‘Folded’ by Tahnee Lonsdale

‘A Thousand Little Cuts’ by Jenny Hagar

Listen: New Little Hustle Track ‘Dance Police’ is About Oppressive Robots

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Image by Samuel Sachs

 

We’ve been taken with Little Hustle since premiering their glitteriffic “Hall of Gems” video back in the fall of 2017. So we were obviously excited to hear yet another sonically complex new track by the shoegazey Brooklyn quartet.

And indeed, the intriguingly titled “Dance Police” is, ironically, not really made for dancing. Rather, galloping drums and ethereally fuzzed out guitars are layered over a moody, languid groove – recalling Disintegration era Cure. In her winsome yet haunted vocal style, singer Rebecca Keith warns, “Dance police / Will find you.” Surely a universal metaphor for persistent attacks on our artistic freedom?

“‘Dance Police’ started with the melody and harmonies and the Moog patch,” she explains, “which sounded like the past’s version of the future – so naturally the lyrics called for robots. We realized it was the year 20XX in the world of the song, and robots had taken over the earth. The lyrics build tension and shift between robot scare tactics – as they enforce no-humans-allowed dance codes, like techy cabaret laws – and human moments.”

The song is taken from their long-awaited debut album Notepasser, which will be released this spring. In the meanwhile, they’ll play CoCo 66 in Brooklyn on March 9.

 

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Haunting New Vesper Wood Single ‘Carson’

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Like many artists, Christina Wood finds solace in her work. Indeed, her upcoming debut solo album Instar, slated for release on March 1, under her new moniker Vesper Wood, specifically addresses a pair of topics – fertility and women’s health – that have been foremost in her life of late. And with her hauntingly beautiful new single “Carson” (which BlackBook premieres here) she reminds us all that time has the power to heal.

“Maybe there is a healing presence to the album,” she says of the record’s character. “A protective spirit. Over the past year I was working through a lot of personal things…and making this [album] really helped me to process.”

Listeners may recognize her voice from her time as one half of the UK electro-pop duo Kaleida – their song “Think” was famously featured on the John Wick soundtrack. Now, she’s gone out on her own, and brought some of her arrestingly powerful influences along for the ride: the choral music she sang in the church as a child, Appalachian songs from Kentucky (where her father is from), and her admiration for the Icelandic goddess Björk.

 

 

Hymnal and catchy, the album gives Wood the chance to broach topics weighing heavily on the minds of women everywhere. Which was the point of it all.

“It’s important to me that we have the ability to talk about it,” she explains. “And maybe there’s a healing feminine spirit to [this record].”

On “Carson,” specifically, her voice is both shimmery and tinged with sadness. Though it’s clear she’s passing through some difficult times, it’s not without hope. The future, no doubt, holds new possibilities.

“The track is an ode to my Southern childhood,” she says. “It has an American, nostalgic feel for me…and I tried to keep the production simple to mirror that.”

Vesper Wood will play two New York shows, at Arlene’s Grocery on March 6, and Trans-Pecos on the 8th.

L.A. V-Day: ‘Une Belle Romance’ at the Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills

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Rich food, beautiful wines, laissez-faire, Coco Chanel, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Emmanuel Macron…Mme. Macron! We beg you, who does ‘sex appeal’ better than the French?

A matter of opinion, perhaps, but that’s beside the point. The matter is that Valentine’s Day is this Thursday – and if you’re in Los Angeles and have yet to decisively plan to whisk your immortal beloved away on a whirlwind trip to Paris, it’s really okay. French hotel brand Sofitel has a fabulously romantic alternative at its plush Beverly Hills outpost – where we recently checked in for a short but decidedly amorous stay. 

 

 

Indeed, from Friday, February 8 to Monday, February 18, guests can indulge in the hotel’s appropriately titled Magnifique Romance packages. As did we, spend the day relaxing and primping at Le Salon and SoSpa – book a So Couples Massage, naturally – then head down to dinner at the Sofitel’s verdant Cattle & Claw restaurant (at an outdoor table, you can pretty much pretend you’re in Provence), which, we’re told, has a romance story all its own: inspired by the Friends episode in which Ross declares Rachel his lobster, it’s about a real lobster finding its one true love, the cattle. (Aww…)

For Valentine’s Day itself, the restaurant is shaking up its standard menu of lobster rolls and french fries for something impossibly elegant: a five-course prix fixe menu features dishes – tournedos rossini, lobster risotto, chocolate-hazelnut genoise for dessert – that eloquently couple the crustacean and beef love affair. (Homard et boeuf, in the language of love.)

