A big, though unexpected, announcement.
Hello … Enthusiasts.
(You might think it’s weird to get a blog post from me right now, but there’s actually a specific reason I’m posting at the moment. So keep reading and bear with me.)
Are any of us enthusiastic about much these days? I was excited to tell you about Wayfarers Tavern, Downtown’s newest rooftop bar/restaurant, and one that I think competes with any of the others. And I was really excited to tell you about the Arts District outpost of famed NYC cocktail bar Death and Company. (I’m including links, but all you’ll get right now is COVID warnings). Dark and hard to find and world class drinks and amazing bartenders and exactly what an Arts District speakeasy should be. But that all seems like lifetimes ago (even though I was at both those places within the last month).
And, quick side comment/reflection: sometimes I think of this blog as a little frivolous – you know, talking about restaurants and bars and nightlife and whatnot in the face of more serious societal challenges. But then they all close, and it reminds me what this blog is really about – it’s about community. Because where else do we all gather? Sure, at sporting events or concerts from time to time. But on a daily basis? We meet … at bars and restaurants. We “meet for a drink”. We “grab coffee”. We “get together for a bite”. Our main source of communality, and commonality, has been taken away. And we feel it. Acutely. So … perhaps not quite so frivolous.
Anyway … if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already noticed a few new things. One is the redesign of the website for my little vanity project here. Looks way better right? Big props to my friends at Dragonfly Design Group for that, and especially Gary Young.
But two, and even more importantly, I am launching a podcast. I’m calling it Enthusiastically Los Angeles, and it’s been in the works for well over a year, maybe 18 months.
Before I get into why I’m sending this NOW, let me add some context as to how this came about in the first place. I’m not a huge podcast guy, but I happened on one that I like a lot: How I Built This. It’s a popular NPR podcast where the host, Guy Raz, interviews entrepreneurs and others who have built companies about their background, experience, highs, lows, etc. And his subjects range widely – everyone from the inventor of Spanx to the creator of Instacart to the woman (yes, woman) behind Burt’s Bees to Ben & Jerry, the ice cream guys. And I always find the journey stories interesting, especially because for all these people, what now seems like an obvious destination was certainly not so obvious along the way. And I find reliving all that fascinating.
Anyway, one day I’m listening to this and I have a little epiphany: I should do this for Downtown LA. I should interview the people who helped create, or have an interesting story about, Downtown Los Angeles (or even Los Angeles in general). As I say in the intro to each episode, I thought it would be fun to interview the “dreamers, makers, movers, and shakers” who have helped make this city great.
Some but not all of you know that I have a minor background in radio – I was General Manager of UCLA’s college radio station and also worked both on air and off for a classic rock radio station in Bakersfield for a summer (before you scoff, let me tell you that classic rock is a *very* popular format in Bakersfield. We had great ratings, but were #2 to the country station because … Bakersfield.) Anyway, the point being that I’m not intimidated by a microphone. (oh, hush with your snarky internal reaction…)
So, I researched equipment, bought some mics and a digital recorder and a couple stands, and started making calls. And lo and behold, a lot of really interesting folks agreed to sit down with me!
I decided I wanted to have “a season” of content before launching, and had finally – FINALLY – gotten everything together. Did the interviews (11 in all, including one that ended up in multiple parts), edited them together, figured out how to get them on Apple podcasts (and other podcasting platforms like IHeart), got the website redesign done with the podcast (and podcast art!) integrated, and was just beginning to put together my big launch party. Find a fun place Downtown, rent a room, invite my interviewees, invite all y’all, and basically turn it into a big bash.
Then … the world turns upside down. And who knows when it’s gonna turn right side up?!
So, why am I launching this now? I mean, these interviews were clearly conducted before all this – some over a year ago – and they could seem irrelevant at best and insensitive at worst. Plus, this is a pretty low key way to launch something that I’ve spent so long working on.
