Enthusiastically Los Angeles

Dave Whitton

You have probably not heard of Dave Whitton.  But if you’ve been to Seven Grand … Villains Tavern … One Eyed Gypsy … or, now, PrankBar, you have been subject to his hospitality.

Why did I ask him to be interviewed?  Because he has made a journey that is less common than you might expect – from bartender to bar owner.  And also, because he’s funny and a great interview.

He started out like so many others – moving to LA to chase the dream.  And, even while making his way up the LA cocktail food chain, he continued to play in a band (the Eggshell Egoz – perhaps perfect for people in his profession…).  But, also like so many others, he ended up tending bar to make some money on the side.  And it turns out that not only was he really good at that, but he had a knack for the business side of things too.  So, after stints at Golden Gopher and Seven Grand (and being mentored by ELA podcast guest Cedd Moses), he got into the ownership game when he helped open Villains Tavern.  Then, finally, he opened his own place – PrankBar, his “indoor/outdoor bar” in South Park, just up the street from Staples Center.

So, we’ll hear about that journey – which included early stops at places like Howl at the Moon and Islands (what? Yep.).  The trials and tribulations of deciding to open your own business.  How it’s going now.  What keeps him up at night.  And we’ll do it all while laughing a lot inside an ADA lift/photo booth at Prank….

Linda Dishman

Los Angeles used to have a reputation as a city that not only didn’t care about its past, but hardly realized it even had a past.  One of the biggest reasons that has changed is the advocacy and the effectiveness of the Los Angeles Conservancy.  And the woman who has headed that organization for over 25 years is Linda Dishman.

How does someone become interested – and make a career in – historic preservation?  What’s it like to take on the mighty Los Angeles Archdiocese … and win?  And after so much success saving so many historic buildings … what’s next?  (Hint: the 70s are now 50 years old)

Take a deep dive into some of the Conservancy’s biggest fights, and hear why historic preservation goes far beyond any 4 walls.  And how it might even include a rotating foot sign.

Paul Audley

Film LA might be one of the most important agencies you’ve never heard of. Why?  Because nearly everything that gets filmed in Los Angeles has to be approved and permitted by them.

Heard anything about “runaway production” (ie, the economic loss from filming that happens in other states)?  It’s partly Film LA’s job to fix that by making it easier and simpler to film here.

Helicopters flying under freeway overpasses?  Cars racing in the LA River?  Creating a train wreck in Downtown Los Angeles?  All facilitated and figured out and permitted and managed by Film LA.

But this isn’t just a podcast about what it’s like to be charge of film permitting in Los Angeles (though that would certainly be interesting enough).  It’s also Paul’s story – and it’s not one you’d probably expect.  To wit: before taking this job, he had had never worked in entertainment, never worked in filming, and never been to Los Angeles.  How the heck did that happen?  Take a listen and find out.

Tags: LAfilmingproductionDowntown

Billie Greer

Billie Greer is many things.  Pioneering female business leader.  Courageous risk taker.  Unmatched communications and public affairs professional.  And now?  “80 year old millennial”, as she calls herself, living in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles.

We’ll hear how she evolved from the traditional midcentury career woman “schoolteacher” path to one of the most respected civic leaders in Los Angeles.  How sitting in a Palmdale Planning Commission meeting at midnight inspired her to start her own business (because why wouldn’t it?).  How she ended up working in the Schwarzenegger administration as a lifelong Democrat.  And … how she ended up riding into her 75th birthday party on a Harley Davidson.

Billie’s been on quite a ride … let’s join her.

Chris Martin

It’s not an exaggeration to say that today’s Downtown would not look the way it does were it not for the Martin family.

Chris is the Chairman and CEO of AC Martin Partners, his family’s continuously operating 113 year old architecture firm, which has designed and built more of Downtown’s buildings – and more of its iconic buildings – than any other.  Chris’ grandfather helped design LA’s historic City Hall – the building that no other building in Los Angeles could be taller than until the early 70s.  Chris’ father helped design the LA Department of Water & Power building, with its well known cantilevers and fountains.  And Chris himself helped bring the newly opened Wilshire Grand Center to fruition, the tallest building in the West and designed by Chris’ cousin David.  And these are just three of many: the building that is now the NoMad … the ‘twin towers’ on 5th & Flower, where Drago Centro is … the Higgins Building, with the Edison in the basement … all designed by AC Martin.