 

 

V-Day is for splurging, mais oui. So following dinner, you can make your way up to your Magnifique Romance Suite, which includes a bottle of the good bubbly and, of course, a lazy breakfast the next morning – where you can continue making googly eyes across the table over healthy egg white omelettes. Follow with an unhurried morning dip in le resplendissant rooftop pool. 

And though we were there running romance reconnaissance (for you, dear readers) ahead of the big day, we were admittedly lovestruck by the sculptural pop art in the lobby (curated by heART L.A.), the dazzling views of the Hollywood Hills from our balcony, the macaroon turndown service, and… wait for it…those decadent Hérmes shower amenities we adore so much.

And so we wish you, as they would in France, Joyeuse Saint Valentin!

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Poignant New Taali Video for ‘Los Angeles’

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20Images by Karston Tannis

 

Singer-songwriter and co-founder of Rainbow Blonde records Taali doesn’t stay put for too long. For good reason of course – she’s busy these days, especially with just having returned from her #IAmHereTrip, touring with husband José James, spanning from desert sands to Memphis trolley-cars to Blue Ridge Mountains snow fall. She’s finally landed back in her once home of Manhattan, in time to prep for a new album, out on March 22, and appropriately titled I Am Here.

And that “here” for her latest video (which BlackBook is premiering) was “Los Angeles” – also the title of her new single. Yet another creative partnership with regular collaborator writer-director Madelyn Deutch (she also directed the visual stunner “Hear You Now”), we play witness as Taali gathers the strength to say goodbye.

 

 

“I watched the city bloom / and in the midst of all the elements / I said goodbye to you,” she intones wistfully. Her soft yet powerful voice rolls like a fog as she rests forlornly on sea foam colored sheets, brushes her teeth, and puts on a slip dress and robe to head to a nearby market.

Cut with footage highly familiar to any Angeleno – mid-century apartment buildings, bougainvillea, an abandoned curbside sofa – the video both drips with melancholy and shimmers with possibility. And surely her return to New York City will be full of the latter.

Not a bad note to leave on…

 

 

The 27th Edition of Photo L.A. Opens February 1 Honoring SoCal Legend Jo Ann Callis

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Photo by Brendan Meadows

 

The venerable Photo L.A. kicks off its 27th annual multi-gallery exhibit next week, with over 55 local and international galleries participating. Slotted into Santa Monica’s spectacular Barker Hangar, it all begins with an opening preview on Thursday, January 31, and runs through February 3.

Opening night doubles as a benefit for Venice Arts, a vital non-profit that offers low-income youth access to photography and film education opportunities. But perhaps most importantly, this year’s edition will enthusiastically celebrate seminal photographer Jo Ann Callis, something of a Southern California legend. 

 

Photo by Tony Vaccaro 

 

Callis’ work, though shot over the past several decades, actually feels acutely relevant today, as the challenging of women’s roles at home and in society reaches a fervent boiling point. The 78-year-old photographer’s imagery – which she told AnOther Mag is “…about me. My stuff, my insecurities. I’m never representing anyone else, ever.” – presents a beautiful yet disturbing vision of domesticity: a woman lying on a pillow shot from behind with a seam running from scalp to waist, hair fanned out in a shock of blonde fuzz; a pair of sequin-shoed feet standing on a chair, bound by the hands of a man in a suit.

Photo L.A. will also feature the sizable women-only collection of Michael and Jane Wilson. Making It Up: Photographs from the Michael and Jane Wilson Trust Collection features works from Callis, Nancy Burson, Mary Ellen Mark, Nancy Honey, Graciela Iturbide, Nikki S. Lee, Marcia Resnick, Cindy Sherman and Catherine Wagner, amongst so many other notables. 

See a full list of participating galleries, and purchase tickets for opening night at Photo L.A.’s website.

 

Photo by Edward Weston

 

Photo by Tom Blachford