Well, honestly, for three reasons. The first and simplest is what I just said – who knows when everything is going to be back to normal, and I have everything ready to go … so waiting doesn’t make a lot of sense. The second reason is that, well, I figure we could all use a little content right now. As we’re stuck at home and figuring out new things to do/watch/listen to, I figured I’d offer this into the mix. At minimum, it will help you pass an additional hour or so with each episode. But the third reason is that it’s a reminder of normalcy. It’s hopefully a reminder of what we love about our City. What we value and want to get back to. Yes, these are interviews with individual people – I purposely didn’t want them to be hourlong policy discussions or hourlong commercials for some cause or another – but they all represent a slice of Angeleno fabric. And they’ve all contributed to that fabric.
So, you can listen a couple ways. First, as you can see, you can simply click on the link at the top that says “listen to the podcast” and it will take you to a page where you can just play an episode right from this website (on mobile, there’s links at the top as well as a larger link at the bottom. They all go to the same place). The second – and perhaps better – way is to subscribe in Apple podcasts, which you can do by clicking on this link (or, clicking the Subscribe link up above). It will take you right to Enthusiastically Los Angeles within the Apple podcast app and you can hit Subscribe (which, I’ll be honest, was a little surreal when it went live. Like – ‘hey! A podcast! That looks like all the other podcasts! Except I’m the one talking.’ But I digress…). Then you can easily access it any time. And if you do subscribe and you do like it, PLEASE leave a review. It helps with the Apple algorithms.
I’ve made the decision not to post them all at once, for a couple of reasons. (always with the reasons). First, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by being encouraged to “binge” – it’s like “sheesh, there’s all these episodes – who has the time?” But also because I feel like we’re all gonna need stuff to get us through this uncertain period, and so maybe doling it out a little at a time will help. Kinda like the parent who keeps some tricks up their sleeves to keep their kids entertained. Not that I’m the parent here. Anyway. You get the point.
So, to start us off, I’ve posted interviews with the two guys who arguably have been the most responsible for creating the modern Downtown Los Angeles. The two guys who took the biggest risks, had the most audacious vision, and without whom Downtown would likely not be what it is today: Cedd Moses and Tom Gilmore.
For those who don’t know, Cedd basically created nightlife in today’s Downtown, owning everything from Golden Gopher to Seven Grand to Las Perlas to the Varnish, among many others. I always knew I wanted the first episode to be Cedd – here’s a guy who had the vision to open 10 high quality cocktail bars when, basically, the only bars in Downtown were dive bars, drug dens, or expense account hotel bars. And now he’s up to over 20 and counting. He’s a friend and his story is fascinating.
(I should note that as I write this, every single one of Cedd’s bars in LA, San Diego, Austin, and Denver are closed. Which is unthinkable – not (just) for him, but for his workforce. I’m sure Cedd is doing what he can, but the economic impact on those folks is beyond severe. Seven Grand has started a GoFundMe for their staff, which you can reach here if you’re interested. Hopefully, as I said above, you’ll treat this pre-virus interview as a reminder of what we had, and what we hope to get back to…)
And then, through Cedd, Tom agreed to sit down with me. Tom is largely responsible for Downtown’s housing boom. He took a risk on building a residential property AND a restaurant at 4th & Main, which was basically Skid Row. It was almost literally a vision of “if you build it, they will come.” And come they did. Once other developers saw that it could be done (and, frankly, after Tom had absorbed much of the early pain of getting laws changed and whatnot), the race was on. Tom is a great interview and he, too, has a fascinating story. When we were done and the mics were off, he said “I don’t think I’ve told a lot of those stories before.” So, even if you think you know Tom’s story, you’re in for a treat.
Who else do you have to look forward to? Well, I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but there will be people you know and people you’ve never heard of. People whose story you think you know and people whose story you would never think would be so interesting.
So I’ll dole these out every couple weeks. And again, the best way to listen is on Apple podcasts, and if you like it, please review it there – it helps.
With that, this little vanity project is off to a whole new level. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I liked doing it. And, as always, I’d love to hear feedback, thoughts, comments, whatever. As well as any recommendations for who to interview for Season Two!
I usually end with “Happy travels”, but since that isn’t in the cards … stay safe, and sane.
AND SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL RESTAURANTS!