But Chris’ story is more than just “the family business”.  Chris has chaired just about every business organization in Downtown, giving him a front row seat to Downtown’s renaissance.  You’ll hear about wrenching choices he made along the way just to keep the doors open.  And you’ll also hear how tragedy helped shape his work on the Wilshire Grand.

The story of Chris and his family is really the story of Los Angeles.  And Chris’ life has been a fascinating journey.

Oh, and in case you think this is just a conversation about buildings and business, we talk about making nitroglycerin, timber logging, and what it’s like to fly an airplane you helped build.  Just listen – you’ll be entertained.

(And in case none of this yet entices you to take a listen, here’s a fun fact: this was my very first podcast interview, so you can listen for how I’ve improved … or haven’t…)

Sue Laris

Anybody who spends any time in Downtown Los Angeles has undoubtedly picked up a copy of the Downtown News.  Continuously in print for nearly 50 years, the Downtown News feels almost like a small town weekly newspaper … and that’s entirely intentional.

The Downtown News’ creator and original publisher is Sue Laris.  How does a newly married woman with young children decide to start a newspaper from scratch serving Downtown LA … in 19721?!  Answer:  don’t rent office space, build your own kiosks, place them near where people already pick up the LA Times, and then just … hustle.

You may think of the Downtown News as something you pick up and browse during lunch time … but you’ll be surprised to hear about Sue’s background, the paper’s beginnings, its surprising growth, and about how it scooped the mighty LA Times.  Many times.

You may not know this trailblazer’s story … but I promise you’ll find it fascinating.

Gary Leonard

Anybody who has been to almost any political, civic, charitable, or fundraising event in Downtown Los Angeles has probably had their picture taken by Gary Leonard.  He’s Los Angeles’ unofficial civic photographer.

So, why interview a photographer – an artist of a fundamentally visual medium – on a podcast?  Because I knew that Gary had a story – a story that hardly anybody knows.  Because, before he was LA’s unofficial civic photographer, he was LA’s unofficial … underground music scene photographer.  And he has been collecting LA “ephemera”, as he calls it: Concert tickets.  Bobble heads.  Photos.  Convention passes.  Almost anything you can think of.  And he’s been collecting it for decades.

This interview goes around in circles and loops around and back again … but it’s quite a ride.  If anybody has lived 2 or 3 or 4 lives, it’s Gary.

Tom Gilmore

Downtown LA is now undoubtedly a “24/7” community.  With nearly 80,000 residents and many of the City’s most famous and respected bars and restaurants, it’s no surprise that Downtown was named the “Best Downtown in America” just a few years ago by GQ Magazine.

It’s easy to take that for granted, but it didn’t happen automatically.  It took a bit of vision and a lot of hard work by a few intrepid pioneers along the way.  But perhaps none of those pioneers were as influential, or necessary, as Tom Gilmore.  Because without people – without actual residents – then Downtown is just a destination.  But it’s not a home.  It’s not a community.  But the fact that it IS a home to so many people – with all the vitality and life that comes with that – is due, in no small part, to Tom.

Hear how Tom made it to Los Angeles in the first place.  How a job at a nursery began is unlikely journey to where he is now.  And how he looked at a dilapidated building on what was then Skid Row and thought “people would live here”.

The story of Downtown is, in many ways, the story of Tom Gilmore.  Let’s hear it together.

Cedd Moses

Cedd Moses’ business card reads “The Proprietor”, but it could just as easily read “The Creator”, at least when it comes to Downtown Los Angeles.  His initial vision of 10 bars in Downtown seemed downright crazy, back when “nightlife” in Downtown consisted of hotel lobbies and seedy dives.  But he did it, including helping launch what became the “Best Bar in America” (2012) with the Varnish.  Now, with 26 bars (and counting) in 3 cities (and counting), his new goal?  100.

If you’ve had a drink at Seven Grand, Broadway Bar, Golden Gopher, Arts District Brewing Company, Imperial Western in Union Station, the Varnish, Casey’s, or even Cole’s French Dip, then you’ve experienced Cedd’s magic touch. Hear how he parlayed a high school gift for betting on horses to a lucrative career in investment banking to the unlikely pivot towards opening his first bar on the Westside to, eventually, pushing all his chips in on DTLA.  How he turned a drug den into the Golden Gopher, how he created the now iconic Seven Grand … and, most importantly, how he transformed nightlife in not just Downtown, but all of Los Angeles.

Brought to you live from, where else?  Seven Grand.